22 December 2015

There is a thoroughly admirable section in our beloved Holy Father's admirable Year of Mercy Homily which will undoubtedly have the German and English Cardinals and Bishops dashing around frantically to "correct" what the Holy Father has said. His words: " ... the Church ... has set out once again, with enthusiasm, on her missionary journey ... *wherever there is one person, the Church is called to reach out to him and to bring the joy of the Gospel and the Mercy and Forgiveness of God."*. "No No No" Their Eminences will feverishly cry, the cry dutifully re-echoed by Their (conclamant suffragan) Lordships. "You mustn't get the wrong impression. It really is absolutely totally wrong even to think of converting Jews. When Francis said 'wherever there is one person' he most definitely never meant a Jewish person. Obviously, no sensible individual thinks of Jews as persons. Certainly not nowadays after Nostra aetate. We must never ever suggest that Jews might be brought the 'joy of the Gospel' or the 'Mercy and forgiveness of God'. Our Ecumenical Advisers would never forgive us".

Personally, I am a terribly simple sort of  ... er ... person. I assume that the Successor of S Peter meant precisely what he said, not least because what he said is totally at one with the teaching of Scripture and with the Church's Tradition. "Wherever there is one person". Pope Francis' words remind us of the Good Shepherd who wasn't content to have the 99 safe and sound but searched and searched for the One Sheep until he found it. And I think that, in their implicit disagreement with these words of Pope Francis, and with what Pope Benedict wrote, and with the teaching of so many Roman Pontiffs, the German and English Episcopal Conferences have recently given us the very best reason to be extremely apprehensive about the idea of allowing Bishops' Conferences a greater doctrinal competence. It pains me to have to say this, but they have demonstrated with the utmost clarity that this is not the time to entrust them with something so dangerous: I mean, with the capacity to impose upon the consciences of dutiful Catholics possibly dubious teachings which they would be supposed to receive with religiosum obsequium. 

In my - as ever - extremely humble opinion, Apostolos suos rules, OK. It settled the question of what such conferences are ecclesiologically, and what, consequently, their doctrinal status is. And the teaching of the John Paul II and Benedict XVI Magisterium on the integrally related question of the ontological priority of the Universal over the Particular Church, rules, too. The 24 years between the appointment of Joseph Ratzinger as Cardinal Prefect of the CDF, and his abdication as Pope, represented doctrinally and intellectually a most significant and satisfactory period in the Church's life. Hans Kueng's impotent fury and the pathetic figure of Walter Kasper whinging on the sidelines were, and are, deplorable irrelevances. So is the nastiness of those, of whatever rank in the Church, who attack Ratzinger and his legacy when he is no longer able to answer back.

(*-* Original text as delivered in Italian by the Holy Father: "Dovunque c'e una persona, la la Chiesa e chiamata a raggiungerla per portare la gioia del Vangelo e portare la misericordia e il perdono di Dio." The translations into the other three Romance languages have the equivalents of 'una persona'. The English translation which was put out reads ".. wherever there are people ...". A probable grammatical motive for the unfortunate change is that in English the word "people" can be resumed by the non-gender-specific pronoun "them", whereas "one person" forces a speaker into the politically-incorrect gender-specific "him". ~ ~ ~ What about the Arabic, German, and Polish versions?)

4 comments:

Reader said...

The gender question is not an excuse for this miserable translation. "single person" could be subsequently referred to as "he or she" without having had to resort to a mistranslation.

John H. Graney said...

The Arabic has the word "shakhs" which means person, in the singular, and it's definitely a masculine word. It's impossible to be politically correct in Arabic.
Interestingly, the Arabic word for the title "blessed" is "tuubaawii," which is "blessing" with an adjectival ending. It is not a past participle. I didn't know that until I read this homily. (Shakhs=شخص, tuubaawii=طوباوي)

Nicolas Bellord said...

Why cannot we just rely upon the law of the land for once?

In any Act, unless the contrary intention appears,—

(a) words importing the masculine gender include the feminine;

(b)words importing the feminine gender include the masculine;

(c)words in the singular include the plural and words in the plural include the singular.

Okay this only applies in certain cases like Acts of Parliament and the Synod of the Church of England (bet they don't know that!) but it does make life simpler if applied generally.

ansgerus said...

The German version uses the word "Mensch" which is referring to men and women equally, in so far as both are humans. Grammatically, however, it is maskuline. Thus, the entire passage is becoming masculine, but nobody except possibly some completely misguided feminists here would think of men, only.