Canons and Decrees of the Council of Trent/Second Part/Condemnation of the Errors of Wickliff, Hus, and Luther




Chapters (not listed in original)

The sacred and holy Synod of Constance, holding a general council, and representing the Catholic Church, &c.

For the perpetual memory thereof.

The Catholic Faith, &c. The following are the articles of John Wickliff. 1. The substance of the material bread, and in like manner the substance of the material wine, remain in the sacrament of the altar. 2. The accidents of bread do not remain without a subject in the same sacrament. 3. Christ is not in the same sacrament, identically and really in his own corporal presence. 4. If a bishop or priest be in mortal sin, he does not ordain, he does not consecrate, he does not effectually celebrate [the Lord's Supper], he does not baptize. 5. It is not founded in the gospel that Christ ordained the mass. 6. God ought to obey the devil. 7. If man were duly contrite, all exterior confession is superfluous and useless. 8. If the Pope is a reprobate and evil, and consequently a member of the devil, he has not power given him by any one over the faithful, unless perhaps by Cæsar. 9. After Urban VI. no man is to be admitted as Pope, but we must live after the manner of the Greeks under our own laws. 10. It is contrary to holy Scripture, that ecclesiastical persons should have possessions. 11. No prelate ought to excommunicate any person, unless he first knows that he has been excommunicated by God; and let him who so excommunicates be thereby a heretic, and excommunicated. 12. A prelate excommunicating a clerk, who has appealed to the king or the council of the kingdom, is by that very fact a traitor to the king and kingdom. 13. They who discontinue to preach or hear the word of God on account of the excommunication of men, are excommunicated, and in the judgment of God will be deemed traitors to Christ. 14. It is lawful for any deacon or priest to preach the word of God without the authority of the Apostolic See or Catholic bishop. 15. There is no civil master, no prelate, no bishop, whilst one is in mortal sin. 16. Temporal masters can take away at pleasure temporal goods from the Church, those in possession habitually offending, i. e. offending from habit, not from act merely. 17. Subjects can, according to their pleasure, correct their masters when offending. 18. Tithes are pure alms, and parishioners can take them away at pleasure, on account of the sins of their prelates. 19. Special prayers applied to one person by prelates or religious persons are not more profitable to the same than general prayers, cæteris paribus. 20. He who confers alms on brethren is excommunicated by that very fact. 21. If any one enter any private religious order soever, as well of persons possessing property as of mendicants, he is rendered the more unfit and inapt for observing the commands of God. 22. The saints founding private religions sinned in so founding. 23. Religious persons living in private religions are not of the Christian religion. 24. Brethren are bound to acquire a livelihood by the labour of the hands, and not by mendicancy. 25. All are simonists who bind themselves to pray for others who relieve them in temporals. 26. The prayer of a reprobate avails no one. 27. All things happen from absolute necessity. 28. The confirmation of the young, the ordination of the clergy, the consecration of places, are reserved for the Pope and bishops, through the desire of temporal lucre and honour. 29. Universities, studies, colleges, graduations, masteries in the same, are introduced by vain gentility; they only profit the Church as the devil does. 30. The excommunication of the Pope, or of any prelate soever, is not to be dreaded, because it is the censure of antichrist. 31. Those founding cloisters sin, and those entering are diabolical men. 32. To enrich the clergy is contrary to the rule of Christ. 33. Pope Silvester and the Emperor Constantine erred in endowing the Church. 34. All of the order of mendicants are heretics, and those giving them alms are excommunicated. 35. Those entering religion, or any order, are by the very fact unfit to observe the divine precepts, and consequently to reach the kingdom of heaven, unless they shall have apostatized from the same. 36. The Pope with all his clergy holding possessions are heretics in this, that they hold possessions, as also are those consenting to them, all secular princes forsooth, and the rest of the laity. 37. The Roman Church is the synagogue of Satan; nor is the Pope the next and immediate vicar of Christ and of the apostles. 38. The decretals of the Church are apocryphal, and seduce from the faith of Christ; and the clergy are fools who study them. 39. The emperor and secular princes were seduced by the devil to endow the Church with temporal goods. 40. The election of the Pope by the cardinals was introduced by the devil. 41. It is not necessary to salvation to believe that the Roman Church is supreme amongst other churches. 42. It is silly to put confidence in the indulgences of the Pope and of bishops. 43. Oaths are unlawful which are intended to strengthen human contracts and civil intercourse. 44. Augustin, Benedict, and Bernard, were damned if they did not repent of their having had possessions, and of having instituted and entered religions;[1] and thus, from the Pope to the last religious, all are heretics. 45. All religions were introduced indifferently by the devil. End of the Articles of Wickliff.

