Wednesday, April 21, 2010

New Translation Tuesday . . . on Wednesday

Happy Wednesday to you all. My apologies for having missed my installment of "New Translation Tuesday" yesterday. The day simply ran away from me; packed with meeting after meeting and all that happy stuff.

So, here's a Wednesday installment of "New Translation Tuesday."

There is a lot of buzz out in the Catholic liturgical blogosphere regarding the fact that the newly translated texts of the Mass hold a copyright from the International Commission on English in the Liturgy. As a publisher of worship resources, we pay a fee to ICEL each time we publish these texts (either in "text-only" format or in formats where the text is set to music.) This practice has been a part of the Catholic publishing world for some time. There are those who insist that official prayers of the Church should not be "owned" by anyone; that ICEL has no right to hold the copyright. To be honest with you, I am surprised that this argument is coming chiefly from those who have been saying how marvelous the new translation is; how it is a treasure; how it will improve our liturgical life; how it will finally express the truths of the faith in a clear fashion. So, my question is, how do you think these newly translated texts arrived in their current form? Do people have any idea how much time, energy, and money was needed to make all of this happen? For instance, just think of the perhaps hundreds of meetings held internationally with those entrusted with the actual translation work, as well as those entrusted with shepherding this whole process for so many years. Think of the scholars that needed to be justly remunerated for their work. Think about the staff members of ICEL itself, a group of people whose continuing responsibility it is to ensure that the texts are correct and free of error. Think of their continuing work on the English translations of other liturgical texts. This is all time-consuming, very expensive work. And how is all of this paid for? By the fees that are paid to ICEL for the publication of these texts. Do I wish that we didn't have to pay copyright fees? Sure, what publisher wouldn't? But we gladly pay these fees because we know that what we are providing to Catholics are texts that have been meticulously translated and edited. We pay ICEL for that critical work. It just seems quite fair to me.

On the other hand, as for the rights for the new Grail psalms being controlled by a private family here in Illinois . . . that is a subject for another day.

Thanks for listening. Comments welcome. Be kind.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.


Diezba said...

Jerry, I have heard that argument before, about paying for the process of the translation. But let me propose a counter-argument: did you know that the text of every edition of the American Book of Common Prayer is in the public domain? Don't you think the Episcopalians are able to pay for the publication of their book in the same way that we could pay for translations of the Latin texts of the Church: via directly selling the book. Now, of course, this poses a problem for your company, since this would cost you the revenue you get from selling Missalettes.

But in the long run, couldn't you make up the losses through sales of other religious books? And missal companions? And different specialized version missals?

As for the argument regarding "protecting the text," this is done all the time in Catholic circles with the concordat cum originali. All we would have to do is have the USCCB issue a directive that stated that no concordats would be issued unless they complied with the ICEL text.

I also don't understand why there is no Catholic Hymnal for the pews that doesn't have to change every 2 to 3 liturgical seasons. Again, let us look to our Protestant brothers and sisters (or, for that matter, the Orthodox): no other major Christian body changes out its hymnals and liturgical books on a quarterly basis. Wouldn't we save parishes hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of dollars if we adopted a US-wide hymnal? We could update it every 5 years -- or every 7 (something reasonable). It could have the complete text of the Mass, the lectionary readings, and the propers, plus room for 400-500 hymns. We could have seasonal hymns and general hymns.

Again, this could threaten the publishing business, but again, the hymnals could be printed by WLP and OCP together; or, you could publish a supplement that changed yearly (or quarterly if that's what people wanted).

There are tons of other ways to deal with the texts of the Church besides expensive copyrights and throw-away missalettes. Why do we continue to stick with these?

Jerry Galipeau, D. Min. said...

Thanks for your comment, Diezba.

You bring up some great points.

We at WLP are a Catholic family-run business that has been serving the needs of the singing and praying church for nearly 100 years. The fact is that there are many, many Catholics who like the style and format of a quarterly, or three-times-per-year, or every three years, or annual worship resource. I have done many workshops and keynotes in all but one of the Canadian provinces, a country that does have a national Catholic hymnal. In nearly every parish I have visited, there is also another hymnal or missal alongside the hymnal. There are those in Canada who love the Canadian Book of Worship, and others who detest it.

Ours is a country where people need options; that's just a fact. The Catholic publishing world responds to the environment by trying to provide resources to best help people sing and pray in ways that offer the best fit for them. Of course, I believe that WLP is publishing the very best music for liturgy in North American and beyond right now. We are committed to nurturing our composers and to compensate them fairly. When a WLP piece is sung at my own parish, my heart just leaps when I experience people singing this music; their hearts and souls are fed. We have a commitment to continue to provide the very best. What we do helps the liturgy do what it does: change hearts and, ultimately, change the world.

If that means that the means to do that is through a quarterly worship resource, then that's what we will do. If it means that we need to come up with new ideas (which we are always doing around here), then we will do that.

One other point: the copyright world that the major Catholic music publishers exist in is very, very complicated. I wish I could snap my fingers and un-complicate this world, but that's not possible right now.


Anonymous said...

Ours is a country where people need options; that's just a fact.

OK, maybe. But what options? Options for what? And I think we get into some really grey area when we say that they need options. Is it that, or do they want options? There is quite a difference, and it is a significant one depending on your underlying view of the liturgy.

If the style and selection of music can be an option, what else can be an option?

Anonymous said...

With regard to the Grail Psalter being owned by a for-profit company, this gives a MAJOR advantage to GIA. I bet WLP or OCP would have LOVED to be the ones who own the rights to the Psalter, which will be MANDATORY in all English-speaking countries. Phillipines, Singapore, South Africa, America, Canada, etc. all of them need these Psalms, and they will be paying GIA (a for-profit, non-Catholic company). Am I wrong?

Jeffrey Tucker said...

I just want to thank you for addressing these points. The argument about the need for money has been around for some 500 years and it always amounts to special pleading, but perhaps you could make a case for for-profit publishers. But for religious texts? Keep in mind that these precise arguments about the need for money to build St. Peter's were made during the Reformation by Catholics who build a huge corporate structure around the selling of indulgences. We have presumably moved beyond that event to see the folly of profiting off selling graces.

Jerry Galipeau, D. Min. said...

See today's post.