Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Is Bishop Big Brother Alive and Well ?


In November 2010 the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales issued ‘Guidelines’ for the Publication of Liturgical Books.” 

It aimed to “authorize . . . guidelines for the use and publication of liturgical materials.” (paragraph 2)

All seems innocent enough.  After all guidelines are a ‘principle put forward to determine a course of action.’  Paragraph 2 further reads  . . .

“The Conference, through these bodies, (the Catholic Trust for England and Wales, Colloquium and the Liturgy Office of the Department for Christian Life and Worship) wishes to cooperate as fully as possible with all publishers, editors, writers, and composers.” 

This too seems nice and friendly . . . a mutually supportive body you might think.

The waters begin to get muddy by Paragraph 3.

“As regards the publication of liturgical books translated into the vernacular which are the property of a given Conference of Bishops, the right of publication is reserved to those editors to whom the Conference of Bishops shall have given this right by contract, with due regard for the requirements both of civil law and juridical custom prevailing in each country for the publication of books. (LA 115)”

If the “publication of liturgical books translated into the vernacular . .  are the property of a given Conference of Bishops,” then what authority, if any, does the ‘given Conference of Bishops’ have to counter any opposition towards the new translation of the Roman Missal which many people find unacceptable?

Having had the translation imposed, it appears that Bishops and clergy have to implement it without question and that the Bishops Conference of England and Wales (BCOEW) does not have any ownership of the translation as implied in paragraph 3.  Those that do speak out are ‘dealt with’ as in the case of  Rev. William Rowe. 

There is an acceptance that nothing can be done to counter the imposition of the new Missal so any opposition raised by clergy or lay people is simply ignored or smothered by platitudes.

In the next paragraph a rather Orwellian statement changes the tone somewhat.

“The purpose of this national episcopal responsibility – and of the present  guidelines – is not only to assert authoritative control but to encourage, and collaborate in, the production and publication of the most effective and excellent liturgical books and other materials.” (Paragraph 4)

We have already heard that the Bishops want to work and collaborate in the production of excellent materials in paragraph 2.  In Paragraph 4 the document ‘slips in’ what I feel is it’s real aim in such a way that it almost doesn’t want you to notice – to assert authoritative control !

Liturgists, Composers and Music groups up and down the country have been working with Bishops and clergy for years.  National organisations such as the Society of St Gregory  encourage excellence.  Local Diocesan based groups have run courses for Liturgical excellence and many Diocese have a liturgy commission.  If ‘authoritative control’ was not the aim of the document then I wonder why the following developments have occurred since the publication of “Guidelines’ for the Publication of Liturgical Books.” 

Decani Music have published a new version of their hymn book “Laudate.”  Their advertising states that;

“With the Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur, this is the first officially authorised hymnbook since the introduction of the new translation.” 

Decani music also published a supplement to Laudate emphasising ;

“Certain hymns had to have verbal changes in order to obtain the Nihil Obstat (85, 148, 475, 643, 957), and three have been removed (470, 649 and 650).”

I did wonder if this was a ploy to make the hymnbook more saleable in the present climate, though submitting their hymn book to editorial control outside of their company and having to rewrite the words of some hymns in order to obtain the Nihil Obstat almost reads as an act of censure.

If this were an isolated case I could dismiss my concerns about “authoritative control” and be grateful that the BCOEW are keen to support liturgical excellence.

McCrimmons are publishing a revised edition of “Celebration Hymnal For Everyone.”  The announcement on their homepage reads,

The revision of the hymnal has been submitted to the Bishops’ Conference of Eng & Wales for approval. It will incorporate Mass settings in accordance with the 2010 revision of the Roman Missal.”

Is this authoritative control or an expression of the conferences “wishes to cooperate as fully as possible with all publishers, editors, writers, and composers” ? (paragraph 2).

Is the editorial control exercised by the BCOEW restricted to hymn books ? 

Many parishes use “Sunday Bulletin” published by Redemptorist Publications as the basis of a weekly parish newsletter. Sometime since Advent 2011, they now include an imprimatur by +Kieran Conry.

Why on earth has this sort of editorial control found it’s way into the running of the ‘local’ catholic church? I know what I think, but I feel Bishops Conference and clergy can’t let us know what they really think for fear of being ‘dealt with.’

Cardinal Martini was right when he said in his last interview, “the Church’s bureaucratic apparatus is growing,” and that the church is “fearful instead of courageous”. All the above is evidence of this growing bureaucracy which no Bishops Conference speaks out about, choosing to be “fearful instead of courageous.”

It has become commonplace for new Parish priests to state an oath of allegiance on induction in a new parish where they;

“submit their will and intellect to the teachings which either the Roman pontiff or the College of Bishops enunciate when they exercise their authentic Magisterium, even if they do not intend to proclaim these teachings by a definitive act.” 

This translates in my mind to “I must do as I’m told.”  Little wonder with the growth of this sort of oath of fidelity no-one dares to speaks out. 

For years the church has wanted an educated laity.  It was Cardinal Newman’s great desire.  Nowadays education seems to come second place to intellectual servility. If priests, who are supposed to be educated can “submit their will and intellect,” in the service of the magisterium then I think Newman would be appalled at such Ultra Montanism.

How on earth can the BCOEW police their authoritative control ?   As a parish organist and choirmaster I compose psalm settings and mass settings for use in Sunday Worship.  I can’t imagine I’m the only pastoral musician in the country to do this.  Where would we have time to submit our work to the BCOEW as   we compose week by week?  Even if we could, should we? 

Apart from those with a vested interest in obtaining a Nihil Obstat for their publications, who will really notice if big brother is watching ? Perhaps it’s just a case of the Magisterium saying “Jump” and the BCOEW asking ‘how high?’  or is the church that just wants us to pray, pay and obey back ?

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