Why first person singular, who's translating? (Latin)

Has anyone noticed that Papal writings are always given in the 1st person plural but are invariably translated into English in the singular, (i.e We becomes I). What is the reason for this and what effect does the change in meaning carry with it?

Puzzled, Pistor

This was part of another thread where it was largely tangential.

I thought it deserved its own thread, so I spun it off.

And it might keep our Latin aficionados (periti?) busy. :wink:

[quote=Pistor]Has anyone noticed that Papal writings are always given in the 1st person plural but are invariably translated into English in the singular, (i.e We becomes I). What is the reason for this and what effect does the change in meaning carry with it?

Puzzled, Pistor
[/quote]

Some translations of some papal writings will retain the royal We. I don’t know why the most recent translation of Pope Benedict XVI’s first homily did not retain the royal We. I’m almost not sure that all papal writings used the royal We. I believe that John Paul II did not generally use the royal We.

I think it would be good to keep using the royal We for formal papal documents or homilies while using simply I when informally addressing people.

I don’t know who is translating.

So the first person plural form “we” is being used in the Latin language or is it being used in Italian? Could it be that “we” is being used, not in the royal “we” sense, but to be inclusive (as in “we” the people of God, “we” Catholics, “we” the Church)?

[quote=La Chiara]So the first person plural form “we” is being used in the Latin language or is it being used in Italian? Could it be that “we” is being used, not in the royal “we” sense, but to be inclusive (as in “we” the people of God, “we” Catholics, “we” the Church)?
[/quote]

In Latin. No it is the royal We because for example he says “Nos Petri Successores” which translates as We the Successor of Peter. If the “we” meant we Catholics, that wouldn’t make any sense since only one Catholic is the Successor of Peter.

Also in the Latin text, when the royal We is not used and simply we is meant, the “we” in Latin is left in lower case whereas it is capitalized in the case of the royal We:

vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/messages/urbi/documents/hf_ben-xvi_mes_20050420_missa-pro-ecclesia_lt.html

It’s agreed then, and I’m not dreaming it, the Holy Father is speeking in the plural. I recall reading Ordinatio Sacerdotalis several years back in Latin and John Paul II was clearly speeking in the plural there too…What I wonder though, is why the “we” in a deeper theological context? Is he speeking for himself and God, or is he speeking in union with Peter perhaps? Ergo, if either of these premises are true then is the translator doing us a dis-service?

[quote=Pistor]It’s agreed then, and I’m not dreaming it, the Holy Father is speeking in the plural. I recall reading Ordinatio Sacerdotalis several years back in Latin and John Paul II was clearly speeking in the plural there too…What I wonder though, is why the “we” in a deeper theological context? Is he speeking for himself and God, or is he speeking in union with Peter perhaps? Ergo, if either of these premises are true then is the translator doing us a dis-service?
[/quote]

You know you are right. JPII did use the royal We in Ordinatio Sacerdotalis as well. I was basing my statement that JPII didn’t use the royal We based on a casual conversation I once had with someone – maybe my conversation partner was just mistaken or maybe JPII used the royal We only on a rare occasion like in Ordinatio Sacerdotalis.

I don’t know what the deeper theological meaning would be. It may just be rooted in custom. I would think it would be allusory to the authority of St Peter and Paul, but I’m not sure given the separate references to it sometimes in papal texts. For instance, in Ineffablis Deus, it says: ""By the authority of Our Lord Jesus Christ and of the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul, and by Our own authority, We declare, pronounce and define the doctrine …"
newadvent.org/cathen/04675b.htm

It may perhaps be an allusion to the Pope as the Bishop of the holy Roman Church (i.e. the Diocese of Rome), speaking on behalf of that Church which according to Church Fathers presides in love over other Churches (i.e. other Dioceses).

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.