Rorate Caeli

On the Papal Deposition of Bishops — Dr John Lamont

Rorate is pleased to publish this detailed study by John Lamont on the question of whether a pope has the authority to depose bishops “at will.” After comparing the two theological positions on papal power (a strong view that sees that pope as absolute monarch and the sole source of authority in the Church, and a moderate view that sees both pope and bishops as having authority from their office), Dr Lamont refutes the strong view from accepted Catholic theological principles. A PDF of this entire essay may be found here.

On the Papal Deposition of Bishops

John R.T. Lamont

José Antonio Ureta recently published an article in OnePeterFive entitled ‘Why a Good Bishop Should Not Ignore but Obey His Unjust Deposition by a Pope’. The article was an attempt to refute Dr. Peter Kwasniewski’s claim (here and here)[1] that a pope does not have the power to simply remove a bishop at will and that a bishop should refuse to go along with an unjust attempt by the pope to remove him from office. Dr. Kwasniewski’s claim was made in the context of reports that Bp. Joseph Strickland of Tyler, Texas, was to be removed from his see, despite the absence of any evidence of his having failed in the exercise of his office, or of any other good reason for removing him. Mr. Ureta argued, against Dr. Kwasniewski, that the pope has the power to legally remove any bishop from his diocese if he so chooses, and hence that a bishop should accept his removal by the pope regardless of whether or not this removal was justified.

The question is a topical one, because on Nov. 11th 2023 Pope Francis announced that Bp. Strickland has been removed from his office as Bishop of Tyler, without giving any explanation for this action. Mr. Ureta, unlike Pope Francis, has provided a theological argument for the Pope having the right to take such an action. This argument needs to be addressed in order to understand whether or not this is the case. Its importance is not limited to the power of the pope to remove bishops; it concerns the fundamental nature of papal power.

Everyone will accept that there are situations where the pope can legally remove a bishop and name another bishop to his diocese. There are therefore two questions to be answered:

– Does the Pope have the power to remove a diocesan bishop from his diocese purely as an exercise of his power of jurisdiction, without needing legal grounds that establish that the bishop is unfit to retain his office or that his removal or the suppression of his diocese is justified by the good of the Church?

– If the Pope does not have this power, what conditions must be satisfied for the Pope to validly remove a diocesan bishop from office?

The second question requires more detailed discussion than the first. I will not attempt to answer it. There are many factors which could make a bishop unfit for office, from illness to moral turpitude. The history and present state of canon law on the grounds for removal of bishops will be the best guide to them. It is the former question that will be considered here.

Mr Ureta argues for his position as follows:

A. The power of order and the power of jurisdiction are distinct. The power of jurisdiction is not conferred with the power of order. Clerics who are appointed to a diocese can exercise jurisdiction in it before they are consecrated as bishops. Bishops can be consecrated without being appointed to a diocese or given any other kind of jurisdiction.

In the episcopal consecration, the aptitude to receive jurisdiction is given in radice but accidentally. For the power to teach and govern to become effective, the pope must grant the consecrated person a diocese or some other group of the faithful to govern. Since the hierarchy of order and the hierarchy of jurisdiction are not confused, there are many bishops without a flock or jurisdiction—e.g., auxiliary bishops, bishops emeritus, bishops who are apostolic nuncios or work in the Roman Curia. Similarly, there are shepherds without episcopal consecration who have subjects and jurisdiction—e.g., apostolic delegates, vicars capitular, and superiors of religious orders and congregations.

B. The power of order is received immediately from God in consecration. The power of jurisdiction, however, is received mediately from God and immediately from the pope. The immediate episcopal reception of the power of jurisdiction from the pope is the teaching of the Church. It follows from ‘the universal and immediate character of the sovereign pontiff’s power of jurisdiction over the whole Church in matters of government and discipline as defined in the dogmatic declaration Pastor Aeternus of the First Vatican Council.’

Through the sacrament of Holy Orders, it is Christ who makes the episcopally consecrated person a bishop and gives him the munera to sanctify, teach, and govern his flock. However, it is also true that there is a difference in how these powers are received. While the bishop receives the power to sanctify directly from Christ, he receives the jurisdictional power to teach and govern directly from the pope and only indirectly from Our Lord…. [T]he power to sanctify is given to the bishop directly by Our Lord at his consecration. However, the power to govern a portion of the flock is given to him indirectly by God and directly by the pope with the apostolic letter of appointment.... Even more significant is the case of the supreme pontiffs who were not bishops when elected pope. They received the primacy of jurisdiction when they consented to be the pope. For example, Pope Adrian V was just a simple deacon when elected and died before being ordained priest and bishop. However, he is number 186 on the list of legitimate popes.

C. Since the power of jurisdiction is given by the pope to the bishops, the pope can withdraw it as he chooses, just as the entire power of an official of a Roman congregation comes from the pope, and can be withdrawn by the pope at will.

Bishops are appointed to their dioceses by the pope and receive the power to govern that portion of the flock directly from him and indirectly from Christ. That is why the pope can remove or depose them even if they have not given “a just cause for the grave step of deposition” because their removal could be justified by a higher good of the Church (for example, by replacing European-born bishops in Africa with ones who were born there during the turbulent period of postwar decolonization).

Mr. Ureta’s assertion that the removal of a bishop by the pope can be justified by a higher good of the Church is not relevant to the question at issue, because such a justification would be a reason for considering that the removal is just. We are considering whether or not a bishop should accept as valid and legally binding his removal by the Pope regardless of the cause of his removal, on the grounds that the pope has the power to remove bishops at will.

The assertion that the power of order and the power of jurisdiction are distinct is true. However, it cannot be used as an argument against Dr. Kwasniewski without begging the question. The question is whether or not the pope’s power of jurisdiction enables him to remove a bishop at will.

The thesis that bishops derive their jurisdiction indirectly from Christ and directly from the Pope has long been a disputed question among Catholic theologians. The issues therefore are:

– is Mr. Ureta right in claiming that the teaching of the theological school that he supports is taught by the magisterium?

– if not, which of these theological schools is in fact correct?

We need first to describe these competing theological positions.

I. Theological positions on the origin of episcopal jurisdiction and the nature of papal authority

The two positions that Catholic theologians have advanced on this subject are described by Valton in the Dictionnaire de théologie catholique:

Bishops are established by divine law. This is a dogma of faith defined by the Council of Trent, sess. XXIII, can. 6: ‘Si quis dixerit in Ecclesia catholica non esse hierarchiam divina ordinatione institutam quae constat ex episcopis, presbyteris et ministris, anathema sit.’ But if it is beyond doubt that the power of order is conferred immediately by God upon bishops, in such a manner that the Church cannot modify it in any way, the question is not so certain when it comes to the power of jurisdiction. Is the divine origin of episcopal jurisdiction immediate or only mediate, so that, while resting upon divine law, it flows immediately from the sovereign pontiff? The question is a subject of controversy among Catholics, as can be seen in Bellarmine, De romano pontifice, 1. IV, c. XXII sq. Some maintain that jurisdiction is conferred immediately by Christ on bishops in the very act of episcopal consecration, although the exercise of this jurisdiction is bound until the sovereign pontiff assigns a territory and subjects to the new bishop. ... Others think, with St. Thomas, that the jurisdiction of bishops is directly connected to that of the vicar of Christ, to whom not only a portion but the whole of ecclesiastical power has been granted.[2]

These two positions exclude the conciliarist and Gallican views, which deny that the pope alone holds supreme ecclesiastical jurisdiction. Both accept that this is the case; but one position asserts, and the other denies, that the pope possesses not just supreme power of jurisdiction, but the whole of the power of jurisdiction. The latter view will be termed the strong view of papal jurisdiction, and the former view will be termed the moderate view of papal jurisdiction. The claim that God has granted the pope the whole of ecclesiastical power provides the justification for the claim that bishops receive the power of jurisdiction directly from the pope and only mediately from God, and hence that the pope can remove a bishop from office at will.

Some authors have stated that the thesis that the Pope possesses the whole of ecclesiastical power and is the direct source of episcopal jurisdiction was asserted by the First Vatican Council in its teaching that the pope possesses the plenitude of power, plenitudo potestatis, in the Catholic Church. This is not the case. ‘Plenitude of power’ in this conciliar text means having all the power of jurisdiction that it is possible to have, not all the power of jurisdiction that exists. Possession of all the power of jurisdiction that it is possible to have is subject to the limits on the power of jurisdiction that are imposed by divine and natural law. The question in dispute is concerned with what these limits are.

Theologians have tried to deduce the claim that the pope has all the power of jurisdiction that exists from the teaching that he has the plenitude of power, but this is a theological inference that can be challenged, not a magisterial teaching. The above citation from Valton in the Dictionnaire de théologie catholique, which dates from after the First Vatican Council, acknowledges this, by treating this thesis as an open question among Catholic theologians. Palmieri, an adherent of the strong view whose arguments will be considered below, also writes after the First Vatican Council and treats this debate as an open question. There are magisterial documents that have been presented as settling this question—as will be seen below—but they are pronouncements of Pius XII, not the documents of Vatican I.

St. Thomas Aquinas holds the strong view that all power of jurisdiction whatsoever in the Church derives from the papal power:

I answer that a superior power and an inferior power can relate to each other in two different ways. In one way, the inferior power originates entirely from the superior power; and in this case, the entire power of the inferior is founded on the power of the superior; and then the power of the superior is to be obeyed simpliciter rather than the inferior, and is so to be obeyed in all things, just as in natural causes, the first cause acts more on an effect produced by a secondary cause than the secondary cause itself does, as is stated in the Liber de causis. This is the way in which the power of God is related to all created powers; it is the way in which the power of the Emperor is related to the power of the proconsul; and it is the way in which the power of the Pope is related to all other spiritual powers in the Church, since every dignity in the Church is distributed and ordered by the Pope, whose power is in a certain manner the foundation of the Church, as is shown by Matthew ch. 16. And therefore we are bound in all things without distinction to obey the Pope more than bishops or archbishops, or a monk is to obey an abbot. In another way, the power of a superior and an inferior are related by the both of them having originated from a higher power, which subordinates the one to the other as it chooses; and in this way the one is only superior to the other in so far as it has been subordinated to the other by a higher power, and the superior is to be obeyed rather than the inferior only in so far as it has been given authority by the higher power. The powers of bishops and archbishops, which are established by the Pope, are related in this way.[3]

St. Thomas argues from Matt. 16, but he supplements this scriptural argument with an appeal to the Neoplatonic metaphysical conception of causation, where the actions of a lower agent are also the actions of the higher agents that cause the lower one. In consequence, his position is somewhat different from that of later theologians, because this Neoplatonic conception asserts that all higher agents act immediately in the lower agents whose existence and action they bring about.[4] It cannot therefore entirely correspond to the later claim that the power of jurisdiction is received immediately from the pope and mediately from God. We should note as well that he makes no mention of the power of the pope to remove bishops at will.

A classic exposition of the strong view is given by Palmieri in his Tractatus de romano pontifice (1891). We will take this exposition as presenting the best case for the strong view. It has the advantage of directly addressing the question of whether or not the pope can remove bishops at will.

Since this work and others like it are difficult of access and have not been translated into any modern language, it is necessary to cite translated excerpts from them at some length in order to give the status quaestionis. It is a recovery of material that has been forgotten, but that is of the last importance for the Church in her current situation.

Palmieri writes:

The plenitude of power that is being discussed is not absolute, but is relative to the society that is ruled; it is plenitude of power in a polity and for a polity. To give clarity, we can say that it can be understood in two ways: only positively, or exclusively. It is understood in a positive sense only, if the supreme ruler can by his ordinary legal authority perform everything that is useful and necessary for the entire polity and every one of its subjects, although there are subordinate powers together with him and under him, that exercise authority that is not derived from him. It is understood in an exclusive sense, if the supreme ruler’s authority is such that every power in the polity is either his own power, or is derived from his own power in such a way that the supreme power either formally or virtually contains every other power by which the polity is ruled. Such is the power of absolute monarchy in a political society.
          It is easy to show that the plenitude of power belongs to the Roman Pontiff in the first sense. This supreme power requires the following characteristics: it requires the power given by the ordinary process of law to do everything required for the ruling of a society, whether in making laws, establishing courts, or coercively enforcing the law; and there must be nothing that can be legitimately done against its will, so that all other power in the society depends directly on it ... Such is the power of the Roman Pontiff in the Church. ....
          But the greatest difficulty arises with respect to another conception of the plenitude of power. This comes down to the question of whether the jurisdiction of a bishop in his diocese comes immediately from Christ, or whether it comes from Christ mediately through the Roman Pontiff, that is, immediately from the Roman Pontiff. No-one denies that this power is from Christ, since all power in the Church is from Him, or that it is immediately from God in that God acts immediately in and with the action of all other causes. The question is of the immediate principle of this power—a power that is immediate in that any second cause between the first and principal cause and its effect is excluded.
          There are some who suppose that the ordinary jurisdiction of bishops is received immediately from Christ. They use the arguments given above, by which we demonstrated the divine institution of the episcopate. They generally explain the immediate derivation of power from Christ by Christ’s conferring this power in episcopal ordination itself, but however in first act only, and bound as to its exercise and not reduced to second act unless the Supreme Pontiff, confirming the bishop, assigns to him a territory and subjects. They believe that in this way the subordination of the bishops to the Roman Pontiff remains secure, for even if it is allowed that both pope and bishop receive their jurisdiction immediately from God, the bishop is still subject to the power of the Roman Pontiff; it is not necessary that every jurisdiction proceeding immediately from God be independent. As against this view, many others think that although Christ instituted the episcopate willing that His Church be ruled by bishops, ordinary jurisdiction is conferred by the Pope on individual bishops, in such a way that before this bestowal by the Pope in no way, even in first act, does the bishop possess jurisdiction in virtue of his ordination. The ordination of a bishop only gives him the aptitude to receive jurisdiction, in virtue of Christ’s institution.
          In the first hypothesis, it is asserted that the Roman Pontiff cannot licitly and validly remove or restrict the jurisdiction of a bishop without just cause: once the condition of the Roman Pontiff having assigned subjects to a bishop is satisfied, the jurisdiction received by bishops is given by God, for it is this jurisdiction of divine origin that is exercised. The Roman Pontiff may indeed regulate and modify this jurisdiction for reasons derived from just causes. He can even in certain cases declare that this jurisdiction has been lost, in virtue of his right to interpret divine law. He cannot however directly remove jurisdiction from a bishop, because this jurisdiction does not exist in its subject through him, but by divine law; and divine law takes precedence over papal authority.
          In the second hypothesis, the Pope cannot indeed licitly remove a bishop without cause, but he can certainly validly do this, and his act will have force on its own; a bishop in this situation cannot claim jurisdiction for himself on the pretext that there is no just cause for his removal. It is apparent from what has already been stated that this is not a question of words, as will become more clear further on: it touches on the nature of the papal primacy and the whole economy of ecclesiastical jurisdiction. The jurisdiction of the bishop in his diocese is the question that is now being considered—the question of the jurisdiction held in ecumenical councils over the whole Church will be considered later in its proper place. The question under consideration is currently a subject of discussion among Catholic theologians. ...
          III. We therefore maintain that the plenitude of power of the Roman Pontiff in the Church is such that all power by which the Church is ruled either formally or virtually is included in it, and therefore that it is the immediate source from which the jurisdiction of bishops is derived. ...
          We assert firstly that this is required by the nature of the primacy that was instituted by Christ, whose carefully framed words are to be investigated through an analysis. Certainly the Roman Pontiff holds under Christ the keys of that kingdom of heaven that is the Church: but now, in keeping with what was stated in the first thesis above, the power and function of the possessor of the keys is portrayed as being such that he can open and no-one can shut, that he can close and no-one can open. But if we suppose that someone has the power to open and close a house, for example, then he is provided with such a power that no one else can open or close it unless he himself opens or closes it at the same time, or gives that other person the power to open or close. (451) If therefore it is possible to open and close without him, or without a power made by him, then someone could also close what he has opened, and open what he has closed. The proper force of this image of the keys by which he can open and none can close, and by which he can close and none can open, can therefore be seen to also signify that without his cooperation, or a power conferred by him, none can open or close. Furthermore, if this is transferred to the thing that is signified by the image, which is power over the kingdom—which is certainly the Church—it is manifest that it signifies the power of Peter to be such that no-one can exercise power in the Church—a power metaphorically described as that of opening and closing—unless he cooperates with this exercise of power, or gives the faculty to exercise power.
          And indeed the Roman Pontiff can bind and loose everything in this kingdom. If things are considered in themselves, an act of this power can also validly remove the jurisdiction of any bishop at all, without a determinate cause and without giving any reason. Certainly, the good of the Church, like the good of other societies, does not require that the power of the supreme authority be exercised simply at the discretion of the ruler: but the good of the Church may require that the supreme power be of such a nature that even if it is frequently exercised without a just cause, all of its acts remain valid—although the very nature of the society, the interest of the ruler, recognition of the moral law, and divine providence will prevent such exercise being of frequent occurrence. Power of this kind in the supreme authority is certainly demanded by the many things that are subject to political authority; in civil society the supreme power is exercised in this way, and the end of civil society—which is well-ordered peace between all—requires such power. Christ was therefore able to confer on the Roman Pontiff the authority to remove a bishop from office even without a just cause. But if this is the case, the words of Christ, ‘Whatever you bind, etc.’ must be interpreted as including this power. For Christ did not leave out any act from the supreme jurisdiction, but included all within it. If any limits are to be fixed for this jurisdiction, they must be determined by the end of this jurisdiction, which is the good of the Church. But this rule is to be used with caution in limiting jurisdiction, in order to avoid error. In particular, it must not be used in such a way as to include in the supreme jurisdiction only those things that are necessary and sufficient to attain this good, or that seem to be so to us; for Christ may have willed to include more than this, and Christ’s words must be interpreted with the fullest possible extension. This norm is to be interpreted as excluding only those things that are incompatible with the common good of the Church, or that are incompatible with some other institution established by Christ. If now such a power of rule over the Church is not excluded from the jurisdiction of the Roman Pontiff, as it is not excluded from the supreme authority in temporal political societies, then it is not excluded from the power of the Roman Pontiff by that other institution of Christ which is the episcopate. Christ fittingly combined his will that there be bishops with willing that the jurisdiction of bishops should depend entirely on the Roman Pontiff. Therefore, the words of Christ to Peter contain a granting of this power. But the Roman Pontiff would not possess this power unless he himself conferred jurisdiction on bishops, as we observed above; so jurisdiction is conferred on bishops by the Roman Pontiff.
          And certainly the jurisdiction of the Roman Pontiff is the jurisdiction of the Vicar of Christ, that is, it is the jurisdiction of Christ Himself communicated to the Roman Pontiff; it is therefore a universal jurisdiction for the entire kingdom. The institution of such vicarial power requires that whatever jurisdiction is exercised by Christ in his Church is exercised by his vicar; but to confer jurisdiction is an act of jurisdiction; therefore the jurisdiction of bishops is conferred upon them by the Roman Pontiff.
          The power of the Roman Pontiff was understood in this way by Optatus ... [Palmieri here cites other authorities such as Ambrose, Leo, and Innocent III whom he presents as holding his position on the jurisdiction of the pope.]
          Another demonstration in proof of the thesis that episcopal jurisdiction is conferred immediately by the Roman Pontiff can be deduced from an analysis of the opposite view, which contains a contradiction.
          This opposing view affirms both that bishops possess jurisdiction through their consecration, and that the Roman Pontiff must assign subjects to them in order for this jurisdiction to pass into act. Therefore, before the assignation of subjects by the Roman Pontiff, no-one is subject to the consecrated bishop, and there are no faithful who can be designated as being subject to the authority of the bishop and as being obliged to obey him. But this is contradictory; jurisdiction is essentially a relation that requires a certain term for the relation, namely the subjects over which it is held. It is possible for jurisdiction to exist only as a habitus that is not exercised, as in the case of a king expelled by force from his kingdom. But in this case, jurisdiction exists in habitu [i.e. as a power not exercised] because there are existing persons whom it is possible to designate those who per se are bound to obey this jurisdiction, viz. the citizens of the kingdom, although this obligation is per accidens suspended. If there is no-one who can be said to be subjects of the king, his jurisdiction no longer exists. But a king with no subjects is in the position of a bishop who has only been consecrated, according to the hypothesis of the opposing view. No-one exists or can be designated as the subjects of a bishop who has only been consecrated. The demand of the people, the nomination of a prince, or the election of a chapter cannot be said to designate subjects for such a bishop. It is certain that election or nomination does not confer jurisdiction on a bishop, or create any obligation for any of the faithful to obey him. Therefore, according to the opposing view, a bishop both has and does not have jurisdiction before the Roman Pontiff ascribes subjects to him; so the opposing view is false.
          This can also be shown from a lack of sufficient reason for the opposing view. This view asserts that jurisdiction is conferred by consecration. Can jurisdiction be conferred by the Roman Pontiff before consecration? If the answer to this question is in the affirmative, it must be denied that jurisdiction was so instituted by Christ as to be received directly from God, and hence there can be no reason for saying that jurisdiction is conferred immediately by God. If the answer is in the negative, it rejects the practice of the Apostolic See and the sense of the Church, which holds that those whom the Roman Pontiff has chosen and confirmed exercise true episcopal jurisdiction even if they have not been consecrated as bishops. To avoid this consequence, it would be necessary to affirm that such persons exercise a different form of jurisdiction, or that the power or stability of their jurisdiction is different, because it has been conferred in a different way. But what is the reason for holding this statement ab out their jurisdiction to be true? For it is clear that such unconsecrated persons can do whatever consecrated bishops can do, when it comes to jurisdiction. As for the stability of their jurisdiction, the explanation for the fact that the stability of the jurisdiction of non-consecrated persons is not the same as the stability of the jurisdiction of bishops is that by Christ’s institution, bishops are those who are to rule over churches in general. This proves indeed that by Christ’s institution bishops should be set over the churches, but it does not prove that bishops obtain jurisdiction directly from Christ.
          Finally, we can argue as Bellarmine does from the inequality of jurisdiction. If God conferred episcopal jurisdiction by ordination, then all bishops would have equal jurisdiction, just as they all have equal power of orders. God has not determined the individual power of jurisdiction of bishops, and not all bishops have the same power of jurisdiction, either extensively or intensively; therefore, God does not confer episcopal jurisdiction by ordination.
Therefore, the plenitude of power of the Roman Pontiff is of such a nature that all the jurisdiction by which the Church is ruled in found in it as in its source.

