Read Pope Benedict XVI's lips

0  1557640 1 00We need some kind of honor to give here, something that goes beyond a mere hat tip when another blog actually produces an item that we could run as a GetReligion post with little or no extra work. Any suggestions? That happened last week over at Amy Welborn's Open Book site when she offered some very helpful information about Pope Benedict XVI's speech on you know what at you know where. Her goal was to help journalists avoid errors, which is preaching to the choir at this here blog.

It seems that, in a short item over at, Timothy Noah took a shot at the pope by claiming:

Taking a cue from the Congressional Record, the pope appears to have revised and extended his published remarks since the controversy arose.

However, Amy notes that this does not appear to be the case -- since it is impossible to edit the words that are actually coming out of one's mouth, especially when they are captured on video (yet another amazing example of why God created YouTube).

Anyone who has ever covered a papal address knows that popes have a written text that is often quickly distributed to the press, or in the Internet age posted online. However, it often takes the translators some time to get the translations straight. Also, popes have been known to edit or improvise as they speak, especially this particular former German college professor -- when he is speaking in his native German.

So Amy quoted from the work of a blogger named Stuart Buck, who dissects the crucial passage:

Thanks to the Internet, however, you can view Pope Benedict delivering the speech in German. Fast forward to 2:48, and you'll hear Benedict pronouncing the words, "in erstaunlich schroffer, uns überraschend schroffer Form ganz einfach." These are the very words that ... are correctly translated as, "with an astonishing brusqueness, for us an astounding brusqueness, bluntly."

Thus, Timothy Noah's entire claim falls apart. Contrary to Noah's claim, the original German was not altered "after the pope gave the speech," nor did the Pope "revise[] and extend[] his published remarks since the controversy arose." Instead, the "astounding brusqueness" language was in the original speech -- as given -- and it was the original English translation that seems to have been incomplete. The translation may have been altered, but only in the interest of greater conformity to the German original.

Thus, if you see journalists making the claim that the pope's aides tried to alter his text to soften his words and make his speech easier to defend, please point them to these URLs.

By the way, are there any German speakers who read this site who want to take their own shot at translating this part of the lecture?

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