Campaign to Delay Mass Changes: Ryan Update

An update from CNS on the move to delay the changes in the Mass translation, begun by the article by the Rev. Michael Ryan in America.  The story also comments on Bishop Arthur Serratelli's piece in America this week.

Thousands join priest's campaign to delay changes in Mass prayers


WASHINGTON (CNS) -- by Nancy Frazier O'Brien.   A Seattle pastor who was present in St. Peter's Square as a seminarian in 1963 when Pope Paul VI presented the Second Vatican Council's liturgical document, "Sacrosanctum Concilium," is leading a campaign to delay implementation of the latest English translation of the Roman Missal. Father Michael G. Ryan, pastor of St. James Cathedral in Seattle since 1988, has gathered more than 17,000 signatures from English-speaking Catholics around the world asking that the new translations of the prayers used at Mass be tested through a pilot program at selected parishes for a year before their full implementation. "It is ironic, to say the least, that we spend hours of consultation when planning to renovate a church building or parish hall, but little or none when 'renovating' the very language of the liturgy," Father Ryan wrote in America magazine late last year.

As of Feb. 24, his Web site at had registered 17,305 signatures from people who identified themselves as Catholic priests, deacons, religious or laypeople from England, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the U.S. and other English-speaking countries. "We are convinced that adopting translations that are highly controversial, and which leaders among our bishops as well as many highly respected liturgists and linguists consider to be seriously flawed, will be a grave mistake," says a "statement of concern" endorsed by the signers.

But Bishop Arthur J. Serratelli of Paterson, N.J., chairman of the U.S. bishops' Committee on Divine Worship, said in an article for the March 1 edition of America magazine that "the translation process has involved linguistic, biblical and liturgical scholars from each of the 11 English-speaking countries" that belong to the International Commission on English in the Liturgy."The texts may be unfamiliar now, but the more one understands their meaning, the more meaningful their use will be in the liturgy," he added.

Although he made no direct reference to Father Ryan's article or to the campaign to delay use of the missal in U.S. parishes, Bishop Serratelli said some have criticized the new text, "often without having seen more than a few examples out of context." He also acknowledged concerns "about unfamiliar vocabulary and unnecessarily complicated sentence structures." But the bishop said that because of his involvement with ICEL and the divine worship committee, "I can attest that the new translation is good and worthy of use."

"It is not perfect, but perfection will come only when the liturgy on earth gives way to that of heaven, where all the saints praise God with one voice," he added.

According to an announcement at the Vatican in late January, the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments is pulling together the final version of the English translation of the missal. Because bishops' conferences approved the Roman Missal in sections over a period of years, a final review and minor edits were needed to ensure consistency, said a congregation official. Most English-speaking bishops' conferences are preparing materials to introduce and explain the new translation with the hope that people will begin using it in parishes at the beginning of Advent 2011.

But in South Africa, where the bishops' conference mistakenly introduced the new translations into parish use in late 2008, much of the reaction has not been positive. The Southern Cross, South Africa's Catholic weekly, reported early in 2009 that it received "a flood of letters" about the changes. "Almost all of them are angry; none gave the revised version unqualified support. One correspondent, in a passage excised from the published version, went as far as writing: 'I hate you, hierarchy.' Feelings are running deep indeed," the newspaper said in an editorial.

"The anger of the people in the pews and many priests (and some bishops) seems to be rooted not so much in what they feel are anachronistic and clumsy translations -- vexing though they appear to be to many -- but in what they see as an arbitrary imposition of liturgical values that are foreign to them by faceless bureaucrats in distant Rome," the editorial said.

Gunther Simmermacher, editor of The Southern Cross, told CNS Feb. 25 that, a year later, "there are still many people who are emphatic in their opposition to the translations, but it is difficult to say how strong they are in numbers -- or, indeed, how strong those who support the changes are."But even in cases where opposition was initially strong, there appears to be now "a sense of resignation, that 'resistance is futile,' as one priest put it to me," Simmermacher added in an e-mail to CNS.

Although priests of the Archdiocese of Cape Town, South Africa, were almost unanimous in their rejection of the translations at a meeting a year ago, for example, "a few months later almost all parishes had begun implementing them," he said."I don't think most of the faithful care one way or another," Simmermacher added. "They trust that there are good reasons for whatever is being implemented."

Under Father Ryan's proposal for the U.S., each region of bishops would designate places where the new translations would be used for a year, "with carefully planned catechesis and through, honest evaluation." The sites would include urban and rural parishes, affluent and poor parishes, large, multicultural parishes and small ones, religious communities and college campuses, he said. Opposition to the translations "might smack of insubordination," Father Ryan said in his America article, "but it could also be a show of loyalty and plain good sense -- loyalty not to any ideological agenda but to our people ... and good sense to anyone who stops to think about what is at stake here."

