Rorate Caeli

Mea culpa - Why it is important to directly read mistranslated texts/ The wrong Judas article in The Times

A few days ago, The Times [of London] published a story of a "campaign" to "rehabilitate" Judas. I myself mentioned it here as soon as a friend sent me the link. Naturally, I should rather have checked the story in the Italian daily which had published it, La Stampa, since The Times is known to have botched Catholic news before.

The problematic Times' quotes are the following:

Vatican moves to clear reviled disciple's name

JUDAS ISCARIOT, the disciple who betrayed Jesus with a kiss, is to be given a makeover by Vatican scholars.


Now, a campaign led by Monsignor Walter Brandmuller, head of the Pontifical Committee for Historical Science, is aimed at persuading believers to look kindly at a man reviled for 2,000 years.

Mgr Brandmuller told fellow scholars it was time for a "re-reading" of the Judas story. He is supported by Vittorio Messori, a prominent Catholic writer close to both Pope Benedict XVI and the late John Paul II.


Now, The Times is mostly correct in its portrayal of Messori. Both Messori and Brandmüller are quoted by La Stampa in a sidebox of an article about a "new finding" (not that new, actually) in Italy of an apocryphal text of the 4th century called "The Gospel of Judas" (mostly unknown and which had been mentioned only by St. Irenaeus of Lyon) -- but Brandmüller is horribly mistranslated by The Times, in a very serious error, which has had great repercussion in the past few days.

Brandmüller is quoted in the beginning of the sidebox, commenting on the finding. These are the words published in La Stampa (Edition of January 11, 2006, p. 25) -- the words in black are mine:

[The writings of the "Gospel of Judas"] "Are testimonies which are useful only to historically frame the Christianity of the origins, but their impact should not be emphasized," explains Monsignor Walter Brandmüller, who presides the Pontifical Committee of Historical Sciences in the Vatican. "The relevance of such a text is not in the historical level and it seems to me at least uncalled for to expect some novelties on what is known about the dawn of the Christian age, even more so as it has no pertinence whatsoever [non c'é alcuna attinenza] to religious worship or [to a religious] level", Brandmüller details. "It means rather an addition which may serve to rebuild the circumstances and the context in which the initial preaching of the teaching of Christ developed."
The text may be found here(it may become unavailable shortly). That's it. No "Vatican scholars", no "campaign", but very sound, historically precise and theologically orthodox words by Mgr. Brandmüller, whose opinions on St. Pius V I had already highly commended here and who has written extremely important texts on the correct interpretation of Vatican II.

We have no problem in recognizing our mistakes here, even those caused by The Times -- which should better hire a couple of fact checkers.


  1. I'm glad you've cleared that up. Brandmueller is hated by the liberals, and is a good friend of tradition; I found it impossible to believe that he would have said such things.

  2. I thought that the story, that I read in Canada's National Post smelled funny too. Firstly because taking a 4th Century document over the 1st Century Gospels didn't sound too likely, even for someone like myself who is no Biblical scholar. And because I thought that Judas' sin wasn't in betraying Christ, but in believing that God could not (or would not, and those are two, different ideas) forgive him, so he killed himself. Thanks too then from me for clearing that up.

  3. I love your site and I love what you are saying. Keep up the good work

  4. Why can't the Vatican use its website to speak directly to Catholics about these constant misinterpretations? Surely someone at the Vatican read the Times article, so where is the direct and explicit rebuttal -- at the official Vatican website, in a handful of the major languages (starting with Latin) -- so that Catholics from Dublin to Delaware aren't left thinking that "the Vatican" is "changing its teaching" about Judas? Hasn't this sort of media-driven confusion gone on long enough? Why does the Vatican allow itself to be steamrolled by idiots with degrees in journalism? Where's the initiative?

    The Vatican needs a blog, for crying out loud.

  5. "The Vatican needs a blog, for crying out loud."

    Blogs cost money and time. The Vatican likely accepts earmarked donations, but the laity seem to have corrected the story well enough on their own.


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