Rome has spoken, the case is still open

PrayTell broke the story some time ago that German-speaking bishops are unhappy with the Roman-approved translation of the burial rites (what we call the Order of Christian Funerals), and one highly-placed bishop said he would not use it. Now it is public. It is a first, as far as I know, since Vatican II: an officially approved book is being withdrawn because of objections to the translation, especially to the many changes Rome made in the submitted translation. PrayTell provides in full the announcement given by the Archdiocese of Salzburg (translation AWR).

Rituale Fascicle “The Burial Rites of the Church”:
Extension of Permission to Use the Edition of 1972-73

Letter of the President of the Liturgy Commission of the German Bishops’ Conference, Cardinal Joachim Meisner, to the Presidents of the Bishops’ Conferences and the Extra-conference Bishops of the German-speaking Region:

Most Reverend Brothers,

In September 2009, after many years of preparation, the second authentic edition of the rituale fascicle “The Burial Rites of the Church in the Dioceses of German-speaking Regions” appeared. It was to replace the 1972-73 edition beginning on the First Sunday of Advent (November 29th), 2009.

Since publication, the new rituale has received enduring criticism from bishops, priests, and deacons. This concerns above all the quality of the liturgical texts and their translations, particular rubrical prescriptions foreign to common practice, and also the size and scope of the book which makes it difficult to use. Objections of this sort were expressed in the entire German-speaking region, not seldom along with personal proclamations of the intent to follow a different practice.

The bishops who gathered for the “Forum on Liturgy in the German-speaking Regions” dealt with this situation in great detail on January 20th-21st, 2010. They articulated the urgent recommendation, in order to avoid greater damage, to permit immediately the further use of the 1972-1973 edition and to undertake a fundamental revision of the new edition.

The German Bishops’ Conference, in the context of the Spring meeting on February 23rd, 2010, arrived at the conclusion that the new rituale in its current form must be considered a failure. For the sake of good order in the liturgy, the conference thinks that measures are necessary to deal with the confusion in parishes, and to work for sure progress in the necessary reworking of the rituale.

I address you as president of the Liturgy Commission of the German Bishops’ Conference. This Liturgy Commission has been given the task of undertaking steps in this direction, in coordination with the bishops’ conferences and extra-conference bishops of the German-speaking region.

On this basis, I convey to you the intention of the German Bishops’ Conference to extend immediately the timeframe in which the 1972-73 edition of the ritual The Burial Rites of the Church” can canonically be used in the dioceses of the German-speaking region by two years (up until the First Sunday of Advent, 2011, 11/27/2011) in the region of your authority.

In contact with the Liturgical Institutes and Commissions, Professor Dr. Winfried Haunerland (Munich), who led the editing of the second edition of 2009 at our behest, will begin immediately with a survey of the current critique and the production of a revised version. I dearly hope that you will collaborate in these measures, so that we succeed in bringing about an improved second edition of the burial rites. This will be presented to the bishops’ conferences and the extra-conference bishops for approbation, and then presented to the Holy See for recognitio.

As president of the episcopal commission “Ecclesia celebrans,” I have already informed the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments on 1.11.10 about the range of problems with the rituale which received recognitio after massive prescriptions and individual textual changes. I will also inform the congregation now of these planned measures.






15 responses to “Rome has spoken, the case is still open”

  1. Chris Grady Avatar
    Chris Grady

    Several questions arise for those of us concerned with the final outcome of the Moroney Missal.

    Not the least of them: in the English-speaking world, is the role of Professor Dr. Winfried Haunerland being played by Monsignor Moroney, or shall the ‘survey of the current critique and the production of a revised version’ be left to someone else? (i.e. Will the Missale Harbert, now abandoned for the Missale Moroney, actually get yet another life as the Missale Something Else?)

    More importantly, of course, will the English-speaking bishops have the same courage which their German-speaking counterparts appear to have? Or will they just roll over again as they did in 1998?

