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Title: Infallibility: Text of the "Dogmatic Decree of the Church of Christ."
Author: Anonymous
* A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook *
eBook No.: 1900291h.html
Language: English
Date first posted:  March 2019
Most recent update: March 2019

This eBook was produced by: Jon Richfield and Colin Choat

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Text of the "Dogmatic Decree of the Church of Christ."
Passed 18 July, 1870, by the Council of Rome.
Together with Two Related Documents,
and Production Notes


1. Text of the "Dogmatic Decree of the Church of Christ."

2. Futile Efforts of the Opposition to the Dogmatic Definition.

3. Scenes in the Council at Rome—Efforts of the Minority Bishops.

4. Ebook producer's remarks.

Text of the "Dogmatic Decree of the Church of Christ."

Passed 18 July, 1870 by the Council of Rome.

Correct and Authorised Translation.

Page images of the newspaper article, from which the following text has been taken, are reproduced at the end of this document.

The following is the correct and authorized translation of the dogma of infallibility. It is from advance sheets of the Catholic World for September:

Pius, Bishop, Servant of the Servants of God, with the Approbation of the Holy Council, for a Perpetual Remembrance Hereof.

The eternal Shepherd and Bishop of our souls, in order to render perpetual the saving work of His redemption, resolved to build the Holy Church, in which, as in the house of the living God, all the faithful should be united by the bond of the same faith and charity. For which reason, before he was glorified, he prayed the Father, not for the apostles alone, but also for those who through their word would believe in Him, that they all might be one, as the Son himself and the Father are one. (John, xvii. 1-20.) Wherefore, even as He sent the apostles, whom He had (chosen from the world as He had been sent by the Father, so He willed that there should be pastors and teachers in His Church even to the consummation of the world. Moreover to the end that the Episcopal body itself might be one and undivided, and that the entire multitude of believers might be preserved in oneness of faith and of communion, through priests cleaving mutually together, He placed the blessed Peter before the other apostles and established in him a perpetual principle of his twofold unity, and a visible foundation on whose strength "the eternal temple might be built, and in whose firm faith the Church might rise upward, until her summit reach the heavens," (St Leo the Great, Sermon iv. (or iii.) chapter 2, on Christmas.) Now, seeing that in order to overthrow, if possible, the Church, the powers of hell on every side, and with a hatred which increases day by day, are assailing her foundation, which was placed by God, we, therefore, for the preservation, the safety and the increase of the Catholic flock, and with the approbation of the sacred Council, have judged it necessary to set forth the doctrine which, according to the ancient and constant faith of the universal Church, all the faithful must believe and hold, touching the institution, the perpetuity, and the nature of the sacred apostolic primacy, in which stands the power and strength of the entire Church; and to proscribe and condemn the contrary errors so hurtful to the flock of the Lord.


Of the Institution of the Apostolic Primacy in the Blessed Peter.

We teach, therefore, and declare that, according to the testimonies Of the Gospel, the primacy of jurisdiction over the whole Church of God was promised and given immediately and directly to blessed Peter, the apostle, by Christ our Lord. For it was to Simon alone to whom he had already said, "Thou shalt be called Cephas," (John, i, 42) that, after he had professed his faith, "Thou art Christ, the Son of the living God," our Lord said, "Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona; because flesh and blood hath not revealed it to thee, but my Father who is in heaven; and I say to thee, that thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it; and I will give to thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatsoever thou shalt bind upon earth it shall be bound also in heaven; and whatsoever thou shalt loose upon earth, it shall be loosed also in heaven." (Matthew, xvi., 16-19.) And it was to Simon Peter alone that Jesus, after his resurrection, gave the jurisdiction of supreme shepherd and ruler over the whole of his fold, saying, "Feed my lambs; feed my sheep." (John, xxi., 15-17.) To this doctrine so clearly set forth in the sacred Scriptures, as the Catholic Church has always understood it, are plainly opposed the perverse opinions of those who, distorting the form of government established in his Church by Christ our Lord, deny that Peter alone above the other apostles, whether taken separately one by one or all together, was endowed by Christ with a true and real primacy of jurisdiction; or who assert that this primacy was not given immediately and directly to blessed Peter, but to the Church, and through her to him, as to the agent of the Church. If, therefore, any one shall say that blessed Peter, the apostle, was not appointed by Christ our Lord, the Prince of all the apostles, and the visible head of the whole Church militant; or, that he received directly and immediately from our Lord Jesus Christ only the primacy of honor, and not that of true and real jurisdiction, let him be anathema.


