Theologian criticises ACP’s absence at liturgical conference

The Chairman of the IV Fota International Liturgical Conference, which was held in Cork City last Friday, has criticised the absence of any member of the Association of Catholic Priests at the event.

Fr Vincent Twomey, SVD, said it would have provided them with a platform to put their criticisms of the new translation of the Roman Missal to three members of Vox Clara who attended the conference. The theme of Fota IV was The New English Translation of the Missale Romanum.

Fr Twomey told ciNews that ACP members were free to attend the conference but that “not one of them turned up.” He expressed disappointment that “none of those who criticised the translation had the courage to come and enter into honest debate with those responsible for the new English translation.”

The three members of Vox Clara who made presentations at the second session of Fota IV included its Chairman, Cardinal George Pell of Sydney, as well as Bishop Arthur Sarretelli of New Jersey and Mgr James Moroney of the Diocese of Worcester in Massachusetts.

Asked if he took the ACP’s criticisms of the new translation of the missal seriously, the Professor Emeritus of moral theology in Maynooth said, “I take their criticisms very seriously because they reflect the disturbingly low level of theological knowledge in Ireland about the liturgy.”

Fr Twomey, who is a member Pope Benedict’s annual gathering of former doctoral students that now takes place in Castel Gandolfo, rejected claims that the new translation had been imposed by Rome. “There is no imposition – this is the work of English-speaking Bishops throughout the world (representing 11 Episcopal Conferences, including Ireland) and their various theological advisers working over several decades on translating the Latin of the ordinary rite, which itself had been revised twice since the Novus Ordo was first published”, he explained.

“They were working on a richer Latin text with the object of finding a translation that would be both more beautiful and more in tune with the theological richness of the new prayers in the Ordinary Rite,” he stated.

Asked if he was anticipating any problems in the pews when the Church begins to informally introduce the new translation from September and officially from the first Sunday of Advent, Fr Twomey told ciNews, “I am a bit nervous because the Irish Church, as far as I can see, has failed – yet again – to do what Pope Benedict XVI asked all the English-speaking conferences of the world to do – namely to introduce the new text with due sensitivity and with proper catechesis.”

The Divine Word Missionary added, “After all we have all become fond of the old text (myself included) and don’t like change in the liturgy. As the Pope has said, many, including many priests, will find it hard to adjust to unfamiliar texts after nearly 40 years of continuous use of the previous one.”

Fr Twomey added that the Irish Church had “failed in this golden opportunity to use the new translation for a deepening of our spiritual experience at Mass, as hoped for by the Pope.” He also rejected calls by the ACP for the postponement of next year’s International Eucharistic Congress that is due to take place in Dublin from June 10-17.

“The Eucharistic Congress is an opportunity for actually rediscovering for ourselves the wonderful mystery that is the Eucharistic sacrifice of the Mass,” Fr Twomey said.

He added that the “real problem is not the new translation but the impoverished theology of the Eucharist that has crept in to the Irish Church. Very often we have reduced the Mass effectively to, at best, a private devotion. The main object of the priest is to make sure it is not boring – now that means that something has gone radically wrong,” he said.

But he was upbeat about the possibility of eucharistic renewal, stating, “I am quite convinced that once the Church as a whole begins seriously to prepare for the 50th International Eucharistic Congress in Dublin next year, our ancient tradition of genuine Irish liturgical piety will come to the fore. I am also convinced that the liturgy itself, and especially the new translation of the new missal, will help us in Ireland to regain something of the awe and the wonder that is the Eucharist – the source of our joy.”

by Sarah Mac Donald

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  1. Association of Catholic Priests says:

    Padraig McCarthy replies:

    I had considered attending the conference. Some months ago I searched on the internet for information, and found it difficult to get much information. I realise that there was little likelihood of a meeting of minds, but I thought at least it would be worth while stating some points in that forum.

    I do not recall seeing any publicity about it in Intercom or any other of the media. (Did ACP receive any notification?) I was aware it was to be some time around July. Then time passed, and now I find the event is over. Only today I discover that it was 9-11 July. Did you see any prior publicity?

    This report from Sarah MacDonald refers only to Vincent T’s remarks about the ACP. It gives no indication whether he actually addressed the issues raised by members of ACP. Do we know whether he did so?