And the same John Wickliff composed books, named a Dialogue and Trialogue, by himself, and several other tracts, volumes, and minor works, in which he inserted, and dogmatically set down, certain proscribed articles, and several other damnable ones, &c. These again having been brought to the knowledge of the Apostolic See, and of the general council, the Roman Pontiff (Johannes XXIII. in obedience to it), in the last Roman Council held, condemned the aforesaid books, tracts, and minor works. But this sacred synod caused the forty-five articles aforesaid to be examined, and frequently to be reviewed by several most reverend fathers of the Roman Church, cardinals, bishops, abbots, masters in theology, doctors of both laws, and several deserving of notice in a numerous multitude; which articles having been examined, it was discovered, as it is in truth, that some and several of them had been and were notoriously heretical, and long since reprobated by the holy fathers; that others were not catholic, but erroneous; others scandalous and blasphemous; some offensive to pious ears; some of them rash and seditious. It has even been ascertained, that his book contains several other articles of similar qualities, and that they introduced in the Church of God a doctrine that was frantic,[2] and inimical to faith and morals. On this account, this sacred synod, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, ratifying and approving the sentences of the above-mentioned archbishops and of the Roman Council, by this perpetual decree reprobates and condemns the aforesaid articles, and each and every one of them, the books of the same, named by the same John Wickliff Dialogue and Trialogue, and other books of the same author, volumes, tracts, and minor works, by what name soever they may pass, which it here wishes to be held as being sufficiently expressed.

But, because the aforesaid books having been carefully examined by the doctors and masters of the University of Oxford, beyond the forty-five articles above mentioned, they have collected two hundred and sixty articles exclusive of them, some of which coincide in sentiment with the above-mentioned, though not in the same form of words, and as has been above said of others, some of them were and are heretical, some seditious,[3] some erroneous, some rash, some scandalous, others insane, and also almost all contrary to good morals and Catholic truth, were for that reason reprobated scholastically and duly by the aforesaid university. This sacred synod accordingly, with the deliberation above mentioned, reprobates and condemns the aforesaid articles, and each and every one of them, prohibiting, commanding, enjoining, and decreeing, as regarding the forty-five others. The tenor of the same two hundred and sixty articles we considered should be inserted below. The series however, of these articles does not appear in the collection of the councils.

The sacred and holy General Synod of Constance, representing the Catholic Church, lawfully assembled in the Holy Spirit, for the perpetual memory thereof.

Quia teste veritate, etc. Wherefore plenary information having been first had regarding the preceding matters, and by a careful deliberation of the most reverend Lords Fathers in Christ, or Cardinals of the Foman Church, Satriarchs, archbishops, bishops, and other prelates, and doctors of the sacred page, and of both laws, in a numerous crowd, this sacred Synod of Constance declares and defines, that the articles below written,—which, a collation being made by several masters in the sacred page, were found to be contained in his books and works written with his own hand, and which also the same John Hub, in a public audience before the fathers and prelates of this sacred council, confessed to be contained in his books and works,—are not catholic, nor to be set down as such, but that several of them are erroneous, others scandalous, some offensive to pious ears, and several of them rash and seditious, and some of the same to be notoriously heretical, and long since reprobated and condemned by the holy fathers and general councils ..........

But whereas the articles written beneath are expressly contained in his books or tracts, viz., in the book which he entitles "on the Church," and in other works of his, for this reason the above-mentioned books, and doctrine, and each of the other tracts and works published by him in the Latin or common Bohemian dialects, this sacred synod reprobates and condemns, decides and defines that they be burned publicly and solemnly in the presence of the clergy and people in the state of Constance and elsewhere peremptorily commands, that diligent inquiry be made through the ordinary of the place, after such tracts and works with ecclesiastical censure, also, if it shall be necessary, with the addition of a penalty, and of a leaning to heresy, and that when found they be burned publicly in the flames.

