Council of Constance
1414-1418 A.D.

part four

For document sources noted, see Abbreviations


[Sentence of degradation against J. Hus]

Moreover, the acts and deliberations of the inquiry into heresy against the aforesaid John Hus have been examined. There was first a faithful and full account made by the commissioners deputed for the case and by other masters of theology and doctors of both laws, concerning the acts and deliberations and the depositions of very many trustworthy witnesses. These depositions were openly and publicly read out to the said John Hus before the fathers and prelates of this sacred council. It is very clearly established from the depositions of these witnesses that the said John has taught many evil, scandalous and seditious things, and dangerous heresies, and has publicly preached them during many years. This most holy synod of Constance, invoking Christ's name and having God alone before its eyes, therefore pronounces, decrees and defines by this definitive sentence, which is here written down, that the said John Hus was and is a true and manifest heretic and has taught and publicly preached, to the great offence of the divine Majesty, to the scandal of the universal church and to the detriment of the catholic faith, errors and heresies that have long ago been condemned by God's church and many things that are scandalous, offensive to the ears of the devout, rash and seditious, and that he has even despised the keys of the church and ecclesiastical censures. He has persisted in these things for many years with a hardened heart. He has greatly scandalised Christ's faithful by his obstinacy since, bypassing the church's intermediaries, he has made appeal directly to our lord Jesus Christ, as to the supreme judge, in which he has introduced many false, harmful and scandalous things to the contempt of the apostolic see, ecclesiastical censures and the keys.

This holy synod therefore pronounces the said John Hus, on account of the aforesaid and many other matters, to have been a heretic and it judges him to be considered and condemned as a heretic, and it hereby condemns him. It rejects the said appeal of his as harmful and scandalous and offensive to the church's jurisdiction. It declares that the said John Hus seduced the christian people, especially in the kingdom of Bohemia, in his public sermons and in his writings; and that he was not a true preacher of Christ's gospel to the same christian people, according to the exposition of the holy doctors, but rather was a seducer. Since this most holy synod has learnt from what it has seen and heard, that the said John Hus is obstinate and incorrigible and as such does not desire to return to the bosom of holy mother the church, and is unwilling to abjure the heresies and errors which he has publicly defended and preached, this holy synod of Constance therefore declares and decrees that the same John Hus is to be deposed and degraded from the order of the priesthood and from the other orders held by him. It charges the reverend fathers in Christ, the archbishop of Milan and the bishops of Feltre Asti, Alessandria, Bangor and Lavour with duly carrying out the degradation in the presence of this most holy synod, in accordance with the procedure required by law.

[Sentence condemning J. Hus to the stake]

This holy synod of Constance, seeing that God's church has nothing more that it can do, relinquishes John Hus to the judgment of the secular authority and decrees that he is to be relinquished to the secular court.

[Condemned articles of J. Hus]

1. There is only one holy universal church, which is the total number of those predestined to salvation. It therefore follows that the universal holy church is only one, inasmuch as there is only one number of all those who are predestined to salvation.

2. Paul was never a member of the devil, even though he did certain acts which are similar to the acts of the church's enemies.

3. Those foreknown as damned are not parts of the church, for no part of the church can finally fall away from it, since the predestinating love that binds the church together does not fail.

4. The two natures, the divinity and the humanity, are one Christ.

5. A person foreknown to damnation is never part of the holy church, even if he is in a state of grace according to present justice; a person predestined to salvation always remains a member of the church, even though he may fall away for a time from adventitious grace, for he keeps the grace of predestination.

6. The church is an article of faith in the following sense: to regard it as the convocation of those predestined to salvation, whether or not it be in a state of grace according to present justice.

7. Peter neither was nor is the head of the holy catholic church.

8. Priests who live in vice in any way pollute the power of the priesthood, and like unfaithful sons are untrustworthy in their thinking about the church's seven sacraments, about the keys, offices, censures, customs, ceremonies and sacred things of the church, about the veneration of relics, and about indulgences and orders.

9. The papal dignity originated with the emperor, and the primacy and institution of the pope emanated from imperial power.

10. Nobody would reasonably assert of himself or of another, without revelation, that he was the head of a particular holy church; nor is the Roman pontiff the head of the Roman church.

11. It is not necessary to believe that any particular Roman pontiff is the head of any particular holy church, unless God has predestined him to salvation.

