The recommendation from Fr Michael Ryan in America’s December 14th issue. A sensible commentary from an experienced pastor gets labelled “loony” in one quarter.

Go read the whole piece, but here’s a bit from his conclusion:

In short, what if we were to trust our best instincts and defend our people from this ill-conceived disruption of their prayer life? What if collegiality, dialogue and a realistic awareness of the pastoral needs of our people were to be introduced at this late stage of the game? Is it not possible that we might help the church we love avert a debacle or even disaster?

And here’s the web site: http://www.whatifwejustsaidwait.org/

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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19 Responses to Wait

  1. Liam says:

    Because “Wait” is not unreasonably seen as a screen for deepening a cycle of aggression – in this case passive aggression. I don’t think it’s “looney” or “left” but it strikes me mightily as unworthy of a sensible pastor. It also strikes me that I’ve never seen such a process as Fr Ryan suggests having been proposed in the past for (1) the ICEL 2 translations that got thrown over the wayside, or (2) the idiosyncratic linguistic games a variety of communities play with the present Missal tests. To try to deploy such a process now will not be seen as good faith but game-playing (if not necessarily bad faith). It’s unseemly for progressives to try to use the sheep as a foil this way (it’s also unseemly for the hierarchy, but *we’re* supposed to be above that, aren’t we?). Leaves a disgusting taste in my mouth to contemplate this.

  2. At this point, I’m willing to sign almost petition that highlights the frustration of those of us who serve in liturgical ministries.

  3. Todd says:

    It speaks most strongly to the fracture in Church unity that we’re not at a place where what Fr Ryan suggests can be done in good faith.

    From what I hear “experimentation” was done in the 60’s as part of the implementation–and I’m not talking the “loony” stuff, either. I was part of the consultation on the Psalter as a parish musician. I knew people who worked with RCIA in the 80’s. So I know ICEL was doing something with some rites. What Fr Ryan suggests is not totally outside the box.

    I do remember suggestions that RM2 get a trial run in some communities, but I don’t recall that anything came of them.

    Liam’s commentary might be accurate for some Catholics, but let’s also keep in mind that people on the pro side of these translations are also using the laity as their foils. Not to mention some prominent conservatives who are not pleased theologically or pastorally with Liturgiam Authenticam.

    I’ve been on the record as saying I will implement, according to the direction of my pastor and bishop. My happiness or unhappiness is irrelevant to that. My sense of tradition or progressivity is irrelevant.

    That a person who is honestly alarmed at the prospect of a much more bilious repeat of South Africa’s experience in the US cannot get a reasonable hearing tells us we’re already over our heads in game-playing, passive-aggression, and all the other niceties.

    I hold out reasonable hope that music can be a bridge over all this–if we get new compositions and revisions that take things up a significant notch.

    Otherwise, bishops will need to convince clergy like Fr Ryan–a good percentage of them–that they need to take this one for the team and for the high road.

    I don’t hold out much hope for the latter. Bishops and priests have a strained relationship in many quarters today. Lots of progressives are admittedly disheartened. And if progressives were on board with this as many conservatives were in 1970, this might go down more smoothly with the laity.

    Without the hope of a Roman Missal IV on the horizon and a rollback of Liturgiam Authenticam, I can see a lot of people not only in resistance, but worse: in non-compliance.

    Regardless of who is more right or more wrong, that leaves us with a Church pretty much frozen in place, a body divided. I wish I were wrong, but I’d say that piling on the challenges of the culture, predator-enabling, and politics, we’re in far worse shape, at least in the US, than we were when the last council was called.

  4. MaryMArrucci says:

    maybe the best thing to do is simply ignore

  5. Anne says:

    It seems to make sense to me.
    Why not a trial run in selected parishes?
    I signed.

  6. Liam says:

    Oh, internet polls and petitions, and the lure of shibboleths.

    To complete the example: a counter poll that is already out-drawing the original poll by more than 3-1 in terms of participation:


  7. X-post, full disclosure, from combox at “Scelata,” same subject.

    Putting aside, for the moment, the serious discipline of obedience and fealty, whatever would give cause and no pause for rector Ryan to not consider an obligation to at least discern “the mind of the Church” (and I mean the universal, timeless Church established by YOU KNOW WHO) before publishing his tirade?
    Guffaws at Mass because it’s perceived that “Joseph, her husband” is theologically preferable to the more literate and literal “spouse of the same Virgin?” I don’t THINK so, padre.
    And are your dinner/liturgy confabs so superior and keen they surpass those you’ve maligned as being more aquainted with Latin than English? You da Pope, den?
    I know some good things happen up there in SpaceNeedleLand at St. James, but Vatican III ain’t one of ’em.
    You, as well as everyone else on the planet, are a conscript (or potential conscript)for The Church Militant to some rank and extent. Therefore, soldier: lead, follow, or get out of the way.

