Wednesday, April 13, 2011

YouCat, a Production Glitch, and Business-as-Usual in the News


Update (April 14, 2011)
Another blogger's take on the YouCat SNAFU:Update (April 13, 2011)
YouCat, English translation, is available through:
  • YOUCAT
    Youth Catechism of the Catholic Church
    Ignatius Press
  • Youcat [Paperback]
    Cardinal Christoph Schonborn (editor)
    Amazon.com
And quite a few other places, I should think.

The Holy See (called "the Vatican" by most Americans, including me) has a new catechism, geared for youth. I think it sounds like a good idea - but not everybody's going to get that impression.

Particularly since it turns out that the Vatican hasn't accommodated contemporary culture's preferences about contraceptives.

Here's an excerpt from today's update on an article published yesterday:
"The Vatican has again been embarrassed by a botched translation of its teachings, with the launch Wednesday of an error-plagued book that implies the Holy See approves of contraception and euthanasia.

"The errors came to light during a Vatican press conference launching "Youcat: Youth Catechism of the Catholic Church," a youth-focused compilation of the thick volume of core church teachings...."
(Associated Press)
That's a familiar theme: inept, confused, and "embarrassed" religious people; shown the error of their ways by capable, intelligent, and confident journalists. I don't think there's necessarily an effort to misrepresent 'those weird religious people.' My guess is that the sort of 'former altar boy' coverage I see comes from folks assuming - understandably - that the beliefs and preferences of their circle of friends and acquaintances are
  • Shared by all reasonable folks
  • An accurate reflection of reality
I've written about that sort of thing before. (March 31, 2011; March 6, 2010) (and see "My take on old-school journalism" under "Related posts")

YouCat, Translations, and an Embarrassment

Turns out, the botched translation really did embarrass "the Vatican." Or some folks in the Catholic Church, anyway. The Associated Press story seems to have missed a few nuances, though. Here's an excerpt of another article on pretty much the same story, written by folks who apparently know a bit about the Catholic Church:
"...The book 'YouCat' was presented officially at a Vatican press conference on April 13. Nuova Citta, the catechism's Italian publisher, has pulled the Italian copies to fix the error, the Associated Press reports.

"The catechism, which teaches readers in a question-and-answer format, addresses fertility regulation in Question 420.

"The Italian-language edition asked 'Can a Christian couple have recourse to contraceptive methods?' It answered 'Yes, a Christian couple can and should be responsible in its faculty of being able to give life.'...

"...the Italian version incorrectly translates the German word 'empfängnisregelung.' While the word literally means 'birth regulation' and can signify natural family planning, it is also sometimes used to refer to 'birth control' through contraceptive means....

"...The Catholic Church has always opposed the use of contraception. In the official Catechism of the Catholic Church, its use is described as 'intrinsically evil.'...

"...The English and German versions of the youth catechism did not contain the error made in the Italian translation.

" [head of Ignatius Press]Fr. [Joseph] Fessio [SJ] told the AP the translation error was 'an embarrassment' but not a change in Church teaching...."
(CNA/EWTN News) [emphasis mine]
Translations of important teaching documents are a necessity in an outfit like the Catholic Church.

As I've said before, the Catholic Church is literally universal. And not all of the one billion or so Catholics living today speak the same language at home. The Holy See doesn't expect us to - which is why there are translations into quite a few of our languages. (March 7, 2011)

That's good news for me, since I know very little Latin. It does mean that translations can be - - - less than perfect. As the German-to-Italian situation with YouCat demonstrated.

I put a longer excerpt of the CNA/EWTN News article at the end of this article, by the way.1

Contraceptives, Catholics, and Getting a Grip

I suspect that part of what happened in that Associated Press article has to do with contemporary Western culture's assumptions about contraceptives and the Catholic Church.

