VIII. THE AUTHORITY OF GENERAL COUNCILS.

 

  1. There can be only one Faith, for as Faith and truth are indivisibly united, and as truth is one, so Faith must be one likewise. Hence, we conclude, as we have already shown, that in all controversies regarding the dogmas of Faith it has always been, and is always necessary to have, an infallible judge, whose decisions all should obey. The reason of this is manifest, for if the judgment of every one of the faithful was to be taken on this matter, as the sectaries expect, it would not be alone opposed to the Scriptures, as we shall see, but to reason itself, for it would be quite impossible to unite the opinions of all the faithful, and give from them a distinct and definitive judgment in dogmas of Faith, and there would be endless disputes, and, instead of unity of Faith, there would be as many creeds as persons. Neither is the Scripture alone sufficient to assure us of the truth of what we should believe, for several passages of it can be interpreted in different senses, both true and false, so that the Bible will be, for those who take it in a perverse sense, not a rule of Faith, but a fountain of errors; the Gospel, as St. Jerome says, will become, not the Gospel of Christ, but the Gospel of man, or of the devil : “Non putemus in verbis Scripturarum esse Evangelium sed in sensu, interpretatione enim perversa de Evangelic Christi fit hominis Evangelium aut diaboli.” Where, in fact, can we look for the true sense of the Scriptures, only in the judgment of the Church, the pillar and the ground of truth, as the Apostle calls it ?
  2. That the Roman Catholic Church is the only true one, and that the others who have separated from it are false, is manifest from what we have already seen; for, as the sectaries themselves admit, the Roman Catholic Church has been certainly first founded by Jesus Christ. He promised to assist it to the end of time, and the gates of hell, that is, as St. Epiphanius explains it, heretics and founders of heresies, will never prevail against it, as was promised to St. Peter. Hence, in all doubts of Faith, we should bow to the decisions of this Church, subjecting our judgment to her judgment, in obedience to Christ, who, as St. Paul tells us, commands us to obey the Church : ” Bring into captivity every understanding unto the obedience of Christ” (II. Cor. x, 5).
  3. The Church, then, teaches us through General Councils, and hence, the perpetual tradition of all the faithful has always held as infallible the Definitions of General Councils, and considered as heretics those who refused obedience to them. Such have been the Lutherans and Calvinists, who have denied the infallibility of General Councils. Here are Luther’s own words, taken from the thirtieth article of the forty-one condemned by Leo X. (1) : ” Via nobis facta est enervandi auctoritatem Conciliorum, et judicandi eorum Deere ta, et confidenter confitendi quid quid verum videtur, sive prolatum fuerit, sive reprobatum a quocunque Concilio.” Calvin said the same thing, and the followers of both heresiarchs have adopted their opinion. We know, especially, that Calvin and Beza both said, that no matter how holy a Council might be, still it may err in matters appertaining to Faith (2). The Faculty of Paris, however, censuring the thirtieth article of Luther, declared the contrary : ” Certum est, Concilium Generale legitime congregatum in Fidei et morum determinationibus errare non posse.” How, in fact, can we deny infallibility to General Councils, when we know that they represent the whole Church? for, if they could err in matters of Faith, the whole Church could err, and the infidels might say, then, that God had not provided sufficiently for the unity of Faith, as he was bound to do, when he wished that all should profess the same Faith.
  4. Hence, we are bound to believe, that in matters relating to the dogmas of Faith, and to moral precepts, General Councils cannot err, and this is proved, in the first place, from Scripture. Christ says : ” Where there are two or three gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matt, xviii, 20). But then, says Calvin, according to that a Council of two persons assembled in the name of God cannot err. The Council of Chalcedon, however (Act. 3, in fine), in the Epistle to Pope St. Leo, and the Sixth Synod (Act. 17), had previously disposed of this objection, by explaining that the words, ” in my name,” show that this cannot be applied to a meeting of private persons assembled to discuss matters regarding their own private interests, but a meeting of persons congregated to decide on points regarding the whole society of Christendom. It is proved, secondly, by the words of St. John : “When he, the Spirit of Truth, is come, he will teach you all truth” (John, xvi, 13). And previously, in the 14th chap. 16th verse, he says : “I will ask the Father, and he shall give you another Paraclete, that he may abide with you for ever : the Spirit of Truth.” Now the expression, ” that he may abide with you for ever,” clearly shows that the Holy Ghost continually abides in the Church, to teach the truths of the Faith, not alone to the Apostles, who, being mortal, could not remain always with us, but to the Bishops, their successors. Unless, then, in this congregation of Bishops, we do not know where the Holy Ghost teaches these truths.