12. Nobody holds the place of Christ or of Peter unless he follows his way of life, since there is no other discipleship that is more appropriate nor is there another way to receive delegated power from God, since there is required for this office of vicar a similar way of life as well as the authority of the one instituting.

13. The pope is not the manifest and true successor of the prince of the apostles, Peter, if he lives in a way contrary to Peter's. If he seeks avarice, he is the vicar of Judas Iscariot. Likewise, cardinals are not the manifest and true successors of the college of Christ's other apostles unless they live after the manner of the apostles, keeping the commandments and counsels of our lord Jesus Christ.

14. Doctors who state that anybody subjected to ecclesiastical censure, if he refuses to be corrected, should be handed over to the judgment of the secular authority, are undoubtedly following in this the chief priests, the scribes and the pharisees who handed over to the secular authority Christ himself, since he was unwilling to obey them in all things, saying, It is not lawful for us to put any man to death; these gave him to the civil judge, so that such men are even greater murderers than Pilate.

15. Ecclesiastical obedience was invented by the church's priests, without the express authority of scripture.

16. The immediate division of human actions is between those that are virtuous and those that are wicked. Therefore, if a man is wicked and does something, he acts wickedly; if he is virtuous and does something, he acts virtuously. For just as wickedness, which is called crime or mortal sin, infects all the acts of a wicked man, so virtue gives life to all the acts of a virtuous man.

17. A priest of Christ who lives according to his law, knows scripture and has a desire to edify the people, ought to preach, notwithstanding a pretended excommunication. And further on: if the pope or any superior orders a priest so disposed not to preach, the subordinate ought not to obey.

18. Whoever enters the priesthood receives a binding duty to preach; and this mandate ought to be carried out, notwithstanding a pretended excommunication.

19. By the church's censures of excommunication, suspension and interdict the clergy subdue the laity, for the sake of their own exaltation, multiply avarice protect wickedness and prepare the way for antichrist. The clear sign of this is the fact that these censures come from antichrist. In the legal proceedings of the clergy they are called fulminations, which are the principal means whereby the clergy proceed against those who uncover antichrist's wickedness, which the clergy has for the most part usurped for itself.

20. If the pope is wicked, and especially if he is foreknown to damnation, then he is a devil like Judas the apostle, a thief and a son of perdition and is not the head of the holy church militant since he is not even a member of it.

21. The grace of predestination is the bond whereby the body of the church and each of its members is indissolubly joined with the head.

22. The pope or a prelate who is wicked and foreknown to damnation is a pastor only in an equivocal sense, and truly is a thief and a robber.

23. The pope ought not to be called "most holy" even by reason of his office, for otherwise even a king ought to be called "most holy" by reason of his office and executioners and heralds ought to be called "holy", indeed even the devil would be called "holy" since he is an official of God.

24. If a pope lives contrary to Christ, even if he has risen through a right and legitimate election according to the established human constitution, he would have risen by a way other than through Christ, even granted that he entered upon office by an election that had been made principally by God. For, Judas Iscariot was rightly and legitimately elected to be an apostle by Jesus Christ who is God, yet he climbed into the sheepfold by another way.

25. The condemnation of the forty-five articles of John Wyclif, decreed by the doctors, is irrational and unjust and badly done and the reason alleged by them is feigned, namely that none of them is catholic but each one is either heretical or erroneous or scandalous.

26. The viva voce agreement upon some person, made according to human custom by the electors or by the greater part of them, does not mean by itself that the person has been legitimately elected or that by this very fact he is the true and manifest successor or vicar of the apostle Peter or of another apostle in an ecclesiastical office. For, it is to the works of the one elected that we should look irrespective of whether the manner of the election was good or bad. For, the more plentifully a person acts meritoriously towards building up the church, the more copiously does he thereby have power from God for this.

27. There is not the least proof that there must be one head ruling the church in spiritual matters who always lives with the church militant.

28. Christ would govern his church better by his true disciples scattered throughout the world, without these monstrous heads.

29. The apostles and faithful priests of the Lord strenuously governed the church in matters necessary for salvation before the office of pope was introduced, and they would continue to do this until the day of judgment if--which is very possible--there is no pope.