    I have no so far found any other report of the conference, apart from some photographs on Is there somewhere we can read what was said at the Conference? There are reports on the parish websites of Dun Laoghaire and Lurgan, but these reports are that supplied by Sarah MacDonald.

    I see today a report of a Press Release posted on the web on 21 February last at

    In addition, it appears there was a report of a Press Release last 11 December (see which is as follows:

    “St. Colman’s Society for Catholic Liturgy is pleased to announce that the Fourth Fota International Liturgy Conference (Fota IV) will take place in Cork, Ireland, 9th ,10th and 11th July 2011.

    The Conference will explore the topic: Benedict XVI and the Roman Missal. Drawing on a panel of expert speakers from the U.S.A., Germany, Italy, Great Britain, and Ireland, it will examine the approach of Benedict XVI/Joseph Ratzinger to understanding and appreciating the Roman Missal as one of the central texts of Catholic Worship.

    The Conference will be opened by His Eminence Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke who will also give the key note address.

    In preparation for the publication of the English translation of the third edition of the Missale Romanum, the Fota IV Conference will host a special one day seminar in Cork, Ireland, on 29 July 2011 to present the new English translation of the Roman Missal.

    The seminar will be chaired by His Eminence George Cardinal Pell, Archbishop of Sydney, President of the Vox Clara Committee”.

    Registrations for both sessions of the Conference will shortly be opened to the public.

    I have no knowledge of when or how or where the Conference was actually opened to the public. To me, it was a well-kept secret. To take Vincent T at his word, it could not be the case that they would not have welcomed me there.

  2. Padraig,
    The first thing you have to realise is that the Society exists on paper only. It has no real membership. I was even listed as their ecclesiastical advisor and I didn’t even know the Society existed.
    It appears that those involved with the Preservation of Cobh Cathedral had their names used for the new society. It was a pity nobody asked us for our permission. Basically the Society is a front for a priest in Rome.

  3. Sean Dowling says:

    It was advertised in the Catholic Voice and I think the Irish Catholic covered some of it as did Cin News. I attended and there were around 100 there mix of clergy and laity – was quite interesting to learn about the work of ICEL and left me happier than before.

  4. With all respect to Fr Twomey, he is professor emeritus of moral theology. Why was he selected to chair a liturgy conference? What expertise does he possess in liturgy?

  5. Sean Dowling says:

    Incidentally this weeks issue of the Catholic Voice carries an article saying that the ACP wants the Eucharist Congress postponed – is this true?

    Check our website for our current position on this matter.

  6. Eddie Finnegan says:

    “Basically the Society is a front for a priest in Rome.”

    Fr Gabriel,
    Could that possibly be Msgr James O’Brien CDWDS who seems to think his Liturgical Irish has greater authenticitas than that of Pádraig Ó Fiannachta agus a Choiste, and who is preparing to be foisted on Cluain Uamha with far greater enthusiasm and alacritas than John Magee could ever summon up? Just wondering.

  7. Gerard Flynn says:

    Vincent Twomey is wrong again when he ascribes motives to people he does not know, opining that “none of those who criticised the translation had the courage to come and enter into honest debate with those responsible for the new English translation.” There is nothing honest about the process by which the new ‘translation’ was produced or imposed on the English-speaking church.

    What makes him think that lack of courage is their motive for staying away from a conference described in the previous post as discredited? A refusal to endorse the use of maniples, cappa magnas, tiaras, galeros, gloves with rings over them, the exclusion of female altar servers, the repudiation of the Second Vatican Council, the promotion of Tridentine liturgy, tolerated to avoid schism, might be some of the reasons why self-respecing people stayed away.

    If the people responsible for the new interlinear ‘translation’ were interested in entering into honest dialogue with their critics, their timing is all wrong. The time for such conversation and consultation was before the text went to print. Twomey’s arrogance in this matter is breath-taking. It would be like Rupert Murdoch calling for honest dialogue on the ethics of journalism, after the newspaper scandals had been uncovered, or Col. Gaddafi’s lamenting the lack of discussion, after the street protests in Libya had begun.

    It puts his call for mass resignations into context. No doubt he’d have plenty of suggestions for replacements, from the ranks of the promoters of the practices listed above.

