Havoc wrought in process of ICEL approval

Adoremus Bulletin provides the very useful service of a verbatim report of the meetings of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops when they discuss liturgical matters. The latest edition has the Debate and Vote on Missal Texts at the June 2008 meeting of the USCCB. This was the occasion on which the US Bishops failed to reach the two-thirds majority necessary to give approval to the ICEL translation of the prayers from the Proper of Seasons.

Approval requires a two-thirds majority of the Latin rite Bishops of the US - 166 votes. The vote of those present was inconclusive but the subsequent mail ballot for those not present meant that the text failed to reach the two-thirds majority and the resolution will be presented again at the November 2008 meeting.

Major interventions arguing against the translation were made by Bishop Galeone (right), Bishop Trautman and Cardinal Mahoney. ICEL have responded to Bishop Galeone's criticism with a superb article responding to Bishop Galeone's criticism and defending their use of language and in particular the placing of modifiers before the main verb in the postcommunion prayers in order to preserve the strong ending of the prayers.

Archbishop John Vlazny spoke out strongly in favour of the translations:
But I have to step back and say, you know, Liturgiam authenticam gives some direction. We seem to have some difference of opinion about what the document suggests. But I think we’re trying our best to respect that document, to respect the participation of all those who are trying to produce an English translation that’s suitable for us. It may be imperfect, but as someone else has said, the previous document was imperfect. But it became familiar, and I think we can become familiar with many things. I can become familiar with ‘gibbet’, ‘ineffable’ and ‘wrought’, and I think my people can, too. And I think it will be a non-problem after we have proclaimed it for a few years.
Those three words were picked out by Bishop Trautman as words that are "no longer current speech". I'm not sure about that. People often speak about someone "wreaking havoc". Gibbet is not a commonly used word but is found in the popular text of the Stations of the Cross. Bishop Galeone referred to it:
The last time I heard the word “gibbet” was back in the 1940s, during Lent. We were making the Stations of the Cross. I was in grade school. And there was Sister Helena leading us every Friday during Lent. And if it weren’t for the word ‘nails’ I would not have understood what ‘gibbet’ meant. “O Lord, you were nailed to that infamous gibbet…” I never heard the word since 1949. Never.
It seems a pity that he has not heard this word since 1949. If he were to come to the Stations in my parish during Lent, he will hear it used. It's not so difficult, really.

There is an underlying question here, however. The objection to words that are not in current use relies on the assumption that the texts of the Liturgy must be in current everyday vernacular. As Fr Michael Lang has pointed out, this was not actually the case for the Latin texts of the Mass. Bishop Galeone in fact recognised this:
‘Quaesumus’ is a very archaic word in Latin. It’s like ‘prithee’ in English. Even in Cicero’s time it was archaic. [Pause, scattered laughter] You see.
Quite so. Liturgical language does use archaic words and has always done so. A thoroughgoing project of modernisation would end in absurdity. In the News and Views section of Adoremus, there is a short piece about an article by Gareth Edwards, “Modern English in the Mass”, in the October 22, 1966 issue of America magazine. Edwards said at that time:
If the Church wants to sweep the world like the Beatles, it must use language as contemporary as theirs”
He offers various alternatives for the word "Amen" - perhaps to be truly modern and "on the street", we should now render it "innit"?

Another consideration is the effect of the liturgy on language itself. Cranmer's English and the English of the Authorised Version of the bible had a considerable effect on the standardisation of English spelling, and on the language itself. If we try simply to follow modern English, we will need a new translation every generation. Since it seems that it takes about a generation to produce such a translation, the prospect for vernacular liturgy is not very promising.

In the meantime, can I suggest that bloggers regularly try to work the words "wrought", "gibbet" and "ineffable" into their writing?

UPDATE: Oh dear - not only did Hilary have this idea back in June, she even tagged me. It was one of those quite busy times...

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