ALERT: An exhortation TO ARMS!!

UPDATE: I AM REPOSTING THIS (originally posted 23 March)

Folks, for reasons I would rather not explain at this time, I could use some help with something. 

I am addressing this especially to those of you with some Latin skills.

This is a call to arms.

You will remember that I wrote about the very bad English rendering of a couple paragraphs of the Holy Father’s Exhortation Sacramentum caritatis.  Refresh your memory here, especially about par. 62 on Latin.

Again, those of you whose Latin skills are strong, and who might have a little time, I need some more examples of disconnects between the English translation of the Exhortation and Latin and other modern language versions. 

If you find some things, kindly post them in comments below so that I can review them.  Comments extraneous to this will probably be deleted, so let’s stay focued.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Oratorian says:

    Father, I’m sure that there will be others who post more authoratatively than what I am about to give you, but here is what I can. I just sat reviewing the linguistics of paragraph 62 with my father, who is a native speaker of English, Spanish, and German. He also had Latin in university, and studied Russian when working for the Government in the 1960’s.

    I asked him to review the English and contrast it to the Spanish. It does not mean the same thing. “Sera” is the future tense of “Ser,” the verb “to be.” There is nothing of the conditional “could” about it. The Spanish:
    “serà a bueno que dichas celebraciones fueran en latà n”
    “it WILL BE good if these celebrations were in Latin.”

    The German:
    “es ist gut, wenn außer den Lesungen, der Predigt und den Fürbitten der Gläubigen die Feier in lateinischer Sprache gehalten wird.”
    “it IS GOOD, when outside the lessons, the preaching, and the prayers of the faithful, these feasts in the Latin Language celebrated WILL BE.”

    The French is even more forceful. “Soient” is the “imperatif” form of “etre,” the verb to be. Therefore:
    “il est bon que ces célébrations soient en langue latine.”
    “it is good that these celebrtions WILL BE in the Latin language.”

    But even more direct is the latin. As we all know, ‘Aequum est” means “It is right.” If anyone wants to interpret it or argue with it, look to the preface to the mass, and tell every publisher that ever translated the mass that “aequum est et salutare” doesn’t mean “IT IS RIGHT AND HEALTHFUL.” That is a directive. “It is right that these celebrations be in latin.”

    From directive language we arrive at language of approbation in all the other translations (except English): “it is good, but retaining language of directive in French (ironically), with the imperative form of “etre” i.e.: “they will be in latin language.”

    But finally, in the English, we come to conditional language, language of option: “they could be in Latin.” This is pure fiction. And I must say, it’s making the Holy See look pretty pathetic. Are we that rife with subversion, that they think they can deliberately misinterpret and no one will notice? Do they not know that we are in a new information age, that the sheep can read now, and detect, and expose? And their own electronic trail will one day expose them? Don’t they realise that nothing is lost anymore, and that they may be undone sooner than they think?

    “could be in Latin” is a deliberate lie. “It is right” that they be in Latin, is the true statement.

  2. Good stuff. Thanks. The special character issue should be worked out soon, btw.

  3. Deborah says:

    Fr. Zuhlsdorf, I had asked about some examples on the NLM blog and there were a number of posts in response. I will look for them and post them here. Thanks for doing this.

  4. FamulusVeritatis says:

    I have an example of how “aequus” was translated with adequate force elsewhere in the document.

    In paragraph 69, second sentence, the official Latin reads, “Nam aequus eius locus adiuvat realem Christi praesentiam agnoscere in Sanctissimo Sacramento.”

    The English version renders this as “The CORRECT positioning of the tabernacle contributes to the recognition of Christ’s real presence in the Blessed Sacrament.”

    While I might quibble with “contributes” as an adequate rendering of “adjuvo, adjuvare” (perhaps “aids” or simply “helps”), translating “aequus” as CORRECT here but not in paragraph 62 deepens the bafflement.

    (The German, by the way, has “Seine richtige Position” in 67, which simply confirms the point about the correct translation of “aequus”.)

  5. Andrew says:

    In no. 62 it says “better-known prayer”? Why doesn’t it say “well-known prayers”?
    The preposition “per” signifies “most” or “very” as in “perobscurus” (most obscure, or very obscure), percivilis (very gracious) perangustus (very narrow). “Vulgatus” is “commonly known” and “pervulgatus” is “very commonly known”. Not better-known!

    Also in 62 we have “quarundam liturgiae partium” translated as “parts of the liturgy”. It should say “certain parts” or “given parts” or even “specific parts”. It does make a difference in meaning, because the connotation is different: i.e. not “once in a while some parts might be in Latin, but the same parts could be in Latin most of the time.”

