Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

Translating the Roman Missal: An Episcopal Reflection on the Process and the Product

Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

Translating the Roman Missal: An Episcopal Reflection on the Process and the Product

Article excerpt

Lift Up Your Hearts: A Pastoral, Theological, and Historical Survey of the Third Typical Edition of The Roman Missal. Edited by Robert L. Tuzik. Chicago, 111.: Liturgy Training Publications, 2011. viii + 182 pp. $13.95 (paper).

The Roman Missal, Renewed by Decree of the Most Holy Second Ecumenical Council of the Vatican, Promulgated by Authority of Pope Paul VI and Revised at the Direction of Pope John Paul II: English Translation According to the Third Typical Edition. Study Edition. Collegeville, Minn.: Liturgical Press, 2011. 1514 pp. $34.95 (paper).

In October 2013, the Roman Catholic German Bishops' Conference tabled a request by the Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments (CDWDS) to approve a new translation of the Roman Missal. Some say that the German bishops were waiting to act in concert with their Austrian colleagues, who had not yet reviewed the translation. The dominant view, however, is that the German bishops were rejecting the translation and planned never to consider it again.

During the pontificates of John Paul II and Benedict XVI, the bishops almost certainly would not have been allowed this autonomy. With Francis I as Pope, they might.

The bishops of English-speaking Roman Catholic groups were given the same charge years ago, but the outcome was markedly different. On Advent 1,2011-Advent 1,2012 in the Philippines-a new translation was imposed on the English-speaking world. The 2011 translation and a commentary upon it, edited by Robert Tuzik, can be understood only within the history of the translation of liturgical material into English since the Council. It is a history marked in its latter days by conflict, intrigue, and coercion.

The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium, was issued in December 1963: the first of the documents of the Second Vatican Council. Within months, Roman Catholic bishops seized its permission for "the use of the mother tongue" to "be extended" (36.2). The National Conference of Bishops of the United States (now the National Conference of Catholic Bishops) quickly issued an edition of the Roman Missal with the scriptural readings, along with antiphons drawn from the Bible, in English. Poetic material (Sequences, for example), congregational texts (the Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, and Agnus Dei), and other compositions were also provided in English (but not the forms that would eventually roll instinctively off the tongues of English-speaking Roman Catholics).

In 1969, Paul VI issued a new edition of the Roman Missal, promulgated in 1970. This was the first editio typica (equivalent to the Standard Edition of the Book of Common Prayer) of the postconciliar Missal. The 1970 decree of promulgation gave conferences of bishops "the responsibility to prepare editions in the vernaculars" to be approved by the Vatican lest heresy, for example, be inadvertently inscribed in the texts.

Even though the Vatican retained the right of veto, responsibility for translations belonged to the National Conferences of Bishops. In time, this was to change and Rome proscribed the bishops' authority. In 2006, Bishop Maurice Taylor, of Galloway, Scotland, a key figure in the translation of the Latin Missal into English, objected: "Not only is this against the original statutes of [the English-language commission entrusted with translating the Missal] but it goes against the ecclesiology that was taught by Vatican II: collegiality, the authority of bishops (who are not merely Rome's branch managers), subsidiarity. Much has been written in recent years of the increasing power which the Roman Curia is giving itself-and all this is a further example of the centralization of authority."1

The translation commission to which Taylor refers existed before 1970 when the Missal of Paul VI was promulgated. The bishops from English-speaking nations had formed ICEL (the International Committee-later Commission-on English in the Liturgy) in 1963. …

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