Archive for November, 2011|Monthly archive page

In What Direction to Take An Ark To Safety?

The view of those who run Europe is that the truth is that its single currency must be saved. And so the story about what rain-makers and bailouts, and a flood of money …in a flood of new money — do to stave off impending doom, like in the 2008 financial collapse.

Before the time of Homer was a story of Noah, when the world was destroyed by flood. In the story of the second creation. In the book Sages and Dreamers, Elie Wiesal wrote of the world in which Noah was swimming in the polluted air of the earth which had resulted after ten generations of creation. In the story of Noah, God was still very conscious of the goings on in the world. The crimes of humanity, the corruption, which Noah was above, are never explained in the lines. Who did what to whom? Noah, who is all that others are not. Creation had become chaos. And the story of Noah, like most of the Genesis stories, dealt with the themes of fertility. Fertility and the pairing up — the fertility that you tried to control, just as your tried to plan your own future. It would be what you would leave behind, way beyond your control. All others die, yet Noah lives. There is a certain irony to read the perspective of a Jewish author who lost each and every one of his relatives in the Holocaust — a man who at war’s end tried returning to his hometown, which had done nothing to help the Jewish population, perhaps feeling like Noah where all he had left was family.

So what had Noah ever done to deserve his role, to save humanity? Little ever is said. All that the Good Book says is that Noah submits to God’s will and nothing more. God has chosen to talk to him. And he built his ark. To save humanity.

The NYU economics professor (former derivative trader) known as Dr. Doom, Nassim Taleb, who had predicted the 2008 crash, in a January 2009 speech about bailouts: “I want them poor. And they deserve to be poor. You cannot have capitalism without punishment.”

And so the stories about what the flood of money in our times has done, and the belief that someone ought to be punished. Because at least money was one value everyone understood. Through a medium of exchange which conveyed a sense of belonging. To a group of people. And then the attempt to pass on that culture. With a sense of belonging, through the stories. Where there were so many problems. About where to go with your money. For safety.

When you shared a heritage, or a culture. But your leaders attempted to form a union with the neighbors. And so the new stories about what a shared heritage, or a culture, pairing up, to save humanity. My fertility as a medium of exchange, which conveyed a sense of belonging. To a group of people. To a land. And then to pass on, in like the eggs. Or the euro.

“One reason the eurozone is tottering is that markets know that its members (by which they mean Germany) could produce the mere two trillion euros required to calm things down, but are refusing to do so.

In Europe “one crisis leads to another crisis unless you find a really effective circuit breaker,” said PIMCO’s El-Erian. The creation of the new government in Italy “is certainly not sufficient. You fundamentally have to convince the people that they have to sacrifice and come up with a set of policies that allows the economy to grow and not just austerity. Europe so far hasn’t come close.” PIMCO continues to favor sovereign debt of nations including the U.S. and U.K. where central banks are keeping interest rates low and embarking on monetary stimulus programs such as debt purchases, said Bill Gross during today’s interview. Canadian and German debt also remain attractive.

Nancy Lazar of Ed Hyman’s ISI Group makes it clear that the Germans are exhibiting an uneasy awareness of the limits of their own less-than-vibrant economy. Expressed as a percentage of Germany’s GDP, German bank exposure to debt from France is 6.1%; Spain, 4.8%; Italy, 4.4%; Ireland, 3%;Portugal, 1%; and Greece, 0.9%. As she comments, the total of German banks’ exposure to peripheral and French debt is equivalent to 20.2% of Germany’s GDP, “high by any standard.” About Germany, Lazar posits that even without capturing fully the fiscal drag and contagion from the crisis, inflation-adjusted gross domestic product, which in the September quarter rose 2.5% year-over-year, will head for zero growth next year. That rather glum prospect is in keeping with recent weak readings of, among other indicators, German business expectations and slowing consumer spending.

Since something like 70% of German exports go to the rest of Europe, German exports have softened. Paced by a 12.1% plunge in demand from the rest of the Continent, September German factory orders were off overall by 4.3%. Corporate earnings have begun to give, with a one-two punch of a weaker economy with the rise in unit labor costs. Retail sales, with diminished consumer confidence, are destined to suffer this holiday season and thereafter.

There was so much irony to read the quote of a French leader that the European Union was set up so that religion would not be the basis of war among nations again. And so the secular nature of Europe, in post war Europe. The EU as the defining instrument of the times, with the euro. When spokesmen for a system of government spent so much time disseminating illusion on issues of unity, if not union. What happens when the confidence is gone? And so the devaluations, the corruption, which came out of one means of exchange for the all nations. And the downward spiral.

