The Council of Trent
The Twenty-Fifth Session

The canons and decrees of the sacred
and oecumenical Council of Trent
Ed. and trans. J. Waterworth (London: Dolman, 1848), 232-89.

Hanover Historical Texts Project
Scanned by Hanover College students in 1995.
The page numbers of Waterworth's translation appear in brackets.

[Page 232]

Begun on the third, and terminated on the fourth, day of December, MDLXIII., being the ninth and last under the Sovereign Pontiff, Pius IV.


Whereas the Catholic Church, instructed by the Holy Ghost, has, from the sacred writings and the ancient tradition of the Fathers, taught, in sacred councils, and very recently in this oecumenical Synod, that there is a Purgatory, and that the souls there detained are helped by the suffrages of the faithful, [Page 233] but principally by the acceptable sacrifice of the altar; the holy Synod enjoins on bishops that they diligently endeavour that the sound doctrine concerning Purgatory, transmitted by the holy Fathers and sacred councils, be believed, maintained, taught, and every where proclaimed by the faithful of Christ. But let the more difficult and subtle questions, and which tend not to edification, and from which for the most part there is no increase of piety, be excluded from popular discourses before the uneducated multitude. In like manner, such things as are uncertain, or which labour under an appearance of error, let them not allow to be made public and treated of. While those things which tend to a certain kind of curiosity or superstition, or which savour of filthy lucre, let them prohibit as scandals and stumbling-blocks of the faithful. But let the bishops take care, that the suffrages of the faithful who are living, to wit the sacrifices of masses, prayers, alms, and other works of piety, which have been wont to be performed by the faithful for the other faithful departed, be piously and devoutly performed, in accordance with the institutes of the church; and that whatsoever is due on their behalf, from the endowments of testators, or in other way, be discharged, not in a perfunctory manner, but diligently and accurately, by the priests and ministers of the church, and others who are bound to render this (service).


The holy Synod enjoins on all bishops, and others who sustain the office and charge of teaching, that, agreeably to the usage of the Catholic and Apostolic Church, received from the primitive times of the Christian religion, and agreeably to the consent of the holy Fathers, and to the decrees of sacred Councils, they especially instruct the faithful diligently concerning the intercession and invocation of saints; the honour (paid) to [Page 234] relics; and the legitimate use of images: teaching them, that the saints, who reign together with Christ, offer up their own prayers to God for men; that it is good and useful suppliantly to invoke them, and to have recourse to their prayers, aid, (and) help for obtaining benefits from God, through His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who is our alone Redeemer and Saviour; but that they think impiously, who deny that the saints, who enjoy eternal happiness in heaven, are to be invocated; or who assert either that they do not pray for men; or, that the invocation of them to pray for each of us even in particular, is idolatry; or, that it is repugnant to the word of God; and is opposed to the honour of the one mediator of God and men, Christ Jesus; or, that it is foolish to supplicate, vocally, or mentally, those who reign in heaven. Also, that the holy bodies of holy martyrs, and of others now living with Christ,-which bodies were the living members of Christ, and the temple of the Holy Ghost, and which are by Him to be raised unto eternal life, and to be glorified,--are to be venerated by the faithful; through which (bodies) many benefits are bestowed by God on men; so that they who affirm that veneration and honour are not due to the relics of saints; or, that these, and other sacred monuments, are uselessly honoured by the faithful; and that the places dedicated to the memories of the saints are in vain visited with the view of obtaining their aid; are wholly to be condemned, as the Church has already long since condemned, and now also condemns them.

Moreover, that the images of Christ, of the Virgin Mother of God, and of the other saints, are to be had and retained particularly in temples, and that due honour and veneration are to be given them; not that any divinity, or virtue, is believed to be in them, on account of which they are to be worshipped; or that anything is to be asked of them; or, that trust is to be reposed in images, as was of old done by the Gentiles who placed [Page 235] their hope in idols; but because the honour which is shown them is referred to the prototypes which those images represent; in such wise that by the images which we kiss, and before which we uncover the head, and prostrate ourselves, we adore Christ; and we venerate the saints, whose similitude they bear: as, by the decrees of Councils, and especially of the second Synod of Nicaea, has been defined against the opponents of images.

And the bishops shall carefully teach this,-that, by means of the histories of the mysteries of our Redemption, portrayed by paintings or other representations, the people is instructed, and confirmed in (the habit of) remembering, and continually revolving in mind the articles of faith; as also that great profit is derived from all sacred images, not only because the people are thereby admonished of the benefits and gifts bestowed upon them by Christ, but also because the miracles which God has performed by means of the saints, and their salutary examples, are set before the eyes of the faithful; that so they may give God thanks for those things; may order their own lives and manners in imitation of the saints; and may be excited to adore and love God, and to cultivate piety. But if any one shall teach, or entertain sentiments, contrary to these decrees; let him be anathema.

And if any abuses have crept in amongst these holy and salutary observances, the holy Synod ardently desires that they be utterly abolished; in such wise that no images, (suggestive) of false doctrine, and furnishing occasion of dangerous error to the uneducated, be set up. And if at times, when expedient for the unlettered people; it happen that the facts and narratives of sacred Scripture are portrayed and represented; the people shall be taught, that not thereby is the Divinity represented, as though it could be seen by the eyes of the body, or be portrayed by colours or figures.

Moreover, in the invocation of saints, the veneration of relics, and the sacred use of images, every superstition shall be removed, all filthy lucre be abolished; finally, all lasciviousness be [Page 236] avoided; in such wise that figures shall not be painted or adorned with a beauty exciting to lust; nor the celebration of the saints, and the visitation of relics be by any perverted into revellings and drunkenness; as if festivals are celebrated to the honour of the saints by luxury and wantonness.

In fine, let so great care and diligence be used herein by bishops, as that there be nothing seen that is disorderly, or that is unbecomingly or confusedly arranged, nothing that is profane, nothing indecorous, seeing that holiness becometh the house of God.

And that these things may be the more faithfully observed, the holy Synod ordains, that no one be allowed to place, or cause to be placed, any unusual image, in any place, or church, howsoever exempted, except that image have been approved of by the bishop: also, that no new miracles are to be acknowledged, or new relics recognised, unless the said bishop has taken cognizance and approved thereof; who, as soon as he has obtained some certain information in regard to these matters, shall, after having taken the advice of theologians, and of other pious men, act therein as he shall judge to be consonant with truth and piety. But if any doubtful, or difficult abuse has to be extirpated; or, in fine, if any more grave question shall arise touching these matters, the bishop, before deciding the controversy, shall await the sentence of the metropolitan and of the bishops of the province, in a provincial Council; yet so, that nothing new, or that previously has not been usual in the Church, shall be resolved on, without having first consulted the most holy Roman Pontiff.


The same sacred and holy Synod, prosecuting the subject of reformation, has thought fit that the things following be ordained.

[Page 237]

All ReguIars shall order their lives in accordance with what is prescribed by the rule which they have professed; Superiors shall sedulously provide that this be done.

Forasmuch as the holy Synod is not ignorant how much splendour and utility accrue to the Church of God, from monasteries piously instituted and rightly administered; It has,--to the end that the ancient and regular discipline may be the more easily and promptly restored, where it has fallen away, and may be the more firmly maintained, where it has been preserved,--thought it necessary to enjoin, as by this decree It doth enjoin, that all Regulars, as well men, as women, shall order and regulate their lives in accordance with the requirements of the rule which they have professed; and above all that they shall faithfully observe whatsoever belongs to the perfection of their profession, such as the vows of obedience, poverty, and chastity, as also all other vows and precepts that may be peculiar to any rule or order, respectively appertaining to the essential character of each, and which regard the observance of a common mode of living, food, and dress. And all care and diligence shall be used by the Superiors, both in the general and in the provincial Chapters, and in their visitations, which they shall not omit to make in their proper seasons, that these things be not departed from; it being certain, that those things which belong to the substance of a regular life cannot be by them relaxed. For if those things which are the basis and the foundation of all regular discipline be not strictly preserved, the whole edifice must needs fall.

Property is wholly prohibited to Regulars.

For no Regular, therefore, whether man, or woman, shall it be lawful to possess, or hold as his own, or even in the name of [Page 238] the convent, any property moveable or immoveable, of what nature soever it may be, or in what way soever acquired; but the same shall be immediately delivered up to the Superior, and be incorporated with the convent. Nor shall it henceforth be lawful for Superiors to allow any real property to any Regular, not even by way of having the interest, or the use, the administration thereof, or in commendam. But the administration of the property of monasteries, or of convents, shall belong to the officers thereof only, removable at the will of their Superiors.

The Superiors shall allow the use of moveables, in such manner as that the furniture of their body shall be suitable to the state of poverty which they have professed; and there shall be nothing therein superfluous, but at the same time nothing shall be refused which is necessary for them. But should any one be discovered, or be proved, to possess anything in any other manner, he shall be deprived during two years of his active and passive voice, and also be punished in accordance with the constitutions of his own rule and order.

All Monasteries save those herein excepted, shall be able to possess real property: the number of persons therein to be determined by the amount of Income, or of Alms. No Monasteries, to be erected without the Bishop's leave.

The holy Synod permits that henceforth real property may be possessed by all monasteries and houses, both of men and women, and of mendicants, even by those who were forbidden by their constitutions to possess it, or who had not received permission to that effect by apostolic privilege,-with the exception, however, of the houses of the brethren of St. Francis (called) Capuchins, and those called Minor Observants: and if any of the aforesaid places, to which it has been granted by apostolic [Page 239] authority to possess such property, have been stripped thereof, It ordains that the same shall be wholly restored unto them. But, in the aforesaid monasteries amid houses, as well of men as of women, whether they possess, or do not possess, real property, such a number of inmates only shall be fixed upon and be for the future retained, as can be conveniently supported, either out of the proper revenues of those monasteries, or out of the customary alms; nor shall any such places be henceforth erected, without the permission of the bishop, in whose diocese they are to be erected, being first obtained.

A Regular shall not, without the permission of his Superior, either place himself at the service of another, or retire from his Monastery: when sent to a University for study he shall reside in a Monastery.

The holy Synod forbids, that any Regular, under the pretext of preaching, or lecturing, or of any other pious work, place himself at the service of any prelate, prince, university, community, or of any other person, or place, whatsoever, without permission from his own Superior; nor shall any privilege or faculty, obtained from others in regard hereof avail him anything. But should any one act contrary hereto, he shall be punished as disobedient, at the discretion of his Superior. Nor shall it be lawful for Regulars to withdraw from their own convents, even under the pretext of repairing to their own Superiors; unless they have been sent, or summoned, by them. And whoever shall be found to be without the order aforesaid in writing, shall be punished as a deserter from his Institute by the Ordinaries of the places. As to those who are sent to the universities for the sake of their studies, they shall dwell in convents only; otherwise they shall be proceeded against by the Ordinaries.

