Is the Vatican Editing Pope Francis?

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CP&S comment: There has been much discussion here about whether or not deliberate mistranslations and misinterpretations of Pope Francis’ words, both spoken and written, are at the root of the hurt, disorientation and frustration many Catholics have been experiencing during his pontificate. In the article below, Steve Skojec raises the question of another type of editing of papal words: an attempt in damage limitation by the Vatican itself.

By Steve Skojec from OnePeterFive:

Everyone has that family member or friend who embarrasses them by saying things they shouldn’t in public. The racist joke, the sexist comment, the unsolicited conspiracy theories…the options run the gamut. Sometimes, they might even say something you might agree with in private, but would never say around strangers. Whatever the case, you just wish they’d try silence for a while.

Catholics in 2016 find themselves in the unenviable position of having this same experience with the pope. Our efforts at evangelization are often undermined by the inevitable moment where we have to explain him. I was at the bank recently, dealing with some financial matters for 1P5, when I was asked what we do. When I explained that we are a Catholic publication, the manager got a wry smile on his face and asked, “So…what do you think about this pope?”

I have generally assumed, due to the number of heterodox prelates in high places, that the Vatican is more fully staffed with those who take pride in Francis, rather than those who find his “Off-the-Cuff Papacy” to be a serious challenge. But lately, I’m beginning to wonder.

I’ve already made note of the trend of both the Vatican and Vatican-friendly Catholic news services to mistranslate (in a favorable way) or simply omit things from papal statements that are excessively controversial. In June, we saw the transcript of a papal address edited after the fact to change a highly provocative comment in which the pope said “the great majority of our sacramental marriages are null”; the updated transcript — issued without the standard editorial note of correction — changed this to “a portion of our sacramental marriages are null.” This was, of course, not the first time we’ve seen editorial meddling after the fact. In the above-linked post, I noted:

In fact, I’ve caught this kind of transcript tinkering before, if not on the part of the Vatican itself, then with those agencies most invested in carrying its message. In a plane interview on his return from Greece this past April, Pope Francis responded to the Wall Street Journal’s Francis X. Rocca’s question about whether there are new concrete realities for the divorced and remarried, post-AL. In his response he said, “I can say yes. Period.” At the time we first reported this, there was no English translation of his Italian comments, so we provided our own.

But the Catholic News AgencyAmerica Magazine, and others (including Vatican Radio, if I recall correctly) ran a different translation, one in which the pope said, “I can say yes, many. But it would be an answer that is too small.”

So I went back to my translator and asked for a complete English transcript, which I then sat for hours and painstakingly used to subtitle the video of the presser. I then had that work double-checked, and then I published the video. A video which simply cannot be refuted, because it’s absolutely clear.

Within a few days, the CNA link we provided showing the discrepancy in the translation was instead using a version that matched our own. You will note that no correction was issued, and the transcript was not notated in any way to show that a change had been made.

The bad translation — which mitigated the severity of his comments — just went down the memory hole.

This is Orwellian, it is deceptive, and it is unbecoming of the Vicar of Christ – or his surrogates.

In September, I wrote an essay entitled A Vatican That Can’t Be TrustedIn it, I cited the observations of Professor Roberto de Mattei, who (citing two recent examples) said:

Information, disinformation, truths, half-truths and lies all seem to be jumbled up in the communication strategy of the Holy See. The history of the Church is being written through interviews, improvised discourses, articles on semi-official blogs and media-rumours, leaving the field wide open to all interpretations possible and giving rise to the suspicion that the confusion is deliberate.

This week, it’s happening again.

Yesterday, I told you about Francis’ address to a thousand Lutheran pilgrims to Rome in advanced of the Vatican-involved commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the Protestant “Reformation”. The address had its own clear problems, which I parsed out in my post. But the Vatican transcript entirely omitted a Q&A that took place afterward (link goes to a Spanish-language website), which had one particularly striking statement that topped everything else that was said (my translation):

“It is not lawful to convince others of your faith. Proselytism is the most potent venom against the ecumenical journey.”

Ansa.it has a few excerpts of the same speech, translated into English. Their translation of the above reads:

“The last thing you must do is ‘to say, to convince’. It’s not right to convince someone of your faith,” he said. “Proselytism is the strongest venom against the path of ecumenism”.

Without an official transcript, it’s impossible to say which of these is closer to what was actually said. But they certainly give us the idea, and either are consistent with his constant admonitions against proselytism.

The error of the statement, however it is translated, should require no explanation. “Doctors of the law” have been raising challenges to the Francis maxim that “proselytism is solemn nonsense” for years. While it is true that the word “proselytism” has taken on a negative context, it can also be understood to mean “to recruit someone to join one’s party, institution, or cause”. (That’s Merriam Webster’s definition, not mine.) “Evangelization” and “proselytism” used to be virtually synonymous. The attempt to set up a false dichotomy between them is troubling.

