|THE COUNCIL OF TRENT|
|Session XIII - The third under the Supreme
Pontiff, Julius III, celebrated on the eleventh day of October, 1551
|Decree Concerning the Most Holy Sacrament of the
The holy, ecumenical and general Council of Trent, lawfully assembled in the Holy Ghost, the same legate and nuncios of the holy Apostolic See presiding, though convened, not without the special guidance and direction of the Holy Ghost, for the purpose of setting forth the true and ancient doctrine concerning faith and the sacraments, and of applying a remedy to all the heresies and the other most grievous troubles by which the Church of God is now miserably disturbed and rent into many and various parts, yet, even from the outset, has especially desired that it might pull up by the roots the cockles of execrable errors and schisms which the enemy has in these our troubled times disseminated regarding the doctrine, use and worship of the Sacred Eucharist, which our Savior left in His Church as a symbol of that unity and charity with which He wished all Christians to be mutually bound and united. Wherefore, this holy council, stating that sound and genuine doctrine of the venerable and divine sacrament of the Eucharist, which the Catholic Church, instructed by our Lord Jesus Christ Himself and by His Apostles, and taught by the Holy Ghost who always brings to her mind all truth, has held and will preserve even to the end of the world, forbids all the faithful of Christ to presume henceforth to believe, teach or preach with regard to the most Holy Eucharist otherwise than is explained and defined in this present decree.
First of all, the holy council teaches and openly and plainly professes that after the consecration of bread and wine, our Lord Jesus Christ, true God and true man, is truly, really and substantially contained in the august sacrament of the Holy Eucharist under the appearance of those sensible things. For there is no repugnance in this that our Savior sits always at the right hand of the Father in heaven according to the natural mode of existing, and yet is in many other places sacramentally present to us in His own substance by a manner of existence which, though we can scarcely express in words, yet with our understanding illumined by faith, we can conceive and ought most firmly to believe is possible to God. For thus all our forefathers, as many as were in the true Church of Christ and who treated of this most holy sacrament, have most openly professed that our Redeemer instituted this wonderful sacrament at the last supper, when, after blessing the bread and wine, He testified in clear and definite words that He gives them His own body and His own blood. Since these words, recorded by the holy Evangelists and afterwards repeated by St. Paul, embody that proper and clearest meaning in which they were understood by the Fathers, it is a most contemptible action on the part of some contentious and wicked men to twist them into fictitious and imaginary tropes by which the truth of the flesh and blood of Christ is denied, contrary to the universal sense of the Church, which, as the pillar and ground of truth, recognizing with a mind ever grateful and unforgetting this most excellent favor of Christ, has detested as satanical these untruths devised by impious men.
Therefore, our Savior, when about to depart from this world to the Father, instituted this sacrament, in which He poured forth, as it were, the riches of His divine love towards men, making a remembrance of his wonderful works, and commanded us in the participation of it to reverence His memory and to show forth his death until he comes to judge the world. But He wished that this sacrament should be received as the spiritual food of souls, whereby they may be nourished and strengthened, living by the life of Him who said: He that eateth me, the same also shall live by me, and as an antidote whereby we may be freed from daily faults and be preserved from mortal sins.
He wished it furthermore to be a pledge of our future glory and everlasting happiness, and thus be a symbol of that one body of which He is the head and to which He wished us to be united as members by the closest bond of faith, hope and charity, that we might all speak the same thing and there might be no schisms among us.
The most Holy Eucharist has indeed this in common with the other sacraments, that it is a symbol of a sacred thing and a visible form of an invisible grace; but there is found in it this excellent and peculiar characteristic, that the other sacraments then first have the power of sanctifying when one uses them, while in the Eucharist there is the Author Himself of sanctity before it is used. For the Apostles had not yet received the Eucharist from the hands of the Lord, when He Himself told them that what He was giving them is His own body. This has always been the belief of the Church of God, that immediately after the consecration the true body and the true blood of our Lord, together with His soul and divinity exist under the form of bread and wine, the body under the form of bread and the blood under the form of wine <ex vi verborum;> but the same body also under the form of wine and the same blood under the form of bread and the soul under both, in virtue of that natural connection and concomitance whereby the parts of Christ the Lord, who hath now risen from the dead, to die <no more>, are mutually united; also the divinity on account of its admirable hypostatic union with His body and soul. Wherefore, it is very true that as much is contained under either form as under both. For Christ is whole and entire under the form of bread and under any part of that form; likewise the whole Christ is present under the form of wine and under all its parts.
