Skip to comments.An Open Letter to the Church Renouncing My Service on I.C.E.L.
Posted on 11/29/2002 5:00:21 PM PST by Loyalist
An Open Letter to the Church Renouncing my Service on I.C.E.L.
Father Stephen Somerville, STL.
Dear Fellow Catholics in the Roman Rite,
1 I am a priest who for over ten years collaborated in a work that became a notable harm to the Catholic Faith. I wish now to apologize before God and the Church and to renounce decisively my personal sharing in that damaging project. I am speaking of the official work of translating the new post-Vatican II Latin liturgy into the English language, when I was a member of the Advisory Board of the International Commission on English Liturgy (I.C.E.L.).
2 I am a priest of the Archdiocese of Toronto, Canada, ordained in 1956. Fascinated by the Liturgy from early youth, I was singled out in 1964 to represent Canada on the newly constituted I.C.E.L. as a member of the Advisory Board. At 33 its youngest member, and awkwardly aware of my shortcomings in liturgiology and related disciplines, I soon felt perplexity before the bold mistranslations confidently proposed and pressed by the everstrengthening radical/progressive element in our group. I felt but could not articulate the wrongness of so many of our committees renderings.
3 Let me illustrate briefly with a few examples. To the frequent greeting by the priest, The Lord be with you, the people traditionally answered, and with your (Thy) spirit: in Latin, Et cum spiritu tuo. But I.C.E.L. rewrote the answer: And also with you. This, besides having an overall trite sound, has added a redundant word, also. Worse, it has suppressed the word spirit which reminds us that we human beings have a spiritual soul. Furthermore, it has stopped the echo of four (inspired) uses of with your spirit in St. Pauls letters.
4 In the I confess of the penitential rite, I.C.E.L. eliminated the threefold through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault, and substituted one feeble through my own fault. This is another nail in the coffin of the sense of sin.
5 Before Communion, we pray Lord I am not worthy that thou shouldst (you should) enter under my roof. I.C.E.L. changed this to ... not worthy to receive you. We loose the roof metaphor, clear echo of the Gospel (Matth. 8:8), and a vivid, concrete image for a child.
6 I.C.E.L.s changes amounted to true devastation especially in the oration prayers of the Mass. The Collect or Opening Prayer for Ordinary Sunday 21 will exemplify the damage. The Latin prayer, strictly translated, runs thus: O God, who make the minds of the faithful to be of one will, grant to your peoples (grace) to love that which you command and to desire that which you promise, so that, amidst worldly variety, our hearts may there be fixed where true joys are found.
7 Here is the I.C.E.L. version, in use since 1973: Father, help us to seek the values that will bring us lasting joy in this changing world. In our desire for what you promise, make us one in mind and heart.
8 Now a few comments: To call God Father is not customary in the Liturgy, except Our Father in the Lords prayer. Help us to seek implies that we could do this alone (Pelagian heresy) but would like some aid from God. Jesus teaches, without Me you can do nothing. The Latin prays grant (to us), not just help us. I.C.E.L.s values suggests that secular buzzword, values that are currently popular, or politically correct, or changing from person to person, place to place. Lasting joy in this changing world, is impossible. In our desire presumes we already have the desire, but the Latin humbly prays for this. What you promise omits what you (God) command, thus weakening our sense of duty. Make us one in mind (and heart) is a new sentence, and appears as the main petition, yet not in coherence with what went before. The Latin rather teaches that uniting our minds is a constant work of God, to be achieved by our pondering his commandments and promises. Clearly, I.C.E.L. has written a new prayer. Does all this criticism matter? Profoundly! The Liturgy is our law of praying (lex orandi), and it forms our law of believing (lex credendi). If I.C.E.L. has changed our liturgy, it will change our faith. We see signs of this change and loss of faith all around us.
9 The foregoing instances of weakening the Latin Catholic Liturgy prayers must suffice. There are certainly THOUSANDS OF MISTRANSLATIONS in the accumulated work of I.C.E.L. As the work progressed I became a more and more articulate critic. My term of office on the Advisory Board ended voluntarily about 1973, and I was named Member Emeritus and Consultant. As of this writing I renounce any lingering reality of this status.
10 The I.C.E.L. labours were far from being all negative. I remember with appreciation the rich brotherly sharing, the growing fund of church knowledge, the Catholic presence in Rome and London and elswhere, the assisting at a day-session of Vatican II Council, the encounters with distinguished Christian personalities, and more besides. I gratefully acknowledge two fellow members of I.C.E.L. who saw then, so much more clearly than I, the right translating way to follow: the late Professor Herbert Finberg, and Fr. James Quinn S.J. of Edinburgh. Not for these positive features and persons do I renounce my I.C.E.L. past, but for the corrosion of Catholic Faith and of reverence to which I.C.E.L.s work has contributed. And for this corrosion, however slight my personal part in it, I humbly and sincerely apologize to God and to Holy Church.
