Online Edition – Vol. IV, No. 9: February 1999
ICEL Psalter Status: Question & Response
The following exchange of letters regarding the status of The Psalter and Psalms for Morning and Evening Prayer is printed here with permission. Produced by the International Commission on English in the Liturgy [ICEL], the texts are published by Liturgy Training Publications of the Archdiocese of Chicago. The defective Psalter now appears in other books published and widely distributed by LTP.
Dear Father Moroney:
As you know, the imprimatur ("let it be printed") for the ICEL Psalter has been revoked by the American bishops. But the withdrawal of the imprimatur will have little effect on the availability of the texts for unauthorized use. According to a Catholic News Service news report, Gabe Huck, director of Liturgy Training Publications in Chicago, the publisher of the ICEL Psalter, said his publishing company would simply delete the imprimatur notice in any future printings.
Over the years, the Bishops’ Committee on the Liturgy has insisted upon ICEL’s close association with the American bishops. During the protracted NCCB proceedings on the revision of the ICEL Sacramentary [the book of prayers used at Mass – Ed.] , it was suggested that criticism of the work of ICEL is in fact criticism of the bishops. (According to ICEL’s financial statements, the organization is an association of bishops incorporated in 1967.)
Does ICEL’s renewal of the copyright for the publication of the ICEL Psalter suggest that ICEL is distancing itself from episcopal control? Or, as an "association of bishops", are the non-American bishops revealing their objections to the decision of the NCCB and the Vatican?
In any case, it seems that the Liturgy Committee is in position to prevent the publication of the ICEL Psalter. Does the Committee object to ICEL’s plans to continue to publish a doctrinally suspect liturgical resource? If so, will the Committee express its disapproval? Suppose ICEL does not comply. Will the Committee make a report to the NCCB and publicly warn Catholics in America?
If the liturgy committee has no objection, or does not find it opportune to object, or if efforts at persuasion fail, a most serious precedent will have been set. The release of the ICEL Psalter by an "association of bishops" without an imprimatur suggests that, officially, imprimaturs are no longer necessary for liturgical publications. The fact that Liturgy Training Publications is the publishing arm of the Archdiocese of Chicago would buttress this conclusion….
I am most interested in your response for possible publication.
Fraternally in Christ,
Reverend Jerry J. Pokorsky, Credo
Dear Father Pokorsky:
Thank you for your letter of October 20, 1998, concerning the publication of the ICEL Psalter.
You correctly noted in your letter that the imprimatur from this text has been recently withdrawn by the National Conference of Catholic Bishops. In speaking with Dr. John Page of the ICEL Secretariat, I have been assured that ICEL has therefore decided not to enter into any new contracts for this work. At the same time, Dr. Page pointed out that ICEL remains bound by civil contracts which they entered into at a time when the imprimatur was still in force.
The decision concerning whether Liturgy Training Publications will continue to publish the ICEL Psalter is, of course, entirely up to that company. I might note that the ICEL Psalter has never been approved for liturgical use and no authorization will be given by this Secretariat for the printing of the Psalter as a part of an authorized liturgical text.
I hope this information will prove helpful. If you have any further questions concerning this or any other liturgical matter, please feel free to call or write.
In the Lord,
Reverend James P. Moroney
Secretariat for the Liturgy