Embarassing treatment of Summorum Pontificum on vatican.va website

I received a note from a friend of many years in Rome.

I don’t know how many times have I called them to alert them to unbelievable errors in their transcripts and translations, to no avail, despite their reassurances after having been on the phone forever being passed from one extension to another. I have come to the conclusion that they are either unbelievably unprofessional or they do it on purpose. I could translate better than they do and put everything online within hours from the Holy Father’s actual speech/homily/whatever. It takes MONTHS now to have lousy versions of anything put online, IF anything at all!

This is from Paolo Rodari today, on his blog Palazzo Apostolico.

I thought the Vatican had at last taken care to put online on its very own site the version of the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum … in all languages.  Instead, nothing.  On vatican.va the Motuo Proprio is accessible only in Latin and (LISTEN, LISTEN) in Hungarian.  (Find here the page of vatican.va dedicated to the all the Motu Proprio documents of Benedict XVI.)  [Sort of like Spanky and Our Gang have a Website.]

However, as the blog Una Fides notes, "once the Latin text is clicked it is enough to try a little game, that it to say, change to the "l" of the last part of the "_lt.html" to a "i" and, voilà, there magically appears the hidden Italian text. (read here: "games and magic tricks in the Vatican").  [I tried this and it didn’t work.  Someone at the switch in the Vatican office that runs the site probably changed this, no doubt from sheer embarrassment.]

I don’t know if the Italian version (as that in French, Portuguese and Spanish) of the Motu Proprio doesn’t appear on Vatican.va through negligence or in order purposefully to block the diffusion of the text.  I know, however, that to act with such superficiality does nothing other than provoke the suspicion of those who sustain that there is a part of the Church which is blocking the diffusion and application of the Motu Proprio, a disposition strongly desired by Benedict XVI.


Someone sent me the cached page of the Italian:


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. I regularly find mistakes in documents on the Vatican website (including some in conciliar documents, for crying out loud), and associates have alerted me to other errors. I have never contacted .VA about it, as, based on their stories, nothing ever gets fixed.

    Computer usage is a generational thing, and it will be another generation until what you and I take for granted in re communciations technology will be safe to assume in the Vatican.

  2. Whoever changed it did it fast. It doesn’t go to a 404 page or any kind of “try searching for something else” page. Instead, it dumps you right back on the front walk of vatican.va, picking your site/language anew.

  3. I’m not making this up, nor did I go looking for it, but just a few mintes after posting the above, I went to .VA looking for the CDF statement on Mormon baptism, and I find this: “Question: Wheter [sic] baptism conferred by the community ‘The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’, called ‘Mormons’in the vernacular, is valid.”
    Cite: http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_20010605_battesimo_mormoni_en.html


  4. Roland de Chanson says:

    I have used that little trick before (not on Summorum) and it sometimes works if there is indeed a document on the site but it is not listed in the list of languages for that document. I never got a 404 message, just, as Suburbanbanshee notes, a redirect to the principal page.

    This is in contradistinction to a certain WDTPRS site, at which, if you don’t find the document you are looking for, you are greated with an expression of sincere regret in Bulgarian! Perhaps this is a technique the Vatican website might adopt. Though personally I would opt for Nigrum dic, rubrum fac. ;-)

    If you try the Latin door on the main page, you’ll find that there are apparently no motu proprio for B16. Yet the link for Summorum is present and active further down the page.

    Let’s give the webmaster a break – he’s at least trying to learn javascript, judging from the popup menus.

  5. thefeds says:

    While I do take it very seriously when it is reported that the chief excorcist states that Satan is active in the Vatican, I also must admit that it is hard to find a comment on any blog without at least a minor grammatical or spelling error, my own included. How much more difficult must it be to get pages of code up to create an error free website, or to compile a program that aaliws someone else to upload to a website without being able to read and write code? My gut feeling is that if Fr. Z questions something, that’s goog enough for me!

  6. thefeds says:

    Sorry for the unintentional spelling errors, the product of fat fingers and an iPhone.

  7. Deacon Nathan Allen says:

    I’ve used a similar trick to pull up encyclicals and other documents by popes before Benedict XVI: click on the picture of the Holy Father and all you get are documents by Benedict XVI, and if you then click on encyclicals, all you get are his encyclicals, but if you then replace “benedict_xvi” with “john_paul_ii” in the html address, you get John Paul II’s encyclicals.

  8. Deacon Nathan Allen says:

    Of course, now it’s not working…. [A corollary to Zuhlsdorf’s Law: “When you want to show someone something requiring technology, in that moment it will fail.”]

  9. jbas says:

    There is an interesting article in the Times about the Devil in the Vatican. I’m not sure what to make of it, but it would explain such things as this.

  10. Marius2k4 says:

    Father, you have some friends in Rome, yes? Perhaps they could be alerted to those trying to undermine the Holy Father via the Vatican’s website?

    Just a suggestion. I think the Pope needs all the help (and prayers) he can get. I get the feeling that there are a lot of people working against him in his own court.

