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The board members of the Catholic Biblical Association , a US organization of Scripture scholars, issued a statement sharply critical of the Instruction on translation, Liturgiam Authenticam , issued by the Holy See in May. The statement, addressed "to the prelates of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops", was issued on August 10.

The letter accompanying the statement asks the bishops to "urge the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments to review the scriptural provisions of Liturgiam Authenticam ", which the board finds wanting. The statement charges that the Holy See's document "contains provisions detrimental to solid biblical scholarship and ultimately to the Church and its authority".

CBA's eight executive board members and four consultors unanimously approved the statement, according to the letter signed by Benedictine Father Joseph Jensen , executive secretary. The board chairman is Bishop Richard Sklba , auxiliary of Milwaukee and member of the US Bishops' Committee for the Review of Scripture Translations. Bishop Sklba has been a vocal critic of Vatican "interference" in translation matters. Other signers of the letter include Father Richard Clifford, SJ, the statement's principal author; Sister Dianne Bergant, CSA , president; Fathers Francis Moloney, SDB, Lawrence Boadt, CSP, Richard Dillon; and other editors and consultors.

Two of the signers, Fathers Jensen and Clifford , were members of the Board of Editors for the revised version of the New American Bible [NAB] - New Testament (revised 1986) and Psalms (revised 1991). The NAB is used for the Lectionary in the United States. But the Holy See required substantial changes to the recent Lectionary because of the excessive use of so-called "inclusive" language in the revised NAB versions of the New Testament and Psalms.

The CBA board targets Liturgiam Authenticam primarily on two matters: 1) the status of the Nova Vulgata (Neo-Vulgate) Bible; and 2) the Instruction's injunction against translation devices that make sacred texts conform to a time-bound political agenda -- such as feminist ("inclusive") language.

The Neo-Vulgate, revised in 1986, is the approved Latin version of the Scriptures, an editio typica (typical edition) that the Instruction notes should be consulted when there is a question about the arrangement or versification of biblical texts corresponding to the Lectionary. The CBA board objects that Liturgiam Authenticam gives too much weight to the Neo-Vulgate.

The CBA board maintains that alternatives must be sought for words such as "man", "mankind" and "fathers" when they are used collectively. Although the the term "inclusive language" does not appear, the board members implicitly accept the radical feminist critique of standard English, which holds that the language is intrinsically "patriarchal" and must be changed . Paradoxically, however, the board also argues that English has already changed so that the generic meaning of words such as "man" is no longer either understood or used by people today.

The CBA board also opposes the Instruction's affirmation of words that have a specifically sacred meaning, such as "redemption", "sacrifice", "righteous", etc.:

The claim that "the Church herself must freely decide upon the system of language that will serve her doctrinal mission most effectively" is breathtaking in its disdain for the actual speech of specific peoples.

Dire consequences will ensue, the CBA board says, if Liturgiam Authenticam 's norms for translating liturgical texts are observed, and if only one Scripture translation in each language is is used for the liturgy:

This administrative fiat would doom all Catholics to the use of a Bible that fails to live up to the normal requirements of modern biblical scholarship.

The CBA board says it is "concerned that our best scholars will be unwilling in the future to take part in translating biblical texts for liturgy".

The letter and statement were made accessible on the CBA web site.

-- Helen Hull Hitchcock

Online Edition - Vol. VII, No. 6: September 2001

Group demands revision of Instruction on translation


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