Newsletter of the District
Dogmatic Constitution of Vatican
Council I (Session IV, July 18, 1870), during the reign of Pope
Pius IX infallibly condemned errors concerning the primacy of the
Pope such as his role which is now confused into simply a primate
of honor, a sort of president, arbiter guaranteeing peace among
bishop, servant of the servants of God,
with the approval
of the Sacred Council, for an everlasting record.
1. The eternal
Shepherd and Guardian of our souls 1
, in order to render permanent the saving work of redemption, determined
to build a Church in which, as in the house of the living God, all
the faithful should be linked by the bond of one faith and charity.
before he was glorified, he besought his Father, not for the apostles
only, but also for those who were to believe in him through their
word, that they all might be one as the Son himself and the Father
are one 2.
3. So then,
just as he sent apostles, whom he chose out of the world 3,
even as he had been sent by the Father 4,
in like manner it was his will that in his Church
there should be shepherds and teachers until the end of time.
4. In order,
then, that the episcopal office should be one and undivided and
that, by the union of the clergy, the whole multitude of believers
should be held together in the unity of faith and communion, he
set blessed Peter over the rest of the apostles and instituted in
him the permanent principle of both unities and their visible foundation.
5. Upon the
strength of this foundation was to be built the eternal temple,
and the Church whose topmost part reaches heaven was to rise upon
the firmness of this foundation 5.
6. And since
the gates of hell trying, if they can, to overthrow the Church,
make their assault with a hatred that increases day by day against
its divinely laid foundation, We judge it necessary, with the approbation
of the Sacred Council, and for the protection, defense and growth
of the Catholic flock, to propound the doctrine concerning the institution,
permanence and nature of the sacred and apostolic primacy, upon
which the strength and coherence of the whole Church depends.
7. This doctrine
is to be believed and held by all the faithful in accordance with
the ancient and unchanging faith of the whole Church.
We shall proscribe and condemn the contrary errors which are so
harmful to the Lord's flock.
the institution of the Apostolic Primacy in Blessed Peter
1. We teach
and declare that, according to the Gospel evidence, a primacy of
jurisdiction over the whole Church of God was immediately and directly
promised to the blessed apostle Peter and conferred on him by Christ
2. It was to
Simon alone, to whom he had already said: “Thou shalt be called
Cephas” 6, that
the Lord, after his confession, “Thou art the Christ, the Son
of the living God.”, spoke these words: “Blessed art thou,
Simon Bar-Jona, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to thee,
but my Father in heaven. And I say to thee, thou art Peter, and
upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell shall
not prevail against it. And I will give thee the keys of the kingdom
of heaven; and whatever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound
in heaven, and whatever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed
in heaven.” 7
3. And it was
to Peter alone that Jesus, after his resurrection, confided the
jurisdiction of supreme pastor and ruler of his whole fold, saying:
Feed my lambs, feed my sheep 8.
4. To this
absolutely manifest teaching of the Sacred Scriptures, as it has
always been understood by the Catholic Church, are clearly opposed
the distorted opinions of those who misrepresent the form of government
which Christ the Lord established in his Church and deny that Peter,
in preference to the rest of the apostles, taken singly or collectively,
was endowed by Christ with a true and proper primacy of jurisdiction.
5. The same
may be said of those who assert that this primacy was not conferred
immediately and directly on blessed Peter himself, but rather on
the Church, and that it was through the Church that it was transmitted
to him in his capacity as her minister.
if anyone says that blessed Peter the apostle was not appointed
by Christ the Lord as prince of all the apostles and visible head
of the whole Church militant; or that it was a primacy of honor
only and not one of true and proper jurisdiction that he directly
and immediately received from Our Lord Jesus Christ himself: let
him be anathema.
the permanence of the primacy of blessed Peter in the Roman pontiffs
1. That which
Our Lord Jesus Christ, the prince of shepherds and great shepherd
of the sheep, established in the blessed apostle Peter, for the
continual salvation and permanent benefit of the Church, must of
necessity remain for ever, by Christ's authority, in the Church
which, founded as it is upon a rock, will stand firm until the end
of time 9.
2. For no one
can be in doubt, indeed it was known in every age that the holy
and most blessed Peter, prince and head of the apostles, the pillar
of faith and the foundation of the Catholic Church, received the
keys of the kingdom from Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Savior and Redeemer
of the human race, and that to this day and for ever he lives and
presides and exercises judgment in his successors the bishops of
the holy Roman see, which he founded and consecrated with his blood
whoever succeeds to the chair of Peter obtains by the institution
of Christ himself, the primacy of Peter over the whole Church. So
what the truth has ordained stands firm, and blessed Peter perseveres
in the rock-like strength he was granted, and does not abandon that
guidance of the Church which he once received
4. For this
reason it has always been necessary for every Church--that is to
say the faithful throughout the world--to be in agreement with the
Roman Church because of its more effective leadership. In consequence
of being joined, as members to head, with that See, from which the
rights of sacred communion flow to all, they will grow together
into the structure of a single body 12.
if anyone says that it is not by the institution of Christ the Lord
himself (that is to say, by divine law) that blessed Peter should
have perpetual successors in the primacy over the whole Church;
or that the Roman pontiff is not the successor of blessed Peter
in this primacy: let him be anathema.
the power and nature of the primacy of the Roman Pontiff.
