Given by His Holiness,
Pope Leo XIII
June 29, 1896
To Our Venerable
Brethren, the Patriarchs, Primates, Archbishops, Bishops, and other Ordinaries
in Peace and Communion with the Apostolic See.
Venerable Brethren, Health, and Benediction.
1. It is sufficiently well known unto you that no small share of Our thoughts
and of Our care is devoted to Our endeavour to bring back to the fold, placed
under the guardianship of Jesus Christ, the Chief Pastor of souls, sheep
that have strayed. Bent upon this, We have thought it most conducive to this
salutary end and purpose to describe the exemplar and, as it were, the lineaments
of the Church. Amongst these the most worthy of Our chief consideration is
Unity. This the Divine Author impressed on it as a lasting sign of truth
and of unconquerable strength. The essential beauty and comeliness of the
Church ought greatly to influence the minds of those who consider it. Nor
is it improbable that ignorance may be dispelled by the consideration; that
false ideas and prejudices may be dissipated from the minds chiefly of those
who find themselves in error without fault of theirs; and that even a love
for the Church may be stirred up in the souls of men, like unto that charity
wherewith Christ loved and united himself to that spouse redeemed by His
precious blood. "Christ loved the Church, and delivered Himself up for it"
(Eph. v., 25).
If those about to come back to their most loving Mother (not yet fully known,
or culpably abandoned) should perceive that their return involves, not indeed
the shedding of their blood (at which price nevertheless the Church was bought
by Jesus Christ), but some lesser trouble and labour, let them clearly understand
that this burden has been laid on them not by the will of man but by the
will and command of God. They may thus, by the help of heavenly grace, realize
and feel the truth of the divine saying, "My yoke is sweet and my burden
light" (Matt. xi., 30).
Wherefore, having put all Our hope in the "Father of lights," from whom "cometh
every best gift and every perfect gift" (Ep. James i., 17) - from Him, namely,
who alone "gives the increase" (I Cor. iii., 6) - We earnestly pray that
He will graciously grant Us the power of bringing conviction home to the
minds of men.
2. Although God can do by His own power all that is effected by created natures,
nevertheless in the counsels of His loving Providence He has preferred to
help men by the instrumentality of men. And, as in the natural order He does
not usually give full perfection except by means of man's work and action,
so also He makes use of human aid for that which lies beyond the limits of
nature, that is to say, for the sanctification and salvation of souls. But
it is obvious that nothing can be communicated amongst men save by means
of external things which the senses can perceive. For this reason the Son
of God assumed human nature - "who being in the form of God.... emptied himself,
taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of man" (Philipp.
ii., 6,7) - and thus living on earth He taught his doctrine and gave His
laws, conversing with men.
3. And, since it was necessary that His divine mission should be perpetuated
to the end of time, He took to Himself Disciples, trained by himself, and
made them partakers of His own authority. And, when He had invoked upon them
from Heaven the Spirit of Truth, He bade them go through the whole world
and faithfully preach to all nations, what He had taught and what He had
commanded, so that by the profession of His doctrine, and the observance
of His laws, the human race might attain to holiness on earth and neverending
happiness in Heaven. In this wise, and on this principle, the Church was
begotten. If we consider the chief end of His Church and the proximate efficient
causes of salvation, it is undoubtedly spiritual; but in regard to those
who constitute it, and to the things which lead to these spiritual gifts,
it is external and necessarily visible. The Apostles received a mission to
teach by visible and audible signs, and they discharged their mission only
by words and acts which certainly appealed to the senses. So that their voices
falling upon the ears of those who heard them begot faith in souls - "Faith
cometh by hearing, and hearing by the words of Christ" (Rom. x., 17). And
faith itself - that is assent given to the first and supreme truth - though
residing essentially in the intellect, must be manifested by outward profession
- "For with the heart we believe unto justice, but with the mouth confession
is made unto salvation" (Rom. x., 10). In the same way in man, nothing is
more internal than heavenly grace which begets sanctity, but the ordinary
and chief means of obtaining grace are external: that is to say, the sacraments
which are administered by men specially chosen for that purpose, by means
of certain ordinances.
Jesus Christ commanded His Apostles and their successors to the end of time
to teach and rule the nations. He ordered the nations to accept their teaching
and obey their authority. But his correlation of rights and duties in the
Christian commonwealth not only could not have been made permanent, but could
not even have been initiated except through the senses, which are of all
things the messengers and interpreters.
For this reason the Church is so often called in Holy Writ a body, and even
the body of Christ - "Now you are the body of Christ" (I Cor. xii., 27) -
and precisely because it is a body is the Church visible: and because it
is the body of Christ is it living and energizing, because by the infusion
of His power Christ guards and sustains it, just as the vine gives nourishment
and renders fruitful the branches united to it. And as in animals the vital
principle is unseen and invisible, and is evidenced and manifested by the
movements and action of the members, so the principle of supernatural life
in the Church is clearly shown in that which is done by it.
From this it follows that those who arbitrarily conjure up and picture to
themselves a hidden and invisible Church are in grievous and pernicious error:
as also are those who regard the Church as a human institution which claims
a certain obedience in discipline and external duties, but which is without
the perennial communication of the gifts of divine grace, and without all
that which testifies by constant and undoubted signs to the existence of
that life which is drawn from God. It is assuredly as impossible that the
Church of Jesus Christ can be the one or the other, as that man should be
a body alone or a soul alone. The connection and union of both elements is
as absolutely necessary to the true Church as the intimate union of the soul
and body is to human nature. The Church is not something dead: it is the
body of Christ endowed with supernatural life. As Christ, the Head and Exemplar,
is not wholly in His visible human nature, which Photinians and Nestorians
assert, nor wholly in the invisible divine nature, as the Monophysites hold,
but is one, from and in both natures, visible and invisible; so the mystical
body of Christ is the true Church, only because its visible parts draw life
and power from the supernatural gifts and other things whence spring their
very nature and essence. But since the Church is such by divine will and
constitution, such it must uniformly remain to the end of time. If it did
not, then it would not have been founded as perpetual, and the end set before
it would have been limited to some certain place and to some certain period
of time; both of which are contrary to the truth. The union consequently
of visible and invisible elements because it harmonizes with the natural
order and by God's will belongs to the very essence of the Church, must
necessarily remain so long as the Church itself shall endure. Wherefore
Chrysostom writes: "Secede not from the Church: for nothing is stronger than
the Church. Thy hope is the Church; thy salvation is the Church; thy refuge
is the Church. It is higher than the heavens and wider than the earth. It
never grows old, but is ever full of vigour. Wherefore Holy Writ pointing
to its strength and stability calls it a mountain" (Hom. De capto Eutropio,
Also Augustine says: "Unbelievers think that the Christian religion will
last for a certain period in the world and will then disappear. But it will
remain as long as the sun - as long as the sun rises and sets: that is, as
long as the ages of time shall roll, the Church of God - the true body of
Christ on earth - will not disappear" (In Psalm. lxx., n. 8). And in another
place: "The Church will totter if its foundation shakes; but how can Christ
be moved?...Christ remaining immovable, it (the Church, shall never be shaken.
Where are they that say that the Church has disappeared from the world, when
it cannot even be shaken?" (Enarratio in Psalm. ciii., sermo ii., n. 5).
He who seeks the truth must be guided by these fundamental principles. That
is to say, that Christ the Lord instituted and formed the Church: wherefore
when we are asked what its nature is, the main thing is to see what Christ
wished and what in fact He did. Judged by such a criterion it is the unity
of the Church which must be principally considered; and of this, for the
general good, it has seemed useful to speak in this Encyclical.
4. It is so evident from the clear and frequent testimonies of Holy Writ
that the true Church of Jesus Christ is one, that no Christian can dare to
deny it. But in judging and determining the nature of this unity many have
erred in various ways. Not the foundation of the Church alone, but its whole
constitution, belongs to the class of things effected by Christ's free choice.
For this reason the entire case must be judged by what was actually done.
We must consequently investigate not how the Church may possibly be one,
but how He, who founded it, willed that it should be one. But when we consider
what was actually done we find that Jesus Christ did not, in point of fact,
institute a Church to embrace several communities similar in nature, but
in themselves distinct, and lacking those bonds which render the Church unique
and indivisible after that manner in which in the symbol of our faith we
profess: "I believe in one Church." "The Church in respect of its unity belongs
to the category of things indivisible by nature, though heretics try to divide
it into many parts...We say, therefore, that the Catholic Church is unique
in its essence, in its doctrine, in its origin, and in its
excellence...Furthermore, the eminence of the Church arises from its unity,
as the principle of its constitution - a unity surpassing all else, and having
nothing like unto it or equal to it" (S. Clemens Alexandrinus, Stronmatum
lib. viii., c. 17). For this reason Christ, speaking of the mystical edifice,
mentions only one Church, which he calls His own - "I will build my church;
" any other Church except this one, since it has not been founded by Christ,
cannot be the true Church. This becomes even more evident when the purpose
of the Divine Founder is considered. For what did Christ, the Lord, ask?
