Why the ‘liturgical anger’ is fair

23 Responses

  1. I’m always thrilled to read what individual bishops have to say on any topic.This surely is solid teaching and the episcopal leadership at its best: as opposed to the woolly coolective utterances that Conference produces makes as a whole. Here we have an excellent, reasoned and pastoral approach from a most articulate pastor in the Conference. We had an example recently of Bishop Stephen Brislin being reported in your paper presenting a refreshing pastoral vision.This is true of other individual bishops as well (eg Abp Buti Tlhagale).Too often our Bishops seem to be closing ranks together around the Party line in much the same way as our SADEC leaders seem to close ranks around the Mugabe issue. Worse is when a non-bishop spokesperson is quoted by press under the headline: Church Says No To ….
    Bishop Kevin has his finger on the pulse of the people: we were not consulted in any way rather just told. The issue at hand is a relatively small one of semantics and texts (and of course there is always need for review and revision here) but there are layers of implications: memorised Mass responses (Gloria and Creed) needing to be relearned by mainly aging congregants with poor eyesight (like myself). An invitation by our Bishop to enter into a dialogue is like music on the ears. Bravo !

  2. Jonathan Lee Ching says:

    To be really honest, the changes are hardly poor, yet hardly perfect.

    A closer rendering of the Latin makes sense to the serious disciple (what is it you believe? Or are you just rattling of arbitrary prayers so you can fulfil your obligation), and brings to the fore some beautiful images especially in the EP I.
    The previous translation though seemingly more accessible, was so to the detriment of the true meaning of certain prayers, where much of the original meaning was lost and even completely removed!
    The argument of the African languages being affected must fall, as just by the way, not only the African languages, but also Afrikaans and other European translations match well with the Latin translation.

    All this drama is hardly necessary, and if one really believes in the authority of the Holy Father and his authority to change, add, remove not in doctrine, but practice, it should stand to reason that, had it been his decision alone or that of the CDW, its not up to you as one bishop (or a sister, brother, priest or layman) to comment on valid even traditional action or office.

    Spend your energy on the real issues: poor liturgy even in the previous translation, poor music, loss of Faith, the destruction of Creation and the dignity of the human person.

    Do your best with what you are given and make God proud through your life offered in charity!

    Times change, needs change, deal with it.

    Peace be with you all!

  3. Tim says:

    The new English translation is simply appaling, especially if you look at the proposed new eucharistic prayers. The disruption in the worshipping life of our parishes in South Africa has been serious, and it will become worse once the rest of the mass is introduced.

    I don’t think the Vatican gives a hoot about South African Catholics or the hurt that this has caused.

  4. Dr. Richard C. Lux says:

    Three Cheers for a Bishop with Theological and Liturgical acumen and courage to speak out. My wife and I spent 5 months in Pietermaritzburg while I was a visiting Professor of OT at St. Joseph’s Theological Institute in Cedara and left loving South Africa, its peoples, its cultures and their commitment to make South African democracy work. Alas, the Bishops “buckled” in the face of Vatican imposition of a backwards looking English text. People in the parish we were part of were distressed that 1st Sunday of Advent when the changes were imposed. Happily, the U.S. Bishops have put off any changes . . . where is the episcopal courage and collegial responsibility of the RSA Bishops ?? As one involved in the English translation of the Revised New American Bible [to be published soon], I know that slavish literalism betrays the real meaning of the biblical text. One must translate meanings–even if at times it is not “literal”. The previous ICEL translation, even though it was sometimes a little clumsy, was completely faithful to the meaning of the Latin text. It is not too late for the RSA Bishops to raise objections to this new translation and withdraw it for further study in light of pastoral problems. Hopefully they will have the courage to act as true “Shepherds” of the Church.
    Dr. Richard C. Lux, Professor of Scripture Studies, Sacred Heart School of Theology, Hales Corners, WI USA

  5. Rosemary Gravenor says:

    A dark coud is settling over our English speaking minority in S.A. Some Catholics may not yet have fully realised the implications of these liturgical text changes.

    It is heartening to have one Bishop with the courage to speak out. I agree totally with Fr. Sean Collins.

    This is oly the beginning of what sppears to be a very messy state of affairs.

