New Executive Director of ICEL

A new General Secretary has been appointed to the International Commission on English in the Liturgy (ICEL). He is Fr Andrew Menke, a priest of the diocese of Lincoln, Nebraska, who has been executive director of the USCCB’s Secretariat of Divine Worship since the beginning of 2017 and who relinquished his post this summer.

The prior General Secretary or Executive Director of ICEL was Monsignor Andrew Wadsworth, ordained as a priest for Westminster diocese, who had had a varied career as an assistant priest, hospital chaplain and chaplain to Harrow, one of England’s premier “public schools”, also flirting with life as an Oratorian and influenced by the traditionalist Abbey of St Mary Magdalen at Le Barroux, not far from Avignon in Provence, France. He had started life as a musician, and trained at Trinity College and the Royal Academy of Music in London.

Fr Wadsworth was appointed to ICEL in 2009. At the time, this was seen as a bizarre appointment in that the man assigned to be responsible for English liturgical texts around the world was known to celebrate almost exclusively in the Latin Tridentine Rite. In 2013 he was given permission to found a new Oratory at a parish in Washington, DC.

Fr Andrew Menke has a different pedigree. After eleven years of priestly ministry and further studies, he was called to Rome in 2010 to serve as an official in the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. During his time in Rome he obtained a licence in liturgy from the Pontifical Institute of Liturgy. After almost five years he returned to the US in 2015 and was appointed Associate Director of the USCCB’s Secretariat of Divine Worship, succeeding Fr Michael Flynn as Director in 2017.

The scandalous (but true) story behind ICEL’s 1969 Lectionary for Mass

By the end of 1968, the Vatican Polyglot Press was producing the first galley proofs of what was to become the 1969 Ordo Lectionum Missae, prepared by the Consilium and the Sacred Congregation for Divine Worship. This document consists of a complete list of scripture references, captions to readings, responses to psalms, and verse texts for Gospel Acclamations. It is not a lectionary as such, merely a list of what a lectionary would contain. The title literally means “Order of Readings for Mass”, rather than “Lectionary for Mass”.

Working in Rome at that time was a priest liturgist of the Shrewsbury diocese, Father (later Monsignor) Peter Coughlan. He was a member of several of the Consilium working groups, and later served on the staff of the Congregation and as secretary of the Pontifical Council on the Laity.

In Wimbledon, London, were the offices of Geoffrey Chapman Ltd, a Roman Catholic publishing house who had made their name by securing the English-language rights to Pope John XXIII’s autobiography, Journal of a Soul.

Chapman’s were very interested in publishing liturgical books for the postconciliar rites. They had already produced loose-leaf binders (blue for the Book of Collects, for use at the chair, and red for the Sacramentary, for use at the altar) and regularly issued updates as more and more of the Mass went into the vernacular during the second half of the 1960s. In a short space of time they had established themselves as England’s leading liturgical publishers, and had produced the first English postconciliar vernacular hymnal, the amazingly successful Praise the Lord. They also had excellent contacts in Rome, including Fr Coughlan.

Although Pope Paul VI did not see final page proofs of the Ordo Lectionum Missae until May 1969, nor approve the project until June 25, Coughlan had had access to the Vatican galley proofs and then page proofs for months beforehand. Ahead of the official approval and publication of the volume, he systematically faxed these proofs through to Wimbledon where Chapman’s team immediately started work on them.

By the time the actual OLM was published in book form at the end of June 1969, Chapman’s already had a complete typescript of the new Lectionary, incorporating readings and psalms. In fact they were well on the way to having two, since the decision had already been taken to publish in two versions, one with Jerusalem Bible for the scripture readings (which appeared in time for Advent 1969), the other with the Revised Standard Version (which appeared in early 1970). In both cases the Responsorial Psalms were the same, using the 1963 Grail translation. The compilation of these typescripts was co-ordinated by the late Dame Teresa Rodriguez, OSB, of Stanbrook Abbey, and the head of the Lectionary project was Fr William Yeomans, SJ, an assistant editor of the Jesuit journal The Way, who had already had books published by Chapman’s earlier in the 1960s. Two desk editors were responsible for marking up the typescripts for the printer, checking for errors (these would include incorrect selections of verses or lines, due to divergences between Septuagint and Hebrew versions of the scriptures and verse numbering, not to mention comparing the final set of page proofs of OLM with the actual book published by Rome to check for any changes that might have been introduced) and, later, proof-reading the entire Chapman volumes. The present author was one of those two desk editors.

