By JOHN L. ALLEN JR.
not always clear to people that, formally speaking, a Vatican congregation or
council is composed not of its staff but of its members, in most cases a set of
20-30 cardinals appointed by the pope who function like a Board of Directors. At
least in theory, all the important policy decisions are taken by this group,
which usually meets once a year in a gathering called a “plenary assembly.”
Staff, consultors and other guests can also take part in the meetings, but it’s
the cardinals (and in some cases bishops) who vote.
customary for the pope to receive the participants in the plenary assembly at
the end of their deliberations. His remarks are generally a result of a
back-and-forth with the congregation, reflecting a mix of their priorities and
his. The text is usually a good hint, therefore, of what’s on the radar screen
of that office.
Feb. 6, John Paul received the plenary assembly of the Congregation for the
Doctrine of the Faith, the powerful doctrinal watchdog agency. His talk is
therefore especially interesting for its insight into what the CDF is working on
pope laid out five themes: mission and evangelization, the reception of
doctrinal documents from church authorities, the revival of the natural law
tradition, handling of sex abuse cases, and the need for priestly formation
especially on celibacy.
the five, sources told NCR Feb. 10 the one that generated the most
discussion inside the plenary assembly was the question of natural law.
natural law, in itself is accessible to every rational creature, indicates the
prime and essential norms that regulate the moral life,” the pope said. “On the
basis of this law a platform of shared values can be constructed, around which a
constructive dialogue with all people of good will, and more generally, with
secular society, can be developed.”
Paul warned that the idea of natural law is imperiled.
“Today, in consequence of the crisis of metaphysics, a truth written in the
heart of every human being is no longer recognized in many sectors of opinion,”
the pope said. “This results, on the one hand, in the diffusion among believers
of a morality with a fideistic character, and on the other, legislation comes to
lack an objective reference, so that it’s based solely on social consensus,
making it more difficult to reach a common ethical foundation for all humanity.”
warning against “fideism,” the pope hit on a subject that recently has been of
mounting concern for the doctrinal congregation. Their worry is that a growing
number of Catholics believe the church’s moral rules, especially on questions of
sexuality, are rooted in positive law rather than universal truths about human
nature. If the natural law basis for the teaching is lost, the CDF fears, then
the ban on birth control, or abortion, or cloning can appear as simply
“Catholic” rules that could be changed, as opposed to moral truths upon which
all people of good will can agree.
subject of natural law was “hugely important” in the assembly, a source said.
eclipse of natural law in some Catholic moral thinking was a constant theme
brought up by the bishops,” the source said. “It erodes the basis for
conversation among people who do not share the faith.”
CDF is not planning a document on this subject, sources told NCR, but
instead hopes to encourage a “serious dialogue between philosophers and
theologians” in Catholic universities and other venues.
* * *
Thursday, Feb. 12, was one of those days that illustrates how intense the
Vatican’s diplomatic role can be. In the same morning, John Paul II received the
President of Colombia, Alvaro Uribe Vélez; the Prime Minister of Palestine, Ahmad
Qurei; and the Foreign Minister of Iran, Kamal Kharrazi. Each VIP went on for a
meeting with Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the Secretary of State, and his aides, for
a review of the international situation.
his meeting with Uribe, locked in a long-running struggle against the
Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), the pope
called on Colombians to seek “authentic social peace …
along the sure and firm path of justice, promoting from all corners of the
nation unity, brotherhood and respect of each person.”
the pope reiterated his opposition to the Israeli-imposed security fence.
reconciliation that the Holy Land needs: forgiveness not revenge, bridges not
walls,” the pope said. He called on all leaders in the region to follow the path
of dialogue and negotiation.
with the pope and Sodano, then went to the Gregorian University in the afternoon
for a conference marking the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations
between Iran and the Holy See. He and Archbishop Giovanni Lajolo, the Vatican’s
foreign minister, exchanged speeches.
