Tenth Ecumenical Council:
Lateran II 1139
The Canons of the Second Lateran Council, 1123
[Note: Fr. Schroeder's notes have been
retained here. They are often factually well-informed and useful.
But Schroeder's perspective -- basically pro-papacy and clericalist--
is not the only one possible. He fails to bring out the revolutionary
nature of the claims of the Gregorian reform papacy and accepts,
without questioning, the basically monastic approach to Catholicism
which promoted a sexually abstinent clergy and rejected lay involvement
in Church governance. It needs to be emphasized that while such
a view may be valid, it represents as much an ideological position
much more than a historical one.]
[Schroeder Introduction] History. The
day that witnessed the election of Innocent II (February 14, 1130)
to the highest honor in Christendom, saw also a few hours later
the election of Cardinal Pietro Pierleone as antipope. He took
the name of Anacletus II. Both claimants received episcopal consecration
on the same day, February 23, the former in Santa Maria Nuova,
the latter in St. Peter's. By the lavish expenditure of his immense
wealth and the plundered treasures of the churches, Anacletus
was able to maintain the confidence and favor of the Roman people,
with the result that Innocent was for a long time prevented from
performing the duties of his office in Rome. When he learned that
the influential family of the Frangipani, which had been one of
his chief supporters, had deserted his cause and gone over to
the antipope, he retired to the family fortress in Trastevere.
Not feeling safe even here, he fled by way of Pisa and Genoa to
France where he secured the support of Louis VI and, through the
activities of St. Bernard, St. Norbert, and others, obtained the
support also of the French and German bishops. On November 18,
1130, he presided over a great synod held at Clermont, which was
attended by the archbishops of Lyons, Bourges, Vienne, Narbonne,
Arles, Tarragona (in Spain), Auch, Aix, and Tarantaise with their
suffragans and many abbots []. On October 18, 1131, he opened
and presided over another great synod held at Reims, which came
to a close on October 29. The number of bishops in attendance
is uncertain. Some sources speak of 50, others of 300, while a
third tells us that it was the most largely attended synod ever
held in ides the French, in attendance were representatives from
Germany, England, Aragon, and Castile []. Both of these synods
enacted a number of salutary disciplinary decrees. In 1132, Innocent
held a synod at Piacenza, [] and in 1135 another at Pisa, which
was attended by bishops from England, Germany, France, Hungary,
Italy, and other countries []. His cause was steadily gaining
ground, when the death of Anacletus in January, 1138, left him
in undisturbed possession of the Eternal City and the papacy []
To remove the evil consequences of the eight year schism, to condemn
certain current errors, and correct abuses among the clergy and
laity, Innocent convened the Second Council of the Lateran. It
began its sessions on April 4, 1139, and was attended by nearly
a thousand prelates: patriarchs, archbishops, bishops, and other
ecclesiastical superiors, representing most of the Christian nations.
It was opened by the Pope with a discourse in which he declared
null and void the official acts of Anacletus and deposed all who
had been appointed or ordained by him and his chief partisans,
Gerard of Angouleme and Gilo of Tusculum. Roger, the king of Sicily,
who also had been a staunch adherent of the antipope, was excommunicated
for keeping the schism alive in southern Italy. The council condemned
the errors of the Petrobrusians and the Henricians, the followers
of Peter of Bruys and Arnold of Brescia. Archbishop Theobald of
Canterbury, who was present with five English bishops and four
abbots, was invested with the pallium, and St. Sturmius, the first
abbot of Fulda, was canonized. Whether the Pope in this council
made a rule restricting the election of the popes to the cardinals,
thus eliminating whatever participation had been left to the lower
clergy and people by Nicholas 11 (1059-61), is a point
that is disputed, though it appears not at all improbable when
we consider the circumstances of his own election and those also
of the election of Anacletus. One of the purposes of the council
was to remove the evils of an eight-year schism, and it seems
more than merely probable that the Pope was not content with this
only, but went a step farther to prevent the repetition of such
a schism from that particular contributing cause. Moreover, such
a rule seems to form a necessary link in the historical development
of papal elections [].
In conclusion the council drew up thirty canons for the correction
of moral and disciplinary abuses of the time. Twenty-eight of
these are in great measure a reproduction of decrees promulgated
by the Synods of Clermont (1130) and Reims (1131 ). These thirty
canons are all that we have of the acts of this council. []
Note 1. Mansi, XXI, 437; Hefele-Leclercq, V, 687 f.
Note 2. Mansi, XXI, 453; Hefele-Leclercq, V, 694-99.
Note 3. Mansi, XXI, 479; Hefele-Leclercq, V, 700 ff
Note 4. Mansi, XXI, 487; Hefele-Leclercql V, 706 ff.
Note 5. For the circumstances surrounding the election
of Innocent and his activities till the opening of the council,
cf. Hefele-Leclercq, V, 676-721. Also article "Anacletus
II" in Catholic Encyclopedia.
