Thursday, April 3, 2008

Encyclicals: A Matter of Translation?

In April 2005, I was asked why excerpts from a particular encyclical, Militantis Ecclesia, from which I quoted (in a 1997 article) did not match with online versions of that same encyclical. The answer appears to lie in a matter of a "new" and "improved" English translations, but none of the online encyclicals make any note of such a change. My moderators and I referenced older hard copies and sought for online renditions. What we discovered is that there is quite a difference between previously published translations and the recent online versions.

Since at least 2005 (if not earlier), it seems almost all of the online sources for papal encyclicals are now using the "updated" translations. Some lines and paragraph remain the same as the former translation; those most pertinent and oft-quoted and which reinforce tradition are those revised. When you see the difference between the examples provided below, you also may wonder if the real problem is only "a matter of translation."

My original response to the question:
I am aware that at least two online sources for Militantis Ecclesiae (e.g. - EWTN Library and Papal Encyclicals Online) feature a different translation from the older version which I referenced at the time. Why there is such a variation in the newer translations is a matter of conjecture.

At any rate, it appears the your problem is rooted in a difference in the encyclical's more recent translation. In my book, Keeping It Catholic Home Education Guide (Volume I), I also quoted particular excerpts taken from paragraph #18 of Militantis Ecclesia as follows:

"Religion must not be taught to youth only during certain hours, but the entire system of education must be permeated with the senseof Christian piety. If this is lacking, if this holy spirit does not penetrate and inflame the souls of teacher and pupil, small benefit will be derived from any other sort of education; instead damage will be done." And finally, it states: "Religion must permeate and direct every branch of knowledge."

Now compare those few excerpts from the newer online version (below) of the same paragraph #18:

"18. Secondly, it is necessary to teach religion to children, butnot only at specified times. All their teaching should occur in anatmosphere of Christian piety. If it is otherwise, if this sacredinspiration does not penetrate the spirits of the teachers and ofthe students, the instruction will produce only little fruit andwill often even have seriously harmful consequences."

The paragraph then closes as follows: "The knowledge of many subjects should always go hand in hand with the care of the spirit. Religion should give shape and direction to all branches of knowledge. Its majesty and sweetness should strike home and inspire the souls of the young."

Again, there is QUITE a difference between my older hard copy version [which I acquired some time before 1990, from the Daughters of St. Paul] and the "newer" online versions.

Also, if you read paragraph #80 in the encyclical Il Divini Magistri (On Christian Education of Youth, 1929) it also quotes two sentences from Militantis Ecclesiae, which was promulgated by Pope St. Leo XIII. However, you will notice the sentence in which Il Divini Magistri quotes from the Militantis Ecclesiae encyclical does not match the updated online versions of the latter. This once more indicates a change in translation between older and newer versions.

Below, I shall include the former English translation from paragraph #80, Il Divini Magistri in its entirety excerpt from Pope St. Leo XIII in Militantis Ecclesiae:

From Il Divini Magistri, the older version:

#80. For the mere fact that a school gives some religious instruction (often extremely stinted), does not bring it into accord with the rights of the Church and of the Christian family, or make it a fit place for Catholic students. To be this, it is necessary that all the teaching and the whole organization of the school, and its teachers, syllabus and text-books in every branch, be regulated bythe Christian spirit, under the direction and maternal supervision of the Church; so that Religion may be in very truth the foundationand crown of the youth's entire training; and this in every grade of school, not only the elementary, but the intermediate and the higher institutions of learning as well. TO USE THE WORDS OF LEO XIII: It is necessary not only that religious instruction be given to the young at certain fixed times, but also that every other subject taught, be permeated with Christian piety. If this is wanting, if this sacred atmosphere does not pervade and warm the hearts of masters and scholars alike, little good can be expected from any kind of learning, and considerable harm will often be the consequence. [Footnote 50, which refers in Latin to to Ep. enc. Militantis Ecclesiae, 1 Aug. 1897: Necesse est non modo certis horis doceri iuvenes religionem, sed reliquam institutionem omnem christianae pietatis sensus redolere. Id si desit, si sacer hic halitus non doctorum animos ac discentum pervadat foveatque, exiguae capientur ex qualibet doctrina utilitates; damna saepe consequentur haud exigua.]

Again, why there is such a difference from previous and more recent translations is anyone's guess. Yet the change seems to be a Red Flag. Is it possible that new version is due to the modernist infiltration of the Church? Modernism has tinkered with everything else; it would certainly explain why there are now "updated: translations of various papal encyclicals - which, in their original form and even in the former English translation, clearly outlined that which most helped the hierarchy and faithful "keep it Catholic."

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