In response to
reporters’ questions prior to the session, Kharrazi denied U.S. accusations that
his country is developing a nuclear weapons program, insisting that Iran seeks
nuclear technology only for peaceful purposes. He said that questions raised by
U.N. inspectors, who claim to have found “undeclared centrifugal designs”
similar to technology used in Libya’s nuclear weapons program, “will be
prepared remarks, Kharrazi emphasized shared values between Iran and the Holy
See, especially on the defense of the family, moral values, and environmental
protection. He said the two share a common struggle against atheism and
materialism. Kharrazi asserted that Iranian Christians “have always been
respected by Muslims and the followers of other religions. They have always
enjoyed equal treatment as Iranian citizens.”
expressed warm thanks to Kharrazi, but at the same time, it was clear that he
wanted to press him on core concerns.
stressed the importance of disarmament, making specific reference to the Holy
See’s endorsement of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. “The Holy See
welcomes the further cooperation in the name of peace that Iran offers to the
United Nations and its agencies,” Lajolo said, a gentle way of saying that those
questions from the U.N. inspectors need answers.
praised Kharrazi’s reassurances on religious freedom, but at the same time he
wasn’t willing to let him off the hook on the situation facing Iranian
Christians. He listed four problematic areas:
• The legal
status of the Christian community
• Visas for clergy
• Organization of pastoral work
• Educational structures
“I hope that
our dialogue will soon bring about the desired-for results,” Lajolo said.
* * *
Cardinal Bernard Law, the former archbishop of Boston, has been spending a fair
bit of time in Rome. I last saw him at the Centre Pro Unione, where he quietly
slipped in as a member of the audience for a lecture and liturgy to mark the
Week of Prayer for Christian Unity in late January. I suspect that Rome is in
some ways a more comfortable environment for Law than the States; he is not
stalked by TV cameras here, and, rightly or wrongly, many Roman observers regard
him with sympathy, believing Law was unfairly made the scapegoat of the American
sex abuse crisis.
Because he’s been spotted so often around town, rumors have circulated that Law
is on the brink of being named to some major Vatican post. I spoke with a senior
Vatican official on Feb. 12, however, who said that Law will not be named to run
an office of the Roman Curia. In part, the senior official said, this is a
reflection of the controversy surrounding the cardinal, but it also reflects the
fact that Law is already 72, and hence couldn’t put in a normal five-year term
before he would have to submit his resignation at 75.
senior official did not rule out that Law might receive some other position with
a lower profile, such as arch-priest of one of the major patriarchal basilicas
in Rome. Even in that case, however, the senior official said that no such move
* * *
developments illustrate the breakneck speed, at least in ecclesiastical terms,
at which progress towards a new English translation of the Mass is proceeding.
First, the draft English translation of the Ordo Missae, or the Order of
the Mass, will be mailed to all American bishops at the end of next week. The
draft has been approved by the bishops who govern the International Commission
on English in the Liturgy. Based on comments from English-speaking bishops,
including the Americans, the hope is to put the text in final form during the
ICEL meeting in July. Individual conferences will have to approve the text and
petition Rome for permission to put it into use.
U.S. Bishops’ Committee on Liturgy will discuss the translation at its March
meeting, and all comments are due back to ICEL by May 15.
Second, comments from the American bishops on a draft ratio translationis,
or set of principles for new English translations, were due back to the U.S.
Bishops’ Committee on Liturgy Feb. 10. Bishop Wilton Gregory, president of the
U.S. conference, mailed the draft to the American bishops with a cover letter
Jan. 12, explaining that Cardinal Francis Arinze, prefect of the Congregation
for Divine Worship, had asked for comments from English-speaking bishops by
document runs 69 pages of single-spaced type and contains:
Part One: Presuppositions for the Authentic Translation of Liturgical Texts in
the Roman Rite
• Part Two: Principles of Translation for the Liturgy of the Roman Rite
• Part Three: A Grammar of Application for the English Language
• Appendix A: Specific Application to the English Language of the Norms of
Liturgiam Authenticam Regarding Biblical Language
Marked “to be added later” are two additional appendices:
Appendix B: Vocabulary and Latin-English Word List of Key Terms in the
• Appendix C: Particular Difficulties of Translation from Latin into
purpose of the ratio translationis, put together under the guidance of
the Vox Clara commission, is to spell out the implications of the May 2001
document Liturgiam Authenticam for English translations.
may find it curious that the bishops are only now being asked for their opinion
on the ratio translationis, when the main translation it was intended to
shape, the Order of the Mass, is to some extent already a fait accompli.
