Saturday, March 30, 2013

Postscript to "Was Reading Or Owning The Vulgate Ever Forbidden To Anyone By The Catholic Church?"

I was wrong: the 14th canon of the Council of Toulouse in 1229 did in fact prohibit laypersons from owning the Bible, including the Vulgate version -- with the exception of psalters, and breviaries and the Hours of the Blessed Mary, which contain passages from the Bible. But translations of any of those works were most strictly prohibited. "Prohibimus etiam, ne libros veteris testamenti, aut novi, lieci permittantur habere: nisi forte psalterium, vel breviarum pro divinis officiis, aut horas beatae Mariae, aliquis ex devotione habere velit. Sed ne praemissos libros habeant in vulgari translatos, arctissime inhibimus." That's the 14th canon as recorded in this collection of proceedings of Church councils.

The proceedings of the Council of Tarragona of 1242 are in that same volume. I haven't found the part about no one being allowed to possess any part of the Old or New Testament, and if they do they must turn them over to their local bishop in order that they might be burned, but I'll keep looking.

Now, back to Toulouse in 1229: yes, I was wrong. Restrictions were put upon owning some parts of the Bible, even, apparently, in the Vulgate version, although special emphasis was laid upon the prohibition of translations of it. And I don't mean to minimize the awfulness of this prohibition in any way. Still, I find it very strange that so many people -- or at least, so many websites. I shouldn't be overly hasty to draw parallels between Google hits and the population at large -- vehemently condemn this prohibition against owning Bibles, without even mentioning the context in which it occurred, which was a genocide of the Languedoc people by the armies of the Pope and the King of France and the Inquisition, in which the stamping out of heresy meshed very nicely with the King's desire to bring under his direct control a region which had been semi-autonomous until then. Some people might think that the phrase "Kill 'em all, God'll sort 'em out" originated with crusty US Marines in Vietnam; more likely, it was the reply of a French general to one of his subordinate officers during the Albigensian crusade, when the general gave an order to march into a town and kill all of the Albigensians in it, and the officer asked how they were supposed to tell the Albigensians apart from the good Catholics.

Tarragona is a drive of a little over 4 hours from Toulouse today, according to Google Maps. Maybe both councils were primarily concerned with Albigensians. The section on Tarragona in that collection of proceedings of councils isn't nearly as clearly laid-out as the section on Toulouse, and, I won't lie to you, my Latin isn't great. But I'll keep at this. I have a feeling that a re-read of the chapter on the Cathars (the Albigensians) in my main man Steven Runciman's book The Medieval Manichee: A Study of the Christian Dualist Heresymay help point me in the right direction in trying to find out just what books were banned to whom by whom when and for how long and so forth. and even if it doesn't help at all, Runciman's books are made from pure awesome and it never hurts to re-read one of them. The question: What made me interested in the Middle Ages? can be answered in one word: Runciman.

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