Bacchiocchi’s thesis – the Gregorian Controversy

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Samuele Bacchiocchi’s book “From Sabbath to Sunday” attempts to discredit the claims of Protestants and Catholics that Sunday observance is an Apostolic institution, and promotes the idea that it was a later Catholic development.

In his latest newsletter, Bacchiocchi mentions that his alma mater, the Gregorian University, has negated several of his claims about his credentials.

See the Gregorian Controversy exposé.

“Over a year ago I received a document issued by the Academic Dean office of the Gregoriana, which negates my academic achievements, such as the reception of the gold medal donated by Pope Paul VI for earning the summa cum laude distinction. I have asked the Dean for an opportunity to show the original documents, including the gold medal, to Bishop Murray of Kalamazoo, whose jurisdiction includes Berrien Springs, where we live. But such meeting has not yet taken place and I doubt that it will ever take place.”Endtime Issues Newsletter No. 146

A striking remark from the exposé: “When you get a doctorate from a college or university, it’s a pretty serious thing if you later get a letter from your alma mater that “negates” your academic achievements.”

In short, he uses his doctoral dissertation to argue that the development of Sunday observance was a later change by the Catholic Church, and not an Apostolic institution.

On his website, he claims:

“In 1969 Dr. Bacchiocchi returned to his native city of Rome to study at the prestigious Pontifical Gregorian University, where he was the first non-Catholic to be admitted in over 450 years of its history. At the Gregoriana he spent the next five years working toward a Doctoratus in Church History. He was awarded a gold medal by Pope Paul VI for attaining the academic distinction of summa cum laude for his class-work and dissertation From Sabbath to Sunday.” Bacchiocchi’s website via IA

“The results of this investigation are presented in From Sabbath to Sunday, which is a translation and an adaptation of his Italian doctoral dissertation, presented at and published by the Pontifical Gregorian University Press. … From Sabbath to Sunday has the distinction of being the first book written by a non-Catholic ever to be published by a Pontifical press with the Catholic imprimatur (approval). The book has already been reprinted fourteen times in English and has been translated in several languages. Hundreds of scholars of different persuasions have praised this book as a definitive treatment of the early history of the Lord’s Day.” Bacchiocchi’s website via IA

The claims that he got a medal, a summa cum laude for his PhD, and that his thesis was published by Gregorian University Press elevate his book “From Sabbath to Sunday” to a position where it often gets used by Sabbatarians to tell Sunday keepers that “We are right, and the Catholic Church admits it.”

Now these claims are being questioned.  It seems as if this may not be able to be used as that sort of ammunition after all.

A letter from the Gregorian states:

1. He did not receive a summa from the Gregorian as he maintains.
2. He did not receive the Pope’s Gold Medal (this is presented each year in a public ceremony to only a handful of students who have achieved the highest quality of work in their dissertations).
3. He was not allowed to publish his dissertation in whole. Due to extensive problems with the text, he was only allowed to publish one chapter of his work and this only after extensive revision. The publication of one chapter signifies the minimum requirement to receive the doctoral degree at the Gregorian. His publicity and web site indicate that the whole dissertation has been published in book form with surrounding claims about its quality as a Gregorian publication. He has also used the official signature of the Gregorian University Press on the cover page of a book published by Biblical Perspectives.
4. At one time an imprimatur was claimed by Dr. Bacchiocchi, though we understand he later said this had been rescinded. As you know, this does not happen, nor does the Church find a need to give an imprimatur to non-Catholics who write on a variety of topics.

It will be interesting to know the final outcome of any investigations Bacchiocchi pursues.

The Gregorian Controversy series is listed in full here.  Click here to go to the next post in the series.

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