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

For document sources noted, see Abbreviations


INTRODUCTION

This council was summoned by pope Julius II by the bull Sacrosanctae Romanae Ecclesiae, issued at Rome on 18 July 1511, after several schismatic cardinals, officially supported by Louis XII, king of France, had assembled a quasi-council at Pisa. Twice postponed, the council held its first session in full solemnity at Rome in the Lateran residence on 10 May 1512, at which session an elaborate address on the evils of the church was made by Giles of Viterbo, general of the order of Augustinian hermits.

There were twelve sessions. The first five of them, held during Julius II's pontificate, dealt primarily with the condemnation and rejection of the quasi-council of Pisa, and with the revoking and annulment of the French "Pragmatic Sanction". After the election of pope Leo X in March 1513, the council had three objectives: first, achieving a general peace between christian rulers; second, church reform; and third, the defence of the faith and the rooting out of heresy. The seven sessions after Leo's election gave approval to a number of constitutions, among which are to be noted the condemnation of the teaching of the philosopher Pomponazzi (session 8), and the approval of the agreement completed outside the council between pope Leo X and king Francis I of France (session 11).

All the decrees of this council, at which the pope presided in person, are in the form of bulls. At the beginning of them are added the words "with the approval of the sacred council", and at the end "in public session solemnly held in the Lateran basilica". The fathers confirmed all the decrees by their votes. If anyone wished to reject a proposal, he made his dissenting opinion known verbally, or briefly in writing. The result was that the matters proposed, after various debates, were sometimes altered.

The decisions on the reform of the curia produced almost no effect because of the timidity and inadequacy of the recommendations, especially since the papacy showed slight inclination to carry the matter through. On the other hand, the council totally suppressed the Pisan schism. It is clear that bishops were never present in great numbers at the council, and that prelates who lived outside Italy were notably absent to such an extent that there has been frequent dispute about whether the council was ecumenical.

The decrees and other acts of the council were first published in Rome shortly after the council ended, namely on 31 July 1521 by cardinal Antonio del Monte, acting on the orders of pope Leo X. The title of this edition is: SA. Lateranense concilium novissimum sub Iulio II et Leone X celebratum (= Lc). It was subsequently used in various conciliar collections from Cr2 3 (1551) 3-192 to Msi 32 (1802) 649-1002. We have followed this edition of 1521 and have taken the headings of the constitutions from the summary which precedes it.

SESSION 1

10 May 1512

[The bull convoking the council, Sacrosancta Romanae Ecclesiae, and the bulls postponing it, Inscrutabilis and Romanus pontifex, are read out1{Msi 32, 681-690}. Masses are ordered to be celebrated, and prayers to be offered, to beg God's assistance; various arrangements are to be observed in the council and decrees are set out; advocates, procurators, notaries, guards and vote-scrutineers are chosen; assigners of places, and the location of places in their due order, are established.]

SESSION 2

17 May 1512

[The quasi-council of Pisa is condemned, and everything done at it is declared null and void. The Lateran council and whatever has been rightly done at it are confirmed]

Julius, bishop, servant of the servants of God, with the approval of the sacred council, for an everlasting record. We intend, with the help of the most High, to proceed with the holding of this sacred Lateran council which has now begun for the praise of God, the peace of the whole church, the union of the faithful the overthrow of heresies and schisms, the reform of morals, and the campaign against the dangerous enemies of the faith, so that the mouths of all schismatics and enemies of peace, those howling dogs, may be silenced and Christians may be able to keep themselves unstained from such pernicious and poisonous contagion.