Of the Perpetuity of the Primacy of Peter in the Roman Pontiffs.

What the prince of pastors and the great shepherd of the sheep, our Lord Jesus Christ, established in the person of the blessed apostle Peter, for the perpetual welfare and lasting good of the Church, the same through his power must needs last forever in that Church, which is founded upon the rock, and will stand firm till the end of time. And, indeed, it is well known, as it has been in all ages, that the holy and most blessed Peter, prince and head of the apostles, pillar of the faith and foundation of the Catholic Church, who received from our Lord Jesus Christ, the Savior and Redeemer of mankind, the keys of the kingdom of heaven, to this present time, and at all times lives and presides and pronounces judgment in the person of his successors, the Bishops of the holy Roman See, which was founded by him, and consecrated by his blood. (Council of Eph. sess. iii. St. Peter Chrys, Ep, an Eutych.) So that whoever succeeds Peter in this chair, holds, according to Christ's own institution, the primacy of Peter over the whole Church. What, therefore, was once established by Him who is the truth, still remains, and blessed Peter, retaining the strength of the rock, which has been given to him, has never left the helm of the Church originally intrusted to him. (S. Leo, Serm. iii. chap. iii.) For this reason it was always necessary for every other Church, that is, the faithful of all countries, to have recourse to the Roman Church on account of its superior headship, in order that being joined, as members to their head, with this See, from which the rights of religious communion flow unto all, they might be knitted into the unity of one body. (St. Irenaeus against Heresies, book iii. chap. iii. Epist. of Council of Aquileian, 381 to Grattian, chap. iv. of Pius VI, Brief. Super Ibid. itate.) If, therefore, any one shall say that it is not by the institution of Christ our Lord Himself, or by divine right, that blessed Peter has perpetual successors in the primacy over the whole Church; or, that the Roman pontiff is not the successor of blessed Peter in this Primacy, let him be anathema.


Of the Power and Nature of the Primacy of the Roman Pontiff.

Wherefore, resting upon the clear testimonies of Holy Writ, and following the full and explicit decrees of our predecessors, the Roman Pontiffs, and of general councils, we renew the definition of the Ecumenical Council of Florence, according to which all the faithful of Christ must believe that the Holy Apostolic See and the Roman Pontiff hold the primacy over the whole world, and that the Roman Pontiff is the successor of blessed Peter, the prince of the apostles, and the true vicar of Christ, and is the head of the whole Church, and the father and teacher of all Christians; and that to him, in the blessed Peter, was given by our Lord Jesus Christ full power of feeding, ruling and governing the universal Church, as is also set forth in the acts of the Ecumenical Councils, and in the sacred canons. Wherefore we teach and declare that the Roman Church, under divine Providence, possesses a headship of ordinary power over all other churches, and that this power of jurisdiction of the Roman Pontiff, which is truly Episcopal, is immediate, toward which the pastors and faithful of whatever rite and dignity, whether singly or all together, are bound by the duty of hierarchical subordination and of true obedience, not only in things which appertain to faith and morals, but likewise in those things winch concern the discipline and government of the Church spread throughout the world, so that being united with the Roman Pontiff, both in communion and in profession of the same faith, the Church of Christ may be one fold under one chief shepherd. This is the doctrine of Catholic truth, from which no one can depart without loss of faith and salvation.

So far, nevertheless, is this power of the Supreme Pontiff from trenching on that ordinary power of Episcopal jurisdiction by which the Bishops, who have been instituted by the Holy Ghost, and have succeeded in the place of the apostles, like true shepherds, feed and rule the flocks assigned to them, each one his own; that, on the contrary, this, their power, is asserted, strengthened and vindicated by the supreme and universal pastor, as St. GREGORY the Great saith; my honor is the honor of the universal Church; My honor is the solid strength of my brethren; then am I truly honored when to each one of them the honor due is not denied. (St. Gregory Great ad Euloguius, Eplat. 30.) Moreover, from that supreme authority of the Roman Pontiff to govern the universal Church, there follows to him the right, in the exercise of his office, of freely communicating with the pastors and flocks of the whole church, that they may be taught and guided by him in the way of salvation.

