Jan 14, 2018

USCCB Debates Baptism Translation

At their November 12-15, 2017 General Assembly in Baltimore, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops voted to approve the Gray Book of the Order of Baptism of Children and send it to the Holy See for approval. The action is of interest to Adoremus readers for three reasons. First, the English translation of the 1973 Latin second typical edition will be in use for years to come for this important and frequently-used rite. Second, the U.S. Bishops’ vote would be the first of its kind following the Holy Father’s motu proprio Magnum Principium, published September 9 and effective October 1, and the clarifications (and clarification of clarifications) that followed. It indicates, many think, the mind of the U.S. Bishops and their new responsibility and authority to finalize liturgical texts. Others consider their debate an indicator of whether, or to what degree, the third edition of the Roman Missal in English will be translated again. Finally, the Bishops’ action illustrates the differences between ritual adaptations that require a recognitio by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, and the simpler confirmatio required for liturgical translations. The questions, debates, and votes on the Order of Baptism of Children took place during the general sessions, November 13-14. Highlights of the floor debate on November 13 follow; the entire debate can be seen at the USCCB’s website, http://www.usccb.org/about/leadership/usccb-general-assembly/video-on-demand.cfm.

Cardinal Daniel DiNardo (USCCB President and Archbishop of Galveston-Houston, TX): Brothers, as you are aware, our Holy Father recently modified canon 838 of the Code of Canon Law, through an issuance of a motu proprio, Magnum Principium. This canon concerns the ordering and guidance of the sacred liturgy, including the translation and adaptation of liturgical texts. In September, I asked the Committee on Divine Worship and the Committee on Canonical Affairs and Church governance to study this legislation and the documentation released by the Holy See […]. Prior to moving to [the USCCB’s Committee on] Divine Worship’s action item, I would like to invite [chairman] Archbishop [Wilton] Gregory forward to give us a brief update on the motu proprio as it relates to the work of the Conference.


Archbishop Wilton Gregory (Committee on Divine Worship Chairman and Archbishop of Atlanta, GA): My brother bishops, I want to begin by saying a few words about the motu proprio Magnum Principium that was issued by the Holy Father on September 9, by which he modified canon 838 of the Code of Canon Law. This canon concerns the preparation and approval of liturgical books, and, in the words of the motu proprio itself, this change to the canon is meant “to make collaboration in this service to the faithful between the Apostolic See and Episcopal Conferences easier and more fruitful.”

At the request of Cardinal DiNardo, the Committee on Divine Worship and the Committee on Canonical Affairs and Church Governance prepared some observations on this new legislation—on how it might impact our procedures going forward. […]

I would like to highlight the fact that the motu proprio is not retroactive—the emphasis is looking forward. The motu proprio is also focused more on translations than on adaptations: when it comes to translation, the Conference now has more authority to determine the best way to apply the guidelines in Liturgiam Authenticam to vernacular translations. However, when it comes to making adaptations or changes to the liturgical books, nothing has really been altered, and the Holy See will continue to play an active role in the approval process.

The Divine Worship Committee has an action item that I will be introducing shortly. The Committee realizes perfectly well that the translation of the Order of Baptism of Children was prepared before the motu proprio was issued. We also recognize that this new translation is not radically different than the 1970 translation currently in use. But let me make a few observations.

First, this new translation responds to the Holy See’s mandate that the post-Conciliar liturgical books be translated with greater precision than they were in the first generation of translations, and this mandate was not changed by the motu proprio. Second, this new translation will bring the Rite of Baptism into harmony with our other recently-approved books, such as the Roman Missal, the Rite of Marriage, and the Rite of Confirmation. And third, the Committee is of the mind that ICEL has made good progress in the years since the Missal was issued, and that these newer translations—while still very precise—read more smoothly and naturally. The Committee also feels that since the bishops have already had two opportunities to make suggestions for modifications, the text should be brought forward for vote, according to the schedule already in place.

With that, I’d like to introduce the Order of Baptism of Children. This ritual was among the first post-Conciliar liturgical books made available in English, and the English translation we’ve been using dates to 1970. A second Latin version of the ritual was released in 1973, but the changes were minimal, and a new English edition was not prepared.

The new ICEL translation that you have in your documentation is technically a translation of a new edition of the rite (that is, the second edition [of 1973]), but there are not any changes to the structure of the ritual itself. A number of suggestions from bishops of our Conference have been incorporated into the translation during the course of its development.

The book itself suggests several areas in which Conferences of Bishops might wish to make adaptations to the text. The Committee on Divine Worship discussed these options and decided that in general it would be best to retain the decisions that our predecessors made when they approved the edition we currently use. In addition, a handful of minor adaptations have been proposed, mostly to make the English version consistent with the Spanish-language Rite of Baptism that was approved for the United States in 2008. […]

The Committee on Divine Worship is proposing one adaptation to the text that is more significant, however. The Introduction to the ritual permits the celebration of Baptism during Mass, and even encourages it in certain circumstances, and provides instructions on how this is to be done. However, these instructions are not very clear.

