Please click on comments (above, right) to read responses including from Mgr Wadsworth, Executive Director, ICEL.
The lack of inclusive language for us indicates a lack of respect for and alertness to all women in the Church and is alienating for those beyond. This is against the spirit of the Gospel and the example of Jesus and presents a fundamental human rights and equality issue for the Church. We feel that it also indicates an unwillingness to recognise the action of the Spirit in that which is good in our cultures. The struggle for women's rights is but one of the many currents of goodness and transformation in society that are resonant with the Gospel: these are currents we wish to delight in and join, but not resist. We return to other critical aspects of the link between Church, liturgy and society later in this article.
We regret the move away from ecumenically agreed texts. After Vatican II there was so much ecumenical engagement to align texts. The move away from this seems insulting to our fellow Christians who had contributed to these agreed texts and changed their books and worship accordingly. We think that this move obstructs progress towards the unity Christ prayed for. It is ridiculous and patronizing of the authors of Liturgiam authenticam  (also discussed further below) in paragraph 40 to say “great caution is to be taken to avoid a wording or style that the Catholic faithful would confuse with the manner of speech of non-Catholic ecclesial communities or of other religions, so that such a factor will not cause them confusion or discomfort.”
Collects, prefaces and communion prayers especially seem to us to be often clumsy in construction and not easy to pray aloud or really listen to. Better phrasing is needed, with lighter language- instead of “partaking”, “vouchsafing”, “He Himself”, “precious” and the list goes on and on. Jesus said “let your yes be yes” – and spoke in the language and imagery of His time. Let us do likewise.
How often do we hear the word “graciously?” It is a lovely word being reduced by overuse to meaninglessness. Even the final editor of the text could have bought a Thesaurus – or asked one of the countless poets in our lands – to find alternative words. We were taught by the age of 10 not to repeat words close to each other in writing – but unlike the final editor, we were also told to have nouns and verbs in all our sentences. Given that it is God we are addressing, “gracious” seems an unnecessary word. Doesn't God alone lack the freedom to be other than gracious? The word conveys being obsequious before the Lord – as does the tone of so many prayers. Obsequiousness is an inappropriate response to the God who loves, saves and names us as God's children in Christ – it fails to respect the passionate, lavish and unconditional love with which we are graced, and the calling we received in Baptism.
We feel that there are errors of both commission and omission. The text is badly phrased, but, by what it is not saying, it excludes much of our faith: we notice how rarely we hear the word “Spirit” in the Mass, for example.
The archaic language being used in the new rite, and the convoluted prose, cause us to raise only our eyes to Heaven. Lighter language would help us to bring our personal relationships with Christ, and the circumstances of the day, more easily into the Mass. We now have to pray not only with unhelpful complex words and sentences, and often dubious grammar, but also with words that seem to assume a specific emotion. Consequently we attend Mass struggling to overcome obstacles to both heart and mind. As no liturgical text can ever be perfect in all times and places, a lightness of touch would at least have an element of humility and also make the text much more acceptable and understood across a range of contexts.
Of the specific responses we dislike, “And with your spirit” is one that has many unnecessary complications, and is especially grating to us. We feel that it dehumanises the prayer. We know it can be interpreted otherwise – but overcoming such unnecessary complications does demand that the laity have skills to study, and willingness to mix liturgy and mental somersaults. Some of us also accept that “And also with you” is a bit banal; it could be improved upon. All of our group considers “And with your spirit” is not an improvement.
Theology and closeness to the Gospels
The Vigil Group does not resist change – it has longed for it - but most of us are of an age, and graced background, to have learnt about Vatican II, and to know from experience the contrasts and developments in the Church because of the Council. We dislike both the symbolism and the fact of the return to the literal translation of the responses that we recall from shortly after Vatican II, and before the liturgy had come to better express its insights.
Vatican II sought some rebalancing of our expression of the Church’s theology. It also sought active engagement by the laity in liturgy, rather than passive devotion. These objectives are not advanced by the new text – for example:
- In this Mass text, we consider that not only is there failure to proclaim and delight in the calling of the laity through Baptism but we scarcely see even acknowledgement of it – instead we seek to “merit” salvation (which is gift, freely given), we feel we grovel at every opportunity before the God whom Jesus had told us to call Abba, and we feel our role is far too close to one of passive consumers.
- In the Eucharistic prayers it is not evident that we offer ourselves and our lives, as part of the Body of Christ united in His gift of Himself. We hear prayers that we attain Heaven, but not that we assume our calling as prophets, priests and heralds of God's way on Earth. The collect of Good Shepherd Sunday is one of many such examples.