What did He wish in regard to the Church founded, or about to be founded?
This: to transmit to it the same mission and the same mandate which He had
received from the Father, that they should be perpetuated. This He clearly
resolved to do: this He actually did. "As the Father hath sent me, I also
send you" (John xx., 21). "Ad thou hast sent Me into the world I also have
sent them into the world" (John xvii., 18).
But the mission of Christ is to save that which had perished: that is to
say, not some nations or peoples, but the whole human race, without distinction
of time or place. "The Son of Man came that the world might be saved by Him"
(John iii., 17). "For there is no other name under Heaven given to men whereby
we must be saved" (Acts iv., 12). The Church, therefore, is bound to communicate
without stint to all men, and to transmit through all ages, the salvation
effected by Jesus Christ, and the blessings flowing there from. Wherefore,
by the will of its Founder, it is necessary that this Church should be one
in all lands and at all times. to justify the existence of more than one
Church it would be necessary to go outside this world, and to create a new
and unheard - of race of men.
That the one Church should embrace all men everywhere and at all times was
seen and foretold by Isaias, when looking into the future he saw the appearance
of a mountain conspicuous by its all surpassing altitude, which set forth
the image of "The House of the Lord" - that is, of the Church, "And in the
last days the mountain of the House of the Lord shall be prepared on the
top of the mountains" (Isa. ii., 2).
But this mountain which towers over all other mountains is one; and the House
of the Lord to which all nations shall come to seek the rule of living is
also one. "And all nations shall flow into it. And many people shall go,
and say: Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, and to the House
of the God of Jacob, and He will teach us His ways, and we will walk in His
paths" (Ibid., ii., 2-3).
Explaining this passage, Optatus of Milevis says: "It is written in the prophet
Isaias: 'from Sion the law shall go forth and the word of the Lord from
Jerusalem.' For it is not on Mount Sion that Isaias sees the valley, but
on the holy mountain, that is, the Church, which has raised itself conspicuously
throughout the entire Roman world under the whole heavens....The Church is,
therefore, the spiritual Sion in which Christ has been constituted King by
God the Father, and which exists throughout the entire earth, on which there
is but one Catholic Church" (De Schism. Donatist., lib. iii., n. 2). And
Augustine says: "What can be so manifest as a mountain, or so well known?
There are, it is true, mountains which are unknown because they are situated
in some remote part of the earth But this mountain is not unknown; for it
has filled the whole face of the world, and about this it is said that it
is prepared on the summit of the mountains" (In Ep. Joan., tract i., n. 13).
5. Furthermore, the Son of God decreed that the Church should be His mystical
body, with which He should be united as the Head, after the manner of the
human body which He assumed, to which the natural head is physiologically
united. As He took to Himself a mortal body, which He gave to suffering and
death in order to pay the price of man's redemption, so also He has one mystical
body in which and through which He renders men partakers of holiness and
of eternal salvation. God "hath made Him (Christ) head over all the Church,
which is His body" (Eph. i., 22-23). Scattered and separated members cannot
possibly cohere with the head so as to make one body. But St. Paul says:
"All members of the body, whereas they are many, yet are one body, so also
is Christ" (I Cor. xii., 12). Wherefore this mystical body, he declares,
is "compacted and fitly jointed together. The head, Christ: from whom the
whole body, being compacted and fitly jointed together, by what every joint
supplieth according to the operation in the measure of every part" (Eph.
iv., 15-16). And so dispersed members, separated one from the other, cannot
be united with one and the same head. "There is one God, and one Christ;
and His Church is one and the faith is one; and one the people, joined together
in the solid unity of the body in the bond of concord. This unity cannot
be broken, nor the one body divided by the separation of its constituent
parts" (S. Cyprianus, De Cath. Eccl. Unitateccl. Unitate, n. 23). And to
set forth more clearly the unity of the Church, he makes use of the illustration
of a living body, the members of which cannot possibly live unless united
to the head and drawing from it their vital force. Separated from the head
they must of necessity die. "The Church," he says, "cannot be divided into
parts by the separation and cutting asunder of its members. What is cut away
from the mother cannot live or breathe apart" (Ibid.). What similarity is
there between a dead and a living body? "For no man ever hated his own flesh,
but nourisheth and cherisheth it, as also Christ doth the Church: because
we are members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones" (Eph. v., 29-30).
Another head like to Christ must be invented - that is, another Christ if
besides the one Church, which is His body, men wish to set up another. "See
what you must beware of - see what you must avoid - see what you must dread.
It happens that, as in the human body, some member may be cut off a hand,
a finger, a foot. Does the soul follow the amputated member? As long as it
was in the body, it lived; separated, it forfeits its life. So the Christian
is a Catholic as long as he lives in the body: cut off from it he becomes
a heretic - the life of the spirit follows not the amputated member" (S.
Augustinus, Sermo cclxvii., n. 4).
The Church of Christ, therefore, is one and the same for ever; those who
leave it depart from the will and command of Christ, the Lord - leaving the
path of salvation they enter on that of perdition. "Whosoever is separated
from the Church is united to an adulteress. He has cut himself off from the
promises of the Church, and he who leaves the Church of Christ cannot arrive
at the rewards of Christ....He who observes not this unity observes not the
law of God, holds not the faith of the Father and the Son, clings not to
life and salvation" (S. Cyprianus, De Cath. Eccl. Unitate, n. 6).
6. But He, indeed, Who made this one Church, also gave it unity, that is,
He made it such that all who are to belong to it must be united by the closest
bonds, so as to form one society, one kingdom, one body - "one body and one
spirit as you are called in one hope of your calling (Eph. iv., 4). Jesus
Christ, when His death was nigh at hand, declared His will in this matter,
and solemnly offered it up, thus addressing His Father: "Not for them only
do I pray, but for them also who through their word shall believe in Me...that
they also may be one in Us...that they may be made perfect in one" John xvii.,
20-21 23). Yea, He commanded that this unity should be so closely knit and
so perfect amongst His followers that it might, in some measure, shadow forth
the union between Himself and His Father: "I pray that they all may be one
as Thou Father in Me and I in Thee" (Ibid. 21).
Agreement and union of minds is the necessary foundation of this perfect
concord amongst men, from which concurrence of wills and similarity of action
are the natural results. Wherefore, in His divine wisdom, He ordained in
His Church Unity of Faith; a virtue which is the first of those bonds which
unite man to God, and whence we receive the name of the faithful - "one Lord,
one faith, one baptism" (Eph. iv., 5). That is, as there is one Lord and
one baptism, so should all Christians, without exception, have but one faith.
And so the Apostle St. Paul not merely begs, but entreats and implores Christians
to be all of the same mind, and to avoid difference of opinions: "I beseech
you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the
same thing, and that there be no schisms amongst you, and that you be perfect
in the same mind and in the same judgment" (I Cor. i., 10). Such passages
certainly need no interpreter; they speak clearly enough for themselves.
Besides, all who profess Christianity allow that there can be but one faith.
It is of the greatest importance and indeed of absolute necessity, as to
which many are deceived, that the nature and character of this unity should
be recognized. And, as We have already stated, this is not to be ascertained
by conjecture, but by the certain knowledge of what was done; that is by
seeking for and ascertaining what kind of unity in faith has been commanded
by Jesus Christ.
7. The heavenly doctrine of Christ, although for the most part committed
to writing by divine inspiration, could not unite the minds of men if left
to the human intellect alone. It would, for this very reason, be subject
to various and contradictory interpretations. This is so, not only because
of the nature of the doctrine itself and of the mysteries it involves, but
also because of the divergencies of the human mind and of the disturbing
element of conflicting passions. From a variety of interpretations a variety
of beliefs is necessarily begotten; hence come controversies, dissensions
and wranglings such as have arisen in the past, even in the first ages of
the Church. Irenaeus writes of heretics as follows: "Admitting the sacred
Scriptures they distort the interpretations" (Lib. iii., cap. 12, n. 12).
