Sunday, August 19, 2012

Corrigenda: shurely shome mishtake?

The other day I received in the post a set of Altar Cards from St Michael's Press (Farnborough Abbey). They aren't the first I have bought, but they are the first which don't have one very minor typographical error which has been associated with them for a long time. In the prayer of the Canon 'Suspice Santa Trinitas', in which the intercession of a number of saints is sought, St John the Baptist's name is introduced 'ut' instead of 'et'. 'Et' simply means 'and'; 'ut' means 'in order that' (to oversimplify), clearly this is just a 'fat finger' error which wasn't caught by a proof reader because it is a real Latin word, and looks very like the correct one.

It is annoying that this error is in Altar Cards all over the country, but I am delighted it has now been corrected at source. The old ones can easily be corrected by hand, or the card can be replaced; the cards are less than a tenner, it is the frames, when they are framed, which get expensive.

They are very attractive cards, and easy to read. Surprisingly mistakes on Altar Cards are very common; one can't assume that old ones will be completely correct, and there are Altar Cards floating around which attempt to incorporate the changes to the Missal made in 1964, which can be very confusing.

I've pointed out a good few mistakes in online materials in this blog. I've been working on liturgical texts recently and it is annoying to find that the old hand missals are full of mistakes and poor translations. It is very difficult to find people who can proof-read Latin and check translations, and it must have been difficult even in the middle of the 20th Century.

New ones are still problematic. For example, the Baronius Press hand missal's England and Wales Supplement gives the class of feasts, and the dioceses where they are said, which vary widely from the LMS Ordo's account of the same things. A word to the wise: we're right, they're wrong.

What is really annoying is when people refuse to change things when an error is pointed out. The great thing about websites is that they can be changed instantly, but webmasters are not always willing to do this. I had a bizarre correspondence with the man behind the 'Papal Encyclicals Online' website, Martin Beckman. His website has a lot of very useful material but contains an egregious mistake in the translation of Pope St Pius V's bull Quo Primum, which I have already mentioned here.

There is an important line in it about the conditions which need to be satisfied for a diocese or order to abandon its own ancient liturgical books to adopt the Roman Rite. It says:

iisdem magis placeret, de Episcopi, vel Praelati, Capitulique universi consensu

which means:

 subject to the consent of their bishop or prelate, *and* of their whole Chapter

The on-line version has 'or' instead of 'and'. I pointed out that the enclitic '-que' on the end of 'Capituli' means 'and', as any Latin dictionary will confirm, but Martin Beckman will neither believe me, look it up himself, or ask the opinion of a Latinist he respects, and make the necessary tiny but important change. He confessed his ignorance of Latin and that, apparently, is the end of the matter as far as he is concerned.

Is this ideological? Does he like the idea that Pius V placed a presumption in favour of abandoning local usages for the Roman Rite, when he actually did the opposite? Or is it just laziness? But ultimately what is the point of having a website of Catholic resources if you don't care if they contain important and misleading errors?

The promise of the web is that the better should drive out the worse. Why go to a bad website when you can go to a good one, only a click away, which will be increasingly recommended and thus increasingly high in the Google rankings? The promise fails, however, when you have a reinforcing feed-back loop of everyone copying each other, in this case the same old crappy translation, with no one paying any attention to the original because almost no one can read Latin.


  1. I'm sure the error in the title of this post is therefore ironic, is it?

  2. Someone who was at Ampleforth College in the 1950s told me about the time when he and his friends were given the use of an old printing press. Their first project (naturally) was a set of altar cards, which they proudly presented to the Abbot. He looked them over, said, "For 'Suspice', read 'Suscipe', and handed them back. They got it right the second time, though.