YouCat. The book’s title sounds a bit like a trendy blog or a cartoon character, but its message is a serious one. “It will not make life easy for you,” Pope Benedict XVI writes in the foreword, “because it demands of you a new life.”
Short for “Youth Catechism of the Catholic Church,” YouCat hopes to make the faith more accessible to teens by posing and answering questions relevant to their everyday lives. It provides answers in the form of excerpts from the Catechism as well as short commentaries. These passages are couched in many lively stock images and cute stick-figure drawings, and the margins contain inspiring and encouraging quotes from scripture as well as from individuals ranging from Dostoevsky to St. John Bosco to Nietzsche.
At least 700,000 copies in ten languages will be distributed at World Youth Day 2011 in Madrid, and there are plans to translate this supplement to the Catechism into 25 languages by 2012. But while the design might be close to flawless, the text—in a few translations, at least—isn’t.
For example, the French translation is unclear about the church’s teaching on the value of other religions, and the language of the Italian version is unclear regarding the church teaching on euthanasia and “contraceptive methods.” These texts were translated from the original German text, and a bishop with “theological and catechetical expertise” was assigned to serve as a guarantor to ensure accuracy of each. However, the original German text was the only one to pass through a doctrinal office. Closer attention is now being paid to the various translations: A working group already has been assembled to find and collect mistakes and issue a booklet of corrections. It's a bit surprising that the translation of a book meant to speak authoritatively to an impressionable audience was not more closely monitored from the start—especially given the recent attention paid to other translation projects in the church. Thus far, no problems have been reported in the English translation.
In the bottom right corner of each page there are tiny drawings of a stick figure in various poses. When readers flip the pages, the figure becomes animated. It runs, jumps, flips and waves before leaping off the pages. Here’s hoping that, with the corrected text in hand, young Catholics reading the book will learn from it and bring to the world such energy and enthusiasm for their faith.