Word “fit” found in French original of “Six ans se sont”

Word “fit” found in French original of “Six ans se sont”

© Copyright 2010, T. Stanfill Benns (This text may be downloaded or printed out for private reading, but it may not be uploaded to another Internet site or published, electronically or otherwise, without express written permission from the author.)

False information is being circulated concerning the accuracy of the interpretation of one of the most crucial sentences in Pope Pius XII’s infallible document “Six ans se sont,” written in 1957. The contention is that this particular sentence in the document, initially published in the French language, was “mistranslated” into English and that this faulty translation was then seized upon by this author to prove that fitness for the priesthood is necessary for a layman to be able to accept election to the papacy. (Why is that word “fitness” so offensive to certain people?) Oddly enough, no objection is made to the “mistranslation” of any other part of this document.

The actual French wording of the sentence in question now has been discovered, exactly as it was first stated in an e-mail sent by the initial contentious objector himself; an e-mail which a friend later forwarded to me. The date on this e-mail is June 11, 2007, a mere six months after the initial controversy over the fitness issue first began. The objector was requesting a translation at that time, but obviously was unhappy with the answer. (Later the objector wrested a vague and watered down translation, one that excludes the dreaded word “fit,” from a non-Catholic sect minister and then posted it as the “true” translation.) And yet the proper translation did not require the assistance of a “translator” (most certainly not a non-Catholic one), but only the knowledge of Latin root words (a Catholic grade school skill) and the presence of mind to consult a French-to-English dictionary. As can be clearly seen below, the word “fit” is as obvious in the French original as it is in the English translation!

Here is the original French as sent by the objector two and a half years ago:

Si un laïc était élu pape, il ne pourrait accepter l’élection qu’à condition d’être apte à recevoir l’ordination et disposé à se faire ordonner; le pouvoir d’enseigner et de gouverner, ainsi que le charisme de l’infaillibilité, lui seraient accordés dès l’instant de son acceptation, même avant son ordination.”

(And here is the English translation sent back to the objector: “If a lay person was to be elected pope, he would only be able to accept the election on condition of being fit to receive ordination, and willing to be ordained; the power to teach and to govern, as well as the charism of infallibility would be his from the moment of his acceptance, even before his ordination.”)

The following is taken from a French-English dictionary found at http://en.bab.la/dictionary/english-french/fit+for+duty.html

to be fit for (vb) = être apte à (vb)

Notice the exact correspondence to the words in French found in “Six ans se sont!” This is only one of many instances which can be researched to prove this exact usage. What the objector has tried to do is argue that the (English) word apt (apte in French) or its Latin derivatives apto, aptus, apere (Cassell’s Latin Dictionary; Walter Skeat’s “Concise Etymological Dictionary of the English Language, 1882, 1958) can be reduced to its least rigorous application in the secular arena, without any consideration of its meaning or use in Canon Law. As proven in “Death Blow to Lay ‘Popes’ Lay ‘Elections,’ the word fit and fitness has a definite meaning and application throughout the Code, but especially in Can. 973. That meaning is identical to the meaning given for the word “apt” in Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary and for apto, aptus apere in Cassells’ and Skeats’ works: fitly, appropriately (apte); suitable, appropriate, fitting (aptus).

For idoneus we find the same: “appropriate, fit to do something, capable, qualified, suitable.” So Pope Pius XII selected an exact synonym of idoneus to accurately express himself in the French language. Yet what is capable, qualified and suitable in Canon Law is scarcely the same thing as what the general population at large would define as capable, qualified and suitable. Nor can it ever be thought that Pope Pius XII intended to infer any but the canonical sense of this word in “Six ans se sont.” The priesthood has always been governed by Canon Law and is stated in the Code itself to be governed solely by that law. It has never been a matter open to secular interpretation of any kind. So any claim that apte and idoneus differ in meaning within the Latin language or Canon Law itself, or any attempt to secularize the meaning of “fit” in order to avoid the precise application of the Church’s own interpretations of this word to a particular case, must be rejected.

Etymologically speaking, there are some interesting inferences in the Latin words aptus and apere that afford greater insight into the more specific application of apte as used by Pius XII in “Six ans se sont.” Under aptus is listed “to make fit or appropriate,” which implies that more than just a secular idea of readiness and willingness is involved. Also a transferred usage “depending upon” is suggested, which means that in its actual application, this word can also imply that fitness is dependent upon something else (the qualifications and absence of impediments necessary for ordination, in this case). But probably the most interesting reference is the use of aptus (apere) in the sense of fitting or joining something together. This gives the impression that unless a layman elected pope can be proven to conform to the laws laid down for the qualification of priestly candidates, he is not able to accept election.

This same disingenuous objector also falsely claims that no document can be determined as infallible unless it bears the marks of infallibility listed by the Vatican Council. There is much misunderstanding concerning the Church’s true teaching on this matter, but fortunately a wealth of explanatory material, authored by a much respected 20th century theologian, dispels all doubt on this and related issues. It is by far in the best interests of the truth to accept the determination only of such duly approved theologians than to credit in any way the unsubstantiated statements of those who have no formal standing or training. This material will be posted within the next few weeks.


