The Fourth Lateran Council, 1215
Original Electronic Text at the Internet Medieval Sourcebook web site.


Text: We firmly believe and openly confess that there is only one true God, eternal and immense, omnipotent, unchangeable, incomprehensible, and ineffable, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; three Persons indeed but one essense, substance, or nature absolutely simple; the Father (proceeding) from no one, but the Son from the Father only, and the Holy Ghost equally from both, always without beginning and end. The Father begetting, the Son begotten, and the Holy Ghost proceeding; consubstantial and coequal, co-omnipotent and coeternal, the one principle of the universe, Creator of all things invisible and visible, spiritual and corporeal, who from the beginning of time and by His omnipotent power made from nothing creatures both spiritual and corporeal, angelic, namely, and mundane, and then human, as it were, common, composed of spirit and body. The devil and the other demons were indeed created by God good by nature but they became bad through themselves; man, however, sinned at the suggestion of the devil. This Holy Trinity in its common essense undivided and in personal properties divided, through Moses, the holy prophets, and other servants gave to the human race at the most opportune intervals of time the doctrine of salvation.

And finally, Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God made flesh by the entire Trinity, conceived with the co-operation of the Holy Ghost of Mary ever Virgin, made true man, composed of a rational soul and human flesh, one Person in two natures, pointed out more clearly the way of life. Who according to His divinity is immortal and impassable, according to His humanity was made passable and mortal, suffered on the cross for the salvation of the human race, and being dead descended into hell, rose from the dead, and ascended into heaven. But He descended in soul, arose in flesh, and ascended equally in both; He will come at the end of the world to judge the living and the dead and will render to the reprobate and to the elect according to their works. Who all shall rise with their own bodies which they now have that they may receive according to their merits, whether good or bad, the latter eternal punishment with the devil, the former eternal glory with Christ.

There is one Universal Church of the faithful, outside of which there is absolutely no salvation. In which there is the same priest and sacrifice, Jesus Christ, whose body and blood are truly contained in the sacrament of the altar under the forms of bread and wine; the bread being changed (transsubstantiatio) by divine power into the body, and the wine into the blood, so that to realize the mystery of unity we may receive of Him what He has received of us. And this sacrament no one can effect except the priest who has been duly ordained in accordance with the keys of the Church, which Jesus Christ Himself gave to the Apostles and their successors.

But the sacrament of baptism, which by the invocation of each Person of the Trinity, namely of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, is effected in water, duly conferred on children and adults in the form prescribed by the Church by anyone whatsoever, leads to salvation. And should anyone after the reception of baptism have fallen into sin, by true repentance he can always be restored. Not only virgins and those practicing chastity, but also those united in marriage, through the right faith and through works pleasing to God, can merit eternal salvation.


Text. We excommunicate and anathematize every heresy that raises against the holy, orthodox and Catholic faith which we have above explained; condemning all heretics under whatever names they may be known, for while they have different faces they are nevertheless bound to each other by their tails, since in all of them vanity is a common element. Those condemned, being handed over to the secular rulers of their bailiffs, let them be abandoned, to be punished with due justice, clerics being first degraded from their orders. As to the property of the condemned, if they are laymen, let it be confiscated; if clerics, let it be applied to the churches from which they received revenues. But those who are only suspected, due consideration being given to the nature of the suspicion and the character of the person, unless they prove their innocence by a proper defense, let them be anathematized and avoided by all 1-intil they have made suitable satisfaction; but if they have been under excommunication for one year, then let them be condemned as heretics. Secular authorities, whatever office they may hold, shall be admonished and induced and if necessary compelled by ecclesiastical censure, that as they wish to be esteemed and numbered among the faithful, so for the defense of the faith they ought publicly to take an oath that they will strive in good faith and to the best of their ability to exterminate in the territories subject to their jurisdiction all heretics pointed out by the Church; so that whenever anyone shall have assumed authority, whether spiritual or temporal, let him be bound to confirm this decree by oath. But if a temporal ruler, after having been requested and admonished by the Church, should neglect to cleanse his territory of this heretical foulness, let him be excommunicated by the metropolitan and the other bishops of the province. If he refuses to make satisfaction within a year, let the matter be made known to the supreme pontiff, that he may declare the ruler's vassals absolved from their allegiance and may offer the territory to be ruled lay Catholics, who on the extermination of the heretics may possess it without hindrance and preserve it in the purity of faith; the right, however, of the chief ruler is to be respected as long as he offers no obstacle in this matter and permits freedom of action. The same law is to be observed in regard to those who have no chief rulers (that is, are independent). Catholics who have girded themselves with the cross for the extermination of the heretics, shall enjoy the indulgences and privileges granted to those who go in defense of the Holy Land.

