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USCCB reacts to report on inaccuracies in new translation of Roman Missal

Catholic World News - November 19, 2010

Bishop Arthur Serratelli of Paterson, the outgoing chairman of the Committee on Divine Worship of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), issued a statement on November 18 addressing “a report [that has] surfaced through some segments of the Catholic Press regarding the present state of the text of the Roman Missal, Third Edition.”

On November 8, the National Catholic Reporter published an anonymous, undated, and trenchant critique of the changes reportedly made to the translations completed by the International Committee on English in the Liturgy (ICEL) and approved by the bishops’ conferences of English-speaking nations. The new ICEL translation, which was granted final USCCB approval in 2009, has been widely hailed for its fidelity to the content and majesty of the original Latin text. The final English translation was granted approval by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments in a June 23, 2010 letter.

Such changes to the translation approved by the bishops’ conferences would be within the purview of the Congregation-- whose prefect and secretary are Cardinal Antonio Cañizares Llovera and Archbishop J. Augustine Di Noia respectively-- and its Vox Clara Committee. The Congregation formed the committee of English-speaking bishops in 2001 to ensure the accuracy of English translation of liturgical texts; the committee is currently chaired by Cardinal George Pell of Sydney.

The critique charged that the changes rendered ICEL’s translation of the Roman Missal less accurate and eloquent and departed from the principles of translation laid down by the Congregation’s own 2001 document Liturgiam Authenticam, which was issued under the leadership of Cardinal Jorge Medina Estévez.

Bishop Serratelli stated that the anonymous critique is outdated. “The critique that has circulated has necessarily failed to take into account the final version of the text, which incorporates some corrections issued by the Congregation since the transmittal of the full text to the English-speaking Conferences of Bishops in August 2010,” he said. The bishop stated that since the official translation’s June approval and August transmittal to the USCCB, “some minor questions of consistency, typographical errors, and layout” arose that are being addressed through copy editing.

At the same time, Bishop Serratelli’s statement, reprinted in full below, acknowledges that changes were made to the ICEL translation before the final approval of the official English translation.

In a related development, what purports to be the final translation approved by the Vatican (the “received text”) has been leaked and posted online. It is unclear whether the text incorporates the changes made to the final translation since August.

Whatever changes were introduced between the approval of the ICEL translation and the publication of the “received text,” Jeffrey Tucker, managing editor of Sacred Music, finds grounds for hope that the new translation remains a vast improvement over the one in use in the English-speaking world since the 1970s. The “received text” of an Easter Vigil Mass prayer, he observes, “is very different” from the one currently in use: the new translation is “liturgical, grand, intelligent, respectful, solemn.”

Bishop Serratelli’s statement:

There has been some discussion recently about a report surfaced through some segments of the Catholic Press regarding the present state of the text of the Roman Missal, Third Edition. A number of facts will hopefully clarify the situation and, in so doing, give us the calm needed to welcome and implement the new text.

First, it is helpful to keep in mind the genesis of the final text that is now being prepared for publication. The International Commission on English in the Liturgy (ICEL) prepared for the English-speaking Conferences of Bishops preliminary drafts (“green books”) of the 12 sections of the Roman Missal. After incorporating the feedback and responses of the individual Conferences of Bishops and the Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, ICEL then prepared the final drafts (“gray books”). These were approved by canonical vote by each of the member Conferences. In approving the gray books, each conference also had the opportunity to make further suggestions to the Congregation, as was done in particular by our Conference. We submitted many amendments to the texts. The Congregation, working with the Vox Clara Committee, carefully listened to what the bishops said. The Congregation incorporated many of the suggestions of the various Conferences (including our own), combined with their own review and changes, and put forth the final text. The Congregation followed the principles of Liturgiam Authenticam faithfully but not slavishly.

This is the final text now being readied for publication. This process includes a final review and copy edit which, given the size of the text, uncovers some minor questions of consistency, typographical errors, and layout. Those questions are being addressed by the Congregation for Divine Worship. This review has not dealt with the translation itself. The critique that has circulated has necessarily failed to take into account the final version of the text, which incorporates some corrections issued by the Congregation since the transmittal of the full text to the English-speaking Conferences of Bishops in August 2010.

To sum up, there is a final text. It has received a recognitio. As the work of editing and assembling nears completion, there is assurance that the published text will be available in more than ample time for implementation in Advent 2011. It is good to note also that the catechetical preparation for implementation is already underway and has proceeded with much enthusiasm and wide acceptance by both clergy and laity. It is clear at this point in time that there is an attitude of openness and readiness to receive the new text. Let us pray in this time of transition and change that the Roman Missal, Third Edition, will enable all to understand more deeply the mysteries we celebrate.

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Show 1 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: TheJournalist64 - Nov. 19, 2010 6:27 PM ET USA

    When the "semi-scholarly" committee of Latinists examined the "Old ICEL's" translation early in the 1990's, we found all kinds of semi-Arianism, Nestorianism, and other Christological heresies, explicit and implied. The bishops approved these translations and sent them to Rome, who axed them, axed the old ICEL, and started the new process. The left is still angry that their street language got offed. Get over it, NCR.

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