It's 'well known,' in some circles, that the Church is hopelessly out of step with today's culture (true enough); and 'immoral' about insisting that folks practice self-control. The Catholic Church, for example, is opposed to the right of men to have sex when, where, and with whoever, they like: with no responsibility beyond maybe buying a condom. (see "Catholicism, common sense, and contraceptives," under "Related posts," below)

I grew up in a nice mainstream Protestant church, immersed in mid-20th-century American culture. Before I read "Humanae Vitae" (English translation), I 'knew' that sensible people used contraceptives. Turns out, I was wrong. As I've said before, I have the teaching authority of "some guy with a blog." I recommend reading the English translation of "Humanae Vitae" on Vatican.va.

That said, I think a reasonable summary of part of the Catholic position on human sexuality is that:
  • We're people
  • We have free will
  • If I refuse to share myself fully with my wife - I'm being selfish
That's not what the contemporary culture says - and I've written about the Catholic counterculture before. (April 23, 2010, for starters)

As for my take on a man's 'right' to manage his sex machine's fertility? I've got a fairly well-define opinion about that, too. (again, see "Catholicism, common sense, and contraceptives," under "Related posts," below)

YouCat, and the Catechism

What's being said about YouCat by reporters and editors who pay attention to what the book actually is - it sounds like the Holy See has 'taken a page' from the Baltimore Catechism, and used the familiar question-and-answer format to make what's in the Catechism of the Catholic Church more accessible.
"Youcat, the catechism specially written for young people, was officially released by the Vatican on Wednesday in more than a dozen languages. With a preface by Pope Benedict, Youcat offers a contemporary explanation of the Catholic Faith and contains questions and answers, comments, quotes, illustrations as well as explanations of key terms and instructions for use. The pocket sized book will be placed inside the back-pack of every young person heading to the World Youth Day gathering in Madrid, Spain this August....

"...In his preface to the book, Pope Benedict invites all young people to study the Youcat, but he also reminds them that it will not offer them easy solutions. The Gospel, he says, is a precious pearl for which we must give something in return. The Pope acknowledges that the Church has recently suffered from the attacks of evil, referring to the cases of paedophile priests, but urges the young people not to take this as an excuse to distance themselves from God. ..."
(Vatican Radio)
There's a mention of the Italian translation SNAFU, and what's been done to correct it. "Natural family planning" is mentioned as an acceptable way for spouses to manage their fertility.2

Back to that Vatican Radio article:
"...[Cardinal Stanislaw Rylko, President of the Pontifical Council for the Laity] explained that 'Youcat' translates the content of the 'Catechism of the Catholic Church' rigorously and faithfully, and using language adapted to the young. It does not replace the Catechism, but rather, leads toward it, paving the way to the 'Catechism' and its 'Compendium'. It aims to guide the young toward a deeper knowledge of their faith"...."
(Vatican Radio)
Again, I've put a longer excerpt from the article near the end of this post.3

Bottom line? I think YouCat sounds like a very good idea, that there was a translation SNAFU in the Italian first edition, and that there are going to be strange notions popping up in online communities about what YouCat 'really' is.

Related posts:
News and views:

1 A longer excerpt from the CNA/EWTN New article:
"The publisher of the Italian-language edition of a youth catechism has pulled it from production because of a translation error implying the Catholic Church's approval of contraception. "The book 'YouCat' was presented officially at a Vatican press conference on April 13. Nuova Citta, the catechism's Italian publisher, has pulled the Italian copies to fix the error, the Associated Press reports. "The catechism, which teaches readers in a question-and-answer format, addresses fertility regulation in Question 420. "The Italian-language edition asked 'Can a Christian couple have recourse to contraceptive methods?' It answered 'Yes, a Christian couple can and should be responsible in its faculty of being able to give life.' "Father Joseph Fessio, SJ, the head of Ignatius Press, which is publishing 'YouCat' in English, said that the Italian version incorrectly translates the German word 'empf√§ngnisregelung.' While the word literally means 'birth regulation' and can signify natural family planning, it is also sometimes used to refer to 'birth control' through contraceptive means. "The Italian version of the youth catechism wrongly rendered the German word as 'metodi anticoncezionali,' meaning 'contraceptive methods.' "The Catholic Church has always opposed the use of contraception. In the official Catechism of the Catholic Church, its use is described as 'intrinsically evil.' " 'The problem did not originate with the German text,' Ignatius Press President Mark Brumley said in a statement on the publisher's website, 'at least not if the Italian translation is based on the same German text as that on which Ignatius Press based its translation.' "The English and German versions of the youth catechism did not contain the error made in the Italian translation. "Fr. Fessio told the AP the translation error was “an embarrassment” but not a change in Church teaching." (CNA/EWTN News)

