ORGAN OF THE ROMAN THEOLOGICAL FORUM
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Living Tradition, Oblates of Wisdom, P.O. Box 13230, St. Louis, MO 63157, USA
|No. 29||Roman Theological Forum | Article Index | Study Program||May 1990|
Papal Authority in the First Ecumenical Councils by Brian W. Harrison
A Dubious Translation of Ecclesia Dei by John F. McCarthy
by Brian W. Harrison
"There never is an ecumenical council which is not confirmed or at least recognized as such by Peter's successor. And it is the prerogative of the Roman Pontiff to convoke such councils, to preside over them and to confirm them."To what extent does the history of the earliest Ecumenical Councils harmonise with either of the above two theses? They may be taken as fairly typical statements of Roman Catholic belief on the one hand, and the viewpoint of many who are sceptical of the traditional Catholic interpretation of history on the other.
- Vatican Council II, Lumen Gentium: 22
"The Papacy had laid claim sporadically to the primacy of Christendom in earlier centuries [than the fifth], but these claims had either been denied or ignored by those to whom they had been addressed. ... In the East [the Popes] were confronted by a theory of Church government which had a place for episcopal authority, but none for Roman Primacy."
- W.H.C. Frend, The Early Church, pp. 233, 235
"It is doubted by no one, but in fact has been known to all ages, that the holy and most blessed Peter ... received from our Lord Jesus Christ ... the keys of the kingdom, and that power was granted to him of binding and loosing sins; who up till this time and always lives in his successors and exercises judgment." 4Twenty years later we find Pope Leo the Great speaking in similarly authoritative style to the Council of Chalcedon, and by and large being accepted. Although a rump of 150 Bishops out of the original 600 5 passed the contentious Canon 28, which mentioned only the political basis of Roman primacy, 6 the letter of the Eastern Bishops to Leo, pleading for his acceptance and ratification of the canon, is eloquent testimony to the position of headship which they accorded him, 7 however much they may have subsequently treated his annulment of the canon 8 as a dead letter.
by John F. McCarthy
Necesse tamen est, ut omnes Pastores et reliqui Christifideles plane denuo agnoscant non modo auctoritatem, sed etiam Ecclesiae thesaurum, quae et in charismatum varietate et in rerum spiritalium necnon apostolatus traditionibus innituntur, quaeque et pulchritudinem efficiunt unitatis in varietate: illius nempe "temperationis," quam Spiritus Sancti impulsu ad Caelum effert terrestris Ecclesia.1The translators into Italian seem to have had difficulty making grammatical sense out of the Latin wording, so they read "Ecclesiae" in the phrase "Ecclesiae thesaurum" as in the dative rather than as in the genitive case, they saw the "quae" in the clause "quae ... innituntur" as masculine singular ("qui.... innititur"), and they rendered "auctoritatem" as "lawfulness" rather than as "authority" to produce the following translation:
Tuttavia, occorre che tutti i Pastori e gli altri fedeli prendano nuova consapevolezza, non solo della legittimità ma anche della richezza che rappresenta per la Chiesa la diversità di carismi, tradizioni di spiritualità e di apostolato, che costituisce anche la bellezza dell'unità nella varietà: di quella "sintonia" che, sotto l'impulso dello Spirito Santo, la Chiesa terrestre eleva verso il Cielo.2The translators into English, working from the Italian version, made the same changes in the Latin text to produce the following rendition:
However, it is necessary that all the Pastors and the other faithful have a new awareness, not only of the lawfulness but also of the richness for the Church of a diversity of charisms, traditions of spirituality and apostolate, which also constitutes the beauty of unity in variety: of that blended "harmony" which the earthly Church raises up to Heaven under the impulse of the Holy Spirit.3One could compare this reading with the following literal translation of the Latin text:
It is necessary, nevertheless, that all the Shepherds and the remaining faithful wholly acknowledge once again not only the authority but also the treasury of the Church, which rest upon a variety of charisms and traditions of spirituality and apostolate, and which produce, also, the beauty of unity in variety: namely, of that "blended harmony" which the terrestrial Church raises up to Heaven by the impulse of the Holy Spirit.4One can see from this literal translation the grammatical problem faced by the Italian translators. It is clear that the spiritual richness of the Church rests upon a variety of charisms and traditions, but is this true also of the authority of the Church? It is clear also that the moderating authority of the Church should work to produce a "blended harmony" from the variety of charisms and traditions of spirituality of the Church, and in this sense the Italian translators may have produced a good interpretation of an awkwardly worded Latin text.5 But they may also have missed the full message of the Latin text, where it speaks of the "authority of the Church," not the "lawfulness for the Church," where it speaks of the "treasury of the Church," not the "richness for the Church," and where it speaks of the fact that both the "authority" and the "treasury" of the Church "rest upon a variety of charisms and traditions of spirituality and apostolate."