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Online Edition - Vol. VI, No. 5: August 2000

US Bishops examine ICEL plans
Revision of new ICEL Constitution to be reviewed
by member conferences, Holy See

Part II (of III)PART I PART II PART III
by Helen Hull Hitchcock and Susan Benofy

This year, for the first time in the history of the International Commission on English in the Liturgy, the translating body that has produced nearly all English texts for use in Catholic liturgies, the bishops of the eleven English-speaking conferences who sponsor ICEL are to be given the opportunity to review ICEL's means of conducting its work.

The draft of a new constitution for ICEL was presented to the US bishops by Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, their representative to ICEL's Episcopal Board, at their meeting in Milwaukee on June 16, 2000.

The June/July edition of Adoremus Bulletin reported the background of events leading to, and following from, a letter to Bishop Maurice Taylor, president of the eleven-member Episcopal Board of ICEL, from the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments.

The Holy See's letter of October 26, 1999, had asked ICEL to produce new governing statutes that would include substantial revisions in procedures, including provision for the Holy See's approval of ICEL staff.

Following is a verbatim transcription of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops' June 16 discussion of the proposed new constitution for ICEL. Although the bishops have no vote on the ICEL constitution, their comments will be transmitted to the Episcopal Board later this summer by Cardinal George.

This transcription was made from audio tapes Adoremus recorded at the bishops' meeting. (Note: This transcript is exclusive to the Adoremus Bulletin. We ask news organizations that wish to quote from it to please credit Adoremus.) ­ Editor


Transcription of bishops' discussion
NCCB Spring Meeting
Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Friday Morning, June 16, 2000
Bishop Joseph A. Fiorenza (Galveston-Houston, President of NCCB): Before inviting Cardinal George to come to the podium to give an oral report on the revised Constitutions of ICEL, I would like to give to you a report on the meeting with the presidents of the English-speaking episcopal conferences that was held in Washington on the day after Easter.

This meeting was the result of the suggestion of the Administrative Board that was held in March, following the report that Cardinal George had given to the Administrative Board about his work with ICEL. And in the course of his report, Cardinal George made it clear that in his dealings with ICEL that he was reflecting the desires and the thoughts of our Episcopal conference. And indeed that is true, because before each time that he would go to such a meeting, he would check with me to be sure that what he intended to do and say was really reflective of at least many of the bishops here in our conference. I think Cardinal George in his report felt there wasn't always total agreement with some of the other members of the Episcopal Board that formed ICEL, and thought it may be good if the presidents of the English-speaking episcopal conferences would have a meeting to discuss both the overall direction of ICEL as well as to review the proposed draft of the constitution of ICEL. So, it was rather short notice, but anyway I sent a letter to all of the eleven members of the English-speaking conferences, and eight of the presidents accepted the invitation to be in Washington on Easter Monday. The only ones that were not able to come were the presidents of the Philippines and Pakistan and India, although Archbishop Sus of India wrote a long letter expressing his regrets, but also expressing that he thought it was a good idea for the presidents to meet to discuss the whole situation of the English-speaking conferences and ICEL.

In the course of our discussions the presidents reviewed the draft that was presented to us. Now, the draft that we looked at was a draft which was prepared by a committee of ICEL. That committee was Bishop Taylor of Scotland, Bishop Cullinane of New Zealand and Cardinal George, representing our conference. No, Bishop Foley of Scotland. [Bishop Foley is from Australia. - Editor]

So that was the draft that they had prepared which we reviewed. And we reviewed it rather thoroughly, taking into consideration the observations which the Congregation had presented to the ICEL board in revising the statutes. But we did go through it very thoroughly, and we made some really minor suggestions, emendations which were incorporated into the next draft. We felt that the main concern of the Congregation was that there be far better and closer supervision by the Episcopal members of ICEL over the staff of ICEL and their work, and we were in agreement that that should be done. And we thought that the way in which the draft of the new revision was presented to us, that there was sufficient episcopal oversight of the staff that the Congregation desired. And because of that we agreed not to incorporate every observation that was suggested.

The presidents of the English-speaking conferences felt very clearly that ICEL is an entity of the eleven English-speaking conferences, it belongs to those conferences, and that we have the ultimate responsibility for them; and the primary purpose of ICEL, of course, is to prepare liturgical texts that will receive the approbation of the Holy See. And I think that all the presidents take that very, very seriously and know that in doing that we have to be in close collaboration with the Holy See in doing this. But in not incorporating every observation, this was because that it was felt that the major concerns of the Congregation were being met in the draft that we saw prepared by that committee of ICEL. And because we felt that the major concerns were being addressed, and that there were good reasons for not including every detail that the Congregation proposed, we thought that this was a good draft and it was a workable draft.

There was no intention, there was no suggestion, in that meeting that we were trying to set aside the observations of the Congregation at all. All of the observations were taken very seriously. We felt, as did the three committee members who drafted the revision felt, that the proposed draft was now a workable draft. It addressed many of the difficulties and problems that had existed before. And so the presidents were in agreement-unanimous agreement-that this draft that is now before us is indeed a workable draft. And that although it does not implement every consideration, we do think that it takes care of the major concerns that have been expressed to us by the Congregation. And we also felt that these were considerations. Considerations are considerations. The presidents did not feel that it was some type of a mandate that all of these had to be included. But taking very seriously these suggestions, we felt that it was not necessary to incorporate all of them.

So that's the main report I wanted to make.

But then the presidents drafted a statement, which is in your packet now, in your new packet, which is now Supplementary Document B. [Supplementary Document B was replaced by Supplementary Document E. - Editor.] There are six statements that were drafted and approved by the presidents, which I believe give very good and clear direction to the future work of ICEL. We know that the primary purpose is to prepare liturgical texts that will receive the recognitio [approval] of the Holy See, and that these translations of the texts must be, first of all, theologically sound, pastorally and culturally sensitive and liturgically effective. That is going to be the guiding norm for those who work for ICEL.