We decree that those who give credence to the teachings of the heretics, as well as those who receive, defend, and patronize them, are excommunicated; and we firmly declare that after any one of them has been branded with excommunication, if he has deliberately failed to make satisfaction within a year, let him incur ipso jure the stigma of infamy and let him not be admitted to public offices or deliberations, and let him not take part in the election of others to such offices or use his right to give testimony in a court of law. Let him also be intestable, that he may not have the free exercise of making a will, and let him be deprived of the right of inheritance. Let no one be urged to give an account to him in any matter, but let him be urged to give an account to others. If perchance he be a judge, let his decisions have no force, nor let any cause be brought to his attention. If he be an advocate, let his assistance by no means be sought. If a notary, let the instruments drawn up by him be considered worthless, for, the author being condemned, let them enjoy a similar fate. In all similar cases we command that the same be observed. If, however, he be a cleric, let him be deposed from every office and benefice, that the greater the fault the graver may be the punishment inflicted.

If any refuse to avoid such after they have been ostracized by the Church, let them be excommunicated till they have made suitable satisfaction. Clerics shall not give the sacraments of the Church to such pestilential people, nor shall they presume to give them Christian burial, or to receive their alms or offerings; otherwise they shall be deprived of their office, to which they may not be restored without a special indult of the Apostolic See. Similarly, all regulars, on whom also this punishment may be imposed, let their privileges be nullified in that diocese in which they have presumed to perpetrate such excesses.

But since some, under "the appearance of godliness, but denying the power thereof," as the Apostle says (II Tim. 3: 5), arrogate to themselves the authority to preach, as the same Apostle says: "How shall they preach unless they be sent?" (Rom. 10:15), all those prohibited or not sent, who, without the authority of the Apostolic See or of the Catholic bishop of the locality, shall presume to usurp the office of preaching either publicly or privately, shall be excommunicated and unless they amend, and the sooner the better, they shall be visited with a further suitable penalty. We add, moreover, that every archbishop or bishop should himself or through his archdeacon or some other suitable persons, twice or at least once a year make the rounds of his diocese in which report has it that heretics dwell, and there compel three or more men of good character or, if it should be deemed advisable, the entire neighborhood, to swear that if anyone know of the presence there of heretics or others holding secret assemblies, or differing from the common way of the faithful in faith and morals, they will make them known to the bishop. The latter shall then call together before him those accused, who, if they do not purge themselves of the matter of which they are accused, or if after the rejection of their error they lapse into their former wickedness, shall be canonically punished. But if any of them by damnable obstinacy should disapprove of the oath and should perchance be unwilling to swear, from this very fact let them be regarded as heretics.

We wish, therefore, and in virtue of obedience strictly command, that to carry out these instructions effectively the bishops exercise throughout their dioceses a scrupulous vigilance if they wish to escape canonical punishment. If from sufficient evidence it is apparent that a bishop is negligent or remiss in cleansing his diocese of the ferment of heretical wickedness, let him be deposed from the episcopal office and let another, who will and can confound heretical depravity, be substituted.


Summary. Those baptized by the Latins must not be rebaptized by the Greeks.