Accordingly, in this second session lawfully assembled in the holy Spirit, after mature deliberation held by us with our venerable brothers, the cardinals of the holy Roman church, by the advice and unanimous consent of the same brothers from sure knowledge and by the fullness of apostolic power, we confirm approve and renew, with the approval of the sacred council, the rejections condemnations, revocations, quashings, invalidations and annulments of the summoning, convoking and public utterances of that schismatical assembly, the vaunted quasi-council of Pisa, with its aim of rending and hampering the union of the aforesaid church, and of the citations, warnings, decrees, pardons, sentences, acts, legacies, creations, obediences, withdrawals, enjoined censures and applications issuing from it, and of the transfer of the said quasi-council to the cities of Milan or Vercellae or any other place, and of each and all of the acts and decisions of the said quasi-council, that have been expressed in our various letters completed and issued in due order, especially those issued under the dates of 18 July in the eighth year of our pontificate, and of 3 December and 13 April in the ninth year of our pontificate. Likewise we confirm, approve and renew with the approval of the sacred council, the letters themselves along with their decrees, declarations, prohibitions, commands, exhortations, warnings, applications of ecclesiastical interdicts, and other sentences, censures and penalties, whether by canonical sanctions or by our own act, especially those in the letter summoning this sacred universal council, and each and all of the other clauses contained in the said letters, the meanings of which we wish to be considered as expressed as if they were inserted herein word for word, even though, as being definite and valid, they require no other confirmation or approval for a more extensive guarantee and demonstration of the truth. We wish, decree and ordain that they be observed without alteration, and we make good each and all of the defects in them, should there be any.

We condemn and reject the aforesaid quasi-council and its transfer, and each and every thing done by it, and also those taking part in it or giving support, approval or consent, directly or indirectly, to whatever extent and in whatever manner, from the day of the summoning of the quasi-council until the present day, whether the things have already been done or are to be done in the future, even if they are or have been such that special, specific, definite and separate mention should be made about them, since we consider their meaning and characteristics as clearly expressed. We condemn and reject it like other counterfeit councils which diverge from the truth and whose acts have been condemned and rejected by the law and sacred canons. We proclaim these things to be null, void and empty, as indeed they are, to be or to have been of no force or Importance; and, so far as is necessary, we declare them void, invalid and null, and we wish them to be considered as void, invalid and null.

We decree and declare, with the approval of this same sacred council, that this sacred ecumenical council, justly, reasonably, and for true and lawful purposes duly and rightly summoned, has begun to be celebrated, and that each and every thing which has been and shall be done and executed in it, will be just, reasonable, settled and valid, and that it possesses and holds the same strength, power, authority and stability which other general councils approved by the sacred canons, especially the Lateran council, possess and hold.

Moreover, in the arrangement of the seasons, as the summer heats approach, in order to take account of the convenience and health of the prelates, and so that those may be awaited who live beyond the mountains and across the sea and who have hitherto been unable to come to this sacred council, and for other just and reasonable causes known to and approved by the said sacred council, we are summoning the third session of this same council to take place on 3 November next, with the said council likewise giving approval. And to each and every prelate and to others present at the same council, we grant and concede the freedom and permission to withdraw from the Roman curia and to stay wherever they wish, so long as they are present at the aforesaid Lateran council on the said 3 November, any clearly legitimate hindrance having been removed, subject to the infliction of the penalties indicated in the letter summoning the council and in canonical punishments against those failing to attend to councils, the said sacred council also approving. Let nobody therefore . . . If anyone however . . .2{2 At this session, on account of the arrival of the bishop of Gurk, representative of the most serene emperor, a postponement of the third session was made until 3 November.}

SESSION 3

3 December 1512

[Each and all of the measures sponsored by the schismatic cardinals are rejected]

Julius, bishop, servant of the servants of God, with the approval of the sacred council, for an everlasting record. To the praise and glory of him whose works are perfect, we are continuing the sacred council of the Lateran, lawfully assembled by favour of the holy Spirit, in this third session. We had summoned this session on another occasion, during the second session, for the third day of the following November. Later, by the advice and unanimous agreement of our venerable brothers, cardinals of the holy Roman church, for reasons then stated and for other lawful causes, we postponed it and summoned it to be held today, with the same sacred council giving approval to both the postponement and the summons for the said reasons which were known to it. This was after the happy and favourable adherence to, and union with, this most holy Lateran council on the part of our most dear son in Christ, Maximilian, ever revered emperor-elect of the Romans

