But, man, he just nabbed another late night show:
America Magazine, the Jesuit publication so often responsible for pushing disobedience to the Holy See, recently ran a piece by a Father Michael Ryan, advocating yet another delay in the more accurate English translation of the Missale Romanum. I suppose the publication is to be credited somewhat by publishing a response to that piece by Father Peter Stravinskas, defending the translation.
The great unstated question in all of the effort to produce a translation that actually translates the Latin of the officially-promulgated Missal correctly, is why exactly is the Ordinary of the Mass in need of a translation into any vernacular language in light of the language of Sacrosanctum Concilium, the Vatican II document on the liturgy. Paragraph 36 states clearly: Particular law remaining in force, the use of the Latin language is to be preserved in the Latin rites.
Of course, the counter argument to this shameless appeal to the actual conciliar text is to point out that it doesn’t say how much use of the Latin language is to be preserved. And thus the floodgates were opened to a regime of liturgy in most places that jettisons the language of the Church entirely. Stravinskas just briefly touches on this in the article.
In the end, any effort to improve the Ordinary Form Mass is a welcome thing. Any Mass celebrated more reverently, with more focus on the worship of Almighty God and not ourselves, is a good thing. And yet, unless there is a return to the tradition of the Church in a liturgy that is received as handed down–as a gift– then no reform of the reform will match what a straightforward restoration would produce.
Still, this piece is a good effort, and excerpts from the full article appear below:
Defending the New Roman Missal
…When the English Missale Romanum appeared in 1970, it was clear we had been handed a paraphrase instead of a translation. As a young priest required to use these texts, I quickly determined that something needed to be done to return to the people of God what Father Ryan dubs “their baptismal birthright”—that is, an English liturgy that seeks to convey all the depth, truth and beauty of the original Latin. By 1992, I had assembled a team of scholars who produced an alternative translation of the Ordinary of the Mass and presented that effort to the Bishops’ Committee on the Liturgy in Washington, D.C., and the Congregation for Divine Worship in Rome. Hostility was the response from Washington—copies of our draft were gathered and destroyed at the bishops’ meeting—while Rome expressed a guarded interest in our project.
Ultimately, the Holy See came to the realization that many of the vernacular translations of the liturgy were problematic. (English was not the only example, just one of the more egregious.) In 2001 the Congregation for Divine Worship promulgated Liturgiam Authenticam setting forth a coherent philosophy of translation. The document called for revised translations in keeping with these norms and the establishment of an oversight committee, Vox Clara, to ensure the fidelity of future translations.
A new, reconstituted ICEL set to work immediately on a new English missal. The level of input was such that many complained that the project would never be completed because of the painstakingly sensitive consultative process. Yet with guidance from Vox Clara and experts in Rome, the new text was completed and was approved by the U.S. bishops in 2009.
What curial officials and the pope are arguing for, with the enthusiastic support of junior clergy, is not a moribund “rubricism” but a genuine ars celebrandi that makes the sacred mysteries palpable. Not a few observers have noted that much of the liturgical change that occurred after the council—both officially sanctioned as well as in explicit violation of church law—would have been unthinkable to the council fathers. What is required now is a careful re-building process. Is this “turning back the clock”? In some sense, it is. Permit me a mundane example. If a man is told by his physician that he must lose 50 pounds or face serious problems, he must “turn back the clock” to the time when he was lighter in order to save his life. Mutatis mutandis—that is what the church at the highest levels is calling us to do.
In a speech to the bishops conference in November, Bishop Trautman cited paragraph 36 of Sacrosanctum Concilium, which he argued gave the episcopal conferences the authority to produce and approve liturgical translations. Yet the paragraph in question in no way calls for what Bishop Trautman demands: it stipulates that episcopal conferences are to approve translations (not produce them), with subsequent approval by the Holy See.
Ironically, the very same paragraph of the conciliar constitution also states that, “The use of the Latin language, with due respect to particular law, is to be preserved in the Latin rites….Care must be taken to ensure that the faithful may also be able to say or sing together in Latin those parts of the Ordinary of the Mass which pertain to them.” In other words, if paragraph 36 had been followed in regard to the primacy of Latin, the Ordinary of the Mass would not have been translated into the vernacular in the first place!
How did the final texts receive such overwhelming support from the American bishops, if they are so bad? Father Ryan contends that the bishops were just “worn down” by the Holy See and so caved in. I disagree. The majority of the bishops saw the merit of the work and were tired of the delaying tactics of a vocal if tiny minority of opponents. Is this translation perfect? Of course not. No translation is, but we ought never make the best the enemy of the good. It is a vast improvement over the uninspiring, banal and all-too-often theologically problematic texts we have been using for nearly 40 years. The New Testament speaks of chairos, an especially fortuitous moment. We are approaching a liturgical chairos for English-speaking Catholics, which we should embrace with gusto.