Archbishop Gregory “Warmly Welcomes” Pope’s Translation Actions


Pray Tell asked Archbishop Wilton Gregory of Atlanta, chair of the Committee on Divine Worship of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), for his reaction to Pope Francis’s motu proprio on translation, and the pope’s recent clarification sent to Cardinal Sarah.

Archbishop Gregory told Pray Tell,

I warmly welcome the Holy Father’s recent Motu Proprio and his subsequent statement of clarification. These are a very helpful set of guidelines for Episcopal Conferences in reference to the preparation of liturgical translations.

Asked about the implications for forthcoming translation action, for example the translation of the rite of baptism which was recently completed in accord with Liturgiam authenticam, Gregory said:

As the Chair of the USCCB Divine Worship Committee, I will ask that the members of the Committee review this matter along with our consultants at our next meeting. We have already been in dialogue with the Canonical Affairs Committee so that we can approach these issues with a common vision.

Speaking at a conference on the Second Vatican Council in March, 2014, Archbishop Gregory said this about the 2011 English Missal which is a product the “new era of liturgical renewal” called for in Liturgiam authenticam:

Certainly the new translation is not… [pause] … without its difficulties. How’s that for being diplomatic? [laughter] …  I like to look at translation as an art – it’s not a science. And it has to be sensitive not just to words, but to culture and to context. … What we need to do now, after a period of time of living with it, come back and say, not: “We told you so!” – which I think a lot of pastors want to say – “We told you not to do that!” [laughter]– but to say, “It’s inadequate for this reason, that reason, this reason; we’ve tried it, we’ve lived with it, we think it needs correction.”


8 responses to “Archbishop Gregory “Warmly Welcomes” Pope’s Translation Actions”

  1. Fr. Ron Krisman Avatar
    Fr. Ron Krisman

    Many thanks to Archbishop Gregory for his perspective.

    I hope that the USCCB will also be in communication with other English-speaking conferences of bishops, if they have not already initiated such communication. It would not be good for the USCCB to rush into approving the new translation of the Rite of Baptism, if the other English-speaking conferences are not going to follow their lead, but instead insist that ICEL revise its translation procedures before any additional texts are submitted to the conferences for canonical approval.

  2. Donna Zuroweste Avatar
    Donna Zuroweste

    Thanks be that Archbishop Gregory understands that American churches need a corrected form of the existing clunky GIRM. The whole point of the Motu Propio, and its further unpacking, is to ensure that the Liturgium Authenticam is in sync with the needs of the local church and in our vernacular; not in our case, all English speaking churches. Make it so Archbishop!

    And may you be open to the inculturation needed not only for Latinos, but First Nations peoples, whose cultures have long been decimated by the hierachical Church. After all, JPII proclaimed in Canada decades ago that Christ is a Native American, c.f. imago dei… so be it!

  3. Devin Rice Avatar
    Devin Rice

    I believe that the first three fascicles of liturgy of the hours are up for review at the November meeting. I wonder how this would impact them.

  4. Robert Lee Avatar
    Robert Lee

    Fr, Ron, Communicating with other English speaking conferences of Catholic Bishops is a good idea, but perhaps it is not a good idea to aim for one English language translation for the whole world. English spoken in England and Australia can be quite different than the way the language has grown up here in the USA. Two simple examples of every day usage: We use an “elevator” not a “lift”. And the very common word “bloke” from down under isn’t even in our vocabulary. Verb phrases, colloquial expressions, and slang are useful and integral parts of daily usage, but can vary in expression and meaning from region to region. From time to time our bishops may have to revise the work that they do today, because English is a pulsing, living language. Some words and expressions in vogue in 1950 have past away, and have been replaced by today’s English speakers. The USCCB should have a much better ear for our living North American English language than the well meaning members of a remote Roman Congregation. Good call, Pope Francis ! Best to you, Fr Ron.

    1. Fr. Ron Krisman Avatar
      Fr. Ron Krisman

      Robert, the English-speaking conferences of bishops have had nearly uniform translations of liturgical books for more than fifty years now. IMO it would be regrettable to jettison the important work of ICEL at this time, as new procedures for translations are formulated. While it is true that slang and other linguistic expressions vary from country to country, and even from one region to other in the same country, the language of liturgical prayer is in a higher register which eschews what is trite, and what is slang. One does not often encounter “elevator/lift” and “bloke” in liturgical texts.

      In the past, when a word found in an ICEL draft translation had a different and unintended meaning in one of the ICEL member countries, it was identified during the consultation process and changed. So the question of different meanings of terms among the English-speaking is not an insurmountable problem in common translations.

      The International Commission on English in the Liturgy has been a great gift to the Church in English-speaking countries for over a half century. There is no reason to think it cannot continue to serve the English-speaking conferences of bishops for many years to come.

      1. Rita Ferrone Avatar
        Rita Ferrone

        Ron, wouldn’t you say, however, that the statutes that replaced ICEL’s original constitution in 2001 have to change back to where they were before Liturgiam authenticam?

        The new statutes set up ICEL at the behest of the Holy See, rather than having it answer to the bishops’ conferences as it had for forty years. The CDWDS currently vets ICEL appointments, and oversees the work (which is where Vox Clara came in).

        I do not know the details, but as a body ICEL now exists under the control of the CDW. It seems to me this does not serve the new process that Francis is putting in place, but rather serves the one put in place through Liturgiam authenticam, which centralized control in Rome.

  5. Fr. Ron Krisman Avatar
    Fr. Ron Krisman

    It goes without saying, Rita, that there needs to be a restitutio in integrum of the former statutes of ICEL. I’m hopeful that the present Episcopal Board will seek this quam primum.

    1. Rita Ferrone Avatar
      Rita Ferrone

      Thanks, Ron. I hope these changes will be forthcoming quam primum, as you say.

      Unfortunately, there are some indications to the contrary. One Irish member of ICEL’s episcopal board, Bishop John McAreavey, was quoted in The Irish Catholic saying that “in terms of ‘effective cooperation between bishops’ conferences and the Holy See’ he believed that ICEL would ‘feel what is in this document is what we have actually been doing the last number of years.’” I’ve also heard a member from our side of the Atlantic quoted saying that Magnum Principium does not change anything for us. And Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Mumbai, former member of Vox Clara, said much the same thing in an interview with Catholic News Service. Of the directives in Magnum principium, he said: “this is, more or less, the procedure we have been following.”

      Of course, these remarks were made before Pope Francis corrected Cardinal Sarah. But I think it does not “go without saying” if statements like these continue to be uttered. The conferences who gave in to the restructuring of ICEL under Medina need to reassert themselves.

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