You say “wherever” and I say “everywhere”…

Documents from the Holy See were, once upon a time, composed in Latin.  They tended to be clear and concise.  Then things changed, with unfortunate results.  Document over the last couple decades have sometimes been murky and often been far too long.  I can’t see that changing very soon.

Here is a note found in The Bitter Pill about the use of Latin for Pontifical documents.  Perhaps this is illustrative of what is going on in the marble halls these days.

Latinist strikes out

It may still be the Church’s official language but it appears that there are some in the Vatican who don’t know Latin as well as they should. Pope Benedict XVI’s motu proprio establishing the new Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelisation had the title Ubicumque et Semper which translates as “wherever and always”. However, Fr Reginald (Reggie) Foster, the Pope’s former Latinist for 40 years, has said it should Ubique et Semper, “everywhere and always”. “When do you ever begin a sentence with ‘wherever’? That is a relative particle,” Fr Reggie said, adding jokingly: “I was ready to hit the translators with a baseball bat.” However, it is understood that some Latinists had raised it as a problem but were overruled by their superiors.

Respondeo dicendum

Wherever the Catholic sun doth shine,
There’s always laughter and good red wine.
At least I’ve always found it so.
Benedicamus Domino!

Hilaire Beloc

You say “wherever” and I say “everywhere”…
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About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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13 Responses to You say “wherever” and I say “everywhere”…

  1. Chris Garton-Zavesky says:

    Have those documents become noticeably clearer and shorter in the last 5 1/2 years?


  2. vox borealis says:

    It seems to me this is not a problem of bad Latin or inept Latinists, but of improper knowledge of English.

  3. Daniel Latinus says:

    Some years ago, a commentator said that court rulings were getting longer and more complex. The commentator blamed the increased prolixity on word processors and copiers. In olden days, documents were pretty much limited by how many sheets of paper and carbon paper could be typed on a typewriter, and the expense of making photostats. Today, with word processors, high speed printers, and the internet, longer and more complex, but not necessarily clearer, or more accurate decisions can be produced.

    I wonder if some of this is at work in the Vatican as well.

  4. Latin is a wonderful language.
    Nowadays it is difficult to make 100% correct translations, even if you have a lot of new words to translate.
    You have as well different results if a German or an other Nationality translate from Italian into Latin.
    Always a lot of discussions which will be the right expression.
    Anyhow .. I decided to translate my Wikipedia entry in Latin, too.

  5. Would not be the first time there were Latin grammar problems in a magisterial document.

    The famous canon 21 “Omnis utriusque sexus fidelis” of the Fourth Lateran Council literally says, as Fr. Z. can confirm, that “Each of the faithful who is of both sexes . . . must confess to his (her?) parish priest at Easter time …”

  6. Tom in NY says:

    In universitate (nomine collegio) SI patrum cursum compositionis litterarum latinarum legendo Acta Aposticae Sedis secutus sum, lectis etiam in schola litteris latinis, etiam litterarum et latinarum et graecarum baccalaureum perfeci. Cooptationem expecto.

    Salutationes omnibus.

  7. jlmorrell says:

    Does anyone know the state of the Latin language in the Roman Curia? Has it been reduced to a few experts that must prepare all official documents or is there considerable “bench strength”?

    I assume the revival of the TLM will only help things in this regard, but it will likely take years to bear this fruit.

  8. Elizabeth D says:

    The mention of Fr Reggie is timely since I just wrote him a letter today after learning through an email from the international Carmelite news service, that he is living in Milwaukee and offering to teach Latin for free to, apparently, anyone interested in learning. There was a link to a good Milwaukee local Fox affiliate news story about him, which includes an address at the end where you can write to him to express your interest in studying Latin with him. The news channel website is fox6now dot com, I think if you do a search for “Latin” on that site you will find it. (I tried to post this just a moment ago and it didn’t work, I am rewriting this post without a link to the video about him, in case posts with web links get filtered out)

    I live in Madison and don’t drive and too poor to take the bus often, so it is not immediately obvious how I could get to Milwaukee to study Latin, but there may be the possibility of recruiting some friends here who have cars and are also interested. What an excellent opportunity, surely everyone would want to?

  9. albinus1 says:

    I was fortunate to have the opportunity to study with Fr. Reggie in Rome in the summer of 2005. It’s good to hear that he’s still on top of things!

  10. Igne says:

    Does anyone have any idea how long the Milwaukee course in Latin takes?

  11. Rob Cartusciello says:

    Pope Benedict XVI’s motu proprio establishing the new Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelisation had the title Ubicumque et Semper which translates as “wherever and always”. However, Fr Reginald (Reggie) Foster, the Pope’s former Latinist for 40 years, has said it should Ubique et Semper, “everywhere and always”.

    A brief aside on “ubique et semper”.

    While the motto of the U.S. Marine Corps is “Semper fidelis” (“Always Faithful”), and the motto of the Irish Brigade of France was “Semper Et Ubique Fidelis” (“Always & Everywhere Faithful”).

    I’ve always liked the “Semper Et Ubique Fidelis” motto. It is inscribed on the inside of my wedding ring.

  12. Elizabeth D says:

    Igne, I have no information about it, but if you go to the fox6now dot com website (put that in your address bar with a dot instead of ” dot “) and search for Latin you will find the article and video that includes a mailing address for him where he asks that you write to inquire about studying Latin with him.

  13. Igne says:

    Thank you, Elizabeth D.