What’s up with the false English translation of the Synod’s Final Report?

Now that the 2014 Extraordinary Synod of Bishops has been over for a while, we have to start asking some questions about the synodal documents that emerged during the meeting, namely the midpoint report, or Relatio post disceptationem, and the final report, that went to the Holy Father, the Relatio Synodi.

The final and official Relatio is still accessible on the Vatican website only in Italian. That’s what you find by on clicking “Synod of Bishops“, the obvious place to look for a document of the Synod of Bishops, right?

The notorious interim report, however, which was roundly denounced by the Synod Fathers (who were not allowed even to see it before it was released) has been on the Synod webpage in five languages since the end of the Synod on 19 October… a month ago.  (Frankly, I think it was written already in July, because it was magically translated swiftly into five languages practically overnight.  It was also bound and ready to distribute within 36 hours.  The super-skilled Vatican translators handled that one, but the all important Final Report… not so much.   But I digress.)

The other nine Synod-related documents listed on that page are in different languages.

Here’s a screenshot of what it looks like today.  Relatio Synodi is the final report.

Just try to locate an English translation on a Vatican based webpage.  It was finally released a couple weeks after all the others and it is buried on an obscure page of the Press Office’s website right where everyone would think to look for it.   Since it is in the Bolletino, the daily press release, it scrolled out of view pretty fast.  HERE

Out of sight out of mind?    It just gets to hang out in oblivion until it is dusted off and – Eureka! – look what we found?  What’s with that?

The plot thickens because there was an English translation link on the Synod website, but it was removed because it was riddled with errors.  Most of the errors did not change the content in any significant way.   BUT… there were some 90 errors, not 4 or 5, including the elimination of phrases, in only 62 paragraphs.

Weeks are passing and the only English version out there is just plain wrong in a key paragraph.

The weird thing about the only extant English translation is that a controversial paragraph is not translated correctly.  WERE one able easily to compare the Italian original and other languages by clicking side by side links (which we can’t – at least at the Synod of Bishops page) you would more easily spot what can only be – after this lapse of time and after numerous people have pointed it out in public – a blatant falsification of the original.

And given what was falsified and not corrected, you have to ask: Who did this and why?

Here’s the deal.

Paragraph 4 of this final and official statement of the Synod which went to the Pope, has in the Italian original this conclusion about the challenges facing the Church today (emphasis added and translation):

4. Alla luce dello stesso discorso abbiamo raccolto i risultati delle nostre riflessioni e dei nostri dialoghi nelle seguenti tre parti: l’ascolto, per guardare alla realtà della famiglia oggi, nella complessità delle sue luci e delle sue ombre; lo sguardo fisso sul Cristo per ripensare con rinnovata freschezza ed entusiasmo quanto la rivelazione, trasmessa nella fede della Chiesa, ci dice sulla bellezza, sul ruolo e sulla dignità della famiglia; il confronto alla luce del Signore Gesù per discernere le vie con cui rinnovare la Chiesa e la società nel loro impegno per la famiglia fondata sul matrimonio tra uomo e donna. [“founded on marriage between a man and a woman.”]

Without knowing Italian, you probably figured out that part in bold.  I was just being helpful, not condescending.  By the way, even though the articles un and una are missing we say “a man and a woman” and not just “man and woman” so that we exclude polygamy… I hope.

By the magic of cutting and pasting from the English version which we had to dig out of an obscure page from the archive of the daily Bolletino at the Press Office’s site, an entirely different entity of the Holy See from the Synod of Bishops, whose official document it is, we find (emphases added):

4.          With these words in mind, we have gathered together the results of our reflections and our discussions in the following three parts: listening, looking at the situation of the family today  in all its complexities, both lights and shadows; looking, our gaze is fixed on Christ to re-evaluate, with renewed freshness and enthusiasm, what revelation,  transmitted in the Church’s faith, tells us about the beauty and dignity of the family; and facing the situation, with an eye on the Lord Jesus, to discern how the Church and society can renew their commitment to the family. [You are waiting to see the part about “founded on marriage between a man and a woman” aren’t you!]

