Posted by Melanie Lately, guest contributor , 1 July 2011, 9:00
At Mass we have cards in the pews so we can follow the revised translation of the Mass. The options for different parts are there. This week our parish priest used the homily to speak about it. When he read out the words of the Confiteor, with the changes in bold, he was greeted with gales of laughter and even he had to smile.
I confess to almighty God
and to you, my brothers and sisters,
that I have greatly sinned
in my thoughts and in my words,
in what I have done
and in what I have failed to do,
[All strike their breast]
through my fault, through my fault,
through my most grievous fault;
No-one today in their right mind – unless perhaps they have just murdered someone – is going to harp on about “my fault, my fault, my own most grievous fault” while beating their breast, especially if they are reflecting on ordinary everyday thoughts or words that most Mass-goers might be expected to have. The picture the words give of breast-beating illiterate peasants with cloth caps and mud-clotted boots is like something out of Monty Python.
Among consenting adults at Mass it matters little. But it is completely different when it comes to the children. As an educator with children in Catholic schools I wonder if Vox Clara group who came up with this translation have thought about the educational side.
Imagine what would happen if the Government of Britain or the US, Canada or Australia were to bring something like this into state schools with little or no public consultation, and have children learn such words by heart and repeat them over and over for 12 years – there would be a public outcry. And yet the equivalent of this is being foisted on Catholic children in English-speaking lands. Surely if Catholic children are cajoled by teachers at the behest of the Catholic hierarchy to beat their breasts on regular solemn occasions and pronounce themselves inwardly filthy, we should be shown the psychological impact study they carried out. Or did they not do one?
With all the to-do about child abuse in the Catholic Church, you would have thought that it would have led to some consciousness-raising among priests and bishops and someone in Vox Clara or among their apologists might have asked, “Do you think the solemn formal repetition of words like this for 12 years is good for the children? Might this not be seen as a form of psychological child abuse?” Certainly, in our publically funded Catholic schools it could be seen this way.
Priestly prestige and power are on the wane in countries where there are good levels of sanitation, education, food, water, and long life expectancy, and the changes of the liturgy are about retrieving this lost prestige and power. But it is a very underhand way of going about it. The real grievous sin, if we are to speak this language, is in fact this underhand manipulation of the Catholic people, with total disregard for their children.
Melanie Lately is a lay Catholic based in New South Wales with children in Catholic schools.