Lost in translation: Mainstream media ignores significant error in English version of Vatican synod's final report

Mainstream media ignores error in English version of Vatican report

Three days after the Vatican belatedly released the English-language version of the final report of the Extraordinary Synod on the Family, Commonweal blogger Robert P. Imbelli wrote yesterday that he found a "particularly egregious" error in the translation:

Here is the English paragraph:
3. With these words in mind, we have gathered together the results of our reflections and our discussions in the following three parts:listening, looking at the situation of the family today in all its complexities, both lights and shadows; looking, our gaze is fixed on Christ to re-evaluate, with renewed freshness and enthusiasm, what revelation, transmitted in the Church’s faith, tells us about the beauty and dignity of the family; and facing the situation, with an eye on the Lord Jesus, to discern how the Church and society can renew their commitment to the family.
And here is the Italian:
4. Alla luce dello stesso discorso abbiamo raccolto i risultati delle nostre riflessioni e dei nostri dialoghi nelle seguenti tre parti: l’ascolto, per guardare alla realtà della famiglia oggi, nella complessità delle sue luci e delle sue ombre; lo sguardo fisso sul Cristo per ripensare con rinnovata freschezza ed entusiasmo quanto la rivelazione, trasmessa nella fede della Chiesa, ci dice sulla bellezza, sul ruolo e sulla dignità della famiglia; il 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.
One notices at once the difference in paragraph numeration which can certainly cause confusion. But more serious is the omission from the last sentence of the English of the all-important: "the family founded upon the marriage between man and woman."

Now, this error would seem to be news, as it follows an earlier incident in which a confusing translation resulted in embarrassment for the Vatican. Here is how Catholic News Agency reported the controversy regarding the synod's midterm report:

Vatican City, Oct 15, 2014 / 11:17 am (CNA/EWTN News). - An incorrect translation into English of the original midterm report of the Synod on the Family may have spurred controversial interpretations of the document itself.
The document's original version was written in Italian, which Pope Francis directed to be used as the official language of the synod. In prior synods the official language had been Latin, esteemed for its precision and lack of ambiguity.
The point of controversy occurs at paragraph 50 of the relatio. … In the English translation provided by the Vatican, this is rendered as: “Are our communities capable of providing that, accepting and valuing their sexual orientation, without compromising Catholic doctrine on the family and matrimony?”
The key word “valutando,” which has sparked controversy within the Church, was translated by the Vatican as “valuing.”
Italian's “valutando” in fact means “evaluating,” and in this context would be better translated with “weighing” or “considering.”
The English translation, in contrast, suggests a valuing of the homosexual orientation, which could at least create confusion to those who are faithful to the teaching of the Church.

To be fair, veteran Vatican reporter John L. Allen Jr., writing for the Boston Globe's Crux website, wrote that the midterm report's original translation was faithful to the original, while the Vatican's ensuing "corrected" translation "[provided] a different tone altogether." In any case, the hasty initial translation caused much confusion. That led another longtime Vatican correspondent, Edward Pentin, to speculate last week as to why the Holy See's press office was taking its time translating the final report:

[Given] the earlier translation problems, the most logical explanation for the delay is that the secretariat wants to be right first time. The interim report, as the Vatican was at pains to point out, was only a “working document”; this final one will act as the lineamenta -- guiding document -- for next year’s synod, therefore making it significantly more important. But if that is the reason, it's not one the secretariat is sharing.

So, why then is it not news that the Vatican's official translation of the final report, nearly two weeks in the making, omits a key phrase emphasizing that the family is "founded upon the marriage between man and woman"?  Is no reporter interested in questioning the Vatican press office on how that phrase, which is so deeply relevant to the "gay issues" on which the English-language media obsessed during the synod, was left out of the version of the report given to English-language readers?

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