This past week many Catholic bloggers and journalists have been following the drama of the USCCB Bishops Synod in Baltimore. Although there are a number of important and interesting issues being discussed and voted on, most of the attention has been on the final vote on the new translation of the Missal. This particular issue became even more dramatic with a last minute effort by Bp. Donald Trautman (Erie PA) to derail the final vote by bringing up an issue that had heretofore gone unnoticed. It seems that the Antiphons had been left out of the translation project, or rather, it had been removed and appropriated by the Holy See and the CDW.
Bp. Trautmann argued that the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy (Sacrosanctum Concillium) specifically delegated to the Bishops conferences the responsibility for translations of texts that are to be used in the liturgy, and as such the Antiphons would have to be translated, amended and overseen by the USCCB before they could be submitted to the Holy See for recognitio. Cardinal George, the Chair of the USCCB, informed Bp. Trautman that the translation of the Antiphons had been appropriated by the CDW, and that they would be included in the final version of the Missal even though the Bishops would not have the opportunity to vote on them. Cardinal George noted that this was a legitimate action and well within the rights of the Holy See as outlined in Sacrosanctum Concilium.
In a bold and perhaps admirable move, Bp. Trautmann made a motion to have the translation of the Antiphons re-delegated to the Bishops conference, a move that would delay the implementation of the new translation for at least a year, possibly two. Many observers suggested that this was the actual motive, rather than any desire to be involved in the translation of the Antiphons… texts which are not currently used in most US parishes. The motion was defeated…roundly…193-20 against adoption. And so, the last stand to stop the implementation of the new translation apparently failed, and the final draft of the translation of the Propers for the Saints was voted on and passed, and the whole Missal project now goes to Rome to receive final changes and the recognitio by the Holy See. In a rather indicative moment, Cardinal George reminded all of the Bishops that this was the last opportunity for the Bishops Conference to have any input on the translation. And with that, the drama surrounding the new translation appeared to be concluded.
The media coverage of this particular issue focused on the efforts by Bp. Trautman to scuttle or at least stall the translation project, and most of the analysis looked forward to what would happen now and the timeline from here on in. But with the focus on Bp. Trautman’s attempts to stall the project, something important may have been overlooked. A very important piece of news (although it was not necessarily being kept secret) came to the forefront in a context that I hadn’t considered it in up to now. By Cardinal George’s own admission, the translation of the Antiphons had been appropriated by the CDW and the Holy See and would be included in the new translation of the Missale Romanum. Perhaps this was just a situation that Bp. Trautman was seeking to exploit as a way of stalling the project long enough to allow for more negative public commentary as he has been doing for a few years now. Or perhaps there is more to this news that could shed some light on what impact the new translation will have on liturgical music.
Turn back the clock to 2001 and the promulgation of Liturgiam Authenticam (LA), a document that is often cited in connection with the new translation, as well as a document that was strongly objected to by Bp. Trautman from the day it was issued. Although LA is a universally applicable document for the translation of liturgical texts, it is generally thought that it was specifically intended for the English translation, and even more specifically for the Church in the United States. There are a few passages in LA that seem out of place and give some credence to the suggestion that the document is even more specifically intended as parameters for this specific translation into English .
One such passage is LA 108:
108. Sung texts and liturgical hymns have a particular importance and efficacy. Especially on Sunday, the “Day of the Lord”, the singing of the faithful gathered for the celebration of Holy Mass, no less than the prayers, the readings and the homily, express in an authentic way the message of the Liturgy while fostering a sense of common faith and communion in charity.  If they are used widely by the faithful, they should remain relatively fixed so that confusion among the people may be avoided. Within five years from the publication of this Instruction, the Conferences of Bishops, necessarily in collaboration with the national and diocesan Commissions and with other experts, shall provide for the publication of a directory or repertory of texts intended for liturgical singing. This document shall be transmitted for the necessary recognitio to the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments.
The bolded passage is significant. If LA is a general application document on translation, why is there a directive to complete this very specific task within 5 years from the publication of the instruction? That would be 2006. Such a mandate would be meaningless outside of the context of the proposed English translation. LA then further mandates that this repertoire of texts for liturgical singing shall be transmitted to the CDW for recognitio. Keep that in mind as we continue.
