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Sunday, November 27, 2011

VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Benedict XVI insisted on Saturday that all of society’s institutions and not just the Catholic church must be held to “exacting” standards in their response to sex abuse of children, and defended the church’s efforts to confront the problem.

In last year’s Christmas message to Cardinals and Vatican officials the Pope suggested child sexual abuse was considered normal in the 70’s.  Certainly, we are all familiar with the popular refrain that sexually abusive priests were the result of the sexual revolution of the 60’s and the moral relativism of the 70’s.  But this year, in remarks to visiting US Bishops, the Pope reminds us that abuse happens in every institution. It’s the “everybody else is doing it too!” response.

There is a problem of historical amnesia here. Concerning the 60’s and 70’s excuse, documents from Church Councils back in the first centuries and through the Middle Ages  make reference to the abuse of boys by clergy. And of the victims I personally know, some now in their 80’s, their abuse occurred as early as the 1940’s and 50’s.

And what about the “clerical culture” issue? Some priests have suggested that it is the very culture in which priests are trained that is the cause of the widespread sexual abuse crisis and cover-up.

Yes, child abuse occurs in every institution, culture, and generation. But even the Penn State debacle can’t hold a candle to the institutionalised cover-up that has protected criminal Catholic priests for centuries. Only in the Catholic Church are there documented rules demanding secrecy from victims, often weighted with the threat of excommunication or eternal damnation.

Let’s all pray during this Advent Season for the power of the Holy Spirit to break open the Catholic community and give courage and energy to those who are still convinced that there is value in being Catholic and a reason to resist the dictatorship of the Curia.

Advent is a good time to remember that there is more to Catholicism than the mass: there is the Christian Faith.

The Mystery of Christmas, a quote from a reflection on the Taize site.

“The Word took flesh, became flesh (John 1.14). And so God is linked to a process of becoming. He is not the unchangeable one that the philosophers imagine. His transcendence does not consist in remaining aloof, far from human beings. The transcendence of the God of the Bible is to penetrate human history and to bring newness to it. Where everything was old, worn out, apparently exhausted, with no future, the Word brings freshness, newness, zest for Life or quite simply what Christians call forgiveness. For if John writes, “The Word became flesh” with the connotations of weakness and finiteness that we have pointed out, he does not say, “we have seen his misery”, but “we have seen his glory”.

An intense beauty, which John calls “glory”, shines forth from the incarnate Christ. In his manner of living in the midst of our world, in accepting human limitations, in a total surrender into the hands of his Father, in receiving his existence day by day, glory shines forth. The face of God reveals itself.”

Did you know that when the ICEL (International Commission on English in the Liturgy – a Joint Commission of Catholic Bishops Conferences) published their own translation in 1998 they had a translation that was readable, coherent, and dare I say it, actually sensitive to inclusive language for the human community: they had removed the “MEN” the Nicene Creed to read, “For us and for our salvation.”  I didn’t know that, and therefore I owe the American Bishops who worked on that translation an apology. Sorry!

Imagine – there was a joint commission of national conferences of bishops. That in itself was momentous. But apparently Rome didn’t like these Bishops Conferences acting as if they had any authority on the matter of liturgy.

The issue was and is Rome after all.

From The National Catholic Reporter

Benedictine Fr. Anthony Ruff wrote: The forthcoming missal is but a part of a larger pattern of top-down impositions by a central authority that does not consider itself accountable to the larger church. When I think of how secretive the translation process was, how little consultation was done with priests or laity, how the Holy See allowed a small group to hijack the translation at the final stage, how unsatisfactory the final text is, how this text was imposed on national conferences of bishops in violation of their legitimate episcopal authority, how much deception and mischief have marked this process — and then when I think of Our Lord’s teachings on service and love and unity … I weep.

The English translation that we have used since 1973 was a rush job done in the first burst of enthusiasm after the Second Vatican Council. The English-speaking bishops asked for a new translation, a richer translation to better capture the beauty of these prayers. ICEL completed a translation in 1998 and all the English-language bishops’ conferences of the world approved it. But the Roman Curia did not.

