Gelasian Doctrine of the Two Powers

Gelasius I to Emperor Anastasius, 494


C. X. Auctoritas sacra Pontificum et regalis potestas huius mundi gubernacula regit.


Item Gelasius Papa Anastasio Inperatori.
Duo sunt quippe, inperator auguste, quibus principaliter hic mundus regitur: auctoritas sacra Pontificum, et regalis potestas. In quibus tanto grauius est pondus sacerdotum, quanto etiam pro ipso regibus hominum in
diuino sunt reddituri examine rationem. Et post pauca: §. 1. Nosti itaque inter hec ex illorum te pendere iudicio, non illos ad tuam posse redigi uoluntatem. §. 2. Talibus igitur institutis, talibusque fulti auctoritatibus plerique Pontificum, alii reges, alii inperatores excommunicauerunt. Nam si speciale aliquod de personis principum requiratur exemplum, B. Innocentius Papa Archadium inperatorem (quia consensit, ut S. Iohannes Crisostomus a sua sede pelleretur), excommunicauit. B.etiam Ambrosius, licet sanctus, non tamen uniuersalis ecclesiae episcopus, pro culpa, que aliis sacerdotibus non adeo grauis uidebatur, Theodosium Magnum inperatorem excommunicans ab ecclesia exclusit; qui etiam in suis scriptis ostendit, quod aurum non tam pretiosius sit plumbo, quam regia potestate sit altior ordo sacerdotalis, hoc modo circa principium sui pastoralis scribens: "Honor,




fratres, et sublimitas episcopalis nullis poterit conparationibus adequari. Si regum fulgori conpares et principum diademati, longe erit inferius quam si plumbi metallum ad auri fulgorem conpares, quippe cum uideas regum colla et principum submitti genibus  sacerdotum, et osculata eorum Gdextera, orationibus eorum credant se communicari."

 ‘The sacred authority of pontiffs and the royal power govern the governance of this world. Again, Pope Gelasius to the emperor Anastasius. “To be sure, August emperor, for the most part this world is under a double governance: the sacred authority of pontiffs [note, this could mean bishops generally] and royal power. In these, the weight of priests is all the greater for the fact that they will have to render an account for the kings themselves in the divine judgement of men.” And, a little way below:  #1. “Know therefore that where such things are concerned you depend on their judgment, and that they cannot be made to conform to your will. #2. Therefore, many bishops, with such ordinances and authorities to support them, have in some cases excommunicated kings, in other cases emperors. For, if an example were needed of particular individuals, the blessed Pope Innocent excommunicated the emperor Arcadius (who consented to the expulsion of the blessed John Chrysostom from his see). The blessed  Ambrose too, who though saintly was nonetheless not the universal bishop of the Church, exommunicated Theodosius the Great and excluded him from church for wrongdoing that did not seem so grave to other priests: and Ambrose also showed in his writings, that the difference in value between gold and lead is not so great as between the priestly order and royal power …’


(Gratian, Decretum, PARS I, D. 96 c.10Friedberg, i, col. 340)

1204 Innocent III
On Sacred Anointing
Italics mark passages in the original letter not included in the Liber Extra and Corpus Iuris Canonici

