A Serious Omission in the Translation of the Final Synod Relatio


As if the synod itself didn’t create enough confusion, news broke this week that the English translation of the final synod relatio left out something very significant. LifeSiteNews Rome Correspondent and 1P5 Contributor Hilary White reports:

Just at first glance, and without looking it up on Google Translate, what is the difference between these two passages of a recent important Vatican document, the final “Relatio” from October’s Extraordinary Synod of Bishops?

“…confronto alla luce del Signore Gesù per discernere le vie con cui rinnovare la Chiesa e la società nel loro impegno per la famiglia fondata sul matrimonio tra uomo e donna.”


“…facing the situation, with an eye on the Lord Jesus, to discern how the Church and society can renew their commitment to the family.”

A little pared down, perhaps? The official Italian original says, roughly, “…facing, in the light of the Lord Jesus, [how] to discern the ways in which to renew the Church and society in their commitment to the family based on marriage between a man and a woman.”

That last little bit does seem rather significant, doesn’t it? Especially so, given the general tenor not only of the international secular media’s take on the Synod, but of what we know of the conflict within the Synod aula itself. There can be no doubt that in that tumultuous two weeks, there was a battle over attempts by the “progressivist” wing of the bishops to do whatever possible to water down the meaning of Catholic teaching on the nature of the family. There can also be no doubt that those efforts were quickly expanded to include an attempt at changing the definition of the family to include same-sex partnerings.

If it is a “translation error” as we are politely calling it, it seems a rather extraordinary coincidence that it should be such a significant omission.

Never in the history of the world has mankind had access to the sum of all human knowledge in the palm of their hands, and yet “translation errors” are blamed for every serious misunderstanding that comes out of the Vatican. And to be sure, there have been some bad translations. For heaven’s sake, Catholics in the English speaking world didn’t get a reasonable translation of the Missal of Paul VI for over 40 years.

Even so, this seems easy enough to correct. Which is where things get a little weird. Hilary notes that she

contacted someone in the Vatican press office asking what the procedure is for the various documents of the Synod. How are they to be disseminated throughout the Catholic world to the bishops? I wanted to know if the bishops would receive this document in some other official form, perhaps with a corrected translation, or if their secretaries were going to be reduced to looking it up on the Vatican website like the rest of us. But no one seemed to know.

It was vaguely intimated that “I suppose” the nuncios would be taking the final relatio, as well as the mid-term document and the summaries of the small-groupdiscussions, to be distributed to the bishops of each country. Or maybe it was going to be the heads of the national conferences, who were in attendance.

Calls to the Synod office itself to ask whether this error were going to be corrected, went unanswered.

It seems odd, given the massive attention the issues received at the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops in Rome last month, that the mainstream secular media has largely missed the news of this omission, which has made the rounds on some of the Catholic blogs and online magazines. The dominant language of the world’s media, particularly on the Internet, is English. And given the near continuous uproar around the western world over changing the definition of marriage to include same-sex partners, a document produced by the Vatican on marriage in English is going to be extremely newsworthy.

Moreover, this wasn’t was not the only “translation error” that was made during the process of the Synod. In mid-stride, after the very vocal denunciation by some of the Synod bishops of the mid-term Relatio, the English version of that document was changed. A passage that called for the Church to “accept and value” the homosexual “orientation” was changed to speak of  “providing for” homosexuals rather than “welcoming” them.

It seems apparent that some shenanigans are still going on with regard to the very problematic documents of this very problematic Synod. But what end is being sought is anyone’s guess. Who made the change from the Italian version to the English version? Who, if anyone, authorized it? Is there yet another version that is not being made available to the public that bishops will see? Who is responsible for approving Synod document translations? Is it the Synod administrator, Cardinal Baldisseri? Is it the obviously beleaguered Fr. Lombardi, the head of the Holy See Press Office? Getting accurate answers to these kinds of questions is like pulling hens’ teeth.

My high school theology teacher used to drill something into our heads: truth is a matter of semantics. 

It would appear that some of the revolutionaries in the Vatican know this as well.

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