(1) Luther, lib. de Concil. ar. 28, 29. (2) Joan Vysembogard. Ep. ad Lud. Colin.

  1. It is proved, also, from the promises made by our Saviour always to assist his Church, that it may not err : ” Behold, I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world” (Matt, xxviii, 20); ” And I say to thee, thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matt, xvi, 18). A General Council, as has been said already, and as the Eighth Synod (Act. 5) declared, represents the universal Church; and, hence, this interrogatory was put to all suspected of heresy in the Council of Constance : ” An non credunt Concilium Generale universam Ecclesiam repræsentare ?” And St. Athanasius, St. Epiphanius, St. Cyprian, St. Augustine, and St. Gregory, teach the same thing (3). If, there fore, the Church, as it has been proved, cannot err, neither can the Council which represents the Church fall into error. It is proved, besides, from those texts in which the faithful are commanded to obey the Prelates of the Church : ” Obey your Prelates, and be subject to them” (Heb. xiii, 17); “Who hears you, hears me” (Luke, x, 16); “Go, therefore, teach all nations” (Matt, xxviii, 19). These prelates, separately, may fall into error, and frequently disagree with each other on controverted points, and, therefore, we should receive what they tell us as infallible, and as coming from Christ himself, when they are united in Council.

(3) St. Athanas. Ep. de Synod. Arim. St. Epiphan. An. at. in fin.; St. Cyprian, l. 4, Ep. 9; St. Angus. 1. 1, contra at. c. 18; St. Greg. Ep. 24 ad Patriarch.

On this account the Holy Fathers have always considered as heretics those who contradicted the dogmas defined by General Councils, as the reader may see, by consulting St. Gregory of Nazianzen, St. Basil, St. Cyril, St. Ambrose, St. Athanasius, St. Augustine, and St. Leo (4).

  1. Besides all these proofs, there is another, that if General Councils could err, there would be no established tribunal in the Church, to terminate disputes about points of dogma, and to preserve the unity of the Faith, and if they were not infallible in their judgments, no heresy could be condemned, nor could we say it was a heresy at all. We could not be certain either of the canonicity of several books of the Scripture, as the Epistle of St. Paul to the Hebrews, the Second Epistle of St. Peter, the Third Epistle of St. John, the Epistles of St. James and St. Jude, and the Apocalypse of St. John; for, although the Calvinists receive all these, still they are considered doubtful by others, because they were not declared canonical by the Fourth Council. Finally, we may add, that if Councils could err, they committed an intolerable error in proposing, as Articles of Faith, matters, which they could not assert were true, or false; and thus the Creeds of Nice, of Constantinople, of Ephesus, and of Chalcedon, would fall to the ground, in which several dogmas were declared, which before were not held as such, and still these four General Councils are received as Rules of Faith by the Innovators themselves. We have now to consider their numerous and importunate objections.
  2. First, Calvin objects (5) several passages of the Scriptures, in which the Prophets, Priests, and Pastors, are called ignorant and liars : ” From the Prophet to the Priest, all deal deceitfully” (Jer. viii, 10); “His watchmen are all blind the shepherds themselves know no understanding” (Isaias, Ivi, 10, 11). We answer, that frequently in the Scriptures, because some are wicked, all are reprimanded, as St. Augustine (6) says, explaining that passage (Phil, ii, 21) : ” All seek the things that are their own, and not the things that are Jesus Christ s.” But the Apostles surely did not seek the things which were their own; they sought solely the glory of God, and, therefore, St. Paul calls on the Philippians, and tells them : ” Be followers of me, brethren, and observe them who walk, so as you have our model” (Phil, iii, 17).

(4) St. Greg. Nazianz. Ep. ad Cledon.; St. Basil, Ep. 78; St. Cyril, de Trinit.; St. Ambr. Ep. 32; St. Athan. Ep. ad Episc. Afric.; St. Aug. l. I, de Bapt. c. 18; St. Leo, Ep. 77, ad Anatol. (5) Calv. List. l. 4, c. 9, sec. 3.