Yeomans, together with Suzanne Chapman, the Editorial Director, had already taken a number of editorial decisions in consultation with the hierarchies and national liturgy commissions of the British Isles, with whom they were on excellent terms. Two of these decisions would impact ICEL’s eventual work on the project. One concerned the captions to the readings, originally inserted by Rome because at that time lay readers at Mass did not yet exist: priests read everything. The idea appears to have been that the caption would give a busy priest, rushing in to celebrate Mass on a weekday, some indication of what the reading was about before he opened his mouth! (At that stage, Rome still assumed that priests would not have time to prepare celebrations by reading the scriptures in advance!) In Chapman’s office, these captions were known irreverently as “punch-lines”.

The very sensible decision was this: that the language used in each caption would reproduce the actual wording of the translation of scripture being used; so the JB and RSV typescripts each had a different set of captions corresponding to the wording that was used in that particular reading (or, if the line occurred elsewhere in the bible, then the wording used by that translation of scripture). Sometimes the captions would take words from several different places in the opening (or closing) lines of a reading, and the editors would have to piece words and phrases together in a kind of patchwork.

The other decision was similar, and concerned the chants between the readings: the responses to the Responsorial Psalms and the verses in the Gospel Acclamations would likewise reproduce the actual wording of the scripture translations being used: so, the responses would all use the Grail wording, except on those few occasions where a non-psalmic text was used (for example John 6:68) when the scripture reading translation would be used. The scripture verses in the Gospel Acclamation would also make used of the scripture translation, often prefiguring the same words to be heard a few moments later in the Gospel reading itself.

By Easter 1969, then, Chapman’s had a complete JB typescript in production, with JB readings, JB captions to readings, Grail psalms, Grail responses to psalms (except non-psalmic, where they used JB) and JB scriptures verses to the Gospel Acclamations. Just a couple of months behind, the RSV typescript similarly had RSV readings, RSV captions to readings, Grail psalms, Grail responses to psalms (except non-psalmic, where they used RSV) and RSV scripture verses to Gospel Acclamations.

In addition to these two typescripts, Chapman’s also had an abbreviated typescript containing only the captions to the readings (the JB version), the psalm responses (mostly Grail with occasional JB) and scripture verses to the Gospel Acclamations (in JB), but no actual readings or psalms ― i.e. a typescript translation of the Ordo Lectionum Missae itself as opposed to a full Lectionary. There was no RSV version of this abbreviated typescript.

Chapman’s were preparing to publish the JB and RSV altar Lectionaries for England and Wales, Scotland and Ireland; but Australia also wanted to share in this project, taking only the JB Lectionary with Grail psalms. Their altar Lectionary would be co-published by Chapman’s and E.J. Dwyer Pty of Sydney, all the editorial work being done in Wimbledon. The Australian bishops took a different decision from their European counterparts: they wanted the ICEL version of the captions to the readings, the psalm responses, and the verses in the Gospel Acclamations. There was only one problem: the ICEL version was not ready. In fact it had not even been started, despite ICEL having announced its impending arrival. As well as being overwhelmed with the amount of new texts emerging from Rome, ICEL had not had access to the same advance proofs of the final Ordo Lectionum Missae as Chapman’s had, and Chapman’s therefore had a lead of more than six months over ICEL.

This displeased the then Executive Secretary very much. Fr Gerald J. Sigler had been appointed in 1965 as the first Executive Secretary of ICEL and had earned himself a reputation as a difficult person to deal with. His primary objective seemed to be to protect ICEL copyrights and earn as much money from them as possible. He drove a hard bargain with publishers, who were used to dealing with the more gentlemanly Vatican Press and other copyright holders. They did not like his style. Already ICEL was in bad odour with publishers and bishops’ conferences because they had attempted to copyright prayer endings such as “Through Christ our Lord. Amen” when these had been in use in English from time immemorial. When the Order of Mass appeared in 1969 they would come in for further criticism when they attempted to copyright the memorial acclamation “Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again”, despite the fact that it had already been in use in published Anglican experimental services since the mid-1960s and had apparently been written by an anonymous Anglican clergyman during the World Council of Churches assembly in New Delhi in 1961. Another act of deliberate theft was spotted in the 1970 ICEL Holy Week rites translation (made available ahead of the full 1973 Missal) in the version of the Ubi Caritas responsory, where ICEL simply took over the England and Wales Bishops’ Conference 1966 translation, changed one word, and copyrighted the text as their own!

