What does Apostolicae curae say about its own status within the Magisterium? Here there is a curious textual anomaly. Different printed versions say different things. One has the Bull referring to the subject with which it deals as "idem caput disciplinae". Another omits "disciplinae" ("This matter [of discipline]"). The question is of considerable significance. Nobody doubts that there are doctrinal matters involved in this business; but a disciplinary decision, while it has its own area in which it does bind, is not binding in the same sort of way as a doctrinal decision.
I once made an attempt to get to the bottom of this question. I received this reply: "The word is actually included in the version published in Acta Sanctae Sedis 29 (1896-7), which is the official version of the text. There is therefore no need to view the original document signed by the two cardinals. However, in the collected edition of the Acta Leonis XIII the word is omitted; this edition seems to be unofficial, being published by the Societas Sancti Augustini, Desclee de Brouwer, Bruges, vol. 6, 1900". My informant, a Roman Catholic theologian of some distinction and reknown, commented "I can only guess that someone was afraid the word might lead people to think the decision might be changed". Indeed. It is amusing to imagine the look on Cardinal Vaughan's face, in the midst of the triumphant rejoicings in Archbishop's House Westminster after he had secured the issue of Apostolicae curae, when he suddenly realised the subversive potential of the one word "disciplinae". In a funny sort of way, the fact that "someone" took whatever trouble had to be taken to get the text changed in a subsequent unofficial publication of the Bull is a witness to the importance "someone" attached to the matter. If it makes no difference, why bother?
As for expressions like "forever in the future valid and in force", an article in the Heythrop Journal (27, 1986, 178-180), on the genuineness of the tomb of S James at Compostella, raises some interesting questions.
Nitpicking? I profoundly disagree. Whenever anyone says to me "You're splitting hairs", I know that he knows that I know that he has lost the argument!
To be continued.