Religion News Service moved a startling story this week. It begins: “Catholics at worship should neither sing nor pronounce the name of God as “Yahweh,” the Vatican has said, citing the authority of both Jewish and Christian practice.
The instruction came in a June 29 letter to Catholic bishops conferences around the world from the Vatican’s top liturgical body, the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments, by an explicit ‘directive’ of Pope Benedict XVI.
‘In recent years the practice has crept in of pronouncing the God of Israel’s proper name,’ the letter noted, referring to the four-consonant Hebrew ‘Tetragrammaton,’ YHWH.”
If this story by Francis X. Rocca is correct (and it certainly appears to be), it means American Catholics will no longer be able to quote some passages from the New American Bible — or from the Vatican website — during church.
If you go to the Vatican’s own search engine and type in the word “Yahweh”, you’ll get hits in 129 different categories. The most popular Catholic Bible translation in the U.S. uses the word. And Pope John Paul II apparently used it in his homilies (at a minimum, Vatican translators used it when they were translating John Paul’s sermons into English.) By contrast, the tetragrammaton YHWH only occurs in 13 categories.
If the word “Yahweh” is no longer allowable in Catholic churches, somebody will have to start type-setting a new English-language Bible.