We condemn, reject and detest, with the approval of this same sacred council, each and every thing done by those sons of damnation, Bernard Carvajal, Guillaume Briconnet, Rene de Prie, and Frederick of San Severino, formerly cardinals, and their supporters, adherents, accomplices and disciples -- who are schismatics and heretics and have worked madly to their own and others' ruin, aiming to split asunder the unity of holy mother church at the quasi-council held at Pisa, Milan, Lyons and elsewhere -- whatever the things were in number and kind that have been enacted, carried out, done, written, published or ordained up to the present day, including the imposition of taxes carried out by them throughout the kingdom of France, or shall be done in the future. Even though they are indeed null, useless and void and have already been condemned and rejected by us with the approval of the aforesaid sacred council, we nevertheless retain this present condemnation and rejection for the sake of greater precaution. We wish the meaning and characteristics of the things done, or to be done, to be considered as expressed herein word for word and not just by general clauses. We decree and declare them to be and to have been null, without purpose and void, of no force, efficacy, effect or importance.

We renew our letter dated 13 August 1512, at St Peter's, Rome, in the ninth year of our pontificate, by which, on the advice of the Dominicans, on account of the support, favours, sustenance and help notoriously provided to schismatics and heretics in the promotion of the said condemned and rejected quasicouncil of Pisa, by the king of France and not a few other prelates, officials, nobles and barons of the kingdom of France, we placed under ecclesiastical interdict the kingdom of France and particularly Lyons, excepting the duchy of Brittany, and we forbade the customary fairs of Lyons to be held in that city and we transferred them to the city of Geneva. We also renew the decrees, declarations, prohibitions and every clause contained in the letter, the said sacred council likewise having full information about them and giving its approval. As stated, we subject the aforesaid kingdom and its cities, lands, towns and any other territories to this interdict, and we transfer the fairs from Lyons to the said city of Geneva.

In order that this sacred Lateran council may be brought to a fruitful and beneficial conclusion, and that the many other serious matters due for treatment and discussion in the council may proceed to the praise of almighty God and the exaltation of the universal church, we declare, with the full approval of the said sacred council, that the fourth session of the continuing celebration of the council shall be held on the tenth day of the present month of December. Let nobody therefore ... If anyone however...

SESSION 4

10 December 1512

[The Pragmatic is revoked and the acts of the quasi-council of Pisa regarding the same are annulled1{Before this constitution, in the same session, there was also read out: A warning against the Pragmatic and its supporters}

Julius, bishop, servant of the servants of God, with the approval of the sacred council, for an everlasting record. Giving close attention by paternal and earnest consideration to the safety of the flock entrusted to us from above, to the reform of morals and the defence of the church's liberty, and to the peace and development of the catholic faith, we approve and renew, with the approval of this holy council, for the praise and glory of almighty God and the undivided Trinity, the letter recently issued by us, of which the same council is aware, by which we made a general reform of the Roman curia's officials and of their imposts. We ordered the letter to be made public by certain persons, who were afterwards designated, for the benefit of the faithful, and in accordance with our wishes. We now order it to be made public in detail by the said designated persons together with other prelates from various nations who are present in the aforesaid council and are to be appointed. Everything that can pervert human judgment is to cease, as is right and fitting. We order, moreover, that the declarations are to be referred to us in other sessions of this sacred council and are to be approved by the same council, in order that they may be duly carried out.