I asked Msgr. James P. Moroney, executive director of the U.S. bishops’
Secretariat for the Liturgy,
how to explain what may seem a cart-before-the-horse approach.
Holy See and the ICEL bishops are trying to respond to the Holy Father’s call
for an expeditious completion of a vernacular edition of the missal,” Moroney
said. “This means that sequences and processes will be somewhat different than
in the best of all possible worlds. ICEL has been seeking to follow the
principles of Liturgiam Authenticam from the beginning of its work on the
Third Typical Edition. The ratio translationis is simply an explicit
application of those principles to the English language.”
Moroney responded by e-mail from a meeting in Vallidalid, Spain, of
English-language national liturgy secretaries.
* * *
the ratio translationis is intended to spell out the implications of
Liturgiam Authenticam, it insists upon fidelity to the Latin text. On page
22, for example, it says:
“Every word and
concept presented in an original text must be fully accounted for within a
translation, even when the language into which the text is being translated must
be pushed beyond its normal limits of expression to do so.”
Specifically, the ratio translationis discourages “inclusive language” to
avoid gender-specific terms as well as language considered less offensive to
groups such as Jews, where such measures depart from the literal meaning of the
is unnecessary and inappropriate to alter biblical or liturgical texts simply
because some might take offense at their wording, as for example in some
biblical passages that have sometimes incorrectly been criticized as depicting
the Jewish people in an unfavorable light. Such misunderstandings are rightly
dispelled by proper catechesis rather than by unwarranted interventions upon the
text itself. If a given liturgical text is seen to require change in order to
avoid misunderstandings of this nature, such a change lies within the competence
of the supreme authority of the church and not of the translator.” (p. 60)
translationis also discourages language that comes from Protestants or other
“Given the long
history of the Roman Rite which developed in part around certain divisions in
the practice of the faith, seen most acutely in liturgical and credal language,
translators must show great care in expressing the mysteries of the faith as
understood in the Catholic tradition. As a result, traditional Catholic
expression is not ordinarily rendered through language which belongs to other
faith communities.” (p. 46)
* * *
NCR has obtained a copy of the draft translation of
the Order of Mass that is now awaiting comments from English-speaking bishops.
already noted one important point two weeks ago, which is that in the words
spoken by the priest over the chalice, the Latin phrase pro multis is
rendered “for all” rather than “for many,” as some traditionalists have long
insisted. An earlier draft of the ICEL translation, also obtained by NCR,
had adopted the formula “for the many,” but the bishops opted to return to “for
all” in their mid-January meeting.
Footnote 14 in the current draft comments on this choice:
translation of pro multis as ‘for all’ has been retained in the proposed
text as a rendering of the original biblical text, even though it does not
appear to be a literal translation. An equivalent translation of pro multis
is offered in the Eucharistic words of institution in Spanish (por todos los
hombres), Italian (per tutti), German (für Alle), and
Portuguese (por todos homens). A rationale for this translation is given
in Notitiae, Volume VI (1970), pp. 39-40, 138-40, which states: ‘…secundum
exegetas verbum aramaicum, quod lingua latina versum est <pro multis>,
significationem habet <pro omnibus>: multitudo pro qua Christus mortuus est,
sine ulla limitatione est, quod idem valet ac dicere: Christus pro omnibus
mortuus est …’ And: ‘… in adprobatione data huic vernaculari variationi
in textu liturgico nihil minus rectum irrepsit, quod correctionem seu
Latin translates as: “According to Aramaic scholars, the word which has been
translated into Latin as pro multis has the meaning pro omnibus:
the complex of peoples for whom Christ died is without any limitation, which is
the same as saying: ‘Christ died for all.’ In the approval given to this
vernacular variation in the liturgical text, nothing has come out which would
demand a correction or a change.”)
