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Peter, Prince or Head of the Apostles, whose successor the Roman Pontiff is; and as the Apostolic See is bound before all others to defend the truth of faith, so also if any questions regarding faith shall arise, they must be defined by its judgment.* Finally, the Council of Florence de fined: † That the Roman Pontiff is the true Vicar of Christ, and the Head of the whole Church, and the Father and Teacher of all Christians; and that to him in blessed Peter was delivered by our Lord Jesus Christ the full power of feeding, ruling, and governing the whole Church. I

To satisfy this pastoral duty our predecessors ever made unwearied efforts that the salutary doctrine of Christ might be propagated among all the nations of the earth, and with equal care watched that it might be preserved genuine and pure where it had been received. Therefore the Bishops of the whole world, now singly, now assembled in synod, following the long-established custom of Churches, and the form of the ancient rule, sent word to this Apostolic See of those dangers especially which sprang up in matters of faith, that there the losses of faith might be most effectually repaired where the faith cannot fail. And the Roman Pontiffs, according to the exigencies of times and circumstances, sometimes assembling Ecumenical Councils, or asking for the mind of the Church scattered throughout the world, sometimes by particular Synods, sometimes using other helps which Divine Providence sup

* From the Acts of the Fourteenth General Council (Second of Lyons),. A.D. 1274. Labbé, vol xiv. p. 512.

+ From the Acts of the Seventeenth General Council of Florence, A.D. 1438. Labbé, vol. xviii. p. 526.

# John xxi. 15–17.

$ From a letter of St. Cyril of Alexandria to Pope St. Celestine I., A.D. 422, vol. vi. part ii. p. 36, Paris edition of 1638.

| From a Rescript of St. Innocent I. to the Council of Milevis, A.D. 402. Labbé, vol. iii. p. 47.

| From a letter of St. Bernard to Pope Innocent II. A.D. 1130. Epist. 191, vol. iv. p. 433, Paris edition of 1742.


plied, defined as to be held those things which with the help of God they had recognized as conformable with the Sacred Scriptures and Apostolic Traditions. For the Holy Spirit was not promised to the successors of Peter that by His revelation they might make known new doctrine, but that by His assistance they might inviolably keep and faithfully expound the revelation or deposit of faith delivered through the Apostles. And indeed all the venerable Fathers have embraced and the holy orthodox Doctors have venerated and followed their Apostolic doctrine; knowing most fully that this See of holy Peter remains ever free from all blemish of error according to the divine promise of the Lord our Saviour made to the Prince of His disciples : I have prayed for thee that thy faith fail not, and, when thou art converted, confirm thy brethren.*

This gift, then, of truth and never-failing faith was conferred by heaven upon Peter and his successors in this Chair, that they might perform their high office for the salvation of all; that the whole flock of Christ kept away by them from the poisonous food of error, might be nourished with the pasture of heavenly doctrine; that the occasion of schism being removed the whole Church might be kept one, and, resting on its foundation, might stand firm against the gates of hell.

But since in this very age, in which the salutary efficacy of the Apostolic office is most of all required, not a few are found who take away from its authority, we judge it altogether necessary solemnly to assert the prerogative which the only-begotten Son of God vouchsafed to join with the supreme pastoral office.

Therefore faithfully adhering to the tradition received from the beginning of the Christian faith, for the glory of God Our Saviour, the exaltation of the Catholic Religion, and the salvation of Christian people, the Sacred Council

* St. Luke xxii. 32. See also the Acts of the Sixth General Council, A.D. 680. Labbé vol. vii. p. 659.



approving, We teach and define that it is a dogma divinely revealed : that the Roman Pontiff, when he speaks ex cathedra, that is, when in discharge of the office of Pastor and Doctor of all Christians, by virtue of his supreme Apostolic authority he defines a doctrine regarding faith or morals to be held by the Universal Church, by the divine assistance promised to him in blessed Peter, is possessed of that infallibility with which the divine Redeemer willed that His Church should be endowed for defining doctrine regarding faith or morals: and that therefore such definitions of the Roman Pontiff are irreformable * of themselves, and not from the consent of the Church. But if any one


may God avert-presume to contradict this Our definition; let him be anathema. Given at Rome in Public Session solemnly held in the

Vatican Basilica in the year of Our Lord one thousand
eight hundred and seventy, on the eighteenth day of
July, in the twenty-fifth year of our Pontificate.
In conformity with the original.

JOSEPH, Bishop of S. Pollen,

Secretary to the Vatican Council.




Question.- What are the characters and marks whereby we may know whether a proposition can be submitted to the authoritative judgment of the Catholic magisterium, or

* i.e. in the words used by Pope Nicholas I. note 13, and in the Synod of Quedlinburg, A.D. 1085, “it is allowed to none to revise its judgment, and to sit in judgment upon what it has judged." Labbé, vol. xii. p.

in other words, whether a proposition be definable as de fide ?

Answer.-In the answer distinction was made between that which was sufficient in order to come to a definition, and that which was not necessary for that purpose.

With respect to that which was not necessary, the following four points were established unanimously.

1. It is not necessary, that antecedently there should not have been a variety of opinions in the Catholic Church, and that all should have agreed in that which is to be defined.

This is manifest from the ancient controversy long ago decided on re-baptism, although many bishops held the opposite opinion. This is also confirmed by the practice of the church, which many times has permitted the profession of opposite opinions, provided there has been a willingness to submit to any decision that might be made. This practice supposes that points may be defined, about which Catholics have been permitted to think and dispute freely.

2. It is not necessary that no writers of authority should be cited for an opinion contrary to that which is to be defined. This is manifest from the history of the dog. mas successively defined; and in this place it will be sufficient to observe, that the Council of Trent (sess. vi. can. 23) did not hesitate to affirm as the faith of the church, that the most Holy Virgin Mother of God had never committed any even venial sin, although it is certain that grave doctors and Fathers wrote otherwise.

3. It is not necessary to cite texts, either implicit or explicit, from Holy Scripture, since it is manifest that the extent of revelation is greater than that of Holy Scripture. Thus, it has been defined, for example, that even infants may and ought to be baptized, that Christ our Lord is wholly contained and received under one species of the most Holy Eucharist, that the Holy Ghost proceeds from the Father and the Son as from one principle, although theologians do not produce texts either implicit or explicit from Scripture in which such dogmas are taught.

4. Lastly, it is not necessary to have a series of fathers and testimonies reaching to apostolic times, in order to prove that such a proposition belongs to apostolic tradition. With respect to this, it was observed, that the assertion of such a necessity rests upon false hypotheses, and is refuted by the most palpable facts.

The false hypotheses are,

Q. That all doctrine preached from the beginning has been committed to writing by the fathers.

b. That all the monuments of antiquity have come down to us.

c. That the entire object of faith has always been distinctly conceived and formally expressed;

d. That subsequent tradition may differ from the preceding;

e. That it cannot be legitimately concluded from the fact that a doctrine is held in any age, that the same doctrine was never denied by the majority, and that it was at least implicitly believed by the greater number.

The facts that refute such a necessity are manifold, but it suffices to mention the definition of Ephesus, of Chalcedon, of the Lateran Synod under Martin I. or the dogmatical letters of St. Leo and St. Agatho, in which appeal is made to the faith of the fathers and to tradition, and where there appears to be no anxiety to produce testimonies of the first three centuries, on the contrary, authors are quoted, who in those times were of recent date.

Having thus laid down by common agreement that which was not necessary, they passed on to discuss what was sufficient in order that an opinion should be defined as an article of faith.

The five following characters were proposed and decided upon as being sufficient.

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