A recent assertion of the strong view was made by Cardinal Gianfranco Ghirlanda, in a press conference on March 21st 2022 introducing the apostolic constitution Praedicate evangelium:

... the question of the admission of the laity to the exercise of the power of governance in the Church involves a broader question: whether the power of governance is conferred on the bishops by canonical mission and on the Roman Pontiff by divine mission or by the sacrament of Holy Orders. If the power of governance is conferred through canonical mission, it can also be conferred on the laity in specific cases; if it is conferred by the sacrament of Orders, the laity cannot receive any office in the Church that involves the exercise of the power of governance. Therefore, it is worth offering some data to understand the novelty brought.
          The issue is very complex and divides authors. Here suffice it to say that it was debated repeatedly at the Second Vatican Council, but in the end the latter did not want to settle it in the sense of origin from the Sacrament of Orders, having changed the only text of Lumen Gentium (the beginning of No. 28) that had remained formulated in this sense.[5]
          During the process of reforming the Code of Canon Law the issue was again discussed, and the Plenary Congregation of the Enlarged Commission, held October 20-29, 1981, was asked to delete the current canons 129 §2 and 1421 §2 on the possibility of having a lay judge in a court of three judges, based on the assertion that the Second Vatican Council had affirmed the origin of all governing power in the Church from the sacrament of Orders. The two canons remained, so the commission rejected the request on the grounds that there was no evidence that the Council had affirmed such a thing.[6] Since the reason brought for the suppression was doctrinal in nature, the fact that the two canons remained assumes doctrinal significance.
          John Paul II in No. 43 of Pastores gregis of October 16, 2003, referring to can. 381 §1 CC 1983 and can. 178 CCEO (footnote no. 166), explicitly stated that the bishop “is invested, by virtue of the office he has received, with an objective juridical power, destined to express itself in potestative acts by means of which he implements the ministry of governance (munus pastorale) received in the Sacrament.”[4]
          The fact, then, that Pope Francis’ Motu proprio Mitis Iudex Dominus Iesus of August 15, 2015,[5] in Article 1673 §3, admits that out of a college of three judges two may be laity, while providing that the president must be a cleric, comes to reinforce the provision of canon 1421 §2, because it cannot be questioned that it may be the laity, who, exercising the power of judicial government received with the canonical mission, determine the nullity or otherwise of the marriage in question.
          Along these lines are Principles and Criteria, No. 5, and Article 15 of the Apostolic Constitution Praedicate Evangelium. They come to settle the question of the ability of the laity to receive offices involving the exercise of the power of governance in the Church, provided they do not require the reception of Holy Orders, and indirectly affirm that the power of governance in the Church does not come from the sacrament of Holy Orders, but from the canonical mission, otherwise what is provided for in the Apostolic Constitution itself would not be possible.[7]

The moderate view on papal power is best represented by Francisco a Vitoria O.P. in his Relectiones,[8] These are lectures given by Vitoria at the University of Salamanca in 1532 and 1533 and published posthumously in 1604. The lecture format explains the personal references in the text. Vitoria was an eminent Dominican theologian, the founder of the School of Salamanca (Salmanticenses). He is best known today for having argued that the inhabitants of the New World had a right to their property and formed legitimate states, that the Spanish Crown had no right to wage a war of conquest on them or seize their lands and property, and that the pope had no right to award sovereignty over them to the Spanish and Portuguese—a position that provoked the rage of the Emperor, Charles V. His works were ordered to be placed on the Index by Sixtus V, who objected to his views on the papacy, but this pope died before the order could be promulgated, and it was withdrawn by his successor at the request of Philip II of Spain.[9]

From the Relectio I de potestate ecclesiae (1532):

The power of the Church is therefore twofold; the power of orders, and the power of jurisdiction. The power of orders is ordered to the real Body of Christ, that is, to the Eucharist: the power of jurisdiction is ordered to the mystical Body of Christ, that is, to the governance of the Christian people ordered to the end of supernatural happiness. By the power of orders is understood not only the power to consecrate the Eucharist, but to properly dispose and render men worthy for the Eucharist: that is, to ordain priests and confer other orders, to administer the sacraments to all, to remit sins, and to do everything that in any way pertains to the consecration of the Eucharist. Therefore, the power of orders is said to be a power to consecrate in many ways. The power of jurisdiction pertains to the government of the Christian people outside the consecration and ministry of the sacraments; that is, to make and abrogate laws, to excommunicate, to pronounce justice outside the sacrament of penitence, and to do all other things of this sort.
          All the spiritual and ecclesiastical power that now exists in the Church stems from divine positive law, either mediately or immediately. ...

Relectio II de potestate ecclesiae (1533):

It now remains for us to determine in whom this power resides. and to trace it back to its original source. Our first conclusion is that all the power of the Church, both of orders and or jurisdiction, existed in the apostle Peter. This is indicated by the text of the Gospel of Matthew, 16: ‘I give to thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and upon this rock I shall build my church.’ And by the Gospel of John: ‘Feed my sheep’. Our second conclusion is that the power of orders and of jurisdiction existed in all the apostles. This can be seen from the fact that it was said to all the apostles together, ‘Do this in memory of me, etc.: Whomsoever’s sins you shall remit, and Whatsoever you loose.’ Luke 22, Luke 18, John 20.
          There is however a first doubt that arises concerning this question. Did all the apostles have power immediately from Christ, or did only Peter receive it immediately from Christ, and the others from Peter? ... In the case of the power of jurisdiction, the better part of Catholic authors, and the most authoritative among them, assert that only Peter received this power directly from Christ, and that the others received it from Peter.
          In proof of this, the authority of great men is first offered; as Anacletus, Cyprian, Augustine, Leo, and Alexander. I refrain from reciting the words of these men, for it is apparent that their meaning is not what the defenders of this thesis wish it to be. Those who wish to see this can consult Cardinal Torquemada, De Ecclesia, book, 2 ch. 54. The assertions of these saints were directed simply at this, to assert that all authority after Peter took its origin in Peter, and that Peter himself was the ruler both of the other apostles and of the entire Church of Christ. Be it far from us to deny this claim, which we hold it intolerable to contradict. But if these testimonies do not prove what they want, they appeal to argument to vindicate it. The first argument they offer is that since Christ did not personally assign subjects to the other apostles; therefore, he did not assign jurisdiction to them, since there can be no jurisdiction without subjects. They base the antecedent of this argument on the following reasoning. Either Christ assigned all men as subjects to the apostles, or he only assigned some men as subjects. We cannot choose to affirm the former, because it is not mentioned in the Gospels, and it seems that Christ did not give all men as subjects to the apostles. For there were many pastors, and there would hence be several equal rulers having the plenitude of power in the Church, which is a defective form of rule in any kingdom. It is pernicious for there to be many princes, as Aristotle states in Metaphysics 12. And ‘every kingdom that is divided among itself shall be made desolate’. Moreover, there would not be one flock and one pastor for Christ’s sheep if there were many shepherds with equal powers; and it cannot be understood how Peter would be the prince and head over the other apostles, if all of them had received the same power as Peter from Christ.
          It is because the Gospels truly support the contrary view that I draw the conclusion that all the power that the apostles possessed was received by them immediately from Christ. This is proved firstly by the fact that in Matthew 18, ‘Whatever you loose upon earth, etc.,’ is said to all the apostles; and likewise in Luke 22, where ‘Do this in memory of me’ is addressed to all of them; in John 20, ‘Whomsoever’s sins you remit’, in the last chapter of Matthew, ‘Go throughout all the world and preach the Gospel to all’, John 20, ‘As the Father sends me, so I send you’. It is written, ‘Christ made them all apostles’, as is plain from Matthew 10, Mark 3, Luke 6, 1 Corinthians 2, Ephesians 4. But the powers of both orders and jurisdiction belong to apostles: therefore both of these powers were given to the apostles by Christ. It should be considered that three things pertain to the dignity of an apostle. The first is the power to govern the faithful; the second is the office of teaching; and the third is the power of miracles. This is shown first by Luke 9, where it is written; ‘Calling together the twelve apostles, Jesus gave them power over all demons, and to cure diseases, and sent them to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick’. Matthew in his last chapter writes, ‘The Lord said to them, Go forth into all the world, teach and baptize all nations, and teach them to follow everything that I have commanded you’. The first epistle to the Corinthians chap. 12 states; ‘[God] has sent some into the Church as apostles’. The gloss on this text states: ‘all were ordainers and judges’. Thus, if Christ made them apostles, they could not have been without the powers of orders and jurisdiction; therefore, they received both of these powers from Christ. Moreover, it is apparent that none of the other apostles received less power from Christ than the apostle Paul: but all the power that Paul (p. 85) possessed, he received from Christ. Paul himself stated in Galatians 1 that he did not receive his power from man or through man. He put this in a different way in Galatians 2, where he said that he had received nothing from the other apostles, and specifically that he had received nothing from Peter. For Paul said that ‘those who seemed to be something added nothing to me, for he who worked through Peter in the apostolate to the circumcised worked through me in the apostolate to the Gentiles’. Therefore, it seems to me certain that it must be declared and believed that all the apostles received both powers from Christ.
          But there remains a doubt as to whether all the apostles received the same power as Peter; and both answers to this question have their adherents. But because the hasty supporters of the majority view on this question do not provide the reasons upon which both sides base their conclusions, I assert this conclusion: all the apostles had the same power as Peter. I understand this in the sense that every apostle had ecclesiastical power covering the whole world, for all the acts that Peter had power to do: I do not speak of those acts that pertain only to the supreme Pontiff, such as the assembling of a general council. The first part of this claim is proved by the text of Matthew already cited, ‘Go throughout all the world’, etc. And these statements were made without exception: ‘Whatsoever you loose, etc.’, ‘Those whose sins you remit, etc.’, Matthew 18 and John 20, ‘As the Father sent me, etc.’ . But Christ was sent to the whole world; therefore, the apostles were also sent to the whole world. The second part, to the effect that the apostles had the power to do all that Peter could do, can be seen to be proved by the fact that possession of the authority of government is essential to being an apostle. There is no reason for holding that this authority was limited, since there are no grounds for saying that it was limited to certain acts and not to others; on the contrary, it is established by the acts of the apostles themselves, who founded churches and named bishops all over the world, and laid down laws through their own power. Nor is it apparent what Peter could do that the other apostles could not do, save those acts that only the Supreme Pontiff can do. Moreover, St. Paul in Galatians chapters 1 and 2 sufficiently defends the claim that he has equal power with Peter. This is clearly the view of St. Cyprian in his Epistle to the Novatians on the unity of the Church, where in question 14 he states: ‘1. I tell you this; the rest of the apostles and Peter were given the same fellowship, honour, and power.’ The gloss that states that this is to be understood as referring to the power of orders and not to the power of jurisdiction is to be rejected, as can be seen by reading this letter of the saint.
          And lest anyone should suspect that I wish to derogate in any way from the dignity, prerogatives, or primacy of Peter, which I not only confess with the Catholic Church but have defended before men, I will state some theses. ... [Vitoria then gives a number of Scriptural arguments for the primacy of Peter.] ... Although it is true to state that the apostles were equal in power to Peter in the sense given above, nonetheless Peter’s power was greater. Firstly, it was an ordinary power, whereas the power of the apostles was an extraordinary one. Secondly—which follows from this—the power of Peter remained in the Church, whereas the power of the apostles did not. Thirdly, the power of the others was neither over Peter nor over one another, but Peter’s power extended over the other apostles. Fourthly, the power of the others was subordinate to the power of Peter; the authority of Peter prevailed over the authority of the others.
          ... Aside from the holy apostles, no-one else in the Church received ecclesiastical power from Christ. ... and thus we have the first origin of ecclesiastical power; for the twelve apostles were the first and only persons to receive this power from Christ, our Lord and Redeemer.
          It now remains to treat of how this ecclesiastical power continued in the Church and reached down to us; with this, the whole business concerning the subject of ecclesiastical power that I have undertaken will be complete.The first proposition on this topic is that ecclesiastical power existed not just in the apostles, but also in others. This can be seen from the Scriptures; Paul made Titus and Timothy bishops ...
          The second proposition is that after the death of Christ’s apostles, all the power of orders and jurisdiction that existed in the apostles continued to exist in the Church. This is proved by the fact that the grades of power in the Church were instituted by Christ not only for the time of the apostles, but for all the times in which the Church will exist ...
          The third proposition is that all the power of orders in the Church is derived from and depends immediately upon the bishops ...
          The fourth proposition is that after the death of the apostle Peter, someone succeeds Peter with the same authority and power of jurisdiction over all the world. ... Just as Adam had certain personal gifts that he could not transmit to his posterity, such as the plenitude of knowledge, and certain common gifts that pertained to the state of innocence, such as grace and immortality, so Peter had certain personal gifts that do not exist in his successors (and are not necessary for them), such as the grace of miracles and the gift of tongues. There are certain gifts however that he accepted to be transmitted to his successors, such as the power of the keys, which he received not for himself but for the Church. The order established in the Church in the beginning by Christ, whereby there is one head and one ruler over all, was the best one for the administration of the Church. ...
          It remains for us to address the question of the successors of the other apostles. Concerning them this first proposition is asserted: no-one succeeds the other apostles with the authority and power of jurisdiction that they had, that is to say, with the plenitude of power in all the world that these apostles had, as was shown above. For we read of no-one who acted as the bishop of the universal Church except the Roman Pontiff; those close to the apostles were said to be bishops of Jerusalem, or Antioch, or of some other city. Secondly, it is asserted that because this universal power in the other apostles was an extraordinary and personal power, as has been stated, and one that they could not pass on to their successors -- whereas the power of Peter was an ordinary one that remains in perpetuity -- no-one receives such a power from the Church, who is incapable even when lacking her head to grant this power. Nor do we read of anyone being appointed by the Supreme Pontiff, that is, from Peter or Clement, to substitute for any of the apostles with a power of that extent. Thirdly, there would be the greatest occasion for schism and dissension among the successors of the apostles—who are not confirmed in grace, as the apostles were—if they did not have distinct provinces of their own.
          Second proposition. Any of the apostles aside from Peter could leave a successor, not a universal one, but in any province that he wished, who would be the true bishop of that province. I know that this proposition will not please all the doctors, both theologians and canonists, and that it does not please the Cardinals Torquemada and Cajetan themselves. For all of them were once seized by the conviction that all power of jurisdiction so depends on the Roman Pontiff that no-one can possess the most minimal spiritual power save by the command or law of that Pontiff: no-one, that is, after the apostles, who by a unique privilege had spiritual power granted to them by Christ, which no-one else can receive save from Peter. But I will manifestly prove this proposition: any of the apostles could in his lifetime create a bishop in any province that he wished, and this power would not be lost with the death of the apostle; therefore, bishops can leave successors. It should first be noted that Paul made Titus and Timothy bishops, and all the other apostles had the right to do the same; and in this sense, the proposition cannot be denied by anyone. But I assert the proposition to be true in the sense that successors to Peter could be nominated: that is, a successor who in truth would have no power until after the death of the apostle; thus, I say, John in Asia could nominate Ignatius, so that he would be bishop after him in that province. The proposition can be proved thus. As was abundantly proved above, all the apostles had the same power as Peter, so that they could establish laws to the effect that the apostles while living should choose their successors; therefore, the apostle could by that law himself first choose his successor. Certainly there does not seem to be any doubt about the antecedent, that all the other apostles were given equal authority with Peter. And if Peter could establish such laws in a province, why could Paul not do so as well? On the contrary, it is certain that he did not need other apostles to act, awaiting Peter’s command for all the things that had to be done in the provinces. And so it seems to me that the proposition is not only probable, but beyond a doubt.
          Third proposition. Not only the Apostles could leave successors, but any of their successors could similarly do so. This is manifestly proved by the second proposition. For by the law passed by John, or by Paul, to the effect that a living bishop can nominate a successor Titus co,uld nominate his own successor. But I further add something that is seemingly more difficult, but that I nonetheless consider to be true: even if no law on this subject was instituted by Paul, Titus and Timothy could have named their own successors, even without consulting the successors of Peter; and the same is true for all the other bishops. This is proved by the fact that a bishop is the pastor and ruler of his province by divine law. Therefore, unless impeded by a higher power, he can do all things that are expedient for the welfare of his province. But at that time it could have been of the greatest importance that a bishop nominate his successor during his lifetime; therefore a bishop could do this, and could indeed legislate that it be done in perpetuity. How could it be that a bishops could legislate about the election of an abbot, or a parish priest, or about any other matter, but not about the election of a bishop? This is confirmed by the fact that it would not only be possible and proper, but necessary at all times. How could a dead bishop in the farthest reaches of India await a mandate from Peter to meet the need of a new bishop? And thus the discussion of the power of jurisdiction is complete. As for the power of orders, if the episcopate is said to be an order or a power distinct from the presbyterate and from jurisdiction, as almost all consider it to be, it is necessary to combine with the choice of the bishop some form of consecration, for the institution of the pope as for the institution of a bishop. But this can be done by any living bishop consecrating his successor; or, if the bishop is dead, by another bishop of the same province, who can consecrate the successor who has already been chosen and nominated.
          Last proposition. Any bishop, even without consulting the see of Peter, can establish a law stating that priests elect the bishop, or that bishops are instituted by some other form. This follows from the other points already made; the bishop can make appropriate laws for his province on this subject, as on others. This is the reason why the authority and dignity of a bishop can be derived successively from one bishop to the next until it reaches us, and through the bishop all other inferior power.
          But notwithstanding these things (lest anyone think that I wish to detract from the Roman See and its dignity), I state this conclusion: the successors of Peter can at their discretion create bishops in new provinces, abolish existing laws on the succession of bishops, establish new laws on this subject, divide provinces, and do all things pertaining to these matters by their own judgment and power. Everything that has been said on this matter should be understood as obtaining unless it is established otherwise by the See of Peter. This proposition is clearly proved by the fact that it was said to Peter, ‘Feed my sheep’, with no limitations or exceptions. Therefore all direction pertains to Peter without any exception, and in consequence even the creation of bishops falls under his power. For if any of the other apostles could and did do this—and it is clear that they did -- so much more are Peter and his successors able to do likewise. From this the corollary clearly follows that one cannot now become a bishop except according to the forms laid down by the Supreme Pontiff, and that if anyone attempts to do otherwise, nothing will result; such an attempt will be null and void. I state this however about the authority of jurisdiction, for what pertains to consecration is different. Secondly, it follows that all ecclesiastical power, whether of orders or of jurisdiction, depends mediately or immediately on the see of Peter. This is apparent from the fact that all bishops depend on the pope, and all priests and other inferior orders and powers depend on the bishops.[10]

