BY ANTHONY BARICH
THE NEW English translation of the Roman Missal to be issued in parishes in 2011 will help address the serious theological problems of the current 1973 missal, according to one of Australia’s most senior liturgists.
Archbishop Mark Coleridge of Canberra-Goulburn said that, in the process, it will more faithfully implement the liturgical vision of the Second Vatican Council and also fulfil the reforms of the much-maligned 1570 Council of Trent. He was speaking to about 200 liturgists gathered in Perth, western Australia. Archbishop Coleridge, as chairman of the Roman Missal Editorial Committee of the International Commission on English in the Liturgy, was a key figure in preparing the new translation. He is also chairman of the Australian bishops’ Liturgy Commission.
While Archbishop Coleridge acknowledged that the missal used since 1973 had made gains in accessibility, participation, Scripture, adaptation and inculturation, he said it also had “serious problems theologically” and “consistently bleaches out metaphor, which does scant justice to the highly metaphoric discourse” of Scripture and early Christian writers. This was the result, he said, of a misunderstanding of Vatican II’s reforms.
He said claims of the Roman Missal revisions being a “merely political Right-wing plot of the Church” to turn the clock back miss the point of reform and of the purpose of the Mass, which is “a gift from God, not something to be manipulated”.
“Nothing will happen unless we move beyond ideology and reducing the Church to politics and the slogans that go with them, which are unhelpful,” he said.
“Drinking from the wells of tradition passed on supremely in the liturgy is what this new moment of renewal is all about.” Archbishop Coleridge’s speech to the liturgists came just two weeks after Benedictine Fr Anscar Chupungco, a former consulter to the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments, said the reforms were part of an attempt to turn the clock back 50 years.
Archbishop Coleridge said one of the ironies of criticism of the new missal is that “we can fail to attend to history even though perhaps the most fundamental achievement of Vatican II was the restoration of historical consciousness to the life of the Catholic Church”.
“A claim that troubles me is that this initiative is somehow a retreat from all that Vatican II tried to promote and enact and a betrayal, therefore, of the [Second Vatican] Council and, by implication, the Holy Spirit,” Archbishop Coleridge said.
He said if that were true, he and thousands of others involved in the Missal process “would not have shed the blood, sweat and tears of the last seven years”.
“We would’ve saved ourselves a lot of time and money if we’d just stuck with the Latin, but that’s not what the Spirit is saying to the Church,” he said.
But the Conciliar reforms were not properly implemented and were taken too far, he said, after the Latin texts were translated in 1973 with “breathtaking speed”.
Since then, the liturgy has largely lost the sense of the liturgy as primarily Christ’s action, as something received, “not just what we do; a mystery into which we are drawn”.
“We can’t just tamper with it,” he said. “Celebrants sometimes act as if it’s their own personal property to do with what they like. You can’t.” He said that an overly cerebral approach to liturgy, loss of ritual, oversimplification of rites, loss of a sense of silence, beauty and an unwitting clericalism have all led to the Mass lacking its full potential to catechise the faith ful and renew the Church. The Second Vatican Council’s “catechetical thrust” that encouraged priests to catechise in the process of celebration has led to the Mass “drowning under the weight of supposed catechetical verbosity”, he said.
The new translations will attempt to control “clerical verbosity and, dare I say, clerical idiosyncrasy”, he said.
“Let the texts stand as is and let catechesis draw out from the texts in a way that communicates to the community, rather than trying to build into the texts a catechesis that runs the risk of corrupting the texts or diluting their power,” he said.