VATICAN CITY (AP) – The Vatican has issued new guidelines for translating liturgical texts, clamping down on the use of politically correct “inclusive” language that has flourished in recent years in parts of the English-speaking world.
The document is likely to reverberate strongly within America”s National Conference of Catholic Bishops, which has been at the
forefront of the debate over using more gender-neutral terms in Mass and scripture.
In a 34-page “Instruction” released on its Web site Monday night, the Vatican said translations of the Latin texts shouldn”t be creative or overly dependent on modern modes of expression because they may water down the original intent.
Saying “man or woman,” may not achieve the same unifying and collective idea as using the strict translation of “homo” – Latin for “man,” the Vatican said in a paper that was approved by Pope John Paul II.
And it said any translation decisions must be confirmed by the Vatican.
It was only the fifth time that the Vatican has issued guidelines on the liturgical reforms of the Second Vatican Council, which launched the modernizing changes for the church that included the use of local languages instead of Latin for Mass.
The document is entitled “Liturgiam authenticam,” or “The Authentic Liturgy.”
Archbishop Oscar Lipscomb of Mobile, Ala., who chairs the liturgy committee of the Bishops” Conference, said the rules were long overdue since the last set of major guidelines came down in 1969.
“It is somewhat more restrictive … but it is the result of the testing of time over these 30 years that has shown some inadequacies in the earlier document,” he said, stressing that he was not speaking for the Bishops” Conference.
The instructions were welcomed by conservative Catholics, who have balked at the inclusive language trend as a knee-jerk reaction to the feminist movement in America, and pressed for a stricter translation of liturgical texts.
“Words really do matter,” said Helen Hull Hitchcock, director of Women for Faith and Family and editor of the Adoremus Bulletin, which advocates the restoration of liturgical traditions. “Since the Church”s truth is transmitted through words, it”s so important.”
But more liberal Catholics criticized the new regulations as overly restrictive and an attempt by the Vatican to take away bishops” authority.
“It”s really micromanaging the whole translation process,” said Rev. Thomas Reese, editor of America, the national Catholic weekly magazine. “It”s saying that the bishops in their own countries don”t know their own languages well enough to do their own translations.”
Call to Action, the Chicago-based church reform movement, called the instructions “a slap in the face” to the progressive bishops in America.
“We don”t use Old English bibles,” said spokeswoman Linda Pczynski. “Why? Because it puts a barrier between people and their understanding of what the words mean. All this shows is tremendous ignorance on the part of the Vatican in terms of language.”
By NICOLE WINFIELD, Associated Press Writer