Tuesday, June 01, 2004

De Theologia

There's an interesting post from the Old Oligarch regarding Theological Manuals.

Second hand book sales at monasteries and convents are great places to pick up old theological manuals, and that's where I remember acquiring my first manual quite a number of years ago. It was a manual of 'Pastoral Theology' and the problems it confronted seem light-years removed from those one might encounter today. It included pages and pages of hypothetical cases regarding what did and did not break the eucharistic fast. It is to the credit of the Catholic faithful of times past that they apparently took the eucharistic fast so seriously (you can be sure that's not the case today!) but when one comes across a discussion as regards whether someone who has swallowed paraffin after midnight might receive Holy Communion it's easy to appreciate the point of view that there was something which tended towards the pathological in some of the manual-based theology. I was also somewhat amused to discover that the sections dealing with the sins of the flesh were written in Latin. To this day I'm unsure whether the intention was to prevent scandal on behalf of a housekeeper who might flick through what 'Father' was reading or to blunt the effect of the passages for the priest himself.

The Oligarch also mentions the excellent 'Denzinger'. His version goes up to the 1950's, but the 38th edition of Denzinger Hunermann (taking one up to a dubium of 1995 on women's ordination) is availible in a 'bilingual' edition - Latin/Greek with facing Italian translation. The original edition has a German tranlsation and there is also a Spanish version. It's a matter of great puzzlement to me that there isn't an English language version. The nearest thing to it is the vastly inferior (though still worthwhile) Neuner and Dupuis 'The Christian Faith'. As well as containing fewer texts, Neuner and Dupuis also neglects to provide the original Greek or Latin texts, essential for anything beyond a superficial use of these texts.

Compared to speakers of Italian (and other European languages) we anglophones have been very poorly served with regards to theological resources of this kind. It wasn't until Norman Tanner's 1990 'Decrees of the Ecumenical Councils' that we've had a bilingual Latin/English version of the Vatican II texts. The two most common English language only editions, those of Flannery and of Abbott are both misleading and unclear in places without the original Latin text. Tanner's 2 volume work is based on Alberigo's critical edition of the conciliar decrees and covers all the Ecumenical Councils (not just Vatican II). This makes it quite expensive and it's quite difficult to get hold of. Nonetheless, despite shortcomings in the translation style of Tanner, the fact that the original texts are there more than makes up for any infelicities in translation, a science which is never exact anyway.

No comments: