In an extraordinary rebuke to one of his own Curial cardinals, the Pope has aimed to “explain simply, and hopefully clearly… some errors” in his Worship chief’s understanding of Magnum Principium, his recent motu proprio on liturgical translations, indicating the new norms granting enhanced oversight to bishops’ conferences as a fresh development – and, most pointedly, declaring several key pieces of the operative rules in 2001’s Liturgiam authenticam “abrogated.”
A year since Francis’ last open clash with his top liturgical aide, a personal letter from the pontiff to the CDW prefect Cardinal Robert Sarah (above, ad orientem), dated 15 October, was published this morning by the Italian outlet La Nuova Bussola Quotidiana and subsequently confirmed by the Holy See Press Office, then placed on the Italian homepage of Vatican Radio. (Ironically enough, even as this Ordinary Sunday takes precedence, today marks the feast of St John Paul II, under whose authority LA was promulgated.)
Noting that a lengthy, widely-circulated commentary published under Sarah’s signature earlier this month stated that LA remains “the authoritative text concerning liturgical translations,” the Pope responded by relating that paragraphs 79-84 of the 2001 norms – those which deal precisely with the requirement for a vernacular rendering’s recognitio by Rome – were now abolished, going on to note that Magnum “no longer upholds that translations must conform on all points with the norms of Liturgiam authenticam, as was the case in the past.”
In the new balance of responsibility, Francis said, Sarah’s contention that “the words recognitio and confirmatio, without being strictly synonymous [to indicate the Vatican’s role], are nevertheless interchangeable” – in essence, that little had changed from LA – was not the case. As the pontiff explained, “the faculty” now belongs to the respective bishops’ conferences “to judge the goodness and coherence of terms in the translation of the original, albeit in dialogue with the Holy See”; in other words, not a unilateral call on Rome’s part, even at the process’ final stage.
Given considerable focus in the new norms’ wake on the use of the word “fideliter” – that is, a conference’s charge of weighing a translation’s fidelity to the original – in Magnum‘s revision of the Code of Canon Law, the pontiff writes that the term, as judged by an episcopal conference, implies a “triple” meaning: “first, to the original text; to the particular language in which it is translated, and finally to the understanding of the text by its audience.“
In light of LA‘s revision of the prior translation principles – i.e. prioritizing accuracy to the original Latin text over the immediate post-Vatican II “dynamic equivalence” approach that allowed a looser standard to ensure widespread comprehension – as Catholicism’s supreme legislator, the Pope’s reverted standard articulated here is of particular significance.