Text. Though we wish to favor and honor the Greeks who in our days are returning to the obedience of the Apostolic See by permitting them to retain their customs and rites in so far as the interests of God allow us, in those things, however, that are a danger to souls and derogatory to ecclesiastical propriety, we neither wish nor ought to submit to them. After the Church of the Greeks with some of her accomplices and supporters had severed herself from the obedience of the Apostolic See, to such an extent did the Greeks begin hating the Latins that among other things which they impiously committed derogatory to the Latins was this, that when Latin priests had celebrated upon their altars, they would not offer the sacrifice upon those altars till the altars had first been washed, as if by this they had been defiled. Also, those baptized by the Latins the Greeks rashly presume to rebaptize, and even till now, as we understand, there are some who do not hesitate to do this. Desirous, therefore, of removing such scandal from the Church of God, and advised by the holy council, we strictly command that they do not presume to do such things in the future, but conform themselves as obedient children to the Holy Roman Church, their mother, that there may be "one fold and one shepherd." If anyone shall presume to act contrary to this, let him be excommunicated and deposed from every office and ecclesiastical benefice.


Summary. The council approves the existing order of the patriarchal sees and affirm, three of their privileges: their bishops may confer the pallium and may have the cross borne before them, and appeals may be taken to them.

Text. Renewing the ancient privileges of the patriarchal sees, we decree with the approval of the holy and ecumenical council, that after the Roman Church, which by the will of God holds over all others pre-eminence of ordinary power as the mother and mistress of all the faithful, that of Constantinople shall hold first place, that of Alexandria second, that of Antioch third, and that of Jerusalem fourth, the dignity proper to each to be observed; so that after their bishops have received from the Roman pontiff the pallium, which is the distinguishing mark of the plenitude of the pontifical office, and have taken the oath of fidelity and obedience to him, they may also lawfully bestow the pallium upon their suffragans, receiving from them the canonical profession of faith for themselves, and for the Roman Church the pledge of obedience. They may have the standard of the cross borne before them everywhere, except in the city of Rome and wherever the supreme pontiff or his legate wearing the insignia of Apostolic dignity is present. In all provinces subject to their jurisdiction appeals may be taken to them when necessary, saving the appeals directed to the Apostolic See, which must be humbly respected.


SUMMARY Provincial synod, for the correction of abuses and the enforcement of canonical enactments must be held annually. To ensure this, reliable persons are to be appointed who will investigate such thin as need correction.

Text. In accordance with the ancient provisions of the holy Fathers, the metropolitans must not neglect to hold with their suffragans the annual provincial synods. In these they should be actuated with a genuine fear of God in correcting abuses and reforming morals, especially the morals of the clergy, familiarizing themselves anew with the canonical rules, particularly those that are enacted in this general council, that they may enforce their observance by imposing due punishment on transgressors. That this may be done more effectively, let them appoint in each and every diocese prudent and upright persons, who throughout the entire year shall informally and without any jurisdiction diligently investigate such things as need correction or reform and faithfully present them to the metropolitan, suffragans, and others in the following synod, so that they may give prudent consideration to these and other matters as circumstances demand; and in reference to those things that they decree, let them enforce observance, publishing the decisions in the episcopal synods to be held annually in each diocese. Whoever shall neglect to comply with this salutary statute, let him be suspended from his office and benefits till it shall please his superior to restore him.


Summary No custom or appeal shall hinder prelates from correcting abuses and reforming the morals of their subjects. If the chapter neglects to correct the excesses of the canons, it shall devolve upon the bishop to do so. Prelates shall not use this statute as means of pecuniary gain.

