Chapter 3. On the power and character of the primacy of the Roman Pontiff
1. Supported by the clear witness of Holy Scripture, and adhering to the
manifest and explicit decrees both of our predecessors the Roman Pontiffs and of
general councils, we promulgate anew the definition of the ecumenical Council of
Florence, which must be believed by all faithful Christians, namely that the
Apostolic See and the Roman Pontiff hold a world-wide primacy, and that the
Roman Pontiff is the successor of blessed Peter, the prince of the apostles,
true vicar of Christ, head of the whole Church and father and teacher of all
To him, in blessed Peter, full power has been given by our lord Jesus Christ
to tend, rule and govern the universal Church.
All this is to be found in the acts of the ecumenical councils and the sacred
2. Wherefore we teach and declare that, by divine ordinance, the Roman Church
possesses a pre-eminence of ordinary power over every other Church, and that
this jurisdictional power of the Roman Pontiff is both episcopal and immediate.
Both clergy and faithful, of whatever rite and dignity, both singly and
collectively, are bound to submit to this power by the duty of hierarchical
subordination and true obedience, and this not only in matters concerning faith
and morals, but also in those which regard the discipline and government of the
Church throughout the world.
3. In this way, by unity with the Roman Pontiff in communion and in
profession of the same faith , the Church of Christ becomes one flock under one
4. This is the teaching of the Catholic truth, and no one can depart from it
without endangering his faith and salvation.
5. This power of the Supreme Pontiff by no means detracts from that ordinary
and immediate power of episcopal jurisdiction, by which bishops, who have
succeeded to the place of the apostles by appointment of the Holy Spirit, tend
and govern individually the particular flocks which have been assigned to them.
On the contrary, this power of theirs is asserted, supported and defended by the
Supreme and Universal Pastor; for St. Gregory the Great says: "My honor is
the honor of the whole Church. My honor is the steadfast strength of my
brethren. Then do I receive true honor, when it is denied to none of those to
whom honor is due."
6. Furthermore, it follows from that supreme power which the Roman Pontiff
has in governing the whole Church, that he has the right, in the performance of
this office of his, to communicate freely with the pastors and flocks of the
entire Church, so that they may be taught and guided by him in the way of
7. And therefore we condemn and reject the opinions of those who hold that
this communication of the Supreme Head with pastors and flocks may be lawfully
obstructed; or that it should be dependent on the civil power, which leads them
to maintain that what is determined by the Apostolic See or by its authority
concerning the government of the Church, has no force or effect unless it is
confirmed by the agreement of the civil authority.
8. Since the Roman Pontiff, by the divine right of the apostolic primacy,
governs the whole Church, we likewise teach and declare that he is the supreme
judge of the faithful, and that in all cases which fall under ecclesiastical
jurisdiction recourse may be had to his judgment. The sentence of the Apostolic
See (than which there is no higher authority) is not subject to revision by
anyone, nor may anyone lawfully pass judgment thereupon. And so they stray from
the genuine path of truth who maintain that it is lawful to appeal from the
judgments of the Roman pontiffs to an ecumenical council as if this were an
authority superior to the Roman Pontiff.
9. So, then, if anyone says that the Roman Pontiff has merely an office of
supervision and guidance, and not the full and supreme power of jurisdiction
over the whole Church, and this not only in matters of faith and morals, but
also in those which concern the discipline and government of the Church
dispersed throughout the whole world; or that he has only the principal part,
but not the absolute fullness, of this supreme power; or that this power of his
is not ordinary and immediate both over all and each of the Churches and over
all and each of the pastors and faithful: let him be anathema.
Chapter 4. On the infallible teaching authority of the Roman Pontiff
1. That apostolic primacy which the Roman Pontiff possesses as successor of
Peter, the prince of the apostles, includes also the supreme power of teaching.
This Holy See has always maintained this, the constant custom of the Church
demonstrates it, and the ecumenical councils, particularly those in which East
and West met in the union of faith and charity, have declared it.
