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The Vatican Dogma
Written by Fr Sergius Bulgakov Friday, 31 October 2008 21:25
by Sergius Bulgakov
1959 St. Tikhon’s Press;
Republished at http://www.orthodoxchristianity.net by permission
by L. A. Zander
The course of Fr. Sergius Bulgakov’s spiritual development was highly complex and varied. He began with theoretical Marxism, passed on to Kantian philosophy and German idealism and ended by the living faith, Christian thought and Orthodox priesthood. His numerous books and articles mark the different stages of his path. But having returned to the faith of his fathers Fr. Sergius retained his critical judgment and his strictly objective and scholarly method of approaching the problems that life set before him. He believed like a child, but verified his faith like a scholar, a philosopher and a theologian. Accordingly, even while he was a believing Christian (from 1902 till his death in 1944) he encountered and overcame many trials and temptations. Among these temptations was, first, the purely historical interpretation of Christianity, characteristic of liberal Protestantism, and, second, the Roman Catholic conception of the Church.
The first is
dealt with in a number of articles collected in the two volumes called
Another temptation was Roman Catholicism. This is what Father Sergius himself writes about it in his autobiographical notes:
speak about the temptation I went through during the bitter days in the
words of Fr. Sergius Bulgakov
the following remarks may be added. The article on “The
(1) Autobiographical notes (in Russian). Y.M.C.A. Press 1946 p. 48-49.
(2)Put, N. 15, p. 39.
The doctrine of papal supremacy was built up in Roman Catholicism in the course of centuries in the struggle with the episcopalian system. It was the expression of the Western Christians’ religious voluntarism and of their awareness of the Church as, first and foremost, an organised power. Until 1870, however, papacy was merely a fact–true, a fact of the utmost importance, but not having as yet the force of a dogma which it acquired after the Vatican Council of 1870. That was a dividing line in the history of Catholicism, the goal for which it had striven in developing the system of papacy. In the preceding history of the church, innumerable assertions that the power of the pope is absolute can be matched by probably just as many direct or indirect assertions to the contrary. This difference of opinion existed in Catholic literature right up to 1870 and was apparent even at the Vatican Council itself, where many of its most learned and influential members were definitely opposed to the formula asserting papal infallibility, submitted to the Council for discussion. It was only after this Council that papalism ceased to be merely a fact but became a dogma: the question was closed. Roma locuta est—in the face of the whole world, in the full light of publicity. The way the Council was organized and carried on its work is made perfectly clear by documentary evidence and the testimony of its members. The Council is of momentous significance for Catholicism; it showed both the immense power of discipline and organisation, characteristic of the Catholic world, and its great weakness—absence of spiritual freedom.
The few dissenting theologians, with the venerable Dœllinger at their head, found themselves outside the pale of the Church as “Old Catholics.”
This is incontestably proved in the historical monographs by Friedrich, Schulte and Friedberg. The Vatican Council has as much claim to be called a council as the present day meetings of delegates in the U. S. S. R. to be regarded as free expressions of the will of the people.
To begin with, bishops, of whom a church council is normally composed, are present there as representing, or bearing witness for, their respective dioceses—there can only be a council when people give and take counsel. But in this case there could have been no such thing, since the very purpose of the Council had been kept secret. No one knew why it was being called, and its main object was revealed only after it had assembled, though the leading party—the Jesuits—had a fairly clear notion of it. The papal allocution of 26.VI.1867 referred to convoking the Council, but during the two and a half years that passed not a single question of importance was put down for its deliberation. The committee of theologians, which under the chairmanship of a cardinal was preparing the agenda, did not inform the episcopate of the result of its labours. Thus secrecy enveloped the Council's transactions from the first.
delegates arrived, they received printed instructions from the pope who had
already appointed all the officials of the Council. The instructions made
provision for several committees, but the chief committee of projects, apart
from which no resolutions could be proposed, had already been appointed by the
pope. The two other committees were elected by a simple majority vote, but the
majority clearly belonged to the papal party, because of the composition of the
Council. The three committees included only about a hundred persons, i.e. one
sixth or one seventh of the total number of the members, which varied from 764
to 601. The rest remained in enforced inactivity, and were not even allowed to
hold private consultations. They had to languish in the expectation of general
meetings for which no definite times were fixed. While the Council was still
sitting, the instructions were changed by the pope and made more stringent.
General meetings were held in a hall with such bad acoustics that most of those
present could not hear the speakers at all; the chairman had the right to
determine the order in which the speakers were to address the audience, and to
stop the discussions. Members of the Council were presented with certain
resolutions drawn up by the committees; they had no books at their disposal
But, it will be asked, how could all the bishops present give their consent to something that was repugnant to the conscience of many of them? It is not as though they were threatened with the Bolshevist horrors, torture and death; at the worst, their career would have been spoiled. The explanation is, in the first place, that the composition of the Council had been pre-arranged, so as to secure a majority obedient to the pope. This was done by including, in addition to real bishops representing their diocese, a considerable number of titular bishops who represented no diocese whatever and were, at bottom, simply obedient officials of the pope’s consistory, and also of men who were not bishops at all—cardinals and generals of different orders.
overwhelming number of diocesan bishops were Italian (out of the total number
of 541 European bishops,
Learned theologians to whom so important a place was assigned at the Council of Trent, had no part at all in the Vatican Council, unless they happened to be bishops or papal officials in clerical garb; only a few theologians were brought in as consultants; thus Professor Friedrich came with Archbishop Hohenlohe. Altogether, participation of laymen, even as mere advisers or only as members of committees was carefully ruled out. The assembly was to consist of obedient members who, in addition to the general ecclesiastical discipline, would be in direct canonical subordination to the Pope.
It has already been said that the bull convoking the Council gave no indication of the actual subject of discussion, and the Schema introduced in December 1869 did not disclose it either. It was essential to create an impression that the new dogma, for the sake of which, as it appeared later, the Council had been convoked, was an answer to a demand from below, from the flock as a whole. In truth, however, the fear that the dogma of papal infallibility might be submitted to the Council caused the utmost anxiety and opposition in Catholic circles from 1867 onwards—though, apparently, no preparations were made to meet the danger.
Schema constitutionis dogmaticae de ecclesia, introduced at the Council with the direct consent of the pope, did not even mention the pope in chapter IX de ecclesiae infallibilitate which sets forth the doctrine of the infallibility of the Church. We read there: haec autem infallibilitas, cujus finis est fidelium sanctitas in doctrina fidei et morum intemperata veritas, magisteria inest, quod Christus in ecclesia sua perpetuum instituit cum ad Apostolos dixit: Matt. 28, 19-21 (see Friedrich, Documenta II, 91-3). Chapter XI de romani pontificis primatu also says nothing about papal infallibility. To make at that juncture no reference to the point at issue is essentially misleading and incomprehensible, but it was done quite deliberately, and the prearranged mechanism worked like a clock.
As early as
January 1870, at the initiative of Bishops Martin and Senestre
a petition was sent to the pope; it immediately received the support of the
majority of the Council members and thus anticipated the decision before any
discussion of the subject. The petition asked for the proclamation of the pope’s
supreme and infallible authority in matters of faith. 46 Council members from
All this was
happening in an atmosphere of enforced silence and moral tension. In
The petition supported by the majority was submitted to the pope once more, and in answer to it, first, the Instructions were altered (22.II.1870) depriving the Council—in spite of the protests of the minority—of what freedom had been still left to it, and then an “addition” was made to the Schema in ch. XI about papal primacy, and that served as the basis of the Vatican dogma. It was presented to the Council on March 6, and criticisms of it could only be made in writing until March 17. Thus only eleven days were given to the members for criticising a proposition that was suddenly thrust upon them and threatened to undermine the very foundations of church life. One may well understand the alarm and despondency that prevailed at the Council; there was actually talk of the pope being insane. He clearly and indeed blatantly supported the partizans of infallibility, and paid no attention to the petitions and protests of their opponents, giving them no answer whatever.
collection of written protests against the dogma of papal infallibility shows
how strong was the opposition to it.
