The Comma Johanneum, found in some versions of 1 John 5:7–8, such as the KJV, is a disputed text that has been used since at least the Middle Ages to defend trinitarian doctrine. Scholars now widely consider it to be a later addition to the text, but this was a subject of significant debate in previous centuries. The Catholic church took notice in 1897, and apparently applied some sort of restriction on allowable positions within the church:
The Catholic theologian [...] cannot pass over the disciplinary decision of the Holy Office (13 January, 1897), whereby it is decreed that the authenticity of the Comma Johanninum may not with safety (tuto) be denied or called into doubt. This disciplinary decision was approved by Leo XIII two days later. Though his approval was not in forma specifica [...] all further discussion of the text in question must be carried on with due deference to this decree. (Catholic Encyclopedia, Epistles of St. John)
According to Wikipedia, this state seems to have ended in 1927, when Pope Pius XI decreed that the Comma was open to dispute. I'm trying to better understand the practical implications of the 1897 decree during the 1897–1927 period. In that vein I'll pose the following (hopefully indicative) questions:
- Around the time of 1897, what did the phrase "with safety" mean? For example, did it imply the possibility of excommunication or loss of salvation? Or perhaps simply that rejection of the Comma was a sin?
- Did the 1897 decree provide specific guidance regarding what kind of "calling into doubt" was not permitted?
- Presumably direct statements would be included, like saying "The Comma is not authentic," but what about publishing research that could be interpreted as suggesting inauthenticity?
- Are any Catholic theologians known to have been punished for violating the 1897 decree during this period?
Wikipedia includes a note that the 1927 decree clarified that the original decree was not meant to stop "moderate and temperate" investigation by scholars who promise to accept the Church's authority. Be that as it may, I'm not convinced that that's how the 1897 decree would have been understood prior to the 1927 decree, so I'm focusing on how it was originally (perhaps mistakenly) interpreted and applied.