Pope Francis Tries to Avert Further Communication Gaffes by Expanding Drafting Committee

Pope Francis Tries to Avert Further Communication Gaffes by Expanding Drafting Committee

In the face of widespread confusion following the release of a Vatican document on Monday, Pope Francis has reacted by enlarging the 3-man drafting committee, adding two members.

Monday’s document purported to summarize the first week of discussions by the bishops gathered at the Vatican for a summit on marriage and family life. When it was read aloud in the synod hall, however, the text was met with bewilderment and consternation from the very bishops it meant to represent.

In particular, the document’s references to the “positive aspects” of cohabitation and civil unions, as well as its sympathetic treatment of homosexuality, set off a chain reaction both in the media and among the bishops. A number of bishops also complained that first-world problems were being given precedence over the arguably more important and pressing issues of the developing world.

At the Vatican’s midday press conference today, Fr. Federico Lombardi, head of the Vatican press office, reported that “the Pope decided to act” by naming two new members to the writing team that will bring together the minutes from the language-based discussion groups this week.

South African Cardinal Wilfrid Napier and Australian Archbishop Denis J. Hart will be joining the three members already on the committee.

The Pope’s choice of Cardinal Napier is particularly telling, since Napier has been the most vocal critic of the original summary.

Napier said Tuesday that the interim summary “is not what we’re saying at all” and added that the message “is not a true message.”

Napier suggested that the text did not capture “the feeling of the whole synod.”

The fact that Napier is African is no coincidence, either, in the face of criticisms that the concerns of the African bishops were underrepresented in the document.

The unofficial summary of Thursday morning’s meetings of the 10 language-based groups revealed that criticisms of Monday’s text continue to dominate the bishops’ discussions. They called in particular for greater clarity of language, avoiding unhelpful euphemisms that could sow confusion. The Church, they said, should be a welcoming home for all, but this doesn’t mean legitimizing irregular family situations.

The Vatican has already begun patching up Monday’s hastily written summary by changing the English translation of paragraphs 50-52, devoted to the question of homosexuality. For example, the new translation reads, “are we capable of providing” space for homosexuals, while the earlier translation ran, “welcome and accompany.”

It is still unclear why these small changes were made rather than revamping the entire text.

In fact, the most egregious example of mistranslation remains the Italian verb “valutare,” a word meaning “evaluating” or “assessing,” which remains rendered in the English text as “valuing” the homosexual orientation.


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