  8. Todd says:

    “To complete the example: a counter poll …”

    Ah yes, the conservative raise: let’s call for a democracy, a popularity contest, and maybe if we can manage it, get someone fired.

    I accept your concession on post #3 on this thread.

  9. Liam says:


    What concession on what point – you made so many ? My last point is focused simply on the problematic idiom of internet polls and petitions in fighting the liturgy and other churchy wars. Progressive versions of Fr Z we do not need more of.

    • Todd says:

      Pardon me for being unclear: the point on lack of unity.

      First, petition is a long-standing social practice in many cultures. I don’t think the internet does anything but make it easier.

      Not having seen this second petition of which you speak, my sense from your testimony is that it’s directed not at leaders, but at other petitioners. Otherwise it would be curious that Fr Ryan and his counterpart were to arrive at two twists on the same idea at the same time.

      I’m disinclined to disrespect what strikes me as a reasonable and adult opinion. I realize the particular issues have been discussed to exhaustion, also thanks to the internet. Maybe the competitive aspect is the only thing that makes it interesting these days, especially for conservatives.

  10. Liam says:


    Well, I am not sure how much division there will be over this: the Internet is a perfect virtual forum for nay-sayers and promoters, but tends not to involve what might be the overwhelming group in between consisting of a variety of not easily distinguishable subgroups that likely overlap but that nevertheless might not reveal themselves as disunity.

    Petitions may be long standing social practice, but as a medium it has a shorter half life when too readily resorted to. Overuse of rhetorical ploys renders them cheaper by the use.

    Todd, you and I might agree about more and disagree about less on this than you think, but I seriously don’t think Fr Ryan’s foray here was ultimately helpful to his apparent goal. That’s my bottom line.

  11. Todd says:

    Thanks, Liam. Agreement with you on the internet.

    As for the text of the translation, I confess the reaction in South Africa took me by surprise. I would have thought the UK, Australia, and certainly the US have more excitable laity. On one hand I cannot disagree that catechesis is part of the hope for a … serene reception of these words. If a catechetical effort, however earnest, comes across as “If you just let us explain it to you, you’ll understand,” I think large swaths of the rank-and-file laity would be inclined to tune out. From what I’ve seen of some of the material from the USCCB, I think this might happen.

    Obviously, if I had been asked to write an America piece instead of Fr Ryan, I would have emphasized different points. I know that I wouldn’t have started a petition. You know me well enough to know I tend to be unconventional in these matters. I still won’t demur from telling people in 2011, “I told you so.”

    Will this petition be helpful? I have no idea. I don’t know what Fr Ryan’s point was–it’s likely he and most other signatories realize there’s no way the CDWDS is going to back down from this in any form. That’s just not how the clerical culture works. Attack most priests and they just dig in. (If they don’t, you’ve probably scratched a saint.) Rome hasn’t even pressed South Africa to withdraw the new translation as they themselves have requested.

    The Vatican has a lot invested in this process. Even a slight step back would be a tremendous loss of face.

    As it stands now, the new words will be approved, and the English-speaking bishops will implement. Clergy will more or less have to comply. Laity can do as they do now: respond fully or half-heartedly or with different words or not at all.

    Negative reactions can be easily chalked up to disobedience or some other blame. In their view, the institution is insulated. Business as usual.

    I think the matter goes beyond this or that set of words. It’s a distraction from Matthew 28 and John 17.

    What would be a better way? Take like numbers of progressives and traditionalists, include poets, musicians, bishops, and anybody who wants to come, and lock them up in the Sistine Chapel till it comes out right. At the very least, it would be entertaining.

  12. Liam says:

    Actually, Todd, I don’t think the Vatican has invested terribly much in this process. I am a bit surprised you do, though I think you might have indicated as much in your very apt remark about insulation.

    As you know, the laity’s words are not that huge of a change and not too enormous a disruption; it’s the clergy’s words that are changing a lot, and I see Fr Ryan’s gambit as more of an inside clergy-prelate game, with the sheep being used as an excuse.

    Anyway, 2011 will be way to early to say “I told you so.” Try 2016. It takes several years for things to get digested. By then, we’ll probably have a new helmsman, anyway.

