Mar 15, 2007

In Pursuit of English Scripture

Online Edition – March 2007

Vol. XIII, No. 1

News & Views

In Pursuit of English Scripture

by Helen Hull Hitchcock

New Lectionaries + New Revised Revised Bibles

Readers of AB will be glad to learn that this is not the only publication deeply interested in the problem of Scripture translation, or which has deplored the anomaly that there is no complete Bible that matches the readings in the Lectionary, or is distressed at the ideological deformation Scripture by “translator’s bias” for feminist language, or that there are so many different English versions that the Word of God is no longer being implanted in our memories, or…

Well, you’ve been hearing these concerns from us for a long time. And the problem looms especially ominously now, because of current projects to produce new Lectionaries for English-speaking countries — the US among them — occasioned by the Holy See’s 2001 Instruction, Liturgiam authenticam, as we’ve reported in these pages.

Father Richard Neuhaus comments critically on the matter in two of his “Public Square” columns (First Things, January, February 2007).

In January, he wrote, “There are many reasons why one might wish to live in the Bahamas, Jamaica, or the Leeward Islands. Catholics have an additional reason. These are places where they can, in the Mass and other liturgical settings, hear the Scriptures read in a translation that is both accurate and of literary excellence. The Episcopal Conference of the Antilles has approved, with the full support of Rome, the two-volume lectionary containing the second Catholic edition of the Revised Standard Version [RSV-CE2]. The volumes are handsomely produced by Ignatius Press, as is the full RSV, giving to the faithful there a complete Bible that is in accord with the texts read in the liturgy. The lectionary in use in this country employs the unfortunate New American Bible (NAB), which is frequently different from the separately published complete NAB. The Antilles lectionary and Bible is also in entire accord with the 2001 Vatican instruction, Liturgiam authenticam”. (Emphasis added.)

Father Neuhaus further laments that “budget considerations at the USCCB dictate that we will still be burdened with the Scripture readings from the deeply embarrassing NAB. The American bishops could readily remedy this scandal by simply joining their Caribbean confreres in approving the RSV[CE2] lectionary for liturgical use.… They could approve the RSV lectionary while still allowing the use of the NAB in parishes that, for whatever elusive reason, might prefer it. No doubt there are those for whom embarrassing banalities and near-comical solecisms have a certain charm. But for those to whom accuracy joined to literary grace matters, it should not be necessary to move to the Bahamas”.

In his February column, Father Neuhaus revisits the vexed topic, again urging the US bishops to permit the Antilles version “at least as an alternative” to the “embarrassment that is the New American Bible” — which “should not be imposed, as it presently is, upon everybody”. He attempts to compress into a paragraph the labyrinthine situation surrounding the Canadian and UK-Australian projects, the multiple agencies dealing with multiple Scripture translations, summarizing, “So this would seem to leave us with the prospect of a Canadian RNRSV a Brit-Aussie RNJB, and, of course, the American NAB — the last being in a constant state of revision, which makes it now, give or take an R or two, the RRRNAB”. (NB – Acronyms unpacked: Revised New Revised Standard Version, Revised New Jerusalem Bible, New American Bible, Revised Revised Revised New American Bible. — Ed.)

D’accord, Father! Read on…

Scripture “Sanitized for Your Protection”

The pseudonymous “Diogenes”, commentator on Catholic World News’s “Off the Record”, agrees with Father Neuhaus’s assessment of the RNAB. In his February 21 entry, Diogenes opined thus:

“The Fathers of the Church got the idea into their heads that the psalms often spoke of Christ, and even saw foreshadowings of His crucifixion in the fate accorded the Just Man. How did that happen? In part, because the language of the Psalmist frequently made reference to a particular male:

Because HE cleaves to me I shall deliver HIM;
I shall set HIM on high because HE knows my name.
When HE calls to me I shall answer HIM;
I shall be with HIM in distress.
(Psalm 91:14f.

“Feel excluded? Not to worry. Our Revised New American Bible cleans up the boners the sacred authors missed.

WHOEVER clings to me I will deliver;
WHOEVER knows my name I will set on high.
ALL who call upon me I will answer;
I will be with THEM in distress.

“No patriarchal bias there, folks! With the time saved on unnecessary christological exegesis, Saint Jerome — had he the RNAB to hand — might have opened up an aromatherapy spa in Livonia”.

(The ruminations of Diogenes are accessible online at – Off the Record)

A Long and Winding Road

“The whole point of liturgical reform at the Second Vatican Council was to generate new energy for mission”, wrote Archbishop Mark Coleridge, of Canberra in a letter to his people about changes coming in the new Missal translation reported by Catholic News Agency February 1.

Archbishop Coleridge is the chairman of the International Commission for the Preparation of an English Language Lectionary (ICPEL), the group that is attempting to produce a new uniform Lectionary for Australia, the United Kingdom and Canada.

“The bishops hope to provide in the new Missal words that are richer and deeper because they pass on to us more of the vast treasures of the Catholic faith through the ages”, he wrote. “The bishops have no interest in disturbing priests and people just for the sake of it.

“The liturgical renewal called for by the Second Vatican Council was always going to be a long and winding road, and this is a new phase of the unfolding journey. But this new phase, I am convinced, is no less under the influence of the Holy Spirit than was the first impulse that came to us from the Council decades ago.”



The Editors