The Council of Trent
The canons and decrees of the sacred
and oecumenical Council of Trent
Ed. and trans. J. Waterworth (London: Dolman, 1848)

Hanover Historical Texts Project
Scanned by Hanover College students in 1995.

Notes and J. Waterworth's Preface


The Rev. J. Waterworth's translation of the Canons and Decrees of the Council of Trent was first published in 1848. The most recent translation was done by the Rev. H.J. Schroeder. It was published together with the Latin text in 1941. (Canons and Decrees of the Council of Trent. trans. H. J. Schroeder. St. Louis: Herder, 1941). It is under copyright. A paperback edition of Schroeder's translation (English text only) is currently in print.

The page numbers of the 1848 edition of Waterworth's translation have been placed in brackets within the text. Waterworth's use of italic fonts and his citations (mostly references to Scripture) have not been reproduced, except for in the preface below. His historical essays and appendices have likewise been omitted. Waterworth's preface is reproduced in full below.

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J. Waterworth's Preface

The canons and decrees of the sacred
and oecumenical Council of Trent
Ed. and trans. J. Waterworth (London: Dolman, 1848), v-viii.

[Page v] Many years have elapsed since the Editor of this work formed the design of publishing a translation of the General Councils. The advantage, or necessity, of studying the Councils, as one of the chief records of the faith, morals, and discipline of the Church; as the main basis and exponents of canon law; as containing much of the history of the Church and of heresy; and finall, as forming part of that deposit of doctrine and practice, which so many are called upon to receive in the Profession of Faith of Pius IV.; furnished motive enough to regard the undertaking as one of importance and general utility. And it was also thought, that a work of this class would be acceptable and advantageous, not only to the ecclesiastical student, but also to all who may wish to make themselves acquainted with the real docctrines of the Catholic Church, as stated and defined, not by individuals, but by her assembled prelates, secured from error, in matters of faith, by the promised assistance of the Holy Spirit, when thus representing in Council the entire Church of God.

The Council of Trent has been first prepared for press, because that Council is of more immediate use for the present times; as the errors of the Innovators of the sixteenth century are there condemned, and the Catholic doctrine is there also [Page vi] stated, on the chief points which still unfortunately separate so many from our communion; and also because the decrees of discipline and reformation, published by that Council, embody the leading principles of Canon Law, by which the government and polity of the Church are, in a great measure, now regulated.

This latter consideration weighed much with the Editor, in inducing him to proceed at once with this last of the General Councils. The times were said to be ripe for a restoration, in this country, of the ordinary discipline of the Church, as regards bishops and clergy; or, at all events, it appeared to many, that the day could not be far distant, when such a consummation must be looked for; and when, therefore, it would become, or was becoming, necessary, to enable all, readily and easily, to study the true duties and rights which they would, perhaps soon, be called upon to exercise.

It only remains to notice such details, in the execution of the work, as may be thought likely to interest the reader.

1. The edition of the Council used, is Le Plat's copy [a] of the authentic edition, published at Rome in 1564.

2. Neither time, nor labour, has been spared to render the translation as faithful a transcript as possible of the original; the most minute accuracy being essential to the value of a work of this character. Hence, the translation will be found to be a literal, and, as far as was attainable, a verbatim representation of the words of the Council; and where those words seemed, either susceptible of a somewhat different rendering, or to convey some slight shade of meaning not capable of being reproduced in our language, they have been uniformly placed in the margin.

3. Many notes, and especially numerous references to previous Councils, had been prepared, to elucidate the meaning of the Council; but after much reflection, they have been, almost entirely, suppressed; for fear of infringing on a wise and extensive prohibition, issued in the Bull of Confirmation, against glosses, and other such attempts at illustrating the decrees of the Council. Such, then, is the general character, or what it has been the Editor's endeavour to render the character, of this first translation [b] of the Council of Trent into the English language; but should any passage, or word, be discovered, or be thought, to be less accurately translated, than might be wished, the translator will feel grateful to have the place pointed out to him, that he may give the suggested emendation a candid consideration, and adopt it if advisable.

4. To the canons and decrees are prefixed two historical essays. The first of those pieces treats of the causes and events which immediately preceded and occasioned the convocation of the Council; whilst the second essay is a connected narrative of the proceedings of the assembled prelates and theologians, preparatory to each Session. The one gives the history of the times; the other of the Council; and the second especially will, it is believed, be found useful in elucidating many phrases and canons, and in fixing the meaning of passages and decrees which might labour under some obscurity, if considered only as they stand in the text. In fact, without an intimate acquaintance with the debates in the congregations, which prepared for and preceded the public Sessions, it would be difficult, or impossible, to form a just and an accurate judgment on the form of words [Page viii] used in several of the most important decrees, especially of discipline and reformation.

5. In compiling both the external and internal history of the Council of Trent, continued use has been made of the noble work of Pallavicino; [c] and as nearly all the leading facts and statements are derived from that authentic record, it has not been thought necessary to load the margin with references; almost every important circumstance, narrated in the essays, being capable of being confirmed by reference to that work.


NEWARK, May 22nd, 1848.


[a] Antwerpie, 1779. This edition is very valuable, on account of its vast mass of various readings; and the catalogues of the Fathers present at the Sessions. Two of those lists will be found in an Appendix at the close of this volume.

[b] An anonymous translation appeared in 1687; but it is so unfaithful and even ludicrously absurd, that it might be regarded rather as a burlesque, than a translation, of the decrees.

[c]Istoria del Concillio di Trento, Roma, 1657.

The Council of Trent
Hanover Historical Texts Project
Hanover College Department of History