are scores of other changes from the initial draft obtained by NCR to the
one now awaiting comment from the bishops. Among the more substantive points:
the prayer for the bishops in the First Eucharistic Prayer, also known as the
Roman Canon, a new phrase appears: “holding to the truth.” A liturgical expert
told NCR this is an attempt to render the Latin word orthodoxis
without using the English cognate “orthodox,” which can be confused with the
Eastern churches, and which also functions as a political buzzword these days in
the list of saints in the Roman Canon, the wording had originally been Mary and
“also” Joseph and the other saints. Now it is Mary, “then” Joseph and the rest.
This, according to experts, is an attempt to reflect the Latin, which refers to
Mary in primis, “in the first place,” distinguishing her from the other
the words of institution, instead of saying Christ’s body will be “handed over,”
the priest says it will be “given up.” Also, “testament” becomes “covenant.” In
both cases, the bishops appear to have opted to use vocabulary already in use,
on the principles of minimizing change where possible.
the Second Eucharistic Prayer, the phrase “loosen the bonds of death” has become
“break the bonds of death.” One source told NCR that this is a good
example of how a literal translation can actually distort the meaning of a text,
since the Latin term here is solveret, whose root is literally, “to
loose.” Yet in English to say that something has been “loosened” usually means
that it’s still in place, only less tightly so, hence to say that Christ
“loosened” the bonds of death could suggest that the redemption was somehow
the same prayer, the phrase “to minister in your presence” has become “to give
you worship,” perhaps reflecting concern over potential confusion about whether
the priest or the whole congregation is actually the minister. It’s another case
in which the bishops opted to move slightly away from a literal translation,
since the Latin word is ministrare.
the same prayer, “receive a share in eternal life” has become “worthy
companions” in eternal life. This reflects a long scholarly debate over the
proper translation of the Latin word mereamur, which has the sense of
merit. It was left out of earlier translations, in part over fears that it could
suggest a kind of Pelagian idea that the human being somehow “earns” salvation.
same prayer reads, “by whose sacrificial death you have chosen to be appeased.”
Several liturgists have objected to the word “appeased” to translate the Latin
placari, in part because it suggests a wrathful God demanding
satisfaction, in part because the term has a 20th century history
associated with Neville Chamberlain and the Munich accords. The ICEL bishops,
however, chose to leave it in.
comments from English-speaking bishops are due to ICEL by May 15.
* * *
activists believe that human trafficking is the most pernicious human rights
scourge of the 21st century. In 1997, U.S.
authorities estimated that 700,000 to 2 million women and children were being
trafficked for various motives – manual labor, forced prostitution, the drugs
trade – each year, although some observers regard that number as conservative.
In Rome, the U.S. Embassy
to the Holy See has taken a lead role in raising awareness on trafficking,
hosting a high-profile conference on the topic in May 2002 attended by 400
people from 35 countries. More recently, the embassy, along with the
International Organization for Migration and the Union of Major Superiors of
Italy (USMI, the umbrella group for women religious in Italy) organized a pilot
training program on human trafficking Jan. 26-Feb. 6.
religious women attended the two-week training, designed to equip them both to
be advocates in the public arena and to intervene directly on behalf of women
and children who are victims. The idea is that they can train others to do the
Ambassador James Nicholson
told NCR Feb. 9 that the U.S. State Department put up $60,000 to develop
the curriculum for the training session, which is soon to be replicated in
Romania, Nigeria, and Albania.
Consolata Sr. Eugenia Bonetti, an Italian missionary who spent 24 years in
Kenya, is among the animators of the anti-trafficking effort. She told NCR
Feb. 10 that her involvement was born of personal experience after her return to
Italy, at a drop-in center in Turin.
“After many years of ministering to women on the streets we no longer call them
‘prostitutes’ because at least 90 percent have been forced into prostitution
against their will,” Bonetti said. “We consider them victims of a modern
slavery, much worse than the slavery of the past, because forced prostitution
empties a human being of her inner self and inner life as a woman.”
