PIUS VI 1775-1799

Errors of the Synod of Pistoia*

[Condemned in the Constitution, “Auctorem fidei,” Aug. 28, 1794]

  1. Errors about the Sacraments, and First about the Sacramental Form with a Condition Attached

[Baptism, sec. 12]


1527 27. The deliberation of the synod which, under pretext of clinging to ancient canons in the case of doubtful baptism, declares its intention of omitting mention of the conditional form,–rash, contrary to practice, to the law, to the authority of the Church.


The Partaking of the Victim in the Sacrifice of the Mass

[The Eucharist, sec. 6]


1528 28. The proposition of the synod in which, after it states that “a partaking of the victim is an essential part in the sacrifice,” it adds, “nevertheless, it does not condemn as illicit those Masses in which those present do not communicate sacramentally, for the reason that they do partake of the victim, although less perfectly, by receiving it spiritually,” since it insinuates that there is something lacking to the essence of the sacrifice in that sacrifice which is performed either with no one present, or with those present who partake of the victim neither sacramentally nor spiritually, and as if those Masses should be condemned as illicit, in which, with the priest alone communicating, no one is present who communicates either sacramentally or spiritually,–false, erroneous, suspected of heresy and savoring of it.


The Efficacy of the Rite of Consecration

[The Eucharist, sec. 2]


1529 29. The doctrine of the synod, in that part in which, undertaking to explain the doctrine of faith in the rite of consecration, and disregarding the scholastic questions about the manner in which Christ is in the Eucharist, from which questions it exhorts priests performing the duty of teaching to refrain, it states the doctrine in these two propositions only: I) after the consecration Christ is truly, really, substantially under the species; 2) then the whole substance of the bread and wine ceases, appearances only remaining; it (the doctrine) absolutely omits to make any mention of transubstantiation, or conversion of the whole substance of the bread into the body, and of the whole substance of the wine into the blood, which the Council of Trent defined as an article of faith [see n. 877, 884], and which is contained in the solemn profession of faith [see n. 997]; since by an indiscreet and suspicious omission of this sort knowledge is taken away both of an article pertaining to faith, and also of the word consecrated by the Church to protect the profession of it, as if it were a discussion of a merely scholastic question,–dangerous, derogatory to the exposition of Catholic truth about the dogma of transubstantiation, favorable to heretics.


The Application of the Fruit of the Sacrifice

[The Eucharist, sec. 8]


1530 30. The doctrine of the synod, by which, while it professes “to believe that the oblation of the sacrifice extends itself to all, in such a way, however, that in the liturgy there can be made a special commemoration of certain individuals, both living and dead, by praying God specially for them,” then it immediately adds: “Not, however, that we should believe that it is in the will of the priest to apply the fruit of the sacrifice to whom He wishes, rather we condemn this error as greatly offending the rights of God, who alone distributes the fruit of the sacrifice to whom He wishes and according to the measure which pleases Him”; and consequently, from this it derides “as false the opinion foisted on the people that they who give alms to the priest on the condition that he celebrate a Mass will receive from it special fruit”; thus understood, that besides the special commemoration and prayer a special offering itself, or application of the Sacrifice which is made by the priest does not benefit, other things being equal, those for whom it is applied more than any others, as if no special fruit would come from a special application, which the Church recommends and commands should be made for definite persons or classes of persons, especially by pastors for their flock, and which, as if coming down from a divine precept, has been clearly expressed by the sacred synod of Trent (sees. 23, c. I De reform; BENED. XIV, Constit. “Cum semper oblatas,” sec. 2),–false, rash, dangerous, injurious to the Church, leading into the error elsewhere condemned in Wycliffe [see n 599].


The Suitable Order to Be Observed in Worship

[The Eucharist, sec. 5]


1531 31. The proposition of the synod enunciating that it is fitting, in accordance with the order of divine services and ancient custom that there be only one altar in each temple, and therefore, that it is pleased to restore that custom,–rash, injurious to the very ancient pious custom flourishing and approved for these many centuries in the Church, especially in the Latin Church.