Now, it did become clear, at least to me, that our episcopal conference has taken very seriously the work of judging of the translation of the texts, first under Archbishop Pilarczyk and then now under Cardinal George. Our episcopal conference, as you know, has given quite a bit of time and energy to reviewing the texts that were prepared for us. It seems to me that has not always been the case with other episcopal conferences. And I do believe that now that will happen; there will be greater episcopal supervision by other episcopal conferences on the work that is done by the ICEL staff.

So those are just some preliminary words which I want to offer to you as a report upon what took place when the presidents of the English-speaking conferences met in Washington on Easter Monday. I think it was a very good conference. The presidents, I think, left there feeling very good about the draft that we looked at, and we believe that if some parts of this draft are questioned, well then, it is our responsibility to go to the Holy See and to explain why the draft was formulated as it is.

And really this is a usual procedure. We went through this, as you know, with Ex Corde Ecclesiae, there were things that we incorporated in Ex Corde Ecclesiae which raised some questions with the Holy See, but when Bishop [Wilton] Gregory and I together with Bishop Leibrecht went to the Holy See, we explained why we thought the draft we presented was needed, that the work that had been done by the sub-committee on Ex Corde was very good work, that this draft that we were talking about at that time was workable in the United States, and we were able to convince the Congregation of Education that our work on Ex Corde Ecclesiae was sound and good. And they, as you know, did finally give us the recognitio. This same type of procedure may possibly develop with these drafts of the ICEL constitution.

But to sum it all up, I know Bishop Gregory and I, and I believe Cardinal George, feels that the present draft is a good draft, its a workable draft, and I'm sure now he will present it to you for his report on it, and any discussion that you may want to have.

Cardinal George?

Cardinal Francis George, OMI (Chicago, NCCB Representative to ICEL): The purpose of this time this morning is to receive from you any further considerations you might want to make or suggestions around the draft constitution for ICEL, which will then be discussed at the next meeting of the ICEL board in San Francisco in several weeks. That board ­ which is ICEL, legally ­ is composed of eleven bishops from the conferences that use English the most. There are a few, such as India, the Philippines, Pakistan, where English is not the first language of most people, and where it is not the most used language in the liturgy. That would be true for South Africa as well, where most Catholics are not English-speaking. But it includes also those conferences where English is the native tongue, the first language of most of the Catholics: our own conference, Canada, England, Scotland, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand.

The history of the purpose for the text before you is first of all the fact that we have gone three years without the approval of an ICEL text from the Congregation for Divine Worship in Rome. There is an impasse.

Secondly, here in particular, but also in Rome and elsewhere, there are concerns that have been expressed over some of the guidelines for translation that have shaped some of the ICEL work. I think that it's important to note again that 95% of what ICEL does is extraordinarily well done. Maybe 99%, maybe less than that. That in fact they have done good work as our agents. The rejection, however, of the translation of the suscipiat by this conference was, I think, a point that indicated a concern around the use of pronouns in the translation: a concern that at times there was a loss of some of the theological content of these texts. These things we discussed here.

Often the loss was suffered for the sake of better aural proclamation -- something which ICEL has taken most seriously, and which I think is very well embodied in the new texts. So there has been some difference of opinion. When you get to individual texts, that difference cannot be resolved except through a vote.

When you get to principles, however, there is room for discussion whether or not all the principles are ones that all the bishops would subscribe to. And it's in that context that we enter into a discussion of revision of the Constitutions.

The question is never dynamic or formal equivalence, it is rather fidelity - fidelity of the particular translations to the meaning of the Latin original, and fidelity of the whole to the structure of the Roman Rite.

A year ago, a little more than that, at the annual meeting of the Episcopal Board of ICEL, I suggested that the episcopal board look again at its relationship to the Advisory Group. The Advisory Group is, in fact, the one that does the work. The ICEL staff coordinates it, it's a very small staff that works very hard to see that the different projects are farmed out to the people who do that. But it does that in very close connection to the Advisory Group, which is mostly liturgical experts, along with those in English and in music and in other related sciences. They are the ones who do the work, and in fact, while at the annual meeting of the Episcopal Board (which is now truly annual) they often meet at least in part with them. Nonetheless, they do their work and to a great extent, in fact, although the bishops approve, they choose their own membership.

It was that friendly but rather loose structural connection that I thought the board should look at - and the other members of the board agreed to that. The idea was to strengthen in fact the working of bishops along with the board, and not simply an approval of the finished text when they had done their own work.

We started to look at that relationship (which entailed, I thought at that time, a simple adjustment of the Constitutions), when in October the Holy See, knowing that we were looking at the Constitutions, suggested that they be redone entirely.

The Holy See's primary concern, as far as I could tell, reading the seven considerations that they put forward, was a little broader than mine. Mine was: Has there been adequate episcopal oversight by involvement in the work as it goes along, with the Advisory Committee? And that was to be strengthened. The Holy See's concern was a little broader, as I understand it, and it is their concern that ICEL had become, in fact, an independent agency for liturgical reform in the Church, independent juridically of the Holy See, as it should be, of course. ICEL was the creation of the eleven conferences, not a creation of an agency of the Holy See.

And I think that is to remain in place, but at the same time independent of each individual conference. Since there are eleven, and since it is truly international, it is hard for eleven conferences as conferences to say together what they want. And so when a text comes along, as we've experienced in our own conference, one conference would be told: "You may want that change, but the ten others don't, and so you have to cede to the others". And without the opportunity to check and see, well, what did the other bishops have in mind, that resulted in an effective independence, in the Holy See's judgment and in mine as well, of the ICEL work from control of the conferences, except by passing the product at the end, and input from the Holy See, except, again, by giving the recognitio, again, at the very end. Their concern was, therefore, for the independence of ICEL, in fact, if not in law, from episcopal oversight, whether from Rome or from the conferences.

That is a much larger consideration, and it shows itself in the much more numerous concerns that the Holy See expressed when the Constitutions were to be redone.

In the light of those October considerations from the Holy See, in January the eleven members of the episcopal board met in London to discuss the situation and to begin work on a new set of Constitutions. Everyone was invited to bring some suggestions. In fact, we were the only ones, the American conference, that brought in a draft of a new set of Constitutions. It is that draft that was spoken to because it was the only one on the table. It is that draft that is the basis of the Constitutions that you have in your hand.