Nov 16 (Bloomberg) – Europe has as little as day or weeks to act to avoid a default by a euro-region country, Citigroup Inc. chief economist Willem Buiter said today, “Time is running out fast.” In an interview on Bloomberg Television’s “Surveillance Midday” with Tom Keene, Buiter said, “I think we have maybe a few months – it could be weeks, it could be days – before there is a material risk of a fundamentally unnecessary default by a country like Spain or Italy which would be a financial catastrophe dragging the European banking system and North America with it. So they have to act now.”

The irony in the story of this flood of money and ancient Greece. And the mottled German leadership role in all of this, seventy-five years after the Third Reich. When money helps to create the illusion of grandeur in this life. When money was a DEFINING INSTRUMENT OF THE Culture. It was the language we communicated, in western civilization. It was how we exchanged things, beyond words. It was a way of understanding. Money reflected the values of a community. Systems of money were created. Capitalism. Communism. We fool ourselves with the systems of grandeur. By nationalism. Fascism. In castes. Or in Aryan supremacy. In the debates about theologies, and the defining instruments of communication, so often stifled by popes, or about radical authoritarianism, with a missing collegiality. With the missing debate not so much over valuations — about buzzcuts on those holding Greek debt, or just needed pruning back — but how to measure valuation. With a meaningful DEFINING INSTRUMENT of the culture.

You cannot have capitalism, the one size which is supposed to fit all, like really the one size that fits Germany. As people without their own currencies, or their own language, cannot correct their own errors, as their debt compounds. As Germans overvalue their currency and the remainder of the EU’s along with them. Without punishment.

Yeah, up until one month ago the view from Europe was that its single currency must be saved. At all costs. Was there an irony, a certain sense of satisfaction, to see the currency pain in Italy and in Germany at the same time, with their real pain in a devaluation in the use of dynamic equivalence. As old men from Italy led by a German, put in place this currency adjustment, at all costs, affecting the way I prayed? In English.

This devaluation, the change in translation, was not about just prayer but about the medium that I used, that all of us within these borders use. So now comes the change. It was a currency adjustment, a devaluation in the use of dynamic equivalence. As these things happened in international systems of exchange. And with it, a change in the spiritual lives of many in these united states. Mindful of the intense suffering and pain which is part of fertility, it took more than 10 years for all of this to bear fruit. And after the translation comes the real life interpreting, as a church’s true mission has been in the field of interpreting and translating, just like in those services offered for interpreting and translating, to lawyers and court services. With my own ignominy watching the story of the euro play out, I had a certain response – like that found in Germany – that the pain in places all over Europe would not happen here. And I now understood the Occupy Wall Street protest which was now leading to a world-wide movement, about leaders who had no idea where or how they were leading people. The protest like the one over the leadership of the financially chosen people.

From the economic discussion of “Too Big to Save,” came me. Questioning who these leaders were and what they hoped to accomplish — who they thought they were really serving. I felt that somehow my prayer life was caught up in the European wholesale sovereign debt mess, and I was part of the write-downs. It was being packaged as The New Evangelization. And I was a part of the write-offs. And in the aftermath, there was a disproportionate size of Europe’s biggest cathedrals relative to their real life use which would be coming to America. As Germans overvalue their currency and the remainder of the EU’s along with them, there was the missing debate over sovereignty. And like the feelings of animosity towards a distant far-away authority, I empathized so much like the Greeks today and the Spanish tomorrow.

Before the time of Homer, when the world was destroyed by flood, except for the story of a man named Noah. When one man was responsible for carrying on. It was what happened in a world during a devaluation in the use of dynamic equivalence. This was the same story later played out in the past, among Chosen People. Like the perverted story eighty years ago with anti-semitism. And members of a church – the ones who see themselves as chosen people concerning issues of salvation – can, in discovering the subtleness of God, play a critical role. Or not. In interpreting the meaning of Creation. Like Noah. Like my own priest, who in navigating closeness was above all the petty human politics, with a perspective in the broken world about the truth that its single currency cannot be saved. Without punishing the poor in spirit. With his services carried out, like that by the seasoned and professionally trained interpreter, far from the Holy See and its philosophy based upon a single currency.