    The arrogance of one individual Catholic in the person of J L Ching (who cannot yet be familiar with all the proposed changes) is pathetic in the extreme. He gives no example to support his claims regarding text and prayers but attacks the dignity of a very faithful bishop (and by implication all who are concerned about this issued and passionate about the Body of Christ). I would have him reflect on who the Church is? At the same time reflect on John Paul II’s definition of Liturgy as “the summit and source of the Church’s life.”

    I have hear that there is a letter from Cardinal Arinze (Prefect Emeritus of the Congregation for Divine Worship) to all Bishop Conferences stating that changes should only be implemented once the whole ‘new order’ of the English Mass is finalised. If this is true, it begs the question: who decided to impose the first changes in South Africa at the beginning of our current liturgical year?

  6. Jeff Pinyan says:

    His Eminence wrote about “a systematic and well-managed dismantling of the vision, theology and ecclesiology of Vatican II during the past years.” What “vision, theology and ecclesiology” would that be? Are we reading the *same* Vatican II documents? Have some editions expurgated whole paragraphs from these documents, like paragraph 22 from Lumen Gentium?

    I am from the United States of America. We aren’t using the new translation until it is utterly complete. Our bishops are already compiling catechetical material which will be used BEFORE the transition. That appears to be how the CDWDS intended it to be.

    I have already looked at the new translation of the Ordinary of the Mass, and I am mostly pleased. There are some awkward constructions, but I would rather need to explain (or hear the explanation of) the wording of a prayer rather than explain (or hear the explanation of) why the prayer doesn’t say the right thing.

    And as for “a purely arbitrary decision to demand that the English text had to faithfully represent the Latin”, I’m shocked. Why would it be “purely arbitrary” to faithfully render in the vernacular the Latin “original”? I think the old ICEL translation failed woefully in certain places (such as “for the good of all His Church” instead of “for the good of all His holy Church”, and Penitential Rite, Form B).

  7. Martin Keenan says:

    Solid teaching? An excellent and reasoned approach? Theological and liturgical acumen? I think not.

    What is to be made of this? The bishop’s teaching is unstable and irrational because he professes to uphold the Second Vatican Council while contradicting its basic propositions on (inter alia) the authority of the Apostolic See to regulate the liturgy, the necessity for preserving the integrity of the Roman rite, and the role and mission of bishops vis-a-vis the Supreme Pontiff.

    Bishop Dowling’s rhetoric and/or misplaced compasion has run away with him. On the one hand he claims the liturgy does not form part of the deposit of faith (an utterly untenable proposition), but on the other hand he demands that it should be left up to him (and like-minded souls) to discern “the best way we can express and celebrate our faith in English”.

    And the usual suspects busily applaud him for bravery and courage.

    Meanwhile, the Holy Spirit is invoked as the guarantee that Bishop Dowling (in open defiance of the Apostolic See) can discern the good of the Church in a matter where:-

    [A] He declined to make any use of the opportunity he had to comment on the new translations at a time when they existed in draft, despite considering “that many of the changes made no sense, and that some of the formulations were simply bad English” (there is a fine example of episcopal courage if you want one); and

    [B] He concedes that “Some people, including bishops, may have no problem with what we have to use now and we have to be open to the reality that people will think differently” (inviting the question how he will respond to the pain and distress occasioned by his own pet liturgical confections).

    This is a situation calling for genuine leadership, not demagoguery (Gal.1:10).

    Praying in aid the Holy Spirit in order to accomplish a breach of communion within the Church is but the final proof that Bishop Dowling (who is not my pastor) is deeply in error. Rash and inadequately developed ideas for alleviating the pain and distress of those who object to new liturgical translations are two-a-penny, but nothing justifies a bishop offering scandal to the faithful.

  8. Noel Fisher says:

    Gee, Mr Martin Keenan, is it really so necessary to attack the integrity of our beloved bishop that unChristian way? Anyone who knows the good bishop knows how loving and caring he is, and how smart and loyal. Please do not let your American prejudices colour your perceptions of what is happening here in SA.

  9. Gunther Simmermacher says:

    I should point out that Martin Keenan is in fact a resident of South Africa. There will be an opinion article by Mr Keenan in The Southern Cross of Feb 18-24, 2009.