  2. Jordan Zarembo Avatar
    Jordan Zarembo

    Since publication, the new rituale has received enduring criticism from bishops, priests, and deacons. This concerns above all the quality of the liturgical texts and their translations, particular rubrical prescriptions foreign to common practice, and also the size and scope of the book which makes it difficult to use.

    “Quality” is quite subjective. As seen here in PT, the new English translation has its vociferous supporters and detractors. While the majority of German-speaking bishops might oppose the new translation, I’m not entirely convinced that the vast majority of priests and deacons oppose it. I suspect that there are clergy who support the new translation. Perhaps their voices are not being heard.

    Fr. Ruff, have you seen the new German funeral rite? Are the battle-lines similar to those drawn over the new English missal? I refer to the issue of literal vs. dynamic translation mainly.

    1. Anthony Ruff, OSB Avatar
      Anthony Ruff, OSB

      Here’s what I’m told about the German-language burial ritual. Opinions are divided, with some positive aspects acknowledged. For example, many people find it good that the word “soul,” totally avoided in 1970, has returned to the liturgical vocabulary. But many found the translation to be clumsy and too complicated. The Latin “aperi aures misericordiae tuae” has been translated literally as “open the ears of your mercy,” which ended up functioning rather like The Great “Dew” Debate in our English Eucharistic Prayer II. It became a flashpoint for critics. The scope of the volume was found to be impractical by most priests and deacons, with simply too many options. The joke was that the celebrant, instead of saying “Lasset uns beten” (Let us pray), would say “Lasset uns blättern…” (Let us page around…) …until we find the right place! The publication Gottesdienst (“Divine Worship”), a biweekly read by many priests, reports that it has never received such a wave of protest in 30 years as it received about this book in the form of letters to the editor.

      1. Jordan Zarembo Avatar
        Jordan Zarembo

        Thanks Father. These are very legitimate concerns. “Open the ears of your mercy” is an emphatically bad translation. One can work Latin imperatives and datives into much less less confusing clauses. My grad reading German is dysfunctional to put it mildly. Still, I’m certain there is a satisfactory solution in German that stays close to the functional meaning of the Latin (perhaps “open [our] ears to your mercy” in English).

        I’m certain the German-speaking bishops would have a pastoral and non-ideological case for the restriction of the funeral rite to a limited number of options in idiomatic German. It would not be unreasonable for the German-speaking bishops to submit their own revisions to Rome for approval.

        For a long time I turned a blind eye to the glaring translation faux pas of the new Missal out of a concern that any changes would stall the changes I consider most desirable. Perhaps a successful resolution of the German funeral rite translation issue might yield a process by which different Anglophone viewpoints can learn to compromise and coexist with the new Missal translation.

  3. Chris Grady Avatar
    Chris Grady

    Oh and another thing – surely one of the biggest complaints about the old ICEL was that the entire English-speaking world was being dictated to by a group of Americans, insensitive to non-American usage.

    Is the new Missal to be edited in its final form by an American monsignor, who was in fact for years a bureaucrat at the USCCB in Washington?!

    And who gave this man absolute power to change texts already voted on by all the English-speaking bishops’ conferences?!

    I thought one of the major points of ‘Liturgiam Authenticam’ was to restore approbation of liturgical texts to the bishops.

    To paraphrase The Who: ‘Meet the new ICEL, same as the old ICEL.’

  4. Jeffery BeBeau Avatar
    Jeffery BeBeau

    I find it interesting that the German Bishops have decided to utilize their canonical authority to remedy the situation. They decided on their own to extend permission of the former rite, to remove the current one from usage, and to undertake a revision. The only mention of the CDWDS came at the end where the German Bishops told it what they were doing.

    When it comes to the English texts it seems like the reverse is true. When I inquired if ICEL would be looking at the Liturgy of the Hours next, I was advised that they were consulting with Rome about the advisability of the project. Hmm, now ICEL has to consult with Rome, and not the Bishops who it is responsible to about which texts it can translate!

