ACP lashes out at top theologian over liturgy conference

Sunday, August 7th, 2011

The Association of Catholic Priests (ACP) has lashed out at the Irish theologian, Fr Vincent Twomey, accusing him of arrogance and claiming that the new translation of the Roman missal “has more to do with living in the past than ministering in the present or preparing for the future.”

Responding to comments made to ciNews by Fr Twomey (see ciNews 3/8/2011 following the IV Fota International Liturgical Conference on the new translation of the missal, which was held in Cork City last week, the ACP asserted that the conference organisers, St Colman’s Society for Catholic Liturgy, exists “on paper only.”

Responding to Fr Twomey’s criticism of the ACP for the failure of any member to attend the conference, the ACP said in a statement that it had not been invited to attend the conference and added, “While its Vatican contacts allow it to attract international speakers albeit from a very narrow base, its occasional conferences receive little or no support in the Irish Church and receive little or no coverage in the Catholic or other media”.

The Association, which represents up to 500 priests in Ireland, in a statement added, “If we had known of its existence and if we were extended an invitation we probably would not have attended, not as Vincent Twomey suggests because we lack ‘courage’ but simply because it would have been pointless.  Debate is one thing; being lectured at is something else; and we recognise the legacy of both."

Speaking to ciNews last week, Fr Twomey, who is chairman of the annual Fota conference, asked why no member of the ACP had attended the one-day event, pointing out that it would have provided them with a platform to put their criticisms of the new translation of the Missal to three members of Vox Clara, which advises the Vatican on English translations of liturgical texts, who were in Ireland to attend the conference.

The professor emeritus of moral theology expressed disappointment that “none of those who criticised the translation had the courage to come and enter into honest debate with those responsible for the new English translation.”  The three members of Vox Clara who made presentations at Fota IV included its Chairman, Cardinal George Pell of Sydney, as well as Bishop Arthur Sarretelli of New Jersey and Mgr James Moroney of the Diocese of Worcester in Massachusetts.

Responding, the ACP lashed out, claiming “The Fota conference had less to do with what was said in Ireland than what was heard in Rome and the ACP was a safe target.”

The statement added that it was the Association’s contention “that the vast majority of theologians, liturgists and priests working in Ireland are worried, unhappy, upset or angry about the proposed new texts.”

Taking issue with Fr Twomey’s statement that he took the ACP’s criticisms of the new translation seriously because “they reflect the disturbingly low level of theological knowledge in Ireland about the liturgy”, the ACP said the professor emeritus of moral theology was “not entitled” to suggest this, which they said was both “arrogant” and “disparaging.”

In a shocking personal attack, the ACP statement then added, “I don’t wish to be unkind to Fr Twomey when I say that among our membership are theologians and liturgists who have shone much more brightly than he in the theological firmament, even though they may not be as well-regarded by the members of Vox Clara or have not, through an accident of history, had the opportunity to visit Castel Gandolfo.”

The statement continued, “The ACP does not share in the Irish media’s presumption that having tea with the Pope once a year confers by osmosis some kind of creeping infallibility on Fr Twomey or anyone else.”

The comment was a reference to the annual gathering of former doctoral students of Pope Benedict XVI's from his days as an academic at Regensburg University in Germany, which Fr Twomey attends.

The statement concluded, “Fr Twomey represents no one but himself and his position on the new Missal does not reflect a growing consensus in Ireland among theologians, liturgists, priests working in parishes and some bishops that the new translation of the Mass has more to do with living in the past that ministering in the present or preparing for the future.”

Asked last week by ciNews if he was anticipating any problems in the pews when the Church begins to informally introduce the new translation from September and officially from the first Sunday of Advent, Fr Twomey said, “I am a bit nervous because the Irish Church, as far as I can see, has failed – yet again – to do what Pope Benedict XVI asked all the English-speaking conferences of the world to do – namely to introduce the new text with due sensitivity and with proper catechesis."

The Divine Word Missionary added, "After all, we have all become fond of the old text (myself included) and don’t like change in the liturgy.  As the Pope has said, many, including many priests, will find it hard to adjust to unfamiliar texts after nearly 40 years of continuous use of the previous one.”

Fr Twomey claimed that the Irish Church had “failed in this golden opportunity to use the new translation for a deepening of our spiritual experience at Mass, as hoped for by the Pope.”

by Sarah Mac Donald