Actions, of course, speak louder than words, and the testimony of a number of people makes clear that the disdain Francis has for proselytism extends to evangelization as well. I’ve documented several examples of Francis making clear that he does not seek to gain converts to Catholicism. In fact, he has in some cases actively discouraged this (most tragically, in the case of Tony Palmer, the Anglican bishop who wanted to become Catholic but was dissuaded by Cardinal Bergoglio, only to die a few years later in a tragic accident.)

If anyone has any example of him doing something to the contrary — of trying to make converts to the Catholic Faith — I would love to hear it.

So we are left with a flatly controversial statement at an obviously controversial event. Nothing new for Francis. But why was this not reported by the Vatican, since it was done in the light of day? It’s not as though one can hide a thousand Lutherans. Why is there no official transcript or translation?

Sources in Rome have spoken of rumors that the Q&A was intentionally not published by the Vatican for reasons that have not been made clear. If this is the case, has Francis finally pushed even the permissive Vatican apparatus too far? Are they attempting to curtail his speech in the hopes of minimizing the damage? Is this yet another example of the common Italian media mentality — related to me by friends who live there — that the true story is whatever the people telling it want you to hear, and you’re just expected to believe it?

I can’t say I like any of these options, but in the event that this is a sign Francis may no longer be able to operate without any resistance, I’ll take it. As the proverb goes, the longest journey begins with a single step.

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3 Responses to Is the Vatican Editing Pope Francis?

  1. JabbaPapa says:

    in which the pope said “the great majority of our sacramental marriages are null”; the updated transcript — issued without the standard editorial note of correction — changed this to “a portion of our sacramental marriages are null.”

    The Pope himself intervened in this case, to correct his own mistake.

    In his response he said, “I can say yes. Period.” At the time we first reported this, there was no English translation of his Italian comments, so we provided our own.

    But the Catholic News Agency, America Magazine, and others (including Vatican Radio, if I recall correctly) ran a different translation, one in which the pope said, “I can say yes, many. But it would be an answer that is too small.”

    So I went back to my translator and asked for a complete English transcript, which I then sat for hours and painstakingly used to subtitle the video of the presser. I then had that work double-checked, and then I published the video. A video which simply cannot be refuted, because it’s absolutely clear.

    Within a few days, the CNA link we provided showing the discrepancy in the translation was instead using a version that matched our own. You will note that no correction was issued, and the transcript was not notated in any way to show that a change had been made.

    This shows the opposite of what is being claimed here.

    HERE : http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/it/speeches/2016/april/documents/papa-francesco_20160416_lesvos-volo-ritorno.html — it is seen in the official transcript that no such “editing” occurred at the Holy See ; the Pope’s words correspond exactly to the video ; as does the English translation http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/speeches/2016/april/documents/papa-francesco_20160416_lesvos-volo-ritorno.html .

    Blame the Catholic News Agency, America Magazine, and others if they (and you) like ; or more realistically the English-language Vatican Press Office, which has been notorious in its efforts during this Pontificate to always push as much of a pro-gay anti-family agenda as they can get away with.

    The attempt to set up a false dichotomy between them is troubling.

    Popes meanwhile continue to have private opinions, and there is no “scandal” if the privately held opinions of 1peter5 hack bloggers disagree with them.

    This is just trying to make a mountain out of a molehill, for the obvious purpose of trying to devise yet another angle to publish attacks against the Roman Pontiff.

    If anyone has any example of him doing something to the contrary — of trying to make converts to the Catholic Faith — I would love to hear it.

    I doubt it — because he’s already decided in his head what evangelisation “must” mean, so that if the Pope proposes a different less rigidly dogmatic method for it, he’ll just point his finger and roll out the violent accusations once again.

    http://www.avvenire.it/Papa_Francesco/santmarta/Pagine/Papa-Francesco-Messa-a-Santa-Marta-09-09-2016.aspx

    Ha così rammentato la figura di San Pietro Claver, di cui ricorre oggi la memoria. Un missionario, ha annotato, che “se ne è andato ad annunciare il Vangelo”. Forse, ha commentato, “lui pensava che il suo futuro sarebbe stato predicare: nel suo futuro il Signore gli ha chiesto di essere vicino, accanto agli scartati di quel tempo, agli schiavi, ai negri, che arrivavano lì, dall’Africa, per essere venduti”: “E quest’uomo non ha fatto la passeggiata, dicendo che evangelizzava; non ha ridotto l’evangelizzazione a un funzionalismo e neppure ad un proselitismo: ha annunciato Gesù Cristo con i gesti, parlando agli schiavi, vivendo con loro, vivendo come loro! E come lui nella Chiesa ce ne sono tanti! Tanti che annientano se stessi per annunciare Gesù Cristo. E anche tutti noi, fratelli e sorelle, abbiamo l’obbligo di evangelizzare, che non è bussare alla porta al vicino e alla vicina e dire: ‘Cristo è risorto!’. E’ vivere la fede, è parlarne con mitezza, con amore, senza voglia di convincere nessuno, ma gratuitamente. È dare gratis quello che Dio gratis ha dato a me: questo è evangelizzare”.

    BTW, what did the Lord teach on this subject ?

