11 June 2015


One of my own anxieties about the current ecclesiastical climate is the tendency for 'Traditionalists' to invent contradictions between 'Tradition' and 'Newchurch'. I think we have an example of this in the report about the imminent Encyclical by Eponymous Flower (a blog for which I have great respect). It describes Lodato si (if I have remembered the Medieval Italian correctly) as "the first Encyclical of history also to have a subtitle". I have problems with this. I have by chance before me the Vatican Press Latin original of S John Paul II's Ecclesia de Eucharistia, in which it is given a subtitle ("de Eucharistia eiusque necessitudine cum Ecclesia"). On the handy revolving bookcase just to my right, I have a collection of the old CTS English translations of Papal Encyclicals according to which, at the very least as far back as Pius XI, encyclicals did have subtitles.

Let us not get so excited about ruptures in the Tradition that we spot them where they don't exist.

Personally, I propose to refrain from comments upon the text of this Encyclical until I have read it. And I sha'n't read it until it appears in the authoritative Latin. And here I do have a bit of a problem about ruptures. I was uneasy about the 'rupture' implied by Cardinal Bergoglio's choice of the nomen assumptum Francis, which seemed to set him aside from all popes since the ninth century, as it was a name which had never before been born by a Roman Pontiff. And I have problems about the publication of allegedly Magisterial documents which are formally "presented" in Rome, and read and widely discussed, in vernacular translations before the actual text which invites our obsequium is available. Shall we have, as has happened before during this pontificate, savants learnedly comparing different and dissonant vernacular editions in order to try to suss out what a particular passage is trying to say? Are there not better ways for academics and journalists to spend their time than in such ultimately pointless philological contortions? How many languages are the Faithful, whether lay or cleric, simple or learned, supposed to have at their fingertips, in order to be able to appropriate the Church's teaching?


Anonymous said...

I always have a problem with relying on translations. I recall once writing an essay in which, to cut a long story short, I was arguing that a particular mythical classical figure was portrayed in significantly different ways according to the agenda of the individual writer. And I found an excellent quotation from an ancient Greek author to back up part of my thesis - in translation, because I read Greek only slowly and with Liddell & Scott ever at my side.

Fortunately, I then decided to consult the original text. Because, lo and behold, the expression on which I was relying had no place in the original, but had been imported wholesale, presumably for metrical purposes, by the translator. Cue frantic rewriting of essay before submission.

We should always remember that, when reading any translation, we are reading, not what the original author said, but what his translator said he said. And I don't think it better to have read a translation than nothing at all; it may be considerably the worse option if one comes away with total distortion.

Liam Ronan said...

Perhaps the encyclical will be in Latin? St. Francis of Assisi's "The Canticle of Brother Sun is well known". I wonder how extensively it will be quoted, if at all, in Lodato Si.

My latin and medieval Italian language skills are poor. I wonder how, or if, this part of the Canticle might be rendered in either language:

"Praised be You, my Lord,
through our Sister Bodily Death,
from whom no living man can escape.

Woe to those who die in mortal sin.
Blessed are those whom death will
find in Your most holy willl,
for the second death shall do them no harm."

It might just afford an evangelical moment for Francis.

Anonymous said...

But surely as the Pope discussed, thought through, and wrote the thing, he did so in Spanish and Italian. It is the Spanish version that came from his pen that is the authoritative record of his thought. When that document gets translated into Latin, the translator will be constructing "not what the original author said, but what his translator said he said."

Reginald Foster made this point over and over again during his summer courses on the Gianicolo...one of his favorite things was relating to us how he had to come up with Latin equivalents for words of contemporary coinage.

Mick Jagger Gathers No Mosque said...

Raider Fan recommends advancing the time for cocktails fifteen minutes every time one reads a trepidatious post about the encyclical or the synod. As these inescapable events draw ever closer an understandable unease begins to increase in intensity and frequency and which unease manifests itself in tocsins of masculine manifests posted online, thus, one finds he can advance the time for cocktails and begin to entertain warm thoughts of having some quality cabernet just after breakfast.

Although his Uncle averred; It is always darkest before the storm, R.F. would rather contemplate his glass half-full of cabernet.

Jacobi said...

Father I shall await your comment, after you have read in "the authoritative Latin".
I only just scraped through Latin at school.

However I proved to be a bit better at science would therefore caution anyone against bringing science into any discussion unless on very, very firm, long established ground and even then I can think of examples where opinion has completely flipped.

We shall see!

Tamarind said...

Speaking of translations and originals, you may appreciate this new translation we've put out at the Josias, of one of Bl. Pius IX's allocutions.


Fr John Hunwicke said...

R100: I do not agree with your assumption that we are trying to find out what Jorge Bergoglio thinks within his private and personal mind, just as we might look at the personal drafts of Mrs Thatcher's speeches to reconstruct what was going through her mind. Except to biographers and historians, it is of no interest to deploy such evidence so as to reconstruct what Jorge thinks. What Jorge thinks is totally unimportant. Just as what Count Mastai-Ferreti thought about papal infallibility is unimportant. What matters is the doctrine which Pope Blessed Pius IX promulgated in his capacity as Sovereign Pontiff.

What matters is the teaching given qua Bishop of Rome by Pope Francis. And that is to be found in the normative Latin text. I presume that, as in the past, various drafts have circulated in the competent dicasteries so that what emerges can be taken to be the authentic teaching of the Catholic Church.

Incidentally, I have never liked Fr Forster's Lexicon Recentis Latinitatis. Time and time again, I have taken it up in the hope of finding some clever new coinage, only to discover a cumbersome circumlocution. Circumlocutions I can do for myself.