Note 6. Our only authority for the enactment of such a
law by Innocent is Onofrio Panvini (d. 1568) in his work De
origine cardinalium, ed. Mai, Spicileg. Roman- IX,
495. The passage is given by Grauert (Hist. Jahrbuch d. Görresgesellschaft, I (1880), 595, Ein angebliches Papstwahlgesetz v. 1139), who, however, with Sägmiiller (Die Tätigheit
u. Stellung der Kardinäle, Freiburg, 1896, p 135), does
not accept the report of Panvini as trustworthy. In favor of its
trustworthiness are Hefele (V, 737 f.) and Bemhardi (Jahrbüicher
d. deut. Geschichte unter Konrad III, 1, München, 1883,
p. I56). Cf. also Wurm, Die Papstwahl; Ihre Geschicbte u. Gebräuche (Kö1n, 1902), pp 32 f. For the decree of Nicholas II,
cf. Grauert, 1. c., pp. 502-94, and Hefele, IV, 1139-65-
Note 7. Mansi, XXI, 523 ff.; Hefele-Leclercq, V, 721-46;
Hergenröther, Handbuch d. allg
Kirchengescbichte, II, 5th ed., 445 ff-; Dict. de tbéol.
catholique, VIII, 2637-44.
Summary. Anyone simoniacally ordained shall be deposed.
Text. We decree that if anyone has been ordained simoniacally,
he shall lose the office thus illicitly obtained. []
Note 8. Identical with canon I of Clermont (1130) and renewed
by Reims (1131)
Summary. If anyone has obtained ecclesiastical promotion
simoniacally, he shall lose the honor thus acquired and buyer
and seller as well as intermediaries shall be condemned.
Text. If anyone, impelled by the execrable vice of avarice,
has by means of money obtained a prebend, priory, deanery, or
any ecclesiastical honor or promotion, or any ecclesiastical sacrament,
as chrism, holy oil, or the consecration of altars and churches,
he shall be deprived of the honor thus illicitly acquired, and
buyer and seller and intermediary agent shall be stigmatized with
the mark of infamy. Neither for provisions nor under pretense
of some custom shall something be demanded from anyone either
before or after, nor shall anyone presume to give, because it
is simoniacal; but freely and without any price shall he enjoy
the dignity or benefice conferred on him.[]
Comment. This canon is directed against simony in the acquisition
of benefices and ecclesiastical promotions and in the matter of
certain sacramentals. Those guilty are to lose what they illicitly
obtained; buyer, seller, and intermediary, that is, the one who
conducts the transaction between the contracting parties, are
to be branded as infamous. Nothing shall be demanded for chrism,
holy oil, or the consecration of altars and churches. This is
an old prohibition. In 813 a synod held at Châlons-sur-Saône
in canon 16 ruled: Omnes uno consensu statuimus, ne sicut pro
dedicandis basilicas et dandis ordinibus nibil accipiendum est,
ita etiam pro balsamo sive luminaribus emendis, nibil presbyteri
chrisma accepturi dent. And then added: Episcopi itaque
de facultatibus ecclesiae balsamum emant et luminaria singuli
in suis ecclesiis concinnanda provideant []. Neither
before nor after the bestowal of a benefice or the consecration
of an altar or a church is anything to be demanded. Some there
were who maintained that simony is then committed when something
is exacted before a benefice is bestowed, not however when the
demand is made after its bestowal. This subterfuge had long ago
been dissipated by St. Basil in a letter to the chorepiscopi of
his diocese, among whom simony was rife: Putant se non delinquere
quod non ante sed post ordinationem accipiunt. Accipere autem
accipere est, quomodocumque fiat. []
Nor shall anyone presume to give, that is, he on whom a benefice
or honor has been conferred, or whose church has been consecrated,
etc. All of these prohibitions are, of course, based on the command
of Christ to His Apostles: Gratis accepistis, gratis date.
Note 9. An expansion of canon I of Clermont and Reims and
analogous to one of Pisa (1135) and to canons 1, 3, and
4 of London (1138). Denzinger, no 364
Note 10. Mansi, XIV, 97; Hefele-Leclercq, 111, 1144.
Note 11. Epist. LIII
Summary. Those excommunicated by one bishop may not
be restored by othcrs. Communication with one excommunicated entails
the same censure.
Text. We absolutely forbid that those who have been excommunicated
by their own bishops be received by others. He who shall dare
communicate knowingly with one excommunicated before he is absolved
by the one who excommunicated him, shall incur the same penalty.
Comment. The first part of this canon is an old ordinance
and is met with again and again in the synods of this and preceding
periods. The second part also is a reaffirmation of the ancient
and traditional policy of the Church toward those who hold unlawful
intercourse with one excommunicated, as is attested by Rom. 16:
I 7; Tit. 3:10; II John 10:11; by the Synod of Antioch (341) in
canons 1, 2, 4, and by numerous subsequent synodal decrees. In
the early Church there was only one kind of excommunication properly
so called, that known later as excommunicatio major.[] It was the extreme ecclesiastical penalty for laymen; for
guilty clerics the punishment was deposition, that is, reduction
to the ranks of the laity. Later on, when deposition was replaced
by suspension, clerics also became subject to excommunication.
