Conciliar Conversations

JHI Blog

By Madeline McMahon

Screen Shot 2016-05-25 at 4.52.49 PMCanones & Decreta sacrosancti…Concilij Tridentini (1564)

Canons and decrees are like the conference proceedings of church councils—polished, authoritative, and reflective of conversations, formal and informal, that nevertheless are often elided in the process of editing. As a meeting place for theologians, historians, and ecclesiastical authorities, the church council is an obvious site for intellectual history. Yet it can be tricky to chart that history, to disentangle the individual voices that contributed to the definitive, disembodied statements uttered by “the holy council” (mandat sancta synodus). After the Council of Trent ended in 1563, for instance, its decrees were published across the Catholic world. Revisions of liturgical texts—the missal and the breviary—soon followed in accordance with those decrees. So did a new catechism, a revised Vulgate, and the Index of prohibited books. These publications took on lives of their own as they were further revised, and, in…

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