Picking up on yesterday’s post reviewing Cuthbert Johnson’s piece in The Tablet, Canon John McHugh of Ushaw College is the abbot’s next translation hero, who wrote an open letter in 1980 as ICEL was set to tackle MR2 and the translation of this edition into English.
(I)n the immediate aftermath of the Council, far too much was sometimes expected from a revision of the outward forms of worship, as if putting the Mass in the vernacular, having the priest facing the people, and introducing lay readers, would of itself suffice to make the liturgy meaningful to all.
If this indeed was the expectation (and I always caution reading those who attempt to read goals into others’ intentions) the council bishops in SC 11 were explicit:
Pastors of souls must therefore realize that, when the liturgy is celebrated, something more is required than the mere observation of the laws governing valid and licit celebration; it is their duty also to ensure that the faithful take part fully aware of what they are doing, actively engaged in the rite, and enriched by its effects.
Given the extent of the poor dumb laity meme on both ends of the liturgy debate, perhaps it’s not too surprising that lazy pastors thought just following the rubrics was enough. That said, critics of the quality of the texts that came out of the 70’s were themselves sprinkled across the board.
The “special character” 19th century Abbot Prosper Guéranger said would be needed would be communicated not only by the words on paper, but in the attention, style, and reverence of proclamation–an item you cannot always put in red, but something for which we will have to provide a substantial training.
Some of the solutions for MR2 I found lacking, even a dumbing down for the clergy. Just give the presider, McHugh advocated, a “formal” and “specialist” vocabulary, “a range of words and constructions rather different from those which at other times, the members of a congregation would normally employ.”
Abbot Johnson, aware that many conservative commentators thought the 1969 instruction Comme le Prévoit needed updating, sees its successor document, Liturgiam Authenticam, a “response to a need,” rather than an “imposition.”
That might be a matter of interpretation. I would see LA as evidence of a further dumbing down coming from Rome. The 1969 guidelines certainly did not restrict either the accuracy of Roman originals, nor the possibilities of poetry or elevated language. What LA accomplishes is to leash the translators so that they, along with pastors and laity, are discouraged from exploring the full possibilities and benefits of liturgical language.
Abbot Johnson and other reform2 advocates, in their cheerleading for restorationism, do not touch the concession from Rome in 1969 (Comme le Prévoit 43) that translation alone was not going to be sufficient:
Texts translated from another language are clearly not sufficient for the celebration of a fully renewed liturgy. The creation of new texts will be necessary. But translation of texts transmitted through the tradition of the Church is the best school and discipline for the creation of new texts so “that any new forms adopted should in some way grow organically from forms already in existence” (SC 23.)
Another present-day hero, Cardinal George Pell, lobbies for his own work (“different from what we are used to”) as Vox Clara chair:
(In the new translation) is a fullness of theological teaching which will be enriching over the years. It is not a literal word-for-word translation of the Latin. It is sophisticated, accurate and often beautiful and powerful.
And we’ll see if the focus on the words works for us when the final result comes out rather than on fruitful evangelization and engagement. Last word for Abbot Johnson:
A debt of gratitude is owed to all those who have worked with a sincere heart to provide for the liturgical needs of the English-speaking world. However, we should patiently keep in mind what Abbot Prosper Guéranger, whom Pope Paul VI called the Father of the Liturgical Movement, wrote: “You cannot change the mind of a people as easily as you can change a liturgical book.”
… and now for you, commenters.