Text. By an irrefragable decree we ordain that prelates make a prudent and earnest effort to correct the excesses and reform the morals of their subjects, especially of the clergy, lest their blood be demanded at their hands. But that they may perform unhindered the duty of correction and reform, we decree that no custom or apeal shall stand in the way of their efforts, unless they shall have exceeded the form to be observed in such cases. The abuses, however, of the canons of the cathedral church, the correction of which has by custom belonged to the chapter, shall, in those churches in which such a custom has hitherto prevailed, by the advice or command of the bishop be corrected within a reasonable time specified by the bishop. Otherwise the bishop, having in mind the interests of God, opposition notwithstanding, shall not delay to correct them means of ecclesiastical censure according as the cura animarum demands. Nor shall he neglect to correct the excesses also of the other clerics (those assisting the canons) according as the cura animarum requires, due order, however, being observed in all things. If the canons without a manifest and reasonable cause, chiefly through contempt for the bishop, discontinue divine services, the bishop may, if he wishes, celebrate in the cathedral church, and on his complaint the metropolitan, as delegated by us in this matter, shall so punish them with ecclesiastical censure that for fear of a repetition of the punishment they will not presume to do such things in the future. Let the prelates of the churches, therefore, be diligently on their guard that they do not convert this salutary decree into a means of personal profit or other objectionable conduct, but let them enforce it earnestly and faithfully if they wish to escape canonical punishment, for in this matter the Apostolic See, on the authority of the Lord, will be most vigilant.


SUMMARY: Bishops who are unable to preach the word of God to the people are to provide suitable men to do it for them. They must see to it that the needs of the clergy so appointed are supplied, otherwise their work will prove a failure.

Text: Among other things that pertain to the salvation of the Christian people, the food of the word of God is above all necessary, because as the body is nourished by material food, so is the soul nourished by spiritual food, since "not in bread alone doth man live but in every word that proceedeth from the mouth of God" (Matt. 4: 4). It often happens that bishops, on account of their manifold duties or bodily infirmities, or because of hostile invasions or other reasons, to say nothing of lack of learning, which must be absolutely condemned in them and is not to be tolerated in the future, are themselves unable to minister the word of God to the people, especially in large and widespread dioceses. Wherefore we decree that bishops provide suitable men, powerful in work and word, to exercise with fruitful result the office of preaching; who in place of the bishops, since these cannot do it, diligently visiting the people committed to them, may instruct them by word and example. And when they are in need, let them be supplied with the necessities, lest for want of these they may be compelled to abandon their work at the very beginning. Wherefore we command that in cathedral churches as well as in conventual churches suitable men be appointed whom the bishops may use as coadjutors and assistants, not only in the office of preaching but also in hearing confessions, imposing penances, and in other matters that pertain to the salvation of souls. If anyone neglect to comply with this, he shall be subject to severe punishment.


SUMMARY In every cathedral church and other churches also that have sufficient means, a master is to be appointed to instruct gratis the clerics and poor students. The metropolitan church ought to have a theologian who shall teach the clergy whatever pertains to the cura animarum (i.e. care of souls).

Text. Since there are some who, on account of the lack of necessary means, are unable to acquire an education or to meet opportunities for perfecting themselves, the Third Lateran Council in a salutary decree provided that in every cathedral church a suitable benefice be assigned to a master who shall instruct gratis the clerics of that church and other poor students, by means of which benefice the material needs of the master might be relieved and to the students a way opened to knowledge. But, since in many churches this is not observed, we, confirming the aforesaid decree, add that, not only in every cathedral church but also in other churches where means are sufficient, a competent master be appointed by the prelate with his chapter, or elected by the greater and more discerning part of the chapter, who shall instruct gratis and to the best of his ability the clerics of those and other churches in the art of grammar and in other branches of knowledge. In addition to a master, let the metropolitan church have also a theologian, who shall instruct the priests and others in the Sacred Scriptures and in those things especially that pertain to the cura animarum. To each master let there be assigned by the chapter the revenue of one benefice, and to the theologian let as much be given by the metropolitan; not that they thereby become canons, but they shall enjoy the revenue only so long as they hold the office of instructor. If the metropolitan church cannot support two masters, then it shall provide for the theologian in the aforesaid manner, but for the one teaching grammar, let it see to it that a sufficiency is provided by another church of its city or diocese.


