Lost in translation: The true “sense” of Catholicism

Donald R. McClarey at The American Catholic writes:

As the center of a global institution that includes one-sixth of the human race, one would have thought that the issue of translation of Church documents would have been something that the Vatican would long ago have mastered.  Alas no, apparently.

Joe at Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam has been doing yeoman work in attempting to correct the inexcusably sloppy translation from Spanish to English of Evangelii Gaudium.  Go here to read all about it.

Spanish and English are not minor languages in the Church.  One would have thought that the Vatican could easily have translated a Spanish document into English.  Apparently such confidence would have been misplaced.

This whole foul up reminds me of the words of Pope John XXIII when he was asked how many people work in the Vatican.  “About half.” was the Pope’s laconic response.


  1. Once, again, a really interesting post! I speak a little Spanish and translation is an engaging topic. But it’s the content that’s the most interesting. Pope Francis attempts to wiggle out of the paralysis imposed by the un-traditional teachings of the council by making a distinction between proselytization and evangelization. It will never work. For one thing, no one can spell proselytization. For another thing, there is no strong distinction in meaning. But he’s hamstrung by the Council’s teaching that all Churches (punctuation as given in the Constitutions of Vatican II) participate in salvation, a teaching that Francis himself continues to reinforce. So how to evangelize? By just being joyful in our Faith and sharing it is what this text says. By never–this is what the Council says and what subsequent synods have repeated–saying anything disagreeable. I’m trying to picture how that works, confronted with the various situations in our families these days, keeping it always positive. No hell, no sin, no punishment in purgatory, no consequqences for sin. Just joy joy joy. Yeah that will work. Although, so does Prozac.

    The other content of interest is his condemnation of both free market ideology (let us say the Republicans, for shorthand) and the temporary fixes to the results of the free market ideology (let us fill in here the Democrats, with their extended unemployment, food stamps, free medical care, and so forth). But what is the alternative? The alternative is only the Catholic confessional state, the original economics from which our present crisis descends via protestantism. Only the Catholic confessional state gave the poor the equivalent of socialism (I am quoting Pius XI, dammit) and everybody the freedom of private property. Only the Catholic confessional state gives that profile. And Vatican II took that away from us, as a viable alternative. Vatican II took away from uys the obligation of the Reformation. So here we have a pope who recognizes the economic evil of our situation and who condemns it, but who is silent about an alternative.

    Know what alternative is waiting in the wings, feeding on our confusion, growing fat in the silence? Fascism. As a woman, I am terrified. China is the bellweather, Amazon’s inspiration, and just as they did not shrink at forced abortion, neither will they shrink from forced insemination. That’s on top of all the other economic ‘adjustments’ fascism has in store. I am terrified.

    • Janet, you are quite articulate in your analysis and criticism of American politics, and rightly so. Just know a couple of things. One: the GOP does not stand for a “free market ideology”; the party bosses use that as a marketing tool to “differentiate” and attract votes. Two: the Democrats would stand for none of the “free” stuff cited above unless that also attracted votes. Both parties stand for nothing other than the acquisition and projection of power. They are not ideological entities at all, but syndicates. Any apparent distinction between the two is a mirage.

      As for fascism, it has been out of the “wings” and onto the US stage for most of the last century. It started out as a “benign” corporate welfare state (the core of fascism) and has now become an out-and-out police state (the inevitable mature phase of fascism). It is not a “waiting” “alternative”. We live under it, and have been for all our lives.

      • I see you know a couple things yourself, Mark. “Corporate welfare state,” indeed.

      • Sounds a lot like “The Matrix”!


    • I had a chance to ask the renowned college professor, philosopher and Catholic speaker, Peter Kreeft, what he thought about the Chinese and he said pretty much the same thing you did. The possibilities are terrifying!


  2. I’d rather convince Catholics, not of the danger of China, but of the threadbare bankruptcy of Free Market fantasies–because that’s what they are. Charles K. Wilber makes the point in his introduction to Amintore Fanfani’s ‘Catholicism, Protestantism, and Capitalism,’ that from day 1 of the Free Market movement, the Free Marketeers* immediately passed laws in parliament to restrict the tendency toward monopolies. On Day One. The concept of Free Market is a fiction, just like Free Love.

    * Rhymes rather conveniently with Three Musketeers.

    • @”Rhymes rather conveniently with Three Musketeers.”

      You gotta admit, though, that “All for one and one for all” is a lot catchier than “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.”

Comments RSS

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s