Moreover, for considerable periods of time there has been great disparagement of the apostolic see and of the head, the liberty and the authority of the holy Roman universal church, as well as a limitation of the sacred canons, by a number of prelates of the French nation and by noble laymen and others supporting them, especially under pretext of a certain sanction which they call the Pragmatic{2 This Pragmatic Sanction had been promulgated by king Charles VII of France at Bourges on 7 July 1438, with the aim of removing abuses in the church, see DThC 12/2 (1935) 2780-2786, DDrC 7 (1958) 109-113, and NCE 11 (1967) 662-663}. We do not wish to endure further a thing so pernicious and offensive to God, a clear cheapening of and damage to the said church. For it is only in those regions that the sanction, carried out by those lacking all lawful power for that end and without the authority of popes or legitimate general councils, has been introduced and observed by way of an abuse. It must be rightly, along with its contents, be declared null and void and be repealed. Louis XI, king of France, of distinguished memory, repealed this sanction, as is clearly contained in his letters patent already made. Therefore, with the approval of the same council, we commit to the meetings of our venerable brothers, cardinals of the aforesaid church, and of other prelates, which are to be held in the upper room of the Lateran, insofar as this is necessary, the business of the declaration and abrogation which we are to make, as well as the report that is to be made to us and the same sacred council concerning the matters discussed in the first and other sessions, insofar as this can conveniently be done. We determine and decree that the prelates of France, chapters of churches and monasteries, and laymen favouring them, of whatever rank they may be, even royal, who approve or falsely use the said sanction, together with each and every other person thinking, either individually or in a group, that this sanction is to his advantage, be warned and cited, within a definite adequate term to be established, by a public edict -- which is to be fixed on the doors of the churches of Milan, Asti and Pavia, since a safe approach to France is not available -- that they are to appear before us and the aforesaid council and declare the reasons why the said sanction and its corrupting effect and misuse in matters concerning the authority, dignity and unity of the Roman church and the apostolic see, and the violation of sacred canons and of ecclesiastical freedom, ought not to be declared and judged null and void and be abrogated, and why those so warned and cited should not be restrained and held as if they had been warned and cited in person. Moreover, with regard to each and all provisions and collations of ecclesiastical benefices, confirmations of elections and petitions, grants of concessions, mandates and indults, of whatever kind, concerning both favours and matters of justice or both together, of whatever sense they may be -- which things we wish to be regarded as clearly stated in the present letter -- which were made by the synagogue or quasi-council of Pisa and its schismatic adherents, lacking all authority and merit, though they are indeed null and void, yet, for greater caution, we decree, with the approval of the said sacred council, that they are null and of no effect, force or importance; and that each individual, of whatever rank, status, grade, nobility, order or condition, to whom they were granted, or to whose convenience, advantage or honour they pertain, are to give up their fruits, incomes and profits, or to arrange for this to be done, and they are bound to restore both these things and their benefices and to give up the other aforesaid concessions, and that unless they have really and completely given up the benefices themselves and the other things granted to them, within two months from the date of this present letter, they are automatically deprived of the other ecclesiastical benefices which they hold by lawful title. Moreover, we apply whatever has been or shall be obtained in the way of fruits, rents and profits of this kind, and money-taxes imposed by the said quasi-council, to the campaign which is to be conducted against the infidels.

In order that the declaration of reform, and of the nullity of the said sanction, as well as other business may be carried out in due season, and so that the prelates who are still to come to this sacred council (we have received news that some have already set out on their journey to attend) may be able to arrive without inconvenience, we declare, with the approval of the council, that the fifth session shall be held on 16 February, which will be Wednesday after the first Sunday of the coming Lent. Let nobody therefore ... If anyone however ...

SESSION 5

16 February 1513

[Bull renewing and confirming the Constitution against not committing the evil of simony when electing the Roman pontiff]

Julius, bishop, servant of the servants of God, with the approval of the sacred council, for an everlasting record. The supreme maker of things, the creator of heaven and earth, has willed by his ineffable providence that the Roman pontiff preside over the christian people in the chair of pastoral supremacy, so that he may govern the holy, Roman, universal church in sincerity of heart and deeds and may strive after the progress of all the faithful. We therefore regard it as suitable and salutary that, in the election of the said pontiff, in order that the faithful may look upon him as a mirror of purity and honesty, all stain and every trace of simony shall be absent, that men shall be raised up for this burdensome office who, having embarked in the appropriate manner and order in a due, right and canonical way, may undertake the steering of the barque of Peter and may be, once established in so lofty a dignity, a support for right and good people and a terror for evil people; that by their example, the rest of the faithful may receive instruction on good behaviour and be directed in the way of salvation, that the things which have been determined and established by us for this, in accordance with the magnitude and seriousness of the case, may be approved and renewed by the sacred general council; and that the things so approved and renewed may be communicated, so that the more frequently they are upheld by the said authority, the more strongly they shall endure and the more resolutely they shall be observed and defended against the manifold attacks of the devil. Formerly, indeed, for great and urgent reasons, as a result of important and mature discussion and deliberation with men of great learning and authority, including cardinals of the Roman church, excellent and very experienced persons, a document on the following lines was issued by us.

