F is for Wryday (79)

January 19, 2012

‘How do you know you’re God?’
‘Simple, when I pray to Him I find I’m talking to myself’

The unassailable logic of Peter O’Toole playing the hilariously mad Jack Gurney, 14th Earl of Gurney. Somehow this quote has followed me at different stages of my life and for completly different, sometimes contradictory reasons, made sense.

Beyond that, the film needs to have a place on Wryday.

F is for Wryday (77)

December 22, 2011

Much festive praise to Mary on CA for this link on dotCommonweal and, of course, to the creator of the following gem.

For sometime I’ve been looking for a way to best express my view on (most) of the new changes in the liturgy. I don’t think, as many seem to, that it’s a hill to die on, but it is so bad and so ’emperor’s clothes’ from those who try to defend it, that it does demand a response here even if only for the record. This Commonweal ‘recipe’ not only does that, but it makes for a very fitting Wryday Christmas entry.

But wait, there’s more. The comments section below the recipe is worth a ‘Wry’ read too. I particularly loved this one:

A Cookie Blessing: “O God, who see the cookies that you have graciously deigned to allow us to bake here according to this recipe that you have given us that we may give to others that which you have given to us here, bless, we pray, them, O Lord, that you may allow us to offer them in return to many, as we seek to preveniently nourish these your holy people, we pray, with the ineffable taste of the flour that you have graciously allowed us to refine, O Lord, with the milky milk that milkily issues forth abundantly from the many bovine animals which you have made and from the sweet sugar that sweetly comes from the sweet sugar cane plants which you have created for we your people, who humbly implore your blessings, that all of us may humbly eat of them, in order that you might, O Lord, we humbly beseech you, bless us and them, and, we pray, O Lord, and I forgot where I was going with this prayer.”


I think that now has the new translation in a highly appropriate perspective. I can now have the cake and eat it too!

F is for Wryday (75)

November 24, 2011

A bit of a depature this week and for those of my vast readership who have no time at all for politics, an apology.

I have been fascinated by events in Canberra yesterday. No matter what you think of Julia and the Labor government, it seems they have not been able to take a trick all year and, to mix metaphors, too many have been ‘own goals’. Now that negative momentum seems to have shifted and the icing on that rising cake has been the resignation from the Speaker’s chair of its long-time Labor incumbent, Harry Jenkins, for turncoat Nat/Lib (well its peculiar Queensland hybrid) Peter (Slippery Pete) Slipper.

Annabel Crab on The Drum explains it much better. It’s good writing, IMO and, appropriately for a Friday, has some amusing moments.

Harry’s gift: a seat, a vote, and order from chaos
By ABC’s Annabel Crabb
Posted November 24, 2011 13:00:51

Order!! I'm outa here!

Just when you thought this parliamentary year had entirely run out of fizzy-pop, there it was. Harry Jenkins, resigning from the speakership, relinquishing the nicest office in Parliament House, and causing thereby a fairly considerable power shift in the House of Representatives.

His stated reason? He had become frustrated by the speakership’s obligation to remain aloft from partisan political matters.

“My desire is to be able to participate in policy and parliamentary debate, and this would be incompatible with continuing in the role of Speaker,” he told an electrified chamber.

Now, a man who resigns in order to spend more time with his policies is a man of whom further questions probably need to be asked. That this impulse should strike Mr Jenkins at exactly the same time as the concerted attempt by the Queensland Liberal/National Party to disown its difficult and profligate son Peter Slipper further strains the notion of coincidence.

The result? A disaffected Slippery (already held in pretty poor odour among his colleagues) will commit party treason and defect, in return for an office of dignity and respect, a more accommodating pay packet, and the right to pour brandies for visiting bigwigs.

Slipper has remained in the chamber doggedly directing traffic on the floor of parliament pending what will presumably be his formal election to the speakership some time after lunch. Quite possibly, he was loath to step outside, lest he encounter an angry mob of his erstwhile colleagues.

Ambassador Jenkins (if I may be so bold as to rehearse the title) will return to the Government benches, boosting Labor’s voting numbers by one, and thus shifting the Poker Machine Of Damocles from its customary position six inches above the Prime Minister’s head.

What lies ahead? I think it is reasonably safe to predict several things:

1) A flood of recovered memories from the Opposition benches about irregularities in Mr Slipper’s conduct. Colleagues tend to forgive such failings, but adversaries never do, and one can expect all of the savagery of Labor’s Mal Colston fixation to be visited upon Mr Slipper from this point on.

Mal Colston was the Labor senator whom John Howard’s Coalition duchessed with the Senate deputy presidency in 1996.