“In very ancient Greece, Homer tells us, the giants tried to scale Heaven by piling Mount Ossa on top of Mount Olympus, and then adding “wooded Pelion”, another mountain in those parts, on top of that. They failed, of course, and “piling Pelion on Ossa” became a by-word for reinforcing failure.” –Charles Moore in “The Left and Right Should Join Forces Against the Great Euro Take-over”
Copyright © 2011.

On The Theology of Capitalism

A banking system is an act of faith: the system survives only for as long as people believe. In each other. With a face mottled by broken capillaries from working there, a Bank & Trust is an every day act of faith.

The BOND MARKET. The world is in unbelievable bad shape. And I do not hear many church people praying for a financial system on the brink of disaster.

In Russia, people who believed in the theology of communism saw their system collapse twenty years ago. The life of the ruble over ten years was a daily roller coaster ride, especially for people on pensions. In August 1998, when the U S Congress was voting to impeach Bill Clinton, the government of Russia defaulted on forty billion dollars of government bonds.

Credit is the air that business breathe. Bonds. That you should have what I have. When you wanted everyone to have what I had. And your job involved sharing bonds.

On February 11, 2009, I wrote a piece about the financial system crisis, more and more the DEFINING INSTRUMENT OF THE culture. Then and now this was a financial system crisis, not a sub prime mortgage crisis. It was not just the derivative market. It was the entire system. It was everybody. Here.

I understood that foreign governments were required to keep capital reserves for international trade, in US dollars. And it is my understanding that the United States went to war in Iraq and Afghanistan, without ever raising taxes. The wars, even before the United States escalated things in Afghanistan, were projected to have a total economic impacted cost $3 trillion, according to Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz and co-author Linda J. Bilmes in “The Three Trillion War” — or maybe $4 trillion. And every country in the world had no voice in the pursuit of these wars which was shared by all those who relied on the U S Dollar.

This now is a financial system crisis, not a sub prime mortgage crisis. It was not just the derivative market. It was the entire system. It was everybody. It was war and cheap money. Willem H. Buiter wrote on January 25, 2009, the impact of the bailout has been virtually nil in the market, which has continued to punish the banks in the stock market, and among the public, which has failed to find a clear message.

There is a lot of illusion in life today.  The illusion is about who we thought we were. Money helps create the illusions of grandeur in this life.  We fool ourselves… with theologies based upon systems. Systems like capitalism and nationalism. Or systems based upon communism.

While living through the crisis in the financial system in 2008, I had lunch with a priest with part of a job description overseeing an endowment fund that would determine the future education of a lot of young people in college.  After a touching on a lot of the fiscal concerns in the world, as to how much they might affect his job in fund-raising, at the end of lunch he asked me how much my identity was based upon money.

Money is a DEFINING INSTRUMENT OF THE culture. It is a language that we all communicated in.  It is how we exchanged things, beyond words.  It is a way of understanding.  Money reflects values of a community.  And values are always debated.  

The perils are all around us in America, especially today in Europe, as the banking system is again on the brink, with the value of all currency, of the things that help sustain illusion. Unetaneh Tokef is a prayer that the Jews recite during the High Holy Days about the perils of the year to come: 

How many shall pass away and how many shall be born,
Who shall live and who shall die…
Who shall be at peace and who shall be pursued,
Who shall be exalted and who shall be brought low…

Those stocks in banks in Europe have been worthless for the past three years. “If drugs continue to be injected which mask symptoms rather than address the disease (medicine in the form of debt destruction), the likelihood of a seismic readjustment increases in kind,” writes Todd Harrison, about the dollar. “As governments take on more risk” as they price assets on behalf of the market and transfer debt from private to public, “the common denominator, or release valve, becomes the currency.”

And it has been. As the euro dies. Maybe because the Chinese did not want to adjust the value of their currency. In the game of liar’s poker, in the markets.

“In the UK, no bank is solvent. And if there is, I do not know,” said Jim Rogers in January 2009. The crisis in the banking system has been accompanied by the collapse of the pound sterling. “Interest rates are on the floor and is expected to fall further, the housing market remains in crisis, the current account deficit is through the roof, economic prospects are very bad, it was have triggered the red in the public accounts and banking turmoil of recent days have come to weaken the currency.”

“I want them poor and they deserve to be poor. You can’t have capitalism without punishment.”
–Nassim Nicholas Taleb (1960–), NYY economics professor, former derivatives trader, at the World Economic Forum, January 2009, concerning the bailout. 

