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A History of the Reformation (Vol. 2 of 2)

The Vulgate was proclaimed the only authentic Word of God


proclaimed that the Vulgate version contained the authoritative text of Holy Scripture. This was also new, and, moreover, in violent opposition to the best usages of the mediaeval Church. It cast aside as worse than useless the whole scholarship of the Renaissance both within and outside of the mediaeval Church, and, on pretence of consecrating a text of Holy Scripture, reduced it to the state of a mummy, lifeless and unfruitful.[704]

It asserted that every faithful believer must accept the sense of Scripture which the Church teaches, that no one was to oppose the unanimous consensus of the Fathers--and this without defining what the Church is, or who are the Fathers.[705] The whole trend of this decision was to place the authoritative exposition of the Scriptures in the hands of the Pope, although at the time the Council lacked the courage to say so.

It must not be supposed that these decisions were reached without a good deal of discussion. Some members of the Council would have preferred the Hebrew Canon. Nacchianti, Bishop of Chioggia, protested against placing traditions on the same level as Holy Scripture;[706] some wished to distinguish between apostolical traditions and others; but the final decision of the Council was carried by a large majority. The most serious conflict of opinion, however, arose about the clause which declared that the Vulgate version was the only authoritative one. It was held that

such a decision entailed the prohibition of using translations of the Scripture in the mother tongue. The Spanish Bishops, in spite of the fact that translations of the Scriptures into Spanish had once been commonly used and their use encouraged, would have had all Bible reading in the mother tongue prohibited. The Germans protested. The debate waxed hot. Madruzzo, of Trent, eloquently declared that to prohibit the translation of the Scriptures into German would be a public scandal. Were children not to be taught the Lord's Prayer in a language they could understand? A Bull of Pope Paul II. was cited against him. He replied that Popes had erred and were liable to err; but that the Apostle Paul had not erred, and that he had commanded the Scriptures to be read by every one, and that this could not be done unless they were translated. A compromise was suggested, that each country should decide for itself whether it would have translations of the Scriptures or not. In the end, however, the Vulgate was proclaimed the only authentic Word of God.

In the fifth session (June 17th, 1546) and in the sixth session (Jan. 13th, 1547) the Council attacked the subjects of Original Sin and Justification. The Reformation had challenged the Roman Church to say whether it had any _spiritual_ religion at all, or was simply an institution claiming to possess a secret science of salvation through ceremonies which required little or no spiritual life on the part of priests or recipients. The challenge had to be met not merely on account of the Protestants, but because devout Romanists had declared that it must be done. The answer was given in the two doctrines of Original Sin and Justification, as defined at the Council of Trent. They both deserve a much more detailed examination than space permits.

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