My friend the nearly ubiquitous fair-minded former Rome correspondent for the ultra-lefty National Catholic Reporter has an interesting take on what happend in last week’s USCCB meeting when bishops discussed liturgical translation. I am just catching up on my articles and e-mail so this is a little dated… four whole days!
I have some addition observations at the end.
My emphases and comments.
USCCB: Dramatic debate, cliffhanger result on liturgy
By John L Allen Jr Daily
Created Jun 13 2008 – 06:23
By JOHN L. ALLEN JR.
Perhaps it’s only fitting that a meeting held in Florida, the state that made the hanging chad famous, should feature a dramatic cliffhanger vote, which, as election day ended, remained inconclusive.
Heading into the U.S. bishops’ spring meeting in Orlando, it didn’t seem likely that a proposed new translation of the Proper of Seasons, part of the prayers and other texts for the Catholic Mass, would stir up much dust. [In fact, now that the Ordo of Mass is finished, I suspected there would be much less to fight about.] Following a decade and a half of impassioned argument over such texts known colloquially as the “liturgy wars,” many bishops privately expressed fatigue and a desire to move on – suggesting to most observers that approval of this text ought to be more or less a given. [Yep.]
In one sign of that mood, only seven bishops out of 250 Latin Rite prelates in the United States even bothered to propose amendments to the text, a clear sign that most felt the handwriting was on the wall. Like it or not, many concluded, Rome has made clear that the new translations must be closer to the Latin, both in structure and word choice, thus producing a more “sacral” language sometimes remote from ordinary English usage. [These are the norms expressed in Liturgiam authenticam.]
All that changed this morning, however, when Bishop Victor Galeone of Saint Augustine, Florida, [You might remember him and his incredible reaction Summorum Pontificum or how his Diocesan Director of Liturgy, Fr. Thomas Willis, said that people who have ADD can focus better at the Latin Mass with all the silence than at the Novus Ordo where there is more "active participation".] rose to oppose the proposed text — despite, he said, fear that doing so may be "in vain." [Uh huh…. riiiiight…] A former Latin teacher who still reads Thomas Aquinas in the original language, Galeone made a forceful argument that the new translation is simply too unclear and awkward to be effectively used in American parishes. [I wonder how forceful it really was. I didn’t hear it, but citing a few examples of hard vocabulary doesn’t really constitute much of an argument.]
Among other things, Galeone cited the text’s use of the phrase “the gibbet of the Cross.”
“The last time I heard that word was back in 1949, during Stations of the Cross in Lent,” Galeone said. [Strange… I heard it last Lent in a parish church.]
“I challenge anyone to proclaim what’s given here at Mass,” he said. “It’s very difficult.” [This is interesting. We still have not yet heard a single prayer of the new translation "proclaimed" and already it is being challenged. Amazing. But this is what the progressivists always do: they take the official text and then screw with it in the interest of improving it in this context or that without it having been actually used. That is what they did, for example, with the Rite of Ordination. The Congregation reacted very sharply to that.]
“A good translator has to understand not just the original language, but also one’s own into which these texts are being put,” Galeone said. Despite assurances to the contrary, he said, the new texts are “slavish” with respect to the Latin originals. [Hmmm… I like that… "slavish".]
“I’m an obedient son of the church, [Nota bene.] and if these texts are passed as they stand, I will pray with them,” Galeone said. “But I feel that the vernacular has been a blessing to our people.” Galeone added that with “all due respect” to the recent ruling from Pope Benedict XVI authorizing wider celebration of the old Latin Mass, he hasn’t celebrated the old rite since 1970. If he were asked to do so today, he said, he would instead celebrate the new rite of the Mass in Latin. [Okay… I respect a personal preference in this regard. But, as bishop, couldn’t he have a little more generosity in regard to the legitimate aspirations of Catholic people who were so deeply hurt for so long?]
Galeone’s speech seemed to open the floodgates, as other bishops rose to voice reservations about the new translations. [This is where things get really interesting. Watch very carefully who is mentioned and what their positions are.]
Auxiliary Bishop Richard Sklba of Milwaukee, [Consecrated in 1979 by His Excellency Archbp. Rembert Weakland.] for example, said, “If I have trouble understanding the text when I read it, [?!? Really ?!?] I wonder how it’s going to be possible to pray with it in the context of worship.”
Sklba warned that if the proposed text were adopted, “our priests and our people” will press the bishops to come back to it “again and again” to remedy perceived defects. “This is not yet mature,” he said. [I bet they won’t. I bet they will praise the new translation and embrace it warmly!]
Bishop Donald Trautman of Erie, [You knew this name would pop up, right? Remember that His Excellency has said tie and again the people in the pews aren’t smart enough to understand hard English. Check here and here and here and here, among the many times we have looked at his views. He active fought against the CDW’s norms. Also, remember how he received H.E. Piero Marini’s book and how he is implementing Summorum Pontificum. You get the drift.] Pennsylvania, a longtime critic of the new translations, said the texts contain a number of “archaic and obscure” terms, pointing to words such as “wrought,” “ineffable,” and “gibbet.” He also said that the text’s preference for mimicking the sentence structure of Latin, featuring long sentences with a large number of dependent clauses, impedes understanding in English. ["It’s toooo haaard!"] Trautman cited one prayer in the new Proper of Seasons presented as a single 12-line sentence with three separate clauses.
