love Liturgiam Authenticam?
Because English is the most widely used language in today's world, the English of the Catholic liturgy is important for the whole Church. Many translators use the English versions as a guide when rendering Latin liturgical texts into other vernaculars.
When the Mass was translated into Welsh, for instance, it was decided that the people should reply to the priest's greeting with the Welsh equivalent of "and also with you", rather than "and with your spirit", (which would be more faithful to the Latin) so that the Welsh and English versions were as similar as possible. Just as Latin was the universal langauge of Europe until the early twentieth century, so now English is a universal language for much of the world's population: English is the new Latin.
The Latin original of the Missal was prepared with great care, for the liturgy is one of the chief means by which the Faith is handed on from generation to generation. If liturgical texts are doctrinally unsound, the Faith will not be transmitted in a pure form. If they are clumsy or ugly, the faithful will not find them attractive or memorable. Because of the influence of English, it is necessary that similar vigilance be exercised over English liturgical texts.
This is the purpose of the newly established Vox Clara committee. It is encouraging to note that its membership is drawn from English-speaking countries in all five continents. This should help overcome a problem that has bedevilled the development of English liturgy for thirty years and more: the widening gap between Rome and Washington.
Communication has effectively broken down between the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments in Rome and the International Commission on English in the Liturgy, whose offices are in Washington DC, but whose workers are drawn from a Wide range of English-speaking countries. Despite the international character of its work-force, ICEL has often been accused of American bias. If there is substance in these criticisms, as I believe there is, this is because ICEL is part of a much larger phenomenon, the spread of American influence throughout the world.
The Europeans who discovered the Americas in the middle of the last millennium took their Christianity with them, and gradually the imported religion began to take on an American face. Some results of this process have been seen in recent years in the development of a distinctively Latin American liberation theology and of particular stances on personal freedom and morality developed by North American theoloENV • gians. These developments have some times brought American Catholics into confrontation, with the Vatican.
five hundred years after Europe took its wares to America, America is selling its wares throughout Europe and all over the world. Globalisation is transforming our cultures. Americans think of themselves as plain speakers, not given to the use of fancy titles or circumlocution. That is becoming the style of Blair's Britain as well. It has its effect on liturgical language, and can have a theological effect, as a couple of examples will show.
English-speaking Catholics say "and also with you", when most of the rest of the world says "and with your spirit". This is plain, no-nonsense stuff. But theologians have seen in the traditional reply an allusion to the gift of God's Spirit received at ordination. Does the English reply, omitting reference to the spirit, imply a downgrading of the sacrament of Holy Orders?
The. Latin liturgy loves to call Our Lady blessed, in the Eucharistic Prayer, but our English version has removed this title, calling her, for example, simply the Virgin Mary. Defenders of the English text might argue that we all know Our Lady is blessed, so there is no need to keep repeating the title. But Christian history shows that when we fail to acknowledge Mary's true place in the scheme of redemption, that is a sign that our theology is beginning to go astray in other areas. If the new theology of the Englishspeaking countries, as expressed in their liturgy, is demoting the Mother of God, then it may be drifting away from catholic orthodoxy.
Pluralism is healthy. The Church's unity is not uniformity. The growth of national and regional theologies enriches her, provided difference does not become division. The task of preserving the Church's unity in faith belongs pre-eminently to the successor of Saint Peter. The Vox Clara committee is there to assist the Pope in this aspect of his ministry.
An instructive parallel can be drawn with the division in Christendom between the Greek East and the Latin West. This did not come about overnight. Misunderstanding grew gradually, across many centuries, through many little events and exchanges. The situation was not helped by the fact the the two sides did not understand one another's language. Even the great Saint Augustine knew very little Greek. Eventually, after nearly a millennium of Christianity, the division became formal as the Patriarchs of East and West pronounced sentences of excommunication against one another.Could this lamentable result have been prevented? Perhaps, if the Greeks and the Latins had tried harder to listen to one another, to understand each other's approach and positions, to overcome their own prejudices, the wound of the Great Schism might never have been inflicted on the Body of Christ. As it is, not only is Athens ecclesially estranged from Rome, but the areas of Eastern Europe that have embraced Orthodoxy and the large areas of the world evangelizedby the Latins are in a state of imperfect communion with baleful results, political as well as religious.
What was lacldngthroughout this sad history is dialogue, which is what the Vox Clara committee has been established to foster. It is there to encourage and help the English-speaking bishops of the world to develop an English liturgy that will draw on local cultures while remaining faithful to Catholic doctrine and to the rich traditions of the Roman Rite. It will also help resist the excessive domination of one culture.
One of the most discussed aspects of the liturgy in recent years has been the feminist pressure for "inclusive" language, which leads translators to avoid using "man", and "men" to refer to both sexes. Whereas in most cases feminist demands can be legitimately accommodated — by replacing "no man" with "no one", for instance — they raise some theological issues. Can we not say "God made man in his own image", or "What is man that you are mindful of him?" Can we not speak of Jesus as "the Son of Man"?
The feminist movement is stronger in the US than in the UK, and strongest in both countries in academic circles. There are other countries that celebrate the liturgy in English where the role of women is seen very differently.
Should British and American academic attitudes be normative for the liturgical language of the whole English-speaking world? Vox Clara will need to address this question. Its international composition gives grounds for hope that ICEL will not join MacDonalds and Coca-cola as an instrument of worldwide Americanisation.
An English-speaking group working in Rome, Vox Clara will seek to build bridges between ICEL and the Vatican. Wemust hope that the years of hostility and suspicion between the two organisations can now be ended, to the benefit of the entire Church.