Wednesday 28th September 2022

Home » Frontpage » Currently Reading:

The Revised Catechism Section 2267 . . . What The Latin Text Actually Says

January 3, 2019 Frontpage No Comments

By FR. GEORGE WELZBACHER

(Editor’s Note: Fr. George Welzbacher taught Ancient Mediterranean History for 21 years at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minn. This article first appeared in The Catholic Servant, December 2018, and is reprinted here with the kind permission of its publisher, John Sondag.)

+ + +

This past August at Pope Francis’ command section 2267 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church was officially revised. This is the section that deals with capital punishment. On August 2, 2018, the Holy See’s Press Office announced that the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Luis Cardinal Ladaria, SJ, had issued a Rescriptum from an audience of the Most Holy Father introducing the revision of section 2267. The text of the Rescriptum was published the next day in L’Osservatore Romano in Italian, while the text’s formulation both in Latin and in other major modern European languages was concurrently released.
The English translation, like its French and German counterparts, lends itself unfortunately with extraordinary ease to misinterpretation, to the inference that the Church, with this revision, has repudiated a basic moral teaching that she had vigorously defended for the past two thousand years, a teaching, moreover, deeply rooted in Scripture, to the effect that the state’s authority to impose the penalty of death for particularly vicious crimes is sound.
The New Testament affirms this judgment implicitly in Acts 5:11 and 25:11, together with John 19:10-11, and emphatically in Romans 13:1-4 with St. Paul’s warning that, for the punishment of the wicked and the defense of the just, the state wields the sword. Nor can one shrug away the fact that, from Genesis to the Books of Maccabees, the Old Testament is replete with endorsements of punishment by death.
Therefore, if the inference plausibly drawn from the wording of these modern language renderings is correct, one is faced with a contradiction, an incompatibility between the revisionist assertion that capital punishment “is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person” and the Church’s age-old acceptance of the penalty as just.
Fortunately a close examination of the pre-eminent Latin text shows that it does not support such rejection of the past. The critically important sentence in section 2267’s new wording reads as follows, given here first in the Latin formulation and then in its English rendering:
Ecclesia . . . docet “poenam capitalem non posse admitti quippe quae repugnet inviolabili humanae dignitati.”
The Church . . . teaches that “the death penalty is inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person.”
Those, sadly a dwindling number, who can still command a bit of Latin will no doubt take note of two important divergences from the Latin in the proffered English translation. A third, though comparatively minor, divergence appears in the translation of “quippe quae” as “because.” The more accurate translation would be “to the extent that” or “inasmuch as.”
The first of the two major divergences is the gratuitous “upgrading” of the governing verb repugnet (could be an attack upon) from the Latin subjunctive to the English indicative’s “is an attack on.” The second substantive divergence has to do with a lexical impropriety that contributes to the perception that the Latin text is saying what in fact it doesn’t say. All of which calls for comment.
Standing front and center in the first of the two major divergences is the Latin verb repugnet. Repugnet is the third person singular of the present subjunctive active of the verb repugnare: to clash with, to be at war with, to launch an attack upon. In Latin the distinction between the subjunctive repugnet as it appears here and the corresponding indicative form repugnAt is the difference of a single letter, the difference between the subjunctive’s “e” and the indicative’s “a.” But the difference in meaning is huge.
In all the major European languages, ancient and modern, the indicative mode is the form of the verb that expresses established fact, the way things are. The subjunctive, by way of contrast, expresses not what is but what might be, what could be. Its world is the world of aspiration and fear, not that of present actuality. In its deliberate choice of the subjunctive in preference to the indicative what the Latin is accordingly telling us is something quite different from what the English translation conveys. “Could be an attack” is not the same as “Is an attack.”
The subjunctive, while it recognizes that the penalty of death could readily constitute a violation of human dignity, leaves the door open for possible exception, for possibly justifying exception, such as, for example, the incursion of superseding needs of the common good that could conceivably outweigh the individual’s claims.
The indicative, however, makes no such concession. Its assertions are flat-out, “this is the way it is,” categorical. They slam the door in exception’s face.
The point is that the subjunctive, precisely because of its tolerance of exception, accommodates the Church’s traditional teaching.
The Church, after all, looks upon the legitimate use of capital punishment as a punishment restricted to the unusual crime, a crime that strikes at the foundation of the common good. While the subjunctive leaves room for so exceptional a response to so special a crime, and thus does not contradict tradition, the indicative, with its unqualified judgment that capital punishment is always of itself an assault on human dignity, does not make provision for such exception and thus does contradict traditional Church teaching. “Is an attack on” gets it wrong; in its openness to exception repugnet gets it right.
At the center of the second major divergence is a lexical impropriety: the use of an English adjective that paints, so to speak, with a broader brush than does the Latin verb that it purports to translate. The English adjective is inadmissible; the Latin verb is admittere, appearing here in the present passive infinitive form admitti in the phrase non posse admitti (cannot be allowed to take place). Admittere restricts itself to a narrower range of meaning, at least in its normal, idiomatic use, than does inadmissible. Inadmissible is equally at home in judging either the impropriety of an action — Given our treaty obligations, so radical a change of policy is inadmissible — or the impropriety of a comment on the enduring nature of a thing — that the human fetus is nothing more than a clump of tissue is, from the point of view of science, inadmissible.
Inadmissible has, if you will, dual citizenship. It can speak either to nature or to use. Admittere, by way of contrast, confines itself to giving the “go ahead” for a course of action. Admittere does not in its usual denotation offer comment on the nature of a thing. Its focus is not nature but use. Admittere contents itself with giving a “Thumbs up!” or, with a negative modifier, a “Thumbs down!” to a specified procedure.
The older Lewis and Short and the new Oxford Latin Dictionary provide abundant illustration.
The problem is that where Section 2267’s new Latin wording states that capital punishment’s use is henceforth forbidden — non posse admitti (“it can no longer be allowed”) — the English translation’s “…capital punishment is inadmissible” suggests to an English-speaker’s ear that inadmissible’s other domain of meaning is in play here, with the consequent misperception that the Latin text is issuing a judgment on the nature, rather than just on the use, of capital punishment.
Accordingly, the English­speaking reader who has little or no Latin will conclude that 2267’s new wording is condemning capital punishment as inherently wrong, as intrinsically a violation of due order. That is not what the Latin says.
What we do not have in 2267’s new Latin wording is a dogmatic assertion that capital punishment is henceforth to be considered intrinsically evil. What we have instead is a prudential judgment with a consequent ruling based on the supposition, as is made clear in the revision’s own words in the paragraph preceding the sentence with which we have been engaged, that, given today’s improved conditions of imprisonment — “His temporibus…rationes efficientioris custodiae” — alternative forms of punishment, judged now to be sufficient to provide society with due protection, are henceforth exclusively to be employed. The use of capital punishment is now forbidden — non posse admitti — to all who heed the papal voice.
Even that, of course, is a major step beyond previously prevailing jurisprudence, and as the fruit of a prudential judgment shaped by the particular circumstances of a particular time and place — and frankly of questionable validity with respect to the conditions of imprisonment prevailing in many countries even today — it leaves itself open to future challenge.
All of which being said, one may safely conclude that the Latin text of this remarkable revision does not contradict the Church’s traditional teaching. That is what the normative text, the Latin text, carefully considered, tells us.

