September/October 2015

Michael A. Hayes

Michael A. Hayes is the editor of The Pastoral Review and President of Mary Immaculate College in Limerick.

‘Everything is related, and we human beings are united as brothers and sisters on a wonderful pilgrimage, woven together by the love God has for each of his creatures and which also unites us in fond affection with brother sun, sister moon, brother river and mother earth’.(92)
Laudato Si’, the title of Pope Francis’ encyclical on the care for the environment, is taken from the writings of the saint whose name he took on being elected Pope, St Francis of Assisi. ‘Praise to you, my Lord, through our Sister, Mother Earth, who sustains and governs us, and who produces various fruits with coloured flowers and herbs’ (1). The Pope is very clear when he says: ‘this sister now cries out to us because of the harm we have inflicted on her by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her’ (2). Here he is echoing the fundamental principle in the Vatican Council’s document Gaudium et Spes: ‘God has destined the earth and everything it contains for all peoples and all nations’ (GS 69). The same theme has been addressed in various ways by his recent predecessors with Pope Benedict noting ‘the misuse of creation begins when we no longer recognise any higher instance than ourselves, when we see nothing else but ourselves’(6).
For the Pope St Francis becomes a kind of beacon of hope as humanity strives to engage with these important questions: ‘If we approach nature and the environment without [this] openness to awe and wonder, if we no longer speak the language of fraternity and beauty in our relationship with the world, our attitude will be that of masters, consumers, ruthless exploiters, unable to set limits on their immediate needs. By contrast, if we feel intimately united with all that exists, then sobriety and care will well up spontaneously. The poverty and austerity of St Francis were no mere veneer of asceticism, but something much more radical: a refusal to turn reality into an object simply to be used and controlled’ (11).
The main themes that run throughout the text are addressed from different perspectives, crisscrossing to form a unity in the document. These are: the intimate relationship between the poor and the fragility of the planet; the conviction that everything in the world is connected; the critique of new paradigms and forms of power derived from technology; the call to seek other ways of understanding the economy and progress; the value proper to each creature; the human meaning of ecology; the need for a forthright and honest debate – a new dialogue ‘about how we are shaping the future of our planet’ (14); the serious responsibility of international and local policies; the throwaway culture; and the proposal of a new lifestyle.
The encyclical is set out in six chapters: ‘What is happening in our common home’; ‘The Gospel of Creation’; ‘The roots of the ecological crisis’; ‘Integral ecology’; ‘Lines of approach and action’; and ‘Ecological education and spirituality’. It concludes with an interreligious prayer for our earth and a Christian prayer for Creation.
It is worth noting the thrust of chapter two ‘The Gospel of Creation’. While the encyclical is addressed to ‘all people of good will’, the Pope is clear that the Judaeo-Christian narrative can make a significant contribution to a dialogue between science and religion ‘towards an integral ecology and the full development of humanity’ (62). Highlighting the first creation account in Genesis the Pope outlines the relationship between human beings and the world. These accounts of creation invite all to see that each human being is a ‘subject who can never be reduced to the status of an object’ (81). ‘The creation accounts in the book of Genesis contain, in their own symbolic and narrative language, profound teachings about human existence and its historical reality’ (66). He suggests that there are three fundamental and closely intertwined relationships: with God, with our neighbour and with the earth. These relationships have been ruptured by sin. The disharmony between these key relationships was brought about by the presumption of humanity to take the place of God and the refusal to acknowledge the limitations resulting from humanity distorting the biblical mandate to have dominion over the earth (Gen 1.28). The story of Cain and Abel is recalled as emphasising how Cain’s envy led to the ‘ultimate injustice against his brother, which in turn ruptured the relationship between Cain and God, and between Cain and the earth from which he was banished’ (70). The story of Noah and the flood is highlighted as an example of how Noah who remained innocent and just, was offered by God a new path and a new beginning for humanity. The interconnectedness of all in creation is noted in the law of the Sabbath where the Pope quotes from the Book of Leviticus: ‘when you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap your field to its very border, neither shall you gather the gleanings after the harvest. And you shall not strip your vineyard bare, neither shall you gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the poor and for the sojourner’ (Lev.19.9-10).
The destiny of the universe is in the fullness of God and this has already been attained in the risen Christ. ‘All creatures are moving forward with us and through us towards a common point of arrival, which is God, in that transcendent fullness where the risen Christ embraces and illumines all things’ (83). The encyclical draws attention to the fact that Jesus in his dialogues with the disciples constantly invites them to recognise the paternal relationship God has with all creatures, ‘are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them forgotten before God’ (Lk. 12.6). For the Pope our gaze should be directed to the end of time, when the Son will deliver all things to the Father, so that ‘God may be everything to every one’(1Cor 15.28).
‘Triune Lord, wondrous community of infinite love, teach us to contemplate you in the beauty of the universe, for all things speak of you. Awaken our praise and thankfulness for every being that you made. Give us the grace to feel profoundly joined to everything that is.’ From: A Christian prayer in union with creation (LS 246).

September/October 2015

Ashley Beck

This article presents an initial overview of Pope Francis’ encyclical on the environment. Ashley Beck is a priest of the Archdiocese of Southwark, and Programme Director of Pastoral Ministry at St Mary’s University, Twickenham.

Introduction
The nature of modern communications is such that when a document like a papal encyclical appears, people want an instant response. The publication in June 2015 of the first encyclical letter from the hand of Pope Francis, Laudato Si’1, is a very good example. Because it was eagerly anticipated and also leaked a few days before publication to an Italian newspaper, and also because it is in many ways controversial, a number of us were asked for very quick appraisals.2 I am writing this appraisal within a fortnight of its publication, but of course you will read it some weeks later.

Back in 2009 I wrote for this journal a similar initial appraisal of Pope Benedict XVI’s encyclical on social teaching, Caritas in Veritate.3 That document, which has been rather neglected since its publication (perhaps because of its author’s resignation) is an important point of reference for what Pope Francis is doing, so it is good to be able to assess initially now Laudato Si’.


Both documents, since they are concerned with Catholic Social teaching, have attracted criticism from within the Church, possibly from the same people.4

There has been a far greater reaction to this encyclical but in writing this appraisal I have tried to avoid reading the reactions so as to try and come to the Pope’s words on their own terms. This is a substantial and very important theological document which will be influential for many years. I simply want to outline the structure and pinpoint some aspects of the letter which are particularly important.

Before I start it is important to be clear about the status and authority of this document, since some of the negative reaction has really resulted from a failure to appreciate these things. Early on in the letter the Holy Father makes it clear that he sees the letter as being part of the corpus of Catholic social teaching. The letter is about faith and morals, and as such, like other papal encyclicals, is part of the ‘ordinary’ Magisterium of the Church. While the letter contains no infallible or ex cathedra definitions, we need to be clear in our minds that the Second Vatican Council’s constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium, teaches that the faith are to adhere to this teaching ‘with religious assent.’5 In other words it has authority and Catholics are expected to follow it.6 This requirement is often overlooked, particularly in relation to social teaching.

