RECENT criticism of the new English translation of the Roman Missal in Australia could be interpreted as “opening the doors to liturgical anarchy”, a national liturgical commission official said.
Australian Catholic Bishops Conference Liturgy Commission executive secretary Fr Peter Williams made the comment in response to a press release issued after a recent meeting of the executive of the National Council of Priests of Australia (NCPA).
The NCPA said members at their convention last year alleged a lack of consultation, and called for a boycott of the translations.
They were concerned at the use of exclusive language in the Eucharistic Prayers and wanted “some tolerance of people who find this new translation unacceptable”.
Fr Williams said, while “obviously priests and others are entitled to express their views, calls by some NCPA members for a boycott or a trial period of the new translation were not helpful”.
“Such statements attempt to give a wink and a nod to priests to change what they don’t like,” he said.
“All this does is open the doors to liturgical anarchy.”
Fr Williams and ACBC Liturgy chairman Archbishop Mark Coleridge of Canberra and Goulburn strongly refuted claims by some NCPA convention members “of a lack of consultation amongst priests and faithful to the text presented”.
“The claim there was a lack of consultation puzzles me,” Archbishop Coleridge said.
“Successive drafts were sent to all English-speaking bishops who were free to consult anyone they chose.
Some bishops consulted widely, some less so. But this does not mean that there was no consultation.”
Fr Williams said “every draft had been made available to members and consultants of the National Liturgical Council which includes a cross-section of clergy, religious and laity trained in liturgy”.
Archbishop Coleridge and Fr Williams agreed the new Missal translation had received a wide range of responses.
The archbishop said his guess was a call for a boycott was “a minority view though neither I nor anyone else could be certain of this or the opposite view”.
“It depends in large part upon whose voices you hear,” he said.
“I can only say that in the many sessions I have done in Australia and elsewhere, most people are more or less okay once you explain clearly and openly what is happening and why.
“There is a small element of implacability, but for the implacable the texts tend to be a lightning-rod for a range of other issues.
“The source of their unhappiness lies elsewhere.”
Fr Williams said in his consultations over the translation and its implementation he’d had a range of responses from the clergy.
“Some were quite enthusiastic and others had adopted a ‘wait and see’ attitude, and others sincerely expressed concerns for a range of reasons,” he said.
Fr Williams said while he respected the desire of priests “to make the Gospel attractive and public prayer come alive, this desire does not automatically mean that someone has expertise in liturgy”.
“Particular skills are required to meaningfully engage in this work and in criticism – competence in Latin and liturgical competence are obvious requirements,” he said.
“Thus the reality is there was always going to be a limit to the scope of consultations.
“They could never have opened the consultation to every priest, every Mass-goer … decisions leading to an outcome would never have been reached.”
Further information about the implementation of the new translation can be obtained at www.romanmissalaustralia.org.au