[Page 240]

Provision is made for the enclosure and safety of Nuns.

The holy Synod, renewing the constitution of Boniface VIII., which begins Periculoso, enjoins on all bishops, by the judgment of God to which It appeals, and under pain of eternal malediction, that, by their ordinary authority, in all monasteries subject to them, and in others, by the authority of the Apostolic See, they make it their especial care, that the enclosure of nuns be carefully restored, wheresoever it has been violated, and that it be preserved, wheresoever it has not been violated; repressing, by ecclesiastical censures and other penalties, without regarding any appeal whatsoever, the disobedient and gainsayers, and calling in for this end, if need be, the aid of the Secular arm. The holy Synod exhorts Christian princes to furnish this aid, and enjoins, under pain of excommunication, to be ipso facto incurred, that it be rendered by all civil magistrates. But for no nun, after her profession, shall it be lawful to go out of her convent, even for a brief period, under any pretext whatever, except for some lawful cause, which is to be approved of by the bishop; any indults and privileges whatsoever notwithstanding.

And it shall not be lawful for any one, of whatsoever birth, or condition, sex, or age, to enter within the enclosure of a nunnery, without the permission of the bishop, or of the Superior, obtained in writing, under the pain of excommunication to be ipso facto incurred. But the bishop, or the Superior ought to grant this permission in necessary cases only; nor shall any other person be able by any means to grant it, even by virtue of any faculty, or indult, already granted, or that may hereafter be granted. And forasmuch as those convents of nuns which are established outside the walls of a city or town, are exposed, often without any protection, to the robberies and other crimes of wicked men, the bishops and other Superiors shall, if they think it expedient, make it their care that the nuns be removed from those places to new or old convents within cities or popu-[Page 241]lous towns, calling in even, if need be, the aid of the Secular arm. As to those who hinder them or disobey, they shall by ecclesiastical censures compel them to submit.

Manner of choosing Regular Superiors.

In order that everything may be conducted uprightly and without fraud, in the election of all manner of superiors, temporary abbots, and other officers, and generals, and abbesses, and other superioresses, the holy Synod above all things strictly enjoins, that all the aforesaid ought to be chosen by secret voting, in such wise as that the names of the respective voters shall never be made known. Neither shall it, for the future, be lawful to appoint provincials, abbots, priors, or any other titularies whatsoever, for the purposes of an election that is to take place; nor to supply the place of the voices and suffrages of those who are absent. But should any one be elected contrary to the appointment of this decree, such election shall be invalid; and he who shall have allowed himself, for this object, to be created provincial, abbot, or prior, shall be from that time forth incapable of holding any offices whatsoever in that order; and any faculties that have been granted in this matter shall be looked upon as hereby abrogated; and should any others be granted for the time to come, they shall be regarded as surreptitious.

In what way, and what manner of, persons are to be chosen as Abbesses, or Superioresses by whatsoever other name; no one shall be appointed over two Nunneries.

No one shall be elected as abbess, or prioress,--or by whatsoever other name she who is appointed and placed over the [Page 242] rest, may be called,--who is less than forty years of age, and who has not passed eight of those years in a praiseworthy manner, after having made her profession. But should no one be found in the same convent with these qualifications, one may be elected out of another convent of the same order. But if the superior who presides over the election shall deem even this an inconvenience; with the consent of the bishop, or other superior, there may be one chosen from amongst those, in the same convent, who are beyond their thirtieth year, and who have, since their profession, passed at least five of those years in an upright manner. But no individual shall be set over two convents; and if any one is, in any way, in possession of two or more, she shall, retaining one, be compelled to resign the rest, within six months: but after that period, if she have not resigned, they shall be all ipso jure vacant. And he who presides at the election, whether it be the bishop, or other superior, shall not enter the enclosure of the monastery, but shall listen to, or receive the votes of each, at the little window in the gates. In other particulars, the constitution of each order, or convent, shall be observed.

In what manner the regulation of Monasteries, which have not ordinary Regular visitors, is to be proceeded with.

All monasteries which are not subject to general Chapters, or to bishops, and which have not their own ordinary Regular visitors, but have been accustomed to be governed under the immediate protection and direction of the Apostolic See, shall be bound, within a year from the end of the present Council, and thenceforth every third year, to form themselves into congregations, according to the form of the constitution of Innocent III., beginning In singulis, published in a general Council; [Page 243] and shall there depute certain Regulars to deliberate and ordain as to the mode and order of establishing the congregations aforesaid, and touching the statutes to be therein observed. But should they be negligent in these matters, it shall be lawful for the metropolitan, in whose province the aforesaid monasteries are situated, to convoke them for the above named purposes, as the delegate of the Apostolic See. But if there be not a sufficient number of monasteries, within the limits of one province, for the establishing of such congregation, the monasteries of two or three provinces may form one congregation. And when the said congregations have been established, the general Chapters thereof, and the presidents and visitors elected thereby, shall have the same authority over the monasteries of their own congregation, and over the Regulars dwelling therein, as other presidents and visitors have in other orders; and they shall be bound to visit frequently the monasteries of their own congregation, and to apply themselves to the reformation thereof; and to observe whatsoever things have been decreed in the sacred canons, and in this sacred Council. Also, if, at the instance of the metropolitan, they shall not take measures to execute the above, they shall be subjected to the bishops, in whose dioceses the places aforesaid are situated, as the delegates of the Apostolic See.

Convents of Nuns immediately subject to the Apostolic See shall be governed by the Bishops; but others, by those deputed in the General Chapters, or by other Regulars.

Those convents of nuns which are immediately subject to the Apostolic See, even those which are called by the name of Chapters of St. Peter, or of St. John, or by whatsoever other name they may be designated, shall be governed by the bishops, as the delegates of the Apostolic See; anything to the contrary notwithstanding. But those which are governed, by persons deputed in general Chapters, or by other Regulars, shall be left under their care and conduct.

[Page 244]

Nuns shall confess and communicate once a month; an extraordinary Confessor shall be assigned them by the Bishop. The Eucharist shall not be reserved within the enclosure of the Convent.

Bishops and other Superiors of convents of nuns, shall take particular care that the nuns be admonished, in their constitutions, to confess their sins, and to receive the most holy Eucharist, at least once a month, that so they may fortify themselves, by that salutary safeguard, resolutely to overcome all the assaults of the devil. But besides the ordinary confessor, the bishop and other superiors shall, twice or thrice a year, offer them an extraordinary one, whose duty it shall be to hear the confessions of all the nuns. But that the most holy body of Christ be kept within the choir, or the enclosure of the convent, and not in the public church, the holy Synod forbids it; any privilege or indult whatsoever notwithstanding.

In Monasteries, which are charged with the cure of the souls of laymen, they who exercise that cure shall be subject to the Bishop, and be by him previously examined, with certain exceptions.

In monasteries, or houses whether of men, or of women, which are charged with the cure of souls of other Secular persons besides those who belong to the household of those monasteries, or places; the individuals, whether Regulars or Seculars, who exercise that cure, shall be immediately subject, in what-[Page 245]soever pertains to the said cure and the administration of the sacraments, to the jurisdiction, visitation, and correction of the bishop in whose diocese those places are situated; nor shall any, not even such as are removable at pleasure, be deputed thereunto, save with the consent of the said bishop, and after having been previously examined by him, or by his vicar; the monastery of Cluny with its limits being excepted; and excepting also monasteries, or places, in which abbots, generals, or the heads of orders, have their usual principal residence; as also the other monasteries, or houses, in which the abbots, or other Superiors or Regulars, exercise episcopal and temporary jurisdiction over the parish priests and their parishioners; saving, however, the right of those bishops who exercise a greater jurisdiction over the places, or persons above-named.

Episcopal censures, and festivals appointed in the diocese, shall be observed even by Regulars.

Censures and interdicts,-not only those emanating from the Apostolic See, but also those promulgated by the Ordinaries,-shall, upon the bishop's mandate, be published and observed by Regulars in their churches. The festival days also which the said bishop shall order to be observed in his own diocese, shall be kept by all exempted persons, even though Regulars.

The Bishop shall settle disputes about precedency. Exempted persons, not living in the more strict enclosures, are obliged to attend at public Processions.

All disputes about precedence, which very often, with very great scandal, arise between ecclesiastics, both Secular and Regular, as well at public processions, as at those which take [Page 246] place in burying the dead, or carrying the canopy, and on other such occasions, the bishop shall settle, without regarding any appeal; anything to the contrary notwithstanding. And all exempted persons whatsoever, as well Secular as Regular clerics, and even monks, on being summoned to public processions, shall be obliged to attend; those only being excepted who always live in more strict enclosure.

By whom punishment is to be inflicted on a Regular who sins publicly.

A Regular who, not being subject to the bishop, and residing within the enclosure of a monastery, has out of that enclosure, transgressed so notoriously as to be a scandal to the people, shall, at the instance of the bishop, be severely punished by his own Superior, within such time as the bishop shall appoint; and the Superior shall certify to the bishop that the punishment has been inflicted: otherwise he shall be himself deprived of his office by his own Superior, and the delinquent may be punished by the bishop.

Profession shall not be made except after a year 's probation, and at the age of sixteen years completed.

In no religious order whatever, shall the profession, whether of men or women, be made before the age of sixteen years is completed; nor shall any one be admitted to profession, who has been less than a year under probation from the time of taking the habit. And any profession made sooner than this shall be null; and shall not superinduce any obligation to the observance of any rule, or of any religious body, or order; or entail any other effects whatsoever.

[Page 247]

Any renunciation made, or obligation entered into, previous to the two months' nearest Profession, shall be null. The probation ended, the Novices shall either be professed, or dismissed. In the Religious order of Clerks of the Society of Jesus nothing is innovated. No part of the property of a Novice shall be given to a Monastery before Profession.

Further, no renunciation made, or obligation entered into, sooner than this, even though upon oath, or in favour of any pious object whatsoever, shall be valid, unless it be made with permission of the bishop, or of his vicar, within the two months immediately preceding profession; and it shall not otherwise be understood as obtaining effect, unless the profession have followed thereupon: but if made in any other manner, even though with the express renunciation, even upon oath, of this privilege, it shall be invalid and of no effect. When the period of the noviciate is ended, the Superiors shall admit those novices, whom they have found qualified, to profession; or they shall dismiss them from the monastery.

