Clamorous errors in the Latin of the Renunciation
By Br. Alexis Bugnolo
Thus read the headlines in the newspapers within days of the publication of the official Latin text of the Act of Renunciation made by Pope Benedict XVI on Feb. 11, 2013: Clamorous Errors in the Latin text of the Renunciation. (here and on point, here). These articles only spoke of the errors of commissum not commisso and vitae instead of vita.
And in this case, the headlines were not misrepresenting the reality. For I have discerned at least 40 errors!
Yet, the propaganda machine immediately went to work and anyone who on social media in 2013 began talking about errors was immediately and viciously attacked as judging the pope! — The real purpose was that the Lavender Mafia was very worried about anyone questioning the validity. I remember my professor in Canon Law diverting the lectures he made in February and March to teach things about certain canons in an erroneous way so as to stifle any consideration of the invalidity. But he did it with such subtlety that only after all these years do I recognize what he did. — The other voices shouting down criticism of the Latin are all part of the circles of those conservative Cardinals who just impaled their reputations by demanding unquestioning obedience to Bergoglio after his acts of idolatrous worship and reverence. This is when the controlled opposition of Trad Inc. was born. It was their first act of loyalty to the regime. And it indicates they were positioned to respond and were told what to do.
So for the sake of a more exact historical truth, I will discuss here these errors and give an English translation of what Pope Benedict XVI’s Latin said (in a Later post, since there are too many errors to be discussed). I do this to correct any misunderstanding given by my previous English translation of the Act of Renunciation, in the article I entitled, “A Literal English translation of Benedict XVI’s Discourse on Feb. 11, 2013“, where by “literal” I mean faithful to the sense, not to the grammar of the Latin employed.
I base my comments on the Latin text on my own knowledge of the Latin tongue garnered in 14 years of translating of some nine thousand Letter sized pages of medieval Latin ecclesiastic texts into English. I will be the first one to say that I do not think I am an expert in the matter, but I do think it would be no exaggeration to say that there are only a handful of men alive today in the Church who have translated more Latin than myself. I also wrote a popular Ecclesiastical Latin Textbook and Video series, which I produced for Mansfield Community TV, in Massachusetts, USA, and which The Franciscan Archive distributed for some years after the publication of Summorum pontificum.
And thus, conceding I can always learn from others, I will also draw from two German Scholars who publicly critiqued the Latin text: the professor of Philology, Wilfried Stroh (see here) and those of Attorney Arthur Lambauer, a Vienese lawyer, whose comments are recorded in part here.
I can also give personal witness to the fact that the Latinists who have worked in the Vatican during the pontificates of John Paul II and Benedict XVI are away of all of these errors and have only been reticent for personal reasons, from what I gather from having had the occasion to dine with one at an Agritourismo, at Bagnoregio, Italy, in the summer of 2016.
First, the Latin Text in Black, with RED indicating the errors of expression (numbering each), after which I will comment on each error section by section, because there are so many. The official Latin text can be found at the Vatican Website (here).
Non solum propter tres canonizationes (1) ad hoc Consistorium (2)vos convocavi (3), sed etiam ut vobis (4) decisionem (5) magni momenti pro Ecclesiae vita (6) communicem. Conscientia mea iterum atque iterum coram Deo explorata (7) ad cognitionem certam perveni (8) vires meas ingravescente aetate non iam aptas esse (9) ad munus Petrinum aeque (10) administrandum.
- To say propter tres canonizationes is to mean for the sake of or on account of, three acts of canonizing. This grammatical structure in Latin means, not that the Pope has called the Cardinals together to conduct or announce the canonization of three groups or individuals, but that somehow the Cardinals have been convoked to honor the acts of canonizing or because the acts themselves cannot be completed without them. But the act of canonization is a papal act which does not require the Cardinals. Therefore, the correct Latin should be in trium canonizationum annuntiationem, that is, to announce my decision to decree three acts of canonization, as the Latin construction beginning with the preposition in is used to express purpose.
- To say ad hoc Consistorium may very well be the custom of the Papal court — to this I cannot comment — however, in Latin, since consistorium is an act of standing together, not a place to which the Cardinals are convoked, but a solemn way of gathering together, the correct grammatical structure should be in hoc consistorio.
- A pope when he acts, speaks in the first person plural, that is, with the royal “We”. The man who is the pope, inasmuch as he is the man and not the poper, speaks with the first person singular, “I”. Therefore, the correct form of the verb here should be convocavimus.
- The Latin verb communicem takes the preposition cum not the dative of reference, and thus vobis should read instead vobiscum. Since the renunciation is by the person, not the pope, the verb can be left as it is, but I think since this is still that part of the text said by the Roman Pontiff it should be in the first person plural: communicemus.
- I agree here with Dr. Stroh, that the word should be consilium not decisionem, because this latter Latin word means a “act of cutting off”, or at best an “act of making a decision”, which clearly is not apropos to the thing at hand, because the Pope has not included them in the decision making process, only declaring a decision which he has already made. And consilium is the proper word for such a thing as that, when done by a superior with authority.