Till the thirteenth century, when the excommunicatio minor became a definite and independent instrument of ecclesiastical
discipline, this was the excommunication incurred by hose who
held prohibited intercourse with one excommunicated.[] The excommunicatio minor was identical with penitential exclusion
in early times, that is, it was identical with the state of the
penitent during his period of public penance. It consisted chiefly
in the exclusion of those who had incurred it from the reception
of the sacraments, but indirectly it entailed also other consequences.
Beginning in the thirteenth century, the penalty incurred by prohibited
intercourse with the excommunicated was minor excommunication,
and till the beginning of the fifteenth century no exception was
Made of any class of excommunicated persons. The distinction between exconmunicati vitandi and tolerati dates from the Ad
evitanda scandala, published in 1418 at the Council of Constance
by Martin V. It forms Article VII of the concordat concluded at
Constance with the German nation, but eventually became universal
lkaw. Till then intercourse with all excommunicated persons, whether
they had incurred major or minor excommunication, had to be avoided
when once they were known as such. This constitution restricted
unlawful communication to the notorii clericorum percussores and to those formally named as persons to be avoided. With
the further reduction in modern times of this twofold class of vitandi, minor excommunication became a matter of little
consequence and, after the publication by Pius IX of the constitution Apostolicae Sedis (1869), ceased to exist. []
Note 12. Beside the complete exclusion from the Church
by excommunication properlv so called, there existed in early
times a milder form of punishment, also known sometimes as excommunication,
but really only a temporary suspension of communication between
a bishop and his episcopal brethren, imposed by reason of an act
deemed reprehensible and deserving of chastisement. Such bishops
were not, properly speaking, excommunicated. It did not interfere
with the government of their dioceses or with any of their episcopal
duties. It simply meant that they were deprived for a specified
period of time the consolation of intercourse or communion with
their colleagues. It was most frequently imposed by provincial
synods on bishops who without good reason neglected to attend
such synods. Thus the Fifth Synod of Carthage (401) in canon 10:
If bishops for a good reason cannot attend the provincial synods,
they must make that fact known in writing; nisi autem rationem
impedimenta sui apud primatem suum reddideriiit, ecclesiae suae
communione debent esse contenti (c.10, D.XVIII); that of Arles
(452) in canon 19: if a bishop neglects to attend a synod or leaves
before it has come to an end, alienatum se a fratrum communione
cognoscat; nec eum recipi licea, nisi in sequenti synodo fuerit
absolutus (c.12, D. XVIII) ; similarly the Synods of Agde
in canon 35 (c.13, D. XVIII), of Tarragona (516) in canon
6 (c.14, D. XVIII), etc , The same penalty is imposed by the Sixth
Synod of Carthage (401) in canon 14 on a bishop who should promote
a monk not of his diocese to the clerical state, or appoint such
a one superior of a monastery within his diocese (Hefele-Leclercq,
Note 13. Innocent III distinguished between intercourse
or communication knowingly held with one excommunicated in
crimine criminoso, that is, giving advice or aid of anv kind
in the crime for which the excommunication was incurred, and ordinary
communication, that is, ordinary conversation with, or praying
or eating with the one excommunicated. The former was punished
with major, the latter with minor excomnication (c.29, X, De sentent.
excomm., V, 39)
Note 14. Kober, Der Kirchenbann, Tübingen,
1863; Hollweck, Die kircblicben Strafgesetze, Mainz, 1899.
Summary. Bishops and clerics should so conduct themselves
that they do not offend those whose model and example they should
Text. We command that bishops and clerics in mind and in
body strive to be pleasing to God and to men, and not by superfluity,
dissensions, or the color of their clothes, nor in their tonsure,
off end the sight of those whose model and example they ought
to be; but rather let them manifest the sanctity that should be
part and parcel of their office. But if, admonished by their bishops,
they do not amend, let them be deprived of their benefices.[]
Note 15. Identical with canon 2 of Clermont and Reims.
Summary. Possessions of deceased bishops must remain
in charge of the steward and clergy and must not be seized by
Text. We decree that that which was enacted in the Council
of Chalcedon (canon 22) be inviolately observed; namely, that
the possessions of deceased bishops be not seized by anyone, but
that they remain in the hands of the steward and the clergy for
the needs of the Church and his successor. That detestable and
barbarous rapacity shall henceforth cease. If anyone in the future
shall dare attempt this, let him be excommunicated. Those who
seize the possessions of deceased priests or clerics, let them
be subjected to the same penalty. []
Note 16. Identical with canon 3 of Clermont and Reims.
Summary. Clerics living with women shall be deprived
of their office and benefice.
Text. We also decree that those who in the subdiaconate
and higher orders have contracted marriage or have concubines,
be deprived of their office and ecclesiastical benefice. For since
they should be and be called the temple of God, the vessel of
the Lord, the abode of the Holy Spirit, it is unbecoming that
they indulge in marriage and in impurities. []
Note 17. Identical with canon 4 of Clermont and Reims.
Cf. canon 21 of I Lateran.
Summary. Masses celebrated by members of the clergy
who have wives or concubines are not to be attended by anyone.