And Augustine: "Heresies have arisen, and certain perverse views ensnaring
souls and precipitating them into the abyss only when the Scriptures, good
in themselves, are not properly understood" (In Evang. Joan., tract xviii.,
cap. 5, n. 1). Besides Holy Writ it was absolutely necessary to insure this
union of men's minds - to effect and preserve unity of ideas - that there
should be another principle. This the wisdom of God requires: for He could
not have willed that the faith should be one if He did not provide means
sufficient for the preservation of this unity; and this Holy Writ clearly
sets forth as We shall presently point out. Assuredly the infinite power
of God is not bound by anything, all things obey it as so many passive
instruments. In regard to this external principle, therefore, we must inquire
which one of all the means in His power Christ did actually adopt. For this
purpose it is necessary to recall in thought the institution of Christianity.
8. We are mindful only of what is witnessed to by Holy Writ and what is otherwise
well known. Christ proves His own divinity and the divine origin of His mission
by miracles; He teaches the multitudes heavenly doctrine by word of mouth;
and He absolutely commands that the assent of faith should be given to His
teaching, promising eternal rewards to those who believe and eternal punishment
to those who do not. "If I do not the works of my Father, believe Me not"
John x., 37). "If I had not done among them the works than no other man had
done, they would not have sin" (Ibid. xv., 24). "But if I do (the works)
though you will not believe Me, believe the works" (Ibid. x., 38). Whatsoever
He commands, He commands by the same authority. He requires the assent of
the mind to all truths without exception. It was thus the duty of all who
heard Jesus Christ, if they wished for eternal salvation, not merely to accept
His doctrine as a whole, but to assent with their entire mind to all and
every point of it, since it is unlawful to withhold faith from God even in
regard to one single point.
When about to ascend into heaven He sends His Apostles in virtue of the same
power by which He had been sent from the Father; and he charges them to spread
abroad and propagate His teaching. "All power is given to Me in Heaven and
in earth. Going therefore teach all nations....teaching them to observe all
things whatsoever I have commanded you" (Matt. xxviii., 18-1920). So that
those obeying the Apostles might be saved, and those disobeying should perish.
"He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved, but he that believed not
shall be condemned" (Mark xvi., 16). But since it is obviously most in harmony
with God's providence that no one should have confided to him a great and
important mission unless he were furnished with the means of properly carrying
it out, for this reason Christ promised that He would send the Spirit of
Truth to His Disciples to remain with them for ever. "But if I go I will
send Him (the Paraclete) to you....But when He, the Spirit of Truth is come,
He will teach you all truth" John xvi., 7 13). "And I will ask the Father,
and He shall give you another Paraclete, that he may abide with you for ever,
the Spirit of Truth" (Ibid. xiv., 16-17). "He shall give testimony of Me,
and you shall give testimony" (Ibid. xv., 26-27). Hence He commands that
the teaching of the Apostles should be religiously accepted and piously kept
as if it were His own - "He who hears you hears Me, he who despises you despises
Me" (Luke x., 16). Wherefore the Apostles are ambassadors of Christ as He
is the ambassador of the Father. "As the Father sent Me so also I send you"
John xx., 21). Hence as the Apostles and Disciples were bound to obey Christ,
so also those whom the Apostles taught were, by God's command, bound to obey
them. And, therefore, it was no more allowable to repudiate one iota of the
Apostles' teaching than it was to reject any point of the doctrine of Christ
Truly the voice of the Apostles, when the Holy Ghost had come down upon them,
resounded throughout the world. Wherever they went they proclaimed themselves
the ambassadors of Christ Himself. "By whom (Jesus Christ) we have received
grace and Apostleship for obedience to the faith in all nations for His name"
(Rom. i., 5). And God makes known their divine mission by numerous miracles.
"But they going forth preached everywhere: the Lord working withal, and
confirming the word with signs that followed" (Mark xvi., 20). But what is
this word? That which comprehends all things, that which they had learnt
from their Master; because they openly and publicly declare that they cannot
help speaking of what they had seen and heard.
But, as we have already said, the Apostolic mission was not destined to die
with the Apostles themselves, or to come to an end in the course of time,
since it was intended for the people at large and instituted for the salvation
of the human race. For Christ commanded His Apostles to preach the "Gospel
to every creature, to carry His name to nations and kings, and to be witnesses
to him to the ends of the earth." He further promised to assist them in the
fulfilment of their high mission, and that, not for a few years or centuries
only, but for all time - "even to the consummation of the world." Upon which
St. Jerome says: "He who promises to remain with His Disciples to the end
of the world declares that they will be for ever victorious, and that He
will never depart from those who believe in Him" (In Matt., lib. iv., cap.
28, v. 20). But how could all this be realized in the Apostles alone, placed
as they were under the universal law of dissolution by death? It was consequently
provided by God that the Magisterium instituted by Jesus Christ should not
end with the life of the Apostles, but that it should be perpetuated. We
see it in truth propagated, and, 'as it were, delivered from hand to hand.
For the Apostles consecrated bishops, and each one appointed those who were
to succeed them immediately "in the ministry of the word."
Nay more: they likewise required their successors to choose fitting men,
to endow them with like authority, and to confide to them the office and
mission of teaching. "Thou, therefore, my son, be strong in the grace which
is in Christ Jesus: and the things which thou hast heard of me by many witnesses,
the same command to faithful men, who shall be fit to teach others also"
(2 Tim. ii., 1-2). Wherefore, as Christ was sent by God and the Apostles
by Christ, so the Bishops and those who succeeded them were sent by the Apostles.
"The Apostles were appointed by Christ to preach the Gospel to us. Jesus
Christ was sent by God. Christ is therefore from God, and the Apostles from
Christ, and both according to the will of God....Preaching therefore the
word through the countries and cities, when they had proved in the Spirit
the first - fruits of their teaching they appointed bishops and deacons for
the faithful....They appointed them and then ordained them, so that when
they themselves had passed away other tried men should carry on their ministry"
(S. Clemens Rom. Epist. I ad Corinth. capp. 42, 44). On the one hand, therefore,
it is necessary that the mission of teaching whatever Christ had taught should
remain perpetual and immutable, and on the other that the duty of accepting
and professing all their doctrine should likewise be perpetual and immutable.
"Our Lord Jesus Christ, when in His Gospel He testifies that those who not
are with Him are His enemies, does not designate any special form of heresy,
but declares that all heretics who are not with Him and do not gather with
Him, scatter His flock and are His adversaries: He that is not with Me is
against Me, and he that gathereth not with Me scattereth" (S. Cyprianus,
Ep. lxix., ad Magnum, n. I).
9. The Church, founded on these principles and mindful of her office, has
done nothing with greater zeal and endeavour than she has displayed in guarding
the integrity of the faith. Hence she regarded as rebels and expelled from
the ranks of her children all who held beliefs on any point of doctrine different
from her own. The Arians, the Montanists, the Novatians, the Quartodecimans,
the Eutychians, did not certainly reject all Catholic doctrine: they abandoned
only a certain portion of it. Still who does not know that they were declared
heretics and banished from the bosom of the Church? In like manner were condemned
all authors of heretical tenets who followed them in subsequent ages. "There
can be nothing more dangerous than those heretics who admit nearly the whole
cycle of doctrine, and yet by one word, as with a drop of poison, infect
the real and simple faith taught by our Lord and handed down by Apostolic
tradition" (Auctor Tract. de Fide Orthodoxa contra Arianos).
The practice of the Church has always been the same, as is shown by the unanimous
teaching of the Fathers, who were wont to hold as outside Catholic communion,
and alien to the Church, whoever would recede in the least degree from any
point of doctrine proposed by her authoritative Magisterium. Epiphanius,
Augustine, Theodore :, drew up a long list of the heresies of their times.
St. Augustine notes that other heresies may spring up, to a single one of
which, should any one give his assent, he is by the very fact cut off from
Catholic unity. "No one who merely disbelieves in all (these heresies) can
for that reason regard himself as a Catholic or call himself one. For there
may be or may arise some other heresies, which are not set out in this work
of ours, and, if any one holds to one single one of these he is not a Catholic"
(S. Augustinus, De Haeresibus, n. 88).
The need of this divinely instituted means for the preservation of unity,
about which we speak is urged by St. Paul in his epistle to the Ephesians.
