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0855 K Thu 1 Aug 2002

On of the most recent translations of an official liturgical book to be published in Australia was in 1987, Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults. On page vii there is an editorial note:

... In the interest of pastoral utility and convenience, the English edition somewhat rearranges the contents of the praenotanda of the Latin editio typica. ...

Many of the paragraphs have two numbers. For example paragraph:

141 After the intercessions, the rite continues with one of the following exorcisms.

The official paragraph number, 164, is on the right.

The next prayer has the official number 379. Clearly major rearrangements were made.

Today such a translation would not be approved. This has been made clear by Liturgiam Authenticam of 2001 and the April 2002 letter on the translation of the Roman Missal.

The approval of translations is recorded in Notitiae, published by the Vatican. For example in the volume of 1986 it has on page 767 the approval for the translation of the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, Protocol No. 432/86, 20 June, 1986.

The last approval of the Australian translation of a book that I have found is for the Order of Christian Funerals "Ordinis Exsequiarum" of 29 April 1987 (Notitiae 1987, page 1034). Since then there have only been approvals for translations of things like prayers for Mass in honour of Blessed Mark MacKillop.

Lots of liturgical books have been published by the Vatican, but do not have an officially approved translation for Australia:

Book of Blessings (De Benedictionibus of 1984)

Ceremonial of Bishops (Caeremoniale Episcoporum of 1984)

Roman Martyrology, of 2001.

Roman Missal, Third Edition (Missale Romanum of 2002)

Why haven't they been translated? There would be many perspectives. I see an important reason as disagreements between bishops. It has not been a high priority for Australian bishops to have them translated. There are other things to do, other areas to spend time and money on.

Will things change? Will these four books be published in Australia by the end of 2003? Physically it would be easy. The Catholic Church in Australia has lots of publications like the Catechism and religious text books. Politically it seems very unlikely. Little has been said by bishops about these liturgical books. Agreement between bishops is required. Enough of them seem to see little incentive for publication.

Here is an extract of what Cardinal George said to the US bishops on 16 June 2000, talking about the constitutions for ICEL who have been doing the English translations:

... So my conclusion is that I would welcome suggestions for strengthening the Constitutions now so I can take those to San Francisco, and this is very important because we have to come to a point to where the impasse is broken. That is never broken just by paper.

And so while I think this is a good piece of work - it responds to what Bishop Fiorenza and I have tried to do together, namely to keep ICEL - there have been some suggestions of reconfiguring it, of going our own way.

Going our own way would be possible, I believe, because in these three years we have had no ICEL texts approved, our own BCL has submitted texts - not liturgical texts in the strict sense - for approval from the CDW in Rome, and they have gotten that approval. So it is possible to present English-speaking texts to the CDW and get a recognitio or an approval.

It is impossible for ICEL, at this point, for a number of reasons, and I think those reasons extend beyond paper, beyond even these Constitutions. That is, this is a good piece of work; it would work if, in fact, there was mutual trust all around. That mutual trust has broken down, and how to repair that is another question on both sides - on all sides. And that is something that paper alone will not respond to. I think this paper goes very far towards establishing a new procedure where the bishops, in cooperation with the Holy See, will be more clearly overseers of the liturgical texts which we're all going to be buried with. This is an extraordinarily important moment in the life of the Church. We have to get it right.

Posted by J.R. Lilburne, 1 August 2002.

Other sites:

"How the Latin Liturgy gets put into English" by Cardinal George 20 May 2001

Discussion of ICEL constitutions, including by Cardinal George, 16 June 2000