In 1948, the Old Testament, in a translation created by Mgr R A Knox, Master of Arts and (later) Protonotary Apostolic, received a Westminster Imprimatur "for private use"; in 1945 the New Testament, from the same hand, had been published. These events might have proved the starting-gun for a considerable liturgical, and cultural, revolution.
Congregations at that time ... Anglican, (most) Protestant, and Catholic ... were in the grip of assumptions concerning the necessity for Tudor English within Church or Chapel walls. The King James Bible was still the Bible in the minds of Anglicans and Protestants; for Catholics, the Douay Rheims translation, purged of its most diverting incomprehensibilities by Bishop Challoner, served the devout. Any 'revision' even if only to bring King James (or Douay-Rheims) into line with the textcrit certainties of Westcott'nHort (textus brevior potior) needed powerful justification before it could break through the prejudices of three, cultural, centuries. King James ... aided by Thomas Cranmer ... still ruled. Even if not quite OK.
The problem for Catholics was less acute, because the kindly Latin (or happy inaudibility) of Tradition protected the laity from the irritating mutabilities and aggressions of clericalism (and The Garden of the Soul reinforced lay preference for archaic language). S John Henry Newman mocked Protestant sneers about the linguistic attaments of the Recusant community: when Charles Reding is being dissuaded by his future brother-in-law from seceding to Rome, he has to face the argument that Catholic Clergy are "men of rude minds and vulgar manners"; "look at their books of devotion ... they can't write English." Reding smiled at Carlton, and slowly shook his head to and fro, while he said, "they write English, I suppose, as classically as St John writes Greek." Here, so the canonised author informs us, the conversation halted, and nothing was heard for a while but the simmering of the kettle.
Do you think we are given here a snatch of the repartee of the Oriel Common Room? Would Whately have expectorated into the fire in explosive response to such a Jesuitical attack on Johannine parataxis?
I am unsurprised that not all the English Catholic bishops were equally enthusiastic about Knox's Bible. Given the radically revolutionary quality of its English style, it is surprising that it received from them such acceptance, or tolerance, as it did. It is not hard to understand how the bishops felt. How, indeed, should one respond to this clever convert?
To be continued.