- This is the most absurd error of them all. The person who wrote this does not even understand that in Latin you use the dative of reference not a phrase beginning with a preposition as in modern languages. This should read Ecclesiae vitae, for as it stands it says on behalf of the life of the Church or for the sake of the life of the Church; unless of course he is making a reference to a grave threat to the life of the Church for which this act is intended to defend that life. This may be, but as nearly all modern computer programs which do translations into Latin get this wrong in just this way I presume its ignorance, not a hint.
- This is entirely the wrong word. Because this word in Latin refers to the exploration of a place or region or the investigation into a thing which physical dimensions or size, or is the military term for spying or watching something to gain information. It is never used with spiritual things, for certainly your conscience is not a world unto itself, it is a faculty of knowing. The correct term should be one which means exposedor settled, on account of the reference to being before or in the presence of God.
- This verb does not have the sense of arrived, in matters which deal with knowledge. It rather means to attain, which would make sense if you were spying on the enemy, but to say you have attained certain knowledge by examining your conscience is absurd, because the conscience only recognizes moral truths, it is not the fount of knowledge or certitude.
- Here there is a clause in indirect discourse following cognitionem certam. The correct form should be introduced with quod and be in the nominative, not accusative, because the object of the certain knowledge is a fact known, not a knowing that. And thus, on account of the error in n. 9, the verb here should be sunt, the whole phrase reading vires mihi ingravescente aetate non iam aptae sunt. I think the emphatic dative of possession mihi should be used rather than the possesive adjective meae, because the strength spoke of is intimate to his physical being, not just some exterior possession.
- Doctor Stroh rightly points out that this is the wrong adverb. The correct one should be recte or apte or as I suggest constanter (rightly, aptly, or consistently).
Bene conscius sum (1) hoc munus secundum suam (2) essentiam spiritualem non solum agendo (3) et loquendo exsequi (4) debere(5), sed non minus patiendo et orando. Attamen in mundo nostri temporis (6) rapidis mutationibus subiecto (7) et (8) quaestionibus magni (9) pro vita fidei (10) perturbato ad navem Sancti Petri gubernandam et ad annuntiandum Evangelium (11) etiam vigor quidam corporis et animae (12) necessarius est, …
- Here anyone who has ever read Latin knows that one says cognosco not conscius sum when referring to present personal knowledge of a thing. The adjective conscius is used to introduce phrases or states of being, not knowing.
- Here there is simply the error of someone who thinks in Italian, because the possessive adjective for the third person, in Latin, is NEVER used for a thing in a sentence, only for the subject of a verb. The correct Latin, therefore should be eiusthough it could be omitted entirely since the phrase secundum essentiam spiritualem is a standard of measure and its object is implicitly understood. Dr Stroh rightly points out that naturam should be used instead of essentiam. I agree, because St Bonaventure says nature refers to the being of a thing as a principle of action.
- Here whoever wrote the text is ignorant that in Latin agere refers to all actions, physical or spiritual, and thus is an improper pair with loquendo which is also an act. It is difficult to understand to what the writer is referring, since nearly everything a pope does is by speaking. It is not as if he cleans toilets or does manual labor. Perhaps, the better word would be scribendo, that is writing.
- The Latin verb here is badly chosen, because exsequi refers to a work done, but the subject is not a work but a munus or charge, which is a thing. The proper Latin would be geri that is, conducted in the sense of the modern fulfilled or executed.
- This is the wrong verb to express what is intended. It is proper or necessary that the duties of the office be fulfilled. But it is not a debt, which is what debere means. The correct Latin should be oportere that is, that it is proper or necessary so as to reach the goal intended.
- Whoever wrote this has no experience reading Latin. The idea that seems to be the intent of the expression is in our our contemporary world, but Latin would say that as in saeculo nostro, because saeculum is the Latin term for the world in the sense of time, this generation, or culture, not mundum, which refers to the cosmos as a physical reality or place.
- And on account of error n. 6, this phrase must be rewritten entirely, as velocium orcelerium mutationum using the genitive of description not dative of reference, and hence there is no need for subiecto. The Latin rapidus is used for hurried or swift changes, which is simply not historically accurate.
- And thus, likewise, on account of the dropping of subiecto this conjunction can be entirely omitted.
- Here the magni lacks momenti or should read magnis to agree with the prior noun.
- Here there is the same error as before, and thus the Latin should read fidei vitae or fidei.
- Here you have the error of a First year Latin student who forgets that object go before verbs in Latin, not afterwards: the reading should be Evangelium annuntiandum.