Jacobi: your point is a good one. But (see my reply to R101) teaching Encyclicals pass across a variety of competent desks in draft form. So it is not a question of Jorge Bergoglio perhaps getting his science wrong, but of the Bishop of Rome articulating the Church's judgement.

Encyclicals are not infallible, but it is right that we should expect to read them humbly so as to be instructed. This one is no different from any other in this respect.

Liam Ronan said...

Rat and Mole and Badger are cringing in Toad Hall awaiting the apostolic end of Toad's outings with his motorcar with its carbon emissions.

"The Toad- came- home!
When-the-Toad-came-home There was panic in the parlours and howling in the halls,
There was crying in the cow-sheds and shrieking in the stalls,
When the Toad- came- home!
When the Toad- came- home!
There was smashing in of window and crashing in of door,
There was chivvying of weasels that fainted on the floor,
When the Toad-came home!
Bang! go the drums!
The trumpeters are tooting and the soldiers are saluting,
And the cannon they are shooting and the motor-cars are hooting,
As the- Hero- comes!
Shout- Hoo-ray!
And let each one of the crowd try and shout it very loud,
In honour of an animal of whom you’re justly proud,
For it’s Toad’s- great- day!"

Alas! Poor toad.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your reply. Though I disagree w/your opinion of Reggie's legacy - I won't bore you w/the testimonies of Classics chairs of major universities I know who have stated that he is world's greatest living Latinist, and I note that you do not address the main point of my original comment (our Holy Father discerns his interaction with the Holy Spirit in the language of his youth, so that's where we should look for its original intent) - I intend to read your reaction to the encyclical with the charity and comity that my retreat director at L'Abbey de Solesmes gently yet forcefully built into my formation.

Anonymous said...

"I do not agree with your assumption that we are trying to find out what Jorge Bergoglio thinks within his private and personal mind"

"What Jorge thinks is totally unimportant."

"What matters is the teaching given qua Bishop of Rome by Pope Francis. And that is to be found in the normative Latin text. I presume that, as in the past, various drafts have circulated in the competent dicasteries so that what emerges can be taken to be the authentic teaching of the Catholic Church."


This is astonishing. The authentic teaching of the Catholic Church has been farmed out to a slate of young Latinists trying to make sense of the deep discernment - in his own native language - of the man chosen by the Holy Spirit to occupy the See of Peter.

Fr John Hunwicke said...

R100: I did answer your main point. I am a papalist Catholic hardwired to accept the teaching of the Successor of S Peter. As far as Jorge Bergoglio's personal relationship with the Holy Spirit is concerned, I, not being his spiritual director, have little concern with it. I simply do not share your view (which, indeed, I regard as seriously flawed if not heretical) that the private opinions of a man who is also Bishop of Rome have some sort of authority.

I am equally puzzled by your doctrine that the Holy Spirit has 'chosen' the present occupant of the Apostolic See. Do you also apply that doctrine to the highly entertaining 'Marozia' popes of the first millennium, splendid chaps if a trifle murderous? If not, why not? How about dear old Alexander VI? How do you negotiate some of the doctrinal aspects of the pontificate of John XXII?

I wouldn't want to have your problems!

However, I am very interested in your hints about how Latin is currently 'done' in Rome. If you are right, it is a scandal.

Titus said...

Fr. Hunwicke is correct about what texts mean. The Successor of St. Peter promulgates certain teachings (and the Holy See and the various branches of its apparatus promulgate various rules, laws, and interpretations). There is, for each of these, a definitive version. In a similar manner, there is a definitive version of Quia Emptores, or the Stamp Act, or the Tennessee Consumer Protection Act.

Now, one could, if one wanted, obtain a translation of Quia Emptores, or the Stamp Act, or the TCPA into whatever translation one liked. The promulgating body might even make one itself for you. But the definitive version, the one that people actually had to follow, would be the one specified by applicable law (English for the Stamp Act and TCPA, Latin (or maybe it was Law French) for Quia Emptores). The law of the Catholic Church is pellucid that the official text is the Latin text.

So long as the text is promulgated by the appropriate authority how it is created is not a pertinent part of the inquiry into what it means.

Cherub said...

Father Hunwicke is right. A few years ago I attended an international bioethics conference at which one speaker defended the right of a person to sell a bodily organ (a kidney) and the rights of others to advertise for an organ in return for Mooney. The academic in question was relying on an English translation of an Allocution of Pope Pius XII in the 1950s. This document was presented as evidence even though it contradicted what Saint Pope John Paul II had ruled, the implication being that Pius was right and JP2 was wrong. I was immediately suspicious and so, when home, I went back to see that Allocution in its original language which turned out to be French. The English translation, which been around for about 60 years or so, had mistranslated a particular word. Pope Pius XII was in no way lending his support to the commercial trade in body parts. I later gave a paper on this subject which was subsequently published in an academic journal. We need to be very careful of translations.

Fr John Hunwicke said...

Oops! A kind friend points out to me that the Lexicon Recentis Latinitatis, which in three lines of my reply to R101 I assumed to be related to Fr Foster, was in fact put together by a group which did not include him. Interesting. Considering the length of time he spent in Rome, I wonder why he was not included.

Incidentally, I am pretty sure that, somewhere in Oxford, there must be a folder, an evolving piece of erudition, passed on from Public Orator to Public Orator, giving Latin neologisms which Mr Orator has need for his Orations year by year at Encaenia. It would be interesting to ...