    We have in par. 3: “nonnulli cogniti abusus” – that is “some known abuses” softened to “even the occasional abuses”. “Occasional”? Nothing “occasional” in the Latin text.

    Under 21. they took “in templis confessionalia conspicua loca obtineant eaque huius Sacramenti sensum clare manifestent” (in churches let the confessionals hold a conspicuous spot and manifest clearly the meaning of this sacrament”) and gave us: “confessionals in our churches should be clearly visible expressions of the importance of this sacrament.” Thus the requirement to “be conspicious” is lost in the translation under “visible expressions”. We are not talking about an “expression” but an actual location for the confessional (and also the expression).

    In 38 we have: “Ars celebrandi ex oboedientia oritur fideli erga liturgicas normas in earum plenitudine” (the art of celebration is derived from a faithful obedience towards the liturgical norms in their fullness). I understand it to say that all the rubrics are important and none of them are open to personal alteration. The translation says: “The ars celebrandi is the fruit of faithful adherence to the liturgical norms in all their richness”. That is pretty but it is not the same. Adherence is not obedience.

    In 40 there is a curious translation of “sollicitudo de omnibus expressionis formis” (a concern about every kind of liturgical expression) into: “attentiveness to the various kinds of language”.

    In 51 we have again the infamous “aequus”. This time we have “aequum est ut Populus Dei adiuvetur” (it is preferable for the People of God to be helped) rendered as: “The People of God might be helped”.

    Alia fortasse alias.

  6. Famulus: aequum est is a fairly standard turn of phrase in Latin. It means “it is reasonable, proper, right, etc.” Here aequum is a neuter substantive. aequus is an adjective: “favorable, convenient, advantageous”. The English version you refer to is itself problematic.

  7. On the second page of our Blog, called “Translating the Vatican” , my husband and I are comparing the Latin, Italian and English. We are very slowly going through it and have only managed the Introduction so far.

    Here is the link to the First one on The Spirit’s Sword blog

  8. pjsandstrom says:

    Could not ‘aequus’ in that place be translated as ‘appropriate’?

  9. Let’s not bog down in particulars already discussed. I need citations: paragraph numbers and the problematic texts.

  10. GregP says:

    I haven’t had a chance to go through it thoroughly, but one thing which struck me was the use in English of so-called “inclusive language”, in contrast to all the other modern language translations, as in para. 2 ‘Dominus obviam se dat homini’, ‘cibus…hominis’: the English has ‘the Lord meets us, men and women’ and ‘food for us’, transposing everything into the first person. For comparison, the French has ‘le Seigneur vient à la rencontre de l’homme’ and ‘nourriture pour l’homme’.

    Now, there is a discussion to be had about how ‘homo’ is best translated into English, but ‘we’ does not really convey its meaning very well, and the French, who have a similar issue of ‘homme’ meaning man specifically and human more generally, don’t find themselves unable to use it in the translation.

  11. GregP: Thanks for the note about “inclusive” language. Perhaps we ought to take careful aim only at those examples of inclusive language which would truly distort the sense of the text. I am not too worried at this point about breaking down “man” (all human beings) into “men and women”.

    I have bigger fish to fry.

  12. Deborah says:

    Paragraph #3
    The “official” English rendering:
    “The difficulties and even the occasional abuses which were noted…”

    The “official” Latin reads:
    “Difficultates nonnullique cogniti etiam abusus — dictum est …”

    My rendering of the Latin:
    The difficulties and even some known abuses having been said…

    And from the Italian (which as I understand – someone correct me if I am mistaken – is the original ‘source’ language:

    “Le difficoltà ed anche taluni abusi rilevati…”

    My rendering to English from the Italian above is:

    The difficulties and also some abuses found…

    In my opinion, since the Italian is the original, the english captures the mind of what was written accurately in this case.

    If however, the Latin was the original language, then there would be some ambiguity, interestingly as Nonnullique (strip off the que – it’s the conjunction ‘and’) can mean: some, few, several, or even considerable.

    Posted by Mark on NLM.

  13. Deborah says:

    ….inconsistent translations of ‘cantus’ can be seen quite clearly in paragraph 42: ‘musicam et cantum’ is rendered as ‘music and songs’ while in the final sentence on Gregorian chant, it is rendered as ‘chant.’

    Posted by Go Ram on NLM.

  14. Andrew & Deborah: Good catch on “occasional abuses”. This is exactly the sort of variant in the English that makes the English version far squishier than the others. Good work.

  15. reluctant penitent says:

    Paragraph 45

    Efforts should also be made to encourage those forms of prayer confirmed by tradition, such as the Liturgy of the Hours, especially Morning Prayer, Evening Prayer and Night Prayer, and vigil celebrations.