61 members wrote that the proposed dogma should be withdrawn and some gave
decisive dogmatic and canonic reasons for this; 14 said that the subject
required further investigation; others regarded the proposed dogma as a
self-contradictory innovation likely to lead to schism; only 56 were more or
less in favour of it. But in accordance with the
Instructions, the written comments were addressed to the committee, the
composition and the attitude of which had been settled beforehand—and of course
the committee took no notice of them. As to discussions at general meetings,
all they amounted to was that a few members made speeches which were quite inaudible
because of the bad acoustics and wearied most of the audience. Besides,
members of the Council suffered from the terrible heat of the Roman summer,
particularly trying for elderly people from the
In spite of a number of protests and attempts at opposition on the part of the minority, the original proposition, formulated even more strongly than before (see Schulte 285 f.) was on July 12 put before the Council for deliberation. On July 13, without any preliminary discussion (which was actually contrary to the Instructions) it was put to the vote at the general meeting. After this, and also without any further discussion, it was submitted to the public assembly on July 18, accepted by the majority, with only two dissenting votes, and immediately ratified by the pope. Between July 13 and July 18, unbeknown to the Council, the resolution had again been reshaped: it was somewhat abridged, but had a most important addition: namely, the words ex sese sine consensu ecclesiae were introduced into it. These words which contain the very essence of the dogma, were inserted without any preliminary deliberation, put to the vote, and adopted by the Council en bloc.
A sincere and impartial observer of the Vatican performance cannot help being shocked by such methods, however genuine and deeprooted his sympathies for the Western church may be.
But what had become of the opposing party? How could such astounding unanimity have been achieved at the decisive voting, when a new formula had been unexpectedly slipped into the resolution? Evidently the opposition had partly melted away under the influence of the tropical heat and pressure “from above”, and besides, something incredible even in the annals of this “Council” had happened to it. After voting against the resolution at the meeting of July 13, the opposition lost heart; it saw the necessity to preserve its unity, but was incapable of defending the common cause. The dissenting members decided to leave the battlefield, with a parting gesture of respect for the pope. On July 17, on the eve of the decisive voting; a declaration was sent to him by 56 diocesan bishops, headed by Schwarzenberg, the archbishop of Prague; among them was the famous Strossmeyer, the Church historian Bishop Hefele, the Archbishop of Paris D'Arbois, Dupanlou and others. They reaffirmed their vote against the motion (suffragia renovare et affirmare) but at the same time declared that they would not be present at the public meeting so as not to vote against the proposal in the presence of the Holy Father upon a matter which concerned him personally (pietas enim filialis ac reverential....non sinunt nos in causa Sanctitatis Vestrae personam adeo proxime concernante falam et in facie patris dicere non potest). This declaration, dictated by weakness on the part of the most independent section of the Council, somehow connects the question of a fundamental church dogma with pietas et reverentia for the pope, thus emphasising as it were his bid for personal power.
The pope put the declaration aside, as he had done before with others which displeased him. The signatories thus committed ecclesiastical suicide, and the Vatican dogma was adopted almost unanimously; only the two non placet testify that it was possible in spite of all to vote against the proposal at the last moment.
the practice of former councils, the resolution was published by the autocratic
decision of the pope in the form of a bull of the Pater
remained to make the decision of the Council accepted by the masses. To this
end excommunications, anathemas and other penalties were speedily introduced.
The same bishops who at the Council were proving that the
Conscious and thinking Catholics, free from Ultramontanist fanaticism, had to face the painful task of reconsidering their attitude to the Church. Those who had originally disagreed with the dogma accepted it out of ecclesiastical obedience—but how did they accept it? Was it merely external submission, from habit and discipline, or an inward one, as demanded by the Vatican dogma and the whole system of papacy? If the Pope is the vicar of Christ, the living incarnation of the Church, his decision must be binding apart from all evidence and even against it. One must sincerely and inwardly disagree with oneself, with the evidence of one’s own reason and make another’s thought one’s own: this is the sweet sacrifice of the intellect, sacrificio dell-intelleto—if it be possible. It is precisely in such self-conquest for the sake of submission to authority, even against one’s whole mind and conscience, that lies the essence of papacy as an ecclesiastical system. But if there is no such inward act of submission, there remains only hypocritical obedience that sanctions falsehood and pretence.
What, then, was the nature of the submission? Some of the former opponents of the dogma changed their attitude so sharply, that there can scarcely be a doubt about the character of the change. But it is instructive to follow the inner tragedy of the chosen few—of sincere and spiritually responsible men like, for instance, bishops Strossmeyer and Hefele. Both were bitterly opposed to the Vatican dogma and persisted longer than anyone else in refusing to recognise it, but in the end both gave in and submitted. Their letters have been published and enabled us to reconstruct the past. Bishop Hefele writes to Dœllinger from Rotenburg on August 10, 1870 (i.e. after the Vatican dogma had been proclaimed by the Pope): “It would have been best to say once more at the Council non placet and not comply with the demand for obedience. But as there was no unanimity, we acted in the way that had been indicated, and agreed to work together locally…I am not yet sure what I will do but I will never accept the new dogma without the modifications on which we insist, and I will deny that the Council was free or its decisions binding. Let the Romans prohibit and excommunicate me, and appoint someone to administer my diocese. May be God will be merciful and before long call away from the scene the perturbator ecclesiae…” This letter certainly does not testify to the self-abnegation of reason in favour of papal infallibility, and the wish for a speedy demise of the infallible “disturber of church peace” gives one a profound shock, coming as it does from the learned author of Conciliengeschichte to whom the history of the development of church consciousness was an open book. In his next letter to Dœllinger Hefele writes: “To recognise as a divine revelation something which is untrue in itself—let those who can, do so—non possum (ib. 223). On November 11,1870 Hefele wrote to the Bonn Committee: “I too cannot hide from myself, whether in Rotenburg or in Rome, that the new dogma has no true basis in the Scriptures and the tradition, and that incalculable harm has been done to the church, which had never received a more cruel and deadly blow than was dealt to it on July 18” (224). On January 25, 1871 Hefele wrote to his friends at Bonn as follows: “Unfortunately, I must say with Schulte that for many years I thought I was serving the Catholic Church, but I served the distortion (das Zerbild) inflicted upon it by Romanism and Jesuitism. It was only in Rome I saw with perfect clarity that what is happening there is Christian in name and appearance rather than in reality; the grain has disappeared and only the husk remains, everything is completely externalized (verausserlicht)” (ib. 228). As the reader can see for himself this is anything but unquestioning submission to infallible authority. Six weeks later, however, Hefele’s tone changes: by re-interpreting the dogma he becomes reconciled to it, and soon submits altogether (ib. 229).
Bishop Strossmeyer at first was also irreconcilable. On Sept. 7, 1870 he wrote to Professor Reinkins (who later became an Old Catholic bishop), speaking of the pope’s despotic and arbitrary behaviour at the Council and of “unabashed and hideous use of papal infallibility—in order to make that infallibility a dogma” (252). “Papacy has become entangled in petty worldly trade and sunk to the level of a purely Italian institution” (253). He expresses his confidence that his own nation (the Horvats) will “one day free itself from Roman despotism” (254). In a letter to Dœllinger of 4.III.1871 he writes: “the most objectionable and absurd means were used to prevent a free exchange of opinions. I repeat for the hundredth time that never, never can God give His blessing to a thing that has come about in this fashion” (254). “If ever in history a meeting was the very opposite of what it ought to be, it was the Vatican Council. Everything which could compromise the name of ‘council’ was there to a superlative degree” (255). “Of course in Rome there is no breath of the spirit of Christ, for whereas He forbade to call Him ‘good’, in Rome they strove in a most shameless way for the title of infallibilis” (257). Strossmeyer, too, constantly expresses a wish for the death of the pope: “for some days past people have been saying here that the Pope was dangerously ill and even that he died. This would be a real blessing for mankind…” (258); see also a number of similar letters to various people: 258-263).
But this bishop too ended by submitting. In the words of Schulte “he did not care about doing something for the faith, since his sole interest was to raise up the Yugoslav nation”, This Slav nationalist so completely forgot the voice of his conscience as a churchman that in 1881, out of national and political considerations, he himself proclaimed in his pastoral epistle papal omnipotence and infallibility. It is noteworthy that about the same time Strossmeyer, with the weight of this compromise on his conscience, was trying to convert V. Solovyov to Catholicism.
According to the Vatican dogma the pope is the supreme and infallible head of the church, not responsible to anyone or subject to any jurisdiction, since there is no ecclesiastical authority above him. This idea is in irreconcilable contradiction to the dogmatic fact (i.e. a fact having a doctrinal significance) that in the history of the Catholic church there have been and therefore may be—disturbances connected with the pope as a person. On such occasions the church, as represented by its bishops, was faced with the necessity, first, of deciding which was the true pope out of two or even three anti-popes and, secondly, of judging and deposing these popes and enthroning a new one.
