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V Lateran Council

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  • INTRODUCTION
    • SESSION 11 - 19 December 1516
      • [On the abrogation of the Pragmatic Sanction]
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[On the abrogation of the Pragmatic Sanction]

Leo, bishop, servant of the servants of God, with the approval of the sacred council, for an everlasting record. The eternal Father, who will never abandon his flock up to the close of the age, so loved obedience, as the Apostle testifies, that to make expiation for the sin of disobedience of the first parent, he humbled himself and became obedient unto death. Moreover, when he was about to depart from the world to the Father, he established Peter and his successors as his own representatives on the firmness of a rock. It is necessary to obey them as the book of the Kings testifies, so that whoever does not obey, incurs death . As we read in another place, the person who abandons the teaching of the Roman pontiff cannot be within the church; for, on the authority of Augustine and Gregory, obedience alone is the mother and protector of all virtues, it alone possessing the reward of faith. Therefore, on the teaching of the same Peter, we ought to be careful that what has been introduced in due season and for sound reasons by our predecessors the Roman pontiffs, especially in sacred councils, for the defence of obedience of this kind, of ecclesiastical authority and freedom, and of the apostolic see, should be duly discharged by our effort, devotion and diligence and be brought to the desired conclusion. The souls of the simple, of whom we shall have to render an account to God, are to be freed from the deceits and snares of the prince of darkness. Indeed, our predecessor of happy memory, pope Julius II, summoned the sacred Lateran council for lawful reasons which were then made clear, on the advice and with the consent of his venerable brothers, the cardinals of the holy Roman church, among whom we were then numbered. Together with the same sacred Lateran council, he pondered on the fact that the corruption of the kingdom of France at Bourges, which they call the Pragmatic Sanction, had been strong in the past and was still vigorous, resulting in very great danger and scandal to souls, and a loss and cheapening of respect for the apostolic see. He therefore entrusted discussion of the Pragmatic Sanction to specifically named cardinals and to the prelates of a certain congregation .

Although the aforesaid sanction should clearly be subject to nullity on many counts, and was supporting and preserving open schism, and therefore it could have been declared to be essentially of no effect, null and invalid, without the need for any preceding formal citation, yet, from a great sense of caution, our same predecessor Julius, by a public edict -- which was to be fixed to the church doors of Milan, Asti and Pavia, since there was then no safe access to France -gave warning and summoned the prelates of France, the chapters of churches and monasteries, the parlements and the layfolk supporting them and making use of the said sanction, and each and all of the rest who were thinking that there was some advantage for them in the foregoing individually or collectively, to appear before him and the said council within a fixed period, which was then clearly stated, and to declare the reasons why the aforesaid sanction, and its corruptive and abusive effect in matters touching on the authority of the Roman church and the sacred canons, and on the violation of ecclesiastical liberty should not be declared null and invalid. During the lifetime of the said Julius our predecessor, various obstacles made it impossible to implement the summons or to discuss fully the business of the abrogation, as had been his intention . After his death, however, the summons, in full lawful form, was again brought forward by the promoter of the sacred council, the procurator fiscal. Those summoned and not presenting themselves were accused of obstinacy and the request was made for matters to be taken further. At the time we, who have been brought to the highest peak of the apostolate by the favour of the divine mercy after duly considering the whole situation, gave no response to the request, for definite reasons. Later, when a variety of impediments were being alleged by the said persons who had been warned and summoned, as to why they had been unable to present themselves at the appointed time (as stated above), we postponed, several times at several sessions, with the approval of the sacred council the date fixed by the said summons and warning to later dates, which have now long gone past, so that all occasion for just excuse and complaint might be taken away from them .

