Three months after the uproar, the North American media have picked up on the distaste of South African Catholics on the new Order of Mass translation. I think we all know had it happened in America, there would be a tad bit more publicity. As it is, the NYT sniffs blood in the liturgical waters with this quote from Thomas Reese, SJ at Georgetown:
I think the church has been very lucky that the South Africans jumped the gun because it’s showing the Vatican that there is going to be a worldwide problem when these new translations are put into effect. Once again the Vatican isn’t listening to the critics, and we’re going to have another major embarrassment to the pope when these translations are put into effect and are forced on the people in the pews.
And Bishop Kevin Dowling from South Africa:
I am concerned that this latest decision from the Vatican may be interpreted as another example of what is perceived to be a systematic and well-managed dismantling of the vision, theology and ecclesiology of Vatican II.
Well-managed? Given the recent Vatican troubles, that may be generous.
The way I see it, there are complaints on no less than four fronts:
1. Resistance to change. Many Catholics won’t see anything good coming out of it, and will object to getting yanked from their comfort zones.
2. Resistance to Rome, bishops, and clergy. Some Catholics will see this as dawdling by the hierarchy when there are other more important (in their eyes) issues that need to be tackled. Those issues might range from conservative concerns about doctrine and discipline and life issues to liberal ones about social justice, subsidiarity, and independence.
3. Resistance to a poor translation. A good argument can be made that this translation is of lesser quality than 1970’s. While the vocabulary is impressive, and the adherence to Latin grammatical forms is undeniable, the overall effort is not stellar. Rather than a focus on Christ and the Scriptures, the thrust is on faithfulness to a human language, Latin.
4. Resistance to the dismantling of Vatican II. This is largely symbolic, but I think this will be the rallying cry for post-conciliar Catholics outside the realm of the liturgy geeks.
And the pro- camp?
1. They can cite the poverty of the existing translation, and they would be right. But how to make that case without alienating an English-speaking culture in North America and Australia (if not worldwide) that eschews the “exalted” language of centuries past and its identification with elitism, aristocracy, and exclusion.
2. Because the pope says so.
Is there any hope?
1. I think the laity would swallow some of the changes in their texts if they were set to music superior to what they are singing now. The dialogues, if sung (and that means Sunday and daily Masses) would be embraced, I think.
2. The bishops will need time to convince their priests, and if there was an effort to improve the level of praying and proclaiming new texts, there is a chance the laity would not mind if other people were using new words. Do you think the bishops have enough credibility to convince their clergy? I see this as the key connection.
3. Maybe ICEL will pull back some texts and throw a few bones. Do you think this will convince the laity?
4. Pope Benedict will realize that his clergy and bishops won’t be able to control the protest and there will be a substantive threat to Church unity. The whole experiment will be abandoned and ICEL will return to the drawing board. Fat chance, right?