In Magnum’s Wake, Pope “Clarifies” Sarah. Again.

 From Whispers in the Loggia:

In an extraordinary rebuke to one of his own Curial cardinals, the Pope has aimed to “explain simply, and hopefully clearly… some errors” in his Worship chief’s understanding of Magnum Principium, his recent motu proprio on liturgical translations, indicating the new norms granting new oversight to bishops’ conferences as a fresh development and declaring several key pieces of the operative rules in 2001’s Liturgiam authenticam “abrogated.”

A year since Francis’ last open clash with his top liturgical aide, a personal letter from the pontiff to the CDW prefect Cardinal Robert Sarah (above, ad orientem), dated 15 October, was published this morning by the Italian outlet La Nuova Bussola Quotidiana and subsequently confirmed by the Holy See Press Office, as well as being placed on the Italian homepage of Vatican Radio. (Ironically enough, even as this Ordinary Sunday takes precedence, today marks the feast of St John Paul II, under whose authority LA was promulgated.)

Noting a recent, lengthy commentary in which Sarah stated that LAremains “the authoritative text concerning liturgical translations,” the Pope responded by relating that paragraphs 79-84 of the 2001 norms – those which deal precisely with the requirement for a vernacular rendering’s recognitio by Rome – were now abolished, going on to note that Magnum “no longer upholds that translations must conform on all points with the norms of Liturgiam authenticam, as was the case in the past.”

In the new balance of responsibility, Francis said, Sarah’s contention that “the words recognitio and confirmatio, without being strictly synonymous [to explain the Vatican’s role], are nevertheless interchangeable” – in essence, that little had changed from LA – was not the case. As the pontiff explained, “the faculty” now belongs to the respective bishops’ conferences “to judge the goodness and coherence of terms in the translation of the original, albeit in dialogue with the Holy See”; in other words, not a unilateral call on Rome’s part, even at the process’ final stage.

Given considerable focus in the new norms’ wake on the use of the word “fideliter” – that is, a conference’s charge of weighing a translation’s fidelity to the original – in Magnum‘s revision of the Code of Canon Law, the pontiff writes that the term, as judged by an episcopal conference, implies a “triple” meaning: “first, to the original text; to the particular language in which it is translated, and finally to the understanding of the text by its audience.

In light of LA‘s revision of translation principles – which placed a premium on accuracy to the original Latin text over a “dynamic equivalence” approach that allowed a looser standard to ensure widespread comprehension – the Pope’s new interpretation is of particular significance.

While Francis began his letter by thanking the Guinean cardinal for his “contribution,” it bears recalling that, on Magnum‘s release in early September, Sarah – who Papa Bergoglio himself named to CDW in late 2014 – was conspicuous by his absence: an explanatory note on the new norms was instead issued by his deputy, the English Archbishop Arthur Roche. A former bishop of Leeds and chairman of ICEL – the global coordinating body for English-language translations – Roche was likewise received by Francis in a private audience earlier this month by himself.

Given the broad circulation of Sarah’s earlier interpretation on the new norms – in particular, among circles routinely critical, or even hostile, toward the pontiff – Francis closed the letter by asking the cardinal to transmit his response to the outlets which previously ran Sarah’s piece, as well as to the episcopal conferences and CDW’s staff and membership.

The letter published today marks the third instance of Sarah’s responses to Francis meeting a very public retort from the Pope. In early 2016, as CDW promulgated the decree formally allowing women to participate in the washing of the feet on Holy Thursday, an attached letter from the pontiff to the cardinal revealed that Papa Bergoglio’s directive for the change had been held up for over a year.

Six months later, Francis (through the Press Office) issued a “clarification” that Sarah had been “incorrectly interpreted” in calling for priests to adopt the ad orientem stance in celebrating Mass, which the cardinal urged days earlier at a conference for traditionalists in London.

In a major speech to Italian liturgists late last summer, Francis declared, “with certainty and magisterial authority,” that the Vatican II reforms are “irreversible” – adding that, for the church, “the liturgy is life, and not an idea to be understood.”

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13 Responses to In Magnum’s Wake, Pope “Clarifies” Sarah. Again.

