The Fifth Lateran Council
1512-1517 A.D.
part seven

For document sources noted, see Abbreviations


Although the aforesaid sanction should clearly be subject to nullity on many counts, and was supporting and preserving open schism, and therefore it could have been declared to be essentially of no effect, null and invalid, without the need for any preceding formal citation, yet, from a great sense of caution, our same predecessor Julius, by a public edict -- which was to be fixed to the church doors of Milan, Asti and Pavia, since there was then no safe access to France -gave warning and summoned the prelates of France, the chapters of churches and monasteries, the parlements and the layfolk supporting them and making use of the said sanction, and each and all of the rest who were thinking that there was some advantage for them in the foregoing individually or collectively, to appear before him and the said council within a fixed period, which was then clearly stated, and to declare the reasons why the aforesaid sanction, and its corruptive and abusive effect in matters touching on the authority of the Roman church and the sacred canons, and on the violation of ecclesiastical liberty should not be declared null and invalid. During the lifetime of the said Julius our predecessor, various obstacles made it impossible to implement the summons or to discuss fully the business of the abrogation, as had been his intention . After his death, however, the summons, in full lawful form, was again brought forward by the promoter of the sacred council, the procurator fiscal. Those summoned and not presenting themselves were accused of obstinacy and the request was made for matters to be taken further. At the time we, who have been brought to the highest peak of the apostolate by the favour of the divine mercy after duly considering the whole situation, gave no response to the request, for definite reasons. Later, when a variety of impediments were being alleged by the said persons who had been warned and summoned, as to why they had been unable to present themselves at the appointed time (as stated above), we postponed, several times at several sessions, with the approval of the sacred council the date fixed by the said summons and warning to later dates, which have now long gone past, so that all occasion for just excuse and complaint might be taken away from them.

Although all obstacles have been removed and all dead-lines have passed nevertheless the aforesaid persons, despite being warned and summoned, have not appeared before us and the said council, nor taken any steps to appear, in order to bring forward a reason why the said sanction should not be declared null. There is therefore no longer room for any excuse. They can justly be regarded as obstinate; as indeed, by the demands of justice, we reckoned them to be. We are therefore thinking seriously about this Pragmatic Sanction, or rather corruption, as has been stated, which was issued at the time of the schism by those who did not have the necessary power, and which is not at all in accord with the rest of the christian state or with God's holy church. It was revoked, made void and abolished by the most christian king of France, Louis XI, of distinguished memory. It damages and lessens the authority, liberty and dignity of the apostolic see. It completely removes the power of the Roman pontiff to provide both cardinals of the holy Roman church, who work earnestly on behalf of the universal church, and learned men, with churches, monasteries and other benefices, in accordance with the demands of their status, even though such persons are numerous in the curia and it is by their counsel that the authority and power of the apostolic see, the Roman pontiff and the whole church is kept safe and its affairs guided and promoted into a prosperous state. Thus it offers excuses to church prelates of the aforesaid faction for breaking and violating the sacred nerve of obedience to ecclesiastical discipline and for setting up opposition against us and the apostolic see, their mother, and it opens the way for them to attempt such things. Clearly it is subject to nullity and is to be supported by no prop except of a temporary nature, or rather, of a kind of tolerance. Our predecessors as Roman pontiffs, for all their high hopes expressed in their own days, may have seemed to have tolerated this corruption and abuse, not being able to confront it completely either because of the evil nature of the times or because they were providing for it in some other way. We remember, however, that almost seventy years have passed since the publication of this sanction of Bourges, and that no council has been lawfully held within this time except the present Lateran council. Since we have been placed in this council by the Lord's disposition, we therefore judge and resolve, with Augustine as our witness, that we cannot refrain or desist from the eradication and total annulment of the same vile sanction if we are to avoid disgrace to ourself and to the many fathers assembled in the present council as well as to avoid danger to our own soul and those of the above-mentioned persons using it .