Share Button

2019 The Wanderer Printing Co.

Vatican and USCCB leave transgender policy texts unpublished

While U.S. bishops have made headlines for releasing policies addressing gender identity and pastoral ministry, guidelines on the subject have been drafted but not published by both the U.S. bishops’ conference and the Vatican’s doctrinal office, leaving diocesan bishops to…Continue Reading

Biden says Pope Francis told him to continue receiving communion, amid scrutiny over pro-abortion policies

President Biden said that Pope Francis, during their meeting Friday in Vatican City, told him that he should continue to receive communion, amid heightened scrutiny of the Catholic president’s pro-abortion policies.  The president, following the approximately 90-minute-long meeting, a key…Continue Reading

Federal judge rules in favor of Gov. DeSantis’ mask mandate ban

MIAMI (LifeSiteNews) – A federal judge this week handed Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis another legal victory on his mask mandate ban for schools. On Wednesday, Judge K. Michael Moore of the Southern District of Florida denied a petition from…Continue Reading

The Eucharist should not be received unworthily, says Nigerian cardinal

Priests have a duty to remind Catholics not to receive the Eucharist in a state of serious sin and to make confession easily available, a Nigerian cardinal said at the International Eucharistic Congress on Thursday. “It is still the doctrine…Continue Reading

Donald Trump takes a swipe at Catholics and Jews who did not vote for him

Donald Trump complained about Catholics and Jews who did not vote for him in 2020. The former president made the comments in a conference call featuring religious leaders. The move could be seen to shore up his religious conservative base…Continue Reading

Y Gov. Kathy Hochul Admits Andrew Cuomo Covered Up COVID Deaths, 12,000 More Died Than Reported

When it comes to protecting people from COVID, Andrew Cuomo is already the worst governor in America. New York has the second highest death rate per capita, in part because he signed an executive order putting COVID patients in nursing…Continue Reading

Prayers For Cardinal Burke . . . U.S. Cardinal Burke says he has tested positive for COVID-19

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — U.S. Cardinal Raymond L. Burke said he has tested positive for the virus that causes COVID-19. In an Aug. 10 tweet, he wrote: “Praised be Jesus Christ! I wish to inform you that I have recently…Continue Reading

