Msgr. Jim Moroney: Pope Emeritus Benedict was Liturgical Leader with Exceptional Support for the New English Missal

The National Catholic Register writes that

Msgr. James Moroney had the privilege of working with Pope Benedict on the completion of the new English translation of the Roman Missal, which was implemented in Advent 2011.

Moroney is rector of St. John Seminary in Boston and executive secretary to the Vox Clara Committee involved in final approval of the new Missal.

Moroney speaks of Benedict’s “exceptional support” of the re-translation of the Roman Missal into English, and his desire for “an ever deeper, fuller participation of the faithful,” made possible with a more accurate [sic] translation.

Read the story here, “Benedict XVI Put Liturgy Front and Center.”


23 responses to “Msgr. Jim Moroney: Pope Emeritus Benedict was Liturgical Leader with Exceptional Support for the New English Missal”

  1. Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh Avatar

    Bishop James Conley, my seminary classmate, quotes SC 124:
    “Let bishops carefully remove from the house of God and from other sacred places those works of artists which are repugnant to faith, morals and Christian piety and which offend true religious sense, either by depraved forms or by lack of artistic worth, mediocrity and pretense.”

    How do we judge whether a work of art is “repugnant to the faith?” Can art that represents the bloody decapitation of John the Baptist be so categorized? What about the images of St. Agatha having her breasts brutally cut off or, afterwards, carrying them on a salver. I can think that many would find these not only repugnant, but frightening – unnecessarily so.

    Is there something about a contemporary representation of the crucifixion, such as that found in the Cathedral in Milwaukee, that is repugnant to faith? Is the form “depraved” or mediocre? These are tough questions and I do not propose that there are easy answers. Nor do I suggest that one answer is going to be found satisfactory by all.

    If, as Bishop Conley says, sacred art, whether visual or auditory, enables us to transcend our daily lives and encounter the living God, is not the experience of the one perceiving the art essential to its power? An altar is not necessarily “beautiful” just because it is constructed and decorated in the baroque style. Nor is Gregorian chant the only form of music that people find uplifting, sacred, or in harmony with our Catholic religious sensibilities.

    Like many here, I often find some of the “new” translations of the Roman missal a hindrance, rather than a help, to understanding the mysteries of our faith. Multiple and oddly placed phrases, extraordinarily long sentences, and complex, if overly sophisticated, ideas are packed into prayers that give even a theologically astute person pause.

    1. Christopher Douglas Avatar
      Christopher Douglas

      @Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh – comment #1:
      I think that you raise good questions about art and language and about SC 124, and I think that the Council Fathers expected such questions to be asked and answered, eventually, by Bishops who, one hopes, had reflected and consulted. Maybe some of us simply don’t like some specific answers, and others don’t like some quite different answers. (I think it has always been thus in the human condition.)

      From my own experience:

      When I first heard a recording of Bartok’s Concerto for Orchestra, while not repelled by it, it simply wasn’t my kind of music; I could find no inspiration in it. Then, years later, I had the good fortune to hear it live with the Berlin Philharmonic. I could hardly sit still in my seat. I love the piece to this day. It was time and context, I guess.

      On the other hand, I was instantly inspired, even overcome, by Velazquez’s Christ Crucified, when I was fortunate to spend several hours at the Prado. I only wish that I had encountered it later in my visit, because I found it difficult to concentrate on any of the other masterpieces afterwards. I kept returning to look at it.

      I think that getting used to periodic sentences is more like my Bartok experience for most people today. But one can learn to appreciate them, if they’re artistically done. Two of my favorites would have to be the beginning of the Declaration of Independence and this from 1st Peter: Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

      Admittedly, there are some real clunkers in the new translation (I wish they had stayed with ’98), but that doesn’t mean that periodic sentences are useless.

  2. Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh Avatar

    Beauty – uplifting, inspiring beauty – does not have to be found in heavily brocaded vestments decked with fringes and galloons and appliques. Polyphony is, for me personally, one of the most moving forms of art that I have encountered. I hope that this new papacy can help us to broaden our understanding of the place of art in our worship, and to appreciate that a multiplicity of forms is a reflection of the nature of the Church.

  3. Graham Wilson Avatar
    Graham Wilson

    Well, if that’s true it reflects **very badly** on pope Benedict and his legacy. Inaccuracy, poor grammar, ugly syntax, ambiguous semantics and just plain bad English. Not Benedict’s finest moment.