Just as pope Leo I, our predecessor of holy memory, whose footsteps we readily follow insofar as we can, gave orders and brought to pass that the measures which had been rashly carried out at the second synod of Ephesus, contrary to justice and the catholic faith, were later revoked at the council of Chalcedon, for the sake of the constancy of the same faith, so we too judge that we cannot, or ought not to, withdraw from or abandon the revocation of so evil a sanction and its contents if we are to preserve our own honour, and that of the church, with a safe conscience. The fact that the sanction and its contents were published at the council of Basel and, at the instance of the same council, were received and recognised by the meeting at Bourges, ought not to influence us since all those happenings after the transfer of the same council of Basel took place -- the transfer being made by pope Eugenius IV, our predecessor of happy memory -- have remained the deeds of the quasi-council, or rather the conventicle, of Basel. For, especially after that transfer, it did not deserve to be called a council any more and therefore its acts could not have any force. For it is clearly established that only the contemporary Roman pontiff, as holding authority over all councils, has the full right and power to summon, transfer and dissolve councils. This we know not only from the witness of holy scripture, the statements of holy fathers and our predecessors as Roman pontiffs, and the decisions of the sacred canons, but also from the declarations of the same councils. Some of this evidence we have decided to repeat, and some to pass over in silence as being sufficiently well known .

Thus we read that the synod of Alexandria, at which Athanasius was present, wrote to Felix, bishop of Rome, that the council of Nicaea had decided that councils ought not to be celebrated without the authority of the Roman pontiff . Pope Leo I transferred the second council of Ephesus to Chalcedon. Pope Martin V authorised his presidents at the council of Siena to transfer the council with no mention being made of the council's consent. The greatest respect was shown to our predecessors as Roman pontiffs: to Celestine by the first synod of Ephesus; to the said Leo by the synod of Chalcedon; to Agatho by the sixth synod; to Hadrian by the seventh synod; and to Nicholas and Hadrian by the eighth synod, of Constantinople. These councils submitted with reverence and humility to the instructions and commands of the same pontiffs which had been composed and issued by them in the sacred councils. Moreover, pope Damasus and the other bishops assembled at Rome, writing to the bishops at Illyricum about the council at Rimini, pointed out that the number of bishops assembled at Rimini counted for nothing since it was known that the Roman pontiff, whose decrees were to be preferred before all others, had not given his consent to their meeting. It appears that pope Leo I said the same when writing to all the bishops of Sicily. It was customary for the fathers of the ancient councils humbly to ask for and obtain a warrant and approbation from the Roman pontiff in order to corroborate the matters dealt with in their councils . This is clear from the synods and their acts held at Nicaea, Ephesus, Chalcedon, the sixth synod at Constantinople, the seventh at Nicaea, the Roman synod under Symmachus and the synods in Haimar's book. We would certainly be without these recent troubles if the fathers at Bourges and Basel had followed this laudable custom, which it is known that the fathers at Constance also finally adopted .

We desire this matter to be brought to its proper conclusion. We are proceeding on the strength of the many citations issued by us and our said predecessor Julius, and of the other things mentioned above which are so notorious that they cannot be hidden by any excuses or evasions, as well as in virtue of our pastoral office. We are supplying for each and every defect, both of law and of fact, if perchance any happen to exist in the above. We judge and declare, from our certain knowledge and from the fullness of apostolic power, with the approval of the same sacred council, by the contents of the present document, that the aforesaid Pragmatic Sanction or corruption, and its approbations however issued, and each and every decree, chapter, statute, constitution or ordinance that is included, or even inserted, in any way in the same and has been published by others, as well as the customs, expressions and uses, or rather abuses, in any way resulting from it and observed until the present, have been and are of no force or value. In addition, for a more extensive safeguard, we revoke, make void, abrogate, quash, annul and condemn that same sanction or corruption of Bourges and its approval, whether expressed or tacit, as said above, as well as each and every thing of whatever nature included or even inserted in it, and we judge, declare and will them to be considered as of no effect, revoked, made void, abrogated, quashed, annulled and condemned. Moreover, since subjection to the Roman pontiff is necessary for salvation for all Christ's faithful, as we are taught by the testimony of both sacred scripture and the holy fathers, and as is declared by the constitution of pope Boniface VIII of happy memory, also our predecessor, which begins Unam sanctam, we therefore, with the approval of the present sacred council, for the salvation of the souls of the same faithful, for the supreme authority of the Roman pontiff and of this holy see, and for the unity and power of the church, his spouse, renew and give our approval to that constitution, but without prejudice to the declaration of pope Clement V of holy memory, which begins Meruit .

