Vatican Diary / The conversion of bishop-theologian Bruno ForteHe was a determined supporter of "for all" in the words of the consecration. But the pope's letter to the German bishops has changed his mind. Now he too wants "for many" to be said. Behind the scenes of the turnaround
VATICAN CITY, September 10, 2012 – The dispute over the translation of "pro multis" in the formula of Eucharistic consecration has been expanded, in Italy, with an interesting new contribution.
In the Sunday, August 26 edition of the leading Italian newspaper, "Corriere della Sera" a highly prominent figure took the field in this argument, the archbishop of Chieti and Vasto Bruno Forte, a former member of the international theological commission who was consecrated as a bishop by then-cardinal Joseph Ratzinger:
> Quell'Ultima Cena con le sedie vuote
In the article, in the wake of the letter addressed last April 14 by Benedict XVI to the German bishops, Forte took a clear position in favor of the translation "per molti," to replace the "per tutti" that entered into use after the Council in Italy and in many other countries.
"Theologically," Forte writes, "the translation 'per molti' seems to me more respectful of everyone's freedom, and in no way excludes the offering of salvation to all made by Jesus on the cross."
"For this reason," he adds in concluding the article, "I prefer the translation 'per molti,' and I maintain that if explained well it can be of help and encouragement to many."
Forte also criticizes the translation that is found in the French missal, "pour la moltitude," recently praised by two Italian scholars, Francesco Pieri and Silvio Barbaglia.
Forte dismisses the version that they propose, "per una moltitudine," as one of those "intermediate solutions" that "while admirable" are "inevitably compromisory."
Forte's joining the fray is significant, and in some ways surprising.
It is significant because he is one of the best-known Italian bishops, including at the international level, and enjoys a substantial following among his brother bishops, who in fact appointed him as their representative at the worldwide synod on the new evangelization that will be held in Rome in October. Of the four selections he is the only one without the scarlet, the other three being all cardinals: Angelo Bagnasco, Giuseppe Betori, and Angelo Scola.
It is surprising because Forte has always been considered a theologian of the progressive camp, the camp that most opposes, and not only in Italy, the passage from "for all" to "for many."
At the memorable ecclesial conference in Loreto in 1985, which marked the ascent in the leadership of the Italian Church of then-auxiliary bishop of Reggio Emilia Camillo Ruini, Forte was fighting for the other and the winning side, together with the president of the episcopal conference at the time, Anastasio Ballestrero, and Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini. And it was he who gave the introductory theological presentation.
This is why he has not rarely ended up in the crosshairs of his more conservative theologian colleagues.
For example, in a 2004 article Fr. Nicola Bux, an adviser – both then and now – to the congregation for the doctrine of the faith, singled out Forte as one of the "promulgators" of a "weak and derivative theology" concerning the resurrection of Jesus, reduced "to an 'etiological legend,' or an artifice in support of the worship that the Judeo-Christians were conducting on the site of Jesus' burial."
But Forte's taking the field is even more surprising because it marks in him a change of judgment with respect to the past.
During the general assembly of the CEI in November of 2010, when the Italian bishops reiterated with a landslide vote their support of the preservation of the version "per tutti," Forte was among the few who took part in the discussion on the topic in the assembly. And he spoke out in support of the majority.
On that occasion, the Neapolitan theologian – an uncle of the prosecutor John Henry Woodcock, very well known for his judicial investigations with a significant media component, the latest of them against former IOR president Ettore Gotti Tedeschi – indeed affirmed that "the alternative 'per molti/per tutti' contains a theologically founded nuance," but – he added – this is a nuance "too subtle to be explained to the people," and so expressed the opinion of "maintaining the translation currently in use."
In that assembly, the bishops voted overwhelmingly in favor of of the maintenance of "per tutti" with 171 votes out of 187 voters (apart from one blank ballot, only 11 expressed themselves in favor of "per molti," and 4 for the version "per le moltitudini"). And this in spite of the circular letter with which in October of 2006 the Vatican congregation for divine worship had given the worldwide episcopates the authoritative indication, at the mandate of the newly elected Benedict XVI, of translating with "for many" the "pro multis" of the Latin "editio typica" of the Roman missal.
Currently, the text of the new translation of the Italian missal is under inspection by the congregation for divine worship, which must give the necessary "recognitio." And in the light of the pope's letter to the German bishops of last April, it is easy to predict that the dicastery will not compromise over the change from "per tutti" to "per molti."
The match could still remain open as far as other sensitive points of translation are concerned. Like the changes proposed by the bishops, with overwhelming votes in support of departing from the original Latin for the "pax hominibus bonae voluntatis" of the Gloria or for the "ne nos inducas in temptationem" of the Our Father, or, with a contrary criterion, the request not to touch the current Italian version of the "Domine non sum dignus," conspicuously – and arbitrarily – different from the original Latin ("Signore, io non sono degno di partecipare alla tua mensa" instead of "Signore, io non sono degno che tu entri sotto il mio tetto" of the Latin missal, taken word for word from Matthew 8:7).
In this context is situated Forte's turnaround in favor of "per molti." A turnaround that the more malicious interpret as his hopping onto the bandwagon of the victor, in a battle that for him is already lost, in view of possible future promotions.
Forte was considered to be in the running for the patriarchate of Venice, and for that position had a public "endorsement" from the former center-left mayor of the city, the philosopher Massimo Cacciari.
Now the grand maneuvers have already begun for two Italian sees of cardinalate tradition – Bologna and Palermo – the pastors of which, Carlo Caffarra and Paolo Romeo respectively, will turn 75 in 2013. But this is another story.
The earlier parts of the dispute on www.chiesa, and "Settimo cielo", with the complete text of the letter of Benedict XVI to the German bishops:
> "For many" or "for all"? The right answer is the first (3.5.2012)
> "Pro Multis." The Pope's Translation Is Gaining Support (26.7.2012)
> Nelle traduzioni del messale la ricreazione è finita (6.8.2012)
The cited article by Nicola Bux critical of the theology of Bruno Forte:
> Il sepolcro vuoto: per Bruno Forte è una "leggenda"
English translation by Matthew Sherry, Ballwin, Missouri, U.S.A.
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