11 October 2012

TUTISSIMUS INDEX: eodem sensu eademque sententia

The Holy Father, in his letter Porta Fidei, has described the Second Vatican Council as a tutissimus index, a profoundly safe pointer for our age (index means your index finger which you point with when giving directions; vernacular translations have employed the term compass .... readers may wonder whether this is quite the same thing). As we prepare for the Year of Faith, I suspect that many of us will be meditating upon what lies at the heart of the significance of Vatican II. An understanding of this is essential; for example, by using the phrase hoc tempus in the heading of Gaudium et spes the Council itself makes clear that much of the detail of that document will inevitably be of less immediate relevance in a world, fifty years later, whose problems were undreamed of a couple of generations before. Illud conciliare tempus non est hoc nostrum tempus! Amidst so much that is bound to be transient, where can we find the safe and enduring dogmatic heart of the Council? Its tutissimus index?

Pope Benedict XVI gave us a pretty tutus index here in his celebrated 2005 Discorso ai Membri della Curia. He referred us to and quoted from the Discorso d'apertura del Concilio of Blessed John XXIII, delivered on the Feast of the Maternity of our Lady, October 11 1962. But ... what did Blessed John actually say? Here there is a most lamentable confusion which is still extant and which is even perpetuated and accentuated by - it appears - current Vatican employees. Let me explain ... even if this does take me into some intricacies.

I presume that the authentic text of the Holy Father's Address to his Curia, since I cannot find a Latin version, was delivered in Italian. In this version, he cites the words of Papa Roncalli about expressing the Faith in ways adapted to our own time, concluding, as Pope John did, with the phrase conservando ad esse tuttavia lo stesso senso e la stessa portata. In the original Latin of Pope John, this is eodem tamen sensu eademque sententia.  But the English version of Pope Benedict's quotation from Pope John concludes "The substance of the ancient doctrine of faith is one thing, and the way in which it is presented is another ..." In other words, the quotation is cut short in such a way (after "another ...") as to imply that Pope John did not say eodem sensu eademque sententia. Then, after  those quotation marks, the English quotation continues retaining the same meaning and message. This is indeed, in my view, a fairish, if not particularly good, rendering of eodem sensu eademque sententia. But the point is that the English translator implies .... and presumably thought ... that those words were not part of Pope John's original text but had been added by Pope Benedict.

It then becomes clear why the English translator has made this rather significant and profoundly deplorable mistake.  In brackets, he gives his source: "(The Documents of Vatican II, Walter M. Abbott, S.J., p 715)". Abbott's English translation of the Conciliar documents was what my generation put upon its bookshelves. But here, Abbott is not giving an accurate rendering of the Latin. In fact, Abbott omitted the words eodem sensu eademque sententia from his rendering of what the Pope had actually said. I think, I hope, that I should blame the English translator of Pope Benedict's words for simple error rather than for conspiracy. Here is what must have happened.

He had, on his bookshelf as I do on mine, Abbott's yellowing little paperback, and he looked at that rather than bothering himself with silly old Acta Apostolicae Sedis. But, in doing so, he has, as far as Anglophone readers are concerned, considerably muddied the waters for anybody who is trying to trace the lineaments and history of a phrase which is of very considerable Magisterial significance, and he has badly blunted the intended impact of the Holy Father's teaching with regard to the Second Vatican Council and the hermeneutic by which it should be understood.


Flambeaux said...

Deo gratias!
It's so good to have you back and posting, Father.

I'm looking forward to the rest of this series.

Hidden One said...

After reading your post, Father, I believe that I understand what the translator did, but I don't understand the meaning of what was in fact said (by either Pope).

profcarlos said...

Indeed, Father! I checked the Brazilian equivalent (Compêndio do Vaticano II, 1968), and found the very same mistake when checking it against the 1962 AAS (available at http://www.vatican.va/archive/aas/documents/AAS%2054%20%5B1962%5D%20-%20ocr.pdf ), page 792:
"Est enim aliud ipsum depositum Fidei, seu veritates, quae veneranda doctrina nostra continentur, aliud modus, quo eaedem enuntiantur, eodem tamen sensu eademque sententia. Huic quippe modo plurimum tribuendum erit et patienter, si opus fuerit, in eo elaborandum ; scilicet eae inducendae erunt rationes res exponendi, quae cum magisterio, cuius indoles praesertim pastoralis est, magis congruant.

becomes (I trust you can get the gist of the Last Flower of the Latium, as the Portuguese language is poetically called):

"Uma é a substância da antiga doutrina do depositum fidei e outra é a formulação que a reveste ['eodem tamen sensu eademque sententia' missing here!]: e é disto que se deve - com paciência se necessário - ter grande conta, medindo tudo nas formas e proporções do magistério prevalentemente pastoral..."

I would really like to know how it goes in the French, Dutch(!), German, and Italian editions.

It seems the Holy Father would do well to have a new VII Compendium remade and reranslated, as I am sure there are plenty of inconsistencies in other parts of it, too. Caspar, as I call the unfriendly "Spirit' of the Council", must have eaten other important parts of other texts.

Fr John Hunwicke said...

Interesting. This may raise an additional question: are there languages into which Vatican operatives translate papal texts not from the Latin or the Italian (whichever was the original), but from an English translation? Liturgiam authenticam revealed that this happens with regard to liturgical texts.

rick allen said...

Father, I appreciate your detective work on the labyrinthine following out of these original texts.

Still, I am a little troubled when I come across observations like this:

"An understanding of this is essential; for example, by using the phrase hoc tempus in the heading of Gaudium et spes the Council itself makes clear that much of the detail of that document will inevitably be of less immediate relevance in a world, fifty years later"

You seem here to be laying a groundwork for marginalizing Gaudium et Spes, and it makes me wonder, what exactly in the document do you find so objectionable that you find such a thing necessary?

I ask this partly because Gaudium et Spes contains, as far as I know, the only declaration of an ecumenical council regarding abortion. It contains the most explicit declarations of any council that, for example, marriage is an institution grounded in the will of God for the procreation of children. Seems to me that you are arguing that such statements may be safely ignored, as having relevance, perhaps, to the 1960's, but may now be superceded fifty years later. That is what makes me wonder what aversion to the document requires your suggesting there are grounds for treating it as provisional or dated.

Hidden One said...

Having read the subsequent posts (in particular, your second one), I understand the matter now, Father.

Daniel Pereira Volpato said...

But, as a complement to what profcarlos said, the portuguese translation of the 2005 Discorso ai Membri della Curia has the eodem tamen sensu eademque sententia.

That excerpt was translated as:
"uma coisa é o depósito da fé, isto é, as verdades contidas na nossa veneranda doutrina, e outra coisa é o modo com o qual elas são enunciadas, conservando nelas, porém, o mesmo sentido e o mesmo resultado" (S. Oec. Conc. Vat. II Constitutiones Decreta Declarationes, 1974, pp. 863-865).