1532 32. Likewise, the prescription forbidding cases of sacred relics or flowers being placed on the altar,–rash, injurious to the pious and approved custom of the Church.


Ibid., sec. 6]


1533 33. The proposition of the synod by which it shows itself eager to remove the cause through which, in part, there has been induced a forgetfulness of the principles relating to the order of the liturgy, “by recalling it (the liturgy) to a greater simplicity of rites, by expressing it in the vernacular language, by uttering it in a loud voice”; as if the present order of the liturgy, received and approved by the Church, had emanated in some part from the forgetfulness of the principles by which it should be regulated,–rash, offensive to pious ears, insulting to the Church, favorable to the charges of heretics against it.


The Order of Penance

[Penance, sec. 7]


1534 34. The declaration of the synod by which, after it previously stated that the order of canonical penance had been so established by the Church, in accord with the example of the apostles that it was common to all, and not merely for the punishment of guilt, but especially for the disposition to grace, it adds that “it (the synod) recognizes in that marvelous and venerable order the whole dignity of so necessary a sacrament, free from the subtleties which have been added to it in the course of time”; as if, through the order in which without the complete course of canonical penance this sacrament has been wont to be administered, the dignity of the sacrament had been lessened,–rash, scandalous, inducing to a contempt of the dignity of the sacrament as it has been accustomed to be administered throughout the whole Church, injurious to the Church itself.


[Penance, sec. 10, n. 4]


1535 35. The proposition conceived in these words: “If charity in the beginning is always weak, it behooves the priest, in obtaining an increase of this charity in the ordinary way, to make those acts of humiliation and penance which have been recommended in every age by the Church precede; to reduce those acts to a few prayers or to some fasting after absolution has already been conferred, seems to be a material desire of keeping for this sacrament the mere name of penance, rather than an illuminating and suitable means to increase that fervor of charity which ought to precede absolution; indeed we are far from blaming the practice of imposing penances to be fulfilled after absolution; if all our good works have our defects always joined to them, how much more ought we to fear lest we admit very many imperfections into the very difficult and very important work of our reconciliation”; since it implies that the penances which are imposed, to be fulfilled after absolution, are to be considered as a supplement for the defects admitted in the work of our reconciliation, rather than as truly sacramental penances and satisfactions for the sins confessed, as if, in order that the true reason for the sacrament, not the mere name, be preserved, it would be necessary that in the ordinary way the acts of humiliation and penance, which are imposed as a means of sacramental satisfaction, should precede absolution,– false, rash, injurious to the common practice of the Church, leading to the error contained in the heretical note in Peter of Osma [see n. 728; cf. n. 1306 f.]


The Previous Disposition Necessary for Admitting Penitents to Reconciliation

[Grace, sec. 15]


1536 36. The doctrine of the synod, in which, after it stated that “when there are unmistakable signs of the love of God dominating in the heart of a man, he can deservedly be considered worthy of being admitted to participation in the blood of Jesus Christ, which takes place in the sacraments,” it further adds, “that false conversions, which take place through attrition (incomplete sorrow for sins), are not usually efficacious nor durable,” consequently, “the shepherd of souls must insist on unmistakable signs of the dominating charity before he admits his penitents to the sacraments”; which signs, as it (the decree) then teaches (sec. 17. “a pastor can deduce from a firm cessation of sin and from fervor in good works”; and this “fervor of charity,” moreover, it prescribes De poenit. sec. 10) as the disposition which “should precede absolution”; so understood that not only imperfect contrition, which is sometimes called by the name of attrition, even that which is joined with the love with which a man begins to love God as the fountain of all justice [cf. n. 798], and not only contrition formed by charity, but also the fervor of a dominating charity, and that, indeed, proved by a long continued practice through fervor in good works, is generally and absolutely required in order that a man may be admitted to the sacraments, and penitents especially be admitted to the benefit of the absolution,–false, rash, disturbing to the peace of souls, contrary to the safe and approved practice of the Church, detracting from the efficacy of the sacrament and injurious to it.


