Two recent articles from New Zealand criticise different aspects of the new RC missal translation. NZ was the first country to introduce the new translation. In one article, a RC bishop is scathing in his critique (the bishop urges people to ignore some of the translation), the other regrets the loss of the ecumenical Lord’s Prayer.

I read an article by Pat Lythe (Leader of Parish and Pastoral Services Group in the Auckland Catholic Diocese) in a newspaper and a journal I subscribe to. As one who is saddened by this (and other) losses of ecumenical texts (and even offering the Vatican an alternative!) I asked if I could reproduce the article here. I’m pleased to have received that permission. Pat writes:

Where did the “new” Our Father come from? It certainly was not dreamed up by the New Zealand bishops, as indicated in “From the Back Pew” in your last issue. And it was a not a “disconnect” gesture from the church in Aotearoa, New Zealand.

The English Language Liturgical Consultation (ELLC) was formally established in Boston in 1985 .
It had been preceded by the International Consultation on English Texts (ICET). That group had been convened in 1969 by the International Commission on English in the Liturgy (ICEL). This group included the Catholic Church.

The program of ICEL was limited to the preparation of common liturgical texts translated into English for the Eucharist and other services of Christian worship. The project was carried out by specialists in pastoral liturgy, languages, and other disciplines who had been invited by the convening bodies to participate in meetings held in London. The results of ICET’s work were recommended to the Christian churches in the countries where English is spoken for common use in the liturgy. ICET’s program was completed in 1975 with the publication of a final, revised edition of the booklet Prayers We Have In Common. This common, ecumenical understanding was considered highly successful in view of the number of churches, which approved or adopted the proposed liturgical texts.

At the time of the congress of Societas Liturgica in Vienna in 1983, It was agreed by ICEL and CCT to convene a new organization similar in ecumenical purpose to ICET but with a more clearly defined membership and with broader goals of ecumenical-liturgical collaboration. The first formal organizational meeting of the English Language Liturgical Consultation was held in Boston in 1985, again at the time of Societas Liturgica’s biennial congress.

The ordinary group membership of ELLC was agreed to be the national or regional associations in which the respective churches or their liturgical committees or commissions come together on an ecumenical basis. Such associations appoint or otherwise designates their representatives and thus constitute the working body that is known as ELLC and that meets every second year. Regularly each of the national or regional associations includes churches of the Anglican, Lutheran, Methodist, Reformed (Presbyterian), Roman Catholic, and United traditions but is open to the Orthodox and other Eastern churches and to other (Christian traditions such as the Free Churches.

The “New” Our Father was one prayer which came out of this body, and the New Zealand Catholic Bishops’ Conference agreed to introduce it in 1986 so that during Pope John Paul’s visit to New Zealand we could share an ecumenical version with other churches. It was a deliberate ecumenical gesture to reach out to other Christian churches. Many other countries and denominations, including Catholics also adopted this version of the prayer. It was a recognised internationally ecumenically agreed English version of the Lord’s prayer. However in New Zealand not many other denominations introduced it.

ICEL as one of the original conveners of both ICET and ELLC, was a full member of ELLC until 2001, when it had to withdraw following the publication of the Vatican Instruction, Liturgiam Authenticam which proscribed its involvement in ecumenical bodies. Although entirely Roman Catholic in its own membership and not constitutionally ecumenical, ICEL had participated in ecumenical undertaking from its inception in 1963. It was established by the national Catholic churches throughout the English speaking world and is a joint commission established by twenty six conferences of Catholic Bishops on behalf of those churches, a communion of more than 80 million English speaking Christian believers. Their withdrawal was accepted with great regret. In the meantime ELLC has continued to maintain formal and informal contacts with the Pontifical Council for the Promoting of Christian Unity, the Congregation for Divine Worship, and have exchanged information with ICEL itself.

We in this country were in the forefront of liturgical and ecumenical co-operation in the 80’s and 90’s. And now twenty-five years later, we have been told we are not to use this prayer in the “revised new Mass”, but we can still use it on other occasions.

What a disappointment and what a shame.

In the recent Tablet, Bishop Colin Campbell of Dunedin is strongly critical of the new missal translation. He writes about “big question marks over what is proposed and the process by which it came about.” He is clearly disappointed that, despite the way the process is intended to go, “what [the English-speaking bishops] finally voted for will not be the end product.”

He sought responses from people and says, “My intention is to collate the responses and include them in my diocesan ad limina report for Rome later this year.” He reports that 83% of comments were negative.

“The biggest complaint was reserved for the use of the word “men” in the Nicene Creed. One of our New Zealand bishops’ conference submissions to Rome on the text was for inclusiveness (not only in the Nicene Creed but also in the Fourth Eucharistic Prayer). This was not permitted by the Congregation for Divine Worship. Let us be clear about this. Christ died for all – not some, not many, but all. It is an embarrassment to our Catholic Church and its claim to inclusiveness. To persist with only saying “men” in the Creed is offensive and disparaging to our womenfolk who make up the majority of our faith family. There is also a blatant inconsistency when homines used in the Gloria is translated as “people” whereas the same word in the Nicene Creed is translated as “men”. This is a no-brainer. I hope that most of us will continue to pray in the Creed “for us and our salvation”.”

Full Tablet article.

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