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March 13, 2007



I read it. Sounds like someone had an agenda.

Lawrence King

The Preface to the Eucharistic Prayer begins: Vere dignum et iustum est, aequum et salutare, nos tibi, sancte Pater, semper et ubique gratias agere. The current English translation abbreviates this as "Father, it is our duty and salvation, always and everywhere to give you thanks..."

Maybe the revised translation will just say "Father, we could give you thanks and praise...."


Sounds like someone had an agenda.

Well, if someone did, that someone is at the Vatican itself, since this is the official English translation.

In any event, the news stories that I have seen paraphrase the document as saying that Latin should be used in international Masses, which is more in line with the French and Spanish "it would be good" for Latin to be used.

Father Klingele

As I noted on the New Liturgical Movement blog comments:
"I believe that we are missing something in the translation of #62: "that such liturgies could be celebrated in Latin" is translated from "aequum est ut huiusmodi celebrationes fiant lingua Latina". I wonder if it would be better to say, "it is right [think 'vere dignum et iustum est, aequum et salutare'] that celebrations of this kind be done in Latin." The subjunctive in Latin should not always be translated as possibility or request. We don't translate Mary's fiat as, "Could it be done [or would that it be done] to me according to Thy Word." Mary is not hoping or suggesting, she is submitting and embracing what was told to her. Her fiat is "yes", not "wouldn't that be nice"."

After seeing Amy's note, I have wanted unsuccesfully to see Fr. Z's blog.

Lawrence, the "aequum et salutare" is ignored in the ICEL translation. We should hear: "Truly it is worthy [meet] and just, right and saving, Holy Father, that we always and everywhere give you thanks."

Clare Krishan

As the Anglicans say so quaintly,
"It is meet and right so to do ..."
"It is very meet, right, and our bounden duty ..."
so "aequum" in Proverbs 11 refers to the proper measure being God's delight
(etymology derived thus:
meet (adj.) O.E. gemæte "suitable, having the same dimensions," from P.Gmc. *ga-mætijaz (cf. O.N. mætr, O.H.G. gimagi, Ger. gemäß "suitable"), from collective prefix *ga- + PIE *med- "to measure." The root sense is thus the same as commensurate.

Desert Chatter

"Aequum est" is sure not "should" or "could". It's not a legislative term, but the Exhortation is pastoral, not legislative. C'est bon!


As re. "an agenda" I am mindful of the appalling Novus Ordo Missal translation we have in English (as opposed to, say, Spanish or Italian) which is also an official Vatican product. Color me cynical, but I'm of the opinion whoever is in charge of doing the Latin to English translation is, at very best, wildly inept; which is unlikely.

The sad thing is that this mistranslation will a) probably not be corrected, and b) be trotted out like a show pony whenever those opposed to greater adherence want to justify their actions.



Who has the authority to amend the English version of the document to bring it into line with the Latin and other translations?

Mark Windsor

"Could be" is surely a pathetic translation.

I get: "It is right [proper, correct] that celebrations of this sort be made in the Latin language."

I think there's also a connotation to aequus est that may fit here. Aequus can mean "equivalent" or "just" or "reasonable" by itself - depending on the context. Adding "est" is idiomatic, I think, and comes out "right" as in proper or correct.

The text in Latin clearly does not say "could be", but it just as clearly does not simply say "it is good" as the French & Polish indicates(there's a much simpler way to say something "it is good").

My Latin is still very rusty, but I humbly submit that the Latin text is even stronger than Fr. Z suggests. It's not just good to do these large celebrations in Latin, it is the proper and correct way to go about it.

Where's Al when we need him?

Morning's Minion

There is another really bad translation in this document that the press seems hung up on. In para 83, it says (concerning "respect for human life, its defence from conception to natural death, the family built upon marriage between a man and a woman, the freedom to educate one's children and the promotion of the common good in all its forms"): "These values are not negotiable".

This is an appalling translation. What the Latin actually says is "Concerning these goods, it is hardly licit for these goods to be disputed." A good English translation would read: "It is hardly licit to dispute their fundamental value." I don't see how they found "negotiate" in "disputari," which literally means to be discussed or disputed.

Mark Windsor

As to any idea of agenda, I think we have to be careful how far we push this. There are a couple of reasons for this.

First off, I think these things are almost always translation by committee. What's that old joke, a camel is a horse but designed by a committee...

Second, translation work isn't always a science. It's an art with a specific set of rules underlying the translation.

Third, it really isn't a bad translation overall. We've picked up on two or three things so far that aren't quite right, but I don't see any over-arching conspiracy to make this come out badly...at least I don't see it yet.

Jumping to the conclusion that this is agenda driven may not be accurate.

Mark Windsor

Also, one thing that strikes me about the Aequum est line is the use of the word "fiant".

Better Latin scholars than I might see nothing here, but I think this is a fascinating choice of words. Fiant is third person plural, passive voice, subjunctive mood of the verb "to make". (It has all the grammatical baggage that Latin can hang on any single word.) Literally, I think it comes out as "to be made", which I shrunk to "be made" above. But I have at least one dictionary that translates subjunctive passive of "to make" as "Let them be made".