But since Christ our Redeemer declared that to be truly His own body which He offered under the form of bread, it has, therefore, always been a firm belief in the Church of God, and this holy council now declares it anew, that by the consecration of the bread and wine a change is brought about of the whole substance of the bread into the substance of the body of Christ our Lord, and of the whole substance of the wine into the substance of His blood. This change the holy Catholic Church properly and appropriately calls transubstantiation.
There is, therefore, no room for doubt that all the faithful of Christ may, in accordance with a custom always received in the Catholic Church, give to this most holy sacrament in veneration the worship of <latria>, which is due to the true God. Neither is it to be less adored for the reason that it was instituted by Christ the Lord in order to be received. For we believe that in it the same God is present of whom the eternal Father, when introducing Him into the world, says: And let all the angels of God adore him; whom the Magi, falling down, adored; who, finally, as the Scriptures testify, was adored by the Apostles in Galilee.
The holy council declares, moreover, that the custom that this sublime and venerable sacrament be celebrated with special veneration and solemnity every year on a fixed festival day, and that it be borne reverently and with honor in processions through the streets and public places, was very piously and religiously introduced into the Church of God. For it is most reasonable that some days be set aside as holy on which all Christians may with special and unusual demonstration testify that their minds are grateful to and mindful of their common Lord and Redeemer for so ineffable and truly divine a favor whereby the victory and triumph of His death are shown forth. And thus indeed did it behoove the victorious truth to celebrate a triumph over falsehood and heresy, that in the sight of so much splendor and in the midst of so great joy of the universal Church, her enemies may either vanish weakened and broken, or, overcome with shame and confounded, may at length repent.
The custom of reserving the Holy Eucharist in a sacred place is so ancient that even the period of the Nicene Council recognized that usage. Moreover, the practice of carrying the Sacred Eucharist to the sick and of carefully reserving it for this purpose in churches, besides being exceedingly reasonable and appropriate, is also found enjoined in numerous councils and is a very ancient observance of the Catholic Church.
Wherefore, this holy council decrees that this salutary and necessary custom be by all means retained.
If it is unbecoming for anyone to approach any of the sacred functions except in a spirit of piety, assuredly, the more the holiness and divinity of this heavenly sacrament are understood by a Christian, the more diligently ought he to give heed lest he receive it without great reverence and holiness, especially when we read those terrifying words of the Apostle: <He that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh judgment to himself, not discerning the body of the Lord.> Wherefore, he who would communicate, must recall to mind his precept: <Let a man prove himself.> Now, ecclesiastical usage declares that such an examination is necessary in order that no one conscious to himself of mortal sin, however contrite he may feel, ought to receive the Sacred Eucharist without previous sacramental confession. This the holy council has decreed to be invariably observed by all Christians, even by those priests on whom it may be incumbent by their office to celebrate, provided the opportunity of a confessor is not wanting to them. But if in an urgent necessity a priest should celebrate without previous confession, let him confess as soon as possible.
As to the use of this holy sacrament, our Fathers have rightly and wisely distinguished three ways of receiving it. They have taught that some receive it sacramentally only, as sinners; others spiritually only, namely, those who eating in desire the heavenly bread set before them, are by a lively <faith which worketh by charity> made sensible of its fruit and usefulness; while the third class receives it both sacramentally and spiritually, and these are they who so prove and prepare themselves beforehand that they approach this divine table clothed with the wedding garment. As regards the reception of the sacrament, it has always been the custom in the Church of God that laics receive communion from priests, but that priests when celebrating communicate themselves, which custom ought with justice and reason to be retained as coming down from Apostolic tradition. Finally, the holy council with paternal affection admonishes, exhorts, prays and beseeches through the bowels of the mercy of our God, that each and all who bear the Christian name will now at last agree and be of one mind in this sign of unity, in this bond of charity, in this symbol of concord, and that, mindful of so great a majesty and such boundless love of our Lord Jesus Christ, who gave His own beloved soul as the price of our salvation and His own flesh to eat, they may believe and venerate these sacred mysteries of His body and blood with such constancy and firmness of faith, with such devotion of mind, with such piety and worship, that they may be able to receive frequently that super-substantial bread and that it may truly be to them the life of the soul and the perpetual health of their mind; that being invigorated by its strength, they may be able after the journey of this miserable pilgrimage to arrive in their heavenly country, there to eat, without any veil, the same bread of angels which they now eat under sacred veils.
