SESSION 8 - 4 May 1415
This most holy synod of Constance, which is a general council and represents the catholic church and is legitimately assembled in the holy Spirit, for the eradication of the present schism and the elimination of the errors and heresies which are sprouting beneath its shade and for the reform of the church, make this perpetual record of its acts.
[Sentence condemning various articles of John Wyclif]
We learn from the writings and deeds of the holy fathers that the catholic faith without which (as the Apostle says) it is impossible to please God , has often been attacked by false followers of the same faith, or rather by perverse assailants, and by those who, desirous of the world's glory, are led on by proud curiosity to know more than they should; and that it has been defended against such persons by the church's faithful spiritual knights armed with the shield of faith. Indeed these kinds of wars were prefigured in the physical wars of the Israelite people against idolatrous nations. Therefore in these spiritual wars the holy catholic church, illuminated in the truth of faith by the rays of light from above and remaining ever spotless through the Lord's providence and with the help of the patronage of the saints, has triumphed most gloriously over the darkness of error as over profligate enemies. In our times, however, that old and jealous foe has stirred up new conflicts so that the approved ones of this age may be made manifest. Their leader and prince was that pseudo-christian John Wyclif. He stubbornly asserted and taught many articles against the christian religion and the catholic faith while he was alive. We have decided that forty-five of the articles should be set out on this page as follows.
1. The material substance of bread, and similarly the material substance of wine, remain in the sacrament of the altar.
2. The accidents of bread do not remain without their subject in the said sacrament.
3. Christ is not identically and really present in the said sacrament in his own bodily persona.
4. If a bishop or a priest is in mortal sin, he does not ordain or confect or consecrate or baptise.
5. That Christ instituted the mass has no basis in the gospel.
6. God ought to obey the devil.
7. If a person is duly contrite, all exterior confession is superfluous and useless for him.
8. If a pope is foreknown as damned and is evil, and is therefore a limb of the devil, he does not have authority over the faithful given to him by anyone, except perhaps by the emperor.
9. Nobody should be considered as pope after Urban VI. Rather, people should live like the Greeks, under their own laws.
10. It is against sacred scripture for ecclesiastics to have possessions.
11. No prelate should excommunicate anyone unless he first knows that the person has been excommunicated by God; he who does so thereby becomes a heretic and an excommunicated person.
12. A prelate excommunicating a cleric who has appealed to the king or the king's council is thereby a traitor to the king and the kingdom.
13. Those who stop preaching or hearing the word of God on account of an excommunication issued by men are themselves excommunicated and will be regarded as traitors of Christ on the day of judgment.
14. It is lawful for any deacon or priest to preach the word of God without authorisation from the apostolic see or from a catholic bishop.
15. Nobody is a civil lord or a prelate or a bishop while he is in mortal sin.
16. Secular lords can confiscate temporal goods from the church at their discretion when those who possess them are sinning habitually, that is to say sinning from habit and not just in particular acts.
17. The people can correct sinful lords at their discretion.
18. Tithes are purely alms, and parishioners can withhold them at will on account of their prelates' sins.
19. Special prayers applied by prelates or religious to a particular person avail him or her no more than general prayers, if other things are equal.
20. Whoever gives alms to friars is thereby excommunicated.
21. Whoever enters any religious order whatsoever, whether it be of the possessioners or the mendicants, makes himself less apt and suitable for the observance of God's commands.
22. Saints who have founded religious orders have sinned in so doing.
23. Members of religious orders are not members of the christian religion.
24. Friars are bound to obtain their food by manual work and not by begging. [22 ]
25. All are simoniacs who bind themselves to pray for people who help them in temporal matters.
26. The prayer of someone foreknown as damned profits nobody.
27. All things happen from absolute necessity.
28. Confirming the young, ordaining clerics and consecrating places have been reserved to the pope and bishops because of their greed for temporal gain and honour.
29. Universities, places of study, colleges, degrees and academic exercises in these institutions were introduced by a vain pagan spirit and benefit the church as little as does the devil.
30. Excommunication by a pope or any prelate is not to be feared since it is a censure of antichrist.
31. Those who found religious houses sin, and those who enter them belong to the devil.
32. It is against Christ's command to enrich the clergy.
33. Pope Silvester and the emperor Constantine erred in endowing the church.
34. All the members of mendicant orders are heretics, and those who give them alms are excommunicated.
35. Those who enter a religious or other order thereby become incapable of observing God's commands, and consequently of reaching the kingdom of heaven, unless they leave them.
36. The pope with all his clerics who have property are heretics, for the very reason that they have property; and so are all who abet them, namely all secular lords and other laity.
37. The Roman church is Satan's synagogue; and the pope is not the immediate and proximate vicar of Christ and the apostles.
38. The decretal letters are apocryphal and seduce people from Christ's faith, and clerics who study them are fools.
39. The emperor and secular lords were seduced by the devil to endow the church with temporal goods.
40. The election of a pope by the cardinals was introduced by the devil.
41. It is not necessary for salvation to believe that the Roman church is supreme among the other churches. [23 ]
42. It is ridiculous to believe in the indulgences of popes and bishops.
43. Oaths taken to confirm civil commerce and contracts between people are unlawful.
44. Augustine, Benedict and Bernard are damned, unless they repented of having owned property and of having founded and entered religious orders; and thus they are all heretics from the pope down to the lowest religious.
