Jul 15, 2010

Liturgical Landmark: The New English Missal

Online Edition: July-August 2010
Vol. XVI, No. 5

Liturgical Landmark: The New English Missal
Will dissent disrupt reception of the new translation?

by Helen Hull Hitchcock

Great expectations! The Catholic Church in English-speaking countries throughout the world is about to receive a great gift — a new translation of the Roman Missal using language that is accurate, reverent and beautiful. This gift — the culmination of many years of prayer and labor — means that our words of prayer will now conform more closely to the universal language of the Church. The new texts will express more clearly the truth we celebrate, and this will elevate our spirits and deepen our faith and understanding.

The recovery of sacredness in our language of prayer in worship holds great promise: it’s as if a tree we planted and cultivated with care for many years is now laden with fruit and about to bear its first abundant harvest. But just as we are about to gather this fruit for which we have hungered and hoped so long, we are being warned that it is unwholesome, tasteless, spoiled. The genuine reform and authentic revitalization of the sacred liturgy that the new Missal translation has so richly promised is now being undermined by voices of criticism and dissent.

“A Cold Wind from Rome”

On June 11, the liturgical blog PrayTell posted “A Cold Wind from Rome”, from Bishop Maurice Taylor’s 2009 book, It’s the Eucharist, Thank God. Bishop Taylor was chairman of the International Commission on English in the Liturgy (ICEL) from 1997-2001. (The PrayTell blog’s editor is Benedictine Father Anthony Ruff of St. John’s Abbey, Collegeville, Minnesota, which is also the location of the Liturgical Press and Worship magazine.)

Bishop Taylor did not conceal his negative views of the Holy See’s involvement with translation at the time, and he repeats these views forcefully in this chapter. The bishop repeatedly accuses the Holy See of peremptory and unjust interference with the affairs of ICEL and of usurping the authority of the bishops’ conferences. He describes Liturgiam authenticam, the Fifth Instruction on the Implementation of the Second Vatican Council’s Constitution on the Liturgy, as an “exocet missile”, intended to “restrain and subjugate ICEL” (p. 61). (“Exocet missiles” destroyed British ships during the Falkland Islands war, and the term has come to mean a devastating surprise attack.) Bishop Taylor writes,

This [Liturgiam authenticam] caused dismay and anger among the members of the subcommittees and only succeeded in increasing the atmosphere of gloom and despondency prevalent throughout [ICEL]. Whether the exocet had holed ICEL below the waterline or rendered us rudderless, we certainly felt disillusioned, hurt and abandoned (p. 68)

He deplores the Holy See’s “draconian rejection” of ICEL’s 1998 revision of the Sacramentary, as the Roman Missal was then called (he includes some examples of the “banned” translation), and he concludes with a strong suggestion that the secretive Roman Curia usurped the legitimate authority of the bishops’ conferences:

Finally, it is tantalizing to wonder how the congregation, or indeed the Holy See itself, would have reacted if the conferences of bishops or even the conference presidents, had claimed that their legitimate authority had been infringed by the congregation’s behavior. Such a complaint was not, I think, put forward strongly enough. If it had been, is it too fanciful to dream that it might have led to a thorough examination of the role and activities of the Roman Curia? (p. 70)

“What if We Just Said Wait”

On the same day that “A Cold Wind From Rome” appeared on the PrayTell blog, the editor also posted an interview with Father Michael Ryan, pastor of the Seattle cathedral, about his effort to delay the translations through his “What if We Just Said Wait” blog. (Father Ryan’s original article announcing his plan had appeared in the Jesuit magazine America, December 14, 2009.)

In the PrayTell interview, Father Ryan commented:

… the so called “reform of the reform” is not about renewal but about imposing a pre-Conciliar vision of liturgical theology on the ground-breaking reforms of the Council. So, to say that I am saddened by what is going on is an understatement. I expressed that in my America article and, if anything, I feel it even more strongly some six months later. The Church does need renewal, of course. The recent international explosion of the whole sexual abuse issue and the hierarchical cover-up is ample and distressing evidence of that. Among other things, the renewal I and many are talking about needs to involve such things as the outmoded way authority is exercised in the Church, the Byzantine way leaders are chosen, and the anything but transparent way decisions are made. This is where the real renewal needs to take place and our people know it. This whole matter of the new Missal with its power plays and its top-down, authoritarian approach is very much connected to the current controversies that are swirling within and around the Church.