  8. John Smith says:

    A registration form was published on the internet about two months ago and is available here:

    The proceedings of the first Fota conference are available here:

    The proceedings of the second conference are here:

    The full programme of the Fota IV conference were published about three months ago following on announcements made in February:

    The hit counts on these show that they were fairly well viewed with a good enough number viewing in Ireland.

  9. John Smith says:

    Paddy Jones also published a note about the Fota IV conference in the Winter/Spring issue of New Liturgy. It does not appear to be on the web just at the moment.

  10. John Smith says:

    Just looked over the programme again and noticed that two Irish academics delivered papers at the Fota IV conference – both women, it has to be said to its credit, one of whom is a Church of Ireland patristic scholar.

  11. Eddie,
    In the best possible media jargon . no comment!
    I wonder who John Smith is. He has been very active in two postings about the conference.

  12. Mary Burke says:

    John Smith describes a contemporary person as a ‘patristic’ scholar. It looks like the faux pas that only someone in Rome could make.

  13. Eddie Finnegan says:

    Fr Gabriel,
    The plot thickens, ach is leor nod do’n eolach!
    Is John Smith aka James O’Brien, Vincent Twomey and Raymond Burke? Admittedly this takes the Brian O’Nolan / Flann O’Brien / Myles na gCopaleen syndrome one step closer ad absurdum, but maybe not quite as far as the realisation that Caitríona Ó Dochartaigh at Fota IV is the eminence gris(e) behind Msgr O’Brien in determining the text of the Missal in Irish. (Note the ‘Ó’ rather than ‘Ní’ or ‘Uí’.) Will s/he be the first Lay Cardinal Deacon in more than a century?
    I also must resent Vincent Twomey’s flaunting his collaboration in Maynooth patristics with my old and respected Latin prof, Tom Finan!

  14. Eddie,
    you have lost me with the Irish. Being a Dub or as I am often referred to,a west Brit, Irish was never my strong point. The people of gaeltacht parishes were always very kind when I said Mass for them, though it must have been excruciating for them listening to my Irish. I don’t know if they ever understood my homilies.
    I did notice one or two women dropping the Ní and úi. I had thought that the ní was an unmarried woman and uí was a married woman.One woman I knew always used Mac, which I found very confusing as she was a feminist. Could not understand why she wanted to be know as the son of..
    I have no idea what is going on with the Irish Language missal. Since moving to east Cork I have not had to celebrate in Irish.

  15. This is my first time writing on the ACP webpage. I am motivated by the need to offer some clarification re: comments of Fr Gabriel Burke re: the Fota Conference and his claimed lack of knowledge of its organizers. I was present in Midleton Park Hotel during the oral hearing re: the re-ordering of St Colman’s Cathedral, Cobh, Co. Cork. Fr. Burke sat with Ms Prender and the members of the ‘Friend’s of St. Colman’s Cathedral. Many of these ‘Friend’s’ form the committee for the ota Conference. So, I am confused about Fr Gabriel’s claim of not knowing the members of the organising committee for the Fota Conference, given that he publicly allied himself with many of the committee of the Fota Conference, as he publicly joined them in Midleton Park Hotel. I should add , his former ordinary, Bishop John Magee, sat opposite Fr. Burke, as he (Bishop Magee) listened to Fr. Burke’s friends castigate Bishop Magee, not on the issue of re-ordering of St Colman’s Cathedral, but the veracity of the Bishop’s corrospondene with Cardinal Arinze. I should add, that the same Bishop Magee accepted the then Mr. Burke into Cloyne Diocese after he had left Holy Cross College, Clonliffe, Dublin.

  16. Eddie Finnegan says:

    Fr Gabriel,
    Just saying ‘a hint’s enough to one in the know’!
    You’ve followed an honourable tradition, in reverse, by transferring from Dublin to Cloyne. An tAthair Donnchadh Ó Floinn was born in Kanturk, at school in St Colman’s Fermoy, but transferred to Clonliffe to spend all his priestly life there and in Maynooth, except for his last four declining years in Bray. For most Maynooth men (1940-’64) Donnchadh was the ‘Irish Revival’ and a walking saint, not in addition to that but through it.
    I suspect that Caitríona Ó Dochartaigh might have a much better grasp of Donnchadh’s ‘Integral Irish Tradition’ of worship and language than Msgr O’Brien, who seems to be standing in the same role vis a vis the New Missal in Irish as did his former CDWDS Prefect, Chilean Cardinal Jorge Medina Estévez on the future of worship for English speakers. Their respective levels of fluency and competence in the relevant languages were probably comparable. Ask most Irish-speaking priests throughout the Cashel province.