When [our venerable brother] the bishop of Branicevo, who had not received sacred unction at his consecration, since with you it is not customary for bishops to be anointed when they are consecrated, came to us, we ordered that what he lacked should be made good, and had his head and hands anointed with sacred chrism in accordance with ecclesiastical custom by [our venerable brother John] the bishop of Albano. For this the Catholic Church holds, not only by God's command, but also from the example of the Apostles. Indeed, in Exodus, it is read that the Lord commanded Moses to anoint Aaron and his sons, that they might exercise the office of the priesthood. And Pope Anacletus, a Greek, who was ordained to the priesthood by St Peter, and afterwards succeeded Clement in the apostolic office, lay sit down in his [decretal on] ordination that' bishops should be anointed in the manner of the apostles and of Moses, since all sanctification consists in the holy Spirit, whose invisible power is mixed into the holy chrism. And so
#.1. We wish you to know, that there are two kinds of anointing: external, which is material and visible, and internal, which is spiritual and invisible. The body is anointed visibly by the external kind; the heart is anointed invisibly the internal kind. On the first, the Apostle James says (James 5: 14-15): 'Is any man sick among you? Let him bring in the priests of the church and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord, and the prayer of faith shall save the sick man' . On the second, the apostle John says: 'As for you, let the anointing which you have received from him, abide in you, and you have no need that any man teach you, but as his anointing teaches you of all things'. Visible and external anointing is a sign of internal and invisible anointing. In truth, invisible and interior anointing is not only a sign, but also a sacrament, since, if it received worthily, it undoubtedly either brings about or increases that which it signifies.
#2 To bring about and bring out the external and visible anointing, however, the oil which is called the oil of catechumens or of the sick is blessed, and chrism is constituted, which is made up of oil and balsam with a mystical logic. For by oil is designated a clean conscience, in accordance with the text' (Matthew 21: 4) 'The wise virgins took oil in their vessels with the lamps'. By balsam however the scent of good name is expressed, for which reason it is said (Ecclesiasticus 24: 20) 'I gave a sweet smell like aromatic balm'. #.3. Therefore a bishop ought to be anointed with this chrism, not so much in body as in heart, so that he should both have a clean conscience internally with regard to God, and the scent of good name with regard to his neighbour. St Paul (2 Cor. 1: 12) says of the clean conscience that 'Our glory is this: the testimony of our conscience' for (Ps. 44: 14) 'All the glory of the king's daughter is from within'. Of the scent of good name the same St. Paul says (2 Cor. 2: 14-16) 'We are the good scent of Christ in every place, and to some the scent of life unto life, to others the scent of death unto death'. For a bishop ought to have good witness, both from the things which are inside and from the things which are outside, so that curtain may draw curtain, and he who hears may say: 'I have come'.
#4. With this ointment the head and hands of the bishop are consecrated. For through the head, the mind is understood, in accordance with the text (Matthew 6: 17): 'Anoint your head, and wash your face'. Through the hands, works are understood, in accordance with the text (Song of Songs 5: 5): 'my hands dripped with myrrh'. The hand is anointed with the oil of mercy, therefore, in order that the bishop may do good to all, especially however to fellow believers. The head is anointed with the balsam of charity, however, so that the bishop may love God with his whole heart, and his whole mind, and his whole soul, and his neighbour as himself. The head is anointed because of authority and dignity, and the hands because of ministry and office. The head is anointed that it may be shown to represent the person of whom it is said by the prophet (Ps. 132: 2): 'Like the ointment on the head that ran down upon the beard, the beard of Aaron'. For the head of man is Christ, the head of Chris is God, who says of himself (Luke 4: 18): 'The spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he anointed me, he sent me to preach the gospel to the poor'. The hands of the bishop are anointed in order that he may be shown to receive the power of blessing and consecrating. Therefore, when the consecrator anoints the hands, he says: 'may you deign, Lord, to consecrate and sanctify these hands, through this holy ointment and through our blessing, so that whatever they consecrate may be consecrated, and whatever they bless, may be blessed in the name of the Lord.
#.5. Therefore in the Old Testament on only the priest, but also the king and the prophet were blessed, just as in the book of Kings (3 Kings 19: 15-16) the Lord commanded Helias: 'Go, and return to your home through the desert to Damascus, and when you get there, you shall anoint Hazael to be king over Syria, and you shall anoint Jehu son of Namsi as king over Israel. But Elseus the son of Saphat, who is of Abel-Meula, you shall anoint as prophet in your place'. But seeing that Jesus of Nazareth, whom God anointed with the holy Spirit, as we read in the Acts of the Apostles (10: 38), is anointed with the oil of mercy above all your fellows (Ps. 44: 8) - who is, according to St Paul, the head of the Church, which is his body - the unction of the prince was transferred from the head to the arm, so that from then on the prince should not be anointed in the head, but in the arm, or on the [inc. Friedberg col. 133) upper arm or on the shoulder, in which princely authority is fittingly designated, in accordance with the text (Isaiah 9: 6): 'the government is upon his shoulder', etc. To signify this, Samuel had a shoulder put before Saul, to whom he gave a place at the head, before those who had been invited (1 Kings 9: 24 & 22). Sacramental unction is kept on the head of the bishop, however, because it represents the person of the head in the pontifical office. There is however a difference between the anointing of a bishop and a king, because the head of the bishop is consecrated with chrism, but the arm of the prince is anointed with oil in order to show how great the difference is between the authority of the bishop and the power of the prince.
