Outburst against liturgy document does not reflect the bishops' views
BY SIMON CALDWELL
THE BISHOPS of England and Wales this week distanced themselves from a controversial Church newsletter which branded the new Vatican rules on the liturgy as "totalitarian".
The Liturgy Newsletter, which is prepared for and distributed by the Bishops' Conference of England and Wales, also described the Vatican Instruction Liturgiam Authenticam (The Authentic Liturgy) as "authoritarian in tone".
Canon Christopher Walsh, editor of the Liturgy Newsletter and a priest of the Shrewsbury diocese, said in an editorial comment in last month's issue that the instruction was "mean-spirited", "profoundly untraditional" and "smacked of fear and desperation".
The document was written by the Vatican's Congregation for Divine Worship and approved by the Pope in March.
When the newsletter was published many of the bishops were on holiday and unavailable for comment, but on Tuesday Bishop Mark Jabale of Menevia issued a short statement to distance them from Canon Walsh's position.
"The Liturgy Newsletter is not an official publication of the bishops' conference," said Bishop Jabal, the chairman of the bishops' Department of Christian Life and Worship and a former Benedictine Abbot of Belmont who was ordained a bishop earlier this year.
"The views expressed in the August 2001 issue concerning the recent instruction, Liturgiam Au:hen:learn, are Canon Christopher Walsh's own, and do not represent the position of the bishops' conference."
Bishop Jabale added: "All translations of the liturgy will be approved by Rome, just as those presently in use in England and Wales have been approved by Rome."
Canon Walsh, who is linked to the Institute of Liturgy and Mission at Sarum College, Salisbury, Wiltshire, said the Vatican Instruction took a "wholly begrudging and concessive" approach to the vernacular liturgy.
He said it was hard to reconcile this with the "posi
tive openness to other cultures and languages" displayed by the Second Vatican Council and Pope Paul V1, who authorised many of its liturgical reforms.
Canon Walsh wrote: "It is mistrusting of bishops and bishops' conferences and claws back the fur liturgietim [liturgical jurisdiction] restored to them by the Council. It claims the right to overrule their choice of collaborators and even to impose the Congregation's own translations upon them.
"Without supporting evidence, it imputes serious errors to existing translations which have been approved over and again by conferences and confirmed over and again by the selfsame Congregation in Rome."
Canon Walsh argued that the document took a heavyhanded approach to delicate issues raised by translation.
"It speaks openly in terms of 'power', spurns ecumenical convergence, requires biblical translations to be conformed to the Latin liturgy and both to be conformed to the Catechism, and sets out to control even the punctuation. capitalisa
tion and the numbering of paragraphs," he wrote.
"It is doubtful whether the vitality of the local churches and the energy of the Holy Spirit at work in them can be so constrained and controlled. The very attempt smacks of desperation and fear."
The document insisted that "the vocabulary chosen for liturgical translation must be at one and the same time easily comprehensible to ordinary people and also expressive of the dignity and oratorical rhythm of the original: a language of praise and worship which fosters reverence and gratitude in the face of God's glory".
It also insisted that "translations said try not to extend or to restrict the meaning of the original terms and that "translation is a collaborative effort that should maintain continuity as much as possible between the original and vernacular texts".
Cardinal Comae MurphyO'Connor, a member of the Vatican's Congregation for Divine Worship, told The Catholic Herald in July that he believed good liturgy provided the Church with opportunities to evangelise.