The influential Italian political newspaper Il Foglio published an article today criticizing the New York Times for relying on a computer-generated translation from Italian to English of important responses from the Vatican to a sex abuse case. The failure to translate led the American newspaper to argue that Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was protecting a sexually abusive priest from Milwaukee.
The article, titled “What the New York Times does not translate,” starts by saying, “Last Sunday, New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd returned to attack the Pope. Commenting on the words of exorcist Gabriele Amorth, who said that behind pedophile priests is the devil, Dowd suggested a way for the Catholic church to solve the problem: hire a ‘sexorcist.’"
Nevertheless, “after re-reading the NYT’s allegations against the current Pope on the case of the pedophile priest Lawrence Murphy, who abused hundreds of deaf children when he worked at a school in Milwaukee, it is the American newspaper which seems to be in need of some consultants,” the paper opines.
“Behind the accusations,” says Il Foglio’s senior writer Paolo Rodari, “there is a gross translation mistake.”
Rodari reviews how NYT’s Laurie Goodstein reconstructed the events on her March 25 article and concentrates on the correspondence between the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and Archbishop Rembert Weakland, then of Milwaukee, his Auxiliary, Bishop Richard Skilba and the Bishop of Superior, Raphael Fliss.
“This is a meeting of crucial importance, because it reveals what path Bertone, on behalf of Ratzinger, decides to take once they know the facts.”
Il Foglio notes that the NYT story provides links to both the English and Italian version of the 1998 meeting, “but it omits to say one thing: the English version is a grossly distorted translation of the Italian, made with ‘Yahoo translator,’ a translation that the Vicar of the diocese, Thomas Brundage, sent to his authority, Bishop Fliss, to help him understand the Italian,” the Italian political paper explains.
According to Il Foglio, Fr. Brundage warned in his letter that “It is a very rough translation and the computer certainly cannot distinguish some of the peculiarities of canon law.”
The computer-generated English version would support the NYT’s allegations against Bertone and Ratzinger, “but that same conclusion is not possible if a correct review of the sources is done, in other words, if (the story) is based in the official text written by the CDF in Italian,” Rodari explains.
“And it is here, in the Italian version, that many important things are said.” “It is explained that either Fr. Murphy gives ‘clear signs of repentance’ or the canonical process will go to the end, including his dismissal from the clerical state.”
“But in the English version used by the NYT, instead, not only are some passages omitted, but frequently the contrary is said,” Rodari writes.
“It is true, Bertone requests to take into consideration Murphy’s frail physical condition, who indeed soon after dies. But he never says that because of such conditions the process should be stopped. He says, and this is omitted in the automated English version, that in order to help Fr. Murphy’s repentance, ‘a period of retreat may be granted,’ otherwise, the measure will be ‘more rigorous,’” the Italian paper states.