■ Irish clergy association calls ■ Leading Benedictine liturgist ■ English clergy take part in
translation ‘sexist and elitist’ calls Missal ‘unsatisfactory’ sessions introducing new text
BY ANNA ARCO
THE NEW English translation of the Mass has come under fierce attack just months before it is introduced in parishes in England and Wales.
A group representing more than 400 priests in Ireland has protested against the translation, calling it archaic, sexist and elitist.
In America, a prominent liturgist has resigned from promoting the text on behalf of the US bishops, saying he could not do so with integrity.
But the Church authorities in England and Wales have said they do not foresee similar problems at home and are going ahead with plans to introduce the translation of the Mass in parishes across Britain in September.
The Association of Catholic Priests, a body which represents more than 400 of Ireland’s 4,500 priests, urged the Irish bishops to postpone the publication of the translation for another five years. Their call came as the National Centre for Liturgy in Maynooth launched a new publication aimed at explaining and preparing priests and lay people for the changes in the Missal.
They criticised the new translation for being “archaic, elitist and obscure and not in keeping with the natural rhythm, cadence and syntax of the English language”.
The group also criticised the new translation for “exclusivist, sexist language”.
But Fr Paddy Jones, director of the National Centre for Liturgy in Maynooth, Co Kildare, said that priests’ hostility to the new text faded when the changes were properly explained to them. He said that a two-day session with priests “showed that many people were negative in some respects” towards the new text, but that “when things were explained a lot of that negativity disappeared”.
He said: “It’s not about defending everything as if it is perfect, but about making sure an explanation is available to everyone.” Fr Jones did not rule out delaying the introduction of the new translation if priests and laity were still opposed to it in November. But he said the plan was for all Irish priests to be acquainted with the changes by Easter.
He said: “As we prepare for the new Missal it should not be just about explaining the words. It is an opportunity to honestly and humbly assess how we celebrate the Eucharist, an opportunity to understand and celebrate better the Mass.” Meanwhile, Fr Anthony Ruff, a former chairman of the International Commission on English in the Liturgy’s (ICEL) music committee, has withdrawn from speaking about the text after he said he could not “promote the new Missal translation with integrity”.
Fr Ruff, a professor of Liturgy and Gregorian Chant at St John’s University, Collegeville, Minnesota, wrote an open letter to the American bishops, in which he said that being involved with ICEL “as well as the Holy See’s handling of scandal, has gradually opened my eyes to the deep problems in the structures of the authority of the Church”. He wrote: “The forthcoming Missal is but a part of a larger pattern of top-down impositions by a central authority that does not consider itself accountable to the larger Church. When I think of how secretive the translation process was, how little consultation was done with priests or laity, how the Holy See allowed a small group to hijack the translation at the final stage, how unsatisfactory the final text is, how this text was imposed on national conferences in violation of the their le gitimate episcopal authority, how much deception and mischief have marked this process and then when I think of Our Lord’s teachings on service and love and unity... I weep.” Martin Foster, the acting secretary of the bishops’ liturgy committee, said he did not foresee similar resistance to the new translation in Britain. He said that all the dioceses had held training days for clergy.
He said: “There are people who like it and people who don’t and some who aren’t so sure. But I think you’ll find that clergy are a fairly pragmatic group of people in the end and they know it’s coming. It has been observed that clergy who are normally not seen at clergy days have been attending because they know whether they like it or not that the new Missal is coming and that it is an important development in the life of the Church.” Asked what would happen if a priest would simply refuse to use the new Missal, Mr Foster said that this would be a matter of discipline for the priest’s bishop, but that he thought it would be difficult for a priest to reject the text without the agreement of the whole parish.
He said: “My hope is that come September the new Missal is not a surprise for parishes so for a priest to refuse to use it, a parish would have to agree with him. But I hope it doesn’t happen.” Mr Foster said it would be a big achievement if people in parishes already knew about the new Missal by September. He said parishes were already being encouraged to engage with parishioners and musicians over the new translation.
Asked what would happen if a parish refused to take up the new translation, Bishop Seamus Cunningham of Hexham and Newcastle said: “We’ll cross that bridge if we have to come to it.” On Wednesday the bishops of Scotland issued a statement, saying the introduction of the Missal represented an opportunity for renewed devotion.
They said: “We ask Scotland’s Catholics to welcome it as something good, a gift from the Church through which we will continue to worship God and celebrate in English the Holy Mysteries of our faith.” Priests in the Archdiocese of Westminster met at Ealing Abbey last week for an introductory session about introducing the new Missal to parishioners and were given a DVD and booklets outlining an eight-class introductory course to the new Missal. In Salford diocese priests also met to be introduced to the Missal.
The new translation of the Order of the Mass will be introduced in parishes in Scotland, and England and Wales in September. The Proper of the Mass, the sections which change during the year, is expected to be published In England by Advent at the earliest and before Lent 2012 at the latest. In America the new translation will be introduced at the beginning of Advent.
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