Text. Following in the footsteps of our predecessors, the
Roman pontiff s Gregory VII, Urban, and Paschal, we command that
no one attend the masses of those who are known to have wives
or concubines. But that the law of continence and purity, so pleasing
to God, may become more general among persons constituted in sacred
orders, we decree that bishops, priests, deacons, subdeacons,
canons regular, monks, and professed clerics (conversi) who,
transgressing the holy precept, have dared to contract marriage,
shall be separated. For a union of this kind which has been contracted
in violation of the ecclesiastical law, we do not regard as matrimony.
Those who have been separated from each other, shall do penance
commensurate with such excesses.
Summary. This applies also to nuns.
Text. We decree that the same be observed with regard to
nuns if, which God forbid, they attempt to marry.
Summary. Monks and canons regular are not to study jurisprudence
and medicine for the sake of temporal gain.
Text. An evil and detestable custom, we understand, has
grown up in the form that monks and canons regular, after having
received the habit and made profession, despite the rule of the
holy masters Benedict and Augustine, study jurisprudence and medicine
for the sake of temporal gain. Instead of devoting themselves
to psalmody and hymns, they are led by the impulses of avarice
to make themselves defenders of causes and, confiding in the support
of a splendid voice, confuse by the variety of their statements
what is just and unjust, right and wrong. The imperial constitutions,
however, testify that its is absurd and disgraceful for clerics
to seek to become experts in forensic disputations. We decree,
therefore, in virtue of our Apostolic authority, that offenders
of this kind be severely punished. Moreover, the care of souls
being neglected and the purpose of their order being set aside,
they promise health in return for detestable money and thus make
themselves physicians of human bodies. Since an impure eye is
the messenger of an impure heart, those things about which good
people blush to speak, religion ought not to treat (that is, religious
ought to avoid). Therefore, that the monastic order as well as
the order of canons may be pleasing to God and be conserved inviolate
in their holy purposes, we forbid in virtue of our Apostolic authority
that this be done in the future. Bishops, abbots, and priors consenting
to such outrageous practice and not correcting it, shall be deprived
of their honors and cut off from the Church. []
Comment. The first part of this decree forbids monks and
canons regular to engage in the practice of civil law, while the
second makes the same prohibition in regard to the practice of
medicine. In early times it was common for clerics to devote a
portion of their time to these avocations, nor was such practice
disapproved by the Church. Later, however, when abuses multiplied,
especially in the practice of medicine, the Church took steps
in the twelfth century to express its disapproval of such occupations
by clerics. The private study of these sciences and the public
teaching of them were, of course, not forbidden. What the canons
chiefly condemn is the secularity of the motive back of the practice.
The words of the second part of the canon, cumque impudicus
oculus impudici cordis sit nuntius, would seem to suggest
that there were not wanting monks and canons regular who practiced
medicine not only from the motive of avarice, but also because
it afforded them freer access to the houses of women.
Note 18. Identical with canon 5 of Clermont.
Summary. Church tithes may not be appropriated by laymen.
Likewise laymen possessing churches must return them to the bishops.
Ecclesiastical honors are not to be conferred on young men.
Text. In virtue of our Apostolic authority, we forbid that
tithes of churches which canonical authority shows to have been
given for pious purposes be possessed by laymen. Whether they
have received them from bishops, kings, or other persons, unless
they are returned to the Church, the possessors shall be judged
guilty of sacrilege and shall incur the danger of eternal damnation.
We command also that laymen who hold churches shall either return
them to the bishops or incur excommunication. We confirm, moreover,
and command that no one shall be promoted to the office of archdeacon
or dean, unless he be a deacon or priest; those archdeacons and
deans or provosts who exist below the orders just mentioned, if
they refuse to be Ordained, let them be deprived of the honor
received. [] We forbid, moreover, that the aforesaid honors
be bestowed upon young men, even though they are constituted in
sacred orders; but let them be conferred on those who are noted
for prudence and rectitude of life. We command, moreover, that
churches be not committed to hired priests; but let every church
that possesses the means of support have its own priest.
Note19. Cf. canon 2 of I Lateran.
Summary. Clerics and other people, as well as their
animals, shall at all times be secure.
Text. We command also that priests, clerics, monks, travelers,
merchants, country people going and returning, and those engaged
in agriculture, as well as the animals with which they till the
soil and that carry the seeds to the field, and also their sheep,
shall at all times be secure. []
Note 20. Identical with canons 8 of Clermont and 10 and
11 of Reirns.
Summary. Rules governing the truce of God. Bishops should
do all in their power to establish peace.
Text. We decree that the truce of God be strictly observed
by all from the setting of the sun on Wednesday to its rising
on Monday, and from Advent to the octave of Epiphany and from
Quinquagesma to the octave of Easter. If anyone shall violate
it and does not make satisfaction after the third admonition,
the bishop shall direct against him the sentence of excommunication
and in writing shall announce his action to the neighboring bishops.
No bishops shall restore to communion the one excommunicated;
indeed every bishop should confirm the sentence made known to
him in writing. But if anyone (that is, any bishop) shall dare
violate this injunction, he shall jeopardize his order. And since
"a threefold cord is less easily broken" (Eccles. 4:12),
we command the bishops, having in mind only God and the salvation
of the people, and having discarded all tepidity, offer each other
mutual counsel and assistance for firmly establishing peace; nor
should they be swayed in this by the love or hatred of anybody.