By these things, however, the Synod does not intend to make any innovation, or prohibition, so as to hinder the Religious Order of Clerks of the Society of Jesus from being able to serve God and His church, in accordance with their pious institute, approved of by the holy Apostolic See.

Also, before the profession of a novice, whether male, or female, nothing shall be given to the monastery out of the property of the same, either by parents, relatives, or guardians under any pretext whatever, except for food and clothing, for [Page 248] the time that they are under probation; lest the said novice may be unable to leave on this account,--that the monastery is in possession of the whole, or of the greater part of his substance; and he may not easily be able to recover it, if he should leave. Yea rather the holy Synod enjoins, under the pain of anathema on the givers and receivers, that this be nowise done; and that, to those who leave before their profession, every thing that was theirs be restored to them. And the bishop shall, if need be, enforce by ecclesiastical censures that this be performed in a proper manner.

If a girl, who is more than twelve years of age, wish to take the Regular Habit, she shall be questioned by the Ordinary, and again before Profession.

The holy Synod, having in view the freedom of the profession on the part of virgins who are to be dedicated to God, ordains and decrees, that if a girl, being more than twelve years of age, desire to take the religious habit, she shall not take that habit, neither shall she, nor any other, at a later period, make her profession, until the bishop,--or, if he be absent, or hindered, his vicar, or some one deputed thereunto by them, and at their expense,--has carefully examined into the inclination of the virgin, whether she has been compelled or enticed thereunto, or knows what she is doing; and if her will be found to be pious and free, and she have the qualifications required by the rule of that convent and order; and if also the convent be a suitable one; it shall be free for her to make her profession. And that the bishop may not be in ignorance as to the time of profession, the Superioress of the convent shall be bound to give him notice thereof a month beforehand ; but if she do not acquaint him therewith, she shall be suspended from her office, for as long a period as the bishop shall think fit.

[Page 249]

No one shall, except in the cases by law expressed, compel a woman to enter a Monastery; or prevent her, if she desire to enter. The constitutions of the Penitents, or Convertites, shall all be preserved.

The holy Synod places under anathema all and singular those persons, of what quality or condition soever they may be, whether clerics or laymen, Seculars or Regulars, or with whatsoever dignity invested, who shall, in any way whatever, force any virgin, or widow, or any other woman whatsoever,--except in the cases provided for by law,--to enter a convent against her will, or to take the habit of any religious order, or to make her profession; as also all those who lend their counsel, aid, or countenance thereunto ; and those also who, knowing that she does not enter into the convent voluntarily, or voluntarily take the habit, or make her profession, shall, in any way, interfere in that act, by their presence, or consent, or authority.

It also subjects to a like anathema those who shall, in any way, without a just cause, hinder the holy wish of virgins, or other women, to take the veil, or make their vows. And all and singular those things which ought to be done before profession, or at the profession itself, shall be observed not only in convents subject to the bishop, but also in all others whatsoever. From the above, however, are excepted those women who are called penitents, or convertites; in whose regard their constitutions shall be observed.

How to proceed in cases of pretended invalidity of profession.

No Regular soever, who shall pretend that he entered into a religious order through compulsion and fear ; or shall even allege [Page 250] that he made his profession before the proper age; or the like; and would fain lay aside his habit, be the cause what it may; or would even withdraw with his habit without the permission of his superior; shall be listened to, unless it be within five years only from the day of his profession, and not then either, unless he has produced before his own superior, and the Ordinary, the reasons which he alleges. But if, before doing this, he has of his own accord laid aside his habit; he shall in no wise be admitted to allege any cause whatever; but shall be compelled to return to his monastery, and be punished as an apostate; and meanwhile he shall not have the benefit of any privilege of his order.

Also, no Regular shall, by virtue of any manner of faculty, be transferred to an order less rigid; nor shall permission be granted to any Regular to wear in secret the habit of his order.

Superiors of orders not subject to bishops shall visit and correct inferior Monasteries, even though held in commendam.

Abbots, who are heads of orders, and the other Superiors of the aforesaid orders, who are not subject to bishops, but have a lawful jurisdiction over other inferior monasteries, or priories, shall, each in his own place and order, visit officially the said monasteries and priories that are subject to them, even though held in commendam: which, for as much as they are subject to the heads of their own orders, the holy Synod declares that they are not to be included in what has been elsewhere decreed relative to the visitation of monasteries held in commendam ; and those who preside over monasteries of the orders aforesaid shall be bound to receive the above-named visitors, and to execute their orders.

Also, those monasteries themselves which are the heads of orders, shall be visited conformably to the constitutions of the holy Apostolic See, and of each several order. And so long as the said commendatary monasteries shall continue, there shall be appointed, by the general Chapters, or by the visitors of the [Page 251] said orders, priors claustral, or sub-prior in those priories that are conventual, who shall exercise spiritual authority, and correction. In all other things the privileges and faculties of the above-named orders, as regards the persons, places, and rights thereof, shall remain firm and inviolate.

Over Monasteries, Religious of that same order shall be appointed.

Whereas very many monasteries, even abbeys, priories, and provostries, have suffered no slight injury, both in spirituals and temporals, through the mal-administration of those to whom they have been entrusted, the holy Synod would fain by every means restore them to a discipline suitable to a monastic life. But the present state of the times is so fraught with hindrances and difficulties that a remedy can neither be applied at once to all, nor common to all places, as It could desire; nevertheless, that It may not omit anything which may in time be used in wholesomely providing against the evils aforesaid, It trusts in the first place, that the most holy Roman Pontiff will, of his piety and prudence, make it his care,-as far as he sees that the times will permit,--that over those monasteries which are at present held in commendam, and which are conventual, there be appointed Regulars, expressly professed of the same order, and capable of guiding and of governing the flock. And as to such as shall become vacant hereafter, they shall be conferred solely on Regulars of distinguished virtue and holiness. But as regards those monasteries which are the heads and chiefs of orders, be the filiations thereof called abbeys or priories, those who hold them at present in commendam shall be bound,-unless provision be made for a Regular successor thereunto,--[Page 252] either to make, within six months, a solemn profession of the religious life which is peculiar to the said orders, or to resign; otherwise the places aforesaid held in commendam shall be accounted ipso jure vacant. But, lest any fraud may be used as regards all and singular the aforesaid matters, the holy Synod ordains, that in the appointments to the said monasteries, the quality of each individual be specifically expressed; and any appointment made otherwise shall be accounted surreptitious, and shall not be rendered valid by any subsequent possession, even though extending over three years.

The Decrees touching the Reformation of Regulars shall be carried into execution at once by all.

The holy Synod enjoins, that all and singular the matters contained in the foregoing decrees be observed in all convents and monasteries, colleges, and houses of all monks and religious whatsoever, as also of all religious virgins and widows soever, even though living under the conduct of the military orders, of the order even (of St. John) of Jerusalem, and by what name soever they may be designated, under whatsoever rule or constitutions they may be, or under the care or government of, or in subjection to, union with, or dependence on, any order whatsoever, whether of mendicants, or not mendicants, or of other Regular monks, or canons of whatsoever kind : any privileges whatsoever of all and each of the above-named, under whatsoever form of words expressed, even those called mare magnum, even those obtained at their foundation, as also any constitutions and rules whatsoever, even though sworn to, and any customs, or prescriptions whatsoever, even though immemorial, to the contrary notwithstanding. But, if there be any Regulars, whether men or women, who are living under stricter rule or statutes, the holy Synod does not intend to withdraw them from their institute and observance, except as to the power of possessing real property in common. And forasmuch as the holy [Page 253] Synod desires that all and singular the things aforesaid be put in execution as soon as possible, It enjoins on all bishops that, in the monasteries which are subject to them, as also in all the rest specially committed to them in the preceding decrees; and on all abbots, and generals, and other Superiors of the above-named orders ; that they forthwith put in execution the matters aforesaid, and if there be anything which is not carried into execution, the provincial Councils shall remedy, and punish the negligence of the bishops ; and that of Regulars, their provincial and general Chapters ; and, in default of general Chapters, the provincial Councils shall, by deputing certain persons belonging to the same order, provide herein.

The holy Synod also exhorts all kings, princes, republics, and magistrates, and by virtue of holy obedience commands them, to vouchsafe to interpose, as often as requested, their help and authority in support of the aforesaid bishops, abbots, generals, and other superiors in the execution of the things comprised above, that so they may, without any hindrance, rightly execute the preceding matters to the praise of Almighty God.


Cardinals and all Prelates of the churches shall be content with modest furniture and a frugal table: they shall not enrich their relatives or domestics out of the property of the Church.

It is to be wished, that those who undertake the office of a bishop should understand what their portion is; and comprehend that they are called, not to their own convenience, not to riches or luxury, but to labours and cares for the glory of God. For it is not to be doubted, that the rest of the faithful [Page 254] also will be more easily excited to religion and innocence, if they shall see those who are set over them, not fixing their thoughts on the things of this world, but on the salvation of souls, and on their heavenly country. Wherefore the holy Synod, being minded that these things are of the greatest importance towards restoring ecclesiastical discipline, admonishes all bishops, that, often meditating thereon, they show themselves conformable to their office, by their actual deeds, and the actions of their lives; which is a kind of perpetual sermon; but above all that they so order their whole conversation, as that others may thence be able to derive examples of frugality, modesty, continency, and of that holy humility which so much recom mends us to God.

Wherefore, after the example of our fathers in the Council of Carthage, It not only orders that bishops be content with modest furniture, and a frugal table and diet, but that they also give heed that in the rest of their manner of living, and in their whole house, there be nothing seen that is alien from this holy institution, and which does not manifest simplicity, zeal towards God, and a contempt of vanities. Also, It wholly forbids them to strive to enrich their own kindred or domestics out of the revenues of the church: seeing that even the canons of the Apostles forbid them to give to their kindred the property of the church, which belongs to God; but if their kindred be poor, let them distribute to them thereof as poor, but not misapply, or waste, it for their sakes : yea, the holy Synod, with the utmost earnestness, admonishes them completely to lay aside all this human and carnal affection towards brothers, nephews and kindred, which is the seed-plot of many evils in the church. And what has been said of bishops, the same is not only to be observed by all who hold ecclesiastical benefices, whether Secular or Regular, each according to the nature of his rank, but the Synod decrees that it also regards the cardinals of the holy Roman Church ; for whereas, upon their advice to the most holy Roman Pontiff, the administration of the universal Church depends, it would seem to be a shame, if they did not at the same time shine so pre-eminent in virtue and in the discipline of their lives, as deservedly to draw upon themselves the eyes of all men.