The final Italian words, describing the family as, “founded on marriage between man and woman”, seems to have been deliberately suppressed in the English version of an important Church document, an official document issued by a Synod that made headlines round the world for most for the better part of a whole month.

It has been a month now since the close of the Synod and the release of that document, and still the false translation of the Italian original is all that we have, on a completely different page.

So… what’s going on here?

Are they trying, by this haphazard treatment of an official document of the Synod, which Pope Francis seems to be trying to enhance in importance, to indicate that Italian isn’t the official language after all?  Are we to wait for a Latin version of the document?  Yeah, right.

Are they trying, by this haphazard treatment to slither some ideological position in – at least for English speakers?   Are we to understand that it is not an integral and constitutive element of “family”, properly understood, that it be “founded on marriage between a man and a woman”?   If that is the case, what is “family” founded on?   Some other kind of relationship?

Same-sex unions?

Interspecies unions?

Like I say, it’s been a month now and this has already been pointed out.

I am reminded of how someone in control of the content of the Holy See’s site made sure that, for years Pope Benedict’s pivotal Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum – which emancipated the use of the 1962 Missale Romanum – was available only in Latin and that hugely useful, widely-read language, so similar to other commonly spoken tongues, Hungarian.

It only took six years to get other modern languages posted.  HERE

No, no!  That wasn’t done on purpose, I’m sure!

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in One Man & One Woman, Our Catholic Identity, Sin That Cries To Heaven, The Drill, The future and our choices, What are they REALLY saying?, You must be joking! and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Clinton says:

    Will we see persons responsible for these shenanigans with the translations left in
    place or will we see them removed? That will tell us whether or not Someone Very
    Highly Placed views them as either a bug– or a feature.

  2. Okay… I see that I am going to have to turn on the moderation queue. I have had to delete some moments already and the sun isn’t even fully up on this post.

  3. everett says:

    “This got me thinking: what if the media “translators” of Pope Francis were hired to translate other famous quotations in history?”


  4. Genna says:

    Father, would the synodal attendees of each country/language bloc have had a say in the final release? Is it known whether translations in other languages also differ?
    Also, is there a cardinal or cardinals with overall responsibility for the Vatican website? Thanks.

  5. Martlet says:

    Smoke of Satan, and final confrontation are words that come to mind. Maybe all this will flush ’em out.

  6. JonPatrick says:

    When was it that Italian replaced Latin as the official language of the Church? I guess I missed that memo. Makes sense, let’s pick a language that is spoken only in 1 country in the entire world and use that as the official language for a worldwide Church.

  7. hilltop says:

    Let us Pray:

    Hail Mary
    The Lord is with you
    Blessed are you
    And blessed is the fruit of your womb
    Holy Mary
    Pray for us

    (I would have given the Italian translation but it’s much longer.)

  8. Dr. Edward Peters says:

    I try never to ascribe to malevolence what can be ascribed to incompetence, but sometimes, I gotta say, it’s really, really hard.

  9. iteadthomam says:

    If unknown people have this kind of power, that is, the ability to manipulate official documents, then there is something seriously wrong with the way it is set up at this point. Frankly, everyone who has anything to do with translating and publishing the documents on the Vatican website should be fired and new people who are known for their honesty and integrity should be selected for this task. Without these kinds of measures taken, you will just end up with a circus and what good is it to have a synod if the documents are just going to be written in advance and the real documents distorted when translated?

  10. Titus says:

    That this sort of nonsense is still continuing at the pencil-pushing-bureaucrat level is strong evidence that there is not going to be any meaningful curial reform in this pontificate. It’s not because Francis isn’t interested in it, it’s not because he’s in cahoots with this sort of nonsense, it’s simply because the whole operation over there is broken. If he wanted to change things, that is, if he had the will to make sure fundamental change in the mechanisms of Vatican operations occurred, he would have cashiered everyone who had a desk in a Vatican office before coming out on that balcony.

    Instead, we’re stuck with this kind of silliness. That’s not, per se, the Pope’s fault, but he could put a stop to it.

