The Case of the Missing Pope - Solved!

Pope Donus II and the revised list of Popes (1947)


The Case of the Missing Pope (Donus II) - the revised list of Popes from 1947

Date: 07-23-95 | From: P | To: MICK JAMES | Subj: Battle for Romanism | Conf: Open_Bible

P> Have you ever had a Roman Catholic give you answers to these?

MJ> Attempts have been made. Nothing significant though.

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THE CASE OF THE MISSING POPE -- SOLVED!

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MJ> WHO WAS POPE DONUS II?!!!!!!!!!!!!

MJ> How come in January 18th 1947 a news report from the Vatican stated that Pope Donus II NEVER EXISTED?!!!!!!!!!!!!

How come????? How come????? No need to get so excited!!!!!!!!!! You remind me of our JW friend Mike Nelson???????????!!!!!!!!!

Here's the explanation, tough guy. Here is how come.....

First, there WAS a Pope named Donus. He is in the official list of the Popes. See the NEW CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA (1967) for the official list or a scholarly Protestant work such as THE OXFORD DICTIONARY OF POPES by J.N.D. Kelly (Oxford Univ Press, 1986) which I have in paperback version published in 1988.

From the NEW CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA (1967) volume 4, page 1010 --

DONUS, POPE (reigned from Nov 2, 676 to April 11, 678)

In the controversy over Monothelitism, Theodore, Patriarch of Constantinople, sent him a vague letter that urged unity but did not contain the expected profession of faith. But on Aug 12, 678, Emperor Constantine IV Pogonatus sent a conciliatory letter asking Donus to dispatch representatives to a theological conference preparatory to a possible council. Donus was already dead but this council would mark the end of the schism between Constantinople and Rome. Archbishop Reparatus of Ravenna seems to have submitted to Donus, healing a schism created by his ambitious predecessor, Maurus. In Rome, Donus disbanded a monastery of Syrian Nestorians. He rebuilt and decorated several churches.

[now please notice this last sentence solving the case]

A so-called Donus II (974) resulted from a chronicler's mistranslation of -Dominus papa- as -Donus papa-.

There's the explanation. It was simply a case of a mistranslation from the Latin by an ancient chronicler of a list of Popes. No big deal.

If you could give me more details about what that Vatican "news report" dated 1/18/47 actually stated you would probably answer your own question. I assume you never saw this "news report" but are relying once again on secondary sources. You also misunderstand it. Let me explain further . . . .

MJ> A copy of this article can be found at most public libraries
MJ> since it appeared on the front page of the Philadelphia Inquire
MJ> and the New York Times. The title read "VATICAN DROPS 6 NAMES
MJ> FROM LIST OF POPES." And they have an unbroken line of succession?

The fact is many of the details on the earlier Popes, especially those with very short reigns (a few months or less) are based on (somewhat) obscure historical data. But that has nothing to do with our "unbroken line of succession" since the Church doesn't claim infallibility in our understanding of historical documents -- which would include ancient lists of the Popes from which our modern lists are based. That is a matter of historical scholarship. You are confusing the doctrinal teaching of the Church (which we claim is infallible) with the ability of ancient or modern scholars to give an accurate list of Popes and details on their lives (which we do not claim is infallible).

The same analogy can be made with regard to the Scripture which you believe is infallible and inerrant in what it teaches (so do Catholics). Contrary to what some KJV Onlyites believe, we do NOT have a 100% perfect translation of the Bible nor do we have 100% certainty on the original Hebrew or Greek text (a "succession of texts" if you will) from which our English Bibles are translated.

Does that mean we must throw out our modern Bibles as worthless? Does that mean the Bible is NOT the Word of God? Of course not. Get James White's new book (The King James Only Controversy, 1995) as he discusses that in great detail.

Under the list of Popes from the NEW CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA (1967) in volume 11, the article begins by explaining (p. 574) --

"In 1947 A. Mercati published a completely revised list of the popes in the -Annuario Pontificio- for that year. The present list, taken from -Annuario Pontificio- for 1964, [the list is published yearly and J.N.D. Kelly states he is relying on the 1984 edition of same] reproduces Mercati's list with the minor changes that have been made necessary by subsequent scholarly investigation....Biographical data, family name, and nationality, problems of dates of election and coronation, and all other pertinent questions are covered in the articles on the individual popes. For a critical evaluation of the ancient and early medieval lists of popes, see bibliography, especially Duchesne and Leclercq."

The bibliography at the end of the article lists the following --

A. Mercati "The New List of the Popes" MedSt 9 (1947) 71-80;

H. Leclercq, DACL 13.1:1111-1345;

Duchesne LP. G. B. Ladner, _Die Papstbildnisse des Altertums und des Mittelalters_ 1 (Vatican City 1941);

There were other sources listed. The Mercati research is probably what the Vatican "news report" was talking about since it is dated 1947. If you really want the scholarship behind the "dropping of six popes" I suggest locating the above. But again, that has nothing to do with apostolic-Petrine succession since the above is a matter of historical scholarship not Catholic doctrine.

The fact is we CAN trace our Popes back through history (albeit imperfectly) straight to Peter the Prince of the Apostles and to Jesus' clear statement that He would build His Church on Peter.

St. Irenaeus gives such an early list of successors to Peter as Bishops of Rome in a classic passage (see AGAINST HERESIES 3:3:1-3 c. 180 AD).

St. Augustine in his Letter to Generosus (c. 400 AD) also gives such a list --

If the order of episcopal succession is to be considered, how much more SURELY, TRULY, AND SAFELY do we number them FROM PETER HIMSELF, to whom, as to one representing the whole Church, the Lord said: "Upon this rock I will build My Church, and the gates of hell shall not conquer it" [Matt 16:18].

Peter was succeeded by [Pope] Linus, [Pope] Linus by [Pope] Clement, [Pope] Clement by [Pope] Anacletus, Anacletus by Evaristus, Evaristus by Sixtus... Telesphorus... Hyginus... Anicetus... Pius... Soter... Alexander... Victor... Zephyrinus... Callistus... Urban... Pontianus... Anterus... Fabian... Cornelius... Lucius... Stephen... Sixtus... Dionysius... Felix... Eutychian... Caius ... Marcellus... Eusebius... Melchiades... Sylvester... Mark... [Pope] Julius... [Pope] Liberius...[Pope] Damasus...[Pope] Siricius by [Pope] Anastasius, etc.

The Battle for the Papacy to be continued. . . .


Recommended Sources:

J.N.D. Kelly, The Oxford Dictionary of Popes (Oxford Univ Press, 1986)

Eamon Duffy, Saints and Sinners: A History of the Popes (Yale Univ Press, 2015, fourth edition)

Adrian Fortescue, The Early Papacy: To the Synod of Chalcedon in 451 (Ignatius Press, 2008)

See also Studies on the Early Papacy by Dom John Chapman 

St. Peter, the Rock, the Keys, and the Primacy of Rome in the early Church


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