Bravo Fr, Anthony Ruff Update

My original post on this was here and this is an update with the addition of an editorial comment written by Fr. John Foley of Pray Tell Blog since Fr. Anthony's original letter was published in America Magazine.

Anthony Ruff, O.S.B., is a Benedictine monk of Saint  John’s Abbey USA and a professor  of liturgy liturgical music and Gregorian chant at St John's University School of Theology Seminary.He blogs at Pray Tell
 He is the founder of the National Catholic  Youth choir. He is widely published and frequently presents across the  country on liturgy and music. He is the author of Sacred Music and  Liturgical Reform: Treasures and Transformations, and of Responsorial  Psalms for Weekday Mass: Advent, Christmas, Lent, Easter. He does  priestly ministry at the local county jail and the neighbouring community  of Benedictine sisters in St. Joseph. 
So when such a prominent person writes an open letter to his bishops it is obviously of some importance to us all to take note and reflect on what he is saying with respect.

On a personal level I agree with what Fr.Anthony has to say about the translations and the deficiencies he has identified in the process of decision making.

He has this to say on the introduction of The New Missal:

"With a heavy heart, I have recently made a difficult decision concerning  the new English missal. I have decided to withdraw from all my upcoming  speaking engagements on the Roman Missal in dioceses across the United  States. After talking with my confessor and much prayer, I have  concluded that I cannot promote the new missal translation with  integrity. I’m sure bishops want a speaker who can put the new missal in  a positive light, and that would require me to say things I do not  believe."

You can read the rest of his open letter  to the U.S. bishops  printed here in America Magazine  but just in case it disappears it is reproduced here in its entirety:

Click here for supporting article from US Catholic Magazine

 "Your eminences , Your Excellencies,

With a heavy heart, I have recently made a difficult decision concerning  the new English missal. I have decided to withdraw from all my upcoming  speaking engagements on the Roman Missal in dioceses across the United  States. After talking with my confessor and much prayer, I have  concluded that I cannot promote the new missal translation with  integrity. I’m sure bishops want a speaker who can put the new missal in  a positive light, and that would require me to say things I do not  believe.

I love the Church, I love the sacred liturgy, I love  chant in Latin and English, and I treasure being involved with all these  as a monk and priest. It has been an honor to serve until recently as  chairman of the music committee of the International Commission on  English in the Liturgy (ICEL) that prepared all the chants for the new  missal. But my involvement in that process, as well as my observation of  the Holy See’s handling of scandal, has gradually opened my eyes to the  deep problems in the structures of authority of our church.

The  forthcoming missal is but a part of a larger pattern of top-down  impositions by a central authority that does not consider itself  accountable to the larger church. When I think of how secretive the  translation process was, how little consultation was done with priests  or laity, how the Holy See allowed a small group to hijack the  translation at the final stage, how unsatisfactory the final text is,  how this text was imposed on national conferences of bishops in  violation of their legitimate episcopal authority, how much deception  and mischief have marked this process—and then when I think of Our  Lord’s teachings on service and love and unity…I weep.

I see a  good deal of disillusionment with the Catholic Church among my friends  and acquaintances. Some leave the Catholic Church out of conviction,  some gradually drift away, some join other denominations, some remain  Catholic with difficulty. My response is to stay in this church for life  and do my best to serve her. This I hope to do by stating the truth as I  see it, with charity and respect. I would be ready to participate in  future liturgical projects under more favorable conditions.

I am  sorry for the difficulties I am causing others by withdrawing, but I  know this is the right thing to do. I will be praying for you and all  leaders in our church.

Pax in Christo,

Fr. Anthony Ruff,  O.S.B."

Since posting this John Foley, the Editor of Pray Tell Blog has added this response in Fr. Anthony's defence :

"Fr. Anthony Ruff has been characteristically modest in publishing, in  America (and in excerpts on this blog), his “Open Letter to  the U.S. Catholic Bishops on the Forthcoming Missal” (America, February  14, 2011). The letter is quiet, even though it means what it says. If  you have had any trouble finding the complete document along with the 77  responses to date, here is a link,  at least for now. The PrayTell response area was closed to comment,  which is the privilege of anyone who writes a main article.