The Vatican issued new translation guidelines, Liturgiam authenticam, in 2001, reorganized ICEL to report not to the English-speaking bishops but to the Curia, and appointed a committee, Vox Clara, to advise it on the approval of English translations. All this was done ostensibly to ensure the authenticity of the translation, but it was clear from the beginning that a clerical, imperial ideology was being imposed on the translation. The poetry of language and beauty of prayers were secondary concerns.”

The editors at NCR suggest that, 

If we become bitter and arrested in anger, then we will be losers. The Eucharist is “the source and summit of the Christian life.” It is all that we are and what we strive to be. All prayer, but especially the Eucharist, is for deepening our commitment to ourselves and to God. The “source and summit” line comes from Lumen Gentium, “Light to the Nations,” the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church. Later, that same document reminds us that we “in times past were not a people, but are now the people of God.” We are, the document says, “the new people of God.”

No words of any language can ever fully express this mystery. That is some consolation. Until we have better words, we can make do with this faulty translation.

I’m not sure I agree with them, though. I’m not sure that we should “make do.”  If National Bishops Conferences have given in to the Curia does that mean that we all should? And if we don’t, what will our actions look like? Alternative Eucharistic gatherings, with or without ordained clergy?  Should we return to house masses? Is this the time to let go of the Curia and move on in our faithfulness to Jesus instead of Rome?

I don’t know where this is going with me. But my discomfort with parish liturgy is growing exponentially as these “new” translations  make me feel even more unempowered and controlled and that has never been a good feeling.

From an ecumenical liturgy site:

Liturgy: Worship that works – spirituality that connects

http://www.liturgy.co.nz/blog/failed-1998-english-missal-translation/5093

Most Roman Catholics appear not to be aware that in 1998 there was an excellent new English translation of the Roman Missal. The first translation had been released in 1973. In in the mid 1980s translation work began again. It was to be more accurate. There was international cooperation among bishops, scholars, liturgists, Latinists, and other experts. It received the approval of all the English-speaking conferences of the world; in ten of the eleven conferences, its approval was unanimous or near-unanimous.

First, there was no response from the Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship. In the next decade, when a response was received, it was rejected, and work began anew.

These are the parts of the complete 1998 translation.

Volume 1A, Volume 1B, Volume 2AVolume 2B

The changes in the Liturgy are being imposed on Catholics this Sunday. 

  • Do you wonder why a liturgy that was written 400 years ago (1600 years after Jesus, in a language that is long dead and which was not used by Jesus or the Apostles) is being held up as more legitimate, more TRUE than the liturgy that was developed just 50 years ago, a liturgy that has enabled us to enter into the meaning and spirit of the mass is a deeper way and participate in it more fully?
  • Do you wonder why obscure Latin phraseology is thought to be better than contemporary syntax?  Is the goal greater understanding or greater feelings of unworthiness?
  • Does it concern you that “Christ died for ALL” has been changed to “Christ died for MANY?”
  • Is the leadership of our Church simply exercising power or really concerned to help us engage in the Mass and experience spiritual enrichment?
  • Are you saddened that “for us MEN and for our salvation” has not been changed to simply read, “for US and our salvation?”
  • Does it seem to you that we are now regressing to a less inclusive message of salvation, a more anti-female liturgical practice (more and more churches rejecting female altar servers)?
  • Do you think Jesus held anything other than a cup made of pottery at the Last Supper? Certainly not a “precious chalice” that would have adorned a Roman Emperor’s table?
  • Can we honestly say that the Church is becoming more reflective of the message of Jesus of Nazareth, Son of God, who came to save all of humanity and treated women with respect and equality – sending Mary of Magdala as the first witness and “apostle” (one officially sent with a message and given the authority of the one who is sending) of the resurrection?
  • Is the church you attend looking and behaving more like the New Testament churches of Peter and Paul or more like the medieval Roman churches in which the members were ignorant, illiterate, superstitious peasants and the priests and bishops lived and behaved like aristocracy and kings?
  • Most importantly … do you care enough about your universal Church and your local church community to take a stand in favor of good liturgy, lay empowerment and involvement, and fidelity to the teaching of Jesus?