Speaking this morning, Tony Abbott likened Labor’s recruitment of Mr Slipper to Whitlam’s sensational purchase of Vince Gair in 1974, in which the DLP senator was offered the ambassadorship to Ireland in order to free up his seat.

“This is a Government in crisis,” he told reporters, and sternly refused to discuss the Colston analogy on the grounds that it was “ancient history”.

(Abbott history, one may conclude, features a wrinkle in time around about the mid-’90s, when dinosaurs roamed the earth, and mudskippers edged from the primordial slime with nascent hopes of one day helping John Howard flog off a third of Telstra.)

2) A Christmas bonus for Anthony Albanese, who has been working on today’s coup for a bit and who – despite historically chilly relations with Julia Gillard – was this morning able to present her with something money can’t buy: An extra vote. I don’t know what Tim’s got planned, but it’s not going to beat Mr Albanese’s gift. Mr Albanese’s speech at yesterday’s censure motion – read it here – was also one of the strongest of any minister, all year.

3) A distinct devaluation in the Independent currency in the House of Reps. From now on, instead of having to win four extra votes for any given issue (out of Windsor, Oakeshott, Wilkie, Bandt, Katter and Crook) the Government will only have to win three. If today’s events had taken place this time last week, for example, the Government could have saved itself the $100 million or so it handed to Andrew Wilkie in concessions on the mining tax (which would additionally have saved them all the consequent fuss and bother it took to get the, er, Bandt back together)

Luck, or planning? A bit of both, really.

After a year and a half during which it often seemed as if some unseen cosmic hand was timing events of random misfortune to coincide most grievously with unforced strategic errors from the ALP, November 2011 seems to have brought a rearrangement of sorts.

Some vast pieces of legislation tucked away. Confusion to her enemies. The Prime Minister’s year has ended with the audacity of hope.

My second reason for posting from The Drum harks back to a comment on CA this week in response to James, about online news media:

More seriously, I occasionally dip into The Punch and The Drum online and they’re both good examples (particularly The Punch) of how quickly and eagerly online Australians resort to the same ‘competition to find the most puerile insult’.

If you are in a ‘purile insult’ mood, some comments can be funny … well most often in a Schadenfreude sort of way … and, yes, it’s not too sophisticated … and not at all Christian … and it becomes a farce for anyone wanting to post a thoughtful response.

Which makes me wonder what news organisations have in mind when they let these comments fly on their online outlets. Do they just equate numbers — no matter the quality of contribution — with evidence for their business model? Speculation for a non Wryday, I think …

F is for Wryday (69)

October 13, 2011

After a fraternal correction on CathPews and a response from Jules, for the record and for Wryday, I thought it would be good to reprint the Daily Telegraph’s top 10 misquoted phrases:

1. A damp squid (a damp squib)
2. On tender hooks (on tenter hooks)
3. Nip it in the butt (nip it in the bud)
4. Champing at the bit (chomping at the bit)
5. A mute point (a moot point)
6. One foul swoop (one fell swoop)
7. All that glitters is not gold (all that glisters is not gold)
8. Adverse to (averse to)
9. Batting down the hatches (batten down the hatches)
10. Find a penny pick it up (find a pin pick it up)

And, just in case you didn’t quite get the point about the squib thing:

I blame myself

July 22, 2011

I should have known. It was not going to last.

For the record, the last post I responded to is contained within my (thwarted) response to ‘John’:

: For one who is always insisting on absolute
: accuracy, precision and attention to detail
: on the part of everyone else, your vagueness
: about what “ more democratic” means is a
: little hypocritical.

Not at all, John, I’m a democrat. I’d like the church to engage all it’s members in the process and I really don’t know what that would look like.

Maybe, by way of an example, it could start by extending the conclave form downwards from papal elections, to elections for cardinals. Candidates would need to meet certain criteria, but once the problems with that were ironed out, move down to bishops.

Ultimately though, it’s about the church saying that aspiring to be more democratic is a good thing and then working at ways of making it work for to the church. It’s very hard to have a ‘broad vision’ when the very idea is met with such hostility and resistance at the get-go.

: And why must we be more democratic, anyway?

Because it is a good thing. If you need to be convinced about that, then we really are on a whole different page.

: So that we will look better to the world?


: If you are ashamed of how the Church appears to
: the Godless, secular world, there is a very
: simple solution – leave us wallowing in our
: ignorance, and join one of the many churches
: that is in better standing with the world.
: God knows, there are enough of them.

Thanks for the offer.

: What? Did you say, “They are not worth
: joining”?

Are you hearing voices now? From re-framing the things I say, to quoting the words I don’t speak? You take the Straw Man to a new level!

: Neither will Catholicism be if
: those you defend ever get their way.

Emphatically stated, emphatically disagreed with.

