A Clear Voice?

Anthony Ruff, OSB has been reporting on his blog praytellblog.com about the meeting of the U.S. bishops conference November meeting in Baltimore.
Anthony Ruff OSB is a monk of St. John’s Abbey in Collegeville, Minnesota. He teaches liturgy, liturgical music, and Gregorian chant at St. John’s University School of Theology.
Fr. Ruff wrote
“When the new English Missal of 2011 was in preparation, there were concerns that it would be unduly large and hard for altar servers to hold, which has proven to be the case. There were proposals to create a “book of the chair” with just the opening rites and the closing rites – mostly the opening Collect and the Postcommunion Prayer – which are proclaimed from the presidential chair rather than the altar. This excerpted book would be much lighter and manageable.
But no. Rome made it known that no one had any business creating new genres of liturgical books. Any publishers’ plans in this direction were stomped out. This is the Roman Rite. Mass has a missal, period.
More recently, things have eased. Now one can use common sense. Word got out that Rome would approve such a book, and in fact already had for other places. So the BCDW (Bishops’ Committee on Divine Worship) put the “book of the chair” proposal to the body of bishops today.
The discussion showed that there are reasons coming from all sides for favoring or opposing this thing.
First up to speak was retired Bishop Donald Trautman, former BCDW chair who made himself famous as an opponent of the new missal and its underlying translation theory (from Liturgiam authenticam, 2011). He was opposed to this sensible, practical proposal. There is no need for this book; one can use the smaller chapel edition at the chair (and a bigger edition at the altar).
Then Archbishop Wilton Gregory, also a former USCCB liturgy committee chair, rose to echo Trautman’s concerns. Before printing up more books with the current translation, we ought to look at the problems with the translation. There should be a review of the problems with the new Missal.
So there was reason to favor the “book of the chair”: because it is sensible decentralization, a commonsense adaption not found in the official Latin edition but useful in local liturgical celebrations. This sounds like the “spirit of Pope Francis.”
But there was also reason to oppose the “book of the chair”: let’s not institutionalize a problematic translation and give it more standing and perhaps permanence.
Bishop Serratelli, current BCDW chair, responded negatively to Gregory’s suggestion to start reviewing the problems in the new translation. Liturgiam authenticam is policy, it is being used for ongoing translations, and one must hold to this. Rome has not issued any document revising LA.
A bishop rose to ask whether the US adaptations for the third form of the Penitential Act, tropes preceding each Kyrie/Christe, would be right there in the front. He sounded just a bit irritated that the new Missal inconveniently places them in the appendix. (This was at Rome’s insistence: we don’t go by what works in the liturgical celebration. We go by Roman centralism. We make clear by inconvenient placement that national adaptations aren’t based on the Latin original.) The bishop was reassured that it would be laid out for convenience, with the Kyrie tropes right there where you need them.
The most unfortunate thing is that no bishop rose to say the following:

We shouldn’t let ourselves think that the current Missal translation is the only way to do things according to Liturgiam authenticam. Translation is never that exacting. What we US bishops submitted to Rome would also have been a faithful to LA, and the 10,000+ changes Rome made to our submission (after they had micromanaged the production of our draft) were in many cases a violation of LA. More importantly, if one looks at what Rome has approved for other conferences – the German text in their recently approved Gotteslob hymnal, for example – one sees that LA could readily be interpreted with more flexibility. Better texts than ours are possible, and that is what we should work for. And in fact, LA explicitly allows for original vernacular texts, so it would make sense for us to re-submit to Rome the lectionary-based Collects matching the 3-year cycle of readings which we approved for the 1997/1998 Sacramentary. There is reason to believe that the Roman authorities would now look favorably upon such a request.

But nothing like that was said. The discussion, and the vote handily approving the proposal, suggest that the bishops are eminently pragmatic. This is the translation we have, so let’s make things work a bit better with a lighter book with big print for use at the chair. This is mostly good news, I think.
And it is noteworthy that the bishop who spoke most negatively about the new translation, Archbishop Wilton Gregory, was a candidate to be chair of the USCCB liturgy committee. He was elected. His term will begin in 2016. He and the liturgy committee will have many, many issues to deal with. It will be interesting to see whether a change in translation approach will be among them.”
In another post on his blog Fr. Ruff goes on to comment:
“Archbishop Wilton Gregory of Atlanta, George was elected chair of the Bishops’ Committee on Divine Worship (BCDW) of the USCCB today at the conference’s fall meeting in Baltimore.
Archbishop Gregory earned a doctorate in liturgy is from Benedictine-led Sant’ Anselmo in Rome in 1980. He was USCCB president 2001-2004. He has served on numerous conference committees, including as chair of liturgy (then BCL) 1991-1993. He has published numerous articles on the subject of liturgy, particularly in the African-American community. He has nine honorary doctoral degrees.
Pray Tell reported earlier on Gregory’s statement that the newly translated English Missal of 2011 has “flaws and difficulties” and “needs correction.” When asked about the new Missal at a conference in March, 2014, Gregory said this:
Certainly the new translation is not… [pause] … without its difficulties. How’s that for being diplomatic? [laughter] I think that what we need to do with that translation, to be perfectly honest, its imposition, [correcting himself] – it’s in possession, we need to live with it for a while before we take up the task of saying, “This is not adequate to the worship needs of our church, for this reason, for that reason, for this reason,” the pastors of the church have said, “This is a difficulty, that is a difficulty, let’s look at it.” I think what we had to do was receive it, try to live with it, and come up with a much better and informed review of its flaws and difficulties. …
What we need to do now, after a period of time of living with it, come back and say, not: “We told you so!” – which I think a lot of pastors want to say – “We told you not to do that!” [laughter] – but to say, “It’s inadequate for this reason, that reason, this reason; we’ve tried it, we’ve lived with it, we think it needs correction.”

Similar Posts


  1. This excellent article says it all.
    The articles, the postings, the warnings of difficulties all came to meet with a brick wall. The implied notion was that after a while we would all get use to it, the problems would fade into insignificance and the stress caused by the New Translation set aside.
    But that hasn’t happened.
    We have tampered with language at the heart of faith and created havoc in the process.
    It’s not got easier, it has got much, much harder.
    “When will we ever learn?”

  2. The new translation has settled in well in my parish and there are no issues and no complaints. Also, in light of Pope Francis encouragement to be kind to the environment, we could do without producing thousands and thousands of new books at enormous costs for the Church and individual parishioners. I spent over £60 on missals for myself and my family.

Join the Discussion

Keep the following in mind when writing a comment

  • Your comment must include your full name, and email. (email will not be published). You may be contacted by email, and it is possible you might be requested to supply your postal address to verify your identity.
  • Be respectful. Do not attack the writer. Take on the idea, not the messenger. Comments containing vulgarities, personalised insults, slanders or accusations shall be deleted.
  • Keep to the point. Deliberate digressions don't aid the discussion.
  • Including multiple links or coding in your comment will increase the chances of it being automati cally marked as spam.
  • Posts that are merely links to other sites or lengthy quotes may not be published.
  • Brevity. Like homilies keep you comments as short as possible; continued repetitions of a point over various threads will not be published.
  • The decision to publish or not publish a comment is made by the site editor. It will not be possible to reply individually to those whose comments are not published.