Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Will the New English Liturgy Be Seen as Another Papal Departure from Vatican II?

Google News has a link to an Associated Press article and others reporting that premature use in South Africa of a new English liturgy based on a more slavishly literal translation of Rome's official Latin is causing local Catholics and even one bishop to question if it is yet another papal effort to undo Vatican II.

The negative reactions echo concerns I raised in the first posting on this blog in July of 2006, A Better Way to Change Catholic Liturgical Language, which analyzed the changes planned for the U.S. English liturgy and found most of them seriously deficient and likely to cause unnecessary grief for the people in the pews. My chief suggestions were that in changing liturgical language, the church should do two things to assist believers who found the new language jarring or even unacceptable: (1) officially condone several settings where the prior language could be retained, so that those who favored it could still enjoy it; and (2) officially promote and sponsor other specific locations where newer versions of the liturgy could be crafted, celebrated, tested by the local community and, if fruitful, offered to the larger church for official adoption.

Several paragraphs from the AP article follow:

A new translation of the Roman Catholic Mass that is to be introduced worldwide in a few years is getting an accidental trial run in South Africa, where some parishioners are complaining it's too hard to understand.

The controversy comes as Pope Benedict XVI travels Tuesday to Cameroon on his first papal pilgrimage to the continent that has the fastest growing congregation of Catholics.

Critics say the new, more literal word-for-word translation is part of an attempt to roll back the progress made decades ago when the church halted its insistence on Latin.

In a misunderstanding, some South African church leaders started using the new version prematurely in some parishes, even though the English-language prayers won't be approved for global use for at least a couple of years. But instead of pulling back in the face of their mistake, they are continuing to use the liturgy.

Distribution of the prayers has fueled debate over whether the new translation — meant to more closely follow the original Latin text — will help deepen parishioners' prayer life or alienate them from the church.

"I think the church has been very lucky that the South Africans jumped the gun because it's showing the Vatican that there is going to be a worldwide problem when these new translations are put into effect," said Thomas Reese, a Jesuit priest and senior fellow at the Woodstock Theological Center at Georgetown University.

"Once again the Vatican isn't listening to the critics, and we're going to have another major embarrassment to the pope when these translations are put into effect and are forced on the people in the pews," he said.

The Rev. Efrem Tresoldi warned in The Southern Cross, a regional Catholic weekly: "I've heard it said that younger people are leaving the Church because, among other things, the language used in our liturgy sounds foreign to them. I think this new version of the order of the Mass is even more alienating."

In an article in The Southern Cross, Bishop Kevin Dowling agreed.

"I am concerned that this latest decision from the Vatican may be interpreted as another example of what is perceived to be a systematic and well-managed dismantling of the vision, theology and ecclesiology of Vatican II."

The Rev. Russell Pollitt also questioned whether nonnative English speakers in South Africa, where there are 11 official languages, would understand the more abstract concepts.

"The new text seems almost to imply that there is something inherently holy about Latin and inherently unholy about proper English," English Professor Colin Gardner said.

1 comment:

Joseph O'Leary said...

This is great news. The self-deceiving bishops who perpetrated this monstrosity, under the Roman lash, now have their folly exposed, in good time to prevent it being imposed on the whole anglophone People of God.