Translation:Sicut Ecclesiarum praelatis

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Sicut Ecclesiarum praelatis (1199)
by Pope Innocent III, translated from Latin by Wikisource

Sicut Ecclesiarum praelatis was a letter written by Pope Innocent III to the Bishop and the priests of Metz, condemning unauthorized preaching and translations of the Bible. It is a shorter version of Cum ex injuncto, which was issued simultaneously to the Bishop of Metz.

475726Sicut Ecclesiarum praelatis1199Pope Innocent III

To the bishop and chapter of Metz, about the same matter.[1] (Lateran, 4th day before the Ides of July.)

Just as it is incumbent upon prelates of the church to seize young foxes, who try to destroy the Lord's vineyard[2], it is incumbent upon them to listen prudently and diligently: thus they should guard very strongly against collecting the cockle before the harvest, lest perhaps, God forbid, the wheat is also taken up with it.[3] Certainly just as heretical depravity should not be tolerated, so religious simplicity should not be considered a weakness; lest either our patience makes heretics bold, or lest great impatience confuses simple men, so that when we are in disagreement, they are turned into a crooked bow[4], and they are transformed from simple men into heretics. Certainly you have signified to us in your letter, brother bishop, that both in the diocese and city of Metz the multitude of laymen and women, drawn in no small way by desire, have had the Scriptures, Gospels, the Pauline epistles, the Psalter, the commentaries on Job and many other books translated for their own use into the French language, exerting themselves towards this kind of translation so willingly, but not so prudently, that in secret meetings the laymen and women dare to discuss such matters between themselves, and to preach to each other: they also reject their community, do not intermingle with similar people, and consider themselves separate from them, and do not align their ears and minds with them; when any of the parish priests wished to censure them concerning these matters, they stood firm before them, trying to argue from the Scriptures that they should not be prohibited in any way from doing these things. Some of them also scorned the simplicity of their priests; and when the Word of Salvation is shown to them by those priests, they grumble in secret that they understand the Word better in their little books and that they can explain it more prudently.[5]

But because no easy judgement should be offered in doubtful matters, since, brother bishop, you have not explained to us in your letter whether those men err in their faith or dispute the doctrine of salvation, since we are completely ignorant of the life and opinion of those who have translated the Sacred Scriptures in such a way, or those who teach it in such a way after it is translated, neither of which can be done without knowledge of reading, although the arguments against these things appear well-deserved, because those who do not adhere to such arguments celebrate their assemblies in secret, usurp for themselves the duty of preaching, mock the simplicity of the priests and reject their community[6]; at your discretion, we command and order through this apostolic letter that you take care to remind them more diligently, supported by rational arguments and encouragement, that they desist in every way from these things in which they appear notorious in their reprehension, and that they do not claim another's duty for themselves. You should also seek the truth carefully: who was the author of this translation, what was their intention, what is the faith of those using it, what is the cause of teaching it, if they venerate the apostolic see and the Catholic Church; so that, after being instructed by your letter, we would be able to better understand what should be done about these and other things which are necessary for more fully investigating the truth. In our letter[7], which we have generally directed to these matters, we explain to you the way to recall them and convince them, according to Scripture, about those things which have noted are reprehensible.

Issued at the Lateran, 4th day before the Ides of July.[8]


  1. I.e. as in Cum ex injuncto.
  2. Song of Solomon 2:15
  3. Matthew 13:29
  4. Psalm 77:57
  5. Taken from Cum ex injuncto.
  6. Taken from Cum ex injuncto.
  7. I.e. Cum ex injuncto.
  8. July 12, 1199.

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