But since it is not enough to declare the truth unless errors be exposed and repudiated, it has seemed good to the holy council to subjoin these canons, so that, the Catholic doctrine being already known, all may understand also what are the heresies which they ought to guard against and avoid.
The same holy Council of Trent, lawfully assembled in the Holy Ghost, the same legate and nuncios of the Apostolic See presiding, having in mind to decide some things that relate to the jurisdiction of bishops, in order that, as was announced in the last session, they may the more willingly reside in the churches committed to them the more easily and conveniently they may be able to rule and keep in uprightness of life and of morals those subject to them, deems it appropriate in the first place to admonish them to bear in mind that they are shepherds and not oppressors and that they ought so to preside over those subject to them as not to lord it over them, but to love them as children and brethren and to strive by exhortation and admonition to deter them from what is unlawful, that they may not be obliged, should they transgress, to coerce them by due punishments. In regard to those, however, who should happen to sin through human frailty, that command of the Apostle is to be observed, that they reprove, entreat, rebuke them in all kindness and patience, since benevolence toward those to be corrected often effects more than severity, exhortation more than threat, and charity more than force. But if on account of the gravity of the offense there is need of the rod, then is rigor to be tempered with gentleness, judgment with mercy, and severity with clemency, that discipline, so salutary and necessary for the people, may be preserved without harshness and they who are chastised may be corrected, or, if they are unwilling to repent, that others may by the wholesome example of their punishment be deterred from vices, since it is the duty of a shepherd, at once diligent and kind, to apply first of all mild anodynes to the disorders of his sheep, and afterwards, if the gravity of the disorder should demand it, to proceed to sharper and severer remedies; but if even these prove ineffective in removing the disorders, then he is to liberate the other sheep at least from the danger of contagion. Since, therefore, those guilty of crimes, for the most part to avoid punishment and to evade the judgments of their bishops, pretend to have complaints and grievances and under the subterfuge of an appeal, impede the process of the judge, [this council] in order to prevent a remedy which was instituted for the protection of the innocent from being abused and utilized for the defense of wickedness, and that their cunning and tergiversation may be thwarted, has ordained and decreed: That in causes relative to visitation and correction, or to competency and incompetency, as also in criminal causes there shall before the definitive sentence be no appeal from the bishop or his vicar-general in spiritual matters by reason of an interlocutory judgment or any other grievance whatsoever; nor shall the bishop or his vicar be bound to take notice of an appeal of this kind since it is frivolous, but he may proceed to further measures notwithstanding that appeal or any inhibition emanating from the judge of appeal, as also every written statement and custom, even immemorial, to the contrary, unless a grievance of this kind cannot be repaired by the definitive sentence or there is no appeal from it, in which cases the statutes of the ancient canons shall remain unimpaired.
An appeal in criminal causes from the sentence of the bishop or his vicar-general in spiritual matters, where there is room for appeal, shall, if it happens to be a case assigned by Apostolic authority locally, be committed to the metropolitan, or also to his vicar-general in spiritual matters; or if he be for some reason suspected, or be distant more than two legal days' journey, or if it be from him that the appeal is made, the case shall be assigned to one of the nearest bishops or their vicars, but not to inferior judges.
The accused who in a criminal cause appeals from the bishop or his vicar-general in spiritual matters, shall by all means produce before the judge to whom he has appealed, the acts of the first instance, and the judge, unless he has seen them, shall not proceed to his absolution. He from whom the appeal has been made shall, on demand of the appellant, furnish those acts gratuitously within thirty days; otherwise the case of an appeal of this kind shall be terminated without them according as justice may demand.
Since ecclesiastics are sometimes guilty of crimes so grave that on account of their shocking wickedness they have to be deposed from sacred orders and handed over to the secular court, in which, according to the sacred canons, a certain number of bishops is required, and if it should be difficult to assemble them all the due execution of the law would be retarded, whereas even when they are able to be present their residence would be interrupted; therefore, it is ordained and decreed that it shall be lawful for a bishop by himself or by his vicar general in spiritual matters, even without the presence of other bishops, to proceed against a cleric, even if constituted in the priesthood, both in regard to his condemnation and to his verbal deposition, and he may by himself proceed also to actual and solemn degradation from ecclesiastical orders and grades, in the cases in which the presence of a specified number of other bishops is required by the canons after convoking and being assisted in this by a like number of abbots who have the right of using the miter and crosier by Apostolic privilege, if they can be found in the city or diocese and can conveniently be present; otherwise he may be assisted by other persons constituted in ecclesiastical dignity, who are outstanding by reason of their age and recommendable by their knowledge of law.