#6 Since therefore Christ made us, in his blood, a kingdom and priests, because of which the Apostle Peter said: 'you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood', therefore, in the New Testament, not only kings and priests are anointed, but also all christians, twice before baptism, namely with the oiled that has been blessed, the first time on the breast, then between the shoulder blades, and twice after baptism, namely with the holy chrism, the first time on the top of the head, then on the forehead. For the one to be baptized is anointed on the breast so that he or she might cast off error and ignorance through the gift of the holy Spirit and receive the true faith, since: the just man lives by faith (Hebrews 10: 38). But the one to be baptized is anointed between the shoulder blades, in order that, through the grace of the holy Spirit, he or she might shake off heedlessness and torpor, and do good works, since faith without works is dead (James 2: 26): in order that, through the sacrament of faith, there may be purity of thoughts in the breast, and, through the doing of good works, there may be fortitude in effort. On the shoulder blades, in order that faith may operate through love, in accordance with St Paul's teaching (Galatians 5: 6). The baptized person is anointed on the crown of the head, however, so as to be prepared to give an account of the faith to everyone who asks, because we understand 'the head' to mean 'the mind, in accordance with the text: (Ecclesiastes 2: 14): 'The eyes of the wise man are in his head', the upper part of which is reason, and the lower, the sense part. So it is right for the crown of the head, which is its higher part, to mean reason, which is the upper part of the mind. The baptized person is anointed on the forehead so that the person may freely confess belief, since ': 'With the heart, we believe unto justice, but with the mouth, confession is made unto salvation' (Romans 10: 10), remembering the following words of the Lord: 'Everyone that will confess me before men, I will also confess him before my Father' (Matthew 10: 32). Before baptism one is anointed with blessed oil, and after baptism with holy chrism, for the reason that chrism pertains to the Christian alone. For Christ is named after chrism, or, rather, chrism is named after Christ, not etymologically, but according to the logic of the faith. For Christians are called after Christ, as anointed ones derive from the Anointed One, so that all may converge on the scent of the ointment of He in whose name the oil is poured out.
#.7. Through the anointing of the forehead with chrism the imposition of hands is indicated which is also called 'confirmation', since through it the holy Spirit is given for increase and strength. Therefore, since a simple priest or presbyter has the power to administer the other kinds of anointing, only the supreme priest, that is, the bishop, ought to confer this one, since it is read of the apostles alone, whose vicars are the bishops, that they gave the holy Spirit through the imposition of hands, in the way a reading of the Acts of the Apostles (8: 14 -17) makes clear: it says 'when the apostles who were in Jerusalem had heard that Damaria had receive the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John, who, when they had come, prayed for them that they might receive the holy Spirit. For he had not yet come upon any of them, but they had been baptized only in the name of the Lord Jesus; then they laid their hands on them, and they received the holy Spirit'. The Spirit's arrival is signified by the service of anointing: since the dove, in [the form of] which the Holy Spirit came down upon Christ in his baptism, returning in the evening during the Flood, brought back a bough of an olive tree with green leaves, the sacramental symbolism of which the prophet David foreknew, and preached that the face should be made cheerful [exhilarandam] with oil.
#.8. [Friedberg col. 134] Besides this anointing takes place according to ecclesiastical custom when an altar is consecrate, when a church is dedicated, and when a chalice is blessed, not only by command of the law of God, but also following the example of St Silvester, who, when he consecrated an altar, anointed it with chrism. For the Lord commanded Moses to make the anointing oil with which 'to anoint the tabernacle of the testimony, and the ark of the covenant, and the table with the vessels' (cf. Exodus 30: 26), with which anointings, if perchance you should be in doubt, we will instruct you, brother, more fully when asked by you. In truth, however, the sacrament of anointing does indeed bring about and represent something different in the new testament than in the old, and hence the Church is not judaizing when it celebrates the sacrament of anointing, as some people falsely say who know neither the scriptures nor the power of God.
#.9. We therefore admonish you, brother, and exhort you strongly, commanding [you] through apostolic writings that, at the order of our beloved son the Cardinal Priest of the basilica of the Holy Cross, legate of the apostolic see, you too should receive holy anointing, lest you lack anything of the plenitude of the sacrament, so that, when you are anointed with the sacred chrism, you may similarly anoint your archbishops and bishops, and that through them you may have the hands of the priests anointed with holy oil, so that in the future you may keep and have observed that custom which is observed by the apostolic see, which is by God's doing the mother and teacher of all the faithful. We send to you however by the aforesaid cardinal the ornaments of the episcopal rank, the books at sandals, the mantle and alb, the belt and the apron, the stole and the maniple, the tunic and the dalmatic, the gloves and the chasuble and the mitre. The pallium however we had sent to you previously through our beloved son John our chaplain. And although the Roman Pontiff does not use the pastoral staff, both for historical reasons and in accordance also with a mystical rationale which the same cardinal will be able to inform you as he has received it from us, you however may use it like other bishops. [Given at Anagni . . . 1204]