An outline of the encyclical
Pope Francis’ introduction draws eloquently on St Francis’ Canticle of the Creatures; this powerful phrase captures the urgency of the letter: ‘Sister Earth now cries out to us because of the harm we have inflicted on her by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her.’ (2). The earth is joining her cries to those of the poor and the oppressed – and Francis wants all of us to change direction : we are challenged ‘to protect our common home.’ (13). While as I indicated above this encyclical, as teaching directed to Catholics, enjoys authority, in the introduction the Pope makes it clear that it is also an exercise in dialogue with others, and he refers to the contribution to teaching about environmental issues being imparted by other Christian leaders, in particular the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholemew.

Those of us familiar with the work of ‘Justice and Peace’ groups in parishes and dioceses have come across the ‘See-Judge-Act’ methodology. Pope Francis is clearly using this framework in the six chapters which make up the bulk of the letter. Chapter 1 looks at the evidence – ‘What is happening to our common home.’ Catholic social teaching confidently makes use of scientific and empirical evidence to help us see the world correctly, and here the Pope makes use of the most recent scientific study to look at specific issues: pollution and climate change, water, biodiversity, the decline in the quality of human life and the breakdown of society. The second chapter is entitled ‘The Gospel of Creation’ and here the Holy Father looks in depth at the relationship between humanity and the created order which is displayed in the Bible: human beings have a sacred responsibility towards the whole of creation, but at the same time have a unique dignity (92), Chapter 3, ‘The human roots of the ecological crisis’, begins the ‘Judge’ part of methodology I mentioned above, in which the Pope looks at the ‘deepest causes’ of the current situation. Like St John Paul II, the Pope acknowledges our debt to technological advances; but it is a two-edged sword, as technology gives to ‘those with the knowledge, and especially the economic resources to use them, an impressive dominance over the whole of humanity and the entire world.’ (104). The key problem is ‘excessive anthropocentrism’ (116) – we put ourselves at the centre of the universe. Paradoxically this actually leads to human persons being marginalised, particularly in relation to the value of human labour.

The last three chapters of the encyclical are in the ‘Act’ category of the methodology. Chapter 4, ‘Integral Ecology’ asserts that environmental issues have to be seen alongside other aspects of human behaviour addressed by social teaching – the family, cities, work and the ways people relate to each other. What we need is an ‘integral ecology’ which roots our response to the sufferings of creation in the concept of the ‘preferential option for the poor’ which St John Paul II and Benedict XVI brought from Liberation Theology into mainstream Catholic teaching7. The choices which nations and others make in relation to ecological issues have to be based on this. (158). Chapter 5 looks in detail at specific courses of action which are open to us. The Church recognises that will not settle all political questions, and the whole of this chapter’s approach is couched in the language of dialogue: but at the same time it endorses some general approaches – enforceable international agreements, environmental impact assessments for business propositions, and a world political authority to provide proper and effective regulation (a call made by Benedict XVI). The final chapter of the letter draws all this reflection into spirituality and the need for proper education and formation.

Five points
There are five initial observations we can make.

First, this is a deeply theological work. This is clear not only in chapter 2, but throughout the text. God and the human person’s responsibility under God are always present – ‘nothing is beyond the scope of faith’, as the Bishops of England and Wales stated in their ground-breaking document about social teaching from 1996, The Common Good. Catholic Social Teaching is not a vaguely religious gloss on economics or political theory – it is a branch of moral theology. Of course through it the Church is engaged in dialogue with economists, political leaders, financiers and others – but it is essentially a serious theological discipline. Laudato Si’ is a rich and integrated example of its teaching: you can’t cut off the bits you don’t like. It has to be read as a whole. Moreover, while social teaching does recognise limitations as to the political issues about which the Church pronounces (endorsed in this document) there is also a sense in which theologians seek to limit the ‘autonomy’ of the social sciences: the whole Radical Orthodoxy school has been concerned to do this, and the primary theological emphasis of this letter can be seen in this context.8

The second aspect I would like to point to, which recurs throughout the text, is the Pope’s language of ‘home’. This is of course the Greek word oikos, itself the basis of our word ‘economy’. One is reminded of the important book by Catherine Mowry LaCugna, God For Us. The Trinity and Christian Life9 . She uses the concept of oikos to help us understand the Trinity in the context of the Kingdom or the Reign of God, and this is a useful paradigm for understanding Pope Francis’ theology as well. The home we have been given by God is subject to his reign.

The next thing we should notice is the Pope’s sources. This is a work of continuity, imbued with its hermeneutic. He draws extensively on earlier social teaching, particularly the letters of St John Paul II – and above all he is indebted to Benedict XVI’s Caritas in Veritate, itself written to honour Blessed Paul VI’s Populorum Progressio. He also draws on the teachings of local groups of bishops – not only the Aparaceida CELAM document from 2007 (which as Cardinal Bergoglio he helped to draft) but also statements from the Bishops’ Conferences of Germany, the USA, Bolivia, South Africa and elsewhere. Other important sources are St Thomas Aquinas, St Bonaventure (a great favourite of Benedict XVI), Romano Guardini (an influence on Benedict) and the Pope’s fellow Jesuit, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin.

The fourth observation I would like to make is that, for all the serious warnings which the Pope makes and endorses, this is a work imbued with Christian hope: ‘Humanity still has the ability to work together in building our common home’ (13), ‘Men and women are still capable of intervening positively.’(58) and ‘All is not lost. Human beings, while capable of the worst, are also capable of rising above themselves, choosing again what is good, and making a new start.’ (205). The proper way to understand hope theologically is of course to see it in the prophetic tradition: the prophets of the Old Testament, consistent witnesses on behalf of the poor over and against the rich and powerful, often condemn and challenge societies where the realities are dire: but our canonical texts also hold out a message of hope to be seen in the coming of the Messiah. Hope of course is not the same as a superficial optimism; similarly the secular concept of pessimism misses the theological point.10
Finally, as I noted above, Francis is not afraid of specific policies. There are many specific things he calls for, apart from those I mentioned above: he commends boycotts of businesses for environmental reasons, he questions the extent to which air conditioning is used, he encourages us to put on an extra level of clothing rather than to turn up the heating. Many of these things will be challenging in all sorts of ways. The many critics of Catholic Social Teaching constantly complain that popes and bishops do not stick to general principles, to ideas to which all can sign up, ‘motherhood and apple pie.’ Such a thing would certain keep the Church out of trouble with politicians and the powerful: anybody can claim that they believe in solidarity, the common good and indeed care for the planet. But social teaching has always asserted that this isn’t good enough – there has never been a period when the Magisterium has shied away from specific policies. It might seem odd that some commentators still cannot grasp this: but we know too that policies are effective when they arouse opposition, even from within the Church.