We should, besides, remember that the texts quoted, speak of Priests and Prophets divided among themselves, and deceiving the people, and not of those of who speak to us, assembled in the name of God. Besides, the Church of the New Testament has received surer promises than did the Synagogue of old, which was never called ” The Church of the living God, the pillar and the firmament of truth” (I. Tim. iii, 15). Calvin, however, says (7), that even in the New Law there are many false prophets and deceivers, as St. Matthew (xxiv, 11) tells us : ” Many false prophets shall arise, and seduce many.” This is also true; but he ought to apply this text to himself, and Luther, and Zuinglius, and not to the Ecumenical Councils  of Bishops, to whom the assistance of the Holy Ghost is promised, and who can say : ” It hath seemed good to the Holy Ghost and to us” (Acts, xv, 28).

  1. Calvin objects, secondly, the iniquity of the Council of Caiphas, which, withal, was a general one, composed of the Princes and Priests, and still condemned Jesus Christ as guilty of death (Matt, xxvi, 66). Therefore, he says, even General Councils are fallible. We reply, that we call infallible those legitimate General Councils alone, at which the Holy Ghost assists; but how can we call that Council either legitimate, or assisted by the Holy Ghost, in which Christ was condemned as a blasphemer, for attesting that he was the Son of God, after so many proofs given by him that he was really so whose proceedings were all based on false testimony, suborned for the purpose, and which was governed by envy alone, as even Pilate knew : ” For he knew that for envy they had delivered him” (Matt, xxvii, 18).

(6) St. Aug. de Unit. Eccl. c. 11. (7) Calvin, loc. cit. sec. 4.

  1. Luther objects, thirdly (in art. 29), that, in the Council of Jerusalem, St. James changed the sentence given by St. Peter, who decided that the Gentiles were not bound to the observance of the precepts of the Law; but St. James said that they should abstain from meats offered to idols, from things suffocated, and from blood, and this was forcing them to a Jewish observance. We answer, with St. Augustine and St. Jerome (8), that this prohibition does not subvert the decision of St. Peter; nor, properly speaking, was it an imposition of the precepts of the Old Law, but a mere temporary precept of discipline, to satisfy the Jews, who could not bear just then, at the beginning of Christianity, to see the Gentiles eating blood and meats abhorred by them. It was, however, only a simple command, which fell into disuse, when the time passed away it was intended for, as St. Augustine remarks (9).
  2. They object, fourthly, that in the Council of Neoceserea, received by the First Council of Nice, as the Council of Florence attests, second marriages were condemned: “Presbyter urn convivio secundarum Nuptiarum interesse non debere.” But how, say they, could such a prohibition be given, when St. Paul says : ” If her husband should die, she is at liberty; let her marry to whom she will, only in the Lord” (I. Cor. vii, 39). We answer that, in the Council of Neocesarea, second marriages are not forbidden, but only the solemn celebration of them, and the banquets which were usual at first marriages alone; and, therefore, it was forbidden to the Priests to attend, not at the marriage, but at the banquets, which were a part of the solemnity. Fifthly, Luther objects that the Council of Nice prohibited the profession of arms, although St. John the Baptist (Luke, iii, 14) held it as lawful. We answer, that the Council did not prohibit the profession of arms, but forbid the soldiers to sacrifice to idols, to obtain the belt, or military distinction, which, as Ruffinus (10) tells us, was only given to those who offered sacrifice; and it is these alone the Council condemned in the Second Canon. Sixthly, Luther objects that this same Council ordained that the Paulinians should be re-baptized, while another Council, which St. Augustine calls Plenary, and which is believed to have been the Council celebrated by the whole French Church in Arles, prohibited the re-baptism of heretics, as the Pope St. Stephen commanded, in opposition to St. Cyprian. We answer, that the Council commanded that the Paulinians should be re-baptized, for those heretics, believing Christ to be but a mere man, corrupted the form of Baptism, and did not baptize in the name of the three Persons, and, therefore, their Baptism was null and void. But this was not the case with other heretics, who baptized in the name of the Trinity, though they did not believe that the three Persons were equally God.

(8) St. Augus. l. 32, contra Faust, c. 13; St. Hier. Ep. ad Aug. quæ est 11, inter Epist. August. (9) St. Aug. loc. cit. (10) Kuffin. Histor. l. 10, c. 32.

