Sunday, December 09, 2012

Even the Pope gets edited and corrected

I was reading Joan's Blog from Rome (she comments on EWTN and Catholic radio) and noticed this comment, and realized that even the Pope gets edited.

"I remember one of the first times that Benedict XVI spoke off-the-cuff in a general audience. It was January 31, 2007. He had dedicated the general audience catechesis that day to, in his words, the “three of the most important companions of St. Paul in his missionary teaching of the Gospel: Barnabas, Silas and Apollos.”

In the column I wrote on that day’s general audience, I wrote: “Benedict XVI noted that there were differences, contrasts, between Paul and Barnabas at the start of the second missionary journey because Barnabas wanted John Mark as a companion, whereas Paul did not, and the two separated.

“Then, briefly putting his prepared speech, he said, in impromptu remarks, ‘Even between saints there are differences, lack of harmony, controversies. I find this very consoling because we see that saints don’t just ‘fall from heaven’. They are like us, with complicated problems. Holiness is not never having made a mistake or sinned. Holiness grows with the capacity for conversion, penitence, the willingness to start over, above all in the capacity for reconciliation and pardon’.”

As we watched the Pope on television, all of us in the press office were taking notes, recording, etc. I remember sitting with Daniela Simpson of AP that day (I was writing, she was recording) and when the Pope said those words, we just looked at each other, and commented, “Didn’t the Holy Father have a remarkable way with words when he ad-libbed!”

Not long afterwards, when the Holy See Press Office official bulletin came out, none of the off-the-cuff remarks could be found. We asked the director, Fr. Lombardi, what to do and he said we had an obligation to report what we saw and heard and had recorded. We also knew that Vatican Television (and anyone subscribing to CTV feed, like EWTN) would have the full story.

We later learned that staff in the Secretariat of State watch the papal audience each week and “clean up” his ad-libbed remarks – sometimes to make them “more grammatically correct,” at other times, to simple “better” or improve on the papal phrasing.

But there are two things wrong with that.

One, how can you “better” or improve on Pope Benedict’s off-the-cuff phrases?

Two, in changing the Pope’s words, you change what he said, you change the truth. In addition, you do an injustice to a brilliant theologian, thinker and speaker."

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