Take your pick! What big change happening in the Church got your attention recently? I suppose the first one would be the news that the Pope has said that use of condoms may be morally permissible in some circumstances. When I heard this news I had to read the story twice. I was sure that there had been a misquote. Apparently not. My own reaction was, something big has happened here. Indeed the world felt different. However, Vatican press secretary Father Federico Lombardi insisted that nothing had changed in Church teaching.
Father James Martin, an American Catholic commentator and writer, was quoted by the National Post as saying: “It’s the first admission from a pope that a condom can be used for a good intention,” …… “Just a few years ago, the Vatican would have rejected these ideas outright, even though they had great currency among theologians. Clearly, something has changed.”
Pope Benedict is a scholar and knows moral theology extremely well. He has applied principles from that discipline that have been around for hundreds of years, and this time has come up with a new direction. Though aimed at a rather narrow set of circumstances, questions are already being raised about the applicability of this teaching in, for example, marriage.
I do not know where this will go, but the optics would suggest that nothing has been as significant since the discussions around artificial contraception in post-Vatican II years.
The second big change happening is in the translation of the prayers of the Mass. This will affect all of us, because we will hear the changes and participate in saying the language of the changes when they finally come out in a couple of years. In the meantime there is a big controversy happening. It centres around the principles that were used in making the translation. Notably, the scholars were to adhere faithfully to the Latin text on which they are based. For example, are you old enough to remember ‘Dominus vobiscum’ and its response ‘Et cum spiritu tuo’? The English we have been using goes: ‘The Lord be with you’, with the response,’And also with you’. The response will change to the more literal ‘And also with your spirit.’ Some of the changes flesh out the underlying theology a bit more, and the result is that the text is going to be longer. However, another result is, for example, that the word ‘consubstantial’ is going to appear in the Creed, in place of ‘One in being with….’ Do you know what consubstantial means?
So the argument is made that a literal fidelity to the Latin produces an awkward and even unintelligible English. Those who take that position would favour a principle of ‘dynamic translation’ which takes the translation and then asks, how would we say that today? The effort would be to preserve the theology but to do so in a way that today’s parishioner would better comprehend.
Stay tuned on both these big stories. They are very big. There is much more to come. Through it all, ask the Holy Spirit to continue to guide the Church and give her leaders the great gifts of openness, fidelity, and generosity.
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