2. So the fathers of the fourth Council of Constantinople, following the
footsteps of their predecessors, published this solemn profession of faith: The
first condition of salvation is to maintain the rule of the true faith. And
since that saying of our lord Jesus Christ, You are Peter, and upon this rock I
will build my Church, cannot fail of its effect, the words spoken are confirmed
by their consequences. For in the Apostolic See the Catholic religion has always
been preserved unblemished, and sacred doctrine been held in honor. Since it is
our earnest desire to be in no way separated from this faith and doctrine, we
hope that we may deserve to remain in that one communion which the Apostolic See
preaches, for in it is the whole and true strength of the Christian religion.
What is more, with the approval of the second Council of Lyons, the Greeks
made the following profession: "The Holy Roman Church possesses the supreme
and full primacy and principality over the whole Catholic Church. She truly and
humbly acknowledges that she received this from the Lord himself in blessed
Peter, the prince and chief of the apostles, whose successor the Roman Pontiff
is, together with the fullness of power. And since before all others she has the
duty of defending the truth of the faith, so if any questions arise concerning
the faith, it is by her judgment that they must be settled."
Then there is the definition of the Council of Florence: "The Roman
Pontiff is the true vicar of Christ, the head of the whole Church and the father
and teacher of all Christians; and to him was committed in blessed Peter, by our
lord Jesus Christ, the full power of tending, ruling and governing the whole
3. To satisfy this pastoral office, our predecessors strove unwearyingly that
the saving teaching of Christ should be spread among all the peoples of the
world; and with equal care they made sure that it should be kept pure and
uncontaminated wherever it was received.
4. It was for this reason that the bishops of the whole world, sometimes
individually, sometimes gathered in synods, according to the long established
custom of the Churches and the pattern of ancient usage referred to this
Apostolic See those dangers especially which arose in matters concerning the
faith. This was to ensure that any damage suffered by the faith should be
repaired in that place above all where the faith can know no failing.
5. The Roman pontiffs, too, as the circumstances of the time or the state of
affairs suggested, sometimes by summoning ecumenical councils or consulting the
opinion of the Churches scattered throughout the world, sometimes by special
synods, sometimes by taking advantage of other useful means afforded by divine
providence, defined as doctrines to be held those things which, by God's help,
they knew to be in keeping with Sacred Scripture and the apostolic traditions.
6. For the Holy Spirit was promised to the successors of Peter not so that
they might, by his revelation, make known some new doctrine, but that, by his
assistance, they might religiously guard and faithfully expound the revelation
or deposit of faith transmitted by the apostles.
Indeed, their apostolic teaching was embraced by all the venerable fathers
and reverenced and followed by all the holy orthodox doctors, for they knew very
well that this See of St. Peter always remains unblemished by any error, in
accordance with the divine promise of our Lord and Savior to the prince of his
disciples: I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail; and when you have
turned again, strengthen your brethren.
7. This gift of truth and never-failing faith was therefore divinely
conferred on Peter and his successors in this See so that they might discharge
their exalted office for the salvation of all, and so that the whole flock of
Christ might be kept away by them from the poisonous food of error and be
nourished with the sustenance of heavenly doctrine. Thus the tendency to schism
is removed and the whole Church is preserved in unity, and, resting on its
foundation, can stand firm against the gates of hell.
8. But since in this very age when the salutary effectiveness of the
apostolic office is most especially needed, not a few are to be found who
disparage its authority, we judge it absolutely necessary to affirm solemnly the
prerogative which the only-begotten Son of God was pleased to attach to the
supreme pastoral office.
9. Therefore, faithfully adhering to the tradition received from the
beginning of the Christian faith, to the glory of God our savior, for the
exaltation of the Catholic religion and for the salvation of the Christian
people, with the approval of the Sacred Council, we teach and define as a
divinely revealed dogma that when the Roman Pontiff speaks Ex Cathedra, that is,
when, in the exercise of his office as shepherd and teacher of all Christians,
in virtue of his supreme apostolic authority, he defines a doctrine concerning
faith or morals to be held by the whole Church, he possesses, by the divine
assistance promised to him in blessed Peter, that infallibility which the divine
Redeemer willed his Church to enjoy in defining doctrine concerning faith or
morals. Therefore, such definitions of the Roman Pontiff are of themselves, and
not by the consent of the Church, irreformable.
So then, should anyone, which God forbid, have the temerity to reject this
definition of ours: let him be anathema.
Given at Rome in public session, solemnly held in the Vatican Basilica in the
year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and seventy, on the eighteenth day
of July, in the twenty-fifth year of Our Pontificate.