    Ne omittant porro orationum formas promovere, traditione confirmatas: videlicet Liturgiam Horarum, praesertim Laudes, Vesperas, Completorium et etiam vigiliarum celebrationes.

    Inoltre, non si dimentichi di promuovere le forme di preghiera confermate dalla tradizione: la Liturgia delle Ore, soprattutto le Lodi, i Vespri, la Compieta e anche le celebrazioni vigiliari.

    The English ‘efforts should be made’ seems much weaker than the
    Latin ‘ne omittant’ and Italian ‘non si dimentichi di promuovere.’

    The proper translation of the Latin, I believe, is ‘let them not fail to…’

  16. reluctant penitent says:


    ‘let them not fail to promote forms of prayer confirmed by the tradition…’

  17. arnobius says:

    Paragraph 50 – “congruenti instituti” speaking of Eucharastic ministers.

    The English (and Italian, French, and Spanish) has “after adequate preparation,” instead of “duly instituted” – a distinction, it seems to me, of some importance.

    Even more important: 53 – “Ipse enim est qui, immutabilem in modum, sicut Ecclesiae traditio testatur”

    Italian: “Egli è in modo insostituibile, come attesta la tradizione della Chiesa”

    French: “Ce dernier est de manière irremplaçable, comme l’atteste la Tradition de l’Église”

    Spanish: “Éste es, como atestigua la tradición de la Iglesia, quien preside de modo insustituible”

    German: “Wie die Tradition der Kirche bestätigt, ist er in unersetzlicher Weise derjenige”

    So all the modern langauges (except English) have ‘in an ‘irreplaceable’ or ‘insubstitutible’ way,’ which, though true, does not really carry the sense of the Latin, which stresses the irreformability of the custom

    Now the Engish:”He alone, and no other, as the tradition of the Church attests,”

    “And no other” for “immutabilem in modum” is absolutely pathetic.

  18. Deborah says:

    Paragraph #23 (74)

    The second paragraph of #23 has a number of translation problems and really needs to exmined closely. Here is just one of many serious translation errors in this section:

    Official English translation:
    This is seen particularly in his humility in leading the liturgical assembly, in obedience to the rite, uniting himself to it in mind and heart, and avoiding anything that might give the impression of an inordinate emphasis on his own personality.

    Quod peculiari modo in humilitate exprimitur quacum sacerdos actionem
    ducit liturgicam
    , in oboedientia erga ritum, cui corde et mente respondet, omnia vitans quae speciem praebere possunt alicuius propriae importunae actionis.

    English translation:

  19. Deborah says:

    (oops! here’s the rest of my post)

    Ciò si esprime particolarmente nell’umiltà con la quale il sacerdote guida
    l’azione liturgica
    , in obbedienza al rito, corrispondendovi con il cuore e la mente, evitando tutto ciò che possa dare la sensazione di un proprio inopportuno protagonismo

    Cela se traduit particulièrement dans l’humilité avec laquelle le prêtre guide l’action liturgique,dans l’obéissance au rite, en y adhérant de cÅ“ur et d’esprit, en évitant tout ce qui pourrait donner l’impression d’une initiative propre inopportune.

    Note that the English translation says leading the liturgical assembly when other translations say the priest guides the sacred liturgical action.

    This whole sentence alone is a mess.

  20. Deborah says:

    correction- the last post should end with:

    *Note that the Official English translation says leading the liturgical assembly and other translations say the priest guides/guiding the liturgical action.

  21. Marcin says:

    Aequum is by no means limited to MP.

    In the beginning of a preface we hear:
    “Vere dignum et justum est, aequum et salutare, nos tibi semper, et ubique gratias agere: Domine sancte, Pater omnipotens, aeterne Deus.”
    “It is indeed fitting and right, our duty and our salvation, always and everywhere to give thanks to You, Lord, Holy Father, almighty and eternal God.” (warning: this is not a USCCB version!)

    There is nothing optional about this call to giving thanks the Lord!

  22. jatucker says:

    I dug through the archives and found a case from B16’s address on the contribution of Bartolucci to sacred music.

    The English says: “Venerable Maestro, you have also always sought to make the most of sacred music as a vehicle for evangelization. Through numberless concerts performed in Italy and abroad…”

    But the original Italian says: “Lei, venerato Maestro, ha cercato sempre di valorizzare il canto sacro, anche come veicolo di evangelizzazione. Mediante gli innumerevoli concerti eseguiti in Italia e all’estero…”

    Fr. Robert Skeris (private email) says that is better rendered as “You, honored Maestro, have always sought to strengthen and promote sacred song, also as a vehicle and instrument of evangelization. Through the countless concerts performed here at home and abroad…”

    The Vatican translation hints that the only purpose of the musical vocation is to evangelize by giving concerts. The Skeris translation make it clearer that singing the music is its own virtue, and in addition, the conductor evangelized by giving concerts.

