New missal deals blow to ecumenism, liturgist says

  • January 16, 2007

Fr. Paul Turner

TORONTO - The outgoing president of the North American Academy of Liturgy and a leading Catholic liturgist has told The Catholic Register the most recent translation of the Roman Missal is "a step backwards" for ecumenical relations.

"It's going to feel like the ecumenical movement has taken a hit," Fr. Paul Turner, pastor of St. Munchin Church in Missouri and author of a half-dozen books on Catholic liturgy, said following an opening liturgy for the North American Academy of Liturgy annual meeting in Toronto Jan. 4.

New, more literal, translations from Latin of liturgical texts scheduled to hit parishes in two years are a departure from the Second Vatican Council's movement toward common texts with Anglican, Lutheran and other churches, Turner said. Those common texts were a specific goal of council fathers in the 1960s, and non-Catholic scholars were consulted by Catholic  liturgists and translators in the past.

"That same effort is not being made today," he said.

While Turner regrets the ecumenical implications of the new translations, he supports the new texts generally.

"The words will be an improvement  as a whole," he said.

Turner also warned that most dioceses in North America aren't ready for the confusion and emotional reactions which will accompany a change in liturgy two years from now.

"Nobody's ready," said the priest-scholar.

Dioceses will need to ramp up their catechetical and liturgical offices to be ready, he said.

More than 400 scholars — Catholic, Protestant and Jewish — were in Toronto to exchange papers and discuss trends in liturgical studies for the North American Academy of Liturgy annual meeting. The scholars' work is often on the outer edges of how liturgy and culture interact, but it eventually becomes a part of good liturgy in parishes, Turner said.

"It's critical for scholars to do this work," he said.

The opening liturgy for the scholars remembered the lives of liturgical scholars who have died in the last year. It featured a jazz music presentation of the Book of Genesis.

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