Editing Encyclicals

In John Paul II’s encyclical, Evangelium Vitae, was originally published with this sentence addressed to women who have had abortions:

You will come to understand that nothing is definitively lost and you will also be able to ask forgiveness from your child, who is now living in the Lord. (Section 99; hosted at EWTN)

But if you check out the edition on the Vatican website it says:

To the same Father and his mercy you can with sure hope entrust your child. (Section 99; hosted at Vatican.va)

The official Latin text, which agrees with the edition on Vatican.va, says:

Infantem autem vestrum potestis Eidem Patri Eiusque misericordiae cum spe committere. (vatican.va)

It’s not the end of the world, but it’s interesting to see papal self-editing in action. The big issue here is the fate of aborted babies (and others) who die without baptism and therefore in a state of original sin. The International Theological Commission recently did a study on this question so I won’t try to solve it here. The point is that JPII seems to have originally over-stated his case by teaching that all aborted babies were in Heaven and then edited out this statement so that it would not pre-empt the doctrinal development that is on-going. I am very curious as to how this question will eventually be resolved or if it will be.

2 thoughts on “Editing Encyclicals

  1. Matthew McWhorter

    Thank you for this post and for pointing out that there are different English versions of this passage. I have a concern with the conclusion drawn here that John Paul II “originally over-stated his case… then edited out this statement….” The official Latin text on p. 515 of AAS 87 (1995) is the same as the current Latin which is found on the Vatican website. I see no reason to believe (on the evidence presented here) that the original Latin of AAS 87 has been subjected to “papal self-editing” (such that now a revised edition of AAS 87 has been released). Could the issue simply be that there are two different English translations of the same passage under consideration rather than that the Roman Magisterium is “editing encyclicals” (as the header for this post states above)? Also note that the EWTN website states that the English translation used there originates from L’Osservatore Romano.

    For AAS 87, please see: http://www.vatican.va/archive/aas/documents/AAS%2087%20%5B1995%5D%20-%20ocr.pdf

  2. catholicbiblestudent Post author

    @Matthew: I am not arguing that the AAS text was tampered with. Rather, I’m saying that there were TWO versions of this text, one was originally published in L’Osservatore Romano (and EWTN’s site), but before the text made it into AAS 87, part of it was modified. AAS is of course the official publication, but it is odd that the text in AAS does not match a previously public version of the encyclical. To me, this edit is a significant change.

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