17 March 2007

Sacramentum Caritatis: Another Translation Issue

(Taken from WDTPRS)

The Exhortation has a paragraph concerning Catholic politicians, bishops, and the Eucharist. Here is the English "translation" of the paragraph (emphasis mine – I removed footnote numbers):

Eucharistic consistency

83. Here it is important to consider what the Synod Fathers described as eucharistic consistency, a quality which our lives are objectively called to embody. Worship pleasing to God can never be a purely private matter, without consequences for our relationships with others: it demands a public witness to our faith. Evidently, this is true for all the baptized, yet it is especially incumbent upon those who, by virtue of their social or political position, must make decisions regarding fundamental values, such as respect for human life, its defence from conception to natural death, the family built upon marriage between a man and a woman, the freedom to educate one’s children and the promotion of the common good in all its forms. These values are not negotiable. Consequently, Catholic politicians and legislators, conscious of their grave responsibility before society, must feel particularly bound, on the basis of a properly formed conscience, to introduce and support laws inspired by values grounded in human nature. There is an objective connection here with the Eucharist (cf. 1 Cor 11:27-29). Bishops are bound to reaffirm constantly these values as part of their responsibility to the flock entrusted to them.

Now let’s look at the end of par. 83: "There is an objective connection here with the Eucharist (cf. 1 Cor 11:27-29). Bishops are bound to reaffirm constantly these values as part of their responsibility to the flock entrusted to them."

Here is the Latin: Vinculum haec sententia habet verum cum Eucharistia (cfr 1 Cor 1,27-29). Obligantur Episcopi ut sine intermissione haec iterent praecepta; eorum pars enim est muneris erga sibi creditum gregem.

Here is my rendering: This determination [namely, that politicians are particularly bound] has a strict tie with the Eucharist (cf. 1 Cor 11:27-19 – Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a man examine himself, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For any one who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment upon himself.). Bishops are under the obligation to repeat these precepts without ceasing; for this is part of their duty toward the flock entrusted to them.

There is language of "binding" in this paragraph: vinculum ... obligo, which in the first place is "to bind or tie around, to bind or fasten to any thing"). There is juridical/rhetorical language: sententia… praeceptum… pars… munus.

Here is the Italian: Ciò ha peraltro un nesso obiettivo con l’Eucaristia (cfr 1 Cor 11,27-29). I Vescovi sono tenuti a richiamare costantemente tali valori; ciò fa parte della loro responsabilità nei confronti del gregge loro affidato.

Here is the German: Darin liegt im übrigen eine objektive Verbindung zur Eucharistie (vgl. 1 Kor 11,27-29). Die Bischöfe sind gehalten, diese Werte ständig ins Gedächtnis zu rufen. Das gehört zu ihrer Verantwortung für die ihnen anvertraute Herde.

Remember: The Exhortation was not written in Latin, but Latin is now and will be the official text when published in the Acta Apostolicae Sedis.

I have questions about (among others) the choice of the word "values". In the German we have Werte, in Italian valori, in English values, in French valeurs. Etc. Latin, on the other hand, has praecepta.

Latin praeceptum is stronger than "value". According to the noble Lewis & Short Latin Dictionary a praeceptum (from praecipio) is "a maxim, rule, precept; an order, direction, command, bidding; an injunction".

Those words are far more forceful than "values". Am I wrong?

The old incarnation of ICEL did this in the lame-duck prayers we are still using. They reduce God’s commands to "values". A perfect example is the Collect for the 21st Sunday of Ordinary time. The Latin reads: "grant unto Your people to love that thing which You command (id amare quod praecipis), while the ICEL said – and I am not making this up: "help us to seek the values".

In this post-Christian, post-modern world Catholics must use stronger terms to communicate what we mean.

I think “values” will indicate to most people little more than their own self-projection. That is precisely the opposite of what par. 83 is trying to communicate about the obligations of Catholic politicians and of Catholic bishops (and let’s include priests, the collaborators of bishops) in regard to the defense of human life in the public square!

This must apply also to people of other highly visible professions, such as journalists.
Catholic journalists and pundits must communicate the truth of things so as to promote the common good. When they are called on to speak about specifically "Catholic" teachings and practices they have the same obligation as other highly visible public figures: they must bear witness in a way that is coherent with the Eucharist they approach. They may not compromise on non-negotiable issues. If they do, bishops and priests are obliged to correct them. Concretely, I have in mind right now the recent sad exchange between Sean Hannity of Fox News and Fr. Thomas Euteneuer of HLI and then the dippy intervention of the priest of Legionaries of Christ, so liked by Mr. Hannity, who appears on Fox News from time to time.

The point of par. 83 is to indicate the solemn duty, the deeper responsibility these people have and how responsibility flows forth from the Eucharist itself. The paragraph takes pains to remind both politicians and bishops and all of us who are their constituency (in a deep sense of that term) that we are bound in conscience to conform our public and private lives to the reality of the EUCHARIST as presented by the CHURCH and we must do so under threat of everlasting HELL (cf. 1 Cor 11:27-19).

Bottom line: If Catholic politicians, journalists, educators, etc. compromise the non-negotiable and then approach the Eucharist improperly, they commit public scandal to others and risk eternal hell for themselves. If Catholic bishops and priests fail to attempt to correct others when they err they commit public scandal to others and risk eternal hell for themselves.

How’s that for a "value"?

So, here is a problem. All the vernacular versions seem consistent in speaking about "values". The Latin, which is at this point the "already but not yet" official text, has much stronger language. The Latin is, characteristically, less fuzzy.

I don’t know what is going on here. Did no one bother to read the Latin and coordinate it with the vernacular translations? Again, the document was NOT composed in Latin. Latin is just another "translation" in that sense, even though it is the official text. Weird, no?

QUAERITUR: When the final official version of the Latin is published, who will bother to consult it and then go back to CORRECT THE VERNACULAR VERSIONS??

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