First Vatican Council
1869-1870 A.D.
part two of three

For document sources noted, see Abbreviations


SESSION 3 : 24 April 1870 - Dogmatic Constitution on the Catholic Faith (continued)

Chapter 3 On faith

  1. Since human beings are totally dependent on God as their creator and lord, and created reason is completely subject to uncreated truth, we are obliged to yield to God the revealer full submission of intellect and will by faith.
  2. This faith, which is the beginning of human salvation, the catholic church professes to be
    • a supernatural virtue,
    • by means of which,
      • with the grace of God inspiring and assisting us,
    • we believe to be true what He has revealed,
      • not because we perceive its intrinsic truth by the natural light of reason,
      • but because of the authority of God himself, who makes the revelation and can neither deceive nor be deceived.
  3. Faith, declares the Apostle, is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen [17].
  4. Nevertheless, in order that the submission of our faith should be in accordance with reason, it was God's will that there should be linked to the internal assistance of the holy Spirit external indications of his revelation, that is to say divine acts, and
    • first and foremost miracles and prophecies,
      • which clearly demonstrating as they do the omnipotence and infinite knowledge of God, are
        • the most certain signs of revelation and are
        • suited to the understanding of all.
  5. Hence
    • Moses
    • and the prophets,
    • and especially Christ our lord himself,
    • worked many absolutely clear miracles and delivered prophecies;
    • while of the apostles we read:
      • And they went forth and preached every, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by the signs that attended it [18] . Again it is written:
      • We have the prophetic word made more sure; you will do well to pay attention to this as to a lamp shining in a dark place [19] .
  6. Now,
    • although the assent of faith is by no means a blind movement of the mind,
    • yet no one can accept the gospel preaching
      • in the way that is necessary for achieving salvation
    • without the inspiration and illumination of the holy Spirit,
      • who gives to all facility in accepting and believing the truth [20] .
  7. And so faith in itself,
    • even though it may not work through charity,
    • is a gift of God,
    • and its operation is a work belonging to the order of salvation,
      • in that a person yields true obedience to God himself when he accepts and collaborates with his grace which he could have rejected.
  8. Wherefore, by divine and catholic faith all those things are to be believed
    • which are contained in the word of God as found in scripture and tradition,
    • and which are proposed by the church as matters to be believed as divinely revealed,
    • whether by her solemn judgment
    • or in her ordinary and universal magisterium.
  9. Since, then, without faith it is impossible to please God [21] and reach the fellowship of his sons and daughters, it follows that
    • no one can ever achieve justification without it,
    • neither can anyone attain eternal life unless he or she perseveres in it to the end.
  10. So that we could fulfil our duty of embracing the true faith and of persevering unwaveringly in it, God, through his only begotten Son,
    • founded the church,
    • and he endowed his institution with clear notes to the end that she might be recognised by all as the guardian and teacher of the revealed word.
  11. To the catholic church alone belong all those things, so many and so marvellous, which have been divinely ordained to make for the manifest credibility of the christian faith.
  12. What is more,
    • the church herself
        by reason of
        • her astonishing propagation,
        • her outstanding holiness and
        • her inexhaustible fertility in every kind of goodness, by
        • her catholic unity and
        • her unconquerable stability,
    • is a kind of great and perpetual motive of credibility and an incontrovertible evidence of her own divine mission.
  13. So it comes about that,
    • like a standard lifted up for the nations [22] ,
    • she both invites to herself those who have not yet believed,
    • and likewise assures her sons and daughters that the faith they profess rests on the firmest of foundations.
  14. To this witness is added the effective help of power from on high. For,
    • the kind Lord stirs up those who go astray and helps them by his grace
      • so that they may come to the knowledge of the truth [23] ;
    • and also confirms by his grace those whom he has translated into his admirable light [24],
      • so that they may persevere in this light,
      • not abandoning them unless he is first abandoned.
  15. Consequently,
    • the situation of those, who
      • by the heavenly gift of faith
    • have embraced the catholic truth,
    • is by no means the same as that of those who,
      • led by human opinions,
    • follow a false religion;
    • for those who have accepted the faith under the guidance of the church can never have any just cause for changing this faith or for calling it into question.
This being so, giving thanks to God the Father who has made us worthy to share with the saints in light [25] let us not neglect so great a salvation [26] , but looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith [27] , let us hold the unshakeable confession of our hope [28].