[Page 255]

By whom individually the Decrees of the Council are to be solemnly received; and by whom a profession of faith is to be made.

The calamitousness of the times, and the malignity of the increasing heresies demand, that nothing be left undone which may seem in any wise capable of tending to the edification of the people, and to the defence of the Catholic faith. Wherefore the holy Synod enjoins on patriarchs, primates, archbishops, bishops, and all others, who, of right or custom, ought to be present at the provincial Council, that, in the very first provincial Synod that shall be held after the close of this Council, they publicly receive all and singular the things that have been defined and ordained by this holy Synod; as also that they promise and profess true obedience to the Sovereign Roman Pontiff; and at the same time publicly express their detestation of and anathematize all the heresies that have been condemned by the sacred canons and general councils, and especially by this same Synod. And henceforth, all those who shall be promoted to be patriarchs, primates, archbishops, and bishops, shall strictly observe the same in the first provincial Synod at which they shall be present. And should any one of all the aforesaid refuse, which God forbid, the bishops of the same province shall be bound, under pain of the divine indignation, at once to give notice thereof to the Sovereign Roman Pontiff, and shall meanwhile abstain from communion with that person. And all others, who now hold, or shall hereafter hold, ecclesiastical benefices, and whose duty it is to be present at the diocesan Synod, shall do and observe the same, as above set down, on the very first occasion that the synod shall be held, otherwise they shall be punished according to the form of the sacred canons. Moreover, all those to whom belong the charge, visitation, and reformation of universities and of (places of) general studies, shall diligently take care that the canons and decrees of this holy Synod be, by the said universities, wholly [Page 256] received; and that the masters, doctors, and others, in the said universities, interpret and teach those things which are of Catholic faith, in conformity therewith; and that at the beginning of each year they bind themselves by solemn oath to this procedure. And also if there be any other things that need correction and reformation in the universities aforesaid, they shall be reformed and regulated by those whom it regards, for the advancement of religion and of ecclesiastical discipline. But as regards those universities which are immediately under the protection of the Sovereign Pontiff, and are subject to his visitation, his Blessedness will take care that they be, by his delegates, wholesomely visited and reformed in the manner aforesaid, and as shall seem to him most advantageous.

The sword of excommunication is not to be rashly used: when an execution can be made on property or person, censures are to be abstained from: the civil magistrates shall not interfere herein.

Although the sword of excommunication is the very sinews of ecclesiastical discipline, and very salutary for keeping the people in their duty, yet it is to be used with sobriety and great circumspection; seeing that experience teaches, that if it be rashly or for slight causes wielded, it is more despised than feared, and produces ruin rather than safety. Wherefore, those excommunications, which, after certain admonitions, are wont to be issued with the view as it is termed, of causing a revelation, or on account of things that have been lost or stolen, shall be issued by no one whomsoever, but the bishop; and not then, otherwise than on account of some circumstance of no common kind which moves the mind of the bishop thereunto, after the cause has been by him diligently and very maturely weighed ; nor shall he be induced to grant the said excommunications by the authority of any Secular person whatever, even though a magistrate; but the whole shall be left to his own judgment and [Page 257] conscience, when, considering the circumstances, the place, the person, or the time, he shall himself judge that such are to be resolved on.

As regards judicial causes, it is enjoined on all ecclesiastical judges, of whatsoever dignity they may be, that, both during the proceedings, and in giving judgment, they abstain from ecclesiastical censures, or interdict, as often as an execution on the person or property can, in each stage of the process, be effected by them of their own proper authority ; but in civil causes, which in any way belong to the ecclesiastical court, it shall be lawful for them, if they judge it expedient, to proceed against all persons whatsoever, even laymen, and to terminate suits, by means of pecuniary fines, which, by the very fact of being levied, shall be assigned to the pious places there existing; or by distress upon the goods, or arrest of the person, to be made either by their own, or other officers; or even by deprivation of benefices, and other remedies at law. But if the execution cannot be made in this way, either upon the person, or goods, of the guilty, and there be contumacy towards the judge, he may then, in addition to the other penalties, smite them also with the sword of anathema, if he think fit.

In like manner in criminal causes, wherein an execution can as above be effected upon the person or goods, the judge shall abstain from censures ; but, if that execution cannot easily be made, it shall be lawful for the judge to employ the said spiritual sword against delinquents ; provided however the character of the offence so require, and after two monitions at least, and this by public notice. And it shall not be lawful for any civil magistrate, to prohibit an ecclesiastical judge from excommunicating any individual; or to command that he revoke an excomnunication that has been issued; under pretext that the things contained in the present decree have not been observed; whereas the cognizance hereof does not appertain to Seculars, but to ecclesiastics. And every excommunicated person, who, after the lawful monitions, does not repent, shall not only not be received to the sacraments, and to communion, and [Page 258] intercourse with the faithful, but, if, being bound with censures, he shall, with obdurate heart, remain for a year in the defilement thereof, he may even be proceeded against as suspected of heresy.

Where the number of Masses to be celebrated is excessive, Bishops, Abbots, and Generals, shall make such regulation as shall seem to them expedient.

It frequently happens, in divers churches, either that so great a number of masses is required to be celebrated on account of various legacies from persons deceased, that it is not possible to comply therewith on the particular days prescribed by the testators; or, that the alms left for the celebration thereof is so slight that it is not easy to find any one willing to undertake the duty; whereby the pious intentions of the testators are frustrated, and occasion is given for burthening the consciences of those who are concerned in the aforesaid obligations. The holy Synod, being desirous that these legacies for pious uses be satisfied in the most complete and useful manner possible, empowers bishops in diocesan Synod, and likewise abbots and generals of orders in their general Chapters, to ordain, in regard hereof, whatsoever in their consciences they shall, upon a diligent examination of the circumstances, judge to be most expedient for God's honour and worship, and the good of the churches, in those churches aforesaid which they shall find stand in need of some regulation in this matter, in such wise however that a commemoration be always made of the departed who, for the welfare of their souls, have left the said legacies for pious uses.

[Page 259]

The conditions and obligations imposed on Benefices shall be observed.

Reason requires, that, in regulations which have been well established, no alteration be made by any ordinances to the contrary. Whenever, therefore, by virtue of the erection or foundation of any benefices, or in consequence of other regulations, certain qualifications are required, or certain obligations are attached thereunto, they shall not be derogated from in the collation, or in any other arrangement whatsoever in regard of the said benefices. The same also shall be observed as to prebends assigned to teachers of theology, masters, doctors, priests, deacons, or subdeacons, whenever such prebends have been established in this manner, in such sort that, in no provision whatever shall anything be altered in regard of the said qualifications and orders ; and any provision made otherwise shall be accounted surreptitious.

In what manner the Bishop ought to act in regard of the visitation of exempted Chapters.

The holy Synod ordains that the decree, made under Paul III., of happy memory, beginning Capitula Cathedralium, shall be observed in all cathedral and collegiate churches, not only when the bishop makes his visitation, but also as often as he proceeds ex officio, or at the petition of another, against any one of those who are comprised in the said decree; yet so, however, that whenever he institutes proceedings out of visitation, all the particulars subjoined shall have place: to wit, that the Chapter shall, at the beginning of each year, select two individuals belong-[Page 260]ing to the Chapter, with whose counsel and consent the bishop, or his vicar, shall be bound to proceed, both in instituting the process, and in all the other acts thereof until the end of the cause inclusively,-in the presence, nevertheless, of the notary of the said bishop, and in the bishop's house, or his ordinary court of justice. The two deputies shall, however, have but one vote ; but either of them may give his vote in unison with that of the bishop. But if, as regards any proceeding, or as regards any interlocutory or definitive sentence, they shall both differ from the bishop, they shall in this case choose, in conjunction with the bishop, a third person, within the term of six days: and should they also not agree in the election of that third person, the choice shall devolve on the nearest bishop ; and the point whereon they differed shall be decided, in accordance with the opinion which that third person sides with; otherwise, the proceedings, and what follows thereupon, shall be null, and of no effect in law. Nevertheless, in crimes arising from incontinency, whereof mention has been made in the decree concerning concubinaries, as also in the more heinous crimes which require deposition or degradation; where flight is apprehended, and where, that judgment may not be eluded, it is necessary to secure the person, the bishop may at first proceed singly to a summary information, and to the necessary detention of the person; observing, however, in the rest of the proceedings, the order named above. But in all cases regard is to be paid to this, that the delinquents be kept in custody in a suitable place, according to the quality of the crime and of the persons. Moreover, there shall everywhere be rendered to bishops that honour which comports with their dignity; and in choir, in the chapter, in processions, and other public functions, they shall have the first seat, and the place which they shall themselves make choice of, and theirs shall be the chief authority in everything that is to be done.

If the bishops shall propose anything to the canons to be deliberated on, and the matter treated of be not one which [Page 261] regards any benefit to them or theirs, they shall themselves convoke the Chapter, take the votes, and decide according to them. But, in the absence of the bishop, this shall be wholly done by those of the Chapter, to whom of right or custom it appertains, nor shall the bishop's vicar be allowed to do it. But in all other things, the jurisdiction and power of the Chapter, if any there be belonging thereunto, as also the administration of their property, shall be left wholly unimpaired and untouched. As regards those who do not possess any dignities, and are not of the Chapter, they shall all be subject to the bishop in causes ecclesiastical; notwithstanding, as regards the things aforesaid, any privileges accruing even from any foundation; as also any customs, even though immemorial; any sentences, oaths, concordates, which bind the authors thereof only; saving, however, in all things those privileges which have been granted to universities for general studies, or to the persons who belong thereunto. But all and singular these things shall not have effect in those churches wherein the bishops, or their vicars, by virtue of constitutions, privileges, customs, concordates, or by any other right whatsoever, have a power, authority, and jurisdiction greater than that which is included in the present decree; from which (powers) the holy Synod does not intend to derogate.

The Access and Regress in regard of Benefices are done away with ; in what manner, to whom, and for what cause, a Coadjutor is to be granted.

Whereas, as regards ecclesiastical benefices, whatsoever carries with it the appearance of hereditary succession is a thing odious to the sacred constitutions, and contrary to the decrees of the Fathers; no Access or Regress, in regard of any ecclesiastical benefice of whatsoever quality, shall, even though by con-[Page 262]sent, be henceforth granted to any individual; nor shall those already granted be suspended, extended, or transferred. And this decree shall have effect in regard of all ecclesiastical benefices whatsoever, and even in cathedral churches, and as regards all manner of persons soever, even though distinguished with the honour of the cardinalate.

