thank God for bad translations

By Diogenes (articles ) | Aug 11, 2007

During his visit to Nashville this past week, to address the Knights of Columbus convention, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone was asked at a press conference to comment on the American sex-abuse scandal. Probably the best thing that could be said about the Vatican Secretary of State's remarks is that they were hard to understand. For example:

It seems like the Catholic Church is the only organization that has been affected by this problem and that is a totally false assumption-– that idea.

"That idea." What idea? Maybe the next sentence will clarify. Let's soldier on:

The juridical expression is that it’s a false public act that merits a juridical remedy.

OK, I give up. Haven't a clue what he's saying.

Since Cardinal Bertone does not speak English, we could blame the translator for the confusion. But actually I'm inclined to thank the translation, because if the Italian cardinal's remarks had been clear and quotable, they would have appeared in dozens of headline stories, accompanied by editorial brow-slapping and head-shaking, causing thousands of beleaguered Catholic Americans to sigh, yet again, "They still don't get it."

"I accompanied the American Church through the period of trial," Cardinal Bertone said, "and I repeat they faced this trial with dignity and courage." Notice how the pronoun "they" slips into the second clause, when the first clause referred to the Church. You might be inclined to blame the translator again, but read on and it becomes clear that Cardinal Bertone is speaking about the American bishops. And if the #2 man at the Vatican still thinks that the American bishops have handled this crisis with dignity and courage, well,…

Well, just scan today's headlines, and notice the lead from today's story in the San Diego Union Tribune:

In a rare and blistering decree, a federal judge yesterday ordered Bishop Robert Brom and his attorneys to show why she shouldn't dismiss the Diocese of San Diego's bankruptcy case for failing to exercise “the financial controls and transparency” required by law.

Citing the findings of a court-appointed financial expert, Judge Louise DeCarl Adler said church officials have not reported true property values, failed to keep parishes from deliberately hiding assets and misrepresented the diocese's wealth.

Are you surprised? No, of course not. One more judge is admonishing one more bishop for withholding evidence, and for filing testimony that is grossly self-serving if not outright dishonest. The pattern is all too familiar. We've been reading stories like this for five years. Don't these headlines ever reach Rome?

A bishop who handled this scandal with "dignity and courage" would face the facts squarely and offer evidence freely, confident that full exposure of the truth would show him blameless-- or perhaps recognizing that he deserved some just punishment for his administrative negligence and misconduct. But there is nothing dignified, nothing courageous, about shirking responsibility and dodging the truth.

Sound Off! supporters weigh in.

All comments are moderated. To lighten our editing burden, only current donors are allowed to Sound Off. If you are a donor, log in to see the comment form; otherwise please support our work, and Sound Off!

Show 8 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: - Aug. 15, 2007 12:59 PM ET USA

    "That idea" the the Catholic Church is the only one affected by the sex scandal is not true. Other denominations also have ministers who are guilty of sexual transgressions. The Italian cleric had that idea as his antecedent to his statement. Getting one's pronouns clearly in line with their antecedents can be aproblem fornative speakers; therefore, the Italian can be forgiven for the small lapse.

  • Posted by: - Aug. 12, 2007 8:41 AM ET USA

    Ayatollahs, Mullah's, Cardinals, Bishops, the mindset is the same: having achieved high clerical office by looking acceptable to their superiors, they then believe that "God is on their side" in whatever they do or don't do. The two unforgivable sins, presumption and despair, are unforgiveable because the person doesn't seek forgiveness. Without judging the soul of anyone, it appears that presumption pervades these high clerics of whatever stripe. A reexamination of how they're chosen is needed.

  • Posted by: - Aug. 11, 2007 11:19 PM ET USA

    As always, this type of posed "outrage" from the hierarchy makes me sick to my stomach. I want to believe that the Vatican really still is somehow ignorant, but I cannot. Why even try to excuse it? Why should a man of this stature and position need us to try to put a better gloss on his prepared speech. It just makes it worse. Prayer and penance. No other remedy.

  • Posted by: - Aug. 11, 2007 9:27 PM ET USA

    Just one more indication that this problem is not going to go away. I just wish someone had asked him what he thinks of over-weight, sweaty, naked priests walking our neighborhoods at night. Gross acts of grossness from the wack-jobs bishops are ordaining, jibberness from Church leaders, bishops who lie, cheat and steel from victims of their wack-job priests... and I have to drive 100 miles for a Traditional Latin Mass... something ain't right.

  • Posted by: - Aug. 11, 2007 8:50 PM ET USA

    You obviously have not read the USCCB's "Charter for the Protection of American Bishops." Oops. I meant, "Young People."

  • Posted by: - Aug. 11, 2007 6:12 PM ET USA

    You're right, Di*, that if his Eminence had said anything quotable, millions of Catholics would have read it, slapped their brows, shaken thair heads and said, "They still don't get it." Since he obfuscated, only those of us who happen to read OTR are slapping our brows, shaking our heads and saying, "They still don't get it." * - as usual

  • Posted by: - Aug. 11, 2007 5:42 PM ET USA

    My interpretation: The Mahoneys, Broms and Georges of the American Church need fear no intervention from the Vatican, no matter how much scandal they visit on the faithful. The Vatican is more concerned with “defending the bishops and cardinals,” than defending the faith and the faithful. Until the dishonest, self-serving shepherds are publicly removed and relegated to a penitential exile, the bleeding will continue.

  • Posted by: - Aug. 11, 2007 4:12 PM ET USA

    Dear Uncle Di: Perhaps what the good Cardinal was trying to say is that the press gives the impression that some members of the Catholic Church are the only ones committing these kinds of atttrocities. And that the press fails to bring these to light. I have seen here in comments that the percentages of abuse at the public school level is much greater than within Catholicism(which should be 0!). IAs to the federal judge - we have corporate American and we have Catholic corporate America.