Conclusion
I have only scratched the surface of this extraordinary document. Hopefully, popular presentations of it are being prepared and it will be important for pastors and teachers to lead people in reflecting about it for many years to come.   

1     Technically Francis’ first encyclical was Lumen Fidei in 2013, but it was made clear at the time that it was largely the work of Benedict XVI. Evangelii Gaudium, important as it has been, is an Apostolic Exhortation rather than an encyclical.
2     Among the best in the first few days after publication were by my colleague Dr Stephen Bullivant, ‘The Pope’s encyclical is no communistic, anti-life screed’ Catholic Herald blog, 18 June 2015 and Fr Damian Lewis SJ, Laudato Si’: a seismic event in dialogue between the Catholic Church and ecology’, Thinking Faith blog, 18 June 2015.
3     ‘More Souped-up Marxism.?’ The Pastoral Review vol.5, issue 5 (September/October 2009)
4     In my earlier article I singled out George Weigel, a leading American Catholic curiously often portrayed as one loyal to the Holy See. In his National Review article this time (‘The Pope’s Encyclical, At Heart, Is About Us, Not Trees and Snail Darts’, 19 June 2015) he is more positive but arguably rather selective, really only writing about the parts of the letter that he likes. For an appraisal of this and of the reactions of others such as Samuel Gregg and the Acton Institute, see Michael Sean Winters, ‘Laudato Si’ – Magistra No’, National Catholic Reporter 19 June 2015.
5     Section 25.
6     I pointed this out in my first published reaction to the encyclical on the Catholic Herald blog ‘No Catholic is free to dissent from the teaching of Laudato Si’’ 19 June 2015, and elicited some very angry reactions.
7     See, inter alia, the decrees of the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Libertatis Nuntius (1984) and Libertatis et Conscientia (1986) and St John Paul II, Encyclical letter Sollicitudo Rei Socialis (1987) 42.
8     See most importantly John Milbank, Theology and Social Theory (Oxford: Blackwell 1990) and William Cavanaugh Torture and Eucharist (Oxford: Blackwell 1998)
9     Chicago: HarperCollins 1991
10    My colleague Professor Philip Booth, while positive about the encyclical in many ways, concedes too much to secularism in ‘An unduly pessimistic world view’ Catholic Herald 26 June 2015

September/October 2015

Mark Langham

This article explores Unitatis Redintegratio, the Second Vatican Council’s decree on ecumenism, which signalled a shift in attitude towards ecumenical dialogue. Mark Langham was a member of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and is now Chaplain at Fisher House, University of Cambridge.

Perhaps the most difficult time to judge a revolution is half a century after that revolution has taken place. What was radical can become commonplace, and momentous events fade in the memory. This is very much the case with the ecumenical revolution, as generations have grown up where friendly relations between Christians are taken for granted. Our level of interaction has perhaps dulled us to the greatness of the achievement. In a way, that is good; ecumenism should be ordinary, unremarkable. But it is also important to recall that the friendships that we now enjoy were hard won and not inevitable, and are but a stage on a greater journey.

Hence, to evaluate Unitatis Redintegratio correctly, it is important to recall how things stood before the Council decree on Ecumenism. Previously, official documents of the Roman Catholic Church had used an implacable language of hostility – and even flippancy.


In 1929 Mortalium Animos dismissed ecumenists as ‘pan-Christians’ and warned that promotion of the unity of the Church concealed ‘a most grave error.’ Consequently, the Church officially prohibited Catholics ‘either to support or to work for’ Christian Unity and expressly forbade them to ‘take part in the assemblies of non-Catholics’1. The only possible interaction with other Christians was to exhort them to return to the fold of Rome; the way forwards was back. While it would be wrong to consider the situation before Vatican II as uniformly bleak from an ecumenical perspective, any softening of approach had been largely confined to specific initiatives or particular theologians.

The true revolution in ecumenical relations came about as a result of the new ecclesiology set forth by the Vatican Council. The Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium proposed a different way of looking at the Church, no longer directly equating the ‘Church’ with the ‘Catholic Church’, but allowing for elements of the Church to exist outside its boundaries; elements which were themselves ‘forces impelling towards Catholic unity’.2 No more did the Catholic Church view itself as an isolated institution standing against a hostile world, but rather as a community, the People of God – moreover, a People on the move, on pilgrimage within the world.3 This movement expresses an eschatological dimension: the Church is moving towards its fulfilment in heaven, and while elements of its glorious destiny are already among us, there is also a lack in realising its full Catholicity, a distance yet to travel. The ecumenical movement is part of this dynamic. It is a shared journey towards completion, and far from being a hobby for a small group of obsessive theologians, the quest for unity belongs to the very nature of the Church. It was within this context that Unitatis Redintegratio came to be written, and in some ways it can be seen as a working out of the realignment of ecclesiology set forth in Lumen Gentium.

The first part of the Unitatis Redintegratio addresses the Practice of Ecumenism; that is, the mind-set and principles with which we must approach the search for unity. Most important among these is the affirmation of the urgency of ecumenism. Division among Christians contradicts the will of God and scandalizes the world; thus, the call to unity itself is a call from God. The Catholic Church urges Catholics to ‘respond to this grace and to this divine call,’ urging them to ‘take an active and intelligent part in the work of ecumenism’.4 Recovering this sense of the imperative to work for unity is one of the most basic, yet difficult, requirements of modern ecumenism. When problems seem so intractable, and we have become used simply to getting along together, we must recall that the search for the unity of Christians is not an optional extra, but an essential part of our way of being the Church.