In like manner, as regards coadjutorships with future succession, the same shall henceforth be observed; (to wit) that they shall not be permitted to any one in regard of any ecclesiastical benefices whatsoever. But if at any time the urgent necessity, or the evident advantage of a cathedral church, or of a monastery, demands that a coajutor be granted to a prelate, such coadjutor with (the right of) future succession shall not otherwise be granted but after the said cause has been first diligently taken cognizance of by the most holy Roman Pontiff; and it is certain, that all those qualifications which, by law, and by the decrees of this holy Synod, are required in bishops and prelates, are reunited in his person; otherwise, the concessions made herein, shall be accounted surreptitious.

What is to be observed in regard to Hospitals. By whom, and in what manner, the negligence of administrators is to be punished.

The holy Synod admonishes all who hold any ecclesiastical benefices, whether Secular or Regular, to accustom themselves, as far as their revenues will allow, to exercise with alacrity and kindliness the office of hospitality, so frequently commended by the holy Fathers; being mindful that those who cherish hospitality receive Christ in (the person of) their guests. But as regards those who hold in commendam, or by way of administration, or under any other title whatsoever, or have even united to their own churches, the places commonly called hospitals, or other pious places instituted especially for the use of pilgrims, of the infirm, the aged or the poor; or, if the parish churches should happen to be united to hospitals, or have been turned [Page 263] into hospitals, and have been granted to the patrons thereof to be by them administered, the Synod strictly commands, that they execute the charge and duty imposed upon them, and that they actually exercise that hospitality, which is due at their hands, out of the fruits devoted to that purpose, pursuant to the constitution of the Council of Vienne, renewed elsewhere by this same holy Synod under Paul III., of happy memory, and which begins, Quia contingit. But if these hospitals were instituted to receive a certain class of pilgrims, or of infirm persons, or of others; and in the place where the said hospitals are situated, there are no such persons, or very few, to be found, It doth further command, that the fruits thereof be converted to some other pious use, the nearest that may be to their original destination, and the most useful for that time and place, as shall seem to be the most expedient to the Ordinary, aided by two of the Chapter, experienced in matters of business, to be chosen by him; unless it be that the contrary happen to be expressed, to meet even this case, in the foundation, or institution thereof; in which event, the bishop shall take care that what is ordained be observed, or, if that be not possible, he shall, as above, regulate the matter in a useful manner.

Wherefore, if all and singular the persons aforesaid, of whatsoever order, and religious body, and dignity they may be, be they even laymen, who have the administration of hospitals,--provided, however, they be not subject to Regulars where regular observance is in force,--shall, after having been admonished be the Ordinary, have ceased really to discharge the duty of hospitality, complying with all the necessary conditions to which they are bound, they may be compelled thereunto not only by ecclesiastical censures, and other remedies at law, but may also even be deprived for ever of the administration and care of the hospital itself; and others shall be substituted in their place, by those to whom this may belong. And the persons aforesaid shall, this notwithstanding, be bound in conscience to make restitution of the fruits which they have received contrary to the institution of the said hospitals; which restitution shall not be pardoned them by any remission or composition: nor shall the administration or government of such places be henceforth en-[Page 264]trusted to one and the same person longer than for three years, unless it be otherwise provided in the foundation thereof; notwithstanding, as regards all the above-named particulars, any union, exemption, and custom, even from time immemorial, to the contrary, or any privileges, or indults of whatever kind.

In what manner a right of patronage is to be proved, and to whom granted: what is not lawful for patrons. Unions of free benefices, to churches under right of patronage, prohibited. Rights of patronage, not legitimately obtained, are to be revoked.

Even as it is not just to take away the legitimate rights of patronage, and to violate the pious intentions of the faithful in the institution thereof, so also neither is it to be suffered, that, under this pretext, ecclesiastical benefices be reduced to a state of servitude, as by many is impudently done. In order, therefore, that what reason requires may be observed in all things, the holy Synod ordains, that the title to the right of patronage shall be (derived) from a foundation, or an endowment ; which (title) shall be shown from an authentic document, and the other (proofs) required by law; or, also, by repeated presentations during a period of time so remote that it exceeds the memory of man; or, otherwise, according as the law directs. But as regards those persons, or communities, or universities, which that right is for the most part presumed to have been obtained by usurpation rather than otherwise, a more full and exact proof shall be required to establish a true title; nor shall the proof derived from time immemorial be otherwise of avail in their regard, unless-besides other things necessary for that proof--presentations, even continuous, during the space of not less than fifty years, at the least, all of which presentations have been carried into effect, shall be proved from authentic writings. All other rights of patronage, in regard to benefices, as well Secular as Regular, or parochial, or in regard of dignities, or any other benefices whatsoever, in a cathedral or col-[Page 265]legiate church; as also all faculties and privileges, whether granted so as to have the force of patronage, or, by virtue of any other right whatsoever, to nominate, elect, present to the said benefices when they become vacant, excepting the rights of patronage belong to cathedral churches, and excepting such other (rights of patronage) as belong to the emperor, to kings. or to those who possess kingdoms, and to other high and supreme princes who have the rights of sovereignty within their own dominions, as also those (rights of patronage) which have been bestowed in favour of (places of) general studies, shall be understood to wholly abrogated and made void, together with the quasi-possession which has followed thereupon. And benefices of this kind shall be conferred, as being free, by those who collate thereunto; and such appointment shall have full effect.

Furthermore, it shall be lawful for the bishop to reject the persons whom the patrons have presented, if they be not fit. But if the institution belong to inferior (ecclesiastics), they (the presentees) shall nevertheless be examined by the bishop, pursuant to what has been elsewhere ordained by this holy Synod; otherwise the institution made by those inferiors shall be null and void.

But the patrons of benefices, of whatsoever order and dignity they may be, be they (the patrons) even communities, universities, or any colleges whatsoever whether of clerics or laymen, shall not in any way, nor for any manner of cause or occasion, meddle with the receiving of the fruits, rents, or revenues of any benefices whatsoever, even though those benefices be truly, by foundation or endowment, under their right of patronage; but shall leave them to the free disposal of the rector, or of the beneficiary, any custom whatever to the contrary notwithstanding. Nor shall they presume to transfer to others, contrary to the decrees of the canons, the said right of patronage, by sale, or under any other title whatsoever: if they act otherwise, they shall be subjected to the penalties of excommunication and interdict, and shall be ipso jure deprived of the aforesaid right itself of patronage. Moreover, those accessions made [Page 266] by way of union of free benefices with churches that are subject to the right of patronage, even of laymen, whether those churches be parochial, or benefices of any other kind whatsoever, even such as are simple, or are dignities, or hospitals, in such wise that the free benefices aforesaid are made to be of the same nature as those unto which they are united, and are placed under the (same) right of patronage; such (accessions), if they have not as yet been carried into full effect, as also such as shall henceforth be made, at the instance of any person whatsoever, by whatsoever authority, be it even apostolic, shall, together with the said unions themselves, be regarded as having been obtained surreptitiously; notwithstanding any form of words therein employed, or any derogation which may be held as equivalent to being expressed; nor shall such unions be any more carried into execution, but the benefices themselves so united shall, when vacant, be freely conferred as previously.

As regards those augmentations, which, having been made within the last forty years, have obtained their effect and a complete incorporation; such shall nevertheless be reviewed and examined by the Ordinaries, as the delegates of the Apostolic See; and those which shall be found to have been obtained by surreption, or obreption, shall, together with the unions, be declared invalid, and the benefices themselves shall be separated, and be conferred upon other persons.

In like manner also whatsoever rights of patronage,-over churches, and any other benefices of whatsoever kind, even dignities which were previously free,-which have been acquired within the last forty years, or that may henceforth be acquired, whether through an increase of the endowment, or in consequence of erecting the building afresh, or from some other like cause, even though with the authority of the Apostolic See, shall be carefully taken cognizance of by the said Ordinaries, as delegates as aforesaid; and they shall not be hindered by the faculties, or privileges of any individual in regard thereof; but they shall wholly revoke such rights of patronage as they [Page 267] shall find not to have been legitimately established on account of some most evident necessity of the church, or benefice, or dignity; and they shall restore benefices of this kind to their former state of liberty; without injury however to the incumbents thereof, and after having restored to the patrons whatsoever they may have given on this score; any privileges, constitutions, and customs, even though immemorial, notwithstanding.

Judges, unto whom causes may be committed by the Apostolie See, are to be nominated by the Synod: all judges shall terminate causes speedily.

Forasmuch as on account of the malicious suggestions of suitors, and at times also by reason of the distance of places, a knowledge of the persons to whom causes are committed cannot be perfectly obtained; and hence causes are sometimes referred to judges on the spot who are not altogether fit; the holy Synod ordains, that, in each provincial, or diocesan, Synod, there shall be designated certain persons who have the qualifications required by the constitution of Boniface VIII., which begins, Statutum, and who are otherwise suited thereunto; that, to them also, besides the Ordinaries of the places, may henceforth be committed those ecclesiastical and spiritual causes, belonging to the ecclesiastical court, which may have to be delegated to their districts. And if one of these so designated shall happen to die in the interim, the Ordinary of the place, with the advice of the Chapter, shall substitute another in his stead, until the next provincial or diocesan Synod; in such sort that each diocese shall have at least four, or even more, persons approved of and qualified as above, to whom causes of this nature may be committed by any legate, or nuncio, and even by the Apostolic See: otherwise, after the said designation has been made, which the bishops shall forthwith transmit to the Sovereign Roman Pontiff, any delegations whatsoever of other [Page 268] judges, made to any others but the above, shall be regarded as surreptitious.

The holy Synod furthermore admonishes both the Ordinaries and all other judges whatsoever to endeavour to terminate causes in as brief a period as possible; and to meet in every way, either by prescribing a given term, or by some other available method, the artifices of lawyers, whether in delaying the trial of the suit, or any other part of the judicial process.

Certain leases of Ecclesiastical Property or rights are prohibited; certain other such leases are annulled.