In virtue of holy obedience and under the penalties and censures to be declared below, we forbid each and all of Christ's faithful, both laity and secular clergy, and regulars of whatever order including mendicants, and other persons without restriction, of no matter what status, rank or condition they may be, including cardinals of the holy Roman church, patriarchs, primates, archbishops, bishops, and any others distinguished by ecclesiastical or worldly or any other honour, and each and all other prelates, clerics, chapters, secular convents, regulars of the aforesaid orders, including abbots and priors of monasteries, dukes, counts, princes, barons, parlements, royal officials, judges, advocates, notaries and scribes, both ecclesiastical and secular, and any other regular or secular ecclesiastics in any high office, as said above, who are now or shall be living in the said kingdom of France and the Dauphine and wherever the said Pragmatic has been in force directly or indirectly, silently or openly, to presume to make use of the aforesaid Pragmatic Sanction, or rather corruption, in any way or for any reason, by keeping silence or by clear speech, directly or indirectly, or by any other excuse or clever evasion, in any judicial or extrajudicial acts, or even to appeal to it or make judgments on its terms, or to quash, by themselves or through another or others, any judicial or extra-judicial acts on the grounds of the general meaning of the said sanction or of parts of it, and they may not permit or order these things to be done by means of others. They are not to keep the aforesaid Pragmatic Sanction, or sections or decrees contained in it, in their own houses or in other public or private places. Indeed, they are to destroy it, or have it destroyed, in archives, including royal and capitular ones, and in the above-mentioned places within six months from the date of this present letter .

The penalties to be incurred, automatically and without the need for any further declaration, for each and all of the aforesaid persons, if they act to the contrary (though may they not!), are immediate major excommunication, the incapacity for all and singular legal acts of any kind, being branded as infamous, and the penalties expressed in the law of treason; in addition for the aforesaid ecclesiastical and religious persons, the loss of all patriarchal, metropolitan and other cathedral churches, of all monasteries, priories and convents, and of all secular dignities and ecclesiastical benefices, as well as the inability to hold them in the future; and in addition for secular persons, the loss of any fiefs held for any reason from the Roman or some other church, and the inability to hold them in the future. They cannot be absolved from these penalties by any faculty or by clauses contained in privileges regarding the hearing of confessions, no matter by what persons or verbal formulae they may have been granted. Except when at the point of death, they can only be absolved by the Roman pontiff acting canonically or by someone else having a faculty from him specifically for that purpose .

By the knowledge, power and statements mentioned above we expressly and specifically repeal anything to the contrary. This is notwithstanding anything mentioned above as well as constitutions, ordinances, decrees and statutes, however they may have been published and granted, and frequently renewed, repeated, confirmed and approved, as enduring in their force, by apostolic or any other authority, even conciliar authority and even by our certain knowledge and fullness of apostolic power, the tenor of all of which we regard as sufficiently expressed and included, for the purposes of the above, as if they had been inserted herein word for word; notwithstanding if the apostolic see has granted to any communities and universities, and any individual persons mentioned above, even if they are the aforesaid cardinals, patriarchs, archbishops, bishops, marquises and dukes, or any others, whether individually or communally, that they cannot be interdicted, suspended, excommunicated, deprived or incapacitated by apostolic letters which do not make full and express mention, word for word, of the indult in question; and notwithstanding any other general or special privileges, indulgences and apostolic letters, of whatever tenor they may be, by means of which, because they are not expressed or included in whole in the present letter, the effect of the above might be impeded or deferred in any way, since special mention of their contents is to be regarded as included, word for word, in this our letter. Let nobody therefore .. . If anyone however .. .

[On religious and their privileges]

Leo, bishop, servant of the servants of God, with the approval of the sacred council, for an everlasting record. We consider and diligently ponder the hardworking and anxious zeal, and the unending labours for the glory of the divine name, for the triumph of the catholic faith and the preservation of the church's unity, and for the training and salvation of the souls of the faithful, which are carried on by bishops and their superiors, who have been placed by the apostolic see at the head of their churches in different parts of the world, as well as by the friars of the different orders, especially the mendicant orders, who are engaged without respite or rest. So great is the satisfaction that has reached our heart, as a result of their fruitful labours in the Lord's vineyard and their opportune and praiseworthy actions, that we are devoting every effort to encourage the things which we know to contribute to the preservation of peace and quiet among them. We are conscious that the bishops have become partners in our anxiety . Ambrose bears witness that their distinction and greatness have no possible equal. We also know that religious have done much in the field of the Lord for the defence and advance of the christian religion and that they have produced and are daily producing abundant fruit. Consequently all of the faithful are aware that the good works of these bishops and religious have enabled the true faith to make progress and to spread everywhere throughout the world .