But if anyone be found to be tepid in this work of God, let him
incur the loss of his dignity.
Comment. The two foregoing decrees deal with the truce
of God, of which something has already been said in canon 17 of
the foregoing council. The successful reduction of the evils associated
with that incessant private warfare which made Europe a battlefield
overrun by armed bands as not the work of a few days or a year
without respect for anything. It was brought about by a slow and
gradual process that was born in very humble beginnings on French
soil, but expanded as time went on and as the forces of law and
order multiplied. In canon 11, which is a renewal of the canons
of Clermont and Reims, peace is assured at all times to priests,
clerics, monks, travelers, merchants, and country people going
to and returning from the market, churches, fields, and various
Summary. Usurers are deprived of all ecclesiastical
consolation and stigmatized with the mark of infamy
Text. We condemn that detestable, disgraceful, and insatiable
rapacity of usurers which has been outlawed by divine and human
laws in the Old and New Testaments, and we deprive them of all
ecclesiastical consolation, commanding that no archbishop, no
bishop, no abbot of any order, nor anyone in clerical orders,
shall, except with the utmost caution, dare receive usurers; but
during their whole life let them be stigmatized with the mark
of infamy, and unless they repent let them be deprived of Christian
Note 21. Denzinger, no.. 365. Schneider, Das
kircbl. Zinsverbot u. d. kuriale Praxis im 13. Jahrh.,
in Festgabe f. Hein. Finke, Münster, 1904.
Summary. Tournaments are condemned. Anyone losing his
life in them shall be deprived of Christian burial.
Text. We condemn absolutely those detestable jousts or
tournaments in which the knights usually come together by agreement
and, to make a show of their strength and boldness, rashly engage
in contests which are frequently the cause of death to men and
of danger to souls. If anyone taking part in them should meet
his death, though penance and the Viaticum shall not be denied
him if he asks for them, he shall, however, be deprived of Christian
Comment. The tournament had its origin in France in the
middle of the eleventh century, whence it found its way to Germany
and England. While innocent enough a sport in its beginnings,
it soon developed into a means of settling private grudges and
satisfying revenge. It always endangered the life of the combatants
and not infrequently ended in the death of one or more. Owing
to these abuses, the Church took steps to end the excesses committed.
The first ordinance against them was issued by the Synod of Clermont
(1130) in canon 9, of which the present canon is a repetition.
Though severer measures were adopted against the especially by
the Fourth Lateran Council (1215) and by the Council of Lyons
(1245), tournaments became more popular, and not till the middle
of the sixteenth century did they disappear.
Summary. Anyone laying violent hands on a cleric or
monk shall be anathematized. Likewise he who lays hands on one
seeking refuge in a church or cemetery.
Text. If anyone at the instigation of the devil incurs
the guilt of this sacrilege, namely, that he has laid violent
hands on a cleric or monk, he shall be anathematized and no bishop
shall dare absolve him, except mortis urgente periculo, till
he be presented to the Apostolic See and receive its mandate.
We command also that no one shall dare lay hands on those who
have taken refuge in a church or cemetery. Anyone doing this,
let him be excommunicated.
Comment: This decree consists of two parts. The first is
the celebrated privilege of personal inviolability accorded ecclesiastics
and religious, and commonly known as the privilegium canonis. From early times violence against a cleric was punished by
fines, severe canonical penances, and sometimes excommunication
. [] The Roman Synod of 862 or 863 declared in canon 14 ipso
facto excommunication against anyone deliberately injuring
a bishop. In the anarchy of the centuries that immediately followed,
and especially during the anticlerical disturbances created by
Arnold of Brescia in the twelfth century, ecclesiastics and religious,
forbidden to carry weapons, were constantly exposed to physical
harm and frequently bodily injury from the violence of men and
mobs. And so the Church was compelled to formulate more stringent
measures for their protection. In canon 13 of the Synod of Reims
(1131) Innocent II issued the celebrated decree Si quis suadente
diabolo, by which he enacted that anyone malciously laying
hands on a cleric or monk incurred ipso facto anathema,
absolution from which, except in danger of death, was reserved
to the Holy See and must be sought by the offender in person.
The present canon renews that of Reims and gives it a universal
application. It is the first instance of a papal reservation and
therefore holds an important place in the history of that discipline.
In subsequent periods the application of this decree has been
extended or restricted according to the needs of the times, but
it has continued in force to our own day with this difference,
that the absolution of the guilty party is reserved to the ordinary.