In this he first admonishes them to preserve with every care concord of minds:
"Solicitous to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace" (Eph. iv.,
3, et seq.). And as souls cannot be perfectly united in charity unless minds
agree in faith, he wishes all to hold the same faith: "One Lord, one faith,"
and this so perfectly one as to prevent all danger of error: "that henceforth
we be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind
of doctrine by the wickedness of men, by cunning craftiness, by which they
lie in wait to deceive" (Eph. iv., 14): and this he teaches is to be observed,
not for a time only - "but until we all meet in the unity of faith...unto
the measure of the age of the fullness of Christ" (13). But, in what has
Christ placed the primary principle, and the means of preserving this unity?
In that - "He gave some Apostles - and other some pastors and doctors, for
the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying
of the body of Christ" (11-12).
Wherefore, from the very earliest times the fathers and doctors of the Church
have been accustomed to follow and, with one accord to defend this rule.
Origen writes: "As often as the heretics allege the possession of the canonical
scriptures, to which all Christians give unanimous assent, they seem to say:
'Behold the word of truth is in the houses.' But we should believe them not
and abandon not the primary and ecclesiastical tradition. We should believe
not otherwise than has been handed down by the tradition of the Church of
God" (Vetus Interpretatio Commentariorum in Matt. n. 46). Irenaeus too says:
"The doctrine of the Apostles is the true faith...which is known to us through
the Episcopal succession...which has reached even unto our age by the very
fact that the Scriptures have been zealously guarded and fully interpreted"
(Contra Haereses, lib. iv., cap. 33, n. 8). And Tertullian: "It is therefore
clear that all doctrine which agrees with that of the Apostolic churches
- the matrices and original centres of the faith, must be looked upon as
the truth, holding without hesitation that the Church received it from the
Apostles, the Apostles from Christ and Christ from God....We are in communion
with the Apostolic churches, and by the very fact that they agree amongst
themselves we have a testimony of the truth" (De Praescrip., cap. xxxi).
And so Hilary: "Christ teaching from the ship signifies that those who are
outside the Church can never grasp the divine teaching; for the ship typifies
the Church where the word of life is deposited and preached. Those who are
outside are like sterile and worthless sand: they cannot comprehend" (Comment.
in Matt. xiii., n. 1). Rufinus praises Gregory of Nazianzum and Basil because
"they studied the text of Holy Scripture alone, and took the interpretation
of its meaning not from their own inner consciousness, but from the writings
and on the authority of the ancients, who in their turn, as it is clear,
took their rule for understanding the meaning from the Apostolic succession"
(Hist. Eccl., lib. ii., cap. 9).
Wherefore, as appears from what has been said, Christ instituted in the Church
a living, authoritative and permanent Magisterium, which by His own power
He strengthened, by the Spirit of truth He taught, and by miracles confirmed.
He willed and ordered, under the gravest penalties, that its teachings should
be received as if they were His own. As often, therefore, as it is declared
on the authority of this teaching that this or that is contained in the deposit
of divine revelation, it must be believed by every one as true. If it could
in any way be false, an evident contradiction follows; for then God Himself
would be the author of error in man. "Lord, if we be in error, we are being
deceived by Thee" (Richardus de S. Victore, De Trin., lib. i., cap. 2). In
this wise, all cause for doubting being removed, can it be lawful for anyone
to reject any one of those truths without by the very fact falling into heresy?
without separating himself from the Church? - without repudiating in one
sweeping act the whole of Christian teaching? For such is the nature of faith
that nothing can be more absurd than to accept some things and reject others.
Faith, as the Church teaches, is "that supernatural virtue by which, through
the help of God and through the assistance of His grace, we believe what
he has revealed to be true, not on account of the intrinsic truth perceived
by the natural light of reason, but because of the authority of God Himself,
the Revealer, who can neither deceive nor be deceived" (Conc. Vat., Sess.
iii., cap. 3). If then it be certain that anything is revealed by God, and
this is not believed, then nothing whatever is believed by divine Faith:
for what the Apostle St. James judges to be the effect of a moral delinquency,
the same is to be said of an erroneous opinion in the matter of faith. "Whosoever
shall offend in one point, is become guilty of all" (Ep. James ii., 10).
Nay, it applies with greater force to an erroneous opinion. For it can be
said with less truth that every law is violated by one who commits a single
sin, since it may be that he only virtually despises the majesty of God the
Legislator. But he who dissents even in one point from divinely revealed
truth absolutely rejects all faith, since he thereby refuses to honour God
as the supreme truth and the formal motive of faith. "In many things they
are with me, in a few things not with me; but in those few things in which
they are not with me the many things in which they are will not profit them"
(S. Augustinus in Psal. liv., n. 19). And this indeed most deservedly; for
they, who take from Christian doctrine what they please, lean on their own
judgments, not on faith; and not "bringing into captivity every understanding
unto the obedience of Christ" (2 Cor. x., 5), they more truly obey themselves
than God. "You, who believe what you like, believe yourselves rather than
the gospel" (S. Augustinus, lib. xvii., Contra Faustum Manichaeum, cap. 3).
For this reason the Fathers of the Vatican Council laid down nothing new,
but followed divine revelation and the acknowledged and invariable teaching
of the Church as to the very nature of faith, when they decreed as follows:
"All those things are to be believed by divine and Catholic faith which are
contained in the written or unwritten word of God, and which are pro posed
by the Church as divinely revealed, either by a solemn definition or in the
exercise of its ordinary and universal Magisterium" (Sess. iii., cap. 3).
Hence, as it is clear that God absolutely willed that there should be unity
in His Church, and as it is evident what kind of unity He willed, and by
means of what principle He ordained that this unity should be maintained,
we may address the following words of St. Augustine to all who have not
deliberately closed their minds to the truth: "When we see the great help
of God, such manifest progress and such abundant fruit, shall we hesitate
to take refuge in the bosom of that Church, which, as is evident to all,
possesses the supreme authority of the Apostolic See through the Episcopal
succession? In vain do heretics rage round it; they are condemned partly
by the judgment of the people themselves, partly by the weight of councils,
partly by the splendid evidence of miracles. To refuse to the Church the
primacy is most impious and above measure arrogant. And if all learning,
no matter how easy and common it may be, in order to be fully understood
requires a teacher and master, what can be greater evidence of pride and
rashness than to be unwilling to learn about the books of the divine mysteries
from the proper interpreter, and to wish to condemn them unknown?" (De Unitate
Credendi, cap. xvii., n. 35).
It is then undoubtedly the office of the church to guard Christian doctrine
and to propagate it in its integrity and purity. But this is not all: the
object for which the Church has been instituted is not wholly attained by
the performance of this duty. For, since Jesus Christ delivered Himself up
for the salvation of the human race, and to this end directed all His teaching
and commands, so He ordered the Church to strive, by the truth of its doctrine,
to sanctify and to save mankind. But faith alone cannot compass so great,
excellent, and important an end. There must needs be also the fitting and
devout worship of God, which is to be found chiefly in the divine Sacrifice
and in the dispensation of the Sacraments, as well as salutary laws and
discipline. All these must be found in the Church, since it continues the
mission of the Saviour for ever. The Church alone offers to the human race
that religion - that state of absolute perfection - which He wished, as it
were, to be incorporated in it. And it alone supplies those means of salvation
which accord with the ordinary counsels of Providence.
10. But as this heavenly doctrine was never left to the arbitrary judgment
of private individuals, but, in the beginning delivered by Jesus Christ,
was afterwards committed by Him exclusively to the Magisterium already named,
so the power of performing and administering the divine mysteries, together
with the authority of ruling and governing, was not bestowed by God on all
Christians indiscriminately, but on certain chosen persons. For to the Apostles
and their legitimate successors alone these words have reference: "Going
into the whole world preach the Gospel." "Baptizing them." "Do this in
commemoration of Me." "Whose sins you shall forgive they are forgiven them."
And in like manner He ordered the Apostles only and those who should lawfully
succeed them to feed - that is to govern with authority - all Christian souls.
Whence it also follows that it is necessarily the duty of Christians to be
subject and to obey. And these duties of the Apostolic office are, in general,
all included in the words of St. Paul: "Let a man so account of us as of
the ministers of Christ, and the dispensers of the mysteries of God" (I Cor.
Wherefore Jesus Christ bade all men, present and future, follow Him as their
leader and Saviour; and this, not merely as individuals, but as forming a
society, organized and united in mind. In this way a duly constituted society
should exist, formed out of the divided multitude of peoples, one in faith,
one in end, one in the participation of the means adapted to the attainment
of the end, and one as subject to one and the same authority. To this end
He established in the Church all principles which necessarily tend to make
organized human societies, and through which they attain the perfection proper
to each. That is, in it (the Church), all who wished to be the sons of God
by adoption might attain to the perfection demanded by their high calling,
and might obtain salvation. The Church, therefore, as we have said, is man's
guide to whatever pertains to Heaven. This is the office appointed unto it
by God: that it may watch over and may order all that concerns religion,
and may, without let or hindrance, exercise, according to its judgment, its
charge over Christianity. Wherefore they who pretend that the Church has
any wish to interfere in Civil matters, or to infringe upon the rights of
the State, know it not, or wickedly calumniate it.
