PopeWatch: Incisive Capillaries?

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Well, PopeWatch is pleased that not only PopeWatch sometimes has difficulty understanding what Pope Francis is saying.  Father Z gives us an example:

There are times when, try as I might, I have no idea what – or whom – Pope Francis is talking about.  I am not alone.

I had a few requests to explain something that Francis said to a group of women, a meeting of the Centro italiano femminile. The English translation I was sent is… puzzling.  [UPDATE: I think the translation came from Fishwrap HERE.  To be fair, John Allen said the translation was rushed.  Hey!  We have all been there!]

I looked up the Italian at L’Osservatore Romano:

“… mi sono rallegrato nel vedere molte donne condividere alcune responsabilità pastorali con i sacerdoti nell’accompagnamento di persone, famiglie e gruppi, come nella riflessione teologica; e ho auspicato che si allarghino gli spazi per una presenza femminile più capillare ed incisiva nella Chiesa”.

The translation I received:

“I’m happy to see many women sharing certain pastoral responsibilities in accompanying persons, families and groups, and in theological reflection,” Francis said, “and I’ve voiced hope that spaces for a feminine presence that’s more capillary and incisive [più capillare ed incisiva] in the Church will be enlarged.”

What the heck does “more capillary and incisive” mean?

In English, it doesn’t mean much of anything.  I think the translator fell into the trap of using “false friends” when rendering this from the strained Italian.

It seems as if Francis wants a presence of women that is more “strand-like and cutting”.  That is consistent with my experience of women religious who made our lives miserable in seminary back in the ’80s.  ”Capillary and incisive”.

That, of course, is not what Francis has in mind.

He doesn’t have any time for the LCWR types, after all, whom he has warned about being “zitelle… old maids” (in the sense that they become “sterile”, not “bearing fruit” in their vocations) and evincing female machismo.  There is also no indication that Francis is associating women and hierarchy.

However, capillare can mean “widespread” and incisiva can mean “effective, trenchant”.

That said, the Holy Father went on to speak about the “feminine genius”.  He confirmed that their irreplaceable role in the family must not be neglected, overlooked (trascurato).

So, Francis wants women in general, in whatever role they are playing, to be fruitful.  On this occasion he strongly emphasized their roles in the family.

He is not interested in women being more “strand-like and cutting”.

Go here to read the comments.  Prior to Pope Francis PopeWatch had thought that Popes tended to communicate in an overly formal manner.  Pope Francis might be giving an inadvertent demonstration of why his predecessors tended to communicate in that manner.


More to explorer

Seeing the Light

  Hard to believe it is seventy-one years since I Saw the Light was written by Hank Williams.  The song powerfully coveys


  1. A creative communicator close to my heart.

    “communicating in an overly formal manner”… What on Gods good earth for?

    When you get posts like this one, it pays not being a formal speech-maker- especially when you finally arrive at the heart of Pope Francis message!
    Its also good material for the always interesting PopeWatch!

    If you want run-of-the-mill BS speeches, that say it clearly but mean nothing….Obama is your go-to guy.

  2. The reports on this speech are driving me nuts! Most of them say something like “Pope wants greater role for women in the church.” Really? Maybe our Papa needs to visit a few more parishes and look who keeps things running. Hint, it ain’t us guys. Holy Father, we need more men to step up!

  3. come on you guys you know about capillary action and the effect that can have on a material. – so structures could be envisioned that would allow women’s gifts to penetrate through and have a positive effect

  4. “Holy Father, we need more men to step up!”
    Michael, I am so glad you noticed. Even though women act through the priest, and we do have some beautiful men, if beautiful will describe men, wouldn’t it be wonderful to have more men.

  5. I don’t care what anyone says: WOMEN SHOULD BE PRIEST! Get the heck out of
    the kitchen and dust room and do what the Good Lord called you to do! I hope
    I live long enough to see it. If a church did not permit altar girls I would not
    attend . Lord help us have some common sense before it’s too late.

  6. I don’t care what anyone says

    Evidently including everything the Church has been saying for approximately 2,000 years. As a helpful guide, here’s the Catechism on the priesthood, especially starting at 1575. You might also want to read some Pope John Paul II while you’re at it.

    do what the Good Lord called you to do
    Funny, but during his ministry Christ never actually called a woman to be his Apostle. I guess the eternal God was just afraid of making waves.
    I hope I live long enough to see it.
    And hillbillies want to be called “Sons of the Soil,” but it ain’t gonna happen.
    If a church did not permit altar girls I would not attend.
    Nice to see someone with a good sense of priorities.

  7. Jesus also didn’t make any waves about slavery!
    Which would be relevant if the Church had some long-standing magisterial teaching that it upended, but it did not. But it’s charming of you to call out our Lord for failing to live up to his pc obligations. How very . . . Anglican of you.

  8. “Jesus also didn’t make any waves about slavery!”

    That is not as troubling as when Pete Seeger compared himself to Jesus before Pontius Pilate during Seeger’s House UnAmerican Activities Comm. hearing. But, it’s close.

  9. The comparison of Church teachings about priesthood with efforts to deal with slavery over the years is a little disjointed. Equally un-satisfactory is an effort to equalize the roles of men and those of women in the Church. These things are not like the other.
    Slavery is a human enterprise/institution.
    Catholic priesthood is a divine enterprise/institution.

    Priests are men, not men are priests.

    🙂 God is faithful and good! He is the one who calls man to the priesthood. He works through the Church He established. As you read the Bible esp the Book of Moses and the history you see how plainly we need order and direction. Jesus has not left us alone.
    Trust the Church as you trust God. He gave His word on it. The Mass is something we received from God, not a prayer service that we design. The sacrament of Holy Orders is from God. We don’t have the authority to change the matter or the form.
    It is just not our call. It might seem you could make it better if you were running things, but -“who is like God?”
    The popes do not grab personal power to re-design the Church in the image they might like. They do try to protect and pass on what was handed to them, giving up personal life to serve God and His still stiff-necked and unruly people,

  10. “I hope I live long enough to see it.” Rita, you will live forever.
    Anzlyne: “Priests are men, not men are priests.” Correctly stated.
    The Church needs Catholic women as sisters to bring Catholic education back to Catholic school.

  11. “Jesus also didn’t make any waves about slavery!”
    Jesus said: Love God with your whole being and your neighbor as yourself.” That pretty specifically rules out slavery.

  12. For years we had nuns teaching and working hard without pay and now they live in poor homes on next to nothing. Don’t dare ask them to do this again. That’s just not going to happen.

  13. A number of years ago, I had the misfortune to witness at the
    beginning of mass a procession of middle-aged dancing nymphs
    without shoes and in sheer white garments. They danced around a large
    colorful ceramic bowl, which, I believed, contained the Eucharist
    and which an unusually tall woman held above her head, as the
    middle-aged nymphs proceeded to the altar.

    Later and in keeping with the modernization of the Church, immodest,
    sexed-up young women, who aspired to become the next Kim Kardashian,
    handed out Holy Communion.

  14. Rita :”For years we had nuns teaching and working hard without pay and now they live in poor homes on next to nothing. Don’t dare ask them to do this again. That’s just not going to happen.”
    That is the problem and that is the solution. I remember, in the convent, the sisters took care of one another better than your or I would get in hospital because they did it for God.

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