  10. Martin Keenan says:

    What is the point in personalising the issues? It is not an episcopal popularity contest.

    My remark (that +Kevin is not my pastor) was intended to indicate only that I am not a resident of Rustenburg diocese. If I were, I would certainly have approached the bishop privately before publishing even on a blog a response to what he had written.

    +Kevin may harbour sincere doubts as to the regulation of the liturgy, and within the SACBC he has a convenient forum for expressing them; but it is folly to align himself with the argument that the Apostolic See, by upholding the established principles, is dismantling the vision, theology and ecclesiology of Vatican II when it was that very Council which endorsed those principles.

    If +Kevin chooses to publish his views in a Catholic newspaper as a Point of Debate, he must expect them to be opposed if they misrepresent the facts (as they do) or the teaching of the Church (as they do), or if they foment (as they do) a breach of communion between bishops and the Holy Father.

    All bishops are obliged (among other duties) to foster and safeguard the unity of the faith, to uphold the discipline which is common to the whole Church, and to press for the observance of all ecclesiastical laws: Code of Canon Law, can. 392.

    Public defiance of the Apostolic Sees right and duty to regulate the liturgy is inconsistent with that obligation, as is the failure to inform his readers that the Apostolic See as the Second Vatican Council affirmed in the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Sacrosanctum concilium, n.22(1) possesses that right and duty.

    As for +Kevins view that the English-speaking bishops should unite in repudiating the Apostolic Sees authority over the liturgy, readers need to know:-

    (1) It is the teaching of the Second Vatican Council that the entire college of bishops have no authority unless united with the Supreme Pontiff (Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen gentium, n.22); and

    (2) At least two-thirds of all the bishops in English-speaking countries voted in favour of the new translations. For +Kevin to concede that Some people, including bishops, may have no problem with what we have to use now and we have to be open to the reality that people will think differently is something of an under-statement.

    How can anyone seriously contend that the Holy Spirit would inspire such a pointless, unnecessary and doomed rebellion over a matter (liturgical discipline) on which the Churchs teaching is unequivocal?

    Smart and loyal? Judge for yourself.

  11. Nicholas Mitchell says:

    One perceives in criticism of the newer translations two tendencies:

    1. A view of the texts as “backward” or “regressive”;
    2. An anti-Roman spirit.

    If liturgical translations and rules are matters of ecclesiastical discipline, then competent ecclesial authority has the right, where needed to improve on existing rules and translations.

    Do critics view the previous translations as incapable of being improved upon? Beyond criticism? Why is that?

    To my mind, the newer translations appear more faithful to the original Latin text of the current Order of the Mass. Do critics see accuracy and fidelity as unimportant? If the previous translation constituted less a proper translation, and more of a paraphrase of the Latin text, and the mind of the Church is that a more accurate translation is needed, then surely the newer form represents an improvement?

    Yes, it will take time to get accustomed to it. Long familiarity with the older texts makes any change inconvenient and uncomfortable.

    Imagine how Catholics felt in the 1960’s, when the older rites were being changed! The changes then must make the changes now look trivial. No doubt many welcomed the changes, but many did not, nor ever have. Of course, Catholics were more docile and obedient then (for better or for worse), and only a few mounted real resistance to the post-Vatican II rites. Is it not ironic that those vehemently attacking the “new, improved” translation are (at least in my experience) the most adamant in insisting on retention of soon to be superceded translations – they are the “conservatives”, are they not, of the present day Church, hankering after the “good old 1960’s and 1970’s”. They are in my experience also people most opposed to the initiative of the Holy Father in allowing freer access to the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite. What are they afraid of? No-one is forcing them to attend such a Mass. Are they afraid that people will attend?