  1. Gertrude says:

    How much longer Lord, how much longer..


  2. johnhenrycn says:

    As long as Catholics like you are on watch, Gertrude, things are going to be okay. Blessed St JP II day!


  3. Gertrude says:

    Catholic s like me JH?


  4. Gertrude, I echo your sentiments.


  5. JabbaPapa says:

    This should not affect the English translation of the Third Edition of the Missal, because that work has already been completed. Even assuming no further changes in the longer term future, it could potentially become an issue for the English-speaking Church longer for any Fourth or later Editions of the Missal, but even then it would be a secondary concern in the face of such further revisions of the Novus Ordo.

    Meanwhile, there have been persistent problems in the translation project of the Third Edition into some other languages, notably French, when some significant variations in local dialects may exist. The translation into French is two years late, so far, because of this specific problem. As far as French is concerned, anyway, this revision of the norms for liturgical translation seems to serve that purpose.

    The effect however on, for example, the German translations, given the parlous state of the German-speaking Bishops Conferences, could very well be far more problematic. And seemingly for little good reason, but only ideological ones — these are the principal reasons for the political arguments surrounding the translation of the Missal into German, and not really any genuine linguistic/dialect issues.

    Finally, for the less widely-spoken languages, these new norms should have very little meaningful effect — a liturgical language for the Novus Ordo that is in use in only one single National Church is unlikely to engender political/ideological arguments between Bishops Conferences — such as those between the BCs of Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Luxembourg, etc …


    As for who’s right and who’s wrong between the Pope and Cardinal Sarah, I’m afraid that on this one, I find that I must side with the Pope.

    His motu proprio sets out for the first time explicitly that : “the Conferences “must ensure and establish that, while the character of each language is safeguarded, the sense of the original text should be rendered fully and faithfully”.

    And the Congregation for Divine Worship has clarified even further that : The confirmatio of the Apostolic See is therefore not to be considered as an alternative intervention in the process of translation, but rather as an authoritative act by which the competent Dicastery ratifies the approval of the bishops. Obviously, this presupposes a positive evaluation of the fidelity and congruence of the texts produced in respect to the typical editions on which the unity of the Rite is founded, and, above all, taking account of the texts of greatest importance, in particular the Sacramental formulae, the Eucharistic Prayers, the prayers of Ordination, the Order of Mass and so on. … and … The Instruction Liturgiam authenticam itself, which is to be appreciated for the attention it brings to bear on this complicated work and its implications, must be interpreted in the light of the new formulation of canon 838 when it speaks about seeking the recognitio..

    So there is a real potential here for some genuine good, particularly in the specific insertion into Canon Law of the word fideliter, concerning translation as such, if the Holy See should choose to insist more strongly on this requirement than it did, historically, for the First and Second Editions.


  6. JabbaPapa says:

    Furthermore, as Father Z explains HERE : … the Commentary attributed to Cardinal Sarah was NOT in fact written by him at all !!!


  7. toadspittle says:

    “In light of LA‘s revision of translation principles – which placed a premium on accuracy to the original Latin text over a “dynamic equivalence” approach that allowed a looser standard to ensure widespread comprehension..”
    Pinheads on an angel, I suspect. And “dynamic equivalence” sounds decidedly weasely in this context. I guess it means making something mean what you think it ought to mean.
    For novels and the like, say Proust, that’s another thing.


  8. leftfooter says:

    toadspittle – “And “dynamic equivalence” sounds decidedly weasely in this context. I guess it means making something mean what you think it ought to mean.”



  9. JabbaPapa says:

    For novels and the like, say Proust, that’s another thing

    hmmm, you might have chosen a better author for the example, as Proust is extraordinarily precise in his literary use of French.


  10. toadspittle says:

    I was thinking about the English translations of the title(s) of Marcel’s chefd’ ouvre, Jab. Your opinion on this would be interesting. I’m sure you have one.


  11. JabbaPapa says:

    Avoid English-language translations of Proust, and learn to fully understand French instead — there, that’s my opinion.


  12. Crow says:

    Everyone, please pray that Cardinal Sarah becomes Pope!


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