Peace to you

But even I was suprised how quickly the dreaded axe fell. In the same string the Pewmeister said this: ‘I realise you are enjoying yourself and I am – believe it or not – pleased that you are posting again on the DB …’. That was a message of welcome that turned full circle in less than 4 hours.

Again, for the record, my penultimant post to the Pewmeister:

More irelevant tangents
Posted by Faz on 22/7/2011, 5:53 pm, in reply to “respect and dual/tri personalities”

: We are back to the same old problem of the
: three personalities you use on various DBs.
: I have noted you no longer post at Sentire
: which is a very balanced and fine quality
: blog.

Why is this a problem exactly?

: I would appreciate if you would extend the
: same personality and style that you display
: at Catholica to this DB as well.

I would appreciate discussing issues, not ‘personalities’ or motivations.

: My forum is not here for people to use for
: their personal amusement.

There you go again. You insist on knowing my motivation better than me. When I don’t agree with you, you simply come back and insist again.

: I expect a poster
: who posts on various DBs, which we all read,
: to be the same person and use the one and
: same personality on all DBs.

So? Is this a new guideline?

: Someone having a personality for this DB and
: another for say catholica, simply can’t be
: taken seriously. It is game playing and at
: our expense on my forum.

If you think I’m playing some sort of game that’s a threat to youg forum, you know what to do. If you expect me to agree with you that I’m playing the game you describe, I won’t do that.

: The main posters here generally make an
: effort to post their thoughts and opinions
: in an honest, orthodox and in depth manner
: which should be respected.


: Also all of our posters DO NOT waste their
: time posting blogs run by disenchanted and
: or ex Catholics regurgitating the same old
: liberal mantra of the last 40 years, not
: forgetting spreading gossip, outright lies
: and most insulting posts about the Pope and
: other fine orthodox bishops.

I have scrupulously complied with your guideline not to bring the business of other DBs here. If you want to modify that and say that posters here can’t be members of other DBs, that too is your prerogative.

: I have also requested that you post your
: opinions and not simply cut and dissect the
: opinions of others just for the sake of an
: argument.

And I have complied. I have an opinion about the church and democracy, for example.

: I want you to post something that we can
: really discuss in all seriousness so that on
: both sides of the discussion we can depart
: from the current way most of these strings
: end up.

I have.

: Thank you.

Peace to you

: PS Democracy in the Church. I would love to
: see an in depth post on how you actually
: think that could work and give us some
: detail.

Really? You’ve been at pains to show how much contempt you have for the idea and now you’re saying your interested?

Situation normal again, nothing to see here, go on about your business.

The perils of online advertising

July 1, 2011

One of the not-so-well-known aspects of the Google empire is the way it has revolutionised on-line advertising. For the advertiser, it is relatively cheap and, by using the Google technology, very targetted.

So, if a page of text mentions key words, its accompanying Google ads pick that up and place an appropriate ad.

It’s not that discriminating or subtle though. I’m sure, for example, that Catholica readers would prefer not to see many of the ads that appear on its pages.

But this is a cracker from today’s on-line Sydney Morning Herald:

smh paper clipping

Note: Here is the original link. No doubt it will change during the day. Some human may even intervene and let Tiger know that they’re not get a lot of value for their advertising buck here!

F is for Wryday (58)

June 23, 2011

No homage to humor is complete without a record of classic insults:

“He had delusions of adequacy.”
– Walter Kerr

“He has all the virtues I dislike and none of the vices I admire.”
– Winston Churchill

“I have never killed a man, but I have read many obituaries with great pleasure.”
– Clarence Darrow

“He has never been known to use a word that might send a reader to the dictionary.”
– William Faulkner (about Ernest Hemingway).

‘Poor Faulkner. Does he really think big emotions come from big words?’
– Ernest Hemingway (about William Faulkner)

“Thank you for sending me a copy of your book; I’ll waste no time reading it.”
– Moses Hadas

“I didn’t attend the funeral, but I sent a nice letter saying I approved of it.”
– Mark Twain

“He has no enemies, but is intensely disliked by his friends.”
– Oscar Wilde

“I am enclosing two tickets to the first night of my new play; bring a friend…. if you have one.”
– George Bernard Shaw to Winston Churchill

“Cannot possibly attend first night, will attend second… if there is one.”
– Winston Churchill, in response.