Father Ryan does not explain whom he considers “our people”, or how he knows they would demand a radical upheaval in the Church’s exercise of authority.

“Keep It Simple”

In the June 12 edition of The Tablet, “Keep It Simple”, an article by Jesuit Father Nicholas King counters an earlier positive article on the new translation by Abbot Cuthbert Johnson, a member of the Vox Clara group that assists the Congregation for Divine Worship with English translations. Father King, who teaches scripture at Oxford, “regrets the secrecy surrounding the modern liturgy”, finds some things acceptable, but also some “horrid English” in the new translation, and believes that omitting so-called “inclusive” language “inflict[s] on the Body of Christ the painful apparent exclusion from it of half the human race”.

Curiously, since the ICEL statutes stipulate that all its translators are to work anonymously, Father King openly states that he “was involved at one state with helping to produce the new translations”, but that “it was made clear to us, however, that the versions we produced would go from us to the English-speaking episcopal conferences, and from them to mysterious Roman offices, where people whose first language was not English might have the final say, which seemed to undermine the point of our labors”.

This comment is particularly mystifying. Father King cannot be unaware that both the Secretary and Undersecretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship are native English-speakers — Archbishop Augustine DiNoia, OP, is from the United States, and Father Anthony Ward, SM, is from England; or that the Vox Clara committee, an international group created expressly to aid the CDW with English liturgical translation, is composed solely of bishops and experts from English-speaking countries.

“Lost in Translation”

On June 13, an article by Bishop Donald Trautman of Erie, “Lost in Translation”, was published online by US Catholic, in which the bishop repeats his frequent criticisms of the new translation of the Roman Missal. He closes with a warning question:

With the recent approval of the text of the new Missal, the real task begins. It will then be incumbent on bishops and pastors of the church, along with others in liturgical and educational ministries, to catechize and convince the people that the new Missal is an improvement on the current one. Is that completely true?

Bishop Trautman was chairman of the US Bishops’ Committee on the Liturgy during the debate on the Lectionary and Sacramentary. This article is the most recent of the bishop’s public objections to the Holy See’s actions concerning the translation of biblical and liturgical texts — in particular, to Liturgiam authenticam, the instruction on translation published in 2001.

(Bishop Trautman’s article appears in the July 2010 issue of US Catholic, Vol. 75, No. 7, pages 23-27. Online at: uscatholic.org/church/2010/06/lost-translation.)

In view of the recent public dissent from the new Missal texts, it may be useful to review some events that led to the reform in translation, which may shed light on some of the key issues in question — namely, 1) the authority of the Holy See over the liturgy and the role of bishops’ conferences in liturgical translations; 2) the Holy See’s ultimate rejection of an earlier ICEL translation of the Missal approved by the conferences in 1998; 3) the re-organization of ICEL, the establishment of Vox Clara, and the instruction on translation, Liturgiam authenticam.

In the first place, oversight of the liturgy by the Holy See is not, as some charge, “interference”.

Sacrosanctum Concilium, the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, the first document of the Council, issued December 4, 1963, stated:

22. 1. Regulation of the Sacred Liturgy depends solely on the authority of the Church, that is, on the Apostolic See and, as laws may determine, on the bishop.

The very next month, Pope Paul VI began the actual implementation of the Constitution with Sacram Liturgiam, issued January 25, 1964. It expanded on the above, adding that “various [vernacular] versions [of liturgical texts] proposed by the competent territorial bishops’ conference must always be reviewed and approved by the Holy See”.

Secondly, Liturgiam authenticam could not have been a surprise to anyone who had been following liturgical developments over the previous decade or so.

