Tuesday, November 23, 2010

An Interesting Clarification

In an article I wrote yesterday, I discussed my misgivings over the mob like mentality of the hostility directed at L'Osservatore Romano.  One of these issues I expressed some concern over was the issue of translation.  In that article, I wrote:

Reports are the Italian translation are rather different from the original German which was spoken by Peter Seewald and the Pope, giving the impression that the Pope was speaking in a way giving sanction for Catholics to use condoms to prevent AIDS.

If these reports are true about the mistranslations, then it seems this is a serious charge.  (I don't intend to say I think they are false charges.  I merely follow Socrates and admit that I do not know, therefore I do not consider myself competent to judge).

I also said, in response to whether a mistranslation was deliberate (#1) or incompetent (#2):

Point #1 is a thing which need to be proven, but seem to be insinuated by some writers without proof.  Point #2 may be true, but right now the discussion on the web seems to be based on personal translations of German and Italian text which may be accurate but I am not competent to judge one way or another.  I think we do need some more authoritative sources to form an accurate judgment.

It seems we do have some more authoritative sources on the intent of the Pope.  In the face of whether the German intended "male prostitute" while the Italian used the feminine form of prostitute, Father Federico Lombardi (the Pope's spokesman) went and asked the Pope.  The response Fr. Lombardi gave was as follows:

“I asked the pope personally if there was a serious or important problem in the choice of the masculine gender rather than the feminine, and he said no, that is, the main point — and this is why I didn’t refer to masculine or feminine in (my earlier) communiqué — is the first step of responsibility in taking into account the risk to the life of another person with whom one has relations,” Father Lombardi said.

“Whether a man or a woman or a transsexual does this, we’re at the same point. The point is the first step toward responsibility, to avoid posing a grave risk to another person,” Father Lombardi said.

It's an interesting response.  Yes, the Italian translation was technically in error using a feminine form instead of a masculine form, but that the changing of the gender did not change the meaning of the point the Pope was trying to get across.  The Pope is not endorsing condoms, but is saying that such a person is at least starting to think of morality [even if the individual's response is still deficient].

This indicates one of the points which is used in denouncing L'Osservatore Romano is in fact not as serious as alleged.

This still leaves the issues of violating the embargo against discussing the book until today and the editorial decision to release the passage without context.  There is also the issue of the use of "justified" versus "basis."  I do not wish to make it seem that I would deny the other charges.

Still, we have at least one instance where the outrage against L'Osservatore Romano seems hasty.  Perhaps the other charges will stand or perhaps they will fall as well.  At this time we do not know.

Either way, it seems that seeking the facts before judging remains the way to handle this.

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