Yet, of course, it is Christians who are divided, not the Church – which is the indivisible Body of Christ. Unitatis Redintegratio locates the unity of the Church firmly in the person of Christ, and even more deeply in the life of the Holy Trinity, which both sustains and models the oneness and diversity of the Church. This imagery has been important for Pope Francis, who sees in the shared yet distinctive life of the Trinity a model and source for the Church’s own diversity in unity.5 This Trinitarian rooting allows Unitatis Redintegratio to accept and rejoice in a diversity of traditions; unity does not mean uniformity, and whatever is truly Christian can never be contrary to the faith.6 Such openness to a diversity of authentic forms is a profound condition of modern ecumenical relations, and can lead to what Pope John Paul famously termed ‘an exchange of gifts.’7
Addressing the causes of divisions among Christians, Unitatis Redintegratio rewrites the traditional historic Catholic view of Rome as a blameless victim, stating importantly that ‘men of both sides were to blame’ for the fracturing of unity.8 The Catholic Church acknowledges that its own shortcomings have contributed to the divisions of God’s family, and Catholics themselves must engage on a process of renewal and admission of personal and communal faults, aware of the incompleteness that disunity signifies: ‘There can be no ecumenism worthy of the name without a change of heart’.9 As a corollary, the Decree states that the descendants of those who perpetrated division cannot be held responsible for the actions of their forebears. We cannot simply engage with fellow Christians in terms of the controversies, and terminology, of previous centuries. Rather than rehearse old arguments, we need to look behind ancient formulations, to understand the real issues at stake. In general, Unitatis Redintegratio believes we need to do a lot more about understanding each other and ‘un-learning’ false caricatures. Presuppositions about other traditions can distort the tone of ecumenical engagement and create barriers to co-operation. The Decree commends joint study and even an ecumenical element in the training of clergy and teaching of theology and history (a suggestion which seems to have gone largely unheeded). In part, this may be undertaken through practical collaboration in charitable works, giving witness to common hope and showing forth to the world the ‘face of Christ the servant’.10 Such collaboration has not only practical value, but also deepens knowledge of each other, and thereby hastens the route to unity.

The years since the Council have shown how profoundly Unitatis Redintegratio has re-aligned our relationships, as Christians have discovered that what unites us is far greater than what divides us. The decree notes that this common faith has borne fruit in many ways, citing the example of those who bear witness even unto death – a theme taken up strongly in Pope Francis’ description of the ‘ecumenism of blood’.11 Yet even short of martyrdom Christians today find themselves aligned together before a hostile and secularised world, an ecumenism of necessity, even in our own country.

The decree expands the notion that elements of the Church exist outside the boundaries of the Catholic Church, noting that many of these realities ‘can truly engender a life of grace’, and are ‘capable of giving access to the community of salvation.’12 Thus the important principle is announced that ministers of other Christian communities are not wasting their time; their ministry is one of grace that bestows divine gifts upon their flocks. This does not mean, however, that all traditions are equal; it is still through the Catholic Church that the faithful ‘can benefit fully from the means of salvation,’ and Unitatis Redintegratio warns of the dangers of a ‘false eirenicism’ which would level out all differences.13

Unitatis Redintegratio is clear that ecumenism is about more than institutions. The search for unity is a quest to live more in communion with Christ – for the more we are like Christ, the closer we draw to each other. This is ‘spiritual ecumenism’, termed by Pope John Paul the ‘soul of the ecumenical movement’, the sense that rather than confronting each other we are walking together towards Christ.14 From this it follows that Christians should take opportunities to pray together, in a way that is authentic to their own traditions, but which recognises the grace-giving activity of other Christians.

The second part of the Decree reflects upon practical engagement with Christians separated from Rome, considering them in two parts: East and West. This division corresponds to Pope John Paul’s two ‘lungs’ of the Church, differing not only in geography but also in nature. It is particularly notable that, in considering those communities of the West separated following the Reformation, the Anglican communion is singled out as retaining in part ‘Catholic traditions and institutions.’15
As regards the Churches of the East, the decree gives a subtle account of our relationship, recognising that a common ecclesial and sacramental structure has been conserved, but noting from earliest times differences in spiritual, liturgical and canonical practice. Here, Unitatis Redintegratio recommends careful study and reflection upon the causes of division, since these have arisen largely ‘from a lack of charity and mutual understanding.’16 It is a tragic feature of relations with Orthodox Churches that what is lacking is not so much theology as trust. Hurts of earlier centuries are very much alive; when Pope John Paul visited Athens in 2001 chanting crowds held placards bearing the date of the fourth crusade. Non-theological aspects often intrude into relations with the Orthodox, and ecumenical relations have to proceed with particular sensitivity to these concerns.

A second, and connected, aspect of relations with the Churches of the East is sensitivity to their legitimate diversity in rites, worship and governance.17 These days we may take such recognition for granted, but Orthodoxy nurses the memory of imposed ‘latinization’ in central Europe (a complaint re-emerging in the contemporary Ukrainian crisis), while the powers claimed by the Bishop of Rome challenge the Orthodox model of dispersed authority. Unitatis Redintegratio assures the Eastern Churches that their forms of worship and governance are respected by the Catholic Church, which in its search for unity undertakes ‘to impose no burden beyond what is essential’ – a reassurance underlined by Pope Francis to the Patriarch of Constantinople in 2014, emphasising that the search for full communion with the Orthodox Churches requires nothing beyond a shared profession of faith.18

With the communities and traditions of the West – largely those stemming from the Reformation – Unitatis Redintegratio notes a more complex relationship owing to the variety of theological traditions, and is aware of greater differences here ‘not only of a historical, sociological, psychological and cultural character, but especially in the interpretation of revealed truth.’19 While there are many elements (notably, reverence for Sacred Scripture) with which the Catholic Church can identify, there are differing views with many western communities on the relationship between Scripture and the Church, and the role of the Church in interpreting and proclaiming the scriptures. Further difficulty is a growing difference in moral issues – an element increasingly prominent in recent years, and which calls for particular study and clarity in our ecumenical relations.20

Ecclesiology emerges as a strong theme for Unitatis Redintegratio. While Reformation traditions place Scripture at the centre of their understanding of the Church, for Catholics the Eucharist occupies this central place, representing a real difference in the understanding of what it means to be a Church.21 Protestants understand the Word creating the Church as an event, a moment of encounter with God through the Scriptures. For Catholics, however, the Eucharist is the source and summit of the Church’s life, an incorporation into the body of Christ. Yet, in virtue of our Baptism, Protestants and Catholics share a common identity as members of the Body of Christ; the decree makes the point that unity with other Christians does not begin with the scrutiny of a check-list of particular elements, but with the recognition of communion we already share in virtue of our baptism. The baptism of non-Catholics makes their membership of the Church a reality, albeit imperfect and unrealised in its completeness. This fact must inform our attitude to the spiritual and liturgical life of non-Catholics. While the Catholic Church cannot recognise their celebration of the Eucharist and their ministry, it does not thereby regard these elements as valueless – these Christians minister within the Body of Christ, and thereby access and share the means of grace. Here, the decree models a method of ecumenism important for all our interaction: to build up trust and knowledge based on what is shared, before moving to consider difficult and divisive issues.

The decree closes with a reminder that our ecumenism must be truly Catholic, that is, it must serve to build up our faith, not to compromise it. We should come away from our ecumenical encounters feeling more, not less, Catholic. In the end, however, ecumenism is not the work of human hands, but rests upon ‘the prayer of Christ for the Church, on our Father’s love for us, and on the power of the Holy Spirit.’22 Mention of the Holy Spirit points to the charismatic nature of ecumenism, stressed by Pope Francis: ‘Unity’ he said in 2014, ‘will not be the result of human effort, but rather of the Holy Spirit, who sees our good will.’ Thus ecumenical activity is not in a winter of despair, even though the path may at present seem a long one. God, who has accomplished so much, will bring about the unity of his people in his own time, in his own way. However great the problems facing us, Unitatis Redintegratio is a call for hope, for trust in God, and for love of our Christian brothers and sisters.  