[] The terms cleric and monk in the canon must
be understood in a wide sense and embraced all clerics in major
and minor orders, tonsured persons, monks, nuns [], lay brothers
[], novices [] and tertiaries living the common life and
wearing the habit. Women, however, lay brothers, etc., living
the common life, who should maliciously strike or injure another
member of the community or even clerics, could obtain absolution
from their ordinary.[] The penalty of the canon was incurred
not only by the real perpetrators of the deed, but also by abetters
The second part of the canon deals with the right of asylum. It
threatens with excommunication anyone who should inflict injury
on those who have taken refuge in a church or cemetery. Even in
the Old Law and among the Greeks and Romans, temples and certain
specified districts were places of refuge where the criminal fled
for protection from revenge or death without due trial. The right
of asylum is based on the natural feeling or consciousness that
it is unjust to injure anyone who places himself under the protection
of the Deity. When the Christian religion became the religion
of the state, it was but natural that emperors should elevate
churches and episcopal residences to the right of sanctuary. In
one of his capitularies, Charlemagne decreed that no one who had
taken refuge in a church should be removed therefrom by force,
but should be left undisturbed till the court had declared its
decision. Originally limited to the church and its immediately
surrounding grounds, the right was subsequently extended to cemeteries,
episcopal residences, parish houses, monasteries, seminaries,
hospitals, and certain other places. Our canon excludes no one
from the benefit of the privilege. By later enactments the jus
asyli was more clearly defined and excluded from its benefits
all notorious criminals, such as murderers, adulterers, ravishers
of young girls, highway robbers, plunderers of fields, public
debtors, and those who chose such places for the scene of their
crimes in order to enjoy immunity. Since the sixteenth century
it has been considerably modified, owing to the opposition of
state legislation. Modern penal codes do not recognize it. However,
the right still exists, though it is limited to the church only.
The new Code of Canon Law  in canon 1179, like the present
canon, excludes no one, and extradition may not be made, except
in cases of urgent necessity, without the permission of the bishop
or that of the pastor of the church.
Note 22. C. 21-24, C.XVII, q.4.
Note 21. Codex Juris Canonici, c. 2343, no. 4.
Note 24. C.33, X, De sent. excomm., V, 39.
Note 25. C. 33 Cit.
Note 26. C. 21, VI0, De sent. excomm., V, 11.
Note 27. C. 33 Cit.
Summary. No one shall demand any ecclesiastical office
on the plea of hereditary right. Such offices are conferred in
consideration of merit.
Text. It is beyond doubt that ecclesiastical honors are
bestowed not in consideration of blood relationship but of merit,
and the Church of God does not look for any successor with hereditary
rights, but demands for its guidance and for the administration
of its offices upright, wise, and religious persons. Wherefore,
in virtue of our Apostolic authority we forbid that anyone appropriate
or presume to demand on the plea of hereditary right churches,
prebends, deaneries, chaplaincies, or any ecclesiastical offices.
If anyone, prompted by dishonesty or animated by ambition, dare
attempt this, he shall be duly punished and his demands disregarded.
Comment. Owing to the license and venality of the times,
episcopal sees were frequently usurped and given as fiefs to soldiers
in recompense for services. Once in such hands, they were treated
as property which descendcd by hereditary right from father to
son. Likewise many of the clergy, bishops and priests, who had
taken wives and begotten children, transmitted their benefices
to their offspring.
Summary. Marriages between blood-relatives are prohibited.
Text. We absolutely forbid marriages between blood-relatives.
The declarations of the holy fathers and of the holy Church of
God condemn incest of this kind, which, encouraged by the enemy
of the human race, has become so widespread. Even the civil laws
brand with infamy and dispossess of all hereditary rights those
born of such unions.[]
Note 28. Cf. canon 5 of I Lateran.
Summary. Incendiarism is condemned and its perpetrators
are to be.deprived of Christian burial. They are not to be absolved
till they have made reparation.
Text By the authority of God and of the blessed Apostles
Peter id Paul we absolutely condemn and prohibit that most wicked,
devastating, horrible, and malicious work of incendiaries; for
this pest, this hostile waste, surpasses all other depredations.
No one is ignorant of how detrimental this is to the people of
God and what injury it inflicts on souls and bodies. Every means
must be employed, therefore, and no effort must be spared that
for the welfare of the people such ruin and such destruction may
be eradicated and extirpated. If anyone, therefore, after the
promulgation of this prohibition, shall through malice, hatred,
or revenge set fire, or cause it to be set, or knowingly by advice
or other connivance have part in it, let him be excommunicated.
Moreover, when incendiaries die, let them be deprived of Christian
burial. Nor shall they be absolved until, as far as they are able,
they have made reparation to those injured and have promised under
oath to set no more fires. For penance they are to spend one year
in the service of God either in Jerusalem or in Spain.
Text. If any archbishop or bishop relaxes this ordinance,
he shall retore the loss incurred and shall be suspended from
his episcopal office for one year.
Text. We do not deny to kings and princes the authority
(facultatem) to dispense justice in consultation with the
archbishops and bishops.
Comment. The three foregoing decrees are clearly only one,
as is evident from canon 13 of the Synod of Clermont, with which
they are identical and which Innocent here renews . [] Arson
was one of the crying evils resulting from those petty strifes
and private wars that raged among the princes of Europe. Hatred
and revenge frequently found expression in the destruction of
crops and dwellings by fire, at times also of churches, thus reducing
helpless and innocent people to misery and dire want, which often
proved detrimental not only to their bodies but to their souls
as well. In the ancient canon law, in addition to the obligation
of repairing the loss, the incendiary was punished with severe
public penances. The destruction of profane buildings or crops
by fire was subject to a penance covering a period of three years,
and the similar destruction of a church. called for a penance
of fifteen years.
Note 29 Cf. c.32, C.XXIII, q-8.
Summary. Sons of priests must be debarred from the ministry
of the altar.