Again, it's a matter of connotation rather than definition, but this makes it sound more like a directive and hence my thought that this stronger than what Fr. Z has stated on his site. It's not an imperative, but it certainly seems to have a strong push behind it. Anybody else out there agree? (My last Latin class was several decades ago, so I may be all wet.)


Do translators from different countries at the Vatican never confer? They all work in isolation?


What's the German translation?

Lawrence King

Mark, you're on the right track, but the subjunctive in Latin must always be translated in light of the structure of the sentence. In this case, the key word linking the main clause and the subordinate clause is ut. So you have aequum est ut + subordinate clause with a subjunctive.

Most often, aequum est is followed by an accusative and infinitive (as in the passage from the Preface that I quoted above), or by ut plus a dative.

But in this case, we have ut plus a nominative and a finite verb (exceptis lectionibus, homilia et oratione fidelium, aequum est ut huiusmodi celebrationes fiant lingua Latina), but the verb is in the subjunctive. I think that this indicates the hypothetical nature of the clause (in other words, it's referring not to a specific celebration happening tomorrow, but a type of celebration that may happen. So the subjunctive here, it seems to me, suggests a translation closer to "It is right that X would happen." (Not "should happen", which would suggest an additional level of obligation which the Latin subjunctive, in this case, doesn't imply.)

Also, while fio can be translated as a passive verb ("to be made by" or "to be done by"), it can also be translated as an active verb ("to occur" or "to happen").

So a good (but overly literal) translation of exceptis lectionibus, homilia et oratione fidelium, aequum est ut huiusmodi celebrationes fiant lingua Latina would then be "The readings, homily, and prayer of the faithful excepted, it is proper that celebrations of this kind [would] occur in the Latin language." The only part I'm not sure of is the "would" (since the aequum est + subjuctive construction doesn't appear in Lewis & Short). But in any event it doesn't affect the meaning in English.

Lawrence King

The German version has "Es ist gut, wenn außer den Lesungen, der Predigt und den Fürbitten der Gläubigen die Feier in lateinischer Sprache gehalten wird; ebenso sollen die bekanntesten Gebete aus der Überlieferung der Kirche in Latein gesprochen und eventuell einige Teile in gregorianischem Choral ausgeführt werden."

Anthony English

The opening sentence of the AE reads: The sacrament of charity (1), the Holy Eucharist is the gift that Jesus Christ makes of himself, thus revealing to us God's infinite love for every man and woman.

"Every man and woman" is supposed to be an inclusive language translation of the Latin:

Dei infinitum nobis patefacit in singulos homines amorem.

The only problem is: it's not inclusive. The other six official translations respect the original Latin and use the term "every man" for their respective languages. By adding the words "and woman", the English translation narrows the term "every man" to become "every adult male" and therefore implies that the Eucharist is the gift which reveals God's infinite love for every adult male and female. That's not inclusive as children and adolescents are not included or implied at all. In fact, of the eight versions (Latin, English, French, German, Portuguese, Italian, Spanish and Polish) only one is not inclusive: English.


...it is fitting that celebrations of this kind be done in the Latin language...


Aequus, -a, -um, since its more basic meaning is equal, I would say probably connotes "fitting" rather than "only just when." Certainly stronger than "could be", but maybe not as strong as an "ought to be."

Commensurate is the word I usually think of.

On "fiant", this is pretty clearly under-translated in the translation--and I think you have a stronger point here.

Rather than translating "fiant" as a jussive subjunctive, though, I think it falls pretty squarely as a clause of result or characteristic used in a restrictive sense, as Allen and Greenough describe at Sec. 537, no. 2b.: ""Frequently a clause of result or characteristic is used in a restrictive sense, and so amounts to a Proviso (cf. sec. 535d):--

hoc ita est utile ut ne plane inludamur ab accusatoribus (Rosc. Am. 55) this is so far useful that we are not utterly mocked by the accusers"

This "restrictive" element seems to imply the kind of injunction you imply


I think Mark is closer on the subjunctive "fiant".

The "ut" means it not an optative subjunctive, but rather a subjunctive in a consecutive clause. See Allen and Greenough, 536ff

Mark Windsor

So, I guess I'm a bit damp, but not all wet, eh?

Fr. Stephanos, O.S.B.

Well, here are my two bits.

In paragraphs 61 and 62, both referring to large, international celebrations of the Mass, the Holy Father’s exhortation says that, with the exception of the readings, the homily and the prayer of the faithful, aequum est— “it is advantageous” or “it is favorable”— that such celebrations be done in the Latin language.

= = = =
62. . . . . exceptis lectionibus, homilia et oratione fidelium,
aequum est
ut huiusmodi celebrationes
fiant lingua Latina . . . .
= = = =

Several European languages have translated aequum est with words that mean “it is good”.

However, the published English version says, “such liturgies could be celebrated in Latin.” That is an incomplete translation, a half-truth, and misleading.

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