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Chapter 4 On faith and reason

  1. The perpetual agreement of the catholic church has maintained and maintains this too: that
    • there is a twofold order of knowledge, distinct
      • not only as regards its source,
      • but also as regards its object.
  2. With regard to the source,
    • we know at the one level by natural reason,
    • at the other level by divine faith.
  3. With regard to the object,
    • besides those things to which natural reason can attain,
    • there are proposed for our belief mysteries hidden in God
      • which, unless they are divinely revealed, are incapable of being known.
    • Wherefore, when the Apostle, who witnesses that God was known to the gentiles from created things [29] , comes to treat of the grace and truth which came by Jesus Christ [30] , he declares: We impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glorification. None of the rulers of this age understood this. God has revealed it to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God [31] . And the Only-begotten himself, in his confession to the Father, acknowledges that the Father has hidden these things from the wise and prudent and revealed them to the little ones [32] .
  4. Now reason,
    • does indeed
      • when it seeks persistently, piously and soberly,
    • achieve
      • by God's gift
    • some understanding,
      • and that most profitable,
    • of the mysteries,
      • whether by analogy from what it knows naturally,
      • or from the connexion of these mysteries
        • with one another and
        • with the final end of humanity;
    but reason
    • is never rendered capable of penetrating these mysteries
    • in the way in which it penetrates those truths which form its proper object.
    • For
      • the divine mysteries,
      • by their very nature,
      • so far surpass the created understanding
      • that, even when a revelation has been given and accepted by faith,
      • they remain covered by the veil of that same faith and wrapped, as it were, in a certain obscurity,
      • as long as in this mortal life we are away from the Lord,
      • for we walk by faith, and not by sight [33] .
  5. Even though faith is above reason, there can never be any real disagreement between faith and reason, since
    • it is the same God
      • who reveals the mysteries and infuses faith, and
      • who has endowed the human mind with the light of reason.
  6. God cannot deny himself, nor can truth ever be in opposition to truth.
    • The appearance of this kind of specious contradiction is chiefly due to the fact that either
      • the dogmas of faith are not understood and explained in accordance with the mind of the church, or
      • unsound views are mistaken for the conclusions of reason.
  7. Therefore we define that every assertion contrary to the truth of enlightened faith is totally false [34] .
  8. Furthermore the church which,
    • together with its apostolic office of teaching,
    • has received the charge of preserving the deposit of faith,
    • has
      • by divine appointment
        • the right
        • and duty
      • of condemning
      • what wrongly passes for knowledge,
      • lest anyone be led astray by philosophy and empty deceit [35] .
  9. Hence all faithful Christians
    • are forbidden to defend as the legitimate conclusions of science those opinions which are known to be contrary to the doctrine of faith,
      • particularly if they have been condemned by the church; and furthermore they
    • are absolutely bound to hold them to be errors which wear the deceptive appearance of truth.
  10. Not only can faith and reason never be at odds with one another but they mutually support each other, for
    • on the one hand right reason
      • established the foundations of the faith
      • and, illuminated by its light, develops the science of divine things;
    • on the other hand, faith
      • delivers reason from errors and
      • protects it and furnishes it with knowledge of many kinds.
  11. Hence, so far is the church from hindering the development of human arts and studies, that in fact she assists and promotes them in many ways. For
    • she is neither ignorant nor contemptuous of the advantages which derive from this source for human life, rather
    • she acknowledges that those things flow from God, the lord of sciences, and, if they are properly used, lead to God by the help of his grace.
  12. Nor does the church forbid these studies to employ, each within its own area, its own proper principles and method:
    • but while she admits this just freedom,
    • she takes particular care that they do not
      • become infected with errors by conflicting with divine teaching, or,
      • by going beyond their proper limits, intrude upon what belongs to faith and
    • engender confusion.
  13. For the doctrine of the faith which God has revealed is put forward
    • not as some philosophical discovery capable of being perfected by human intelligence,
    • but as a divine deposit committed to the spouse of Christ to be faithfully protected and infallibly promulgated.
  14. Hence, too,that meaning of the sacred dogmas is ever to be maintained which has once been declared by holy mother church, and there must never be any abandonment of this sense under the pretext or in the name of a more profound understanding.
May understanding, knowledge and wisdom increase as ages and centuries roll along, and greatly and vigorously flourish, in each and all, in the individual and the whole church: but this only in its own proper kind, that is to say, in the same doctrine, the same sense, and the same understanding [36] .

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1. On God the creator of all things

  • 1. If anyone denies the one true God, creator and lord of things visible and invisible: let him be anathema.
  • 2. If anyone is so bold as to assert that
    • there exists nothing besides matter:
    let him be anathema.
  • 3. If anyone says that
    • the substance or essence of God and that of all things are one and the same:
    let him be anathema.
  • 4. If anyone says
    • that finite things, both corporal and spiritual, or at any rate, spiritual, emanated from the divine substance; or
    • that the divine essence, by the manifestation and evolution of itself becomes all things or, finally,
    • that God is a universal or indefinite being which by self determination establishes the totality of things distinct in genera, species and individuals:
    let him be anathema.
  • 5. If anyone
    • does not confess that the world and all things which are contained in it, both spiritual and material, were produced, according to their whole substance, out of nothing by God; or
    • holds that God did not create by his will free from all necessity, but as necessarily as he necessarily loves himself; or
    • denies that the world was created for the glory of God:
    let him be anathema.