II. Evaluation of the theological debate

As we have seen, there are two related questions being considered; the question of the nature and origin of episcopal jurisdiction, and the question of the right of the pope to remove bishops at will. The latter question is not entirely dependent on the former, but it cannot be settled independently of it. The former is the more fundamental question. We can assume that the pope has at least the power and supremacy granted to him by the moderate view, since to deny that he has at least this power is to reject the Catholic faith. The debate thus turns upon the strength of the arguments for the strong view.

St. Thomas is the earlier and greater of the advocates of the strong view. Like Palmieri and other advocates of this position, he appeals to the text of Matt. 16 in support of this view. This appeal in fact uses the strong view to interpret the biblical text, and then cites the text as proof of the strong view, thus reasoning in a circle. The text, reasonably interpreted, does not decide between the strong and moderate views.

St. Thomas does more than appeal to this tendentious exegesis; he also argues from his Neoplatonic conception of causation. This conception applies to the metaphysical category of efficient causation in the created world. Those who accept it are bound to agree that it describes every instance of such causation. But although God exercises efficient causation in causing the power of jurisdiction to exist in the Church, that does not mean that the power of jurisdiction that he causes is itself an instance of efficient causation. This power has connections to efficient causation and resembles it in some analogous ways, but it is not in fact a power of efficient causation or an exercise of such a power. So St. Thomas’s argument from causation fails.

Amicus Thomas, sed magis amica veritas. St. Thomas’s position on papal authority is not compatible with his own theory of grace and the sacraments.

Ecclesiastical jurisdiction confers divine authority, not natural authority. It cannot arise from any natural basis of authority. If it is a proper and ordinary jurisdiction, it is a supernatural gratia gratis data that cannot originate in any created cause. Hence, it can only be conferred by God alone (cf. 1a2ae q. 112 a. 1). It can only be produced by the action of a created cause when the created cause is an instrumental cause used by God as the principal cause and agent (1a2ae q. 112 a. 1 ad 2). The assertion of later theologians that episcopal jurisdiction is derived immediately from the pope and only mediately from God is thus incompatible with the fact that episcopal jurisdiction is a supernatural rather than a natural power. If the conferring of episcopal jurisdiction is only mediately from God, then it cannot be caused by God as the principal agent.

St. Thomas’s own view does not face this problem, because he does not describe episcopal jurisdiction as being only mediately from God; indeed the Neoplatonic conception that he uses to argue for the strong view of papal power excludes this possibility, stating as it does that ‘the first cause acts more on an effect produced by a secondary cause than the secondary cause itself does’.

However, St. Thomas’s position is ruled out by the nature of a sacrament. A created cause that is a sign, and is used by God to directly produce supernatural grace, is a sacrament (3a q. 60 a. 2). The conferring of the power of jurisdiction upon a bishop is a gift of a supernatural grace that is done through a sign. It must therefore be done through a sacrament. Both the consecration of bishops and the assignation of subjects to a bishop by the pope are signs; they are speech acts with intelligible meanings that effect what they signify. But only the consecration of a bishop is a sacrament. The assignation of territory and subjects to a bishop by the pope is not a sacrament. The source of the jurisdiction of bishops must therefore originate in the sacrament of their consecration. St. Thomas’s Neoplatonic conception of causation explains how authority received by a bishop in consecration is received directly by Christ.

St. Thomas’s claim that the power of bishops is related to the power of the pope in the same way as the power of proconsuls is related to the power of the Emperor effectively reduces the bishops to vicars of the pope. This claim is no longer accepted by Catholic theologians in the light of the teaching of the Council of Trent, as Valton states:

We must indeed recognize that although the bishops are dependent upon the supreme pontiff, who holds the universal primacy, they are not simply his vicars; rather, their power is an ordinary one, flowing from the very office—ratione muneris—which has been confided to them, that is to say from the pastoral responsibility through which the Holy Spirit has made them bishops with the mission of governing the Church of God. For the bishops are the successors of the apostles, as the Council of Trent has taught, loc. cit. ch. 4; in locum apostolorum successerunt. [DTC 5, ‘Évêques: questions théologiques et canoniques’, col. 1703.]

Dom Baucher, in his article in the Dictionnaire de théologie catholique on jurisdiction, states:

The bishops belong by divine right to the hierarchy of the Church; they govern the part of Christ’s flock that is confided to them with a proper and ordinary power of jurisdiction, and, although this power can be more or less restrained by the superior authority of the pope, it is nonetheless a complete power, extending to every aspect of ecclesiastical government in both the external and internal forum. The council of Trent affirms this doctrine in the most categorical fashion: ‘the holy Synod declares that, besides the other ecclesiastical degrees, bishops, who have succeeded to the place of the apostles, principally belong to this hierarchical order; that they are placed, as the same apostle [Paul] says, by the Holy Ghost, to rule the Church of God.’ (Session 23, ch. 4). We can see that the Council appeals principally to the words addressed by St. Paul to the persons governing the church at Ephesus, whatever the actual titles of these persons may have been. [DTC 8/2, ‘Jurisdiction’, col. 1992.]

The scriptural reference here is to Eph. 4:11-12, ‘his [Christ’s] gifts were that some should be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.’ Bishop Zinelli, the relator for the conciliar document of the First Vatican Council Pastor Aeternus, explained the term ‘ordinary’ as meaning a power that belongs to its possessor in virtue of the possessor’s office, and is not delegated to its possessor by another person who holds it in virtue of his own office (Mansi 52, 1105).

Palmieri offers several arguments for the strong view, in addition to the scriptural appeal to Matt. 16. He asserts that absolute monarchy is the best form of government, because it is the one the best promotes the common good. But God will give the Church the best form of government; therefore, he has made the Church an absolute monarchy with the Pope at its head.

Such a priori reasoning about what God must have done presumes too much on the reasoner’s supposed knowledge of what God ought to do. The claim that absolute monarchy is the perfect form of civil government is open to objections too obvious to require detailing here; and in any case the inference from the best form of civil government to the best form of government of the Church is fallacious.

Palmieri’s argument from the fact that persons can possess the power of episcopal jurisdiction prior to consecration as a bishop is also fallacious. This jurisdiction can be explained as papal jurisdiction supplied to its possessor, which is replaced by properly episcopal jurisdiction when its possessor is consecrated. His argument must assume that this is not the case, and that the jurisdiction possessed does not change at time of episcopal consecration, in order to prove its conclusion. But this assumption is false. The jurisdiction held by a person who has been appointed to a diocese but not consecrated a bishop cannot be the same as the jurisdiction possessed by a person who is the bishop of a diocese. The latter jurisdiction is episcopal; it is essentially connected to the bishop’s membership of the episcopal order. The former is not, since the person is not a bishop. It can only be supplied by papal jurisdiction. The only way for jurisdiction possessed before and after episcopal consecration to be the same is for bishops to possess their jurisdiction as vicars of the pope, which is ruled out by Catholic teaching.

Palmieri begs the question when he claims that the strong view of papal jurisdiction should enjoy the benefit of the doubt, and be accepted as true unless very good reasons can be given to the contrary. He also disregards the fact that there are strong prima facie objections to his thesis. As we saw above, the Council of Trent states that bishops ‘are placed, as the same apostle [Paul] says, by the Holy Ghost, to rule the Church of God’. They thus rule as bishop by divine authority. How is this compatible with their jurisdiction being derived from the pope, and with the pope being able to remove this jurisdiction at will? A proper and ordinary divine authority must be derived from God, and can only be taken away by Him: no merely human authority can remove it. But a pope deposing a bishop at will, independently of the divine law, is not acting with divine authority. Palmieri states:

It is false that according to our position the bishops are the vicars of the pope. For bishops do not exist in the Church in right of papal authority, but in right of the authority of Christ, and the pope cannot abolish the episcopal dignity and authority: furthermore, the power and tribunal of the pope and of bishops are two different things, because Christ willed that besides the chair of Peter there should also be an episcopal chair. Nor are the bishops delegates of the pope, because they possess an ordinary jurisdiction through the power of the office that Christ has instituted. The bishops rule their flock as their own, for by Christ’s institution they must be pastors of a portion of the sheep, over which they exercise the power of binding and loosing. And although the Roman Pontiff may remove jurisdiction from any and all, he is nonetheless bound to ensure that other bishops exist, in order that there may always be bishops in the Church; for he may not abolish episcopal authority itself.[11]

But this evades the issue. The point is not that the episcopate as a whole exists by divine right, and cannot be abolished by the pope, but that according to the Catholic Church individual bishops in their dioceses rule by divine right derived from their order and their office.

Palmieri’s argument that the moderate view entails a contradiction about jurisdiction is fallacious. He asserts that there can be no jurisdiction without subjects over which this jurisdiction can be exercised. The answer of the moderate view to this objection is that jurisdiction exists in a consecrated bishop in first act, that is, as a power to exercise jurisdiction once subjects for it are designated. Potential subjects for jurisdiction always do exist at the time of the consecration of a bishop, because of the existence of Christian faithful over whom such jurisdiction can be exercised. Palmieri’s example of jurisdiction existing in first act, as a power which requires further conditions for its activation, is an actually existing jurisdiction over specified subjects whose exercise is impeded (a king exiled by force). In order to derive his contradiction, Palmieri assumes that this is the only form of jurisdiction that can exist in first act. But this assumption is false.

The historical origins of Palmieri’s thesis are worth noting. The conception of absolute monarchy to which he appeals is the conception of the authority of the Emperor in Roman law. The corpus of Roman law was lost during the Dark Ages, and then recovered early in the Middle Ages. Thereafter, Roman law and its conception of the authority of the ruler had an enormous influence on the formation of the conception of civil authority in European states and on the conception of papal authority developed by medieval canonists. It is this tradition of thought concerning authority to which Palmieri is appealing in his argument for a papal absolute monarchy; he is not just advancing his own outlandish and extreme authoritarianism. The strength and erstwhile general acceptance of this tradition of thought explains much of the support for the strong view of papal authority among Catholic theologians.

It remains to address Cardinal Ghirlanda’s argument in favour of the strong view. It is not a serious one, but it should be considered because of Cardinal Ghirlanda’s influential position at the moment. The argument has no logical connection to its conclusion. As we have seen, the question that has been debated by theologians is not whether the sacrament of orders in itself or canonical mission confers jurisdiction, but whether ordination to the episcopate or assignment of jurisdiction to a bishop by the Pope confers episcopal jurisdiction. No Catholic author has ever maintained that ordination to the priesthood and/or the diaconate confers any form of the power of jurisdiction. Dom Baucher observes:

No one belongs to the divinely instituted hierarchy of jurisdiction in the Church except for bishops. The only persons who belong to this hierarchy are those who exercise governance in the Church with proper and ordinary jurisdiction, and only bishops satisfy this condition. [DTC 8/2, ‘Jurisdiction’, col. 1994.]

It is simply a non sequitur to argue that because the sacrament of orders—which includes consecration to the episcopate, the priesthood, and the diaconate—does not as such confer jurisdiction, the jurisdiction of bishops is derived from their canonical mission from the pope. The ordination of bishops is related to jurisdiction, whereas the ordination of priests and deacons is not. It makes the person ordained a member of the group that has the role of ruling the Church. That is why there is a separate rite for the ordination of bishops.

The grant of the power of jurisdiction to laymen is irrelevant to the strong view of papal power. The power of jurisdiction in the Church in the external forum includes the legislative power, the judicial power, and the executive and coercive power. The bishop of a diocese possesses ex officio all three of these powers over his flock, excepting acts of juridical power reserved by the legislation of the universal Church to the Apostolic See. Such jurisdiction cannot be possessed by a layman, because no-one except a bishop can have jurisdiction of this kind. Any jurisdiction possessed by a layman must be received from an authority that does possess ordinary and proper jurisdiction. This is indeed the case with jurisdiction possessed by ordained persons such as parish priests and religious superiors, not only with that possessed by laymen. To assume that jurisdiction of this kind can only be received from the pope, and not from any other bishop, is to beg the question at issue.