God indeed even made the Church a society far more perfect than any other.
For the end for which the Church exists is as much higher than the end of
other societies as divine grace is above nature, as immortal blessings are
above the transitory things on the earth. Therefore the Church is a society
divine in its origin, supernatural in its end and in means proximately adapted
to the attainment of that end; but it is a human community inasmuch as it
is composed of men. For this reason we find it called in Holy Writ by names
indicating a perfect society. It is spoken of as the House of God, the city
placed upon the mountain to which all nations must come. But it is also the
fold presided over by one Shepherd, and into which all Christ's sheep must
betake themselves. Yea, it is called the kingdom which God has raised up
and which will stand for ever. Finally it is the body of Christ - that is,
of course, His mystical body, but a body living and duly organized and composed
of many members; members indeed which have not all the same functions, but
which, united one to the other, are kept bound together by the guidance and
authority of the head.
Indeed no true and perfect human society can be conceived which is not governed
by some supreme authority. Christ therefore must have given to His Church
a supreme authority to which all Christians must render obedience. For this
reason, as the unity of the faith is of necessity required for the unity
of the church, inasmuch as it is the body of the faithful, so also for this
same unity, inasmuch as the Church is a divinely constituted society, unity
of government, which effects and involves unity of communion, is necessary
jure divino. "The unity of the Church is manifested in the mutual connection
or communication of its members, and likewise in the relation of all the
members of the Church to one head" (St. Thomas, 2a 2ae, 9, xxxix., a. I).
From this it is easy to see that men can fall away from the unity of the
Church by schism, as well as by heresy. "We think that this difference exists
between heresy and schism" (writes St. Jerome): "heresy has no perfect dogmatic
teaching, whereas schism, through some Episcopal dissent, also separates
from the Church" (S. Hieronymus, Comment. in Epist. ad Titum, cap. iii.,
v. 1011). In which judgment St. John Chrysostom concurs: "I say and protest
(he writes) that it is as wrong to divide the Church as to fall into heresy"
(Hom. xi., in Epist. ad Ephes., n. 5). Wherefore as no heresy can ever be
justifiable, so in like manner there can be no justification for schism.
"There is nothing more grievous than the sacrilege of schism....there can
be no just necessity for destroying the unity of the Church" (S. Augustinus,
Contra Epistolam Parmeniani, lib. ii., cap. ii., n. 25).
11. The nature of this supreme authority, which all Christians are bound
to obey, can be ascertained only by finding out what was the evident and
positive will of Christ. Certainly Christ is a King for ever; and though
invisible, He continues unto the end of time to govern and guard His church
from Heaven. But since He willed that His kingdom should be visible He was
obliged, when He ascended into Heaven, to designate a vice-gerent on earth.
"Should anyone say that Christ is the one head and the one shepherd, the
one spouse of the one Church, he does not give an adequate reply. It is clear,
indeed, that Christ is the author of grace in the Sacraments of the Church;
it is Christ Himself who baptizes; it is He who forgives sins; it is He who
is the true priest who hath offered Himself upon the altar of the cross,
and it is by His power that His body is daily consecrated upon the altar;
and still, because He was not to be visibly present to all the faithful,
He made choice of ministers through whom the aforesaid Sacraments should
be dispensed to the faithful as said above" (cap. 74). "For the same reason,
therefore, because He was about to withdraw His visible presence from the
Church, it was necessary that He should appoint someone in His place, to
have the charge of the Universal Church. Hence before His Ascension He said
to Peter: 'Feed my sheep' " (St. Thomas, Contra Gentiles, lib. iv., cap.
Jesus Christ, therefore, appointed Peter to be that head of the Church; and
He also determined that the authority instituted in perpetuity for the salvation
of all should be inherited by His successors, in whom the same permanent
authority of Peter himself should continue. And so He made that remarkable
promise to Peter and to no one else: "Thou are Peter, and upon this rock
I will build my church" (Matt. xvi., 18). "To Peter the Lord spoke: to one,
therefore, that He might establish unity upon one" (S. Pacianus ad Sempronium,
Ep. iii., n. 11). "Without any prelude He mentions St. Peter's name and that
of his father (Blessed art thou Simon, son of John) and He does not wish
Him to be called any more Simon; claiming him for Himself according to His
divine authority He aptly names him Peter, from petra the rock, since upon
him He was about to found His Church" (S. Cyrillus Alexandrinus, In Evang.
Joan., lib. ii., in cap. i., v. 42).
12. From this text it is clear that by the will and command of God the Church
rests upon St. Peter, just as a building rests on its foundation. Now the
proper nature of a foundation is to be a principle of cohesion for the various
parts of the building. It must be the necessary condition of stability and
strength. Remove it and the whole building falls. It is consequently the
office of St. Peter to support the Church, and to guard it in all its strength
and indestructible unity. How could he fulfil this office without the power
of commanding, forbidding, and judging, which is properly called jurisdiction?
It is only by this power of jurisdiction that nations and commonwealths are
held together. A primacy of honour and the shadowy right of giving advice
and admonition,which is called direction, could never secure to any society
of men unity or strength. The words - and the gates of Hell shall not prevail
against it proclaim and establish the authority of which we speak. "What
is the it?" (writes Origen). "Is it the rock upon which Christ builds the
Church or the Church? The expression indeed is ambiguous, as if the rock
and the Church were one and the same. I indeed think that this is so, and
that neither against the rock upon which Christ builds His Church nor against
the Church shall the gates of Hell prevail" (Origenes, Comment. in Matt.,
tom. xii., n. ii). The meaning of this divine utterance is, that, notwithstanding
the wiles and intrigues which they bring to bear against the Church, it can
never be that the church committed to the care of Peter shall succumb or
in any wise fail. "For the Church, as the edifice of Christ who has wisely
built 'His house upon a rock,' cannot be conquered by the gates of Hell,
which may prevail over any man who shall be off the rock and outside the
Church, but shall be powerless against it" (Ibid.). Therefore God confided
His Church to Peter so that he might safely guard it with his unconquerable
power. He invested him, therefore, with the needful authority; since the
right to rule is absolutely required by him who has to guard human society
really and effectively. This, furthermore, Christ gave: "To thee will I give
the keys of the kingdom of Heaven." And He is clearly still speaking of the
Church, which a short time before He had called His own, and which He declared
He wished to build on Peter as a foundation. The Church is typified not only
as an edifice but as a Kingdom, and every one knows that the keys constitute
the usual sign of governing authority. Wherefore when Christ promised to
give to Peter the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven, he promised to give him
power and authority over the Church. "The Son committed to Peter the office
of spreading the knowledge of His Father and Himself over the whole world.
He who increased the Church in all the earth, and proclaimed it to be stronger
than the heavens, gave to a mortal man all power in Heaven when He handed
him the Keys" (S. Johannes Chrysostomus, Hom. Liv., in Matt. v., 2). In this
same sense He says: "Whatsoever thou shall bind upon earth it shall be bound
also in Heaven, and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth it shall be loosed
also in Heaven." This metaphorical expression of binding and loosing indicates
the power of making laws, of judging and of punishing; and the power is said
to be of such amplitude and force that God will ratify whatever is decreed
by it. Thus it is supreme and absolutely independent, so that, having no
other power on earth as its superior, it embraces the whole Church and all
things committed to the Church.
The promise is carried out when Christ the Lord after His Resurrection, having
thrice asked Peter whether he loved Him more than the rest, lays on him the
injunction: "Feed my lambs - feed my sheep." That is He confides to him,
without exception, all those who were to belong to His fold. "The Lord does
not hesitate. He interrogates, not to learn but to teach. When He was about
to ascend into Heaven He left us, as it were, vice-gerent of His love....and
so because Peter alone of all others professes his love he is preferred to
all - that being the most perfect he should govern the more perfect" (S.
Ambrosius, Exposit. in Evang. secundum Lucam, lib. x., nn. 175-176).
