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US bishops' meeting: Fate of more accurate Mass translations still hangs in balance

June 19, 2009

On the second day of their three-day meeting in San Antonio, the bishops of the United States by large margins approved a Spanish-language lectionary and a special Mass of Thanksgiving for the Gift of Human Life. The Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments must confirm both actions before they take effect in American dioceses.

The US Spanish-language lectionary blends readings from the Mexican lectionary and psalms from the Spanish lectionary. The text of the Mass of Thanksgiving for the Gift of Human Life-- which could be used on January 22, the anniversary of the infamous Roe v. Wade decision and now a special day of penance in American dioceses-- is identical to a Mass text approved by the US bishops in 1992. The Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, then led by Cardinal Antonio María Javierre Ortas, failed to confirm the Mass formulary at the time.

The bishops’ most heated debate concerned revised translations of the Masses for Various Needs and Intentions, Votive Masses, Masses for the Dead, Ritual Masses, and the Ordo Missae II, which contains prefaces, solemn blessings, and additional Eucharistic Prayers. The revised translations were prepared in accord with Liturgiam authenticam, the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments’ 2001 document that called for more accurate liturgical translations.

The chief proponent of the more accurate translations under discussion was Bishop Arthur Serratelli of Paterson, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Divine Worship; the most vocal opponent was Bishop Donald Trautman of Erie. Joining Bishop Serratelli in support of the translations were Cardinal Justin Rigali of Philadelphia, Bishop Kevin Vann of Fort Worth, and retired Archbishops Oscar Lipscomb of Mobile and Alfred Hughes of New Orleans. Joining Bishop Trautman in expressing concerns about the translations were Archbishop Henry Mansell of Hartford and Bishop Victor Galeone of St. Augustine.

Each of the revised translations required a two-thirds vote (163 bishops) for approval. The votes ranged from 134-47 on the rarely-used Masses for Various Needs and Intentions to 159-19 on the Ordo Missae II, whose prefaces will be used daily. The votes will be decided by ballots mailed to 55 bishops who were absent from the meeting.


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