Print Edition: Feb. 22, 2015
Sign-up for our E-letter!
To: (Multiple email addresses may be specified by separating them with a comma)
With the recent incomplete vote by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops on the translation of another part of the Mass, the Register considers the significance of the discussion.
BY JOAN FRAWLEY DESMONDREGISTER CORRESPONDENT
WASHINGTON — Five proposed
translations of liturgical texts failed to garner the votes required for
approval during the U.S. bishops’ June meeting. But a poll of absent bishops
may well produce the required two-thirds majority vote by late July.
Approval of the texts would mark the
conclusion of a tumultuous eight-year episcopal debate over the adoption of
more literal translations of the Roman Missal, along with other prayers and
special Masses. The Vatican will review all the proposed translations and
guidelines submitted by English-speaking nations and incorporate them into one
text to be used throughout the world.
“The immediate need is for obtaining
a two-thirds vote by mail, or the approval process will have to be deferred,”
reported Archbishop George Niederauer of San Francisco, a member of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’
Committee on Divine Worship.
Like many other bishops and
observers at the June meeting, Archbishop Niederauer was struck by the
increasing momentum for approval as each proposed translation drew more support
than the last. “My impression is they may very well achieve” the necessary
votes, he said.
That assessment was shared by Helen
Hull Hitchcock, editor of The Adoremus Bulletin,
published by Adoremus, the Society for the Renewal of Sacred Liturgy, which was
formed in 1995 “to promote authentic reform of the liturgy of the Roman rite.”
“The positive votes on the texts
presented at the June meeting kept increasing after the first text failed to
draw the requisite two-thirds of all the Latin-rite bishops. It is quite
possible — even likely — that the necessary votes will come from the absentee
ballot that is being sent to the approximately 55 eligible bishops who didn’t
attend this meeting,” said Hitchcock.
Hitchcock suggested that the shift
toward increased support for the translations was prompted by a series of
statements from bishops who backed the new translations: the USCCB’s president,
Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, Archbishop Alfred Hughes of New Orleans,
Cardinal Justin Rigali of Philadelphia and Archbishop Oscar Lipscomb, retired
archbishop of Mobile, Ala. All are members of Vox Clara, a committee of 12
bishops from English-speaking countries that was formed by the Vatican’s
Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments with the
goal of overseeing the translation process.
The biggest hurdle will be approval
of the first text that deals with Masses and prayers for needs and intentions:
That text garnered 134 votes; a total of 163 is needed.
Liturgical experts like Hitchcock
suggest that first vote partly reflected the impact of an impassioned
intervention by Bishop Donald Trautman of Erie, Pa., who has been a determined
critic of literal translations that introduce unfamiliar words and phrasing.
The U.S. bishops’ prolonged debate
regarding translations that hew more closely to the original Latin began in
2001, when the Holy See issued Liturgiam Authenticam (Authentic
Liturgy), a strong new framework for liturgical translations that also marked a
clear repudiation of gender-neutral language in North American texts.
Bishop Trautman acknowledged that
his first intervention helped suppress approval for the first text. “I
suggested that the bishops didn’t have sufficient time to review over 800 pages
of text given to us during Holy Week. There was no time to submit amendments.”
His second intervention ad--dressed
the proposed translations’ unfamiliar vocabulary and syntax. Bishop Trautman
said he warned his fellow bishops that they would be criticized “by our people
for a slavishly literal Latin translation that does not take into account
contemporary English language.”
Indeed, even bishops and scholars
who support the new translations agree that a daunting challenge lies ahead:
helping ordinary Catholics grapple with unfamiliar liturgical texts, while
fulfilling the intended goal of deepening their engagement with the vital
origins of the Church.
“We must put together a catechetical
process. And the first part will be a ‘remote catechesis’ — the training of the
trainers: bishops, priests, deacons and parish liturgy committees,” explained
Archbishop Niederauer. “Then we will begin the ‘proximate catechesis’ of people
in the pews. Properly explained, this could be a very beautiful experience for
our people, as the new translations will be more concrete in language and
The Adoremus Bulletin
has offered one explanation for the struggle that ensued since Liturgiam
Authenticam, though opponents of liturgical reform would challenge
“The dispute over translation is
about ideas in this case, the core teachings of the Catholic Church. Liturgiam
Authenticam makes it clear that scriptural and liturgical
translations affect the very heart of the Catholic faith itself; and that the
words used to express that faith matter deeply. What underlies the conflict
over liturgical translation is, finally, authentic vs. inauthentic belief.”
Father Douglas Martis, director of
the Liturgical Institute at the University of St. Mary of the Lake in
Mundelein, Ill., suggests it is time to move beyond that once intractable
debate to address the catechetical concerns and opportunities posed by the new
“Catholics today are more educated
than ever before and quite able to understand a more elevated language and
learn to engage a faith imbued with symbols,” said Father Martis.
“I ask my students to look at the
prayer over the water at baptism, and they begin to see it’s a recitation of
salvation history. The word ‘water’ is much more than H2O; it recalls the water
flowing from the side of Christ. But if you don’t understand the Christian
symbol, the language is irrelevant,” he observed.
Catholics will learn to embrace the
spiritual riches contained in the new translations, predicted Father Martis.
“During the Eucharistic Prayer 2, the priest calls down the Holy Spirit on the
bread and wine and says: ‘Send the dew of your Holy Spirit.’ The ‘dew’ is a
reference to the dew that lay on the ground after the people in the desert
cried out for food. We’re reminded how God nourishes his people.”
Father Martis suggested that a
majority of U.S. bishops shared his enthusiasm. But if he is wrong, those who
continue to resist the reforms may soon regret their stance.
During the June meeting, Bishop
Arthur Serratelli of Paterson, N.J., chairman of the bishops’ Committee on
Divine Worship, warned the assembled bishops that if they failed to approve the
texts by the Holy See’s late November 2009 deadline, the USCCB risked exclusion
from the effort to incorporate all the translations from different countries
into one English text.
Frawley Desmond writes
Chevy Chase, Maryland.
Copyright © 2015 EWTN News, Inc. All rights reserved.
Reproduction of material from this website without written permission is strictly prohibited.
Accessed from 22.214.171.124