    The anti-Roman spirit is also obvious, a kind of “we are Church” mentality, that yearns for independent national churches which can thumb their noses at the Holy See. You see, isn’t it all terribly “Vatican II” to want that? Everything from married priests, to women priests, to contraception, gay marriage, abortion, to denial of dogma is all terribly “Vatican II” in their eyes. The Church BEGAN in 1965, don’t you know? Oh, that such people would view the Council in the context of the Church’s entire tradition, in a “hermeneutic of continuity” rather than a “hermeneutic of rupture” in the words of Pope. But they are so wedded to their vision of the Council as a “liberation” from the “shackles” of any binding teaching, rule or discipline, and a license to believe, do, or teach whatever suits them or our fallen human nature, and to a view of the Council as rendering irrelevant any teaching pre-1962, or any post-1962 teaching, or reading of the Council that conflicts with their view of same as license to dissent and to conform to the values of the secular world, that any move from authority that appears to conflict with their vision is seen as “regressive”.

    How sad.

    Whether our bishops have “jumped the gun” and introduced the texts prematurely is another matter. But whenever the texts become mandatory, the whining should cease, or if it continues, let those whining remember how they browbeat Catholics into “submission” over the liturgical revolution of the 1960’s-1970’s.

    God bless

  12. The alleged “browbeating” in the imposition of the English liturgy after the Council in no way excuses the imposition of bad translations now. An improvement on the earlier translations will be welcomed, but the new, hastily composed translations will create headaches worse than any the currently used translations have created. The pushers of the new, bad translations are for the most part ideologically rather than pastorally motivated.

  13. Matthew_DC says:

    It’s sad that some churchgoers feel offended by the changes. Having looked at them, I am not sure what is so offensive. The language sounds more formal than the previous translation. What mystifies me is why some Latin Catholics seem so opposed to more formal language in the liturgy. Eastern Catholics use it all the time without detrimental effect. Mass is supposed to be different from a chat at the local pub. Language is one way to set the experience apart.

  14. Little Bear says:

    Those who are yearning after the Latinized English—seem to have the misguided idea that worship is to be mysterious, and basically unintelligible.

    Did Jesus worship in a Latinized Aramaic? God forbid! The Romans were conquerors of his people. Jesus and his disciples prayed in their native language, not Latin, or a disguisting Latinized version.

    As a former teacher of English, I would give the committee who imposed this nonsense, a grade of F (failure) for their work. They do not speak English as their native language. They have no idea of the dialects of modern English. Their version of English is like a bull in a china shop. They should be ashamed of themselves for even producing such a monstrosity.

    People have the RIGHT to worship the God, who loves and made them as they are, worshipping God in their own language. If an invading country came into another nation and forced the population to speak a language as the invading country dictated—this would be considered an act of WAR.

    This whole focus of the Vatican in imposing an archaic version of a language
    on modern people coming together to worship—is nothing but a form of the Vatican’s absolutist monarchial hegemonism.

  15. Rev. Stephen J. Blum says:

    I am an American pastor from Ohio who grew up with the Latin liturgy and was in the seminary for Vatican II. The wonderful changes that came out of that Council inspired many to take their faith seriously. And many more began to actually appreciate the Eucharist because now they could understand it better. I agree with Bishop Kevin from SA. Why impose a foreign culture on a contemporary world?? I believe the Vatican II documents also reminded us to “read the signs of the times.” Why are we “backsliding into history?” Perhaps a good suggestion would be to ask the “folks in the pews” what kind of language and prayers they want to see in the liturgy: ones that mirror an ancient Church or ones that give life to contemporary Catholics?? I. for one, would like to GROW forward in our Spirituality!!

  16. Martin Keenan says:

    Some tidying up here for the record. I read here that someone claiming to be a former teacher of English would have failed “the committee who imposed this nonsense . . They do not speak English as their native language.”

    This is a vulgar error concerning Vox Clara (I assume), and both limbs are factually incorrect.

    There was no “committee” who “imposed” the new translation. The labour of preparing it fell on specialists throughout the English-speaking world whose work was co-ordinated by a secretariate of professional staff appointed by The International Commission on English in the Liturgy (ICEL) based in Washington D.C. in the USA. That work was supervised by the executive board of ICEL, all of whom are bishops appointed (one each) by the 11 episcopal conferences of these territories where English is a major (or the only) liturgical language:- USA, Canada, England & Wales, Scotland, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, India, Pakistan and The Philippines.