  11. Mike says:

    The persistence of easily correctable miscommunications makes it well-nigh impossible to take seriously the 2014 Synod. One can only pray that those responsible for organizing the 2015 Synod will re-assert their responsibility to articulate the eternal truths of the Faith with clarity, promptness, and frequency — and, along the way, to call out, and to repent for, the occasions of confusion of the faithful over the past several generations.

    How would it make sense to continue to let “Catholic” synods be manipulated by those who would distort and suppress timeless Catholic doctrine and teaching — and who would label as schismatic those faithful to the Holy See who would preserve them?

  12. The unfortunate reality is that the Vatican’s English press office has been poor in general. I remember reading a front-page article in the English edition L’Osservattore Romano when I was in Rome and finding such bad grammar, punctuation, and word use that I would’ve failed a sixth-grader for writing that in English class. Another incident I remember is in one of his Epiphany homilies, Pope Benedict referred to the supposition that the star was possibly a supernova: Google translator got it right but the English edition on the Vatican website said a “super new” – as both know Italian we realized that there is only a one letter difference between those two words but any translator worth his salt would realize from context even if he accidentally made the mistake of assuming there was a U there.

    In general, by having a bad English press office, the Vatican is shooting itself in the foot. The USA gives a huge amount to the Vatican – if you look at almost anything done there in the last 30 or so years you’ll find a little Knights of Columbus logo in the corner.

    Anyways, from my three years in Rome I can see this just being lazy Italians and an understaffed English press office, and not necessarily an ideological issue.

  13. JesusFreak84 says:

    English is the language from which all “minor languages” are also taken, no? It seems that mistranslating the English could have far-reaching consequences with those other tongues…like with the first two iterations of the Mass, mayhap?

  14. The Masked Chicken says:

    “I try never to ascribe to malevolence what can be ascribed to incompetence, but sometimes, I gotta say, it’s really, really hard.”

    Nah, the monks just ran out of ink. Really, they meant to finish that paragraph. What is this digital thing of which you speak?

    The Chicken

  15. tcreek says:

    We should thank the Lord every day for the internet. Heterodox church leaders can now be exposed and their lackeys in the media can no longer give them cover by muddying the water.

  16. NBW says:

    It is angering but not surprising. There are some within the synod that wish to keep confusion a constant so they can push their evil agenda. This smacks of what went on during Vat II. We need an army of Cardinal Burkes.

  17. New Sister says:

    Veterum Sapientia (1962) is still only posted in Latin & Spanish.

  18. Pnkn says:

    A few weeks ago when VIS published the English translation, there were no paragraph numbers. I went to the vatican.va website, clicked on synod (now gone) and looked for the English translation. Not there. I then went to the Curia link and found an English translation with paragraph numbers.
    What I found on the Curia link seems to be the same as the current Bolletino translation. So as far as I can tell, the English version has been removed from the curial synod of bishops website to the Bolletino site.
    However, I can’t find a French, German, or Spanish translation at all.

  19. jbpolhamus says:

    Without any cynicism or prejudgment, I would like to honestly ask if there are any rumours or information as to Bergoglio’s links to or involvement with Freemasonry, either in Argentina or in Rome? I haven’t heard it brought up, but the way things are proceeding, one begins to suspect. What has been heard on this, may I ask?

  20. Pnkn says:

    I forgot to say that the link I originally found a couple of weeks ago had the voting results. I’m not able to find these results in any language currently. Does sopmeone have the link ?

  21. jhayes says:

    Dr. Edward Peters says: I try never to ascribe to malevolence what can be ascribed to incompetence, but sometimes, I gotta say, it’s really, really hard.

    Making the argument for incompetence, notice that Paragraphs 2, 3, and 4 of the Italian text are repeated word for word from the same numbered paragraphs of the Relatio post disceptationem – except for the 7 words added at the end.

    Since there was already an English version of the RPD, it’s possible that the translator just copied and pasted the existing English version of those three paragraphs rather than making a new translation – and in the process, overlooked the added 7 words. An error, but not malevolence.

  22. jmgarciajr says:

    Lamentably, abysmal translations into English are nothing new, going back at least to Paul VI, and possibly much longer. We can all recall the translation of Benedict XVI’s writings on the liturgy where, for example, “chant” was always rendered as “song” in the English.

