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Limbo Again: Clarifying Evangelium Vitae No. 99

By Dr. Jeff Mirus (bio - articles - email) | May 30, 2005

I am indebted to Chris Lane who, in response to my previous Note on the question of Limbo as treated by John Paul II in Evangelium vitae, alerted me to the fact that none of the modern language translations of section 99 of the encyclical match the official Latin text.

It turns out that this discrepancy has been noted by several commentators. For example, information about it is included in the Catholic Doctrine classes at Christendom College. While I have not been able to locate a copy of the official Latin text as published in the Acta Apostolicae Sedis, Msgr. William B. Smith, an unimpeachable source, cites it in his Q&A column in Homiletic & Pastoral Review (July 2001), and a web search turned up other references as well.

In English, the sentence in question (addressed to women who have had abortions) reads: “You will come to understand that nothing is definitively lost and you will also be able to ask forgiveness from your child, who is now living in the Lord.” Presumably this sentence was in the original text from which all the translations were made, because all the translations I have seen contain it in the same form—including all those on the Vatican website.

But it was apparently deleted from the official Latin text as finally published in AAS. Instead, the AAS text substitutes: “Infantum autem vestrum potestis Eidem Patri Eiusque misericordiae cum spe committere,” which in English reads: “Moreover, you are able to entrust with hope your infant to the same Father and His mercy.”

It is therefore no wonder that the Catechism was not revised based on Evangelium vitae 99, for the official text of the encyclical is precisely consistent with the Catechism No. 1261. It is astonishing that even the official Vatican translations have never been corrected to show this change in the Latin benchmark text.

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