Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Re-defining obedience

This week's Tablet has an editorial entitled "Living with the Missal", which opens by asking:
What kind of obedience do Catholics owe the Church, with reference to the new English translation of the Roman Missal?
That this editorial is available freely on the website doesn't surprise, its writer no doubt wanting it to get maximum exposure. So far as I can tell, almost nobody reads the Tablet in the ordinary parishes - you either don't see it at all at the back of the Church or just one or two copies - so one has to try and get it read in some way.
Fr Kevin Kelly, Britain's eminent moral theologian ...
Most Catholics below my age will ask: Fr who? Fr Kelly is now emeritus, may be eminent in a very restricted circle that can remember back quite a few years, but has an eminence that is, I suspect, very non-evident to most people in the pews. The editorial suggests that Fr Kelly is accusing the Bishops of England and Wales of "doublespeak" by praising the new translation in public while expressing unhappiness with it in private. Now, Fr Kelly's original text can be found here and one can see a rather misleading conflation in the Tablet editorial of the first three paragraphs. Fr Kelly's original text is purely and entirely speculation - and admittedly so - when it refers to the Bishops expressing concerns about the new translation in private. Given what the editorial has made of Fr Kelly's first three paragraphs, one wonders whether the writer actually misread "emeritus" as "eminent" .....

The response "And with your spirit" is, so far as I can tell, one of the best and most commonly explained aspects of the new translation, so for the editorial writer to refer to an absence of any explanation for it appears silly in the extreme. It is also an example that very readily illustrates some key gains of the new translation: greater faithfulness to the original Latin text, a more sacred form of language, and greater transparency of the Scriptural references in the text (which in this case are completely lost in the previous translation).

The editorial then goes on to cite Fr Timothy Radcliffe in justification of re-defining obedience as "deep attentiveness" rather than submission of will to a lawful command. I do think the editorial is correct in saying that obedience is not "unthinking compliance"; a genuine submission of the will has to be informed by a proper intelligence. But it is still an act of the will and not just of "attention". [There is a variation on this redefining of obedience among the comments to Fr Kelly's text at the ACP website.]

Two weeks to go and every sign outside of the media that the introduction of the new translation will be going ahead, though the ordinary faithful in the pews could do with some advance warning that their lines are going to be changing .....

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