Wherefore, we condemn and reprobate the opinions of those who say that this communication of the supreme head with the pastors and flocks can be lawfully hindered, or who make it subject to the secular power, maintaining that the things which are decreed by the Apostolic See, or under its authority for the government of the church, have no force or value unless they are confirmed by the approval of the secular power. And since, by the divine right of apostolic primacy, the Roman Pontiff presides over the universal churches, we also teach and declare that he is the supreme judge of the faithful, (PIUS VI, brief super. soliditate,) and that in all causes calling for ecclesiastical trial, recourse may be had to his Judgment, (second Council of Lyons;) but the decision of the Apostolic See, above which there is no higher authority, cannot be reconsidered by any one, nor is it lawful to any one to sit in judgment on his Judgment. (NICHOLAS I, Epist. ad Michalem Imperatorem.) Wherefore, they wander away from the right path of truth who assert that it is lawful to appeal from the judgments of the Roman Pontiff's to an Ecumenical Council, as if to an authority superior to the Roman Pontiff. Therefore, if any one shall say that the Roman Pontiff holds only the charge of inspection or direction, and not full and supreme power of jurisdiction over the entire Church, not only in things which pertain to faith and morals, but also in those which pertain to the discipline and government of the Church spread throughout the whole world; or that he possesses only the chief part and not the entire plentitude of this supreme power; or that this, his power, is not ordinary and immediate, both as regards all and each of the Churches, and all and each of the pastors and faithful, let him be anathema.


Of the Infallible Authority of the Roman Pontiff in Teaching.

This Holy See has ever held, the unbroken custom of the Church has proved, and the Ecumenical Councils—those especially in which the East joined with the West in union of faith and of charity—have declared that in this apostolic primacy, which the Roman Pontiff holds over the universal Church, as successor of Peter, the prince of the apostles, there is also contained the supreme power of authoritative teaching. Thus the fathers of the fourth Council of Constantinople, following in the footsteps of their predecessors, put forth this solemn profession:

"The first law of salvation is to keep the rule of true faith. And whereas the words of our Lord Jesus Christ cannot be passed by, who said: Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, (Matt. xvi, 18.,) these words, which he spoke, are proved true by facts; for in the Apostolic See, the Catholic religion has ever been preserved unspotted, and the holy doctrine has been announced. Therefore, wishing never to be separated from the faith and teaching of this See, we hope to be worthy to abide in that one communion which the Apostolic See preaches, in which is the full and true firmness of the Christian religion." (Formula of St. Hormisdas Pope, as proposed by HADRIAN II. to the fathers of the eighth general Council, (Constantinop. IV.,) and subscribed by them.)

So, too, the Greeks, with the approval of the second council of Lyons, professed that the holy Roman Church holds over the universal Catholic Church, a Supreme and full primacy and headship which she truthfully and humbly acknowledges that she received from the Lord himself in blessed Peter, the prince or head of the apostles of whom the Roman Pontiff is the successor; and as she, beyond the others, is bound to defend the truth of the faith, so, if any questions arise concerning faith, they should be decided by her judgment; And finally, the Council of Florence defined that the Roman Pontiff is the true vicar of Christ, and the head to the whole Church, and the father and teacher of all Christians, and that to him in the blessed Peter, was given by our Lord Jesus Christ full power of feeding and ruling and governing the universal Church. (John xxi., 15, 17.)

In order to fulfill this pastoral charge, our predecessors have over labored unweariedly to spread the saving doctrine of Christ among all the nations of the earth, and with equal care have watched to preserve it pure and unchanged where it had been received. Wherefore the Bishops of the whole world, sometimes singly, sometimes assembled in synods, following the long established custom of the Churches, (8. Cyril, Alex., ad S. Coelest, Pap.,) and the form of ancient rule (St. Innocent I, to Councils of Carthage and Milevi,) referred to this Apostolic See those dangers especially which arose in matters of faith, in order that injuries to faith might best be healed there, where the faith could never fail. (St. Bernard, Ep. 120.) And the Roman Pontiffs, weighing the condition of times and circumstances, sometimes calling together general Councils, or asking the judgment of the Church scattered through the world, sometimes consulting particular synods, sometimes using such other aids as Divine Providence supplied, defined that those doctrines should be held, which, by the aid of God, they knew to be conformable to the holy Scriptures, and the apostolic traditions. For the Holy Ghost is not promised to the successors of Peter, that they may make known a new doctrine revealed by him, but that through his assistance they may sacredly guard, and faithfully sot forth, the revelation delivered by the apostles, that is, the deposit of faith. And this their apostolic teaching all the venerable fathers have embraced, and the holy orthodox doctors have revered and followed, knowing most certainly that this See of St Peter ever remains free from all error, according to the divine promise of our Lord and Savior, made to the prince of the apostles: I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not, and thou, being once converted, confirm thy brethren, (Conf. St. Agatho, Ep. ad Imp: a Conc. Oecum vi. approbat.)

