Effort to stop new liturgical translations at USCCB meeting fails

BishopDonald Trautman 2 Bishop Donald Trautman of Erie

On Tuesday, a motion from Bishop Donald Trautman of Erie, Penn. to reject the new liturgical translations failed to garner sufficient votes from the U.S. bishops.  The prelates went on to approve the new liturgical texts which will be implemented in the U.S. beginning in 2010.

Bishop Trautman, who has headed the bishops' liturgy committee in the past and is a strong supporter of gender-neutral translations, tried to stop the vote on the new liturgical texts by arguing that handing the translation of antiphons for the Psalms to the Congregation for Divine Worship at the Vatican was in violation of Church laws.

In front of his colleagues, gathered in Baltimore for the Fall USCCB general assembly, the Bishop of Erie argued that "no matter how well intended," a Vatican dicastery "cannot trump the magisterial authority of the constitution of an ecumenical council."

Bishop Trautman was referring to the Second Vatican Council’s Constitution on the Liturgy, "Sacrosanctum Concilium," which establishes that, in general, translations must be approved by the bishops of the territories where they will be used.

He then suggested that Cardinal George was breaking Church laws by giving authorization to the Vatican to handle the antiphons which only a small portion of the liturgical translations being reviewed. He then proposed that the bishops insist on being given a final draft from the international translation committee in order that they be able to review it, suggest improvements, and vote on it.

Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, President of the USCCB, explained that permission was given to Vatican officials after other English-speaking nations had complained that the U.S. bishops were taking too long to approve the translation.

As Bishop Trautman continued to insist, Cardinal George responded, "I feel as if we're doing guerilla warfare here."

"Maybe the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops could sue the Congregation [for Divine Worship] in the Apostolic Signatura," said Cardinal George, drawing laughter from the audience.

It is highly unlikely for an episcopate to sue a dicastery over such an issue, though it is technically possible.

Bishop Trautman's proposal was submitted to vote, with the majority of bishops supporting Cardinal George's decision to accept the Vatican translation 194-20.

The final five groups of prayers passed each with support from at least 88 percent of the bishops.

Bishop Arthur Serratelli, chairman of the bishops' Committee on Divine Worship, thanked the bishops after approving the last group of texts, calling it "a historic moment."

"I know the text isn't perfect, but perfection will come when the liturgy on earth gives way to that of heaven, as all the saints praise God with one voice,” Serratelli said.

The new liturgical translations which have been approved by the bishops will include minor changes, mostly aimed at making the English liturgy more faithful to the original in Latin.

Some of the changes are minor. For example, after the changes are implemented, the faithful  will respond  to the priestly invocation of "The Lord be with you" by saying "And with your spirit" which is a more faithful translation of the original in Latin "Et cum spiritu tuo," than the phrase currently in use "and also with you."

Other changes are more significant and theologically sound, such as those made to the Gloria and Apostles' Creed.

Nevertheless, most of the changes apply to the parts of the Mass that are recited by the priest.

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The translation will be sent to the Vatican for approval, which is expected sometime in 2010.

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