1     Pius XI, Mortalium Animos.
2     Lumen Gentium (LG), 8.
3     LG, 9.
4     Unitatis Redintegratio (UR), 1, 4.
5     Pope Francis: ‘Unity comes from the Spirit, and is born of the unity of the Trinity.’ Address to Participants in 37th Convocation of Renewal in the Holy Spirit, 1 June 2014.
6     UR, 4.
7     Pope John Paul II, Ut Unum Sint, 28.
8     UR, 3.
9     UR, 4, 7.
10    UR, 12.
11    cf Pope Francis: ‘A few months ago, 23 Egyptian Copts were beheaded on the shores of Libya… They are our brothers! They are our martyrs! This is the ecumenism of blood!’ Address to Participants in 38th Convocation of Renewal in the Holy Spirit, 3 July 2015.
12    UR, 3.
13    UR 3; Walter Kasper, reviewing UR on its tenth anniversary, said ‘Ecumenism is not about reducing doctrinal difference to banality, or jettisoning cherished traditions; rather, it must remain inscribed within the furrow of tradition’.
14    UR, 8; Ut Unum Sint, 21.
15    UR, 13.
16    UR, 14.
17    UR, 16: “[T]his holy Council solemnly declares that the Churches of the East, while remembering the necessary unity of the whole Church, have the power to govern themselves according to the disciplines proper to them, since these are better suited to the character of their faithful, and more for the good of their souls.”
18    UR, 18.
19    UR, 19.
20    UR, 21, 23. Aware of this growing problem, ARCIC III has set itself to investigate the origins of differing moral interpretations between Roman Catholics and Anglicans.
21    UR, 22.
22    UR, 24.

September/October 2015

Thomas D. Stegman SJ

The second in a series of articles on the rich theology contained in Paul’s Letter to the Romans. Thomas D. Stegman SJ is professor of New Testament at Boston College School of Theology and Ministry, USA.

In our first reflection on Romans, we encountered the prominence of the theme of ‘the gospel of God’ (1.1), the good news that God has acted in history to bring salvation and to right what has gone awry in creation because of sin. Immediately following the initial reference to God’s gospel, Paul then explains that this gospel focuses on Jesus, ‘who was descended from David according to the flesh and set apart as Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead’ (1.3–4). This creedal-like statement contains many seeds of the apostle’s christology. As we will see, Paul focuses on Jesus as the Messiah, the Lord, the fulfillment of Scripture, and the new Adam.

Jesus the Messiah
The heart of Paul’s proclamation of the gospel is that God’s righteousness (i.e., his covenant fidelity and love) has been definitively revealed dia pisteo–s Ie–sou Christou (3.21–22).


Although this Greek phrase is usually translated ‘through faith in Jesus Christ,’ many scholars prefer to render it as ‘through the faithfulness of Jesus the Messiah.’ Both terms linked here to Jesus – ‘Messiah’ and ‘faithfulness’ – are important for Paul. Christos is not just a proper name; it also signifies Jesus’ identity as the Messiah (cf. ‘was descended from David according to the flesh’), as the anointed one through whom God has intervened for the sake of salvation. Indeed, near the conclusion of the letter, Paul refers to Jesus’ messianic identity and role as follows: ‘For I tell you that the Messiah became a servant to the circumcised [i.e., to Israel] to show forth God’s truthfulness, in order to confirm the promises given to the patriarchs’ (15.8).

Jesus, the promised Messiah, can reveal God’s truthfulness because he is God’s own Son (8.32). As Messiah and Son, Jesus was sent by God to break the power of sin (8.3), which Paul understands to be an oppressive cosmic force (5.12). Jesus does so by his faithfulness to God’s will, culminating in the cross. Paul alludes to this fidelity-unto-death in 3.25, a verse difficult to translate. Literally, the text states that Messiah Jesus is the one ‘whom [God] put forward as an expiation through faith by means of his blood.’ The expression ‘through faith by means of his blood’ points to Jesus’ faithfulness to God in offering his life. Through Jesus’ faithful death, God has brought about the forgiveness of transgressions (4.25). Moreover, God has effected freedom (3.24) from the enslaving power of sin (cf. 5.12).

It is crucial to appreciate that Messiah Jesus’ faithfulness-unto-death is an expression of his love. At times, Paul’s exposition
is highly compact. He leaves it to hearers/readers to make explicit what he leaves implicit. Such is the case in 5.6–8. There he begins by proclaiming, ‘at the right time the Messiah died for the ungodly.’ Then he declares, ‘God shows his love for us in that while we were yet sinners the Messiah died for us.’ The implicit logic here is that the death of the Messiah for sinners is an expression of God’s love because Jesus offers himself in love for all people (cf. Gal 2.20). This is the love to which Paul refers when asking, ‘Who will separate us from the love of Christ?’ (8.35). The answer is ‘no one,’ not even (personified) death. Jesus’ filial love for and faithfulness to his Father are manifested most dramatically in his love for humankind, a love that knows no bounds.

Paul also mentions Jesus as Messiah in the context of listing the privileges God bestowed on the ‘Israelites’ (9.4–5). This list of blessings climaxes with ‘to them belong the patriarchs, from whom is descended the Messiah.’ The meaning of what follows – ‘who is over all, God, blessed forever’ – is debated by exegetes, as the Greek text can be understood in two ways. One is that ‘God’ is the predicate of the ‘Messiah.’ In this reading, Paul states that Messiah Jesus has the title of theos. But because such direct predication is not found elsewhere in the undisputed letters, other commentators place a period after ‘Messiah,’ and understand the end of 9.5 to be a benediction to God the Father (i.e., ‘God, who is over all, be blessed forever’). In any event, according to Paul, Jesus – the Messiah and Son of God – is the personal manifestation of God’s saving love.

Jesus the Lord
Regardless of how one comes down on the interpretation of 9.5, Paul’s high christology is evident from his calling Jesus kyrios (‘Lord’). In fact, he often combines the titles of Messiah and Lord when naming Jesus (e.g., 1.7; 5.21; 8.39). The word kyrios was used by the translators of the Hebrew Bible into Greek to render the divine name YHWH. As we will see shortly, when quoting Scripture, Paul reads some texts, whose original referent was God, in connection with Jesus. The title kyrios is usually associated with Jesus’ resurrection. Paul makes this association near the beginning of the letter: ‘who was set apart as Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord’ (1.4). His point is that Jesus’ resurrection not only reveals who he was all along (i.e., God’s Son and Messiah), but also that he now reigns as Lord.

