Jacques Maritain Center : Aristotle and the Christian Church


We here give the full text of the important letter of Gregory IX., appointing a commission to examine and expurge the prohibited books of Aristotle. That the W in the letter stands for William of Auxerre, is confirmed beyond a shadow of doubt by the other letters of Gregory to the King and Queen of France, quoted by Du Boulay (Historia Universitatis Parisiensis, tom. iii. p. 145), in which the name -- Willielmum Antissiodorensem -- is given in full. It will be noticed that Gregory makes use of a Scriptural allusion which is a favourite one with both Jerome and Origen when impressing the necessity of studying secular letters. The original document is in the Bibliothéque Nationale (Suppl. lat. num., 1575), where it was brought to light by M. La Porte du Theil, and transcribed by M. Hauréau into the Notices et Extraits des Manuscrits, tom. xxi. partie ii. p. 222.

"Gregorius, &c., &c., magistris W. archdiacono Belvacensi, Symoni de Auteis, Ambianensi, et St. de Pruvino, Remensi, canonicis.

"Gregory, &c., &c., to W. Archdeacon of Beauvais, Symon of Authie, Canon of Amiens, and Stephen of Provins, Canon of Rheims.
"Cum sapientiae sacrae paginae reliquae scientiae debeant famulari, eatenus sunt a fidelibus amplectendae quatenus obsequi dinoscuntur beneplacitis dominantis, ut si quid in eis fuerit virulentum, vel aliter vitiosum, quod derogare possit fidei puritati, eminus respuatur: quia inventa in numero captivorum mulier speciosa, non aliter in domum permittitur introduci, nisi rasa superfluitatis caesarie, ac unguibus lacerantibus circumcisis; et, ut spoliatis AEgyptiis ditentur Hebraei, jubentur vasa aurea et argentea pretiosa, non aeruginosa, aenea, vel lignea, mutuari. Ceterum cum, sicut intelleximus, libri Naturalium, qui Parisiis in concilio provinciali fuere prohibiti, quaedam utilia et inutilia continere dicantur, ne utile per inutile vitietur, discretioni vestrae, de qua plenam in Domino fiduciam obtinemus, per apostolica scripta, sub obtestatione divini judicii, firmiter praecipiendo mandamus, quatenus libros ipsos examinantes, sicut convenit, subtiliter et prudenter, quae ibi erronea, seu scandali, vel offendiculi, legentibus inveneritis illataava, penitus resecetis, ut, quae sunt suspecta remotis, incunctanter ac inoffense in reliquis studeatur. "As other sciences ought to minister to the wisdom of Holy Writ, the Faithful should embrace them according as they perceive them giving willing service to the sovereign master; so that should aught of poison or other vicious thing be found in them calculated to diminish the purity of the Faith, the same should be cast far away. Thus the beautiful woman found among the captives was not permitted to he brought into the house till her hair was shaven and her nails were cut. Thus, that the Hebrews might grow rich with the spoils of the Egyptians, they were commanded to borrow their precious vases of gold and silver, leaving aside those of brass, copper, or wood. Having learned, then, that certain books of natural philosophy, which were prohibited by the Provincial Council of Paris, are said to contain things useful and baneful, and lest the baneful should mar the useful, We strongly enjoin upon your discretion, in which We place full confidence, by these Apostolic letters, under invocation of the Divine judgment, to examine those books with as minute care and prudence as behove, and to remove whatever is erroneous, or of scandal, or in the least offensive to the readers, so that after the severe pruning of all suspected passages, what remains, may, without delay and without danger, be restored to study.
"Datum Laterani, ix. Cal. Maii, pontificatus nostri anno quinto." "Given at the Lateran, April 23, and the fifth year of our Pontificate."

<< ======= >>