28 November 2010

Even the German Text of Pope's Remarks Mistranslated

James Bogle of the Catholic Union of Great Britain has done the Catholic public a service by relating just how poorly the Vatican press has served the Pope. In the recent condom remarks flap, it isn't just that the sense of the Pope's words was taken out of context and distorted-- the very translation from German is seriously deficient:


"Light of the World": The Pope, condoms and media inaccuracy

Regrettably, the media seems to be up to their old tricks and this time
L'Osservatore Romano seems to be among them, even going so far as to break
the embargo and publish mistranslated extracts on 20 November, 3 days before
the book, Light of the World, was due out, thereby virtually ensuring that a
misrepresentation of the Pope's words was what hit the world's headlines.

The media are reporting that the Pope said this in his interview with Peter
Seewald, in the book Licht der Welt, "Light of the World":

"Es mag begründete Einzelfälle geben, etwa wenn ein Prostituierter ein
Kondom verwendet, wo dies ein erster Schritt zu einer Moralisierung sein

Which translates:

"It may be justified in individual cases, as when a (male) prostitute uses a
condom, where this is a first step towards morality"

However, he, the Pope never uses the word "begründete" or "giustificato" or
"justified", neither does he say that "individual cases" of condom use may
be justified. Yet this appears in L'OR and even, some say, the Italian
translation of the book.

Sandro Magister gives extracts from the book and includes the original
German of the controversial passage but then he goes on to mistranslate it
himself. See here:


Here's Sandro Magister's extract from the book (assuming Magister has not
got that wrong, too). It reads:

"Die bloße Fixierung auf das Kondom bedeutet eine Banalisierung der
Sexualität, und die ist ja gerade die gefährliche Quelle dafür, dass die
Menschen in der Sexualität nicht mehr den Ausdruck ihrer Liebe finden,
sondern nur noch eine Art von Droge, die sie sich selbst verabreichen.
Deshalb ist auch der Kampf gegen die Banalisierung der Sexualität ein Teil
des Ringens darum, dass Sexualität positiv gewertet wird und ihre positive
Wirkung im Ganzen des Menschseins entfalten kann. Ich würde sagen, wenn ein
Prostituierter ein Kondom verwendet, kann das ein erster Akt zu einer
Moralisierung sein, ein erstes Stück Verantwortung, um wieder ein
Bewusstsein dafür zu entwickeln, dass nicht alles gestattet ist und man
nicht alles tun kann, was man will. Aber es ist nicht die eigentliche Art,
dem Übel beizukommen. Diese muss wirklich in der Vermenschlichung der
Sexualität liegen".

Magister makes this translation:

"Concentrating only on the condom means trivializing sexuality, and this
trivialization represents precisely the dangerous reason why so many people
no longer see sexuality as an expression of their love, but only as a sort
of drug, which one administers on one's own. This is why the struggle
against the trivialization of sexuality is also part of the great effort so
that sexuality may be valued positively, and may exercise its positive
effect on the human being in his totality. There can be individual cases
that are justified, for example when a [male] prostitute [ein
Prostituierter] uses a condom, and this can be the first step toward a moral
sensitization, a first act of responsibility to develop once again the
understanding of the fact that not everything is permitted, and that one
cannot do whatever one wishes. Nonetheless, this is not the real and proper
way to overcome HIV infection. What is truly needed is a humanization of

That is not an accurate translation.

Neither is that used by the BBC here:


The BBC version reads as follows:

"This means that the sheer fixation on the condom implies a banalization of
sexuality, which, after all, is precisely the dangerous source of the
attitude of no longer seeing sexuality as the expression of love, but only a
sort of drug that people administer to themselves. This is why the fight
against the banalization of sexuality is also a part of the struggle to
ensure that sexuality is treated as a positive value and to enable it to
have a positive effect on the whole of man's being.