  13. Anne says:

    Liam, if it’s true that this is “not that huge of a change and not too enormous a disruption” for the laity,then why all the controversy? Yes it is a huge change! So what can we do about it beyond something like Fr. Ryan is recommending? How else can we, the laity, be heard? Are we to simply obey without question? If you believe that kind of mindset will return you are very wrong. I predict that most Catholics will see these changes as silly and irrelevant to their lives. I also,at the same time, unfortunately, believe that the views of both laity and many clergy who are not in favor will be disregarded. This will only continue to widen the gap between American Catholics and Rome. It’s really very sad IMO.

  14. Liam says:


    Nice try to rhetorically back me into a corner, but no cigar.

    The changes in the people’s parts are modest compared to those of the priests. That’s what I meant by that statement. They are comparable in scope to the changes in vernacular that people digested in the switch from the 1965 Missal to the 1970 Missal (which I remember well, having to relearn what we had learned a few years before; it was not rocket science and people joked but did not scream about it). We’ve been there, done that. And, in the future, we will likely do it again. And again. Not too frequently, I would hope, but possible more than once in a long-lived person’s life. Perhaps the next time would be to include inclusive language. Many traditionalists view this as a “bug” while I view it as a feature, as it were.

    I gave a printout of the changes to my 85 year old parents. While for my partly blind mother the changes will be someone harder to digest than for my father (an issue that is presented any time the people’s parts change; you buy the issue the moment you think the language might or should change, for whatever reason, be it Latin syntax or inclusive language – since you approve of changing the people’s parts to reflect inclusive language, it’s an issue you’ve bought, too).

    Btw, I’ve lived through the testing idea, because in a former community I was on a three-year committee to undertake an inclusive language translation that was more faithful to the original texts than what we had (something that people generally found dreadful – the Priests for Equality edition). We worked on it, launched it, and within in a year the people (in an uber progressive community) decided to go to a less inclusive translation. Fortunately, I knew not to be to vested in the work (having been an editor, you just learn to be more detached from projects like this), but others were more disappointed. So while the idea of a testing process seems nice, people should be much more realistic about possible outcomes if they decide to propose it: what if enough people in the pews decided they preferred a more “sacral” form of English than is being offered even in this round of translations. Would you accept that unconditionally and sincerely? If not, I am not sure the suggestion of testing fits even your goals.

    As always, we have to be careful what we wish for.


  15. Sam Schmitt says:

    Good points, Liam. Even if we implement Fr. Ryan’s reccomedation and come up with a revised translation, won’t that simply make some people happy and others unhappy? We’re back to square one.

    This simply brings out the false premise on which Fr. Ryan’s project is based – that somehow we have to please – or at least not upset – the people in the pews.

    If this is the goal, we shouldn’t change a thing, since most people don’t see any problems with the current translation. This would hardly be an improvement, however.

    To my mind, a larger problem is that many priests alter the texts of the mass so much as it is, I’m not sure how much of a difference a new translation would make in some quarters. My old parish priest used to change the words of the Eucharistic prayer from the authorized translation as much as the proposed version is different from the current version. I have to wonder how the new translation will change the language he uses at mass.

    All this reminds me of a story I heard about the implementation of the 1969 missal. When asked why the new missal was being made mandatory and the old one forbidden, a high-ranking prelate replied: “Otherwise no one will celebrate it!”

  16. Liam says:


    I would be more inclined to interpret the call for a testing process less as a form of passive aggressive non-cooperation by people vested in a certain result and more as a sincere concern for the PIPs if those proposing such a process actually appeared to have thought through what it might really look like and entail, especially in terms of results that they might not like. If the process is something on the lines of “try out the new texts in select places and if there is not sufficiently uniform ardour in favor of them, withdraw them”, then I think that’s pretty shallow and even if not insincere is not authentically responsive. What is the purpose of testing? What are the options? How does conflicting get sifted, and according to what principles? Who gets to decide those principles? Et cet. Right now, the “What If We Wait” stance seems more content on posing than grappling. Grapple first, pose later.

  17. Tony says:

    I would hope, but possible more than once in a long-lived person’s life. Perhaps the next time would be to include inclusive language. Many traditionalists view this as a “bug” while I view it as a feature, as it were.

    That would depend on if “inclusiveness” means “eradicate male pronouns”. If you translate “fratres” to “brothers and sisters” (as is the proper translation) that is fine. If you start doing: “Our Parent, who art in heaven…”, I’ll draw the line (or throw something, depending on my mood).

  18. Mary Huettl says:

    I, too, rejoiced at the changes Vatican II brought in the liturgy. There was beauty in the Latin but not there was little prayer. The fact that the laity could now understand what they were saying was enormous, and still is. I find the snippets of the new translations horrific. I support the movement that would call these into question and give time to some study groups in parishes before these are thrust onto us.

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