SUMMARY: Provincial chapters of regulars are to be held every three years. All not canonically impeded must-attend. The chapters to be under the guidance of two Cistercians, and careful attention is to be given to the reform of the order and to regular observance. Visitation of monasteries and nunneries. Ordinaries must strive to ref'orm monasteries and ward off molestation of them by lay officials.

Text: In every ecclesiastical province there shall be held every three years, saving the right of the diocesan ordinaries, a general chapter of abbots and of priors having no abbots, who have not been accustomed to celebrate such chapters. This shall be held in a monastery best adapted to this purpose and shall be attended by all who are not canonically impeded, with this restriction, however, that no one bring with him more than six horses and eight persons. In inaugurating this new arrangement, let two neighboring abbots of the Cistercian order be invited to give them counsel and opportune assistance, since among them the celebration of such chapters is of long standing. These two Cistercians shall without hindrance choose from those present two whom they consider the most competent, and these four shall preside over the entire chapter, so that no one of these four may assume the authority of leadership; should it become expedient, they may be changed by prudent deliberation. Such a chapter shall be celebrated for several consecutive days according the custom of the Cistercian order. During its deliberations careful attention is to be given to the reform of the order and to regular observance, and what has been enacted with the approval of the four shall be observed inviolably by all, excuses, contradictions, and appeals to the contrary notwithstanding. In each of these chapters the place for the holding of the following one is to be determined. All those in attendance, even if f or want of room many must occupy other houses, must live the vita communis and bear proportionately all common expenses. In the same chapter religious and prudent persons should be appointed who, in our name, shall visit every abbey in the province, not only of monks but also of nuns, according to a form prescribed for them, correcting and reforming those things that need correction and reform; so that, if they should know that the rector of a locality ought to be removed from office, let them make it known to his bishop, that he may procure his removal; but if he should neglect to do it, then the appointed visitors shall refer the matter to the attention of the Apostolic See. We wish and command that canons regular observe this according to their order. But if in this new arrangement a difficulty should arise which cannot be disposed of by the aforesaid persons, let it be referred without scandal to the judgment of the Apostolic See; in the meantime let the other things that have been accomplished by amicable deliberation be in. violably observed. Moreover, the diocesan ordinaries must strive so to reform the monasteries subject to them, that when the aforesaid visitors come to them they will find in them more that is worthy of commendation than of correction, taking special care lest the monasteries be oppressed by them with undue burdens. For, while we wish that the rights of the superiors be respected, we do not on that account wish that injury be sustained by inferiors. We strictly command diocesan bishops and persons attending the chapters, that with ecclesiastical censure-every appeal being denied-they restrain advocates, patrons, vicegerents, rulers, consuls, nobles, and soldiers, and all others, from molesting the monasteries either in persons or properties and if perchance these persons should so molest, let the aforesaid bishops and chapter members not neglect to compel these latter to make satisfaction, that the monasteries may serve Almighty

God more freely and peacefully.


SUMMARY: The founding of new religious orders is forbidden. New monasteries must accept a rule already approved. A monk may not reside in different monasteries nor may one abbot preside over several monasteries.

Text. Lest too great a diversity of religious orders lead to grave confusion in the Church of God, we strictly forbid anyone in the future to found a new order, but whoever should wish to enter an order, let him choose one already approved. Similarly, he who would wish to found a new monastery, must accept a rule already proved. We forbid also anyone to presume to be a monk in different monasteries (that is, belong to different monasteries), or that one abbot preside over several monasteries.


Summary: Clerics, especially those in sacred orders, shall live chastely and virtuously. Anyone suspended for incontinency who presumes to celebrate the divine mysteries shall be forever deposed.

