Following up on the controversy over the new Roman Missal translation, I found more on the translation from this 2006 Catholic Insight article regarding the changes.
…quo etiam nos puniendi sumus? I don’t think the mountain of commentary regarding the most famous pear-theft in history really needs another contribution. But let me point out just a few observations from our seminar:
1. Augustine’s commentary on the crime covers the whole second half of book II, some 1,500 words. Compare that with the spare dismissal defuncto patre in book III.
2. It’s tempting to say Augustine is simply neurotic, but another more charitable interpretation is that the bishop is using the specific case to draw conclusions about sin in general. Basically, sin can be its own attraction (ipsum furtum amavi, nihil aliud II.8.16), and one shouldn’t underestimate the power of peer pressure (solus omnino id non fecissem Ibid.).
3. Still…there’s a lot of truth in Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes’ observation: “Rum thing to see a man making a mountain of robbing a pear tree in his teens".
I’m entirely sincere when I say I don’t know which is correct. Neither view by itself seems satisfactory, which is probably why clerics, critics, and amateur psychologists have been commenting on this passsage for centuries. And that, my friends, is what the comments section is for…
The US Conference of Catholic Bishops is holding their general assembly in Baltimore this week, and while much of the media attention is focused on their opinions regarding healthcare in the US, the bishops will also be voting on the new English translation of the Roman Missal. This translation has been in the works for the past six years, and early reports are that it is far more literal than the current translation.
That doesn’t sit well with at least one attendee. Bishop Donald Trautman of the Erie PA diocese spoke out against it just a few weeks ago:
“What the new missal presents is a slavishly literal translation with Latin syntax and word order, infused with esoteric words and phrases.”
Bishop Trautman continued his protest yesterday as translations of the Missal were presented, citing what appears to be a point of order as to who holds authority over the translation. Jerry Filteau of the National Catholic Reporter is blogging the conference, in case you need some live updates.
I have been vaguely aware of this controversy for the past year. I think one example of an expected literal change comes from the prayer recited right before Communion: Dómine, non sum dignus, ut intres sub tectum meum…. This has previously been translated as “Lord, I am not worthy to receive you…” I have heard that the new translation will actually spell out the idiom as “enter under my roof". I’ll have to make a point of reviewing the proposed translations this evening…
In a passage that always makes Latin students smile, Augustine admits the problems he had learning Greek in school:
Videlicet difficultas, difficultas omnino ediscendae linguae peregrinae, quasi felle aspergebat omnes suavitates Graecas fabulosarum narrationum. Nulla enim verba illa noveram, et saevis terroribus ac poenis ut nossem instabatur mihi vehementer. (I.14.23)
quasi felle - “as if with vinegar” seems to be a simile for difficultas - “difficulty". So why then is felle ablative? Because quasi is used to introduce a similarity of action, not things; if Augustine were directly comparing difficultas with fel, he would have a parenthetical sicut fel. Instead he’s saying the difficulty was such that it was “as if it sprinkled all the charms of celebrated Greek stories with vinegar.” Note also the transferred epithet Graecas, a word which grammatically belongs to suavitates but more naturally describes narrationum.
A few links demonstrating the growth of Latin instruction in Britain over the past decade:
UK’s Daily Mail notes that latin has grown sixfold in UK primary schools since 2000:
(A) survey has found that more than 500 state comprehensives and 121 state grammars - around one in six of all secondaries - are offering Latin, either as part of the curriculum or during after-school classes…In 2000, only around 100 comprehensives were estimated to be offering it.
The Independent chimes in to report on a corresponding growth in primary schools:
More than 60 state primaries will teach the classical language as part of a project aimed at making languages compulsory for all children from the age of seven. Those behind it say it is the best way of introducing children to language learning, particularly because it is the root of the five Romance languages (French, Italian, Spanish, Portugese and Romanian).
That last point is a good one; even if students abandon the language at the secondary level, the basic knowledge provided by Latin will no doubt help if they decide to switch to a Romance language.
So I’m web surfing with the TV on again, and what should pop up on NBC’s sitcom 30 Rock but a hilarious bit of Latin.
The setup has NBC executive Jack Donaghy mutter the usual Caesar quote on betrayal to his page Kenneth - Et tu, Kenneth. Kenneth, naturally, responds in pure Ciceronian Latin. Unfortunately I wasn’t recording his four-odd lines, but I know it included the quote in the title (from Cicero’s De Legibus III.3.8).
Not sure if the show used subtitles for non-Latinists; once the video is posted I’ll offer a link, but if you happened to tivo it, a transcript would be welcome in comments…
…(W)hat we remember most about Rome, food-wise, is the period of its decadence, symbolized by disgustingly overwrought banquets and the vomitorium. We haven’t gone so far as to install vomitoria in the bathrooms of fast food restaurants (perhaps an idea whose time has come back?), but in many respects our society’s enslavement to the hyperpalatibility of junk food recalls the excesses of Rome in its self-destructive decline
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