  17. Gerard Flynn says:

    V. Twomey laments that “the Irish Church has failed – yet again- to introduce the new text with due sensitivity and with proper catechesis.”

    His analysis leads him to conclude that the problem with the Irish Church is not that it has aquiesced to the dictats of the Vatican on the translation (as on the issue of the sexual abuse of children) but that in both cases, the Irish church has defied the Vatican. There is no doubt where his loyalties lie and this determines everything else that he says.

    In this context what he understands by catechesis is the pushing of the Vatican agenda and the elimination of resistance to the new ‘translation.’

    The Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments has subverted the process for the production of vernacular translations arrived at after the Second Vatican Council. The Council recognised that it was the responsibility of bishops’ conferences to produce vernacular translations. ICEL as the organ of the 11 English-speaking conferences produced translations which were then sent to the Vatican for approval. The Vatican under Jorge Medina Estévez reversed the roles. Vox Clara the agency of the Vatican produced this new interlinear ‘translation’ which was then sent to the local bishops’ conferences for approval. By this single action, Medina Estévez further centralised power and decision-making in the Vatican and further undermined the apostolic mandate of local bishops.

  18. Fr Jude,
    you are as clear as dishwater and are trying to prove guilt by association.
    I did not sit with the FOSCC. I sat behind my own friend who was giving evidence. When he had finished I sat in the general body of people.
    I did not claim lack of knowledge of the Organisers in fact I more or less said who the real organiser is, so the rest of your argument is rubbish.
    The Friends were set up for the sole purpose of the Cathedral Preservation. The organising committee did not show that much interest in the Sacred Liturgy. They certainly could not have been called supporters of the TLM or the Reform of the reform. They are all good people. At no time, either when I was assigned to Cobh or in my dealings with members did they show any intense interest in the liturgy. When the Society first started up, you may remember , it requested the TLM in a number of Parishes, yet surprisingly only one member regularly attended any of the TLM’s celebrated in County Cork. Do you not find that bizarre?
    At that time the only priest who celebrated the TLM publicly in the Diocese was me. I find it strange that people would try organise a TLM without consulting the only resident priest who publicly celebrated the TLM. We have seen since then, that, unusually for Ireland, the Society flies in a prelate from Rome to celebrate for them.
    So your presumptions are without any foundation in reality.
    My friend did not castigate (reprimand) Bishop Magee. He questioned, as you have pointed, out the veracity of the letter from the Congregation. There was no castigating except in your mind.
    As for the rest of your diatribe, I fail to see its relevance.

  19. Gerard Flynn says:

    An aspect of the the new ‘translation’ which is overlooked is the dismay that it will cause in the ecumenical world. The current Order of Mass, expecially the people’s parts, reflect a high level of ecumenical agreement. The aim of the CDWDS under Medina Estévez, to smash the ecumenical consensus, will be realised with the introduction of the new ‘translation.’

    Chilean exiles wrote a letter to John Paul II to protest at Medina Estévez’s self-declared discreet and secret actions at all levels to have the Holy See lobby for Pinochet’s release.

    At the time when he was head of the CDWDS in 1999, Medina Estévez publicly declared:
    “There have been discussions at every level on this affair, and we’re hoping that they will have a positive outcome. I’ve prayed and prayed for Senator Pinochet as I pray for all people who have suffered.”

    Pinochet was allegedly responsible for thousands of deaths and disappearances during his 17 years in power. In view of John Paul II’s outspoken stand on human rights, the liturgy head’s expression of solidarity with one of Latin America’s most infamous dictators seemed to most observers incongruous and bizarre.

  20. andrew Harper says:

    @Gerard – did John Paul II visit Chile while Pinochet was in power and if so was this not also an endorsement of the regime?

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