Considering the measures adopted in the case of heresy against the aforesaid John Hus the sacred and holy synod pronounces, decrees, and declares, that the aforesaid John Hus had been and is a real and manifested heretic ......


1. There is one holy Universal Church, which is the whole body of the predestined. 2. Paul never was a member of the devil, though he may have done some acts similar to the acts of the malignants of the Church. 3. The prescite are not parts of the Church, since no part of it will finally fall off from it, because the charity of predestination, which binds it, will not fall off. 4. Two natures, divinity and humanity, are one Christ. 5. The prescitus, though he is sometimes in grace according to present justice, yet is never part of the Church, and the predestined always remains a member of the Church, although he may sometimes fall away from adventitious grace, but not from the grace of predestination. 6. Taking the Church for the convocation of the predestined, whether they be in grace or not according to present righteousness, in that way the Church is an article of faith. 7. Peter is not nor was he head or the holy Catholic Church. 8. Priests living criminally in any way soever pollute the power of the priesthood, and so as unfaithful sons think unfaithfuly of the seven sacraments of the Church, of the keys, offices, censures, morals, ceremonies, and sacred things of the Church, veneration of relics, indulgences, and orders. 9. The papal dignity derived its strength from Cæsar, and the full establishment and institution of the Pope emanated from the power of Cæsar. 10. Noone without a revelation could assert reasonably of himself, or of another, that he was head of a particular church. 11. It would not be fitting to believe that he, whoever is Roman pontiff, is the head of any particular holy church soever, unless God predestined him. 12. No one acts as vicar to Christ or Peter, unless he follows him in morals, since no other appendage is more pertinent, nor can he otherwise receive from God the vice-gerent power, because for that office a vicarship and conformity of morals is required, and the authority of an instituent. 13. The Pope is not the true and manifest successor of Peter, prince of the apostles . . if he lives with morals contrary to Peter, and if he seek avarice, he is then vicar of Judas Scoriot. And with equal evidence the cardinals are not the true and manifest successors of the college of the other apostles of Christ, unless they have lived after the manner of the apostles, keeping the commandments and counsels of our Lord Jesus Christ. 14. Doctors laying down that any one to be corrected by ecclesiastical censure, if he be unwilling to be set aright, is to be delivered over to secular judgment, certainly follow in this the priests and scribes and Pharisees, who, when saying it is not lawful for us to put any one to death,[4] delivered over Christ himself, when not wishing to obey them in all things, to the secular power, and that they are real homicides, more grievous than Pilate. 15. Ecclesiastical obedience is obedience according to the invention of priests of the Church, exclusive of the express written authority. 16. The immediate division of human works is, that they are either virtuous or vicious: because if man is vicious and does anything, he then acts viciously; and if he is virtuous, and does anything, he then acts virtuously; because as vice, which is called crime, or deadly sin, infects universally the acts of a vicious man, so virtue enliveneth all the acts of a virtuous man. 17. Priests of Christ living according to his law, and possessing an acquaintance with the Scripture and a desire to edify the people, ought to preach, notwithstanding a pretended excommunication. But if the Pope or any other prelate commands a priest so disposed not to preach, he ought not submissively to obey. 18. Any one receives the office of a preacher by mandate, who attains the priesthood, and that mandate he ought to execute, notwithstanding the pretended excommunication. 19. By ecclesiastical censures of excommunication, suspension, and interdict, the clergy get under their feet[5] the lay people for their own exaltation, multiply avarice, protect wickedness, and prepare the way for antichrist. It is an evident sign that such censures proceed from antichrist, which in their processes they call fulminations, by which the clergy chiefly proceed against those who lay Dare the wickedness of antichrist, who will use the clergy chiefly for himself. 20. If the Pope is evil, and especially if he is a reprobate, then as Judas he is an apostle of the devil, a thief, and the son of perdition, and is not the head of the holy Church militant, since he is not even a member of it. 21. The grace of predestination is a bond by which the body of the Church, and every member of it, is indissolubly joined to Christ the head. 22. Pope or prelate, evil and a reprobate, is equivocally pastor, and truly thief and robber. 23. The Pope ought not to be called most holy, even according to his office, because otherwise the king would have a right also to be called most holy as to his office, and torturers and criers should be called holy, nay the devil even would have a right to be called holy, as being an officer of God. 24. If the Pope live in a manner contrary to Christ, although he should ascend through the right and lawful election according to the common human ordinance, yet he would ascend by another way than through Christ,granting even that he should enter by an election principally made by God: for Judas Scariot was elected rightfully and lawfully by the Lord Jesus Christ to the episcopacy, and yet he ascended by another way to the sheep-fold. 25. The condemnation of the 45 articles of J. Wickliff, by the doctors, was an unreasonable one, and unjust, and wickedly done, and the cause alleged by them was feigned; viz., from this circumstance, that none of them was catholic: but any one of them is either heretical, or erroneous, or scandalous. 26. Not for this very reason because the electors, or the majority of them, consent vivâ voce, according to the usages of men, to some person, such person is not for that very reason lawfully elected; not for that very reason the true and manifest successor, or vicar of the apostle Peter, or of another apostle, in ecclesiastical office: whence, whether the electors have elected him rightly or otherwise, we ought to trust to the works of the elect; for in proportion as any one works more abundantly in a manner meritorious unto the proficiency of the Church, in greater abundance has he from God the means for this. 27. There is not a spark of appearance, that there should be one head governing the Church in spirituals, which may ever be conversant and preserved with the Church militant itself. 28. Christ without such monstrous heads would regulate the Church better by means of his true disciples scattered throughout the world. 29. The apostles and faithful priests of the Lord strenuously regulated the Church in things necessary unto salvation, before the office of pope was introduced; so would they do, even were a pope wanting to the day of judgment. 30. No one is a civil prince, no one is a prelate, no one a bishop, whilst he is in deadly sin.