1. And so,
supported by the clear witness of Holy Scripture, and adhering to
the manifest and explicit decrees both of Our predecessors the Roman
pontiffs and of general councils, We promulgate anew the definition
of the ecumenical council of Florence13,
which must be believed by all faithful Christians, namely “that
the Holy Apostolic See and the Roman Pontiff have the primacy over
the whole world, and that the same Roman Pontiff is the successor
of St. Peter, the Prince of the Apostles, and the true vicar of
Christ, the head of the whole Church, the father and teacher of
all Christians; and that to him, in the person of St. Peter, was
given by our Lord Jesus Christ the full power of feeding, ruling,
and governing the whole Church; as is also contained in the proceedings
of the ecumenical councils and in the sacred canons.”
We teach and declare that, by divine ordinance, the Roman Church
possesses a pre-eminence of ordinary power over every other Church,
and that this jurisdictional power of the Roman Pontiff is both
episcopal and immediate. Both clergy and faithful, of whatever
rite and dignity, both singly and collectively, are bound to submit
to this power by the duty of hierarchical subordination and true
obedience, and this not only in matters concerning faith and morals,
but also in those which regard the discipline and government of
the Church throughout the world.
3. In this
way, by unity with the Roman Pontiff in communion and in profession
of the same faith, the Church of Christ becomes one flock under
one supreme shepherd 14.
4. This is
the teaching of the Catholic truth, and no one can depart from it
without endangering his faith and salvation.
5. This power
of the Supreme Pontiff by no means detracts from that ordinary and
immediate power of episcopal jurisdiction, by which bishops, who
have succeeded to the place of the apostles by appointment of the
Holy Spirit, tend and govern individually the particular flocks
which have been assigned to them. On the contrary, this power of
theirs is asserted, supported and defended by the supreme and universal
pastor; for St Gregory the Great says: "My honor is the
honor of the whole Church. My honor is the steadfast strength of
my brethren. Then do I receive true honor, when it is denied to
none of those to whom honor is due."
it follows from that supreme power which the Roman Pontiff has in
governing the whole Church, that he has the right, in the performance
of this office of his, to communicate freely with the pastors and
flocks of the entire Church, so that they may be taught and guided
by him in the way of salvation.
7. And therefore
We condemn and reject the opinions of those who hold that this communication
of the supreme head with pastors and flocks may be lawfully obstructed;
or that it should be dependent on the civil power, which leads them
to maintain that what is determined by the Apostolic See or by its
authority concerning the government of the Church, has no force
or effect unless it is confirmed by the agreement of the civil authority.
8. Since the
Roman Pontiff, by the divine right of the apostolic primacy, governs
the whole Church, We likewise teach and declare that he is the supreme
judge of the faithful 16,
and that in all cases which fall under ecclesiastical jurisdiction
recourse may be had to his judgment 17.
The sentence of the Apostolic See, whose authority is unsurpassed,
is not subject to revision by anyone, nor may anyone lawfully pass
judgment thereupon 18.
And so they stray from the genuine path of truth who maintain that
it is lawful to appeal from the judgments of the Roman Pontiffs
to an ecumenical council as if this were an authority superior to
the Roman Pontiff.
9. So, then,
if anyone says that the Roman Pontiff has merely an office of supervision
and guidance, and not the full and supreme power of jurisdiction
over the whole Church, and this not only in matters of faith and
morals, but also in those which concern the discipline and government
of the Church dispersed throughout the whole world; or that he has
only the principal part, but not the absolute fullness, of this
supreme power; or that this power of his is not ordinary and immediate
both over all and each of the Churches and over all and each of
the pastors and faithful: let him be anathema.
the infallible teaching authority
the Roman Pontiff
1. That apostolic
primacy which the Roman Pontiff possesses as successor of Peter,
the prince of the apostles, includes also the supreme power of teaching.
This Holy See has always maintained this, the constant custom of
the Church demonstrates it, and the ecumenical councils, particularly
those in which East and West met in the union of faith and charity,
have declared it.
2. So, the
fathers of the Fourth Council of Constantinople, following the footsteps
of their predecessors, published this solemn profession of faith:
“The first condition of salvation is to maintain the rule of
the true faith. And since that saying of Our Lord Jesus Christ,
Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church 19,
cannot fail of its effect, the words spoken are confirmed by their
consequences. For in the Apostolic See the Catholic religion has
always been preserved unblemished, and sacred doctrine been held
in honor. Since it is Our earnest desire to be in no way separated
from this faith and doctrine, We hope that We may deserve to remain
in that one communion which the Apostolic See preaches, for in it
is the whole and true strength of the Christian religion 20.”
