Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Liturgist Writes Scathing Critique of New U.S. Missal Dictated by Rome

Christians devoted to authentic liturgy and the authentic exercise of liturgical authority should be grateful to the National Catholic Reporter for publicizing an experienced liturgist's "searing critique of the New Roman Missal translation set to take effect in November." The critique by Rita Ferrone, author of several books on the liturgy, appears in the latest edition of Commonweal magazine.

Ferrone blames the sad shape of the new English translation on misuse of authority by the Vatican, a questionable set of liturgical translation principles decreed by the last two popes, and above all a reactionary drive to reverse the most significant liturgical reforms promulgated by the world's Catholic bishops at the Second Vatican Council. Ferrone offers examples of the translation's failings, from the sublime to the ridiculous, and shows how they result inexorably from Rome's failure to respect the experiences of local Catholics at public prayer.

I'll join NCR is highlighting the three concluding paragraphs of Ferrone's critique, which nicely summarize her point-by-point indictment of Rome's abusive meddling in liturgical decisions that, according to Vatican II, should rightly be made only by local bishops and their national conferences.

Where is this new translation taking us? It is important to realize that negative responses to the new translation reflect both dismay at the wording of the text and disagreement with the principles that guided its production. Yet the conflict goes deeper than an argument over theories of translation. That the new translation of the Roman Missal should come to us replete with embarrassing gaffes, nonsensical passages, and a near-total lack of accountability is as clearly a symptom of the misuse of authority as it is the fault of the questionable set of translation principles enunciated in Liturgiam authenticam. Yet even the misuse of authority is not the root cause of the immense disquiet and even outrage that this translation has aroused.

Beneath the words of the new translation, one senses a drive to minimize the practical effects of Vatican II. The reforms of Vatican II prized clarity and intelligibility in the liturgy; they gave priority to the work of ecumenism and evangelization; they respected the local work of bishops conferences; they invited aggiornamento and engagement with the world. This vital heritage is being eclipsed by another agenda. We are seeing a wooden loyalty to the Latin text at the price of clarity and intelligibility. We are seeing a retreat from advances already made in ecumenism. We are seeing the proper role of local bishops and bishops conferences increasingly taken over by the authorities in Rome. We are seeing the liturgy reimagined as an event taking place in some sacral space outside of our world, rather than the beating heart of a world made new.

Yes, we can get used to the new translation of the Roman Missal. But we shouldn’t. The church can do better, and deserves better, than this.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for pointing us to Ferrone's critique-- I think it's helpful.