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.

The Virgin Shall Conceive

It’s Advent, so it probably won’t be long before we’ll be subjected to the standard rant about Isaiah 7.14: “Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.”

What you may hear is that the Hebrew word for “virgin” is bethulah, but the word here is alma, which simply means “a young girl,” so the early Christians who thought Isaiah 7.14 meant “virgin” were simply confused.

I’ve had to endure this rant several times from the pulpit, and it’s trotted out every few years in the mainstream media, trumpeted as though it were the fruit of the latest biblical scholarship.

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USSCB spokesman: Catholic doctrine will “probably” stand until the end of time.

“The effort in this translation was to be as faithful to the original Hebrew as possible,” says the USCCB’s Mary Elizabeth Speers. “It doesn’t mean the bishops are changing their mind on the virgin birth of Jesus or the perpetual virginity of Mary. That doctrine stands, and will probably stand until the end of time.”

Editor’s note: What’s with the “probably” nonsense? And what business do the “scholars” of the New American Bible have, publishing a translation for the Catholic Church, that is in direct opposition to the words of the official Catechism of the Catholic Church? And how can the bishops of the United States even think of permitting such a thing?

From the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

Mary’s virginity

496 From the first formulations of her faith, the Church has confessed that Jesus was conceived solely by the power of the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Virgin Mary, affirming also the corporeal aspect of this event: Jesus was conceived “by the Holy Spirit without human seed”.146 The Fathers see in the virginal conception the sign that it truly was the Son of God who came in a humanity like our own. Thus St. Ignatius of Antioch at the beginning of the second century says:

You are firmly convinced about our Lord, who is truly of the race of David according to the flesh, Son of God according to the will and power of God, truly born of a virgin,. . . he was truly nailed to a tree for us in his flesh under Pontius Pilate. . . he truly suffered, as he is also truly risen.147

497 The Gospel accounts understand the virginal conception of Jesus as a divine work that surpasses all human understanding and possibility:148 “That which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit”, said the angel to Joseph about Mary his fiancee.149 The Church sees here the fulfillment of the divine promise given through the prophet Isaiah: “Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son.”150

498 People are sometimes troubled by the silence of St. Mark’s Gospel and the New Testament Epistles about Jesus’ virginal conception. Some might wonder if we were merely dealing with legends or theological constructs not claiming to be history. To this we must respond: Faith in the virginal conception of Jesus met with the lively opposition, mockery or incomprehension of non-believers, Jews and pagans alike;151 so it could hardly have been motivated by pagan mythology or by some adaptation to the ideas of the age. The meaning of this event is accessible only to faith, which understands in it the “connection of these mysteries with one another”152 in the totality of Christ’s mysteries, from his Incarnation to his Passover. St. Ignatius of Antioch already bears witness to this connection: “Mary’s virginity and giving birth, and even the Lord’s death escaped the notice of the prince of this world: these three mysteries worthy of proclamation were accomplished in God’s silence.”153

Mary – “ever-virgin”

499 The deepening of faith in the virginal motherhood led the Church to confess Mary’s real and perpetual virginity even in the act of giving birth to the Son of God made man.154 In fact, Christ’s birth “did not diminish his mother’s virginal integrity but sanctified it.”155 And so the liturgy of the Church celebrates Mary as Aeiparthenos, the “Ever-virgin”.156

500 Against this doctrine the objection is sometimes raised that the Bible mentions brothers and sisters of Jesus.157 The Church has always understood these passages as not referring to other children of the Virgin Mary. In fact James and Joseph, “brothers of Jesus”, are the sons of another Mary, a disciple of Christ, whom St. Matthew significantly calls “the other Mary”.158 They are close relations of Jesus, according to an Old Testament expression.159

501 Jesus is Mary’s only son, but her spiritual motherhood extends to all men whom indeed he came to save: “The Son whom she brought forth is he whom God placed as the first-born among many brethren, that is, the faithful in whose generation and formation she co-operates with a mother’s love.”160

Mary’s virginal motherhood in God’s plan

502 The eyes of faith can discover in the context of the whole of Revelation the mysterious reasons why God in his saving plan wanted his Son to be born of a virgin. These reasons touch both on the person of Christ and his redemptive mission, and on the welcome Mary gave that mission on behalf of all men.

503 Mary’s virginity manifests God’s absolute initiative in the Incarnation. Jesus has only God as Father. “He was never estranged from the Father because of the human nature which he assumed. . . He is naturally Son of the Father as to his divinity and naturally son of his mother as to his humanity, but properly Son of the Father in both natures.”161

504 Jesus is conceived by the Holy Spirit in the Virgin Mary’s womb because he is the New Adam, who inaugurates the new creation: “The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven.”162 From his conception, Christ’s humanity is filled with the Holy Spirit, for God “gives him the Spirit without measure.”163 From “his fullness” as the head of redeemed humanity “we have all received, grace upon grace.”164

505 By his virginal conception, Jesus, the New Adam, ushers in the new birth of children adopted in the Holy Spirit through faith. “How can this be?”165 Participation in the divine life arises “not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God”.166 The acceptance of this life is virginal because it is entirely the Spirit’s gift to man. The spousal character of the human vocation in relation to God167 is fulfilled perfectly in Mary’s virginal motherhood.

