Things noticed in Deus Caritas Est
I would like to continue a discussion which started at Rorate Caeli about various words, translations, expressions, etc., seen in Deus Caritas Est. New Catholic had highlighted some translations which because of their meaning were problematic; but the things I note below don't tend to be serious matters, just things that caught my eye.
Paragraph #3 introduces a discussion of different Greek words for love: eros, philia, agape. About eros, the Latin text reads: "Amori inter virum ac mulierem, qui non ex cogitatione nascitur neque ex sola voluntate verum certo quodam modo homini imponitur, Graecia antiqua nomen tribuit eros." But the English translation says of eros that it is "neither planned nor willed." I like the nuance which the Latin text contains: when we fall head over heals in love, it feels as though we've been hit by something akin to Cupid's arrow; we do not, however, cease to be entirely in control: our will has some say in how much attention we give to the matter.
Towards the end of paragraph #5, the English translation has the following: "Here we are actually dealing with a debasement of the human body: no longer is it integrated into our overall existential freedom . . ."; the Latin reads: "Reapse consistimus hic ante corporis humani depravationem quod non amplius totum ingreditur vitae nostrae libertatem . . .". I'd be curious to know what the German text has because there's not the slightest attempt to render "existential" into Latin. I remember Reggie joking about how he had rendered "existential" for some other project. It's one of these neologisms that has a certain air of sophistication about it, but when you cut right to the heart of what it's supposed to mean . . . well, I draw a blank.
Also in paragraph #5 there is one of these expressions reminiscent of the NAB (at least to my ears): "The apparent exaltation of the body can quickly turn into a hatred of bodiliness." Isn't the Latin so much nicer: "odium naturae corporalis" and even a German shephard can see what it means. What about "can quickly turn into hatred of our physical nature"?
I noticed this first in paragraph #7, but it occurs in at least one other places in the encyclical: the Latin text uses the verb "colloquor" and the English text renders the word as "dialogue." "Colloquor" means "to have a chat", "to have a conversation", it does not mean "to dialogue". "Dialogue" is such a stupid word, though I dislike it only because of the slime with which liberals have covered it. Yet in paragraph #7 we find that Moses was "remaining in dialogue with God." That's just preposterous: whatever Moses was doing, he was not dialoguing with God. He was, perhaps, speaking with God as with a friend, which I think, suits "colloquor", but at least with my friends, if I told them that I wanted to dialogue about something, they'd never talk to me again. In paragraph # 38, there is also the ridiculous use of "dialogue." At the end of paragraph #27, the Latin text actually uses the word "dialogus" but in a context in which it makes more sense, where the idea is something like negotiation or working out a compromise.
In paragraph #10, we find in the English text: "Here Christians can see a dim prefigurement of the mystery of the Cross . . .". A dim prefigurement? Doesn't prefigurement get the idea across? Or were we also trying to qualify the idea of prefigurement? But the Latin reads: "Christianus, in hoc, Crucis mysterium per speciem adumbrari intellegit . . ." which I would translate as "In this the Christian understands that the mystery of the Cross is foreshadowed by an image" or figure, form or whatever the usual language for these Old Testament events in relation to the New. "Dim prefigurement" rather mangles the idea, as far as I can tell.
In at least two places, the English translation used a form of the word "compenetration." The first instance is in paragraph #5, where we read that man is a reality in which "spirit and matter compenetrate." Okay, I know that this is an encyclical about eros and all that, but "compenetration" sounds to me like some kind of unnatural sex act. The Latin of the same passage uses the more pedestrian "miscere": man is a being "in quo spiritus et materies mutuo miscentur." Granted, one of the meanings of "miscere" is "to have carnal intercourse with one", but I think it comes across a little more subtly than "compenetrate." With "misceo" you could say: "Honey, should I mix the eggs and flours now?" as well as "Honey, the kids are out, let's go upstairs and mix it up." Okay, so you really couldn't say that with any chance of convincing your wife, but you certainly couldn't have said to her: "Honey, should I compenetrate the eggs and flour now?" or "Should I see to it that the eggs and flour are compenetrated?"