In America, most of the responders praise Anthony for his  “courage and wisdom”—virtues we have witnessed on PrayTell. But, and I  did not count them, significant ad hominems” are there as well,  going after the man, not his position. 

He is said to have “a problem  with his vow of obedience and acceptance of authority.” One person prays  that he will overcome his faith issues and return to his vows. He is  not “brave,” another says, because “brave is being a faithful, obedient  Catholic in today’s material world.”

I suppose Anthony opened himself to such kinds of personal diagnoses  by writing a letter about his actions and reactions. But I have known  Anthony for years now and I believe him literally when he says that he  has wept over the matters he refers to. 

All of us should acknowledge  that he knows a lot more about the spidery trail of the translations  than any of us do. He has been in a position to see what happened. True  to his vows, to the advice of his confessor, and certainly in  consultation with his Prior, he has chosen to keep silent on a great  many of the egregious mistakes that have been made. I am proud of him  for that, and I believe his words, “I love the Church, I love the sacred  liturgy, I love chant in Latin and English, and I treasure being  involved with all these as a monk and priest.”

I do have respect for the America respondents who think he  sees “the authority of the Church in general as a ‘top down  imposition’.” But I don‘t find that sentiment in the letter and I do not  for a moment think he referring to the Pope. Anthony talks about “a  larger pattern of top-down imposition by a central authority.”  Who is that? He does not say, but he nowhere says we should get rid of  obedience in the Church.

I believe he is asking for restoration of the  practice of consultation, something Vatican II established as an  integral part of obedience. He implies that matters for decision need to  be shared so that the Holy Spirit can speak not only in the name of God  but also in the name of God’s presence at the various levels of the  Church.

Vatican II had more widespread discussions and consultations than any  other council in history. These are mistrusted by some, I know, but  they do show how the Church itself values shared discussion as opposed  to ubiquitous secrecy. 

I think this is what Anthony is pointing to, and  especially in the present case. I hope his eyes will remain opened, and  help us resolve what has turned out to be pretty messy."

Image above from Catholic Herald

 Click here for the situation from 400 Irish priests ( a tenth of the total ) who
at a news conference in Dublin,  said the proposed literal translations from Latin had produced  texts that were “archaic, elitist and obscure and not in keeping with  the natural rhythm, cadence and syntax of the English language”.

The  association also criticised the new translation for “exclusivist,  sexist language”.

and an article here from the UK Catholic Herald on the Irish priests where there are 105 comments at the time of writing.

As always, the comments sections appending these articles are interesting and informative but sadly some are sickeningly offensive to those who dislike/disagree with some aspects of the translation.

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RJ said...

You always write so tenderly about such hard matters; I feel something of your heart breaking, too. You are often in my thoughts and prayers - and I am grateful we have found a connection in the Spirit across traditions and oceans. Blessings with you always - and many thanks for your encouraging words.

Philomena Ewing said...

Ah, RJ- It means a great deal to have your kindness and support here and yes it is disheartening to see fine people like Fr. Ruff being pilloried and personally attacked for his right to express his oppositional views. I also agree with the reasons for his resignation. What a loss.

I too am lifted up by our connection in the Holy Spirit. Your blog is so beautiful and it inspires challenges and sustains me in so many ways in faith and friendship.
Bless you too !

Word in the Hand said...

I read the article in America and was heartened to see a respected member of the church showing such integrity. His resignation proves his obedience to the One who it belongs to. True obedience is listening to the quiet voice of God even in the melee of what others beieve or think. If each of us were so obedient we would have a church worthy of the name rather than one that seeks to distract and avoid.

Philomena Ewing said...

Hi and thanks so much for your comment.I was drawn to your last sentence in particular which is so true and unfortunately where we are so often at today. It is important that this man feels support for his decision and that is why I posted on it and why your comments and those of others are vital even if they only are a proverbial drop in the ocean.
Thank you so much

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for this post Phil. Yes, perhaps these are just drops in the ocean but drop by drop boulders turn to sand. We must pray, pray for theses good people who have the courage to speak out. People who love the Church and have given their lives to the Church. We cannot be silent.

Philomena Ewing said...

Such a popular uprising has taken us all into a space of unprecedented goodwill and support for these lovely people. Yes, prayers prayers and more prayers for their safety and freedom !!