Papal Error

I have been wrestling with this question, for a long time now. I hope some of you will help me to put this nagging issue, behind me. This is about the Vulgate edition of Bible brought out by Pope Sixtus V in 1590, and the criticism that the Pope taught error through that edition. I have read several pro and con arguments, and my humble opinion is that the defense put forth by the traditional Catholic apologist is wanting.

I hear two separate lines of defense. One says that, though Pope Sixtus V had completed all arrangements for release of the Bible and had also approved the official Bull condemning any change to this version of the Vulgate, he died in bed suddenly at the last moment prior to actual promulgation, and thus the Holy Spirit protected the Church from grave error being taught.

The other line of defense is that the Clementine edition of 1592 (by Pope Clement VIII) was actually authorized by Pope Sixtus V himself, implying thereby that the corrections were all as desired by Sixtus V. (For a few years, the 1592 version itself was called Sixtine-Clementine version, to stay within the Papal Bull of Sixtus V that prohibited any modifications to his version of 1590 that were not authorized by he himself).

First of all, these two lines of defense seem inconsistent with each other. The way Sixtus V was determined in releasing his version on the face of stiff opposition from his own counsel, the language of the Papal Bull, the fact that Bible copies carrying the official Bull had already been circulated, and his sudden death in bed, do not seem to support the notion that he had actually pulled back and had indeed authorized the Sixtine-Clementine version. What I read is that the corrections made in the Sixtine-Clementine edition of 1592 were not merely proof-reading errors, but of a more comprehensive nature.

On the other hand, if death had indeed prevented Sixtus V from OFFICIALLY teaching error, Church’s effort to square the situation by naming the subsequent Bible edition as SIXTINE-Clementine edition and attaching the same Papal Bull of Sixtus V to it, would seem redundant. It would seem that the Church does regard the Sixtine Vulgate of 1590 as official, albeit a ‘work-in-progress’ that was later on completed by Clement VIII.

If the ‘work-in-process’ theory of the second line of defense is not tenable, in the light of the circumstances surrounding the release of Sixtine Vulgate in 1590, I really haven’t seen a convincing defense that Pope Sixtus V did not teach error.

Please do help me with a convincing answer.

[quote=Mathew George]I have been wrestling with this question, for a long time now. I hope some of you will help me to put this nagging issue, behind me. This is about the Vulgate edition of Bible brought out by Pope Sixtus V in 1590, and the criticism that the Pope taught error through that edition. I have read several pro and con arguments, and my humble opinion is that the defense put forth by the traditional Catholic apologist is wanting.

I hear two separate lines of defense. One says that, though Pope Sixtus V had completed all arrangements for release of the Bible and had also approved the official Bull condemning any change to this version of the Vulgate, he died in bed suddenly at the last moment prior to actual promulgation, and thus the Holy Spirit protected the Church from grave error being taught.

The other line of defense is that the Clementine edition of 1592 (by Pope Clement VIII) was actually authorized by Pope Sixtus V himself, implying thereby that the corrections were all as desired by Sixtus V. (For a few years, the 1592 version itself was called Sixtine-Clementine version, to stay within the Papal Bull of Sixtus V that prohibited any modifications to his version of 1590 that were not authorized by he himself).

First of all, these two lines of defense seem inconsistent with each other. The way Sixtus V was determined in releasing his version on the face of stiff opposition from his own counsel, the language of the Papal Bull, the fact that Bible copies carrying the official Bull had already been circulated, and his sudden death in bed, do not seem to support the notion that he had actually pulled back and had indeed authorized the Sixtine-Clementine version. What I read is that the corrections made in the Sixtine-Clementine edition of 1592 were not merely proof-reading errors, but of a more comprehensive nature.

On the other hand, if death had indeed prevented Sixtus V from OFFICIALLY teaching error, Church’s effort to square the situation by naming the subsequent Bible edition as SIXTINE-Clementine edition and attaching the same Papal Bull of Sixtus V to it, would seem redundant. It would seem that the Church does regard the Sixtine Vulgate of 1590 as official, albeit a ‘work-in-progress’ that was later on completed by Clement VIII.