45. All religious orders alike were introduced by the devil.
[Condemnation of Wyclif's books]
This same John Wyclif wrote books called by him Dialogus and Trialogus and many other treatises, works and pamphlets in which he included and taught the above and many other damnable articles. He issued the books for public reading, in order to publish his perverse doctrine, and from them have followed many scandals, losses and dangers to souls in various regions, especially in the kingdoms of England and Bohemia. Masters and doctors of the universities and houses of study at Oxford and Prague, opposing with God's strength these articles and books, later refuted the above articles in scholastic form. They were condemned, moreover, by the most reverend fathers who were then the archbishops and bishops of Canterbury, York and Prague, legates of the apostolic see in the kingdoms of England and of Bohemia. The said archbishop of Prague, commissary of the apostolic see in this matter, also judicially decreed that the books of the same John Wyclif were to be burnt and he forbade the reading of those that survived.
After these things had again been brought to the notice of the apostolic see and a general council, the Roman pontiff condemned the said books, treatises and pamphlets at the lately held council of Rome [24 ] , ordering them to be publicly burnt and strictly forbidding anyone called a Christian to dare to read, expound, hold or make any use of any one or more of the said books, volumes, treatises and pamphlets, or even to cite them publicly or privately, except in order to refute them. In order that this dangerous and most foul doctrine might be eliminated from the church's midst, he ordered, by his apostolic authority and under pain of ecclesiastical censure, that all such books, treatises, volumes and pamphlets should be diligently sought out by the local ordinaries and should then be publicly burnt; and he added that if necessary those who do not obey should be proceeded against as if they were promoters of heresy.
This sacred synod has had the aforesaid forty-five articles examined and frequently considered by many most reverend fathers, cardinals of the Roman church, bishops, abbots, masters of theology, doctors in both laws and many notable persons. After the articles had been examined it was found, as indeed is the case, that some of them, indeed many, were and are notoriously heretical and have already been condemned by holy fathers, others are not catholic but erroneous, others scandalous and blasphemous, some offensive to the ears of the devout and some rash and seditious. It was also found that his books contain many other similar articles and introduce into God's church teaching that is unsound and hostile to faith and morals. This holy synod, therefore, in the name of our lord Jesus Christ, in ratifying and approving the sentences of the aforesaid archbishops and of the council of Rome, repudiates and condemns for ever, by this decree, the aforesaid articles and each one of them in particular, and the books of John Wyclif called by him Dialogus and Trialogus, and the same author's other books, volumes, treatises and pamphlets (no matter what name these may go under, and for which purpose this description is to be regarded as an adequate listing of them). It forbids the reading, teaching, expounding and citing of the said books or of any one of them in particular, unless it is for the purpose of refuting them. It forbids each and every Catholic henceforth, under pain of anathema, to preach, teach or affirm in public the said articles or any one of them in particular, or to teach, approve or hold the said books, or to refer to them in any way, unless this is done, as has been said, for the purpose of refuting them. It orders, moreover, that the aforesaid books, treatises, volumes and pamphlets are to be burnt in public, in accordance with the decree of the synod of Rome, as stated above. This holy synod orders local ordinaries to attend with vigilance to the execution and due observance of these things, insofar as each one is responsible, in accordance with the law and canonical sanctions.
[Condemnation of 260 other articles of Wyclif] [25 ]
When the doctors and masters of the university of Oxford examined the aforesaid written works, they found 260 articles in addition to the 45 articles that have been mentioned. Some of them coincide in meaning with the 45 articles, even if not in the forms of words used. Some of them, as has been said, were and are heretical, some seditious, some erroneous, others rash, some scandalous, others unsound, and almost all of them contrary to good morals and the catholic truth. They were therefore condemned by the said university in correct and scholastic form. This most holy synod, therefore, after deliberating as mentioned above, repudiates and condemns the said articles and each one of them in particular; and it forbids, commands and decrees in the same way as for the other 45 articles. We order the contents of these 260 articles to be included below [26 ] .
[The council pronounces John Wyclif a heretic, condemns his memory and orders his bones to be exhumed]
Furthermore, a process was begun, on the authority or by decree of the Roman council, and at the command of the church and of the apostolic see, after a due interval of time, for the condemnation of the said Wyclif and his memory. Invitations and proclamations were issued summoning those who wished to defend him and his memory, if any still existed. However, nobody appeared who was willing to defend him or his memory. Witnesses were examined by commissaries appointed by the reigning lord pope John and by this sacred council, regarding the said Wyclif's final impenitence and obstinacy. Legal proof was thus provided, in accordance with all due observances, as the order of law demands in a matter of this kind, regarding his impenitence and final obstinacy. This was proved by clear indications from legitimate witnesses. This holy synod, therefore, at the instance of the procurator-fiscal and since a decree was issued to the effect that sentence should be heard on this day, declares, defines and decrees that the said John Wyclif was a notorious and obstinate heretic who died in heresy, and it anathematises him and condemns his memory. It decrees and orders that his body and bones are to be exhumed, if they can be identified among the corpses of the faithful, and to be scattered far from a burial place of the church, in accordance with canonical and lawful sanctions.