`Vox Clara' Commission to Monitor English Translation; Vatican Congregation Creates Body to Clear Logjam in Review of Liturgical Texts. (World)

By Allen, John L., Jr. | National Catholic Reporter, April 5, 2002 | Go to article overview

`Vox Clara' Commission to Monitor English Translation; Vatican Congregation Creates Body to Clear Logjam in Review of Liturgical Texts. (World)


Allen, John L., Jr., National Catholic Reporter


The new Roman Missal, the collection of prayers for the Mass that is the Catholic church's most important liturgical text, may become the latest battleground in the ongoing struggle over how prayers and sacred texts are translated into English.

In this case, sources tell NCR, the Congregation for Divine Worship, the Vatican office with responsibility for liturgy, is leaving little to chance, it is creating a new body to monitor translation of liturgical texts into English. The move will likely assure mat whatever role is played by the International Commission on English in the Liturgy, the embattled agency blamed by critics for an excessively liberal approach to translation, its work will be subject to rigorous review both by member bishops' conferences and the Vatican.

Observers believe the principal purpose of the new body, which is to be called Vox Clara (Clear Voice), will not be to carry out translations itself, but to collect input from English-speaking experts and to provide advice to the congregation when texts arrive for approval.

In recent years the Vatican has rejected a number of translations prepared by the International Commission on English in Liturgy, resulting in delays of several years in the approval process.

"There is a logjam of texts," one source said, "and this new body could help move things along."

The Roman Missal, published in Latin, was presented at a March 22 Vatican news conference. It replaces the previous edition, issued in 1975, as the normative collection of prayers and rituals for celebrating the Mass. Before it begins to take effect in local dioceses and parishes, however, it must be translated into the vernacular languages.

Normally the missal would be turned over to the International Commission on English in the Liturgy, a body sponsored by 11 member bishops' conferences, including the United States, for translation. Its drafts then go to member conferences, which in turn submit the texts to Rome for final approval.

Whether that process is followed for the missal remains to be seen.

Critics of the international commission, known by its initials, ICEL (pronounced eye-sell, with the accent on the eye), object to its philosophy of "inculturation" or the adaptation of texts to make them relevant to modern English speakers. The Vatican prefers a more literal fidelity to the Latin, seeing it as the best guarantee of doctrinal accuracy. The debate culminated in the May 2001 Vatican document Liturgiam Authenticam, establishing more conservative principles for translation.

Whenever an English translation of the new missal is approved, Catholics are unlikely to notice vast changes. For the most part, the new missal reprises the old.

The missal resurrects some observances that were used prior to the Second Vatican Council (1962-65), but then dropped amid post-conciliar liturgical reforms. These include a Mass for sinners (pro remissione peccatorum) and another to ask for the grace of purity (ad postulandam continentiam).

There are 19 additional feasts, some new and some restored from the older Latin Mass. Two personal imprints of the pope are the April 28 feast of St. Louis de Montfort, a French spiritual writer from whose works on Mary the pope drew the motto of his pontificate, Totus tuus, or "Entirely yours"; and a Mass dedicated to Divine Mercy, a devotion spread by the early 20th-century Polish nun St. …

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