God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

pensée of a Catholic priest

Understandable language

Communication can only work out when people use words and phrases in a way understandable to each other. This simple rule applies to all situation in life, be in the sphere of religion or health.
Our HOPE community health worker and doctors of HOPE Cape Town are challenged every day to break down medical conditions , adherence and compliance rules into words which can be understood by those on the receiving end. It is essential to know what has been talked about during consultation or a brief of patients by all present.
The same should go for the religious sphere but since the former pope Benedict XVI insisted of changing the translation of the liturgy in the Roman-Catholic church this rule seemed to be out of favor. In a bid to “latinize” the English we priests now had and have to battle with prayers one even can’t get the head around after reading twice, let alone that the faithful would understand what they supported with the “amen” at the end. In South Africa, the South African Catholic Bishops Conference was keen to adhere to the wishes of Rome quickly and the new translation was put into practice even before the necessary time.
I always felt despair when – as a Chaplain @sea – had to say Holy Mass for the hundreds of Filipinos working on the cruise liner, who were simply not able to digest or even answer orderly when confronted with the new English translation. While the German Bishops gently delayed any implementation of any new “latinized” translation of the order of the mass successfully the English-speaking world struggled and still struggles with words and phrases nobody would use in real life.
The decision of Pope Francis to move the responsibility for a good translation back to the local churches is therefore a step in the right direction and hopefully gives rise to a new translation (or going back to the old one) which allows the faithful to worship with knowing the meaning of prayers and petitions.
I certainly do acknowledge that the intention of this effort was to bring back the language closer to the roots of Christianity but as societies evolve and develop so does language as a mirror of society. We can only take to heart what we do understand – even if those thinking more in the backwards direction in our church believe that the Eucharist is a mystery which should remain also mysterious by means of language.
Celebrations should uplift the hearts and minds of people – not make them wish having a dictionary or a “repeat” or “rewind” button to play it again for understanding purposes. A language which is understood from all participating in an atmosphere which allows for the purpose of gathering to unfold in a dignified and good way – this is all what is asked for in any situation of life including church services.
For us Catholics the change in Canon Law by publishing the decree  “Magnum Principium” is also an indication that the stalling of Vatican II has finally stopped and the documents of this important council will continue to be authoritative and permanent. For the liturgy of the church it is now clear: there is no “reform of the reform” and this is good news for all of us.

Source:
Magnum Principium

Filed under: Catholic Church, chaplain, chaplain to sea, Uncategorized, , , , , , ,

Questionable liturgical translation and some more questions…

As a chaplain to sea on a cruise liner, it is tradition also to supply the crew with Eucharistic services during the festive season.  As most members of the crew are Filipinos I was asked to the service in English. After the first responses it became clear that the new English translation did not make it to the Philippines yet – nor was their English good enough to follow the complicated structure of the new English prayers. Latinised English did not do the trick and one could read on the faces of those attending that for them, all the prayers were spoken in a language not only not familiar, but not understandable. I am not sure the guys who did the translation did really consider those attending the Mass. Being closer to Latin means nothing to those wanting to understand their prayers, confusion does not mean more holiness during the service and this kind of translation is the second worse after the old Latin mass in the extra-ordinary form.

Reflecting over this at night I realized how often our church is speaking in a language not understandable to those meant to be addressed by the words. Jesus used simple words and examples to make his message understandable to those listening to him. Academic word constructions does not help the cause nor has it any long-lasting meaning – it obstructs the truth of the good message of God and hinders people to understand the unconditional love of God.

Filed under: Catholic Church, General, , , , , , , , , , , ,

Being a priest…

Since I picked up the topic “HIV and AIDS” in the context of being a priest, life became more difficult. Touching and questioning the moral teaching did not go well with the authorities and even being outspoken about it and publishing my concerns, experiences and questions lead in late nineties to the fact, that I could not be a chaplain to a German-speaking Catholic Community anymore. obedience hurrying ahead and being scared of the mighty Vatican – induced with some jealousy at times brought an end to it – and let me to pick up the pieces and – being lucky – brought me to the position I am now in. And I honestly cannot complain as it gives me all opportunities to work in my beloved South Africa and with and amongst those less fortune.

But I have the feeling that the atmosphere in my church is changing. The unfortunate attempt of Benedict XVI to get the Pius XII Society on board, the permission to more mass services of the old order as the exceptional rule brought warfare into the church – instead of achieving more peace and stability within the church, we are in a constant battle between Latin and mother tongue, between a salvation only within the RC church and a Holy Spirit who is able to work where he wants to work. The attempt of the Vatican to be inclusive – at least for those living in the past and refusing to come out and face modern life – is for a normal priest dealing with everyday’s sorrows and plights a situation not asked for and making the pastoral work more difficult. Reading the pamphlets and attacks of right wingers in the church on mainly European websites make me feel sick and tired. The church has come a long way in its tradition and in its way to comfort and proclaim the love of God to those living today. Tradition is a way, not a status quo. I am not sure what drives the Vatican, the pope and others to bring the church in turbulent waters without any need or necessity. But they should be aware that in doing so they make the life of priests not easier, they divide energy into directions without any need or positive outcome and they force us to focus on topics put to rest a long time ago.

The way of the church is forward, God calls us to a future, not back into the past and I hope and pray that this storm of arguments, attacks and unwarranted battle is over soon. And that we can concentrate again on a liturgy which has a meaning to most people of God, a way forward answering the questions of today’s faithful in a way understandable for them. Let those hanging on to old traditions be as they are – God does not mind diversity and if they think that salvation only happens within their church – so it be.. They are then happy and we can continue to serve the people without having an extra battle field within the church.

