Tuesday, August 9, 2011
the Vatican's Tahir Square?
Kevin T. Kelly
Aug. 8, 2011
Kevin T. Kelly is a retired parish priest and emeritus Research Fellow in Moral Theology at Liverpool Hope University. The author has sent this text to all the bishops of England and Wales.
However, I also feel that this “extraordinary force” (the Holy Spirit)is also manifesting itself in the growing unease about the imposition of the new translation of the Roman Missal. A grass-roots resistance seems to be growing among ordinary Catholics who are deeply concerned at the impact this new translation will have on their Sunday Mass. They had no say in what is happening. They feel disempowered. To my mind, their instinct is right. The New Missal imposition is just one instance of the abuse of power in our Church. It is just the tip of the ice-berg. I sense a growing discontent among many very committed Catholics who have a deep love for the church. They feel it is losing touch with the Spirit-inspired vision of Vatican II and its hope for the future. They want to mount a protest against this but there seems no appropriate channel for such protest.
Vatican II placed collegiality at the very heart of church governance. Implied in that teaching is the involvement of all the faithful through collaborative ministry and co-responsibility. The Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales made that abundantly clear in “The Sign We Give,” the magnificent 1995 Report from their Working Party on Collaborative Ministry. Sadly, these developments in church governance, so central to the renewal of the Church, have never been properly implemented. That continues to this very day. Until recently most Catholics have felt they had no choice but to tolerate of this abuse of power. Now, however, I suspect that the ‘Tahrir Square’ syndrome in the church is a sign that the “extraordinary force” of the fire of the Holy Spirit is beginning to disturb us from our complacency.
The flagrant misuse of power involved in the new translation of the Roman Missal is not just about its pastorally disastrous kind of language. It is also about the serious disregard for Vatican II’s teaching on collegiality in the process leading up to the New Missal. The original International Commission for English in the Liturgy (ICEL) was set up after the Council and was a fine example of the implementation of collegiality, since it was answerable to the English-speaking bishops’ conferences throughout the world. ICEL’s only link with the Congregation of Divine Worship (CDW) was the requirement to obtain a ‘recognitio’ (a kind of ‘rubber stamp’!) for its proposed texts and translations. ICEL was also true to Vatican II’s ecumenical spirit since it worked with the liturgical agencies of other Christian churches to ensure that the common texts and the cycle of biblical readings would be shared in common by the churches. Moreover, it tried to avoid as far as possible exclusive language which might be offensive to women. These original ICEL texts were carefully vetted and voted upon by all the English-speaking bishops’ conferences and are still used today throughout the English-speaking world. However, from the start ICEL had been aware that the need to provide English texts as soon as reasonably possible after the Council inevitably meant that their texts were far from perfect. In fact, Archbishop Denis Hurley, a major figure at Vatican II and first Chair of ICEL, immediately set in motion the work of revising and refining these texts. He gathered together a team of liturgical and literary experts to undertake this task. The guiding principle for their work was based on Vatican II’s insistence that the “full and active participation by all the people is the aim to be considered before all else” (Liturgy Constitution, n.14) .....
It was then sent to the Congregation of Divine Worship (CDW) for its formal ‘recognitio.’ This was refused, completely disregarding the key Vatican II principle of collegiality! Moreover, without any consultation, the CDW brought out an entirely new set of guidelines, Liturgiam authenticam, which insisted on a much more literal fidelity in translating and actually warned against any ecumenical involvement in the process. Moreover, it showed total insensitivity to women by ruling out any use of inclusive language! Archbishop Hurley, by then no longer Chair of ICEL, is reported to have said: “I find the attitude reflected in the proposed change in translation practice a distressing departure from the spirit of collegiality in favor of authoritative imposition.” He even wrote to a friend: “At times I find it difficult to understand the attitude of the Roman Curia. It seems to be more concerned with power than with humble service.” (both quotations from Paddy Kearney, Guardian of the Light: Denis Hurley, Renewing the Church, Opposing Apartheid, [New York, London, T & T Clark, 2009], pp.292, 295)
This new Missal has provoked widespread dismay and disquiet, especially among many clergy, fearful of its negative impact on parishioners. For instance, in January of this year the eminent US liturgical scholar, Anthony Ruff OSB, withdrew from a commission given him by the US bishops to help prepare people for the new translation of the Roman Missal in dioceses across the US. In his letter of withdrawal he wrote:“…my involvement in that process, as well as my observation of the Holy See’s handling of scandal, has gradually opened my eyes to the deep problems in the structures of authority of our church. The forthcoming missal is but a part of a larger pattern of top-down impositions by a central authority that does not consider itself accountable to the larger church. When I think of how secretive the translation process was, how little consultation was done with priests or laity, … how unsatisfactory the final text is, how this text was imposed on national conferences of bishops in violation of their legitimate episcopal authority…—and then when I think of Our Lord’s teachings on service and love and unity…I weep.” (America, 14/2/11)
Anthony Ruff is not a lone voice. On 3 February the Irish Association of Catholic Priests (ACP) issued a press release titled “New Translation of the Missal Unacceptable.” They described the texts as “archaic, elitist and obscure and not in keeping with the natural rhythm, cadence and syntax of the English language” and say: “from the few available samples of the new texts, it is clear that the style of English used throughout the Mass will be so convoluted that it will be difficult to read the prayers in public.” Moreover, they continue: “It is ironic that this Latinised, stilted English is being imposed on Irish people who are so blessed with world-renowned poets, playwrights, and novelists.” They ask the bishops to follow the German bishops who have objected to similar texts being imposed on them and urge them to defer the Missal’s introduction for five years to give them time to “engage with Irish Catholics with a view to developing a new set of texts that will adequately reflect the literary genius and spiritual needs of our Church community in these modern times.”
Many Catholics seem to have mixed feelings about the church at present. At one level they really do love the church and, in the UK at least, felt boosted by the Pope’s visit. Yet they also agree with Tina Beattie’s comment that the problems have not gone away. A lot of these problems are related to the way the authority of God is being used to shore up teaching which, at the very least, is open to debate and, in some instances, rejected as inadequate by many theologians and most people in the church trying to be faithful to the spirit of Vatican II. I am thinking, for instance, of the rich understanding of human sexuality found in current Catholic and Christian theology, revealing to women and men, gays and lesbians, the depth of their God-given dignity and the ultimate foundation for their sense of self-worth. The same is true of developments in liturgical and Eucharistic theology with its emphasis on full participation, so crucial to the spirit of Vatican II. Using authority to close down these legitimate debates paralyses pastoral imagination from exploring new ways of coping with such down-to-earth issues as the sacraments to the divorced-remarried, Eucharistic hospitality in an ecumenical context, general absolution’s highlighting the social dimension of sin, as well as stifling the much-needed debate on contraception, the ordination of women, and the presence of God’s love in the faithful love lives of gays and lesbians.
It seems to be increasingly recognized that abuse of power is also a key factor lying at the heart of the scandal of clergy sex-abuse and Episcopal cover-up. The eradication of this horrendous abuse of power seems to lie not just in dealing with the actual perpetrators but also in a radical conversion of the organizational pathology of the church itself. I cannot get out of my mind the telling words of Brendan Callaghan SJ: “The faces of this tragedy are always the faces of the hurt and betrayed children, and we must somehow find the courage neither to turn away from those faces nor to diminish what they show us of death and destruction.”
Full article at Pray Tell