That Jesus is Lord is the basic Christian confession of faith (cf. 1 Cor 12.3; Phil 2.11). Paul evokes this fundamental declaration in Romans when he announces, ‘if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved’ (10.9). The lordship of Jesus is universal and linked to Paul’s insistence on the oneness of God (cf. 1 Cor 8.6). Whereas earlier in the letter he asserted that ‘God is one’ and that God saves both Jews and Gentiles through the faithfulness of Jesus (3.30), he later declares – with reference to Jesus – that ‘the same Lord is Lord of all [i.e., of Jews and Gentiles], and bestows his riches on all who call upon his name’ (10.12). Then, employing words from the prophet Joel that originally referred to YHWH, Paul now proclaims, ‘Everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord [i.e., Jesus] will be saved’ (10.13; Joel 2.32 in English translations). 

As Lord, Jesus shares in the divine prerogative of final judgment: ‘on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of human beings through Messiah Jesus’ (2.16; cf., e.g., Matt 25.31–46). In addition, Paul conveys another aspect of Jesus’ heavenly lordship, his role as intercessor: the Lord Jesus is ‘at the right hand of God’ and ‘intercedes for us’ (8.34; cf. Heb 9.24). The image of Jesus as our advocate before God is very comforting, since he knows well the human condition (8.3). Likewise consoling is the knowledge that Jesus as Lord saves those who call upon his name. However, the lordship of Jesus also challenges us to refrain from judging others (cf. 14.10–12) and to constantly ask ourselves in what ways we are tempted to serve other ‘lords’ – whether it be our reputation, possessions, work, etc.

Jesus the fulfillment of Scripture
Another feature of Paul’s christology in Romans is how he understands Jesus vis-à-vis Scripture (what we today call the Old Testament). At the beginning of the letter, he states that God’s gospel ‘was promised beforehand through the prophets in the Holy Scriptures’ (1.2), a claim he reiterates in the concluding doxology (16.26). Moreover, Paul insists that Christ is the telos nomou (10.4) – the ‘end,’ or better, ‘goal’ of the law. Here ‘law’ refers more broadly to Torah, to the Jewish Scriptures. In the years following his encounter with the risen Lord, Paul reinterpreted the sacred texts he had known so well, but now in light of the surprising way God has acted through a crucified (and risen) Messiah. He came to appreciate that the One whom Scripture revealed as Creator and covenant God has fulfilled his promises to Israel (15.8; 2 Cor 1.20) – and by extension, to all peoples – through Jesus.

Paul explicitly links Jesus with Scripture in 15.3: ‘For the Messiah did not please himself; but, as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me.”’ The citation is from the Greek text of Psalm 69, a lament psalm that recounts the travails of one who suffers for his faithfulness to God, as well as his subsequent vindication by God. (Incidentally, Psalm 69 is cited in the passion narratives in the Synoptic Gospels – cf. Mark 15.23 and par.; cf. John 2.17.) Paul’s use of the text is complex. For our purposes, it suffices to say that Jesus’ self-giving love expressed in his passion takes up and fulfills the pattern of the mysterious workings of God as set forth in Scripture. Similarly (though more subtly), Paul’s declaration that Jesus ‘was put to death for our trespasses’ (4.25) evokes the fourth and most vivid of the Isaian servant songs (Isa 52.13–53.12, esp. vv. 5 and 12).

In his famous statement about the revelation of God’s righteousness through Jesus, Paul insists that ‘the law and the prophets’ (i.e., the Jewish Scriptures) have borne witness to it (3.21). In fact, he already indicated one example of scriptural witness in 1.17: ‘the righteous one (ho dikaios) will live by faith’ (3.22). The text is from the prophet Habakkuk (Hab 2.4). It happens to be the first cited prophetic text following Paul’s statement that the good news about Messiah Jesus was promised in the prophetic writings (1.2). This datum strongly suggests that Paul reads the Habakkuk passage messianically. In other words, Jesus is ‘the Righteous One’ (cf. Acts 3.14; 7.52; 22.14) who now lives the fullness of resurrection life because of his faithfulness to God. Jesus revealed God’s righteousness because he himself is righteous, the quality expressed in his self-giving love.

Paul refers to the Messiah’s ‘act of righteousness’ (dikaio–ma) in the context of another biblical allusion, the comparison of Jesus to Adam (5.15–19). Adam’s disobedience (cf. Gen 3) unleashed the cosmic powers of sin and death, which entrapped those who followed in Adam’s rebellion against God and his ways (5.12). But while the consequences of Adam’s disobedience were disastrous, God’s power now prevails through Jesus’ obedience-unto-death. Through the Messiah’s self-giving love, God has brought about ‘the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness’ (5.17) – in short, the possibility of fullness of life, including transformation into the likeness of the ‘Righteous One’: ‘by the one man’s obedience many will be made righteous’ (5.19).

Jesus the new Adam
Paul’s comparison of Jesus to Adam implies that Jesus is the new or second Adam. As we have seen, Jesus reveals God and enacts the divine plan of salvation by virtue of his being God’s Son and the Messiah. But as the new Adam, Jesus also shows forth what it means to be truly human (anthro–pos). Jesus restores the possibility of enacting the basic human vocation, namely to grow into that which we are created to be: the image of God (eiko–n theou). Indeed, elsewhere Paul names Jesus as ‘the image of God’ (2 Cor 4.4). Jesus manifests God through self-giving love, doing so as the obedient Son (5.19) who ushers in the ‘new creation’ (cf. 2 Cor 5.17; Gal 6.15). Obedience to God and his ways is the pathway to maturing in our identity as ‘icons’ of God. It is no coincidence that, at both the beginning and the end of Romans, Paul declares that his God-given call is to bring about the ‘obedience of faith’ (1.5; 16.26).

In the closing exhortations (12.1–15.13), Paul gives ‘texture’ to the way of being human as revealed by Jesus, the new Adam. He does so in two ways. First, Paul exhorts the believers in Rome to ‘put on the Lord Jesus Christ’ (13.14). To ‘put on’ Jesus is to take on and appropriate those qualities and characteristics that distinguished him. Paul subtly weaves a number of these characteristics into his exposition. For example, he exhorts the Romans to ‘pursue what makes for peace and for mutual edification’ (14.19). What is meant here is living with keen sensitivity to the needs of others, always striving for what will build them up. This also entails bearing with the weaknesses of others, while being committed to work for their advantage (15.1–2). Such exhortations are given greater contour and shape when one recalls those moments in Jesus’ ministry that highlight his compassion (e.g., Mark 6.34).