“I feel so miserable without you; it’s almost like having you here.”
– Stephen Bishop

“He is a self-made man and worships his creator.”
– John Bright

“I’ve just learned about his illness. Let’s hope it’s nothing trivial.”
– Irvin S. Cobb

“He is not only dull himself; he is the cause of dullness in others.”
– Samuel Johnson

“He is simply a shiver looking for a spine to run up.”
– Paul Keating

“In order to avoid being called a flirt, she always yielded easily.”
– Charles, Count Talleyrand

“He loves nature in spite of what it did to him..”
– Forrest Tucker

“Why do you sit there looking like an envelope without any address on it?”
– Mark Twain

“His mother should have thrown him away and kept the stork.”
– Mae West

“Some cause happiness wherever they go; others, whenever they go.”
– Oscar Wilde

“He uses statistics as a drunken man uses lamp-posts… for support rather than illumination.”
– Andrew Lang (1844-1912)

“I’ve had a perfectly wonderful evening. But this wasn’t it.”
– Groucho Marx

‘There’s nothing wrong with you that reincarnation won’t cure.’
– Jack E. Leonard

‘He has the attention span of a lightning bolt.’
– Robert Redford

‘They never open their mouths without subtracting from the sum of human knowledge.’
– Thomas Brackett Reed

‘He has Van Gogh’s ear for music.’
– Billy Wilder

‘He can compress the most words into the smallest idea of any man I know.’
– Abraham Lincoln

‘A modest little person, with much to be modest about. ‘
– Winston Churchill

The exchange between Churchill & Lady Astor:
She said, “If you were my husband I’d give you poison.”
He said, “If you were my wife, I’d drink it.”

A member of Parliament to Disraeli: “Sir, you will either die on the gallows or of some unspeakable disease.
“That depends, Sir,” said Disraeli, “whether I embrace your policies or your mistress.”

Moral credibility

May 15, 2011

For weeks now I’ve been following the saga of Bishop Morris’ offer-you-can’t-refuse ‘retirement’.

Most of the action has been on Catholica — well the ‘action’ that interests me anyhow! — but there’s been a buzz all around the web sphere especially here in Australia, but also internationally.

In fact, my attempts to discuss the matter on Sentire have lead me to the view that my interaction with that ‘place’ is too negative and a waste of time. While I imposed a similar self-exile from CathPews, in Sentire’s defence, I think its host is much more open to an alternative point of view than any other ‘orthodox’ web site I’ve come across. At some stage — often far too long in my case — you have to ‘shake the dust off your sandals’.

Back to +Morris. There’s much that has been written about the situation and circumstances of his demise. Much of it is fuelled by genuine anger at how a good man could be white-anted then shown the door and much has also been fuelled by a pre-existing hostility to ‘Rome’ in the wake of other issues, particularly the way it ‘handled’ clerical child abuse.

So, for the record, here are some more dispassionate observations from Andrew Hamilton’s Eurkea Street article Trust at stake in Toowoomba:

All governance relies on a passive trust on the part of the people if it is to function well. If trust is not given, laws will not be obeyed. When trust is withdrawn, societies stagnate because they lack any sense of the common good. They become polarised, and governments often rule by repression. The officials responsible for day to day governance become demoralised and unenthusiastic.

In Eastern Europe, and now in the Middle East, apparently impregnable regimes can be brought down because trust is lacking.

Traditionally, institutions have encouraged trust by depicting their rulers as strong and benign and as guided by the best of values. But these images, and the trust they engender, have been put under pressure by the development of communication technologies and the lack of control over them. Images have become personalised.

The treatment of Bishop Bill Morris risks further blurring the image of the Catholic Church. The story told of a good man who encouraged his church, who was resolute in dealing with sexual abuse, but was removed in an untransparent process, will confirm many in their distrust of the Catholic Church. They wlll conclude that it has taken the authoritarian option.

I think this erosion of trust — or what I call moral credibility — is something that can’t be measured with surveys, but I suspect it is something that has contributed to the precipitous decline in the church in the west. Unlike people living under oppressive political regimes who eventually find the courage to ‘go out onto the streets’, Catholics just leave and that’s what they’ve been doing in droves in the last few decades.

The Pope doesn’t rule a tribe or a country where it’s members feel that their membership is fundamental to self-identify. Arguably it used to be like that, but now more than ever issues of trust are the most important way the church holds onto its membership.

In two huge issues of trust — the abuse crisis and now the church’s own internal process of justice — the best secular processes are better than the Church’s. There are no ‘streets’ to go out on to in the Catholic Church and people will just not put up with a church that says one thing and does another. According to some in the church, the secular world may be going to hell in a handbasket but it sure as hell recognises hypocrisy when it sees it. The erosion of moral credibility over many years though, has meant that very few people know or care.

Illiud latine dici non potest

March 11, 2011

Thanks to PatrickW on Catholica for this gem from Compass, apparently published in the Summer of 02, which is a comprehensive account of the process coming to fruition this year in the new mass translations. I’ve commented on Catholica, but I think the whole thing is worth having here (for the record).