As early as 1988, Pope John Paul II observed the 25th anniversary of Sacrosanctum Concilium with the apostolic letter Vicesimus Quintus Annus, in which he recalled the principles that guided the liturgical reform after the Council, outlined some of its successes and also noted difficulties, including “erroneous applications”. “It is for the bishops to root out such abuses”, the pope wrote,

because the regulation of the Liturgy depends on the bishop within the limits of the law and because “the life in Christ of His faithful people in some sense is derived from and depends upon him”. (§13)

He highlighted the duties of the bishops’ conferences, noting that they were “required to establish a national commission” to translate the liturgical texts, employing the “collaboration of experts”.

ICEL had been created by bishops in English-speaking countries in 1963, while the Council was still in session, to provide this “collaboration of experts”. A quarter-century later, Pope John Paul called for an evaluation of translating commissions:

The time has come to evaluate this commission, its past activity, both the positive and negative aspects, and the guidelines and the help which it has received from the episcopal conference regarding its composition and activity. (§20)

But the review and evaluation of this commission and its work, which Pope John Paul called for in 1988, did not begin for nearly ten years.

The US Bishops’ Review of the Revised ICEL Sacramentary

In November 1993 the US bishops’ conference began their examination of the ICEL translation of the second edition of the Roman Missal (1975). Before they considered the first segment of the revised ICEL Sacramentary the bishops discussed in some detail the procedure for approving the translation. Their preliminary encounter with ICEL’s methods of translation led to growing concern among the bishops about ICEL’s independence from the conference in composing new texts and in its manner of translation.

The level of the bishops’ dissatisfaction with the ICEL text can be seen from the fact that they submitted more than 400 amendments for this one segment. Their primary concern was a lack of doctrinal clarity in the translation, which might be corrected by a more literal translation, as then-Bishop Charles Chaput of Rapid City (now Archbishop of Denver) observed:

It seems to me that many of the problems that some of us have with the text would have been solved if it had been much more literal.… It can be literal in terms of the content and beautiful in expression. It seemed to me that there was a looseness in the translation many times…. 

Where my deepest concern is, is the fact that so many of the prayers seem that they could have been more embracive of the faith of our Church if they had been more literal — not in a “slavish” sense — but in the content of the prayers. 

And I’d like to ask, is that a principle of ICEL that when they translate they’ll try to be as literal as possible while maintaining beauty and flow and all those important things? 

When Bishop Chaput was asked by the chairman of the Bishops’ Committee on the Liturgy, Bishop Wilton Gregory (now archbishop of Atlanta), if he meant “where does the ‘literal’ and the ‘enriched’ version intersect”, Bishop Chaput replied: “My concern was the impoverishment of the text, rather than its ‘enrichment’ — because of the lack of a literal translation”. 

(Complete transcript: 1193-BishopMeetingReport.html.)

The Sacramentary and the Lectionary

The complicated approval process for the ICEL revision of the Sacramentary continued for several years. Simultaneously, the bishops were also considering a revised translation of the Lectionary — a parallel but separate process with its own complexities, contingencies, and different translators. Because the Lectionary was a translation of Scripture, it required oversight by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. (The Lectionary was ultimately approved, and mandated for use in 2002, and yet another revision is now in the works).

During these years, the challenges of translation were discussed at length by the bishops, obviously. But the only way the bishops could correct doctrinal deficiencies in the translations, or amend the texts, was by a complex and time-consuming process that required presentation of line-by-line amendments. The bishops’ attempt to amend the ICEL texts was frequently unsuccessful, leading Bishop Chaput to remark at the November 1995 meeting that the “ICEL process resists emendation, which leads to frustration and interferes with rights of bishops”.

In our report on the November 1995 bishops’ meeting, AB commented:

Ultimately, the key to the approval or rejection of the ICEL translations may be Rome’s eventual decision on translation matters — including the fate of the 1969 Instruction on translation known by its French title, Comme le prévoit, invoked so often to justify rejection of bishops’ amendments.

