Sunday, September 10, 2017

Magnum Principium

In Catholic news, Pope Francis changed Law #838 yesterday. He did this with a letter entitled Magnum Principium, or "Great Principle". This law deals with translating the mass and other things from Latin, into other languages.

Previously, people in the Vatican were responsible for making new translations. Now, Bishop's Conferences are responsible for making new translations. "Bishop's Conference" is just a fancy term for "all the Bishops in a country". So, if the United States Bishops decide they want a new translation of the mass, they can write one themselves and send it to the Vatican, where it will either be approved or rejected for general use.

No one seems to be sure how this will play out. Will the US Bishops make a new translation? Can they do it without any in-fighting? What process will they choose, for writing a new translation? They seem to like making committees for everything, so I imagine that's the route they'd take. At their next meeting, they'll probably vote whether or not to make a translation committee. Then they'd vote on who gets to be on the committee.

Assuming the US Bishops do make a translation committee, I don't know what route it would take. It might just be an exploratory committee that looks at the issues and recommends making no changes at all. It could be a committee that sets out to make a new translation from scratch, on Day One. It could be a Bishops-only group, or the Bishops could delegate to a sub-committee. The Bishops might decide to only translate one thing, like the Rite of Ordination. They could decide to translate everything. They could also decide to keep the current translation as-is, except for a few minor changes. There are many possibilities.

I imagine the committee would submit its recommendations (or translations) at one point, and the Bishops would vote whether or not to approve it. They'd either vote on everything at once, or vote on each individual item. If approved, it'd go to the Vatican from there.

One question I'm seeing is "will there be multiple translations in effect at the same time?". I doubt it, but the Pope's letter doesn't give an answer one way or another. Imagine if the U.S. Bishops approved three or four translations. We might end up in a weird situation where priests in Texas use one translation, and the priests in California use another.

Previous version of the law:

Can. 838 -- §2. It is for the Apostolic See to order the sacred liturgy of the universal Church, publish liturgical books and review their translations in vernacular languages, and exercise vigilance that liturgical regulations are observed faithfully everywhere.
§3. It pertains to the conferences of bishops to prepare and publish, after the prior review of the Holy See, translations of liturgical books in vernacular languages, adapted appropriately within the limits defined in the liturgical books themselves.

New version (changes are in bold):

Can. 838 - §2. It is for the Apostolic See to order the sacred liturgy of the universal Church, publish liturgical books, recognize adaptations approved by the Episcopal Conference according to the norm of law, and exercise vigilance that liturgical regulations are observed faithfully everywhere.
§3. It pertains to the Episcopal Conferences to faithfully prepare versions of the liturgical books in vernacular languages, suitably accommodated within defined limits, and to approve and publish the liturgical books for the regions for which they are responsible after the confirmation of the Apostolic See.

The new law goes into effect October 1st.

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