Ferrara, Pebbles and a Mea Culpa

Yesterday, Crisis Magazine published a review of my book by Matthew C. Hoffman. The comments began to arrive quickly, and, as of the time of this post, there are over 260 such comments. The remarks vary, some supportive, some combative, but then an interesting development occurred.

Hoffman’s review caught the attention of Christopher Ferrara–the very same with whom I am debating next month. A back and forth ensued between Ferrara and another commentator. In one post, Ferrara noted a mistranslation in my book (chapter 13). He wrote:

You are quibbling about the translation of a phrase that Symonds says I have wrong, but which I have right. It is quibble over “think of” versus “think about” that doesn’t amount to a hill of beans.

And that particular quibble involves not even a pebble in the mountain of evidence my book compiles. Symonds has not answered my book but rather picked at some nits here and there.

I suggest you become familiar with this vast subject before weighing in on this or that point you pluck from Symonds’ book.

Start by reading my book before you comment on it.

That’s all I have to say to you. You can have the last word.

ADDENDUM: Just checked Symonds’ book. He claims THE VATICAN mistranslated Bertone’s Italian, and that I should have known this. But it is Symonds’ translation that is not correct. The absolute past tense of “think” plus “alla” yields “thought of,” just as the Vatican translates it, not Symonds’ absurd “thought to,” which he twists to mean “thought back to.” But again, this is a tiny quibble over less than a pebble in a mountain of evidence. Even if I were to concede the point, it would mean nothing for the case in general.

SECOND ADDENDUM: Quite hilariously, Symonds proposes a “corrected” Vatican translation that would fit his interpretation of the original Italian, and then, based on his imaginary “corrected translation,” tries to take me to task for using the Vatican’s already correct translation. Again, give me a break.

On the present matter, I consulted with a couple of trusted persons as well as my Italian-English dictionary. From those consultations, I think I understand what happened. Yes, there was an error on my part.

In short, in my efforts to explain why the section in question was not evidence for a second text, I misunderstood the text “…pensò subito alla consacrazione…” to be a reference to the June 7, 1981 Act of Entrustment.

The verb, pensò is the 3rd person singular past historic of pensarea, which, in this construction means “to think about something/-one.” It can also be understood in a providential sense of “to see to something” or to “take care of something.” Either way, the text would read, “As is known, Pope John Paul II immediately thought of/thought about the consecration of the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary….” This thought, of course, was with regard to fulfilling the request of Our Lady.

At the time of my writing, my primary focus was how the noun consacrazione (consecration) was being translated by the Vatican as a participle (consecrating) which did not strike me as being accurate. My error was being too caught up in the noun-not-participle discovery. I see better why the Vatican’s translation rendered the noun as a participle because the sense of the passage is that John Paul II began to think about fulfilling Our Lady’s request for the consecration.

The difficulty, it seems for all parties, comes in how to read Bertone’s next point that is immediately adjoined by the coordinating conjunction e (and): “…e compose egli stesso una preghiera per quello che definì « Atto di affidamento » da celebrarsi nella Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore il 7 giugno 1981….” Translated literally, “…and he himself composed a prayer for what he called an “Act of Entrustment” to be celebrated in the Basilica of St. Mary Major on June 7, 1981….”

There is a shift in Bertone’s discourse with that conjunction, which, I am sorry to say, is not clear as it introduces a confusing anachronism. If, in July/August, 1981, John Paul’s mind is on doing the consecration, why does Bertone suddenly combine this fact with mention of John Paul’s earlier Act of Entrustment? This Act predates John Paul’s later considerations which were done in the light of Fátima.

Antonio Socci picks up on the difficulty in his book (p. 137, English) and presents it as evidence that John Paul II had read another text in 1978. The attempt I was making in my book was to show that Socci was incorrect. While I was correct in that Socci was misreading the text, unfortunately, I myself was not careful and made a different mistake–mea culpa. It was, effectively on this point, the blind leading the blind.

In the light of the above facts, here is what I am developing (still in progress):

In the first part (“As is well known…Immaculate Heart of Mary”), Bertone is telling his readers that John Paul II was thinking in July/August, 1981 about doing the consecration requested by Our Lady at Fátima. The reason being that the Holy Father had just read the third part of the secret and was (or had been) studying the message of Fátima during his convalescence.

Bertone then mentions in the second part (“and he himself composed, etc.”) the Act of Entrustment from June 7, 1981. The purpose being to reference how John Paul had, in fact, already made a de facto attempt at the consecration in this particular Act of Entrustment. To Bertone’s mind, then, the June, 1981 Act of Entrustment was a kind of prefiguring of the later, and specific, acts (1982 and 1984) of John Paul II to fulfill Our Lady of Fátima’s request.

The difficulty comes in that Bertone earlier connected John Paul’s thinking in July/August, 1981 with that of Fátima. The June Act of Entrustment did not enjoy such a connection as it predated the reading of the secret.

In the end, there is a confusing anachronism in Bertone’s expression. I had hoped to have solved the riddle when my book went to press, but it appears as though I did not. My sincerest apologies and I hope that this post rectifies the problem.

I sincerely thank Mr. Ferrara for pointing out my mistake. I shall be quick to amend the error if and when a second edition of my book is made available. I try to get accurate information out to the public as best I can and it is my hope that the present post will serve until the book is corrected.

Nobody is infallible. Every book contains errata.”
Christopher Ferrara