I believe this is a good piece of work. In it the bishops are clearly in control of ICEL. There are a number of points we can go through, if you want to contrast it, but I don't care to take the time - it's rather technical - the difference between the way in which ICEL worked and continues to work now, and the way it would work if this Constitution were accepted.

Not all, however, as Bishop Fiorenza said, of the points of the Holy See were responded to. I would suggest that more were responded to than is indicated in the rather stark analysis that was given out in the documentation for this meeting, and then withdrawn [Supplementary Document B. - Ed.], and replaced by the documentation you have there now [Supplementary Document E. -Ed.].

I take responsibility for that first document having been sent out. I was in Australia. And when the message came: Do you approve this? I must admit that I said, "Well, if the staff and others approve it I suppose I do, too". And I didn't take the time to read it and I apologize for that.

It is, however, a good piece of work, in the sense that it makes a very stark presentation of some of the contrasts. I believe that it is too stark. And that some of the concerns of the Holy See are in fact met, although not in the language that the Holy See presented, and not in as direct a fashion as to make it that evident.

However, what is clearly taken into account, again, because of the original concern on the bishops' part, is the involvement of the bishops. So that the one noticeable point where the Holy See's desires were not taken into account, namely prior nihil obstat, is met in an additional work of the bishops.

That is, in the present situation the members of the Advisory Group (which now becomes the Consultant's group) have to be approved - given a nihil obstat, if you like - by the bishop member of the conference from whom that expert on the Advisory or the Consultant's group comes. That is still in place, and to it is added a nihil obstat, or an approval, from the local bishop, the bishop of the city or the diocese where that expert resides.

So there are two bishops from the conference who, in consultation with one another, discussing the particular person being brought forward, will approve. The Holy See will not be asked, if this goes through and if they accept it, to approve.

The work of that Consultants' Committee is also much more bishop-involving, because bishops themselves (or an alter ego, someone whom they can choose) will be part of the work. Right now, at least in practice, the Consultants Group, or the Advisory Group as it's called in the present Constitutions, suggests the people and the bishops approve them. That has been the constant procedure. Now bishops can insert themselves into that work, or someone whom they name directly to be part of that work, which makes the work of the Consultants (the present Advisory Group) a little more complicated, because you can't presuppose that everybody on that group will agree. From my perspective, and I think that of many bishops, that will be something that will enrich the discussion, although it might make it a little more difficult, as is the case with our own discussions, as well.

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.

I thank you.

Bishop Oscar H. Lipscomb (Mobile, Chairman of the Bishops' Committee on the Liturgy):

Thank you Bishop Fiorenza, Cardinal George, for your remarkable perseverance in this whole effort. As you might suspect, this was an item -- the lead item -- on the agenda for the Committee on the Liturgy, and it appeared with this question asked of the Committee. After the documentation and considerable discussion, we went through two sessions, on two days, and the last day we were fortunate to have the Cardinal with us for an hour-and-a-half. The question posed was: What course of action do the Latin Rite bishops recommend to the episcopal board of ICEL regarding the proposed Constitution? As a result of all those discussions the distillate was a resolution that read as follows:

"It is the Position of the Committee on the Liturgy that the present revision of the ICEL Constitution is a good draft. However, the Committee asks that the Episcopal Board further address those considerations of the Holy See not presently incorporated in the Constitution in consultation with the Holy See".

I think the president has made a marvelous kind of parallel in what we went through with Ex Corde Ecclesiae, and I can go back further in history and remember Doctrinal Responsibilities, in which we went to Rome, had those discussions, and it was fruitful all around.

Sadly, this has not happened with ICEL, and maybe that is one of those elements that is missing. It is cited in our own documentation for today that the letter of October 26 (which we do not have in addition to the 'Considerations') directed that the revision be accomplished in "active collaboration with the Congregation by the bishop members of the Episcopal Board".

As we begin this new phase of taking this draft Constitution and refining it, we will be able to find out more concretely what the expectations are realistically all around, and that is what the Committee urges. We think it is a good draft, a good beginning, and are grateful for it.

Bishop Raymond A. Lucker (New Ulm): I simply want to make a request for information: And that is on the canonical or the understood meaning of the word "recognitio". I see in our own texts, like the document on the permanent diaconate that we are looking at this week, and in various other texts where we're talking about asking for a recognitio. We use different language to explain its meaning. For example, it seems to me that we sometimes explain it by saying that the Holy See will simply see it or recognize it. Or sometimes we take it to mean that it will be received, or that it's accepted. And sometimes the notion of oversight comes in. And then, I think, more recently we see the words "authorized" or "approved". And so my question is: Is there some accepted canonical definition of the word recognitio? I had thought it meant something like nihil obstat, that nothing is in the way of its printing, or something like we give for imprimatur, that this text is in agreement with the official teaching of the Church, or something like that. But is there an accepted, approved meaning of the word recognitio?

Cardinal George: Thank you, Bishop Lucker. My understanding of it -- just in this instance, for liturgical texts, not in all the other cases -- is expressed in the joint statement that was the result of the meeting of the presidents that Bishop Fiorenza talked about, where it said: "It is the competence of the episcopal conference in accord with canon law to prepare and approve the translation of texts which become liturgical texts only after canonical recognitio by the Holy See". In other words, this is different from a book of theology or anything else. This is the text of the Roman Rite. And it can't be established as the Roman Rite until Rome approves it.

Now, it's the Roman Rite in translation, and the translations are our responsibility, not Rome's. And they've said that clearly in one instance when they brought back a set of corrections. They said: "We shouldn't be doing this work, you should be doing this work. Give us texts that we can recognize, not that we have to retranslate". And therefore, I think in their mind as well as in the mind of the conferences, it is clear we're to do the work, but they're not texts of the Roman Rite, and they cannot be used -- they can't even be copyrighted now, in the new constitutions (that's a change) -- they cannot be copyrighted nor used in any form of public worship, not even ad experimentum, until the recognitio, which establishes them as a liturgical text of the Roman Rite comes.

And I think that's very different, therefore, from other instances. It means "established". "Recognitio" means this is not a text, this is not a liturgical text -- it's a draft, it's whatever you want -- until it gets the recognitio which says: this is now an approved text of the Roman Rite for public worship in the Latin Church. It means "recognition", it means "establishment". Approval is part of it, but it's beyond approval. It's an establishment: it's not a text until the recognitio comes.

