A little while ago, a priest of the Diocese of Brentwood (UK), Fr. Michael Butler – director of the diocesan commission for liturgy, sent a letter to the priests of that diocese, and to the über-liberal, dissident weekly publication The Tablet (aka The Pill), claiming that priests can – on their own authority – refuse to use the current ICEL English translation of the Roman Missal and go back to the obsolete 1973 translation. I took him apart HERE.
Immediately the local bishop, Most Rev. Thomas McMahon corrected the record. He wrote to the priests of the diocese to affirm the obvious: we must use the new, corrected translation and priests cannot use the older version, and he made it clear that Butler was not speaking for the diocese.
An eminent liturgical scholar, Fr. John Hunwicke of the Ordinariate of O.L. of Walsingham (btw… see Daniel Mitsui’s fine new artwork HERE), weighed in with his comments at his blog Mutual Enrichment. He treats Butler’s risible remarks with the tone they deserve: “they are a joke”… but a joke we have to pay attention to. Let’s plunge in media res and with my trademark emphases and comments:
We thought that there was a self-supporting, self-validating network of so-called ‘experts’ or ‘liturgists’ who were determined to impose their own very narrow group agenda upon the Church. Fr Butler confirms this. He tells us that the Roman document Liturgiam authenticam is “a laughing stock among academics and scholarly linguists“. Clearly, that last phrase means, in the Vernacular, ‘me and my chums and people who agree with us’. [Exactly. They are in a self-constructed and remarkably small echo-chamber.] So Butler is not a lone, ridiculous, figure. His own claim is that he represents a significant group. These are, presumably, the same jokers who, when Joseph Ratzinger started to write about Liturgy, threw up their hands in outrage and cried “But he’s not a liturgist!” [Remember that? I recall the retort of Fr. Aidan Nichols, OP: “Liturgy is too important to be left to liturgists.”] The ones with regard to whom somebody coined the good old witticism about what the difference is between a terrorist and a liturgist (“You can negotiate with a terrorist”).
And it is an apparently illiterate group. Specimens of its illiteracy are Butler’s absurd discussion of the word ‘vernacular’ [Even I, with my heart as cold as a frog’s on a mountain, felt embarrassment for him.] and Archdeacon’s bizarre statement that “there is nothing sacred about Latin”. [Patently ridiculous.] Clearly, despite the lofty manner which each of them adopts in putting us lesser mortals straight, they do not have at their finger-tips … to take but one example … any of the many works of the great linguist and liturgist Christine Mohrmann, who dominated her field for decades. Writing in English, French, German, and Dutch, she demonstrated [in a classic monograph that every person who opens his pie-hole ought to have read and retained on his shelf …] how Christian Latin emerged, was consciously developed, in order to fill the needs and instinct of the worshipping community for a deliberately sacral language. She felt that the time was not ripe for vernacular liturgies in the late twentieth century, because modern European languages had not developed their sacred vernaculars. Liturgiam authenticam, interestingly, echoed her words in its call for the development of such vernaculars, even if this meant the possible use of archaisms. In other words, ‘vernacular’ does not possess anything like the univocal, simplistic sense which Butler claims. … [My friend Fr. Uwe Michael Lang has also written about Latin and vernacular HERE.]
Like many slippery operators, Butler mentions Sacrosanctum concilium [sic] of Vatican II. But SC 22 (3) (the sub-section which lays down that nobody is to do things by their own authority) does not deter him from informing his readers that “it is legitimate to use our previous Missal”. And it is clear from his letter that, in his official capacity, he has been going round the clergy of his diocese with an agenda which does not noticeably include encouraging them to behave legally, or helping them by explaining to them things they do not understand. By listing dissentient malpractices with such cheerful relish, he is either naive or he is encouraging others to join in breaking the Law. Perhaps the most amusing of his absurdities is his characterisation of the current translation of the Missal as ‘illegitimate’. I simply love that: is the poor Bu**er aware that this precisely echoes the rhetoric of Archbishop Lefebvre, who often remarked that the post-Conciliar rites were “illegitimate” (sometimes translated as ‘bastard’)? [To echo a grand American prelate, Butler manifests a “Lefevbrism of the Left”.]
Perhaps the tone of what I have written has, too flippantly, suggested that the Butlers are merely a joke. They are not. They represent a very evil (I use the word advisedly) threat to the hopes of recovery in the Latin Church. I plan to deal with this at greater length.
But they are a joke too, and we are entitled to our laughs.
Fr. Z Kudos to Fr. H.
Read the whole thing over there. If you comment, tell him Fr. Z sent you.
Rem acu tetigit.