For the Bull of Martin V., dated at Constance, on the 8th of the calends of March, 1418, which contains the articles of Wickliff and Hus inserted, and condemns the same, with the approbation of the Sacred Council of Constance,—see vol. in. Concil. Harduin. p. 905, et seq.

The Bull of Leo X. against Luther, 18th of the calends of July, 1520, Leo episcopus, &c. Exsurge Domine, &c. But of these errors (of Luther) we thought that some ought to be inserted among the present, the tenor of which is here given, and is as follows:

1. It is an heretical, but common opinion, that the sacraments of the new law confer justifying grace on those who do not place a barrier. 2. To deny that sin remains in a child after baptism is to trample down Paul and Christ together. 3. The leaven of sin, though no actual sin may be present, delays the soul departing from the body from entering heaven. 4. The imperfect charity of a dying man carries with it great fear as necessary, which of itself alone is enough to cause the punishment of purgatory, and hinders the entrance of heaven. 5. That there are three parts of penance,—contrition, confession, and satisfaction,—is not founded in the Sacred Scripture, nor in the ancient holy Christian doctors. 6. Contrition, which is prepared by discussion, collation, and detestation of sins, by which any man considers his years in the bitterness of his soul, weighing the enormity of his sins, their multitude, foulness, the loss of eternal happiness, and the incurring of eternal damnation, this contrition makes a hypocrite, nay, rather a sinner. 7. The truest proverb, and one surpassing all the doctrine hitherto given regarding contrition, that hereafter the highest penance will not suffice, the best penance is a new life. 8. By no means presume to confess venial sins, nor even all deadly sins, because it is impossible that you should know all deadly sins: whence in the early church they only confessed manifest deadly sins. 9. Whilst we desire to confess all things purely, we do nothing else, than that we wish to leave nothing to the mercy of God to pardon. 10. Sins are not remitted to any one, unless he should believe them remitted: for the remission of sin and granting of grace suffices not, but it is necessary also to believe that it is remitted. 11. By no means trust that you are acquitted on account of your contrition, but for the word of Christ: Whatsoever thou shalt loose,[6] &c. Here, I say, trust, if you have obtained the absolution of a priest, and believe firmly that you are acquitted, and you will be truly acquitted, however it may be with contrition. 12. If through an impossibility, he who has confessed were not contrite, or if the priest absolved not seriously but in jest, if, nevertheless, He believe that he is absolved, he is most truly absolved. 13. In the sacrament of penance, and in the remission of guilt, the Pope or bishop does not more than the lowest priest; nay, to you he is not a priest; just as much would any Christian be, even though it were a woman or a boy. 14. No one ought to answer to a priest, that he is contrite, nor should a priest require it. 15. Great is the error of those, who approach the sacrament of the Eucharist, depending on this, that they are not conscious to themselves of any deadly sin, that they premised their prayers and preparatory (duties); all those persons eat and drink judgment to themselves. But if they believe and hope that they shall there obtain grace, this faith alone makes them pure and worthy. 16. It seems a thing advised that the Church should determine in common council that the laity should communicate under both species; nor are the Bohemians when communicating under both species heretics, but schismatics. 17. The treasures of the Church, whence the Pope grants indulgences, are not the merits of Christ and of the saints. 