Response to Vincent Twomey by Brendan Hoban

Response to Vincent Twomey
Vincent Twomey¹s unseemly and supercilious assault on the membership of the ACP at a recent conference merits a response.
First, a few clarifications.
1. It is well known that the St. Colman¹s Society for Catholic Liturgy, which organised the IV Fota International Liturgical Conference, effectively exists on paper only. While its Vatican contacts allow it to attract “international” speakers albeit from a very narrow base, its occasional conferences receive little or no support in the Irish Church and receive little or no coverage in the Catholic or other media.
2. The ACP was not invited to participate in the Fota Conference.
3. If we had known of its existence and if we were extended an invitation we probably would not have attended, not as Vincent Twomey suggests because we lack “courage” but simply because it would have been pointless. Debate is one thing; being lectured at is something else; and we recognise the legacy of both. The Fota conference had less to do with what was said in Ireland than what was heard in Rome and the ACP was a safe target.
4. The ACP did not call for the postponement of the Eucharistic Congress, though many of our members have reservations about its wisdom, its timing and its cost.
5. The reservations of the ACP about the new texts are well known and run counter to the unquestioned assumptions of the Fota Conference, that
(i) there was adequate consultation regarding the new Missal
(ii) that the new texts are not being imposed
(iii) that the new texts will deepen our faith in the Eucharist.
The dogs in the streets know that (i) and (ii) are simply untrue and the jury is out on (iii). Indeed there are grave fears that the unnecessary and convoluted changes being proposed could damage the scaffolding of our worship. Repeating (i), (ii) and (iii) ad nauseam – no matter who does the repeating – is unconvincing and counter-productive. (The recent series of articles in The Tablet by Robert Mickens give the true story.)
6. It is the contention of our association that the vast majority of theologians, liturgists and priests working in Ireland are either worried, unhappy, upset or angry about the proposed new texts.
Fr Twomey is of course entitled to his views. But he is not entitled to suggest that the Association¹s views “reflect the disturbingly low level of theological knowledge in Ireland about the liturgy”. That arrogant and disparaging comment pays undue disregard to the membership of the ACP, in particular the many esteemed theologians and liturgists we number among our almost 600 priest members.
I don¹t wish to be unkind to Fr Twomey when I say that among our membership are theologians and liturgists who have shone much more brightly than he in the theological firmament, even though they may not be as well-regarded by the members of Vox Clara or have not, through an accident of history, had the opportunity to visit Castel Gandolfo. The ACP does not share in the Irish media¹s presumption that having tea with the Pope once a year confers by osmosis some kind of creeping infallibility on Fr Twomey or anyone else.
Fr Twomey represents no one but himself and his position on the new Missal does not reflect a growing consensus in Ireland among theologians, liturgists, priests working in parishes and some bishops that the new translation of the Mass has more to do with living in the past that ministering in the present or preparing for the future.

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  1. John Smith says:

    “1. It is well known that the St. Colman¹s Society for Catholic Liturgy, which organised the IV Fota International Liturgical Conference, effectively exists on paper only.”
    Is there any documentation around to support this statement?

  2. Sean Dowling says:

    I wonder if this group also fund the Catholic Voice newspaper – it seems to slavishly publish there material and behaves as some kind of unofficial mouthpiece for the right wingers in Rome – we have it in our parish and it is lapped up by the variety of catholic who prefers their priests in fine lace and silk – hardly relevant to the modern Gospel – dread to think what Jesus would say

  3. Eddie Finnegan says:

    Indeed, Fr Twomey’s chairing Fota IV Liturgical Conference, with Cardinals Pell & Burke flouncing around, may well have more to do with his annual outing to the Castel Gandolfo Schulerkreise next month. To the question: ‘And what have you been doing all year, Fr Vincent?’ his Doktor-vater might expect more than, ‘I’ve written another apologia pro vita vestra for Patsy McGarry, and a Letter to Madam, Editrix Emerita.’
    Incidentally, when does a retired moral theology professor stop being ‘Emeritus’. Enda McDonagh, and half a dozen others one might name, seems perfectly happy as Father.

