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Cardinal William Keeler’s November 1, 1994 statement on NRSV and RNAB Scripture texts for liturgical use

In the interest of clarification of the status of the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) and Revised New American Bible (RNAB) scripture texts for liturgical use, Cardinal William Keeler, president of the United States bishops’ conference, made this statement on November 1, 1994. (Cardinal Keeler’s statement was originally published in Origins: November 10, 1994, p 376.)

See related article, “Confusion About Scripture Translations for Liturgical Use”, AB March 1996

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"Last week in Rome, Archbishop Geraldo Agnelo, secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, confirmed that a letter addressed to me on July 27, 1994, constituted the congregation's communication to us of the withdrawal of the permission to use the New Revised Standard Version for liturgical purposes.

"An official of the congregation had informed Msgr. Robert N. Lynch, NCCB/USCC general secretary, at a private meeting on Oct. 5, 1994, that the July letter was the official response on the matter. Subsequent press coverage, however, seemed to indicate to the conference's staff in Washington that perhaps a new letter had been prepared and mailed.

"Because the July 27 letter did not bear the characteristics of a formal decree, my presumption was that it was a continuation of correspondence that had begun earlier last summer. Also, at the time of this correspondence, the preparation of the Revised New American Bible (NAB) Lectionary was the more immediate concern for us in the United States. Following receipt of correspondence from the Congregation for Divine Worship, those working with the Revised NAB Lectionary in this country began preparing a response to the observations received from the Holy See. These were completed recently but have not been forwarded to the congregation.

"Last week in Rome, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, kindly met with me and, following the review of the situation, agreed that it would be very helpful if members of the Pontifical Biblical Commission residing in Rome could meet with some of our bishops and scholars who are working on the Revised NAB Lectionary to discuss and clarify principles for translation. It is in the context of the review of the Revised NAB Lectionary that the confirmation of the permission for liturgical use of the NAB Psalter has been withdrawn, as was also indicated in the July 27 letter. Because of the foreseeable modifications in the Psalter, permission was withdrawn so that two versions of the same psalter not be in use.

"The use of either the NRSV or the revised NAB for reading or Bible study is not at issue. Both translations are properly approved for these purposes.

"What is at issue is liturgical use, the public proclamation of the Word of God in the living tradition of the Catholic Church. One of the points which I believe the scholars would want to discuss is the application of the apostolic constitution Scripturarum Thesaurus of April 25, 1969, and the decree of the Congregation for Divine Worship and for the Discipline of the Sacraments issued on Jan. 21, 1981, as guides, especially for liturgical translations.

"The continued collaboration between the congregations of the Holy See and the committees of our conference should help us soon to have a Lectionary which will be both faithful to the tradition of the Church and serve the urgent needs of our people for a lectionary in the English currently used in our country." 

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