“There is an angry mob out there. Its shape is dimly perceived, but the terrifying shadows cast by its flaming torches are clear enough. This is the bond market in full cry. Its most aggressive participants even call themselves the “bond vigilantes.”” – Stephen Foley, British journalist 

“The US Federal government has taken on massive additional contingent liabilities through its bail out/underwriting of the US financial system (and possibly other bits of the US economic system that are too politically connected to fail). Together will the foreseeable increase in actual Federal government liabilities because of vastly increased future Federal deficits, this implies the need for a future private to public sector resource transfer that is most unlikely to be politically feasible without recourse to inflation. The only alternative is default on the Federal debt. There is little doubt, in my view, that the Federal authorities will choose the inflation and currency depreciation route over the default route,” Willem H. Buiter of the European Institute, then Professor of European Political Economy, London School of Economics and Political Science, wrote at the time.

“Although the US dollar and US Treasury Bills and Bonds are still viewed as a safe haven by many, there will, before long (my best guess is between 2 and 5 years from now) be a global dumping of US dollar assets, including US government assets. Old habits die hard.”  -Willem H. Buiter from his the naked capitalism blog, from three years ago.

We had lived through times when banks quit playing for the community.  When Citibank arrived.  And put that local banker out of business. The last twenty-five years have seen leveraged buyouts, mergers and acquisitions, as regulators ceased regulating. Because a lot of people got drunk on wealth.

Capitalism is on trial. Capitalism is in the news each day, with this world-wide Occupy Wall Street movement. After Communism had been tried and found guilty a generation ago. What now the system here? These are the days. When all those bankrupt banks are going to end up owning even more homes of financially bankrupt people. And there is anger at governments which bailed out bankrupt banks, on the back of taxpayers. If not for taxpayers, it would be the banks which were foreclosed.

There were saved banks….but banks still not fixed.  As a result of big banks in too many businesses, backed by worthless sovereign debt, this republic is threatened, as is the world. The scale of the problem – Bloomberg has reported the total bailout and loan guarantees, the stimulus, total $9.7 trillion now – would have been enough to pay 90% of all US home mortgages. And so the anger, over the choices, over the income of CEOs of banks and on Wall Street. The public concern over economic decay, not unlike the concern over cultural decay, as a political issue, with government over-reach, with the help of a military in international missions, at an economic and political price. On issues of power and might. On these weapons of mass destruction that so few people understood –called currency and bonds.

A calamity, when there was movement in the stories. Or not. When people are stuck. A calamity was a lot like fire… a raging fire, as people cannot buy homes and cars from a banking system where half of the banks are on the brink.  And the rest of us cannot sell. And there was the anger and disappointment. At the system.

Europe has as little as days or weeks to act to avoid a default by a euro-region country, Willem Buiter, who is now the Chief Economist with CitiGroup, Inc, said today. In a banking system, always an act of faith, on a continent where more and more, there is no there THERE, the system survives only for as long as people believe.  Capitalism, as capital is lost, in an old society which cannot replicate itself.  With falling birth rates, and independent contractors.

As the invisible becomes visible, over time. In the old stories where the fear and anger had not been understood when invisible. It might be a good time to stop and pray — ironically on the last Sunday where the English-speaking Roman Catholic world can use the native language at Mass in rooted words which I have come to understand, before the language of English prayer is devalued — to pray like those in flight.  In the way Passover was once commemorated, as the world once again looks at the old prayers, which have come down in the Jewish tradition, passing on, in relationship, in the DEFINING INSTRUMENT OF THE culture, the power in bonds which were believed in:
How many shall pass away and how many shall be born,
Who shall live and who shall die…
Who shall be at peace and who shall be pursued,
Who shall be exalted and who shall be brought low…

Copyright © 2011.


How the Change in the Mass in English Came to Be

AFTER a time, some of us learn that life comes down to some simple things – how we love, how alert we are, how curious we are. In ways mysterious and comforting comes the profundity of style, of stories, in language, by others more articulate than I. Layer by layer, we discover and peel away superstition, fantasies, ideas of grandeur, levels of confusion, of anger, of hate, in order to experience the people and the world around us – and our life in the world – as directly and clearly as possible.” –Scott Walker of Graywolf Press

To have learned firsthand, through, with, in …. prayer, in the minor Elevation. 