The Authority for Absolving

[Penance, sec. 10] n. 6]


1537 37. The teaching of the synod, which declares concerning the authority for absolving received through ordination that “after the institution of dioceses and parishes, it is fitting that each one exercise this judgment over those persons subject to him either by reason of territory or some personal right,” because “otherwise confusion and disturbance would be introduced”; since it declares that, in order to prevent confusion, after dioceses and parishes have been instituted, it is merely fitting that the power of absolving be exercised upon subjects; so understood, as if for the valid use of this power there is no need of ordinary or delegated jurisdiction, without which the Tridentine Synod declares that absolution conferred by a priest is of no value,–false, rash, dangerous, contrary and injurious to the Tridentine Synod [see no. 903], erroneous.


[Ibid., sec. II]


1538 38. Likewise, that teaching in which, after the synod professed that “it could not but admire that very venerable discipline of antiquity, which (as it says) did not admit to penance so easily, and perhaps never, that one who, after a first sin and a first reconciliation, had relapsed into guilt,” it adds, that “through fear of perpetual exclusion from communion and from peace, even in the hour of death, a great restraint will be put on those who consider too little the evil of sin and fear it less,” contrary to canon 13. of the first Council of Nicea [see n. 57], to the decretal of Innocent I to Exuperius Tolos [see n. 95], and then also to the decretal of Celestine I to the Bishops of Vienne, and of the Province of Narbon [see n. III], redolent of the viciousness at which the Holy Pontiff is horrified in that decretal.


The Confession of Venial Sins.

[Penance, sec. 12]


1539 39. The declaration of the synod about the confession of venial sins, which it does not wish, it says, to be so frequently resorted to, lest confessions of this sort be rendered too contemptible,–rash, dangerous, contrary to the practice of the saints and the pious which was approved [see n. 899] by the sacred Council of Trent.



[Penance, sec. 16]


1540 40. The proposition asserting “that an indulgence, according to its precise notion, is nothing else than the remission of that part of the penance which had been established by the canons for the sinner”; as if an indulgence, in addition to the mere remission of the canonical penance, does not also have value for the remission of the temporal punishment due to the divine justice for actual sins,—false, ras,, injurious to t to the merits of Christ, already condemned in article 19. of Luther [see n. 759].




1541 41. Likewise, in this which is added, i.e., that “the scholastics, puffed up by their subtleties, introduced the poorly understood treasury of the merits of Christ and of the saints, and, for the clear notion of absolution from canonical penance, they substituted a confused and false notion of the application of merits”; as if the treasures of the Church, whence the pope grants indulgences, are not the merits of Christ and of the saints,– false, rash, injurious to the merits of Christ and of the saints, previously condemned in art. 17. of Luther [see n. 757; cf. n. 550 ff.].




1542 42. Likewise, in this which it adds, that “it is still more lamentable that that fabulous application is meant to be transferred to the dead,”– false, rash, offensive to pious ears, injurious to the Roman Pontiffs and to the practice and sense of the universal Church, leading to the error fixed [cf. n. 729] in the heretical note in Peter of Osma, again condemned in article 22 of Luther [see n. 762].




1543 43. In this, finally, that it most shamelessly inveighs against lists of indulgences, privileged altars, etc.,–rash, offensive to the ears of the pious, scandalous, abusive to the Supreme Pontiffs, and to the practice common in the whole Church.


The Reservation of Cases

[Penance, sec. 19]


1544 44. The proposition of the synod asserting that the “reservation Of cases at the present time is nothing else than an improvident bond for priests of lower rank, and a statement devoid of sense for penitents who are accustomed to pay no heed to this reservation,”–false, rash, evil sounding, dangerous, contrary to the Council of Trent [see n. 903], injurious to the hierarchic power.




1545 45. Likewise, concerning the hope which it expressed that “when the Ritual and the order of penance had been reformed, there would be no place any longer for reservations of this sort”; in so far as, considering the careful generality of the words, it intimates that, by a reformation of the Ritual and of the order of penance made by a bishop or a synod, cases can be abolished which the Tridentine Synod (sees. 14, C. 7 [n. 903]) declares the Supreme Pontiffs could reserve to their own special judgment, because of the supreme power given to them in the universal Church,–the proposition is false, rash, derogatory, and injurious to the Council of Trent and to the authority of the Supreme Pontiffs.



