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US Bishops voice concerns on Vatican instruction on translations

The US Catholic bishops have voiced wide-ranging concerns about Liturgiam Authenticam, the new Vatican instruction on liturgical translations.

Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk of Cincinnati, one of the leading translation experts among the bishops, summarised a central concern about the document with the comment that it seems to be based on a mistaken view that translation is not an art but a science.

"I don't believe translation is a science, it's an art," he told last week's meeting of the US Bishops, adding that for the art of translation one cannot lay down "universal rules, much less universal vocabulary, because words have meaning in context".

He also said the Vatican divine worship congregation's assertion of competence over the statutes of international commissions like ICEL (International Commission for English in the Liturgy), to the extent even of writing and imposing statutes, raises the question: "Is the congregation asserting competence over the assets of these mixed commissions?"

"ICEL has a lot of assets; namely, they own the copyrights to these texts. I think that's a question of some concern," Archbishop Pilarczyk added.

Several bishops urged a more complete discussion of the instruction and its implications, including Archbishop Jerome G. Hanus of Dubuque, Iowa, one of the three U.S. archbishops who worked with the Vatican on resolving the Lectionary translation issues.