One of Pope Francis’s noteworthy leadership qualities is that he firmly believes in the value of discussion. His mental universe allows for it and even favors it. Francis has observed in himself that his first determination is frequently wrong, and patience and dialogue produce better results. In a church environment where many regard dialogue as a sign of weakness, this approach can seem confusing. But it is actually prudent.
Francis himself has explained why. In a recent interview in the Spanish publication El País he said: “Power is something that is shared. Power exists when we make decisions that have been meditated, talked about, and prayed over.”
I don’t think such advice is relevant only to discussions of politics. It is a more general insight into human affairs. The open discussions Francis favored at the Synod on the Family bear this out. And I believe this also applies to the subject of liturgical translations. Francis issued his motu proprio on translation of liturgical texts (Magnum principium) in September. More guidance will come from the Vatican eventually. Liturgiam authenticam will change; the Pope has said as much. What is uncertain is just how much it will change.
Knowing that Francis wants people to talk to one another, I am not too concerned about the fact that we don’t yet know what all the changes to Liturgiam authenticam will be. This allows all of us time to think over what Francis has said, prayerfully and with an open mind. Bishops, priests, and people, should consider the issues and talk with one another about what it all might mean.
A wonderful beginning to this process has emerged in three important articles recently published in Rome. All three are written by eminent scholars and concern the motu proprio. One, on inculturation, appeared in the Jesuit magazine, La Civiltà Cattolica. It made a strong case for the motu proprio as a fresh starting point for the cultural adaptation of the liturgy. The other two were published on the web page of the Congregation for Divine Worship at the Vatican. They concern the relationship of the motu proprio to Vatican II. One is on the right of the people to intelligible worship and the church’s obligation to provide it—a right and obligation that arise from the nature of liturgy itself. The other explains the motu proprio in terms of canon law and points out that Liturgiam authenticam has been the source of liturgical abuses, which can now be corrected. There is much to ponder and discuss in these articles.