a question of emphasis

By Diogenes (articles ) | Mar 15, 2007

Father Z (whose site traffic is straining his server right now, so be gentle) has spotted another passage of the Pope's apostolic exhortation in which the English translation is less decisive than the official Latin version.

The passage in question is the one in which the Holy Father highlights the necessity for Catholics in public life to adopt stands consistent with Church teaching. That paragraph (83) concludes, in the Latin:

Obligantur Episcopi ut sine intermissione haec iterent praecepta; eorum pars enim est muneris erga sibi creditum gregem.

Here's Father Z's translation:

Bishops are under the obligation to repeat these precepts without ceasing; for this is part of their duty toward the flock entrusted to them.

And here's the official translation:

Bishops are bound to reaffirm constantly these values as part of their responsibility to the flock entrusted to them.

Which translation sounds stronger? Are you surprised?

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  • Posted by: - Mar. 16, 2007 9:21 AM ET USA

    After reading all the comments, it accured to me that we should all learn Latin, because it is the Official Language of The Roman Catholic Church. Notice how everyone thought about the above sentences differently. It would be wonderful if the Vatican only had to put communications out in one language. There would be no wiggle room or less chance of putting out ambiguous translations. The Catholic Culture is the most important on Earth. The Catholic Church is worth the extraordinary effort.

  • Posted by: - Mar. 16, 2007 8:59 AM ET USA

    Cdl Weurl in the Catholic Standard - A curious selectivity in what was presented in the article. Elegant words, mostly about "the means by which He continues to be present", and "reflects on the moral energy that the Eucharist provides us to sustain our authentic Christian life", "litrugy", "inculturation". Well and good, I suppose, but we live in a day when 70% of Catholic people do not have a belief in the "Real Presence", a simpler, more direct, summary, and unmentioned term. Curious

  • Posted by: - Mar. 16, 2007 7:27 AM ET USA

    It is difficult to call the Italian translation an error when the document was first written in Italian and was only later translated into Latin. The fact that the Italian uses the term for "values" is strong evidence that this word was in fact the Holy Father's choice. It seems to be more correct to say that the Latin is an erroneous translation of the original Italian.

  • Posted by: - Mar. 16, 2007 12:31 AM ET USA

    Fr. Z is absolutely correct on "values." The Italian and German translations also get it wrong. But it's not just a translation error. Teachable "precepts" have fallen out of favor in the modern world. It cramps our style. We prefer warm, fuzzy "values," so vague they can be neither taught nor learned.

  • Posted by: - Mar. 16, 2007 12:25 AM ET USA

    The real problem is "values" in place of "precepts." Think about it. Values are subjective. We each have our own. Thomas Hobbes introduces "values" into ethical discussion as a way to redefine natural law out of existence. The Holy Father chose "precepts" for a reason. And while we're at it, why avoid "obligantur" ? "Bound" doesn't make it either.

  • Posted by: - Mar. 15, 2007 10:47 PM ET USA

    I see nothing wrong with the official translation. I wish I could say the same about the New American Bible (NAB).

  • Posted by: Art Kelly - Mar. 15, 2007 10:47 PM ET USA

    I see nothing wrong with the official translation. I wish I could say the same about the New American Bible (NAB).

  • Posted by: - Mar. 15, 2007 9:31 PM ET USA

    As the Diocese of St Boniface said so well in November 2006: "Its unfortunate that these words have been given an ambiguous connotation."

  • Posted by: - Mar. 15, 2007 7:15 PM ET USA

    The biggest problem, to my way of thinking, is not the "repeat" / "reaffirm" dichotomy; rather, it's the introduction of the squishy term "values." As we have seen in contemporary society, "values" have replaced "morals" and can mean anything one wants. The Latin "praecepta" clearly indicates "rules" or "laws" -- derived from above -- NOT "values", which are derived from within.

  • Posted by: - Mar. 15, 2007 4:43 PM ET USA

    Actually the official translation is the stronger and better translation of the Latin. A parrot can "repeat without ceasing." However, going back to the Latin root affirmare, "reaffirm" requires that the Bishop literally "make firm" these precepts in his diocese - a much stonger and important duty than simply "repeating" the precepts in question. As a secondary point, the linguistic orgins of "affirm" most closely match the teaching office of the Bishop.

  • Posted by: - Mar. 15, 2007 1:13 PM ET USA

    bound to vs. under the obligation to. Reaffirm constantly vs. repeat these precepts without ceasing. I think we're nitpicking here. "Reaffirm constantly" certainly is a stronger phrase to my ears than "repeat these precepts without ceasing." In any case, the unofficial translation is not modern vernacular English, and is long winded and tedious. Why assume bad will on the part of the official translators? It seems fine to me.

  • Posted by: - Mar. 15, 2007 1:13 PM ET USA

    Ross, I think you mean "bound to reaffirm constantly these values" is more succinct than... "under the obligation to repeat these precepts without ceasing." Because what you quoted did not express the complete idea you quoted from Fr. Z's translation. But you could tighten Fr. Z's translation to "obligated to repeat these precepts without ceasing" and that would be stronger.

  • Posted by: - Mar. 15, 2007 11:17 AM ET USA

    Step 1: Fire the "official" translator. Step 2: Make each bishop certify receiving the exhortation. Step 3: Require each bishop to submit his plan for adherence. Step 4: Replace those bishops who fail to comply.

  • Posted by: - Mar. 15, 2007 10:49 AM ET USA

    No, I am not surprised. The second translation is much stronger. The words "bound to reaffirm" is to the point... "under the obligation to repeat these precepts without ceasing" is long winded. Latin is a more "precise language". All of the medical terms are derivitives from Latin.Some Latin phrases cannot even be translated with the end result having the exact same meaning. I think everything sounds better in Latin. I am so happy that St. Jerome decided to translate everything into Latin.

  • Posted by: - Mar. 15, 2007 9:52 AM ET USA

    I want bishops to act, teach, fast, pray, meditate, be experts on Sacred Scripture and Holy Tradition, shepherd their flock, encourage vocations, to train and ordain priests, protest at abortion mills, encourage the Catholic voter to remember life is paramount at the ballot box, be obedient to the pope, write articles for the diocesan newspaper, give good interviews with the secular press, try to become a guest on EWTN, and most of all love Jesus Christ with all their mind and all their heart.

  • Posted by: - Mar. 15, 2007 9:30 AM ET USA

    It's enough that some bishops get shaky knees about these teachings. The next thing you'll want is for them to have straight and strong spines. What do you want then to do, act?!

  • Posted by: - Mar. 15, 2007 9:05 AM ET USA

    Oy! The devil knows Latin and evidently employs his minions as translators. That being said, even if the translations were more faithful to the Latin text, wouid dissident Bishops conduct themselves any differently?