Saturday, June 8, 2019

An Ignorant Wrath

Whoever answers before listening, theirs is folly and shame (Proverbs 18:13)

You might have heard the story about Pope Francis “changing” the Our Father. Actually, while you might have heard that from various news sources, it’s just another case of the media getting the story wrong. The real story is that the Pope approved a revision of the Missal by the Italian Bishops conference to make the Italian translation more accurately follow the Latin text—which is the standard to judge by—in the Our Father and the Gloria. As Catholic News Agency pointed out:

News reports in English may have given the impression that Pope Francis had changed the Our Father for the whole of the Church, rather than his see having confirmed a change made by the bishops of Italy.”

So, there was no story here. Everybody laughed it off, right? Wrong. The internet erupted with attacks from anti-Francis Catholics and anti-Catholics… two groups that are depressingly sounding more and more alike each day. His accusers immediately said he was “changing the Bible.” Except he wasn’t. The Latin Missal was revised in 2002 (under the pontificate of St. John Paul II) and the Italian Missal was revised to more accurately reflect the Latin. The Vulgate wasn’t changed. The Greek original wasn’t changed. 

Critics said he was ignorant of languages because the Lord’s Prayer matched the Bible “perfectly.” And to “prove” it, they quoted Scripture to “refute” him…using the Douay-Rheims Bible, despite the fact that English wasn’t even involved. Unsurprisingly, the line “lead us not into temptation” the prayer did match the verse in Matthew 6:13, which is not a surprise because that (with the exception of Matthew 6:11) is where the English translation of the prayer came from. (Citing the Douay to justify the current phrasing of The Lord’s Prayer in English is essentially a huge circular argument).

The Douay is a translation of a translation. The original Scriptures exist in Hebrew and Greek. The Vulgate translated it into Latin. The Douay translated the Latin Vulgate into English. The problem is when you translate from a translation, the result is less optimal than translating it from the original language because while Greek and Latin translate into each other well, neither corresponds with English as easily. 

That doesn’t mean that the Vulgate or the Douay is defective. It means that translating the same thing twice into two different languages is less clear than translating once. It does mean that the Douay That’s why Ven. Pius XII called for more accurate translations of the Scriptures in the encyclical Divini Affluante Spiritu (1943). The Douay predates the standards he called for, so it should not be used to counter more recent translations approved for use in the Church.

These accusations against the Pope show that wrath directed at him was born in ignorance. They did not know that the Pope changed nothing but only approved a legitimate change. He did not make a global change for the Church. He did not change the words of Scripture. He did not mistranslate the prayers of the Church. All of these accusations were based on critics not knowing the facts of the story, and a lack of knowledge about the teaching and history of the Church on these matters.

Yet, these critics are driving the attacks on the Pope, arguing that he is unfit to lead the Church. What they say is false, but some Catholics follow them anyway. Those Catholics should remember the warning of The Lord in Matthew 15:14–Let them alone; they are blind guides (of the blind). If a blind person leads a blind person, both will fall into a pit.

A Catholic who denounces the Pope based on ignorance, is a blind guide. A Catholic who follows such a guide will be led astray and might wind up in the pit of schism or other errors.


  1. Even the Douay-Rheims has this footnote:
    "Lead us not into temptation": That is, suffer us not to be overcome by temptation.
    (Ok, correct post this time)

    1. Indeed, and one wonders why they don’t object to the prayer saying “daily bread” instead of “supersubstantial bread” as it is in Douay-Rhein’s.