Boniface VIII, Super Cathedram, 1300
The systematic involvement of the friars in pastoral work, preaching and hearing confessions, was a new development in the history of religious orders, creating new incompatibilities with episcopal authority. These tensions drew in the pope as arbiter, but it was Boniface VIII, in 1300, who found a way of making the system of the episcopal authority and the pastoral system of the friars more or less compatible. Notably, friars may preach but not at times when they are in competition with the preaching of the secular clergy; bishops do not have to allow any particular friar to hear confessions in their dioceses, but they have to license a quota – rather like jury selection in the USA. People can be buried in the churchyards of the friars but the parish priests get a proportion of the burial dues.

Super cathedram

For some time, indeed, between prelates and rectors, of priests and clerics of parish churches throughout varioius provinces of the world, on the one hand, and the brothers of the Dominican and Franciscan orders on the other (thanks to the work of the one who is resentful of peace, the sower of weeds), a grave and perilous dispute has been stirred up about sermons given to the congregations of the faithful, about hearing their confessions and enjoining penances on them, , and about burying the bodies of those of the dead who are known to prefer burial in the churches or places of the friars. We however who, in the praiseworthy manner of a pious father, suffer distress at the troubles of sons, being acutely aware of and much preoccupied by the multitude of dangers, the heavy burden of damage, and the displeasure to God entailed by the aforesaid dispute, and consequently being intent with the zeal of paternal sollicitude on rooting it out and clearing it away altogether, so that it will never, God willing, be revived again in future times, and desiring from the bottom of our heart that this matter, which we have taken very specially to heart, may have a salutary and expeditious outcome through the intense application of our knowledge and experience, after first deliberating about it with our brothers [the cardinals], for the honour of God and the exaltation of the Catholic faith, the tranquil state of the aforesaid parties, and the furtherance of the salvation of faithful souls, by apostolic authority, with the counsel of the same brothers, lay it down and ordain that the friars of the said orders can freely preach and declare the word of God to clergy and people in their churches and the places that belong to them and in public squares, except at the time when the prelates of the places want to preach or arrange solemn preaching in their own churches, at which time the friars will desist from preaching, except when a different arrangement should result from the wishes of the prelates themselves, and by special licence. But in universities, where sermons to the clergy are customarily preached on those days on which it is normal to have solemn preaching, also at the funerals of the dead, and in the special or particular feasts of the same friars, the same friars can, and it is allowed for them, to preach freely, unless perchance at the time when it is customary to declare the word of God to the clergy in the aforesaid places, [or when] the bishop of superior prelate generally summons the clergy to himself, or when he judges for some reason or on urgent grounds that the same clergy should be summoned to meet. But in parish churches those friars should not be any means to dare, and are under an obligation not to preach or declare the word of God, unless the aforesaid friars shall have been invited or called to do so by the parish priests, and with their approval and assent, or after permission had been asked and obtained, unless the bishop or superior prelate should command that the same friars should preach. We also lay it down and ordain by the aforesaid authority that in all the cities and dioceses in which the same friars have convents, or in the cities and dioceses near to the places where they do not have these convents, the masters and priors provincial in the case of the Dominicans or their vicars and general [?], and the provincial ministers and wardens in the case of the Franciscans, of the aforesaid orders, should present themselves before the prelates of the same places in person or through friars whom they think are suited to this task, to ask humbly that the friars who are chosen for this purpose may be able freely to hear the confessions of those under their [i.e. the bishops’] authority who want to make their confessions to them, and to impose salutary penances on those who confess, in accordance with what they judge to be appropriate in sight of God, and to give to the same penitents the gift of absolution, through the licence, grace and permission of the same [bishops]. And then the aforesaid masters, priors, provincials [i.e. friars in charge of provinces of the order], and ministers of the aforesaid orders should take care to select persons who are competent, suitable, of proven life, discreet, modest and with the expertise for executing such a salutary ministry and office, whom, thus chosen by themselves, they should present or have presented to the prelates, in order that by their licence, grace and permissin thise persons, thus chosen should after that hear the confessions of those who wish to confess to them, impose salutary penances, and grant the gift of absolution, as was explained above – and not by any means to hear confessions outside the cities and dioceses in which they have been licensed to do so, in which, and not for their own provinces, we want them to be licensed. The number of perssons to be taken on to exercise this office, however, should be in proportion to what the community of clergy and people, and how many and few they are, demands. And if the same prelates grant the licence to hear confessions as requested, the aforesaid masters, ministers and others whould receive it with gratitude, and the said persons chosen in this way should carry out the the office entrusted to them. But if perchance the aforementioned prelates do not want to have one of the said friars who have been presented to them or do not think he should be allowed, : after he has been removed or taken away, in his place, in the same way, another one can and should be substituted to be presented to the same prelates. If however the same prelates refuse to grant this licence to the aforesaid friars who have been chosen (as is set out above) for the hearing of confessions; we, with immediate effect, graciously grant from the plenitude of apostolic power that they may be able freely and licitly to hear the confessions of those who wish to confess to them, and impose salutary penances on the same. But through this grant we in no way intend to grant a more ample authority to those persons or friars than is granted to vicars or parish priests by the law, unles perchance the prelates of the churches should decide that a more far-reaching special exception should be made for them in this respect. We add to this statute and these ordinances of ours that the friars of the said orders, in their churches or convents wherever they may be, may have (as follows) freedom of burial, namely, that they can receive for this everyone who chooses to be buried in the aforementioned churches or convents. Lest however the rectors of the parish and their vicars - whose task it is to administer the sacraments of the Church, a task known to be theirs by law, to preach and declare the word of God, and to hear the confessions of the faithful – should be defrauded of the benefits that are owed to them and necessary, since the payment of wages is owed to workers: we lay it down and ordain by apostolic authority that friars of the said orders are bound to grant in full to the parish priests and rectors or vicars of the churches - from all the offerings left, in any way whatsoever, directly or indirectly to the friars themselves or to others on their behalf, both on the occasion of funerals and of occasions of any other kind, and in any other way, with or without precision, for any definite or specified uses, from which the fourth or canonical portion is not customarily given or required or ought not to be by law, [col. 1164], and also from all that is given or in any way donated at death or at the point of death, during fatal illness of the donor or giver - a quarter, which by apostolic authority we set as the rate, and to which we limit it, the orders making sure and taking care that neither to another or to others, from whom this fourth is in no way due, these things should be left for the utility and benefit of the friars, nor that the things thus given or donated should find their way to them, nor that they bring it about that something be given or donated to the same friars at point of death or by the sick be given or donated to them when the givers or donors are in good health. In these things which they are to avoid it is our intention to put the burden on their consciences, so that if, which God forbid, it should anything happen that anything occurs by trickery or fraud through the agency of the friars (besides what we them to owe the said priests, rectors and vicars on that account) a rigorous reckoning will face them at the last judgement….’
Clem. 3.7.2, Friedberg ii col. 1162-4
M. Heim, ‘Super cathedram’ Lexikon des Mittelalters, vol. 8 col 326
L. Hödl, ‘Der Kommentar des Kardinals Johannes Monachus zur Dekretale Super Cathedram des Papstes Bonifatius VIII (18 Februar 1300), Revue Mabillon, n. s. 16 (2005) pp. 133-178.
Jean L. Copeland, ‘The relations between the secular clergy and the medicant friars in England during the century after the issue of the bull “Super Cathedram” (1300),’ Thesis summary, Bulletin of the Institute of Historical Research, 16 (1938/9), p. 34.
B. J. McManus, ‘A Consilium of Fredericus and Oldradus on Super cathedram’, Viator, 33 (2002), pp. 185-221.