  4. Eamonn Keane says:

    My reading of Fr. Twomey’s comments about the ACP does not strike me as “supercilious” in any shape or form as Fr Hoban asserts. Fr Hoban would be well advised to express his disagreements with those not of his own mindset in more moderate tones. Otherwise no real ‘conversation’ occurs.
    Here in New South Wales the changes to the Missal have been very well received. Yes, there was one group of priests who were critical of the changes, but they were not representative of the majority opinion amongst priests.
    In the diocese where I live, we were well prepared for the changes in advance. Most priests, I would say, explained the theological and doctrinal significance of the changes to their people during Sunday masses in the months leading up to the changes being implemented.
    My impression thus far of the impact of the changes has been that they have fostered in those regularly attending Mass a
    more “conscious participation” in the awesome and sacred meaning of the sacramental reality they are engaged in. Coupled with this, and most importantly, the changes bring the Trinitarian dimension of the liturgy more into focus, thereby presenting this most central reality and doctrine of our faith more easily and integrally to our consciousness. Surely all of this – Trinitarian focus and conscious participation in the mystery being celebrated -is most in accord with both the ‘letter’ and the ‘spirit’ of what the Second Vatican Council actually teaches about renewal of the liturgy.
    Every Catholic has a right to participate in the Holy Mass in any part of the world according to the norms and form laid down by the Magisterium. Hopefully now the era of wild experimentation with the liturgy and the wanton disregard for universal norms governing its celebration, which was common in many places throughout the English-speaking world, will fade into the past as little more than a bad memory. Thank you Pope Benedictict and members of the Vox Clara Committee for giving us the new missal.
    Eamonn Keane

  5. This is dreadful stuff. Narrow-minded priests running around fighting about where the deck chairs should be placed while all around them the ship is sinking and laypeople are taking to the lifeboats. These people deserve eachother on their sinking ship. They’ll have what they want: a Church without sacraments and, therefore, without the priesthood and all the while the parish churches are emptying people fed up with the thin theology and boring unsatisfying homilies.

  6. Bishops
    I see Fr Hoban in his tirade mentions that “some bishops” have problems with rhe new translation. Why are they introducing it then? Have they any courage whatsoever? Will these men who have been chosen to lead ever lead? Perhaps it is another case of “we didn’t know you had to tell the police about abuse”. There is a popular myth that members of the Irish hierarchy were chosen for their orthodoxy. There is little or no evidence of orthodoxy among the members of the bishops’ conference. It’s more a case of the triumph of mediocrity.
    If Irish bishops have a problem with the new translation of the Mass they ought to display some courage and say so. God knows the people of Ireland have had enough evidence of how moral conscience and courage have been absent from our self-obsessed clerics for decades. Is this to be another such occasion?

  7. Andrew Harper says:

    Good point why are the bishops accepting this if they disagree or is it just another case of them fudging the issue and trying to be friends with all. Leadership is needed here not mixed messages or making decisions based on which way you think the wind is blowing.

  8. I feel that I must reply to this comment by Father Hoban, I think the easiest way to do so is, in the manner of the original article, point by point.
    1)I must I’m a layman and I’ve heard about this conference it’s also the fourth year it been on, that’s a very poor excuse.
    2)The conference is not invitation only its open to everyone, priests and laity, I have to say not going because your ‘not invited’ does not cut it as an excuse when you claim to be passionate about the current translation of the Liturgical texts.
    3)You know before hand it would have been ‘pointless’ to attend that sounds like you have our own problem with creeping infallibility by osmosis to me.
    4)That’s fair enough I now understand that the association did not call for such an unnecessary postponement but rather some of its members, but confusion had arisen though and I’m happy to see clarification.
    5)All the more reason to represent your views if they are that important to you and you believe your statements in point five to be true.
    6)I can’t speak for the vast majority of Irish clergy, I can only speak for myself I, as a young lay Catholic, am looking forward to the new more accurate and theologically deeper translation of the original texts. The new translation is here it’s more accurate and does not underestimate the capabilities of the Irish laity. It’s time to stop living in liturgical the past and start ministering in the present and preparing for advent 2011.

  9. Mary Burke says:

    Grammar and syntax are not that important to you, if your own contribution is anything to go by.
    It’s not surprising therefore, that you don’t have any problems with the new translation.

  10. Gerard Flynn says:

    Eamon Keane,
    Exactly how will the new interlinear ‘translation’ bring the Trinitarian dimension of the Eucharist into sharper focus? You’ve made your traditionalist views quite clear on this blog before. And you are quite entitled to them. What grounds do you have for making this precise assertion?
    A line-by-line translation from one language into another is an incomplete translation. It may be a necessary step leading towards a translation. It may help to give a greater understnding of the syntax of the original language. That’s what interlinear texts are for. But the final step in a translation process involves reformulating what has been thus produced into readable, and in this case, proclaimable English.
    Those who adopt views similar to yours confuse bad English with an elevated style, when they call this travesty of a translation sacral. It is reminiscent of hocus pocus and abracdabra. I don’t know what it means, so it must be very exalted language. Just because it hasn’t the ring of English to it doesn’t mean that it is better English than the vernacular.
    The 1998 tranlsation which was approved by the bishops’ conferences of the English-speaking world, but rejected by CDWDS under Jorge Medina Estévez – the same bishop who condemned Madonna, while he was celebrating mass for Augusto Pinochet.