All the bishops are aware that some form of interim translation norms have been entrusted to the bishops by the Holy See. But most will not see them. Bishop Trautman said these “norms” are confidential, and so highly technical that only those bishops who were actually present at the meeting in Rome on translation matters could understand them.…

An updated and authoritative document on translation from the Holy See would help provide an orderly basis for making all future revisions of the Roman Missal, and, of course, would affect the bishops’ consideration of the three remaining Segments of ICEL’s revision of the Roman Missal.

(Complete transcript: 1295-BishopMeeting.html)

The Holy See and Translation Norms

The supposedly highly technical norms that had been developed by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith for the Lectionary were leaked to the National Catholic Reporter and were published on its web site, and later appeared in the Adoremus Bulletin, July-August 1997. (Text accessible online: adoremus.org/7-8-97Vat Trans.html.)

These “Vatican norms” used for the Lectionary were clearly a precursor of the translation instruction to come.

The years of debate on the ICEL Sacramentary made two fundamental problems clear: 1) that the translation principles employed by ICEL resulted in doctrinally deficient translations and 2) that the existing ICEL procedures made it almost impossible for the bishops to amend a flawed translation. It was clear by late 1995 that a new set of translation principles would be forthcoming from the Holy See.

That the existing structure and procedures of ICEL added another layer to the translation difficulties had also come to the fore during these years.

CDW Letter on “Mixed Commission”

A letter from Cardinal Jorge Medina Estévez, then-Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, to Bishop Maurice Taylor, then-Chairman of ICEL, described problems with the “Mixed Commission” (i.e., ICEL), its procedures and organization.

In the letter, dated October 26, 1999, Cardinal Medina made it clear that he was responding to concerns of the bishops themselves.

Cardinal Medina wrote:

In their contacts with the Dicastery, not a few Bishops have expressed concerns not only about the quality of the translations produced by the Mixed Commission but also about procedures which they felt limited their own ability to obtain corrections and improvements that they considered necessary for the accuracy of the texts. Increasingly, the Mixed Commission’s texts paraphrase or redraft the editiones typicae, while revising the rubrics so extensively as to impede effective recourse to the Latin text for the sake of clarification. In fact, the texts and the rubrics have sometimes been altered in substance without prior authorization from the Holy See, and indeed without even a request for such authorization. These concerns of the Congregation have recently been reinforced and have found authoritative confirmation in the instructions received by the Congregation for the preparation of new norms of liturgical translation.

After describing a number of difficulties the Congregation had encountered in dealing with ICEL and its translations, Cardinal Medina called for a “thoroughgoing reform and revitalization” of the “Mixed Commission”:

All of these factors appear to converge towards the conclusion that the Mixed Commission in its present form is not in a position to render to the Bishops, to the Holy See and to the English-speaking faithful an adequate level of service, nor to produce with appropriate promptness the texts that will be needed in the foreseeable future…. It is inconceivable that English-speaking clergy and faithful should have to wait a decade or more for such translations.

… Moreover, the experience of the years since the Council, as well as a deepening theological reflection, have brought clearly into focus the fact that the constitution, the regulation and the oversight of an international commission for liturgical translation are rightfully the competence of the Holy See to a degree which is not always sufficiently reflected in the Statutes which govern such bodies.

It is therefore clear that a thoroughgoing reform and revitalization of the Mixed Commission is needed to ensure greater efficacy and to furnish a more sound procedural basis for the Commission’s functioning, while also supplying for any lacunae in its present juridical status. Indeed, apart from the difficulties which have arisen, such a revision of the Statutes would appear to be overdue in light of the subsequent publication of the 1983 Codex Iuris Canonici and the 1988 Apostolic Letter Vicesimus Quintus Annus, in which his Holiness Pope John Paul II requested a re-evaluation of the working of Commissions for the translation of liturgical texts (cf. AAS 81 [1989] 916, n.20).