If the ‘work-in-process’ theory of the second line of defense is not tenable, in the light of the circumstances surrounding the release of Sixtine Vulgate in 1590, I really haven’t seen a convincing defense that Pope Sixtus V did not teach error.

Please do help me with a convincing answer.
[/quote]

It would be a long post and the hour is getting late, however, I believe you will find the answer you seek in Patrick Madrid’s book, Pope Fiction. The following quote is the final line in a ten page response that Pope Sixtus V issued a botched revision of the Latin Vulgate Bible. “What we do know, is that the mighty Pope Sixtus V didn’t live long enough to cross that line.” The bull announcing it was never issued.

[quote=banjo]It would be a long post and the hour is getting late, however, I believe you will find the answer you seek in Patrick Madrid’s book, Pope Fiction. The following quote is the final line in a ten page response that Pope Sixtus V issued a botched revision of the Latin Vulgate Bible. “What we do know, is that the mighty Pope Sixtus V didn’t live long enough to cross that line.” The bull announcing it was never issued.
[/quote]

I will appreciate if you would give me, when you get time, a summary of your findings from Pope Fiction. Does the quote… “What we do know, is that the mighty Pope Sixtus V didn’t live long enough to cross that line”, suggest that the book is leaning more towards the first line of defense that I referenced in my post? Does the book credibly explain the notion that Pope Sixtus V, who until his sudden death was so determined to release his version of the Vulgate, capitulated and did indeed authorize a comprehensive revision of his version?

From what I read, it is Jesuit Bellarmine who asserted to Pope Clement VIII that Pope Sixtus V had himself determined to recall his edition on account of printer’s errors. However, it looks illogical that Bellarmine was privy to this information at Sixtus’s death bed. I read that Bellarmine had already fallen out of favor with Sixtus V in revising the Vulgate, and that he was not associated with it in its later stages. Pope Clement VIII was not the immediate successor of Sixtus V, and it is unlikely that Clement VIII was privy to this information either. Given the circumstances of the sudden death of Sixtus V and his known preoccupation with his version of the Vulgate, I haven’t come across any credible source who would have received the mandate from Sixtus V to modify his own work.

And, what I read is that the corrections made to the Sixtine Vulgate were more far-reaching than mere printer’s errors.

Now, was the Sixtine Vulgate 1590 actually promulgated? Was the Bull Aeternus Ille officially issued? If these two had not become official documents of the Church, is there any merit at all in critics’ argument that Pope Sixtus V taught error? I do not know. But, the circumstances surrounding the ‘correction’ of the Vulgate in 1592 and naming it again as Sixtine edition before it was eventually named Sixtine-Clementine edition, give some credence to the notion that Church does give some wieght to the validity of these documents.

Please see, in this regard, an excerpt from Bellarmine’s autobiography, on his advice to Pope Clement VIII regarding ‘correcting’ Sixtine Vulgate 1590. (I admit, I do not know if this excerpt is authentic. If somebody knows better, I will appreciate more light into this).

Some men, whose opinions had great weight, held that it should be publicly prohibited. I did not think so, and I showed the Holy Father that, instead of forbidding the edition of the Bible in question, it would be better to correct it in such manner that it could be published without detriment to the honour of Pope Sixtus. This result could be achieved by removing inadvisable changes as quickly as possible, and then issuing the volume with Sixtus’ name upon it, and a preface stating that owing to haste some errors had crept into the first edition through the fault of printers and other persons.”

To summarize, If Sixtine Vulgate 1590 and Bull Aeternus Ille are not official, the issue at hand is actually a non-issue. Office of the Church is not involved… Period. Though not officially promulgated, if these documents (papal teachings) were indeed considered valid by the Church, I will appreciate a credible argument that these teachings were not in error, or not reversed by the Church later. If, on the other hand, Church’s stand was that any revision or modification of Sixtine Vulgate 1590 did receive a mandate from Sixtus V, the the argument put forth for such mandate, lacks in credibility.

Matthew George,

Having read the text I can give a more complete response. During the pontificate of Pope Sixtus V there were in circulation many editions of the Latin Vulgate some of which were unsuitable. Pope Sixtus V felt an urgent need to revise the text as did three of his predecessors (Popes Pius IV, Pius V and Gregory XIII) who were unable to get that task accomplished.