Bishop Fiorenza: Archbishop Pilarczyk, would you-?

Archbishop Daniel Pilarczyk (Cincinnati, Chairman of Doctrine Committee, Former NCCB Representative to ICEL): To this issue, Mr. Chairman, it's my recollection from my previous responsibilities that the Commission for the Interpretation of the Code issued at some point a definition, a description, of recognitio, which I have at home in my files, and I can't quote it verbatim. But it includes such things as what Your Eminence described, but also that the Holy See has the right to change the texts, to add to the texts, to subtract from the texts. But the texts remain the texts of the person who sent them in, and not of the Holy See. It's a rather interesting logical minuet that you go through with this. I'm sure the canonists here present know much more about it than I do. But there is an official interpretation which is much more severe than I had thought previously.

Cardinal George: I haven't read that; I was told about it. So if a canonist wants to bring it up in case we haven't expressed it correctly, I'd be pleased to hear it.

Bishop Fiorenza: That's I think the main point the Cardinal is making, though, that the translations are not becoming liturgical texts -- liturgical texts for liturgical worship in the Church -- until it is given the recognitio by the Holy See.

Bishop Lucker wants to ...

Bishop Lucker: I understand that. But I think we're still dealing with a slippery word. We use it differently ourselves. And I get the impression that the different Congregations also interpret it differently. So that it sometimes means approval; and sometimes merely means, I think, that they have looked at it and it agrees with the accepted version, or something like that. So I just think it's slippery, and I think its such a crucial word that we ought to have some clear definition of what it means.

Cardinal George: Well, I think there is a certain clarity around liturgy. Now maybe with other texts, you know, for other Congregations, etc, it's an analogous word. But I think there's certainly clarity; however, we can check it out again. And you're right. It's difficult when you use the word: in one context it means one thing, and in another context it means others. But this, I think, is the meaning that the context yields here.

There's one other point that has created some conversation that I'd like to clarify also. I think it's a question of fact; that is, the use of original texts. It's been a matter of public debate, and it is in the Constitutions, and it's one of the points where the Constitutions are said to be not in agreement with the desires of the Holy See. But the desires of the Holy See in the original set of Considerations given us in October says, not that there can be no original texts, but that ICEL is not to be the engine or the creator of original texts except at the request of the bishops' conference.

So the cultural adaptation of the liturgy is the provenance of bishops' conferences. Namely, we can go to ICEL, or to any group of people we want, and say could you please give us an original text on - a collect for the funeral of someone who has committed suicide, which is a very good example. Because this is a problem for us pastorally. Or we would like an alternative rite to be considered - in this part of the Eucharist or that part. Would you please come up with a text? We have the right to do that. And in fact, we should probably spend more time asking, "How do we do cultural adaptation of the liturgy in a multicultural society such as ours?" That remains our prerogative, and the Holy See insists upon that. It is the right of the episcopal conferences to do that. And then we can ask anybody we want to help us create such texts, including people from ICEL, if that's our choice.

What the Holy See is saying, clearly, is that ICEL is not to be the engine of original texts, or of liturgical renewal in that sense. That it is the pastors who are given by the Council itself the task of liturgical renewal, and therefore, we have to initiate it. Once we would initiate it, we could then ask anybody we want to help us with it, and they would have no objection to that.

I remember very early as a bishop receiving a questionnaire concerning the penance rite introductory to the Mass -and it was initiated by ICEL -- considering all the different possibilities that liturgical theorists had come up with for introducing the rite of the Eucharist by penance, or its alternative. The assumption in that questionnaire as I received it -- and I remember reading it in Yakima -- was that there must be a change here. And they gave us the alternatives. Never in the questionnaire was: Do you want a change at all? And I thought to myself: Well, that's a little strange. We should at least discuss whether or not we want to have a change. It seems to me that would have been a more adequate questionnaire if, in fact, the bishops had created that questionnaire - or at least been much more involved in creating it before it was sent out. I hope I am not misrepresenting what we received now over ten years ago. I remember it sticking in my mind very clearly.

I think what's at stake here to some extent -- and that's why I welcome the comparison to Ex Corde Ecclesiae that Bishop Fiorenza made -- is a little, still unreceived I think, datum from the Second Vatican Council, that the bishop is the pastor of the local Church. He's not head of a corporation, he's not boss, he's not a politician. He is a pastor. And he has, therefore, the obligations, the pastoral responsibilities, which in our conversation it's very clear we all feel, to be free to bring people together and to help them particularly in liturgy and catechesis and in other concerns as a pastor's heart would dictate.

The pattern that has often been established, because so much work had to be done after the Second Vatican Council, is that there was a task, the experts were given the task, and to a great extent, because they did their work very, very well, the bishops approved it. And from time to time when the bishops don't approve it, or want to change it, or to do something else, it's sometimes hard for the group that had taken upon itself, in good will, the responsibility for this particular realm, and who knows probably a lot more about, certainly in many cases than I do, is told: you may be right according to certain lights, but pastorally, this is the way we want to go, and we're taking control of it. I think to some extent that is what is at stake here, as it is at stake in a lot of other instances. That's not to say we're always right, or that the decisions of pastors are more adequate than the decisions of experts. But simply to say that, finally, it's our responsibility.

Bishop Gerald F. Kicanas (Aux. Chicago): Having just finished a term as a member of the Liturgy Committee under Archbishop Hanus, it always was a confusion why the understanding of "oversight" was not clear, and I think this new Constitution does make much clearer [the role] of the Episcopal Board, especially in selection of consultants and in oversight of their work and documents.

One of the things I do think is critical is re-establishing trust and communication. While I suspect the responsibility of communication with the Congregation is the responsibility of the episcopal conferences, I wonder if in the description of the Episcopal Board of ICEL there could not be some kind of an annual, or perhaps regular, conversation that would take place between this International Commission Episcopal Board, or perhaps the Executive Board, with the Congregation, especially in the first few years of the Constitution, so that face-to-face conversation could take place. Because written communication is much less effective, obviously, than face-to-face communication. Now, I don't know whether that would be a possibility for the Executive Committee or for the Episcopal Board of ICEL to have regular conversation with the Congregation for Divine Worship, but I would ask for some consideration of that possibility.