Although it is true that the sacrament of orders as such does not confer jurisdiction, it should be pointed out that Cardinal Ghirlanda’s position on the independence of the power of governance from the sacrament of orders is open to question. Theologians have maintained that the clerical status is a necessary condition for receiving any power of jurisdiction in the Church (cf. Baucher, DTC 8/2, ‘Jurisdiction’, col. 1991). This was asserted by the 1917 Code of Canon Law; however, that Code did not restrict the clerical status to those in major orders, but defined clerics as those who had been tonsured, a necessary step before the reception of both minor and major orders (can. 108). It did restrict the grant of a power of jurisdiction that involved a cure of souls to those who had been ordained as priests (can. 154). In doing so it followed the decrees of the Council of Lyon in 1245 and the Council of Trent.[12] This position was supported by the Second Vatican Council:

Though they differ from one another in essence and not only in degree, the common priesthood of the faithful and the ministerial or hierarchical priesthood are nonetheless interrelated: each of them in its own special way is a participation in the one priesthood of Christ. The ministerial priest, by the sacred power he enjoys, teaches and rules the priestly people (‘populum sacerdotalem efformat ac regit’); acting in the person of Christ, he makes present the Eucharistic sacrifice, and offers it to God in the name of all the people. But the faithful, in virtue of their royal priesthood, join in the offering of the Eucharist. They likewise exercise that priesthood in receiving the sacraments, in prayer and thanksgiving, in the witness of a holy life, and by self-denial and active charity. (Lumen Gentium 10)

The logic of this position is clear. The power of orders is directed at the sanctification of the church and her members. It provides grace to its recipients to achieve this end, a grace that is not given to those who do not receive the sacrament of ordination. The power of jurisdiction in the Church is directed at the same end as the power of orders; the supernatural end of sanctifying the members of the Church and bringing them to heaven. In consequence, there is no sense in giving the power of order to one group of men, and the power of jurisdiction to an at least partially different group of men. Nor is there sense in giving the sanctifying task of rule over the Church to persons who have not received the power to sanctify others through the grace of ordination.

This position also corresponds to the importance attached to the liturgy by the Second Vatican Council, which asserted that ‘the liturgy is the high point towards which the activity of the Church is directed’ (Sacrosanctum concilium, 10). Since the liturgy is the most important part of the activity of the Church, it makes sense that the hierarchy of juridical authority within the Church correspond to the hierarchy that exists in liturgical function. This correspondence was apparent in the older canonical legislation that restricted all power of jurisdiction to clerics. As we have seen, ‘cleric’ in this sense was not limited to those who had received sacramental ordination; it covered all those members of the Church who had some liturgical function and office. Jurisdiction was this limited to those with a liturgical function, and jurisdiction involving a cure of souls was limited to those with a liturgical office that required priestly ordination.

Cardinal Ghirlanda claims that the Second Vatican Council did not in fact link the rule of the people of God with the ministerial priesthood, on the grounds that the drafters of the 1983 Code of Canon Law denied that it did, and amended the canons to permit laymen to exercise judicial power by sitting on a canonical court. However, canons of the Code of Canon Law and their drafters do not enjoy total exemption from error, and the text of Lumen Gentium says what it says. The 1983 Code of Canon Law is in fact not clear on this subject. It states:

Can. 129 §1. Those who have received sacred orders are qualified, according to the norm of the prescripts of the law, for the power of governance, which exists in the Church by divine institution and is also called the power of jurisdiction. (‘Potestatis regiminis, quae quidem ex divina institutione est in Ecclesia et etiam potestas iurisdictionis vocatur, ad normam praescriptorum iuris, habilis sunt qui ordine sacro sunt insigniti.’
          § 2. Lay members of the Christian faithful can cooperate in the exercise of this same power according to the norm of law.

Can. 129 §1 only makes sense as asserting that the power of jurisdiction is restricted to those in sacred orders. It can hardly mean that the power of jurisdiction is possible for those in sacred orders; it would be absurd to state this in a canon. But this raises the difficulty of how laymen can cooperate in the exercise of this power, as stated in 129 §2. The only solution to this difficulty is to interpret the canon in the light of the previous canonical tradition, and limit the cooperation of laymen to exercises of jurisdiction that do not include the cure of souls. This would mean that the participation of laymen in ecclesiastical tribunals is illicit, if they are granted a share in the juridical power of such tribunals. But there is nothing impossible about that.

The arguments that theologians have offered for the strong view of papal jurisdiction are thus unpersuasive. The merits of Vitoria’s arguments for the moderate view should be apparent to the reader. His historical sense is particularly worthy of note; he discerned that the patristic texts commonly cited in favour of the strong view did not mean what the adherents of the strong view claimed that they did. It is a fact that no-one in the first millennium of the Church ever thought of this view, or would have taken it seriously if they had thought of it; and that it would have been completely impractical—as Vitoria points out—to have put it into practice during this period.

Msgr. Joseph Clifford Fenton objects to Vitoria’s arguments on the grounds that ‘Victoria, outstanding theologian though he was, seems to have misconstrued the question at issue, and to have imagined that in some way the traditional teaching involved the implication that all bishops had been placed in their sees by appointment from Rome.’[13] As we have seen, this characterisation of Vitoria is mistaken. He argues against the strong view on the grounds of the positive right of apostles and bishops to leave successors in their sees, in virtue of the power of their respective offices.

It is melancholy to reflect that Vitoria’s undoubtedly superior arguments were made 358 years before those of Palmieri. The fact is that during and after Vitoria’s time, the pope was engaged in a struggle with Catholic monarchs over control of the Church. The conception of the pope as an absolute monarch was considered to be the best weapon for the papacy in this struggle, and was naturally felt to be true in itself by the popes. In consequence, theologians and religious orders who sided with the pope and looked to the papacy for support and reward backed the idea of the pope as absolute monarch. This idea also conformed to the dominant understanding of authority during this period, which saw the growth of the power and prestige of absolute monarchy. Theologians who did not take the side of the papacy in this dispute generally looked to Catholic monarchs for support and reward, and supported Gallicanism, Febronianism or similar positions that denied the authority of the pope over the Church. The topic of the nature of papal authority and the papal office became a battleground for these two opposing camps. The moderate view of papal authority retained the status of a permitted theological opinion because of its intrinsic probability and the eminence of its principal upholders, but it remained a minority view. As with his position on the rights of the Indians, the truth of Vitoria’s claims did not prevail against political realities.

III. Magisterial teaching on papal and episcopal jurisdiction

Mr. Ureta claims that the strong view of papal jurisdiction is taught by the magisterium of the Church. He is followed in this by a number of Catholic authors, and it seems that the strong view is taken for granted by many orthodox Catholics as being Catholic teaching. This is not in fact the case, but the position of the magisterium on this subject is not expressed in a simple manner. A careful analysis of a number of magisterial texts is required in order to identify what this position is.

An important text on papal and episcopal jurisdiction is found in Leo XIII’s encyclical Satis Cognitum:
14. But if the authority of Peter and his successors is plenary and supreme, it is not to be regarded as the sole authority. For He who made Peter the foundation of the Church also “chose, twelve, whom He called apostles” (Luke vi., 13); and just as it is necessary that the authority of Peter should be perpetuated in the Roman Pontiff, so, by the fact that the bishops succeed the Apostles, they inherit their ordinary power, and thus the episcopal order necessarily belongs to the essential constitution of the Church. Although they do not receive plenary, or universal, or supreme authority, they are not to be looked as vicars of the Roman Pontiffs; because they exercise a power really their own, and are most truly called the ordinary pastors of the peoples over whom they rule.
          But since the successor of Peter is one, and those of the Apostles are many, it is necessary to examine into the relations which exist between him and them according to the divine constitution of the Church. Above all things the need of union between the bishops and the successors of Peter is clear and undeniable. This bond once broken, Christians would be separated and scattered, and would in no wise form one body and one flock. “The safety of the Church depends on the dignity of the chief priest, to whom if an extraordinary and supreme power is not given, there are as many schisms to be expected in the Church as there are priests” (S. Hieronymus, Dialog, contra Luciferianos, n. 9). It is necessary, therefore, to bear this in mind, viz., that nothing was conferred on the apostles apart from Peter, but that several things were conferred upon Peter apart from the Apostles. St. John Chrysostom in explaining the words of Christ asks: “Why, passing over the others, does He speak to Peter about these things?” And he replies unhesitatingly and at once, “Because he was pre-eminent among the Apostles, the mouthpiece of the Disciples, and the head of the college” (Hom. lxxxviii. in Joan., n. I). He alone was designated as the foundation of the Church. To him He gave the power of binding and loosing; to him alone was given the power of feeding. On the other hand, whatever authority and office the Apostles received, they received in conjunction with Peter. “If the divine benignity willed anything to be in common between him and the other princes, whatever He did not deny to the others He gave only through him. So that whereas Peter alone received many things, He conferred nothing on any of the rest without Peter participating in it” (S. Leo M. sermo iv., cap. 2).
          15. From this it must be clearly understood that Bishops are deprived of the right and power of ruling, if they deliberately secede from Peter and his successors; because, by this secession, they are separated from the foundation on which the whole edifice must rest. They are therefore outside the edifice itself; and for this very reason they are separated from the fold, whose leader is the Chief Pastor; they are exiled from the Kingdom, the keys of which were given by Christ to Peter alone.

This description of the jurisdiction of the pope and the bishops on the face of it expresses the moderate view. It cannot be taken as a decisive resolution of the theological debate between the strong and the moderate views, however, because it does not mention this debate or contain a statement that definitively rules out the strong view. It does lend weight to the moderate view, as being the theological position that best conforms to Leo XIII’s teaching.

Those Catholic theologians who assert that the strong view is taught by the magisterium of the Church base their claim upon the teaching of Pope Pius XII in his encyclical Mystici Corporis. Van Noort asserts:

Prior to Mystici corporis, two opinions were held by Catholics:
          1. Some theologians held that God directly confers episcopal jurisdiction in each individual instance, either by the very consecration of the bishop, or in some other way. ...
          2. The other, and always the majority opinion, maintained that bishop received their jurisdiction not directly, but indirectly from God. (p. 325) ...
Finally, in his epoch-making encyclical, Mystici corporis, Pius XII states explicitly and without any qualification that the bishops receive their jurisdiction directly from the pope.
          52. …As far as each one’s one diocese is concerned, they [the bishops] each and all as true Shepherds feed the flocks entrusted to them and rule them in the name of Christ. Yet in exercising this office they are no altogether independent, but are duly subordinate to the authority of the Roman Pontiff: and although their jurisdiction is inherent in their office, yet they receive it directly from the same Supreme Pontiff.[14]
          Following this explicit, even though brief, declaration by Pius XII the first opinion is, we feel, no longer tenable. We would agree with Cardinal Ottaviani’s statement that the second opinion ‘should rated as absolutely certain because of the words of the Supreme Pontiff, Pius XII.’[15]

The text of Mystici corporis that van Noort cites runs thus:

41. They, therefore, walk in the path of dangerous error who believe that they can accept Christ as the Head of the Church, while not adhering loyally to His Vicar on earth. They have taken away the visible head, broken the visible bonds of unity and left the Mystical Body of the Redeemer so obscured and so maimed, that those who are seeking the haven of eternal salvation can neither see it nor find it.
          42. What we have thus far said of the Universal Church must be understood also of the individual Christian communities, whether Oriental or Latin, which go to makeup the one Catholic Church. For they, too, are ruled by Jesus Christ through the voice of their respective Bishops. Consequently, Bishops must be considered as the more illustrious members of the Universal Church, for they are united by a very special bond to the divine Head of the whole Body and so are rightly called “principal parts of the members of the Lord;” [62] moreover, as far as his own diocese is concerned, each one as a true Shepherd feeds the flock entrusted to him and rules it in the name of Christ. [63] Yet in exercising this office they are not altogether independent, but are subordinate to the lawful authority of the Roman Pontiff, although enjoying the ordinary power of jurisdiction which they receive directly from the same Supreme Pontiff. Therefore, Bishops should be revered by the faithful as divinely appointed successors of the apostles, [64] and to them, even more than to the highest civil authorities should be applied the words: “Touch not my anointed one!” [65] For Bishops have been anointed with the chrism of the Holy Spirit.

Pius XII made a similar statement in his encyclical Ad Sinarum Gentem (1954), addressed to the Catholic bishops and people of China:

11. In fact, even then, as you well know, it will be entirely necessary for your Christian community, if it wishes to be part of the society divinely founded by our Redeemer, to be completely subject to the Supreme Pontiff, Vicar of Jesus Christ on earth, and be strictly united with him in regard to religious faith and morals. With these words - and it is well to note them - is embraced the whole life and work of the Church, and also its constitution, its government, its discipline. All of these things depend certainly on the will of Jesus Christ, Founder of the Church.
          12. By virtue of God’s Will, the faithful are divided into two classes: the clergy and the laity. By virtue of the same Will is established the twofold sacred hierarchy, namely, of orders and jurisdiction. Besides - as has also been divinely established - the power of orders (through which the ecclesiastical hierarchy is composed of Bishops, priests, and ministers) comes from receiving the Sacrament of Holy Orders. But the power of jurisdiction, which is conferred upon the Supreme Pontiff directly by divine rights, flows to the Bishops by the same right, but only through the Successor of St. Peter, to whom not only the simple faithful, but even all the Bishops must be constantly subject, and to whom they must be bound by obedience and with the bond of unity.
          13. Finally by the same Divine Will, the people or the civil authority must not invade the rights and the constitution of the ecclesiastical hierarchy (Cf. Council of Trent, Sess. XXIII; De Ordine, Cann. 2-7; Vatican Council, Sess. IV; Canons 108-109).

Pius XII repeated this assertion in his encyclical Ad Apostolorum Principis (1958), addressed to the Catholic bishops and people of China:

38. For it has been clearly and expressly laid down in the canons that it pertains to the one Apostolic See to judge whether a person is fit for the dignity and burden of the episcopacy,[11] and that complete freedom in the nomination of bishops is the right of the Roman Pontiff.[12] But if, as happens at times, some persons or groups are permitted to participate in the selection of an episcopal candidate, this is lawful only if the Apostolic See has allowed it in express terms and in each particular case for clearly defined persons or groups, the conditions and circumstances being very plainly determined.
          39. Granted this exception, it follows that bishops who have been neither named nor confirmed by the Apostolic See, but who, on the contrary, have been elected and consecrated in defiance of its express orders, enjoy no powers of teaching or of jurisdiction since jurisdiction passes to bishops only through the Roman Pontiff as We admonished in the Encyclical Letter Mystici Corporis in the following words: “. . . As far as his own diocese is concerned each (bishop) feeds the flock entrusted to him as a true shepherd and rules it in the name of Christ. Yet in exercising this office they are not altogether independent but are subordinate to the lawful authority of the Roman Pontiff, although enjoying ordinary power of jurisdiction which they receive directly from the same Supreme Pontiff.”[13]
          40. And when We later addressed to you the letter Ad Sinarum Gentem, We again referred to this teaching in these words: “The power of jurisdiction which is conferred directly by divine right on the Supreme Pontiff comes to bishops by that same right, but only through the successor of Peter, to whom not only the faithful but also all bishops are bound to be constantly subject and to adhere both by the reverence of obedience and by the bond of unity.”[14]
          41. Acts requiring the power of Holy Orders which are performed by ecclesiastics of this kind, though they are valid as long as the consecration conferred on them was valid, are yet gravely illicit, that is, criminal and sacrilegious.

These papal assertions cannot be said to settle the question. The issue is a debate between different schools of Catholic theology that lasted for centuries. Both sides of this debate were strongly argued for at an ecumenical council, the Council of Trent,[16] and no agreement was arrived at. It is a question of the first importance that concerns the fundamental structure of the Church. In order to end a dispute of this kind by a magisterial intervention, such an intervention must clearly describe the question, express the intention of settling it, specify the position being taught, and make it clear that the teaching is binding on all Catholics.

Of the texts cited above, only the encyclical Mystici corporis could satisfy these criteria, because it is the only document that is addressed to the entire Church. But it does not in fact satisfy them. Such a question cannot be settled by a subordinate phrase of a sentence in a papal encyclical, a phrase, moreover, that does not explain the character of the direct jurisdiction it refers to, make mention of the theological debate in question, or express the intention to bind Catholics to reject one of the competing theories and accept the other. There is no mention of the Scriptural texts that are given by theologians to support this position. There is indeed no clear indication in the encyclical of a will to teach that bishops receive their ordinary power of jurisdiction directly from the pope. The goal of the passage in which this statement occurs is to teach the necessity of loyally adhering to the Supreme Pontiff and submitting to his authority. The statement that bishops receive their ordinary power of jurisdiction directly from the pope is given as a reason for this loyalty and submission; that is not the same as presenting this claim about episcopal power of jurisdiction as a teaching to be held by Catholics. This reason need not be accepted in order to accept the necessity of loyalty and submission to the pope. Such loyalty and submission is required by both of the theological positions that we have been considering.

The encyclicals to the Chinese bishops and people are by their nature incompetent to pronounce a definite and final teaching on the subject of episcopal jurisdiction, because they are not addressed to the whole Church. The point about the goal of the passage in Mystici corporis that mentions this issue applies to these encyclicals as well. They are intended to recall the duty of obedience and subjection to the Supreme Pontiff, and to state that bishops who have been elected and consecrated in defiance of the express orders of the Apostolic See enjoy no powers of teaching or of jurisdiction. Their claims about episcopal jurisdiction are given as reasons for this statement, not as an independent teaching.

