Cleansing Fire

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And With Thy Spirit: The New Translation of the Roman Missal Part II

March 24th, 2011, Promulgated by Abaccio

Part I here

The Translation Process

After the releases of the Third Typical Edition of the Roman Missal and Liturgiam Authenticam, a number of steps were taken to bring us a new, authentic, corrected translation of the Mass.  Blessed Pope John Paul II established the Vox Clara Committee (Clear Voice) to work with the Congregation for Divine Worship (CDW) in providing English translations of liturgical texts.  This, coupled with a new set of statutes for the International Commission on English in the Liturgy (ICEL) set forth the oversight for the translation project, which, in itself was long and arduous.

ICEL worked to translate, section by section, the Missale Romanum, which were then sent to each individual Conference of English-speaking Bishops, called “green books.”  The Bishops then would study the green books, ask for input from whomever they desired, add their suggestions and commentary, and then return the green books to ICEL.  There were a total of sixteen green books issued between 2004 and 2009.

After the green books, with their comments and suggestions, had been reviewed, a “gray book” was issued for each part and sent to the Bishops’ Conferences for an approval vote.   By the November 2009 USCCB plenary meeting, each part had been approved and sent back to the Vatican for final approval.  The final edition, called a “white book,” would then be issued by the Vatican.

It is clear to anyone who realizes the painstaking lengths taken in this translation process that there was ample time for anyone with an opinion to voice it, and for input to be sought.  This has not stopped rabble-rousers in certain circles from noisily complaining about every aspect of the new translation.

What if we just said, “Wait!”

Not least among these rabble-rousers is Fr. Michael Ryan, rector of the Cathedral in the Archdiocese of Seattle, who created the What if We Just Said Wait petition, and penned this article of the same title in the notoriously heterodox America Magazine.  Our own Dr K kept tabs on the signees of this petition from here in Rochester.  They included eighteen priests, over 20 religious sisters, and nearly 30 lay “ministers.”

The authors have this to say:

We are convinced that this approach will address the concerns of those many bishops who feel that they have lost their voice in this matter.

Fr. Ryan clearly fails to understand a basic point: being outvoted is not the same as “los[ing] their voice.  Every Bishop in every English-speaking country had time to review these texts, contribute to them, raise concerns, etc.  The fact of the matter remains, however, that the Church is Catholic, that is, universal.  We are not congregationalist protestants, and thus, any priest or bishop who feels the need to break with the universal Church clearly has his head where it does not belong.

Many a priest (and layperson) has complained that, even though the Bishops had a chance to say their piece, that opportunity was not granted to the rest of us.  To them, I ask: “Why should you be consulted?”  It is nothing if not prideful to claim that Fr. Vernacular or Pewsitter John has anything meaningful to contribute to a complex translational process.  How many of these complainers have a working knowledge of the original Latin?  At the risk of sounding presumptuous, I answer, “very few!”

This has not stopped dissenters like Fr. Bill Spilly, Fr. Joe Marcoux, Fr. Ed Palumbos, Msgr. William Shannon,  Barb Swieki, Fr. Robert Kennedy, Charlotte Bruney, and SSJ President Mary Louise Mitchell from loudly voicing their complaints.  Fr. Bausch and Fr. Spilly even spent bulletin articles complaining about it.

Bishop Trautman

Another major complainer in this ordeal is Bishop Donald Trautman of Erie, PA.  Bishop Trautman led the charge against approval at the November 2009 plenary meetings, and in subsequent months.  I watched the November 2009 plenaries in their entirety, and can assure you that Bishop Trautman’s complaints reminded me of those often made by petulant children.  Even Club Jadot Archbishops Pilarczyk and Mahony essentially told Bishop Trautman to stop whining.  Trautman went on to pen an article in the notoriously heterodox US Catholic Magazine, entitled Lost in Translation. In this article, His Excellency complains that people will fail to understand such difficult concepts as “dewfall” or “incarnate.”  Apparently, Bishop Trautman thinks we are all idiots.

I can only speak for myself, but I contend that people ought to be able to master a new word here or there.  Perhaps in praying the Mass and finding their own knowledge lacking, ignorant pewfolk might perchance open up old Mr. Webster, and understand “incarnate: adjective; made manifest or comprehensible, embodied.”

Bishop Trautman, and those of his ilk, also like to argue that this will “roll back the reforms” of the Second Vatican Council.  As has often been stressed on these pages, Vatican II’s Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium, states:

36. 1. Particular law remaining in force, the use of the Latin language is to be preserved in the Latin rites.

54. (…) Nevertheless steps should be taken so that the faithful may also be able to say or to sing together in Latin those parts of the Ordinary of the Mass which pertain to them.

116. The Church acknowledges Gregorian chant as specially suited to the Roman liturgy: therefore, other things being equal, it should be given pride of place in liturgical services.

120. In the Latin Church the pipe organ is to be held in high esteem, for it is the traditional musical instrument which adds a wonderful splendor to the Church’s ceremonies and powerfully lifts up man’s mind to God and to higher things

And…correctly translating the Latin is…against…the reforms of Vatican II?  I beg to differ!

Part III will be the last introductory chapter in this series.  It will explain a bit of the “meat and potatoes” of the new Missal translation.  Part IV will begin to look at the Missal itself.

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