In praise of having some good "Sitzfleisch"
Tom Reese at the National Catholic Reporter picks up an interesting story from the Pray Tell blog. At their fall meeting last week, the German bishops tabled any decision on the German-language version of controversial new Mass translations. Like the English translations implemented in Advent 2011, the new German translations had been pushed by the Vatican—over the objections of many German-speaking bishops in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland—to hew more closely to the Latin texts in accordance with the Vatican norms in the document Liturgiam authenticam.
Some of the reporting at Pray Tell and NCR has overinterpreted what happened at the German bishops’ meeting last week. The translations were not scheduled for implementation during Advent 2013 (that is the date for the new German edition of the hymnal Gotteslob, which was and still is to include the currently used Mass texts), and it is also not really true that “now the whole thing has been put on ice,” as Pray Tell reports.
Still, while the tabling of a decision on the new translations does not necessarily mean the end of this project, given the new climate in Rome, it could very well be. And this could once again demonstrate the value of the unique German virtue of having “Sitzfleisch” (literally, “seat meat,” meaning the endurance to sit long enough on one’s posterior).
Pope Francis has now repeatedly said that the various Vatican offices ought to be “at the service of the pope and the bishops. They must help both the particular churches and the bishops’ conferences. They are instruments of help.” It would certainly be no stretch to imagine that the relentless Vatican pressure of recent years to direct translations according to Liturgiam authenticam will now ease up.
And given the history of these translation projects—with the suppression of the earlier ICEL translation in the English-speaking world and the similar fate of an earlier German missal-translation revision project—many people would certainly argue that the Vatican involvement in both cases might fall under Francis’ comment (in his interview with the Jesuit magazines), “In some cases, however, when [the dicasteries of the Roman Curia] are not functioning well, they run the risk of becoming institutions of censorship.”
For those of us not glued to the “liturgy wars” of recent years, it is still very interesting to see how the new papal climate is playing out in this particular arena. Earlier this week, a blog post at the British Catholic Herald rang alarm(ist) bells about “persistent rumours” that the pope might appoint as prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship—gasp!—“a dedicated opponent of Benedict XVI’s liturgical reorientation of the Church.” “If Archbishop Piero Marini really is appointed,” writes William Oddie, “it will be an unmistakeable declaration that we are all to be plunged back into the hermeneutic of discontinuity and rupture.” Oddie says he doesn’t believe it will happen. “But if it does…. Dear Heavens, what then?” Stay tuned.