  1. The innovators object, eighthly, that in the Third Council of Carthage (Can. 47), the books of Tobias, Judith, Baruch, Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, and the Maccabees, were received as Canonical, and the Council of Laodicea (cap. ult.) rejected them. We reply, first, that neither of these Councils were Ecumenical. One was a Provincial Council, composed of twenty-two Bishops; and that of Carthage was a national one, of forty-four Prelates, and this was confirmed by Pope Leo IV. (as may be seen, Can. de libellis, Dist. 20), and was later than that of Laodicea, which, therefore, may be said, to have amended the preceding one. Secondly, we answer, that the Council of Laodicea did not reject these books, but only omitted their insertion in the Canon of the Scriptures, as their authority was, at that time, doubtful; but the matter being made more clear, in the Council of Carthage, afterwards, they were, at once, admitted as authentic. They object, ninthly, that several errors were decided in the Sixth Council, such as that heretics should be re-baptized, and that the marriages between Catholics and heretics were invalid. We answer, with Bellarmin(ll), that these Canons were foisted in by the heretics; and, in the Seventh Council (Act. 4), it was declared, that these Canons did not belong to the Sixth Council, but were promulgated by an illegitimate council, many years after, in the time of Julian II., and, as Venerable Bede tells us (12), this Council was rejected by the Pope. They object, tenthly, that the Seventh Council the Second of Nice was opposed to the Council of Constantinople, celebrated under the Emperor Copronimus, regarding the Veneration of Images, which the Constantinopolitan Council prohibited. We answer that this Council was neither a lawful nor a General one; it was held by only a few Bishops, without the intervention of the Pope’s Legates, or of the three Patriarchs of Antioch, Alexandria, and Jerusalem, who should, according to the discipline of those times, be present.

(11) Bellar. de Conc. l. 2, c. 8, v. 13. (12) Beda, lib. de sex. ætatib.

  1. They object, eleventhly, that the Second Council of Nice was rejected by the Council of Frankfort. But we reply, with Bellarmin, that this was all by mistake, for the Frankfort Council supposed that it was decided in the Nicene Council, that Images should receive supreme worship (Cultus Latrice), and that it was held without the Pope’s consent; but both these suppositions were incorrect, as appears from the Acts of the Nicene Council itself. They object, twelfthly, that, in the Fourth Council of Lateran, the transubstantiation of the bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ was defined as an Article of Faith, while an anathema was fulminated by the Council of Ephesus against all who would promulgate any other Symbol besides that established by the First Council of Nice. We answer, first, that the Lateran Council did not compose any new Symbol, but merely defined the question then debated. Secondly, that the Council of Ephesus anathematized any one publishing a Symbol opposed to the Nicene one, but not a new Symbol, declaratory of some point not previously defined. They object, thirteenthly, that as in Councils the points of Faith are defined by the majority of votes, it might so happen that one vote might incline the scale to the side of error, and thus the better part be put down by the major part of the Synod. We answer that, in purely secular affairs, such might be the case, that the majority might, in a worldly meeting, put down the more worthy; but, as the Holy Ghost presides in General Councils, and as Jesus Christ has promised, and does not fail to assist his Church, such can never be the case.
  2. They object, fourteenthly, that it is the business of the Council merely to seek the truth; but the Scripture must decide it, and hence, then, the decision does not depend on the majority of votes, but on that judgment which is most in conformity with the Scripture, and hence, say they, every one has a right to examine and see for himself, whether the Decrees of Councils are in conformity with the Scriptures. This is the doctrine of Luther, Calvin (13), and all Protestants. We answer, that in Canonical Councils it is the Bishops who give an infallible decision on dogmas, and this all should obey without examination. This is proved from Deuteronomy (vii, 12), in which our Lord commands that all should obey the Priest, who decides doubts, presiding at the Council, and those who refuse should be punished with death : ” He who will be proud, and refuse to obey the commandment of the Priest, who ministereth at the time to the Lord thy God, and the decree of the judge, that man shall die, and them that take away the evil from Israel.” It is also proved most clearly from the Gospel, which says : ” If he will not hear the Church, let him be unto you as a heathen and a publican” (Matt, xviii, 17). A General Council represents the Church, as understood by all, and, therefore, should be obeyed. Recollect, also, that in the Council of Jerusalem (Act. 15, 16), the question of legal observances was decided, not by the Scriptures, but by the votes of the Apostles, and all were obliged to obey their decision. Therefore, reply the sectarians, the authority of Councils is superior to that of the Scriptures. What a blasphemy, exclaims Calvin (14) ! We answer, that the Word of God, both written and unwritten, or Scripture and Tradition, is certainly to be preferred to any Council; but Councils do not make the Word of God, but merely declare what true Scripture is, and true Tradition is, and what is their true sense; they do not, therefore, give themselves the authority of infallibility, but merely declare that which they already possess, deducing it from the Scripture itself, and thus they define the dogmas the faithful should believe. It was thus the Council of Nice declared that the Word was God, and not a creature, and the Council of Trent, that the real body of Christ, and not the figure, was in the Eucharist.
  3. But then, the heretics say, the Church is not composed of Bishops alone, but of all the faithful, both Clergy and laity, and why, then, are Councils held by the Bishops alone ? Therefore, says Luther, all Christians, no matter of what degree, should be judges in the Councils. The Protestants maintained this doctrine in the time of the Council of Trent, and sought to have a decisive voice in decreeing the dogmas  of the Faith. This they required, when they were invited to attend the Council, to explain themselves on all controverted points, and when a safe conduct was given them, promising them security while in Trent, perfect liberty of conferring, as often as they pleased, with the Fathers, and no hindrance to leave  whenever they wished to go. Their ambassadors came, and at first said that they did not consider the safeguard sufficient, since the Council of Constance said that no faith was to be kept with public heretics. The Fathers of Trent, however, replied, that the safe conduct from the Council of Constance to Huss was not given by the Council itself, but by the Emperor Sigismund, so that the Council had then full jurisdiction over him.