30. Nobody is a civil lord, a prelate or a bishop while he is in mortal sin.

[Sentence condemning John Petit's proposition, "Any tyrant-']

This most holy synod wishes to proceed with special care to the eradication of errors and heresies which are growing in various parts of the world, as is its duty and the purpose for which it has assembled. It has recently learnt that various propositions have been taught that are erroneous both in the faith and as regards good morals, are scandalous in many ways and threaten to subvert the constitution and order of every state. Among these propositions this one has been reported: Any tyrant can and ought to be killed, licitly and meritoriously, by any of his vassals or subjects, even by means of plots and blandishments or flattery, notwithstanding any oath taken, or treaty made with the tyrant, and without waiting for a sentence or a command from any judge. This holy synod, wishing to oppose this error and to eradicate it completely, declares, decrees and defines, after mature deliberation, that this doctrine is erroneous in the faith and with regard to morals, and it rejects and condemns the doctrine as heretical, scandalous and seditious and as leading the way through perjury to frauds, deceptions, lies and betrayals. It declares, decrees and defines, moreover, that those who stubbornly assert this very pernicious doctrine are heretics and are to be punished as such according to canonical and legitimate sanctions. [37 ]

SESSION 16 - 11 July 1415

[Deliberation about the council's legates due to depart with the emperor Sigismund for Spain; minor deliberations about the conduct of the council's business.]

SESSION 17 - 15 July 1415

[The emperor's imminent departure from the council is treated of; the council offers prayers for his success.]

SESSION 18 - 17 August 1415

[Decrees about various matters to be decided by the council: power is given to judges to make decisions, and for pairs of them to hear cases; that bulls of the council are to be obeyed; that forgers of conciliar bulls are to be punished in the same way as forgers of apostolic letters; that letters are to be despatched regarding the graces granted by the former pope John, except expectative and exceptional graces; ambassadors to Italy are appointed.]

SESSION 19 - 23 September 1415

[Jerome of Prague finally abjures his faith publicly and solemnly. There is promulgated at this session an Ordinance between the friars Minor of the strict observance and others of the common life, to put an end to the discords which have arisen in certain provinces; another Ordinance by which cases of heresy are committed to certain judges. It is also decreed that, notwithstanding safe conducts of emperors and kings and others, a competent judge can inquire into heresy; that the lord vice-chancellor shall expedite the Caroline constitution [38 ] under a bull of the council; that those with benefices who are attending the council shall receive the fruits of their benefices in their absence, that the letters regarding provisions to patriarchal, metropolitan and other churches, which were granted by the former pope John before his suspension, shall be despatched.]

SESSION 20 - 21 November 1415

[A warning is decreed against the duke of Austria, on behalf of the bishop of Trent.]

SESSION 21 - 30 May 1416

[Sentence condemning Jerome of Prague]

In the name of the Lord, Amen. Christ our God and saviour, the true vine whose Father is the vine-dresser, said when teaching his disciples and other followers in these matters: If anyone does not abide in me, he shall be cast forth as a branch and shall wither. This holy synod of Constance is following the teaching and carrying out the commands of this sovereign teacher and master in this case of inquiry into heresy which was started by the same holy synod. It notes the public talk and loud outcry against the said master Jerome of Prague, master of arts, layman. From the acts and proceedings of the case it is evident that the said Jerome has held, asserted and taught various heretical and erroneous articles, which were long ago condemned by holy fathers, some of which are blasphemous, others scandalous and others offensive to the ears of the devout as well as rash and seditious. They were long ago asserted, preached and taught by John Wyclif and John Hus, of cursed memory, and were included in various of their books and pamphlets. These articles, doctrines and books of the aforesaid John Wyclif and John Hus, as well as the memory of Wyclif, and finally the person of Hus, were condemned and damned by this same holy synod and its sentence of heresy. The said Jerome later, during the course of this inquiry, in this holy synod, approved and consented to this sentence of condemnation and acknowledged and professed the true, catholic and apostolic faith. He anathematised all heresy, especially that for which he had been defamed-and he confessed himself defamed--and which John Wyclif and John Hus had taught and held in the past in their works, sermons and pamphlets, and on account of which the said Wyclif and Hus, together with their dogmas and errors, had been condemned as heretical by this same holy synod, and their teaching likewise condemned. He professed acceptance of every condemnation of the aforesaid things and swore that he would remain in the truth of the faith, and that if he ever dared to think or preach anything to the contrary then he wished to submit to the severity of canon law and to be bound to eternal punishment. He offered and gave this profession of his, written in his own hand to this holy synod. Many days after his profession and abjuration, however, like a dog returning to its vomit, he asked for a public hearing to be granted to him in this same holy synod, in order that he might vomit forth in public the deadly poison which lay hidden within his breast. The hearing was granted to him and he asserted, said and professed in effect, at a public assembly of the same synod, that he had wrongly consented to the aforesaid sentence condemning the said Wyclif and John Hus and that he had lied in approving the sentence. He did not fear to state that he had lied. Indeed, he revoked now and for eternity his confession, approval and profession regarding the condemnation of the two men. He asserted that he had never read any heresy or error in the books of the said Wyclif and John Hus, even though it was clearly proved, before his profession to the sentence on the two men, that he had carefully studied, read and taught their books and it is clear that many errors and heresies are contained in them. The said Jerome professed, however, that he held and believed what the church holds and believes regarding the sacrament of the altar and the transubstantiation of the bread into the body of Christ, saying that he believed in Augustine and the other doctors of the church more than in Wyclif and Hus. It is evident from the above that the said Jerome adhered to the condemned Wyclif and Hus and their errors, and that he was and is a supporter of them. This holy synod has therefore decreed and now declares that the said Jerome is to be cast away as a branch that is rotten, withered and separated from the vine; and it pronounces, declares and condemns him as a heretic who has relapsed into heresy and as an excommunicated and anathematised person.

