Laudato si’ – Magisterium or Magistweeterum

In the whirl of opinions (informed and non) in the MSM about Laudato si’, I’m tempted to put down my copy and wait for the official, Latin text in Acta Apostolicae Sedis.

I remember how, years ago, when Veritatis splendor came out, I found in the Latin text in AAS zillions of changes compared to the Latin version that was originally published in L’Osservatore and given to us journalists before the release.  Changes in the Latin, mind you.

In the meantime, we get to read Laudato si‘ in an unofficial translation.

Think about this for a moment.  Ponder the implications.

When big documents come out these days, they are released in many languages.  It also happens that they don’t release a Latin version, as they once did even when the document wasn’t originally penned in Latin.  Mind you, papal docs haven’t been composed in Latin for a loooong time now, friends.   However, the official version of a document is the version that appears in Acta Apostolicae Sedis… usually in Latin.

So, what does this mean?

Since the texts are amended and adjusted and changed after the initial public release (in multiple vernacular languages), people who refer to the vernacular versions (from the initial time of release) are not actually referencing the official, final document!  They don’t go back to redo the vernacular translations in light of the changes in the official, final Latin!

Students, church officials, bishops when they write pastoral letters… they aren’t reading the real thing.

Thus, I hope there will be an official, Latin version Laudato si’, to which one can refer.

I’m especially looking forward to how certain things will be translated!   I remember in my work with Fr. Foster having to do a simultaneous translation exercise from an article in TIME on economics.  I pretty much fell apart when I got to “marginal propensity for change”.   If the concepts in Laudato si‘ are comprehensible, they should be able to be expressed in Latin.

We also need the official Latin.

Otherwise, this pontificate risks having a Magistweeterum rather than a Magisterium.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. Geoffrey says:

    From what I can tell, the only papal documents that wouldn’t have an official Latin text were apostolic exhortations directed at a specific local church (the Church in Africa, the Church in the Middle East, etc.). The Holy Father’s “Evangelii Gaudium” is the first apostolic exhortation directed at the universal Church that does not (yet) have an official Latin text, although it does have a Latin title. So far, “Laudato si” is the first papal encyclical in recent memory to have neither a Latin text or even a Latin title (Pope Pius XI’s “Mit brennender Sorge” being the one exception; AAS 29 [1937] 145-167).

    Also, for a year or so now, the Holy See’s website defaults to the Italian site. Previously, the site would default to a series of language options to choose from, including Latin…

  2. Blaise says:

    I think Fr Hunwicke has expressed the same view about waiting for the official Latin text.
    I have not managed to find time to read much of the document but the word “rapidification” came early on.

  3. Traductora says:

    As a translator, I can say there might be wide variation, not all of it meant to deceive. I think they need to go back to having an official Latin version that is the basis for vernacular translations – which will probably be machine translated before too long. That’s not necessarily a bad thing and may prevent personal biases as well as incompetence from getting in the way. The important thing is who defines and establishes the lexicons used in the translations to the various languages.

    But after some 200 pages, I think we all got the general drift, regardless of language and the finer points.

  4. Gratias says:

    Laudato sii is Umbrian/Italian so I think there will be no Latin version. Fortunately I read Spanish so can stay hip to things of the Church.

  5. Tom in NY says:

    Ad iucundum: propensio ad marginem mutandi? propensio ad proximum mutandi?

    Salutationes omnibus.

  6. Kerry says:

    When the Cliff Notes come out, I’ll read those.

  7. JJZ says:

    I do not believe that the apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium was ever published in Latin. Instead, the Italian version appeared in AAS (December 6, 2013, pp. 1019-1137). Perhaps the Italian version of Laudato Si’ will also prove to be the normative version that is published in AAS.

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  9. Rob83 says:

    I’m curious…if there is going to be an official Latin version for AAS, why is the procedure to make translations off an unofficial version, call a press conference, and disseminate the translations of the unfinished product to the world before the process of finalizing the official version is done?

    Not that I’m interested in slowing Rome down any further, but it seems reasonable to wait the extra time that it takes to put together the version for AAS, prepare translations from that and then call the press conference. That way, the official version gets published at the same time as the document gets released to the world.

  10. WYMiriam says:

    Fr. Z: “We also need the official Latin.”

    Me: “I think we also need an official translation of the Latin into English (preferably by a highly qualified Latinist without any agenda).”

    Kerry, I am going to attempt to read the “Cliff Notes According to Vatican Information Service”. I don’t kid myself that I will actually be able to get all the way through, even though they take up far less space than the actual document.

  11. Dimitri_Cavalli says:

    I remember Frances Kissling and theologian Dan Maguire repeatedly saying that Vatican II respected individual conscience, which means that “good and faithful” Catholics can disagree with the encyclical.

  12. gramma10 says:

    Latin is the language of the church, correct? Then an encyclical should also be available in Latin.
    I a common person always read encyclicals beginning with Humanae Vitae. I was young. I loved it.
    Unfortunately very few people read the encyclicals at all.
    I wish that a bit of it would be read and explained after each mass or for half the homily.
    All the years that Pope’s take the time and prayer to write these inspirational letters and most Catholics do not read them is a tragedy!
    This one has had publicity, so maybe people will begin to be curious about them.
    They may read this first and hopefully do back in time to read others!

  13. Kerry says:

    WYMiriam, “Heh”!

