Friday, 25 February 2011

The New Translation and Sacrosanctum Concilium

The Irish Association of Catholic Priests (some priests actually, since they explicitly say that they will not be representing the views of all priests) claim, here, that:
The translation [ie the new English translation of the Mass coming into use within the next 9 months] is also in conflict with the Constitution of the Sacred Liturgy which has a whole section on norms for adapting the Liturgy to the temperament and traditions of people. This allows for legitimate variations and adaptations. (No. 38)
Which prompted me to go and look up the said Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy to see what it actually said. N.21 expresses four principles which govern the more specific norms for the renewal of the Liturgy that can be found in the subsequent paragraphs of the Constitution. My italics and bold are added to draw out these principles:
In order that the Christian people may more certainly derive an abundance of graces from the sacred liturgy, holy Mother Church desires to undertake with great care a general restoration of the liturgy itself. For the liturgy is made up of immutable elements divinely instituted, and of elements subject to change. These not only may but ought to be changed with the passage of time if they have suffered from the intrusion of anything out of harmony with the inner nature of the liturgy or have become unsuited to it.

In this restoration, both texts and rites should be drawn up so that they express more clearly the holy things which they signify; the Christian people, so far as possible, should be enabled to understand them with ease and to take part in them fully, actively, and as befits a community.

Wherefore the sacred Council establishes the following general norms ...
I think I would argue that the use of a more sacred style in both vocabulary and language structure means that the new translation does "express more clearly the holy things they signify". And, frankly, the idea that the new texts are any more difficult to understand and to take part in than the previous ICEL texts isn't an idea that has much credibility - the DVD Become One Body One Spirit in Christ makes available a sufficient range of the new texts for you to be able to judge yourself. On more than one occasion I have heard comment to the effect that, when actually prayed in the Liturgical context, the new texts "work" better than one might expect from simply reading them on the page. The Constitution expects that the people will be "enabled to understand them with ease" and, as far as the new translation is concerned, the DVD resource is about this enabling.

It is also interesting to look at n.38, referenced in the press release to justify the claim that the new translations are in conflict with the Constitution. I include also n.39, with emphasis added to the qualifications contained in both paragraphs:

Provisions shall also be made, when revising the liturgical books, for legitimate variations and adaptations to different groups, regions, and peoples, especially in mission lands, provided that the substantial unity of the Roman rite is preserved; and this should be borne in mind when drawing up the rites and devising rubrics.

Within the limits set by the typical editions of the liturgical books, it shall be for the competent territorial ecclesiastical authority mentioned in Art. 22, 2, to specify adaptations, especially in the case of the administration of the sacraments, the sacramentals, processions, liturgical language, sacred music, and the arts, but according to the fundamental norms laid down in this Constitution.
The new translation does not seem to me to contradict the provisions of the Constitution on the Liturgy with regard to legitimate adaptations when one bears in mind the qualifications to those provisions contained in that Constitution itself.

I would argue that the new translation is entirely in accord with the wishes of Sacrosanctum Concilium, and it is only a most selective reading of the Constitution that allows you to argue the opposite.

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