When LA was first promulgated, a few commentators asked a question that may have seemed obscure and maybe slightly laughable at the time. Why require the Bishops to compile a repertoire of texts for liturgical singing to be approved by Rome? Nobody then took seriously the idea that such a thing would even be possible given the stranglehold that commercial publishing has on the creation of ever new texts and tunes for church. And if such a repertoire of texts was a mere formality, then there was already a complete repertoire of such sung liturgical texts in existence. They are called the Antiphons.
But the Antiphons that were translated into English and included in the 1972 Missal were intended to be spoken, not sung…an omission that is thought to have contributed significantly to their sudden and thorough disappearance from the liturgy after Vatican II as they were quickly replaced with vernacular hymns or songs. What would have been needed then was a translation of the Antiphons from the Graduale Romanum set to either traditional melodies or perhaps Psalm-Tones so that they could be easily sung. Interestingly, that is exactly what was done with the Ordinary Texts that are now to be included in the new translation when published. Keep that in mind as well as we continue.
Move forward from 2001 to 2006…the deadline for submission of the repertoire of texts for liturgical singing. In November of 2006, the Bishops Committee on the Liturgy (now the Committee on Divine Worship) voted on and submitted a document called the Directory for Music and the Liturgy (DML), supposedly in fulfillment of the requirements of LA #108. Even on the surface, it was obvious to most observers that this document, a set of guidelines for approval of individual songs to be included in hymnals and worship resources, was not even close to what was called for in LA #108. The Directory was submitted to the Holy See for recognitio, but was never approved or acted upon in any way. The Bishops Committee on the Liturgy did not seem to be the least bit concerned. It began to look as though the DML was a stalling tactic to put off the mandated creation of a list of approved texts that would effectively restrict much of the commercially published music currently used at Mass. Keep that in mind as we continue.
And who was the Chair of the Bishop’s Committee on the Liturgy that proposed the Directory for Music and the Liturgy instead of an actual list of approved texts? That would be Bishop Donald Trautman. Definitely keep that in mind as we continue.
In early 2007, the USCCB rather unexpectedly undertook a complete re-write of Music in Catholic Worship at the behest of the CDW. Their stated reason for requesting this overhaul was to bring Music in Catholic Worship into conformity with the actual documents of Vatican II and their specific directives for liturgical music. From the beginning it was clear that MCW was so heavily flawed that a completely new document would be needed. The new document, Sing to the Lord-Music in Divine Worship (SttL) was far more comprehensive and detailed (110 pages vs. 10 pages) and contained some rather startling passages.
Among the more striking :
•Participation in the Sacred Liturgy must be “internal, in the sense that by it the
faithful join their mind to what they pronounce or hear, and cooperate with heavenly grace.” Even when listening to the various prayers and readings of the Liturgy or to the singing of the choir, the assembly continues to participate actively as they “unite themselves interiorly to what the ministers or choir sing, so that by listening to them they may raise their minds to God.” (SttL 12)
•The importance of the priest’s participation in the Liturgy, especially by singing, cannot be overemphasized. (SttL 19)
•Programs of diaconal preparation should include major and compulsory courses in the chant and song of the Liturgy. (SttL 23)
•Familiarity with a stable repertoire of liturgical songs rich in theological content can deepen the faith of the community through repetition and memorization.(SttL 27)
•The Second Vatican Council directed that the faithful be able to sing parts of the
Ordinary of the Mass together in Latin. In many worshiping communities in the United States, fulfilling this directive will mean introducing Latin chant to worshipers who perhaps have not sung it before. (SttL 74)
• Each worshiping community in the United States, including all age groups and all
ethnic groups, should, at a minimum, learn Kyrie XVI, Sanctus XVIII, and Agnus Dei XVIII, all of which are typically included in congregational worship aids. More difficult chants, such as Gloria VIII and settings of the Credo and Pater Noster, might be learned after the easier chants have been mastered. (SttL 75)
And then, there were these three passages that raised more than a few eyebrows:
• “The assembly of the faithful should participate in singing the Propers of the Mass as much as possible, especially through simple responses and other suitable settings.”When the congregation does not sing an antiphon or hymn, proper chants from the Graduale Romanum might be sung by a choir that is able to render these challenging pieces well. As an easier alternative, chants of the Graduale Simplex are recommended. Whenever a choir sings in Latin, it is helpful to provide the congregation with a vernacular translation so that they are able to “unite themselves interiorly” to what the choir sings. (SttL 76)
