Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Question from KG - "Assertion septem sacramentorum" translator

I am studying Henry VIII's book, "Assertion septem sacramentorum". It was translated by an American named Rev. Louis ODonovan. Does anyone know if he is considered a non-biased translator? I'm guessing from his title (Rev.) that he is Protestant?


PhD Historian said...

The Reverend Louis O'Donovan was a Roman Catholic priest in the Archdiocese of Baltimore, Maryland. He was a Licentiate of Sacred Theology, the equivalent of a Master's Degree, and seems to have served primarily as a secondary school educator. If there is any bias in O'Donovan's translation, it would be a pro-Catholic one.

(N.B.: The title "Reverend" is certainly not restricted to Protestant clerics! All RC priests are also titled "Reverend," as in Reverend Father O'Donovan. Japanese Buddhist priests are also titled "Reverend," and Judaism uses the title in certain limited circumstances.)

A review of O'Donovan's translation appeared in The Catholic Fortnightly Review (Volume 15, Issue 22, 15 Nov 1908, page 700) in which it was stated, "The introduction contains a lot of extraneous matter and does not satisfy the demands of a critical student." Maybe he was a good at translation, since his version seems to have remained a popular one even today, but rubbish at contextualizing the material in its proper historical and theological framework?

KG said...

Thank very much, PhD Historian.

Bill said...

You may find and download at leaast two different pdf (Adobe Acrobat)copies of Father Louis O'Donovan's translation of the "Assertio septem sacramentorum; or, Defence of the seven sacraments" at www.archive.org. Merely search for Assertio septem sacramentorum at archive.org. This edition is useful particularly because it has both Latin Original and English translation, both of which appear to be accurate. However the Preface by Cardinal James Gibbons and the 125 page foreword by Fr. O'Donovan discuss at some length how very orthodox Roman Catholic the book was (and remains), while Fr. O'Donovan goes into a lengthy discussion of the history of the times, including whether the title "Defensor Fidei" was ever intended by the Pope to be hereditary. Of course, Parliaament granted that title to subsequent sovreigns, who have assumed it to this day. Beyond that, I have heard that Assertio septem sacramentorum was originally ghost-written by Sir Thomas More, which seems plausible to me; Henry was well educated for his time, but More was a better Latinist, and a much better theologian.