Text. We decree that the sons of priests must be debarred
from the ministry of the altar, unless they become monks or canons
Comment. To put an end to clerical incontinence various
kinds of disabilities were enacted and as far as possible enforced
not only against the wives but also against the children of ecclesiastics.
Wives and concubines were liable to be seized as slaves by the
overlord, while the children were relegated to the category of
servile rank, debarred from sacred orders, and declared incapable
of exercising hereditary rights, because saepe solet similis
filius esse patri. The Synod of Toledo (655) in canon 10 decreed
that the sons of clerics in major orders are to be held forever
as serfs of the church which their father served .[] In 1031
the Synod of Bourges in canon 8 decreed that the sons of priests,
deacons, and subdeacons, born after the reception of these orders,
are excluded from the clerical state, because they and all others
born of illegitimate unions are stigmatized by the Sacred Scriptures
as semen maledictum. They are deprived of all hereditary
rights in accordance with the civil law, and their testimony is
not to be accepted. Those who already are clerics are to remain
in whatever order they are, but are not to be promoted to higher
orders. []. Urban (1088-99) forbade the ordination of the
illegitimate sons of clerics, unless they became members of approved
religious orders. []
The present council, following earlier decisions, permits promotion
to the ministry of the altar in case such candidates should choose
the religious life of approved orders. The irregularity incurred ex defectu natalium is obliterated by religious profession.
Moreover, the solitude and enviroment of the religious life, as
well as the protection it offers a sufficient guarantee that they
will not follow in the sin-stained footsteps of the fathers. From
ecclesiastical benefices and from all ecclesiastical dignities
they are forever excluded. Religious profession opens the way
to sacred orders, but it does not unseal the gateway to dignities
or even to regular prelacies.
Note 30. C.3, C. XV, q. 8.
Note 31. Mansi, XIX, 504; Hefele-Leciercq, IV, 953 f.
Note 32. Synod of Melfi (1089), canon 14, Mansi, XX, 724;
Hefele-Leclercq, V, 345. Cf. also Lib I, tit. 17 of the decretals
of Gregory, and Catalani, Sacr. concilia oecumenica,III,
Summary. Bishops and priests are admonished to instruct
the people against false penances.
Text: Since among other things there is one that chiefly
disturbs the Church, namely, false penance, we admonish our confrères
(that is the bishops) and priests that the minds of the people
be not deceived by false penances, lest thus they should run the
risk of being drawn into hell. A penance is false when it is performed
for one sin only and not also for the others, or when only one
is avoided, and the other are not. Hence it is written: "Whoever
shall observe the whole law but offend in one (point), is become
guilty of all," [] so as far as eternal life is concerned.
For as one guilty of all sins will not enter the gate of eternal
life, so also if one be guilty of only one sin. A penance, moreover,
is false when the penitent does not resign a curial or commercial
occupation, the duties of which he cannot perform without committing
sin, or if he bears hatred in his heart or does not repair an
injury or does not pardon an offense, or if he carries arms in
contravention of justice. []
Comment: This canon is practically a verbatim repetition
of canon 16 of the Synod of Melfi (1089), presided over by Urban
II, and is directed against the abuse so prevalent, especially
during the eleventh and twelfth centuries, of seeking sacramental
absolution without fulfilling the required conditions. This misuse,
as the canon indicates, had as its cause the ignorance, negligence,
and laxity of bishops and priests, who are here admonished to
guard the people against such sacrilege. In canon 5 of his Seventh
Roman Synod (1080), Gregory VII solemnly warned the people to
choose for their confessors prudent and pious men. []
Note 33. James 2:10.
Note 34. Denzinger, no. 366. Synod of Melfi, canon 16,
Mansi, l.c.; Hefele-Leclercq, 1. c.
Summary. Those who reject the sacraments are condemned,
and the civil power is invoked to restrain their mischief.
Text. Those who, simulating a species of religious zeal,
reject the sacrament of the body and blood of the Lord, the baptism
of infants, the priesthood, and other ecclesiastical orders, as
well as matrimony, we condemn and cast out of the Church as heretics,
and ordain that they be restrained by the civil power. For their
partisans also we decree the same penalty.[]
Comment. This canon is a word for word repetition of canon
3 of the Synod of Toulouse (1119) [] and was directed against
the Petrobrusians, a heretical sect of the twelfth century, so
named after their founder, the renegade priest Peter of Bruys,
whom Peter the Venerable and Abelard characterized as one of the
most dangerous of heretics. Their principal doctrinal tenets were
five: (i) Baptism must be preceded by personal faith; hence its
administration to children who have not yet attained the use of
reason is worthless. (2) Christians need no holy place in which
to pray. Their prayers, if worthy, are heard in a barn as well
as in a church; hence churches must not be built, and those already
built must be destroyed. This doctrine harmonizes with the teachings
of the spiritualistic sects of the preceding century. (3) Crosses
must be destroyed; because this instrument on which Christ suffered
so much, must not be an object of veneration, but of detestation.
(4) What is offered daily in the mass is pure nothing. Christ
gave His flesh and blood to His disciples once and it cannot be
given again. (5) Prayers and good works by the living cannot profit
the dead, and God ridicules all ceremonies and chant. The reference
in the canon to the rejection of matrimony does not seem to a
apply to the Petrobrusians. Probably the council had other
sects in mind.
