Liturgists Worry About Implementation of the New Roman Missal

In this week's Signs of the Times, liturgists voice their concerns about the translation and implementation of the new Roman Missal:

Meetings of North American liturgists last month provided a first impression of how well the upcoming introduction of the new Roman Missal is likely to proceed. Attendees at conferences of the North American Academy of Liturgy and the Catholic Academy of Liturgy in San Francisco described liturgists as frustrated with the process that led to the new missal and displeased with the quality of the translation, but resigned to its inevitability.


“I wouldn’t say people are jumping up and down about it,” the Rev. Michael Driscoll of the University of Notre Dame said. “It’s going to be a hard sell, but we’re going to be doing our part to help. The attitude is: ‘This is a translation, not the translation.’” Referring to the International Commission on English in the Liturgy and to the Vox Clara Committee, he added, “We have to be respectful of the bishops’ committee and the I.C.E.L. and the [Vox Clara Committee], but this is probably not the definitive translation.” In 15 or 20 years, said Father Driscoll, “Who knows? It’s helpful to take the long view; that’s a very Catholic thing to do.”

One notable response came from Anthony Ruff, O.S.B., who teaches theology at St. John’s University in Collegeville, Minn., and who served as chairman of I.C.E.L.’s music committee. He wrote an open letter to the U.S. Bishops in which he described his decision to withdraw from speaking engagements at eight dioceses around the United States intended to help promote the new missal.

In his letter, he said that [promoting the new missal] is something he no longer can agree to “with integrity.” Father Ruff wrote, “I’m sure bishops want a speaker who can put the new missal in a positive light, and that would require me to say things I do not believe.” He submitted the letter with the permission of his Benedictine superiors.

...“My involvement in that process,” he wrote, “as well as my observation of the Holy See’s handling of scandal, has gradually opened my eyes to the deep problems in the structures of authority of our church.

“The forthcoming missal is but a part of a larger pattern of top-down impositions by a central authority that does not consider itself accountable to the larger church,” Father Ruff wrote. “When I think of how secretive the translation process was, how little consultation was done with priests or laity, how the Holy See allowed a small group to hijack the translation at the final stage, how unsatisfactory the final text is, how this text was imposed on national conferences of bishops in violation of their legitimate episcopal authority…and then when I think of Our Lord’s teachings on service and love and unity…I weep.”

The full text of the letter is available online. The full text of the article can be found here.

UPDATE (4/4/11; 1:43 p.m.): Over at Father Ruff's blog, news of the Association of Catholic Priests, a group of Irish clergy, also voicing their opinion of the New Missal, calling the translation "unacceptable." Read the story here.

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7 years 2 months ago
Liturgists thinking they know better than anyone? Surprise, surprise.

This quote is telling: "It’s helpful to take the long view; that’s a very Catholic thing to do.”

If that's true, then why the slavish loyalty to a translation less than thirty years old?  Curious.
7 years 2 months ago
When all you (or a couple academics) have to complain about is HOW the game was played, you've clearly lost the game.  Maybe their complaint is that the bishops decided it was time to take the translation out of the hands of "academics" and into someone else's.
Vince Killoran
7 years 2 months ago
Jeff, Jeff, Jeff: The academics to which I referred had nothing to do with the translations-they are professionals, academics whose scholarly speciality is translation (BTW, none are Catholic).  Their observation is that the process used- and the resulting translations-are seriously flawed.  Food for thought, no?

I don't see this as a "game."  It's our liturgy, the Mass.
7 years 2 months ago
The implementation of the new translation will be a breeze (at parishes where it is embraced with enthusism)

Unfortunately those parishes that implement this new translation with reluctance will lose members.  Who will be to blame???
Carolyn Disco
7 years 2 months ago
I am very grateful for Father Ruff's powerful words, and for his integrity:

“The forthcoming missal is but a part of a larger pattern of top-down impositions by a central authority that does not consider itself accountable to the larger church,” Father Ruff wrote. “When I think of how secretive the translation process was, how little consultation was done with priests or laity, how the Holy See allowed a small group to hijack the translation at the final stage, how unsatisfactory the final text is, how this text was imposed on national conferences of bishops in violation of their legitimate episcopal authority…and then when I think of Our Lord’s teachings on service and love and unity…I weep.”

Score one for the Benedictines! The facts speak for themselves.
Bill Mazzella
7 years 2 months ago

If you want to talk about infighting you will have to go back to the Apostles. Many of whom tried their best to sabotage Jesus. Paul had his problems with the Corinthians and others. But Paul was a unifier. He discussed and persuaded and even withdrew when he thought matters were too contentius. Not so the Vatican which championed Maciel and other problematic movements.  We will see how the people react. One thing is for sure, the Vatican has many principled and knowledgeable liturgists opposing this move.
Thomas Piatak
7 years 2 months ago
Frankly, I don't care what the "liturgists" want.  For far too long, they have been able to experiment with the Mass, Catholic architecture, and Catholic music, imposing changes they (but nobody else) wanted.  They've disparaged kneeling.  I've been instructed at Mass to stand during the Eucharistic Prayer, contrary to the norms for the Mass.  They've deprecated cruciform churches and traditional Catholic design, giving us instead "churches in the round" without kneelers and without statues and even without crucifixes, churches that are uninspiring at best and ugly at worst.  They've shunted tabernacles off to the side and, for years, there was a de facto ban on Eucharistic devotions in this country.  (Fortunately, Eucharistic adoration is making a comeback, because it is so deeply rooted in Catholic culture and so inspiring that people who are exposed to it naturally want more of it).  They've waged war on even the vestiges of Latin, depriving people of exposure to traditional Catholic music, and substituted generally bad folk music instead.  (I think a handful of the new hymns are good, but most are dreadful).  When I got married, the pastor allowed my wife and I to put together a schola to provide music for the nuptial Mass, all of which was in Latin.  (The Mass was in English).   Afterward, I received many compliments on the music, both from Catholics, who missed hearing this type of music, and from non-Catholics, who were pleasantly surprised because they had come to associate Catholicism with bad music. 

