On consulting the People of God for their opinions on liturgical translation

The Irish Catholic bishops met for their Spring General Meeting last week. As is normally the case, the end of the meeting saw a flurry of press releases. Among these was one piece of liturgical news, the bishops issued a Call for submissions on a new edition of the Lectionary for Mass for Ireland.

The fact that the Irish bishops are “considering using the Revised New Jerusalem Bible as the basis for a new edition of the Lectionary for Mass” is probably not earth-shattering news for readers of this blog. However, what might be of interest, is the fact that the Irish bishops are “seeking submissions from interested parties” on the matter.

Perhaps readers can furnish me with other such examples, but I personally can’t remember any other occasion when the Catholics of a nation have been consulted by their bishops, BEFORE a new liturgical translation has been adopted.

Readers should note that this is a fairly specific consultation. It is addressed to the Catholics of Ireland and the bishops are not asking for considerations on the Lectionary in general or which Bible translation is the best for liturgical use. They are asking what Irish Catholics think of the proposal to revise the current 1969 edition of the Lectionary (slightly revised and reprinted in 1981) based on the 1966 Jerusalem Bible with a new edition based on the 2019 Revised New Jerusalem Bible. The full press release is below:

Call for submissions on a new edition of the Lectionary for Mass for Ireland

The Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference considered a revision of the Lectionary for Mass during their Spring General meeting earlier this week.

The Lectionary for Mass is the liturgical volume from which God’s Word is proclaimed during the celebration of the Eucharist. It is usually taken from an existing translation of the Bible and is edited for ease of proclamation during the liturgy.

The current Lectionary is based on the 1966 edition of the Jerusalem Bible and has served the Church in Ireland well for over fifty years. However, in line with new understandings in relation to fidelity to the texts in their original languages and developments in the English language over the last fifty years, the bishops recognise a need for a new edition. Other English-speaking Bishops’ Conferences are making various decisions. The Bishops’ Conference of England & Wales, along with that of Scotland, have opted to use the English Standard Version Catholic edition. Some other countries are seeking to use the 2019 edition of the Revised New Jerusalem Bible.

The Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference is considering using the Revised New Jerusalem Bible as the basis for a new edition of the Lectionary for Mass. The Bishops’ Conference is now seeking submissions from interested parties to its secretariat for liturgy, and these can be sent to liturgy@iecon.ie.




5 responses to “On consulting the People of God for their opinions on liturgical translation”

  1. Karl Liam Saur Avatar
    Karl Liam Saur

    I would love to see bishops also find good, statistically serious ways of deep/broad but random sampling of considered input of people in the pews over time (this would likely require trial runs, as it were, during Masses over a period of time), and from lectors/deacons, not only or primarily to hear from long-time insiders in the liturgical book wars.

  2. Ryan Ellis Avatar
    Ryan Ellis

    I took it upon myself to send an email. Contents below:

    To Whom It May Concern:

    As an interested party, that is, someone of partially Irish descent who has worshipped in Catholic parishes in Ireland more than once, allow me to make a suggestion here.

    You should not use any version of the Jerusalem Bible (new or old, revised or unrevised). There are far better English translations of the Bible befitting the patrimony of our language, or at least that of our colonizers to the East.

    The best English translation of the Bible today is the Revised Standard Version (Catholic Edition). If a more hieratic melody is desired, you cannot go wrong with the Douay-Rheims translation.

    Of course, no English translation of the Bible is a substitute for the Latin Vulgate of St. Jerome. It’s the lectionary that St. Patrick and the hundreds of priestly saints of Ireland used, after all.

    May you all have a blessed Passiontide.

    Yours in Christ, etc. etc.

  3. Brian Duffy Avatar
    Brian Duffy

    The mention of the Douay-Challoner version reminds me of Msgr Knox’ story of asking the parish priest of various rectories wherein he was visiting to lend him a Bible for reference. Inevitably after a long search Father would emerge holding a Douay-Challoner Bible covered in dust.

    Evidently this inspired Knox to continue with his translation. Now, that’s an elegant translation of the old Vulgate, but perhaps too much of a period piece for most folks today.

  4. Devin Rice Avatar
    Devin Rice

    In other news, here is an update on the lectionary from England. The ESV-CE is being modified to use inclusive language.


    1. Paul Inwood Avatar
      Paul Inwood

      As far as we can tell, the only modifications — perhaps less than 30 — are to the translation of adelphoi. There are many other cases where inclusive language could also be included, but we don’t yet know whether these further modifications will also be made. It seems unlikely.

      None of this changes the fact that the scholarship of the ESV is 50 years out of date.

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