SESSION 22 - 15 October 1416

[The treaty of Narbonne, between the king of Aragon, the emperor and the envoys of the council, is confirmed [39 ] : the king of Aragon withdraws obedience from Benedict XIII and recognises the council of Constance through his envoys.]

SESSION 23 - 5 November 1416

[Beginning of the process against Peter de Luna, called Benedict XIII in his obedience.]

SESSION 24 - 28 November 1416

[A citation against Peter de Luna, called Benedict XIII in his obedience, is decreed.]

SESSION 25 - 14 December 1416

[The envoys of the Spanish count of Foix are united with the council in

accordance with the terms of the treaty of Narbonne.]

SESSION 26 - 24 December 1416

[The envoys of the king of Navarre are united with the council in accordance

with the terms of the treaty of Narbonne.]

SESSION 27 - 20 February 1417

[The dispute between Frederick, duke of Austria, and the bishop of Trent is discussed: a report is made on the carrying out of the warning decreed in session 20.]

SESSION 28 - 3 March 1417

[The Trent dispute is concluded: Frederick, duke of Austria, is condemned.]

I The articles of Narbonne concerning the unity of the church, which were agreed between the emperor Sigismund and the envoys of the council of Constance on the one side, and the envoys of the kings and princes of Benedict XIII's obedience on the other side, were published by the council in a general assembly on 13 December 1415 (see Hardt 4,584). They are printed in Hardt 2, 542-554.

SESSION 29 - 8 March 1417

[Peter de Luna is accused of contumacy.]

SESSION 30 - 10 March 1417

[The process against Peter de Luna continues.]

SESSION 31 - 31 March 1417

[A warning is decreed against Philip, count of Vertus, at the request of the bishop of Asti. Other minor deliberations take place.]

SESSION 32 - 1 April 1417

[Peter de Luna is again accused of contumacy and an inquiry about him is established.]

SESSION 33 - 12 May 1417

[The process against Peter de Luna, who is deemed contumacious, continues.]

SESSION 34 - 5 June 1417

[Everything is made ready for the condemnation of Peter de Luna.]

SESSION 35 - 18 June 1417

[The envoys of the king of Castile are united with the council in accordance with the terms of the treaty of Narbonne.]

SESSION 36 - 22 July 1417

[It is decreed that Peter de Luna is to be cited to hear the council's sentence.]

SESSION 37 - 26 July 1417

[Definitive sentence whereby Peter de Luna, pope Benedict XIII, is divested of the papacy and deprived of the faith.]