What now took place was well in line with these and other occurrences of dubious probity. ICEL had no translation of the content of the Ordo Lectionum Missae 1969 ready and no time to produce one. Gerry Sigler therefore asked Chapman’s if they would mind letting him see their work, so that he would have an idea of the principles they had used. This would assist ICEL in producing Chapman/Dwyer’s Australian Lectionary captions and psalms responses, etc, in a timely fashion. Chapman’s accordingly allowed Sigler to see their abbreviated typescript, the one with just the captions and psalm responses.

During the succeeding weeks, proofs of the “ICEL translation” were faxed through to Chapman’s. It soon became clear that Sigler was not producing a translation at all. The proofs consisted entirely of the Chapman typescript pages, amended in Sigler’s own characteristic handwriting in order to produce a “different”, copyright-able text. Often words would be changed, or word-order; sometimes just the punctuation (and ICEL was even hotter on copyrighting punctuation in those days than they still are today) or capitalization. The only lines left completely unchanged in the entire Lectionary were the psalm response “The Lord is my shepherd; / there is nothing I shall want.” These faxes came through thick and fast, and Sigler was clearly burning the midnight oil to get it all done. As if this so-called translation was not scandalous enough, it also quickly became clear that the Sigler/ICEL text was not intended to correspond to any known version of scripture, not even the NAB. It was produced independently of scripture, and sometimes even seemed to have been produced independently of the Latin original text. Any observer looking at it would have said, “He just went through the Chapman text and changed it for the sake of having something different.” Sigler’s haste ― he appeared to be doing the entire job by himself without help from anyone else ― meant that inconsistencies and errors abounded. Where the same caption or psalm response occurred several times in different places the versions would often be different, or the punctuation different. Chapman’s editors naturally queried much of this. Proof followed proof, and revisions clarified some instances but exacerbated others.

One notorious example was a caption to the Luke Gospel of the ten lepers (17:11-19) which ran “He threw himself at his feet and thanked him.” Sigler somehow managed to change this to “She threw himself at his feet and thanked him.” When this was queried, the amended version came back as “She threw herself at his feet and thanked him”, as if the reading was about Mary Magdalen or the woman with the issue of blood! Yes, Sigler was clearly not working with the texts of the readings in front of him, and yet he tried to insist that this and other captions be printed incorrectly in the Australian Lectionary. (Eventually both British Isles and ICEL Lectionaries changed this caption to “He threw himself at the feet of Jesus and thanked him”.) When the ICEL “blue book” finally appeared, errors such as these had mostly been removed, and yet the Australian Lectionary initially went to the printer based on Sigler’s faxed proofs. A different kind of case was when captions would contain “Anna” but the person mentioned in the succeeding reading was “Hannah”, and vice versa ― one of the hazards of producing a text independent of any scripture translation. There were in fact too many instances of this sort of conflict.

One of the most egregious psalm errors was in the response to Psalm 34/33, Gustate et videte quoniam suavis est Dominus, translated in both NAB and Grail as “Taste and see that the Lord is good”. Sigler altered this to read “Taste and see the goodness of the Lord”, an inaccurate rendition to say the least which would never get past today’s Liturgiam Authenticam-minded censors. It also typifies the bigger problem already referred to, which to this day occurs throughout the ICEL Lectionary: a response to a psalm will use different wording from that contained in the body of the psalm text perhaps only a few lines further on. People will sing and hear two differing versions of the same line or verse in rapid succession. That sort of thing has led to endless confusion over the years. If only ICEL had taken a policy decision to have a complete correspondence with the wording of whatever version of scripture was being used! But then, of course, there would have been no need for an ICEL Lectionary at all…

The grapevine says that a future US Lectionary revision, perhaps as far down the road as 10 years from now, will make sure that the captions, psalm responses and Gospel Acclamation scripture verses will all use the wording of the scripture translation or psalter being used, so the NAB translation for the captions and Gospel Acclamation verses and RGP for the psalm responses. Let us pray that this will be so. In the meantime, we can remember that the ICEL captions and responses we still use today were concocted by Gerry Sigler, working alone at high speed in a less-than-ideal fashion. They should have been withdrawn years ago.

