Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Tuesday: Trautman's Last Stand

Looking forward for a minute, just a heads-up that today's agenda brings all the votes of this November Meeting -- committee chairs, marriage pastoral, revision on nutrition and hydration... and, closing out a full two decades of annual battles over liturgical translations (not all of them eventually implemented), the final votes on the new English rendering of the Roman Missal, its recognitio from the Holy See already tipped for April, with implementation to follow roughly a year hence.

Given the lengthy prevalence of the "liturgy wars" storyline over these meetings, it'd be hard to overstate the degree to which the early afternoon worship ballots mark the end of an era.

Yet even as the clock ticks down, the project's lead critic isn't going without a fight.

Over recent weeks, Bishop Donald Trautman of Erie has stepped things up one last time, delivering a high-profile Washington lecture on the translation's shortcomings, and making a final vouch for his case in the press before the full Missal ends up in Rome's hands.

That said, at this point there's little indication the votes'll go his way -- even if, to be sure, many who wish they did will end up voting "yes." When the US bishops shocked everyone (themselves included) by sending the second major part of the revision to the gibbet at last year's Summer meeting in Orlando, the Vatican responded two weeks later by announcing its approval of the first pillar of the texts, the standard Order of Mass.

That the recognitio for OM1 arrived in the dead of Roman summer only made the implicit message even clearer.

While the action votes appear, in essence, to be a fait accompli, the better gauge of the body's mind on things liturgical at this plenary is shaping up to be today's mid-morning vote on the bench's top post for things ritual: the chair-elect of the Bishops' Committee on Divine Worship, who'll take office next year.

The BCDW slate finds a head-to-head between two freshly-named archbishops of contrasting styles -- Detroit's Allen Vigneron, one of the translation process' staunchest backers, against Gregory Aymond of New Orleans, an ever-rising leader of the bench's moderate bloc.

As the especially observant will recall, the former's sought the worship chair before -- at the 2003 November Meeting, both Vigneron (then bishop of Oakland) and Cardinal Justin Rigali of Philadelphia suddenly found themselves bested for the post by Trautman, who had been nominated from the Floor just before the vote in a turn of events one long-timer recently termed "the most astonishing thing" he'd ever seen at a plenary.

On another note, per custom, day's end will see the annual report to the bishops on the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, the body's community organizing arm that's come under heavy fire from conservatives over, among other things, its now-discontinued funding to the controversial street organization ACORN. With the annual CCHD collection taking place this coming weekend -- and CCHD taking new steps to clear the record -- at least one prelate has nixed the pitch in his diocese; ordained just this past July, Bishop John Barres of Allentown informed his pastors late last month that the Lehigh Valley church would not participate in the collection.

Tuesday will be the lone day the 300-plus bishops in attendance spend in open meeting; after a morning's worth of reports tomorrow -- including an update on the body's efforts to work against same-sex marriage initiatives in the states -- the prelates go into closed-door executive session Wednesday afternoon, ending the weeklong plenary with a Thursday morning Holy Hour.