  11. thefeds. Our complaint is NOT that the .VA website isn’t perfect; it’s that numerous errors on important pages go unfixed for years at a time. It has nothing to do with the devil, and everything to do with unprofessionalism. It makes the message look shabby.

    I won’t even get into how poorly materials are arranged, or how taxing that ersatz parchment coloring is on the eyes. Just eliminating typos from conciliar documents would be a good start, imho.

  12. Henry Edwards says:

    At a Lent mission in our parish, the priest is going through selections from the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Each week he hands out the appropriate pages of the CCC printed directly from the Vatican site


    I’m pretty familiar with this material — which has been posted there for years and years–but each hour is fruitfully occupied locating all the typos in that week’s handout; no printed page yet has been found to be free of “finds”, most of which could have been eliminated before posting with a simple spell-checker (the availability of which I must therefore assume has so far eluded the crack web site team).

  13. chironomo says:

    I think this is less “conspiracy” and more a bad IT person. [I think this is not just a problem with IT.] You would think that translations of MAJOR documents would be a priority to get up there on the WORLDWIDE WEB where all the people who want to read them are going to look!

  14. lacrossecath says:

    Sad that Ben XVI speaks of the importance of modern social communications, but clearly nobody at the Vatican has taken note. This website with the parchment paper background is so, 1990. Why are documents not made available in pdf format also? Anybody who has experience in content management can tell you its as easy as the click of a button. Even a shabby translation could be thrown together automatically. The sad truth is it will take someone in their basement to put a resources site together to make this happen.

  15. wmeyer says:

    I have copied the conciliar documents from the Vatican site, and as I have made my way through them–in English–I have found that the numerous errors are of the type I associate with the use of OCR from printed pages. It is disturbing, to say the least, that so little care is given to making such minor corrections.

    It does prompt me to ask, however, whether there is a site on which the documents are available without such errors?

  16. Andrew says:

    I just re-checked the encyclical of Pope John Paul II “Ecclesia de Eucharistia” and under number 2 it reads as follows:

    … qui pro vobis funditur ET PRO OMNIBUS (my caps) in remissionem peccatorum”

    That “pro omnibus” is false. I have the text as it was printed in the Acta Apostolicae Sedis and it reads “pro multis”. Why the website continues to carry this “pro omnibus” remains to be explained. Clearly, this is not a typo.

  17. Andrew says:

    I am off course talking about the Latin text of the Ecclesia de Eucharistia as it appears on the Vatican website.

  18. robtbrown says:

    I just re-checked the encyclical of Pope John Paul II “Ecclesia de Eucharistia” and under number 2 it reads as follows:

    … qui pro vobis funditur ET PRO OMNIBUS (my caps) in remissionem peccatorum”

    That “pro omnibus” is false. I have the text as it was printed in the Acta Apostolicae Sedis and it reads “pro multis”. Why the website continues to carry this “pro omnibus” remains to be explained. Clearly, this is not a typo.
    Comment by Andrew

    It’s also not found in the Latin 1970 Missal, nor in the Vulgate.

  19. Prof. Basto says:

    That a page containing the Apostolic Letter’s translation into Italian was created but no link was provided was wierd, but perhaps a mistake.

    Now, the fact that, when discovered, this Italian page was deleted is even wierder, and surely intentional.

    Which really seems to corroborate the impression that someone, or perhaps a group of people, working inside the Vatican, is trying to block the dissemination of information about Summorum Pontificum.

  20. It seems more likely that there’s a lot of hemming and hawing about just what the official Italian translation is, and that the website administrators (being slow anyway) may have just decided to hold off until it solidified — and then forgotten the whole thing.

    Shrug. Malice is unnecessary to explain a lot of bureaucratic errors. In fact, malice is usually nowhere near as good at obstructing things as just a little bit of inertia, coupled with difficulty getting what’s needed from a multitude of departments.

  21. Erik P says:

    This is no surprise. The Vatican Website needs a major facelift. It is not designed well, lacks any visual appeal, is very unattractive, and is very, very, very confusing to navigate.

    It is a major undertaking, but I think it is incredibly important in 2010.

  22. rinkevichjm says:

    Now that the Lithuanian translator is working Google needs to a Latin one going.

  23. rinkevichjm says:

    Now that the Lithuanian translator is working Google needs to get a Latin one going.

  24. I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the errors were due to a hasty OCR scan followed by copy/paste without checking for errors or done by someone not fluent in the language transcribed in.

    I do hope there will be work done to ensure the accuracy of the documents.

  25. SPWang says:

    Yep, shoots me back to the main page. I tried the ‘it’ and also ‘en’. Same results every time.

  26. Pes says:

    Create a beautiful, error-free Vatican website and send it to the Holy Father as a gift.

  27. @Pes

    I think this shows that wherever a person is in occupation, one can still use his talents for the Lord. Right now, I think there is a strong need for Catholic website designers and people who are technically savvy (in addition to the need for faithful Catholics in general of course)

  28. albizzi says:

    Yes, PURPOSELY is the exact word.
    Another proof of the Devil’s work inside the Vatican through his minion’s hands.

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