And since it sometimes happens that under false pleas, which however appear probable enough, certain persons fraudulently obtain favors of the kind, whereby the punishments imposed on them by the just severity of their bishops are either wholly remitted or mitigated; and since it is a thing not to be tolerated that a lie, which is so exceedingly displeasing to God, should not only go unpunished, but should even obtain for him who tells it the pardon of another crime; it is therefore ordained and decreed as follows: a bishop residing in his own church may <per se ipsum>, as the delegate of the Apostolic See, and without judicial process, take cognizance of the cheating and stealing of a favor obtained under false pretenses for the absolution of any public crime or delinquency, concerning which he himself had instituted an inquiry, or for the remission of a punishment to which he has himself condemned the criminal; and he shall not admit that favor after it shall have been lawfully established that it was obtained by the statement of what is false or by the suppression of what is true.
Since the subjects of a bishop, even though they may have been justly corrected, do nevertheless often bear toward him a violent hatred and, as if they had suffered some wrong at his hands, bring false accusations against him in order that they may annoy him by any means in their power, the fear of which annoyance chiefly renders him more backward in inquiring into and punishing their delinquencies; therefore, in order that he may not be compelled to his own great disadvantage and that of his church to abandon the flock entrusted to him, and not without detriment to the episcopal dignity to wander from place to place, it is ordained and decreed: a bishop, even though he be proceeded against ex officio, or by way of inquiry or denunciation or accusation or in any other way, shall not be cited or warned to appear in person except for a cause for which he may be deposed from or deprived of his office.
In the matter of examination or information in a criminal cause or in an otherwise grave cause against a bishop, no witnesses shall be accepted unless their testimony is confirmed and they are of good life, of good esteem and reputation; and if they shall have made any deposition through hatred, rashness or self-interest, they shall be subject to severe penalties.
Causes of bishops, when by reason of the nature of the crime charged against them they have to appear [in person], shall be taken before the supreme pontiff and be decided by him.
Postponing the Definition of four Articles concerning the Sacrament of the Eucharist and granting Letters of Safe-conduct to the Protestants
The same holy council, desiring to root up from the field of the Lord all errors which have like thorns sprung up relative to this most holy sacrament, and to provide for the salvation of all the faithful, having devoutly offered daily prayers to Almighty God, among other articles pertaining to this sacrament which have been considered with the most careful examination of the Catholic truth, after many and most thorough discussions according to the importance of the matters have been held and the views also of the most eminent theologians have been ascertained, has also considered the following: Whether it is necessary to salvation and prescribed by divine law that all the faithful of Christ receive that venerable sacrament under both species; then, whether he receives less who communicates under one than he who communicates under both; further, whether holy mother Church errs when she permits the laity and priests when not celebrating to communicate under the form of bread only; finally, whether children also must communicate. But since those of the glorious province of Germany, who call themselves Protestants, desire to be heard by the holy council in regard to these articles before they are defined, and for this reason have asked of it a pledge that they may be permitted to come here in safety, sojourn in this city, speak and express freely their views before the council and then depart when they please, this holy council, though it has for many months looked forward with great eagerness to their arrival, nevertheless, like an affectionate mother that groans and labors, desiring and laboring tirelessly to the end that among those who bear the Christian name there may be no schisms, but that as all acknowledge the same God and Redeemer, so also may they confess the same, believe the same, know the same, trusting in the mercy of God and hoping that they may be brought back to the most holy and salutary union of one faith, hope and charity, willingly yielding to them in this matter, has, so far as it concerns [the council], given and granted, in accordance with their request, assurance of safety and good faith, which they call a safe-conduct, the tenor of which will be set forth below, and for their sake it has postponed the definition of those articles to the second session, which, that they may conveniently be present thereat, it has announced for the feast of the Conversion of St. Paul, which is the twenty-fifth day of the month of January of the following year. It was furthermore decided that in the same session the sacrifice of the mass will be treated of because of the close connection between the two subjects; meanwhile it will discuss the sacraments of penance and extreme unction in the next session. This it has decided to be held on the feast of St. Catherine, virgin and martyr, which will be the twenty-fifth of November, and at the same time, in both sessions, the matter of reform will be continued.