He established a commission consisting of Cardinals Allen, Bellarmine, and Caraffa, to revise the Vulgate, an enormous task. The short of it is Pope Sixtus V rejected their work and decided to carry out the revision himself. To quote Patrick Madrid, “His abilities to translate, edit, and supervise such a gigantic project of textual analysis and revision were no where near up to the level to do the job well. So the result was no surprise to anyone; eighteen months later, in early 1590, Pope Sixtus V unveiled the revision to his cardinals. It was filled with errors. Mistranslated passages, omitted passages, passages added that didn’t belong—many such flaws riddled the ‘revised’ version.” The pope had even drafted a bull to introduce his revised text to the Christian world.

Seeing the calamity Cardinal Robert Bellermine and others acted and their pressure caused the Pope to delay. Sixtus V abandoned his original plan to publish the bull, which had long been printed, and he set about correcting typographical errors. Sixtus had planned to release this corrected version along with the Papal Bull proclaiming it. **Unofficial **advanced copies had even been sent to the Cardinals of Rome along with copies of the bull by which Sixtus intended to make his Sixtine text official.

It never happened! A vigorous, healthy, active Pope Sixtux V died on August 27, 1590 after a very brief illness.** The solemn promulgation of Pope Sixtus V’s Vulgate never took place.** To quote Madrid again, “It seems the Holy Spirit fulfilled, once again, Christ’s promise that He would guide the Church into all truth. Advance copies of the version were quietly withdrawn by the cardinals. The bull announcing it was never issued. At the request of the new pope, Gregory XIX, under Cardinal Bellarmine’s supervision, a new commission was formed to carry out the revision of the revision. Before Pope Gregory could release it, he died, and his successor, Pope Clement VIII had that honor. The version released by Clement bore the name of Pope Sixtus V. The new pope, Cardinal Bellarmine and others, who were directly involved in the project, wanted, out of charity, to preserve the good name of Pope Sixtus V and decided that the corrected version would be issued in his honor.”

It should be noted that Pope Sixtus V did accomplish a great many good things during his pontificate.
I hope this helps.

[quote=banjo]It should be noted that Pope Sixtus V did accomplish a great many good things during his pontificate.
I hope this helps.
[/quote]

banjo

Please don’t mistake me. The issue is not the greatness of Pope Sixtus V. I am merely seeking to get to the bottom of this Vulgate revison issue, that’s all.

Your reply does help, though partially. The style of Patrick Madrid’s writing is more generous, but what it carries is essentially the same as in other sources.

The proposition that Sixtus V had actually authorized his successors to revise his own text, just doesn’t hold water. I was reading Catholic Encyclopedia - Bellarmine, on this. CE, understandably, is quite modest about making any adverse judgment. To me it seems, at best, a gracious effort by Bellarmine to bail out Sixtus V. But, that’s no big deal… I can live with it…

So, I guess I will be comfortable with the following conclusion.

Pope Sixtus V died and, therefore, didn’t get to release his botched version of the Bible or his Bull Aeternus Ille. So, the criticism that he erred in his official teaching capacity, has no merit at all.

The revision of Sixtine Vulagte 1590 undertaken by subsequent Popes, and notably Pope Clement VIII and Cardinal Bellarmine, didn’t involve any reversal of Church’s official teachings. Sixtine Vulgate 1590 and the Bull were only a work-in-progress and didn’t become official till they were modified and published in 1592.

Though the 1592 edition does state that the corrections were as determined by Pope Sixtus V himself, it was more likely an insertion by Bellarmine out of his generous desire to save Pope Sixtus V from embarrassment. In any case, the note itself or naming the new version also as Sixtine edition was not out of necessity to stay within the bounds of Bull Aeternus Ille. In other words, it was not done to give the impression of conformity with the alleged ‘official’ staus of Sixtine Vulgate 1590 or the Bull. These documents do not have the official status of the Church.

Hi, the book archive.org/details/ageneralandcriti00breeuoft , pp. 554ff, tackles nicely the problem of conflicting authoritative versions of Vulgate under Sixtus V and Clement VIII.

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