Roman Authorities

Valuable quotations from reliable sources

By the Ministry staff.

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.


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By the Ministry staff.

July 1929

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