These, then, are the duties of a shepherd: to place himself as leader at
the head of his flock, to provide proper food for it, to ward off dangers,
to guard against insidious foes, to defend it against violence: in a word
to rule and govern it. Since therefore Peter has been placed as shepherd
of the Christian flock he has received the power of governing all men for
whose salvation Jesus Christ shed His blood. "Why has He shed His blood?
To buy the sheep which He handed over to Peter and his successors" (S. Joannes
Chrysostomus, De Sacerdotio, lib. ii).
And since all Christians must be closely united in the communion of one immutable
faith, Christ the Lord, in virtue of His prayers, obtained for Peter that
in the fulfilment of his office he should never fall away from the faith.
"But I have asked for thee that thy faith fail not" (Luke xxii., 32), and
He furthermore commanded him to impart light and strength to his brethren
as often as the need should arise: "Confirm thy brethren" (Ibid.). He willed
then that he whom He had designated as the foundation of the Church should
be the defence of its faith. "Could not Christ who confided to him the Kingdom
by His own authority have strengthened the faith of one whom He designated
a rock to show the foundation of the Church?" (S. Ambrosius, De Fide, lib.
iv., n. 56). For this reason Jesus Christ willed that Peter should participate
in certain names, signs of great things which properly belong to Himself
alone: in order that identity of titles should show identity of power. So
He who is Himself "the chief corner-stone in whom all the building being
framed together, groweth up in a holy temple in the Lord" (Eph. ii., 21),
placed Peter as it were a stone to support the Church. "When he heard 'thou
art a rock,' he was ennobled by the announcement. Although he is a rock,
not as Christ is a rock, but as Peter is a rock. For Christ is by His very
being an immovable rock; Peter only through this rock. Christ imparts His
gifts, and is not exhausted....He is a priest, and makes priests. He is a
rock, and constitutes a rock" (Hom. de Poenitentia, n. 4 in Appendice opp.
S. Basilii). He who is the King of His Church, "Who hath the key of David,
who openeth and no man shutteth, who shutteth and no man openeth (Apoc. iii.,
7), having delivered the keys to Peter declared him Prince of the Christian
commonwealth. So, too, He, the Great Shepherd, who calls Himself "the Good
Shepherd," constituted Peter the pastor "of His lambs and sheep. Feed My
lambs, feed My Sheep." Wherefore Chrysostom says: "He was preeminent among
the Apostles: He was the mouthpiece of the Apostles and the head of the Apostolic
College....at the same time showing him that henceforth he ought to have
confidence, and as it were blotting out his denial, He commits to him the
government of his brethren....He saith to him: 'If thou lovest Me, be over
my brethren.' Finally He who confirms in "every good work and word" (2 Thess.
ii., 16) commands Peter "to con firm his brethren."
Rightly, therefore, does St. Leo the Great say: "From the whole world Peter
alone is chosen to take the lead in calling all nations, to be the head of
all the Apostles and of all the Fathers of the Church. So that, although
in the people of God there are many priests and many pastors Peter should
by right rule all of those over whom Christ Himself is the chief ruler" (Sermo
iv., cap. 2). And so St. Gregory the great, writing to the Emperor Maurice
Augustus, says: "It is evident to all who know the gospel that the charge
of the whole Church was committed to St. Peter, the Apostle and Prince of
all tie Apostles, by the word of the Lord....Behold! he hath received the
keys of the heavenly kingdom - the power of binding and loosing is conferred
upon him: the care of the whole government of the Church is confided to him"
(Epist. Iib. v., Epist. xx).
13. It was necessary that a government of this kind, since it belongs to
the constitution and formation of the Church, as its principal element that
is as the principle of unity and the foundation of lasting stability - should
in no wise come to an end with St. Peter, but should pass to his successors
from one to another. "There remains, therefore, the ordinance of truth, and
St. Peter, persevering in the strength of the rock which he had received,
hath not abandoned the government of the Church which had been confided to
him" (S. Leo M. sermo iii., cap. 3). For this reason the Pontiffs who succeed
Peter in the Roman Episcopate receive the supreme power in the church, jure
divino. "We define" (declare the Fathers of the Council of Florence) "that
the Holy and Apostolic See and the Roman Pontiff hold the primacy of the
Church throughout the whole world: and that the same Roman Pontiff is the
successor of St. Peter, the Prince of the Apostles, and the true Vicar of
Christ, the head of the whole Church, and the father and teacher of all
Christians; and that full power was given to him, in Blessed Peter, by our
Lord Jesus Christ to feed, to rule, and to govern the universal Church, as
is also contained in the acts of ecumenical councils and in the sacred canons"
(Conc. Florentinum). Similarly the Fourth Council of Lateran declares: "The
Roman Church, as the mother and mistress of all the faithful, by the will
of Christ obtains primacy of jurisdiction over all other Churches." These
declarations were preceded by the consent of antiquity which ever acknowledged,
without the slightest doubt or hesitation, the Bishops of Rome, and revered
them, as the legitimate successors of St. Peter.
Who is unaware of the many and evident testimonies of the holy Fathers which
exist to this effect? Most remarkable is that of St. Irenaeus who, referring
to the Roman Church, says: "With this Church, on account of its preeminent
authority, it is necessary that every Church should be in concord" (Contra
Haereses, lib. iii., cap. 3, n. 2); and St. Cyprian also says of the Roman
Church, that "it is the root and mother of the Catholic Church, the chair
of Peter, and the principal Church whence sacerdotal unity has its source"
(Ep. xlviii., ad Cornelium, n. 3. and Ep. lix., ad eundem, n. 14). He calls
it the chair of Peter because it is occupied by the successor of Peter: he
calls it the principal Church, on account of the primacy conferred on Peter
himself and his legitimate successors; and the source of unity, because the
Roman Church is the efficient cause of unity in the Christian commonwealth.
For this reason Jerome addresses Damasus thus: "My words are spoken to the
successor of the Fisherman, to the disciple of the Cross....I communicate
with none save your Blessedness, that is with the chair of Peter. For this
I know is the rock on which the Church is built" (Ep. xv., ad Damasum, n.
2). Union with the Roman See of Peter is to him always the public criterion
of a Catholic. "I acknowledge everyone who is united with the See of Peter"
(Ep. xvi., ad Damasum, n. 2). And for a like reason St. Augustine publicly
attests that, "the primacy of the Apostolic chair always existed in the Roman Church"
(Ep. xliii., n. 7); and he denies that anyone who dissents from the Roman
faith can be a Catholic. "You are not to be looked upon as holding the true
Catholic faith if you do not teach that the faith of Rome is to be held"
(Sermo cxx., n. 13). So, too, St. Cyprian: "To be in communion with Cornelius
is to be in communion with the Catholic Church" (Ep. Iv., n. 1). In the same
way Maximus the Abbot teaches that obedience to the Roman Pontiff is the
proof of the true faith and of legitimate communion. Therefore if a man does
not want to be, or to be called, a heretic, let him not strive to please
this or that man...but let him hasten before all things to be in communion
with the Roman See. If he be in communion with it, he should be acknowledged
by all and everywhere as faithful and orthodox. He speaks in vain who tries
to persuade me of the orthodoxy of those who, like himself, refuse obedience
to his Holiness the Pope of the most holy Church of Rome: that is to the
Apostolic See." The reason and motive of this he explains to be that "the
Apostolic See has received and hath government, authority, and power of binding
and loosing from the Incarnate Word Himself; and, according to all holy synods,
sacred canons and decrees, in all things and through all things, in respect
of all the holy churches of God throughout the whole world, since the Word
in Heaven who rules the Heavenly powers binds and loosens there" (Defloratio
ex Epistola ad Petrum illustrem).
Wherefore what was acknowledged and observed as Christian faith, not by one
nation only nor in one age, but by the East and by the West, and through
all ages, this Philip, the priest, the Pontifical legate at the Council of
Ephesus, no voice being raised in dissent, recalls: "No one can doubt, yea,
it is known unto all ages, that St. Peter, the Prince of the Apostles, the
pillar of the faith and the ground of the Catholic Church, received the keys
of the Kingdom from Our Lord Jesus Christ. That is: the power of forgiving
and retaining sins was given to him who, up to the present time, lives and
exercises judgment in the persons of his successors" (Actio iii.). The
pronouncement of the Council of Chalcedon on the same matter is present to
the minds of all: "Peter has spoken through Leo" (Actio ii.), to which the
voice of the Third Council of Constantinople responds as an echo: "The chief
Prince of the Apostles was fighting on our side: for we have had as our ally
his follower and the successor to his see: and the paper and the ink were
seen, and Peter spoke through Agatho" (Actio xviii.).
