VATICAN CITY -- Distribution of an Italian edition of a new youth catechism was temporarily suspended because of a translation error concerning the church's teaching on contraception.
Thousands of copies of the Italian translation of "YouCat," a recently released supplement to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, erroneously left the impression that Catholic couples could use "contraceptive methods."
As a result, "the product is temporarily suspended, but not halted," so that the Italian publisher can "examine the text," Elena Cardinali, a spokeswoman for the Citta Nuova editorial group, told Catholic News Service April 12. Citta Nuova, the publishing arm of the Focolare lay movement, handled the Italian edition of the catechism.
The youth catechism was originally written in German and the work was supervised by Austrian Cardinal Christoph Schonborn of Vienna. The Italian edition was translated by Pietro Podolak and translation revisions were overseen by Cardinal Angelo Scola of Venice, according to the credit pages in the book.
The 300-page book uses a question-and-answer format to talk about what the church teaches.
Question 420 of the Italian edition and its brief reply incorrectly suggest that a married couple can use contraceptive methods.
The question in the Italian version reads: "Can a Christian couple turn to contraceptive methods?" The answer reads: "Yes, a Christian couple can and must be responsible about their capacity of being able to give life."
The answer in Italian goes on to explain -- in line with church teaching -- that the church does not accept artificial means of contraception, but does allow regulation of fertility through natural methods.
The error was not found in the original German text of "YouCat," nor in the U.S. English edition, which was published by Ignatius Press.
The German text of question 420 "asks whether a Christian married couple may regulate the number of children they have. It does not ask whether the couple may use methods of contraception," wrote Mark Brumley, president of Ignatius Press, on the Ignatius Press blog, Insight Scoop.
"I don't know why the Italian translation reads as it does, nor do I know how it came about that it reads as it does, but it should be fixed to reflect, without ambiguity, the church's teaching that contraception is evil," Brumley wrote April 12.
"It is my understanding that the Italian text is being fixed," he added.
A Vatican official, speaking on background, said a previously planned press conference April 13 was expected to clarify the issue.
The English translation of the question and reply in "YouCat" as published by Ignatius Press is: "May a Christian married couple regulate the number of children they have? Yes, a Christian married couple may and should be responsible in using the gift and privilege of transmitting life."
The "YouCat" Italian edition came out in bookstores March 30 and sold 14,000 copies in five days, a Citta Nuova press release said April 6. At that time, Citta Nuova said some 46,000 copies had already been printed and more than 27,000 copies ordered.
It was the third best-selling religious book in Italian, it said, coming in behind Pope Benedict XVI's "Jesus of Nazareth" and a recent biography of Pope John Paul II.
"YouCat" was to be translated into at least 13 different languages and about 700,000 copies were to be distributed to young people taking part in World Youth Day 2011 in Madrid. An electronic version will also be available.
Pope Benedict wrote the book's foreword and said he wanted to supplement the Catechism of the Catholic Church by translating it "into the language of young people."