  4. Jim Blue Avatar
    Jim Blue

    Yeah, Jim Moroney came here doing his road show for priests of various dioceses. His presentation had very little to do with the English transliteration. His presentation was meant as a preface (it was the first of several ‘road show’ presentations) to our indoctrination on the new “Roman Missal.” It was basically a ferverino about obedience, and a reminder that the act of presiding is not a personal act but rather the action of the church, hence the personality of the priest is not a factor. Very anti-incarnational. It was a poor presentation, pretty much an apologia for the product. I should have stay home to rearrange the sock drawer.

  5. Jim Pauwels Avatar
    Jim Pauwels

    I suppose this article is an attempt, concerted or otherwise, to establish/protect/retrieve Benedict’s liturgical legacy.

    I say this with the utmost respect for the now-retired Holy Father: except for the translation of the missal, for which I suppose he gets credit as it happened on his watch and which certainly is a big “except”, I don’t think any of the things mentioned in the article really had an impact on the liturgies of the faith community to which I belong. We were in the mainstream of post-Vatican II liturgy before, during and, now, after Benedict’s pontificate. Art, the pipe organ – whatever we had and did with those things, we continue to have and do. I’m not aware that a Latin mass has ever been celebrated in the church building, or that there are any stable groups asking for it. We try to be reverent now, but then, we did before, too.

    I say all of this, not to belittle Benedict or his liturgical spirituality or his legacy, but just to note that the things discussed in the article, again with the very notable exception of the new translation, haven’t made much of a practical impact on us.

    1. Alan Smith Avatar
      Alan Smith

      @Jim Pauwels – comment #6:
      This is precisely how I understood this story too. How gullible do Msgr Moroney and other writers in this vein think we are?

  6. claire mathieu Avatar
    claire mathieu

    Jim Blue : the personality of the priest is not a factor.

    That’s what I remind myself whenever the priest does or says something that riles me. I tell myself: do not think about this priest. Just focus on the Mass!

    That’s the solution to many evils, I guess. If the priest is ugly, or good-looking, or young, or old, or gay, or married, or female, or prejudiced, or dishonest, or has committed sexual abuse: none of those matter. They’re not a factor. Forget the person. Only the Mass matters.

    But I did not realize that Msgr Moroney thought this way. Are you sure that you are not mis-remembering?

  7. Tom Poelker Avatar

    Does anyone else perceive this conversation as being about liturgically superficial things: vesture, music, furniture?

    I think that nothing B16 did stimulated the “full, conscious, and active participation of all present,” unless one accepts the specious argument that mere admiration or appreciation are what the council fathers had in mind when encouraging participation. Instead almost everything in the revised GIRM focused on the clergy and restricted the laity. Instead of encouraging ecumenical rapprochement, what was more distinctly “Catholic” was required, crucifix instead of cross, for example, transliteration displacing a common text.

    These are the heritage of B16, not mere matters of taste in music and vesture.

    1. James MacMillan Avatar
      James MacMillan

      @Tom Poelker – comment #8:
      Music? Superficial?

  8. Tom Poelker Avatar

    Can anyone tell the story of the transformation of Jim Moroney?
    In his mid-1990s activities in the FDLC he seemed to be supportive of FCAP, yet he later seemed to become fully committed to clericalism and Latin. What happened?
    Was it careerism and he changed with the wind? Is the present Moroney the real Moroney and the earlier one a subversive agent? Does anyone have facts? I can come up with more theories on my own.

  9. Jack Feehily Avatar
    Jack Feehily

    I remember Jim Moroney well from talks he gave on the liturgy wars at various convocations in the 90’s. Then he was an ardent spokesman for what would be the 1998 translation of RMII. When it became apparent that it was being derailed in Rome, I think he saw a career opportunity to be involved in the new regime at CDW and went with it. Now he’s rector at St. John’s knowing full well that several of his predecessors were raised to the episcopacy and got their own dioceses–one became the archbishop on New Orleans. He’s so deep into this hand, he has little choice but to go with it. I suspect he’s more than a little nervous about reforms in the Vatican that could topple those who have been his advocates. Maybe he’ll settle for being Pastor of a great parish in Worcester?