In the formula of Catholic faith drawn up and proposed by Hormisdas, which
was subscribed at the beginning of the sixth century in the great Eighth
Council by the Emperor Justinian, by Epiphanius, John and Menna, the Patriarchs,
this same is declared with great weight and solemnity. "For the pronouncement
of Our Lord Jesus Christ saying: 'Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will
build my Church,' and c., cannot be passed over. What is said is proved by
the result, because Catholic faith has always been preserved without stain
in the Apostolic See" (Post Epistolam, xxvi., ad omnes Episc. Hispan., n.
4). We have no wish to quote every available declaration; but it is well
to recall the formula of faith which Michael Paleologus professed in the
Second Council of Lyons: "The same holy Roman Church possesses the sovereign
and plenary primacy and authority over the whole Catholic Church, which,
truly and humbly, it acknowledges to have received together with the plenitude
of power from the Lord Himself, in the person of St. Peter, the Prince or
Head of the Apostles, of whom the Roman Pontiff is the successor. And as
it is bound to defend the truth of faith beyond all others, so also if any
question should arise concerning the faith it must be deter mined by its
judgment" (Actio iv.).
14. But if the authority of Peter and his successors is plenary and supreme,
it is not to be regarded as the sole authority. For He who made Peter the
foundation of the Church also "chose, twelve, whom He called apostles" (Luke
vi., 13); and just as it is necessary that the authority of Peter should
be perpetuated in the Roman Pontiff, so, by the fact that the bishops succeed
the Apostles, they inherit their ordinary power, and thus the episcopal order
necessarily belongs to the essential constitution of the Church. Although
they do not receive plenary, or universal, or supreme authority, they are
not to be looked as vicars of the Roman Pontiffs; because they exercise a
power really their own, and are most truly called the ordinary pastors of
the peoples over whom they rule.
But since the successor of Peter is one, and those of the Apostles are many,
it is necessary to examine into the relations which exist between him and
them according to the divine constitution of the Church. Above all things
the need of union between the bishops and the successors of Peter is clear
and undeniable. This bond once broken, Christians would be separated and
scattered, and would in no wise form one body and one flock. "The safety
of the Church depends on the dignity of the chief priest, to whom if an
extraordinary and supreme power is not given, there are as many schisms to
be expected in the Church as there are priests" (S. Hieronymus, Dialog, contra
Luciferianos, n. 9). It is necessary, therefore, to bear this in mind, viz.,
that nothing was conferred on the apostles apart from Peter, but that several
things were conferred upon Peter apart from the Apostles. St. John Chrysostom
in explaining the words of Christ asks: "Why, passing over the others, does
He speak to Peter about these things?" And he replies unhesitatingly and
at once, "Because he was pre eminent among the Apostles, the mouthpiece of
the Disciples, and the head of the college" (Hom. lxxxviii. in Joan., n.
1). He alone was designated as the foundation of the Church. To him He gave
the power of binding and loosing; to him alone was given the power of feeding.
On the other hand, whatever authority and office the Apostles received, they
received in conjunction with Peter. "If the divine benignity willed anything
to be in common between him and the other princes, whatever He did not deny
to the others He gave only through him. So that whereas Peter alone received
many things, He conferred nothing on any of the rest without Peter participating
in it" (S. Leo M. sermo iv., cap. 2).
15. From this it must be clearly understood that Bishops are deprived of
the right and power of ruling, if they deliberately secede from Peter and
his successors; because, by this secession, they are separated from the
foundation on which the whole edifice must rest. They are therefore outside
the edifice itself; and for this very reason they are separated from the
fold, whose leader is the Chief Pastor; they are exiled from the
Kingdom, the keys
of which were given by Christ to Peter alone.
These things enable us to see the heavenly ideal, and the divine exemplar,
of the constitution of the Christian commonwealth, namely: When the Divine
founder decreed that the Church should be one in faith, in government, and
in communion, He chose Peter and his successors as the principle and centre,
as it were, of this unity. Wherefore St. Cyprian says: "The following is
a short and easy proof of the faith. The Lord saith to Peter: 'I say to thee
thou art Peter'; on him alone He buildeth His Church; and although after
His Resurrection He gives a similar power to all the Apostles and says: 'As
the Father hath sent me,' &c., still in order to make the necessary unity
clear, by His own authority He laid down the source of that unity as beginning
from one" (De Unit. Eccl., n. 4). And Optatus of Milevis says: "You cannot
deny that you know that in the city of Rome the Episcopal chair was first
conferred on Peter. In this Peter, the head of all the Apostles (hence his
name Cephas), has sat; in which chair alone unity was to be preserved for
all, lest any of the other apostles should claim anything as exclusively
his own. So much so, that he who would place another chair against that one
chair, would be a schismatic and a sinner" (De Schism. Donat., lib. ii).
Hence the teaching of Cyprian, that heresy and schism arise and are begotten
from the fact that due obedience is refused to the supreme authority. "Heresies
and schisms have no other origin than that obedience is refused to the priest
of God, and that men lose sight of the fact that there is one judge in the
place of Christ in this world" (Epist. xii. ad Cornelium, n. 5). No one,
therefore, unless in communion with Peter can share in his authority, since
it is absurd to imagine that he who is outside can command in the Church.
Wherefore Optatus of Milevis blamed the Donatists for this reason: "Against
which ages (of hell) we read that Peter received the saving keys, that is
to say, our prince, to whom it was said by Christ: 'To thee will I give the
keys of the Kingdom of Heaven, and the gates of hell shall not conquer them.'
Whence is it therefore that you strive to obtain for yourselves the keys
of the Kingdom of Heaven - you who fight against the chair of Peter?" (Lib.
ii., n. 4-5).
But the Episcopal order is rightly judged to be in communion with Peter,
as Christ commanded, if it be subject to and obeys Peter; otherwise it
necessarily becomes a lawless and disorderly crowd. It is not sufficient
for the due preservation of the unity of the faith that the head should merely
have been charged with the office of superintendent, or should have been
invested solely with a power of direction. But it is absolutely necessary
that he should have received real and sovereign authority which the whole
community is bound to obey. What had the Son of God in view when he promised
the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven to Peter alone? Biblical usage and the
unanimous teaching of the Fathers clearly show that supreme authority is
designated in the passage by the word keys. Nor is it lawful to interpret
in a different sense what was given to Peter alone, and what was given to
the other Apostles conjointly with him. If the power of binding, loosening,
and feeding confers upon each and every one of the Bishops the successors
of the Apostles a real authority to rule the people committed to him, certainly
the same power must have the same effect in his case to whom the duty of
feeding the lambs and sheep has been assigned by God. "Christ constituted
[Peter] not only pastor, but pastor of pastors; Peter therefore feeds the
lambs and feeds the sheep, feeds the children and feeds the mothers, governs
the subjects and rules the prelates, because the lambs and the sheep form
the whole of the Church" (S. Bruonis Episcopi Signiensis Comment. in Joan.,
part iii., cap. 21, n. 55). Hence those remarkable expressions of the ancients
concerning St. Peter, which most clearly set forth the fact that he was placed
n the highest degree of dignity and authority. They frequently call him "the
Prince of the College of the Disciples; the Prince of the holy Apostles;
the leader of that choir; the mouthpiece of all the Apostles; the head of
that family; the ruler of the whole world; the first of the Apostles; the
safeguard of the Church." In this sense St. Bernard writes as follows to
Pope Eugenius: "Who art thou? The great priest - the high priest. Thou art
the Prince of Bishops and the heir of the Apostles.... Thou art he to whom
the keys were given. There are, it is true, other gatekeepers of heaven and
to pastors of flocks, but thou are so much the more glorious as thou hast
inherited a different and more glorious name than all the rest. They have
flocks consigned to them, one to each; to thee all the flocks are confided
as one flock to one shepherd, and not alone the sheep, but the shepherds.
You ask how I prove this? From the words of the Lord. To which - I do not
say - of the Bishops, but even of the Apostles have all the sheep been so
absolutely and unreservedly committed? If thou lovest me, Peter, feed my
sheep. Which sheep? Of this or that country, or kingdom? My sheep, He says:
to whom therefore is it not evident that he does not designate some, but
all? We can make no exception where no distinction is made" (De Consideratione,
lib. ii., cap. 8).