There may be a basis in the case of some individuals, as perhaps when a male
prostitute uses a condom, where this can be a first step in the direction of
a moralization, a first assumption of responsibility, on the way toward
recovering an awareness that not everything is allowed and that one cannot
do whatever one wants. But it is not really the way to deal with the evil of
HIV infection. That can really lie only in a humanization of sexuality."

The extract actually translates thus:

"I would say, if a (male) prostitute uses a condom, that can be the first
act towards a moralisation, a first step to responsibility, toward
developing a consciousness that not everything is permitted and that one
cannot simply do what one wants, when one wants it. But this does not get to
the root of the evil. That must really lie in humanising sexuality."

Thus, it appears that the Pope never actually said what is attributed to him
by L'Osservatore Romano and other media.

Unless someone can show that any of the above is wrong, please ensure that
this correction is passed far and wide.

Moreover, Magister seriously misrepresents Catholic teaching on the condom
use in his article when he writes:

"...Benedict XVI justifies the use of a condom by a prostitute (in the
masculine form in the original German of the book: "ein Prostituierter"). A
use that Catholic moral doctrine already acknowledges - on a par with
recourse to condoms by spouses when one of them is infected with HIV - but
is publicly approved of by a pope for the first time here".

This is simply misreporting and a journalist of Magister's seniority ought
to know better.

Best wishes,

James Bogle
The Catholic Union of Great Britain.


Me said...

Jamie Bogle is the best. However, when we were in Sicily together, he wouldn't jump off the cliff into the Mediterranean. Bit of a killjoy, but still... so smart, so Catholic, so British. Great guy to be BFFs with. <3 him.

Jane Chantal said...

I thank God for James and Joanna Bogle, whose faithful, courageous and articulate voices defend the truth at a time when so many seek to distort or silence it.

Anonymous said...

Save your energy tinman. The man has had over a week to clarify and/or amplify his statements. The fact that he has chosen to remain silent speaks volumes.

Long-Skirts said...

J. Bogle quotes what the Pope ACTUALLY said:

"'The extract actually translates thus:

"I would say, if a (male) prostitute uses a condom, that can be the first
act towards a moralisation, a first step to responsibility, toward
developing a consciousness that not everything is permitted and that one
cannot simply do what one wants, when one wants it. But this does not get to
the root of the evil. That must really lie in humanising sexuality.'"

"that can be the first
act towards a moralisation"

Say WHAT???!!!!!!!!! No! The "male" prostitute is covering his own *ss!!

"humanising sexuality."?!

Oh, not to worry, Holy Father, the "male" prostitute is most certainly "humanising sexuality."!!

God help us all!!!!


The condom
In the Light
Of The World

Could leave one’s

But the Light
Of the world
His Blood
He did shed

For even the Pope
Who said
What he

And even
The men
And ladies
Of night

That the Pope
Did address
Being ever

To say
“Go and sin
No more”

The whore

But the Light
Of the world
His Blood
He did shed

Pray for the Pope
Who said
What he

thetimman said...

Long-Skirts and anonymous,

I really have to insist that the words of the Pope and his meaning be taken at face value. He is not condoning the practice. He is merely stating that for a person to take that act in that context MAY be a sign that that person acknowledges that he has a greater responsibility than just to himself. It MAY indicate he has some moral compass, however skewed and corrupt. The Pope does not say using condoms for any reason is OK. His point about the humanisation of sexuality is to point to the authentic, Catholic, God-given plan for sexuality, as opposed to the world's message of whatever is good for me is fine.

That's it. It was a speculative thought experiment in response to an interviewer's question-- not a treatise on Catholic doctrine on marriage. Certainly one can point out the problems with giving such an interview or touching on such a subject from a prudential point of view. But this is far different from taking the position that the Pope said anything inconsistent with Catholic teaching.

Jane Chantal said...

One of the many, many things I cherish about Catholicism is that it goes beneath the surface to look not just at what people do, but WHY they do it. The nascent charitable impulse in a person's heart matters to the Catholc Church even if the rest of that person is, shall we say, significantly behind the curve.