Cardinal George: That certainly is a very good suggestion. If the Constitutions, as you might suggest further amendments - and, again, the purpose of this is to create items that I can bring to San Francisco in your name - that could be one of them. That conversation would be much richer, certainly, if the bishops were themselves engaged in creating the texts that Rome is occasionally critical of. If we go, and not having created the texts, but rather with the texts that we simply say: Well, all right, we think these are okay. Then the objections that are brought forward, we can't respond to because we haven't been involved. And the purpose of the Constitutions is precisely to involve the Bishops, as you've said, and make those kinds of conversations richer.

Bishop Fiorenza: There is a place in the Constitution where that can be easily added, Bishop Kicanas.

Bishop Alfred C. Hughes (Baton Rouge): Thank you, Bishop Fiorenza. I am very grateful to you, Cardinal George, for all of the effort and time that you're expending. And it seems to me, it's obvious that this is a very critical moment for us in addressing frustrations that we've experienced in recent years in addressing the liturgical texts. And I do think that the Congregation for Divine Worship has rendered us a very important service in nudging us and the other conferences into addressing

Bishop Fiorenza: More than a nudge, Al, but at any rate...

Cardinal George: Classical understatement, but go ahead. (Laughter)

Bishop Hughes: However you want to define "nudge".

And I find myself sympathetic to the recommendation that comes from our own Committee on the Liturgy that Archbishop Lipscomb has articulated for us. Your own comment that the paper is only a paper, and that what happens now is going to be critically important. And that speaks volumes to me. I have some lingering concerns, and I'd really appreciate your judgment on whether these are legitimate concerns.

Do we ensure that the role of the Executive Director and the Advisory Group have sufficient oversight in the new Constitution? Do we ensure that the staff is not just self-perpetuating? Do we ensure a common acceptance of principles of translation so that the texts we receive preserve enough of the fuller theological meaning of the Latin texts? And do we ensure a procedure so that the competence of this conference in reviewing and amending texts submitted can be effectively exercised?

Cardinal George: What was the last point? Do we assure...?

Bishop Hughes: A procedure that the competence of this conference, and each conference, in reviewing and amending the texts, can be effectively exercised.

Cardinal George: To the last point, I think each conference determines its own procedures, as Bishop Fiorenza said. From some conferences, at least, there was never a public discussion. That is, the texts were sent by mail. They were corrected by each bishop at his desk. The placet juxta modum was sent in, or the modi were revised without any kind of a public conversation around the text at all. That's a procedure they're free to adopt if they want to. I don't think we can determine that. The ICEL Constitution can't determine that point. I think ours is a much better process.

Bishop Hughes: But we're free to determine our own.

Cardinal George: Oh yes, oh yes, very much so. And it's very different. If we do it -- the New Zealand Bishops have -- what? -- eight bishops who can get together over coffee, that's the whole conference. And that's a much different conversation, it's smaller than our own BCL. So I don't think this Constitution can set those. But we're free, as we have been, to do our own things.

To the others, I think, there is a term for the Executive Secretary now, for the first time, in the Constitutions. Not for others, and Rome asked it for the others. That could be a point of consideration. Maybe that would be also very good. But the staff is very small. The neuralgic point is the Advisory Group, they're the ones that do the work of editing, and the staff coordinates. And the qualifications for the Executive Secretary, who is the catalyst for all that, are rather high. The people who can do that are rather few; it's a very complicated work. At the same time, the fact that there is a term makes it much easier to look at what we might want at a certain point, and do a careful review. Whereas now it's done much more informally, at least in my experience.

The principles [of translation] is an acutely debated point. Comme le prévoit was the constitution, if you like, the paper. The exact canonical status of that is contested. Nonetheless, it was the operating set of guidelines, accepted in good faith. The difficulty doesn't lie in Comme le prévoit, which is no longer, apparently, in effect; but its successor has not yet been produced.

The difficulty lies at a lower level than Comme le prévoit. It's the particular principles that are, in fact, being used that aren't -- can't be -- in a universal document intended for all languages, that create the problems. And just getting them spelled out explicitly has been something of a difficult conversation. The closest that we ever came to seeing principles in this sense -- not set out as absolute norms, but as guidelines -- was, again, in a paper that came from ICEL in 1993* -- was it, or '94 -- where they talked about, "Here's the context of the English language now, and the vernacular is going in this way, and here are some of the considerations that we bring in". That was a well done paper. I didn't agree with it entirely, but it was well done. I haven't seen anything else as explicit as that. And that is a constant concern. We've had our own fora for principles of translation which tried to do just that, which, you know, didn't advance the conversation to anything explicit".

[* Cardinal George is referring to ICEL's controversial "Third Progress Report" on the Sacramentary, which strongly advocated "inclusive language". -Editor]

Bishop Fiorenza: Just to Bishop Hughes. We asked last month in Rome about when would we get these new norms of translation. One Congregation told us it would be ready in one month, and another Congregation told us within the year. So, we're still waiting.

Cardinal George: I think that there is a letter -- and, you know, it is simply a letter, it has no canonical status at all as I understand it -- from Cardinal Ratzinger that spells out some of this, vis-a-vis Scripture. And I think the Holy See is trying to be consistent with the rules of translation for Scripture and for liturgy and for catechesis. That became very clear in the translation of the universal catechism. So if there are to be common norms, because the translation of Scripture norms and the translation of catechesis norms are clearly the same, what still isn't spelled out are the norms for the liturgy. But I suspect they'll be the same.

Bishop William F. Murphy (Aux. Boston): Thank you, Bishop Fiorenza. Your Eminence, I just want to rise to say how much I am pleased with this document as a draft. I think it's in the right direction. I think we have been well served both by you and by Archbishop Pilarczyk.

And it's because of that that I would like simply to call attention one aspect of the draft ... which was mentioned by Bishop Hughes -- that there will be terms involved, and a way of review. I think that's an important thing. I think it's also important to maintain what's in the text about having the approval come from the representative and the local bishop, so that it remains a competence of this conference.