(13) Luther de Conc. art. 29, & Calvin, Inst. l. 4, c. 9, sec. 8. (14) Calvin, Inst, l. 4, c. 0, sec. 14.

Besides, as we have already explained in Chap. X., art. v, n. 43, of this History, the safe conduct given to Huss was for other crimes with which he was charged, but not for errors against Faith, and, when IIuss was charged with this, he knew not what defence to make. The Tridentine Fathers, at all events, explained to those delegates that the safe conduct given by them was as secure as the Council could make it, and different from that given by the Council of Constance to Huss. The delegates then made three requisitions, in case the Lutheran Doctors came to Trent, none of which could be agreed to (15) : First That questions of Faith should be decided by the Scriptures alone. This could not be granted, since the Council had already decreed in the Fourth Session, that the same veneration was to be paid to Traditions preserved in the Catholic Church as to the Scriptures. Secondly They required that all Articles already decided on by the Council should be debated over again; but this could not be granted, because it would be just the same thing as to declare that the Council was not infallible when it had made the Decrees, and that would be to give a triumph to the Protestants, even before the battle commenced. Thirdly They demanded that their Doctors should have a seat in the Council as judges, for the decision of dogmatical points, just as the Bishops had.

(15) Vedi Pallavic. Istor. del Cone, di Trento, t. 2, c. 15, n. 9.

  1. “We answer, that the Church is a body, as St. Paul writes, in which our Lord has assigned the duties and obligations of each individual : ” Now you are the body of Christ, and members of member. And God indeed hath set some in the Church: first, apostles; secondly, prophets; thirdly, doctors” (I. Cor. xii, 27, 28). And in another place he says : ” And other same pastors and doctors” (Ephes. iv, 11). And he adds, afterwards : ” Are all doctors” (I. Cor. xii, 29). God, therefore, has appointed some pastors in his Church to govern the flock; others, doctors, to teach the true doctrine, and he charges others, again, not to allow themselves to be led astray by new doctrines : ” Be not led away with various and strange doctrines” (Heb. xiii, 9); but to be obedient and submissive to the masters appointed to them : ” Obey your prelates, and be subject to them, for they watch, as being to render an account of your souls” (Heb. xiii, 17). Who, then, are these masters whom our Lord has promised to assist to the end of time. They were, in the first place, the Apostles, to whom he said : ” Behold, I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world” (Matt, xxviii, 20). He promised them the Holy Ghost, who would remain always with them, to teach them all truth : ” I will ask the Father, and he shall give you another Paraclete, that he may abide with you for ever” (John, xiv, 6). Arid when he, the ” Spirit of Truth, is come, he will teach you all truth” (John, xvi, 13). The Apostles, however, being mortal, should soon leave this world, and how, then, could we understand the promise that the Holy Ghost would perpetually remain with them, to instruct them in all truth, that they might afterwards communicate it to others ? It must be understood, therefore, that they would have successors, who, with the Divine assistance, would teach the faithful people, and the Bishops are exactly these successors, appointed by God to govern the flock of Christ, as the Apostle says : “Take heed to yourselves, and to the whole flock, wherein the Holy Ghost hath placed you bishops to rule the Church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood” (Acts, xx, 28). Estius (16), commenting on this passage, says : ” Illud, in quo vos Spiritus Sanctus posuit &c de iis qui propria Episcopi sunt, intellexit.” And, hence, the Council of Trent (Sess. xxiii, Cap. 4) declared : ” Declarat prætor ceteros Ecclesiasticos gradus, Episcopos, qui in Apostolorum locum successerunt positos a Spiritu Sancto regere Ecclesiam Dei, eosque Presbyteris superiorcs esse.” Hence, the Bishops in Council are the witnesses and judges of the Faith, and say, as the Apostles did in the Council of Jerusalem : ” It hath seemed well to the Holy Ghost and to us” (Acts, xv, 18).