• The Entrance and Communion antiphons are found in their proper place in the Roman Missal. Composers seeking to create vernacular translations of the appointed antiphons and psalms may also draw from the Graduale Romanum, either in their entirety or in shortened refrains for the congregation or choir. (SttL 77)
• Proper antiphons from the liturgical books are to be esteemed and used especially because they are the very voice of God speaking to us in the Scriptures. Here, “the Father who is in heaven comes lovingly to meet his children, and talks with them. And such is the force and power of the Word of God that it can serve the Church as her support and vigor, and the children of the Church as strength for their faith, food for the soul, and a pure and lasting fount of spiritual life.” (SttL 117)
For many Catholic musicians, this was the first time they had ever heard of the Sung Propers or of Antiphons in general. To suggest that the Propers be sung by the assembly would be unheard of. The reaction was most often one of puzzlement: How can the Propers (particularly the Entrance and Communion Antiphons) be sung in English when there is no English translation of the Antiphons from the Graduale Romanum, and there are no vernacular settings? SttL does give the option of singing the Latin chants from the Graduale, but it clearly envisions the assembly singing the Antiphons in English at some point in the future. And these are directives coming from the USCCB at the behest of the CDW. Keep this in mind as we continue on…
And so we can make a brief summary:
1. LA mandated the creation of a repertoire of texts for liturgical singing within 5 years. The inclusion of this mandate in a document guiding the translation of the Missal would lead to the conclusion that this repertoire of texts was to be included in the proposed new Missal translation.
2. In 2006, the BCL under the leadership of Bishop Donald Trautman proposes a document, the Directory for Music and the Liturgy, ostensibly to fulfill this mandate, but more likely as a tactic to delay the creation of a restrictive list of texts for use at Mass. The DML was submitted but never approved or responded to, leaving it to the Holy See to either request a new document or to appropriate to themselves the creation of such a document.
3. In 2007, the CDW requests the rewriting of the music guidelines for Diocese of the United States to include instructions to begin the organized introduction of Latin chant at Mass, as well as directions for the use of Sung Propers and Antiphons in English, neither of which exists yet.
And this brings us to November of 2009…this past week. We learned that the Holy See and the CDW had appropriated the translation of the Antiphons to themselves, to be included in the new Missal. But it was clear from the discussion that the Bishops had never seen the Antiphons as part of the project, meaning that the CDW and Holy See had most likely appropriated them from the beginning of the project.
Remember that LA mandates that a repertoire of texts for liturgical singing be included as part of the approved texts of the Missal. The Bishops Committee on the Liturgy was charged with submitting this repertoire but instead submitted mere guidelines which were rejected. About this same time, the Holy See and the CDW apparently began work on translating the Antiphons, and soon after ordered the rewriting of the music guidelines for the United States to include the singing of the Proper Antiphons as a priority going forwards.
And now that the final actions are being taken on the new translation, word comes out that the Holy See and CDW have been in charge of translating the Antiphons all along, and that they will be included as approved texts. Since the Antiphons have to be translated, we might well suppose that these are the Antiphons from the Graduale, or perhaps they are new translations of the Missal Antiphons intended to be sung.
But the big question is this: Will this collection of Antiphons being worked on by the Holy See and the CDW be the repertoire of texts for liturgical singing required by Liturgiam Authenticam? Perhaps the answer to this question can be discerned by considering just who reacted most strongly to the news that the Holy See and CDW had approprited them: the same Bishop Donald Trautman who had sidestepped work on an approved repertoire just three years earlier.
Of course, we will have to wait to find out the answer to that very important question. At stake is whether we will have the status quo of vernacular hymns and songs based on unapproved texts, or setting of the actual Antiphons sung in the future. There may be some clues at the upcoming meeting of Artists and Musicians with Pope Benedict on November 21st. At that time, he is expected to discuss the need for a greater continuity with the past traditions of the Church in liturgical art and music. I for one will be listening closely to what he has to say on this topic. Stay tuned…