  5. Chris Grady Avatar
    Chris Grady

    They’re working on parts of the ritual and pontifical – well, they WERE . . . Vox Clara’s latest intervention will see most people involved in ‘the process’ so lose heart that little more will be done. Courtesy of the stars of Vox Clara, (the new) ICEL’s days are clearly numbered.

  6. Sister Maria Avatar

    Humbly, Cardinal Meisner has only to pick up the phone to speak to Someone, who, though he may dress a little eccentrically, is wholly accessible to reason, innately kind and conversant with the relative vernacular. Do we have anyone in a similar position?

  7. Chris Grady Avatar
    Chris Grady

    Cardinal Pell?

  8. Sister Maria Avatar

    I’m afraid, in the Church, much as we love her, it is still more important who you know – than what you know…….

    Alright. If we feel that the new translation and the old translation really should be improved for the glory of God in heaven and the peace of the rest of us on earth, shall we do it? There are more than enough people on Pray Tell who are scholars in their own right. I, myself have part shares in a Classics graduate or two. If someone will email the latin texts….?

    1. Jim McKay Avatar
      Jim McKay

      Great idea!

      The Congregation for Clergy has what I believe is the full text at:

      Can I suggest that the first part of any improvement effort is a discussion of what would be an improvement? The translation we currently use aimed to make the text comprehensible; the new translation aimed for a more accurate rendering of the Latin. My personal preference would be a translation that aims to nourish our prayer life and develop our relationship with God, our Father; Jesus, His Son; and their Spirit, who is now our Spirit.

      1. Lynn Thomas Avatar
        Lynn Thomas

        Mr. McKay,

        An improvement on what? 1973, or the forthcoming version? In either case I would like to see something that is a reasonably accurate rendering [but not slavish transliteration] of the Latin into good, comprehensible English. I would prefer not to see too much repetition and avoid an excess of adjectives. In other words, minimize the flowery stuff. Sentences that don’t resemble paragraphs; that I can parse before falling asleep.

        Simplicity, clarity, and grace, in the ENGLISH. Elegance [see the preceding], and a fair proximity to the language as it is used today.

      2. Jim McKay Avatar
        Jim McKay

        If we feel that the new translation and the old translation really should be improved for the glory of God in heaven and the peace of the rest of us on earth was the context for my remark, so I will go with that as the answer to your question.

        As to the rest, I will just say I do not like green eggs and ham. That is hardly the most important characteristic of eggs and ham; when I set out to prepare them, I usually think of taste, fat, carbs (my diabetes can make me very clinical toward food). Color I take for granted, just as I take elegant language for granted in the liturgy. I am amazed that there are those who prefer obscure, contorted language.

        I would not like it in a box, I would not like it wearing socks. I would not like it on a train, I would not like it in the rain. I do not like tortured prose.

  9. Lynn Thomas Avatar
    Lynn Thomas

    Yet such folks exist who prefer obscure, contorted, and even tortured language. Or perhaps I can be more charitable and suggest that they are so enamored of [edging into idolatry of a sort, maybe?] the Latin, that they will gleefully seek out tortured English because of its similarity to the Latin they so esteem.

    But, it doesn’t work for me. If I may borrow your clinical approach to food analogy, too much unchewable fiber and an overdose of fat is my impression of what is coming. And what we have can certainly be taken up a notch…

  10. Simon Ho Avatar
    Simon Ho

    I’m not familiar with the German ritual issues. However, I am quite surprised that one of the concerns of the new text was the availability of options (the scope). If it was a direct translation of the Latin editio typica, surely it couldn’t have too many options?

    As for ICEL consulting CDWDS on the Liturgy of the Hours, there has been a rumour (still unverified, afaik) that Rome might be putting out a new edition of Liturgia Horarum sometime “soon” (ok, take that with a large pinch of salt). Perhaps ICEL was simply trying to find out if a revision is in the works, in which case they might not want to start retranslating the breviary just now. No need to always imagine the worst.

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