    The translations were prepared in batches spread over several years, and as the work progressed each batch was submitted for approval (on a two-thirds majority of all those entitled to vote) by each of the episcopal conferences named above. Once an episcopal conference had approved the complete text, it was required to submit it to the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments (CDW&DS) in Rome for final approval before implementation. All the preliminary procedures are now virtually complete, there having been only marginal input from CDW&DS at the final approval stage.

    In order to eliminate the possibility that, after many years’ work by ICEL and the various episcopal conferences, the CDW&DS might find serious fault with the translation in principle and/or in detail (as, indeed, happened with a previous effort on which ICEL had worked from the mid-1980’s until the late 1990’s) a special committee was set up in 2002 to act as an inter-face between ICEL and the CDW&DS. This is the Vox Clara committee.

  17. Martin Keenan says:

    Vox Clara met mostly at the offices of the CDW&DS once or twice a year to review in a general way the batches of translations prepared by ICEL before their submission to the episcopal conferences. Vox Clara neither prepared nor “imposed” the translations, nor did it work on the batches in the same way or to the same extent that the episcopal conferences later did; the purpose of Vox Clara was to ensure that the translations submitted to the episcopal conferences by ICEL had a good chance of being subsequently approved by the CDW&DS by virtue of conformity to the Instruction on liturgical translation issued by the CDW&DS in 2001 and known as “Liturgiam authenticam”.

    Vox Clara was not a division or unit of the CDW&DS, and its 11 original members were all senior Bishops or Archbishops of Sees in countries where English is the (or a) dominant liturgical language:- Cardinals Pell (Sydney, Australia), Rigali (then of St. Louis, now of Philadelphia, USA), George OMI (Chicago, USA) and Murphy-O’Connor (then of Westminster, England, now emeritus); Archbishops Lipscomb (then of Mobile, USA, now emeritus), Gracias (then of Agra, now of Mumbai, India and a Cardinal), Hughes (then of New Orleans, USA, now emeritus), Sarpong (then of Kumasi, Ghana, now emeritus), and Felix (Castries, St. Lucia, in the Caribbean); and Bishops Boyce O.C.D. (Raphoe, Ireland) and Tirona O.C.D. (then of Malolos, later Prelate of Infanta, Philippines). Archbishop Prendergast S.J. (then of Halifax, now of Ottawa, Canada) became the 12th member in 2004, but Bishop Tirona withdrew in 2006, reducing the number to 11 again. While it is possible or even probable that English is not the mother-tongue of Gracias, Sarpong and Tirona, they are all fluent speakers of English if not, indeed, bi-lingual.

    Vox Clara benefited from the assistance of various expert advisors (mostly Americans) for all of whom English was their mother-tongue, and in addition the official (since 2007, under-secretary) of the CDW&DS who liaised with Vox Clara was the British Marist priest, Fr. Anthony Ward. The Prefect of CDW&DS from 2002 until 2008 was the Anglophone Cardinal Francis Arinze of Nigeria, succeeded by Cardinal Llovera, formerly Archbishop of Toledo, Spain. From 2003 until 2005, the secretary of the CDW&DS was an Italian, Archbishop Domenico Sorrentino (now Bishop of Assisi), and from 2005 until 2009 it was the Anglophone Archbishop Malcolm Ranjith (now Archbishop of Colombo, Sri Lanka).

    The former English teacher can therefore rest assured that the overwhelming majority of all the relevant personnel involved in the translation process do, indeed, “speak English as their native language”.

  18. anonymous says:

    Why doesn’t the church look at some of the other more modern translations of the Roman Missal that were rejected in the past and see if they would be more suitable then the present form that is being loaded onto the parishes whether they agree to the changes or not. Whatever happened to the Right of Dissent that apparently is being overlooked as far as the bishops who used to work for ICEL are concerned because their oppinions and translations were passed over so that the pre 1962 Roman Missal that is full of hyperbole and really is extrordinary in exaggeration is now accepted.

  19. Janet says:

    Hi, Bishop Dowling. First, let me commend you on what I have come to learn of your prophetic ministry among your people. I was blessed to see the short video you used as part of your presentation at the Boston College Church in the 21st Century Initiative; it gave me hope that bishops, taken as individuals, CAN indeed lead the rest of God’s People in ways that are faithful to the mission and ministry of Jesus the Christ.