The author assumes that readers are able to determine for themselves what the Church teaches regarding whether one is worthy or not for ordination, according to the proper papal documents and decisions of the Holy See provided on this site. Under the heading on this board, “The Church,” please see the article on qualifications for the priesthood. This article lists mandates laid down by the Sacred Congregation of the Sacraments on two different occasions. These mandates are based on AAS 23-120 and AAS 24-74 (for religious), as found in Canon Law Digest #1 under Can. 973 (see footnote, Canon Law Digest #4, also under Can. 973). This binding decree of the ordinary magisterium (AAS 23-120) begins: “How great is the harm done to the Church and to the salvation of souls by those who, without having a vocation from God, presume to undertake the priestly ministry… Those who have been placed by the Holy Ghost to rule the Church of God must, in order to guard the Church and the faithful from many great wrongs, use the greatest care that access to so great an office be denied those to whom, for want of a priestly vocation, the words of Our Lord are applicable: ‘Amen, amen I say to you, he who entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up another way, the same is a thief and a robber.’ (Jn. 10:1).”

The instruction then goes on to list, in great detail, the exhaustive testing requirements necessary to assure the proper fitness that must exist to be eligible for promotion to orders. At the end of this instruction and included in its text can be found the necessary declaration to be signed by the candidate and confirmed by oath before the ordinary. Does the bishop take the word of the candidate concerning his fitness at face value? Hardly. Attached to this form is the separate testimony of pastors and honorable persons concerning the worthiness of the candidate. A complete list of the questions to be asked of pastors and qualified faithful is included with the form. Some of these questions include: “Does the cleric fulfill his ministry with care and piety in sacred functions? …Does he give any occasion for censure in his morals, or in regard to the teachings and precepts of the Church? …Does he show a great inclination to the comforts of life, to drinking wine or liquor, and to worldly pleasures? …What is the public opinion regarding his vocation? …Is there any strain of weakness in the family, especially as regards soundness of mind or good morals, which might be hereditary? A separate PDF of both these instructions in their entirety are posted in the Church section.

It must be remembered that the above documents are binding, according to Pope Pius XII’s “Humani Generis.” They must be held with a firm assent, at the very least, until an unquestionably canonically elected pope can re-examine the matter. Under “Vacantis Apostolica Sedis,” also duly listed in the Acta Apostolica Sedis, they may not be changed or dispensed from in any way. I will repeat with added emphasis: It is by far in the best interests of the truth to accept the determination only of duly approved theologians than to credit in any way the unsubstantiated statements of those who have no formal standing or training. On THIS site, we present the theological proofs necessary for readers to determine the truth; we do not make statements based on our own authority, only the authority of those approved during the reign of Pope Pius XII and his predecessors. These proofs speak for themselves. It does not even conform to common sense, nor is it in any way logical i.e., Catholic, to pretend that a few pages of hearsay and self-reporting can in any way compare to hundreds of pages of documentation from approved sources, extant during the reign of Pius XII (or shortly thereafter, in a few isolated cases).

Those reading the above should consider the fact that potential candidates for ordination or re-ordination, wishing to receive good reports from their pastors and “honorable people,” might feel it necessary to impugn the honor and credibility of those they know would not — and in all good conscience could not — render a good report on their behalf. It might be possible to make such a claim believable were it only a question of one or two individuals. But where it is seen that many agree that such a candidate is not priestly material, and all on different points, and for different reasons, then there is strength in numbers. The questionnaire above does not consider the opinion of a few, but the common or public opinion, in deciding fitness for ordination. And of course this would be possible to obtain only among those who knew the candidate sufficiently, over a reasonable period of time.

Under “Elections,” the Catholic Encyclopedia states that an ecclesiastical election may be disputed, hence become doubtful “by whoever is interested in it,” (see http://www.newadvent.com.) The article lists the following reasons why an ecclesiastical election can be called into question: unless there has been a frank and fair discussion of the merits of the candidate(s), “Some maintain that an election without such a discussion is null or could be annulled;” if the one elected is unfit or unworthy, the election of an unworthy person is to be annulled. Of course it has been proven beyond any doubt that manifest heresy and/or schism existed prior to all the conclavist activities in question as well as all those illicitly made bishops. Heresy and schism automatically annul the acquisition even of an office appearing to be validly obtained, according to Pope Paul IV’s “Cum ex Apostolatus Offcio.” And these censures bring with them infamy of law, which can be dispensed from only by an unquestionably canonically elected pope. Heresy and infamy of law, then, are the primary disqualifiers for any “traditional” candidates for the priesthood, although a host of other disqualifying factors, as enumerated by the Church in her official documents, are present in nearly every known case.

One cannot and does not change the Latin roots of a word, or the meaning of such a word, trading thereby in ambiguity. It is impossible to dismiss the prodigious amount of material documenting the necessity of positive proofs for priestly fitness, binding on the candidate, without also denying the faith. This is precisely what Roncalli and all the other false popes who followed him did; it was the unmistakable trademark of those Judases in all their many guises who sold out the Church. The pattern is clear to all those who bother to puzzle it out. Laymen must be proven fit for the priesthood or they may not even accept a valid election, something none of these false popes can boast. And they are to be proven fit before there is any question of “judging a [certainly canonically elected] pope,” for divine jurisdiction is not attained, the papacy is not obtained until acceptance of legitimate election, (Can. 109, 219). The continual magisterium has declared it and the common opinion of those at least Catholic in desire confirms it.

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