HEN YOU ENCOUNTER something surprising, it’s only natural to investigate further. For example, if I told you the chief of staff for RONALD REAGAN was someone named DONALD REGAN, you’d check it out for yourself—and that’s just fine.
The internet has made it possible for every Tom, Dick, or Harry to become a “journalist.” 1 Bloggers spend hours creating sensationalist titles used as click-bait. After a while, the notion of “truth” becomes blurred—and not all liturgical blogs are immune, sadly.
What you’re about to hear may shock you, but it’s 100% accurate.
SEVERAL DECADES AGO, the USCCB decided on a fateful “interpretation” of the GIRM. The GIRM has always said that Propers can be replaced with a text approved by the local bishop. The same holds true for variants of the Responsorial Psalm. But the USCCB created an interpretation saying the “local bishop” actually means “the bishop of some other diocese.”
Composers discovered this and began using their own translations—copyrighting them to assure more royalties—even though they had zero training in Sacred Scripture translation. We now have thousands of “variant texts,” which are fully approved and can never be revoked. If one accepts the USCCB notion of tacit approval, the number increases exponentially.
Consider this “variant translation” written and copyrighted by Dan Schutte, for a Responsorial Psalm. It is fully approved for liturgical use in the USA:
The USCCB has also approved many “variant texts” for the Mass Ordinary. Consider the following, whose text and music (©1983) are by Mike Anderson:
Peace, peace, peace on earth;
peace to God’s people, all people on earth.
There was discussion about eliminating Mass Ordinary variants when MR3 came out, but Jeffrey Tucker has demonstrated that the USCCB is still doing this sort of thing. (I’m told only certain composers receive this treatment.) On the CMAA forum, Richard R. recently wrote as follows:
Along with this textual instability goes the proprietary nature of the English, with copyright spread among several groups, and reproduction (for profit or otherwise) requiring excessively hoop-jumping permissions—and, in the case of for-profit, the resulting fees. […] This leads inevitably to the marketplace stranglehold enjoyed by a few Catholic publishers (who can afford the hoop-jumping) that has perpetuated musical banality for decades. How can composers hope to improve upon the status quo without the sort of openness that would make meaningful competition possible?
I know several people who publish with major Catholic corporations, including the so-called “big three.” Without exception, all have described the way the USCCB handles liturgical texts (which are sold by them) using one word: ruthless. Some publishers were even threatened when they requested permission to correct glaring errors. They were told to print the errors or all permissions would be withdrawn. When I say “glaring errors,” I’m speaking of incidents like the Second Responsorial Psalm at the Easter Vigil:
There are many such errors—as the official edition illustrates—and it’s difficult to understand why keeping them was considered crucial. Moreover, when publishers wanted to make corrections, the standard response was the same answer given for why liturgical texts are under copyright in the first place: to maintain the integrity of our rites.
But how does it “maintain the integrity of our rites” when we have thousands of variant texts? Indeed, there are so many Responsorial Psalm variant texts, I’m told the USCCB doesn’t even have a current list!
NOTES FROM THIS ARTICLE:
1 To be fair, such people are frequently an improvement over the “real” journalists we have in our times.