Cardinal Arinze heads Bishop Trautman & co. off at the pass

Cardinal Arinze’s onto Bishop Donald Trautman, it would seem, and the rest of the English speaking Catholic Church can rest easy. He’s not going to let the US Bishop’s derail the project for a universally accepted and improved translation of the English liturgy.

You can read the text of his 2 May 2006 letter to Bishop William Skylstad, the President of the US Bishops Conference here, but in the mean time, here are the headlines:

  • Both the CDW and the Bishops’ Conferences are bound to follow the directives in Liturgiam authenticam.
  • The CDW is not competent to grant the recognitio for translations that do not conform to these directives
  • Since Liturgiam authenticam was issues precisely to guide the revision of all translations done in the last forty years, the argument that people have become accustomed to a certain translation for the past thirty or forty years and therefore that it is pastorally advisable to make no changes, is not acceptable.
  • Since the CDW has determined that there are good and strong reasons for a change in regard to the entire translation of the Missale Romanum, then the revised text should make the needed changes.
  • The attitudes of Bishops and Priests will certainly influence the acceptance of the texts by the lay faithful as well.

The last point is with the implication that if the new translations fail, we know who to blame. Of course, if they do fail (God save us from such evil!), there will always be those who will place the fault on the translation itself rather than the half-hearted support of those priests and bishops who opposed it.

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8 Responses to Cardinal Arinze heads Bishop Trautman & co. off at the pass

  1. Peregrinus says:

    The CDW’s concern is that the texts should comply with the principles of Liturgiam Authenticam. However “failure”, in the context of your blog post, seems to mean that the texts are not received warmly by the people.

    But there’s no obvious reason why the people should receive a text warmly just because it complies with Liturgiam Authenticam. Few of them have ever heard of Liturgiam Authenticam; even fewer have ever read it. Their response to the texts will not be shaped by it at all, but by entirely different factors.

    If the objective of the current exercise has been to produce texts which more faithfully reflect the principles of Liturgiam Authenticam, then it has not been to produce texts which will be received enthusiastically by the people. Given that, it may be unfair to see a lukewarm or even hostile reception as a “failure”. But it wouild be even more unfair to blame those at the pastoral coalface for that failure.

  2. Schütz says:

    I admit that I was a little unclear on what I meant by “failure”. There are in fact two different “failures” that I am addressing: 1) failure to complete the translation project in compliance with LA; 2) failure to successfully introduce the new translations once they are completed. Given the track record of what happened in the past (and we only have one instance of this by which to judge, ie. the introduction of the current ICEL translation in the early 1970’s), acceptance or otherwise of the new translations will depend entirely on the enthusiasm and support given by the practicioners of the liturgy. I mean, can one really say that it was the translations themselves that commended the novus ordo so highly in the early 1970’s? Or was it not the enthusiastic introduction by the priests and bishops? Likewise, in this new case, only complete solidarity on the new translations will win the day.

  3. Don Matterhorn says:

    blaming yourself or others…now it can be a much nicer experience ;)
    check this out:

  4. Peregrinus says:

    But there may be a tension between the objectives of (a) preparing a translation judged to be compliant with LA, and (2) having the translation welcomed, and this should be recognised.

    We need to be careful about comparisons with the last time around. Whatever your views at the time about the use of the vernacular, you could see why it was being introduced and, given that, a translation was obviously necessary. I suspect – I am too young to recall – that strong feelings and discussion at the time among the people largely revolved around (1) the use of the vernacular and (2) the new order of the liturgy. (3), the quality and fidelity of the translation, as compared with the Latin text in the Roman Missal, would hardly have featured at all.

    But this time around, (3) is the only issue. I think the first challenge in presenting the revised translation will be to persuade people than any change is necessary at all. Many of them simply will not see the point. I think it will be hard to persuade them to see any gain to themselves as a worshipping community resulting from the changes, and I think they won’t perceive the need which the changes are intended to meet. I honestly think it is going to be very hard to generate any enthusiasm for the changes; passive acceptance is the best of the range of outcomes that I suspect is realistically attainable. And in instances where that is not achieved, it certainly won’t be fair to lay the blame entirely, or primarily, on the immediate pastors.

    Maybe I’m cynical, but one possible reading of Cardinal Arinze’s letter is that he realises that there is no reason to expect enthusiastic reception of the new transation from the pews, he expects adverse comment on the project as a result of this, and he is positioning himself and his Congregation to say, when this happens, “well, don’t blame us”.

  5. Schütz says:

    I agree that the argument last time was all about whether the vernacular should be used or not and about the relative merits of the novus ordo mass comparted to the Tridentine rite. I agree that not a lot of attention was given to the actual quality of the translation itself. In fact, it was a bit of a rushed job, and there wasn’t much vetting of the translation.

    I agree too that it will be a tough job trying to convince most folk that any change is necessary. But then, it is also a tough job explainging to people why the doctrine of the Holy Trinity is necessary, why its necessary to go to the sacrament of reconciliation before mass, etc. etc.

    Just because the point isn’t obvious to the majority, doesn’t mean it isn’t necessary. This is a job that has to be done, and its better that it be done now, and got over with. Pity it wasn’t done properly in the first place, but then these things usually take a few goes. Rome, as they say, wasn’t built in a day…

  6. Peregrinus says:

    Assuming all that is true, David, it seems all the more to follow that, if the people don’t enthusiastically accept the new translation, the fault does not necessarily lie with those at the pastoral coalface who have to present it to them.

    There is something unedifying – to put it no higher – about the sight of a Roman dicastery speculating publicly and pointedly about who will be to blame if a task which it has given to local churches proves to be difficult or impossible.

    Yes, securing popular acceptance of the new translation is going to be a real challenge, for the reasons we’ve already identified. But if Arinze thinks that the best way to motivate pastors to rise to meet the challenge that he is setting them is to lecture them in advance about blame for anticipated failure, I respectfully suggest that he still has something to learn about Christian leadership – or any kind of leadership, come to think of it. If he set about devising a stance intended to confirm every prejudice and negative stereotype which circulates about the Curia, he could hardly have come up with a better one.

  7. Schütz says:

    I think at this point, Peregrinus, you are getting a little distant from the Cardinal’s actual words. What he said was:

    “The attitudes of Bishops and Priests will certainly influence the acceptance of the texts by the lay faithful as well.”

    That is most certainly true (as the Lutherans say in their Catechism). He is not saying that they will be to blame if the project “fails”, but that a negative attitude on the part of the clergy cannot fail to be reflected in the way in which the new missal is received by the lay faithful.

  8. Peregrinus says:

    You’re quite right.

    Rereading your post, the implication of blame was your point, not his. I am being unfair to him. Mea culpa!.

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