Therefore, an Appendix has been drawn up that lays out the celebration of Baptism during Mass in an orderly manner, both for the baptism of several children and for the baptism of a single child. The texts are drawn almost completely from the Order of Baptism and from the Roman Missal, with only minor adjustments where necessary. This is an adaptation to the book that we think will be helpful for our priests. […] Approval of this text requires affirmative vote by two-thirds of the Latin Church members of the USCCB, with subsequent confirmatio and recognitio by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments.

Cardinal DiNardo, I suspect that we might have questions of clarification on both the motu proprio and on the new translation of the Order of Baptism. Might I suggest that we take questions on the motu proprio first, and hold the questions on the Baptism ritual until after the motu proprio questions have been responded to?


Cardinal DiNardo: I’d like to second what Archbishop has said: questions first on Magnum Principium, and then on the Baptism document. With that said, those who want to propose some clarification questions….


Archbishop John Wester (Archdiocese of Santa Fe, New Mexico): Archbishop, could you explain just a little bit about the difference between the confirmation and the recognition?


Archbishop Gregory: […] The confirmatio is really an approval of the translated text, and this is an interpretation from the documents that accompany the motu proprio. The Holy Father has made it clear that he wishes the Conference of Bishops to be more actively involved in approving the translations and the Congregation to be more benign in accepting the approvals.

With the issue of the recognitio, that is the Congregation’s approval of adaptations, changes to the texts, and it will continue to follow pretty much the approach that has been in place to date.


Archbishop Alfred Hughes (retired Archbishop of New Orleans): Thank you Archbishop Gregory, that is a very helpful explanation of Magnum Principium. As an ex, or emeritus member of Vox Clara, I don’t know whether you have any enlightenment about the future of Vox Clara? Is that going to remain in existence, or will that be retired? [Editor’s note: Vox Clara committee was established to assist the Vatican’s Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments in its review of English-language translations, especially in light of Liturgiam Authenticam.]


Archbishop Gregory: Archbishop Hughes, I really could not say. The Congregation to my knowledge has not yet decided if Vox Clara will continue to function and, if it will continue to function, how will that function be engaged. So, I don’t know of any change either in its existence or in its future function.


Cardinal DiNardo: Should we go to the questions on the Baptism?


Bishop Earl Boyea (Diocese of Lansing, MI): Archbishop, will there be musical accompaniment in the Baptism text eventually? We have some in the Confirmation texts for certain parts of the ritual. I am just wondering if you will do the same thing for Baptism.


Archbishop Gregory: I don’t know if any musical texts or settings that will be included. […] Well, first of all, there are no musical accompaniment texts for the existing ritual, and we don’t anticipate that there will be any sent [now]. It would be a little awkward to send it post-approval.


Bishop Donald Trautman (retired Bishop of Erie, PA): In the past, this body of bishops has been engaged in a process of approving liturgical texts drafted by the Holy See: for example, new Latin prefaces, new Latin collects. But the action item before us, the approval of the ICEL translation of the Order of Baptism, is not a new translation, it is not a translation of a new Latin text, but is simply a new translation of a text already approved and authorized in the 1970s by the Holy See. There is not one iota of change in the Latin text. The Church in the United States has been baptizing children and adults with this original Latin text for over 45 years—a text that is canonically approved by Rome. Since the Holy See has not altered one word of this original Latin text that has already been authorized, why are we seeking approval of an ICEL translation when we already have a Vatican-sanctioned text? I see no pastoral need. We will be spending millions of dollars to print a new ritual which we do not need, a new ritual which Rome has not altered.


Archbishop Gregory: If I can use one of the terms that you used in describing the situation, there is an iota of change in the Latin text. Now, whether that justifies a translation of the entire text or not, there are some very minor changes in the Latin text. Again, I leave to the body of Bishops to decide whether we want to advance this, but we are responding to, obviously, a very few minor changes, perhaps not worthy of a full, new translation. But we are also responding to the Holy See’s request that the liturgical texts be translated in conformity with Liturgiam Authenticam. […]


Bishop Christopher Coyne (Member of the Bishops’ Committee on Divine Worship and Bishop of Burlington, VT): As someone who has served on the committee with Archbishop Gregory, I also recall two things. One was the important point that you raised that the new translation is bringing us into greater pastoral conformity with the Spanish version of the Rite that is in the United States. So, while Bishop Trautman’s question is a valid one, there is that very good outcome that we are having the same practice between our two very important communities, the Spanish and the non-Spanish communities in the United States. The second is that it is also bringing into conformity with texts that we find in the Roman Missal; for example, the renewal of baptismal promises that we do at Easter are now the same as those that are used in the Rite of Baptism, and that’s just one example we are seeing. So, it’s not just a matter of translation of Latin texts, it’s also a matter of the pastoral unity of the rites of the Church’s liturgy.


Editor’s note: The discussion questions ended with Cardinal DiNardo calling a vote on the action item, the Order of Baptism for Children, which was approved by voice vote. Bishops had until 5:00 that evening to propose amendments to the text, which would be considered Monday evening and before the final discussion and vote took place the following Tuesday. The proposed text eventually passed with 200 for, 23 against, 3 abstentions. The rite has been sent to Rome for both recognitio and confirmatio.


The Editors