FOR THE LAST five years, a major battle has been taking place over the translation of our liturgical books into English. The result has been that there are now new structures in place, new personnel have been appointed, and new principles of translation are in force. There is also a new Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments in Rome. Everyone is holding their breath to see if the fragile truce will hold and new arrangements can produce something worthwhile for the life and worship of the Church.


In the English-speaking world, one of the main protagonists is the International Commission on English in the Liturgy (ICEL). It was formed during the Second Vatican Council by the bishops of those countries which used English to help them fulfil the responsibility which the Council was giving them. Some countries preferred to remain as associate members, but eleven countries decided to contribute to the work as members: Australia, Canada, England and Wales, India, Ireland, New Zealand, Pakistan, Scotland, South Africa, United States of America, and, a little later, Philippines.

What did the Council ask of those territorial bodies of bishops that were to become bishops conferences?

Respecting [the] norms and also, where applicable, consulting the bishops of nearby territories of the same language, the [bishops conference] is empowered to decide whether and to what extent the vernacular is to be used. The enactments of the [bishops conference] are to be approved, that is, confirmed by the Holy See. Translations from the Latin text into the mother tongue intended for use in the liturgy must be approved by the [bishops conference]. SC 36

The structures developed quickly and liturgical responsibilities were formalised by the Code of Canon Law in 1983:

  • It is the prerogative of the Apostolic See to regulate the sacred liturgy of the universal Church, to publish liturgical books and review their vernacular translations, and to be watchful that liturgical regulations are everywhere faithfully observed.
  • It pertains to Episcopal Conferences to prepare vernacular translations of liturgical books, with appropriate adaptations as allowed by the books themselves and, with the prior review of the Holy See, to publish these translations. (CCL 838)

Through ICEL, the bishops conferences of those countries which used English were able to collaborate on a common English translation of the liturgical books based on a common literary and linguistic heritage (the difficulties and possibilities of such a project are a separate issue). ICEL was set up and funded by the member countries and was governed by the Episcopal Board comprising a delegated bishop from each country. In the post-Conciliar period, the Vatican encouraged the preparation of a single translation in each language and worked with the different language groups to prepare an enlightened and flexible set of principles for liturgical translation. This charter for translation is known by its French title Comme le prévoit (1969).

Comme le prévoit points out that, as the liturgical text is a medium of spoken communication, a faithful translation cannot be judged on the basis of individual words but on the total context of this specific act of communication. The translator must always keep in mind that the ‘unit of meaning’ is not the individual word but the whole passage.

The prayer of the Church is always the prayer of some actual community, assembled here and now. It is not sufficient that a formula handed down from some other time or region be translated verbatim, even if accurately, for liturgical use. The formula translated must become the genuine prayer of the congregation and in it each of its members should be able to find and express himself or herself. A translation of the liturgy therefore often requires cautious adaptation. (20-21)

After elaborating principles such as these and giving examples, the document concludes:

Texts translated from another language are clearly not sufficient for the celebration of a fully renewed liturgy. The creation of new texts will be necessary. (43)

Things went well enough for twenty years. Serious tensions began to emerge during the 1980s, however, when the eleven bishops conferences approved a revised Order of Christian Funerals and sent it to Rome for the recognitio or review. Rome returned its agreement subject to a list of modifications, effectively having the last say on details of the English translation. Still, the approved rite published in 1989 has a number of modifications to the Latin original and a number of new texts composed in English as had been allowed under Comme le prévoit.

Revised Sacramentary
At this time, a similar comprehensive revision of the Sacramentary (the book used by the priest at the altar) was already being undertaken for the bishops conferences by ICEL. It had begun with the first of two major consultations throughout English-speaking countries in 1982. Work was carried out according to the official norms of Comme le prévoit. Progress reports were published in 1988, 1990 and 1992 generating considerable debate on the revision. Consequently, to ensure that all the bishops were fully aware of what they were being asked to approve, the Sacramentary was issued for vote in eight parts between 1993 and 1996. All bishops conferences approved each part of the Sacramentary by the canonical two-thirds majority—frequently with an overwhelming majority—and the full Sacramentary was made available to conferences in 1998. Each conference submitted it to the Holy See for recognitio. By then, however, following the 1996 appointment of Archbishop Jorge Medina Estévez as Pro-Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, conflict over liturgical translation had become acute.

Rites of Ordination
In 1989 the Holy See promulgated a second Latin editio typica of the rites of ordination and it was published the following year. Rather than slow down the work on the Sacramentary, ICEL, at the request of the bishops conferences, updated the existing 1976 translation incorporating the changes and additions from the revised Latin. This was sent to conferences as an interim translation towards the end of 1993. The Australian Catholic Bishops Conference approved it for interim use and sent it to Rome for its recognitio in 1994.