If it be
said that papacy is not a special order but only an office, since the pope is in
bishop’s orders, that will be quite in keeping with the view of the universal
church before the schism, but it will be contrary to the
But if papacy be understood as a special order of St. Peter (Tu es Petrus is sung when the newly elected pope is carried in procession), the difficulties which have already been mentioned stand out all the more clearly. On the one hand, bearers of lower hierarchical orders cannot ordain to higher orders, so that the consecration of a pope by bishops (cardinals) is canonically and sacramentally unmeaning: the pope ought in his life-time to consecrate his successor. On the other hand, if an order is discontinued because there is no bearer of it, there is a break in the apostolic succession as a whole. The permanent miracle of the existence of a vicarius Christi requires his personal immortality. The dogmatic teaching about the pope must certainly be made less presumptuous and confine itself to regarding the pope as simply a patriarch but that, of course, means the fall of the whole Vatican fortress. In any case, as has been said already, the mere fact of the death of a pope has dogmatic implications which have not yet been satisfactorily dealt with by the Roman theologians.
Still greater dogmatic importance for the problem of papacy attaches to intentional and artificial interruptions in papal succession, due to the papal court’s desire to manage by themselves for a time, without the vicarius Christi. What becomes meanwhile of the fullness and infallibility of ecclesiastical power? If the answer be that it remains with the church, this means that the church can do without a pope, being “widowed” for a time like a diocese without a bishop. This clearly proves, one would have thought, that not the church is a function of papacy, but papacy is a function of the church which can, in certain circumstances, make up for the absence of the pope.
The problem which the death of a pope raises indirectly, comes openly to the fore in the case or ecclesiastical schism when there is more than one pope in existence. When this happened the church itself, through its highest organ—the council, settled matters, judged the popes, deposed some and appointed others. The superiority of the council to the pope, dogmatically laid down at the Councils of Constance and Basel, had been exercised by them before this dogmatic proclamation was made. Those councils rejected the claim that the pope is not subject to any ecclesiastical jurisdiction, “prima sedes a nemine judicatur”. They judged and deposed the popes, and neither the church, nor Pope Martin V appointed by the Council of Constance, nor his successors, objected to this. To object would have meant questioning their own legitimacy and admitting that they were usurpers.
I repeat, these facts have a dogmatic significance; Roman Catholics are fond of saying that Providence has preserved the see of Rome from dogmatic errors, but in this case it may with equal justice be said that Providence allowed certain facts, the dogmatic significance of which was to preserve the Roman see from making false claims and to give clear indications of the right course.
Turning from facts to doctrine, we must say that at the beginning of the XV century, allowing of course for many exceptions, the general opinion of the Catholic church was opposed to papacy as an ecclesiastical system and favoured the idea of councils. This was apparent both at Constance and at Basel. Even the most ardent adherents of papacy admit that the Council of Constance was necessary, useful and even (in part) œcumenical in character, but they strive at all costs to weaken its dogmatic decision, accepted at the 4th session and directly contradictory to the Vatican dogma. That decision is as follows: Ipsa synodus in spiritu congregata legitime generale consilium faciens, ecclesiam catholicam mililantern representans, potestatem a Christo immediate habet, cui quilibet cujuscunque status dignitatis, etiamsi papalis existat, obedire tenetur in his quae pertinent ad fidem et extirpationem dieti schismatis et reformationem generalem ecclesiae Dei in capite et membris.
At the 5th session this statement, subsequently confirmed more than once at the Council of Basel, was repeated and amplified. It was accepted after the flight of Pope John XXIII when the Council was about to try him for a number of offences. The result of the trial was that the pope was deposed, and another pope, Martin V, was elected; the procedure was recognised by the whole Catholic world as legally valid. But according to the principle “prima sedes a nemine judieatur”, and, a fortiori, according to the Vatican dogma, the act of trying and deposing a pope, and electing a new one in his place is unlawful and revolutionary. If, however, the council had a right to act as it did, it obviously had dogmatic and canonical reasons for it, expressed in the resolution passed at the 4th and the 5th sessions. The deposition of one pope and election of another is a dogmatic, or as lawyers say, conclusive fact, either disproving the absolute primacy of popes or interrupting their canonical succession: if Martin V is not a lawful pope, his successors are not lawful either; papal succession is discontinued.
Instead of drawing all the dogmatic and canonical conclusions from this impasse, by means of which Providence as it were delimits the claims of papacy, Catholic theologians do their utmost to minimise the significance of the awkward facts; this is what Hefele, the learned historian of the Council of Constance strives to do. He recognises that the course adopted by the Council at the difficult time when there were three popes at once was the only possible one. Thus he admits the legitimacy of actions which in his view are ecclesiastically illegal. According to the Roman Catholic doctrine it is as impossible for a council to depose a pope and appoint a new one, as it is impossible for priests to consecrate a bishop. But Hefele goes on to say that the Council of Constance may only be regarded as œcecumenical after its last (41-45) session, when it worked jointly with Pope Martin V. If, however, it was not legally valid or not œcumenical (to use Hefele’s deliberately vague phraseology) from the first, its transactions 28 have no validity, and it could not become cecumenical in conjunction with a new pope for, in that case, he would not be a rightful pope.
The same far-fetched devices are used to explain away the fact that Pope Martin V had confirmed several, if not all, decrees of the Council of Constance, recognising it as œcumenical if only in part, but never declared any of its decrees to be heretical. He undoubtedly ratified the dogmatic decrees concerning the false doctrines of Wycliffe, Huss etc. proclaimed by the council at the same time as the decree about the authority of an œcumenical council over the pope. Is it possible that a council, said to be heretical in respect of a fundamental dogma about the church, should in another respect be considered œcumenical? This is one of the evasions and ambiguities of the Roman doctrine, historically explained by the simple fact that Pope Martin did not venture to protest against the resolutions which displeased him, waiting for a more favourable moment to do so, and at the same time wishing to make use of the council for the struggle against the heretics. But from the point of view of dogma we have here an impermissible ambiguity. Pope Martin V’s pronouncement with regard to the Council of Constance could, as Hefele himself admits, be interpreted by each side in its own way (Hefele, VII, 348, 368).
His successor, Pope Eugenius IV, was more precise and in 1446 accepted the decisions of the Council of Constance absque tamen praejudicio juris dignitatis et praeeminentiae sedis apostolicae. Hefele takes this to mean that all the resolutions limiting papal power are excluded (v. VI 372-3). Later on, in 1459, Pope Pius II in the bull Exsecrabilis condemned appeals to a council against the pope; in 1516 Pope Leo X in the bull Pastor aeternus condemned the resolution of the Council of Basel (which merely restated that of the Council of Constance) about the supremacy of the council over the pope. This was how matters stood until Pius IX issued the bull Pater aeternus in July 1870— and this is how they stand now.
It is instructive to observe to what extent Roman Catholic dogmatic theologians are hypnotised by papism. The seal of papal approbation has so decisive a significance for them that they lose all interest in the council which was the primary source of the doctrines receiving the approbation. A council consisting in one respect of obvious heretics establishes the true faith—a fountain sends forth both sweet water and bitter! Or else, a council becomes simply a papal office for drawing up theological projects.
This vacillation and inconsistency is even more apparent at the Council of Basel where a regular struggle with the pope was carried on for many years with varying success.
After the victory of papacy the Council of Basel was, naturally, excluded from the number of œcumenical councils recognised by the Western Church (although it was at this council that the Roman Catholic dogma of the Immaculate Conception of Our Lady, proclaimed in 1854 by Pope Pius IX was formulated). What is of interest to us, however, is not this final rejection of its œcumenical character, but the changes in the pope’s attitude to it while it was still sitting. Such changes would have been impossible had the church already held at that time the dogma of papal infallibility. On the contrary, the Council of Basel firmly maintained the dogmatic definition of the Council of Constance and re-stated it more than once.
