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Between God & Man. Six Sermons on the Priestly Office.

Between God & Man. Six Sermons on the Priestly Office. By Pope Innocent III. With an introduction by Corinne J. Vause. Translated by Frank C. Gardiner. (Washington, D.C.: Catholic University Press of America, 2004. Pp. xxx, 131. $19.50.)

Corinne Vause and the late Frank C. Gardiner provide with this compact and lucid translation and succinct commentary a valuable introduction to the ministry of the extraordinary Pope Innocent III. James M. Powell's foreword on the role of preaching iv. the ancient and medieval church leads to the translators' very informative historical and theological review of the medieval church (xiii-xxx). This is complemented by a discussion of technicalities having to do with the text of the sermons as found in Migne's Patrologia Latina. This technical and scholarly commentary is the prelude to the "Six Sermons," plus a medieval "'Prologue Letter to Arnald," which allows Vause and Gardiner to enrich one's understanding of Innocent as sermonizer (1-6).

The translators provide a solid scholarly supplement to the sermons with their endnotes, bibliography, very useful index of modern authors, and scriptural index. The editor of the series, Thomas F. X. Noble, and Catholic University of America Press are to be congratulated for the format of a compact yet rich compendium on the role of preaching as displayed by a preeminent medieval preacher whose effort was "the first instruction on preaching known to have been written by a pope since the Pastoral Care of Gregory the Great six centuries before" (1). Within the compass of this review, only the major themes of these sermons can be briefly described.

Sermons one and seven, "In the Council of Priests" and "In Synod," reflect a tradition of two such synods being held annually since antiquity "for admonishing the clergy." Sermon two considers "On the Consecration of the Supreme Pontiff," in which Innocent "placed himself in the age-old tradition 'servus servorum Dei' or the Pope as the servant of the servants of God" (16). "On the First Anniversary" (sermon three) demonstrates how Innocent dealt with a pressing problem, "the transferal of bishops from one diocese to another" (28). The controversy generated by the issue was not settled until late in the fourteenth century. But Innocent as canon lawyer is clearly displayed in this sermon.

Sermon four, "On the Consecration of Pontiffs," allows the translators to provide enlightening comments on the significance of Innocent's use of the phrase "to be salt of the earth" in a very useful endnote (41, 104). The Fourth Lateran Council as the climax of Innocent's pontificate and sermon six are aptly described by the translators as a "magnificent keynote discourse" for an extraordinary papal career (51).

In their epilogue, Vause and Gardiner appropriately note that Dante Alighieri, a condemner of popes, "allowed Innocent's name a place in his Paradiso" (78).

Harry Rosenberg

Colorado State University

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Author:Rosenberg, Harry
Publication:The Historian
Article Type:Book review
Date:Jun 22, 2006
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