Therefore, tide gift of truth, and of faith which fails not, was divinely bestowed on PETER and his successors in this chair, that they should exercise their high office for the salvation of all, that through them the universal flock of Christ should be turned away from the poisonous food of error, and should be nourished with the food of heavenly doctrine, and that the occasion of schism being removed, the entire Church should be preserved one, and planted on her foundation, should stand firm against the gates of hell. Nevertheless, since in this present age, when the saving efficacy of the apostolic office is exceedingly needed, there are not a few who carp at its authority, we judge it altogether necessary to solemnly declare the prerogative which the only begotten Son of God has deigned to unite to the supreme pastoral office.

Wherefore, faithfully adhering to the tradition handed down from the commencement of the Christian faith, for the glory of God our Saviour, the exaltation of the Catholic religion, and the salvation of Christian peoples, with the approbation of the sacred Council, we teach and define it, to be a doctrine divinely revealed; that the Roman Pontiff, when he speaks ex Cathedra, that is, when in exercise of his office of pastor and teacher of all Christian peoples, and in virtue of his supreme apostolical authority, he defines that a doctrine or faith or morals is to be held by the universal Church, possesses, through the divine assistance promised to him in time blessed Peter, that infallibility with which the divine Redeemer willed his Church to he endowed, in defining a doctrine of faith or morals; and therefore that such definitions of the Roman Pontiff are irreformable of themselves, and not by force of the consent of the Church thereto, And if any one shall presume, which God forbid, to contradict this our definition, let him be anathema.

The Last Hours of the Council. Futile Efforts of the Opposition to the Dogmatic Definition.

From the Rome Correspondent of the London Times, 23 July 1870.

Published: 6 August, 1870, The New York Times

Roma, July 18, 1870. The great event so anxiously expected by zealous Roman Catholics, is now accomplished. In the midst of thunder, lightning, and rain, Pius IX, pro-theosized himself, if I may be allowed to coin a word, and is now registered among the Dii Majores. The event has been hurried on by the apprehension which war has awakened, and by the great anxiety of the Bishops to get away, for had all the formalities been observed, it is scarcely likely that the dogma would have been proclaimed before the end of the month. The efforts to turn the Pope from his purpose have been unceasing up to the last moment. On Friday, in consequence of a resolution of the International Committee, a deputation, consisting of five of their number, sought and had an audience of the Pope, They were, as I am informed, Cardinal Schwartzenburg, Monseigneur Darboy, Archbishop of Paris; Monseigneur Ginouillhac, recently created Archbishop of Lyons; Monseigneur Calabriano, Archbishop of Milan, and Monseigneur Conolly, Archbishop of Halifax. The Archbishop of Paris is stated to have thrown himself at the feet of the Pope and entreated him not to make himself infallible—all to no purpose, as the event has proved. His Holiness received them kindly, begged them to leave in writing a statement of what they desired, and then dismissed them—not, however, before Cardinal Schwartzenburg. as I am told, declared that the dogma would not be worth the paper on which it was written. On Saturday the Fathers met again in a general congregation to consider the votes of "Placet juxta modum," as I have already reported, and later in that day or yesterday, the Opposition Fathers met at the Archbishop of Paris' and Cardinal Raucher's apartments. Instead of adhering to their original proposition to attend the Council and to declare votes, it was decided to draw up a protest, sign it, and then, absenting themselves from the Council, leave Rome as soon as possible. Yesterday, therefore, was a busy day. One might have counted no fewer than fifteen carriages at a time at the door of Cardinal Rauscher, and last evening, nearly twenty of the Fathers left Rome, and seven or eight this morning. There were ninety-six absentees from the Public Session this morning, as far as I can collect, at present, while 547 who were present voted "Placet," and two, Neapolitans, had the pluck to cry "Non placet." The request of the deputation from the International Committee was, that His Holiness would omit to say that the infallibility of the Pope was the tradition of the Church, and that he would cause the anathema to be removed, but that is the bonne bouche of the whole affair, and it was rather too much to expect that Christians so fond of cursing could abstain from one curse more. There was a little episode at the Congregation, on Saturday, worth nothing. At the close of the proceedings, I believe a Cardinal read a protest against the "putidissimas calummas" which have been published by journalists and pamphleteers, not merely "the heterodox and open enemies of the Cross of Christ," but "those who call themselves the sons of the Catholic Church." Two copies of a protest were therefore sent to each of the Fathers, who were invited to express their sentiments regarding the "base lies" and "false and caluminious statements" which had been spread to the dishonor of the Church and the august person of our Most Holy Lord (Pius IX.) Moreover, they were invited to sign it, which it was said was done, and those papers were placed in the archives of the Council. Many, however, certainly did not sign the protest, and could not honestly sign it, for I know those among the Fathers who declared that every word in La Dernière Heure du Concile, one of the works condemned, was true. And now all who call are leaving. On Saturday the Papal commission to start on their travels was given to the Fathers. who have been dispersing ever since. They came, say the Romans, as pastori, and leave as pecore. Nor is that all the truth, for they leave as pecore shorn of all authority and independence.