  14. Suburbanbanshee says:

    I don’t think it’s a problem that documents are revised, so much as that the translations are not revised. Also, the pre-revised versions should come with a little boilerplate note at the end (after the endnotes), that the document can be revised within the next few months.

    If you look at the end of Father’s post about his talk on Augustine’s City of God, it looks like his site is getting hammered with a DoS attack, unless he got some incredibly viral link. So let’s pray!

  15. Dr. Edward Peters says:

    “Latin is the language of the church, correct?” No. The Church does not have an official language, but here is not the place to explain what she does have.

    This practice of “back-translating” documents into Latin already released in another language is becoming silly. It started with the CCC, and each time it happens, it causes more problems than it solves. If the Church can’t,or at any rate didn’t, write this letter in Latin, don’t pretend otherwise.

  16. Parochus says:

    The official text is the text publish in AAS, the Holy See’s commentarium officiale, unless the Pope has determined otherwise. As JJZ pointed out, the only text of Evangelii gaudium published in AAS is the Italian version. Ergo. I doubt that a Latin text will be published in AAS, and even if it were, its status would not be “more official” that what has already been promulgated in AAS. Dr. Peters makes an astute observation (ut mos est). Evangelii gaudium is perhaps the first major papal document to have a Latin incipit but no Latin text, which makes the whole concept of an incipit meaningless. I believe the last encyclical to be promulgated in a language other than Latin was Pius XII’s 1957 letter Le pèlerinage de Lourdes.

  17. pj_houston says:

    Well I pray the English text is badly translated, because p. 177 is pretty shocking as written:

    177. Given the real potential for a misuse of human abilities, individual states can no longer ignore their responsibility for planning, coordination, oversight and enforcement within their respective borders. How can a society plan and protect its future amid constantly developing technological innovations? One authoritative source of oversight and coordination is the law, which lays down rules for admissible conduct in the light of the common good. The limits which a healthy, mature and sovereign society must impose are those related to foresight and security, regulatory norms, timely enforcement, the elimination of corruption, effective responses to undesired side-effects of production processes, and appropriate intervention where potential or uncertain risks are involved. There is a growing jurisprudence dealing with the reduction of pollution by business activities. But political and institutional frameworks do not exist simply to avoid bad practice, but also to promote best practice, to stimulate creativity in seeking new solutions and to encourage individual or group initiatives.

  18. jhayes says:

    Dr. Peters wrote: This practice of “back-translating” documents into Latin already released in another language is becoming silly

    I agree. Whatever language version the Pope gave a final reading and signed is the official version. I assume that, in this case, that is the Italian version. They just need to add a line at the end of the encyclical that says “The official vesion of this document is that published in the Italian language”

    It’s unrealistic to think that the Pope is going to take the time to proofread a Latin translation prepared by someone else and decide if that accurately conveys what he intended.

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  20. Parochus says:

    Sorry, pj_houston. The English version is a reliable translation of the Italian text, which is usually the base text for all translations of major Holy See documents — including, regrettably, any eventual Latin text.

  21. Giuseppe says:

    Shouldn’t the title, at least, be in Latin? Are there any other non-Latin titled encyclicals?

  22. Parochus says:

    Giuseppe, in answer to your question here are three non-Latin encyclicals: in Italian, Non abbiamo bisogno (1931), in German, Mit brennender Sorge (1937), and in French Le pèlerinage de Lourdes (1957).

  23. Ben Kenobi says:

    “it seems reasonable to wait the extra time that it takes to put together the version for AAS, prepare translations from that and then call the press conference. That way, the official version gets published at the same time as the document gets released to the world.”

    That would make too much sense. There is a ton of terrible phrases there- over 33 mentions of sustainability. Count the uses of ‘integral’, lots of jargon, etc. It feels and reads not like an encyclical but a thesis, from a sociology class. I’m not sure if that’s the fault of the *translator* or what, but I find it hard to believe a 80k document which doesn’t have a single mention of the environmental consequences of contraception. It won’t age well.

  24. Giuseppe says:

    Thanks, Parochus, for your quick and helpful response.

  25. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    Dr. Peter’s urges, “If the Church can’t, or at any rate didn’t, write this letter in Latin, don’t pretend otherwise.” To whom or what is that fascinating personification “the Church” referring? There’s something that looks like a signature that reads “Franciscus” reproduced at the end: what might it be intended to mean? Is something being pretended already? If so, why pretend, why not let men of good will and so on in on the rest of the story?

    jhayes says, “It’s unrealistic to think that the Pope is going to take the time to proofread a Latin translation prepared by someone else and decide if that accurately conveys what he intended.” Why? The Holy Father apparently prays the Office in Latin. Would proofreading a Latin translation of his own words be more difficult? Or, from another perspective, worse Latin practice?

    Meanwhile, someone at Vatican radio tells us “Pope Francis spoke to the young people “from the heart” for more than half an hour, laying aside his prepared remarks (which he promised would later be published).” But what if his actual remarks?:

    Phillip Pullella attributes some astonishing ones to him, in the form of direct quotations:

    Perhaps Acta Apostolicae Sedis has had its say and there should only be a team of Pontifical Videographers who accompany him everywhere and load the raw footage on a newly-created PonitfexTubus (just to keep a little Latin in play).

  26. Giuseppe says:

    Venerator, the Pope prays the Office in Latin? I had no idea.

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