The Council of Basel was opened on July 23, 1431, soon after the election of Pope Eugenius IV (after the death of Martin V) and immediately came into conflict with the pope who wished to dissolve it and call a new council in Italy at Bologna. (It had been decided at Constance that councils were to be held every ten years). The Council passed a resolution denying the pope’s right to dissolve it—and therefore denying his plena potestas. After a time the pope began negotiations with the rebellious Council and offered either to transfer it to some other place or to limit its competence; the offer was made through the Bishop of Tarentum, who in his speech at the Council extolled papal primacy and plena potestas. In answer, the Council accused the pope of schismatic tendencies and demanded that the order for its dissolution should be revoked; the dissolution, in their opinion would, among other things, hinder the union with the Greek Church, of which the pope had spoken. As against the contention of the Bishop of Tarentum that the pope had plena potestas and the bishops in partem solicitudinis only, the council maintained that it was competent to deal with matters of faith, with eradicating schisms and reforming the church in respect of its head and members, according to the definition laid down by the Council of Constance. Only God and œcumenical councils were infallible, while even angels were fallible, and popes too, as for instance Anastasius and Liberius. Altogether, the pope was no more than caput ministeriale.
By these arguments
the members of the Council were proving that their insubordination was
legitimate, and the pope’s claims unjustifiable (Hefele
VII, 477-8). As time went on, the difference between the council’s and the
pope’s conception of ecclesiastical authority grew more and more pronounced. At
the II session on 27.IV.1433 resolutions were passed compelling the pope to
convoke a council periodically and to attend it, under penalty of being called
before a tribunal and even of being declared a schismatic. On June 16 a new
resolution was passed condemning the pope for his attitude to the council and
saying that the subordination to the council was a mater of doctrine, “fidei concernit”, so that if
Pope Eugenius IV neglected to hear the church (i.e.
the council), he would be as an heathen man and a publican. On July 13 the main
happened, however, certain events raising important theoretical issues took
16 a debate was held at the Council, in the presence of Emperor Sigismund, between the president of the Council, Cardinal
Julian Cesarini, and the papal legate, Archbishop of Spoletto, on the same subject that was discussed at
Let the champions of papal infallibility reconcile as best they can all these hesitant and contradictory statements made in the course of a few months on the same subject, undoubtedly dealing with fide et moribus. It is obvious that the pope’s recognition of the council which openly and de fide asserts its primacy implies that such assertion is legitimate. Otherwise there would be no escaping the conclusion that the pope recognised a manifestly heretical council, persisting in its heresy.
the pope submitted to the Council insincerely and out of sheer necessity, he
prepared for himself a way of retreat by means of the usual evasions. When
circumstances changed, he declared at the College of Cardinals in 1439 that he
had consented merely to prolong
the Council but certainly had not accepted its decrees. This idea was adopted
and zealously supported by the papal theologian J. Torquemada.
In the bull Moyses of
A new factor
was introduced into the history of the Council of Basel by negotiations with
the Greeks about the union of the Eastern and
Quite apart from
all this, however, the Greeks (who were mistaken in their political
calculations) began discussions about the union at a time when the
In the end
the pope won, and the Greeks consented to come to his council—not, of course,
because they regarded it as canonically legitimate, but because the
By the time that the Council of Florence had assembled, a new
conflict developed between the pope and the Council of Basel. The pope issued a
bull transferring its sittings to
At the 32nd session of May 16,1439, in answer as it were, to
the future declaration of the Florentine Council, the following theses were
once more laid down as veritates fidei catholicae: 1) an œcumenical
council is superior to the pope; 2) the pope cannot transfer, or cancel, or
dissolve an œcumenical council; 3) anyone who denies
this is a heretic (Hefele, VII 778-9). At the 34th
It is worth noting that John of Ragusa, in his answer to Vissarion, justified the pope’s power over the bishops as his vicars by the alleged fact that St. Peter appointed patriarchs, metropolitans and bishops to various dioceses; in supporting this, he quoted a spurious passage from pseudo-Isidore’s Anaclite, and an also spurious text of the 6th canon of the 1st Nicean Council. (The text had been proved to be spurious at the IV Oecumenical Council of 451, where papal legates had attempted to make use of it). In his arguments John of Ragusa referred also to the notoriously spurious Donatio Constantini—a document which had already been proved unauthentic by Laurentius Valla and Nicolaus Cusanus (Hefele VII. 733).
statement had apparently not been discussed in detail, though there was a
dispute about an important addition, insisted upon by the Latins but rejected
by the Greeks—namely, the assertion that papal authority must be recognized on
the strength of sacra scriptura et dicta
sanctorum. It would have been difficult to avoid ascribing exaggerated
significance to “dicta” taken out of their context, and finally the
addition took the form of KATH'ON TROPON—quemadmodum
(etiam) in gestis conciliorum et in sacris canonibus. This all-important formula is
unquestionably vague and ambiguous. If it be understood with reservations as meaning
that the pope’s primacy holds solely within the limits of œcumenical
councils (of which the Greeks recognize only seven) and their canons, this
interpretation implies that the Orthodox East is right in regarding the pope as
first among bishops and precludes anything resembling the Vatican dogma. If,
however, the reservations are taken away (as is done in the Latin translation
by adding etiam, to which there is no
equivalent in the Greek text,
it means that the councils and canons recognized papacy in the same sense as
modern Catholicism does—which was certainly not the case. The Councils of
proclaiming papal supremacy, the Council of Florence passed over in silence the
burning question of the day—namely, that of the relation of the pope to the council.
There is reason to think that at that time the question was not regarded as
settled by the Florentine decree. In September or October 1439, when the
Council was over, the pope arranged in
The Council of
Basel persisted in its quarrel with Eugenius IV and
at the end of 1439 elected an anti-pope, Felix V, who afterwards transferred
the Council to
This peaceful settlement of the church schism meant of course for both parties a compromise dictated by considerations of ecclesiastical “œconomy” or simply of expediency. In spite of this, however, it is a fact of dogmatic significance.
with, reconciliation or agreement with heretics, stubborn schismatics
and rebels is impossible for the Church: the
It must be
one or the other: either the Roman Church fell into a grievous heresy and
vitiated its hierarchy by entering into communion with Belial and accepting
Pope Nicolas who was elected by an impious assembly, or the Roman Church
recognized the Council of Basel and its dogmas (not to speak of the Council of Constance which had, in
fact, been already recognized). But in that case, a number of other questions
inevitably arises. If the Council of Basel had canonical authority in 1449, it
means that it had preserved it in spite of all the strictures of Pope Eugenius IV; but if so, the Council’s act of censoring and
subsequently deposing that pope was valid, as well as its act of anathematizing
and annulling the Council of Florence. The latter is, at best, canonically
ambiguous and if only for that reason has no binding authority for the
universal church. And yet, the
question is altogether insoluble: which of the two was the true pope and which
the anti-pope Eugenius or Felix? In fact, they have
been both recognized by the Roman Church: Eugenius
so long as he lived, and after his death—Felix, whose abdication was
interpreted as a free act, leading to the election of a new pope. Moreover,
after being deposed at
All this confusion is due to the fact that the authority of the Basel Council and of the pope elected by it was indirectly recognized by the Roman Church at the time when the Council was coming to an end. The traditional political ingenuity and opportunism of the curia proved in this instance to be inexcusable dogmatic opportunism which resulted in a vague and ambiguous interpretation of the most fundamental principles. Inconsistencies arising from this are as damaging to the Vatican dogma as were the ambiguous and self-contradictory behavior of Popes Vigilius and Liberius and the heresy of Honorius—so persistently, but in vain, recalled at the Council of Vatican. But it is remarkable that no one drew attention to the dogmatic fact discussed in the present essay.
the recognition of its validity in spite of all, the Council of Basel won a
dogmatic victory; but as a matter of historical fact victory was won by papacy.
This inevitably led the Church to the Reformation, i.e. to a final and
irremediable schism, and at the same time to the
As soon as
the popes felt their position secure, they began retrospectively and in
opposition to their predecessors to wipe away the traces left by the Basel
Council. In 1460, i.e. ten years after the papal recognition of it and the
final reconciliation, Pope Pius II (in the bull Exsecrabilis) announced that to proclaim
the right of appealing to a council against the pope was an offence deserving
In 1516, at the very beginning of the Reformation, Pope Leo X in the bull Pastor
aeternus (Enchir. 257)
declared that the Council of Basel was invalid after the pope’s attempt to
transfer it to Ferrara, and its decree about a council being superior to the
pope was invalid also (as though this decree had been proclaimed by the Council
of Basel alone, and passed after the proposed move to Ferrara!). The
But all this is subject to revision—donec corrigetur—and it is quite conceivable that one day the picture will be reversed and Florentinum and Vaticanum will change places with Constantiense and Basiliense; their history is not finished yet…Let us go on, however, to consider the Vatican dogma as such.
