Wednesday, March 14, 2007

What Does The Prayer Really Say?: Translation Problems in Vatican City

Father John Zuhlsdorf, "Father Z" to members of St Blog's Parish, who blogs at What Does the Prayer Really Say, leads a life cloaked in mystery in 21st century Rome, while at the same time providing accurate translation of prayers and documents for language geeks and orthodox Catholics to ponder. One wonders, for example, how "Et cum spiritu tuo", which is Latin for "And with your spirit", something which even the casual Catholic might guess has come to translated in our missals as "And also with you."

More importantly, at the prayers of the Consecration, the Latin "Qui pro vobis et pro multis" appears in all the English missals as "which for you and for all" when even Latin scholars who haven't cracked a Latin dictionary formally for pushing fifty years know that the word "multis" probably means something close to "many" rather than the word "omnis" which would translate as "al"l and the phrase should properly be translated as "which for you and for many" or, "which for you and for the many."

These things happen all the time and Father Z has just has been tipped off to another incidence of anomalies in the translation of the Sacramentum Caritatis document that was released yesterday. He has gone to the effort of providing a translation of the following in six languages plus English. Most people know that the German word "gut" is the English word "good." Italian, French, Spanish and Portuguese are Romance languages, directly descended from Latin, and are closely related. Thus it can be assumed that the words "bene", "bon", "bueno" and "bom" might all have the same meaning. Here's what Father Z has to say on the matter:

That said, let us take a look at the Exhortation’s paragraph on Latin in the liturgy and see if there is a disconnect. I tip my biretta to "stefano" who was alert and caught this before I did.

Latin: exceptis lectionibus, homilia et oratione fidelium, aequum est ut huiusmodi celebrationes fiant lingua Latina.

In Latin, the phrase aequum est means "it is reasonable, proper, right". It can be rendered as "it is becoming", to use a somewhat archaic turn of phrase.

German: es ist gut, wenn außer den Lesungen, der Predigt und den Fürbitten der Gläubigen die Feier in lateinischer Sprache gehalten wird.

Italian: eccettuate le letture, l’omelia e la preghiera dei fedeli, è bene che tali celebrazioni siano in lingua latina.

French: excepté les lectures, l’homélie et la prière des fidèles, il est bon que ces célébrations soient en langue latine

Spanish: exceptuadas las lecturas, la homilía y la oración de los fieles, sería bueno que dichas celebraciones fueran en latín

Portuguese: exceptuando as leituras, a homilia e a oração dos fiéis, é bom que tais celebrações sejam em língua latina

Polish: z wyjątkiem czytań, homilii oraz modlitwy wiernych, dobrze będzie, jeśli takie celebracje będą odprawiane w języku łacińskim (Literally: "It will be good, if such celebration will be officiated in Latin language").

Are you sensing a pattern in the rendering of aequum est, or rather how aequum est in Latin is more than likely the accurate reading of the original language of composition of the Exortation?

Let’s see the English.

English: with the exception of the readings, the homily and the prayer of the faithful, such liturgies could be celebrated in Latin.

WOAH…. wait a minute… "could be" celebrated? That changes the entire impact of what the Pope said. All the of the other languages reflect one concept and the English alone says another thing entirely. The English implies that the value of Latin is, at best, a neutral thing. The Latin and all the other languages imply that Latin is positive.

I think we must conclude that whoever did the translation into English chose not to stick to the original text which they were given to work from.

Are there saboteurs in the Vatican whose master plan serves to prevent the use of Latin ever again in Church services? By what authority do they do that? How many are there? It shouldn't be that difficult to identify the translators of this relatively short document.

Has the original Latin
"it is reasonable, proper, right" or "favorable" been made a requirement for the Poles, Germans, French, Italians, Spanish and Portuguese? If so, have English speakers been granted an exception? In the universal Church, it should be the same for everyone.

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