The passages from the encyclicals of Pius XII that are cited above cannot be seen as a proper and responsible exercise of the papal teaching office. One may speculate that these passages were included in the texts of these encyclicals by drafters at the Holy Office (of which Cardinal Ottaviani was the head at the time) in order to further the cause of a theological opinion that they accepted, without having to face the opposition that would arise if this opinion were presented in a direct and above-board fashion as a position that was being definitively taught by the Pope.

The dogmatic constitution Lumen gentium takes a different position on the nature of episcopal jurisdiction. It states:

          21. ... And the Sacred Council teaches that by Episcopal consecration the fullness of the sacrament of Orders is conferred, that fullness of power, namely, which both in the Church’s liturgical practice and in the language of the Fathers of the Church is called the high priesthood, the supreme power of the sacred ministry.(19*) But Episcopal consecration, together with the office of sanctifying, also confers the office of teaching and of governing, which, however, of its very nature, can be exercised only in hierarchical communion with the head and the members of the college. ...
          22. .... But the college or body of bishops has no authority unless it is understood together with the Roman Pontiff, the successor of Peter as its head. The pope’s power of primacy over all, both pastors and faithful, remains whole and intact. In virtue of his office, that is as Vicar of Christ and pastor of the whole Church, the Roman Pontiff has full, supreme and universal power over the Church. ...
          24. ... The canonical mission of bishops can come about by legitimate customs that have not been revoked by the supreme and universal authority of the Church, or by laws made or recognized be that the authority, or directly through the successor of Peter himself; and if the latter refuses or denies apostolic communion, such bishops cannot assume any office.(38*) ...
          27. Bishops, as vicars and ambassadors of Christ, govern the particular churches entrusted to them (58*) by their counsel, exhortations, example, and even by their authority and sacred power, ... This power, which they personally exercise in Christ’s name, is proper, ordinary and immediate, although its exercise is ultimately regulated by the supreme authority of the Church, and can be circumscribed by certain limits, for the advantage of the Church or of the faithful. ... The pastoral office or the habitual and daily care of their sheep is entrusted to them completely; nor are they to be regarded as vicars of the Roman Pontiffs, for they exercise an authority that is proper to them, and are quite correctly called “prelates,” heads of the people whom they govern.(59*) ...

Preliminary Note of Explanation (Nota explicativa praevia).

2. A person becomes a member of the College by virtue of Episcopal consecration and by hierarchical communion with the head of the College and with its members. Cf. n. 22, end of 1 1. In his consecration a person is given an ontological participation in the sacred functions [munera]; this is absolutely clear from Tradition, liturgical tradition included. The word “functions [munera]” is used deliberately instead of the word “powers [potestates],” because the latter word could be understood as a power fully ready to act. But for this power to be fully ready to act, there must be a further canonical or juridical determination through the hierarchical authority. This determination of power can consist in the granting of a particular office or in the allotment of subjects, and it is done according to the norms approved by the supreme authority. An additional norm of this sort is required by the very nature of the case, because it involves functions [munera] which must be exercised by many subjects cooperating in a hierarchical manner in accordance with Christ’s will. It is evident that this “communion” was applied in the Church’s life according to the circumstances of the time, before it was codified as law.
          For this reason it is clearly stated that hierarchical communion with the head and members of the church is required. Communion is a notion which is held in high honor in the ancient Church (and also today, especially in the East). However, it is not understood as some kind of vague disposition, but as an organic reality which requires a juridical form and is animated by charity. Hence the Commission, almost unanimously, decided that this wording should be used: “in hierarchical communion.” Cf. Modus 40 and the statements on canonical mission (n. 24). The documents of recent Pontiffs regarding the jurisdiction of bishops must be interpreted in terms of this necessary determination of powers.

These passages from Lumen gentium assert that bishops receive their jurisdiction through their ordination. They present an understanding of papal power and episcopal jurisdiction that agrees with the moderate view, and reject an essential component of the strong view; and they assert that the encyclicals of Pius XII are to be understood as being in harmony with their position.

For this reason, Mr. Ureta rejects the teachings of Lumen gentium on this subject. He asserts:

It is insufficient to base a solution on sections 20, 23, and 27 of the Second Vatican Council’s constitution Lumen gentium on the ordinary power of bishops in their dioceses as successors of the apostles and not as delegates of the pope. Because to theologically justify the novelty of collegiality as the participation of all the bishops in the supreme government of the Church, that conciliar document failed to refer explicitly to the traditional distinction between the hierarchy of order and the hierarchy of jurisdiction. Further, it opposed the Church’s traditional magisterium when declaring that the “episcopal consecration, together with the office of sanctifying, also confers the office of teaching and governing” (no. 21).

This position is untenable. Lumen gentium mentions the distinction between order and jurisdiction, as the passages cited above indicate. It is a dogmatic constitution of an ecumenical council, which constitution explicitly sets out to give Catholic teaching on the nature of the Church. The documents of the Second Vatican Council are of different kinds, and many of these kinds of document—decrees, declarations, etc.—do not have a great degree of authority. The case of a dogmatic constitution is different. Such constitutions are a recognized form of conciliar teaching; the documents Dei Filius and Pastor Aeternus of the First Vatican Council are dogmatic constitutions. They express by their titles the intention of teaching Catholic dogma in an authoritative fashion. A dogmatic constitution has a much higher degree of authority than the encyclicals of Pius XII cited above, which are the only magisterial statements that support Mr. Ureta’s position.

It is not denied that some passages of the documents of Vatican II could be or are contrary to Catholic teaching. However, this has to be proven for any passage of these documents; and the presumption is that the documents express Catholic truth, since they were produced by a valid ecumenical council. In the case of the conciliar teaching on episcopal jurisdiction, it can be shown that the position of Lumen Gentium does not contradict Catholic teaching, The main reason for this is that the assertion that episcopal consecration confers the office of teaching and governing is a recognized position in Catholic theology, as we have seen above. It is supported by the teaching of Leo XIII, and it is not ruled out as inadmissible by the statements of Pius XII on episcopal jurisdiction. It cannot be claimed to be a view that was introduced into the document by modernists wishing to advance their cause. It is stated in the Nota praevia, a text that was added to the dogmatic constitution in order to remove the objections of conservative bishops at the council who objected that the original text of the constitution could be interpreted as supporting conciliarism or otherwise denying the papal primacy. The statements of Lumen gentium on episcopal jurisdiction are therefore authoritative and final, and must, as far as they go, be accepted.

Mr. Ureta appeals to the precedent of Pius VII’s brief Tam Multa to support his position. This precedent is important for our subject. Mr. Ureta describes this historical episode as follows:

Even more significant was the case of the French bishops who had emigrated because of the French Revolution’s fierce persecution. They were forced to renounce their dioceses by Pope Pius VII’s brief Tam Multa to comply with the 1801 concordat Cardinal Consalvi had negotiated with Napoleon Bonaparte on the pope’s behalf. In return, the First Consul agreed to demand the resignation of intruding “bishops” who had joined the schismatic church established by the Civil Constitution of the Clergy. A new French episcopate was thus established, chosen by Bonaparte from among juring and faithful non-juring bishops, with the pope pledging to give all of them the respective canonical recognition. ....
          In the end, 47 of the 82 émigré bishops still alive in September 1801 resigned, and 35 refused to submit their resignations. Their dioceses were either suppressed or taken over by other bishops appointed by civil authorities and recognized by the pope. Nonetheless, the non-resigning bishops who remained faithful to the Holy See never claimed jurisdiction over their former dioceses, not even after Napoleon’s 1814 fall and the restoration of the Bourbon dynasty.
          In Church history, it is difficult to find such an arbitrary removal of so many good bishops who suffered tremendous hardships to avoid joining a schismatic church. Those who refused to resign could have argued that Pius VII was acting ultra vires, i.e., beyond his legal authority, that the brief Tam Multa should be “ignored” as “null and void,” and the new bishops deemed usurpers or imposters. They could have added that it was an “emergency” and the chaos of having two bishops claiming jurisdiction over the same diocese was preferable to abandoning the flock to a wolf appointed by Napoleon.
          However, they did not do so, although their leader, Most Rev. Arthur Richard Dillon, Gallican archbishop of Narbonne, exiled in London, claimed that the pope “could not remove a bishop on his own authority without a canonical and regular trial. Only three bishops who refused to resign continued giving orders to the clergy and faithful of their former dioceses, thus giving rise to the anti-1801 French Concordat schism known to history as the Petite Église.

This account does not give a correct picture of events. In the brief Tam Multa of August 15th 1801, Pius VII requested the bishops of all the dioceses then located in France to resign their sees within ten days for the good of the Church, in order to permit an agreement with Bonaparte (then the First Consul) that would regularize the situation of the Catholic Church in France. The request did not leave them a free choice about their decision, but it did not inform them that they had been removed from their sees. All the bishops who resided in France agreed to this request, but 36 bishops who had fled the country refused it. In response to this refusal Pius VII issued on November 29th 1801 the bull Qui Christi Domini. This bull suppressed all the existing dioceses of France and withdrew all jurisdiction from the bishops who had not submitted their resignation.

In response to this action, thirteen expatriate bishops residing in London published a document explaining their refusal to resign their office. This document asserted the Gallican principle that the pope and the bishops acting in moral unanimity are the only possessor of supreme authority in the Church, and argued from this principle that the pope did not have the power to remove them or demand their resignations. When new bishops began to be appointed to their sees, many of the bishops who had refused to resign declared that they delegated their powers to the new appointees, and that the faithful should obey them, without conceding that their successors held office legitimately. A considerable number of Catholics followed the bishops and priests who refused to accept the concordat with Napoleon and the actions of Pius VII. As these bishops and priests died out, the number of this group—the ‘Petite Église’—dwindled, and its last members submitted to the Church in 1911.

The following points about this episode are important for our question:

– Pope Pius VII did not demand the resignation of the bishops, or suppress their dioceses and remove them from office, purely on the basis of his authority as Pope. He gave a justification for doing so that could be presented as having legal force; the step was described as necessary for the restoration of the Church in France, and thus was required by the good of the Church and the French nation.

– The majority of the bishops chose to resign their sees in response to his initial request. This action did not concede that the pope had power to require them to resign or to remove them from office.

– The bishops who refused to resign protested against his action as an abuse of power. Most of them did not attempt to continue to exercise their jurisdiction over their dioceses, but this was a necessity imposed on them by being in exile. The bishops of Blois and La Rochelle did however attempt to govern their dioceses from outside the country, until Bonaparte had them arrested by the King of Spain.

– The position of these recusant bishops was however not a simple denial of the pope’s power to remove them from office; they also advanced a false, Gallican position on the character of supreme power in the Church, and used this position to justify their action. The question at issue between these bishops and the Holy See was thus not only a dispute over the pope’s right to remove bishops. There were thus other grounds for holding these bishops to be schismatic and treating them as such.

– The action of Pius VII was criticized at the time by eminent ecclesiastics as an abuse of power, and has never been accepted as above all objection.

The actions of Pius VII in Tam Multa and Qui Christi domini thus cannot be used to sustain the thesis that the pope has the right to remove diocesan bishops at will.

The sequel to this episode is extremely important for our question. Abp. Deschamps of Malines presented a postulatum to the First Vatican Council in 1870 in connection with the ‘Petite Église’. He requested a formal condemnation of this movement as schismatic. He proposed an amendment to the Council’s chapter on the Roman primacy that would assert the pope’s power to suppress dioceses, and supported this amendment by reference to Pius VII’s actions in 1801.[17] (See E. Mangenot, ‘Anticoncordataires’, DTC 1/1, col. 1377). The Council Fathers refused to accept this amendment.[18] This claim about papal power therefore cannot be described as having been taught by the First Vatican Council. The Council chose not to include this claim in its description of papal primacy when asked to do so.

Mr. Ureta asserts that ‘while the Petite Église experienced a rapid decline during the nineteenth century, French Catholicism, albeit led by a large number of bishops who were successors to those appointed by Napoleon, emerged rejuvenated from these troubles and saw the birth of numerous saints, new congregations, and missionary endeavors that took the Gospel to the furthest ends of the earth.’ This gives too rosy a view. The French Church lost the struggle with its anticlerical and anti-Christian enemies during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. France became more and more secularized in the twentieth and twenty-first century, with the practicing Catholics in that country now being a tiny and aging minority. The French Church is in ruins and faces extinction. The actions of Pius VII in Tam Multa and Qui Christi domini greatly weakened the Church in France, and hence contributed to this result. By suppressing the ancient Catholic dioceses of France, Pius VII deprived French Catholics of their spiritual homes and histories. By removing many of their bishops, often the ones who had shown the most fidelity to the Church in the French Revolution, he deprived them of their spiritual fathers. A list of the achievements of the French Church after the French Revolution does not explain why the Catholic Church in France failed to conquer the challenge of the Revolution. This was the goal that the Church needed to achieve, and it was far from impossible after revolutionary ideas had revealed their destructive and criminal face. Tam Multa and Qui Christi domini are a major part of the explanation for this failure. Bonaparte showed a sinister cunning in getting Pius VII to agree to his proposals. By offering the Pope an unprecedented extension of his power over the Church, he recruited Pius VII as an agent of revolutionary destruction.

This review of magisterial teaching gives valuable insight into the progressives of Vatican II and their heirs. A main progressive theme was the irrelevance, abstractness, futility etc. of traditional scholastic and neo-scholastic theology. However, the traditional theological debate between the strong and moderate view of papal authority is, as we have seen, of immediate interest for the Church and raises fundamental and important questions. When we need to decide these questions, the only thing to do is to go back to this traditional debate by digging up texts written only in Latin in the nineteenth century or earlier. Progressive theology is useless here.

The support of progressives for Pope Francis and his actions in removing bishops reveals their hypocrisy. The supposed ecumenical goals of progressives should lead them to insist on a clear rejection of the strong view and its conception of the pope as an absolute monarch. The strong view on the nature of papal primacy is unacceptable to the Orthodox, although they are generally ready to concede some sort of primacy to the pope. It is outrageous and abhorrent to Protestants. Rejecting it is thus a necessary step for any kind of ecumenical progress. There is however no effort to do this on the part of progressives. That is because ecumenism is really of interest to them as a tool for destroying Catholic belief, not as a path towards Christian reconciliation. Thus, when a pope acts in their interests, as is the case with Pope Francis, they present the strong view of papal power as the gospel truth: when he opposes their cause, as sometimes happened with John Paul II and Benedict XVI, they proclaim the right to resist and disobey the pope.

IV. Resolution of the question

The balance of argument and the teaching of the Church both indicate that the strong view of papal jurisdiction should be rejected. This view is rejected by the dogmatic constitution Lumen gentium in clear terms—an unusual step for the Second Vatican Council. It is not historically or theologically credible.

The claim that the pope has the right to remove bishops at will is justified by its adherents on the basis of the strong view, so since the strong view is false, this claim lacks any grounds for acceptance. As noted above, it cannot be reconciled with the fact that bishops have by divine right a proper and ordinary jurisdiction over their diocese. A jurisdiction of this kind by its very nature can only be lost for a just reason and through the process of law. The claim must therefore be rejected.

There is more that can be said about this claim. Palmieri thus characterises the moderate view:

It is asserted that the Roman Pontiff cannot licitly and validly remove or restrict the jurisdiction of a bishop without just cause: once the condition of the Roman Pontiff having assigned subjects to a bishop is satisfied, the jurisdiction received by bishops is given by God, for it is this jurisdiction of divine origin that is exercised. The Roman Pontiff may indeed regulate and modify this jurisdiction for reasons derived from just causes. He can even in certain cases declare that this jurisdiction has been lost, in virtue of his right to interpret divine law. He cannot however directly remove jurisdiction from a bishop, because this jurisdiction does not exist in its subject through him, but by divine law; and divine law takes precedence over papal authority.

The question that should be raised here is; what could the pope lose by this being true? What benefit to the Church could arise from his not having to have a just cause in order to remove a bishop? The idea that there could be some such benefit is absurd. The pope would not benefit from the power to depose bishops at will regardless of the justice of their deposition. This is a despotic power. Despotism is a weak form of government, judging by the standard of the purposes to which government is directed. It makes the ruler of a despotic polity strong, or makes him feel strong, but it ensures that the polity over which he rules is unjust, inefficient, and malfunctioning—and thus weak. Undoubtedly, the opposite is the case; there are great benefits to the Church from his having to have some just cause for removing a bishop. These benefits go further than ruling out arbitrary and unjust removal of bishops by the pope. They go to the foundations of the structure of the Church, to the fact that the Church is a polity ruled and structured by law rather than by arbitrary power. The rule of law in the Church is identical with the rule of God in the Church, and hence departure from the rule of law is departure from the rule of God. The fact that the rule of law could have been rejected by so many Catholic thinkers for such a long time in favour of the strong view of papal authority indicates a serious and troubling pathology in the Catholic understanding of authority.

Dr. Kwasniewski was therefore correct in saying that Bp. Strickland was not bound to resign his diocese simply because Pope Francis removed him. Our analysis of papal and episcopal jurisdiction permits us to draw further conclusions about this situation. In attempting to remove Bp. Strickland without good reason, Pope Francis was breaking the divine law. He was not just breaking the moral law established by God; he was also breaking the public divine law established by Christ to govern the Church. Those who break this public divine law are criminals; Pope Francis is therefore a criminal. This will not be a surprise to those whom have studied Pope Francis’s career.

There are other bishops whom Pope Francis has removed in violation of the divine law. The criminal character of these removals is obvious. There is another interesting feature of the divine law as applied to his actions that has not been so well explored as the unjust removal of bishops, and that merits consideration. The moderate view asserts that the pope can only remove bishops when this is required by divine law, and that he may not do so otherwise. Is it also the case that the pope must remove bishops when the divine law calls for them to be removed, and that he is breaking the divine law and thus committing a crime if he does not do so? The moderate view seems to imply this, but the question has not been much explored by theologians. There are many criminal bishops whom Pope Francis has protected and left in place after it became apparent that they had to be removed for the good of the faithful and of the Church. By so doing, Pope Francis has provided a fruitful area of research for future theologians. 

