A letter from ICEL

I have just read an email that was sent to me yesterday by Peter Finn, the Associate Executive Director of ICEL:
ICEL2006 text of the Order of Mass
"Peter Finn" <pfinn@eliturgy.org>
Tue, 24 Apr 2007 16:27:05 -0400

"Bruce Harbert" <bharbert@eliturgy.org>, "Bishop Arthur Roche" <etrusticiana@aol.com>

Dear Father Finigan:

It has come to our attention that the proposed translation (Gray Book) of the Order of Mass circulated in January 2006 by the International Commission on English in the Liturgy has been included on your blogspot (the-hermeneutic-of continuity.blogspot.com). This translation has been produced without the Commission's permission and in violation of the ICEL copyright. We ask therefore that the text be removed immediately from the site.

This proposed translation has been sent to the Conferences for their canonical vote and prepared after consideration of comments from Conferences of Bishops, the Vox clara Committee, and the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments on the ICEL February 2005 draft translation (Green Book).

The Bishops of the Commission are concerned that these texts not be released to the general public until the requisite votes have been taken and after the preparation of any additional revisions that may follow upon their vote and the recognitio issued by the Congregation to the Conferences. The Bishops of the Commission are especially concerned that these texts be introduced with sufficient catechetical materials intended to aid the reception of the new translation.

In light of these and other concerns, we ask for your kind cooperation in this matter and look forward to your reply.

Yours sincerely,

Peter Finn
Associate Executive Director
International Commission on English in the Liturgy
1522 K Street, NW
Washington, DC 20005-1202
Phone: 202-347-0800
FAX: 202-347-1839
I have replied as follows:
Dear Mr Finn

Thank you for your email of yesterday evening (“ICEL2006 text of the Order of Mass”) which I have just read.

I obtained the text of the “Gray Book” draft of the new ICEL translation from the internet and I understand that it is widely available in South Africa. However, I note that ICEL wish to insist that my mirroring of this text is a violation of their copyright and I have removed the translation from my blog.

I am, of course aware that the text which I published is not the final version and I hope that I made this sufficiently clear. Several readers have made intelligent comments on my blog and elsewhere on the internet regarding the translation and I wish that ICEL were able to see the value of involving a wider group of people in consultation. The internet used with discernment is a most effective medium for obtaining fruitful discussion and it seems a pity that the process of producing a translation should exclude the many faithful English-speaking Catholics across the globe who would be glad to contribute their time and expertise free of charge in order to help in establishing the best translation possible for the texts of the Mass.

You say that the Bishops are “especially concerned” that the texts should not be introduced without sufficient catechetical materials that would aid the reception of the new translations. As a priest who has worked in parishes for 21 years, I find it difficult to understand this concern. The existing translations which Catholics are obliged to use every day present such severe shortcomings that they are in themselves a significant barrier to effective catechesis. I cannot see that any harm could come from publishing the draft texts. They have been a great encouragement to many faithful Catholics who have endured inaccurate, theologically impoverished translations of the texts of the Sacred Liturgy for over 30 years. Most Catholics will be immediately delighted with the new translation and amazed that the full richness of the texts of the Mass has been hidden from them for so long.

On the matter of copyright, I know that many good priests and lay people share my concern that the enforcement of copyright by ICEL over the past decades has not served the Church well. The restriction of publishing rights to one or two publishers has given rise to a monopoly with the result that only poorly produced books are available for priests to use in their parishes. The most recent Missal that I purchased for my parish needed to be reinforced with tape after only six weeks of use. The “deluxe” leather-bound “Book of the Chair” fell apart at the seams after a year or so of normal use.

There are many Catholics who would be willing to finance the production of good quality, beautifully produced Missals were it only possible to do so without falling foul of copyright restrictions. When the final text is given recognitio by the Congregation for Divine Worship, I sincerely hope that it will be made freely available on the internet in order that faithful Catholics can foster the production of worthy and dignified books for use in the Sacred Liturgy without unnecessary obstacles being placed in their way. Copyright for ecclesiastical texts is properly used if it prevents profiteering or the production of inaccurate copies. It is an abuse, surely, if it prevents good Catholics from providing excellent materials for our Liturgy.

Yours sincerely in Christ

Fr Timothy Finigan

Sacred Congregation for Divine Worship
Vox Clara
I have sent off the one to the CDW - does anyone have a postal address for Vox Clara or, failing that, an email address for Cardinal Pell?

Your comments on this post are, of course, welcome. (May I take this opportunity to remind readers of my advice on putting links in the combox.)

UPDATE - I have received a further message from Peter Finn in reply. Although it would not be sensible, I think, to continue posting our correspondence on this blog, I think it is important to say that his reply is a courteous and respectful response to the points that I raised. There are some issues which I would like to write about on this blog in due course.

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