CANON I: Therefore if someone says that the blessed apostle Peter was not appointed by the Lord Christ as the head of all the apostles and the head of the whole church militant, or that he did not receive directly and immediately from same Lord Jesus Christ the primacy not only of honour but of true and actual jurisdiction, let him be anathema.
CANON II: Therefore if anyone says that it is not by divine right or by divine decree of the Lord Christ Himself that the blessed Peter has an unbroken line of successors of his primacy, or that the Roman pontifex is not a successor of the blessed Peter in such primacy, let him be anathema.
CANON III: Therefore, if anyone says that the Roman pontifex has only power of supervision or direction and not the full and supreme power of jurisdiction in the whole church, not only in matters concerning faith and morals, but even in those concerning the discipline and government of the church throughout the world; or that he has only the most important part and the fullness of this supreme power; or that this his power does not extend ordinarily and directly to all and every church and to all and every pastor and
believer, let him be anathema.
CANON IV: Therefore, faithfully following the tradition accepted from the beginning of the Christian religion, to the glory of God the Saviour, to the aggrandizement of the Catholic faith and the salvation of Christian peoples, we declare and determine, with the approval of the sacred Council the following dogma to be divinely revealed: The Roman pontifex, when he speaks ex cathedra, i.e. when, fulfilling his office of pastor and teacher of all Christians, in virtue of his supreme apostolic authority, he defines a doctrine about the faith or morals as binding upon the whole church, he enjoys, with God’s help promised to him in the person of the blessed Peter, the infallibility which the Divine Redeemer vouchsafed to His church in so far as it defines doctrines on faith and morals; in this wise, the definitions laid down by the Roman pontifex are as such, apart from the assent of the church, not subject to correction.
(Canon) “If anyone ventures to contradict this our definition, which God forbid, let him be anathema.”
contradistinction to other Catholic councils, including that of Constance and
even Trent, the resolutions of the Vatican Council are put in the form of a
bull published as the pope’s persona1 decree.
The first two chapters of this astounding decree contain the doctrine
which from early times—though not from the beginning—was held by the Roman
Church about the primacy of Peter, handed down in succession to Roman pontiffs.
It was not, however, expressly and decisively made into a dogma, except perhaps
at the Council of Florence.
It remains utterly incomprehensible how there can be in the church any stable power not included within the fulness of papal jurisdiction. And if we are to use the popular comparison of papacy to monarchy, it may well be pointed out that an absolute monarchy leaves no independent power to ministers, provincial governors and other officials. Exercise of power is delegated to them in fact, but it must always and in all things be in accordance with “His Imperial Majesty’s ukase”.
The pope may command and require anything under the threat of the most dreadful punishment spiritual death-penalty, anathema (especially as the popes had long before assumed the right of ruling not only in this world, but in the next one as well—in purgatory by means of indulgences. In this sense indulgences are directly connected with the development of the pope’s plena potestas, and the practice of issuing indulgences is one of the manifestations of papistry). It will be said no doubt that the pope is limited by ecclesiastical law, by dogmas and by the general tradition of the church, just as an absolute monarch has been said to be limited in a similar way. In fact, however, just as an absolute monarch is not bound by laws but imposes them on himself of his own will, so the pope is himself the 1iving tradition of the church or, more exactly, according to the Vatican dogma he alone is that tradition. He, therefore, is not bound by it, but has the power to interpret it authentically; the “verdict of the Apostolic see”, which is the highest authority, may not be revoked by anyone, and no one is allowed to criticize it. The finality of the verdict implies in fact its infallibility, even if the latter had not been specially mentioned in Chapter IV. The possibility of a pope proving to be a heretic is precluded since the existence of a body which could presume de ejus judicare judicio and testify to his heresy is ruled out beforehand. In this way there is established a juridical and so to speak mechanical infallibility connected with the papal office or rank, which is for life and not subject to cancellation.
Canon III confers on the pope such absolute power within the church that infallibility follows as a matter of course; canon IV, which generally attracts more attention, is in a sense an attempt to limit or, rather, to define it. In virtue of his plena potestas the pope may command anything, and consequently is in practice irreformabilis at all times and in all things, but canon IV limits this infallibility and irreformability to matters concerning faith and morals, and makes it a condition that the judgment should be pronounced ex cathedra.
There is no
need to .speak of the historica1 difficulties confronting the dogma of papal infallibility.
Dogmatically also this elastic formula can be pulled in different directions,
as though it had been intended for this purpose (since otherwise the
incongruity of the dogma would be too obvious). If canon IV were not preceded by the
first three, connected therewith, its main idea of an authoritative chief
hierarch, proclaiming in a final form a council’s resolutions, would be almost
harmless and even…Orthodox. It would define the position of the pope as the
chief patriarch in relation to the whole universal church on the analogy of the
position e.g. of the Russian patriarch in relation to the Russian church:
according to the ruling of the council of 1917-1918 he is the mouthpiece of a
local church, being the head of a local council. Such a conception would on the
whole reflect the authority (true, not always undisputed) which the popes
enjoyed at the epoch of œcumenical councils, before
the division of the churches. But when taken jointly with canon III, canon IV affirms the pope’s actual
infallibility or, what is more important, the unchangeableness—irreformabilitas—of every papal judgment. Every
definition laid down by the pope as such, in the fullness of his power, is
necessarily ex cathedra because it is impossible to separate out in him
the priest, the Bishop of Rome, the patriarch of
The same must be said of the reservation expressed by the words de fide et moribus. The meaning of “de moribus” is quite indefinite and unlimited, for there is nothing in human activities which has not one way or another, to do with mores. On close inspection the meaning of de fide proves to be equally indefinite. The statement that 2 x 2 = 4 is not de fide but de arithmetica; and yet if at some time there should arise a religious dispute on epistemological grounds in connection with the multiplication table, a papal decree about it would be de fide, though indirectly so. How else could one explain the pope’s condemnation of Copernicus’s astronomical theory—a condemnation which is now causing so much trouble to apologists like Hergenrother? Speaking generally, if the pope addresses himself in his pastoral capacity to the church represented by any of its organs, he is bound to deal fide et moribus, for there are no other interests in the life of the church; all particular aspects of it, such as canon law, discipline, liturgies etc. are mere auxiliaries. Or, to put it more exactly, every problem has either a direct bearing upon faith and morals or may, according to circumstances, acquire such bearing. Thus the reservation made in canon IV is in reality no reservation at all and the pope is given both plena potestas and plena infallibilitas et irreformabilitas; in other words he is tactically proclaimed to be the church. Every papal decree is backed by plena potestas, either actually or in principle.
Is there a
limit to the pope's omnipotence within the church? It cannot be indicated, once
absolute personal power is admitted as a matter of principle. At bottom, the
whole of Catholic dogmatics is summed up by the
Scheeben in his Handbuch der Dogmatik says of the Vatican dogma: “It does not say that Divine help promised specially to the pope covers all the help promised to the teaching body of the church, or that it is a formal adequate basis of the infallibility of that whole body, and that consequently the infallibility of the church is limited to that of the pope, or is realized in him exclusively. The words ea infallibilitate pollere qua etc. presuppose rather that there is a distinction between the infallibility of the pope and that of the church; else, the assertion implied in the words that the one has the same range as the other would have no proper meaning. Hence, in the opinion of Atzberger and other above mentionned theologians, œcumenical councils headed by the pope help to clarify the decisions and give support to the pope (as though such support were possible or needed!), and have an infallibility of their own, which they would possess even if the pope were not infallible. “This explains why, before the Vaticanum, infallibility was ascribed to councils apart from papal infallibility, and indeed it was recognized that the latter was not necessarily involved in the former and could be established either independently of the former, or together with it”.
according to the meaning of the
And indeed there can be no two sovereignties, two supreme jurisdictions or organs of infallibility, so that to recognize that the episcopate or a council has some sort of independent rights is either thoughtless or due to conscious opposition to the true meaning of the Vatican dogma (such opposition is more widely spread in the Catholic world than is generally supposed). The rights of the episcopate are denied in the clear and decisive statement in Canon III which makes bishops vicars of the pope, and makes him not only episcopus universalis but also episcopus episcoporum. The rights of the council are ruled out by the words “ex sese, non ex consensu ecclesiae”, added, as we know, at the last moment by the overzealos champions of the dogma and accepted without any discussion. Apologists interpret the phrase “non ex consensu ecclesiae” as limiting and defining the expression “ex sese” which otherwise might mean the pope’s absolute power in proclaiming dogma. But the general context shows that the true object of the addition was to make the formula completely water-tight. That was also the object of deleting some of the really limiting clauses which required that the pope should be faithful to the tradition of the church, and thus opened a way to criticism.