506 Mary is a virgin because her virginity is the sign of her faith “unadulterated by any doubt”, and of her undivided gift of herself to God’s will.168 It is her faith that enables her to become the mother of the Savior: “Mary is more blessed because she embraces faith in Christ than because she conceives the flesh of Christ.”169

507 At once virgin and mother, Mary is the symbol and the most perfect realization of the Church: “the Church indeed. . . by receiving the word of God in faith becomes herself a mother. By preaching and Baptism she brings forth sons, who are conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of God, to a new and immortal life. She herself is a virgin, who keeps in its entirety and purity the faith she pledged to her spouse.”170

Link to story

Link to Catechism


What was wrong with the old ICEL translation of the Mass?

“New” (top) vs. “Traditional” (below)


From God’s perspective (or man’s, for that matter)
which Mass looks more like genuine, authentic worship?

Anyway, that’s the most striking thing I noticed about the ICEL, just from contrasting Eucharistic Prayer I with a word-for-word rendition of the Latin Canon. God is dethroned; we are no longer servants offering a Pure Victim, an Holy Victim, an Unblemished Victim unto God’s most illustrious majesty, which we beg of Him to accept with a serene countenance. Rather, we are “ministers,” bossing God around like fussy matrons in an hurry, so unimpressed with the sacred that we tend not to qualify anything with superlatives or ennobling adjectives.

Even where such adjectives are used, something seems amiss. It may seem small, but I think there is a big difference between offering a Pure Victim, an Holy Victim, an Unstained Victim unto the Most Illustrious Majesty of God, and offering a sacrifice to the God of glory and majesty… just like there is a difference between Jesus’ “glorious Ascension into the heavens,” and Jesus “ascending into glory” (whatever that means). I.e., in subtle ways, even in the places where positive adjectives are used of God’s actions or attributes, the phrasing is usually reworked so that any sense of subordination to the Divine Attributes, or awe of the loftiness of the divine actions, is replaced by a simple acknowledgment that God happens to be great. It’s almost as if it were saying, “I’m not offering this unto Your Majesty, I’m offering it to You, Who happen to be majestic… but, don’t expect me to trip over myself in adulation just because You happen to be majestic. After all, I am Church; I am child of God; I am God. Lord, I am worthy that You should come under my roof. Because You said the word, I have no further need of You.”

In short, I think that is why they eliminated all the “majestic” and “noble” sentiments of the Canon, even in places where seemingly no pet project of the liberal agenda was involved. It may seem like there was nothing to be gained from demoting “This All-Illustrious and Venerable Chalice” to “the cup.” But, if you detest any hint of men fawning before an Holiness transcendent of their limitations, you especially can’t bear for a mere “cup” to capture man’s awe and devotion.

More comments from Father Z’s site

Beware of Bible scholars spouting Greek

In some Evangelical circles, knowledge of the Biblical Greek language is seen as a trump card in any arguments regarding the interpretation of Scripture passages. When a debate occurs, someone just has to say, “well, in the original Greek, this means…” and the argument is won. But the reality is much different: although knowledge of Biblical Greek is helpful in many ways, it does not automatically give one knowledge of the “real” meaning of a passage. Greek is still a human language, and as such, it has its ambiguities just like any language. Furthermore, those who know Greek have their own biases and preconceptions which they bring to the text. Sometimes knowing the Greek can eliminate certain possible interpretations, but never does it alone give you sure knowledge of the meaning of a debated passage.

One of the most well-known Greek teachers in the Evangelical world is Bill Mounce. I myself have used his materials to learn Biblical Greek. Fortunately, even though he is an expert in the Biblical Greek language, Mounce does not fall into the fallacy of thinking that knowledge of Greek gives you some secret knowledge of the inner meaning of the Bible. He understands that proper interpretation includes many factors outside of just knowing the original language.

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Why does the Bible define itself as “allegory” and as “mystery” to solve by seek and find?

Saint Jerome

Q: Why does the Bible define itself as “allegory” and as “mystery” to solve by seek and find?Does the Bible think for you, or perhaps make you think?  

A: The Catholic Church produced the Bible. It remains a Catholic holy book, written by Catholics, for Catholics, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and it truly reflects only authentic Catholic beliefs and practices.

What else would anyone expect?

The Catholic Church has also been very clear about how and why the Bible was written, and what factors the reader needs to understand and take into account, when studying the sacred scriptures.

Contrary to what some people believe, there is absolutely no assurance that anyone reading the Bible on their own is certain to able to discern the Bibles’s true meaning … and the 50,000 different, but all allegedly “Bible-based” protestant denominations, serve as absolute proof of this.

Read the official Vatican document for yourself. It’s fairly short and easy to understand, and it includes complete footnotes and related citations: