Inept language; Led by our noses; Laity ignored; ‘Suffering’ at Mass; Oath of obedience; Racism: who cares?

06 December 2017


Inept language

I have been reading The Tablet for decades, and I can’t think of one single issue which has produced more negative comments than the rotten “new” Missal translation and the failure of the hierarchy to respond to the problem.

There is a “pecking order” within the hierarchy. If the Cardinal has decided an issue, such as the Missal, or a request for married clergy, then an archbishop may have differing views, but he’s not going to rock the boat by public dissent. If you are a mere “junior bishop”, you risk years in the wilderness.

But the new Missal and their failure to act shows just how inept the bishops have become. Sometimes language is quite simple: it conveys information, like: “It will be cold today.” Sometimes language is phatic – “Nice morning isn’t it”? And sometimes it is performative; we are asked to do something. Within the liturgy, performative is very urgent: “Lord, you are always merciful (affirmative) … teach us to be merciful when we find it most difficult” (performative).

It is almost impossible to do the latter when the language is so perverse or obscure that nobody understands it, let alone God.

The “grin and bear it” philosophy advocated by Archbishop Peter Smith shows that our bishops haven’t the foggiest clue when it comes to liturgical language, and they have diminished the nature and fruitfulness of our sacred acts.
Fr John Nuttall MA
(Former Professor of Liturgy at St John’s Seminary)
Worthing, West Sussex 


Perhaps the image selected to illustrate Eamon Duffy’s brilliant article (2 December) - the page from the Roman Missal for the First Sunday of Advent – was chosen with tongue in cheek. The Prayer after Communion for that Sunday contains an egregious mistranslation. 

It is not “passing things” that “teach us … to love the things of heaven and hold fast to what endures,” but rather the “mysteries … in which we have participated.” The apposition is to the wrong noun. So much for a translation lauded as close to the Latin original.
Mgr Anthony B Boylan
Bentham, North Yorkshire


Led by our noses

Might I refer to an official pre-Vatican II translation?

My childhood Missal was published in 1957 and has an English translation alongside the Latin original; consubstantialem Patri is translated as “being of one substance with the Father”.  If that was acceptable 60 years ago, why not today?

When are our bishops going to stand up and say: “We recognise the sensus fidei; we hear what the Holy Father is saying; and we will revert to the 1998 translation and see what (little) needs changing”?

Or are we going to carry on being led by our noses by a Vatican apparatchik?
Andy Bebington
Croydon, Surrey


Your former editor John  Wilkins is right (“No going back’ to the 1998 Missal”, 25 November). If the English-speaking conferences of bishops were to readopt, with necessary changes and additions, the 1998 translation of the Roman Missal, the question of retroactivity would become moot. And if the Congregation for Divine Worship continues to obstruct, the Pope should intervene.
R. H. Addington
London, Ontario, Canada

Laity ignored

I have no problem with the decision made by the Bishops’ Conference regarding the English translation of the Missal. What I do find objectionable is the manner in which the decision was taken. 

On an issue affecting lay men and women over future years, were the laity consulted? Did the bishops feel any need or wish to ascertain lay opinion? Of course not. The bishops appear to have a staggering disregard for lay opinion; they act as though they are accountable to no one but themselves.

This is clericalism, something Pope Francis has denounced as a sin and as “the cancer at the heart of the Church”. Future generations are unlikely to be bothered about an institution that is not interested in what they think. They will respond to episcopal indifference not with anger, but with indifference.
Eileen Fitzpatrick
Ilkley, West Yorkshire


In declining the Pope’s clear encouragement to reconsider the translation the English Church now uses in the Mass, the English bishops run the risk of turning this “quiet backwater” of Catholicism (letter, 2 December) into a stagnant pool from which the contents slowly drain away.
Ray Quinlan
Ashstead, Surrey

I agree with Michael Brotherton (letter, 2 December) that our bishops are a bunch of wets, but I wonder also if they were thinking of their purse strings and totting up the cost of new Missals.
Susan Balfour
London SW11


Endeavouring to live as a hermit I have a simple rule which I often apply. If it is not prayerful then avoid it.

Try as I might the 2011 Missal is one of the things I avoid.
Fr Bruno Healy
Pwllheli, Gwynedd


‘Suffering’ at Mass

Ruth Wood has  to “steel” herself  to attend Mass and even describes Mass an occasion for suffering on account of the current translation of the liturgy (letter, 2 December). Others complain that they feel upset or distracted at Mass for the same reason. 

Such comments are an insult to Catholic martyrs and to Christians in the Middle East, Pakistan, China and elsewhere who are continuing to attend Mass in the face of torture and even death. 

The Mass may not  currently be celebrated in a way that many would wish, but to project such feelings upon it makes a mockery of Christ’s sacrifice.
Mary Forster
Sutton, Surrey


Oath of obedience

Gabriel Daly’s salutary memoir (“The grace of change”, 18 November) opened my eyes at 75. He did not mention the “anti-Modernist oath”. We had to swear it on four occasions in a Rome seminary in the 1960s. We lined up in chapel to swear in Latin on a book of Gospel readings.

I cannot have been the only one clueless as to why, and why so repeatedly. One student rumoured to have quit because he refused to swear on principle (easily dismissed in those days as “scruple”) won my sneaking if ignorant admiration.

That adult young men were conditioned to such blind obedience, regardless of their own integrity, still concerns me today about clerical authority.
John Fox
Wheatley, Oxfordshire


I find it a little bit much that Gabriel Daly uses the word “silliest” in describing Pope Pius X’s encyclical Pascendi dominici gregis. He also remarks that it is “sobering” that Pius X was canonised, implying that, as the author of the encyclical, Pius X should not have been canonised.

Is it proper for a Catholic theologian to talk like that?

I did not have Fr Daly’s opportunities in theological education. I am a simple missionary priest who spent over 40 years in the African bush, but I still think that what the Pope says should be treated with respect. “Tu es Petrus.”
Fr Damian Grimes MHM


Gabriel Daly’s article delighted me for its stimulating account of the spirit of reform that has been taking place over Daly’s long and interesting life; and for his mention of George Tyrrell.  

As an Anglican, I had the privilege of a long friendship with a priest who worked in the Vatican who was a great admirer of Tyrrell’s, and was deeply sad at the way he had been treated and excommunicated by the Church. Staying with me once, he asked if we could visit Tyrrell’s grave at Storrington, which we did.  

Tyrrell was denied burial in a Catholic cemetery, and a Catholic priest who was at the burial and made the sign of the cross over the grave was censured by the bishop. It was a moving pilgrimage, which remains a happy memory.
Revd Raymond Avent
Chipping Campden Gloucestershire


Racism: who cares?

I was amazed to read (25 November) that the Catholic Association for Racial Justice (Carj) has lost its status as an agency of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales. At a time when there is a marked increase in racial attacks and hostility towards ethnic minorities in this country, our bishops appear to be distancing themselves from confronting the issue.


In the letter which the bishops wrote to Carj they stated that they have not been able to get a bishop to serve as Trustee President for Carj,  that Carj must not campaign for parish collections, and apart from some funding being granted for 2017-18,  Carj should in future, seek funding from other sources.
Brendan Schmack
Wallasey, Wirral

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