Latin and French texts

The Latin texts of Palmieri and Vitoria are provided here for ease of reference. They are somewhat more extensive than the translated passages above. The text of Vitoria is not a critical one; there are significant textual difficulties with his works, because he did not publish anything in his lifetime and his surviving works are reconstructed from the notes taken by his enthusiastic auditors. Both authors sometimes paraphrase Scriptural texts when they quote them, rather than giving the exact wording of the Vulgate. Extensive citations from the original article from the Dictionnaire de théologie catholique article on the jurisdiction of bishops are also provided.

Dominic Palmieri S.J., Tractatus de romano pontifice (Prato: Giachettie & sons, 1891).

[447] I. ... Plenitudi potestatis, de qua loquimur, non absoluta est, sed relativa ad societatem quae regitur: est scilicet plenitudo potestatis in regno et pro regno. Hanc porro claritatis gratia dicimus duplex ratione concipi posse: positive tantum et exclusive. Positive tantum, si potestas princeps possit quidem atque ordinario iure omnia, quae necessaria et utilia sunt pro regimine totius regni omniumque subditorum: sint tamen alii qui simul cum ipso et sub ipso, quin tamen acceperint ab ipso, aliquid saltem [448] possint. Exclusive vero, si ita princeps possit omnia, ut omnis potestas qua regnum regitur vel sit sua ipsius potestas, vel sit ab ipsa, it ut eius potestas vel formaliter vel virtualiter contineat omnem potestatem aliam qua societas regitur. Talis est potestas absoluti monarchae in societate politica.

Plenitudem potestatis secundum priorem rationem competere Romano Pontifice facili negotio demonstratur. Ea enim hos postulat characteres: quod possit scilicet ordinario jure in iis quae pertinent ad regimen societatis omnia quoad omnes sive in ferendis legibus, sive in iudiciis instituendis, sive in tuenda coercitive exsecutione legum atque nihil legitime fieri possit contra eius voluntatem, ut omnis proinde potestas alia in regno sit directe ab eo dependens, ... Atqui talis est potesta Romani Pontificis in Ecclesia. Qui enim habet claves regni omniaque et omnes potest ligare et solvere et idcirco subiectum est unicum potestatis supremae et universalis in Ecclesia omnesque tum singillatim tum coniuctim immediate regit, is potest profecto ordinario iure omnia quoad omnes sive in ferendis legibus sive in iudiciis instituendis sive in tuenda coercitive observatione legum omnes que in regno auctoritatem habentes, quoad eorum functiones regiminis, directe regit; haec enim sunt propria auctoritatis supremae in societate. Nullus propterea valere potest actus, qui contra voluntatem eius ab aliquo fiat qui sit in regno; ad potestatem enim ligandi et solvendi spectat vis efficiendi ut actus subditi, si ea velit, nihil legitime valeat: hac autem vi exsistente, iam est irritum et inane quidquid fit dissentiente eo, qui illa potestate in universum regnum potitur. Certum proinde est quod ait S. Pius V in Bulla excommunicationis reginae Elisabeth. ‘Regnans in excelsis, cui data est in caelo et in terra potesta, unam sanctam et apostolicam Ecclesiam, extra quam nulla est salus, uni soli in terris, videlicet Apostolorum Principi Petro Petrique successori Romano Pontifici in potestatis plenitudine tradidit gubernandam.’
[449-450] II. Sed difficultas potissimum est quoad aliam rationem plenitudinis potestatis. Haec autem quaestio huc redit: an iuridiction Episcoporum in suis ecclesiis sit a Christo immediate, an sit a Christo mediante Romano Pontifici, h. e. immediate a Romano Pontifice. Neque enim ullus negat eam esse a Christo, a quo omnis est in Ecclesia potestas atque esse etiam immediate a Deo immediatione actionis, Deus enim in omnibus cum omnibus causis immediate operatur; sed quaestio est de immediato principio, immediatione scilicet suppositi, quae causam secundam inter primam aut principalem et effectum excludit.

Sunt igitur qui censeant iurisdictionem ordinariam Episcoporum esse immediate a Christo, iisque argumentis utuntur, quibus iam (Prolog. § 17), demonstravimus divinam institutionem Episcopatus. Hanc vero immediatam a Christo derivationem potestatis ita generatim explicant, ut ea a Christo conferatur in ipsa ordinatione episcopali, sit tamen tantum in actu primo et quoad exercitium ligata nec ad actum reducibilis nisi cum Summus Pontifex, approbans Episcopum, territorium et subditos assignat. Sic putant manere in tuto subordinationem Episcoporum erga Rom. Pontificem; nam licet utrique immediate a Deo obtineant iurisdictionem, illi tamen subordinatam eam habent potestati Rom. Pontificis; nec enim opus est ut quaevis iurisdiction procedens immediate a Deo, sit independens. Censent e contrario alii plures, instituisse quidem Christum Episcopatum voluisseque Episcopis regi Ecclesiam suam, ita tamen ut Episcopis singulis iurisdictio ordinaria a Papa conferretur, adeo ut ante hanc Papae collationem nulla vi ordinis sit Episcopi jurisdictio vel in actu primo, se solum aptitudo ex Christi institutione, et iurisdictio obtineatur.

In priore hypothesi dici nequit Romanum Pontificum posse absque iusta causa licite et valide iurisdictionem Episcopis adimere vel restringere: posita enim conditione a Romano Pontifice assignationis subditorum, se exerit in Episcopis iurisdictio divinitus accepta; ipsa est enim quae exercetur: ea vero a Romano Pontifice poterit quidem ratione dependentiae iustis de causis modificari, temperari, imo ex iure interpretandi ius divinum declarare licebit Romano Pontifici quod certis in casibus sit amissa, at directe auferre ab ipsis non poterit; quia in subiecto hoc non exsistit per ipsum, sed iure divino et ius divinum praevalet iuri Pontificis. In altera autem hypothesi nequit quidem id licite Papa, sed potest certe valide, ut actus eius vim per se habeat, nec sibi iurisdictionem asserere possit Episcopus ob praetextum defectus iustae causae. Ex quo iam incipit apparere, quaestionem hanc non esse de nomine, quod manifestius in sequentibus liquebit; attingit enim quaestio naturam Primatus totamque oeceonomiam iurisdictionis ecclesiasticae. Loquimur de iurisdictione Episcoporum in suis ecclesiis: quid de iurisdictione in synodis oecumenicis erga universam Ecclesiam tenendum sit, docebimus deinceps suo loco. Quaestio praesens agitur inter Theologos catholicos.

III. Defendimus itaque plenitudinem potestatis Romani Pontificis in universam Ecclesiam esse talem, ut vel formaliter vel virtualiter complectatur omnem potestatem qua Ecclesia regenda est et regitur, ut idcirco sit immediatus fons a quo est iurisdictio Episcoporum. ...

Itaque id primo dicimus exigi a natura Primatus quem Christus instituit: cuius proinde verba accurata analysi considerandi sunt. Sane Romanus Pontifex habet sub Christo claves huius regni caelorum quod est Ecclesia: iam vero, cellatis iis, quae dedimus in 1a thesi, functio et potestas habentis claves ita repraesentatur, ut ipse aperiat et nemo claudere possit, ut ipse claudat et nemo possite aperire; qui vero talem potestatem aperiendi et claudendi puta domum habet, eo ipso tali etiam potestate est instructus, ut nemo alius aperire aut claudere possit nisi ipso simul aperiante aut claudente, vel faciente potestatem aperiendi aut claudendi. (451) Si enim quis sine ipso aut citra potestatem ab eo factam possit aperire et claudere, fieri quoque poterit ut eo aperiente aliquis claudat, et eo claudente aliquis aperiat. Propria ergo vis huius imaginis clavium, quas habens aperit et nemo claudit, claudit et nemo aperit, eo spectat quoque, ut significetur, quod sine eius cooperatione aut sine potestate ab eo facta nemo possit claudere et aperire. Porro si haec ad rem significatam transferantur quae est potesta in regno nempe in Ecclesia: manifestum est, talem significare potestatem Petri, ut non nisi ipso cooperante aut facultatem tribuente valeat quivis alius in hoc regno potestatem aliquam exercere quod metaphorice dicitur aperire et claudere. Ergo iurisdictio episcoporum immediate a Romano Pontifice dependet non quidem quatenus cum illis cooperetur; id enim excluditur a dignitate Episcoporum qui ex Christi institutione debent esse in Ecclesia ordinarii Pastores, sed quatenus iurisdictionem accipiant ab eo, qui claves solus accepiant ab eo, qui claves solus accepit communicandas ceteris.

Et re quidem vera Romanus Pontifex potest in hoc regno omnia solvere et ligare. Si per se res spectatur, actus huius potestatis hic quoque esse potest, ut iurisdictio cuiuslibet Episcopi valide etiam citra certam causam vel sine redditat ratione auferatur. Bonum quidem Ecclesiae, sicut nec alterius societatis, non exigit ut suprema potestas ex arbitrio exerceatur; sed bonum Ecclesiae postulare potest, ut talis sit potestas suprema quae, etsi identidem (frequentiam enim casuum ipsa natura societatis ac supremi rectoris utilitas, spectatis legibus moralibus, ac divina providentia certe impedient) sine iusta cause exerceatur, eius tamen actus valeat. Id certe exigitur quoad plura quae auctoritati politicae subduntur, cum in civili societate suprema potestas se exercet idque finis ipse socialis h. e. tranquillitas ordinis exigit. Igitur potuit Christus hanc auctoritatem conferre Romano Pontifici, ut valeat enim sine iusta causa auferre ab Episcopo iurisdictionem. Iam vero si ita est, oportet verba Christi: quodcumque solveris etc. ita interpretari, ut hanc quoque potestatem contineant. Nam Christus nullum iurisdictionis supremae actum excipit, imo omnem includit; limes proinde si quis figendus est, peti debet ex fine qui est bonum Ecclesiae. Sed ne erretur in usu huius normae, ea caute adhibenda est. Scilicet non ita est adhibenda, ut ea tantum auctoritas asseratur collata a Christo Petro, quae necessaria et sufficiens est, aut nobis videtur; nam fieri potest quod Christum aliquid amplius dare voluerit et amplitudo verborum Christi quantum fieri potest servanda est: sed ita est ea norma adhibenda, ut illud solum excludatur quod nequit componi cum utili regimine huius regni vel quod ab alia aliunde nota Christi institutione (452) excludatur. Atqui regimen Ecclesiae tantam potestatem a iurisdicione Romani Pontificis non excludit, sicut nec societates politicae eam excludunt a suprema auctoritate; alia vero instituto Christi, quae est institutio episcoporum, huic potestati Romani Pontificis non adversatur; cum eo enim quod Christus voluit esse episcopos, apte componitur quod voluerit ipsorum iurisdictione ex toto pendere a suo Vicario. Ergo verba Christi dicta Petro hanc quoque potestatem continent. Atqui non haberet hanc potestatem Romanus Pontifex, si ipse non conferret Episcopis iurisdictionem, ut iam monuimus: ergo.

Et sane iurisdictio Romani Pontificis est iurisdictio vicaria Christi, est scilicet ipsa iurisdictio Christi communicata Romano Pontifici: est autem iurisdictio universalis pro toto regno. Atqui institutio talis potestatis vicariae exigit ut quam libet iurisdictionem, quam Christus in Ecclesia exercet, exerceat per suum vicarium: porro conferre iurisdictionem est actus iurisdictionis: ergo.

Talem certe potestatem intellexerunt tum Optatus. [etc.]. ... (453)

... Alia demonstratio, qua efficiatur iurisdictionem episcoporum conferri immediate a Romano Pontifice, deducitur ex analysis sententiae oppositae, quae continet contradictionem.

Nam affirmatur, Episcopum consecratum habere iurisdictionem et simul affirmatur, oportere a Rom. Pontifice subditos assignari ut ea ad actum procedat. Ergo ante assignationem factam a Rom. Pontifice nulli sunt subditi Episcopo consecrato nullique fideles designari possunt, in quos ius habeat Episcopus quique teneantur illi parere. Atqui contradictoria haec sunt; nam iurisdictio est essentialiter aliquid relativum postulans terminum nempe subditos. Fieri quidem potest, ut iurisdictio sit tantum in habitu, quemadmodum in rege vi exacto a Regno: at in hoc quoque casu ideo iurisdictio manet habitualiter; quia exstant et possunt designari illi qui per se tenentur ei parere, puta cives illius regni, licet ex accidenti suspendatur haec obligatio; quod si nusquam illi exstent qui dici possunt subditi sui, nec ulla est amplius in eo Rege expulso iurisdictio. Atqui par huic regi est in hypothesi adversariorum episcopus solum consecratus; nulli enim adhuc sunt aut designari possunt qui subditi sint Episcopi solum consecrati: nam ad eos designandos non sufficit postulatio populi vel nominatio Principis aut electio capituli ad aliquam ecclesiam; certum est enim his nullam conferri iurisdictionem electis aut postulatis, nec ullam obligationem imponi fidelibus parendi illis. Ergo Episcopus antequam R.P. ipsi assignat subditos, habet et non habet iurisdictionem, quod implicat: ergo.

Idem evinci potest ex defectu rationis sufficientis eorum, quae in opposita sententia affirmantur. Dicitur enim conferri iurisdictio consecratione: quaeritur an possit nec ne conferri ante consecrationem a Romano Pontifice? Si affirmas, negare debes talem esse ex institutione Christi hanc iurisdictionem ut sit immediate a Deo; quo posito deest ratio cur contendas eam a Deo immediate conferri. Si vero negas, adversaris praxi Romanae Sedis Ecclesiaeque sensui, quae eos habet ut vere instructos iurisdicitone episcopali quos R. P. elegit et confirmavit licet nondum consecratos. Oportet ergo, ut dicas aliam esse iurisdictionem, seu aliam esse eius vim vel stabilitatem, eo quod alio modo conferatur. Verum huius affirmationis quoad vim iurisdictionis quaenam est ratio? cum constet reapse idem posse non consecratum ac qui est consecratus, quod spectat ad iurisdictionem. Quoad stabilitatem vero ratio cur non adeo stabilis sit (454) in non consecrato iurisdiction haec potest afferri, quia ex Christi institutione Episcopi sunt ii quibus cura Ecclesiarum demandata est generatim; id autem probat quidem ex Christi institutione Episcopos debere praeesse Ecclesiis; non vero ipsos a Christo immedate obtinere iurisdictionem: ergo.

Tandem sic licet arguere cum Bellarmino l. c. ex inaequalitate iurisdictionis. Nam si Deus conferret per ordinationem episcopis iurisdictionem, omnes episcopi haberent aequalem iurisdictionem sicut habent aequaliter ordinis potestatem; Deus enim non determinavit unquam εν άτομω[iota subscript] episcoporum iurisdictionem: at episcopi omnes non eadem habent iurisdictionem sive quod extensionem sive quod intensitatem; ergo.

Talis igitur est plenitudo potestatis Romani Pontificis, ut in ipsa tanquam in fonte sit omnis iurisdictio, qua Ecclesia regitur.

Haec est profectio sententia S. Thomae ...

(456) IV. Quae pro contraria sententia proferentur argumenta, petuntur vel ex iis testimoniis Scripturae, quibus docemur auctore Christo aut Spiritu S. esse in Ecclesia Episcopos, ut Act. 20:28 (perperam provocari ad Act. 13:1-2, ostendimus Th. 6), evl ex eo quod Episcopi sunt successores Apostolorum, quos immediate Christus misit, sicut Romani Pontifices sunt Petri successores, vel ex eo quod in nostra sententia Episcopi forent vicarii papae, qualis reapse non sunt, vel eo quod e sententia theologorum regimen Ecclesiae sit monarchicum aristocratia temperatum, vel eo quod olim Episcopi citra consensum Romani Pontifics instituebantur sive ad Apostolis sive deinde ab Metropolitanis aut Patriarchis.

Verum 1ͦ iis Scripturae testimoniis efficitur quidem divina institution Episcopatus; at non efficitur immediate a Deo collatio potestatis. 2ͦ Episcopi a) non sunt successores Apostolorum presse accepta successione; quia Episcopi exstiterunt viventibus Apostolis, qui eos constituebant” nec sunt b) successores quoad aequalitatem; quia potestas apostolica qua talis desiit in Apostolis: sed c) sunt successores quoad similitudinem, quia continuatur in ipsis potestas quaedam Apostolorum, potestas scilicet ligandi et solvere, docendi et sacramenta administrandi sacrosque ministros et episcopos consecrandi, quam potestatem voluit Christus ordinariam esse in Ecclesia in aliis praeter successores Petri. Haec autem non postulant eadem missione mitti Episcopos qua missi sunt Apostoli. Quemadmodum ratione potestatis sacrificandi et remittendi peccata presbyteri (457) quoque dicitur successores Apostolorum (Trid. Syn. Sess. 23 c. 1); quin exinde liceat inferre quod habeant a Deo immediate iurisdictionem in foro conscientiae, vel quod licite valeant celebrare sine licentia Episcopi. Quocirca d) falsum est esse Episcopos successores Apostolorum sicut Romanus Pontifex est successor Petri; nam hic succedit in universa iurisdictione Petri quae maior erat quam in ceteris Apostolis, et ordinaria: deinde Romanus Pontifex sedet in cathedra episcopali Petri quae iure divino saltem consequente evecta est ad dignitatem Primatus; nullius vero Episcopi sedes iure ullo divino exstitit.