    Whether this is willful or mere ineptitude, cannot say, but I note that these mistranslations into English tend to skew in one direction.

  23. Joseph-Mary says:

    Well we do know that the ‘Relatio’, the mid-point publication was a LIE. As far as I know it is still a sin–we still have sin, don’t we?–to lie. Some can deny there is an agenda and chalk it up to incompetence, etc. However this sort of thing has been going on for a long time with impunity. I do not trust much that comes from the Vatican these days. Bad translations being one of the reasons or perhaps deliberate mistranslations being another or perhaps just out of context items to make things seem a certain way. And that certain way never seems to be the faithful way for some reason.

  24. Landless Laborer says:

    It makes me angry and i’ll try to restrain myself. WHERE is the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith? Who is guarding the doctrine? Why was Abp Forte not apprehended, questioned, disciplined, i.e. why was there no, I daresay, inquisition? Why are these translators not being investigated? Where were they when the old translation of the English Missal was watered down?
    If their only concerns are confidentiality of the confessional, and prosecuting pedophile priests, maybe they should change the name…
    Somewhere, at some time, the Church’s disciplinary arm was amputated.

  25. robtbrown says:

    jbpolhamus says:

    Without any cynicism or prejudgment, I would like to honestly ask if there are any rumours or information as to Bergoglio’s links to or involvement with Freemasonry, either in Argentina or in Rome? I haven’t heard it brought up, but the way things are proceeding, one begins to suspect. What has been heard on this, may I ask?

    He is a Jesuit ordained in 1969, which means he was influenced by the thought of Karl Rahner. Rahner was influenced by Martin Heidegger.

  26. Dialogos says:

    I will make an educated guess and say that the same folks who have no problem being imprecise with the liturgical texts and rubrics will vehemently uphold the “official texts” as they are (mis)portrayed.

  27. gracie says:

    ‘It’s a Barnum and Bailey world
    Just as phony as it can be . . .’

  28. Venerator Sti Lot says:


    The links to the Bollettino English text both from Fr. Z’s 30 October post and above work, and that has the voting results as well.

    Fr. Z reports above, “there were some 90 errors, not 4 or 5, including the elimination of phrases”: wow!

    Are there any easily, safely available screenshots and/or transcriptions of the later, now removed English version? – and for that matter, of the Bollettino text as it first appeared – in case it has been silently revised, as the midterm Relatio English translation was? And any resources handily cateloguing all those errors?

    The Bollettino English (still) exhibits the omission of a translation of the Italian ‘validi’ modifying ‘matrimoni’ in the last clause of 48, reading “all the while maintaining that the marriage of two baptized Christians is always a sacrament.” I don’t remember if I checked on that in the later, now removed English version as well, or not.

  29. jacobi says:

    It’s all a bit sad, shocking I suppose. Reminds one of the worst aspects the Communist Soviet period, and this in the Catholic Church. What in Heaven’s name is going on?

    Well the answer to that is simple. There are people in the Vatican trying to heretically manipulate and change Catholic doctrine and thinking by devious and indirect means. As to who they are and their motivation well, that’s another matter and for another time. But they will keep trying, particularly between now and the second Synod.

    But, this is ultimately the responsibility of the Holy Father. The buck stops with him!

    And we wonder why the numbers of priests and Mass attendance world-wide is heading down the plug hole!

  30. jhayes says:

    Looks as if the official version (translation?) of the Relatio will be sent to the Bishop’s Conferences in December:

    La maggior parte dei lavori è stata dedicata alla preparazione dei Lineamenta per la prossima Assemblea Ordinaria. Essi saranno costituiti, come già annunciato, dalla Relatio Synodi, accompagnata da una serie di punti che aiutino per la sua recezione e il suo approfondimento.

    Si prevede che i Lineamenta vengano inviati alle Conferenze Episcopali all’inizio del prossimo mese di dicembre, cosicché le risposte possano pervenire in tempo utile per essere elaborate nell’Instrumentum Laboris prima dell’estate del 2015.


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