Call to Action has prepared a flier you can download here:  JC-National-Liturgy-Flyer. It suggests the need for inclusive dialogue with Catholics on these changes, and also suggests ways in which faithful and committed Catholics can make their concerns heard and their resistance felt.


BALTIMORE (CNS) — At the start of their annual three-day fall assembly in Baltimore, the U.S. bishops were urged to restore the luster, credibility and beauty of the Catholic Church in the hearts of its members.

In reading the reviews of this General Assembly and looking at the photo above, it seems that women or women’s issues were only present in the discussion of the nature of “true” marriage and in the archaic (one commentator says creepy) metaphor of bishops being wedded to the Church (personified as a woman).  Working for a female religious leader in a non-Catholic religious institution I am more and more offended, intellectually and even viscerally, by the all-male leadership of our Church. How can we move forward when half our membership (actually probably more than half) is not even represented in the language by which we name ourselves, let alone the authority structure.

Our liturgy continues to say, “For us MEN and for our salvation.”  Why could we not take out “MEN?” How can a years long review of the liturgical language not give that small concession to the women in the Church? Simple!  There were no women in the “we” that decided on the new translation, only men and why should they care to change it even if they noticed its sexism, and I doubt they did. Just as there were no women present when the leaders of “our” Church met to discuss our national concerns and blithely continued the use of a gender-specific metaphor that inherently denies the possibility of women ever being included in the ranks of priests and bishops.  How can a female bishop be spiritually wedded to the Church personified as a woman?

Language does not just convey meaning it creates meaning, and hence changes how we perceive reality.  If we cannot change our Catholic language – our pronouns and metaphors – we have no hope of changing our Catholic reality. And that is a damn shame. No progress only regress.

For those who are interested, the November 2011 General Assembly of the United States Catholic Bishops is available as a video record here:

http://usccb.org/about/leadership/usccb-general-assembly/video-on-demand.cfm

According to the article in Commonweal quoted below, the principles guiding the new translation include: maintaining a literal translation, adopting archaic Latin syntax, using words that are not part of our everyday usage and are therefore more difficult to process. The assumption seems to be that if it is unassailable to the intellect of the ordinary Catholic it is holier.

Jesus, in the  tradition of Jewish teachers, made it a practice to engage his audience using metaphors and language that were accessible, drawn from the everyday. It was his desire, it seems, to bring people closer to God, not to obscure God. Our Bishops must have a different agenda.

Our Bishops seem to be as committed to making our liturgical experiences engaging and meaningful as they are to full disclosure of the personnel files of accused sexually abusive priests: not at all.

Which is “truer” – closer to God’s Truth – something that we can understand enough to engage our minds and hearts in the liturgical moment, or something that is intentionally constructed to make such engagement more difficult?  Using Jesus as the model for developing religious language, the answer is clear.

Is this another case of, “power talks and the truth walks?”

 

“It Doesn’t Sing ~ The Trouble with the New Roman Missal,” Rita Ferrone

“Clarity and intelligibility were principles of liturgical renewal specifically named by the fathers of the Second Vatican Council in the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy. Until 2001, those who translated liturgical texts into English placed a high priority on the council’s mandate for clarity and intelligibility. Those were essential guiding principles of liturgical reform, not secondary considerations.

Since the publication of the new Vatican instruction on translation Liturgiam authenticam in 2001, however, other principles are deemed more important. They include: the exact rendering of each word and expression of the Latin, the use of sacral vocabulary remote from ordinary speech, and reproduction of the syntax of the Latin original whenever possible. When a choice must be made, those principles trump the principles of clarity and intelligibility. The result has been, not surprisingly, a translation that is filled with expressions not easily understood by English speakers. It has resulted in prayers that are long-winded, pointlessly complex, hard to proclaim, and difficult to understand.