3° Falsum est, esse in nostra sententia Episcopos Vicarios Papae. Nam non iure Papae sed Christi sunt Episcopi in Ecclesia nec eorum dignitatem aut auctoritatem potest Papam abolere: exinde duplex est potestas et tribunal Papae et Episcopi; quia Christus praeter cathedram Petri voluit esse cathedras Episcoporum. Nec sunt Episcopi delegati Papae, quia iurisdictionem habent ordinariam vi muneris a Christo instituti. Regunt scilicet Episcopi oves ut suas, quoniam ex Christi institutione Pastores esse debent portionis gregis, in quam potestatem ligandi et solvandi exerceant. Et licet possit Romanus Pontifex valde a singulis et ab omnibus quoque iurisdictionem auferre, tenetur tamen alios subsistere, ut semper sit Episcopi in Ecclesia; nequit enim ipse episcopalem auctoritatem abolere.

Francisco a Vitoria O.P., ‘Relectiones’, in Arbor magna iurisductionis ecclesiasticae (Venice, 1640).

Relectio I de potestate ecclesiae (1532)

(p. 12) Duplex igitur est potestas Ecclesiastica, potestas ordinis, et iurisdictionis. Potestas ordinis est in ordine ad corpus Christi verum, scilicet Eucharistia; iurisdictionis in ordine ad corpus Christi mysticum, id est, ad gubernandum populum Christianum in ordine ad beatudine supernaturalem. Sed in potestate ordinis non solum intelligitur potestas consecrandi Eucharisticum, sed disponendi, et idoneos reddendi hominis ad Eucharistiam, ut est consecrandi presybteros, et alios ordines conferendi, et universim omnia sacramenta administrandi, remittendi quoque peccata, et tandem omnia faciendi, quae alicui ratione alicuius consecrationis conveniunt; Unde etiam potestas ordinis, potestas consecrationis plerumque vocatur. Ad potestatem autem iurisdictionem spectat gubernatio populi Christiani extra Sacramentum, vel consecrationem vel administrationem: ut eius leges ferre, et tollere, excommunicare, dicere ius extra forum poenitentiae, et id genus alia facere.

(p. 24) Quarto propositio: Tota potestas Ecclesiastica, et spiritualis, quae nunc residet in Ecclesia, est de iure Divino positivo mediate vel immediate. Probatur haec conclusio: Nam, ut infra disputantur, tota potestas Ecclesiastica derivata est ab Apostolis, sed Apostoli habuerunt potestatem a Christo vero Deo, et Domino, ergo tota potesta Ecclesiastica est de iure Divino positivo. Dixi autem mediate vel immediate, non solum, quia primo habuerunt Apostoli et inde derivata sit in in successores: sed quia non nego, quin in Ecclesia (p. 25) sit aliqua potestas Ecclesiastica solum de iure positivo, ut dicam non ita multo post, sed ea ortum habuit a potestate Ecclesiastica, quae est de iure divino, qualis est potestas minorum ordinum, et fortasse aliqua alia de qua statim. Et confirmatur authoritate Apostoli ad Ephes. 4. Unicuique nostrum data est gratia secundum mensuram donationis Christi, et ipse dedit quosdam quidem Apostolos, quosdam autem Prophetas, alios vero Evangelistas, alios autem Pastores, et Doctores ad confirmationem Sanctorum in opus ministerii, in aedificationem corporis Christi. Sed omnes potestas Ecclesiastica, vel est aliqua illarum ab Apostolo enumeratum, vel pendet ab illos: ergo, etc.

Relectio II de potestate ecclesiae (1533)

(p. 82) Restat ut iam dicamus in quibus inveniatur huiusmodi potestas: Et ut ad originam suam totam rem revocemus, sit prima Conclusio. Tota potestas Ecclesiastica, et ordinis, et iurisdictionis fuit in Petro Apostolo (p. 83) Haec conclusio nota est ex Evangelio Matt. 16 Tibi dabo claves regni caelorum, et super hanc petram aedificabo Ecclesiam meam. Et Ioan. ultimo, Pasce oves meas. Secunda conclusio: In omnibus Apostolis fuit potestas Ecclesiastica ordinis, et iurisdictionis. Haec enim nota est. Dictum est enim omnibus simul, Hoc facite in meam commemorationem: etc: Quorum remiseritis peccata, et, Quodcumque solveritis, etc. Luc. 22. Luc. 18. Io. 20.

Sed est circa quaestionem hanc primum dubium: An omnes Apostoli habuerint potestatem immediate a Christo, an solus Petro a Christ, et alii a Petro. Et de potestate quidem ordinis, de qua minus dubitandum videbatur, non omnino videtur esse certum. Nam et Iacobus ordinatus fuit Episcopus Hierosolymitanus post Ascenscionem Domini a Petro, Iacobo, et Ioanne, ut habetur in cap. Porro dist. 66 et Paulus, ac Barnabas ordinate etiam ab aliis fuerunt. Legitur enim Actuum 13, Segregate mihi Paulum, et Barnabam. Et subiunigitur, Imponentes illis manus, dimiserunt: ubi glo. In modem ordinatorum, et tamen non est dubitandum, quin Paulus tantam potestatem acceperit a Christo, quantam alii Apostoli acceperunt: Non ergo certum videtur, quod omnes Apostoli habuerint totam potestatem ordinis a Christo, quanquam de hac potestate satis Doctores conveniunt. Sed de potestate iurisdictionis bona pars scriptorum, et quidem gravissimorum, contendunt, solum Petrum habuisse a Christo eam potestatem, caeteros autem omnes a Petro.

Quod probant primo magnorum quidem virorum authoritate; ut Anacleti, Cypriani, August., Leonis, Alexand. Quorum ego verba recitare supersedeo, eo quod re vera non significant id, quod authores huius sententiae volunt. Si quis cupit videre, legat apud Cardinalem Turrecrematam lib. Secundo de Ecclesia, c. 54. sed eorum sanctorum testimonia eo tendent, ut asseverent solum, omnem authoritatem post Petro, a Petrum habuisse originem, ab eoque pendere ipsumque Petrum principe fuisse, tum aliorum Apostolorum, tum autem totius Ecclesiae Christi: quod tantum abest, ut nos negemus, ut pro intolerando contrariam sententiam habeamus. Sed si testimoniis non efficiunt quod volunt, rationibus hoc evincere conantur. Et prima ratio eorum est, Nam Apostoli non habuerunt subditos (p. 84) ab ipso Christo: ergo nec iurisdictionem, quae nisi in subditos esse non potest. Antecedens probatur, Quia vel omnes homines, vel certos. Non secundum quia voluntarie diceremus hos potius quam illis, cum in Evangelio non habeatur, nec omnes dedisse videtur: fuissent enim multi Pastores, et ex aequo habentes plenitudinem potestatis in Ecclesia quod in omni principatu vitiosum est. 

Multorem enim principum est pernitiosa, ut Arist. etiam dicit, 12. Metaphys. Et, Omne regnum divisum desolabitur. Praeterea, non esset unum ovile et unus pastor gregis Christi, si essent multi pastores ex aequo, praeterea non videtur quo modo Petrus fuisset princeps, et caput supra alios Apostolos, si alii similem cum Petro a Christo potestatem accepissent.

Verum quia in contrarium videtur stare Evangelium, pono talem conclusionem, omnem potestatem, quam Apostoli habuerunt, receperunt immediate a Christo. Probatur primo, Omnibus dictum est Matthei 18, Quaecunque solvueritis super terram, etc. Item omnibus, Hoc facite in meam commemorationem, Lucae 22. Item, Quorum remiseritis peccata Ioan. 20 et Matth. ultimo, Euntes in mundum universum, predicate Evangelium omni creatura, et Ioan. 20, Sicut misit me Pater, et ego mitto vos. Item, Christum fecit eos omnes Apostolos: ut patet Matthei 10 et Marci 3. et Lucae 6 et Corinth. 1-2 et ad Ephes. 4 sed ad officium Apostolatus spectat potestas ordinis, et iurisdictionis: ergo utranque habuerunt Apostoli a Christo. Unde est considerandum, quod tria spectant ad dignitatem Apostolatus. Primum authoritas gubernandi populum fidelem: secundum, facultas docendi: tertium, potestas miraculorum. Haec ostenduntur primo, Lucae 9. scribitur: convocatis Iesus duodecim Apostolis, dedit eis potestatem super omnia daemonia, et ut languores curarent, et misit eos predicare regnum Dei, et sanare infirmos. Matthei quoque ultimo, Dominus dicit eis, Euntes in mundum universum, docete omnes gentes baptizantes, et docentes servare omnia, qua mandavi vobis. In prima quoque Epistola ad Cor. cap. 12 Ipse posuit quidem Apostolos glo. dicit, omnium ordinatores, et iudices. Itaque si Christus eos Apostolos fecit, nec Apostoli esse poterant sine potestate ordinis, et iurisdictiones, ergo utranque a Christo acceperunt. Item non videntur minorem potestatem alii Apostoli recepisse a Christo, quam Paulus: sed Paulus (p. 85) omnem potestatem, quam habuit, habuit a Christo, ipse enim dicit ad Galathas 1 quod non ab homine, nec per hominem habuit potestatem. Et ad Galathas 2 differte dicit, se nihil accepisse ab aliis Apostolis et nominatim a Petro. Qui videbantur, inquit, aliquid esse, nihil mihi contulerunt, qui enim operatus est Petro in Apostolatu circuncisionis, operatus est, et mihi inter Gentes. Pro certo ergo mihi videtur pronuntiandum, et tenendum, Apostolos omnes accepisse utranque potestatem a Christo.

Sed superest dubium, An aequalem acceperint cum Petro: nam haec etiam quaestio in utranque partem habet asserores. Sed quia maiora festinanti non vacat utriusque partis fundamenta tradere, pro sententia, quam veriorem puto, pono conclusionem: Apostoli omnes habuerunt aequalem potestatem cum Petro. Quam sic intelligo, quod quilibet Apostolorum habuit potestatem Ecclesiasticam in toto orbe, et ad omnes actus quos Petrus habuit: Non tamen loquor de illis actibus, qui spectat ad solum Summum Pontificem, ut est congregatio generalis Concilii. Haec probatur primo quo ad primam partem ex loco iam citato Matthei ultimo. Euntes in mundum universum, etc. Et sine exceptione: Quaecunque solveritis, etc. Et quorum remiseritis peccata. Matthei 18 etc. et Ioann. 20. Sicut misit me pater, etc. Christus autem missus fuerat in totum orbem: ergo, et in totum orbem ipse misit Apostolos. Secunda vero pars, quod ad omnes actus, videtur posse probari ex eo, quod (ut dictum est) authoritas gubernandi est de ratione Apostolatus: et non videtur quod sit limitata, quia nulla ratione diceretur, quod extendat se ad certos actus et non ad alios, sed potius probatur ex gestis Apostolorum ipsorum, qui ubique terrarum constituebant Ecclesias, et Episcopos, et leges ferebant potestate: nec apparet quid Petrus posset, dimissis iis, quae ad solum Pontificem attinent, quod non, et alii. Et Paulus ad Galathas 1 & 2, satis defendet, se parem potestatem cum Petro habere. Haec est aperte sententia Cypriani in Epistola de unitate Ecclesiae ad Novatianarum: et habetur 14 quaest. 1. Ego dico tibi hoc: Utique erant ceteri Apostoli, quod Petrus, pari consortio praediti, et honoris et potestatis. Nec audienda est glos. dicens, hoc debere intelligi in ordine, et dignitate consecrationis, non in potestatis plenitudine: ut patere potest ipsam Epistolam (p. 86) Divi Cypriani legendi.

Et ne quisquam suspicetur, me velle quicquam derogare dignitati, aut praerogativae, aut primatui Petri, quem non solum cum Catholica Ecclesia confitemur, sed etiam pro virili defendimus: pono aliquam Conclusionem, Petrus inter omnes Apostolus fuit authoritatem et potestate primus, et princeps cum summa supra totam Ecclesiam potestate. De hac conclusione a doctissimis viris non iusti solum: sed praegrandes libri confecti sunt, et editi, atque ideo ego brevi me hoc loco nunc expediam paucis modo contentus Evangelii testimoniis. Primus locus est Matthei 10. Duodecim autem Apostolorum nomina sunt haec. Primus Simon, qui dicitur Petrus. Et Lucae 6. vocavit Dominus discipulos suos, et elegit duodeciim ex ipsis, quos et Apostolos nominavis, Simonem, quem cognominavis Petrum, et Andream fratrem eius, etc. Et eodem ordine nominantur, et numerantur a Marc. cap. 3, et tamen nulla ratione Petrus potuit dici primus, nisi dignitate Apostolatus, vel Pontificatus. Nam ordine quidem vocationis, primus fuit Andreas frater petri, ut patet ex primo cap, Ioann. Imo Andreas iam vocatus a Christo, ut refert Ioann. invenit Simonem fratrum suum, et dixit ei, Invenimus Messiam: et adduxit eum ad Iesum. Est praeterea insigne testimonium, et omnino non refractario, et obstinato intellectui apertissimum Matthei 16. ubi ad quaestionem Domini musantibus, et cunctantibus aliis Discipulis, respondet Petrus, Tu es Christus filius Dei vivi. Cui Dominus, Beatus es Simon Bariona, quia caro et sanguis non etc. sed Pater meus, etc.,et ego dico tibi quod tu es Petrus, et super hance Petram aedificabo Ecclesiam meam, et tibi dabo claves regni caelorum. Certe vel caeco notum esse potest, pro tam praeclara Confessione aliquid promissum Petro prae ceteris Apostolis. Item Ego orabo pro te, et tu aliquandeo conversus confirma fratres, etc. Lucae 22. Nec obscurior locus est ille Ioann. ultimo, ubi cum bis Dominus rogasset petrum; an se diligere plus aliis Apostolis, illo respondente, se quidem amate, subiunxit bis, Pasce oves meas, pasce oves meas. Prorsus est hominis praeposteri, et perverse alioqui apertum testimonium interpretantis, negare Christum eo loco voluisse Petro, pro maiori erga se amore, maiorem etiam authoritatem praestare: at que vel ex his duobus (p. 87) locis liquido constat, Petro integram authoritatem in Ecclesia commissam. Cui enim data est, si Petro est negata? Licet etiam, ut dictum est, alii Apostoli habuerint aequalem potestatem cum Petro ad sensum supra positum, tamen potestas Petro erat eminentior. Primo quia potestas Petri fuit ordinaria, Apostolorum autem extraordinaria. Secundo quae sequitur ex hac, potestas Petri erat perseveratura in Ecclesia, non autem aliorum. Tertio, aliorum potesta nec supra Petrum, nec supra se invicem, Petri autem super omnes alios. Quarto, aliorum potestate subordinate fuit Petri authoritati. Praevaluisset enim authoritas Petro contra authoritatem aliorum.

Sed ut aliquando illum locum, Pasce agnos meos, absolvam (nam difficilior alius restat) fit in hoc argumento haec ultima conclusio, Praeter Sanctos Apostolos nullus alius a Christo potestatem Ecclesiasticam aliquam videtur accepisse. Haec probatur etiam, quia in omnibus locis, ubi data est potestas, non erant discipuli. Haec probatur, Nam si quisquam alius accepisset: maxime fuisset ex numero seputaginta duobus autem probatur, quia in omnibus locis, ubi data est potestas, non erant discipuli isti, ergo. Et praeterea, quia Ioseph, qui congnominatus est Barnabas, erat unus ex discipulis, ut patet Act. 1 et tamen Actuum 4 dicitur post ascenscionem Domini quod erat levites. Non est autem credendum, si Christus potestatem aliquam Ecclesiasticarum dedisset ei, quod fecisset solum Levitam, quia Dei perfecta sunt opera, et Philippus, qui praedicavit Samaritanis, Actuum 8 et baptizavit eunuchum Candacis reginae, non fuit Philippus Apostolus, ut multi putant, nec sine causa quod ad baptismum ipsius Samaritani non receperant Spiritum sanctum: Sed dicunt esse Philippum unum ex septem diaconis, de quo Actor. 6 et 21. Ita dicit Sanctus Thomas in 4 dis, 2 q. 2 ar. 4 ad 1. Et quodlibet 11 ar. 7 livet oppositum videatur dicere super Ioann. Cap. 12 lect. 3. Hic igitur Philippus, non videtur dubitandum, quin esset de numero septuaginta duorum, cum post. Apostolos non temere legatur alius Praestantior praedicator, aut minister Evangelii, ad quod opus delect fuerunt 72. Discipuli, et tamen non erat presbyter, sed tantum Diaconus. (p. 88) Imo septem illi diaconi, qui Act. 6 fuerunt administrandum mensis, creduntur fuisse de numero discipulorum. Non enim ex Neophytis fuissent assumpti ad tale ministerium, et tamen non erant praesbyteri, ut pro certo constat: imo re vera nullam habent spiritualem potestatem. Ergo septuaginta duo Discipuli, nec fuerunt a Christo ordinati, nec habuerunt potestatem aliquam Ecclesiasticam; quae sine ordine non est. Restat ergo conclusio vera, quod praeter Apostolos nullus alius accepit a Christo potestatem Ecclesiasticam: atque ita habemus primam originem potestatis Ecclesiasticae: fuerunt enim, et primi, et soli: qui a Christo Domino et Redemptore nostro hanc potestatem acceperunt duodecim Apostoli.

Superest nunc tractare, qua ratione haec potestas derivata est usque ad nos, et perseverat in Ecclesia, et sic erit absolutum totum negotio, quod suscepimus de subiecto potestatis Ecclesiasticae.

Sit ergo de hac quaestione prima propositio, Potestas Ecclesiastica non solum fuit in Apostolis, sed etiam in aliis. Haec est nota ex scripturis. Nam Paulus constituit Episcopum Titum, et Timotheum ...