So maybe I made more of a case for "compenetration", given the variety of meanings for "miscere." But in paragraph #12, the English translator or team was so delighted with the word that they couldn't resist using it again: "Though up to now we have been speaking mainly of the Old Testament, nevertheless the profound compenetration of the two Testaments as the one Scripture of the Christian faith has already become evident." The Latin word used there is "coagmentatio", which I bet was Reggie's work. It doesn't have anything to do with that ghastly compenetration business. Did the two testaments compenetrate each other? Give me a break!
I thought that the Bible warns against that kind of thing!
There were at least a couple of typos in the Latin (I've read the first 13 paragraphs in Latin, but only parts of the rest). Only one I saw where it was actually a mistake where the typo clearly changed the meaning. The the end of paragraph #12, this sentence, "Ex hoc visu sumens initium, videndi amandique semitam reperit christianus." But it should be "vivendi."
In paragraph #26 there is the condemnation of Marxism; about the Marxist principle that charity towards the poor only exacerbates the problem, Benedict says: "There is admittedly some truth to this argument, but also much that is mistaken." Okay, well said, I think, but the Latin isn't as strong: "Huius argumenti quiddam verum est, fateri oportet, quiddam autem erroneum." Which I would render as "It should be said that a certain part of this argument is correct, though another part is erroneous."
Paragraph #26 also contains an interesting expression, in Latin, of the English "working classes." The Vatican Latinists, bless them (and remember that Reggie is a self-professed Maoist!), have rendered this as "agmina operariorum." That's great, it just has a certain overtone of an "army of workers", as though the working classes were a sort of army. And I guess that they are, in a way, but in the context of a discussion of Marxism, the rendering seems rather suggestive.
On the other hand, someone did a number with the English at the very end of that same paragraph #26: "Capital and the means of production were now the new source of power which, concentrated in the hands of a few, led to the suppression of the rights of the working classes, against which they had to rebel." The Latin text is fair tamer: "cui obsistere conveniebat" something like, against which suppression "it was appropriate to resist." "Obsistere" does not mean "to rebel"; there are other words in Latin to express that idea. And again, the inadequate rendering is exacerbated by the context: the Marxists did like a good revolt.
The final thing I noted was that, in paragraph #27, what the Marxists judged to be a "solutio" of the social question, the English text renders as "panacea" for the social question. Nothing hinges on this really (but I didn't promise that the things I note would!), although Latin does have this word "panacea", from the Greeks, though not quite as we have it.
Now some thoughts about the actual content of the encyclical.
Letter C of paragraph #31, "Charity, furthermore, cannot be used as a means of engaging in what is nowadays considered proselytism," made me think of the following passage from the biography of St. Gemma Galgani written by the Venerable Fr. Germanus, C.P.:
"This angelic girl also found great satisfaction in exercising charity to the poor, of which we have seen her give proof in her father's prosperous days. She was continually asking Aunt for leave to put by whatever was left in the kitchen, in order to give it to the poor. Whenever she heard the doorbell ring, she thought it might be some poor person, and if the door was not quickly opened, she would ask to be allowed to answer the call. She would hasten to the door, and almost invariably on such occasions some poor needy one was there. Then, as if she had found some treasure, she made the poor soul come in and sit down, while she, all contentment, went to select the best from her little store. This she brought and presented with great grace, and sitting down beside this member of Christ Our Lord, she began at once to catechize and talk of holy things: 'Have you heard Mass this morning? How long is it since you went to the Sacraments? Do you always say your prayers morning and night? Do you ever think of all that Jesus has suffered for us?' By such questions as these, she sought with great tact to insinuate salutary thoughts of faith, devotion and resignation into the hearts of the sufferers, who thus restored in body and spirit went away contented."
