The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops met in Fort Lauderdale, FL, June 13-14. Among their agenda items were two liturgical entries: first on texts relative to liturgical celebrations for St. Mary Magdalene, St. John XXIII, and St. John Paul II; and, second, on the next round of translations for the next English-language edition of the Liturgy of the Hours. Archbishop Wilton Gregory of the Archdiocese of Atlanta and Chair of the Bishops’ Committee on Divine Worship, presented the items to the body of bishops on June 13. A transcript of the presentation and discussion about the Liturgy of the Hours, minimally edited for clarity, follows. The entire discussion can be viewed on-demand at the USCCB website, www.usccb.org.
Archbishop Wilton Gregory: Dear brothers, you have before you an action item from the Committee on Divine Worship, the “Liturgy of the Hours: Proper of Time.” As you know, in 2012 we approved a scope of work that outlined a plan for producing a new edition of the Breviary. That plan is starting to come to fruition. We’ve already approved components of that book, namely, new translations of the Psalter and the Canticles that are at the heart of the Liturgy of the Hours. Meanwhile, ICEL [International Commission on English in the Liturgy] has been busy working on new translations of the non-scriptural parts of the Breviary, and we have the chance to review and comment on the early drafts of this material. ICEL has now finalized several groups of texts for a new edition of the Breviary, and the Committee on Divine Worship is bringing them forward for the vote of the full body of bishops.
Your documentation contains translations of most of the Benedictus and Magnificat antiphons and the intercessions for the seasons of the liturgical year. Future votes will focus on other material, such as the hymns, the Proper of Saints, and the Commons. We anticipate that all the voting might be completed by 2020 at the earliest. The bishops of the Committee on Divine Worship feel that the translations are more precise than the texts we are currently using, and also that ICEL has done a very fine job of making them conducive to recitation and chanting. The action item is amendable and approval of this text requires an affirmative vote by two-thirds of the members of the Latin Church members of the USCCB and subsequent confirmatio of the Congregation of Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments.
Archbishop Gregory then took questions about the action item from the floor.
Bishop Donald Trautman (retired Bishop of Erie, PA): I do not rise to question any of the translations, but I was wondering if the committee will take up a more basic question, the present format of the Breviary. I contend that the present format of our Breviary is intended for monks, for monasteries, and that parish priests are unable to carry out this format. Parish priests need a prayer book, but the present texts do not help them in their spiritual life. We should have a rewriting, I think, of the book of readings. So, I’m asking a more basic question: will the committee take up the present format of the Breviary and give parish priests a Breviary they can use?
Archbishop Gregory: Your Excellency, I think this touches on one of the [main] issues, namely, that the Holy See asks us to issue books that conform to the Latin editio typica. It’s certainly possible that, after we have approved the official texts, we or another agency could put together, based on the approved texts, a more parish priest friendly edition [of the Breviary]. But I think right now we’re obliged to translate and put things in the order that the Roman editio typica has laid out. We can modify, and sometimes that has happened, those texts once they are officially recognized.
Bishop Robert Baker (Bishop of Birmingham, AL): Just following Bishop Trautman’s comments, I think there is a validity to what he asks. My question would be on the hymns. I know you’re going to revise those, and I just wonder if there is possible input on that ahead of time. In other words, what are we going to put in place of those [present] hymns? I think that might be problematic for diocesan priests.
Archbishop Gregory: Bishop, we will be sending in a future transmission the hymnody that has been laid out. We are also working on an appendix of hymns that might be available at the back of the Breviary. But we committed ourselves to using the hymns that are in the Latin texts [i.e., in the Latin typical edition], but we are also looking at additional hymns that we could use as part of an appendix.
The Latin Church members of the USCCB voted the next day 175-6-2 in favor of the ICEL Gray Book translation of the Liturgy of the Hours: Proper of Time for use in the dioceses of the United States.