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Online Edition - Vol. VIII, No. 9: December 2002 - January 2003

November USCCB Meeting:
Bishops Approve Revised Translations, Lectionary Review; Consider Latest Proposal for New ICEL Statutes

Liturgy decisions that had been postponed at the bishops' June meeting in Dallas appeared on the agenda at their November meeting.

Several significant items were approved during the meeting held November 11-14, in Washington, DC, though the sexual abuse problems and a short letter on Iraq dominated media attention.

With little discussion the bishops voted to accept the latest translation by the International Commission on English in the Liturgy (ICEL) of the 2000 edition of the Institutio Generalis Missalis Romani (rules for the celebration of Mass), and a revised translation of the Ordination Rite. They saw the latest version of ICEL Statutes; and they voted to initiate a process of review of the translation of the Lectionary (Scripture readings for Mass) that became mandatory for use in US Churches only this year.

In June 2001 the bishops sent a translation of the IGMR back to ICEL in order to bring it into conformity with the principles of Liturgiam authenticam, the Holy See's Instruction on translation that had been issued in May 2001.

Though all the liturgical items presented at this meeting have been the subject of considerable controversy in recent years, few amendments were proposed, very little discussion ensued, and there were few dissenting votes. All texts require confirmation by the Holy See.

Ordination Rite

A new translation of the Rite of Ordination for Bishops, Priests and Deacons was presented for vote. A previous ICEL translation of this rite was rejected by the Holy See in 1997, with a recommendation that a new translation be done by a different set of translators.

A revised text (approved by the ICEL board of bishops and five national conferences) was again submitted to the Congregation for Divine Worship for the necessary recognitio (approval), and it was again found deficient.

After the second rejection, the Congregation, in accordance with a provision of Liturgiam authenticam, produced its own revision of ICEL's work. This text was sent to the conferences of bishops with the provision that if a conference wished to accept it, the Congregation would grant the recognitio. Though a bishops' conference could suggest further revisions, this might delay the recognitio. The Bishops' Committee on the Liturgy proposed more than sixty amendments to the texts.

The latest version of the text, as amended, was approved, and will be sent to the Holy See for recognitio. Archbishop Oscar Lipscomb of Mobile, Chairman of the Bishops' Committee on the Liturgy (BCL), said he expects that the Holy See's approval would be granted quickly.

Lectionary review

The bishops approved a review of the translation of the Lectionary for Mass used in the United States, now published in three volumes. Volume I (Sundays), has been in use since Advent 1998, but the bishops accepted it with a stipulation that it would be reviewed in five years.

This version was the work of a committee of American bishops and Vatican officials who met in Rome to revise a translation of the Lectionary -- a version the Holy See had found defective, largely because of its extensive use of "inclusive language".

But not all bishops were pleased with the joint-committee's work on the Lectionary. Bishop Donald Trautman of Erie, who was BCL chairman during the years of debate on the Lectionary and is a member of the Committee to Review Sacred Scriptures, had objected to the joint-committee's revision, and has been an outspoken critic of "Vatican intervention" in English-language liturgical translations. At the November meeting he spoke in favor of the review:

I'd like the body to note that the Federation of Diocesan Liturgists [sic] have voted overwhelmingly in favor of such a study and survey at this time. I believe the text is flawed; that has been ascertained, and I think it needs to be corrected now. We are giving our people a text that is often unbalanced, not proclaimable. I think it needs action at this time.

The proposal to review the Lectionary contained few details on how the review will be conducted, and no timetable was given. It is said that there will be "broad consultation" to solicit reactions to the current Lectionary. BCL chairman Archbishop Lipscomb said the Committee would provide a procedure for bishops to follow in their dioceses. The review process could take one or two years.

ICEL Statutes, IGMR implementation

Proposed new ICEL Statutes were discussed in an executive session during the conference. Cardinal Arinze sent a letter criticizing aspects of the Statutes to presidents of national conferences that are members of ICEL. That letter appears elsewhere in this issue (page 7). (See related letter from Cardinal Napier, page 11.)

At a news conference, Archbishop Lipscomb also told reporters that although the new IGMR and American Adaptations are now in effect, a mandatory date for implementation has not been set, and individual bishops may decide when to implement the changes it requires in their dioceses. At present the practice varies. (See related story, page 2.)

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