Thursday, May 10, 2007

Trautman: Not Dead Yet

Last month, in a report memorable for its glaring lack of fact-checking, the English edition of the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano announced in its necrology the 2 April death "at age 70" of Bishop Donald Trautman of Erie.

It was actually Trautman's predecessor, Bishop Michael Murphy, who went home to the Lord on that date; Murphy was 91. Though Trautman received an apology from the paper's staff before the edition even hit the street, it was too late to roll back the presses; a prompt correction was issued in the following week's paper, but the first report had already caused a wave of shock among some far-flung prelates.

The chair of the US bishops' Committee on the Liturgy and (concurrently) first critic of the Holy See's increased interest in the mechanics of English-language worship over recent years, Trautman -- who already released one such prominent critique this year in the pages of The Tablet -- launches his most blistering salvo to date on the revised renderings of the Roman Missal in tomorrow's edition of America.

Here's but a sampling:
What will the person in the pew hear and comprehend? Will the words “prefiguring sacrifices of the Fathers” and “born ineffably of the inviolate Virgin,” for example, resonate with John and Mary Catholic? Is this prayer intelligible, proclaimable, reflective of a vocabulary and linguistic style from the contemporary mainstream of U.S. Catholics? Is the liturgical language accessible to the average Catholic and our youth? Does this translated text lead to full, conscious and active participation? I think not.

This prayer is not an isolated example. While the latest ICEL translations for the proper of the saints and the commons are improved, we still encounter the following: “O God, who suffused blessed John with the spirit of mercy” (Collect for March 8) and “Cyril, an unvanquished champion of the divine motherhood” (Collect for June 27) and odd expressions like “What you have charged us to believe will taste sweet to the heart” (Collect for April 21). Does the
heart “taste?”

All liturgy is pastoral. If translated texts are to be the authentic prayer of the people, they must be owned by the people and expressed in the contemporary language of their culture. To what extent are the new prayers of the Missal truly pastoral? Do these new texts communicate in the living language of the worshiping assembly?...

Will the priest and people understand the words of Eucharistic Prayer 2: “Make holy these gifts, we pray, by the dew of your Spirit”? This translation was among the top 10 texts that the U.S. bishops in their consultation considered most problematic, but still ICEL did not change it.

In the new missal you will hear awkward phrases like “We pray you bid.” This is not American English. Ponder these concrete examples and judge for yourself.

What happened to the liturgical principles of the “Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy”? The council fathers of Vatican II stated: “Texts and rites should be drawn up so that they express more clearly the holy things which they signify; the Christian people, as far as possible, should be able to understand them with ease and to take part in them fully, actively and as it befits a community” (No. 21). Note the words “with ease.” This is the norm, the expressed wish in the constitution. This is a prerequisite that calls not just for the accuracy of translated texts but for the easy understanding of those texts.....

Liturgical translations must communicate. If liturgical language is divorced from the reality of culture, communication is impossible.

What is missing in the present moment, unfortunately, is the voice of liturgical scholars and the voice of the laity, the assembly.

If the language of the liturgy is inaccessible, how can liturgy catechize and convey the reality of the living, risen Son of God in the Eucharist? If the language of the liturgy is a stumbling block to intelligibility and proclaimability, then the principle lex orandi, lex credendi is severely compromised. If the language of the liturgy does not communicate, how can people fall in love with the greatest gift of God, the Eucharist?

Church of God, judge for yourselves. Speak up, speak up!
Yep, he's kickin', alright.

In related news, copies of the latest revisions of the Mass texts obtained by and posted on a UK-based blog were removed from its pages after the International Commission on English in the Liturgy, citing its copyright privileges to the proposals, deigned to request that they be taken down.