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Wednesday, February 04, 2004

The National Catholic Reporter: "Celebrating Forty Years of Demanding 'Adult Catholicism' In the Voice of a Whiny Teenager."

Many of you have already seen the editorial, but this kind of "hold my breath till I turn blue" tantrum deserves the seltzer bottle.

Or, if you prefer a shorter, different kind of fisking, I recommend the "Helium Method." The Helium Method involves imagining the author(s) of a particular piece being forced to read it aloud in between serious hits of helium.

This approach is especially profitable for Reporter pieces.

Now, for the long version:


In a recent run of articles, NCR has celebrated the 40th anniversary of Sacrosanctum Concilium, the document produced by the Second Vatican Council (1962-65) that called for reform of the liturgy.

Let us all revel in streamers, balloons, gender neutering, spandex and the St. Louis Jesuits: hooray!

Those articles will continue in coming weeks,

Attention, attention--Now hear this: "'Celebrating community' will continue until morale improves."

Threaten me, will you?


but it is appropriate to pause here to take note of the liturgical news that, in effect, signals just how far those who oppose the work of Vatican II have come in reforming the reform.

We Are The Huck: You will now service us. Resistance is futile. You will be a-singin' Haugen.

Because, you know, we here at NCR value diversity and all.

Well, authentic diversity.

Pre-cleared diversity.

Diversity we agree with.

Diversity that doesn't call to mind our assorted neuroses about the uncool, evil, mean, unaffirming "pre-conciliar" "c"hurch that didn't celebrate us enough.

Oh, forget it: just sit down and shut up, you transcendent-grubbing, revanchist Tridentine devotionalists. The journey will make us one, and you irrelevant.


Last week, we reported that a new English translation of the Mass was nearing completion. Among the changes are phrases that restore the literal translation of the Latin so that, for instance, the now familiar response, "And also with you," will be rendered in the pre-Vatican II formulation, "And also with your spirit."

When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne.

10They cried out with a loud voice, "O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?"

11Then they were each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brothers should be complete, who were to be killed as they themselves had been.
.


And so on.

Heaven forfend we should actually give you a full list.

Then again, since most of the readers suffer from the same neuroses, perhaps that is wise. No doubt several of the subscribers had to be treated for post-traumatic stress disorder after flashing back to "spiritu" from the Missal of 1962.


To many a few words here and there are not worth getting upset about.

But see Revelation, Chapter 6. For our part, we're going to pitch a full-on, shrill, strident, raging hissy in a register only dogs can hear because of it.

But that misses the larger point. The implications go beyond a few words, to the very idea of church, how the church enacts reform and the degree of credibility given that authoritative gathering of the world's bishops 40 years ago.

"Don't you see what will happen, man, if someone tries to translate the Latin phrase for 'And with your spirit' as 'And with your spirit'? Oh, the personity!"

Yeah, the credibility of SC is just crippled by accurate translation of the Latin in the Missal of 1970.

Let me see: Watching Sister Impedimentia lurch around the sanctuary like a wombat in desperate need of Dramamine as she inflicts "sacred dance" or "liturgical movement" on the congregants does not harm the credibility of Vatican II reforms, but translating "for the many" as "for the many" does? OK. Yep. Got it.


Five years ago, when our now Vatican writer John L. Allen Jr. first began to uncover exactly how the revisionists were attacking the reform, he discovered that a secretly appointed committee of 11 men -- no women included -- met quietly at the Vatican to overturn decades of work on translation, work that had been done under the approving mandate of Pope Paul VI.

Behold: Witness as a new demon term is added to the progressive lexicon, right alongside "devotionalist," "traditionalist," "rubricist," "apologist," and "Opus Dei."

Though some might find it funny to see the term applied to those trying to translate the missal more faithfully, as opposed to those who introduced all the innovations in the first place.

And you have to admire the brazenness of the "mandate of Pope Paul VI" card. In fact, it is borderline hilarious, coming from people whose raison d'etre is a perpetual "adult" snit over the "mandate of Pope Paul VI" in Humanae Vitae.