In September 1997, the translation was rejected by the Holy See. This had never happened before. Thirteen pages of ‘observations’ were attached to the rejection, criticising the existing approved translation as much as the translation of the new elements. The approach to translation was also unprecedented. Archbishop Medina was demanding a literal, word-for-word rendition of the Latin texts, rubrics and introductions, right down to paragraph numbering and indentation. He recommended to the bishops that there be a ‘complete change of translators’.

ICEL began work studying the implications of Rome’s ‘observations’ and preparing a new translation of the Rites of Ordination according to the principles laid down. Sixteen months after the rejection letter, the now Cardinal Medina Estévez sent a further letter to conferences emphasising the urgency of the project, criticising ICEL, and setting an Easter 2000 deadline for the completion of the work. The new literal translation prepared in accordance with the Congregation’s directives was completed on time and, at its Easter 2000 meeting, the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference approved it and sent it to Rome for its recognitio.

Hostility to ICEL
Meanwhile, the direct attack on ICEL intensified. In October 1999, Cardinal Medina wrote a letter to Bishop Maurice Taylor, chair of the Episcopal Board, demanding widespread changes in ICEL’s mandate, structures and personnel. The Cardinal refused to meet with Bishop Taylor or anyone involved with ICEL. ICEL was accused of paraphrasing rather than translating, making alterations without prior authorisation from Rome, limiting the extent to which bishops can obtain corrections or improvements, adding original texts, etc. Committee membership and structures were also criticised. The letter concluded that ICEL in its present form was not in a position to render adequate service to the bishops, the Holy See or the English-speaking faithful. Consequently the Congregation directed the bishops to revise ICEL’s statutes within six months, limiting its work to the strict translation of Roman liturgical texts, giving the bishops a more hands-on role in ICEL’s work, and requiring anyone involved in ICEL to obtain the nihil obstat of the Congregation to assume and maintain their role.

The Vatican was claiming control. Cardinal Medina wrote:

The experience of the years since the Council, as well as a deepening theological reflection, have brought clearly into focus the fact that the constitution, the regulation and the oversight of an international commission for liturgical translation are rightfully the competence of the Holy See to a degree which is not always sufficiently reflected in the statutes which govern such bodies.

In response to Cardinal Medina’s letter, a special meeting of the presidents of bishops conferences was held to discuss the mission and purpose of ICEL. The Episcopal Board also met and a subcommittee of bishops drafted a new charter for the work of translation which was implemented for a two year trial. In accordance with the wishes of the Congregation, ICEL’s secretariat and Advisory Committee did not take part in the process. The executive secretary, Dr John Page, was allowed to continue during this period but applications would be called for the position at the end of the two-year trial.

The new structure redefined roles, replacing the Advisory Committee with a Consultants Committee, disbanding the standing sub-committees in favour of ad hoc committees, and strengthening the role of the Episcopal Board. An executive of the Episcopal Board now meet by teleconference each month. However the bishops tried to retain control of the organisation and therefore of the translation process. The Cardinal continued to insist that the reform did not go far enough.

Liturgiam Authenticam
What we saw in the response on the ordination rite and in the demands made of ICEL proved to be only trial runs for the ‘king hit’ which appeared on 25 April 2001. Without any consultation of bishops conferences, the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments promulgated a new document Liturgiam Authenticam ‘on the use of vernacular languages in the publication of the books of the Roman liturgy’. Presented as the fifth Instruction for the right implementation of the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy of the Second Vatican Council, it is a document for the whole world (not just for English speakers). It replaces Comme le prévoit without even mentioning its existence.

Fidelity to the Latin is the primary criterion.

The translation of the liturgical texts of the Roman liturgy is not so much a work of creative innovation as it is of rendering the original texts faithfully and accurately into the vernacular language… the original text in so far as possible must be translated integrally and in the most exact manner, without omissions or additions in terms of their content, and without paraphrases or glosses. (20)

While the texts must be comprehensible, the sacred style sought for liturgical texts need not adhere to prevailing modes of expression, may be different from usual and everyday speech, and even use a manner of speech considered obsolete in daily usage. Inclusive language is not regarded as an authentic development and the doctrinal mission of the Church will not be subject to externally imposed linguistic norms. Academic style manuals are not considered standards for liturgical translation. ‘A sacral vernacular’ is sought ‘characterised by a vocabulary, syntax and grammar that are proper to divine worship’ (47). Syntax and style, literary and rhetorical genres are to be retained in the translations, as are titles, the ordering of texts, the rubrics, and the system of numbering of the Latin.

The document also deals with the way translations are to be prepared. It says that the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments will in future be more directly involved in preparing translations.