So, although [in the example given earlier] the male prostitute who uses a condom is in all cases doing a wrong thing, his reasons for doing that wrong thing matter very much. It seems to me that in pointing this out, the Holy Father is merely reiterating what Catholics already know: that there are degrees of evil, and the child who steals bread out of concern for his starving family is culpable in a very different way than the child who steals bread out of a love of doing wrong.

Sinners have the making of Saints, and I pray that among them are such as the Holy Father used as an example in his statement. May it be that, recognizing themselves in his words and with souls avid for freedom, they will embrace their potential to live holy lives, and help others to do so as well.

Then the condom-peddlers will, at long last, be out of business.

StGuyFawkes said...


The Pope’s remarks shouldn’t bother anyone. He’s only saying that in the situation of a homosexual prostitute the condom has a quite different ethical meaning. The condom can’t frustrate the marital act, either with respect to procreation, or unitary bonding, because there is no marital act; there is just the frustration of the conjugal act through buggery which leaves the condom an innocent bystander.

In this dreary situation should the use of the barrier represent some regard for the “trick” or client one might conjecture the beginning of some dim dawn of conscience. Who knows.

Richard Ellmann tells us in his biography of Oscar Wilde that after discovering his case of syphilis Wilde re-arranged his relations with Lord Alfred and refrained from contact.

Most authorities allow that Wilde probably or possibly died Catholic and repentant if we trust the testimony of Fr. Cuthbert.

So who knows?

I was quiet surprised that our Long-Skirts decided to memorialize the controversy in verse. My take on the most recent offering of the poet laureate of our blog follows.

L.S., Your objection to the Pope’s remarks suggests that salvation is impossible for a prostitute. You might want to consult with Mary Magdalen, or Wilde on that question.

My point is that how people come to be saved may be a path so crooked that none of us want to hear of it. It might even originate in an decision too disgusting to contemplate. My view is that God is so merciful he will use ANY opportunity to reach the sinner, even the occasion when the sinner sins again.

As for the Holy Father's failure to say "go and sin no more" I am willing to gather that such was implicit in his thinking.

Anonymous said...

Self-Annointed One: The condom as an "innocent bystander." That is pure genuis!

StGuyFawkes said...

To Anon 29,Nov.2010.1613,

I do my best.


St. Guy

Long-Skirts said...

StGuyFawkes said:

"L.S., Your objection to the Pope’s remarks suggests that salvation is impossible for a prostitute. You might want to consult with Mary Magdalen, or Wilde on that question."

As a Baptized Catholic I know that is not true and of course ALL of us must work out our salvation in "fear and trembling" BUT there are sins of omission and by omitting to articulate that using a condom is a mortal sin shows a great lack of true charity towards the misguided and prostituting souls. Mary Magdelan wasn't told to make sure she sinned less by having her men wear condoms (and there were "condoms" in those days from sheep and pig bladders) Christ forgave her because she knew she HAD to change and do as He said, "Go and sin no more." And BTW, sometimes disease, suffering and sacrifice can convert. In the case of Oscar Wilde (whom I'm sure knew all about condoms as they became the modern day "rubber" in the 19th Century)...he was smart enough, most likely being the genius that he was, NOT to even THINK about continuing with his "relationship" as he knew, even in those days that the almighty condom BREAKS!! The irony here is that in the 1970's when couples "accidentally" had a 2nd or 3rd child I don't know how many times I heard, "Oh, he's our condom baby" because they didn't want people to think they hadn't used "protection" and because condoms DO break that's what they called their own babies. And now, NOW, it's okay to use these flimsy things to prevent the possibility of KILLING someone?!
All you have to do is read Wilde's "Ballad of Redding Gaol" and you will see the beginning of his conversion to the Catholic Faith and why? Suffering. Venereal Disease, jail...conversion!
The Church believes in the death penalty too not just for punishment but for the possibility of making the poor soul repent of his/her sin and truly BE saved by Confession.

StGuyFawkes also said:

"My point is that how people come to be saved may be a path so crooked that none of us want to hear of it. It might even originate in an decision too disgusting to contemplate."