When they come to take you away. The fear, the unsettling fear associated with power, like getting a letter from the IRS. The fear, like on Holy Thursday. There was a certain vintage of fear which came alive, not at all unlike if you had lived in Eastern Europe forty years ago. Over issues of trust. Of people with legal power. When you felt so powerless, as “they” took away my prayers.

In third grade geography, the teacher had discussed the things which made up a regional character. The mountain people seemed different, from the people of the plains. At least in the times when there was a lot less movement, and those people mostly looked alike. With a LANGUAGE which defined them, until the movement in the story changed the people. Language is the reference point for the nuanced subtleties of all relationships. Language is just a measure of what people think about worth. When valuation is so much only what was in a person’s mind, we all are just extrapolating and thinking – and that is perhaps what everyone thinks language is worth. A developed self-worth, when you were touched by the language.

Mindful of this subtlety, day in and day out, of language — the reference point for all delicate human relationships – the significance is when people gathered to say together words which to people somehow connected have recognized meaning. Here!  With a living language which defines us to each other, if not to God.

There is something exciting within when something grips you. It happened when you came across a great epic in which you could identify.  Poetry is a medium connecting the unconnected, measuring a past to the ever-growing present.  And the language of the Mass is what connected us: not only to God but to each other – those graduates of the parochial school.  Prayer is best described as “when you really looked deeply at something, it becomes part of you.”

How alert we are about Divine worship – over power and might? Under John Paul II, Joseph Ratzinger had been the Prefect of the the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Get your programs and scorecards ready, concerning issues of power and might. Concerning by whom he had been surrounded. Had there been plots about worldly power, concerning Divine worship among a group of the well-connected? This was like watching the same plot found in The Caine Mutiny?

George Pell was a a member of the Congregation for Divine Worship and president of the Vox Clara Committee, which supervises for the Vatican on English translations of liturgical texts used at Mass. George Cardinal Pell had been a member of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith when Cardinal Ratzinger was in charge. The son of a professional fighter, his infamous polarizing remark once was that he did not “think a Christian can say ‘I’m a lover, not a fighter.’ ”

William Joseph Levada, the current Prefecct of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, had been a member of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith under Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger. He is an American from Southern California.

Archbishop Tarcisio Bertone was Cardinal Ratzinger’s chief canon lawyer having been named in 1995 Secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith before Archbishop Bertone left the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to become Archbishop of Genoa. In 2006, Archbishop Tarcisio Bertone became Secretary of State under Pope Benedict. He is a current member of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of Sacraments.

The current Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments is Antonio Cañizares Llovera. Nicknamed “Little Ratzinger,” Antonio Cardinal Cañizares Llovera had formerly been a member of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith when Cardinal Ratzinger was in charge, since 10 November 1996, and was named Archbishop of Granada on 10 December 1996. He does NOT speak English.

Cardinal Marc Ouellet of Canada, one of Pope Benedict closest friends, is also a voting member of the the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. He is the prefect of the Congregation for Bishops.

The men from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith had long focused upon punishment with those who disagreed with their perspective about shared belief. And now the men were scattered throughout the Curia to implement their vision of a universal church throughout the world. IN ONE SMALL STEP FOR MAN, one more blow to episcopal collegiality.

In an all too politicized church over what groups can legitimately call themselves Catholic, today it is reported the Vatican was “extremely irritated” by the WORDING, as the Irish foreign ministry was closing its Vatican embassy because “it yields no economic return”, particularly as the Vatican sees its diplomatic role as promoting human values.  Maybe like in days of old, in the reign of monarchs, as in the Sport of Kings, in the breeding, not always noticeable or understandable by the unwashed, or those who are being pruned away who also are “extremely irritated” by the wording, in the revised English Order the Mass, affecting the intimate ability to pray with a possessive fervor. In our native tongue.

There is a noted difference between translators and interpreters. When all along the goal of a good translator, on a dead language, should be to promote quality services of its people – in union. And there was a lot more power and might in having a good interpreter, when you sent missionaries out to the salvage world.

So why do languages die? Like Latin, or Irish? In Ireland, when your people had lived under a dominant culture…. because English was a language forced upon the Irish… and you were supposed to reflect THEIR culture. To convey how you overcame anger, through stories of power and might. In song. There the people had come to know how to convey knowledge or understanding. “To be loyal to the church is to expose evil for the good of the church,” Paddy McCafferty said about Ireland’s Association of Catholic Priests who were complaining about the new translation, among other things, where the sentences were so long they could be seen from outer space. Yes, there was a storm in Ireland about the new translation, among other things. Where historically the people mindful of the subtleties, day in and day out, of language — the reference point for all human relationships — knew something about a dying language.