“John and Mary Catholic have a right to have prayer texts that are clear and understandable,” Trautman said. “The document before us needs further work.”
Bishop Robert Lynch of Saint Petersburg, Florida, [Who has little time for the older form of Mass and who, if memory serves, forbade Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament in his diocese.] thanked Galeone for giving him the “courage for this moment.” Lynch then told the bishops that he had recently taken the new Mass texts back to his presbyteral council, composed of 26 priests. Two were in favor of the translation, he said, and 24 were opposed.
He reported their reaction as, “Bishop, do whatever you can, because we can’t pray these texts.”
“It’s a good thing that we’re supposed to pause before the orations,” Lynch joked, “because we’ll have to gather enough breath to pray the prayers.” [Yuk yuk.]
Other bishops, however, argued that admitted imperfections in the text don’t justify further delays in the process.
“It’s an imperfect sacramentary for an imperfect people, to be prayed by a celebrant who is also imperfect,” said Archbishop George Niederauer of San Francisco. “I respect those who say let’s move forward and get a new sacramentary, before they all fall apart in the sacristy.” [You know… it is okay for a translation to sound like a translation.]
Archbishop Oscar Lipscomb, the retired archbishop of Mobile who sits on the Vox Clara Commission that advises the Vatican on liturgical translation, said that he doesn’t find the new texts “unacceptable or unproclaimable.” [He must believe that people are smart.]
“Our genius in celebrating,” he said, will make up for any deficiencies. [Right! We priests get to explain the texts!] Further, he said, the average Catholic will receive the new texts “with the eyes of faith,” rather than focusing on its problems “like an English teacher or a Latin teacher.” [Exactly.]
Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston said that “with all its difficulties, the translation should go forward,” adding that he believes the new Mass texts “become stronger after Advent, into Lent and Easter.”
Responding to the “let’s move on” argument, Archbishop Daniel Pilarczyk [Who in a rather menacing memo showed that he will restrict priests from using the 1962 Missale Romanum by imposing a double-standard "test" on them.] of Cincinnati warned that it “depends on what you’re moving forward to,” arguing that the new texts would be “a linguistic swamp.” [Where people should feel right at home in after the last few decades of ghastly liturgy and worse translations.]
Archbishop John Vlazny of Portland made another argument in favor of the text, noting that four other English-speaking bishops’ conferences have already approved it. If the Americans reject it, he said, it could jeopardize the goal of a common text.
“Admittedly, we’re the big ones, but that doesn’t allow us a terribly privileged position,” Vlazny said. “We need a measure of humility in this.”
Echoing a point made by others, Vlazny also argued that today’s texts may seem more “proclaimable” simply because they’re familiar. With time, he said, the new texts will also become familiar, and the issues of syntax and word choice cited by critics “will be a non-problem.” [Yes. This goes back to what I mentioned earler. The opposition is condemning them before there is any experience of them.]
Bishop Arthur Seratelli of Paterson, New Jersey, chair of the U.S. bishops’ Committee for Divine Worship, defended the texts.
“On whole, the translation is a marked improvement,” Seratelli said. “As we use it, as we ourselves and our priests become more familiar with the new language of the liturgy, it will not pose as great a problem as we fear.”
After all that the bishops were unable to reach a decision, largely because of the electoral math. [So… what a great service the opposition did for the universal Church, right?]
The rules of the conference require that the text be approved by two-thirds of its members, not just those physically present. Since there are 250 Latin Rite bishops in the United States, 166 “yes” votes are required to approve it, while 83 “no” votes are necessary to reject it.
As it turns out, the Orlando meeting was sparsely attended – one headcount yesterday found just 178 voting members. As a result, this morning’s ballot failed to get enough “yes” votes to approve the text, or enough “no” votes to block it.
As a result, Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, president of the conference, announced that bishops who were not present will receive ballots in the mail in order to settle things one way or the other.
The bishops did reach a decision on a couple of other points.
If the text is rejected, they decided, all members of the conference will have the opportunity to submit observations and proposals, not just those who have already expressed concerns.
Further, if the text does have to go back to the drawing board, the bishops decided not to send it to the International Commission on English in the Liturgy, a translation agency which is a joint project of 11 English-speaking bishops’ conferences, for comment. Since ICEL was restructured under Vatican pressure several years ago, some bishops feel the agency has not been receptive to proposed changes to its texts. In a voice vote, the bishops opted this morning to bypass any reaction from ICEL and simply bring a new version of the Proper for Seasons back to the U.S. conference.
That, however, assumes that the text does not pass once all the mail-in ballots are counted. Some veteran conference observers believe that once all the votes are in, the new text stands a good chance of being approved – noting that a number of likely “yes” votes, such as Cardinals Justin Rigali of Philadelphia and Edward Egan of New York, were among those absent in Orlando.
I believe the texts will be passed.
However, what is interesting here is how this was orchestrated.
Do you remember that before Bp. Seratelli was elected as Chairman for liturgy, they had Bp. Trautman? Do you remember how he was elected?
If was pretty much a done deal that someone like Card. George was going to be elected. Then, all of a sudden, there was a nomination made by one of the most liberal bishops in the country, H.E. John Kinney of St. Cloud (the last of the Jadot appointments). He nominated Bp. Trautman. Suddenly there was this spontaneous ground swell, out of nowhere, of support for Bp. Trautman, and he was elected.
Sound familiar? Read Mr. Allen’s account again.