  11. @Mary Burke
    Yes Mary, ignore the issues raised and attack me instead, that’s the way to win an argument and make me change my mind.

  12. Eamonn Keane says:

    Gerard Flynn,
    I wonder what you mean when you refer to my “traditionalist views”? Terms such as “traditionalist” and “progressive” carry little meaning in theological debate. Use of such terms tend to reduce the substintive issue under debate to sloganising rather than reason, to politics rather than truth.
    Eamonn Keane

  13. Maria Conroy says:

    This article doesn’t seem to me to capture the essence of Christianity with its sharp, almost bitter tone. Surely, what is needed in the modern Church is strong, vibrant and holy leaders, the type of people who are brave enough to speak the truth and blaze a trail as they attempt to follow in the footsteps of Christ. We don’t need those who reluctantly trail their feet and don’t promote any sense of unity with their petulant ways.
    I have children who I bring to mass hoping to introduce them to the challenge, the adventure and enriching fullness of the Christian life. They need to see leaders who aren’t intend on knocking the Church at every turn. There has to be some hope and encouragement for the future and, I fear, that while people sulk about changes in the liturgy, we’re letting our young people drift away instead of educating, involving and enlivening them. We need to set the world on fire and if we don’t start with love, we’re no better than harsh clanging bells.

  14. Who is sulikng or beng petulant? I think the strong leaders are those who are being prophetic in challenging the new texts. The truth hurts.

  15. Mangy Donkey says:

    Visited this site earlier today and posted a comment for the first time. Don’t see it here, so here goes with a second one.
    Pastors fighting over forms of words remind me of the two women fighting over ownership of a baby in the OT.
    Solomon decided who was the real mother very simply, by offering to chop the baby in two and offering each half a baby.
    I doubt if Brendan Hoban is the real mother on this one.
    But I’m not sure about Vincent Twomey either.
    Either way, the now public spat between the two, lets all babies down.
    And by ‘babies’, I mean us, the people of God, the real Church.

  16. This article is sadly indicative of the lack of charity, clarity, and humility that has left such a gaping hole in the heart of the western Church – the priesthood. Priests should know better than to engage in such vitriolic discourse and what essentially amounts to calumny. This is not “strong leadership”, “following Jesus”, or any such thing. It is stunning the rate at which the Irish Church is sinking, if this is in any way indicative of how the priests – apparently the representatives of Christ and sworn to obedience – are thinking, acting, and otherwise wasting their time and energies. Sounds more like the table or Rowan rather than the barque of Peter.

  17. Gerard Flynn says:

    Obedience in this context is a gospel value. This isn’t the military we are talking about. The Nuremberg trials showed how morally bankrupt an attitude of blind obedience is.
    We all have the God-given faculty of critiquing human behaviour, our own or that of another, including the behaviour of authority.
    Gospel obedience is about listening and trying to understand. It’s not about lying down in the face of systemic dysfunction. Paul opposed Peter to his face.
    The ACP is showing real leadership at a time when it is greatly needed, by encouraging and facilitating people to find their voice and to speak up and to speak out. That is what biblical spirituality is all about.

  18. Joe O'Leary says:

    Yesterday I heard the 3rd Eucharistic Prayer beautifully recited in T. S. Eliot’s traditionalist Anglican church in Kensington, on his favorite feastday. I was sad to think that the Anglicans will keep this text when we have lost it. (I asked if they would use the new translations and was told they would not be touching them.)

  19. Patrick Downey says:

    A minor observation from a non-Catholic: “I don’t wish to be unkind to Fr Twomey…” Of course the author wishes to be unkind to Fr Twomey – I read the rest of the paragraph. Why can’t Christian clergy just spit their venom out like everybody else? It would make them seem a lot more likeable to many non-Christians. It seems such an enormous clogging up of vital energy to keep up the pretence that they are more loving than anyone else; although perhaps, since their faith is founded on a command to love their enemies, it would just seem too much of a shortfall to admit that they dislike many of their friends.

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