Beatific Vision: Benedict XII
The previous pope, John XXII, died 1334, had an idea: the pope would be like a university master, initiating debate on unsolved theological problems, encouraging all sorts of opinions, and finally establishing a new dogma, as a master gave a determinatio at the end of a disputaiton in the university schools. He had already done with with the problem of whether Christ and the apostles had had any property even in common, stirring up a hornets’ nest. Now he did it again, preaching sermons, as a private theologian, arguing that the saints and the dead after purgatory did not have the same kind of union with God as they would have after the last judgement. Many didn’t understand his idea of debate followed by development. They thought this issue had long been decided (though it never had been in an authoritative way). Accusations of heresy were in the air. The king of France took advantage of the atmosphere to pressure the pope to allow him to keep a crusading tax without going on crusade (in that the pope had to exempt him from accounting for the money. While this was going on, John died. His successor was left with the debate still live, and settled it in this document, taking the opposite view to the one that his predecessor had espoused as a privat theologian.
Benedict XII (1334-1342) ‘Benedictus Deus’, 1336
‘#1. Indeed, formerly, in the time of our predecessor of happy memory John XXII, after a matter for debate had arisen among quite a number of masters, even from the Theology faculty, concerning the vision of the souls of the just after their death – those in whom there was nothing to be purified , when they departed from this world, or, if there was something, if it had already been entirely purified – whether they see the divine essence before they resume their bodies and the general judgement, and about quite a number of other things, some tried to demonstrate the the negative, some the affirmative, while others, as their individual ingenuity suggested to them, tried to demonstrate various things in various ways about the vision on the part of these souls of the divine essence, as their sayings and writings make clear – their controversies, in truth, which we omit here for the sake of brevity, being rejected anyway, since they they not only differ from what we have authoritatively decided, but also among themselves. And since our predecessor, to whom it pertained to reach an authoritative decision on the aforesaid things, was preparing himself to settle these controversies in his public consistory, both with his brothers the cardinals of the holy Roman Church, among whose number I was then counted, and with prelates and masters in Theology, who were present their in large numbers, enjoining very strictly and commanding them that each one should unambiguously give his opinion, when they were asked by him. Prevented by death, however, as God willed it, he was unable to carry this through to completion.
After our aforesaid predecessor hed died, therefore, we, after God had deigned to raise us to the summit of the supreme apostolic office, directing our fullest attention to what great dangers to souls are at hand so long as their aforementioned controversies remain unresolved and what great scandals can arise from them: in order that this multiplicity may cease and the firm truth be understood, after first conducting a careful examination and thorough discussion of the aforesaid things with our brothers the said cardinals of the holy Roman Church, we, with their counsel, define by apostolic authority:
~ that according to God’s normal dispensation, the souls of all the saints who passed away from this world before the passion of our Lord Jesus Christ, and also of all the holy apostles, martyrs, confessors, virgins and the other faithful dead, after they have received the baptism of Christ, in whom there was nothing to be purified, when they died, nor will be, when, also, thy die in the future; or if there then was or will be something to be purified in them, when they have been purified after their death; and that the souls of children who have been reborn with the same baptism of Christ, and those who will be baptized in the future when they have been baptised, who die before they have the use of free will, after their death and the aforesaid purification in those who needed this purification, after the ascension to heaven of our saviour our Lord Jesus Christ, even before the resumption of their bodies and the general judgement, have been, are, and will be in heaven, in the kingdom of heaven and the heavenly paradise with Christ, joined to the company of the holy angels, and that, after the passion and death of our Lord Jesus Christ, they have seen and see the divine essence with a vision that allows direct and even face-to-face contemplation, without the mediation of any created conceptual corresponding to the object seen, but with the divine essence showing itself to them unveiled, clearly, and openly; and that as they see in this way they take delight in the divine essence; also that from this vision and delight the souls of those who have died are truly blessed, and have life and eternal peace, and so it will be with those who die in the future, when they see the same vision and take delight in it before the general Judgement; and that this vision of the divine essence, and the delight taken in it, put an end to acts of faith and hope in them, insofar as faith and hope are in the true sense theological virtues and that after this direct and face to face vision and the delight in it has, or will, begin in these people, the same vision and delight is continued and will be continued without any intermission or cessation of the aforesaid vision and enjoyment up until the Last Judgement and from then on to eternity.
We define furthermore that, according to God’s normal dispensationt, he souls of those who die in a state of mortal sin directly after their death descent to hell, where they will be tormented by infernal punishments, and that nevertheless, on the day of judgment, all men will appear ‘before the tribunal of Christ’ in their bodies, to render account for their own deeds, ‘so that everyone may receive the proper things of the body, according as he has done, whether it be good or evil’ (2 Corinthians 5: 10):
~ pronouncing that all our aforesaid definitions or determinations and each and every one of them must be held by all the faithful. Against anyone however who from now on presumes knowingly and pertinaciously to hold, assert, preach, teach or defend, orally or in writing, the contrary of our aforesaid definitions or definitions or any one of them, proceedings will be instituted¸ in the proper manner, as against a heretic.