Bonetti said that women caught up in trafficking are often traumatized by fear:
Fear of going to prison because they lack legal status;
• Fear for their health and life;
• Fear to ask for help because of the ‘voodoo’ rituals many Africans undergo
before coming to Europe;
• Fear that their family will be shamed because they are “prostitutes”;
• Fear that they will be sent home empty-handed;
• Fear of being rejected by society, family and God.
Bonetti said that as a member of a religious community she feels a special call
to this work.
years, our religious communities have become the ‘inn’ where various Good
Samaritans, committed on the ground, brought these people to be cared for and to
recover their lives,” she said. “This is to be faithful to the charism of our
religious congregations, started by men and women with great vision to respond
to the demand of the Gospel and to the needs of the time.”
Nicholson said he was unaware of the dimensions of the trafficking problem when
he became ambassador, and feels a special passion for the issue.
woman at our conference talked about witnessing an auction of women who were
stripped naked, so that handlers could view them on elevated platform and walk
around and bid on them,” Nicholson said. “This was not in the 18th
century, but 21st century Eastern Europe.”
keep thinking that the world was once beset by slavery and it was ended. Now we
have to end it once again.”
* * *
Paul II has famously called upon Christianity to “breathe with both lungs,”
meaning to draw equally upon both its Eastern and Western heritage, in an image
the pope borrowed from Russian poet Vyacheslav Ivanov (who was received into the
Catholic Church in 1926 in Rome).
this week, however, one could argue that John Paul wasn’t taking his own advice
in terms of senior Vatican management, since there were only two Eastern
Europeans running dicasteries, and both were Poles. (They are Cardinal Zenon
Grocholewski in the Congregation for Catholic Education, and Archbishop
Stanislaw Rylko in the Council for the Laity).
Wednesday, Feb. 11, however, the Vatican announced two new appointments.
Archbishop Franc Rodè, a Slovenian, succeeds Spanish Cardinal Eduardo Martinez
Somalo as prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and
Societies of Apostolic Life, and Archbishop Nikola Eterovic, a Croat, takes over from Belgian Cardinal Jan Schotte at the Synod of Bishops.
Eterovic and Rodè are in line to become cardinals in the next consistory.
Eterovic, 53, is a Vatican diplomat who has served as the papal ambassador to
Ukraine since 1999. Prior to that assignment, he had served in Ivory Coast,
Spain, Nicaragua, and in the second section of the Secretariat of State. I spoke
to a Ukrainian Greek Catholic bishop who told me that Eterovic made a good
impression, in part because he learned to speak Ukrainian and hence could
communicate with both the bishops and the ordinary people. He helped organize
the papal visit to Ukraine in 2001, which by most accounts was a success. He
also gets high marks for the always delicate relationship with the Orthodox; he
always notified them, for example, when a new Catholic bishop was named. The
bishop described Eterovic as “an able diplomat,” and a “good hearted person.”
Eterovic’s main initial task will be to prepare for the next Synod of Bishops,
to be held Oct. 2-29, 2005, on the topic of “The Eucharist, Source and Summit of
the Life and the Mission of the Church.”
69, was born in Ljubljana, Slovenia . In 1945 he fled
with his family from to Austria and emigrated later to Argentina. He was
ordained for the Vincentians in 1960, and holds a doctorate in theology from the
Catholic Institute of Paris.
He returned to Slovenia in
1965, where he was director of the Vincentian scholasticate and provincial
visitor. At the same time he taught fundamental theology and missiology at the
Theological Faculty of Ljubljana. He arrived at the Vatican as an official of
the Secretariat for Non-Believers in 1981, and undersecretary the following
year. In 1993 he became Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Culture.
1999, Rodè spoke at the European Synod.
live for God or to live for death’, said the French poet Pierre Emmanuel,”
Rodè said. “This is the dilemma. We can hope
that European man will choose God, and with him, life rather than death.”
The e-mail address for John L. Allen Jr. is
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