The distinctive Roman authorities are: (1) Papal bulls; (2) the Tridentine standards; (3) the Vatican standards; and (4) the Canon Law. Papal utterances, whether issued before the Reformation or since, so far as they bear on doctrine or morals, are infallible, and dare not be disputed without incurring ecclesiastical censure. Among them are Martin V's bull condemning Wycliffe and Huss; Leo X's bull condemning Luther, 1520; Pius V's bull, 1567, condemning the LXXIX Propositions of Michael Baius; Innocent X's bull, 1853, condemning the five errors of Cornelius Jansen; Innocent XI's bull, 1679, condemning Probabilism; Clement XI's bull untgenitus, 1713, condemning errors of Quesnel; and other deliverances down to the Syllabus of 1864 and Pius X's decrees against Modernism, 1907-1910. Here also belong the decrees of ecumenical councils as far as they have had papal approval. The more important councils of the Middle Ages are the Fourth Lateran, or twelfth ecumenical, 1215, which defined the dogma of transubstantiation; and the Council of Ferrara, 1439, the first ecumenical council to state authoritatively the dogma of the seven sacraments and other medieval dogmas.
The Tridentine standards, three in number, are the Decrees and Canons of Trent, the Tridentine Profession of Faith, and the Roman Catechism. These documents state the distinctive tenets of Romanism over against Protestantism. The Council of Trent, 1545-1563, meeting in the city of Trent in the Tyrol and reckoned as the nineteenth ecumenical council, was convened by Paul III at the urgent demand of Charles V, who had promised the German Protestants to secure a general council to pass upon the religious differences of the age. The overwhelming majority of the prelates were Italians and Spaniards, with the Jesuits exercising a powerful and sometimes deciding influence. From every standpoint, the Council of Trent is one of the most important assemblies ever held in Christendom. It confirmed the system which had grown up during the Middle Ages, and not only opposed Protestantism by doctrinal statements, but thrust Protestant dissenters out of the bosom of the church with the terrible use of the anathema. On the other hand, it decreed the abolition of various ecclesiastical abuses within the Roman communion, and introduced wholesome reforms bearing on indulgences, the education and morals of the clergy, the monastic orders, and the practice of pluralism.
The Decrees and Canons of Trent passed by the vote of the council were confirmed by Pius IV, 1564, the pope reserving to himself the exclusive right to interpret them. Among their more important definitions are the definitions of tradition, justification, and the efficacy of the seven sacraments. The canons, about 150 in number, condemn the errors held in opposition to these definitions, each canon closing with an anathema pronounced upon those who may hold the errors. To the definition of justification, no less than thirty-three canons are added. To give an example of the condemnations, one of the canons on matrimony runs that " if any one saith that it is not better and more blessed to remain in virginity or in celibacy than to be united in matrimony, let him be anathema."
The Tridentine Profession of Faith —forma professionis orthodom fldeigrew out of a suggestion made at the Council of Trent and was prepared by a commission of cardinals appointed by Pius IV, 1564. It is also called the Creed of Pius IV, and by a double bull was imposed on all priests, professors, and teachers, that is upon the "teaching church." After giving the Nicene Creed, the document, in twelve articles, states the distinctive tenets of the Roman Church, such as the seven sacraments, the sacrifice of the mass, transubstantiation, purgatory, the worship of saints, the vicarial office of the Roman bishop. To these articles was added, 1877, by Pius IX, a profession of belief in the immaculate conception and in " the primacy and infallibility " of the Roman bishop.
The Roman Catechism, the third Tridentine standard, also issued by Pius IV, is not, as the title might suggest, a manual for children with questions and answers, but an elaborate exposition of the Apostles' Creed, the sacraments, the decalogue, and the Lord's prayer for the use of priests. It omits some of the distinctive tenets of Romanism, such as indulgences, but treats of others not decided by the Council of Trent, such as the pope's authority and the limbus patrum, the temporary abode of the Old Testament worthies before Christ's death.
The Vatican standards, also three in number and issued during the pontificate of Pius IX, 1846-1878, are: The decree of the immaculate conception, the Syllabus of Errors, and the Dogmatic Decrees of the Vatican Council. The decree announcing the immaculate conception of Mary was declared by Pius, 1854, in the presence of 200 cardinals, bishops, and other dignitaries. The Syllabus condemned eighty modern errors, so-called, such as religious liberty, the Protestant Bible societies, and the separation of church and state. It was addressed to all bishops in the form of an authoritative decree, and was substantially confirmed by Leo XIII in his encyclicals of Nov. 1, 1885, Tune 1, 1888, and February, 1890, and also by Pius X.
The Decrees of the Vatican Council, 1870, reckoned as the twentieth ecumenical council, consist of two parts. In the first rationalism, materialism, and atheism are condemned, and the relation of revelation to the natural reason defined. Eighteen anathemas are launched against the heresies involved, and " Holy Mother Church " is declared to be the supreme teacher and guide of all Christians. In the second and more important part, the primacy of St. Peter is affirmed and the dogma of papal infallibility defined. At least four anathemas are pronounced against those who deny these latter dogmas.
The code of Canon Law, prepared by the authority of Pius X and issued by Benedict XV, 1917, contains definitions of Catholic doctrine and rules of Catholic practice. It takes the place of the code prepared by Gratian, professor of canon law at Bologna in the eleventh century. Gratian's compilation which, according to Dellinger, is " filled through and through with forgery and error " (Papstthum, p. 55), with the additions made to it by Gregory IX, 1234, and later popes, was, together with Leo X's bull, cast by Luther into the flames, 1520. The code issued by Benedict XV was made by papal bull, the binding law of the church, and any one attempting to change it was threatened with the wrath of Almighty God and the apostles Peter and Paul. To the documents as thus enumerated, the student must go who would make sure what the authoritative teachings of the Roman church are.—" Our Fathers' Faith and Ours," by David S. Schaff, D. D., pp. 14-17.