Second Council of Lyons - 1274 A.D.
part two

For document sources noted, see Abbreviations



2. On election and the power of the elected person {6}

2. {7} Where there is greater danger, there must certainly be greater foresight. We learn from the past how heavy are the losses sustained by the Roman church in a long vacancy, how perilous it is; we see this all too clearly when we wisely consider the crises undergone. Reason therefore openly challenges us, while we devote ourselves skilfully to the reform of lesser evils, certainly not to leave without appropriate remedy those of greater danger. We judge therefore that everything wisely instituted by our predecessors and especially by Pope Alexander III of happy memory, for avoiding discord in the election of the Roman pontiff, should remain altogether intact. We intend in no way to detract from this legislation, but to supply by the present constitution what experience has shown to be missing.

With the approval of the sacred council {8} , we decree that if the pope dies in a city where he was residing with his curia, the cardinals present in that city are obliged to await the absent cardinals, but for ten days only. When these days have passed, whether those absent have arrived or not, all are to assemble in the palace where the pope lived. Each is to be content with one servant only, clerical or lay, at choice. We allow however those in evident need to have two, with the same choice. In this palace all are to live in common in one room, with no partition or curtain. Apart from free entry to a private room, the conclave is to be completely locked, so that no one can enter or leave. No one may have access to the cardinals or permission to talk secretly with them, nor are they themselves to admit anyone to their presence, except those who, by consent of all the cardinals present, might be summoned only for the business of the imminent election. It is not lawful for anyone to send a messenger or a written message to the cardinals or to any one of them. Whoever acts otherwise, sending a messenger or a written message, or speaking secretly to one of the cardinals, is to incur automatic excommunication. In the conclave some suitable window is to be left open through which the necessary food may be served conveniently to the cardinals, but no entry for anyone is to be possible through this way.

If, which God forbid, within three days after the cardinals have entered the said conclave, the church has not been provided with a shepherd, they are to be content for the next five days, every day both at dinner and supper, with one dish only. If these days also pass without the election of a pope, henceforth only bread, wine and water are to be served to the cardinals until they do provide a pope. While the election is in process, the cardinals are to receive nothing from the papal treasury, nor any other revenue coming from whatever source to the church while the see is vacant. Everything during this period remains in the custody of him to whose faithfulness and care the treasury has been entrusted, to be kept by him for the disposal of the future pope. Those who have accepted something are obliged from then on to abstain from receiving any of the revenues due to them until they have made full restitution of what they have accepted in this way. The cardinals are to devote their time so carefully to hastening the election as to occupy themselves with no other business whatever unless perhaps there occurs such an urgent necessity as the defence of the states of the church or some part of them, or there be threat of such a great and evident danger that it seems to each and all the cardinals present, by general consent, that they should quickly counteract it.

Of course if one of the cardinals does not enter the conclave, which we have described above, or having entered leaves without evident cause of illness, the others, without in any way searching for him and without re-admitting him to the election, may proceed freely to elect the next pope. If in fact, owing to sudden illness, one of them leaves the conclave, the election may proceed without the need for his vote, even while the illness lasts. But if after regaining his health or even before, he wishes to return, or even if other absentees, for whom a wait of ten days should be made as we have said, come on the scene while the election is still undecided, that is, before the church has been provided with a shepherd, they are to be admitted to the election in the state in which they find it; they are to keep the rules with the others as regards enclosure, servants, food and drink and everything else.

If the Roman pontiff happens to die outside the city in which he resided with his curia, the cardinals are obliged to assemble in the city in whose territory or district the pontiff died, unless perhaps the city lies under interdict or persists in open rebellion against the Roman church. In which case they are to meet in another city, the nearest which is neither under interdict nor openly rebellious. In this city also, the same rules about waiting for absentees, living together, enclosure and everything else, in the episcopal palace or any other residence specified by the cardinals, are to be observed as above when the pope dies in the city where he resided with his curia.