I would like, however, just to -- I know none of the persons involved, so there's nothing personal in this -- but I would think that -- Well, let me ask it as a question: Does this apply as well to those who have been consultants and the like in terms of term limits? Or would certain consultants or secretarial staff continue on ad infinitum, or --?

Cardinal George: It doesn't. That's a good point. Perhaps we could put that in. It doesn't right now.

Bishop Murphy: Because it would seem to me, for what it's worth, I'd just add that it seems to me that that should be part of the assessment. And maybe that's what you meant, or one of the things you meant, when you said there's more to this than paper. That those who have served -- I don't know how long they've served, ten, twenty years. Those who have served longer, it may well be time to have some of those reconsidered.

Cardinal George: Why don't you write that up, please, and the other suggestions as well.

Archbishop Rembert G. Weakland, OSB (Milwaukee): First of all, I'd like to correct the musical terminology of Archbishop Pilarczyk. I seldom get a chance to do that. I think instead of minuet he should have said pas de deux.

I want to make one general comment, and then three specifics. I'd like to reiterate Bishop Kicanas's remark about trust, because no document is going to do that, only human beings. And especially in this Jubilee year, we need more trust in all those working in liturgy. And especially not to give in to the idea that a reform of ICEL means a rejection of all of our reforms of liturgy of Vatican II -- the way in which this is being translated. And I think that's very serious in the hearts and minds of so many people.

Then I have three remarks that I think are more specific, that could help the document, at least to think about them. The first is page 13, lines 1-2. It doesn't say how the bishop is appointed to the Episcopal Board. But since this is becoming now a much more important job than it was in the past, a much more serious job, I think the bishop going to that board would feel more confident that he had the confidence if he were elected to the board. Now that might mean that we would have to redo this. We've been fortunate in having wonderful bishops represent us. But I'm thinking if the bishop had that support of the whole group, he would feel a little bit stronger about the position he was taking.

The second point I have is on page 17. And again, if the consultants are supposed to become more important, paragraph 3.2.1 is really real vague. "Members should enjoy the confidence of their respective bishops' conferences, and be able to liase" (I guess that's the word) "with the liturgical agencies of their own national bishops' conferences". That's really quite vague. I wonder if there shouldn't be something said a little bit more - a little stronger - that whoever would be the consultants from a conference like ours, that these names would not only be passed by their own bishop, but by the Committee on Liturgy. That way there would be that confidence there that they would be people that would be respected by those who are in the field of liturgy.

My final point is one that, I think, had already been hinted at. And that's on page 21, 5.3 and 5.4. These have been always difficult moments for us, when the texts come to us. And here I find it's even worse, the way it's spelled out. Because at first it says they're to be "submitted to us for initial comment and consideration". That's not real helpful on what that really means. Is that going to be this whole body? Is it going to be like Archbishop Pilarczyk did, and just send them to all of us, and nobody answers? What's that going to really amount to?

And then the next one is a similar one. The final texts are going to be sent to us for a final approval, which again would be the up and down vote, I think, that we've had in the past. So it doesn't seem to solve one of those basic problems that we've always had in this conference, on how we're going to deal with this massive amount of work, and how we're going to feel happy about it. So I'd like to see, at least for our conference -- not necessarily New Zealand, but for our conference -- some way of spelling that out a little more clearly so that we avoid the usual hassle when those texts come.

Cardinal George: Could I ask, Archbishop, do you think the Constitution for ICEL as such should include those procedures, or is that work that each conference should do? Might we do that on our own?

Archbishop Weakland: I would be just as happy if it were done for our conference, as distinct from ICEL.

Cardinal George: Because you've put your finger on exactly the difficulty, but it's so hard to come up with a process that will be participatory and yet move the thing alone. I know we've wrestled with that here, but you've put your finger on something that has to be revised, or thought through, at least, again. And I would welcome any suggestions whatsoever, yours or others', to that point. I think the approval of the BCL could be worked into the Constitutions. However, not every conference has a BCL in the same way that we have. Again, that might be something that we would want to adopt for our own purposes. Also the election of bishops to the board of ICEL is a wonderful suggestion. I think we're free to do that right now. I don't think the Constitution wants to impose procedures internal to a conference on a conference. But I would welcome that, for many reasons.

The first point that you made is, I think, the most important, and I agree with it entirely. That a reform of ICEL at this moment in our history - that is the context always: How do you keep ICEL and how do you get texts? It does not mean a rejection, because that is a very sensitive point that comes up sometimes in conversations with ICEL staff. That is, are you saying that because now we want things changed, or I want things changed, that everything we've done is no good? And, of course, that's simply not true; we owe an enormous debt of gratitude to ICEL. And there is no question, at least from what I understand, of turning back the clock on the reforms, or the renewal of the Second Vatican Council. What those reforms mean in Sacrosanctum Concilium can be interpreted in different ways. We have new people; we're new, a new conference. We're not the conference that picked it up right after the Second Vatican Council. So that is, I think, the history of the Church, where the principles are given new faces and reinterpreted in new actions as we go from generation to generation.

But none of that means -- it can't mean if we're Catholic -- a rejection of the past, but rather development of it. The trajectory of development can be disputed, but I don't know anyone, whether here or in Rome, who seriously wants to turn back the liturgical reform. As pastors I think we'd have a very hard time with it. It's small groups of other people who would, if anybody would, put that forward. The fear of it is real, as you say. I think it's a false fear, but it's a fear nonetheless. And the fear complicates the conversation, as you said. And when that fear raises its head, then all kinds of accusations are made. And further distrust grows.

I find it very, very difficult to work in this context. That's one of the problems. You put your finger on it. I don't know how to diffuse it, except to say a change doesn't mean rejection. But for some people it does; that's been said explicitly. Just as it's been said, "If you criticize my work, you criticize my person". That creates a very difficult conversation. Because it means if I say your work is inadequate, you are inadequate. And that's not true, and I want that to be said very clearly, it's not true. But it's received that way, and it creates some of the difficulties that we have.

