You may have heard the following quote attributed to St. Augustine; I have more times than I would like:
"In essentials, unity; in doubtful matters, liberty; in all things, charity."
Thanks to Dr. James O'Donnell of Georgetown for finally debunking the myth:
The question most commonly bouncing off the Internet wall to me about Augustine is the source of the following quotation: "in essentials, unity; in doubtful matters, liberty; in all things, charity." It seems to have gotten into circulation as something attributed to Augustine, and so I am asked the source. I cannot find the text in Augustine's own texts, nor does it sound Augustinian to me, but it is clearly popular.
I found a specific reference to John XXIII's first encyclical, Ad Petri cathedram of 1959: "But the common saying, expressed in various ways and attributed to various authors, must be recalled with approval: in essentials, unity; in doubtful matters, liberty; in all things, charity." I take that as suggesting that the Vatican's own scribes and scholars cannot find a sure attribution.
Dr. O'Donnell goes on, in a lengthy and rather tedious post, to trace the quote back to Rupertus Meldenius, a 17th-century Anglican divine. Like O'Donnell, I never thought the quote really 'meshed' with what I know of St. Augustine. It is more suitable as a motto of Enlightenment-era Irenics than of the fiery preacher of Hippo.
# posted by Jamie : 7:41 AM