So why do languages, like currencies, die? Like Latin, or Irish. The significance was when people gathered to say together words with a living language which defined us to God. Precise words which to people somehow connected had recognized meaning. Here! When all along the goal of a good translator, on a dead language, should be to promote quality services of its people – in union.

The fallacy behind the call for language change in an English — which has NOT changed — is that you lose something when things change through the life of a living language. Simply what would be lost is union, layer by layer. So you gave up your own currency to use something more universally accepted?

Language was just a measure of what leaders think about worth, and apparently the one-time members of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith do not think much about the English-speaking world and the manner of our prayers or the strength of the faith within the congregation, as expressed in the measure in language, since 1965.

It was as if the chosen English words have not been valued by the English-speaking people in my country. The fallacy, as if these were just words. When the North American bishops who fought the change understood, until the command came down from Rome to “Just do it.”  As if this just was the Nike Corporation, or one with German-engineering like a BMW. 

This pope who as theologian had discussed the need to prune back in the universal Catholic Church — perhaps with his German obsession over clean exterior-dirty interior, or clean form and dirty content while losing sight though the human discussion, in a human perspective, over what would result in, who at the end of the story, exactly would be saved — over who exactly was Catholic? On the question of union, and human relationships, this everyday question was about union and possession where translations did have to be interpreted into every day life.

So why did people quit using or studying language? Was the death of a language just a result of, the victim of, a dominant culture, on issues of power and might? And when a dead language was revived, how could modern people pretend to explain how to translate for the world? When the real issue was the English words – ones like ‘ineffable,’ ‘consubstantial,’ ‘incarnate,’ ‘inviolate,’ ‘oblation,’ ‘ignominy,’ ‘precursor,’ ‘suffused’ and ‘unvanquished.’.

What would happen when English speaking people were not on familiar terms, when they no longer recognized their own language? When this new language was an imposed language. And this was somehow going to affect relationship supposedly based upon real authority, on matters spiritual?  Who really wanted to go to Mass and hear what was the music of language played in the wrong key?   As your language came credentialed by the Authorities who did not actually KNOW the nuance of English, but provided a BARE substitution of English for the Latin. Behold the clericalism in the power struggle to prove you carried a divine Authority. With the take-away – the sacrifice – into a direct English interlinear translation, in what Latin can never reveal what the Vatican II translation until now had.  And the real issue in these changes is about abandonment, in the ongoing papal wars with Modernity.

Read the following edited NCR column by Jamie L. Manson (with a Master of Divinity degree from Yale Divinity School where she studied Catholic theology and sexual ethics), which recently appeared in the National Catholic Reporter.  About the tone-deaf leadership, as one man lost his hearing, just as he came to power, in Rome.

”Anthony Ruff, OSB, is a monk of St. John’s Abbey and professor of liturgy, liturgical music and Gregorian chant at St. John’s University in Minnesota.  In 2005, Ruff accepted an invitation to join the team of the International Commission on English in the Liturgy (ICEL).  Ruff joined ICEL for reasons similar to those that led him to associate with the editors of First Things. He was committed to guarding and promoting faithfulness to church tradition. Back then, he believed that the current Missal used in the United States “was a symptom of a mistake: that Vatican II had implemented these texts in a way that was too liberal and too much a sell-out to the secular world.”

“ICEL is a translating agency formed in 1963 by English-speaking bishops at the Second Vatican Council in response to the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy’s decree calling for translations of the Missal into the vernacular. Article 22 of the constitution stated that these translations were to be “prepared and approved by territorial bodies of bishops,” such as the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

”But six weeks after the bishops approved the constitution, the Vatican sent out its first instruction stipulating that these translations would have to be sent to Rome and be approved by the Holy See. The bishops’ memories were long enough to recall that they did not agree to this arrangement.
”Assuming goodwill on the part of the Holy See, the bishops acquiesced.

“Ruff took pains to chronicle the history of the translation of the Missal beginning in 1963, and was careful to ensure that his portrait of its development was accurate and balanced. He read directly from a number of church documents and explained the theological implications of liturgical language.

