Cardinal George On Liturgy

Cardinal Francis George came back to the Chicago archdiocese ten years ago with big shoes to fill and a reputation as a thoughtful and pastoral intellect. Over the years, I have to say I’ve found him more ordinary than extraordinary, and I’ve been critical on this blog of a misstep or two, some of which seem grounded in an old-church hubris that just seems hard to shake.

Rock put me on to his interview with John Allen. With interest, I followed the liturgy portion of it, most of which makes sense to me.

Praise for ICEL’s work on Roman Missal II:

ICEL itself was extremely critical of its own first translation. It isn’t as if you had ICEL fighting for what we’ve got now. They created a new translation for the second edition of the Roman Missal that is very different, and I think very good in many ways. It has influenced the third edition, which is being translated now.

Concern about negative reactions to yet more changes:

Hopefully, there will be a lot of good catechesis, which is already being prepared in all the English-speaking countries. That [a negative reaction] will happen if it’s not well prepared. It will be a lot harder, as we all know, to go from English to English than from Latin to English. The Latin was foreign anyway, and this was our language. Now we’ve got something that is our language, and we’ve got something new that is also our language with a slightly different cast. That’s going to be hard. Beyond that, we’ve memorized. I can say the canons by heart. We can enter into them and pray them. Even if they’re not great translations, they’re not bad, and in many ways they’re quite beautiful. I’ve made them my own. It’s good when you say “We believe,” and people go down the line through the Creed. We’re changing four lines in that thing. It’s going to be difficult. People will go back again to reading it, whereas for 20 years now we’ve just been able to remember it. That’s not going to easy, and nobody’s looking forward to it.

I like his frank assessment of this. I disagree on the catechesis bit. Bishops are asking a lot of their clergy–and the issue isn’t catechesis. Pastors will be responsible for their parishes, and some guys are going to assess this more as politics (which, in part, it is) and less a concern for better liturgy. Some pastors will resent the bother. And some will refuse, as will more lay people. It won’t be about catechesis. It will be a protest against a perception of politicizing the liturgy.

His sense of the 1962 Missal: “It’s always going to be extraordinary.”

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Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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8 Responses to Cardinal George On Liturgy

  1. Liam says:

    But we should also remember that we bought into a good deal of the parish level of this issue (not the ICEL-level melodrama)once it was decided to go through with the first translation knowing there would be a second, fuller round of translations.

    In other words, at the parish level, it would have been true for Missal II, just a (not entirely) different group of pastors and laity.

  2. Liam says:

    SOrry about that paste job – it didn’t come out the way it looked in the box….

    (Okay — edited as you requested–ed.)

  3. Todd says:

    Liam, do you want me to try and clean it up? Also, Roman Missal II wasn’t going to change the Mass parts. I would have liked to see the new translation policy used for the priest’s prayers, leaving the Ordo Missae alone–just to see how the heightened language would fly to the ears.

  4. I have to say I’ve found him more ordinary than extraordinary

    We tend to find what we’re looking for :)

  5. Dustin says:

    If I may interject, catechesis, I think, is the only proper response to the coming translations, given their inevitability. That resistance and refusal will most certainly follow, I don’t doubt.

    I’m generally not quick to impute nefarious motives to anyone’s actions, so the thought of the politicization of the liturgy is one that forces me to pause for a great many moments. Irrelevant of the tiresome arguments over inclusive language (on which I really have no opinion), the philosophies behind the English of RM I and RM III seem not too antagonistic of each other. It’s regrettable that such a thing is a realm for warfare. (I won’t bother to go into the translations themselves, as we seem to be discussing attitudes, here.)

    But in the coming reaction to the vernacular Missal, I see great opportunity. I see it as a wonderful teaching moment to instill into parish life a sense, perhaps implicit before in rubrical practices and now explicit in the text, of why exactly we’re Catholics of the Latin Rite, and not just American Catholics. In other words, it’s ALL about catechesis, and it seems to me that politics is typically brought into the arena as a reaction after the fact, rather than the initial influence. Certainly we can see unfortunate excesses elsewhere, and what we’re about to see from ICEL may go too far. But I also remember, Todd, in your comments on Summorum Pontificum, your worries about how it now seems that the initiatives in the Church seem to be based on favoring those who complain the loudest (apologies if I misremember this). A sad of turn of events, yes, but I’d be slow to justify more complaining, even if it comes from camps where my sympathies lie.

    I do, though, like your idea of restricting the translation to the celebrant’s prayers ad experimentum. “And also with you” is going to be a hell of a habit to break. And since you’ve referenced the translation of the editio altera a few times, I wonder if there are excerpts of it available somewhere, online or in print? I’ve never seen it, only read the CDW’s reaction letter to it, and you seem to have some familiarity, or at least an awareness in excess of my own.

    I’ll get a bias into the open here. I’m a son of the Diocese of Yakima, and I have fond memories of His Eminence when he was bishop here, having met him as a child.

  6. Liam says:


    Please remove the block second paragraph of my first post.

    I hadn’t remembered that Missal II made no change to the people’s parts. That was a mistake, in my view, especially the Gloria and Sanctus, the translations of which in Missal I were notably lacking. If the issue was conservation – perhaps temporary – of musical settings that used the licit Missal I texts, the better solution would have been grandfathering (either permanent or temporary). As I have continued to recommend (and even to Missal 1965 vernacular texts of that sort, of which there are musical texts still in use in some places).

  7. Liam says:

    It occurs to me that it should also be noted that people who might complain about the changing of the texts the people are accustomed to – on the basis of the fact they are changing – are not credible if they have previously encouraged or fostered the changing (or the use of settings the reflect changes) of received texts familiar to the congregation, be it the ordinary or propers of the Mass, or familiar hymns. Because they have helped to establish the current state of affairs where texts are treated as plastic in that regard.

    The flip side of this is that liturgical conservatives – though as a matter of principle from within their frame of reference are ostensibly undoing the plasticity of texts – at an experiential level are further underwriting that plasticity.

    There’s something for many to be self-reflective about here.

  8. Darwin says:

    I’ll have to see how the water feels in my parish when it comes up before deciding, but there’s a wicked side of me that will want to say, “You know, if we switched to using a few more of the Latin responses we wouldn’t have to worry about them changing.”

    Learning “Et cum spiritu tuo” would not be any harder than “And with your spirit” — and though I like accuracy, I must admit that the latter sounds a little odd unless you’re a hippie or a medicine man.

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