Moreover, since it is not enough to make laws unless there is someone to see that they are kept, we further ordain that the lord and other rulers and officials of the city where the election of the Roman pontiff is to be held, by the power given to them by our authority and the approval of the council, are to enforce the observance of everything prescribed above in every detail, fully and inviolably without any deceit and trickery, but they may not presume to restrict the cardinals beyond what has been said. As soon as the said lord, rulers and officials hear of the supreme pontiff's death, they are to take an oath as a body, in the presence of the clergy and people specially mustered for the purpose, to observe these prescriptions. If it happens that they commit fraud in this matter or do not observe the regulations with care, of whatever pre-eminence, condition or status they may be, they lose all privileges; they are automatically subject to the bond of excommunication and are forever infamous; and they are permanently excluded from all honours, nor may they be admitted to any public office. We have decreed that over and above this they are automatically deprived of the fiefs goods and all they hold from the same Roman church or any other churches, this property returns fully and freely to the churches themselves, to be without any opposition at the disposal of the administrators of those churches. The city itself is to be not only laid under interdict but also deprived of its episcopal dignity.

Furthermore {9} , since when a disordered passion enslaves the will or some pledge compels it to one way of acting, the election is null from lack of freedom, we implore the cardinals through the tender mercy of our God', and we call them to witness through the sprinkling of his precious blood, that they consider very carefully what they are about to do. They are electing the vicar of Jesus Christ, the successor of Peter, the ruler of the universal church, the guide of the Lord's flock. They are to lay aside all the disorder of private affection, to be free from any bargain, agreement or pledge; they are not to consider any promise or understanding, to have no regard for their mutual advantage or that of their friends. They are not to look after their own interests or their individual convenience. Without any constraint on their judgment other than God, they are to seek purely and freely the public good, with the election alone in mind. They are to use every endeavour and care that is possible. Their one aim is to provide, by their service and speedily, what is so useful and necessary for the whole world, a fitting spouse for the church. Those who act otherwise are subject to the divine retribution, their fault never to be pardoned except after severe penance. We invalidate all bargains, agreements, pledges, promises and understandings, whether confirmed by oath or any other bond; we nullify all these and decree that such have no force whatever. No one is constrained in any way to observe them, nor anyone to fear that by transgressing them he is breaking faith. Rather he deserves praise, for even human law testifies that such transgressions are more acceptable to God than the keeping of the oath.

Since the faithful should rely not so much on human resource, however solicitous, than on the urgency of humble and devoted prayer, we make an addition to this decree. In all the cities and important places, as soon as the death of the pope becomes known, solemn exequies are to be celebrated for him by clergy and people. After this, every day until undoubted news is brought that the church truly has her pastor, there is to be humble and devoted prayer to the Lord, that he who makes peace in his high heaven may so unite the hearts of the cardinals in their choice that provision may be made for the church swiftly, harmoniously, unanimously and beneficially, for the salvation of souls and the advantage of the whole world. And lest this salutary decree be disregarded on pretext of ignorance, we strictly order patriarchs, archbishops, bishops, other prelates of churches, and all who have faculties to explain the word of God, that they should often gather together the clergy and people for the purpose of urging them in sermons to pray earnestly and repeatedly for a swift and happy outcome of the conclave. With the same authority they should prescribe not only frequent prayer but also, as circumstances recommend, the observance of fasting.

3 {10} That we may, as far as possible, close the way to evil practices in ecclesiastical elections, postulations and provisions, and that churches may not have long and dangerous vacancies or the provision of parsonages, dignities and other ecclesiastical benefices be delayed, we make this perpetual decree. When opponents to elections, postulations or provisions raise difficulties against the form of the election, postulation or provision, or against the persons of the electors or of the one elected or of him for whom the provision was to be made or has been made, and for these reasons make an appeal, the appellants are to express in a public document or letter of appeal every individual objection they intend to make against the form or persons. They shall do this in the presence of a qualified person or persons bearing witness to the truth on the above points, and they shall personally swear that they believe what they say to be true and can prove it. If this is not done, both the objectors and, during the time of appeal or afterwards, their adherents are to know that the power of objecting anything not expressed in these letters or documents is forbidden to them, unless there is some new evidence or there suddenly appears means of proving the former objections, or some facts of the past have newly come to the knowledge of the objectors, facts of which at the time of the appeal the appellants probably could have been, and in fact were, ignorant. They are to establish their good faith concerning this ignorance and the subsequent possibility of proof by taking an oath personally, adding in the same oath that they believe they have sufficient proof. It is our will certainly that the penalties imposed by Pope Innocent IV of happy memory on those who do not fully substantiate their objections against the form or the person, shall remain in force.