I think that Benedict has presented the matter with great delicacy, but for the sake of whom, for those who might receive the charity of the Church, so that they are not frightened away? or for those who labor to share the charity of the Church with the poor? I think that we've seen far too much of the distinterested charity which Benedict mentions - as though the opposite would be a sort of recruiting for a club, to see that our club gets as many members as possible?? So much the worse for us if that's what our "club" is about; but the Church is in the business of saving souls and if today this goes by the name of proselytism, then let us be very, very deserving of this slur. I think that there was a simpler way to make the point, simply say: "We cannot condition our charitable activities on the ground that this or that person converts to the Faith."
But today we have far too many "charitable" organizations, also called "Catholic", which need to do a whole lot more speaking about the Faith, starting with preaching it to themselves. For example, the Catholic Charities in Boston that publicly stated that they are under financial necessity to follow the state's policy of helping homosexuals to adopt innocent children into their sodomite homes.
I don't understand what I see as the rather limited perspective Benedict takes on the role of prayer in the life of charity. While he says that it is time "to reaffirm the importance of prayer" yet he presents this importance, or so it seems, as revolving around the spiritual boost that prayer can give us: in order to spend much of the day in bandaging the wounds of the poor, we must first charge our batteries in prayer. All I see in paragraphs 36, 37 and 38 is an encouragment not to think that prayer detracts from charity, that "[p]iety does not undermine the struggle against the poverty of our neighbours."
I am reminded of a similar discussion in Pius XII's Apostolic Exhortation, Menti Nostrae:
". . . while giving due praise to those who in the years which have followed the long and terrible war, urged by the love of God and of doing good to their neighbor under the guidance and following the example of their Bishops, have consecrated their entire strength to the relief of so much misery, We cannot abstain from expressing our pre-occupation and our anxiety for those who on account of the special circumstances of the moment have become so engulfed in the vortex of external activity that they neglect the chief duty of the priest, his own sanctification. We have already stated publicly in writing that those who presume that the world can be saved by what has been rightly called 'the heresy of action' must be made to exercise better judgment. The heresy of action is that activity which is not based upon the help of grace and does not make constant use of the means necessary to the pursuit of sanctity given us by Christ. In the same way, nevertheless, We have deemed it timely to stimulate to the activities of the ministry those who, shut up in themselves and almost diffident of the efficacy of divine aid, do not labor to the best of their ability to make the spirit of Christianity penetrate daily life in all those ways demanded by our times."
(Oh, can you imagine the headlines if Benedict had said about any class of persons whatsoever that they "must be made to exercise better judgment"?!)
What I'm thinking of are two spheres of Christian life, the active and the contemplative. Indeed, what place did Benedict give in his encyclical for those who live in a life of charity in utter seclusion? Whoever they are, they've sure been charging their spiritual batteries for a long time: high time they actually went out and made a difference in the world! actually helped someone! I think that Benedict is omitting some remark about the spiritual works of mercy, though he has admirably lauded the corporal. I think that we can fall into a bad situation where we say: "Oh, my charity expresses itself in prayer; but I would never go so far as to dirty my hands by bandaging some guy's wounds." If the average Catholic were to say that, it would probably be a bad sign. On the other hand, there are those, like the Carthusians, who are rather unlikely to see another non-religious let alone someone who needed wounds bandaged (such a one would have died on the way to such a remote monastery). Yet do the Carthusians not work just as well, according to their own works, for building up the Body of Christ and for the salvation of the whole world?
Charity measures the worth of everything we do as St. Thomas teaches: if we could but lift a straw from the ground with burning love for God in our hearts, how blessed we would be! But when we see charity as limited to the corporal works of mercy, I think that we have found what Pius XII called the "heresy of action." Spiritual works of mercy are actions, too, but they are actions which are hidden, often even from our neighbor. We don't want to fall into the condemnation of James 2:17, but we also have to avoid the "heresy of action."
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