Providing No Welcome Whatsoever: Catholic Bishops Melt Down (Again) Over Gays

On October 13, 2014, media outlets around the world reported a “seismic shift” in the Catholic Church’s attitude toward gays.

Three days later — at least in English — that earthquake had become a barely perceptible quiver.

It all had to do with a single word in Italian, accogliere, in the draft of the document that seemed to herald a new approach to what ex-Pope Ratzinger, back in his Cardinal days, called “the pastoral care of homosexual persons” (the Homosexualitatis problema, issued almost exactly 28 years ago, on 1 October 1986, by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and addressed to the Bishops of the Catholic Church). 

The preliminary October 13 Relatio Post Disceptationem (post-discussion report), based on high-level Vatican meetings on family life, introduced the phrase “accogliere le persone omosessuali” (welcoming homosexual persons). Outraged conservative bishops insisted that the English translation be changed to “providing for homosexual persons,” though accogliere remains in the Italian version.

The dictionary:

Accogliere: 1 to receive; to welcome; to greet; 2 (host) to take* in; to put* up; to house, to accommodate; 3 (accept) to accept; to agree to; 4 to accept; to answer, to attend or pay attention to; to follow; 5 to allow; (legal.) to sustain, to uphold, to allow (or to recognize, to admit) a claim; 6 to hold*; to contain; to accommodate; (in a theatre or stadium) to seat.

Nowhere does the definition of accogliere permit “provide for,” but none of the alternate meanings – accommodate, accept, recognize – were neutral enough.

As Massimo Faggioli, an Italian theologian covering the synod, tweeted Thursday, “I am Italian and that is not a translation, it is a falsification.”

Well, I’m a translator, and it is a falsification.

What’s more, it’s evidence for two apparently unrelated phenomena.

First, the prelates of the Catholic Church, much like Republicans in the U.S. Congress, are there to make sure Pope Francis doesn’t actually do anything, especially when it comes to those afflicted with the “intrinsic moral evil” of homosex.

And second, Italian translation clients, for whom English is not a first language, will always insist on their version of the translation. Even when it’s wrong.

UPDATE: Here’s an interesting postscript. According to colleagues who work with Italian, French, and Spanish, the term has not been changed in those languages. In Spanish, accogliere became acoger a; in French, accueillir. The Vatican site indicates that reports such as this one generally also appear in German and Portguese; as of 11:00 EST on 17 October, no translation had yet appeared in those languages. Is it possible the demand for a change in the translation came from English-speaking bishops? Americans or Brits?


Vatican document on outreach to gays edits out ‘welcoming’ to focus on ‘providing for’ ~

Vatican no longer “welcoming” gays in draft report translation ~


Posted on 17 October 2014, in Crimes Against Translation, You Can Always Count on a Little Homophobia. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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