24 March 2015

Dignitatis humanae: Fr Zuhlsdorf's QUAERITUR

An acute reader of the Archiblogopoios has pointed out to him a slipshod piece in the Vatican website English Language translation of Dignitatis humanae. This does not surprise me; long-time readers will recall that, until I came to fear that they would regard me as a bore for doing it almost daily, I repeatedly gave examples of the truth that very few people in the Vatican appear to have any competence in Latin.

I think I may be able to explain how the problem arose with this passage in Dignitatis humanae. It is easily explicable by recalling the methodology of Textual Criticism, which means the study of different versions of a text so as 
(1) to recover what the original text read before, in the course of scribal transmission, it became corrupt; and
(2) to demonstrate how the corruption occurred.

The Latin original passed by the Council Fathers, which of course does not need to be recovered because it is on record, reads ... contra suam conscientiam neque impediatur quominus iuxta suam conscientiam agat ...

What has happened here is that the English translator's eye slipped from the conscientiam at the end of the first clause to the conscientiam in the second clause, with the consequent omission of the words between. This slipping of the eye is called technically parablepsis. The fact that it is caused by two phrases or two lines ending with the same word (or even, sometimes, with just the same or a similar run of letters) is called homoeoteleuton.

These two phenomena in combination account for a considerable number of scribal errors both in Biblical and in profane manuscripts.

The interesting point here is the evidence that some people both inside and outside the Vatican really do not give a damn what the Council actually taught. Like all good old-fashioned witch-doctors, they use the words "The Council" as an arcane mantra, devoid of meaning, wherewith to beat SSPX or other traditionalists. But we knew that anyway.


Fr John Hunwicke said...

Extremely good point, Ivan. This could be parablepsis too. But I am a bit worried that the support for it in Greek mss is so weak. But it is TRUE CANONICAL SCRIPTURE even if not part of the original text. As it happens, I have written a three-part post on "Regensburg" in which I deal with it! You will see it in a week or so's time.

Ivan said...

Thank you for the reply, I look forward to reading it!

Also, my apologies for not knowing this is actually a well known thing. Even the Wikipedia has a huge article on it.

James K Savonarola said...

FR PJM, I dont think the SSPX hold that you can force others to act against their conscience

Tony V said...

The most serious gaffe in understanding of Latin occurred at the end of the last papal conclave, when, votes having been counted, the cardinals misunderstood the announcement "Habemus papam; unguite Burkem oleo" as "Unguite Bergolio." You'd think they'd have known that the imperative demands an accusative, but there you are.

Unknown said...

@ Tony V

Your comment was much too witty to not mention my shear enjoyment of it--heightened by my dashed hopes for Burke in 2013 and the utter credibility of the mistake!

Steve Perisho said...

I'm curious about the difference between the official Latin and the vernacular in the following case (bold red). Which trumps? Does the more expansive vernacular trump AAS?