It has been several months since Bishop Donald W. Trautmans article on the new English translation of the Roman Missal (How Accessible Are the New Mass Translations? 5/21), and still no dissent in these pages? Let this be it.
I grew up with the ICEL translation, first as a churchgoer, then as an altar server of many years, later as a seminarian and now as a doctoral student in theology. My impression, though untechnical and visceral, never wavered: ICELs translation was wretched. As I looked behind the translation, however, I realized it was not just bad, but also treacherous. Words that discomfited members of the commissionyou know, like soul or gracewere eliminated or marginalized in their translations of the Mass and sacraments. There was then no question of translators translating, but of translators imposing their own theological views on the church.
Bishop Trautman frets about the negative, non-pastoral effects on John and Mary Catholic of ICELs more stringent translation policies (courtesy of Vatican oversight). Yet he offers no evidence that John and Mary Catholic have liked ICELs work in the past, and he is silent about his own measures to gauge the pastoral pluses and minuses of the current translation. He complains that the new Creeds consubstantial will be unintelligible to most Catholics, while offering no proof that Catholics understand now what one in being means. All of which leads me to believe that pastoral and non-pastoral are merely buzzwords for whatever one agrees or disagrees with.
Predictably, the Second Vatican Council is forced into service. An appeal is made to No. 21 of the Constitution on the Liturgy, arguing that the council said liturgical texts should be translated into easy language. Thus, until the Vatican got involved ICEL was only following the will of the council. But ignored is the fact that the council fathers of Vatican II never envisioned the wide-ranging use of the vernacular (see No. 36). Nor were they providing principles of translation for liturgical texts in No. 21, but treating the reform of liturgical ritual. So the implication that ICELs old way of translating had Vatican IIs mandate is anachronistic and self-serving. It is such megalomaniacal thinking by the commission and its enablers that finally brought about the Vaticans intervention.
I support the Vaticans efforts to reform the old ICEL in order to give John and Mary Catholic a liturgy worthy of the beauty of their faith.
Matthew W. I. Dunn
I read Bishop Donald W. Trautmans essay on the new Mass translations (5/21) with interest and appreciation for the information it contained. Thank you for running it.
Who are the members of the committee of the International Commission on English in the Liturgy who have proposed these linguistic follies? Their names, please.
The cartoon accompanying the article was not entirely apt since it portrayed a parishioner thumbing his dictionary. Surely people know enough semi-archaic English to cope with deign, bid, wrought and the still current thwart and to recognize ineffable and consubstantial as transliterations of the Latin and not translations from it. Such is the whole purpose of the exercise into good Finnish, Spanish, Enga and Tagalog, not to say English. Yet the dictionary reference is not entirely inapt, bringing to mind the gentleman with weak English who tried to explain his childlessness by saying successively but unsuccessfully that his wife was incapable, unbearable and inconceivable. He should have tried unmotherly and then, not finding it in the dictionary, should have given up on it.
The burden of Bishop Trautmans article, with its examples, is no matter of jest. It is a swindle of English-speaking Catholics that must already be causing the bishops and lower clergy of Ireland, India and New Zealandamong others affected by ICELs decisionsto deplore Americans imperfect grasp of modern spoken English. They will say this knowing only that ICEL is headquartered in Washington, D.C., and unaware that no U.S. liturgical scholars or litterateurs had anything to do with this faux religious Esperanto.
One word on Cyrils vanquishing of the Antiochenes over theotokos, which was all about Marys Son rather than about Mary. It is true that he has been commemorated in prayer as assertor invictus for many centuries, but he was himself vanquished (if you will pardon the expression) when he acknowledged that Marys Son was a full and complete human being as well as eternal Son of God in the Symbol of Union drawn up after Ephesus and written probably by Theoderet of Cyrus. It made its way to Chalcedon 20 years later as Cyrils favored kata hypostasin did not. Win some, lose some.
(Rev.) Gerard Sloyan
I read A Partner for the Pastor, by Thomas P. Sweetser, S.J., (7/30) with interest, being one of those pastors about whom he writes. I concur with some of his itemized points about a partner with appropriate organizational/administrative expertise. But I believe the issue of the pastors role of leadership should be given more careful analysis. In the end, parishesand organizationsrise and fall primarily on the effectiveness of the person in that seat.
If the roles of a parish pastoral council and a finance council are to give counsel to the pastor on critical issues, the role of a partner or staff administrator should not interfere with this process and relationship. Whose agenda is really to be set? Without sufficient reflection, a pastors attempt at delegation can become abdication of his roleand the influence-relationship between himself and his councillors. In the attempt to rescue the priest-pastor, we can run the risk of losing the influence of the pastor as the critical leader of the faith community.
Priest overload or shortages notwithstanding, staff members cannot replace the vision, relationships and dynamic established by the pastor in his leadership role.
Several years ago I established the position of coordinator of ministries as a primary overseer of that aspect of the parish. It has had a great unifying impact on parish life.
I also have a business manager. We are managed quite well, thanks to his efficient and competent oversight. I work with these two persons as a primary staff leadership team. I have learned from experience, however, that they cannot stand in for me as leader in the consultation process with the primary parish leadership groups. I need to hear them and they need to hear me.
Pastors struggle with an understanding of their rightful place in the mix and can get lost once staffs have been put into place, thinking their job is going to get easier.
Diocesan bishops have staffs to assist them in their leadership role. From my view, these staff roles seem to be clear and not confused with the public role of the bishop as leader. It should be no different at the parish level.
The pastor is charged with providing for the pastoral care of the people with the assistance and counsel of the laity. His unique role is more than sacramental; he is the ecclesial leader. Some administrative functions can be handled by a partner or coordinator, but not who he is and how we will act as the leader.
(Msgr.) James T. Gaston
Lower Burrell, Pa.