4 {11} Blind greed and criminal, dishonest ambition, seizing on certain minds, drive them to the rash attempt to usurp by ingenious fraud what they know is forbidden to them by the law. Some, indeed, are elected to the government of churches and, because the law forbids any interference in the administration of churches before the election has been confirmed, contrive to have the churches entrusted to themselves as procurators and managers. Since it is not good to give way to human trickery, we wish to take wider precautions in this general constitution. We decree that none may henceforth presume, before confirmation of his election, to conduct or accept the administration of an office to which he has been elected, or to interfere in it, under the pretext of management or procuratorship or some other newly invented disguise, in things spiritual or temporal, directly or through others, in part or in whole. We decree that all who act otherwise are by that very fact deprived of the right they would have acquired by the election.

5. {12} Not only do the laws bear witness but also experience, that effective teacher of reality, makes clear how damaging to churches is their vacancy, how dangerous it usually is to souls. Desirous, then, of counteracting the long duration of vacancies by suitable remedies, we make a perpetual decree that after there has been an election in any church, the electors are obliged to inform the elect as soon as conveniently possible and to ask his consent. The elect in his turn is to give it within a month from the day of being informed. If the elect delays beyond this, he is to know that from then on he is deprived of the right he would have acquired from his election, unless perhaps his condition is such that he cannot consent to his election without his superior's leave, on account of a prohibition or some disposition of the apostolic see {13} . The elect or his electors must then earnestly seek and gain the superior's leave as quickly as his presence or absence will permit. Otherwise, if the time has expired, even with the allowance made for the presence or absence of the superior, and permission has not been obtained, the electors are then free to proceed to another election. Furthermore, any elect must ask for confirmation of his election within three months after giving consent. If without lawful impediment he omits to do this within such a three-month period, the election is by that very fact null and void.

6. {14} We declare, with the force of a perpetual decree, that they who in an election vote knowingly for an unworthy candidate are not deprived of the power of electing, unless they have so far persisted as to make the election depend on their votes, even though in nominating an unworthy person they have deliberately acted against their consciences and may rightly fear divine retribution and a punishment, in accordance with the offence, from the apostolic see.

7. {15} We decree that nobody, after voting for someone whose election follows, or after giving consent to an election made by others, may oppose him concerning the election itself, except for reasons coming to light afterwards, or unless the elect's evil character previously hidden from the objector is now disclosed, or the existence of some other hidden vice or defect, of which in all probability he could have been ignorant, is revealed. He is however to guarantee his good faith regarding this lack of knowledge by oath.

8. {16} If after two scrutinies one part of the electors is to be found more than double the number of the other, we by this decree take away from the minority all power of imputing lack of zeal, merit or authority to the majority or their candidate. We do not however forbid such objections as would render null, in virtue of the law itself, the election of the candidate so opposed.