“Ruff pointed out that Rome gave ICEL a remarkable amount of freedom as it embarked on translating the Latin into English. In a 1969 document, the Vatican reminded ICEL that it was ‘necessary to take into account not only the message to be conveyed, but also the speaker, the audience and the style.’ By providing this guideline, the hierarchy was working from their own theory of how Christianity ought to relate to local cultures.

“In 1969, the Vatican recognized that these translations would be somewhat loose, and that eventually translations from Latin would not be adequate. The ultimate goal was that all the texts of the Missal would be created in the original language rather than translated from the Latin.

“But history did not pan out that way. The bishops ‘did not know that in future years, further instructions would give more and more power to the center,’ Ruff said.

“By 2001, Rome’s primary emphasis had shifted from respect for receiving cultures to respect for, if not idolization of, the original Latin language of the Missal. This shift was made evident by the Vatican’s 2001 establishment of an advisory committee, known as Vox Clara, to oversee ICEL. Previously, ICEL was directly supervised by Rome. Under this new arrangement, Vox Clara’s power was upgraded, and ICEL’s authority was significantly downgraded.

“Vox Clara was a committee that met several times a year for three days at a time. ICEL was a high-functioning office staffed with full-time employees, consultants and translators. And yet, Vox Clara was suddenly entrusted with the power to override any of ICEL’s work.

“More than 7,000 consultants worked on various aspects of ICEL’s translation of the new Missal. Every translator was appointed by invitation only — and he was appointed by someone to whom he was ultimately obedient. Ruff himself was not appointed since, as a musician, his task was to set the new translations to melodies.

“The process was highly secretive. No progress reports were ever published, and no drafts were made available to those who requested them. This was a marked departure from the protocol followed by ICEL in the 1980s and 1990s.  Apparently, the Holy See tired — as older people often do — of the long struggle into twilight with first the International Committee on English in the Liturgy (ICEL). This had been the main English liturgical translation body. The Holy See ordered the then body of the International Commission on English in the Liturgy (ICEL) restructured, with its bylaws changed, and then mandating a new philosophy concerning translations for the new edition of the Roman Missal.

“ICEL completed its translation of the new Missal in 2008, and the text was handed over to Vox Clara and the Vatican. Rome made more than 10,000 changes to ICEL’s text, many of them unexplainable. The resulting translations from the Latin were so literal that some of the renderings in English sounded convoluted, if not confusing.

“Worst of all, the Vatican’s version wasn’t based on the final draft submitted by ICEL.

“‘It was as if they pulled up the wrong file to work on. The last three years of consultation felt as if it was all for nothing,’ Ruff said. Even though more than 100 bishops approved ICEL’s work, Rome trumped them all.

“’The bishops would be critical of Rome’s translations over drinks at night, but the next day we would read that they were publicly defending the new Missal as a great moment of renewal. Our problem is that our structure doesn’t allow people to say what they believe for the good of the church.’

“Ruff said he doesn’t think all of the changes in the new Missal are bad. But because the process was so cloaked in secrecy, it necessarily became tainted.

“‘If there had been more collaboration at the table, those who are upset or confused by the new translations might have had the opportunity to see the reasons for the changes,’ Ruff said. ‘This lack of transparency leads us to automatically assume the worst of church leadership.’

“Beyond his objections as a liturgist, on a pastoral level this cumbersome wording worries Ruff. These are large problems that pervade the church, though in a church that Ruff intends to engage in and be a part of for the rest of his life. ‘Our system is not set up to tell the truth. It is not possible for those doing the work to say to those in charge “this isn’t working.” This,’ he said, ‘is not exactly a hot-button issue in the way issues of sexuality are. I would hope that we could at least have a variety of opinions about translation.’

“He has learned, however, that this new translation ‘reflects deeply problematic views of the relationship between the See of Peter and local church, the relationship between the church and culture, and the relationship between tradition and the ongoing need for renewal,’ he said.

“His own disillusionment with the institutional church has sparked a new kind of creative vision. He now dreams of a renewed church that honors the prophetic tradition while also celebrating the beauty of tradition. ‘I would love to belong to a community that was working for the transformation of unjust structures in church and society as well as offering direct outreach to the victims of oppression,’ he said.”

Forty-five years after the groundbreaking and liberating document on the sacred liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium – that great Magna Carta which transcended ecclesiastical politics in an overwhelming consensus of the bishops of the world which had passed 2,147 to 4 – now comes this obscure 1960s-era strategy known as Operation Twist. Like in the strategy employed by the Federal Reserve Bank, in August 2011.

