Transparency in Liturgy, and Fears for the Missal.

I am not a liturgist, and have been wary of commenting directly on the controversy over the new English translation of the Mass. I am however, deeply concerned about matters of procedure and transparency. It is in this spirit that I share here a letter to the Tablet by Canon Alan Griffiths. My friend and colleague Martin Pendergast, who has drawn this to my attention, remarks that “He’s opened a can of worms here!

Fears for the Missal

As one involved in preparing the international resource for the reception of the new Missal“Become One Body, One Spirit, In Christ”, I have recently been comparing two texts. One is the text of the English translation of the Roman Missal approved by the Holy See in April, the other, the text of the order of Mass which our bishops, and other English-speakingbishops’ conferences, thought they had received as “approved” from the Vatican back in 2008. It is clear to me that the newly approved text differs markedly from that originally approved by the bishops and the Roman authorities. The differences are so extensive as to argue that the 2010 text is not that which was approved in the first place. In effect,it appears that the Vatican approved one text in 2008 and has now approved a different text.

It also now appears that the whole of the 2008 translation (as submitted and approved by bishops’ conferences) has undergone a complete revision with few texts left unchanged.This is worrying enough. But this latest revision drives a coach and horses through the guidelines contained in Liturgiam Authenticam, the 2000 document of the Holy See on how to translate liturgical prayers into the vernacular. Secondly, many of the changes are simply not correct English. Whoever did this work seems to lack a sufficient understanding of our grammar. Also, there seems to have been no communication between the reviser(s) and those in the International Commission on English in the Liturgy who have so carefully set the new texts to chant.

It seems reasonable to ask what is going on here, and to request a detailed comparison of the two sets of texts, to determine how great the difference is and gain a better perspective of the overall character of the changes. The introduction of the new texts will require hard work for many of us. It will not help if we have to champion a text which is very different from what we were expecting, of such questionable quality and which seems to have sidelined thebishops’ conference. My fear is that the whole process will be made to look ridiculous. Is this really how we want to undo the mischief of the 1973 Missal and replace it with something better?

(Fr) Alan Griffiths

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