Fortunately, there are signs that many of these trends are now being reversed.  And if the small change represented by the new translation actually heralds the recovery of some of the beauty that was tossed aside for no good reason, it will be a good thing.
Vince Killoran
7 years 2 months ago
I think it's "to whom I referred" NOT "to which I referred."  Sorry about that!

Happy Super Bowl Weekend!
Juan Lino
7 years 2 months ago
This tired song again!!!!  What are they so afraid of?  This reminds me of all the nonsense about the dangers of the Mel Gibson movie that were supposed to happen but never did.  Educate the parish - and I mean real education not "were supposed to do this now and so I am going to tell you about it" - and then see what happens.  Truth has a beauty and power of it's own!
Vince Killoran
7 years 2 months ago
I didn't draw the same conclusion as Jeff ("surprise, surprise").  The translation process was a lousy one (a couple of academics who specialize in translation on our campus break out in laughter when I mention the now-infamous debacle); the liturgists offer an honest, pastoral response to the issue. Fr. Ruff's way of dealing with this was principled.
Bill Mazzella
7 years 2 months ago
Self restraint can be unprincipled also. Naturally, we also oppose lack of self restraint when it is not in our favor. The bishops should have acted without restraints in Nazi Germany. Too many of them strained themselves to ignoring what was happening to the Jews. 
John Flaherty
7 years 2 months ago
Mr. Mazzella,
If I may be quite blunt, your comment strikes me as libelous, not reasonable.
It seems to me to smack of willful intellectual dishonesty and an adamant refusal to understand the situation in Germany as it stood.
As history unfolds and we learn more and more about what all truly went on-and what all occurrs in our own nation now-I think a great many armchair quarterbacks likely will need to exercise a great deal more humility than they do.
It's all too easy to say," There's no way I would EVER do that!", then find ourselves doing PRECISELY what we insisted we would not.

Magdalene Maximilian
7 years 2 months ago
An imposing of a top-down heirarchy upon the people with little consultation???
Sounds like 1969!!!!

Back then the Mass everyone knew was removed and the book of common prayer, with some changes, was foisted upon the church.

I cannot wait for the better translations!  10 years ago we were to have them but much foot dragging occurred. FINALLY things will improve.  I am tired of the innovations and being upset at Mass. Enough already. 

We need better prayers. As we pray so we believe.  It is the holy SACRIFICE of the Mass, not merely a 'gathering of the assembly to share a meal' which can e done at a restaurant.

Give us back our Mass, please.
Phil Steinacker
7 years 2 months ago
I can't sympathize with liturgical whining. When liturgists appeared in the late 60s & 70s to change the Mass without genuine authorization our protests were met with no consultation & no sympathy.

In fact, as a cradle Catholic I had rarely even heard the word "liturgist" until they began showing up to dismantle the Mass we all knew. We received nothing similar to what they are now demanding and - in fact - they outright lied to us by invoking a faux "spirit of Vatican 2" to justify making changes for which they had no authorization, often contravening the actual words of applicable Vatican II documents.

It wasn't until many of us began reading those documents that we found out what liars so many liturgists and some bishops and priests had been in order to get their way.

So, I think it's a good thing for them to whine now. I've long believed we're heading for schism here in the American Church; perhaps the new translation will do it.

As for citing translation experts (non-Catholi to boot) who cares what they think and what they find funny about the new translation? It's all too easy to laugh at the absurdities Protestants have been pushing for centuries, too. Your translators are arrogant and condescending, Vince, as you were with your offensive "Jeff, Jeff, Jeff" chiding of another commenter. Both they and you are irrelevent.

The new translation brings the English-speaking world in line with all other language versions of the Mass, which were already true to the original Latin text. It is errant nonsense to suggest that these new translations are not accurate. That's precisely the point - to worship in unity with the rest of the Church.

The only question remaining is whether those unhappy with the changes will remain in the Church as faithful Catholics by embracing these changes in humble obedience.
Vince Killoran
7 years 2 months ago
"Whiners," "liars," and "nonsense": way to lift the tone of our dialogue Phil (and you thought my faux exasperated "Jeff, Jeff, Jeff" was harsh).

Your argument is this: forty or so years ago I didn't like the process that was used in changing the liturgy so this is sweet revenge.  While I am at it, who cares about the perspective of expert translators? We don't need no stinkin' academics! (I hope you pick your auto mechanic, doctor, and kid's school teacher a little differently).

And, finally, if you can't accept whatever comes down from the headquarters, don't let the door hit you where the good Lord split you!


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