It appears more than probable that if ICEL’s current project, a complete new translation of the Liturgy of the Hours, ever comes to fruition, it too will suffer from the same kind of difficulties of consonance with version(s) of scripture used in different countries. The wisest thing would seem to be to abandon it now, rather than pouring time and resources into an ill-conceived idea.

Gerry Sigler died in 2012, and was rightly lauded for his immense contribution to the early years of English-language vernacular translations; but it has to be admitted that the ICEL Lectionary was not his finest hour. In fact he resigned from the position of ICEL Executive Secretary in early 1970, before the ICEL Lectionary was finally published in book form. I have often wondered if he was getting out before the manure hit the ventilator.

The Postcommunion prayers of the Roman Missal: a new comparative analysis

The liturgy, as more than one writer has observed, is “the faith of the Church in motion.” Liturgical texts, like Scripture, are an important source for theological reflection. We can learn a great deal by comparing these texts as they have evolved and as they have been rendered into one language after another. That process of selecting, revising and translating is also part of the liturgical action of the Church.

Matthew Hazell, a frequent commenter here on Pray Tell, has made a significant contribution to this study. He has compiled a scholarly but very accessible analysis of the postcommunion prayers from the Proper of Time. For each day – and he includes not only Sundays but also weekdays – he presents the Latin prayer in three versions of the Missale Romanum (1970, 1975, 2002), together with four different English translations:

  • the interim translations published in 1972 by the National Liturgical Commission for England & Wales, permitted for use by the bishops of England & Wales at their Low Week meeting of the same year
  • the ICEL translation of the Missale Romanum, editio typica, approved by the bishops of England & Wales in 1973, and approved by the Holy See and published in 1974
  • the ICEL translation of the Missale Romanum, editio typica altera, submitted to the Holy See in 1998 but rejected in 2002
  • the ICEL translation of the Missale Romanum, editio typica tertia emendata, approved by the Holy See in 2010 and published in 2011.

In addition, he analyses the older sources of each prayer, referring to the Tridentine Missal, Gelasian Sacramentary, Veronese Sacramentary, Mozarabic Sacramentary, etc. Hazell offers both the Latin text and an English rendering for each of the the predecessor prayers that he has identified. The work concludes with a set of analytical charts and tables showing which prayers have been edited, newly composed or centonised (built up from texts or ideas from previous prayers).

The entire project was clearly done with love and care; it a highly polished work, filled with useful reference notes. Hazell has offered his work to the public in a spirit of generosity (no charge for downloads) and humility (he encourages readers to send suggestions and corrections, e.g. to his translations of some of the source texts).

Starting with the postcommunion prayers was an inspired choice, because Hazell’s first published volume complements work already completed by Lauren Pristas (The Collects of the Roman Missals) and James G. Leachman OSB and Daniel P McCarthy OSB (Appreciating the Collect: An Irenic Methodology), among others.

Matthew Hazell’s work also complements the extremely useful text and translation cross-reference created by Jeffrey Pinyan, also a commenter here; this provides Latin texts and a range of translations for various parts of the Roman Missal.

The work involved in any project like this is far from trivial. This first volume extends for 151 pages, covering only the postcommunion prayers in the Proper of Time. I hope that there is much more to follow from this splendid start. All who turn to the texts of the liturgy for a better understanding of Christ and his church owe Matthew Hazell congratulations and deep thanks.

(Note: thanks also to Gregory DiPippo of New Liturgical Movement for pointing out this new publication).

Cardinal George on the New Translation in America

I will be interesting to see whether Cardinal Francis George’s evaluation of the new Missal in a recent America interview carry the day. While he admits that “there were a few more justified criticisms of the process, which was open in places to accusations of last-minute manipulation,” – that statement could win an award for understatement! – the cardinal thinks that the new translation has been “well done” and “the collects are truly beautiful.”

Cardinal George says this about the new Missal translation in the America interview:

8. You were prominent in the work of  the International Commission on English in the Liturgy (ICEL) and the development of the new liturgical translations. Now that they have been in use for nearly two years, are you satisfied with the translations pastorally and theologically?

