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Henry Who?

Camille Pissarro. Rye Fields at Pontoise. Côte des Mathurins.
(Camille Pissarro. Rye Fields at Pontoise. Côte des Mathurins. [Source])

Some people have asked me who was this "Denzinger" guy I regularly quote on this web site. He is Heinrich Denzinger, S.J. (1819-1883). Here is a "Walt Disney" version of his life:

Henry Denzinger was a man with a magic pot of glue, a pair of scissors and lots of spare time. One day, after rescuing the little mermaid and the lion king, he decided to streamline the consultation of the official documents of the Catholic Church concerning dogma and morals.

Undeterred by all the dangers, he cut out with his scissors the most important quotes from nearly two thousands years of paperwork, and glued them in chronological order in a big book (with his magic pot of glue), and numbered these quotes. He lived happily until he died.

The official title of this book is "Symbols and definitions of the Catholic Faith" (Enchiridion symbolorum, definitionum et declarationum de rebus fidei et morum). It is popularly known as the "Denzinger" or "Denzinger-Schönmetzer" or "DS". The purpose of this book is to present an overview of the teachings of the Catholic Church, by quoting "symbols" (short summaries of the faith), and important excerpts from ecumenical councils and Popes, concerning what we must believe to be Catholics (dogma) and what we must do to go to Heaven (morals). In other words, it's just a reference tool, a kind of big index helping us sort out the official documents of the Church. In itself, the Denzinger has no authority in the Church (it is absolutely not Holy Scripture!), but the documents it quotes have themselves authority.

As far as I know, the Denzinger is not available on the Internet, at least not the recent versions, but you should be able to find it in any decent university library. The French version costs about 200$. I absolutely don't recommend to people to go out and buy a Denzinger! The freely available books on the Internet (Bible, Catechism of the Catholic Church, Encyclicals and Apostolic Letters of the Pope etc.) are vastly sufficient.

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