9. {17} The constitution of Pope Alexander IV, our predecessor of happy memory, rightly includes cases about episcopal elections, and those arising therefrom, in the category of major cases and asserts that their judicial inquiry subsequent to any appeal falls to the apostolic see. We, however, wishing to curb both the rash boldness and unbridled frequency of appeals, have considered that we should make provision by this general constitution. If someone appeals extrajudicially with an evidently frivolous motive in the aforesaid elections or in others which concern dignities higher than the episcopate, such an appeal is by no means to go before the apostolic see. When however in the business of such elections an appeal is made in writing, judicially or extrajudicially, from a credible motive which on proof ought to be considered legitimate, such business is to be brought to the apostolic see. Furthermore, it is lawful for the parties in these cases, provided there is no malice, to withdraw from such appeals before they are laid before the said see. Subordinate judges, who were competent for these cases, should on withdrawal of the appeal first of all inquire carefully whether there has been any irregularity. If they find such, they are to have no further dealings with the case itself, but shall set for the parties a suitable fixed term in which they are to present themselves with all their acts and records to the apostolic see. I

10. {18} If among other objections against the elect or nominee or candidate to be promoted in any other way to some dignity, it is said that he clearly lacks the requisite knowledge or has some other obvious personal defect, we decree that there is to be an invariable order in discussing the objections. The candidate is to be examined first of all concerning the alleged defect, the outcome deciding whether other objections are to be considered or not. If the result of the said examination shows that the objections concerning the alleged defect are devoid of truth, we exclude the objectors altogether from pursuing further the case in which they have made their objections, and we decree that they are to be punished exactly as if they had thoroughly failed to prove any of their objections.

11. {19} All those who presume to oppress clerics or any other ecclesiastical persons having the right of election in certain churches, monasteries or other pious places, because they have refused to elect the person for whom they were asked or urged to vote, or who presume to oppress their relatives or the said churches, monasteries or other places, robbing them of benefices or other property, either directly or through others, or taking revenge in other ways, are to know that they incur automatic excommunication.

12 20 We decree by a general constitution that one and all, however high their rank, who try to usurp the royal privileges, the custody or guard, or the title of advocate or defender, in churches, monasteries and any other pious places, and presume to take possession of their property during a vacancy, lie under automatic sentence of excommunication. The clerics of the churches, the monks of the monasteries, and the other persons in the above places, who abet these offences, are automatically excommunicated in the same way. We indeed strictly forbid those clerics who do not oppose, as they ought, those who act in such a way, to receive any income from these churches or places during the time they have allowed the usurpation to happen without opposition. Those who claim these rights by the foundation of the churches or of the other places, or by reason of ancient custom, are prudently to avoid abusing their rights and take care that their agents do not abuse them, so that they appropriate nothing beyond what pertains to the fruits or revenues accruing during the vacancy, and do not allow the dilapidation of the other property of which they claim to be the guardians but preserve it in good condition.

13. The canon promulgated by Pope Alexander III, our predecessor of happy memory, decreed among other things that nobody is to be appointed parish priest until he is twenty-five and approved as to knowledge and morals; and that after his appointment, if he has not been ordained priest within the time fixed by the canons, despite being warned to this effect, he is to be removed from office and it is to be conferred on someone else. Since many neglect to observe this canon, we wish their dangerous negligence to be made good by observance of the law. We therefore decree that nobody is to be appointed parish priest unless he is suitable by knowledge, morals and age. Any appointments from now of those younger than twenty-five are to lack all validity. The person appointed is obliged to reside in the parish church of which he has become rector, in order that he may take more diligent care of the flock entrusted to him. Within a year of being appointed to his charge he is to have himself ordained to the priesthood. If within that time he has not been ordained, he is deprived of his church, even without previous warning, by authority of the present constitution. As to residence, as above described, the ordinary may grant a dispensation for a time and for a reasonable cause.

14. No one may henceforth presume to give a parish church "in commendam" to anyone under the lawful age and not ordained priest. Such a commendatory may have only one parish church and there must be an evident need or advantage for the church itself. We declare, however, that such a commendam, even when properly made, is not to last more than six months. We decree that any contrary procedure relating to commendams of parish churches is invalid by law.

15. On the circumstances of ordination and the quality of ordinands

15. {21} We decree that those who knowingly or with affected ignorance or on any other pretext presume to ordain clerics of another diocese without permission of the ordinands' superior, are suspended for a year from conferring any orders. The penalties prescribed by law against those so ordained are to remain in full vigour. We also grant the faculty to clerics of the dioceses of bishops thus suspended, after their suspension has become public, freely to receive orders meanwhile from neighbouring bishops, even without their own bishop's leave, but in other respects canonically.

