Monday, June 27, 2011

My Thoughts on the Vulgate and Trent

James asked to me to post on the comment I left on his post Called to Communion, the Vulgate, and Calvin and since I haven't posted anything substantial in awhile I really wanted to try. Unfortunately, I don't have the time to provide extensive quotes to support my assertions so I have given this post the appropriate title of "My Thoughts..." as I am not an expert in this area but I have done some reading on the subject, specifically rereading some relevant material after James' excellent post.

Here is part of my original comment on James' post which I will try to elaborate on:

I am confused by the post at CTC.

I agree, it seems like the author has not taken the time to understand the time period when Calvin wrote his treatise and the confusion in Catholic circles at that time as to how to interpret the decree.

In briefly looking back through Jedin's two works on the Council (based on the Council diairies, tracts, letters, etc), Rome's response to the Vulgate decree published in 1546 had similar concerns to Calvin and interpreted the language of the decree as discouraging the use other texts. There was also confusion as to what Vulgate was being to referred to as there was more than one "Vulgate" in circulation. Also, within and outside the council there was debate as to whether the Vulgate(s) in use were authored by Jerome. So the decree was not as perspicuous as the CTC author seems to imply, and I think that was intentional on the part of the Council (b/c of all the disagreements around the issue).

In addition, the CTC author asserts "the council provides a way to achieve this reform in decreeing that a “thorough revision” of the Latin Bible is to be made" and yet there is no talk of a revision in the decree. A revision was discussed in the Council but it's inclusion into the final decree was purposely omitted.

...From the comments it appears that the CTC author has read one of Jedin's books so I am surprised by his conclusions. If anything, reading Jedin's work shows how much disagreement there was around the Vulgate and translation into vernacular languages as well as pushback from Rome - hardly authoritative nor consistent.

Here is the thing. I don't believe anything in the post at Called to Communion (CTC) is completely inaccurate, I just don't think it captures the "fullness of the truth". The author is telling a different version of a somewhat common tale of a Protestant convert to Roman Catholicism - "I thought that the Roman Catholic Church was this terrible organization that hated the bible but I found out She actually loves scripture and has preserved and declared them to us". In this particular story Calvin was partially blamed for perpetuating the idea that the Council of Trent had outlawed the use of scripture in the original languages by declaring the Vulgate authentic.

But here is where the CTC really missed the mark for me. When I read through material around some of the discussions during the Council of Trent's fourth session, I see a wide variety of strong opinions with no clear consensus. I see some politics and some reactionary behavior. I see some bishops who sound quite Protestant which by the way, doesn't help the "Luther was a novelty and a complete rebel" motto of some RCs today. What I do not see, which I think the CTC article portrays, is an authoritative meeting of the Roman Catholic hierarchy making clear and concise declarations of what the Church has always believed.

In both the Council of Trent and Papal Legate at The Council of Trent, Cardinal Seripando by Roman Catholic historian Hubert Jedin, some of the discussions during the Council around the Vulgate are covered as well as discussions around bibles in the vernacular. The Council of Trent had the opportunity to declare the bible in the original languages as authentic but chose not to (James covered this). They also chose not to acknowledge the known errors in the Vulgate although discussed (perhaps to avoid Protestant ridicule) and avoided the issue of vernacular bibles because the initial discussions were so heated and complicated since some countries had prohibitions against vernacular bibles already in place. These varying opinions and heated discussions ended in a decree that is a bit anemic because in the end it needed to pass a majority vote. Such a general decree leaves itself open to a wide variety of interpretations.

In fact, in reading through Jedin's chapters on this subject I was quite surprised to see that Rome (all decree drafts were sent to Rome for comment and approval) also had trouble interpreting the Council's decree regarding the Vulgate.

(click to enlarge)

- The Council of Trent by Hubert Jedin, pg. 94-95

The legates did respond to the criticism from Rome explaining their intentions however the decree was never revised. You have to wonder though - if Rome had trouble understanding the intent of the decree can you really blame Calvin or anyone else? In fact, an incidence many years later only further confuses the issue but that will have to be the subject of another post.

In the interest of post length let me get back to my overarching thought which is that history is not always the friend of RCism that some RCs seem to think. In reading the proceedings of the Council of Trent during the fourth session what I see is a bit of a mess. A bible edition with known errors is declared authentic with no mention of the errors, the exact nature of "the Vulgate" is unclear, and the authorship of the Vulgate is disputed. And that was just the stuff they could agree on.

Let me include a quote I used previously from Owen Chadwick's Catholicism and History concerning the publishing of the Council of Trent diaries after being locked in the Vatican Secret Archives for 300 years:

“Massarelli reported what was said. He recorded the differences of opinion, the follies as well as the wisdom of the speakers, the unedifying as well as the edifying. If Massarelli's diaries were published, the decisions of the Council of Trent, sacred in so many minds, would no longer appear the unchallenged expression of a common Catholic mind, but the end of hard-fought debates over nuances of expression. Only the result had authority, not the course of events or utterances which led to the result. The upholders of Pallavicino maintained that to publish Massarelli could do nothing but weaken the authority of the canons of Trent, as well as the official history by Pallavicino. This was particularly true of the early debates on scripture and tradition, the authority of scripture, and its canon. In the cold light of finality, the formulas look rigid against Protestants. Seen as the end of a long debate with differing opinions, the formulas have more nuance, more flexibility, than any Protestant hitherto supposed. The examining commission particularly objected to the minutes which Theiner proposed to publish, and had already in proof, of the debate on the canon of holy scripture. Thus the Dominican Father Tosa, lately an enthusiast, became the main speaker on the commission of enquiry, that to publish was dangerous, or harmful to the Church. He said emphatically that to print these minutes could hand weapons to Protestantism to attack the Catholic Church and the Council of Trent.”

If you are courting RCism then maybe you somehow overlook these issues. But this is not the unified authority that Catholic epologists have told me for years that I need to have certainty and avoid the Protestant chaos.


Constantine said...

Thanks, Carrie.

This is really interesting. I'm very glad to have read your work.


James Swan said...

Thanks for the Jedin quotes.

The CTC blogger seems to not care at all for the historical time period. That's typical of many converts to Romanism.

Thanks again for adding to this subject. I think what I'll do is a post linking all the entries, along with Tfan's contribution.

PeaceByJesus said...

This was a costly offense when Rome had the power it must use to enforce its authority.

"The decree of the Council of Trent as to the authenticity of the Vulgate was then causing great dissension among the professors at Salamanca. Some of them, Grajal, Martinez, de León, and others continued to use in their courses or in their exegetical writings the Hebraic texts, the Septuagint, and even the version of Vatable. Some, like Medina and León de Castro, saw in this a defiance of the council's decree, and effectively denounced their adversaries, whom they called rabbinists. Early in 1572 Grajal and Martinez were arrested at Salamanca and accused of heresy. On 27 March, de León met the same fate, and was incarcerated at Valladolid by order of the Inquisition as being their abettor. After examining his writings and hearing the wit- nesses, the Inquisition summed up in seventeen propositions the accusations urged against him. In these propositions he was not charged with heresy, but with imprudence and rashness, particularly on account of his rather disrespectful appreciation of the Vulgate. The tribunal at Valladolid, after a trial extending over nearly five years, declared him guilty and asked that he be put to the rack and rebuked.

This sentence, however, had to be ratified by the supreme council at Madrid. But nine days later (7 December, 1576) this body reversed the sentence, acquitted de León, and ordered his chair to be given back to him, but warned him to be more cautious in his teaching..." -Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume 9, p. 470