Inserted constitution

Julius, bishop, servant of the servants of God, for an everlasting record. From a consideration that the detestable crime of simony is forbidden by both divine and human law, particularly in spiritual matters, and that it is especially heinous and destructive for the whole church in the election of the Roman pontiff, the vicar of our lord Jesus Christ, we therefore, placed by God in charge of the government of the same universal church, despite being of little merit, desire, so far as we are able with God's help, to take effective measures for the future with regard to the aforesaid things, as we are bound to, in accordance with the necessity of such an important matter and the greatness of the danger. With the advice and unanimous consent of our brothers, cardinals of the holy Roman church, by means of this our constitution which will have permanent validity, we establish, ordain, decree and define, by apostolic authority and the fulness of our power, that if it happens (which may God avert in his mercy and goodness towards all), after God has released us or our successors from the government of the universal church, that by the efforts of the enemy of the human race and following the urge of ambition or greed, the election of the Roman pontiff is made or effected by the person who is elected, or by one or several members of the college of cardinals, giving their votes in a manner that in any way involves simony being committed -- by the gift, promise or receipt of money, goods of any sort, castles, offices, benefices, promises or obligations -- by the person elected or by one or several other persons, in any manner or form whatsoever, even if the election resulted in a majority of two-thirds or in the unanimous choice of all the cardinals, or even in a spontaneous agreement on the part of all, without a scrutiny being made, then not only is this election or choice itself null, and does not bestow on the person elected or chosen in this fashion any right of either spiritual or temporal administration, but also there can be alleged and presented, against the person elected or chosen in this manner, by any one of the cardinals who has taken part in the election, the charge of simony, as a true and unquestionable heresy, so that the one elected is not regarded by anyone as the Roman pontiff.

A further consequence is that the person elected in this manner is automatically deprived, without the need of any other declaration, of his cardinal's rank and of all other honours whatsoever as well as of cathedral churches, even metropolitan and patriarchical ones, monasteries, dignities and all other benefices and pensions of whatever kind which he was then holding by title or in commendam or otherwise; and that the elected person is to be regarded as, and is in fact, not a follower of the apostles but an apostate and, like Simon, a magicianl and a heresiarch, and perpetually debarred from each and all of the above-mentioned things. A simoniacal election of this kind is never at any time to be made valid by a subsequent enthronement or the passage of time, or even by the act of adoration or obedience of all the cardinals. It shall be lawful for each and all of the cardinals, even those who consented to the simoniacal election or promotion, even after the enthronement and adoration or obedience, as well as for all the clergy and the Roman people, together with those serving as prefects, castellans, captains and other officials at the Castel Sant' Angelo in Rome and any other strongholds of the Roman church, notwithstanding any submission or oath or pledge given, to withdraw without penalty and at any time from obedience and loyalty to the person so elected even if he has been enthroned (while they themselves, notwithstanding this, remain fully committed to the faith of the Roman church and to obedience towards a future Roman pontiff entering office in accordance with the canons) and to avoid him as a magician, a heathen, a publican and a heresiarch. To discomfort him still further, if he uses the pretext of the election to interfere in the government of the universal church, the cardinals who wish to oppose the aforesaid election can ask for the help of the secular arm against him.

Those who break off obedience to him are not to be subject to any penalties and censures for the said separation, as though they were tearing the Lord's garment . However, the cardinals who elected him by simoniacal means are to be dealt with without further declaration as deprived of their orders as well as of their titles and honour as cardinals and of any patriarchal, archiepiscopal, episcopal or other prelacies, dignities and benefices which at that time they held by title or in commendam, or in which or to which they now have some claim, unless they totally and effectively abandon him and unite themselves without pretence or trickery to the other cardinals who did not consent to this simony, within eight days after they receive the request from the other cardinals, in person if this shall be possible or otherwise by a public announcement. Then, if they have joined themselves in full union with the said other cardinals, they shall immediately stand reintegrated, restored, rehabilitated and re-established in their former state, honours and dignities, even of the cardinalate, and in the churches and benefices which they had charge of or held, and shall stand absolved from the stain of simony and from any ecclesiastical censures and penalties.


See Part Two of the Fifth Lateran Council

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