These men have likewise not hesitated on innumerable occasions, with much dedication and competence, to destroy the schisms in God's church, to bring unity to that church and to undergo innumerable pains so that the same church might gain the quiet of peace. Therefore it is just that we direct our efforts so to unite them to one another by the bond of peace and by a fraternal unity and charity that, linked in unity of doctrine and actions, they may foster more abundant fruits in God's church. The exercise of spiritual rights, which concern the glory of God and the salvation of the souls of Christ's faithful, has been entrusted to bishops and their superiors in their respective dioceses, since they have been chosen to be sharers of our burden, as we have already said, and since dioceses with defined boundaries have been assigned to each of the bishops. We truly desire, then, that these spiritual rights be exercised by the bishops, and that the right of freely exercising them be truly, as far as possible, kept intact for them. If our predecessors as Roman pontiffs and the apostolic see have granted any such spiritual rights to the said mendicant friars to the harm of the bishops we consider that such concessions made to religious ought in future to be limited, so that the friars themselves will be supported in all charity by the said bishops rather than be troubled and disturbed. For, regulars and seculars, prelates and subjects, exempt and non-exempt, belong to the one universal church, outside of which no one at all is saved, and they all have one Lord and one faith. That is why it is fitting that, belonging to the one same body, they also have the one same will; and just as the brethren are united by the bond of mutual charity, so it is not fitting that they arouse among themselves injustice and hurt, since the Saviour says, My commandment is that you love one another as I have loved you .

We wish to preserve charity and mutual goodwill among bishops, their superiors, prelates and friars, as well as to promote divine worship and the peace and tranquillity of the universal church. We know this can be done only if each preserves as far as possible his own jurisdiction. We have therefore decided and decreed, with the approval of the sacred council, that the said bishops, their superiors and other prelates may visit the parish churches which legitimately belong to the same friars by reason of their residences, with regard to what concerns the care of the parishioners and the preservation and administration of the sacraments, without however the exceptional trouble and expense of official visitors. They may punish those responsible for the churches and failing in this matter: if they are religious, then in accordance with the rules of their order within the precincts of the religious house, if they are secular priests or friars who hold benefices of this kind, then they may freely punish them as being subject to their jurisdiction. Both prelates and secular priests who are not excommunicated may celebrate masses out of devotion in the churches of the said religious houses, if they wish to do so, and the friars themselves ought to welcome them. Friars who are invited by the same prelates to take part in solemn processions ought to agree, provided the suburban friary in question is not more than a mile away from the city .

The friars' superiors are bound to specify and present in person to the same prelates the friars whom they have chosen to hear for a time the confessions of the prelate's subjects, if the prelates ask for them to be specified and presented to them; if not, then to their vicars; with the condition that they are not bound to go to prelates who are more than two days' journey away. The friars in question may be examined by the same bishops and prelates, at least regarding the sufficiency of their learning and their other skills relative to this sacrament. If they are accepted, or if the refusal is unjust, then, in accordance with the constitution Omnis utriusque sexus, let them be considered as accepted at least as regards confession, and they can even hear the confessions of strangers. They have no power, however, to absolve layfolk and secular clergy from manimposed penalties. They may not administer the eucharist and extreme unction and the church's other sacraments to those whose confessions they have heard, including the sick and the dying, who say that their own priest has refused to give the sacraments to them, unless the refusal was made without a just reason and this is proved by the testimony of neighbours or by an investigation carried out before a pubic notary. They have no authority to administer these sacraments to persons requesting their ministrations except during a period of actual service to them. Temporary agreements and contracts between friars and prelates or curates are valid unless they are rejected by the next general or provincial chapter and the rejection is duly communicated by the chapter. Friars may not enter parishes bearing a cross in order to carry out the funerals of those who have chosen to be buried at the churches of their houses or institutions, unless the parish priest, having received due notice and a request, does not refuse, and in that case without prejudice to himself and the ordinary; or unless there is an ancient custom on this point with the friars, which is currently in force and is mutually agreed upon. Those who wish to be buried in the habit of the said friars, but who live in their own houses and not in enclosure, are free to choose a burial place for themselves in their last wills .