- Each Sunday we sit in Churches surrounded by parents loving children, carers respecting the elderly, many struggling with pain and poverty, many living lives of selfless love, of prayer, of commitment to the common good. We neither celebrate this nor even acknowledge the Spirit of God animating these people. Instead it is demanded that they make repeated proclamations only of sinfulness, before an apparently distant God, all this while the Spirit is bursting out in their lives!
The tone of the language is intended to make the liturgy sound more exalted, but for us it only succeeds in concealing God rather than revealing God. What on Earth is the incarnation about? Twice at Christmas one of us heard sermons commenting that “the Word became flesh, but we risk turning it back into words again”. This text goes further. To us it says, “no thanks, stay in Heaven please”, not among us in our messy lives – the Lord of the tax collector, the fallen, the weak, the broken, the unloved – Him we do not see in this text. The language is judgemental and not welcoming.
We are told this text brings us closer to the exact words of the Gospels – yet phrases are used inaccurately, so healing is for souls not people,“cup” is replaced by “chalice” and perhaps the most distorted and problematic phrase: is how the Gospels' “all” is now “many”.  The spirit of the Gospels is not adequately represented in this text. Jesus called the children to Him: the institutional Church has given them language no children could ever understand and few adults ever use in their daily lives and work.
Closeness to the Gospels would have recalled that Jesus Christ celebrated what we view as Eucharist twice, once in the upper room and once in a pub in Emmaus. Each time He was dressed in his ordinary clothes and spoke in the ordinary vernacular. Our group sees no need to improve on his example.
The sacrifice of the crucifixion is emphasised; but so much else that is vital to us is diminished – incarnation, the dimension of meal, the Spirit, the acceptance of us by God, God in all things, our own calling in Baptism... . There is irony here, for Jesus was crucified by the religious powers - in unintended ways we feel that this is so today, too.
Implementation of the text
We deplore the cost in effort and resources in this, at a time when so many people are in dire financial stress.
We are not aware of any systematic consultation process, nor road-testing of the text prior to its full implementation. ICEL seems to have decided what it wanted and steam-rollered ahead, and most Bishops stood back and remained silent.
Subsidiarity – and the Constitution on the liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium  – allow space for variation in how Mass is celebrated. Instead we feel constrained to become monocultural automata – all in step. We should be seeing unity that is expressed with a flowering of diversity.
Liturgy should connect with the modern world, fully aware of challenges for people, societies and the planet. It should act as a guiding light, leading us to world-views that are faith-filled and visionary. It is indefensible that at this time of human-caused global changes to ocean, atmosphere, and biosphere that our liturgy has become less connected with the sacrament of the Earth and more other-worldly.
We fear that so far in the article we have done no more than recognise the changes that the Curia, and specifically the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, ICEL and Vox Clara intended. Our experience is that the liturgy is less adequate and harder to engage with; it has become less the work of the people and more the work of the Curia. We now hope that it is one of the last excesses of an authoritarian Curia: we believe that the Curia needs to grow in faith that the Spirit is alive and well outside of itself, and this vitality should be better expressed in the Mass.
Many of the principles that have concerned us were in Sacrosanctum Concilium  (SC). The move away from these principles was marked by Liturgiam Authenticam  (LA). The opening statements are illuminating. In SC (§2) we read that the liturgy “is the outstanding means whereby the faithful may express in their lives, and manifest to others, the mystery of Christ and the real nature of the true Church.” LA began with: “The Second Vatican Council strongly desired to preserve with care the authentic Liturgy”.... liturgy is now portrayed as a package we preserve and receive. One of our group commented, “it is indeed a pickle.” SC proposed a simplicity of liturgy where the rites are clear and free from repetition and, crucially, within people’s powers of comprehension without need for much, if any, explanation (§34) . None of these criteria is met in the new text.
As we reflected on our reactions to the changes, we saw that these contrasts in views of liturgy do arise in how people perceive themselves, Christ and what it is to be Church... and also God. Our summary is that for us the Mass now feels less adequate as source and summit of our faith than it was in September 2011, and it is further away from that which we need in the coming years. Time and again we read that "It's in the Latin” - this seems to us to be a fig-leaf that masks an inadequate text. We feel projected into the predicament feared by Newman, speaking of the faithful : “when the Church requires from them fides implicita in her word, [then that] in the educated classes will terminate in indifference, and in the poorer in superstition.”
 Liturgiam authenticam, http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/ccdds/documents/rc_con_ccdds_doc_20010507_liturgiam-authenticam_en.html
 'For all or for many?' G. O'Collins Pastoral Review Jan 2013
 Sacrosanctum Concilium http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_Councils/ii_vatican_Council/documents/vat-ii_const_19631204_sacrosanctum-concilium_en.html
 J.H Newman, On Consulting the Faithful in Matters of Doctrine (last paragraph) http://www.newmanreader.org/works/rambler/consulting.html