Proposal for a short term solution to Liturgy Problem
It is great that the ACP leadership commissioned that professional survey of Irish priests about their reaction to the translation of the prayers of the Eucharist which were imposed so arbitrarily about three years ago on the English-speaking Catholic world.
The results are very interesting and disturbing.
It is quite striking that three out of every four Irish priests feel themselves obliged to obey Rome and use the new translation even though more than 60% of the priests surveyed are dissatisfied or very dissatisfied with this translation. This indicates that a very large percentage of Irish priests find their consciences pulling them in two opposite directions. A tradition of priestly obedience and loyalty to Rome has created an obligation to follow the new rules. But at the same time the priests have a serious pastoral concern that the new translation is doing a disservice to their congregations and to their own celebration of the Eucharist; and so their consciences are calling them to break the rules.
It is quite likely that some of the Irish bishops find themselves in the same dilemma. But even if they are personally quite satisfied with the new translation it must surely be a matter of concern for them that so many of their priests are facing this dilemma of conscience.
In the medium to long-term the way forward must be to abandon the new translation in whole or in part and to go forward or go back to a different translation. But bishops and priests may, with good reason, feel that another major change at present would be very costly and would give rise to even further outrage.
Is there any short-term compromise which could ease up the problem? Maybe there is. The biggest problem with the new translation is with the parts that are read by the priest rather than with the responses of the congregation. So a short-term partial solution could be to authorize priests to use the older translation or the revised version which the International Commission for English in the Liturgy (ICEL) completed in 1998.
The many priests who have problems with the new translation would then be free to dig out the old missals or to download the 1998 translation and to make use of one or other, for the Eucharistic prayers and the other prayers which the priests read. Meanwhile the congregations would continue for the present to use the new translation for their responses. This would not involve imposing any new cost on the parishes.
Perhaps the ACP leadership could consult the membership to see if they think this might ease up the problem at least for the immediate future. Suppose the members agree that this would be a good way forward in the short-term. Then the Irish bishops could be asked to consult with the episcopal conferences in other English-speaking countries to consult with their priests and laity with a view to making a joint request to Rome to approve of this approach. Such a request would surely find a more favourable response from Rome under Pope Francis than happened in the years before Francis became pope. Of course it would be embarrassing for the Pope to call for a complete rejection of the new translation while Benedict is still around. But surely there could be a low-key acceptance of such an approach ‘where pastoral considerations make it necessary.’