Bishop Fiorenza: Cardinal, may I ask for a clarification myself of something that Archbishop Weakland brought up in regard to number 5.4, on the final texts? And he said in the past that we either had to vote them up or down. Seemed like in a meeting that we had, it was clarified that that's not true. When a final text comes before us we can not just vote it up or down. We can send it back for further consideration.

Cardinal George: We send it back for further consideration, but then that's the last time we see it. In other words, the consideration is made, carefully, and the text is established. Does the text come back? I mean it doesn't come back an indefinite number of times. That's it. Archbishop Lipscomb pointed that out, that many of the approvals are approvals juxta modum. Whether the modum is accepted or not is, however, out of our hands. That's the problem of an international group, as I said.

Archbishop Jerome G. Hanus, OSB (Dubuque, former chairman of BCL): Thank you. For about 10 years I tried to work in an understanding and friendly way in different positions of responsibility: as chair of the BCL and as chair of the Ad Hoc Committee on Principles of Translation. I tried to be understanding and supportive and friendly. And I think most of the time I was successful. But there are definite difficulties, and some of the difficulties are that there are sincere differences of opinion, principles of translation, theology, the use of pronouns, and possessive adjectives, all that discussion. But the other part of the difficulty is the state of mind of many of us on both sides. And I think it's really important that we try to devise statutes that address these problems, even recognizing that statutes won't solve these problems; but they need to be worked out carefully.

To understand the situation, I think, Cardinal, your reference to bishops as pastors is really important. If as bishop, as the pastor of a local Church, you have a committee working for you, and that committee can veto any new members - that is, you as a bishop are not free to appoint new members to that committee - it hardly qualifies as a committee that's truly working for you. And I think that's critically important, that the new statutes say that new members can be freely appointed by the bishops.That's a legal or a statutory requirement, but I think we need to have that clearly stated.

Then the other question: it is necessary that there be trustful relationships between us bishops and this committee that works for us. And unfortunately, as you've said, there's not this trust there, both from our side as bishops and from the side of the people that are and work as members of ICEL-as staff and as translators. So I think both aspects have to be addressed: the statutory requirements and then the trust relationship.

Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua (Philadelphia): My question was on the original texts, and the Cardinal answered that very adequately. I would just like to add that I hope that, since that is possible, that it be proposed to ICEL to draft new original texts, that perhaps our own conference, under the Bishops' Secretariat for Liturgy would have some kind of a mechanism whereby we would, as much as possible, prepare our own original texts - and review any that are proposed to ICEL for their original preparation.

Cardinal George: They could do that very well because, as I said, they have prepared texts, and they've gotten the approval. They haven't been liturgical texts in the strict sense. But in the last three years they've prepared a number of texts. So we could do that.

Bishop William E. Lori (Aux, Washington, DC): Your Eminence, I'd just like to express my thanks and support for this fine text. It's just to ask for a quick clarification. This pertains to the visiting scholars at 5.10 in the document. They are, I think, to assist the consultants' committee, and it says that they meet the same requirements as the consultants. And my question is: Does that include approval process that each consultant goes through, or is it simply the same qualifications?

Cardinal George: No, the first. It means the same approval. Because the visitors are candidates for Consultants' Committee, the old Advisory Group. So the same approval would, now with the new constitutions, have to be given them.

Bishop Lori: Thank you very much.

Bishop Emil A. Wcela (Aux, Rockville Centre, member Review of Scripture Translations): Thank you. I'm stating the obvious when I say that the English-speaking conferences are not the only conferences responsible for translations. And ICEL is not the only agency which is acting for the conferences on translation. Therefore, I have some reluctance about the suggestion that was made that ICEL should meet with - if I heard it correctly - ICEL should be meeting with representatives of the congregations in Rome. It seems to me that any kind of conversation like that should be about principles of translation generally. And that should not apply to only English-speaking conferences. But if there were such a meeting that it should include all the countries, and all the conferences which are responsible for translation. I'm not saying that we or I would be making rules for Rome to do this, or for the Vatican to do this. But I'm saying if it does happen, it seems to me it would not be proper for just ICEL to be meeting with the congregations. It should be anyone at all who is responsible for translations. Thank you.

Cardinal George: Could I speak to that for a moment? I think you're right, but it's complicated, as you know, by two things. One, Rome does not want, and ICEL does not want, to give the impression that ICEL is answerable directly to Rome. Rome will talk to the conferences, and the conferences get their work from ICEL. That's how we submit it. We receive the text from ICEL, and we submit it, conference by conference, to Rome. That's how Rome wants it.

And so Rome, it seems to me, at times will say we'd like to have this conversation, and at other times that we shouldn't be talking. And ICEL says the same thing. ICEL wants to be very clear that it's not directly answerable to Rome, but only through the conferences. And so at times they'll tell Rome that. And at other times they say we'd like nonetheless to have some conversation so that the atmosphere would improve.

There's a kind of an existential ambiguity in that situation that will have to be clarified. And I don't know how to clarify it. So if you have some suggestions on how we can sort that out theoretically, it would be helpful.

The second point is true, but nuanced by the fact, as I've said here before, that English is the new Latin. And they know that in Rome. So that the translations into Swahili and Urdu are not going to come from Latin, they're going to come from the English texts. Which is why they have a very particular concern for the English. I think the new Constitutions - the suggestion by Bishop Foley of Australia - give a genial solution to that. They say ICEL should give us three texts side by side: the Latin; and then a very literal, but, nonetheless, truly English translation, but one that you wouldn't want to use for liturgy because it can't be proclaimed, etc.; and then the vernacular for daily usage. And the translations, therefore, can be made from the second in those languages that aren't going to go back to the Latin. I think that is a wonderful response to Rome's concern for the importance of English as a global language. Many [unintelligible] nowadays. And I hope that that will, I think, mitigate some of the difficulties that we have in English that are unusual - that other languages don't have.

Bishop Edward K. Braxton (Aux. St. Louis, member Review of Scripture Translations): Cardinal George, I too appreciate this important document. But my question here is -- I had two technical questions that have already been answered.