  10. Jim Blue Avatar
    Jim Blue

    I don’t think it’s unusual for priests who work as factotums for bishops eventually get the fever themselves. Certainly there would be no way for a ICEL or V.C. factotum to advance while speaking the truth about the Roman Missal product and process. For that matter I doubt that any bishop would advance if he were ever overheard by the wrong people speaking the truth about the Roman Missal.

  11. Fr. Ron Krisman Avatar
    Fr. Ron Krisman

    It does not take a genius to understand that the way a story is framed may steer the responses of some in an ad hominem direction.

    I would suggest that this thread could have had the heading, “National Catholic Register Praises Pope Emeritus Benedict for His Liturgical Leadership.”

  12. Todd Flowerday Avatar

    Have we come up with an emoticon for the finger in the mouth + wince face?

  13. Jack Feehily Avatar
    Jack Feehily

    The responses understandably focus on the author of this article. God knows we’ve certainly addressed Pope Benedict’s ideas on countless occasions. You know Jim Moroney well, Ron, do you see it differently?

    1. Fr. Ron Krisman Avatar
      Fr. Ron Krisman

      @Jack Feehily – comment #15:

      No, Jack, Trent Beattie is the author of the article. Msgr. Moroney and Bishop Conley and a few others are quoted in it. By all means let’s debate the ideas expressed in the article. Let’s also discuss the decisions made, the processes followed and the liturgical texts produced during Benedict’s pontificate which support or discredit the Register’s claim of Pope Benedict’s “liturgical leadership.” I think we cross the line when we begin assigning motives to those involved in these various decisions and works.

      I think ICEL’s translation of the third typical edition of the Missale Romanum is dreadful. I think the 10,000 changes introduced by Vox Clara in that translation only made it worse. I think the 1998 USA Lectionary for Mass contains quite a number of serious errata when compared to the 1981 Ordo Lectionum Missae (see the study – online – by Fr. Felix Just, SJ, which catalog those errata). This reflects poor editorial work by the USCCB Liturgy Secretariat. But to ascribe the motive of ecclesiastical advancement for such shoddy work is uncharitable, in my opinion.

      1. Todd Flowerday Avatar

        @Fr. Ron Krisman – comment #16:
        “But to ascribe the motive of ecclesiastical advancement for such shoddy work is uncharitable, in my opinion.”

        A corollary may be in effect, however: those who go along, get along. Bad grammar and clumsy liturgical texts will be the mark of Pope Benedict’s papacy, for English-speaking Catholics, at any rate.

      2. Anthony Ruff, OSB Avatar
        Anthony Ruff, OSB

        @Fr. Ron Krisman – comment #16:
        I agree with Ron Krisman that we should be careful about ascribing motives. As he says, the work of Moroney et al. on the missal and earlier projects is shoddy – but let’s not be uncharitable toward him.

        I framed the story as I did because I think it’s fair to hold Moroney accountable for his actions, and I think it’s newsworthy that he is emphasizing Pope Benedict’s leadership on the new English missal.


      3. Todd Flowerday Avatar

        @Anthony Ruff, OSB – comment #18:
        Fair enough. Msgr Moroney’s work and advocacy on the English translation of MR3 can certainly be ascribed as “misguided,” “grammatically incorrect,” and even “antigospel.” I really don’t care why he blundered–none of my business, really. It’s bad enough that he did.

        I met the man nearly twenty years ago, and I’ve enjoyed a few presentations he did at conferences in the 90’s and early 2000’s. He struck me as a learned and sensible fellow. I have no clue as to what changed.

  14. Jim Blue Avatar
    Jim Blue

    hi, awr . . . don’t know what we owe him in charity, but in reality he is in part responsible for an act of ritual abuse, so what he is due in charity is one thing, what he should be due in justice is something else entirely. Complicity in an act of ritual abuse (and mostly likely for personal gain or some kind of payoff) is not benign.

  15. Jack Feehily Avatar
    Jack Feehily

    I did not intend my remarks about Msgr. Moroney to be uncharitable. He has served the church well over many years. I simply strongly disagree with his work on VC that led to the dreadful English translation of RMIII. That he speaks out publicly now to defend Benedict’s liturgical vision is his prerogative.

  16. Jim Blue Avatar
    Jim Blue

    Jack, that’s why I wondered aloud what is owed him in charity? I don’t see naming his culpability as being uncharitable.

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