Monday, March 30, 2015

Loftus and the Missal translation

I've put my readers through some tedious drivel in talking about Mgr Basil Loftus, so this post will keep to short quotations which, if they were not so scandalous, would be rather amusing. For in talking about the 2011 translation of the Ordinary Form Missal, Loftus leaves behind all restraint.

5 Sep 2010: ‘If you control the language, you control the people. That seems to the hidden agenda. The door is closing on people’s freedom to express themselves to God in prayer.’

31 July 2011: ‘…The need for mankind to express itself in the vernacular, recognised by Vatican II, will not be met if a stilted, outdated, pompous and artificial vocabulary inhibits and frustrates our more natural and spontaneous expression of the excitement with which we discover both nature and the supernatural.’

26 May 2013: ‘an unwanted and unwelcome, artificial and stilted, unprofessional and occasionally theologically inaccurate translation of the Mass'

30 June 2013: Translations which are couched in ‘sacral’ or ‘hieratic’ language are symptomatic of a retreat into some Old Testament kind of ‘Holy of holies’, where only the ordained or ‘professional’ priest knows what is going on - if even he does.’

11 August 2013: ‘the monstrously over-intellectual new English translation of the Roman Missal, which far from furnishing us with a ‘grammar of simplicity’, obfuscates the whole Mass through tortuous constructions, contorted vocabulary, and a plethora of dependant clauses.’

29 August 2014: ‘frequently indecipherable and unintelligible syntax and vocabulary’

20 March 2015: ‘Like the Gestapo in the Channel Islands during the last war who had to admit that they couldn't make everyone speak German, but forced them to drive on the right-hand side of the road, that Congregation [sc. for Divine Worship] had, regretfully, to admit that it could no longer make everyone worship in Latin, but by means of an unintelligible translation it would force them to conform to an alien culture in order to demonstrate its own superiority.’

Mgr Loftus also criticised the new translation in his column on 9 Oct 2011, 26 Feb 2012, 17 June 2012, and 1 July 2013.

If Catholics attached to the Extraordinary Form wrote these attacks on the Ordinary Form and the Curia, there would be an outcry. Because it is a liberal, however, no one cares.

Loftus explains that the translation is the result of a huge conspiracy: because, you know, they don't believe in Vatican II in Rome.

13 May 2012: ‘Effectively, what has happened since the Council is that many of the applications of Church reform, in the areas of liturgy, ecumenism, and Christian unity, and perhaps above all in episcopal collegiality, have been gainsaid, abolished, or at least watered down by centralised Roman administrative authority. In consequence a culture of ‘Vatican II-bashing’ has percolated down to those in authority in dioceses and parishes.’

3 June 2012: ‘Effectively, in recent years fundamentalism in the Church has become rampant. Legalism in law, overly-literal interpretations of Scripture, rubrical straightjackets round the liturgy, fossilisation of what should be living doctrine, and general over-objectification of faith and morals have left little if any scope for personalism and self-responsibility.’

1 July 2012: ‘Today the lay-people are bring frustrated in that mission by an ineffectual and sterile authoritarian rump of caste-conscious clerics, in the Roman Curia as well as some dioceses and parishes.

And this is reflected in Papal liturgies.

9 Oct 2011: ‘A kind of dumb insolence in the church has been all too obvious in recent years as the clear instructions of the Roman Missal about not cluttering altars with candlesticks...’

12 Feb 2012: ‘I cannot imagine why any grown man would actually want to wear the kind of diaphanous lace frippery usually seen only on the tea-tables of elderly spinsters and on the washing-lines of younger ones. Yet just such vestments are finding their way back into the liturgy, not least in Masses directed by papal masters of ceremonies.’

26 May 2013: ‘And every week people in many parishes are deprived of fuller participation because, in total contravention of an explicit General Instruction in the Roman Missal, their view is impeded by a crucifix and six candlesticks. 

Did I mention that these are all articles published in The Catholic Times? That the Catholic Times enjoys ecclesiastical approval, has 'Catholic' in its title by permission of the Bishop of Salford where it is based (currently Bishop John Arnold), and is sold in churches? That Loftus has been writing this column, week in and week out, for more than twenty years? And that a shorter version appears week by week in the Scottish Catholic Observer

But no one cares. I write this, dear reader, partly with the hope of eliciting the outrage which would be appropriate. I think, in fact, that it is very unlikely that such outrage will be forthcoming, but to demonstrate that there is no outrage, even when this material has been laid out with the precision and persistence which I have given it, is itself an important result.

With the conclusion of this little series of posts, no one can say that Loftus' rants were not available online, that no one had bothered to draw wider attention to them en masse, or that the proper authorities had not been informed. (As a matter of fact, I have personally ensured that they have been.) What we continue see in the Catholic Times, and will continue to see, I suspect, for as long as Loftus wishes it and while he can lift a pen, is the result of a conscious dereliction of duty by the entire Catholic elite. I don't blame individuals, some I know are concerned, but collectively they bear this responsibility, and indeed if any section of that elite - bishops, senior priests, lay intellectuals, the authorities in Rome - had thought it serious enough to do something about, it would come to an end tomorrow.

But they do not. And that tells us something important about the Church today. Orthodox Catholics who are concerned about the problems in the Church, about dissent, about Catholic schools, about liturgical abuses: you are on your own.

As a service to the public, I have put together quotations on a range of themes from Loftus' published writings, mostly his Catholic Times columns, in a dossier here, and made one of his most theologically egregious articles, on the Resurrection of Our Lord, available here.

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  1. 30 June 2013: ‘Translations which are couched in ‘sacral’ or ‘hieratic’ language are symptomatic of a retreat into some Old Testament kind of ‘Holy of holies’, where only the ordained or ‘professional’ priest knows what is going on - if even he does.’

    - Is this a tacit admission by Loftus that he is merely an 'amateur priest'?

  2. ‘If you control the language, you control the people.' Indeed. I can think of no better reason for using Latin, which, unlike English, is not subject to control or adjustment of meaning.

    Reading all this stuff makes an excellent penitential exercise.

    1. "‘If you control the language, you control the people.'"

      A lesson taken to heart by many members of the Concilium in 1964-1969, and by many members of ICEL in drafting the 1973 and the (rejected) 1998 translations.

      Fr. Loftus is only dismayed by this principle when it's his own ox being gored. Otherwise, it appears that he's quite happy to control.

  3. I think he's on to something: the new translation was written by the lizards ...

  4. Anonymous10:59 am

    Well, it is appalling that this cleric continues to pontificate (and the word is apt giving his sweeping generalizations and condemnations). Worse is that a supposedly Catholic journal gives him space to do so.

    But then The Tablet has published far worse from others and continues to enjoy establishment status among the Catholic in-crowd. Loftus is merely a sort of Tablet-lite, dissent for the unintelligent. Perhaps no one takes Loftus seriously enough to expend time on him as you have done (and so well).

    However, remember too the nefarious means he used to silence a clerical critic. He is a litigious creature, not afraid to ignore St Paul's counsel that Christians should not take other Christians to pagan (read secular..., no read pagan) courts. Of course he ignores whatever does not suit him.

    So some of us clerics do not spend much time on Loftus because his litigiousness gives fright to our superiors, who want a quiet life and no bad publicity. That being sued by Loftus would, in fact, be excellent publicity is beside the point.

    Laymen are freer than clerics to defend the faith against its destroyers. It is a sad fact of modern Church life that its grass-roots clergy have been neutered.