11 Having just mentioned in passing the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965), I now come to identify my other reason for renouncing my translating work on I.C.E.L. It is an even more serious and delicate matter. In the past year (from mid 2001), I have come to know with respect and admiration many traditional Catholics. These, being persons who have decided to return to pre-Vatican II Catholic Mass and Liturgy, and being distinct from conservative Catholics (those trying to retouch and improve the Novus Ordo Mass and Sacraments of post-Vatican II), these Traditionals, I say, have taught me a grave lesson. They brought to me a large number of published books and essays. These demonstrated cumulatively, in both scholarly and popular fashion, that the Second Vatican Council was early commandeered and manipulated and infected by modernist, liberalist, and protestantizing persons and ideas. These writings show further that the new liturgy produced by the Vatican Concilium group, under the late Archbishop A. Bugnini, was similarly infected. Especially the New Mass is problematic. It waters down the doctrine that the Eucharist is a true Sacrifice, not just a memorial. It weakens the truth of the Real Presence of Christs victim Body and Blood by demoting the Tabernacle to a corner, by reduced signs of reverence around the Consecration, by giving Communion in the hand, often of women, by cheapering the sacred vessels, by having used six Protestant experts (who disbelieve the Real Presence) in the preparation of the new rite, by encouraging the use of sacro-pop music with guitars, instead of Gregorian chant, and by still further novelties.
12 Such a litany of defects suggests that many modern Masses are sacrilegious, and some could well be invalid. They certainly are less Catholic, and less apt to sustain Catholic Faith.
13 Who are the authors of these published critiques of the Conciliar Church? Of the many names, let a few be noted as articulate, sober evaluators of the Council: Atila Sinka Guimaeres (In the Murky Waters of Vatican II), Romano Amerio (Iota Unum: A Study of the Changes in the Catholic Church in the 20th Century), Michael Davies (various books and booklets, TAN Books), and Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, one the Council Fathers, who worked on the preparatory schemas for discussions, and has written many readable essays on Council and Mass (cf Angelus Press).
14 Among traditional Catholics, the late Archbishop Lefebvre stands out because he founded the Society of St Pius X (SSPX), a strong society of priests (including six seminaries to date) for the celebration of the traditional Catholic liturgy. Many Catholics who are aware of this may share the opinion that he was excommunicated and that his followers are in schism. There are however solid authorities (including Cardinal Ratzinger, the top theologian in the Vatican) who hold that this is not so. SSPX declares itself fully Roman Catholic, recognizing Pope John Paul II while respectfully maintaining certain serious reservations.
15 I thank the kindly reader for persevering with me thus far. Let it be clear that it is FOR THE FAITH that I am renouncing my association with I.C.E.L. and the changes in the Liturgy. It is FOR THE FAITH that one must recover Catholic liturgical tradition. It is not a matter of mere nostalgia or recoiling before bad taste.
16 Dear non-traditional Catholic Reader, do not lightly put aside this letter. It is addressed to you, who must know that only the true Faith can save you, that eternal salvation depends on holy and grace-filled sacraments as preserved under Christ by His faithful Church. Pursue these grave questions with prayer and by serious reading, especially in the publications of the Society of St Pius X.
17 Peace be with you. May Jesus and Mary grant to us all a Blessed Return and a Faithful Perseverance in our true Catholic home.
Rev Father Stephen F. Somerville, STL.
The following is an excerpt from Bryan Houghton's book Mitre and Crook dealing with this subject. This is an excellent book that I would recommend to every Catholic wishing to understand the revolution that took place in the church in the 1960's and 70's (It is out of print but fairly easy to come by).
"On June 14th, 1971, the Congregation for Worship issued a Notification granting to Episcopal Conferences the right to impose the exclusive use of the vernacular in the New Ordo, once the translations had been approved. It thus became illicit to celebrate the New Ordo in Latin. (. . .) It also repeated the provision in the instruction of October 20th, 1969 that the Old Mass could only be said by aged priests sine populo.
Be it noted that a Notification is a purely administrative document and has no legislative authority whatsoever. Moreover, this particular one was itself undated and unsigned. It is therefore worth less than the paper on which it was printed. The bishops, from Rome to Stamford, remained mute.