    I am not terribly fond of the Church institutional; both as a woman and as a Catholic in the Archdiocese of Boston, I cannot begin to express the searing sadness and disappointment that, even 10 years after the “revealed” scandal (for surely a great deal of scandal is still hidden away from us) hit us smack between the eyes, there is no evidence of change or conversion in the institutional structures whose deep dysfunction has led us to a place of such disillusionment and near-despair. The new translation of the liturgy—apart from its basic function as a distraction away from what continues to harm the Church—is in my view more evidence of a desire to reclaim a top-down, profoundly clericalist and alienating power apparatus.

    But I want to address you about something broader: if it is true that Vatical II meant to establish (or re-establish!!) a truly collegial authority of the bishops and a restoration of the office of bishop as leader of the local Church in all its particularity; and, if the intervening years since the Council have seen a complete betrayal of this goal and a restoration, instead, of a pope-and-curia centered institution with power being exercised “from the top” with an increasingly heavy hand that apparently has no regard for the majority of Catholics; AND if many—most?—bishops regret this deeply and desire to have their rightful collegiality restored to them so that they can do their legitimate ministry; then: why don’t you guys—worldwide—band together and present your case, as a united body—to the powers that be? I know that many bishops (at least here in the US) are “Pope John Paul II” bishops (and despite his many gifts and his amazing personal charisma—or precisely because of these—I found PJP II to be a consummate egotist; he believed his own press and that has taken an exceptionally heavy toll on the church)…but surely there are more who desire to see the Council’s vision implemented than not?

    I don’t understand why there isn’t more of an outcry—as a body of bishops? Going it alone exacts a heavy price, as I know you and others have paid. But where is the unity and brotherhood among you that can present a united, justifiable and legitimate protest? I am really not asking this rhetorically; I mean it as a heartfelt question.

    The new translation that is being foisted on us is just one example of a situation where a bishop could protect the people entrusted to him from the alien intereference not rooted in any sort of respectful consultation. The See is looking more and more like a dictatorship (and our postmodern means of communication have really supported that effect!). Where are our leaders? Where are the shepherds who KNOW the flock? Where are you guys???? Forgive me; I have great respect for you and am not intending this to convey anything but that. Yet it is because I respect you that I feel my question can come to you unadorned and that you are very likely to understand what I might be asking in a deficient way. Thanks very much for listening.

    Janet Maestranzi, CRNI, RN, BA, MTS

  20. Rev. Thomas J. Hudson says:

    In the spirit of Anglicanorum coetibus, we Episcopalians and other Anglicans gladly welcome all who cannot live with the new translations (and the growing centralization of authority in Rome) to visit and worship with us. You should find the language and choice of words quite familiar. It may in fact be the work of the Holy Spirit that a certain realignment of loyalties is taking place, and that there is a spiritual home for everyone, if they just look for it. “In my father’s house are many mansions,” as it were.

    Pax domini sit semper vobiscum!

    Thomas J. Hudson, O.P.A.

  21. anonymous says:

    Since the new liturgy and new gestures have been introduced in our parish I feel as if a new gulf between the people in the pews and God has been introduced.
    I no longer feel comfort in saying the mass parts and I find the formal language stilted and archaic. The priest told everyone to say hello at the beginning of the mass to the person next to them. Then when we exchange the peace be with you handshake or hug as the case may be, he said to only exchange a brief handshake with the person next to you in a formal way. This seems to create even more distance between parishoners and a feeling of alienation wheras before people had more freedom to greet each other. The creed only mentions men and not the more inclusive word people. The ultra conservative atmosphere that these mass changes have created is alarming and disheartening.

  22. anonymous says:

    Regarding Bishop Dowling’s well written letter, I want to express my gratitude to him for sharing his personal views through this website. I hope that many more will become more open in sharing their honest opinion. Bishop Colin Campbell of New Zealand has been very open sharing how he feels in the Tablet and has gone so far as to do a survey of parishoners concerning the mass changes. He found that 85 % of those he surveyed were not in favor of changing to the new form of the mass liturgy.I wish that the church would be more open to accepting ordinary parishoners opinions in this process. Most Bishops I have contacted have remained silent.

  1. May 20, 2009

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