But I do want to ask a question related to this topic of trust having to do with morale. The debate about the ICEL translations has not gone on just in this conference, but in the pages of serious Catholic journals, and even Catholic diocesan newspapers sometimes. Various journals give either ICEL as the villain of the piece, or sometimes the Holy See, sometimes the Bishops' Conference. Sometimes the Congregation is the villain of the piece.

I wonder, as this document reaches a final form, could you share with us a sense of what the morale is at ICEL in terms of receptivity of such a text at this time? Is there a feeling that it is so demoralized that even a text like this will not find the reception necessary for our work to go on fruitfully?

Cardinal George: I think it would be unfair for me to speculate on other people's state of mind, especially when I haven't spoken with them in any - There is at times this feeling that has been expressed in the conversations that a change means a rejection. And that's a very hurtful thing to have to hear, but it's also a very painful thing to have to live with. Now, whether that is the case in the reception of this document or not, I wouldn't want to speculate.

May I also say that the purpose of the conversation was to get your reflections on points that I can bring to the San Francisco meeting of the ICEL Episcopal Board. I have six here, and I would very much welcome others. And I'll try to do my best to represent them.

Archbishop Lipscomb: Briefly, and with apology to the process, I was so anxious in getting the text right, I forgot to give the vote which I should have given. In the Committee six were in favor of that resolution, two abstained, none were against.

[Other members: Archbishops Pilarczyk, Rigali; Bishops Tod Brown, Cupich, Vigneron, Trautman.]

Bishop Fiorenza: Okay, thank you. And thank you again, Cardinal George, for representing us so extremely well.

[Applause]
Press ConferenceA press conference was held following this discussion, with Cardinal George, Archbishop Pilarczyk and Bishop Lynch. The transcript below includes only the portion that concerned the ICEL report.

Helen Hull Hitchcock: Cardinal George, I think that there's not anything that may raise more, I think you used the word "neuralgic", sentiments on the part of Catholics in the pew than liturgical questions. And the International Commission on English in the Liturgy provides the translations. We've just survived, I hope, almost a ten-year process of producing new translations. Could you just explain, clarify, what is the issue surrounding the production of original texts by the International Commission, and what is involved in the choice of translators in the new Constitution?

Cardinal George: That's the draft Constitution that I presented for discussion today, which will be taken up by the ICEL Board when we meet in San Francisco?

HHH: Yes, that's right.

Cardinal George: The production of original texts has to be originated, not by ICEL itself, but by individual conferences, who are given the responsibility in Sacrosanctum Concilium, and they have to take the initiative to inculturate the Roman Rite in their own conferences. Once they've decided that they want a new rite or a new text, they can go to whomever they want, including members of ICEL, to create that if they want to. But what's clear in the new Constitutions is that the creation of new texts - the initiative to create them - is not in ICEL's purview, but in that of the conferences.

The second question was the choice of those who work. In the new Constitution, they would be members of, or selected by, the Consultants' Group, which succeeds the old Advisory Group. That group is made up of people who are chosen, if the bishops want to do that, by the bishops themselves. So the dynamic is shifted from taking names that are presented by the group for its own membership and asking a bishop to approve them -- that's still a possibility -- to the bishops themselves taking the initiative again, and putting members into that group. In the work of the new Executive Committee of the Constitution there is a much closer relation between that group and the people working on the production of texts. So the bishops are much more involved in the production of texts themselves with the people who have been chosen to do that work, which is -- the choice is -- largely in the hands of the Executive Committee, although the consultants can suggest.

HHH: But it is only the representatives of the eleven conferences that are principally involved in these texts. So it's not actually ­ the conferences of bishops would not be asking for new texts, it would be their representatives. Is that correct?

Cardinal George: No, the ICEL Board is made up of eleven bishops, each one of which sits there as representative of one of the eleven conferences who have created ICEL. Sometimes those are conferences where English is a second language, or isn't a majority native language: South Africa, India, Pakistan, Philippines. The majority, however, represent conferences where English is the first language of most Catholics. They are now to have an Executive Committee of four bishops, which is a new provision in this Constitution, and they are the ones who will be, for the most part -- on a day to day sometimes, monthly at least, schedule-because the full eleven-member board meets only once a year.

HHH: One last thing. As I understand it, the last figure I saw, is that the United States, because we have more English-speaking Catholics than any other of these countries --

Cardinal George: We have more than all the rest combined.

HHH: -- all the rest combined. Also the proportional support of ICEL is proportional to how many there are. So the United States supplies about eighty per cent of the ICEL budget, as I understand it.

Cardinal George: Eighty per cent you mean. Not eight, eighty. That'd be close to that, yes.

HHH: That means, in a way, that the influence of the American conference is disproportionate in one sense, as far as its support of that Commission goes. Do the deliberations of the American bishops materially affect the deliberations of the eleven-member ICEL board?

Cardinal George: That's a hard question to answer across the board. You have eleven bishops, each one sits there as a bishop of the Catholic Church and as representative of his own conference. Each has an equal say, and that's how it is set up to assure that there will be a common English-language text for the vernacular liturgy in those countries that use English.

HHH: Except for Scripture.

Cardinal George: Well, Scripture is not liturgy. ICEL has nothing to do with translation of Scripture, nothing. That's a whole different process. ICEL is just the translation of the Roman Rite, not of the Scripture that is used. Different conferences take different texts, or different translations of Holy Scripture, and make that normative for their countries.

So ICEL has nothing to do with the translation of Scripture, but it's a good point because, I think, the concern in Rome is that the general rules of translation should be the same for catechesis, for Scripture and for liturgy.

That's a kind of a general concern; it doesn't mean, so far, that everything is exactly the same. But there should not be a contradiction, if you like, or a great tension between the rules governing translation for Scripture, and the same rules for catechesis or for liturgy, because the concern is to create a language which is common for expressing the faith. And since all three of those instances are expressions of the faith, the language should be more or less similar or common. The rules of translation should be the same, at any rate.

So back to your question about whether or not the English-speaking Catholics of this country, because we're the largest group, have more influence in a body such as the ICEL Board. That's hard to say; you'd have to take it case by case. In each case, however, the reasons given and their cogency are, I think, what persuade. I suppose the fact that the US bishops would say this is something we can't live with would be very persuasive. We haven't come to that point yet.

click here for part III of series

***

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