Although all obstacles have been removed and all dead-lines have passed nevertheless the aforesaid persons, despite being warned and summoned, have not appeared before us and the said council, nor taken any steps to appear, in order to bring forward a reason why the said sanction should not be declared null. There is therefore no longer room for any excuse. They can justly be regarded as obstinate; as indeed, by the demands of justice, we reckoned them to be. We are therefore thinking seriously about this Pragmatic Sanction, or rather corruption, as has been stated, which was issued at the time of the schism by those who did not have the necessary power, and which is not at all in accord with the rest of the christian state or with God's holy church. It was revoked, made void and abolished by the most christian king of France, Louis XI, of distinguished memory. It damages and lessens the authority, liberty and dignity of the apostolic see. It completely removes the power of the Roman pontiff to provide both cardinals of the holy Roman church, who work earnestly on behalf of the universal church, and learned men, with churches, monasteries and other benefices, in accordance with the demands of their status, even though such persons are numerous in the curia and it is by their counsel that the authority and power of the apostolic see, the Roman pontiff and the whole church is kept safe and its affairs guided and promoted into a prosperous state. Thus it offers excuses to church prelates of the aforesaid faction for breaking and violating the sacred nerve of obedience to ecclesiastical discipline and for setting up opposition against us and the apostolic see, their mother, and it opens the way for them to attempt such things. Clearly it is subject to nullity and is to be supported by no prop except of a temporary nature, or rather, of a kind of tolerance. Our predecessors as Roman pontiffs, for all their high hopes expressed in their own days, may have seemed to have tolerated this corruption and abuse, not being able to confront it completely either because of the evil nature of the times or because they were providing for it in some other way. We remember, however, that almost seventy years have passed since the publication of this sanction of Bourges, and that no council has been lawfully held within this time except the present Lateran council. Since we have been placed in this council by the Lord's disposition, we therefore judge and resolve, with Augustine as our witness, that we cannot refrain or desist from the eradication and total annulment of the same vile sanction if we are to avoid disgrace to ourself and to the many fathers assembled in the present council as well as to avoid danger to our own soul and those of the above-mentioned persons using it .

Just as pope Leo I, our predecessor of holy memory, whose footsteps we readily follow insofar as we can, gave orders and brought to pass that the measures which had been rashly carried out at the second synod of Ephesus, contrary to justice and the catholic faith, were later revoked at the council of Chalcedon, for the sake of the constancy of the same faith, so we too judge that we cannot, or ought not to, withdraw from or abandon the revocation of so evil a sanction and its contents if we are to preserve our own honour, and that of the church, with a safe conscience. The fact that the sanction and its contents were published at the council of Basel and, at the instance of the same council, were received and recognised by the meeting at Bourges, ought not to influence us since all those happenings after the transfer of the same council of Basel took place -- the transfer being made by pope Eugenius IV, our predecessor of happy memory -- have remained the deeds of the quasi-council, or rather the conventicle, of Basel. For, especially after that transfer, it did not deserve to be called a council any more and therefore its acts could not have any force. For it is clearly established that only the contemporary Roman pontiff, as holding authority over all councils, has the full right and power to summon, transfer and dissolve councils. This we know not only from the witness of holy scripture, the statements of holy fathers and our predecessors as Roman pontiffs, and the decisions of the sacred canons, but also from the declarations of the same councils. Some of this evidence we have decided to repeat, and some to pass over in silence as being sufficiently well known .

Thus we read that the synod of Alexandria, at which Athanasius was present, wrote to Felix, bishop of Rome, that the council of Nicaea had decided that councils ought not to be celebrated without the authority of the Roman pontiff . Pope Leo I transferred the second council of Ephesus to Chalcedon. Pope Martin V authorised his presidents at the council of Siena to transfer the council with no mention being made of the council's consent. The greatest respect was shown to our predecessors as Roman pontiffs: to Celestine by the first synod of Ephesus; to the said Leo by the synod of Chalcedon; to Agatho by the sixth synod; to Hadrian by the seventh synod; and to Nicholas and Hadrian by the eighth synod, of Constantinople. These councils submitted with reverence and humility to the instructions and commands of the same pontiffs which had been composed and issued by them in the sacred councils. Moreover, pope Damasus and the other bishops assembled at Rome, writing to the bishops at Illyricum about the council at Rimini, pointed out that the number of bishops assembled at Rimini counted for nothing since it was known that the Roman pontiff, whose decrees were to be preferred before all others, had not given his consent to their meeting. It appears that pope Leo I said the same when writing to all the bishops of Sicily. It was customary for the fathers of the ancient councils humbly to ask for and obtain a warrant and approbation from the Roman pontiff in order to corroborate the matters dealt with in their councils . This is clear from the synods and their acts held at Nicaea, Ephesus, Chalcedon, the sixth synod at Constantinople, the seventh at Nicaea, the Roman synod under Symmachus and the synods in Haimar's book. We would certainly be without these recent troubles if the fathers at Bourges and Basel had followed this laudable custom, which it is known that the fathers at Constance also finally adopted .