The all-important words “ex sese, non autem ex consensu ecclesiae”; in the fateful formula separate the pope from the church and oppose him to it as its ruler, transcendent to it (contrary to the constantly used comparison of the head as part of the body). They implicitly deny the principle of sobornost’—“togetherness” based on Christ’s words “where two or three are gathered together in My name, there am I in the midst of them”, and on the apostolic succession of the episcopate. Had the decisive phrase been omitted or replaced by its opposite: “non ex sese, sed cum consensu ecclesiae”, the episcopal and soborny point of view could legitimately be defended; but it is tacitly, though emphatically, rejected in the formula.
language of Catholic theology, the whole church has only infallibilitas
passiva left to it, i.e. the virtue of
obedience through faith; infallibilitas
active which is the portion of the teaching church, belongs to the pope
alone. This is confirmed by the fact that the resolution of the council
was published as a papal decree, a bull; true, it contains the phrase “sancto approbante consilio” but merely as a reference to a
concomitant event and not to a canonical condition of the decree. The approval
of the Council is counterbalanced by the pope’s docemus
et definimus. Of course the
us to the fundamental self-contradiction which proved fatal for the
There are truths which cannot be proved because they lie at the basis of all inference: such for instance are mathematical axioms on which the proof of theorems rests. An axiom can by no manner of means be turned into a theorem and be inferred or investigated. Similarly in Christian dogmatics there are basic and primary truths, the recognition (or non recognition) of which determines whether a person belongs (or does not belong) to the church. To use Kant’s terminology, dogmatic axioms of this kind are synthetic a priori judgments (and not analytic judgments a posteriori); they lie at the basis of the whole experience of the church and determine all its dogmatic thought. An axiomatic basis of church life is faith in the God-man Christ, Lord and Saviour, and in His Church. The Christological (and partly ecclesiological) dogmas formulated at the œcumenical councils are, so to speak, dogmatic theorems proved and verified by means of those axioms. Thus, for instance, the rejection of Arianism was a particular judgment intended to define more closely and particularly the divinity of the Son; The object of the Nicean Council was the same—to express an unalterable axiom of faith in a particular formula, to establish a theorem of faith.
The peculiarity of such a dogmatic theorem is that until it is authoritatively and finally expressed, it is problematic; in answer to the problem contained in it, the Council formulates a dogma which then acquires the force of an axiom. The same thing is true of all the dogmas established in the course of church history. In this sense every dogma presented something new at the time, something that had not yet been apparent to the mind of the church. This is why we may speak of the dogmatic development of the church, although in principle this development can contain nothing new, since in the Church everything has been given from the first: it is “the fullness of Him that filleth all in all”; its dogmas or theorems are simply different aspects of the unalterable axioms which express its very essence.
Therefore, speaking generally, there cannot be and there have not been any councils which dogmatically established faith in the God-man and His Church, although this faith was solemnly proclaimed, for instance, in the Nicene Creed. All that was established was a definite verbal expression of faith, but not the faith itself, which of course had existed without any formula, and indeed it was the faith which made valid both the council and the creed.
Let us now
apply these considerations to the
which proclaims the popes infallible power in the church ex sese,
sine consensu ecclesiae commits a
self-contradictory, unmeaning and suicidal action which is a reductio ad absurdum of
the council as such. Hence, the
The phrase sacro approbante consilio, introduced into the formula, is obviously
ambiguous, for it may with equal right be interpreted either as “after or with
the approval of the council” or as “in consequence of, in virtue of, as
the result of, the approval of the council”. Such ambiguity brings out still
more clearly the inherent invalidity of the dogma ex sese
sine consensu ecclesiae; these words, introduced
at the last moment, serve more than any other to make the
church did not need the
however, of its practical uselessness the
In spite of
the ambition of individual popes and the historical power of the papacy, the
Catholic church after the Reformation has not to this day recovered from a kind
of spiritual exhaustion which found expression, among other things, in the peculiar
spiritual militarism of the Society of Jesus, characteristic of modern
post-Reformation Catholicism. Its specific character must be recognized, although
one cannot help marveling at the abundant powers and vitality of western
Christianity manifested in Protestantism and still, more in Catholicism. The
wealth of its human energies, its ancient culture and high civilization must
not blind us to the peculiar tonality of its church-life.
The Reformation was the great catastrophe of Western Christianity, but it was only a continuation of the same process which had earlier brought about the so called division of the churches. The latter had of course complex national, cultural and historical causes, and undeniably Byzantium, Byzantine cæsaro-papism and the ambitions of the Constantinople patriarchs are no less to blame for it than Rome is; but we are not concerned with this at the moment. The interesting thing is that the change in the Western Christians’ conception of the Church, reflected in the predominance of juridical principles, the papacy and an ever increasing influence of the Old Testament mentality, proved incompatible with the Eastern Christians’ understanding of church life. Outwardly the Eastern Church suffered from servility and seemed enslaved, but inwardly it preserved the behest of Christ's beloved disciple. The Petrine tradition, set in opposition to the Pauline (though Peter and Paul together founded the Roman Church), could not blend with John’s Eastern Christianity—not of course in its historical weakness, but in its intelligible essence, in its eidos. Catholic theologians fail to see or feel this even now.
stage in the development of the spiritually-Judaic principles in Catholicism
was the strange and unnatural opposition established in Western Christianity
between the apostles Peter and Paul. The
So long as
these particular disagreements are blotted out by one that is fundamental: by
papacy grown strong during the centuries of schism and established as a dogma
 Friedrich. Tagebuch während des Vaticanischen Consils geführt. Nördlingen 1871 (mit Beilagen). By the same author: Documenta ad illustrandum Consilium Vaticanum I-II.
 Schulte. Die Stellung der Concilien. Päbste, Bischöfe vom historischen una canonischen Standpunkte und die päbstliche Constitution vom 18 Juli 1870. Mit den Quellenbegen. Prag. 1871. By the same author: Der Altkatholizismus etc. Die Macht der römischen Päbste etc. Prag. 1871.
 Friedberg. Die Sammlung der Actenstücke zum ersten Vaticanische Consil. 1892. The proceedings of the Vatican Council have now been published in the well-known Mansi collection.
 See the note written by one of the members: La liberté du concile et l’infallibilité. (Friedrich. Documenta I 129-185).
 Friedberg (I p. 376) gives a complete list of the names of members. There were present: 4 bishops-cardinals, 37 priests-cardinals (20 of whom had actually the position of diocesan bishops), 7 deacons-cardinals, 10 patriarchs (nominal of course,—in partibus infidelium). 7 primates (also nominal), 201 archbishops (13 without a diocese): 487 bishops (49 of them suffragans and 38 titular), 6 abbots nullius, 15 abbots, 25 generals of Orders.
 Schulte Der Altkatholizismus 294-5.
 Friedrich, Documenta I, 250 & ff.
 See Friedrich Documenta II 212-289. Synopsis observationum quae a partibus in caput addendum decreto de Romani Pontificis primatu (infallibilitate) factae fuerunt.
 The Latin text is given by Schulte in Die Stellung and the German translation of it in his Der Altkatholizismus 291-2. The Latin text is also given by Friedrich, Documenta II, 262, and Friedberg I, 622-3.
 At the Council bishop Ketteler circulated a pamphlet against papal infallibility (Questio, Friedrich I. c.), containing an exhaustive historical and dogmatic criticism of it, partly the same as that made by Janus in Pabst und das Concil, Leipzig, 1869. (“Janus” was the collective pen-name of Professors Döllinger, Friedrich, Schulte and others). It is a work of great erudition and convincing power, and the blow it dealt to the pretensions of papacy is truly shattering. It is available in French translation and has lost nothing of its significance at the present day.
 Schulte, Der Altkatholicizmus 222. See also Friedrich, J. v. Döllinger B. III.
 Sufficient evidence in confirmation of this may be found in Pichler’s Geschichte der kirchlichen Trennung des Orients und Occidents. 2 Bde München 1868. This book was published on the eve of the Vatican Council and unintentionally denounced it both from the historical and the dogmatic point of view.