It ordinarily brings great ruin upon churches, when the property thereof is, to the prejudice of those who succeed, leased out to others upon the present payment of a sum of money. Wherefore, all leases of this kind, if made for payments in advance, shall be in no wise considered valid to the prejudice of those who succeed; any indult or privelege whatsoever notwithstanding; nor shall such leases be confirmed in the Roman court, or elsewhere. Neither shall it be lawful, to farm out ecclesiastical jurisdictions, or the faculties of nominating, or of deputing vicars in spirituals ; nor for the lessees to exercise the above in person or by others; and any grants to the contrary, even though made by the Apostolic See, shall be esteemed surreptitious. As to leases of ecclesiastiscal things, even though confirmed by apostolical authority, the holy Synod declares those to be invalid, which, having been made within the last thirty years, for a long term, or as they are designated in some districts, for twenty-nine, or for twice twenty-nine years, shall be judged by the provincial Synod, or by the deputies thereof, to have been contracted to the injury of the church, and contrary to the ordinances of the canons.

[Page 269]

Tithes to be paid in full: those withholding, or hindering, the payment thereof are to be excommunicated: the Rectors of Poor Churches are to be piously relieved.

Those are not to be borne who, by various artifices, endeavour to withhold the tithes accruing to the churches ; nor those who rashly take possession of, and apply to their own use, the tithes which have to be paid by others; whereas the payment of tithes is due to God; and they who refuse to pay them, or hinder those who give them, usurp the property of another. Wherefore, the holy Synod enjoins on all, of whatsoever rank and condition they be, to whom it belongs to pay tithes, that they henceforth pay in full the tithes, to which they are bound in law, to the cathedral church, or to whatsoever other churches, or persons, they are lawfully due. And they who either withhold them, or hinder them (from being paid), shall be excommunicated; nor be absolved from this crime, until after full restitution has been made. It further exhorts all and each, that, of their Christian charity, and the duty which they owe to their own pastors, they grudge not, out of the good things that are given them by God, to assist bountifully those bishops and parish priests who preside over the poorer churches; to the praise of God, and to maintain the dignity of their own pastors who watch for them.

The fourth of Funeral (dues) shall be paid to the Cathedral or Parish Churches.

The holy Synod ordains, that in whatsoever places, forty years ago, a fourth, as it is called, of funerals, was accustomed [Page 270] to be paid to the cathedral, or parish, church, but has subsequently, by virtue of whatsoever privilege, been granted to other monasteries, hospitals, or to any other kind of pious places; the same shall henceforth, with all its rights, and in the same proportion as was formerly usual, be paid to the cathedral or parish church; all grants, graces, privileges, even those called mare magnum, or any others whatsoever, to the contrary notwithstanding.

The manner of proceeding against Clerics who keep concubines is prescribed.

How shameful a thing, and how unworthy it is of the name of clerics who have devoted themselves to the service of God, to live in the filth of impurity, and unclean bondage, the thing itself doth testify, in the common scandal of all the faithful, and the extreme disgrace entailed on the clerical order. To the end, therefore, that the ministers of the Church may be recalled to that continency and integrity of life which becomes them; and that the people may hence learn to reverence them the more, that they know them to be more pure of life: the holy Synod forbids all clerics whatsoever to dare to keep concubines, or any other woman of whom any suspicion can exist, either in their own houses, or elsewhere, or to presume to have any intercourse with them : otherwise they shall be punished with the penalties imposed by the sacred canons, or by the statutes of the (several) churches, But if, after being admonished by their superiors, they shall not abstain from these women, they shall be ipso facto deprived of the third part of the fruits, rents, and proceeds of all their benefices whatsoever, and pensions; which third part shall be applied to the fabric of the church, or to some other pious place, at the discretion of the bishop. If, however, persisting in the same crime, with the same or some [Page 271] other woman, they shall not even yet have obeyed upon a second admonition, not only shall they thereupon forfeit all the fruits and proceeds of their benefices and pensions, which shall be applied to the places aforesaid, but they shall also be suspended from the administration of the benefices themselves, for as long a period as shall seem fit to the Ordinary, even as the delegate of the Apostolic See. And if, having been thus suspended, they nevertheless shall not put away those women, or, even if they shall have intercourse with them, then shall they be for ever deprived of their ecclesiastical benefices, portions, offices, and pensions of whatsoever kind, and be rendered thenceforth incapable and unworthy of any manner of honours, dignities, benefices and offices, until, after a manifest amendment of life, it shall seem good to their superiors, for a cause, to grant them a dispensation. But if, after having once put them away, they shall have dared to renew the interrupted connexion, or to take to themselves other scandalous women of this sort, they shall, in addition to the penalties aforesaid, be smitten with the sword of excommunication. Nor shall any appeal, or exemption, hinder or suspend the execution of the aforesaid; and the cognizance of all the matters above-named shall not belong to archdeacons, or deans, or other inferiors, but to the bishops themselves, who may proceed without the noise and the formalities of justice, and by the sole investigation of the truth of the fact.

As regards clerics who have not ecclesiastical benefices or pensions, they shall, according to the quality of their crime and contumacy, and their persistance therein, be punished, by the bishop himself, with imprisonment, suspension from their order, inability to obtain benefices, or in other ways, conformably with the sacred canons.

Bishops also, if, which God forbid, they abstain not from crime of this nature, and, upon being admonished by the provincial Synod, they do not amend, shall be ipso facto suspended; and, if they persist therein, they shall be reported by the said Synod to the most holy Roman Pontiff, who shall punish them according to the nature of their guilt, even with deprivation if need be.

[Page 272]

The illegitimate Sons of Clerics are excluded from certain Benefices and Pensions.

That the memory of paternal incontinency may be banished as far as possible from places consecrated to God, where purity and holiness are most especially beseeming; it shall not be lawful for the sons of clerics, not born in lawful wedlock, to hold, in those churches wherein their fathers have, or had, an ecclesiastical benefice, any benefice whatsoever, even though a different one; nor to minister in any way in the said churches; nor to have pensions out of the revenues of benefices which their fathers hold, or have aforetime held. And if a father and son shall be found, at this present time, to hold benefices in the same church; the son shall be compelled to resign his benefice, or to exchange it for another out of that church, within the space of three months, otherwise he shall be ipso jure deprived thereof; and any dispensation in regard of the aforesaid shall be accounted surreptitious. Moreover, any reciprocal resignations which shall from this time forth be made by fathers who are clerics in favour of their sons, that one may obtain the benefice of the other, shall be wholly regarded as made in fraudulent evasion of this decree, and of the ordinances of the canons; nor shall the collations that may have followed, by virtue of resignations of this kind, or of any other whatsoever made fraudulently, be of avail to the said sons of clerics.

Benefices with cure shall not be converted into simple Benefices: a suitable portion of the fruits shall be assigned to the Vicar who exercises the cure of souls.

The holy Synod ordains, that those Secular ecclesiastical benefices, by whatsoever name they may be called, which, by [Page 273] their original institution, or in any other way whatever, have the cure of souls, shall not henceforth be converted into a simple benefice, even though a suitable portion be assigned to a perpetual vicar; notwithstanding any graces whatsoever which have not obtained their full effect. But, as regards those benefices wherein, contrary to the institution or foundation thereof, the cure of souls has been transferred to a perpetual vicar, even though they be found to have been in this state from time immemorial, if a suitable portion of the fruits have not been assigned to the vicar of the church, by what name soever he may be designated, the same shall be assigned as soon as possible, and within a year at the furthest from the end of the present Council, at the discretion of the Ordinary; pursuant to the form of the decree made under Paul III., of happy memory. But if this cannot conveniently be done, or if it be not done, within the said term, as soon as the benefice shall be vacant, either by the resignation or death of the vicar, or rector, or in whatsoever way either of the above shall vacate it, it shall receive again the cure of souls; the name of vicarage cease; and it shall be restored to its ancient state.

Bishops shall maintain their dignity; nor conduct themseIves with unworthy servility towards the Ministers of Kings, towards Lords, or Barons.

The holy Synod cannot but sorely grieve at hearing that certain bishops, forgetful of their own estate, do in no slight manner disgrace the pontifical dignity; comporting themselves with an unseemly kind of servility, both in church and out of it, before the ministers of kings, nobles, and barons; and, as if they were inferior ministers of the altar, not only most unworthily give them place; but even serve them in person. Wherefore, the holy Synod, detesting this and the like behaviour, doth, by renewing all the sacred canons, the General Councils, and [Page 274] other apostolical ordinances, which relate to the decorum and authority of the episcopal dignity, enjoin, that henceforth bishops abstain from the like; charging them that, both in church and out of it, having before their eyes their own rank and order, they every where bear in mind that they are fathers and pastors; charging also others, as well princes, as all persons whatsoever, to pay them paternal honour and due reverence.

The Canons shall be exactly observed: if, at any time, a dispensation is to be granted in regard thereof, it shall be done with the most mature deliberation.

As it is expedient for the public good, to relax at times the restraint of law, thereby more completely to meet, for the common advantage, the cases and necessities which arise; even so, to dispense too often with the law, and to yield to petitioners on account of precedent, rather than upon any certain discrimination in regard of persons and circumstances, is nothing else but to open a way for each one to transgress the laws. Wherefore, be it known to all men, that the most sacred canons are to be exactly observed by all, and, as far as this is possible, without distinction. But if any urgent and just reason, and at times a greater good, shall require that some be dispensed with; this shall be granted, after the cause has been taken cognizance of, and after the most mature deliberation, and gratuitously, by all those soever to whom that dispensation appertains; and any dispensation granted otherwise shall be esteemed surreptitious.

Duelling is prohibited under the most severe penalties.

The detestable custom of duelling, introduced by the contrivance of the devil, that by the bloody death of the body, he [Page 275] may accomplish the ruin of the soul, shall be utterly exterminated from the Christian world. Any emperor, kings, dukes, princes, marquises, counts, and temporal lords by whatsoever other name entitled, who shall grant a place within their territories for single combat between Christians, shall be thereupon excommunicated, and shall be understood to be deprived of jurisdiction and dominion over any city, castle, or place, in or at which they have permitted the duel to take place, which they hold of the church ; and if those places be held as a fief they shall forthwith escheat to their direct lords.

As to the persons who have fought, and those who are called their seconds (sponsors), they shall incur the penalty of excommunication, and the confiscation of all their property, and of perpetual infamy, and are to be punished as homicides, according to the sacred canons; and if they have perished in the conflict itself, they shall be for ever deprived of ecclesiastical sepulture. Those also who have given counsel in the ease of a duel, whether for the question of right, or fact, or have in any other way whatever persuaded any one thereunto, as also the spectators thereof, shall be subjected to the bond of excommunication, and of a perpetual malediction ; any privilege soever, or evil custom, though immemorial, notwithstanding.