  23. That is not about the English translation of the Exhortation Sacramentum caritatis.

  24. woodyjones says:

    Does this mean there is a translation issue looming for the MP?

  25. Polish notes off the cuff, just matching other people’s comments. (slavish renderings into English, no pun intended)

    Par 3
    jak również niektóre zauważone nadużycia
    as likewise some observed abuses

    Par 21
    by konfesjonały w naszych kościołach były widoczne i by wskazywały na znaczenie tegoż sakramentu.
    that confessionals in our churches be visible and point to/indicate the significance/meaning of this sacrament

    Par 23
    Wyraża się to szczególnie w pokorze, z jaką kapłan przewodzi liturgii
    This is particularly expressed in the humility with which the priest leads the liturgy…

    Par 38

    Ars celebrandi wypływa z wiernego posłuszeństwa wobec norm liturgicznych w całej ich spójności
    The ars celebrandi springs from a faithful obedience to the liturgical norms in all their cohesion

    I would disagree with “Andrew”,in that I think it is in context a perfectly reasonable rendering. And indeed the Polish translator has done pretty much the same as the English dynmic translator.

    Par 45
    nie należy zapominać o promowaniu form modlitwy potwierdzonych przez tradycję
    the promotion of forms of prayer confirmed by tradition should not be forgotten

    Par 50
    I think arnobius may not have read on . . .
    w szczególności wyświęconych szafarzy oraz tych, którzy po stosownym przygotowaniu, w przypadku rzeczywistej konieczności, są upoważnieni do posługi udzielania Eucharystii
    especially ordained minsiters and those who after appropriate preparation, in the case of genuine need, are authorised[validated!] for the service of administering the Eucharist
    (that is my own englishing of the Polish, so you can see how close the PL and EN are here)

    Par 51
    Dlatego dobrze jest przy okazji dopomóc Ludowi Bożemu
    (aequum translated as in 62 – it is/will be good)
    It is good to help the people of God

    Par 53
    Well, in this particular case one might consider it paranoia to nitpick the English, because a literal translation does not slip easily into natural English.
    On, w sposób niezastąpiony, jak potwierdza tradycja Kościoła,
    He, in an irreplaceable way, as the tradition of the Church confirms

    Par 62
    dobrze będzie, jeśli takie celebracje będą odprawiane w języku łacińskim
    It will be good if these celebrations will be held in Latin (no use of whatever one calls the subjunctive in Polish)

  26. Marcin says:


    What do they say in Poland about MP, i.e. in your circles? My contact (a rank and file monk) says that clergy is not very much interested, no smoke from the hot heads in either side of spectrum. In general they seem to have more important business to do…

    And maybe they do have.

    Moj adres: mgierdal (at) gmail (dot) com


  27. jmgarciaiii says:

    Fr. Z,

    I decided to tackle this matter in earnest and catching all the “divergences” in the first 8 paragraphs alone took me (literally!) all day. As in 8am to 6pm. (It’s my slow season.) In general there seem to be two kinds of errors in translation:

    1- Weak or diluted message in English vs. Latin (and vs. Spanish, Italian, etc.), and
    2- Complete lack of congruence between the English and the Latin.

    God willing I’ll have a complete rundown to post on my blog within the next couple of days.


  28. For your information, the English translation of the questionable line in #62 has been changed to:

    “In order to express more clearly the unity and universality of the Church, I wish to endorse the proposal made by the Synod of Bishops, in harmony with the directives of the Second Vatican Council, (182) that, with the exception of the readings, the homily and the prayer of the faithful, it is fitting that such liturgies be celebrated in Latin.”

  29. Brian Kopp says:

    A major victory for Fr. Zuhlsdorf: “Aequum Est” corrected in English version:

    Can anyone verify?

  30. Brian Kopp says:

    Sorry, didn’t see the comment immediately above my last by DavidHLukenbill. Congratulation, Fr. Z!