Note 35. Mansi, XX, 533; Hefele-Leclercq, V, 263 f.
Note 36. Denzinger, no. 367.
Note 37. Mansi, XXI, 226; Hefele-Leclercq, V, 570.
Summary. Sacramentals shall be gratis.
Text. We decree further that not money shall be demanded
for chrism, oil, and burial.
Summary. Ecclesiastical offices may not be received
from the hands of laymen.
Text. If anyone has received a deanery, prebend, or other
ecclesiastical benefices from the hands of laymen, he shall be
deprived of the benefices unjustly obtained. For, according to
the decrees of the holy fathers, laymen, no matter how devout
they may be, have no authority to dispose of ecclesiastical property.[]
Note 38. Cf. canon 4 of preceding council.
Summary. Women who pretend to be nuns are forbidden
to live in private houses and receive strangers and persons of
Text. We decree that that pernicious and detestable custom
of some women who, though they live neither according to the Rule
of Blessed Benedict nor according to the rules of Basil and Augustine,
yet wish to be commonly regarded as nuns be abolished. For while,
according to the rule, those living in monasteries must observe
the common life in the church as well as in the refectory and
dormitory, these build their own retreats (receptacula) and
private houses in which, contrary to the sacred canons and good
morals, they are not ashamed to receive at times under cover of
hospitality strangers and persons of little religious faith. Wherefore,
since all who do evil hate the light, moved by the same impulse,
these, hidden in the tent of the just (that is, under the name
of nuns), think they can conceal themselves also from the eyes
of the judge who sees all things, we absolutely and under penalty
of anathema forbid that this disgraceful and detestable evil be
practiced in the future.
Comment. The religious institutes of the time were not
immune against disorders and disturbances born of feudalism. During
the tenth and two succeeding centuries the number of women's communities
increased rapidly, with the unfortunate result that not all who
entered were inspired the proper religious motives. The present
canon, it seems, was directed chiefly against those canonicae
seculares who lived outside the convents, in their own private
houses, and who, from the character of the guests they entertained,
left themselves open to well-grounded suspicion regarding their
morals. A few years later the Synod of Reims (1148), presided
over by Eugene III, in canon 4 ordained that nuns and canonesses
must at all times live in the convent, must rid themselves of
their private possessions, and follow strictly the Rule of St.
Benedict or that of St. Augustine. If they did not amend by the
next feast of SS. Peter and Paul, all religious services in their
churches would be prohibited, and in case of death such religious
would be denied Christian burial. []
Note 39. Mansi, XXI, 714; Hefele-Leclercq, V, 824 f-
Summary. Nuns may not sing the office with the monks.
Text. We likewise forbid nuns to sing the divine office
in the choir with the canons or monks.
Comment. In the Decretum this canon is united with
the preceding one. The reason for the prohibition it contains
arose from abuses that had found their way into certain monasteries.
It does not seem to have had the desired effect. In fact, about
the year 1220, Jacques de Vitry wrote of churches in Germany and
the Netherlands in which on solemn festivals the canonesses and
the canons not only sang the divine office in the same choir,
but also marched in procession together, the canonesses on one
side and the canons on the other, that is, side by side. []
Note 40. "Sunt autem in eisdem ecclesiis (canonicarum)
pariter canonici seculares in diebus festis et solemnibus ex altera
parte chori cum predictis domicellis canentes et earum modulationibus
equipollentes responders studentes.... Similiter et in processionibus
composite et ornate, canonici ex una parte et domine ex parte
concinentes procedunt", Historia, lib. II, c.31.
Summary. Men of piety are not to be excluded from the
election of bishops, and only capable and trustworthy persons
are to be chosen for the episcopal office.
Text. Since the decrees of the fathers insist that on the
death of bishops the Churches be not left vacant more than three
months, we forbid under penalty of anathema that the canons of
cathedrals exclude from the election of bishops viros religiosos (that is, monks and canons regular), but rather with the aid
of their counsel let a capable and trustworthy person be chosen
for the episcopal office. If, however, an election has been held
with such religious excluded and held without their assent and
agreement, it shall be null and void.
Summary. Slingers and archers directing their art against
Christians, are anathematized.
Text. We forbid under penalty of anathema that that deadly
and God-detested art of stingers and archers be in the future
exercised against Christians and Catholics.
Comment. The reference seems to be to a sort of tournament,
the nature of which was the shooting of arrows and other projectiles
on a wager. The practice had already been condemned by Urban II
in canon 7 of the Lateran Synod of 1097, no doubt because of the
it involved. []
Note 41. Hefele-Leclercq, V, 455-
Summary. Ordinations by the antipope are null.
Text. The ordinations conferred by Peter Leonis (Pierleone,
the antipope Anacletus II) and other schismatics and heretics,
we declare null and void. []
Note 42. Cf. Nicaea, note 106.
From H. J. Schroeder, Disciplinary Decrees of
the General Councils: Text, Translation and Commentary, (St.
Louis: B. Herder, 1937). pp. 195-213.
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