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The new text of the Mass ROBERT MICKENS


A war of words L


ate in April 2010, one sunny after- noon, Pope Benedict XVI was presented with a handsomely bound volume of the new English translation


of the Roman Missal. The ceremony took place during a luncheon in his honour at a Renaissance villa in the Vatican Gardens. It was hosted by members of Vox Clara (“clear voice”), a commission of a dozen sen- ior English-speaking bishops that the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments (CDW) had handpicked back in 2001 to help it gain greater control over the translation process. “This has been a truly collegial enterprise,”


Pope Benedict said of the nine-year effort to translate the Missale Romanum from Latin into English. “I want you to know how much I appreciate the great collaborative endeavour to which you have contributed,” he told the Vox Clara bishops, their priest-collaborators and top officials from the CDW. Astonishingly, the Pope never mentioned


the group that actually did the translations, Icel (the International Commission on English in the Liturgy). Many saw this as a deliberate slight by those who had drafted the Pope’s speech, members of Vox Clara or the CDW. Even by the most benign interpretation, it was an oversight. And one that was shamefully magnified by the fact that Icel’s chairman, Bishop Arthur Roche of Leeds, was in Rome that day, but had not been invited to the lunch- eon.


It would be extraordinary if these were signs of disfavour, because Icel had already been re-shaped so that it answered directly to Rome and translated the Missal according to prin- ciples it laid down. Icel is a mixed commission, established in 1963 by the major English- speaking episcopal conferences to produce the official translations of the Church’s prayer ever since the liturgy was put into the ver- nacular following the Second Vatican Council. It has been the body through which the bish- ops have sought to fulfil their rightful authority – explicitly recognised by the Council – over liturgical translations. But the Missal trans- lation saga shows how the CDW succeeded in taking away the bishops’ conferences’ power. And, ironically, they did so with the help of English-speaking bishops who were appointed to Vox Clara. Cardinal Jorge Medina Estévez, the Chilean who headed the CDW from 1996 to 2002,


8 | THE TABLET | 2 July 2011


led the way in reshaping Icel. Long dissatisfied with its work, in 1999 he formally ordered its episcopal board to re-draft the commission statutes. As the bishops dragged their feet to comply, the cardinal worked to reverse the Vatican’s old guidelines and principles for translations by publishing the 2001 instruction, Liturgiam Authenticam(LA). He also set up Vox Clara, which would hold its first meeting in the spring of 2002. The future Cardinal George Pell of Australia, a man fiercely opposed to inclusive language, was appointed Vox Clara’s chairman. English Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor became secretary, while US Cardinal Justin Rigali was named as treasurer. He fulfilled everyone’s expectations by ensuring Vox Clara’s funding through the generosity of the Knights of Columbus.


Where the former


commission prided itself on being transparent, the new


Icel imposed oaths of loyalty and anonymity


Three other Americans, including Chicago’s Cardinal Francis George OMI, were also appointed to Vox Clara. So were senior bishops from Ghana, Santa Lucia, Ireland, the Philippines and eventually Canada. Mgr James P. Moroney, formerly director of the US bishops’ liturgy office, would play a key role as the committee’s “special adviser”. Other aides included Fr Jeremy Driscoll OSB (US), Abbot Cuthbert Johnson OSB (England), Mgr Gerard McKay (Rome) and Professor (then Fr) Dennis McManus (US). Just before retiring in October 2002, Cardinal Medina pressurised the Icel bishops into drastically overhauling the commission’s Washington-based operations. Key personnel changes were made at a meeting in late July of that year in Ottawa, including the forced retirement of Dr John Page. The American, a church historian and scholar of John Henry


The new English Missal is being introduced during Advent but its journey to fruition has been marked by the Vatican’s determination to take charge. In the third and final part of his account of the politics behind the translation, our Rome correspondent tells of a final twist in the tale


Bishop Donald Trautman, one of the few bishops publicly to criticise the translation. Photo: CNS


Newman, had been the commission’s execu- tive secretary since 1980 and a senior staff member for many years prior to that. The Icel bishops replaced him with Fr Bruce Harbert, a former Anglican and a Birmingham priest who had studied classics at Oxford and patris- tics in Rome. Though he had been an Icel collaborator, he was a vocal critic of the com- mission and a proponent of more literal translations. Upon his appointment he was given the new title of executive director. Bishop Maurice Taylor of Aberdeen, ill with cancer, stepped down as chairman of the episcopal board and Bishop Roche of Leeds was elected to replace him. A week after resigning Bishop Taylor issued


a letter defending the old Icel against “attacks” that had been levelled at it by, among others, Cardinal Medina’s congregation. “The impres- sion is given, and indeed is seemingly fostered by some, that Icel is a recalcitrant group of people, uncooperative, even disobedient,” the bishop wrote. “This is mistaken and untrue.” He also denounced the CDW’s treatment of Dr Page, saying he had been “pilloried, some- times by name, often by title, occasionally by inference”. It was a final defence of the work Icel had tried to achieve. But it was too late. The Nigerian Cardinal Francis Arinze took over from Medina as CDW prefect in autumn 2002 and would preside over the final approval of Icel’s revised statutes. The pres- idents of the 11 episcopal conferences of Icel and representatives of the 15 associate con- ferences met Cardinal Arinze in the Vatican Synod Hall. Astonishingly, they acquiesced


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