There are many places in the new translation where the words simply don’t make sense in English. On the First Sunday of Advent, we pray that we may “run forth with righteous deeds.” What does that mean? Many expressions sound pompous: “profit our conversion,” “the sacrifice of conciliation,” “an oblation pleasing to your almighty power.”

Rita ends her article thus:

“Yes, we can get used to the new translation of the Roman Missal. But we shouldn’t. The church can do better, and deserves better, than this.”

http://commonwealmagazine.org/it-doesn’t-sing

In a speech to Young Republicans last weekend, Herman Cain likened himself to Moses, an initially reluctant ambassador for God. As we move closer to election time God seems to be getting busy again with political campaigns. Of course there has to be time set aside for sports, as more and more athletes give God credit for their successes. Apparently God has an opinion about who should hold political office and who should win football games. But what about those religious candidates and athletes who are unsuccessful? Do they take this as a sign of their unworthiness in God’s eyes and give up running for office or for the next touchdown? Or do they blame God for letting them down?

It’s not that I’m against thanking God…in the big picture sense everything is gift, everything is grace. But when we take the view that God is busy micromanaging our lives and our fortunes (or misfortunes) we are losing sight of that big picture and giving our individual lives too much importance.

 Athletes can be forgiven for being overcome in the moment of victory, but politicians should be more circumspect in their attribution of political calling to a personal invitation from God. Not only does it give them an even greater appearance of hypocrisy when their inevitable shortcomings are made public, it also makes God or at least faith in God seem a little ridiculous. And God deserves better than that. Maybe God should get a campaign manager.

An exceptional young Latin scholar (in college at the age of 16) has written a critique of the New Translation — posted on NCR.com — that is receiving a lot of response. I can’t respond to his Latin issues, having studied Latin for all or 3 weeks before switching to German (a decision I regret to this day), but I am impressed with his passion for the mass itself. He is angry with Rome for messing with something that is important to him.

I feel that one good thing that might come out of the backwards trend of Catholic liturgical “development” is a growing discomfort, among practicing Catholics like Erik, with this recurrent assumption in the post(anti)-Vatican II era that God’s truth, and thus Catholic doctrine, found its greatest, highest, most accurate, most pure formulations in the medieval church and in the Latin language. Why does Rome assume that? Why is Trent still the benchmark of God’s truth? And why is Latin the sacred language, not Greek, not Aramaic, not Hebrew? Why couldn’t Vatican II be understood as the most current doctrinal benchmark? In fact, shouldn’t it be? Shouldn’t the most recent council be assumed to be the most current expression of the Truth that God wishes us to follow, through the guidance of God’s Spirit in the Church? Or did that end with Trent and with the Latin mass?  Had God’s Spirit stopped guiding the Church since we dropped the Latin? Is she pouting?

Perhaps the translation is just another manifestation of the desire for control, power, separation of clergy and laity, lay submission to authority?  And how are those in authority expressing their spirituality these days? How are they communicating the guidance of the Holy Spirit?  Apparently the Holy Spirit is concerned with preserving property and reputation, and rewarding those who protect both rather than protecting children. (Anyone read the reports of Cardinal Law’s big birthday bash in Rome?)

It is time for pew Catholics to rebel, and maybe this translation will be the last straw for some. And that would be good. Perhaps the only good that could come out of this translation.

Latin whiz, 16, finds new liturgy language lacking

…Ultimately, the whole affair just begs the question of why the Latin Mass has any particular spiritual significance. It’s certainly not Scripture, and it’s often just an amalgamation of various communal prayers used throughout Europe for several centuries. In fact, many early bishops would write their own Masses or translations to best fit their community’s needs. And that’s the essence of Mass.

The reason why we come to Mass in the first place rather than just praying by ourselves is the interaction with others that has spiritual importance. In the Mass the people become the Body of Christ, conceived as the organic whole Paul
writes about in the famous passage from 1 Corinthians: “for the body is not one member, but many.”  …

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