The Immunities, Liberty, and other Rights of the Church are recommended to Secular Princes.

The holy Synod being desirous that ecclesiastical discipline may not only be restored amongst the Christian people, but that it also may be for ever preserved sound and safe from all manner of adverse attempts; besides those things which It has ordained touching ecclesiastical persons, has thought fit, that Secular princes also be admonished of their duty; trusting that they,--as Catholics, whom God hath willed to be the protectors [Page 276] of holy faith and church,--will not only grant that to the church her own right be restored, but will also recall all their own subjects to due reverence towards the clergy, parish priests, and the superior orders; nor permit that their officers, or inferior magistrates, through any spirit of covetousness, or any heedlessness, violate that immunity of the church and of ecclesiastical persons, which, by the ordinance of God, and by the appointments of the canons has been established; but (see) that they render, conjointly with the princes themselves, due observance to the sacred constitutions of Sovereign Pontiffs and of Councils.

It ordains, therefore, and enjoins, that the sacred canons, and all the General Councils, as also all other apostolic ordinances, published in favour of ecclesiastical persons, of the liberty of the Church, and against the violators thereof,--all which It also renews by this present decree,--be exactly observed by all men. And for this cause It admonishes the emperor, kings, republics, princes, and all and each of whatsoever state and dignity they be, that, the more bountifully they are adorned with temporal goods, and with power over others, the more religiously should they respect whatsoever is of ecclesiastical right, as belonging especially to God, and as being under the cover of His protection; and that they suffer not such to be injured by any barons, nobles, governors, or other temporal lords, and above all by their own immediate officers; but punish those severely, who obstruct her liberty, immunity, and jurisdiction; being themselves an example to them in regard of piety, religion, and the protection of the churches, in imitation of those most excellent and religious princes their predecessors, who not only defended from all injury from others, but, by their authority and munificence, in a special manner advanced the interests of their own church. Wherefore let each one herein discharge his duty carefully ; that so the divine worship may be devoutly celebrated, and prelates and other clerics remain, quietly and without hindrances, in their own residences and in the discharge of their duties, to the profit and edification of the people.

[Page 277]

In all things the authority of the Aposto1ic See shall remain untouched.

Lastly, the holy Synod declares, that all and singular the things which, under whatsoever clauses and words, have been ordained in this sacred Council, in the matter of reformation of morals, and ecclesiastical discipline, as well under the Sovereign Pontiffs, Paul III., and Julius III., of happy memory, as under the most blessed Pius IV., have been so decreed, as that the authority of the Apostolic See both is, and is understood to be, untouched thereby


Whereas all those things which had to be treated of in the present Session cannot, because of the lateness of the hour, be conveniently despatched; therefore, according as was resolved on by the Fathers in general congregation, the things which remain are deferred till tomorrow, in continuation of this same Session.


On the fourth day of December.


Whereas the power of conferring Indulgences was granted by Christ to the Church; and she has, even in the most ancient times, used the said power, delivered unto her of God; the sacred holy Synod teaches, and enjoins, that the use of Indulgences, for the Christian people most salutary, and approved of [Page 278] by the authority of sacred Councils, is to be retained in the Church; and It condemns with anathema those who either assert, that they are useless; or who deny that there is in the Church the power of granting them. In granting them, however, It desires that, in accordance with the ancient and approved custom in the Church, moderation be observed; lest, by excessive facility, ecclesastical discipline be enervated. And being desirous that the abuses which have crept therein, and by occasion of which this honourable name of Indulgences is blasphemed by heretics, be amended and corrected, It ordains generally by this decree, that all evil gains for the obtaining thereof,--whence a most prolific cause of abuses amongst the Christian people has been derived,--be wholly abolished. But as regards the other abuses which have proceeded from superstition, ignorance, irreverence, or from what soever other source, since, by reason of the manifold corruptions in the places and provinces where the said abuses are committed, they cannot conveniently be specially prohibited; It commands all bishops, diligently to collect, each in his own church, all abuses of this nature, and to report them in the first provincial Synod; that, after having been reviewed by the opinions of the other bishops also, they may forthwith be referred to the Sovereign Roman Pontiff, by whose authority and prudence that which may be expedient for the universal Church will be ordained; that this the gift of holy Indulgences may be dispensed to all the faithful, piously, holily, and incorruptly.


The holy Synod furthermore exhorts, and, by the most holy advent of our Lord and Saviour, conjures all pastors, that, like good soldiers, they sedulously recommend to all the faithful all those things which the holy Roman Church, the mother and [Page 279] mistress of all churches, has ordained, as also those things which, as well in this Council, as in the other oecumenical Councils, have been ordained, and to use all diligence that they be observant of all thereof, and especially of those which tend to mortify the flesh, such as the choice of meats, and fasts ; as also those which serve to promote piety, such as the devout and religious celebration of festival days; often admonishing the people to obey those set over them (Heb. xiii. 17), whom they who hear, shall hear God as a rewarder, whereas they who contemn them, shall feel God himself as an avenger.


The sacred and holy Synod, in the second Session celebrated under our most holy lord, Pius IV., commissioned certain chosen Fathers to consider what ought to be done touching various censures, and books either suspected or pernicious, and to report thereon to the said holy Synod; hearing now that the finishing hand has been put to that labour by those Fathers, which, however, by reason of the variety and multitude of books cannot be distinctly and conveniently judged of by the holy Synod; It enjoins that whatsoever has been by them done shall be laid before the most holy Roman Pontiff, that it may be by his judgment and authority terminated and made public. And it commands that the same be done in regard of the Catechism, by the Fathers to whom that work was consigned, and as regards the missal and breviary.


The holy Synod declares, that, by the place assigned to ambassadors, as well Ecclesiastics as Seculars, whether in Session, procession, or in any other acts whatsoever, no prejudice has been created in regard of any amongst them; but that all their [Page 280] own rights and prerogatives, and those of their own emperor, kings, republics, and princes are uninjured and untouched, and continue in the same state as they were before the present Council.


So great has been the calamitousness of these times, and such the inveterate malice of the heretics, that there has been nothing ever so clear in our statement of faith, nothing so surely settled, which they, at the instigation of the enemy of the human race, have not defiled by some sort of error. For which cause the holy Synod hath made it Its especial care to condemn and anathematize the principal errors of the heretics of our time, and to deliver and teach the true and Catholic doctrine; even as It has condemned, and anathematized, and decreed.

And whereas so many bishops, summoned from the various provinces of the Christian world, cannot be absent for so long a time without great loss to the flock entrusted to them, and without universal danger ; and whereas no hope remains that the heretics, after being so often invited, even with the public faith which they desired, and after being so long expected, will come hither later; and it is therefore necessary to put an end at length to the sacred Council: it now remains for It to admonish in the Lord all princes, as It hereby does, so to afford their assistance as not to permit the things which it has decreed to be corrupted or violated by heretics; but that they be by them and all others devoutly received, and faithfully observed. And should any difficulty arise in regard of receiving those decrees, or should anything be met with, which it does not believe, requiring explanation or definition, the holy Synod trusts that, besides the other remedies appointed in this Council, the most blessed Roman Pontiff will make it his care that, for the glory of God and the tranquillity of the Church, the necessities of the provinces be provided for, either by summoning particularly out of the provinces where the difficulties shall have arisen, those [Page 281] persons whom he shall deem it expedient (to employ) in treating of the said matters; or even by the celebration of a general Council, if he judge it necessary; or in such other way as shall seem to him most suitable.


Forasmuch as, at divers times, as well under Paul III., as under Julius III., of happy memory, many things have, in this sacred Council, been ordained and defined touching dogmas and reformation of manners; the holy Synod wills that they be now recited and read.

They were recited.


Most illustrious lords and most reverend Fathers, doth it please you, that, to the praise of Almighty God, an end be put to this sacred oecumenical Synod? and that the confirmation of all and singular the things which have therein been decreed and defined, as well under the Roman Pontiffs, Paul III., and Julius III., of happy memory, as under our most holy lord Pius IV., be requested, in the name of this holy Synod, by the presidents, and the Legates of the Apostolic See, from the most blessed Roman Pontiff?

They answered: It pleaseth us.

Afterwards, the most illustrious and most reverend Cardinal Morone, the first Legate and President, blessing the holy Synod said: After having given thanks to God, most reverend Fathers, go in peace.

They answered: Amen.


The Cardinal of Lorraine. To the most blessed Pius, Pope, and our lord, pontiff of the holy and universal Church, many years and eternal memory.

Answer of the Fathers. O Lord God, do Thou very long preserve the most holy Father to thy church: for many years.

The Cardinal. To the souls of the most blessed Soveriegn Pontiffs, Paul III., and Julius III., by whose authority this sacred general Council was begun, peace from the Lord, and eternal glory, and happiness in the light of the saints.

Answer. Be their memory in benediction.

The Cardinal. Of the Emperor Charles the Fifth, and of the most serene kings, who have promoted and protected this universal Council, be the memory in benediction.

Answer. Amen, Amen.

The Cardinal. To the most serene Emperor Ferdinand, ever august, orthodox, and pacific, and to all our kings, republics, and princes, many years.

Answer. Preserve, O Lord, the pious and Christian emperor: Oh, Heavenly Emperor, protect earthly kings, the preservers of the right faith.

The Cardinal. To the Legates of the Apostolic Roman See, and presidents of this Synod, many thanks and many years.

Answer. Many thanks: the Lord reward them.

The Cardinal. To the most reverend cardinals, and most illustrious ambassadors.

Answer. Many thanks; many years.

The Cardinal. To the most holy bishops, life, and a happy return to their own churches.

Answer. To the heralds of truth perpetual memory; to the orthodox senate many years.

The Cardinal. The sacred and holy oecumenical Synod of Trent: let us confess the faith thereof; let us ever keep the decrees thereof.

Answer. Ever let us confess, ever keep.

[Page 283] The Cardinal. We all thus believe; we all think the very same ; we all, consenting and embracing (them), subscribe. This is the faith of blessed Peter, and of the apostles: this is the faith of the Fathers: This is the faith of the Orthodox.

Answer. Thus we believe; thus we think; thus we subscribe.

The Cardinal. To these decrees adhering may we be made worthy of the mercies and grace of the first and great supreme priest, Jesus Christ God; our inviolate Lady, the holy mother of God, also interceding, and all the saints.

Answer. So be it: so be it. Amen, Amen.

Cardinal. Anathema to all heretics.

Answer Anathema, anathema.