It’s hard for me to give an unbiased judgment on the value of the new translations. First of all, the first full translation of the missal of Paul VI was ideologically charged. Since the liturgy, along with Sacred Scripture, is the primary carrier of the tradition that unites us to Christ, the loss of the theology of grace, the domestication of God, the paraphrasing that deliberately omitted nuances of understanding, the deliberate omission of biblical references in the liturgical text itself, etc. left the church for forty years without a way of worship that adequately expressed our faith. This was clear for those of us who used the Roman missal in Spanish during those years; their translation was far more adequate. The bishops had the obligation to see that the translation into English of the third edition of the Roman Missal was faithful and also able to be used communally. I believe it has been well done. Some of the expressions in the Prefaces are a bit “clunky,” but the collects are truly beautiful if a priest takes the time to interiorize the structure of  dependent clauses and use his voice so that the prayer is comprehensible to the faithful. Normally, people paid little attention to the collect; they couldn’t tell you what the priest said as soon as they sat down. Hopefully, a more deliberate style of declamation with a more adequate text will help draw people into a climate of worship and prepare them to hear the Word of God in Scripture. The canons are very well done, even the most difficult, Canon One, because it is a compilation from various sources. Criticism of the scientific inaccuracy of the word “dewfall” in Canon II is a bit absurd coming from those who easily accept and speak of “sunset.” Some of the criticisms have an extrinsic rationale. The bishops’ choice of experts meant that many who had been more involved in the work of ICEL previously were no longer engaged. The loss of a work to which one had given oneself is always hurtful. Some others just opposed any exercise of episcopal authority; in principle, the bishops were just supposed to rubber-stamp what the “experts” were doing. Some, surprisingly, objected to the re-introduction of the biblical metaphors and allusions, while others underestimated, I believe, the native intelligence of the average English-speaking worshiper. There were a few more justified criticisms of the process, which was open in places to accusations of last-minute manipulation. I have to say that I enjoyed going back and working through Latin texts, something I hadn’t done since minor seminary.

Cardinal George’s comments are interesting because he played a role in the demise of the old ICEL and the imposition of the Vatican’s new translation rules. Former head of the ICEL bishops’ board Maurice Taylor called it “a cold wind from Rome.” Some years ago, John Wilkins recounted what happened in Commonweal:

The clouds were now dark across the sky. In June 1998, the storm broke. … George asked that the order of the agenda be changed. He wanted immediate discussion of the relations between ICEL and the Vatican congregation. The bishops froze. … When the time came for Cardinal George to speak, in the late afternoon, he warned the participants that the commission was in danger. They were at a turning point. … The project as ICEL understood it was no longer considered legitimate. … [ICEL] had to change both its attitude and, in some cases, its personnel. Otherwise it was finished. If necessary, the American bishops would strike out on their own. George spoke vehemently.

Next morning, Archbishop Hurley made a frank and formal response … The change in translation practice announced by the cardinal, and the manner in which he had expressed himself, seemed to Hurley to mark a distressing departure from the spirit of collegiality in favor of authoritative imposition. …

In a further intervention, Cardinal George reacted strongly to Hurley. He felt he had been insulted, he said. He apologized if anyone had felt attacked by him, but he was telling the members of ICEL things they needed to hear. They must be receptive to criticism of their texts, but they were not listening. That was the road to disaster. It seemed to George that he would have to report to the American bishops that they must choose between ICEL and Rome. Several times he pushed back his chair, causing some of the participants to fear that he would walk out.

Read Wilkin’s full story, “Lost in Translation, here.

Surprising Invitation for the McManus Lecture at CUA

The Eighth Annual Frederick R. McManus Memorial Lecture at the School of Canon Law of Catholic University of America will be delivered this October 30th by Duncan G. Stroik. Stroik, professor at Notre Dame, is associated with the “Reform of the Reform” which seeks to move the direction of liturgical renewal since Vatican II in a more traditional direction. The title of Stroik’s talk is “Church Architecture Since Vatican II.”

StroikStroik is founding editor of Sacred Architecture  journal, author of The Church Building as a Sacred Place: Beauty, Transcendence and the Eternal, and co-editor of Reconquering Sacred Space


McManusMsgr. Frederick McManus was a peritus (expert) at Vatican II, he presided at the first English Mass in the U.S. in 1964, and he was a leader in the implementation of the liturgical reforms after the Second Vatican Council. He served president as of the Liturgical Conference, was instrumental in establishing the FDLC   , and was a member of ICEL from its founding in 1963. He was dean of the School of Canon Law at Catholic University of America.

Previous speakers in the McManus lecture series include Cardinal Godfried Danneels, Kevin Seasoltz, Bishop Donald Trautman, John Baldovin, Bob Taft, Thomas Kroskicki, and Alan Detscher. Speakers in the series are selected by the School of Canon Law, which does not include liturgy professors at CUA.