18. Indulgences are the pious frauds on the faithful, and remissions of good works, and are of the number of those things which are lawful, and not of the number of those which are expedient. 19. Indulgences avail not those who truly obtain them for the remission of the punishment due to divine justice for actual sins. 20. Those are led astray who believe that indulgences are salutary, and useful for spiritual fruits. 21. Indulgences are necessary only for public crimes, but are properly granted to the obdurate only and to the impatient. 22. To six classes of men indulgences are neither necessary nor useful: viz. to the dead or to those about to die, to the infirm, to those lawfully hindered, to those who have not committed crimes; to those who have committed crimes, but not public ones; to those who do better works. 23. Excommumcations are only external penalties, nor do they deprive a man of the common, spiritual prayers of the Church. 24. Christians are to be taught to love excommunication more than to fear it. 25. The Roman Pontiff, successor of Peter, is not vicar of Christ instituted over all churches of the entire world by Christ himself in Saint Peter. 26. The word of Christ to Peter: Whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth, &c.[7] extends only to things bound by Peter himself. 27. It is certain that it is not at all in the power of the Church or of the Pope to determine articles of faith, nay neither the laws of morals nor of good works. 28. If the Pope thought so or so with a great part of the Church, and even did not err, still it is not a sin or heresy to think the contrary, especially in a matter not necessary unto salvation, until the one has been reprobated, the other approved by a universal council. 29. The way has been opened for us of breaking down the authority of councils, and of freely contradicting their transactions, and of judging their decrees, and of confidently confessing whatever seems true, whether it be approved or reprobated, by any council soever. 30. Some articles of John Hus, condemned in the Council of Constance, are most Christian, true, and evangelical, which neither the universal Church could condemn. 31. In every good work the just man sins. 32. A good work done after the best manner is a venial sin. 33. That heretics should be burned is contrary to the will of the Spirit. 34. To contend against the Turks is to resist God, visiting our ties through them. 35. No one is certain that he is not always sinning mortally, by reason of the most secret vice of pride. 36. Free will after sin is a thing of a mere name, and whilst it does that which is in it, it sins mortally. 37. Purgatory cannot be proved from Holy Scripture, which is in the canon. 38. Souls in purgatory are not secure of their salvation, at least all, nor is it proved by any, either reason or Scripture, that they are without the state of meriting or increasing charity. 39. Souls in purgatory sin without intermission, so long as they seek rest, and have a dread of punishments. 40. Souls freed from purgatory by the suffrages of the living are less beatified than if they had given satisfaction by themselves. 41. Ecclesiastical prelates and secular princes would not do ill if they all did away with all the sacks of mendicancy.

All and each of the aforesaid articles, or errors, as being, as is premised, respectively heretical or scandalous, or false, or offensive to pious ears, or suited to lead astray simple minds, or contrary to Catholic truth, we condemn, reprobate,, and entirely reject, &c.

  1. I. e. monastic orders.
  2. Vesanam. Others read "venenosam," poisonous.
  3. Others read "excerpendo collegerunt."
  4. John xviii. 81.
  5. See Du Cange.
  6. Matt. xvi. 19.
  7. Matt. xvi. 19.