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O tempora! O mores!

By Jeff (articles ) | Mar 25, 2003

The quality of the ICEL translations of the Latin liturgical texts has been widely discussed. Today is the eighth anniversary of the Holy Father's encyclical Evangelium Vitae, a circumstance that calls to mind the less widely known infelicities in the official translations of papal documents.

In the judgment of this classics major, the translators of the papal documents do a far better job than the ICEL translators; but James Likoudis notes (scroll down halfway) that a key passage in Evangelium Vitae is, to say the least, infelicitously rendered. The official translation of n. 99 reads in part, "I would now like to say a special word to women who have had an abortion.... 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."

There's one problem: the translator invented the latter sentence out of thin air. Likoudis observes, "For those eager to rely on the above words of the Pope as further proof that unbaptized children are assured of Heaven in the Church's present teaching, the above last sentence is absent from the official Latin text of the encyclical. In place of the last sentence quoted above is read: 'You can entrust your infant [with hope] to the same Father and to His mercy' ('Infantem autem vestrum potestis Eidem Patri Eiusque misericordiae cum spe committere')."

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