The following article is reprinted in full from the "New Zealand Catholic"
Blunt Review of Liturgiam Authenticam
by Peter Cullinane, Bishop of Palmerston North, New Zealand
(Bishop Cullinane has been the New Zealand representative to the ICEL governing board for a number of years)
The Holy Father wants faithful and dignified translations of the liturgy. So do we.
The English translation in use today was hurriedly made just after the Council. It is a faithful translation, and was approved by the Holy See. But it is also flat and inelegant. That's why we have just spent 18 years re-translating the Missal. The new translation is faithful and elegant.
What the Congregation for Divine Worship and Sacraments now wants is something more than that: it wants "the gradual development . . . of a sacred style that will come to be recognised as proper to liturgical language [even if this involves] a certain manner of speech that is obsolete in daily usage" (Instruction, art.27).
The instruction hopes the language of our worship will influence the language of our lives. One thinks of how sacred music is different, and how it helps us to transcend ordinary routines.
But there is also a risk. The Second Vatican Council named "the split between religious faith and daily life" as one of the worst errors of our time. Do we want the language of our faith to be a language that we "put on" for occasions? Aren't we trying to bring about a realisation that the whole of life is holy?
ICEL translations try to use the language of the people so the liturgy can be truly their prayer. In doing this, ICEL has been acting on the norms issued by the Holy See in 1969:
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 should 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.
The new norms shift the focus from the liturgy as the prayer of this particular gathering to the liturgy as the prayer of the ancient and universal Church. Surely it needs to be both, and the art of translation is to enable each congregation to pray the prayer of the whole Church.
The Congregation even wants the vernacular languages to use Latin syntax, and a more literal translation. For example, it wants the people's response "And also with you" to become "And with your spirit."
It remains to be seen whether the proposed liturgical language will bear the weight of real life and pastoral need. We should not have to depend on a manner of speech that is obsolete in order to create a sense of the holy.
Whatever is good in the new instruction will last. Whatever is not will disappear.
The pope had asked the Congregation to prepare this new instruction "in collaboration with the bishops". For more than two years the bishops appointed to represent the English-speaking countries have tried to meet with the Congregation to discuss these matters. The various excuses given for not meeting are an interesting study in themselves. They do nothing for collegiality.
The present law of the Church entrusts to bishops' conferences the work of preparing and approving translations of the liturgy. These are then submitted to the Holy See for its confirmation. The new instruction claims for the Congregation a more direct role in preparing the translations, and tries to diminish the role of the episcopal conferences. However, it makes these new demands in a document which is not intended to actually change the Church's law in which the role of the bishops' conferences is enshrined.