And, I could be mistaken, but I think there have been popes since Paul VI, and at least one of them has been less than entirely "approving" of the translation work.


Of those 11, only one held a graduate degree in scripture studies, two were not native English-speakers, one of the advisers was a graduate student and several had a history of objecting to inclusive-language translations, including two of the American archbishops and the lone scripture scholar.

Translation: "You didn't consult experts we like--those who think the right way, like we do. Those who share the same list of unappeasable grievances. How are Fr. McBrien and Sr. Chittister ever supposed to get out of their curdled fury funks if they're never invited to the secret decoder ring meetings they are always reading about?"

Avoiding "scripture scholars" can be a most salutary idea, especially given their often-parochial approach to translation issues.

"Two were not native English speakers"? My Celestial Parent Figure--what do they think they are trying to do--harmonize the translations with others from a universal Church?

"Several had a history of objecting to inclusive[sic]-language translations"?

[Colonel Kurtz voice]: "The horror...the horror...."


A rather poor representation of scholarship and pastoral sensitivities, given the dimensions of the English-speaking segment of the church.

Nary a loopy Jesuit in the bunch. The faculties of Boston College and Georgetown are feeling all put out.

"What has also become clear," our story reported, "is that the elaborate consultative process used in developing English-language translations for nearly three decades meant little.

Tragic. Especially when you consider the train station intercom announcement-level quality of the work, too.

Powers in Rome handpicked a small group of men who in two weeks undid work that had taken dozens of years."

It took "dozens of years" mostly because the original revisionists rode off on their hobby horses ("inclusive" language, speculative theorizing, etc.) and stuck their fingers in their ears in response to criticism from the big, bad Vatican.

Let me use terms NCR editorial writers should be able to identify with: If you keep driving like a maniac, Dad's eventually going to take the car keys away. He can't afford the insurance when you keep wrapping the family Buick around bridge abutments.

The usual suspects have treated liturgical translations like a bowling ball. Speaking as one of many ten pins, I'm glad someone's taken the ball away.


Is there still reason to celebrate liturgical renewal? Of course.

Improve your morale! [Whipcrack!] Improve your morale! [Whipcrack!]

Some things, attitudes particularly, will not change significantly.

Which is why the Anglophone Expertariat can kiss the ball goodbye.

And some of the excesses of that reform, which needed to be changed, are being altered in the rollback of the reform.

"Mistakes were made. Faith was damaged. Tradition was mocked. Oh, well--we'll get it right eventually. Trust us.

On an unrelated note: Sister Impedimentia will back out for the 10:00am show--er, 'Eucharistic Celebration.' She just needs a breather."


The unfortunate thing is that the new translations, or the return to old translations, is being done in the style of the pre-Vatican II church, heavy-handed and at the whim of those in power.

It's all about the Preci--er, "power."

AND WE WANTS IT!


Which leaves open a not inconsequential question: If the prayer of the community is left to the formulation of those who hold power, without consideration for the extensive and long work of a much wider community, what's to stop another liturgical coup in the future, should the people and ideas in power change?

Stop the right wing coup! La Pasionaria, sing your sweet song of freedom! Allende 4Ever! Remember what the rednecks did to Captain America and Billy the Kid in Easy Rider!

Actually, what will stop this reform is what has worked so well for the American Church in the past--flat-out obstructionism. I have every faith that the community affirmation hour as celebrated in such places as Los Angeles, Saginaw, Lafayette, Rochester, etc. will not be even remotely disturbed by this new translation.

It's a lousy way to do the church's business -- and it doesn't withstand the scrutiny of serious, adult, educated Catholics in the early 21st century.

So, the Church's business is entirely about internal power struggles and endless liturgical reform, eh? Okey-dokey. It sure helps me discern where the priorities are at NCR, I'll say that.

Oh, and as soon as I see evidence that "serious, adult, educated Catholics" are running the show at the NCR, I'll drop a line to Rome.

I'm pretty sure they're used to the glares of sullen know-it-all middle-aged teenagers by now.

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