(16) Estius, in 20 Act. v. 12.

  1. St. Cyprian, therefore, says (17) : ” Ecclesia est in Episcopo ;” and St. Ignatius the Martyr (18) had previously said : “Episcopus omnem principatum et potestatem ultra omnes obtinet.” The Council of  Chalcedon (19) decided ” Synodus Episcoporum est, non Clericorum, superfluos foras mittite ;” and although in the Council of Constance, the Theologians, Canonists, and Ambassadors of the Sovereigns were allowed to vote, still it was declared that this was permitted merely in the affair of the schism, to put an end to it, but was not allowed when dogmas of Faith were concerned. In the Assembly of the Clergy of France, in 1656, the Parish Clergy of Paris signed a public protest against any other judges in matters of Faith but the Bishops alone. The Archbishop of Spalatro, Mark Anthony de Dominis, whose Faith was justly suspected, said that the consent of the whole Church to any article required not alone that of the Prelates, but of the laity, likewise : ” Consensus totius Ecclesiæ in aliquo articulo non minus intelligitur in Laicis, quam etiam in Prælatis; sunt enim etiam Laici in Ecclesia, imo majorem partem constituunt.” But the Sorbonne condemned his doctrine as heretical : ” Hæc propositio est hæretica, quatenus ad Fidei propositiones statucndas consensum Laicorum requirit.”
  2. It is usual to allow the Generals of Religious Orders and Abbots to give a decisive vote in Ecumenical Councils; but this is only by privilege and custom, for, by the ordinary law, the Bishops alone are judges, according to the Tradition of the Fathers, as St. Cyprian, St. Hilary, St. Ambrose, St. Jerome, Osius, St. Augustine, St. Leo the Great, and others testify (20).

(17) St. Cypr. Ep. ad Pupinum. (18) St. Ignat. Ep. ad Trallian. (19) Tom. 4, Conc. p;. 111. (20) St. Cypr. Ep. ad Jubajan; St Hilar. de Synod.; St. Ambr. Ep.22 St. Hieron. Apol. 2 contra Ruffin. Osius ap. St. Athanas. Ep. ad Solit. St. Leo Magnus Ep. 16.

But they say that, in the Council of Jerusalem, not alone the Apostles, but the Elders had a place : ” The Apostles and Ancients assembled” (Acts, xv, 6), and gave their opinion; “then it pleased the Apostles and Ancients” (ver. 22). We answer, that some consider the “Ancients” to have been Bishops, already consecrated by the Apostles; but others think that they were convoked, not as judges, but as advisers, to give their opinions, and thus more easily quiet the people. It will not avail our adversaries either, to say that many of the Bishops are men of prejudiced minds, or lax morality, who cannot expect, consequently, the Divine assistance, or that they are ignorant, and not sufficiently instructed in religious knowledge; for as God promised infallibility to his Church, and, consequently, to the Council which represents it, he so disposes every thing, that, in the definition of the dogmas of the Faith, all the means requisite are supplied. Hence, whenever there is not a manifest defect in any decision, by the omission of some requisite absolutely necessary, every one of the Faithful should bow down with submission to the Decrees of the Council.

  1. With regard to the other errors promulgated by these sectarians against Tradition, the Sacraments, the Mass, Communion under one kind, the Invocation of Saints, Feast Days, Relics, Images, Purgatory, Indulgences, and the Celibacy of the Clergy, I omit their refutation here, for I have done so already in my Dogmatic Work against the Reformers, on the Council of Trent (Sess. xxiii., sec. 1, & 2). But that the reader may form an opinion of the spirit of these new matters of the Faith, I will just quote one of Luther’s sentiments, from one of his public sermons to the people (21). He was highly indignant with some who rebelled against his authority, and, to terrify them into compliance with his sentiments, he said: “I will revoke all I have written and taught, and make my recantation.” Behold the Faith this new Church Reformer teaches a Faith, which he threatens to revoke, when he is not respected as he considers he should be. The Faith of all other sectaries is just the same; they never can be stable in their belief, when once they leave the true Church, the only Ark of Salvation.

(21) Luther, Ser. in Abus. t.7, p- 275.