  31. Jordan Potter says:

    Yep. For the record, this is the English translation of para. 62 as it now stands at the Vatican website:

    62. None of the above observations should cast doubt upon the importance of such large-scale liturgies. I am thinking here particularly of celebrations at international gatherings, which nowadays are held with greater frequency. The most should be made of these occasions. In order to express more clearly the unity and universality of the Church, I wish to endorse the proposal made by the Synod of Bishops, in harmony with the directives of the Second Vatican Council, (182) that, with the exception of the readings, the homily and the prayer of the faithful, it is fitting that such liturgies be celebrated in Latin. Similarly, the better-known prayers (183) of the Church’s tradition should be recited in Latin and, if possible, selections of Gregorian chant should be sung. Speaking more generally, I ask that future priests, from their time in the seminary, receive the preparation needed to understand and to celebrate Mass in Latin, and also to use Latin texts and execute Gregorian chant; nor should we forget that the faithful can be taught to recite the more common prayers in Latin, and also to sing parts of the liturgy to Gregorian chant. (184)


    Dear Father

    My name is Francisco Martínez,  Spain.  I am director of the Schola Gregoriana Nova Vita which sings the Mass at Virgen del Carmen Church of Benalmádena (Málaga, Cost of Sun). 

    I have observed a possible error comparing the number 42 of the Apostolic Exhortation Sacramentum Caritatis in English versión, that includes the verb “employed” that it is not have included in Spanish version of the said document.  The spanish version only includes “suitably esteemed”, and of course it makes quite difference.

    Also in number 62 of the spanish version includes a possible two errors:

                   A)  English version corrected use “it is fitting that such liturgies be celebrated in Latin.  The spanish version says “sería bueno que dichas celebraciones fueran en latín”. The aforesaid spanish text lose strength and power because it might means “would be good that such liturgies are in Latin”.

                   B)  Also in the same number 62, the spanish version use the following expressión:  “… las oraciones más conocidas de la tradición de la Iglesia y, eventualmente, cantar algunas partes en gregoriano”. 
                   In the other hand, English version says: “…of the Church´s tradition should be recited in Latin and, if possible, selections of Gregorian chant should be sung”

                   The Spanish version use the word quoted by comas ” ,eventually,” which is not eqjuivalen of the English expresión used : ” if is possible” without comas.  It makes different for the real understanding of the whole text.

                   Finally, regarging Gregorian chant the two numbers are not conclude by the use of the aforesaid expressions creating confussion.

                   Thanks for your time.

  33. More of a clunkerous infelicity than an outright error, but the first paragraph of section 29 ends:

    “Yet the divorced and remarried continue to belong to the Church, which accompanies them with special concern and encourages them to live as fully as possible the Christian life through regular participation at Mass, albeit without receiving communion, listening to the word of God, eucharistic adoration, prayer, participation in the life of the community, honest dialogue with a priest or spiritual director, dedication to the life of charity, works of penance, and commitment to the education of their children.”

    It sems as though the “without” is distributive and these Catholics are being told not to do anything.

    Note that the Latin is clearer, for its contrastive uses of nouns and a verb:

    “Divortio seiuncti et iterum matrimonio coniuncti, tamen, praeter hunc statum, ad Ecclesiam pergunt pertinere, quae eos peculiari cura prosequitur, desiderans ut illi, quantum fieri potest, christianum colant vivendi modum per sanctam Missam participandam, licet Communionem non recipiant, divini Verbi auscultationem, eucharisticam Adorationem, orationem, vitae communitatis participationem, dialogum fidentem cum sacerdote vel spiritali moderatore, deditionem actae caritati, paenitentiae opera, munus educationis erga filios.”

    The real trick here is to get the jussive sense of the concessive clause licet Communionem non recipiant without damaging the flow of the things they should do. This could be clarified in English by resorting to a repetition of “through” after the “albeit” clause:
    “encourages them to live as fully as possible the Christian life through regular participation at holy Mass, albeit without receiving communion, through listening to the divine Word, through eucharistic adoration….”

    Clearer, but I’m not sure my ears like it much. If only that were a dummodo instead of a licet,, then we could say:
    “by participation at holy Mass, provided they not receive Communion, by hearing the divine Word….”

    Still a stylistic nightmare. What is needed is a series of either all gerunds or all -tion words to keep the parallels together in the mind despite the interruption. I would resist the obvious move of putting the exception before the first element (encourages them to live as fully as possible the Christian life, albeit without receiving communion, through regular participation at Mass, listening to….) as this takes primacy away from participation and gives it to the prohibition in a way that the Latin does not.

    Perhaps something like this would do the trick:
    “…desiring that they, as much as possible, cultivate a Christian way of life by participating in the holy Mass even though they do not receive Communion, by listening to the holy Word, by Eucharistic adoration….”

    But I’m still not happy with it.

    (And yes, I have noted the other liberties taken with the passage. I’ve even quietly emended a couple.)


  34. On this paragraph from section 29, Pritcher suggests the use of dashes.

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