    Luke : {10:1} Then, after these things, the Lord also designated another seventy-two. And he sent them in pairs before his face, into every city and place where he was to arrive.
    {10:2} And he said to them: “Certainly the harvest is great, but the workers are few. Therefore, ask the Lord of the harvest to send workers into his harvest.
    {10:3} Go forth. Behold, I send you out like lambs among wolves.
    {10:4} Do not choose to carry a purse, nor provisions, nor shoes; and you shall greet no one along the way.
    {10:5} Into whatever house you will have entered, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’
    {10:6} And if a son of peace is there, your peace will rest upon him. But if not, it will return to you.
    {10:7} And remain in the same house, eating and drinking the things that are with them. For the worker is worthy of his pay. Do not choose to pass from house to house.
    {10:8} And into whatever city you have entered and they have received you, eat what they set before you.
    {10:9} And cure the sick who are in that place, and proclaim to them, ‘The kingdom of God has drawn near to you.’
    {10:10} But into whatever city you have entered and they have not received you, going out into its main streets, say:
    {10:11} ‘Even the dust which clings to us from your city, we wipe away against you. Yet know this: the kingdom of God has drawn near.’
    {10:12} I say to you, that in that day, Sodom will be forgiven more than that city will be.
    {10:13} Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles that have been wrought in you, had been wrought in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in haircloth and ashes.
    {10:14} Yet truly, Tyre and Sidon will be forgiven more in the judgment than you will be.
    {10:15} And as for you, Capernaum, who would be exalted even up to Heaven: you shall be submerged into Hell.
    {10:16} Whoever hears you, hears me. And whoever despises you, despises me. And whoever despises me, despises him who sent me.

    Protestant-style door-to-door proselytism is directly condemned by our Lord, but it is clear that He desires an evangelisation by peace and from the desire of the evangelised, where finally any blame from a lack of conversion lies NOT with His disciples, but with those who listen and yet do not hear.

    Again, the Pope : E anche tutti noi, fratelli e sorelle, abbiamo l’obbligo di evangelizzare, che non è bussare alla porta al vicino e alla vicina e dire: ‘Cristo è risorto!’. E’ vivere la fede, è parlarne con mitezza, con amore, senza voglia di convincere nessuno, ma gratuitamente. È dare gratis quello che Dio gratis ha dato a me: questo è evangelizzare”.

    What this author does not realise, in his obsessive desire to attack the Roman Pontiff at every opportunity, seemingly, that the Pope’s description of the false evangelisation as “proselytism” is an attack aimed at certain non-Catholic sectarians who defy the teaching of the Lord, and exactly go around speaking with complete strangers along the way and ringing on people’s doorbells.

    If this is the case, has Francis finally pushed even the permissive Vatican apparatus too far? Are they attempting to curtail his speech in the hopes of minimizing the damage? Is this yet another example of the common Italian media mentality — related to me by friends who live there — that the true story is whatever the people telling it want you to hear, and you’re just expected to believe it?

    oooooooooh, gotta keep pushing those spooky conspiracy theories, eh ?

  2. “the disdain Francis has for proselytism extends to evangelization as well” When Pope Francis omitted Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church from his first list of new cardinals I wasn’t surprised as he was not yet 44 years old. Neither was I surprised a year later when he was still just 45. This year I thought he must be included although still very young (in the event the youngest of the new cardinals will be 49) as I believed that the interests of solidarity would overcome any objections to his relative youth. I am more and more inclining to the belief that Pope Francis simply will not offend the Russian Orthodox despite their offensive nationalism.

  3. JabbaPapa says:

    The address had its own clear problems, which I parsed out in my post. But the Vatican transcript entirely omitted a Q&A that took place afterward (link goes to a Spanish-language website), which had one particularly striking statement that topped everything else that was said (my translation):

    “It is not lawful to convince others of your faith. Proselytism is the most potent venom against the ecumenical journey.”

    Ansa.it has a few excerpts of the same speech, translated into English. Their translation of the above reads:

    “The last thing you must do is ‘to say, to convince’. It’s not right to convince someone of your faith,” he said. “Proselytism is the strongest venom against the path of ecumenism”.

    Without an official transcript, it’s impossible to say which of these is closer to what was actually said. But they certainly give us the idea, and either are consistent with his constant admonitions against proselytism.

    In fact the articles he’s linked to and is using are extraordinarily flawed

    Missing entirely is the German-language side of the discussion, ie the questions being asked — and it is extremely clear in the section in question that the Lutherans were dogmatically pushing in the form of “questions” exactly the sort of door-to-door proselytism towards complete strangers that Jesus Christ Himself explicitly condemned.

    Furthermore, the Spanish article gives the impression that the Pope was being “applauded” at this point ; in fact the applause was directed towards the Lutheran asking those “questions”.

    As for “It is not lawful to convince others of your faith. Proselytism is the most potent venom against the ecumenical journey.” — these are the answers to two separate questions, falsely presented as if it were a single statement.

    They clearly constitute teachings against certain dogmatic positions within Lutheranism.

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