 Thus, Professor Philips, a canonical zealot of papacy, writes that the pope occupies the place of “einer Mittelperson zwischen Gott und dem Bischöfe, der seine Gewalt selbst von Gott hat” (Das Kirchenrecht I, 190). “Nicht die Kirche giebt dem Pabste die Gewissheit sondern Sie empfängt von ihm denn sie steht auf ihm, als auf dem Fundamente, nicht er auf ihr” (II, 315).
 Pope Celestine IV was elected two years after his predecessor’s death, Gregory X after 3 years, Nicholas IV after nearly a year. After his death, two years and three months elapsed before Celestine V was elected; after the death of Benedict XI there was an interval of eleven months, and after the death of Clement V—two years and four months (Janus, Der Pabst und das Concil, pp. 232-3). Professor Schulte reckons that from the time of Pope Leo the Great the papal throne remained vacant for a total period of 40 years. Seven times it was vacant for over a year, three times for over two years, and thirteen times for over six months (Die Stellung der Concilien, Päbste etc.).
 Schulte (256, note 7) asks the following questions:
“was Benedict IX, a boy of 10 or 12 (1033-1048), also infallible? Was Adrian V,
who had never been ordained priest, infallible? What became of infallibility
at the terrible time of John XI, Leo V, Sergius III?
What about Leo VIII, Benedict V, John XIII? or about Donus
II, who figures in the Roman calendar but is proved to have never existed? What
about Benedict VII and Boniface VII between whom there is .a strange rivalry?
Did John XIX who was made a pope while still a layman become infallible forthwith?
Gregory XII was unanimously elected on 30.X.1406, deposed on 5.VI.1409 in
 (The Synod itself, duly called together in the spirit, constituting a general council representing the militant Catholic church, has its power directly from Christ; every rank of whatever dignity, even though it be papacy, is bound to obey it in matters which pertain to the faith and to the extirpation of the said schism and the general reform of the church of God in its head and members.) Harduini v. VIII p. 252.
 Hefele (Conciliengeschichte, VII cp. 1. 53). This argument was
put forward as early as May 15, 1438 by John of Ragusa
in Vienna: “aut (Concilium Constantiense) fecit quod potuit, aut
quod non potuit…Si fecit quod
non potuit, sequitur quod Iohannes non fuit depositus, et per consequens nec papa Martinus non fuit papa, et ita, nec qui ei succesit
Eugenius” (Either the Council of Constance did what
it had a right to do, or what it had not…If It did what it had no right to do,
it follows that John was not deposed and, consequently, that Pope Martin was
not a pope, nor was his successor Eugenius); see N. Valois, Le pape et le concile 1418—1450.
 Pope Martin V, on being elected, issued a bull condemning
45 theses of Wycliffe and 30 of Huss; the bishops and
inquisitors had to examine the suspects asking them, on oath, whether they held
false doctrines and (paragraph 6) whether they believed that what the Council
of Constance—representing the universal church—has approved in favorem fidei et sa lutem animarum
should be upheld by the whole Christendom. The Gallicans
and many members of the Council of Basel concluded from this that the pope
approved the Council of Constance in its entirety. Beginning with the XVII
century, however, the objection has been urged that approval was given only to
resolutions concerning faith and salvation, and not to the resolutions about
the council’s priority over the pope. Hefele agrees
with this and considers the Council of Constance as œcumenical
only in its last four sessions (42-5), at which the pope was present. (But in
that case, it follows that before the election of the lawful pope, the church
was completely deprived of lawful authority, since neither the Council, nor
the anti-popes had any)—Pope Martin V’s second statement about the Council of
Constance (à propos of Falkenberg’s
case) ratifies its decrees in materiis fidei et conciliariter, and
is also interpreted as referring to the latter only. It would be useless to
argue the point. N. Valois convincingly shows that
all the pope’s utterances are evasive, ambiguous and intentionally
inconclusive, so that either side may find support for its own views in this
traditional prevarication. The inconclusiveness was in keeping with the facts:
within the church itself a struggle was going on between two principles—that of
Sobornost or common consent and
absolutism; at that time the issue was still undecided, and later on absolutism
won the victory. The XV century is as it were the crossroads between the two
paths. But the very fact of the struggle and its vicissitudes abundantly proves
 Hefele VII 563. For the text of the bulls see Mansi XXIX 78 seq. and Harduinis t. Vz II, 1172 seq.
 Valois I, 305-6.
 The Basel Council members said in answer to this that the doctrine of the supremacy of the œcumenical council over the pope is part of the faith de necessitate salutis and had been formulated not only at the 33rd session, but long before, when papal legates were presiding, and that Pope Eugenius IV, when he cancelled the first dissolution of the Council, formally approved of this doctrine (Hefele, VII, 783).
 Papal legates—Cardinal Albergati
de Santa Croce (subsequently revered as a saint) and three others—were accepted
as members of the Council on April 24, 1434 only after they had declared on
oath that 1) the Council of Constance and every œcumenical
council derives its power directly from Christ and that everyone, including the
pope, must obey it in matters of faith, of eradication of schism, and reform of
the church in its head and members and 2) everyone who disobeys it in those
matters, even though it be the pope himself, must be punished. They took this
oath, however, in propriis nominibus,
and not under the pope’s instructions. They were admitted to the sitting of
 Hefele VII, 565-7. I (2A)
 In September 1437 two fleets arrived in
 See Friedrich, Tagebuch
 “Item definimus sanctam Apostolicam Sedem et Romanum pontificem in universum orbem tenire primatum, et ipsum pontificem Romanum successorem esse beati Petri principis apostolarum et verum Christi vicarium, totiusque Ecclesiae caput et omniam christianorum patrem et doctorem existire; et ips in beato Petro pascendi, regendi ac gubernandi universalem Ecclesiam a Domino nostro J. Christo plenam potestate traditam esse; quem at modam etiam in gestis oecumenicorum Conciliorum et in sacris canonibus continentur.” It includes, but does not clearly define the expressions plena potestas and vicarius Christi, characteristic of the doctrine of papacy (and of course not confirmed by gesta conciliorum oecumenicorum or by sacri canones).
 The historian of the Council of Florence, Th. Fromann says: “In any case, the definition of primacy was expressed in such a wordy and metaphorical way that each party could read its own views into it; this can be seen from its interpretation by John the Provincial as primatus juris dictionis with all its implications, and by the Greeks who took it to mean simply primacy in honour. There was no unity about it and even no compromise, but merely a slurring over the differences by means of a vague and ambiguous formula” (Krit. Beitr., 18-19).
 A propos of etiam see Hefele’s polemics with Janus (Hefele VII, 733).
 H. Valois, II 202-5.
 The reasons given by the Council are worth noting: “Knowing from trustworthy testimony that he believes and upholds the dogma that an œcumenical council derives its authority directly from Christ and that everyone, including the pope, must obey it in matters quae pertinent ad fidem, extirpationem schismatis et ad generalem reformationem Ecclesiae Dei in capite et membris, the Council commands the faithful to obey him as pope” (Hefele VII, 849).
 Enchiridion symbolorum, 251. Curiously enough, Pius II was Aeneas Silvius Piccolomini, one of the spiritual leaders of the opposition at the council, who wrote treatises proving that councils have authority over the pope.
 In the Enchiridion symbolorum
the Council of Basel is not even mentioned, in spite of the fact that at
any rate till the pope’s decree transferring it to
 I leave the pagan Roman term Pontifex untranslated, for it has not quite the same meaning as “high-priest” in Christian usage, though it is generally rendered by that term.
 CANON I. Si quis igitur dixerit, beatum Petrum Apostolum non esse a Christo Domino constitutum Apostolorum omnium principem et totius Ecclesiae militantis visibile caput; vel eundem honoris tantum, non autem verae propriaeque jurisdictionis primatum ab eodem Domino nostro Jesu Christo directe et immediate accepisse: anathema sit.
CANON II. Si quis ergo dixerit, non esse ex ipsius Christi Domini institutione seu jure divino, ut beatus Petrus in primatu super universam Ecclesiam habeat perperuos successores; aut Romanum Pontificem non esse beati Petri in eodem primatu successorem: anathema sit.
CANON III. Si quis itaque dixerit, Romanum Pontificem habere tantummodo officium inspection is vel directionls, non autem plenain et supremam potestatem jurisdictionis in universam Ecclesiam, non solum in rebus quae ad fidem et mores, sed etiam in iis quae ad disciplinam et regiminem Ecclesiae per totum orbem diffusae pertinent; aut eum habere tantum potiores partes, non vero totam plenitudinem huius supremae potestatis, aut hanc eius potestatem non esse ordinariam et immediatam sive in omnes ac singulas ecclesias sive in omnes et singulos pastores et fideles: anathema sit.