For these reasons, this Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, exercising the mandate assigned to it in the Apostolic Constitution Pastor Bonus, article 62, regarding the superintendence of “those matters which pertain to the Holy See in relation to the moderation and promotion of the Sacred Liturgy,” hereby directs the Statutes of the “International Commission on English in the Liturgy” be revised thoroughly and without delay. (Emphasis added.)

Cardinal Medina’s letter to ICEL also included several specific provisions that the new statutes were to include. (The complete text of this letter is accessible online: adoremus.org/2-00-medinaletter.html).

It is clear both from the history of the bishops’ discussions on the ICEL Sacramentary during the 1990s, and from the text of the letter itself, that Cardinal Medina was responding to the frustration many bishops had experienced in exercising their responsibility for liturgical translations.

“Rome and ICEL”

Bishop Donald Trautman publicly criticized Cardinal Medina’s letter to ICEL in an article, “Rome and ICEL”, published in the March 4, 2000, issue of America magazine. This prompted a highly unusual response by Cardinal Medina, published in America magazine on May 13, 2000.

Cardinal Medina pointed out that ICEL’s composition of many original texts in its revision of the Sacramentary risked replacing “the authentic and integral transmission of the tradition … with an entirely different reality”, and jeopardized “the substantial unity of the Roman Rite”:

When such texts differ completely in function, style and length from those in the editiones typicae, then one must question whether they are in fact the result of a fruitful interaction between the received tradition and a given culture, since any such interaction is scarcely evident in the texts themselves.

Cardinal Medina responded to Bishop Trautman’s charge that the Holy See’s assuming the responsibility for granting approval (recognitio) to the texts undermines “collegiality”: “it is the Holy See that must grant the recognitio giving juridical effect to the approval of these texts by a Conference of Bishops for use in the Sacred Liturgy in their territory”. Furthermore, in granting recognitio, “the Holy See can also introduce changes into the text, even substantial ones. No one has cast in doubt this function of the Holy See, which is very clear in the Church’s tradition and in her law”.

Cardinal Medina also made it clear that the Congregation’s October 26 letter was not directed to the bishops’ conferences as such, but rather to “a body which has been constituted by them for a specific purpose while displaying at times a manner of acting which places in doubt the degree to which its initiatives can truly be regarded as flowing from the Bishops themselves.”

“Far from desiring to diminish the role of the Bishops in the work of liturgical translation”, he wrote, “the Holy See would in fact hope that at least some bishops might have been involved personally in the preparation of the vernacular version of a given text even prior to the stage of the evaluation and approbation of a final draft”.

“In any event”, Cardinal Medina continued, “the Holy See wishes to insure that the Commission for liturgical translations be in service to the bishops’ own mission rather than viewing itself instead as an independent agent for liturgical renewal”. He added that the Congregation’s efforts “will ultimately support the working relationship between the Holy See and the bishops, rather than threatening it”.

The cardinal directly addressed Bishop Trautman’s statement that the Congregation’s directives about ICEL’s work “appear to require a word-for-word, syntax-for-syntax correspondence between the Latin and the English texts”:

I am happy to clarify that this certainly is not the intention of the Congregation, since the successful translation of the liturgical texts cannot be achieved by such a wooden mechanism. Nevertheless, as emphasized in a letter from His Eminence, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, dated February 1, 1997, the Congregation must ensure that the content of the original texts be conveyed faithfully and completely, without paraphrases or glosses, and hence without the omission of concepts which may have become less popular, or the introduction of others which may currently be enjoying popular favor. Sometimes it is the least popular and least understood notions which are most needed in a given time. (Emphasis added.)

Cardinal Medina also pointed out that while many prayers of the Roman rite are quite ancient, “they have endured because they have within them a spiritual wealth which is perennial. Though composed in particular circumstances, they transcend the limits of their original situation to become the prayer of the Church in any place and in any age”.

For this reason, he emphasized, “preservation and effective transmission of these precious treasures in a given vernacular is the first and most important purpose of liturgical translation. While liturgical prayer can and should be allowed to be formed by culture, one must never lose sight of the far more important fact that it must be formative of culture. Also, the work of translation should be deeply imbued with the realization that prayer can come from the heart only after it has been received as a gift from God, through the mediation of the Church”.

