LEO XIII "SATIS COGNITUM"
1. Unity, characteristic of the Church founded by Christ, has a strong
influence on souls. The conditions for the return of Protestants are
established by God, not by men.
2. Both in the natural and in the supernatural order, God makes use of men
to serve men. So Jesus Christ has perpetuated His mission in the Catholic
Church, which is both spiritual and visible. That external element is
essential to the life of the Church, which is simply the living mystical
Body of Christ. The physical Christ the Head is the principle of the
supernatural life that animates the Church.
Two errors: (1) Some affirm exclusively the spiritual nature of the
Church; (2) some deny any supernatural element. Christ is a person with
two natures. The Church is a society which is both supernatural and
exterior at the same time. This twofold element will last for the life of
the Church. To determine the nature of the Church, we must investigate
what Christ wanted and did.
3. The true Church of Christ is one, as Scripture shows. But many errors
have arisen about the unity. The unity of the Church is that which Christ
has given and made. Christ did not found the Church as a conglomerate of
Christian communities. The Church is integrated by one only community,
because Christ alone has spoken of one Church, His own, and so as Christ
is one person and His mission was universal, so also the Church is one
only community, and its mission extends to all times and places.
The prophetic testimonies on that unity are clear, e.g., Isaiah spoke of
one mountain. Christ said His Church is one mystical Body, as we see in
the texts of St. Paul. Christ founded the Church as one society which all
are obliged to enter.
The priestly prayer of Christ makes clear this point. The unity of the
Church should reflect the unity of the Trinity. That unity of the Church
implies the unity of faith established by Christ Himself, which can only
be conserved by another external principle determined by the Savior.
4. To see that we go back to the origins of Christianity. The disciples
had to accept all of His doctrine. In sending them, Christ conferred on
them His own power, gave them the means needed to exercise it, and ordered
the faithful to accept all the doctrine of the Apostles.
This mission of the Apostles is perpetual, it did not end with the death
of the Apostles. So the teaching authority He gave the Apostles passed to
their successors. The first Bishops were sent out by the Apostles.
The Church has always kept, in virtue of that transmission, the integrity
of the faith. The heretics are condemned by mutilating that fullness of
faith. The Magisterium of the Church is, then, the external principle of
unity of the faith.
So there is in the Church, by the will of Christ, an authentic and
perpetual magisterium, whose teachings must be accepted as coming from
Christ. One either accepts the faith entirely or stops having faith, for
he who rejects even one revealed truth, gives up the faith.
5. The purpose of the Church is not solely teaching - it is ordered also
to the sanctification of souls. For that faith alone is not enough, there
is also needed the worship, the sacraments, and the legislation, all found
in the Church. But the powers needed for this purpose were given by God to
the Apostles and their successors, not to the faithful.
The Church is a perfect society, the most perfect of all societies,
invested with all powers to legislate, judge, and govern. It has a supreme
authority. Those who break with it are in schism.
That supreme authority is Peter and his successors, who hold the Church
together like cement. So Peter has the fullness of power of jurisdiction
in the whole Church. No earthly power will prevail over the firmness of
The Church is also a kingdom. The keys of that kingdom were received by
Peter and his successors, so that his power is supreme and totally
independent. Christ promised Peter that his faith would not fail at any
time so that the Church is the column of truth.
This power of Peter, principle of unity of the Church, is perpetual in his
successors, the Popes.
6. There are other powers in the Church, those of the Apostles and their
successors, the Bishops, whose power is not supreme or universal, but yet
they are not mere vicars of the Pope.
That union of the Bishops with the Pope is absolute, necessary. No power
was given the Apostles independently of Peter A. Bishop who separates from
Peter would lose his authority in the Church. This union is what Christ
Peter has over the episcopate a true and supreme authority. The entire
body of the Bishops has no authority without the Pope. Popes have the
authority to approve or to annul councils.
On the other hand, the submission of the faithful to two authorities,
papal and episcopal, does not imply confusion in the government of the
Church, for the two authorities are not on the same level.
7. This doctrine will help Catholics to adhere to their Bishops and to the
Pope. One cannot have Christ as his father who does not have the Church
for his mother.