But it is opposed to the truth, and in evident contradiction with the divine
constitution of the Church, to hold that while each Bishop is individually
bound to obey the authority of the Roman Pontiffs, taken collectively the
Bishops are not so bound. For it is the nature and object of a foundation
to support the unity of the whole edifice and to give stability to it, rather
than to each component part; and in the present case this is much more
applicable, since Christ the Lord wished that by the strength and solidity
of the foundation the gates of hell should be prevented from prevailing against
the Church. All are agreed that the divine promise must be understood of
the Church as a whole, and not of any certain portions of it. These can indeed
be overcome by the assaults of the powers of hell, as in point of fact has
befallen some of them. Moreover, he who is set over the whole flock must
have authority, not only over the sheep dispersed throughout the Church,
but also when they are assembled together. Do the sheep when they are all
assembled together rule and guide the shepherd? Do the successors of the
Apostles assembled together constitute the foundation on which the successor
of St. Peter rests in order to derive therefrom strength and stability? Surely
jurisdiction and authority belong to him in whose power have been placed
the keys of the Kingdom taken collectively. And as the Bishops, each in his
own district, command with real power not only individuals but the whole
community, so the Roman pontiffs, whose jurisdiction extends to the whole
Christian commonwealth, must have all its parts, even taken collectively,
subject and obedient to their authority. Christ the Lord, as we have quite
sufficiently shown, made Peter and his successors His vicars, to exercise
for ever in the Church the power which He exercised during His mortal life.
Can the Apostolic College be said to have been above its master in authority?
This power over the Episcopal College to which we refer, and which is clearly
set forth in Holy Writ, has ever been acknowledged and attested by the Church,
as is clear from the teaching of General Councils. "We read that the Roman
Pontiff has pronounced judgments on the prelates of all the churches; we
do not read that anybody has pronounced sentence on him" (Hadrianus ii.,
in Allocutione iii., ad Synodum Romanum an. 869, Cf. Actionem vii., Conc.
Constantinopolitani iv). The reason for which is stated thus: "there is no
authority greater than that of the Apostolic See" (Nicholaus in Epist. Ixxxvi.
ad Michael. Imperat.)* wherefore Gelasius on the decrees of Councils says:
"That which the First See has not approved of cannot stand; but what it has
thought well to decree has been received by the whole Church" (Epist. xxvi.,
ad Episcopos Dardaniae, n. 5). It has ever been un questionably the office
of the Roman Pontiffs to ratify or to reject the decrees of Councils. Leo
the great rescinded the acts of the Conciliabulum of Ephesus. Damasus rejected
those of Rimini, and Hadrian 1. those of Constantinople. The 28th Canon of
the Council of Chalcedon, by the very fact that it lacks the assent and approval
of the Apostolic See, is admitted by all to be worthless. Rightly, therefore,
has Leo X. laid down in the 5th council of Lateran "that the Roman Pontiff
alone, as having authority over all Councils, has full jurisdiction and power
to summon, to transfer, to dissolve Councils, as is clear, not only from
the testimony of Holy Writ, from the teaching of the Fathers and of the Roman
Pontiffs, and from the decrees of the sacred canons, but from the teaching
of the very Councils themselves." Indeed, Holy Writ attests that the keys
of the Kingdom of Heaven were given to Peter alone, and that the power of
binding and loosening was granted to the Apostles and to Peter; but there
is nothing to show that the Apostles received supreme power without Peter,
and against Peter. Such power they certainly did not receive from Jesus Christ.
Wherefore, in the decree of the Vatican Council as to the nature and authority
of the primacy of the Roman Pontiff, no newly conceived opinion is set forth,
but the venerable and constant belief of every age (Sess. iv., cap. 3).
Nor does it beget any confusion in the administration that Christians are
bound to obey a twofold authority. We are prohibited in the first place by
Divine Wisdom from entertaining any such thought, since this form of government
was constituted by the counsel of God Himself. In the second place we must
note that the due order of things and their mutual relations are disturbed
if there be a twofold magistracy of the same rank set over a people, neither
of which is amenable to the other. But the authority of the Roman Pontiff
is supreme, universal, independent; that of the bishops limited, and dependent.
"It is not congruous that two superiors with equal authority should be placed
over the same flock; but that two, one of whom is higher than the other,
should be placed over the same people is not incongruous. Thus the parish
priest, the bishop, and the Pope, are placed immediately over the same people"
(St. Thomas in iv Sent. dist. xvii., a. 4, ad q. 4, ad 3). So the Roman Pontiffs,
mindful of their duty, wish above all things, that the divine constitution
of the Church should be preserved. Therefore, as they defend with all necessary
care and vigilance their own authority, so they have always laboured, and
will continue to labour, that the authority of the bishops may be upheld.
Yea, they look up whatever honour or obedience is given to the bishops as
paid to themselves. "My honour is the honour of the Universal Church. My
honour is the strength and stability of my brethren. Then am I honoured when
due honour is given to everyone" (S. Gregorius M. Epistolarum, lib viii.,
ep. xxx., ad Eulogium).
16. In what has been said we have faithfully described the exemplar and form
of the Church as divinely constituted. We have treated at length of its unity:
we have explained sufficiently its nature, and pointed out the way in which
the Divine Founder of the Church willed that it should be preserved. There
is no reason to doubt that all those, who by Divine Grace and mercy have
had the happiness to have been born, as it were, in the bosom of the Catholic
Church, and to have lived in it, will listen to Our Apostolic Voice: "My
sheep hear my voice" John x., 27), and that they will derive from Our words
fuller instruction and a more perfect disposition to keep united with their
respective pastors, and through them with the Supreme Pastor, so that they
may remain more securely within the one fold, and may derive therefrom a
greater abundance of salutary fruit. But We, who, notwithstanding our unfitness
for this great dignity and office, govern by virtue of the authority conferred
on us by Jesus Christ, as we "look on Jesus, the author and finisher of our
faith" (Heb. xii., 2) feel Our heart fired by His charity. What Christ has
said of Himself We may truly repeat of Ourselves: "Other sheep I have that
are not of this fold: them also I must bring and they shall hear my voice"
John x., 16). Let all those, therefore, who detest the wide-spread irreligion
of our times, and acknowledge and confess Jesus Christ to be the Son of God
and the Saviour of the human race, but who have wandered away from the Spouse,
listen to Our voice. Let them not refuse to obey Our paternal charity. Those
who acknowledge Christ must acknowledge Him wholly and entirely. "The Head
and the body are Christ wholly and entirely. The Head is the only-begotten
son of God, the body is His Church; the bridegroom and the bride, two in
one flesh. All who dissent from the Scriptures concerning Christ, although
they may be found in all places in which the Church is found, are not in
the Church; and again all those who agree with the Scriptures concerning
the Head, and do not communicate in the unity of the Church, are not in the
Church" (S. Augustinus, Contra Donatistas Epistola, sive De Unit. Eccl.,
cap. iv., n. 7).
And with the same yearning Our soul goes out to those whom the foul breath
of irreligion has not entirely corrupted, and who at least seek to have the
true God, the Creator of Heaven and earth, as their Father. Let such as these
take counsel with themselves, and realize that they can in no wise be counted
among the children of God, unless they take Christ Jesus as their Brother,
and at the same time the Church as their mother. We lovingly address to all
the words of St. Augustine: "Let us love the Lord our God; let us love His
Church; the Lord as our Father, the Church as our Mother. Let no one say,
I go in deed to idols, I consult fortune-tellers and soothsayers; but I leave
not the Church of God: I am a Catholic. Clinging to thy Mother, thou offendest
thy Father. Another, too, says: 'Far be it from me; I do not consult
fortune-telling, I seek not soothsaying, I seek not profane divinations,
I go not to the worship of devils, I serve not stones: but I am on the side
of Donatus.' What doth it profit thee not to offend the Father, who avenges
an offense against the Mother? What doth it profit to confess the Lord, to
honour God, to preach Him, to acknowledge His Son, and to confess that He
sits on the right hand of the Father, if you blaspheme His Church? . . .
If you had a beneficent friend, whom you honoured daily - and even once
calumniated his spouse, would you ever enter his house? Hold fast, therefore,
O dearly beloved, hold fast altogether God as your Father, and the Church
as your Mother" (Enarratio in Psal. Lxxxviii., sermo ii., n. 14).
Above all things, trusting in the mercy of God, who is able to move the hearts
of men and to incline them as and when He pleases, We most earnestly commend
to His loving kindness all those of whom We have spoken. As a pledge of Divine
grace, and as a token of Our affection, We lovingly impart to you, in the
Lord, Venerable Brethren, to your clergy and people, Our Apostolic Blessing.
Given at St. Peter's, Rome, the 29th day of June, in the year 1896, and the
nineteenth of our Pontificate.