After this, it was enjoined on all the Fathers, by the Legates and presidents, under pain of excommunication, that, before departing from the city of Trent, they should subscribe with their own hand the decrees of the Council, or approve thereof by some public instrument; all of whom subsequently subscribed, and they were in number CCLV; to wit, four legates, two cardinals, three patriarchs, twenty-five archbishops, one hundred and sixty-eight bishops, seven abbots, thirty-nine proctors of absent (prelates) with lawful commission, seven generals.

Praise be to God.

It agrees with the original: in faith whereof we have subscribed:

I, Angelus MASSARELLI, bishop of Telesia, secretary of the sacred Council of Trent.
I, Marcus Antonius PEREGRINUS, of Como, notary of the said Council.
I, Cynthius PAMPHILUS, clerk of the diocese of Camerino, notary of the said Council.


We, Alexander di Farnese, cardinal-deacon of Saint Lawrence in Damaso, vice-chancellor of the holy Roman Church, [Page 284] do certify and attest, that, on this day, being Wednesday, the twenty-sixth of January, MDLXIV, in the fifth year of the pontificate of our most holy lord Pius IV., by the providence of God, Pope, the most reverend my lords, the cardinals Morone and Simonetta, lately returned from the sacred Council of Trent, whereat they had presided as Legates of the Apostolic See, did, in a secret consistory, held at St. Peter's, petition our said most holy lord as follows:

Most blessed Father; in a decree, concerning the closing of the oecumenical Council of Trent, published the day before the nones of December last, it was ordained, that, through the presidents and Legates of your Holiness, and of the holy Apostolic See, confirmation should be requested from your Holiness, in the name of the said Council, of all and singular the things which were therein decreed and defined, as well under Paul III., and Julius III., of happy memory, as under your Holiness. Wherefore, we, John, Cardinal Morone, and Louis, Cardinal Simonetta, who were then Legates and presidents, wishing to execute what was appointed in that decree, do humbly petition in the name of the said oecumenical Council of Trent, that your Holiness would vouchsafe to confirm all and singular the things which have therein been decreed and defined, as well under Paul III., and Julius III., of happy memory, as under your Holiness.

Upon hearing which, his Holiness, having looked at and read the tenour of the said decree, and having takein the advice of the most reverend lords, the cardinals, replied in these words : Acceding to the petition made to us, by the Legates aforesaid, in the name of the oecumenical Council of Trent, touching the confirmation thereof, We, with apostolic authority, and with the advice and assent of our venerable brethren the cardinals, having previously had a mature deliberation with them, do confirm all and singular the things which have been decreed and defined in the said Council, as well under Paul III., and Julius III., of happy memory, as during the time of our pontificate; and we [Page 285] command that the same be received and inviolably observed by all the faithful of Christ; In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.
So it is.

A. Cardinal FARNESE,


Pius, bishop, servant of the servants of God, for the perpetual memory hereof.

Blessed be the God, and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort, who hath vouchsafed to look down upon His holy Church, agitated and tossed by so many storms and tempests, and, whilst it was day by day more sorely distressed, hath at length brought relief thereunto by a suitable and wished-for remedy. To extirpate very many and most pernicious heresies, to correct manners, and to restore ecclesiastical discipline, to procure time peace and concord of the Christiain people, an oecumenical and general Council had been, a long time previously, indicted by our predecessor, Paul III., of pious memory, and had been begun by holding several Sessions. Having been, by his successor, recalled to the same city, the Council, after several Sessions had been celebrated, could not, on account of various impediments and difficulties which supervened, be even then brought to a conclusion: it was, therefore, for a long time interrupted, not without the greatest grief on the part of all persons of piety, whilst the Church daily more and more implored that remedy. But we, upon having entered upon the government of the Apostolic See, undertook to accomplish so necessary and salutary a work, even as our pastoral solicitude admonished us; [Page 286] trusting in the Divine Mercy, and aided by the pious zeal of our most beloved son in Christ, Ferdinand, Emperor elect of the Romans, and by that of other Christian kings, republics, and princes, we have at length attained to that which we have not ceased to labour after by daily and nightly watchfulness, and which we have assiduously besought of the Father of lights. For whereas a most numerous assembly of bishops and of other distinguished prelates, and one worthy of an oecumenical Council, had, upon being convoked by our letters, and impelled also by their own piety, been gathered together from all sides out of the nations of Christendom, at the said city; together with whom were very many other persons of piety, pre-eminent for skill in sacred letters, and knowledge of divine and human law; the Legates of the Apostolic See presiding in the said Synod; ourselves so favourable to the liberty of the Council, as even to have, by letters written to our Legates, voluntarily left the said Council free to determine concerning matters properly reserved to the Apostolic See; such things as remained to be treated of, defined, and ordained, touching the sacraments and other matters, which seemed to be necessary for confuting heresies, removing abuses, and amending morals, were by the sacred and holy Synod with the most perfect liberty and diligence, treated of, and accurately and most deliberately defined, explained, and ordained, which being completed, the Council was brought to a close with so great unanimity on the part of all who assisted thereat, that it was plain that such agreement was the Lord's doing, and it was very wonderful in our eyes, and those of all. For which so singular a bounty, We at once appointed solemn processions in this good city, which were assisted at with great piety by the clergy and people; and We made it our care that the thanksgivings so justly due should be paid to the divine majesty; forasmuch as the issue of that Council has brought with it a great and well nigh assured hope that greater fruits will day by day be derived unto the Church from the decrees and constitutions thereof.

[Page 287] And whereas the said holy Synod, in its reverence towards the Apostolic See, and following also in the traces of the ancient Councils, has, in a decree made thereon in public Session, requested of us the confirmation of all Its decrees, passed in our time and that of our predecessors; We, being made acquainted with the request of the said Synod, first by the letters of our Legates, then, upon their return, by what they diligently reported in the name of the Synod; after mature deliberation had thereon with our venerable brethren the cardinals of the holy Roman Church, and, above all, having invoked the assistance of the Holy Spirit; after that we had ascertained that all those decrees were Catholic, and useful and salutary to the Christian people, We, to the praise of Almighty God, with the advice and assent of our brethren aforesaid, have this day, in our secret consistory, confirmed by Apostolic authority all and singular those decrees, and have ordained that the same be received and observed by all the faithful of Christ; as also, for the clearer information of all men, We do, by the tenour of this letter, confirm them, and ordain that they be received and observed.

And, in virtue of holy obedience, and under the penalties by the sacred canons appointed, and others more grievous, even those of deprivaiton, to be inflicted at our discretion, We do also command all and each of our venerable brethren, the patriarchs, archbishops, bishops, and all other prelates whatsoever of the churches, of what estate, grade, order and dignity soever, they may be, even though distinguished with the honour of the cardinalate, diligently to observe the said decrees and statutes in their own churches, cities, and dioceses, both in their courts of justice and elsewhere, and to cause the same to be inviolably observed, each by his own subjects, in so far as they are in any way concerned therein; silencing gainsayers, and the refractory, by means of judicial sentences, and by the censures also and ecclesiastical penalties contained in the said decrees; calling in also, if need be, the help of the secular arm. And, by the bowels of the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, We admonish and conjure our said most beloved son the emperor elect, and the Christian kings, republics, and princes, with that piety with which they assisted, by their ambassadors, at the Council, with [Page 288] the same piety and equal zeal, for the sake of God's honour, and the salvation of their people, in reverence also towards the Apostolic See, and the sacred Synod, to support, when needful, with their assistance and countenance, the prelates in executing and observing the decrees of the said Council ; and not to permit opinions adverse to the sound and salutary doctrine of the Council to be received by the people who are under their sway, but utterly to interdict such.

Furthermore, in order to avoid the perversion and confusion which might arise, if each one were allowed, as he might think fit, to publish his own commentaries and interpretations on the decrees of the Council ; We, by apostolic authority, forbid all men, as well ecclesiastics, of whatsoever order, condition, and rank they may be, as also laymen, with whatsoever honor and power invested ; prelates, to wit, under pain of being interdicted from entering the church, and all others whomsoever they be, under pain of excommunication incurred by the fact, to presume, without our authority to publish, in any form, any commentaries, glosses, annotations, scholia, or any kind of interpretation whatsoever of the decrees of the said Council ; or to settle anything in regard thereof, under any plea whatsoever, even under pretext of greater corroboration of the decrees, or the more perfect execution thereof, or under any other colour whatsoever. But if anything therein shall seem to any one to have been expressed and ordained in an obscure manner, and it shall appear to stand in need on that account of an interpretation or decision, let him Go up to the place which the Lord hath chosen; to wit, to the Apostolic See, the mistress of all the faithful, whose authority the holy Synod also has so reverently acknowledged. For, if any difficulties and controversies shall arise in regard of the said decrees, We reserve them to be by Us cleared up and decided, even as the holy Synod has Itself in like manner decreed ; being prepared, as that Synod has justly expressed Its confidence in regard to Us, to provide for the necessities of all the provinces, in such manner as shall [Page 289] seem to Us most suitable; declaring that whatsoever may be attempted to the contrary in this matter, whether wittingly or unwittingly, by any one, by what authority soever, is, notwithstanding, null and void. And that these things may come to the knowledge of all men, and that no one may use the excuse of ignorance; We will and ordain, that, in the Vatican Basilica of the prince of the apostles, and in the Lateran church, at the time when the people is wont to assemble there to be present at the solemnization of masses, this letter be publicly read in a loud voice by certain officers of our court; and that, after having been read, it be affixed to the doors of those churches, and also to the gates of the Apostolic Chancery, and to the usual place in the Campo di Fiore; and be there left for some time, to be read by and to come to the knowledge of all men. And when removed thence, copies being, according to custom, left in those same places, it shall be committed to the press in our good city, that so it may be more conveniently made known throughout the provinces and kingdoms of the Christian name. And we ordain and decree, that, without any doubt, faith be given to copies thereof written or subscribed by the hand of a public notary, and guaranteed by the seal and signature of some person constituted in ecclesiastical dignity. Let no one, therefore, infringe this our letter of confirmation, monition, inhibition, reservation, will, mandate, and decree, or with rash daring go contrary thereunto. But if any one shall presume to attempt this, let him know that he will incur the indignation of Almighty God, and of His blessed Apostles, Peter and Paul. Given at Rome, at Saint Peter's, in the year of the Lord's Incarnation One thousand five hundred and sixty-four, on the seventh of the calends of February, in the fifth year of our pontificate.

The Council of Trent
Hanover Historical Texts Project
Hanover College Department of History