From the Latin, tyrannus

Officials of The Federal Reserve Bank want to know how investors might respond to changes in monetary policy and to avoid surprising markets. According to interviews and hundreds of pages of documents obtained by The Wall Street Journal, Nancy Lazar, an economist with International Strategy & Investment Group Inc., is among a group of well-connected investors and analysts “with access to top Federal Reserve officials who give them a chance at early clues to the central bank’s next policy moves. The access is part of a push by hedge funds and other traders to get more information about the inner workings of government. Developments in Washington have become more important, after the financial crisis in 2008 spawned new regulations and a stronger hand by lawmakers in businesses. … Conversations are important to both sides, making it difficult for the Fed to completely close its doors to traders and analysts,” reports the Wall Street Journal.

In ways mysterious and discomforting comes this change involving the foundation of the profundity of style, of stories, in language of the WORD ethic. Mindful of the subtlety of human language and its power, this subtlety of language is one reference point for what divides me and my community from outsiders. (If you recall the Christmas story, Jesus was born as an outsider.) Those temporal rulers from far away had what interest to preserve our local language, when language was the outward sign to the insiders, about things working deep within? Language, my language, was the communal means, before Geiger counters and seismographs, to find the Truth before upheaval. It was a real relationship thing. Here.

This perspective of the institution – its connection of this community to the outside world as well as its own connection to communal sins – as a church was trying to pass on the old robes of authority, not recognized by the next generation because of a recognition of what this approach had caused the prior generation. Attempting to address the issues but in a vernacular that was not readily understood here, a church now wanted me to now pray, if not live, unquestioning when inheritance and fertility had once seemed so personal. 

When the decision to change the manner of prayer was about communal sins, like in Germany. Post-war, when there had once been the shame in such a nation. When the seat of Saint Peter now wanted me to now pray unquestioning, based upon the same mysterious foundation which had led to cover-ups and misunderstandings exposed throughout the world. When you obeyed rules based upon a relationship you were born into. When a child obeyed authority, without a developed interpreted perspective into every day life of power. When the best part of my prayer life was in the questioning of Creation.

About the continual movement in the story of communal sins. There was the affect on each and every relationship of the invisible communal sin. Whether just living unquestioning, or trying to figure the world outside.  About acceptance, within a relationship, over past inheritance, and then over presenting that inheritance to the next generation.  Why did I have all of this, and what was happening here in comparison to what once had happened here, to this community?

Did we have communal sin here?  What were we doing to change?  About communal sins, like in Germany. Post-war, the shame of a nation. Did Israel now have some kind of communal sins of their own these days? What were the causes?  Language?  Nationality?  Ways of thinking? There was just a banality of goodness and/or evil, or there were causes? To live unquestioning on issues of authority? And the expiation?

Yes, as the Seat of Saint Peter forces the biggest ‘stress test’ on the English speaking world, English sentences heard at the preface will be more than eighty words long. The fear, the unsettling fear associated with power on issues of infallibility over matters of faith if not morals – in the Church Too Big To Fail – on issues of unity, in the decade when there has been epic challenge to unity in the apostolic visits to nunneries, to the reality of those child abuse cases.

George Cardinal Pell, was the Australian bishop believed to have been a “campaign manager” behind Joseph Ratinzger’s 2005 election to the papal chair. This one time jock, educated abroad in Rome, was a force behind the scenes changing the rules of engagement. George Cardinal Pell had been chairman of the blue-ribbon Vox Clara Committee – think of it as some kind of supercommittee in Washington – which “consulted” the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments overseeing the text’s preparation, on the wholesale new translation of the Mass-book, soon to become the first vernacular text employed across the whole English-speaking world. With regard to liturgical reform, which is fundamental for the New Evangelization, and so after the corrections on the part of the Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. When the enforcement of the existing rules seemed totally out of control, due to the existing apparatus, and the language of the Mass is now being used as a tool – some would even say as a weapon — to advance specific agendae with promises of unachievable historic fixes which could be approved by only paid staffers and blood relatives. Because we were such imperfect beings. In need of the approval of such liturgical innovations.

The continual movement in the story: Like within the Mount of Olives when they come to take you away. As the new scribes and Pharisees like George Cardinal Pell made me feel like an outsider each and every Sunday at Mass. And I felt so much like Mary Magdalene that first Easter asking: “Where have you taken my Lord?”


Foundation for Evangelization through the Media (FEM)