[Its] ‘recognitio’ is not a mere formality, but is rather an exercise of the power of governance, which is absolutely necessary…and modifications—even substantial ones—may be introduced by means of it (80).

It is the Congregation which erects a Commission such as ICEL and which approves or provides its governing statutes. Its work is strictly limited to actual translation and its personnel need to be vetted by the Congregation.

For the good of the faithful, the Holy See reserves to itself the right to prepare translations in any language, and to approve them for liturgical use (104).

Events of 2002
The Congregation maintained the pressure on ICEL and the bishops conferences by setting up its own committee of advice on English language translations called Vox Clara. The 12-member committee made up of bishops from nine countries has met twice under the chairmanship of Sydney Archbishop George Pell. According to its opening press release, one of its aims is ‘to enhance and strengthen effective cooperation with the conferences of bishops.’ The committee is reviewing samples of translated texts from the Missale Romanum. It is also working on a ratio translationis which will apply the principles of a literal translation to the English language, giving a list of English words to be equated with their Latin counterparts.

Next, after long delays, the third edition of the Roman Missal in Latin was published on 22 March 2002. With this finally in place, English-speaking bishops conferences received a letter from the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments refusing to grant its recognitio for the revised Sacramentary which the conferences had approved. The uncompromising two-page rejection letter—the greater part of which was devoted to criticising ICEL—came with seven pages of ‘observations’ on the translation. The tone was patronising. The Vatican authorities accuse the English texts of being ‘superficially attractive by virtue of their emotional impact’, ‘faddish and ill-adapted’, ‘monotonous’, ‘typical of many consumerist societies’ in its ‘desire for constant variety’, ‘sentimental, secularised, flattened and trivialised’, and so forth. The order and arrangement of the texts must follow the Latin. Pastoral introductions are excluded along with any prayers newly composed in English (including those we have been using for 25 years). The Latin grammar with its relative clauses is given a theological status and is deemed essential also in English. The careful use of inclusive language is rejected. In effect the book was being judged according to the principles of Liturgiam Authenticam, a document produced after the fifteen-year revision project was complete, and after the book was approved by bishops conferences and submitted to Rome.

During the month of May, conferences of bishops received another rejection letter from the Congregation. This one concerned the most recent (literal) translation of the Rites of Ordination. Accompanying the rejection letter is a modified version of the English translation of the Rites of Ordination. The letter indicates that the Congregation is ready to grant the recognitio to any conference of bishops that wishes to approve it as it stands. Every page is sprinkled with changes, some of them trivial (‘baptise’ is changed to ‘administer Baptism’, for example), while others appear to be ideological (at several points, sentences such as the following appear: ‘You are taken from among men and appointed on behalf of men for those things that pertain to God’).

Meanwhile changes continued at ICEL. The statutes were further revised and adopted. A new executive of the Episcopal Board was elected under the chairmanship of Bishop Arthur Roche of Leeds. The resignation of Dr John Page from the position of executive secretary was accepted and Rev. Bruce Harbert, 59-year-old English priest of the Archdiocese of Birmingham, was appointed. He is an interesting choice for the position. He is not only on the council of the Association for Latin Liturgy (founded over 30 years ago to promote Latin in Catholic liturgy) but has also been a sharp critic of ICEL’s work, past and present. However, he has worked on one of ICEL’s task forces, is a good Latin scholar and has held a variety of academic posts. ICEL’s work continues in a spirit of hopefulness. The translation of the new General Instruction of the Roman Missal has been sent to bishops conferences and has already been approved by the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference. Work has begun on revising the Roman Missal and other liturgical books according to the new principles of Liturgiam Authenticam.

Bishop Maurice Taylor of Galloway in Scotland who completed his term as ICEL’s chairman felt he could not finish without making a strong statement entitled ‘Truth, Honesty and Justice: the Need for Authenticity’. He said in part:

Many good people connected with ICEL have suffered during this time of transition. The members of ICEL’s Episcopal Board have in effect been judged to be irresponsible in the liturgical texts that they have approved over the years. The bishops of the English-speaking conferences, voting by large majorities to approve the vernacular liturgical texts prepared by ICEL, have been similarly judged. And the labours of all those faithful and dedicated priests, religious, and laypeople who over the years devoted many hours of their lives to the work of ICEL have been called into question. The impression is given, and indeed is seemingly fostered by some, that ICEL is a recalcitrant group of people, uncooperative, even disobedient. This is mistaken and untrue. One is tempted to suspect that, no matter what ICEL does, its work will always be criticised by some because their minds are made up that the mixed commission is incorrigible and unworthy of continued existence.

