Pope Francis Decentralizes most Authority for Liturgical Translations to Local Bishops
National Catholic Reporter (NCR) || By Joshua J. McElwee || 09 September 2017
Pope Francis has decentralized authority over how the texts used in the Catholic Church’s liturgies are translated from Latin into local languages, moving most responsibility for the matter from the Vatican to national bishops’ conferences.
In a motu proprio issued Sept. 9, the pontiff says he is making a change to the church’s Code of Canon Law so that the Second Vatican Council’s call to make the liturgy more understandable to people is “more clearly reaffirmed and put into practice.”
The motu proprio, given the title Magnum Principium, modifies two clauses of Canon 838. The rewritten clauses say simply that the Vatican is to “recognize” adaptations of Latin liturgical texts approved by national bishops’ conferences.
A comparison of the Italian text of the prior and new versions of the canon makes the change clear. Where the Italian says the Vatican was tasked before with “authorizing” all liturgical translations, it is now asked simply to “review” translations made by the bishops’ conferences.
That review will partly come through a process of confirming that the translations appropriately reflect the intent of the original Latin, known as a confirmatio.
The Vatican’s Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments said in a note accompanying the release of the motu proprio that the confirmatio process “leaves responsibility for the translation, presumed to be faithful, to the pastoral and doctrinal munus of the bishops’ conference.”
The congregation adds that the confirmatio “presupposes a positive evaluation of the faithfulness and congruence of the produced texts with respect to the Latin text.”
The process of crafting translations of Latin texts into local languages has been one of the most controversial and acrimonious in the Catholic church since the end of the Council, held from 1962-65.
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