(Mirbt, Quellen, no. 382, pp. 221-222, and L. Cherubini, ed., Magnum Bullarium Romanum, I (Luxemburg, 1742), Anno 1336 p. 217).

Texts showing the force of symbolism in the theology of marriage.
~1. Augustine of Hippo, c. 401: ‘… the sacrament of marriage has in our time been reduced to one husband and one wife, so that it is not possible for a man to be ordained minister of the Church if he has had more than one wife. This has been more clearly understood by those who have decreed that a man who as a catechumen or pagan had a second wife, should not be ordained. The concern here is with the sacrament, not with sinning. In baptism all sins are forgiven, but he who said “if you have taken a wife, you have not sinned, and if a virgin marries, she does not sin, let her marry” [1 Cor. 7: 28, 36], made it sufficiently clear that marriage is no sin. Now to ensure the sacred nature of the sacrament, a woman who has lost her virginity, even if she is a catechumen, cannot after baptism be consecrated among the virgins of God. So similarly it has not seemed out of place that a man who has had more than one wife, though not having committed any sin, has not observed the norm, so to say, of the sacrament, which was required not to gain the reward of a good life, but for the seal of ecclesiastical ordination.’ (Augustine: De bono Coniugali; de sancta virginitate, ed. And trans. P. G. Walsh (Oxford, 2001), pp. 39-41)
1048-1055 ~2. Peter Damian,. ‘For who might not find it strange that it is laid down by provisions of canon law that no “bigamist” may by any means be raised to the priesthood, but that one who has lapsed and committed formication, even if he is a priest, may after he has completed his penance be restored to the office that he held by right before? … How to explain … that men who do not sin fall away from all hope of becoming priests, while men who are eliminated by ill doing from the kingdom of God do not lose the prospect of ecclesiastical rank if they have completed their penance worthily? For this reason only: that with those who are joined in second marriages the focus is not on the sin but on the symbol [sacramentum]… of the Church. For just as Christ … the one … who offered the lamb of his own body on the altar of the cross to God the Father for the salvation of the world – is the husband of one bride, that is of the whole holy Church, which is without doubt a virgin, since it keeps the integrity of the faith inviolably: so too each and every priest is commanded to be the husband of one wife, so that he may seem to present the image of that supreme spouse. With ‘bigamists’, therefore, the issue is not the assessment of sin but rather the form of the sacrament, and when they are excluded, it is not that a crime is being punished, but that the mystical rule of the true priesthood s kept: otherwise, how would something be counted among crimes that the doctrine of St Paul permits to take place licitly. But the sacred canons too designate those who condemn second marriages as belonging to the Novatian heresy….’ (translated from Peter Damian, Letter 28 to the Hermit Leo of Sitria, d’Avray, Medieval Marriage, pp. 134-5.)
1587 ~ 3. Congregation of the Council, ‘ Whether a bishop by his ordinary authority could grant a dispensation to a true “bigamist” under his jurisdiction, who previously [alias] contracted and consummated marriage legally with two virgins, successively, these now being dead, to receive the first tonsure, and simple benefices, and to confer these on this man after he had received this dispensation? And given, that he did not have the power to do that, whether both the bishop, and the man thus promoted, might have incurred censures and penalties, and which ones?(Archivio Segreto Vaticano Congr. Concilio 58 (Sess.), displaced folio. 290r) ~ ‘On the part of your devoted creature N. the bishop of Majorca it is humbly explained to your Holiness that, since a certain married man of his diocese, when his wife was ill, had vowed to God that he would receive an ecclesiastical order if his said wife should pass away from this life; and, after she had died, repenting of his vow, had contracted marriage with another woman, and consummated it with carnal union, and then had obtained from the Apostolic See or its then Major Penitentiary a letter addressed to a certain confessor, by which the task was committed to the confessor to allow the man who had obtained the letter to remain in the second marriage that he had contracted, after a salutary penance had been imposed on him for the breaking of his vow, in such a way however that if it should happen that he survive this subsequent wife, he should be bound to carry out the vow he had previously made. When, after the said letter had been presented and executed, the said second wife had left this life, desiring to fulfil the vow he had made, and the condition imposed on him by the confessor, he humbly asked the aforesaid creature, and requested, that he should admit him to the ecclesiastical order for the fulfilment of his vow. In truth, the same creature, in view of the merits of the person of the said diocesan, who had served the church of Majorca in a notarial capacity for a long time and intended to continue doing so, after first consulting excellent men, resident, in Majorca of outstanding learning in sacred theology and canon law, and in accordance with their wishes and advice judging that it was permitted for him to do so, conferred on the said member of his diocese the first clerical tonsure only, and granted him a certain simple ecclesiastical benefice of only small value, granting him by his authority as bishop [ordinaria] a timely dispensation for bigamy.
Since, however, most holy father, though the said creature believes that he in no way crossed the line in the aforesaid matters, since he acted with the support of the common opinion of theologians, nonetheless, since it is characteristic of the minds of good people to fear guilt where there is none, to close stop the mouths of enemies and evil people, who try to impute guilt to the said creature, the aforesaid creature humbly supplicates your Holiness that he might deign to absolve and totally free him in both forums [confessional and public canon law] from any ecclesiastical sentences, censures and penalties whatsoever that he could be said or deemed to have in any way on account of the aforesaid things, and that, he being perhaps bound by them, ministered in holy priestly and episcopal orders- not however with any contempt for the keys, and to remit and condone for him the aforesaid penalties, and restore him fully to the state in which he was before the aforesaid things, anything whatsoever to the contrary notwithstanding’. (fo. 291r)
~ ( ‘The Congregation of the Council [list of 11 cardinals follows] judged that, with respect to the first point, that he is not able [to grant the dispensation, etc.]. With respect to the second, that the penalties were not found to be automatically imposed by the sacred canons according to the law, but that the bishop should be admonished to refrain in the future, since this power in no way belongs to him., With respect to the one promoted it should be put to the most holy [father] that he should act kindly towards him, absolving him and granting a dispensation so that he might be able to retain benefices, and condoning the fruits of them that had been wrongly received, seeing that in this legal matter there is much disagreement among the foremost doctors.’ (fo. 288v)
~ ‘Our lord Sixtus in his decision replied that the Congregation had decided rightly with respect to the first point, and with respect to the second, that it should be communicated to the bishop that he is suspended from the power to confer orders, and again that the one who was promoted has incurred the penalties that the Congregation thinks fit, says however that he will act kindly towards both when they have asked for absolution and dispensation.’ (fo. 288v)