[Penance, sees. 20 and 22]


1546 46. The proposition asserting that “the effect of excommunication is merely exterior, because by its nature it merely excludes from exterior communion with the Church”; as if excommunication were not a spiritual punishment, binding in heaven, obligating souls (from St. August., Epistle 250 to Bishop Auxilius; Tract 50 in lo., I2),–false, dangerous, condemned in art. 23 of Luther [see n. 763], at least erroneous.


[Sees. 21. and 23]


1547 47. Likewise, the proposition which teaches that it is necessary, according to the natural and divine laws, for either excommunication or for suspension, that a personal examination should precede, and that, therefore, sentences called “ipso facto” have no other force than that of a serious threat without any actual effect,–false, rash, pernicious, injurious to the power of the Church, erroneous.


[Sec. 22]


1548 48. Likewise, the proposition which says that “useless and vain is the formula introduced some centuries ago of general absolution from excommunications into which the faithful might have fallen,”–false, rash, injurious to the practice of the Church.


[Sec. 24]


1549 49. Likewise, the proposition which condemns as null and invalid “suspensions imposed from an informed conscience,”–false, pernicious, injurious to Trent.




1550 50. Likewise, in that decree which insinuates that a bishop alone does not have the right to make use of the power which, nevertheless, Trent confers on him (sees. 14, C. I de reform.) of legitimately inflicting suspensions “from an informed conscience,”–harmful to the jurisdiction of the prelates of the Church.



[Orders, sec. 4]


1551 51. The doctrine of the synod which says that in promoting to orders this method, from the custom and rule of the ancient discipline, was accustomed to be observed, “that if any cleric was distinguished for holiness of life and was considered worthy to ascend to sacred orders, it was the custom to promote him to the diaconate, or to the priesthood, even if he had not received minor orders; and that at that time such an ordination was not called ‘per saltum,’ as afterwards it was so called,”–


[Sec. 5]


1552 52. Likewise, the doctrine which intimates that there was no other title for ordinations than appointment to some special ministry, such as was prescribed in the Council of Chalcedon; adding (Sec. 6) that, as long as the Church conformed itself to these principles in the selection of sacred ministers, the ecclesiastical order flourished; but that those happy days have passed, and new principles have been introduced later, by which the discipline in the choice of ministers for the sanctuary was corrupted;–


[Sec. 7]


1553 53. Likewise, that among these very principles of corruption it mentions the fact that there has been a departure from the old rule by which, as it says (Sec. 5) the Church, treading in the footsteps of the Apostle, had prescribed that no one should be admitted to the priesthood unless he had preserved his baptismal innocence, since it implies that discipline has been corrupted by decrees and rules:


1) Whether by these ordinations “per saltum” have been forbidden;


2) or by these, for the need and advantage of churches, ordination without special title of office are approved, as the ordination for the title of patrimony, specifically approved by Trent, that obedience having been assured by which those so ordained are obliged to serve the necessities of the Churches in fulfilling those duties, for which, considering the time and the place, they were ordained by the bishop, just as it was accustomed to be done from apostolic times in the primitive Church;


3) or, by these a distinction was made by canon law of crimes which render the delinquents irregular; as if, by this distinction, the Church departed from the spirit of the Apostle by not excluding in general and without distinction from the ecclesiastical ministry all, whosoever they be, who have not preserved their baptismal innocence,–the doctrine is false in its several individual parts, rash, disturbing to the order intro duced for the need and advantage of the churches, injurious to the discipline approved by the canons and especially by the decrees of the Council of Trent.


[Sec. 13]


1554 54. Likewise, the doctrine which notes as a shameful abuse ever to offer alms for the celebration of Masses, and for administering the sacraments, as well as to accept any offering so-called “of the stole,” and, in general, any stipend and honorarium which may be offered on the occasion of prayers or of some parochial function; as if the ministers of the Church should be charged with a shameful abuse because they use the right promulgated by the Apostle of accepting temporal aids from those to whom they furnish spiritual ministrations [Gal. 6:6],–false, rash, harmful to ecclesiastical and pastoral right, injurious to the Church and its ministers.