Translators must keep in mind that stylistic devices should convey the full content of a text, Cardinal Medina stressed; thus “stylistic elements will therefore need to be chosen carefully so as to achieve, insofar as possible, the same effect in the translation as in the original text, precisely because the translator does not have the same freedom with regard to the ideas conveyed by the text”.

Moreover, he pointed out that as seen in many translations of the Bible throughout history, “docility to the original text may result in constructions which stretch the limits of the receptor language, though these constructions should flow gracefully enough to become comprehensible, familiar, and beloved by those who hear them and pray them repeatedly”.

In the final analysis, wrote Cardinal Medina, the Holy See “is the one most capable of determining whether translations faithfully transmit the content of the Latin prayers of the Roman Rite, precisely because those prayers are her own heritage, and her gift to each new generation of the faithful”.

(“On the ICEL Controversy” – online: americamagazine.org/content/article.cfm?article_id=697.)

Toward Authentic Liturgy

It is worthy of note that this response from Cardinal Medina was published before the Instruction on translation, Liturgiam authenticam — and, especially in light of insinuations that the mysterious and anonymous “Roman Curia” is wont to aim “exocet missiles” at honest and unsuspecting targets, it should also be made clear that Liturgiam authenticam was prepared at the express directive of Pope John Paul II in a letter to the Cardinal Secretary of State, dated February 1, 1997, and that the Holy Father personally approved, confirmed and ordered the Instruction published, effective April 25, 2001.

In March 2002, the complete Latin text of the third typical edition of the Missale Romanum, first announced by Pope John Paul in the Jubilee Year 2000, was officially released. Its new General Instruction (GIRM) was translated into vernacular languages and immediately put into effect.

The following month, Pope John Paul announced the establishment of the Vox Clara committee, and the reasons for doing so, in a letter dated April 20, 2002.

In my Apostolic Letter Vicesimus Quintus Annus, marking the twenty-fifth anniversary of Sacrosanctum Concilium, I spoke of the pastoral promotion of the Liturgy and the need for a “permanent commitment to draw ever more abundantly from the riches of the Liturgy that vital force which spreads from Christ to the members of His body, which is the Church” (§ 10). Undoubtedly, the use of the vernacular has been an important means of enabling the faithful to participate more deeply in the encounter with God in Christ.

Since the lex orandi conforms to the lex credendi, fidelity to the rites and texts of the Liturgy is of paramount importance for the Church and the Christian life. In that light, I wish to offer every encouragement to the Vox Clara Committee in its task of assisting the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments in ensuring that the texts of the Roman Rite are accurately translated in accordance with the norms of the Instruction Liturgiam authenticam.

In a special way, I wish to commend to the Pastors of the Church the important task of making available to the faithful, as quickly as possible, the vernacular translations of the editio tertia of the Missale Romanum, the publication of which I authorized last year. I am pleased to learn that the members of the Vox Clara committee have generously pledged to assist the Holy See in expediting the revision and recognitio of these translations by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments.

(Complete text: adoremus.org/VoxClara. html.)

New statutes to govern the work of ICEL were approved by the English-speaking bishops’ conferences in 2003, and sent to the Holy See for approval. The approved statutes were sent to bishops on October 17, 2003. (See: “ICEL Statutes: Review and Update”, adoremus.org/0703ICEL.html; and “New ICEL Statutes Signal Coming Changes”, adoremus.org/1103ICEL.html.)

As noted above, Pope John Paul had called for review and reform of the post-conciliar liturgy in his 1988 apostolic letter Vicesimus Quintus Annus. As we draw near the quinquagesimus annus of the Council’s liturgical reform, it may be well to recall the objectives the Holy Father envisioned in initiating the new reform of the liturgy twenty-two years ago.

