Trouble at (Vatican) mill?

**After reading this, do go to the UPDATE here, where there is a little more news**

One cannot help but wonder if the gales of change sweeping through Vatican corridors are causing some unforeseen damage in their progress (unforeseen by me at least). Some things seem to have been blown out of curial in-trays.

Over a year ago I asked Archbishop Coleridge about the progress of the touted new English lectionary, and he was gracious enough to answer in some detail. A few months back I wrote to him again in his new diocese to ask about any progress. So far there has been no answer. To be fair, I have not emailed him again since I am loath to be pestering him. But it coincides with a deafening silence around the traps about the lectionary and its progress. Which raises the question: is there still any progress?

This is not an unreasonable question if you keep in mind some other possible casualties of the gales of change.

A Vatican document, planned for a July release, concerning concelebration at Mass has not eventuated. And word is that it is unlikely to appear at all. It would have given some authoritative interpretation for a practice introduced after the Council and for which the Church was ill-prepared, and some guidelines to ensure its effective and consistent use in the Church’s liturgy. I must admit, though I do concelebrate, there are times when I would be grateful for stronger rubrical guidance for concelebration. Too often in various places it seems an occasion for a priest to don an alb and stole, and then doze quietly for the rest of the Mass, though hopefully waking in time for the Eucharistic Prayer. Does this form of concelebration really equate to celebrating with the principal celebrant, or is it little more than a muted reinforcement of clerical identity? Some magisterial guidance would have been very welcome.

Another document being prepared for release this summer was a manual for priests on how to say Mass being prepared also by the Congregation for Divine Worship. It seems to have been intended as a separate document to the concelebration one. Yet regarding this one too there is silence as summer slips away (nothing much happens in the Vatican in the furnace-like conditions of Rome in August). Has it bitten the dust? One Roman contact had no idea, having heard nothing about it for some time.

Perhaps the reform of the reform is over. Or maybe the Vatican has learned to plug leaks during the preparation of documents. Let’s pray it’s the latter.


27 thoughts on “Trouble at (Vatican) mill?

  1. I’d been wondering about the new English translation of the Mass Lectionary, and had thought it would be published during 2014…

    Maybe with the C.T.S. publications of the various Missals containing the translation of the Mass, (Third Edition), they may be a huge hesitation in publishing yet another Daily/Sunday Missal.

    It reminds me of a couple of years ago the Congregation for Consectared Life promised a document on the vocation of the lay-brother which the Cardinal [Rode] said was “long-overdue in the life of the Church”. It also seems to have died the death, not unlike the vocation of the lay-brother.

    But, as my Novice Master, Fr. Thomas McNevin, S.S.S., used to say: “Keep on keeping on”. O wisdom!


    1. Archbishop Coleridge had said that there was a possibility the Sunday section of the lectionary might be ready for 2014 if all went well. I suspect all has not gone well. To be honest, I doubt that publishing factors (other than copyright) had much influence, and the publishers themselves would love it!

      Indeed, do not hold your breath on the lay brother document. I suspect that might fit it too nearly with +Francis’ vision of evangelization and simplicity. Perhaps he subconsciously thinks men should either be priests or married. A simple model for the Church, you see.

      Maybe. For now, Fr Thomas’ advice seems more than sound.



    1. I had wondered about that, but when I rechecked the story about the document on Zenit, it made no reference to concelebration, only as a manual for saying Mass. When I asked someone about both, his answer implicitly confirmed two documents, not one, but he may have been speaking a little sloppily.



  2. It is not exactly a fitting response to your well-written essay, but I have to share the comment my son made when he was 8 or 9 and attended a Mass with a number of concelebrants. He turned to me once we were in the car and said, “Wasn’t it nice of Fr. Murphy to let his friends help him a little bit at the end?” Yes; that is the way concelebration seems to look to me, too.


  3. Fr Hugh, I am wondering if the translation to be used in the revised Lectionary is still to be the English Standard Version. The president of our diocesan liturgical commission raised doubts about this recently.
    I find it very suitable.


    1. Salve, Fr Ronan!

      You may be right. It would certainly explain the silence. It would be a great pity as the ESV ticked so many boxes for us: amenable to Catholic amendment; decorous, elevated yet comprehensible English being based on the RSV; based on the latest and best scholarship; ecumenical. One would have thought it was winner. But of course, it does bow down to the idols of political correctness.

      I am so glad we have never ceased using the RSV here, both at Office and at Mass (we still use the original RSV lectionaries from the early 70s). Perhaps it is time the Church gathered its best and least politicised minds to translate the Bible (yet) again, perhaps basing itself on the Knox version. But perhaps not…

      Peace upon you.


    1. Charles, thank you for pointing me back to Schutz to read this unwelcome news. It explains the episcopal silence in response to my enquiry. It’s appalling news, though I shall maintain some small hope till I hear official word. No doubt some will say they felt the same when the 1998 draft of the missal was shelved, and though it was not without many merits, the translation did not meet the renewed requirements for liturgical English. I can sympathize, though, with the dismay at so much work having proved fruitless. It is the same in this case.



  4. Fr. Hugh, re. the manual for priests on how to say Mass, are the Peter J. Elliott books so deficient that another “manual” is needed? Secondly, who is the anticipated “target audience” of the forthcoming (??) manual? Thank you.


    1. There is not much deficient about Bishop Elliot’s manuals but (1) I doubt that are much known in Rome and (2) they do not have the magisterial force a CDW publication would have. Bishop Elliot a priest can ignore with impunity (technically speaking), but were a priest to willfully ignore a CDW instruction without good cause or dispensation he would be sinning.

      Which all rather answers your second question: the target audience is priests.



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