Correspondingly, Paul prays that God will enable the Romans, literally, ‘to think the same among themselves according to Messiah Jesus’ (15.5). The wording here (including the verb for ‘think,’ phroneo–) is similar to the exhortation that introduces the Christ-hymn in the letter to the Philippians (Phil 2.5). That hymn sets forth, among other things, Jesus’ servant ministry (15.8; cf. Mark 10.45 – he ‘came not to be served, but to serve’). To offer oneself in service to others after the manner of Jesus is to walk in the way of love (14.15). So too is heeding Paul’s command to ‘welcome one another . . . as Messiah has welcomed you’ (15.7). Here is evoked Jesus’ openness and inclusiveness as expressed, for instance, through table fellowship (cf., e.g., Luke 15.32). This exhortation to extend mutual hospitality was necessary for the diverse membership of the Roman house churches (cf. 16.3–16) – as it is in so in many communities today.

The second way in which Paul offers texture to ‘new Adam existence’ is by recalling crucial elements of Jesus’ teaching. Like Jesus, Paul ‘sums up’ the commandments of the law – at least those pertaining to relations with other people – by citing Lev 19.18: ‘you shall love your neighbour as yourself’ (13.9; cf. Matt 22.39). Even more striking is the way Paul echoes Jesus’ instructions from the Sermon on the Mount. He admonishes the believers in Rome not to be overcome by evil, but rather to ‘overcome evil with good’ (12.21). This evokes Jesus’ commands against retaliation (Matt 5.38–42). Moreover, Paul exhorts, ‘Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them’ (12.14), which recalls Jesus’ radical command to love one’s enemies (Matt 5.43–48). By putting on Jesus’ characteristics and by heeding his teaching, we are able to grow into his likeness (8.29) – and thereby become ‘one body in Christ’ (12.5; cf. 1 Cor 12.27).

Conclusion
Paul’s christology in Romans is remarkably rich. Jesus is the Messiah and Son of God whose faithfulness-unto-death is the means by which God has revealed his righteousness and acted to defeat the powers of sin and death. Raised from the dead, Jesus reigns as Lord and saves those who call upon his name. Jesus is the telos of the Jewish Scriptures, the climax of God’s faithfulness to his covenant promises, and the beginning of the new creation. As the new Adam, Jesus shows forth authentic human existence, lived in obedience to God and expressed through self-giving love. Such a life is viable only because of the gift of the Spirit, the topic of the next article.

September/October 2015

Michael D. Phelan

The history and background to the new translation of the Missal is traced from the Second Vatican Council to its implementation in 2011. Michael D. Phelan is a retired Deacon of Northampton Diocese.

Second Vatican Council Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy
The first document promulgated by the Second Vatican Council was the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, which stressed that what the Church desired was ‘full, conscious, and active participation in the liturgical celebrations’ by ‘all the faithful’. Accordingly, local bishops’ conferences were to be commissioned to put the Council’s wishes into practice and their decrees were then to be confirmed by Rome. So for the Second Vatican Council, local bishops’ conferences were clearly understood to be in the driving seat of the liturgical translations of the Roman Missal into the vernacular.
 
ICEL History
To understand how the new translation of the Roman Missal into the vernacular in the English-speaking world came into being, we need to look back into the history of the original translation process from after the Second Vatican Council to the subsequent radical changed instructions.


I am grateful to my former colleague, John Wilkins, for allowing me to précis his research contained in his article, Lost in Translation, the Bishops, the Vatican and the English Liturgy. John is a former long-serving and successful editor of The Tablet of London, which was founded 175 years ago in 1840.

Before the liturgy constitution was promulgated, the English-speaking bishops had seen the advantages of pooling their resources, and had established the core of the International Commission on English in the Liturgy (ICEL). In a formal meeting at the English College in Rome in October 1963, ten English-speaking conferences agreed to share the translation work. They were those of Australia, Canada, England and Wales, India, Ireland, New Zealand, Pakistan, Scotland, South Africa, and the United States. Subsequently the Philippines and fifteen associated Conferences of countries that used English in the liturgy, without it being their predominant language, joined ICEL. By the time the Second Vatican Council ended in 1965, the ICEL secretariat had been opened in Washington. In 1967, Pope Paul VI gave the bishops’ conferences, including the ICEL group of English-speaking hierarchies, his permission to press ahead on their vernacular translations.

Comme le prevoit
In 1969, the Vatican instruction (detailed guidelines on the translations to the vernacular), Comme le prevoit, had been issued. It did not call for a literal translation of the Latin text but sought what has come to be called ‘dynamic equivalence’, capturing the meaning of the Mass but avoiding technical terms. That is, communicating the meaning of the Mass with force and style that modern congregations would experience and understand clearly. No special literary training should be required of congregations to understand the new translation; liturgical texts should normally be intelligible to all, even to the less educated. Paul VI said that the language chosen should be that in ‘common’ usage that is suited to the greater number of the faithful who speak it in everyday use, even ‘children and persons of small education.’ ICEL’s work on the revision of the Roman Missal translation had begun in 1983 and by 1988 three extensive progress reports had been issued.

The English-speaking hierarchies and Rome approved ICEL’s provisional English translation of 1973 and it was in use throughout the English-speaking world. ICEL had always intended to revise this translation to take into account any valid criticisms.

By 1998, ICEL had completed a new version in English of the Roman Missal to replace the provisional translation of 1973. The translation included richer translations of the Latin texts, alternative collects based on the Sunday Lectionary, an alternative contemporary form of the Exultet, variant texts, and options in the rubrics for weekday Masses. The new translation was approved by all the ICEL bishops’ conferences and submitted to the Divine Worship Congregation for confirmation.

Usurpation of Conciliar arrangements
However, in 1978 Karol Wojtyla had been elected Pope as John Paul II and the climate in Rome started to change. The then Cardinal Ratzinger was appointed as Prefect of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith in 1981 and took office in Rome in 1982. Cardinal Ratzinger saw part of his mission to impose theological order and central control over the translation and other Vatican processes. A threatening cloud thus loomed over ICEL, with calls from Rome and some of ICEL’s conservative critics for it to be reformed, restructured, and redirected. In March 2001, the Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments (Divine Worship Congregation) usurped the Conciliar arrangements and issued a post-Conciliar instruction, Liturgiam Authenticam, which insisted on literal translations, rather than dynamic equivalence: Latin was to be the point of departure for the translation, extending even to syntax, oratorical rhythm, literary genre, punctuation, and so-called established style of Church usage of vocabulary. No modern modes of expression or secular stylebooks were to be used in preparing the translation with the clear notion of ‘man’ as a unitary term instead of moderate inclusive language use where appropriate.

Therefore, the stage had been set for the construction of our present very unsatisfactory new Roman curia-controlled English translation of the Roman Missal. The Constitution on the Liturgy had stated that vernacular translations were the responsibility of local episcopates (SC 22.2, 26.3). This Vatican Divine Worship Congregation (headed then by people whose first language was not English) in intervening had clearly contravened the clear instructions of the Second Vatican Council. Now Latin grammar and long sentences were in and there was to be no use of modern linguistic dynamic equivalence or moderate inclusive language, which did not offend the sensibilities of today’s women or young people in their use of contemporary English language.