16. On bigamists

16. {22} Putting an end to an old debate by the present declaration, we declare that bigamists are deprived of any clerical privilege and are to be handed over to the control of the secular law, any contrary custom notwithstanding. We also forbid bigamists under pain of anathema to wear the tonsure or clerical dress.

17. On the office of ordinary judge

17. {23} If canons wish to suspend the celebration of divine worship, as is their claim from custom or otherwise in certain churches, they are obliged, before taking any steps to suspend the celebration, to express their reasons for this in a confirmation of authenticity. They are to consign this document or letter to the person against whom the suspension is directed. They are to know that if they suspend services without this formality or the reason expressed is not canonical, they shall restore all the income they have received, during the time of the suspension, from the church in which the suspension has taken place. They shall in no way receive anything owing to them for that period but make it over to the church in question. They will, moreover, be obliged to make restitution for the loss or injustice done to the person whom they intended to punish. If however their cause is judged to be canonical, the one who occasioned the suspension is to be sentenced to compensate the said canons and the church from which divine service has been withdrawn through his fault. The superior is to adjudicate the compensation and it is to be used for the benefit of divine worship. Nevertheless we utterly rebuke the detestable abuse and horrible impiety of those who treating with irreverent boldness crucifixes and images or statues of the blessed Virgin and other saints, throw them to the ground in order to emphasise the suspension of divine worship, and leave them under nettles and thorns. We forbid severely any sacrilege of this kind. We decree that those who disobey are to receive a hard retributive sentence which will so chastise the offenders as to suppress the like arrogance in others.

  • {5} const. 29 in BN
  • {6} To all who by God's mercy (by God's mercy omitted in V 8) will see this present letter ... (the names follow, for which see Actenstuecke zur Geschichte des deutschen Reiches ..., ed. F. Kaltenbrunner (Mitteilungen aus dem Vaticanischen Archive, I), Vienna 1869, no. 52; Kuttner, Conciliar Law ... , 62. The scrolls are signed by the bishops of the individual nations, namely Italy, France, Germany, Ireland and Britain, Spain and Portugal, Provence, and the East, and by the abbots and priors of religious orders.) greetings in the author of salvation (the same words in a different order in V 3, 5). By this writing we bear witness that we have seen and carefully examined the constitution of the most holy father (the most holy father omitted in V 1, 7-8), our lord the lord Gregory X by divine providence pope, of the following tenor V
  • {7} const. 14 in BN
  • {8} With the approval ... council omitted in V W
  • {9} Furthermore ... fasting i.e. to the end of the constitution is omitted in V W, which have instead: On each and all of these points we reserve for us and our successors full freedom to declare (to change added in V 3, 5, 7-8), to add or to subtract, as will seem expedient for the common good. We therefore note the holy and pious intention of the same supreme pontiff, since in the said constitution he is concerned only with pleasing God and providing for the universal church. In it (In it omitted in V 1, 4, 6, 8) the supreme pontiff is not pursuing any private interest of his own, especially since the effect of the constitution extends to the time when he will no longer be among mortals. We also note how many dangers arose from the recent prolonged vacancy of the Roman church. For these reasons we accept, approve and expressly consent to the same constitution which obviates so many dangers. In testimony of which we set our seal to the present document. Continued in V 1-7: Given at Lyons on Friday
  • {10} const. 2 in BN
  • {11} const 3. in BN
  • {12} const 4. in BN
  • {13} on account ... see omitted in W
  • {14} const 5. in BN
  • {15} const. 6 in BN
  • {16} const. 7 in BN
  • {17} const. 8 in BN
  • {18} const. 15 in BN
  • {19} const. 18 in BN 20 const. 21 in B
  • {21} const. 10 in BN
  • {22} const. 22 in BN
  • {23} const. 16 in BN

See Part Three of the Second Council of Lyons

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