Humanae vitae (no. 14) recalls that “it is a serious error to think that a whole married life of otherwise normal relations can justify sexual intercourse which is deliberately contraceptive and so intrinsically wrong,” just as one must say that it is an error to propose the idea that a condom, which in itself is wrong, could be made right by the hoped-for path toward virtue of a male prostitute who uses it.

StGuyFawkes again:

"As for the Holy Father's failure to say "go and sin no more" I am willing to gather that such was implicit in his thinking."

I'm not.
As opposed to a weaning process that would lead from a sin that is “more mortal” to one that is “less mortal”, evangelical teaching clearly affirms: “Go and now sin no more” (John 8:11) and not “go and sin less”.

Anon 29,Nov.2010.1613,said:

"The condom as an "innocent bystander"

Covered in s**t! And I'm sure Oscar Wilde would agree!

StGuyFawkes said...

Dear Long-Skirts,

Here’s how I see it.

Looking at your citation from Humanae Vitae I read it thus:

The evil of a condom is that it frustrates the true ends of marriage which are: firstly, an openness to new life and secondly, the creation of a specific and very special bond that only a man and woman can share in Holy Matrimony.

Thus, the condom is a relative evil in the sense that its evil comes from its role in frustrating the proper ends of marriage. Therefore, the condom, in and of itself, is not evil other than being a total waste of good petroleum. The evil of the condom comes from its purpose and use, its function.

The Holy Father, Benedict, was addressing the use of this instrument in a context where the relational, or relative, evil of the condom, as it is usually understood, cannot apply. A male prostitute and his client cannot reproduce or achieve anything like a marital bond. Consequently, the relative evil of the condom is different.

Evil, yes, indeed! But evil in relation to its function.

Now where homosexuals are concerned the condom as a contraceptive is beside the point. Still, the condom can partake of the evil inherent in the circumstances of its use.

If the condom is used to further the useful life of the prostitute’s career as a sex worker then it is an evil implement. If it is used simply to save the life of the client, the Pope opines, perhaps the prostitute is at least trying to limit the evil of his homosexuality and his prostitution. In that context, the Pope speculates, the prostitute may be at least beginning to see the damage of his craft and, who knows, may be on a process of renewal. It’s farfetched I know to see a shaft of light in such a dingy setting but let’s give the Holy Father, and God some credit for imagination.

The Holy Father went on to say that all of this is beside the point because the essential evil in an evil sex act comes from its not being “humanized” or open to God.

The Holy Father was speaking casuistically in a kind of scholastic setting where cases sometimes merit being treated with “the thin edge of the wedge” intellectually.

I don’t think anything the Pope said failed to register his condemnation of fornication or homosexuality.

As for accusing the Pope of committing a “sin of omission” I’ll admit he may have committed such but at the risk of false humility, I must say, accusing the Pope of not being sufficiently evangelical is just a bit above my pay grade. I know there’s a fashion of second guessing the popes in many sedevacantist social circles and in many groups you can find at CAN conventions or down on Boyle Street, or St. Stans. I don’t think you meant to call out as a sin the Pope’s recent remarks. Or did you?

St. Guy

Long-Skirts said...

St.Guy said:

"I know there’s a fashion of second guessing the popes..."

I'm not into "fashion" but the Truth. … "Let your yes be yes and your no be no!"

St.Guy also said:

"I don’t think you meant to call out as a sin the Pope’s recent remarks"

Not his remarks but the lack of his remarks because he IS the Vicar of Christ the Pope and you see - "I am not a Catholic...I am simply a violent Papist." (Oscar Wilde)

StGuyFawkes said...

Dear Long-Skirts,

Glad to see you're not about to put white smoke up a cabin chimney in Montana. Since you and I know each other in real life, let me emphasize that I never doubted you were a true papist. Love your Wilde quote. I'm going to put it on my Facebook page today.

From one Ultra-montanist to another,

St. Guy