Statement of Convictions

A. We affirm without equivocation our acceptance of the Second Vatican Council as arguably the most significant ecumenical council in the history of the Roman Catholic Church.  In this context, we note for the record that the theological and pastoral preparation for liturgical reform spanned two decades and that, in a council drawing 2540 bishops, only  four voted against the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy—one-tenth of 1%.  That is significant!

B.   We state forthrightly and with no reservations our convictions  that the forthcoming Third Edition of the Roman Missal is fundamentally flawed on a number of bases:

1. It contradicts the straightforward teaching of the Second Vatican Council on principles for translations into the language of the people, such as “noble simplicity . . . short, clear, and unencumbered by useless repetition . . . within the people’s powers of comprehension . . . should not require much explanation” (Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, §34).

 2. It violates the equally clear teaching of the Second Vatican Council on determining responsibility for translations for the people of a given region: regional bodies of bishops, not officials of Roman congregations (Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy §36).  The deliberations and a secret ballot by US Bishops do not make this work their product.  This ignores the reality of how the new translations came to be.  We note statements by some US Bishops that “this is what the Holy See wants.”

3. It incorrectly assumes that officials in Roman offices can authoritatively declare that a Latin text from an earlier century can be and by their mandate must be the sole norm for the essential wording of liturgical celebrations in every language and for every people in the 21st Century (Liturgiam Authenticam – throughout).

4. It incorrectly assumes that a strictly literal translation of a dead language can be  and must be normative in the English language, and that such will somehow produce a more sacred, more prayerful, more understandable and generally superior language for our worship, regardless of the language into which it is to be translated (Liturgiam Authenticam – throughout). The judgment to date by theologians, linguists, liturgical scholars, experienced pastors, and laity is that this translation produces just the opposite.

C. Furthermore,

1.   We reject as baseless the statements by some officials in theUSand inRomethat our current celebrations are not sufficiently “sacred” and clearly lack a “vertical dimension.” We acknowledge that some improvements were desirable, but not total revision. The current translation, however, is not an improvement.

2.   We reject as equally baseless statements or assumptions by US Bishops or Roman officials that the many thousands who stand in strong opposition to the imposition of the new Roman Missal are not possessed of adequate theological, liturgical, pastoral, canonical, and experiential expertise to take the positions articulated here. Thus, in this context, our love for the Church, our knowledge of and fidelity to the teachings of the Church, and our professional competence must not be dismissed or summarily called into question.

3.   We express grave concern that the catechetical materials from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and from the local archdiocese are severely dishonest in their complete failure to expose the process by which this whole endeavor has come to be and in their complete failure to acknowledge the widespread and extremely high level rejection of the theological, liturgical, and linguistic bases presented for much of the translation itself.

4. We must and readily do assume that theUSBishops also love the Church and that fundamentally they do desire that liturgical celebrations for our people be the best possible and in accordance with the most authoritative teachings of the Church.  They will assuredly make that claim.  In this context however, we express a very grave concern that the bishops may be following criteria that are neither theological nor liturgical nor pastoral, but that instead have to do with the exercise of authority in the Church.

D. Therefore, relying on unambiguous Church teaching about the primacy of conscience, as enunciated in 1967 by the man who is now Pope Benedict XVI: “Over the Pope as expression of the binding claim of ecclesiastical authority, there stands one’s own conscience which  must be obeyed before all else, even if necessary against the requirement of ecclesiastical authority.  This emphasis on the individual, whose conscience confronts him with a supreme and ultimate tribunal, and one which in the last resort is beyond the claim of external social groups, even the official Church, also establishes a principal in opposition to increasing totalitarianism.” (Joseph Ratzinger, Commentary on the Documents of Vatican II, vol. 5, p. 134),

1. We are unable to endorse implementation of the new Roman Missal.

2. When our thoughts on implementation are sought out, we must speak honestly and cannot be expected or commanded to respond otherwise.

3. Though the First Sunday of Advent is the implementation date, we ask our own archbishop and all other archbishops and bishops in theUSto consider the most pastoral response to all situations, which may not be total and unquestioning compliance.

4. There must be no laying of blame on the well informed, fully professional and truly pastoral positions of those who hold the positions enunciated here.   The Church’s own law (Canon 212.2.3) underscores both the right and duty to speak out on such matters.   Any consequent divisiveness is not of our making.

5. We pray that many bishops will have serious reservations about mandating unquestioning compliance and will consider all of their options for accepting various levels of pastoral and liturgical non-compliance.

6. We consider the imposition of the new Roman Missal to be one of the most critical ecclesial issues to emerge in our lifetimes.  We believe this is a watershed moment that will impact the well-being of the Roman Catholic Church for decades.  We plead with all bishops that they exercise their responsibility in accordance with the clear and authoritative teachings of the Second Vatican Council.

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