CANON IV. Itaque nos traditioni a fidei christianae exordio perceptae fideliter inhaerendo, ad Dei Salvatoris nostri gloriam, religionis catholicae exaltationem et christianorum populorum salutem, sacro approbante Consilio, docemus et divinitus revelatum dogma esse definlmus: Romanum Pontificem, cum ex cathedra loquitur, id est, cum omnium Christianorum pastoris et doctoris munere fungens pro suprema sua Apostolica auctoritate doctrinam de fide vel moribus ab universa Ecclesia tenendam definit, per assistentiam divinam ipsi in beato Petro promissam, ea infallibilitate pollere, qua divinus Redemptor Ecclesiam suam in definienda doctrina de fide vel moribus instructam esse voluit; ideoque eiusmodi Romani Pontificis definltiones ex sese, non autem ex consensu Ecclesiae irreformabilis esse.
(Canon). Si quis huic Nostrae definitioni contradicere, quod Deus avertat, praesumpserit: anathema sit.
 The attempt to connect Canon II with the General
 Friedrich rightly remarks in Tagebuch,
Beilage III, 435, that the words “plenam potestatem ordinariam et immediatam” are
“the most dangerous in the whole scheme. They serve to make the episcopate
approve of the essentially immoral system of papism,
against which the Councils of Constance and
 “This power of the supreme pontifex does not, however, interfere with the ordinary and direct power of Episcopal jurisdiction; the bishops, appointed by the Holy Ghost (Acts 20, 28) have taken the place of the apostles, and like true shepherds pasture and rule the flock entrusted to them, each after his own” (there follows a reference to Pope Gregory the Great, who, it will be remembered, angrily rejected as pretentious the title of episcopus universalis).
 The possibility of this was admitted even after the
Vatican Council by such interpreters of it as e.g. Hefele
(1. 50). Arguing against the Gallicans of the
Constance and Basel Councils who admitted two reasons for deposing a pope: ob
mores or ob fidem aut
haeresim, Hefele admits
only the second, which implies that the pope has ceased to be a member of the
church. But of course this argument is incompatible with the
 Both these terms are used in canon IV, the first implying the theoretical unerringness of thought and the second—the practical unerringness of a definition, dogmatic rule or command.
 It is no doubt a historical fact that Peter himself not only erred, but actually denied Christ; that not Peter, but the apostolic council settled the dispute about the necessity of circumcision (Acts 15); that Peter was blamed by Paul for his action (Gal. 2, 11); that Pope Honorius erred in matters of faith; that 6th, 7th and 8th œcumenical councils anathemized Honorius as a heretic; that Pope Leo II admitted Honorius’s error; that Pope Vigilius preached heresy, and this was admitted by Pope Pelagius II at Aquilea in 586; that the 5th œcumenical council anathemized Pope Vigilius as a heretic; that for centuries the popes on assuming office vowed to recognize 8 œcumenical councils and to anathemize their predecessor Honorius (Liber diurnus ed. de Roziere form. 83 H.); that originally the popes admitted their fallibility in matters of faith (see Stellung 74 ff.); that there are contradictions between papal decrees ex cathedra and between them and the resolutions of the œcumenical councils; that all the authoritative specialists on canon law, beginning with Gratian, in the XII and XIII centuries and many in the XIV and XV, and the most important of the Jesuits, Schmalzgrüber and Layman, admit that the pope may be accused of heresy (Stellung. 189); that early popes certainly considered it necessary to call councils for settling questions relating to faith, and, in recommending this, the 5th œcumenical council quoted the example of the apostles (Schulte, Der Altkatholozismus, 309). This list may be supplemented by the following instances. In answering the Bulgarians in 866 Pope Nicolas I declared that baptism in the name of Lord Jesus Christ, even if performed by a Jew, was valid (Denzingeri, 335); but according to the definition of Pope Alexander III (12th century), only baptism in the name of the Holy Trinity was valid (Denz., 399), and naturally this was confirmed at the Council of Florence (Denz., 696). (Of course Pope Nicolas I’s pronouncement is said to be his personal opinion and not ex cathedra.) Pope Alexander III declared that the baptismal formula must include the words ego te baptizo; but Pope Alexander VIII (17th century) admitted that the omission of those words does not render the baptism invalid (Denz. 1317). With reference to intentio Pope Innocent III (1210) in his bull against the Waldensians required i. fidelis; Pope Alexander VIII maintained that a properly performed baptism was not effective if the priest inwardly said: non intendo. There was thus introduced the idea of intentia interna. Pope Leo XIII, on the contrary, in his bull about Anglican ordinations (1896) distinctly said that the church does not judge of the inner intention, but must judge of it only in so far as it is outwardly expressed.
 Of course Catholic theologians insist on drawing distinctions:
they maintain that “as a private scholar, as a lay sovereign, as simply the
Bishop of Rome, as the primate of Italy, as the patriarch of the West, the pope
is not infallible; he is infallible solely and exclusively as the supreme head
of the Church, and then only when speaking ex cathedra…Hence, decrees
dealing with discipline, instruction, ecclesiastical policy or administration,
as well as those applying the doctrine of faith to particular instances have
as little to do with papal infallibility as the occasions on which the pope,
though pronouncing on matters of doctrine, does it not in the solemn, universally-binding
form ex cathedra” (Pohle, Kirchenlex.
244). All these abstract discriminations avail nothing in the face of the
concrete unity of the bearer of absolute power as a person. They merely show
that with regard to this question theologians are at a loss and do not know
what to make of the
 In his Die Macht der Römische Päbste
ilber Fürste, etc.
Schulte gives a list of papal bulls on various subjects; the meaning of the
dogma of infallibility implies that they remain in force to the present day.
Some of these bulls proclaim the pope’s sovereign power over kings and their
subjects, both Catholic and non-Catholic; in virtue of that power he grants new
countries to kings and a right to enslave the population…Thus Pope Nicolas V in
bulls Romanus Pontifex
and Nuper non of January 9,1454
gives such right to Alfonso the king of Portugal with respect to Western Africa
(this was confirmed by Pope Callistus III in the bull
Inter caetera 1456, and Sixtus
IV in the bull Aeterni Regis 1481). The
bulls of Pope Nicolas V give
 Schulte rightly points out that the reference to Florentinum in c. IV and the quotation from its resolution
are tendentious and omit the end of the resolution which speaks about all the
councils. “The Greeks meant the seven œcumenical
councils accepted by them, and the Uniates—eight; not
one of these councils, beginning with that of Nicea in 325 and ending with that
of Constantinople in 869 acknowledged that the bishop of Rome was the only or
the infallible teacher of faith and morals; nor was he acknowledged as such” at
the 4 Lateran Councils of 1123, 1139, 1179 and 1215, or at the two Councils of
Lyons in 1245 and 1274, or at the Council of Vienna in 1311. The Council of
Constance at its fifth session on 6.IV.1415 laid down as a dogma that the pope,
like every one else, is subject to a general council. The fifth session
undoubtedly belongs to that part of the Council which was recognized by Pope
Martin V. Thus, not one of the eleven pre-Florentine councils recognized by
Rome, or, leaving out the Council of Constance (that of Basel is not counted),
not one of the sixteen œcumenical councils laid down
the definition which, in c. IV, the Florentinum is
said to have confirmed. And, anyway, the Florentine statement differs so widely
 See Scheeben Handbuch d. Kath. Dogmatik IV Bd. I.
 Scheeben, ibid. 225. As though this were an argument!
 ibid. 244. Cp. Th. H. Simar,
Lehrbuch der Dogmatik, 4 Auff. 1889, I,
40; II, 754.5; Pohle, ibid. 248; H. Shell Die
 Schulte Lehrbuch des Kathol. Kirchenrechts, 3 A. 1873 pp. 24l-2.
 The words cum caeteris (which might be interpreted in a “Gallican” sense were deleted on July 15 so as to bring out more forcibly the idea of papal infallibility being independent of the episcopate, and the phrase “non autem ex consensu ecclesiae”—the keystone of the Vatican dogma—was put in. In a paragraph in ch. IV Hoc igitur the words non deficientis were replaced by “nunquam deficientis”, which implies that the errors of the former popes, known to all historians, have not been committed.
 Schulte in Der Altkatholizismus,
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