Friars due to be promoted to orders are to be examined by the ordinaries on grammar and their competence. Provided they answer adequately, they ought to be readily admitted by the ordinaries. They may not, however, be ordained in their churches or houses or other places by anyone except the diocesan bishop or his deputy (the latter is to be asked with due reverence), unless the bishop refuses on insufficient grounds or is absent from his diocese. They should not ask for the consecration of a church or an altar, or the blessing of a cemetery, from another bishop; and they may not arrange for the first stone of a church being built for them to be laid by a strange bishop, unless the ordinary refuses without any just reason after he has been asked two or three times with due reverence and urgency. Friars may not bless a bride and bridegroom without the consent of those in charge of the parish. In order to render to the mother church the honour due to her, friars and secular clerics may not ring the bells of their churches on Holy Saturday before those of the cathedral or mother church have been rung, even if they are supported on this point by a privilege of the apostolic see. Those acting otherwise incur a penalty of one hundred ducats. They are to publish and observe in the churches of their own houses the censures which are imposed promulgated and solemnly published by the ordinaries in the mother churches of cities as well as in the collegiate and parish churches of castles and towns, when they are asked to do this by the same ordinaries. To provide more fruitfully for the salvation of the souls of Christ's faithful of both sexes, they are obliged to advise and encourage those whose confessions they have heard for a time, no matter of what standing or status they may be, that they are bound in conscience to pay tithes, or a portion of their goods or produce, in those places where such tithes or dues are customarily paid; and they are obliged to refuse absolution to those who will not pay them. They are bound, moreover, to include this in their public preaching and exhortations to the people when they are asked to do so .

The conservators assigned for a time to the same friars by the apostolic see ought to be outstanding in learning and good reputation and of established ecclesiastical rank. They cannot oblige to appear before them anyone living more than two days' journey away, notwithstanding any privileges granted to the conservators at other times. Excommunicated persons wishing to enter a mendicant order cannot be absolved when the interests of a third party are involved, unless satisfaction has previously been made. Procurators, business agents and workers in the service of the said friars are subject to sentences of excommunication which have been promulgated, if they have given cause for them or have offered help, favour or advice to the guilty. Brothers and sisters of the third order, and those known as the cloaked ones, the girdled ones and the devotees, and others no matter how named, living in their own homes, can choose whatever place of burial they wish. They are bound, however, to receive the eucharist at Easter as well as extreme unction and the other sacraments of the church, with the exception of the sacrament of penance, from their own priest . They are obliged to undertake the tasks incumbent upon the laity, and they can be brought before lay judges in a secular court. To avoid the cheapening of ecclesiastical censures, and sentences of interdict being regarded as of little importance, members of the said third orders are in no way to be admitted to hear divine services in the churches of their orders during a period of interdict, if they have given grounds for the interdict or encouraged or supported those grounds, or if they have in any way offered help, counsel or favour to the guilty . But those living in an official group, or dwelling with the enclosed, and women who are leading a life of virginity, celibacy or chaste widowhood under an expressed vow and with a habit, ought to enjoy the privileges of the order of which they are tertiaries .

We wish and decree that each and all of the above norms are to be extended to and observed by, all other religious of other orders. In matters not mentioned above, the rights of the said bishops and friars and other religious are to be maintained. We do not wish to prejudice these rights in any way by the above statements, or to introduce anything new. This is notwithstanding apostolic constitutions and ordinances; statutes and customs of the said orders which have been strengthened by oath, apostolic confirmation or any other form of reinforcement; and privileges, indults and apostolic letters which have been granted to the same orders and are contrary to what has been set down above or to any part of it, even what was included in Mare magnum. If there is required a mention or other statement that is special, specific, clear, distinctive, word for word, and not by general clauses, regarding these things and their meaning, or if some other carefully chosen form should be used, in order that they might be abrogated, then we consider their meaning to be sufficiently expressed and included in this present letter, we expressly and specially abrogate anything to the contrary, and we decree as null and void anything that is knowingly or unknowingly attempted to the contrary in these matters by any person acting on any authority .


See Part Eight of the Fifth Lateran Council

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