"What is at stake, it seems to me, is nothing less than the church's credibility," he added.  --CNS

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Sues Krebs
8 years 7 months ago
Dear Fr.,
The bible first became accessible to the Common Lay Christian around the time of Vatican two.  That was when Church Member who prefered ignorance said, "I liked it better in Latin because it's better when you don't know what is being said." I don't know you but if the Great Amen was still in latin I still could have learned it by 8 but It wouldn't carry the same meaning for me.  Differing translation may word differently but isn't the message virtually the same.
Susan, SJ
Jim McCrea
8 years 10 months ago
I'm sure that Rome hopes that, if we continue to be distracted by magisterial counting of angels on the heads of liturgical pins, then we pew potatoes will ignore the ever-widening scandal of priestly abuse of children along with the accompanying ecclesiastical wagon-circling, denial and scandalous coverups.
Aren't we due for yet another apparition of the BVM on a taco or something like that?
Mike Evans
8 years 10 months ago
Liturgical fundamentalism is alive and well. How does this serve the overall mission of the church? Is it possible that there are far more important issues in the life of the church to discuss and resolve than how many commas are needed per paragraph?
James Lindsay
8 years 10 months ago
As long as we continue to chose to be led in faith by a Roman Patriarch, we must ascent to the use of a Roman Missal. There is nothing scriptural about the number or scope of the partriarchies - indeed in the Eastern Church they are more numerous and there situation is perfectly satisfactory. Indeed, one of the original scriptural churches was made up of Gallic people in Asia Minor - the Gallatians. A Gallatian revival could select its own patriarch and its own missal and still be very much Catholic. If the people think that Rome has gone too far, this may just happen. Indeed, some of the papist objections held by the Protestants would be visceated if the Catholic, Orthodox and Anglican Churches in the English speaking world unified under one Patriarch. For those who follow the Prophesies of St. Malachy, such a development is all the more plausible.
John Stehn
8 years 10 months ago
More absurdity from Fr. Ryan.  Under the standard of "the spirit of Vatican II", we've suffered through poor liturgical text translations for 40 years.  The only ones who will protest these changes will be the '60's crowd, who are trapped in the hazy days of dissent and "power to the people". Where was the concern for "the church's credibility" when altar rails were being demolished?  Or when altar girls began appearing on the altars during Mass (without Vatican approval), or when guitars and banjo's became liturgical musical instruments?  Then there's the "Eucharistic Ministers" who dominate the altar every Sunday, while our parish priests hide in their rooms, content to let others perform their sacred duties.  The faithful have to receive Communion from busybodies with unwashed hands who are so "devoted" to Our Lord that they can’t even genuflect before Him when they ascend the altar.
The irony is just too much to bear, without breaking out into laughter.  It was Fr. Ryan's generation that foisted the false liturgical revolution onto the faithful, without so much as a whiff of concern for how the faithful felt.  Now, 40 years later, his generation are the ones pleading for the wheels of change to stop because, of all things, they are concerned about the faithful in the pews.
Trust me, if the abovementioned abuses don't scare them away every Sunday, pronouncing "consubstantial" won't either.
8 years 10 months ago
How telling, and how sad, that the greatest "hope" for "acceptance" of the latinized translations is that we will be either resigned to helplessness or apathetic.
8 years 10 months ago
 In the March 1 issue of America Archbishop Serratelli  contributed your lead piece, “Welcoming the Roman Missal." Over the title there appeared the heading “An Opportunity for Liturgical Renewal.” I don’t know whether this heading represented an editorial assessment of the piece or whether it was suggested by the author.  In any case, I am not convinced  that  the laity  will (or should) welcome either the translation  according to the methods required  by Liturgiam Authenticam  or the  heavy-handed hard sell  (elegantly termed “remote and proximate catechesis”) being undertaken  by the Bishops’ Conference.
A better "Opportunity for Liturgical Renewal" might be the one offered by Fr. Ryan’s initiative. There are, though the Bishops seem to find it hard to believe, actually people out there who have read Liturgiam Authenticam and carefully assessed the new translations. There may be a fair number who managed to  watch the USCCB’s discussion of the whole matter. (It was not an edifying  scene.) I suspect  people who have investigated the matter for themselves already are well represented among the seventeen thousand and more who signed the petition urging a wait and further consideration. It might be a good idea to take them seriously.4C8
Vince Killoran
8 years 10 months ago
As always we've been given pats on our heads and told not to worry our little minds.  Just once I would like to hear or read a bishop articulate how he understands (and what he does with) the laity's views.
8 years 10 months ago
I agree with you Deacon Mike.  I can't understand why Fr. Ryan is making such a fuss.  There are more important things to do than to fight the bishops concerning the liturgy.  Lets put our energy into more important issues such as fighting Planned Parenthood's assult against the unborn.


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