Text: That the morals and general conduct of clerics may be better let all strive to live chastely and virtuously, particularly those in sacred orders, guarding against every vice of desire, especially that on account of which the anger of God came from heaven upon the children of unbelief, so that in the sight of Almighty God they may perform their duties with a pure heart and chaste body. But lest the facility to obtain pardon be an incentive to do wrong, we decree that whoever shall be found to indulge in the vice of incontinence, shall, in proportion to the gravity of his sin, be punished in accordance with the canonical statutes, which we command to be strictly and rigorously observed, so that he whom divine fear does not restrain from evil, may at least be withheld from sin by a temporal penalty. If therefore anyone suspended for this reason shall presume to celebrate the divine mysteries, let him not only be deprived of his ecclesiastical benefices but for this twofold offense let him be forever deposed. Prelates who dare support such in their iniquities, especially in view of money or other temporal advantages, shall be subject to a like punishment. But if those. who according to the practice of their country have not renounced the conjugal bond, fall by the vice of impurity, they are to be punished more severely, since they can use matrimony lawfully.


SUMMARY Clerics may neither pronounce nor execute a sentence of death. Nor may they act as judges in extreme criminal cases, or take pa in matters connected with judicial tests and ordeals.

Text. No cleric may pronounce a sentence of death, or execute such a sentence, or be present at its execution. If anyone in consequence of this prohibition (hujusmodi occasions statuti) should presume to inflict damage on churches or injury on ecclesiastical persons, let him be restrained by ecclesiastical censure. Nor may any cleric write or dictate letters destined for the execution of such a sentence. Wherefore, in the chanceries of the princes let this matter be committed to laymen and not to clerics. Neither may a cleric act as judge in the case of the Rotarrii, archers, or other men of this kind devoted to the shedding of blood. No subdeacon, deacon, or priest shall practice that part of surgery involving burning and cutting. Neither shall anyone in judicial tests or ordeals by hot or cold water or hot iron bestow any blessing; the earlier prohibitions in regard to dueling remain in force.


SUMMARY Everyone who has attained the age of reason is bound to confess his sins at least once a year to his own parish pastor with his permission to another, and to receive the Eucharist at least at Easter. A priest who reveals a sin confided to him in confession is to be deposed and relegated to a monastery for the remainder of his life.

Text. All the faithful of both sexes shall after they have reached the age of discretion faithfully confess all their sins at least once a year to their own (parish) priest and perform to the best of their ability the penance imposed, receiving reverently at least at Easter the sacrament of the Eucharist, unless perchance at the advice of their own priest they may for a good reason abstain for a time from its reception; otherwise they shall be cut off from the Church (excommunicated) during life and deprived of Christian burial in death. Wherefore, let this salutary decree be published frequently in the churches, that no one may find in the plea of ignorance a shadow of excuse. But if anyone for a good reason should wish to confess his sins to another priest, let him first seek and obtain permission from his own (parish) priest, since otherwise he (the other priest) cannot loose or bind him.

Let the priest be discreet and cautious that he may pour wine and oil into the wounds of the one injured after the manner of a skilful physician, carefully inquiring into the circumstances of the sinner and the sin, from the nature of which he may understand what kind of advice to give and what remedy to apply, making use of different experiments to heal the sick one. But let him exercise the greatest precaution that he does not in any degree by word, sign, or any other manner make known the sinner, but should he need more prudent counsel, let him seek it cautiously without any mention of the person. He who dares to reveal a sin confided to him in the tribunal of penance, we decree that he be not only deposed from the sacerdotal office but also relegated to a monastery of strict observance to do penance for the remainder of his life.


SUMMARY. Physicians of the body called to the bedside of the sick shall before all advise them to call for the physician of souls, so that, spiritual health being restored, bodily health will follow.