- Here the wrong word is chosen, because clearly the soul does not grow old or weak by age, but the spirit does. And thus the correct Latin should be animi. Dr. Stroh agrees with me.
qui ultimis (1) mensibus in me modo tali minuitur (2), ut incapacitatem meam ad ministerium mihi commissum beneadministrandum (3) agnoscere debeam (4). Quapropter bene conscius (5) ponderis huius actus plena libertate (6) declaro (7) me ministerio (8) Episcopi Romae, Successoris Sancti Petri, mihi per manus Cardinalium (9) die 19 aprilis MMV commisso (10) renuntiare ita ut a die 28 februarii MMXIII, hora 20, sedes Romae (11), sedes Sancti Petri vacet et (12) Conclave ad eligendum novum Summum Pontificem ab his quibus competit convocandum esse.
- In Latin you signify recent things by saying praecedentibus not ultimis. Dr. Stroh suggests: his praeteritis since the emphasis is on recent in the past.
- Here the tense is wrong, since the reference is to what has happened in recent months, and is still happening, the correct tense is the imperfect minuebatur and take mihi as a dative of reference not in me.
- It is nonsensical to say that you are administering a ministry, the better word should be gerere, as before. But the entire phrase is incorrectly formed, since incapacitatem takes a gerundive construction with or without in (dative of reference), so the whole should read (in) ministerio mihi commisso bene gerendo.
- Seeing that the text is being read as if a decision is already made, to say that you ought to acknowledge is contextually out of place, according to time. Also, as clause subordinate to an imperfect, it must be in the perfect subjunctive. The phrase should read something like iustum fuerit, “it was just that”.
- Attorney Lambauer holds that this construction with conscius takes the reflexive pronoune mihi.
- Now come the errors which touch upon the nullity, invalidity and irregularity of the act. Because the renunciation has to be made freely. That it is declared freely is good too, but presumed. So this phrase should be with the verb renuntiare, and both should NOT be in indirect discourse, because to announce or declare that you are renouncing, is not to renounce anything, but to announce something, and that is not the act specified in Canon 332 §2 which requires a renunication as the essential act, not a declaration.
- This verb if left should introduce a phrase which prepares the listeners about intent or such like, not the act of the renuntiation.
- This is the wrong object of the Act of renunciation, which according to Canon 332 §2 should be muneri. Dr Stroh, writing it seems in February 2013, notes that this error makes the renunciation invalid. I agree!
- The Petrine Munus and Ministerium are not entrusted to the elected pope, but received by him in the Petrine Succession immediatley as he says, “Yes, I accept my election”. This is basic papal theology 101. If you get that wrong, it can sanely be questioned whether you were compos mentis at the time of the act. Unless of course the entire phrase ministerio … per manus Cardinalium … commisso is meant to rebuke the Cardinals for allowing him a ministry but not conceding him any real authority. Though such an intent would be both sarcastic and effect the invalidity of the resignation. So this should read in succesione petrina or something similar
- This should be a me accepto or a me recepto, that is, “accepted by me” or “received by me”.
- This is the one phrase which is correct, but which no one but an expert in the Secretariate of State would know, because, as an eminent Vatican Latinist told me, it is the customary way of indicating the Roman time zone in Latin. Dr. Stroh and Attorney Lambauer, writing from Germany, did not know this.
- Here the indirect discourse should end, or rather, the expression of the first person, I, should end, because the calling of a conclave is a papal act, the man who is pope, who just renounced, has NO authority to call one. So here the Latin should resume with the Papal WE, et declaramus.
Fratres carissimi, ex toto corde gratias ago vobis (1) pro omni amore et labore (2), quo mecum pondus ministerii mei portastis et veniam peto pro omnibus defectibus meis (3). Nunc autem Sanctam Dei Ecclesiam curae Summi eius Pastoris, Domini nostri Iesu Christi confidimus (4) sanctamque eius Matrem Mariam imploramus, ut patribus Cardinalibus in eligendo novo Summo Pontifice materna sua bonitate assistat. Quod ad me attinet etiam in futuro (5) vita orationi dedicata Sanctae Ecclesiae Dei toto ex corde servire velim. (6)
Ex Aedibus Vaticanis, die 10 mensis februarii MMXIII
- Again, the error of the First Year Latin student. The phrase should read gratias vobis ago.
- If you are grateful for their service and collaboration, you do not say amore et labore, which refer to physical work and physical affection; you say, rather, omnibus amicitiabus operibusque to show that the friendship and works were multiple and united one with the other. Four errors here.
- Again, the First Year Latin student’s error of getting the word order wrong. It should read: pro omnibus defectibus meis veniam peto and the phrase should be introduced by de vobis or de omnibus. Two errors here.
- Dr. Stroh rightly points out that this is the wrong verb, the correct Latin is committimus.
- Dr. Stroh again reminds that the correct Latin temporal expression is in futurum.
- In Latin there is no conditional. The subjunctive is uses to expres wishes, but not with the verb to wish! You say rather serviam not servire velim.
I think it would be no exaggeration to say, that if anyone saw even some of these errors and did not ask the Holy Father that they be corrected before the act was published, he sinned mortally against his duty of loyalty to the Roman Pontiff. I also think that the number of these errors is qualified forensic evidence that IF Benedict wrote this text and read it freely, that he was either not in a proper state of mind or did not act with mature deliberation.