Of course, the inevitable result of this particular piece of administrative folly was to throw all Latinists into the arms of the Tridentiners. There was no alternative if the New Ordo was illicit in Latin. It became imperative to divide the opposition, especially as Archbishop Lefebvre had cropped up in the meantime. The laity had thus found a bishop with the promise of future priests. Hence the Notification of October 28th, 1974. This document reverses the previous ruling: the New Ordo may now be said in Latin or vernacular with equality off esteem."
This bit of history should be kept in mind by those who attend the NO in Latin. They should know that it was never Rome's intent to preserve the Latin language in the liturgy. This should be obvious when one considers the nature of the New Mass. Why would you say the NO in a language incomprehensible to the people? After all the NO is all about the people. It makes sense to say the Traditional Mass in Latin as it is addressed to God, but the NO is centered aroung the people, and thus should be said in the vernacular. Fr. Houghton, in his book makes it clear that he thinks the NO in Latin is the worst of all choices.
A suggestion. I've read several of your posts and you seem to intersperse fact and opion to the point where a reasonable person is apt to be confused.
May I suggest you deliniate more clearly between fact and opinion?
I thank you...
It is impossible to deny the subtle -- or perhaps not so subtle -- reorientation (indeed the word is appropriate!) of the Church as exemplified by this reorientation of the Mass. Anyone familiar with JPII's intellectual history (extensive writings on humanism, etc.) will understand why he feels a "mystical" attraction to Vatican II. And why he has done as little as possible -- just enough to contain any open revolt -- to maintain the Traditional Mass.
We are talking about a new faith here, when taking all of this to its logical conclusion -- a move away from God and toward Man. I cannot speak for the King of Kings, but somehow I don't think this is what he had in mind for us. I think the decayed fruits of Vatican II are evidence enough of this displeasure.
Well, that is probably one of the only things you are right about. Though you could have just gotten to the bottom line and called me stupid.
I guess I don't spend much time peeking around corners and searching for reasons to denigrate the present pope, Vatican II and the Novus Ordo. Or, to put it simply, I don't like to spend ANY time causing division and confusion among Catholics from the "right" or the "left."
Ultima, I would give my right arm if you were in my parish. I am trying so hard to persuade the parish priest to put the tabernacle back on the main altar, have a parish holy hour, have a parish rosary and revamp the CCD program. I have absolutely no help from anyone in my parish, in fact, I am kind of ostrasized by the "pastoral associate" nun and the parish priest. The choir director loves the Latin but the parish priest doesn't let him use traditional Latin music... and there aren't enough likeminded parishioners to support the choir director. Part of being Catholic is thinking of our brothers and sisters and not as just our own personal salvation. We are supposed to try to bring many souls to Jesus. You took the easy route by "opting out" instead of staying in the Church and working to bring the parish community back to Jesus. Your way is much easier.
Don't be ridiculous. I cannot speak for Ultima, but I certainly do not think you are stupid. I know you are looking for what is right. I do think you would find wonderful things if you would just open your mind a bit and not be afraid to embrace -- I mean really embrace -- the glorious 2,000 years of your religion. This didn't all start in the 1960s, despite what many of the revolutionaries would have us believe.
The beautiful art, the architecture, the glorious music -- these are all completely wrapped up in what it means to be Catholic. And the center of this Roman Catholic Faith is the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass -- as it has been said for centuries, millenia.
This all together is our Faith. And no matter what the 1960s radicals do, no matter how deep into the catacombs they drive us, no matter what they intend to deprive us of, we will not go away. And how will we keep the faith in these terribly trying times? The miracle of the Traditional Latin Mass. That is our unchanging and unchangable link with all that it means to be Roman Catholic. Not just Mass on Sunday, but a Catholicity that permeates our entire lives -- down to our cells. It is what it means to be part of everything that has come before us, and to know that this is as close on earth as we can come to heaven. A gang of revolutionaries thought they could deny all this through their "modernization." What to do? Cling to the Mass. It is nearly all we have in these troubled times. Perhaps the Mass is offered by an independent priest, perhaps by the SSPX, perhaps by the FSSP, perhaps even by a devout and brave diocean priest -- who in many ways have the most difficult time of all. What is central is the Holy Sacrifice as it has been and will be, the Traditional Mass. To settle for anything concocted by 1960s revolutionaries when you can have the real thing is to turn your back on what it really means to be Roman Catholic. Trust me: when you begin to see things this way all else will begin to fall into place.
If the Mass was the center of the Tridentine Church, then why were little old ladies making the stations during Mass, or making a Novena at a side altar, or the parochial school children recited the Rosary during the Mass, stopping only for the consecration (which is the only thing they could see)? In fact, all these sacramentals came into being to give the faithful something to do while the priest mumbled to himself as he faced away from the congregation.
Private spirituality was at the center of the Tridentine Church, even during the celebration of the Mass.
