After the launch of Pope Benedict's recent encyclical, Caritas in Veritate, the BBC led its report with the headline: "Pope calls for UN 'with teeth'". The same topic took centre stage at our own bishops' press conference. This focus was understandable. The secular press was not keen, of course, to communicate the real message of the encyclical so they claimed a "scoop" that suited their agenda. Unfortunately, that scoop was at least 46 years old: back in 1963 Pope John XXIII called for a greater role for international institutions; and in 2003, Pope John Paul II asked for "a new constitutional organisation of the human family". As we shall see, he used almost the same words that are in the Italian version of Pope Benedict's encyclical.
But there is also a puzzle about the call for "real teeth". And this puzzle deserves wider discussion given the widespread use of English as a second language.
The French, German and Italian versions of the encyclical, published at the same time as the English version, talk about bringing "meaningful reality" or a "real and concrete form" to the "family of nations". Other versions, published later, have the same emphasis, as does the official Latin version published late last month.
There are often debates over the interpretation of di