Safe-Conduct Granted To Protestants
The holy and general Council of Trent, lawfully assembled in the Holy Ghost, the same legate and nuncios of the holy Apostolic See presiding, grants, so far as it pertains to the council itself, to each and all persons throughout the whole of Germany, whether ecclesiastics or seculars, of whatever rank, station, condition and circumstances they may be, who may wish to come to this ecumenical and general council, security and full protection, which they call a safe-conduct, with each and all of the necessary and suitable clauses and decisions, even though they ought to be expressed specifically and not in general terms, and it is its wish that they be understood as so expressed, so that they may and shall enjoy full liberty to confer, make proposals and discuss those things that are to be discussed in the council; to come freely and safely to the ecumenical council, to remain and sojourn there and to propose therein, in writing as well as orally, as many articles as may seem good to them, to deliberate with the Fathers or with those who may have been chosen by the council and without any abuse and contumely dispute with them; they may also depart whenever they please. It has moreover seemed expedient to the holy council, that if for their greater liberty and safety they wish that certain judges be deputed on their behalf in regard to crimes that either have been committed or may be committed by them, they may themselves choose such as are favorably disposed toward them, even though the crimes should be of a grave nature or even savor of heresy.
1 Matt. 13:30.
2 Luke 12:12; John 14:26; 16:13.
3 Cf. Sess. III, the Symbol.
4 Matt. 19:26; Luke 18:27.
5 Matt. 26:26-28; Mark 14: 22-24; Luke 22:19 f.
6 See I Cor. 11:24f.
7 See I Tim. 3:15.
8 Ps. 110:4.
9 Luke 22:19; I Cor. 11:24-26.
10 Matt. 26: 26 f.
11 John 6: 58
12 See 1 Cor. 11:3; Eph. 5:23.
13 See I Cor. 1:10.
14 C. 32, D.II de cons.
15 Matt. 26:26; Mark 14:22.
16 Cf. <infra>, can T.
17 Rom. 6:9.
18 Cc. 58, 71, 78, D. II de cons.
19 Cf. <infra>, can. 3 and Sess. XXI, chap. 3.
20 Luke 22: 19; John 6:48 ff.; 1 Cor. 11: 24.
21 Cf. c. 55, D. II de cons.; <infra>, can. 3.
22 Cf. infra, can. 6.
23 Matt. 26: 26.
24 Heb. 1:6.
25 Matt. 2:11.
26 Ibid., 28: 17- Luke 24:52.
27 Cf. c. un. in Clem. De reliq. et venerat. sanct., III, 16.
28 Cf. infra, can. 6.
29 C. 93, D. II de cons.; c. 6, C.XXVI, q. 6; c. 10, X, De celebr. miss., III, 41; <infra,> can. 7.
30 Cf. I Council of Nicaea (325), C. 13.
31 Cf. c. 63, D.L and c. I, X, De custod. eucharist., III, 44.
32 See 1 Cor. 11:29.
33 Ibid., 11:28.
34 Cf. <infra>, can. II.
35 Gal. 5:6.
36 Cf. <infra>, can. 8.
37 Matt. 22:11.
38 Cf. c. I l, D. II de cons. and <infra>, can. 10.
39 Heb. 5:3; 7:27.
40 John 6:56 ff.
41 Ps. 77:25.
42 Cf. <supra>, chap. 3.
43 Ibid., chap. 4.
44 Ibid., chap. 3 and Sess. XXI, chap. 3.
45 <Supra>, chap. 3.
46 Ibid., chap. 2.
47 <Supra>, chap. 5.
48 Ibid., chap. 6.
49 Ibid., chap. 8.
50 Sess. XIV, Penance, can. 8.
51 <Supra>, chap. 8.
52 Ibid., chap. 7.
53 See I Pet. 5:2 f.; c. 1-9, D.XLV.
54 See II Tim. 4:2. 55 C. 6, D.XLV.
56 CC. 16, 17, C.XXIV, q. 3.
57 C. 3, X, De appell., II, 28.
58 Ibid., C. 59.
59 C.II, VI, De rescript, I, 3.
60 C. 2, C.III, q. 8; cc. I, 4-7, C.XV, q. 7.
61 CC. 20, 22, X, De rescript, I, 3.
62 C 21, C. II, q. 7.
63 Cf. Sess. XXIV, chap. 5 de ref.
64 C. 7, C.VI, q. 4; Sess. XXIV, chap. cit.
Taken from "The Canons and Decrees of the Council of Trent" Translated by Rev. H.J. Schroeder, O.P., published by Tan Books and Publishers, Inc., P. O. Box 424, Rockford, IL 61105, 1-800-437-5876.
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