"Where two or more are gathered, there I am in the midst of them." Thankfully, the Holy Spirit inspired John XXII to remind Catholicism that Jesus died for individuals, but He founded a community of believers.
Salvation is not just achieved by proceeding, single file, towards heaven, mumbling in a language no one understands.
What you call "sense of the sacred" was often befuddlement. When you walk into something where a language is being spoken that you don't understand, respectful silence is the only appropriate attitude. Do that a few times, and, pretty soon, the ingenuity of human beings comes into play. They start praying in a language they understand!
Novenas, the Rosary, the Stations, all prayed in the vernacular, were regularly celebrated in parish churches during Sunday Mass and nobody blinked an eye!
It is what it means to be part of everything that has come before us, and to know that this is as close on earth as we can come to heaven.
If a Church full of people doing their own thing, while the priest does his own thing is your idea of being close to heaven, then thank God there are "many mansions."
Like I said, why don't you just get to the bottom line.
Anyhow...you are preaching to the choir. I attend the beautiful Tridentine Latin Mass at "Holy Trinity Catholic Church" as often as I can, using my grandmother's 1962 missal.
You guys jump to conclusions and are downright snobby in your treatment of Catholics who are in union with the Pope. For instance, just because one is not in your camp, you assume one must therefore be ignorant of the majesty and glory of the Church.
So sad that you don't work as hard on bringing your wisdom and knowledge to your neighborhood N.O. parish so that others may be exposed to and inspired by the beauty of our ancient Catholic tradition ... but no, like ultima, you keep it all to yourself and safely navigate the calm waters of your Trad parish...
You guys are elite religious snobs.
I have no idea where to begin... "outlandish idea spread by those who know better but despise the ancient Tradition that I and other traditionalists fight for" ... this is so full of pride and false piety! What are you fighting for? To cause confusion and try to drag bodies away from Rome? How are you fighting? By staying safe in your own little parishes? Oh my word... talk about brave!!!
Sorry, I guess I am "just badly informed like a lot of Catholics these days" (don't forget to thank God that he gave you the grace not to be one of the unwashed masses - there but for the grace of God go I, and all that) because I am obedient to Rome, even when the going gets tough.
I don't trust somebody who picks the name of an anarchist movement for his moniker on a website.
Things have fallen into place for me, and for millions of other Roman Catholics: we celebrate the Lord's Sacrifice in a language we understand, and at a celebration that is not clandestinely performed as if there are things we mere laymen should not see.
You are free to celebrate the Tridentine Mass wherever you can find a priest or bishop who is sympathetic to your pleadings. But one thing is clear:
You WILL NOT FORCE millions of Roman Catholics to celebrate the Sacrifice of Jesus Christ in a language they do not understand, EVER AGAIN!
The condescension you Tridentines have exhibited over the past year on this website has turned off more people than you know (if my e-mails are indicative of anything).
You should work toward a separate Rite, as the Eastern Rite has its own liturgy and worship. I will be more than happy to help you do this.
The Western Rite is Novus Ordo, celebrated in the vernacular, with inculturated elements in it.
THAT is not going to change.
What on earth are you talking about??? I am in union with the pope. Who the hell are you to suggest I am not? You really are terribly mis-informed.
And you are downright unpleasant at the time I tried to reach out and mend fences. So much for that.
Ultima is right: you are just terribly mis-informed.
Maybe it's just you, Sink. I have been going to Latin Mass for only three years now and, having grown up with no Latin, I feel pretty comfortable in the language. But your whole premise is distorted anyway: the Mass is not about you or me or whether we understand every word uttered by the priest. It is about God. That is why the priest faces east rather than toward the congregation. You are still hooked on the radical idea that it is all about you. It aint.
Don't be a retard: the Zviadist were a pro-American, anti-communist, anti-Soviet movement in former Soviet Georgia. They were destroyed by Communist dictator "Bloody Eduard" Shevardnadze. I took their name to honor their courage to fight for democratic values and pay with their lives. The Clintonistas hated them, but then again they hated most of the anti-communists in the former communist world. I guess you are on the side of the Clintonistas...or more likely you just don't know what you are talking about.
But hey, if you have no argument to make on the matter at hand why not attack a poster for something completely unrelated to the matter at hand...
Sinkspur, your post calls to mind something I read about the Orthodox Mass. Something about warning newcomers about "all the commotion" going on in the congregation of Mass before the consecration. I'm pinging The Reader David to this thread to see if the devotions you're speaking about are similar to all that "commotion" in the Orthodox Mass.
Nonsense. You can hear a pin drop in our chapel just before and through the consecration. We have been warned against even coughing or sneezing. Absolute and total reverent silence.
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