2 I think priests and bishops - and a fair number of lay Catholics - sometimes forget that not everybody in America is familiar with terms like "natural family planning." And that even more folks think they understand what the term means - and don't. Being counter cultural again: natural family planning is not 'Vatican roulette.' (June 5, 2010)

3 More of the Vatican Radio article:
"Youcat, the catechism specially written for young people, was officially released by the Vatican on Wednesday in more than a dozen languages. With a preface by Pope Benedict, Youcat offers a contemporary explanation of the Catholic Faith and contains questions and answers, comments, quotes, illustrations as well as explanations of key terms and instructions for use. The pocket sized book will be placed inside the back-pack of every young person heading to the World Youth Day gathering in Madrid, Spain this August. "On the eve of the presentation, church officials confirmed that the Italian publisher of Youcat had withdrawn the Italian copies to fix a translation error which concerned a question over whether married couples could plan the size of their families. The erroneous passage, which appeared to imply that the Church approved of artificial contraception, was crossed out and included a paper insert with the correct translation that says the Church promotes Natural Family Planning. "In his preface to the book, Pope Benedict invites all young people to study the Youcat, but he also reminds them that it will not offer them easy solutions. The Gospel, he says, is a precious pearl for which we must give something in return. The Pope acknowledges that the Church has recently suffered from the attacks of evil, referring to the cases of paedophile priests, but urges the young people not to take this as an excuse to distance themselves from God...." "...Referring to the upcoming World Youth Day in Madrid, Spain this August, [Cardinal Stanislaw Rylko, President of the Pontifical Council for the Laity] continued 'It is not enough to make young people "dream"; it is necessary also to help them grow well-rooted in the rich earth of Christian tradition. ... A real education in the faith of the young, therefore, must begin by freely proposing Christ to them. He is the solid rock upon which they may build their lives!' "He explained that ' "Youcat" translates the content of the "Catechism of the Catholic Church" rigorously and faithfully, and using language adapted to the young. It does not replace the Catechism, but rather, leads toward it, paving the way to the "Catechism" and its "Compendium". It aims to guide the young toward a deeper knowledge of their faith'..." (Vatican Radio)

2 comments:

Brigid said...

I think there's a word missing: "I 'knew' that sensible used contraceptives."

The Friendly Neighborhood Proofreader

P.S. I don't get what the problem is with the AP article. At least from the excerpt here, it just sounds like a boiled down version of what the Catholic article said. The translation was botched and the Vatican was embarrassed by the implication that they approve of contraception.

Brian Gill said...

Brigid,

Found & fixed (you'd think I'd have noticed!) - and thanks!

About the AP article: "...The Vatican has again been embarrassed by a botched translation of its teachings, with the launch Wednesday of an error-plagued book...." - - -

You could be right about that. I'd have to do some detailed comparisons: seeing if culturally-normative institutions, like the current administration, get the same sort of "...has again been embarrassed ... botched ... error-plagued ...." treatment. There's a whole lot of 'former altar boy/Vietnam Vet' coverage: although details vary as the decades pass.

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From time to time, a service that I use will display links to - odd - services and retailers.

I block a few of the more obvious dubious advertisers.

For example: psychic anything, numerology, mediums, and related practices are on the no-no list for Catholics. It has to do with the Church's stand on divination. I try to block those ads.

Sometime regrettable advertisements get through, anyway.

Bottom line? What that service displays reflects the local culture's norms, - not Catholic teaching.