We desire this matter to be brought to its proper conclusion. We are proceeding on the strength of the many citations issued by us and our said predecessor Julius, and of the other things mentioned above which are so notorious that they cannot be hidden by any excuses or evasions, as well as in virtue of our pastoral office. We are supplying for each and every defect, both of law and of fact, if perchance any happen to exist in the above. We judge and declare, from our certain knowledge and from the fullness of apostolic power, with the approval of the same sacred council, by the contents of the present document, that the aforesaid Pragmatic Sanction or corruption, and its approbations however issued, and each and every decree, chapter, statute, constitution or ordinance that is included, or even inserted, in any way in the same and has been published by others, as well as the customs, expressions and uses, or rather abuses, in any way resulting from it and observed until the present, have been and are of no force or value. In addition, for a more extensive safeguard, we revoke, make void, abrogate, quash, annul and condemn that same sanction or corruption of Bourges and its approval, whether expressed or tacit, as said above, as well as each and every thing of whatever nature included or even inserted in it, and we judge, declare and will them to be considered as of no effect, revoked, made void, abrogated, quashed, annulled and condemned. Moreover, since subjection to the Roman pontiff is necessary for salvation for all Christ's faithful, as we are taught by the testimony of both sacred scripture and the holy fathers, and as is declared by the constitution of pope Boniface VIII of happy memory, also our predecessor, which begins Unam sanctam, we therefore, with the approval of the present sacred council, for the salvation of the souls of the same faithful, for the supreme authority of the Roman pontiff and of this holy see, and for the unity and power of the church, his spouse, renew and give our approval to that constitution, but without prejudice to the declaration of pope Clement V of holy memory, which begins Meruit .

In virtue of holy obedience and under the penalties and censures to be declared below, we forbid each and all of Christ's faithful, both laity and secular clergy, and regulars of whatever order including mendicants, and other persons without restriction, of no matter what status, rank or condition they may be, including cardinals of the holy Roman church, patriarchs, primates, archbishops, bishops, and any others distinguished by ecclesiastical or worldly or any other honour, and each and all other prelates, clerics, chapters, secular convents, regulars of the aforesaid orders, including abbots and priors of monasteries, dukes, counts, princes, barons, parlements, royal officials, judges, advocates, notaries and scribes, both ecclesiastical and secular, and any other regular or secular ecclesiastics in any high office, as said above, who are now or shall be living in the said kingdom of France and the Dauphine and wherever the said Pragmatic has been in force directly or indirectly, silently or openly, to presume to make use of the aforesaid Pragmatic Sanction, or rather corruption, in any way or for any reason, by keeping silence or by clear speech, directly or indirectly, or by any other excuse or clever evasion, in any judicial or extrajudicial acts, or even to appeal to it or make judgments on its terms, or to quash, by themselves or through another or others, any judicial or extra-judicial acts on the grounds of the general meaning of the said sanction or of parts of it, and they may not permit or order these things to be done by means of others. They are not to keep the aforesaid Pragmatic Sanction, or sections or decrees contained in it, in their own houses or in other public or private places. Indeed, they are to destroy it, or have it destroyed, in archives, including royal and capitular ones, and in the above-mentioned places within six months from the date of this present letter .

The penalties to be incurred, automatically and without the need for any further declaration, for each and all of the aforesaid persons, if they act to the contrary (though may they not!), are immediate major excommunication, the incapacity for all and singular legal acts of any kind, being branded as infamous, and the penalties expressed in the law of treason; in addition for the aforesaid ecclesiastical and religious persons, the loss of all patriarchal, metropolitan and other cathedral churches, of all monasteries, priories and convents, and of all secular dignities and ecclesiastical benefices, as well as the inability to hold them in the future; and in addition for secular persons, the loss of any fiefs held for any reason from the Roman or some other church, and the inability to hold them in the future. They cannot be absolved from these penalties by any faculty or by clauses contained in privileges regarding the hearing of confessions, no matter by what persons or verbal formulae they may have been granted. Except when at the point of death, they can only be absolved by the Roman pontiff acting canonically or by someone else having a faculty from him specifically for that purpose .

By the knowledge, power and statements mentioned above we expressly and specifically repeal anything to the contrary. This is notwithstanding anything mentioned above as well as constitutions, ordinances, decrees and statutes, however they may have been published and granted, and frequently renewed, repeated, confirmed and approved, as enduring in their force, by apostolic or any other authority, even conciliar authority and even by our certain knowledge and fullness of apostolic power, the tenor of all of which we regard as sufficiently expressed and included, for the purposes of the above, as if they had been inserted herein word for word; notwithstanding if the apostolic see has granted to any communities and universities, and any individual persons mentioned above, even if they are the aforesaid cardinals, patriarchs, archbishops, bishops, marquises and dukes, or any others, whether individually or communally, that they cannot be interdicted, suspended, excommunicated, deprived or incapacitated by apostolic letters which do not make full and express mention, word for word, of the indult in question; and notwithstanding any other general or special privileges, indulgences and apostolic letters, of whatever tenor they may be, by means of which, because they are not expressed or included in whole in the present letter, the effect of the above might be impeded or deferred in any way, since special mention of their contents is to be regarded as included, word for word, in this our letter. Let nobody therefore .. . If anyone however .. .




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