A very Happy New Year to everyone – to all our supporters, members and friends, to our Diocesan Co-ordinators and Delegates and to friends on the ACTA Leadership Team. I hope you have all enjoyed a peaceful and joyful time over the Christmas break and are happily getting back in harness, feeling refreshed.
There is an exciting campaign going on about the Mass translation imposed on us all two years ago. In the Tablet for January 9th 2014 you can see the editorial “A Translation with Proven Flaws” and under Home News you can read Sarah MacDonald and Christopher Lamb’s article “Review of Missal Translation promised as disquiet grows”.
ACTA is involved in this initiative. Chris Lamb quotes from a letter sent by ACTA to the Conference of Catholic Bishops of England and Wales in mid-December. Here is the whole text of our letter- written by myself and edited by members of the NDC media sub-committee and sent on behalf of the ACTA Leadership Team. Archbishop Vincent sent us a kindly (if non-committal) reply on Christmas Eve.
To the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales
Please may we bring to your attention a significant and serious concern that keeps surfacing at our meetings - dissatisfaction with the new translation of the liturgy. Judging from the strongly expressed views of around one and a half thousand members of ACTA in England and Wales, mostly lay people but also clergy, this dissatisfaction has not diminished in the two years since that version was imposed. The issue arises frequently in ACTA meetings around the country.
The latest developments in the German-speaking world seem to us to make this an opportune moment respectfully to address you in the spirit of dialogue which is our aim. For it now seems that the German Episcopal Conference is delaying its implementation of the new translation - possibly indefinitely - because of deep opposition from Austria and Switzerland as well asGermany itself to the translation’s poor linguistic quality.
The reasons for opposition in England and Wales are well known – Latinate sentence construction, obscure vocabulary, excessively long sentences with too many subordinate clauses, loss of ecumenically shared texts and inclusive language, clunky disjointed rhythms which do not serve proclamation – and little has changed to reconcile many people in the pews or the majority of priests to the Vox Clara texts.
By contrast with Germany, however, the English-speaking bishops’ conferences accepted suppression of the revised 1998 ICEL translation of the liturgy even though it had been approved by all these conferences, including our own. Yet none of the officials in the Curia who ruled in this way were familiar with English.
The Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales recently showed strong leadership and confidence in the people, when it promulgated the synodal questionnaire on family life so widely and so fast. It was a most welcome initiative and one which led the way for other conferences to follow. Please may we ask, therefore, that the Mass translation should be back on the agenda? We realise of course that our Conference is small compared to that of the United States. Yet would we be wrong in thinking that, because ofhistory, we punch above our weight when it comes to liturgical language?
Pope Francis is seeking to change the focus on the comparative status of diocesan bishops and the Roman Curia. Even before the new “cabinet” of cardinals is under way, he has told us that curial officials do not “out-rank” diocesan bishops but are there to serve them, with and under the Pope. His views on collegiality and subsidiarity could be exemplified by the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales taking the lead again and asking their colleagues in other English-speaking conferences to reconsider the 1998 translation for use in England and Wales.
We are voicing the views of most ACTA members, and would be grateful to receive a response.
(signed by Jean Riordan on behalf of ACTA’s NDC Leadership Team)
The Tablet’s editorial refers to the retiring Irish liturgist Fr Paddy Jones and his article in “New Liturgy”. You can read what he wrote on the ACP website www.associationofcatholicpriests.ie
Please consider what you can do yourself now that this important issue is gaining attention again – personal letters to your Parish Priest, to the Vicar general of your Diocese, to your Bishop or Archbishop, to the Catholic Press - all count towards helping them to realise how strongly the laity feel about the inadequacies of the current Mass translation – individual letters carry a lot of weight. There are so many reasons that one can mention – you will doubtless have your own ideas – some that spring to mind immediately as examples:
- Impenetrable, formal language
- Sentences with over 90 words, so long that you lose the thread…
- Too many subordinate clauses making reading aloud incomprehensible
- Latinate obscure vocabulary – oblation, consubstantial…
- No inclusive language – unacceptable in the modern world
- Abandoning ecumenically agreed, shared texts
- Imposed on us without consultation in place of the excellent 1998 translation which had been agreed by every Bishops’ Conferences of the whole English-speaking world.
- Limiting the extent of Jesus’ sacrifice to many – not to all.
- Lack of dynamic equivalence in translation – stilted word order…
On a completely different matter there is now an unfortunate word of warning which we need to consider. On the Internet as you know, there are people out of sympathy with ACTA’s aims, disagreeing profoundly with everything our Mission Statement stands for. One such person has sadly even taken this enmity to the extent of secretly recording an ACTA meeting, editing the tape and putting it online, hoping to discredit us. Please could I urge all of our members not simply to have patience and charity, but also to exercise a certain caution, both in e-mail correspondence and at meetings?
These fellow Catholics are deeply sincere in their views, even if their methods can be unpleasant or underhand. Unfortunately every “hit” on antagonistic sites merely gives oxygen to their views. The format does not afford an honest opportunity to persuade or evangelise.
Experience shows that engaging with them usually subjects oneself to sneers and insults that are corrosive and hurtful.
More importantly, getting involved with them takes away time that can be more fruitfully spent working for the Kingdom of God.
To return to happier thoughts - the Leadership Team would greatly appreciate your active support as individuals and as ACTA groups, in asking your bishops to adopt the exact same translation which they themselves voted for in 1998. You can find that excellent translation on our ACTA web-site by clicking on Documents/Liturgy – just to remind yourself how good it is - then please get busy writing!
God bless and love,
Chair of NDC’s Leadership Team.
January 10th 2014
The internet does of course have plenty of great web-sites, blogs where real dialogue happens and others sites thatare well worth reading:
www.acalltoaction.org.uk of course; www.churchauthority.org; the Jubilee Declaration; Misguided Missal.com; the ACP.ie or the ACI.ie – our friends in Ireland working for similar aims as ACTA; the Tablet weekly magazine now with an excellent online archive; Catholics for a Changing Church and Catholic Church Reform; some excellent Diocesan web-sites; everything to do with Justice and Peace; Cafod; Pax Christi; Churches Together; Ignatian Spirituality……………….
…..the list is endless…and, as you know, one good site often leads to another….so enjoy!