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Utterly Predictable News Flash:  Pope Mistranslated

Tuesday, October 01, 2013 2:22 PM Comments (209)

I don't speak Italian. Do you?  If not, will you slow down for a second?

Sr. Anne Flanagan of Nunblog says she does speak Italian, and that she is "tearing her hair out" over the lousy, misleading translation of Eugenio Scalfari's interview with Pope Francis, which appeared in Sclafari's newspaper La Repubblica this morning.

The original translation of the interview read:

"The Son of God became incarnate in the souls of men to instill the feeling of brotherhood."

Catholics are grinding their teeth over this bizarre, gooily heretical statement, and rightly so.  But Sr. Flanagan says,

Um, the Son of God did not become incarnate in souls. He became incarnate in human nature, in his own human flesh and blood. The Italian is " Il Figlio di Dio si è incarnato per infondere nell’anima degli uomini il sentimento della fratellanza": "The Son of God became incarnate to infuse into the soul of men [could say "the human soul"] the feeling of brotherhood."

And again:  the English translation published in La Repubblica reads:

"[E]veryone has his own idea of good and evil and must choose to follow the good and fight evil as he conceives them."

Ugh, relativism!  Only Francis didn't say that.  According to Sr. Flanagan, the original reads:

"Ciascuno di noi ha una sua visione del Bene e anche del Male. Noi dobbiamo incitarlo a procedere verso quello che lui pensa sia il Bene" is more literally (and helpfully?) translated as "Each one of us has his/her own vision of the Good or even of Evil. We must encourage him/her to move toward that which he/she sees as the Good." The Pope is not leveling the difference between truth and untruth, right and wrong: he is saying that we all have a duty to encourage people to pursue the Good, knowing that the true Good will not fail to manifest himself, even if "through a glass darkly."

Because it's better to try to do what seems good to you than to try to do what seems evil to you.  Trying to move toward what seems good, rather than toward what seems evil, is the first step in the direction of understanding better what actually is good.  Gee, kind of like when Benedict XVI said that 

There may be a basis in the case of some individuals, as perhaps when a male prostitute uses a condom, where this can be a first step in the direction of a moralisation, a first assumption of responsibility, on the way toward recovering an awareness that not everything is allowed and that one cannot do whatever one wants.

Here's my confession:  I kind of wish Pope Francis would stop giving all these interviews.  Because look at the mess, every stinking time.  But he's not going to stop.  He's doing things the way he wants to, because he is the damn pope -- not the pope of American Needs, but the pope of the entire Church.  So our part is to slow the heck down, stop assuming the worst, and remember that the fellow is not speaking in English.  Half the time, he is not being translated by people who understand even the basic teachings of the Faith (even assuming that they're not malicious, which they may be), and have no idea that it's a really big deal to write something stupid like "The Son of God became incarnate in the souls of men to instill the feeling of brotherhood."

So just cool it.  Cool your jets.  Save your panic for when the Pope says something that isn't Catholic.  It hasn't happened yet.  And I'm sorry to bust your apocalyptic bubble, but there's no reason to believe it's going to happen.  Bergoglio has been mistranslated from day one; and every time we slow down and read what he really said, it's good stuff.  

But I'll tell you what, if you have a public forum and you already have a post written up called "THE POPE FINALLY GOES TO FAR!!!!" then you might want to ask yourself:  am I actually eager to hear heresy from this man's mouth?  Am I looking forward to catching him in a demonstrably false statement?  If so, why?  And if I published that post about what a heretical fool the Pope is, and then an anvil fell on my head an I had to stand before Christ, how would I explain my attitude toward Him?  "Oopsie, sorry, Lord! I assumed Google Translate was accurate"?

Prudence.  Justice.  Temperance.  Fortitude.  These are the virtues we're supposed to employ, even when we're talking about a Pope we don't happen to like.

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About Simcha Fisher

Simcha Fisher
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Simcha Fisher, author of The Sinner's Guide to Natural Family Planning writes for several publications and blogs at I Have to Sit Down. She lives in New Hampshire with her husband and nine children. Without supernatural aid, she would hardly be a human being.