Text: Since bodily infirmity is sometimes caused by sin, the Lord saying to the sick man whom he had healed: "Go and sin no more, lest some worse thing happen to thee" (John 5: I4), we declare in the present decree and strictly command that when physicians of the body are called to the bedside of the sick, before all else they admonish them to call for the physician of souls, so that after spiritual health has been restored to them, the application of bodily medicine may be of greater benefit, for the cause being removed the effect will pass away. We publish this decree for the reason that some, when they are sick and are advised by the physician in the course of the sickness to attend to the salvation of their soul, give up all hope and yield more easily to the danger of death. If any .physician shall transgress this decree after it has been published by bishops, let him be cut off (arceatur) from the Church till he has made suitable satisfaction for his transgression. And since the soul id far more precious than the body, we forbid under penalty of anathema that a physician advise a patient to have recourse to sinful means for the recovery of bodily health.


SUMMARY Incompetent persons must not be promoted to the priesthood or given the direction of souls.

Text. Since the direction of souls is the art of arts, we strictly command that bishops, either themselves or through other qualified men, diligently prepare and instruct those to be elevated to the priesthood in the divine offices and in the proper administration of the sacraments of the Church. If in the future they presume to ordain ignorant and unformed men (a defect that can easily be discovered), we decree that both those ordaining and those ordained be subject to severe punishment. In the ordination of priests especially, it is better to have a few good ministers than many who are no good, for if the blind lead the blind both will fall into the pit (Matt. 15:14).


Summary. Clerics under no obligation to laymen in matters temporal are not bound to take an oath of fidelity to them.

Text. Some laymen (that is, princes) attempt to usurp too much of the divine right when they compel ecclesiastical persons who are under no obligation to them in matters temporal, to take an oath of fidelity to them. Wherefore, since according to the Apostle, "To the Lord the servant standeth or falleth" (Rom. 14: 4), we forbid by the authority of the sacred council that such clerics be forced by secular persons to take an oath of this kind.


Summary. Relics are not to be sold or put on exhibition, lest the people be deceived in regard to them. Seekers of alms are not to be admitted unless they can exhibit letters of the Apostolic See or of the bishops, and they may not preach anything not contained in the letters. On the occasion of the dedication of a-church, an indulgence of not more than one year may be granted; on the anniversary of the dedication-, it may not exceed forty days.

Text. From the fact that some expose for sale and exhibit promiscuously the relics of saints, great injury is sustained by the Christian religion. That this may not occur hereafter, we ordain in the present decree that in the future old relics may not be exhibited outside of a vessel or exposed for sale. And let no one presume to venerate publicly new ones unless they have been approved by the Roman pontiff. In the future prelates shall not permit those who come to their churches causa venerationis to be deceived by worthless fabrications or false documents as has been done in many places for the sake of gain. We forbid also that seekers (quaestores) of alms, some of whom, misrepresenting themselves, preach certain abuses, be admitted, unless they exhibit genuine letters either of the Apostolic See or of the diocesan bishop, in which case they may not preach anything to the people but what is contained in those letters. We give herewith a form which the Apostolic See commonly uses in granting such letters, that the diocesan bishops may model their own upon it . . . .


Summary. The sacraments must be administered freely. The bishops should exhort the people to retain pious customs.

Text. It has frequently come to the ears of the Apostolic See that some clerics demand and extort money for burials, nuptial blessings, and similar things, and, if perchance their cupidity is not given satisfaction, they fraudulently interpose fictitious impediments. On the other hand, some laymen, under the pretext of piety but really on heretical grounds, strive to suppress a laudable custom introduced by the pious devotion of the faithful in behalf of the church (that is, of giving freely something for ecclesiastical services rendered). Wherefore, we forbid that such evil exactions be made in these matters, and on the other hand command that pious customs be observed, decreeing that the sacraments of the Church be administered freely and that those who endeavor maliciously to change a laudable custom be restrained by the bishops of the locality when once the truth is known.

From H. J. Schroeder, Disciplinary Decrees of the General Councils: Text, Translation and Commentary, (St. Louis: B. Herder, 1937). pp. 236-296.

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(c)Paul Halsall Mar 1996

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