What is more,
with the approval of the Second Council of Lyons, the Greeks made
the following profession:
holy Roman Church possesses the supreme and full primacy and principality
over the whole Catholic Church. She truly and humbly acknowledges
that she received this from the Lord himself in blessed Peter, the
prince and chief of the apostles, whose successor the Roman Pontiff
is, together with the fullness of power. And since before all others
she has the duty of defending the truth of the faith, so if any
questions arise concerning the faith, it is by her judgment that
they must be settled. 21”
is the definition of the Council of Florence:
Roman Pontiff is the true vicar of Christ, the head of the whole
Church and the father and teacher of all Christians; and to him
was committed in blessed Peter, by Our Lord Jesus Christ, the full
power of tending, ruling and governing the whole Church." 22
3. To satisfy
this pastoral office, our predecessors strove unwearyingly that
the saving teaching of Christ should be spread among all the peoples
of the world; and with equal care they made sure that it should
be kept pure and uncontaminated wherever it was received.
4. It was for
this reason that the bishops of the whole world, sometimes individually,
sometimes gathered in synods, according to the long established
custom of the Churches and the pattern of ancient usage referred
to this Apostolic See those dangers especially which arose in matters
concerning the faith. This was to ensure that any damage suffered
by the faith should be repaired in that place above all where the
faith can know no failing 23.
5. The Roman
Pontiffs, too, as the circumstances of the time or the state of
affairs suggested, sometimes by summoning ecumenical councils or
consulting the opinion of the Churches scattered throughout the
world, sometimes by special synods, sometimes by taking advantage
of other useful means afforded by Divine Providence, defined as
doctrines to be held those things which, by God's help, they knew
to be in keeping with Sacred Scripture and the apostolic traditions.
6. For the
Holy Ghost was promised to the successors of Peter not so that they
might, by his revelation, make known some new doctrine, but that,
by his assistance, they might religiously guard and faithfully expound
the revelation or deposit of faith transmitted by the apostles.
Indeed, their apostolic teaching was embraced by all the venerable
fathers and reverenced and followed by all the holy orthodox doctors,
for they knew very well that this See of St. Peter always remains
unblemished by any error, in accordance with the divine promise
of Our Lord and Savior to the prince of his disciples: “I have prayed
for thee that thy faith may not fail; and do thou, when once thou
hast turned again, strengthen thy brethren
7. This gift
of truth and never-failing faith was therefore divinely conferred
on Peter and his successors in this See so that they might discharge
their exalted office for the salvation of all, and so that the whole
flock of Christ might be kept away by them from the poisonous food
of error and be nourished with the sustenance of heavenly doctrine.
Thus the tendency to schism is removed and the whole Church is preserved
in unity, and, resting on its foundation, can stand firm against
the gates of hell.
8. But since
in this very age when the salutary effectiveness of the apostolic
office is most especially needed, not a few are to be found who
disparage its authority, We judge it absolutely necessary to affirm
solemnly the prerogative which the only-begotten Son of God was
pleased to attach to the supreme pastoral office.
of the Dogma of
faithfully adhering to the tradition received from the beginning
of the Christian faith, to the glory of God Our Savior, for the
exaltation of the Catholic religion and for the salvation of the
Christian people, with the approval of the sacred council,
and define as a divinely revealed dogma that when the Roman Pontiff
speaks EX CATHEDRA, that is, when,
the exercise of his office as shepherd and teacher of all Christians,
in virtue of his supreme apostolic authority,
defines a doctrine
faith or morals
be held by the whole Church,
by the divine assistance promised to him in blessed Peter, that
infallibility which the divine Redeemer willed his Church to enjoy
in defining doctrine concerning faith or morals. Therefore, such
definitions of the Roman Pontiff are of themselves, and not by the
consent of the Church, irreformable.
should anyone, which God forbid, have the temerity to reject this
definition of ours: let him be anathema.
- Pt 2, 25
- 2 Jn 17,
- Jn 15,
- Jn 20,
1, Serm. (Sermons), 4 (elsewhere 3), ch. 6 for the day of his
birth (PL 54, 150).
- Jn 1, 42.
- Mt 16,
16 – 19
- 8 Jn 21,
- See Mt
7, 25; Lk 6, 48
the speech of Philip, the Roman legate, at the 3rd session of
the Council of Ephesus (D no. 112).
1, Serm. (Sermons), 3 (elsewhere 2), ch. 3 (PL 54, 146).
Irenaeus, Adv. haeres. (Against Heresies) III, 3 (PG 7, 849),
Council of Aquilea (381), to be found among: Ambrose, Epistolae
(Letters), 11 (PL 16, 946).
Council of Florence, session 6.
Jn 10, 16.
Ep. ad Eulog. Alexandrin. (Letter to Eulogius of Alexandria),
Vlll 29 (30) (MGH, Ep. 2, 31 28-30, PL 77, 933).
VI, Letter Super soliditate dated 28 Nov. 1786.
From Michael Palaeologus's profession of faith which was read
out at the Second Council of Lyons (D no. 466).
1, Ep. ad Michaelem imp. (Letter to the emperor Michael) (PL 119,
Pope Hormisdas's formula of the year 517 (D no. 171).
Michael Palaeologus's profession of faith which was read out at
the Second Council of Lyons (D no. 466).
Council of Florence, session 6, S. Bernard, Ep. (Letters) 190
(PL 182, 1053).
S. Bernard, Ep. (Letters) 190 (PL 182, 1053).