Bishops, Jesuits and Marriage Dispensations for 'natives' in the New World: Benedict XIV, 1758
In the missionary situation of Latin America, Jesuit missionaries had been given permission to grant dispensations to Indians for marriages to much closer relatives than would normally be allowed. This had however generated a series of complex questions about the relation of these special powers to episcopal authority. Did the powers apply in parts of American that had long been Christianised? Who counted as an ‘Indian’. Did powers to dispense in conscience, in the confessional, go further than powers to dispense in a way that would stand up in a public court (perhaps with property implications)? It seems that the dispute was opened by the Archbishop of San Domingo. It was taken by the King of Spain, who exercised close control over the Church in his American domains, to the Pope. He committed it to the Inquisition, which appears to have dealt with such matters to do with dispensations. They reached conclusions that Pope Benedict XIV then endorsed and published through this document, being careful to show previous papal decisions on which the decrees in the document were based. The Latin was accompanied by a Spanish translation, presumably for the benefit of the King of Spain’s administrators.
Benedict XIV, Jesuits, bishops in Indies, dispensations
BL call no. 4745. f. 10 [item 6]. Also published in Sanctissimi Domini Nostri Benedicti Papae XIV Bullarium, iv (Luxemburg, 1758)
Benedicti papae XIV Litterae Apostolicae in forma Brevis in quibus confirmatur Decretum Congregationis …. Cardinalium universali adversus haereticam pravitatem inquisitioni praepositorum, coram sanctitate sua habitae, pro tollendis conciliandisque dissidiis … inter nonnullos Antistites Indiarum Occidentalium & missionarios Societatis Jesu exortis, super concessione dispensationum matrimonialium, juxta facultates ab Apostolica Sede utriusque concedi solitas (Rome 1757)
Ad futuram rei memoriam
apostolic = papal
apostolic see = papacy
brief = type of papal letter
external forum = ecclesiastical law and courts
internal forum = court of conscience and the confessional
vicar = authorised representative of the bishop
‘As a memorial of the matter for the future.
Since our venerable brother Joachim … called the Cardinal of Portocarrero, bishop of Sabina, in the name of our dearest son in Christ Ferdinand the Catholic King of the Spanish lands, whose royal business he is in charge of carrying out, with us and the apostolic see, explained that after certain questions had arisen with respect to the powers of granting marriage dispensations which our beloved sons the priests of the Society of Jesus who are missionaries in the East and West Indies are said to enjoy, thanks to indults of the apostolic see, and concerning the use and exercise of these powers, our judgement and that of the apostolic see is much in demand to remove dissensions between the same missionary priests and the ordinaries [= bishops], and to calm disturbances of consciences and minds; and since, aside from the urgent duty of pastoral care and solicitude, which makes such duties as this a high priority, it should always be a most pleasing thing for us to comply with the wishes, which are always just and equitable, of the said Catholic king, we committed without delay the discussion of the subject that had been raised to the Congregation of our venerable brothers the cardinals of the Roman Church who are general inquisitors in matters of faith and the other things that come under what is called the Holy Office; by no means, however, on this account avoiding the labour and effort of examining and investigating the details ourselves. Therefore, after the Congregation of the said Cardinals had been summoned to our presence on the 29th of July of last year, 1756, after the expert advisers, both the masters of Sacred Theology and the specialists in Canon Law, had been heard, the following resolutions were decided and published, set out one by one in the Decree below, which we have now approved and confirmed. It goes like this, viz.:
Since, previously, the reverend Father Ignatius de Padilla, who was at that time the archbishop ruling the city of San Domingo in the islan of Hispaniola in the West Indies, set in motion a number of controversies with the priests of the Society of Jesus about marriage dispensations by which they, on the strength of special powers pertaining to them, as they assert, have previously granted and still grant dispensations from diriment impediments to marriage; and since shortly afterwards the reverend father Joseph Moreno Curiel, who, after the aforesaid /p. V reverend father Ignatius was translated to the church of Yukatan in the Spanish West Indies, succeeded him in the archiepiscopate of San Domingo, continued the action and the impetus concerning the same thing: in order to put an end to these controversies as soon as possible, the questions set out below were proposed, discussed and settled by our most holy lord pope Benedict XIV, who happily is reigning, after the opinion and counsel of of the most reverend lords the Cardinal General Inquisitors had been heard in a Congregation held in the presence of his holiness on 29 July 1756.
The questions however were set out, and they are as follows:
Firstly, whether the powers granted by apostolic briefs to the priests of the Society of Jesus who are engaged in missionary activity in the Indies, and those in particular that relate to marriage dispensations, extend to those provinces and places that were brought over to the Catholic faith many years ago, in which are found unbelievers who have come from elsewhere, and who have, furthermore, embraced the faith of Christ: so that the missionaires devote their efforts and zeal not, indeed , to converting them to the holy religon, but only to educating them in the same principles of Christian doctrine and good morals?
Secondly, insofar as the powers aforementioned may be extended to these regions, and especially, insofar as the power of granting dispensations for the marriages of the aforesaid should be able to be exercised: whether this should be understood to mean that the authority of dispensing for public impediments , contracted both before and after marriage, for the external forum, may be said to have been granted? /VI
Thirdly, whether - supposing that the powers extend also to public impediments in the external forum, and both in cases where marriage is to be contracted, and equally where it has been contracted - missionaries may use these powers throughout places in which the diocesan bishop has the same powers gronted to him by the apostolic see through special indults?
Fourthly, even if missionaries were able to grant dispensations, and use their powers for the external forum also: whether, however, it should be allowed for them to grant it without first getting the basic facts set down by a notary and the vicar [= vicar general] of the place, to demonstrate the reasons for the dispensation, and the character of the impediments; or whether, instead, it suffices for it if an oral and extrajudicial account or report be given?
Fifthly, whether, insofar as the powers granted are marked out for missionaries working for the conversion of unbelievers only, and not for anyone else, those marriages be re-validated should which were celebrated on the strength of the dispensations which, for the external forum, were granted by those missionaries who are engaged in inculcating the rudiments of the faith and in providing moral education?
Before proceeding to give a decision on the questions posed, however, it is necessary to give a summary recapitulation of the things that pertain to the powers which are granted by special briefs to missionary priests of the Society of Jesus, both for the East and the West Indies; for from this depends the just resolution of the questions. And in order to deal with the matter in an orderly way, a summary of the aforementioned powers with respect to the impediments to marriage will first be set out, then /p. VII the right granted to use the same powers, both in the internal and the external forum will be considered; thirdly, the persons to whom missionaries can grant dispensations will be indicated; fourthly, a list will be given of the places where they can make full use of those powers; fifthly and finally, all the things that can contribute to the correct use of dispensations will be touched on; and all these things will be taken from briefs containing concessions sent by previous Roman pontiffs, and also by our most holy lord happily reigning.
Therefore starting, in accordance with the method laid out above, from the actual force and substance of the powers granted with respect to marriage impediments: although formerly the power was extended in the broadest way to all impediments or degrees not forbidden by divine law, in subsequent papal briefs it is known to have been considerably retricted: for missionaries are now prohibited from granting dispensations in the first degree of consanginity or affinity (A): with the exception however of the first degree of affinity, even in the direct line, [only] when, however, it results from illicit sexual union(B); and indeed all these things to the end that the faithful may be able to contract marriage with one another, or to remain in it even when it was knowingly contracted (C); in these words both marriages which have been contracted [but not yet consummated] and second marriages are included.
The next thing is to look at the use of the aforesaid powers with respect to the internal forum. For although the powers granted in the earlier indults were restricted to the forum of conscience, in the latter grants, nonetheless, they are seen to be widened to the external forum also; but with the following binding proviso: that in places where there are ordinaries endowed with the same powers, granted to them in the customary way, or where the ordinaries are within a radius of two hundred miles, missionaries should not be able to use their powers for the external forum. For the prerogative power of dispensing in the external or judicial forum is reserved to the bishops; nor are misssionaries allowed to concede dispensations of this sort in places in which there are no ordinaries – bishops (obviously), or their vicars – or, if there are [ordinaries], they are more than two days journey away, not less than two hundred miles; or if they are there present, or not far away, but have not however obtained from the apostolic see the indults, enabling them to dispense, that are found to have been granted to missionary fathers (D). Moreover, the power granted to dispense in the first degree of the direct line of affinity when it results for illicit sexual union, from which impediment they are permitted to dispense in secret and in the forum of conscience only, and when there are just reasons requiring it, appears to be restricted to the forum of conscience only (E).