Democrats Block Amendment Banning Late-Term Abortions, Stopping Abortions Up to Birth

Senate Democrats have blocked an amendment that would ban abortions on babies older than 20 weeks. During consideration of the multi-trillion spending package, pro-life Louisiana Senator John Kennedy filed an amendment to ban late-term abortions, but Democrats steadfastly support killing…Continue Reading

Transgender student wins as U.S. Supreme Court rebuffs bathroom appeal

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday handed a victory to a transgender former public high school student who waged a six-year legal battle against a Virginia county school board that had barred him from using the bathroom corresponding…Continue Reading

New York priest accused by security guard of assault confirms charges have now been dropped

NEW YORK, June 17, 2021 (LifeSiteNews) — A New York priest has made his first public statement regarding the dismissal of charges against him.  Today Father George W. Rutler reached out to LifeSiteNews and other media today with the following…Continue Reading

21,000 sign petition protesting US Catholic bishops vote on Biden, abortion

More than 21,000 people have signed a letter calling for U.S. Catholic bishops to cancel a planned vote on whether President Biden should receive communion.  Biden, a Catholic, supports abortion rights and has long come under attack from some Catholics over that…Continue Reading

Bishop Gorman seeks candidates to fill two full time AP level teaching positions for the 2021-2022 school year in the subject areas of Calculus/Statistics and Physics

Bishop Thomas K. Gorman Regional Catholic School is a college preparatory school located in Tyler, Texas. It is an educational ministry of the Catholic Diocese of Tyler led by Bishop Joseph Strickland. The sixth through twelfth grade school provides a…Continue Reading

Untitled 5 Untitled 2

Attention Readers:

  Welcome to our website. Readers who are familiar with The Wanderer know we have been providing Catholic news and orthodox commentary for 150 years in our weekly print edition.


  Our daily version offers only some of what we publish weekly in print. To take advantage of everything The Wanderer publishes, we encourage you to su
bscribe to our flagship weekly print edition, which is mailed every Friday or, if you want to view it in its entirety online, you can subscribe to the E-edition, which is a replica of the print edition.
 
  Our daily edition includes: a selection of material from recent issues of our print edition, news stories updated daily from renowned news sources, access to archives from The Wanderer from the past 10 years, available at a minimum charge (this will be expanded as time goes on). Also: regularly updated features where we go back in time and highlight various columns and news items covered in The Wanderer over the past 150 years. And: a comments section in which your remarks are encouraged, both good and bad, including suggestions.
 
  We encourage you to become a daily visitor to our site. If you appreciate our site, tell your friends. As Catholics we must band together to rediscover our faith and share it with the world if we are to effectively counter a society whose moral culture seems to have no boundaries and a government whose rapidly extending reach threatens to extinguish the rights of people of faith to practice their religion (witness the HHS mandate). Now more than ever, vehicles like The Wanderer are needed for clarification and guidance on the issues of the day.

Catholic, conservative, orthodox, and loyal to the Magisterium have been this journal’s hallmarks for five generations. God willing, our message will continue well into this century and beyond.

Joseph Matt
President, The Wanderer Printing Co.

Untitled 1

Catechism

Today . . .

">Great News for Italy. Italy’s new Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni. Giorgia Meloni’s electrifying speech at the World Congress of Families

Bishops, priests and scholars correct Pope Francis’ statement on Holy Communion

(LifeSiteNews) — Four bishops, several priests, and numerous Catholic scholars have signed a statement rebuking Pope Francis for a recent statement about the reception of Holy Communion, according to which “everyone is invited to the supper of the wedding of the Lamb (Re 19:9). To be admitted to the feast all that is required is the wedding garment of faith which comes from the hearing of his Word.” The Pope wrote these words in his…Continue Reading

A futuristic Nur-Sultan ready welcomes Pope Francis to Kazakhstan

As Pope Francis prepares to depart for Kazakhstan on Tuesday, our correspondent in Nur-Sultan takes a look at his upcoming participation in the 7th Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions, as well as the small Catholic community’s great joy to receive the Holy Father.

Joe Biden Calls MAGA Americans Violent, Ignores Leftist Violence Against Churches, Pregnancy Centers

Illuminated with blood-red lights, draped in inky shadows, and flanked by U.S. Marines, President Biden launched into an angry screed Thursday night, using dangerous and inciting rhetoric to attack so-called “MAGA Republicans.” It was a terrifying sight that drew praise and flowery language from the “journalists” of CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360 as they lauded the “full frontal attack” and asserted he was “reclaiming patriotism.” “President Biden finishing a 24-minute speech at Independence Hall in Philadelphia. He said as…Continue Reading

Pope Francis creates 20 cardinals for the Catholic Church

Rome Newsroom, Aug 27, 2022 / 08:31 am Pope Francis created 20 new cardinals for the Catholic Church during a liturgy in St. Peter’s Basilica Saturday. “Jesus calls us by name; he looks us in the eye and he asks: Can I count on you?” Pope Francis said in a homily addressed to the College of Cardinals and its new members on Aug. 27. “The Lord,” he said, “wants to bestow on us his own…Continue Reading

Who Makes More Money In America?