Scenes in the Council at Rome—Efforts of the Minority Bishops.

The Rome correspondent of the Pall Mall Gazette, writes under date of 18 July, 1870.

Published 8 August, 1870, The New York Times

This morning the Council of the Vatican hold its fourth public session in the presence and under the presidency of the Pope. There were very few spectators, and but two or three of the minor powers were represented in the diplomatic tribune, the rest of the diplomatic body having followed the example of the representatives of France, Austria, and Prussia, who, in accordance with the intention mentioned in my last, absented themselves from the ceremony. The Vatican made a strong whip for the majority, and brought together 533 prelates, though the number was largely made up of Bishops in partibus. A hundred and ten Bishops now in Rome refused to attend the sitting, the bold policy of signifying their dissent by a public veto having, as I anticipated, been given up. The dogmatic constitution, De Ecclesia Christi, with a chapter defining infallibility, was put to the vote, and only two BIshops were found courageous enough to exclaim aloud, "Non placet." Those dissentients were Monsignor Riccio, Bishop of Cajaezo, in Sicily, and an American Bishop, whose name I was unable to learn. The superstitious consider it ominous that a violent storm burst over the cathedral at the commencement of the proceedings and lasted till their close. The orders for a salvo from Fort St. Angelo and a jubilant peal from all the bells of Rome had been countermanded, but the solemnity was not unheralded, and the Pope proclaimed himself infallible amid peals of thunder and terrific flashes of lightning. The Pope closed the proceedings with a short allocution. Immediately after the proclamation of the dogma the Austrian Ambassador quitted Rome, The officers and soldiers of the Roman legion have, since the outbreak of the war, unanimously demanded permission to return to France. On Saturday, the Bishops of the minority held a conference in the apartments of Cardinal RAUSCHER, and after a long debate sent a deputation to the commission for dogma with a conciliatory proposition relative to Infallibility. This was rejected by the Commission, and the deputation then obtained an interview with the Pope. Here they were equally unsuccessful, and the Holy Father peremptorily refused to make the slightest modification in the scheme. He was no doubt well informed as to the wavering spirit of the Bishops, which soon showed itself clearly in a resolution to absent themselves from the public sitting, where, in fact, they had but to vote non placet to achieve all they desired. They are meeting the proclamation of the dogma by a protest which they sign stante pede, but in Rome they and their protest are alike regarded with indifference.

Ebook producer's remarks.

I accidentally found the text in the main document online at the New York Times site together with a lot of other cuttings that might well be of value historians of the period. The material was in the form of a PDF file, which I converted to editable text.

There also were two follow-up reports, which I append, as I find they lent a good deal of insight to my extremely tenuous knowledge of the subject.

In surfing for more material, I found an extract and commentary at the site The extract was from "Decrees of the Ecumenical Councils", ed. Norman P. Tanner ISBN 0878404902. I got no reply to my email requesting permission to include it in this document. However, I include the ISBN for the benefit of people requiring something more authoritatively edited than the account that was at the disposal of the New York Times in the nineteenth century. The book is available from Amazon at the time of my preparing the document, and no doubt many academic libraries have copies at their disposal.


Jon Richfield

Page images of the newspaper article:

Published Sunday 7 August 1870, page 6, The New York Times















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