The final development of 2002 was the retirement of Cardinal Medina Estévez and the appointment of Cardinal Francis Arinze to replace him as prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. A Nigerian, Arinze is said to be sharp and articulate, and a good communicator. Dubbed a moderate conservative, he is probably a good example of leadership from the African Church, combining firm authority with spiritual charisma. He speaks English well. He is familiar with the corridors of Rome, having led the Pontifical Council for Inter-Religious Dialogue for 17 years. In this position he was able to promote mutual understanding and reconciliation.

After the battles of the last five years, there seems to be a mood of optimism that the work of renewing our liturgical books can once again move forward. Those involved in ICEL and bishops conferences are certainly working within tighter constraints and the scope of possibilities has certainly been reduced. But there is a genuine hope that the bitter and unproductive conflicts are behind us and that constructive work lies ahead.

The first intervention of Cardinal Arinze admittedly was not particularly encouraging. He signed a letter within days of his appointment giving the Congregation’s response to the new ICEL statutes. The letter criticises the statutes because they do not give Rome the right of veto over ICEL personnel, discretionary power over their terms of appointment, and do not acknowledge that it is Rome which establishes and directs commissions such as ICEL.

Issues at Stake
There are two crucial issues at stake in this whole unedifying and sorry saga: what language are we to use in worship and who has the responsibility for determining it.

The emphasis on accurate, exact and literal translation of the Latin is meant to ensure doctrinal fidelity. However our liturgical rites are not academic reference books. Liturgy is the prayer of the people of God. For a liturgical translation, a primary criterion is to find the language which springs spontaneously from the heart to the lips, giving a voice to praying people and lifting the spirit to God in worship. The text is to be proclaimed and heard, sung and prayed by real communities.

By definition, a vernacular is the language in use in a particular place. A living language is constantly evolving (inclusive language is just one example of this). While it is useful to have a stable universal language such as Latin as the basis of the Roman Rite and the touchstone of authentic liturgy, the vernacular functions differently. Translation is a delicate art. Each Latin word cannot just pass over into a corresponding vernacular word. A translation cannot preserve the same variety of terms as the Latin, with the same denotation and connotation, and the same literary and rhetorical features. Different languages do not correspond in this way.

We have also had to learn how to pray in the vernacular. Thirty years ago, it was thought that we would have to keep the language simple and direct if it was to be understood in the hearing. We who speak English have learned through our experience of vernacular worship that greater complexity and richness is both possible and desirable. ICEL liturgical translations have developed and changed accordingly.

The second issue concerns the responsibility for liturgical translation given to bishops conferences by the Second Vatican Council and the Code of Canon Law. It is hard not to see the events of recent years as a battle for control between the Roman Curia and local bishops conferences. The role of the Holy See in granting its recognitio was described in 1969 as ‘the seal and guarantee of unity and harmony’. The involvement of the Holy See is important because it strengthens and expresses the bond of communion between the bishops of the world. The events of recent years, however, have seen Rome assert its right to determine the structures and procedures for translation into the vernacular, the principles and scope of translation work, and even the very words and expressions to be used in English liturgical books. What is left of the responsibility given to bishops conferences which they have so conscientiously discharged in the decades since the Second Vatican Council?

Fr Tom Elich is director of The Liturgical Commission in Brisbane and coordinator of liturgical studies at St Paul’s Theological College. He was a member of several ICEL committees during the 1990s.


* Illiud latine dici non potest – You can’t say that in Latin


Quietly removed?

March 2, 2011

Kudos to my old mate Jules for pointing out that Catholica no longer appears on the Bishop’s list of links.

Frankly I’m surprised that it ever did.

Mind you, if you do a search on the site it will still come up with references to Catholica and it even points to where the link was before. Damn! The internet is so uncooperative when it comes to the ‘limiting’ of information!

In the string, Jules goes on to helpfully point out that Brian Coyne is fairly philosophical about it:

Thanks for that Cliffy. I wasn’t aware of it. I cannot say that I am surprised in the least. We have been barred from mention in most diocesan newspapers virtually since we started and on CathNews for ages.

I take it as a sign that they see us as something to be afraid of. I’m not going to fall over myself to ring Brian Lucas and ask why the link was taken off. I don’t expect we’d have been gettin a large amount of traffic from any of those sources anyway. It does not bother me in the slightest.

Jules then goes on to give advice to ‘the delusional’ which is as unedifying as it is ironic.

Speaking of irony, if having a link on the Bishop’s site is some sort of measure of ‘True Catholicity’ as Jules clearly implies, where does is that leave the website Jules administers?

Sometimes schadenfreude can come back to bite you!

On the more general question, The Vatican can implore leaders in the Middle East to become more democratic and open, but there is a growing sense that it is a ‘do as I say, not as I do’ message.

In the meantime, Catholica continues to grow.