11. It must be recognized that the application of the liturgical reform has met with difficulties due especially to an unfavorable environment marked by a tendency to see religious practice as something of a private affair, by a certain rejection of institutions, by a decrease in the visibility of the Church in society, and by a calling into question of personal faith. It can also be supposed that the transition from simply being present, very often in a rather passive and silent way, to a fuller and more active participation has been for some people too demanding. Different and even contradictory reactions to the reform have resulted from this. Some have received the new books with a certain indifference, or without trying to understand or help others to understand the reasons for the changes; others, unfortunately, have turned back in a one-sided and exclusive way to the previous liturgical forms which some of them consider to be the sole guarantee of certainty in faith. Others have promoted outlandish innovations, departing from the norms issued by the authority of the Apostolic See or the bishops, thus disrupting the unity of the Church and the piety of the faithful, and even on occasion contradicting matters of faith.

14. … We are not in the same situation as obtained in 1963: a generation of priests and of faithful which has not known the liturgical books prior to the reform now acts with responsibility in the Church and society. One cannot therefore continue to speak of change as it was spoken of at the time of the Constitution’s publication, rather one has to speak of an ever deeper grasp of the Liturgy of the Church, celebrated according to the current books and lived above all as a reality in the spiritual order. (Emphasis added.)

Concerning the conferences of bishops and their responsibility for translations, Pope John Paul expressly noted problems that had emerged in the first quarter-century of the liturgical renewal, and stressed the need to “remedy certain defects” and to make sure the liturgical books are “worthy of the mysteries being celebrated”:

20. The episcopal conferences have had the weighty responsibility of preparing the translations of the liturgical books. Immediate need occasionally led to the use of provisional translations, approved ad interim. But now the time has come to reflect upon certain difficulties that have subsequently emerged, to remedy certain defects or inaccuracies, to complete partial translations, to compose or approve chants to be used in the Liturgy, to ensure respect for the texts approved and lastly to publish liturgical books in a form that both testifies to the stability achieved and is worthy of the mysteries being celebrated.

For the work of translation, as well as for the wider implications of liturgical renewal for whole countries, each episcopal conference was required to establish a national commission and ensure the collaboration of experts in the various sectors of liturgical science and pastoral practice. The time has come to evaluate this commission, its past activity, both the positive and negative aspects, and the guidelines and the help which it has received from the episcopal conference regarding its composition and activity. The role of this commission is much more delicate when the conference wishes to introduce certain measures of adaptation or inculturation: this is one more reason for making sure that the commission contains people who are truly competent. (Emphasis added.)

23. The time has come to renew that spirit which inspired the Church at the moment when the Constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium was prepared, discussed, voted upon and promulgated, and when the first steps were taken to apply it. The seed was sown; it has known the rigors of winter, but the seed has sprouted, and become a tree. It is a matter of the organic growth of a tree becoming ever stronger the deeper it sinks its roots into the “soil” of tradition.…

Amen. The reform of the liturgy, so laboriously cultivated over so many years, and which has certainly known the rigors of many, many winters, now seems nearly ready for an abundant harvest — a longed-for harvest that will nourish the faith of the whole Church.


An archive of articles and reports on biblical and liturgical translation is on the Adoremus web site: adoremus.org/Transtoc.html; and on the bishops’ meetings 1993 – present: adoremus.org/ArchiveBishopMeetings.html.

AB research editor Susan Benofy contributed to this article.



Helen Hull Hitchcock

Helen Hull Hitchcock (1939-2014) was editor of the <em>Adoremus Bulletin</em>, which she co-founded. She was also the founding director of Women for Faith & Family and editor of its quarterly journal, Voices. She published many articles and essays in a wide range of Catholic journals, and authored and edited <em>The Politics of Prayer: Feminist Language and the Worship of God</em> (Ignatius Press 1992), a collection of essays on issues involved in translation. She contributed essays to several books, including <em>Spiritual Journeys</em>, a book of “conversion stories” (Daughters of St. Paul). Helen lectured in the US and abroad, and appeared frequently on radio and television, representing Catholic teaching on issues affecting Catholic women, families, and Catholic faith and worship.