Filed under: General, Networking, Reflection, Society and living environment, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

24.10.2009 Not everybody happy – or slavishly translation

Bishop Donald W. Trautman of Erie, Pa., former chairman of the U.S. bishops’ liturgy committee, sharply criticized what he called the “slavishly literal” translation into English of the new Roman Missal from the original Latin.

He said the “sacred language” used by translators “tends to be elitist and remote from everyday speech and frequently not understandable” and could lead to a “pastoral disaster.”
“The vast majority of God’s people in the assembly are not familiar with words of the new missal like ‘ineffable,’ ‘consubstantial,’ ‘incarnate,’ ‘inviolate,’ ‘oblation,’ ‘ignominy,’ ‘precursor,’ ‘suffused’ and ‘unvanquished.’ The vocabulary is not readily understandable by the average Catholic,” Bishop Trautman said.

“The (Second Vatican Council’s) Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy stipulated vernacular language, not sacred language,” he added. “Did Jesus ever speak to the people of his day in words beyond their comprehension? Did Jesus ever use terms or expressions beyond his hearer’s understanding?”  Bishop Trautman made his remarks in an Oct. 22 lecture at The Catholic University of America in Washington, as part of the Monsignor Frederick R. McManus Lecture Series. Monsignor McManus, a liturgist, served as a peritus, or expert, during Vatican II.  The Roman Missal has not yet been given final approval for use in the United States. The U.S. bishops were scheduled to vote on four items pertaining to the missal at their November general meeting in Baltimore. It is expected that the Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments would give its “recognitio,” or approval, at some point following the U.S. bishops’ vote.  Bishop Trautman took note of sentences in the new missal that he said run 66, 70 and 83 words, declaring that they were “unproclaimable” by the speaker and “incomprehensible” to the hearer.  “American Catholics have every right to expect the translation of the new missal to follow the rules for English grammar. The prefaces of the new missal, however, violate English syntax in a most egregious way,” Bishop Trautman said, citing some examples in his remarks.  “The translators have slavishly transposed a Lain ‘qui’ clause into English without respecting English sentence word order,” he added. The bishop also pointed out subordinate clauses from the missal that are “represented as a sentence,” and sentences lacking a subject and predicate.

Bishop Trautman also questioned the use of “I believe” in the retranslated version of the Nicene Creed, “even though the original and official Nicene Creed promulgated by the first Ecumenical Council of Nicaea in 325 said ‘we believe’ in both the Greek and Latin versions.  “Since this is a creedal prayer recited by the entire assembly in unison, the use of ‘we’ emphasized the unity of the assembly in praying this together as one body. Changing the plural form of ‘we’ to ‘I’ in the Nicene Creed goes against all ecumenical agreements regarding common prayer texts,” he said.  The bishop complained about the lack of “pastoral style” in the new translation. The current wording in Eucharistic Prayer 3 asks God to “welcome into your kingdom our departed brothers and sisters,” which he considered “inspiring, hope-filled, consoling, memorable.”  The new translation asks God to “give kind admittance to your kingdom,” which Bishop Trautman called “a dull lackluster expression which reminds one of a ticket-taker at the door. … The first text reflects a pleading, passionate heart and the latter text a formality – cold and insipid.”  Bishop Trautman quoted the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, which said rites and texts “should radiate a noble simplicity. They should be short, clear, free from useless repetition. They should be within the people’s powers of comprehension, and normally should not require much explanation.”
“Why are these conciliar directives not implemented in the new missal?” he asked. They are “especially” relevant, Bishop Trautman added, to “the people of the third millennium: children, teenagers, adults, those with varying degrees of education, and those with English as a second language.”
He acknowledged that “there are those who disagree with the way the liturgical reform of Vatican II was interpreted and implemented” and who maintained that “a reform of the reform” was necessary to stem what they saw as “diminishing religiosity (and) declining Mass attendance” tied to the Mass texts.
But while “the Latin text is the official, authoritative text,” Bishop Trautman said, “the Latin text is not inspired. It is a human text, reflecting a certain mindset, theology and world view.”
As a consequence, “a major and radical change” and “a major pastoral, catechetical problem erupts” in the new missal during the words of consecration, which say that the blood of Christ “will be poured out for you and for many,” instead of “for all,” as is currently the practice.
“For whom did Jesus not die?” Bishop Trautman asked. “In 1974 the Holy See itself had approved our present words of institution (consecration) as an accurate, orthodox translation of the Latin phrase ‘pro multis,’“ he added. “It is a doctrine of our Catholic faith that Jesus died on the cross for all people.”
Bishop Trautman took issue with a 2006 letter to bishops by Nigerian Cardinal Francis Arinze, then head of the Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments, which said that “salvation is not brought about in some mechanistic way, without one’s own willing or participation.”  “I respond that Jesus died even for those who reject his grace. He died for all,” Bishop Trautman said.
“Why do we now have a reversal? The Aramaic and Latin texts have not changed. The scriptural arguments have not changed, but the insistence on literal translation has changed.”
Bishop Trautman hearkened back to Monsignor McManus, whom he called “an apostle of the liturgical renewal.”  “If Monsignor McManus were with us today, he would call us to fidelity to the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy and encourage us to produce a translation of the missal that is accurate, inspiring, referent, proclaimable, understandable, pastoral in every sense – a text that raises our minds and hearts to God.”

Filed under: Reflection, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , ,

13th HOPE Gala Dresden

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