[Sec. 14 ]


1555 55. Likewise, the doctrine by which it professes to desire very much that some way be found of removing the lesser clergy (under which name it designates the clerics of minor orders) from cathedrals and colleges by providing otherwise, namely through approved lay people of mature age, a suitable assigned stipend for the ministry of serving at Masses and for other offices such as that of acolyte, etc., as formerly, it says, was usually done when duties of that sort had not been reduced to mere form for the receiving of major orders; inasmuch as it censures the rule by which care is taken that “the functions of minor orders are to be performed or exercised only by those who have been established in them according to rank” (Cone. prov. IV of Milan), and this also according to the intention of the Tridentine Council (sees. 23, c. 17. “that the duties of sacred orders, from the diaconate to the porter, laudably received in he Church from apostolic times and neglected for a while m many laces, should be renewed according to the sacred canons, and should not be considered useless as they are by heretics,”–a rash suggestion, offento pious ears, disturbing to the ecclesiastical ministry, lessening of the decency which should be observed as far as possible in celebrating the mysteries’ injurious to the duties and functions of minor orders, as well as to the discipline approved by the canons and especially by the Tridentine Synod, favorable to the charges and calumnies of heretics against it.


[Sec. 18]


1556 56. The doctrine which states that it seems fitting that, in the case of canonical impediments which arise from crimes expressed in the law, no dispensation should ever be granted or allowed,–harmful to the canonical equity and moderation which has been approved by the sacred council of Trent, derogatory to the authority and laws of the Church.


[Ibid., sec. 22]


1557 57. The prescription of the synod which generally and indiscriminately rejects as an abuse any dispensation that more than one residential benefice be bestowed on one and the same person: likewise, in this which it adds that the synod is certain that, according to the spirit of the Church, no one could enjoy more than one benefice, even if it is a simple one,–for its generality, derogatory to the moderation of the Council of Trent (sees. 7, C. 5, and sess. 24, c. 17).


Betrothals and Matrimony

[Memorial Booklet about Betrothals, etc. sec. 8]


1558 58. The proposition which states that betrothals properly so-called contain a mere civil act which disposes for the celebrating of marriage, and that these same betrothals are altogether subject to the prescription of the civil laws. as if the act disposing for the sacrament is not, under this aspect, subject to the law of the Church,–false, harmful to the right of the Church in respect to the effects flowing even from betrothals by reason of the canonical sanctions, derogatory to the discipline established by the Church.


[Matrimony, sees. 7, 11, 12]


1559 59. The doctrine of the synod asserting that “to the supreme civil power alone originally belongs the right to apply to the contract of marriage impediments of that sort which render it null and are called nullifying”: which “original right,” besides, is said to be ”essentially connected with the right of dispensing”: adding that “with the secret consent or connivance of the principals, the Church could justly establish impediments which nullify the very contract of marriage”; as if the Church could not and cannot always in Christian marriages, establish by its own rights impediments which not only hinder marriage, but also render it null as regards the bond, and also dispense from those impediments by which Christians are held bound even in the countries of infidels,–destructive of canons 3, 4, 9, 12 of the 24th session of the Council of Trent, heretical [see n. 973 ff.].


[Cit. Memorial Booklet about Betrothals, sec. 10]


1560 60. Likewise, the proposal of the synod to the civil power, that “it remove from the number of impediments, whose origin is found in the Collection of Justinian, spiritual relationship and also that one which is called of public honor”; then, that “it should tighten the impediment of affinity and relationship from any licit or illicit connection of birth to the fourth degree, according to the civil computation through the lateral and oblique lines, in such a way, nevertheless, that there be left no hope of obtaining a dispensation”; in so far as it attributes to the civil power the right either of abolishing or of tightening impediments which have been established and approved by the authority of the Church; likewise, where it proposes that the Church can be despoiled by the civil power of the right of dispensing from impediments established or approved by the Church,–subversive of the liberty and power of the Church, contrary to Trent, issuing from the heretical principle condemned above [see n. 973 ff.].

Denzinger Menu