The Divine Worship Congregation had thus claimed a new right to impose its own radically different English translation of the Roman Missal. In July 2001, with an amusing sense of irony over the title, the Congregation for Divine Worship set up Vox Clara (Clear Voice), headed by Cardinal George Pell, and including English-speaking bishops to provide advice to the Holy See concerning English language in liturgical books. The staff and experts who had loyally served ICEL for many years were then dismissed and replaced by conservative yes-men. Bishop Maurice Taylor of Galloway was brutally ousted as ICEL chair by Cardinal Estevez and then replaced by Bishop Arthur Roche of Leeds in 2002. Meanwhile much money had been spent on this aborted embryonic new translation.

For nearly forty years it had been ICEL’s policy that its procedures should be transparent and that all of its draft texts and proposals widely diffused, on the grounds that the task it performed was a public service to the whole Church. However, under ICEL’s new management everything became secretive and non-transparent. After many concerns about leaks of the direction of the new translation, The Tablet  editor published in May 2004 some leaked examples of the flawed new ICEL translation material. An ICEL representative immediately threatened to sue The Tablet for compensation for breach of copyright, and asked The Tablet not to sell any further copies with the offending claimed copyrighted material in them. It was an empty threat as the material used came from Australia and had already appeared on the internet.

Because of this, my successor as Tablet Publishing Company Chair, John Adshead, and I arranged to see Bishop Arthur Roche in Leeds. The Bishop gave us an excellent and generous lunch and told us about the marvellous scholars he had working on the new translation. However, we as his two guests knew that the ground rules of the game had been changed by Rome and that any use of modern dynamic equivalence and use of moderate inclusive language had been jettisoned.

Abandoned 1998 ICEL Missal
Somewhere on a shelf in the Vatican lies the abandoned 1998 ICEL Missal. It had been passed by all eleven English-speaking bishops’ conferences as the long awaited version of its 1973 so-called temporary precursor, but has never been seen by the English-speaking world at large. Its rendering of the Mass is said to achieve a beautiful flow, and the abbreviations and paraphrases that so seriously marred the 1973 version are said to have been addressed. The Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship imposed its new translation of the Mass on English speaking congregations in 2010/11. The texts of the Gloria and Creed that had already been ecumenically agreed and used were not to be maintained. It was then found to contain many further amendments that had never been agreed by the eleven English-speaking hierarchies. Other problems occurred in the German and Italian translations. In 2012, Bishop Arthur Roche was moved to Rome as secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship and made an Archbishop.

Problems with the new Roman Missal translation
Although I had never mentioned the new translation from the pulpit or criticised it publicly, many of our parishioners have been very critical to me of the imposed new translation. We are in the main a prosperous parish so have many well educated parishioners who have criticised the new translation – not on the basis of being against change but by describing the new translation as simply awful and clumsy. Some even insist on using the old 1973 translation at Mass. From my pastoral experience as a permanent deacon, during Sunday Mass and major feasts such as those of the Triduum, I consider the new translation to be a disaster for many Catholic clergy, religious, and laity in England and Wales and elsewhere. It does not provide ‘full, conscious, and active participation in the liturgical celebrations’ by ‘all the faithful’ and proclamation of the prayers of the Mass, particularly the Collects, can be difficult.

As a young altar server in the 1950s, I can well remember the often garbled, hurried and ineffective Church Latin of the Mass in those days, with many of the congregation praying the rosary instead of taking part in the Mass. Fortunately, in attending a Jesuit grammar school in Stamford Hill, we were taught both classical and Church Latin, but we never understood the Scripture readings in the Sunday Masses of those days, apart from at the dialogue Masses (subsequently banned in some dioceses) that we had at our weekday school Mass. The Mass in the vernacular has been a great gift to English-speaking congregations but the imposed new Roman-inspired and controlled translation is clumsy in its Latin construction, grammar, and arcane vocabulary.

Psychologists tell us that the last thing to go in the memories of Catholic people with cognitive impairment or dementia is Catholic ritual and sung old Catholic hymns. In the three monthly Word and Communion services that I now lead in care homes and to the housebound in some domestic homes I visit, that is certainly true. Aged Catholics still participate in Word and Communion services, as set out by our diocesan liturgist, using words that are in common more with the 1973 version of the Roman Missal rather than that of 2010. But they have no problems with singing the old hymns from their childhood. I hope that the original ICEL Mass of 1998 or something similar, approved by all the eleven English-speaking Conferences, as directed by the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, will be instituted instead of the present linguistic car crash. Today’s deacons, religious, and SVP members are playing a bigger role in chaplaincy in hospitals and prisons, where they can lead Word and Communion services, the ritual and words are derived from the Roman Missal, so a good English translation of the original text of the Roman Missal is important.

Some of the fifteen associated bishops’ conferences of countries that used English in the liturgy, without it being their predominant language, have had even worse problems with their congregations over understanding and fully participating in the new translation of the Mass.

For example, my brother Bernard Phelan MHM has spent much of his priestly life as a missionary working in Uganda. He has told me that the new English translation is used in Ugandan town parishes where there are Masses in English but he wonders if congregations understand the new Latin style translation as they have no knowledge of Latin and English is often their second language. Where this new English translation has an even more negative impact is in the country areas in Uganda as the Mass is often translated into a local language by people who have no knowledge whatsoever of Latin. The new literal translation of course will have been constructed to be as close as possible to the original Latin text and construction. Bernard is fluent in Ateso and the result of this translation process in the Teso area where he has worked is a liturgy that is quite unintelligible to most local Catholic congregations. Local Catholics do not comment on this to the clergy because they have grown to presume that Liturgy is by its very nature unintelligible. How sad and in contravention with the intentions of the Second Vatican Council!

A new Lectionary?
After all of the forgoing problems with the Roman Missal translation, is the same faulty Vatican-inspired and controlled process going to be followed in the proposed new revision to the Revised Common Lectionary of 1992, based on translation from the earliest sources? Over time this 1992 Common Lectionary has been adopted by many other Christian denominations, both at home and overseas. For the first time in Christian history, many Christians in the English-speaking world are now using common ecumenical liturgical texts in their lectionaries. The ecumenical and liturgical movements of the twentieth century, bringing together biblical and historical studies, have fed a steady stream of ecumenical liturgical renewal. This has become a valuable sign and way forward to Christian unity in our diversity. Scholarship which is faithful to tradition is surely the work of the Holy Spirit. The 1992 Common Lectionary was published by the Catholic Church in Canada, England, and the United States and many other churches from home and overseas have already adopted it as well.

September/October 2015

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