May this judgment come forth from the face of him who sits on the throne, and from his mouth proceeds a double-edged sword, whose scales are just and weights are true, who will come to judge the living and the dead, our lord Jesus Christ, Amen. The Lord is just and loves just deeds, his face looks on righteousness. But the Lord looks on those who do evil so as to cut off their remembrance from the earth. Let there perish, says the holy prophet, the memory of him who did not remember to show mercy and who persecuted the poor and needy. How much more should there perish the memory of Peter de Luna, called by some Benedict XIII, who persecuted and disturbed all people and the universal church? For, how greatly he has sinned against God's church and the entire christian people, fostering, nourishing and continuing the schism and division of God's church How ardent and frequent have been the devout and humble prayers, exhortations and requests of kings, princes and prelates with which he has been warned in charity, in accordance with the teaching of the gospel, to bring peace to the church, to heal its wounds and to reconstitute its divided parts into one structure and one body, as he had sworn to do, and as for a long time it was within his power to do ! He was unwilling, however, to listen to their charitable admonitions. How many were the persons afterwards sent to attest to him! Because he did not listen at all even to these, it has been necessary, in accordance with the aforesaid evangelical teaching of Christ, to say to the church, since he has not listened even to her, that he should be treated as a heathen and a publican. All these things have been clearly proved by the articles coming from the inquiry into faith and the schism held before this present synod, regarding the above and other matters brought against him, as well as by their truth and notoriety. The proceedings have been correct and canonical, all the acts have been correctly and carefully examined and there has been mature deliberation. Therefore this same holy general synod, representing the universal church and sitting as a tribunal in the aforesaid inquiry, pronounces, decrees and declares by this definitive sentence written here, that the same Peter de Luna, called Benedict XIII as has been said, has been and is a perjurer, a cause of scandal to the universal church, a promoter and breeder of the ancient schism, that long established fission and division in God's holy church, an obstructer of the peace and unity of the said church, a schismatic disturber and a heretic, a deviator from the faith, a persistent violator of the article of the faith One holy catholic church, incorrigible, notorious and manifest in his scandal to God's church, and that he has rendered himself unworthy of every title, rank, honour and dignity, rejected and cut off by God, deprived by the law itself of every right in any way belonging to him in the papacy or pertaining to the Roman pontiff and the Roman church, and cut off from the catholic church like a withered member. This same holy synod, moreover, as a precautionary measure, since according to himself he actually holds the papacy, deprives, deposes and casts out the said Peter from the papacy and from being the supreme pontiff of the Roman church and from every title, rank, honour, dignity, benefice and office whatsoever. It forbids him to act henceforth as the pope or as the supreme and Roman pontiff. It absolves and declares to be absolved all Christ's faithful from obedience to him, and from every duty of obedience to him and from oaths and obligations in any way made to him. It forbids each and every one of Christ's faithful to obey, respond to or attend to, as if he were pope, the said Peter de Luna, who is a notorious, declared and deposed schismatic and incorrigible heretic, or to sustain or harbour him in any way contrary to the aforesaid, or to offer him help, advice or good will. This is forbidden under pain of the offender being counted as a promoter of schism and heresy and of being deprived of all benefices, dignities and ecclesiastical or secular honours, and under other penalties of the law, even if the dignity is that of a bishop, a patriarch, a cardinal, a king or the emperor. If they act contrary to this prohibition, they are by this very fact deprived of these things, on the authority of this decree and sentence, and they incur the other penalties of the law. This holy synod, moreover, declares and decrees that all and singular prohibitions and all processes, sentences, constitu- tions, censures and any other things whatsoever that were issued by him and might impede the aforesaid, are without effect; and it invalidates, revokes and annuls them; saving always the other penalties which the law decrees for the above cases.

SESSION 38 - 28 July 1417

[Decree about the right to vote of the deputies of the kings of Castile and Aragon, concerning which agreement had not been reached among the said deputies in the previous session; decrees about other lesser matters.]

FOOTNOTES

  • 37 In this session various matters were also agreed upon concerning the ordering and protecting of the council's work: Decree on silence; Constitution of the council against those who plunder or despoil persons coming to or returning from the council.
  • 38 The Caroline Constitution on ecclesiastical liberty, promulgated by the emperor Charles IV in 1377, was published by Hardt among the acts of the council (4, 523-525). On the confirmation discussed at this session and afterwards promulgated, see Hardt 4, 562-583
  • 39 The articles of Narbonne concerning the unity of the church, which were agreed between the emperor Sigismund and the envoys of the council of Constance on the one side, and the envoys of the kings and princes of Benedict XIII's obedience on the other side, were published by the council in a general assembly on 13 December 145 (see Hardt 4, 584). They are printed in Hardt 2, 542-554


See Part Five of the Council of Constance

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