Moving from this to the persons to whom missionaries can grant dispensations – either in the forum of conscience, or in the judicial forum - in accordance with what is set out above: these, indeed, are neophytes: but by the term ‘neophyte’, according to resolutions published, and approved by supreme pontiffs, are understood not only those who have recently been baptised, but also their children, although they had been baptized in their infancy; and in addition those who are born of an Indian neophyte and a European woman, or from a European man and an Indian woman, and are therefore called mixed, or mestizo. And these are most definitely persons to whom missionaries can grant dispensations (F): but they are not allowed any power of granting dispensations to Quarterones and to Pucuelles: evidently, to those, who are either descended from neophyte Indians in one part, and are consequently called Quarterones, or who descend from neophyte Indians through a great grandfather or great grandmother and are therefore called Pucuelles: since these cannot come under the name of designation of ‘neophyte’, and consequently missionaries are not able to grant them marriage dispensations either in the forum of conscience or in the judicial forum – since this power is limited to neophytes, whose name covers only those who were identified above.
As for the places in which the missionaries can, as above, use the aforesaid dispensation powers, the matter is evident enough, since the indults granted to them clearly include the territories or provinces of each India, namely, East and West, and the other regions of the Ocean Sea. (H)
Therefore nothing remains but to communicate the things that can contribute to the right and proper use of dispensations. In this, indeed, apart from the careful observance of the things noted above, there are two general rules above all that ought to be kept: the first, clearly, that in every dispensation there needs to be a just reason for granting it; the other, is that even when /p. X a dispensation is granted for the external forum, nothing whatsoever should be accepted, but everything thing should be done for free. (I) But although, in the facultative briefs that used to be given to the bishops and ordinaries of the said regions for granting dispensations for marriage impediments in the internal and external forum, it was read that it was enjoined on them that in granting dispensations for the external forum they should seek out the counsel of missionaries so long as these were not so far away that this could not be provided without great inconvenience; since however the bishops consequently asked to be relieved of this duty, which, even if could otherwise seem opportune, at the present time was judged to be liable only to sow discord, in order that all occasion for disputes and affronts between the ordinaries of the places and the missionaries be removed, full liberty was left to the same ordinaries to grant dispensations even in the external forum, with the burden of seeking the counsel mentioned above being altogether removed. (K).
Besides, since the power of subdelegating suitable priests of proven competence is found to have been entrusted to the discretion of bishops, men who would, on behalf of the same subdelegating bishops, grant dispensations in the remoter places of the diocese in the external or judicial forum [L], in order further to foster a meeting of minds between bishops and missionaries, it was laid down that, if in those places no vicar deputies could be found, or if they were more than two hundred miles away, only those priest would be subelegated by the bisops who have the power from the apostolic see of granting dispensations: but normally only missionaries come into this category.
Finally, for the correct usage /XI of the power to dispense, it will help to note that the power of granting a dispensation in the forum of conscience is granted on a permanent basis; on the other hand the power that pertains to the judicial forum is limited to twenty years (M); and since, according to received practice, it is customary for the confirmation of this power to be granted, it is absolutely necessary for missionaries to take thought for this in good time, not leaving to almost the very last minute of the allotted time to think about and take the trouble to obtain the confirmation for which they need to ask, lest they run into the danger either of the act being null, if they carry something out after the deadline for the powers has elapsed, or of defrauding the poor faithful of Christ of opportune remedies for evils, insofar as they come to the point when they are no longer able to use these powers. These are the things that are contained in the apostolic constitutions of Pius IV, supreme pontiff, of holy memory and of others of his successors, and in the pontifical briefs of Clement IX, Alexander VIII, Clement XI, Clement XII and of our most holy lord Benedict XIV happily reigning; and with these, as is fitting, being noted and taken into account with due consideratioin, not only are the controversies laid to rest but also an easy and obvious answer to the questions that had been sent to the sacred congregation to be examined and decided emerges.
To the first question, which asks whether the powers granted to the priests missionaries of the Society of Jesus carrying out their taks throughout the Indies, and specifically those that relate to marriage dispensations, extend to those places and provinces in which there are no other unbelievers but those who came from elsewhere and, /p. XII furthermore, have embraced the faith: the reply is affirmative reply, but according to the formula of the briefs and constitutions that were indicated above.
In the same way, to the second question, which asks whether, so far as the powers which extend also to the aforementioned places also are concerned, these powers include marriage dispensations to be granted for public impediments, for the external forum, both before, and after marriage has been contracted: the reply is affirmative, in accordance however with what was decided in the apostolic briefs indicated above.
To the third question, which asks whether missionaries can use the aforesaid powers in those places in which the diocesan bishops have similar powers, the reply is that they can use the aforementioned powers in the external foum, dispensing both for marriages that have been contracted, and that are to be contracted, in those places [only], however, in which there are no ordinaries endowed with similar powers, or where they are more than two days journey away- not less than two hundred miles: in accordance with the proviso found, in like manner, in apostolic briefs and constitutions.
Fourthly, in which it was proposed that it should be defined whether, in cases in which missionaries can grant dispensations in the judicial forum, they are allowed to do this without taking down preliminary summary information in the presence of a notary and the vicar of the place, to demonstrate the reason for the dispensation and the type of impediment; or whether, rather oral and extrajudicial information may be said to suffice. The reply is that no change should be made, and that, since in earlier times a moral certitude both of the reason /p. XII, and of the impediment in the way, seemed sufficient, even if entirely unsupported by documents of a judicial character, it is preferable that the same method should be retained also for the future.
To the fifth question, finally, respecting the the validation of previously invalid marriages, concerning which a question was raised on the hypothesis of their nullity on the grounds of the lack of powers of those who granted the dispensations to enter into those marriages: no reply is needed, since, from the reply given aove to the first question, one can infer securely that this situation or hypothesis does not apply.
These therefore are the replies given or resolutions recorded in the Congregation of the most reverend cardinals of the holy Roman Church, general inquisitors against heretical depravity, held in the presence of our most holy lord pope Benedict XIV, which his Holiness, after first carefully examining it, has approved and confirmed: wishing them to be reinforced by an apostolic letter in the form of a brief to enhance their formal status, and ordering that whenever the situation arises that these powers need to be confirmed, the confirmation should not be granted in the future unless prefaced by a proper record of the time when the indult had previously been granted, so that it may in this way be inferred whether the time limit fixed in it has elapsed, and that it may consequently be possible to make appropriate provision in this matter; and, finally, enjoining all the servants or officials of both secretariats, that is of ‘Secret Briefs’ and of the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith, that whether a new grant be made, or a confirmation of powers already obtained be given to the missionaries of the Society of Jesus, both the grant and the confirmation should be in every way and all respects drafted in accordance with and conform to the norm of what is explained and ordained in the present degree.’
[There follows a list of the documents to which the brief above referred. The cues were the capital letters in brackets. Thus ‘in the first degree of consanginity or affinity (A)’ in the main text corresponds to what is in effect an end-note: ‘(A) In quocumque, seu quibusvis, non tamen in primo, Consanguinitatis, vel Affinitatis gradibus: Thus it reads in the brief of pope Alexander VIII of holy memory, which begins: Animarum saluti: which is no. XIV in vol. ( of the most recent collection of bullcs printed at Rome. #9.’ And so on, giving a reference to a document for every cue in the main text.) The document resumes after this with a long formal confirmation by papal authority of the Decree, emphasizing among other things that it out-trumps any previous customs, privileges and papal letters, etc. Finally, the pope wants official copies to be made, authorised by notaries public. The document is followed by a note about the translator, whose Spanish text ran parallel to the Latin throughout, and then the authorisation by notaries public.