ASK FATHER: Sex and Latin typos in papal document

While some wags have been saying that the Latin title of the upcoming (tomorrow, as I write) Apostolic Exhortation – Amoris laetitia – means “The Joy of Sex” or perhaps “The Pleasure of Lust” (and it can, if you don’t have the whole sentence)*, more “sex” appears in Laudato si‘… in a manner of speaking.

From a reader…

In paragraph 21 of the Latin version of Laudato Si’, the Holy Father

says: “sescentae tonnae eiectamentorum” but in the English and Italian, it’s “hundreds of millions of tons.” What gives? Thanks.

Just so you know, sescentae is sex-centae which is “six-hundred”. It literally says, “six hundred tons of garbage”, which can describe even a lot of documents of … I digress.

First, it is not easy to find the Latin of Laudato si’, given that it isn’t linked at the Vatican site from the ENGLISH page (which is where you will default to if you are coming from an IP in an English-speaking country, I guess).


However, if you go to the Latin language index… yes, there is such a thing… for the encyclicals of Francis… yes… I know… you will find it.



That said…

In ancient times, our forebears had a hard time getting their heads around really large numbers…. unlike the Obama Administration and dem candidates which think that trillions of dollars of debt is mere chump change.

In classical Latin “600” – sex-centum or sescentum – was a huge number.  And thus, something like “there was 600 of them” would be like us saying “there were zillions of them”.

That’s what’s going on in the Latin you cited.   600 tons, in Latin, can indeed mean “hundreds of millions”.

Thus endeth your Latin lesson for the day.

*The first sentence of the Apostolic Exhortation in English reads: “The Joy of Love experienced by families is also the joy of the Church.”  I’ve seen the English.  I haven’t see the Latin.


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    Trillions of dollars is easy if it’s OTHER peoples money.
    Which brings up a question Father: How to respond to a liberal that says I am wrong for not supporting social justice via more taxes, freebies, gimme-dats, and hand outs. In a nice sound bite so that it’s a zippy little zinger!

  2. mpolo says:

    Apparently the Vatican does IP checking for American IPs, but not for European… Our IP is in Frankfurt, and I get the Italian site. I always thought it a major design flaw, since most Germans won’t know what to do with it…

  3. MariaKap says:

    I think the trouble with numbers in Latin is because multiplying just got very clunky with all those X’s and V’s and I’s and that sort of thing. Just sayin’.

  4. Pingback: FRIDAY EDITION – Big Pulpit

  5. Dr. Edward Peters says:

    Re 600, yes. Since I noticed that in Cicero, I’ve used it from time to time, instead of “million”. :)

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