By TERENCE P. JEFFREY The money earned by American households has grown enormously since 1967, when President Lyndon Baines Johnson was still in office and the hippie generation was celebrating its so-called Summer of Love.The median household income in the United States that year was $50,803 in constant 2021 dollars, according to the Census Bureau’s…Continue Reading

An Attack On Human Life . . . Pope Benedict Condemns “Intrinsic Evil” Of Abortion

By STEVEN ERTELT (LifeNews) — During his time as the leader of the Catholic Church, Pope Benedict was a consistent pro-life voice condemning the evil of abortion. In comments posted on Twitter the morning of September 21, Benedict XVI reminded people that abortion is evil and an attack on human life.He made it clear that…Continue Reading

Biden Is Losing The Race For The Cure

By STEPHEN MOORE President Joe Biden recently announced, with great fanfare, his Cancer Moonshot initiative. Biden used soaring and promising rhetoric about, at last, finding a cure for one of the world’s leading killers.Speaking at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston on September 12, the president declared:“Beating cancer is something we…Continue Reading

Becoming Pro-Life The Hard Way

By DONALD DeMARCO “Aujourd’hui Maman est morte. Ou, hier, peut-etre; je ne sais pas.” (Today my mother died. Or was it yesterday, I don’t know.) + + This is the celebrated opening of Nobel Laureate Albert Camus’ novel, The Stranger. It immediately establishes the main character as a person who, being emotionally unmoved by the…Continue Reading

The Queen: End Of An Era

By JOHN J. METLZER The Queen has died; the page of history has turned. The passing of Queen Elizabeth II, Britain’s longest serving monarch, has shocked and saddened much of the world despite the sovereign’s declining health and her 96 years of age. Just months after having joyfully celebrated her platinum Jubilee commemorating 70 years…Continue Reading

Advertisement

Our Catholic Faith (Section B of print edition)

On Being Faithful In A Few Things . . . Before Being Ruler Over Many Things

By MSGR. CHARLES POPE (Editor’s Note: Msgr. Charles Pope posted this commentary on September 17 and it is reprinted here with permission.) + + I. Analysis of the Sinner — In the opening lines of the Gospel, Jesus describes a sinful steward.Delusion (of the sinner) — Jesus said to His disciples, “A rich man had a steward. . . .”Notice…Continue Reading

How Long, O Lord?

By FR. ROBERT ALTIER Twenty-Seventh Sunday In Ordinary Time Readings:Hab. 1:2-3, 2:2-42 Tim. 1:6-8, 13-14Luke 17:5-10 The first reading today, from the Prophet Habakkuk, is very apropos for our time. As it was in his day, so too it is in ours: people crying to God for help, but nothing seems to happen; people crying out “violence,” but God does…Continue Reading

Catholic Replies

Q. I don’t use rosary beads to say the rosary since I pray in the car or while doing gardening or housework. Is it okay to pray the rosary daily with my fingers? Also, I have seen pictures of St. Joseph with lilies, and I have been told that is the way he was chosen to be the husband of…Continue Reading

Future Bleak for Vatican II Mass

By FR. KEVIN M. CUSICK My parish is forced back into compliance with the “unique liturgical expression of the Roman rite” this month, as expressed by Pope Francis in Traditionis custodes, with the banning of the traditional Latin Mass in my as well as in other parish churches. This in order to open us to the full experience of the…Continue Reading

Crazy! . . . A Homily For The 24th Sunday Of The Year

(Editor’s Note: Msgr. Charles Pope posted this on September 10 and it is posted here with permission.) + + The three parables in this Sunday’s lengthy Gospel challenge conventional thinking. They describe people doing things that we most likely would not do. All three of them — especially the first two — seem crazy. Who would ever do what the…Continue Reading

Catholic Heroes… St. Augustine Of Canterbury

By DEB PIROCH Apostle, Benedictine monk, first archbishop of Canterbury, and the founder of the First Eccliastical See in England, St. Augustine of Canterbury is not a name remembered by many Americans. But as England buries Queen Elizabeth II this week, we hear much of Her Majesty’s Christian faith. Without St. Augustine’s work, would Christianity in England exist at all…Continue Reading

Catholic Heroes . . . St. Bridget

By DEB PIROCH “Oh my friends, I love my sheep so tenderly that were it possible I would die many other times for each one of them that same death I suffered for the redemption of all” — Words attributed to Christ, Revelations of St. Bridget. + + In 1999, Pope St. John Paul II issued a moto proprio, making…Continue Reading

Advertisement(2)