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2. On revelation

  • 1. If anyone says that
    • the one, true God, our creator and lord, cannot be known with certainty
      • from the things that have been made,
      • by the natural light of human reason:
    let him be anathema.
  • 2. If anyone says that it is
    • impossible, or
    • not expedient,
    • that human beings should be taught by means of divine revelation about
      • God and
      • the worship that should be shown him :
    let him be anathema.
  • 3. If anyone says that a human being
    • cannot be divinely elevated to a
      • knowledge and
      • perfection
      which exceeds the natural, but
    • of himself can and must reach finally the possession of all
      • truth and
      • goodness
      by continual development:
    let him be anathema.
  • 4. If anyone
    • does not receive as sacred and canonical the complete books of sacred scripture with all their parts, as the holy council of Trent listed them, or
    • denies that they were divinely inspired :
    let him be anathema.

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3. On faith

  • 1. If anyone says that
    • human reason is so independent that faith cannot be commanded by God:
    let him be anathema.
  • 2. If anyone says that
    • divine faith is not to be distinguished from natural knowledge about God and moral matters, and consequently that
    • for divine faith it is not required that revealed truth should be believed because of the authority of God who reveals it:
    let him be anathema.
  • 3. If anyone says that
    • divine revelation cannot be made credible by external signs, and that therefore
    • men and women ought to be moved to faith only by each one's internal experience or private inspiration:
    let him be anathema.
  • 4. If anyone says that
    • all miracles are impossible, and that therefore
    • all reports of them, even those contained in sacred scripture, are to be set aside as fables or myths; or that
    • miracles can never be known with certainty,
    • nor can the divine origin of the christian religion be proved from them:
    let him be anathema.
  • 5. If anyone says that
    • the assent to christian faith is
      • not free, but is
      • necessarily produced by arguments of human reason; or that
    • the grace of God is necessary only for living faith which works by charity:
    let him be anathema.
  • 6. If anyone says that
    • the condition of the faithful and those who have not yet attained to the only true faith is alike, so that
    • Catholics may have a just cause for calling in doubt, by suspending their assent, the faith which they have already received from the teaching of the church, until they have completed a scientific demonstration of the credibility and truth of their faith:
    let him be anathema.

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    4. On faith and reason

    • 1. If anyone says that
      • in divine revelation there are contained no true mysteries properly so-called, but that
      • all the dogmas of the faith can be understood and demonstrated by properly trained reason from natural principles:
      let him be anathema.
    • 2. If anyone says that
      • human studies are to be treated with such a degree of liberty that their assertions may be maintained as true even when they are opposed to divine revelation, and that
      • they may not be forbidden by the church:
      let him be anathema.
    • 3. If anyone says that
      • it is possible that at some time, given the advancement of knowledge, a sense may be assigned to the dogmas propounded by the church which is different from that which the church has understood and understands:
      let him be anathema.

    And so in the performance of our supreme pastoral office, we beseech for the love of Jesus Christ and we command, by the authority of him who is also our God and saviour, all faithful Christians, especially those in authority or who have the duty of teaching, that they contribute their zeal and labour to the warding off and elimination of these errors from the church and to the spreading of the light of the pure faith.

    But since it is not enough to avoid the contamination of heresy unless those errors are carefully shunned which approach it in greater or less degree, we warn all of their duty to observe the constitutions and decrees in which such wrong opinions, though not expressly mentioned in this document, have been banned and forbidden by this holy see.

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  • 17 Heb 11, 1
  • 18 Mk 16, 20.
  • 19 2 Pt 1, 19.
  • 20 Council of Orange II(529), canon 7 (Bruns 2, 178; Msi 8, 713)
  • 21 Heb 11, 6.
  • 22 Is 11, 12
  • 23 1 Tm 2, 4
  • 24 1 Pt 2, 9; Col 1, 13
  • 25 Col 1, 12
  • 26 Heb 2, 3
  • 27 Heb 12, 2
  • 28 Heb 10, 12
  • 29 Rm 1, 20
  • 30 Jn 1, 17
  • 31 i Cor 2, 7-8, 10
  • 32 Mt 11, 25
  • 33 2 Cor 5, 6-7
  • 34 See Lateran council V, session 8 (see above p. 605).
  • 35 See Col 2, 8
  • 36 Vincent of Lerins, Commonitorium (Notebook), 28 (PL 50, 668).

    For the third part, see FIRST VATICAN COUNCIL

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