Secunda propositio, Defunctis Apostolis Christi perseveravit in Ecclesia omnis potestas ordinis, et iurisdictionis, quae prius erat in Apostolis. Probatur, gradus potestatis Ecclesiae sunt instituti a Christo, non solum pro tempore Apostolorum, sed in totum tempus, quo perseveratura erat Ecclesia: ergo perseveraverunt in Ecclesia post decessum Apostolorum ...

(p. 89) Tertia propositio, Tota potestas ordinis in Ecclesia derivata est, et pendet immediate ab Episcopis. Volo dicere, quod sicut Apostoli, et illi soli habuerunt iure Divino ordinare, et consecrare presbyteros, et alios inferiores ministros, ita omnes, et soli Episcopi hoc habent etiam iure Divino. ... nec inter Catholicos est dubitatio, Episcopis hanc habere potestatem. Et quod soli Episcopi habeant, videtur, quia nunquam legimus ordinationes factas nisi ab Apostolis, vel ab Episcopis aliis. ... (p. 90) Item potestas ordinis est iuris Divini: ergo non est usurpanda, nisi ab eis, quibus constat iure Divino commissam, tales sunt solu Episcopi: ergo etc. ...

Quarta propositio, Defuncto Petro principe Apostolorum, aliquis successit Petro cum simile authoritate, et potestate iurisdictiones in totum orbem. Probatur a sancto Thom. 4. contra Gen. Cap. 76. Christus sic instituit Ecclesiam, (p. 91) ut esset usque in saeculum duratura, Unde Esa. 9 Super solium David, et super regum eius sedebit, ut confirmet illud, et corroboret in iudicio, et iustitia amodo, et usque in sempiternum. Sed Christus aedivicavit Ecclesiam super Petrum, ut ipse dicit Matth. 16 opus fuit, ut eo a medio sublato, alius loco ipsius subrogaretur. Item inveteri lege a Deo instituta semper fuit unus summus Sacerdotes. Patet Deutero. 17 et aliis locis. Hoc est quod Augustin. 24 Quaestion, 1. cap. quodcunque, dicit, quod cum Petrus accepit claves, accepit non tanquam privatus, sed nomine Ecclesias: hoc data est ei potestas, quae esset duratura in Ecclesia, in cuius aedificationem Christus dedit. Unde sicut Adam quaedam dona habuit personalia, quae in posteros transfundere non potuit, ut plenitudinem omnium scientiarum, quaedam autem communia statui innocentiae, ut institutam, gratiam, immortalitatem: sicut et Petrus privata dona habuit, quaedam in quibus successorum non habuit (nec erat necesse) ut gratiam miraculorum, donum linguarum: quaedam vero accepit, in posteros translaturus, ut potestatem clavium, quam non sibi, sed Ecclesiae accepit. Item ille ordo, a principio constitutus a Christo in Ecclesia, ut scilicet, esset unum caput, et unus princeps super omnia in tota Ecclesia, erat convenientissimus ad administrationem Ecclesiae. Quod constat non solum facto ipso Christo, cuius est summa sapientia, et providentia, sed etiam consensu meliorum Philosophorum, quod Monarchiam aliis principatus praeferunt, ut constat ex Aristotel. in Politicorum, et Ethicorum libris, et Metaphysicorum. Sed Christus non minus diligit nunc Ecclesiam suam, quam tunc diligebat, cum etiam promisit se nobis adfuturum usque ad consummationem saeculi, Matth. ultimo. ergo nullo modo verisimile, quod voluerit, defuncto Petro, mutare rationem, et formam administrationis ab ipso Petro institutam, ut scilicet esset unus princeps totius potestatis Ecclesiasticae. Nec enim Petrus principatum in suum commodum acceperat, sed in utilitatem, et aedificationem Ecclesiae. ...

(p. 95) Superest ut agamus de successoribus aliorum Apostolorum. De quo sit prima propositio, Nemo succedit aliis Apostolis cum aequali potestate, et authoritate iurisdictionis: hoc est, ut in toto orbe haberet plenitudinem potestatis, sicut quilibet Apostolorum habuisset, ut supra ostensum est. Haec probatur primo ipso facto. De nullo enim legimus, quod se gesserit pro Episcopo universalis Ecclesiae, praeter Romanum Pontificem, sed proximi quique Apostolorum vel Hierosolitanus, vel Antiochenus, vel alterius urbis dictus est. Secundo, quia illa potestas universalis in aliis Apostolis fuit extraordinaria, et personalis, ut dictum est (et sic non potuerunt eam successoribus reliquere), et sola potestat Petri erat ordinaria, et in perpetuum duratura, ab Ecclesia autem nullus recipit tam amplem potestatem, quae etiam sine suo capite (p. 96) nihil potest: nec a Summo Sacerdote, hoc est, vel Petro, vel Clemente, legimus quemquam subrogatam cuiquam Apostolorum cum illa potestatis amplitudine. Tertio, fuisset maxima occasio schismatis, et dissensionum in successoribus, qui non erant in gratia confirmati, si provincias non habuissent distinctas.

Secunda propositio, Quilibet aliorum Apostolorum a Petro potuit relinquere successorum, licet non universalem, saltem in quacunque provincia voluisset, qui esset verus Episcopus illius provinciae. Hanc propositionem, scio non placituram omnibus doctoribus, tum Theologis, tum iure consultis, quae nec ipsis Cardinalibus, Turrecremata et Caiet. placeret. Omnes enim illa persuasio semel invasit, omnem potestatis iurisdictionis ita dependere a Romano Pontifice, ut nullus possit habere, nec minimam quidem spiritualem potestatem, nisi ex mandato, vel lege ipsius: post Apostolos quidem, qui ex singulari privilegio habuerunt a Christo, quod nullus alius potest habere, nisi a Petro. Sed probo primo hanc propositionem aperte, Quilibet Apostolorum potuit vivens creare Episcopum in quacunque provincia, et ille non amitteret potestatem defuncto Apostolo: ergo potuit reliquere successorum. Antecedens est notum, quia Paulus constituit Titum, et Timotheum, et idem iuris habuit alii Apostoli: et in hoc sensu propositio a nemine negare potest. Sed dico, eam esse verum in sensu, in quo diximus, Petrum potuisse nominare successorum: id est qui re vera non haberet potestatem, nisi post obitum Apostoli: ita inquam potuit Ioannes in Asia nominare Ignatium, ut post se Episcopus esset in ea provincia. Hoc probatur, Nam, ut supra abundam probatum est, nec alli diffitentur, caeteri Apostoli viventes aequalem habuerunt potestatem cum Petro: ergo potuerunt condere legum, ut vivens Apostolus eligeret sibi successorum: ergo potuit illa lege ipse primus eligere. Certe de antecedente non videtur dubitandum esse, quin concedunt aequalem authoritatem aliis Apostolis cum Petro. Et si Petrus poterat talem legem ferre in provinciis, quare Paulus non potuisset? Imo certum est non indigere alios Apostolos, expectasse mandatum Petri ad omnia, quaecunque opus erant in provinciis. Atque adeo videtur mihi propositio non solum probabilis, sed de qua dubitari non potest.

(p. 98) Tertia propositio, Non solum Apostoli hoc potuerunt, sed quilibet successorum similiter potuit relinquere sibi successorum. Haec probatur aperte ex secunda, Nam lata lege a Ioanne, vel Paulo, ut vivens Episcopus nominaret successorum, potuisset Titus nominare alium. Sed ultra addo (quod difficilius videtur, sed puto non minus verum) quod etiam si de hoc nulla lex esset lata a Paulo, potuit Titus, et Thimotheus nominare sibi successorum, inconsulto etiam successorum Petri: et simile de omnibus aliis Episcopis. Probatur, quia Episcopus est pastor, et gubernator provinciae iure Divino: ergo si maiore potestate non impediatur, potest facere omnia, quae expediunt ad salutem suae provinciae: sed hoc potuit maxime eo tempore esse expediens, ut vivens Episcopus nominarem successorum: ergo potuit hoc facere, imo, et legem ferre, ut hoc modo perpetuo fieret. Unde enim habemus, quod Episcopus possit legem condere de electione Abbatis, vel Parochi, vel de quacunque alia re, et non de de electione Episcopi? Et confirmatur, Quia certe non solum hoc videbatur possibile, et conveniens, sed omnino eo tempore necessarium. Quomodo enim defuncto in ultima India Episcopo potuisset expectare mandatum Petri ad sufficiendum novum Episcopum? Et haec omnia dicta sunt quantum ad potestatem iurisdictionis. Nam quo ad potestatem ordinis, si Episcopatus dicit ordinem, vel potestatem distinctam a prebyteratu, et a iurisdictione, sicut video placere pene omnibus: oportuit praeter electionem concurrere aliquam consecrationem tam ad institutionem Papae, quam Episcoporum: sed illam potuit facere quilibet Episcopus vivens, sacrando successorum, vel etiam uno defuncto Episcopus alterius provinciae potuit ordinare successorum prius electum, et nominatum.

Ultima proposition, Quilibet Episcopus in sua provincia potuit condere legem, ut presbyteri eligerent Episcopum, vel aliam formam institutionis dare, etiam inconsulta sede Petri. Haec sequitur ex aliis. Nam potuit leges convenientes provinciae facere de hac re, sicut de aliis. Ecce rationem, quomodo authoritas, et dignitas Episcopalis potuit derivari successive ad uno in alterum usque ad nos, et per Episcopos omnis alia potestas inferior.

Sed his non obstantibus (ne quis putet me velle derogare (p. 98) Romane Sedi, et dignitati) pono aliam Conclusionem: Successores Petri potuerunt, et possunt pro suo arbitrio Episcopos creare in singulis provincias, et quascunque leges de hac re prius latas tollere, et novas condere, et provincias distinguere, et omnia ad haec spectantia pro suo iudicio, et potestate facere. Omnia, enim quae dicta sunt, intelligenda sunt, nisi a Sedi Petri aliter provideatur. Haec propositio probatur clare: Quia Petro dictum est absolute, Pasce oves meas, sine aliqua exceptione. Ergo ad Petrum spectat omnis administratio sine exceptione, et per consequens etiam creatio Episcoporum. Si enim quicunque aliorum Apostolorum hoc poterat, et secerunt, ut constat, multo magis ad Petrum, et successores Petri. Ex quo patet corollarium, quod nunc non potest Episcopus fieri, nisi secundum forma traditam a Summis Pontificibus: et si secus tentatum fuerit, nihil efficiatur ratum, sed totum erit irritum, et inane. Dico vero quantum ad authoritatem iurisdictionis: nam quod ad consecrantionem spectat, secus est. Secundo sequitur, quod tota potestas Ecclesiastica, sive ordinis, sive iurisdictionis, mediate, vel immediate pendet a sede Petri. Patet, quia ab illa sede pendent Episcopi: ab eis presbyteri, et omnes inferiores ordinis, et potestates.

Valton, ‘Évêques: questions théologiques et canoniques’, in Dictionnaire de théologie catholique 5, ‘Enchantement-Fiume’, A. Vacant and E. Mangenot eds., (Paris; Letouzey & Ané, 1912), cols. 1701-1725.

Les évêques sont institués de droit divin. C’est un dogme de foi défini par le concile de Trente, sess. XXIII, can. 6: i quis dixerit in Ecclesia catholica non esse hierarchiam divina ordinatione institutam quae constat ex episcopis, presbyteris et ministris, anathema sit.’ Mais s’il est hors de doute que le pouvoir d’ordre est conféré immédiatement par Dieu aux évêques, de manière que l’Église ne saurait y rien modifier, la chose n’apparaît pas aussi certaine s’il s’agit du pouvoir de juridiction. En effet, l’origine divine de la juridiction épiscopale est-elle immédiate, ou seulement médiate, de sorte que, s’appuyant sur le droit divin, elle découle immédiatement du souverain pontife? La question est controversée entre catholiques, comme on peut le voir dans Bellarmin, De romano pontifice, 1. IV, c. XXII sq. Les uns soutiennent que la juridiction est conférée immédiatement par le Christ aux évêques dans l’acte même de la consécration épiscopale, quoique cette juridiction reste liée, quant à son exercice, jusqu’à ce que le souverain pontife ait assigné au nouvel évêque un territoire et des sujets. Parmi les théologiens qui défendent cette opinion, il faut citer, d’après Bouix, De episcopo, Paris, 1873, part. I, p. 61, François de Victoria, Alphonse de Castro, Vasquez, Tournely. D’autres pensent plus communément, avec saint Thomas, Sum. theol., IIa IIae, q. xxxix, a. 3; Contra gentes, l. IV, c. 76; Suarez, De legibus, l. I, n. 12 seq.; Defensio fidei, l. IV, c. ix; Benoît XIV, De synodo dioecesana, l. I, c. iv, n. 2, que la juridiction des évêques se rattache immédiatement à celle du vicaire du Christ, auquel a été confiée non seulement une portion, mais la plénitude du pouvoir ecclésiastique. Cf. const. Pastor aeternus du concile du Vatican, c. III. D’où il faut conclure avec saint Thomas, Contra gentes, loc. cit., qu’à Pierre seul ont été promises les clefs du royaume des cieux, afin de montrer que, pour conserver l’unité de l’Église, le pouvoir des aux autres par son intermédiaire: ‘Petro soli promisit : Tibi dabo claves regni caelorum, ut ostenderetur potestas clavium per eum ad alios derivanda, ad conservandam Ecclesae unitalem.’ Reiffenstuel, Jus canonicum universum, Paris, 1889, 1. I, tit. xxxi, n. 69 sq., précise d’une manière très juste la thèse en question la juridiction épiscopale, considérée en elle-même et en général, a été instituée immédiatement par le Christ, en sorte que le pouvoir des évêques revêt un caractère qui n’est pas purement temporel, mais spirituel et divin; cf. Matth., xxvii, 19; Marc, xvi, 15; toutefois, si cette juridiction est examinée d’une manière concrète, par rapport à tels sujets et à tel diocèse, elle émane immédiatement du pontife romain, comme vicaire du Christ et pasteur suprême de l’Église universelle, ainsi qu’il appert des can. Qui se scit,Decreto, Multum, q. vi, et Sacrosancta, dist. XXII. Cf. Pirhing, Jus canonicum, Dilingen, 1722, 1. I, tit. XXXI, n. 39 sq. D’ailleurs, cette discussion n’a pas toute l’importance qu’elle paraît tenir. Car si les uns prétendent que l’autorité des évêques descend immédiatement de Dieu, ils ne nient pas qu’elle soit limitée et dépendante de l’autorité du souverain pontife; et si les autres soutiennent que la juridiction épiscopal dérive immédiatement du souverain pontife, ils accordent pleinement qu’elle s’appuie sur le droit divin et qu’elle reste une juridiction ordinaire que les évêques exercent en leur propre nom. On doit, en effet, reconnaître que, quoique les évêques dépendent du souverain pontife, dont le primat est universel, ils ne sont point ses simples vicaires; mais leur pouvoir est ordinaire, en raison de l’office même, ratione muneris, qui leur a été confié, c’est-à-dire en raison de la charge pastorale par laquelle le Saint-Esprit les a constitués évêques, avec mission de gouverner l’Église de Dieu. En outre, les évêques sont les successeurs des apôtres, comme le proclame encore le concile de Trente, loc. cit., c. IV: in locum apostolorum successerunt. [DTC 5, ‘Évêques: questions théologiques et canoniques’, cols. 1702-1703.] ...

Or le pouvoir de l’évêque est de deux sortes: le pouvoir d’ordre, qui découle de la consécration épiscopale, et le pouvoir de juridiction qui dépend de l’institution canonique, auxquels il faut ajouter certains droits honorifiques et privilèges spéciaux. Les pouvoirs d’ordre et de juridiction sont incontestablement séparables; et, de même que la juridiction épiscopale peut exister sans le pouvoir d’ordre, par exemple, dans l’évêque élu et confirmé, mais non encore consacré, ainsi le pouvoir d’ordre peut exister sans la juridiction épiscopale, au moins exercible en fait, par exemple, dans l’évêque qui a déjà reçu la consécration épiscopale, mais auquel le souverain pontife n’a pas encore assigné un diocèse propre ni des sujets déterminés. Le pouvoir d’ordre peut-il exister sans un certain pouvoir de juridiction, au moins lié dans son exercice, mais constitué dans sa racine et en principe? Cette dernière question est intimement liée à celle que nous avons signalée précédemment, voir col. 1702, à savoir, si l’évêque reçoit immédiatement de droit divin la juridiction épiscopale au moment de la consécration, ou bien si cette juridiction lui est conférée immédiatement par le souverain pontife. [DTC 5, ‘Évêques: questions théologiques et canoniques’, col. 1708.]


[1] These articles have now been published, in revised form, in Dr Kwasniewski’s new book Bound by Truth: Authority, Obedience, Tradition, and the Common Good (Brooklyn, NY: Angelico Press, 2023), 178–99.

[2] DTC 5, ‘Évêques: questions théologiques et canoniques’, col. 1702.

[3] In II Sent. d. 44 q. 2 a. 3 expos.

[4] cf. SCG Bk. 3, ch. 67.

[5] Note in Ghirlanda: Cf. Acta Synodalia III/I, 225; III/VIII, 96-97.

[6] Note in Ghirlanda: [3] Cf. Pontificium Consilium de Legum Textibus Interpretandis, Congregatio Plenariadiebus 20-29 actobris 1981 habita, Città del Vaticano 1991, 35-38.


[8] Gabriel Vazquez S.J. also puts the case for the moderate view; see his In primam secundae Sancti Thomae (Lyons, 1631), II, 31.

[9] V. Beltran de Heredia, ‘Vitoria (François de)’, DTC 15/2, col. 3131.

[10] Francisco a Vitoria O.P., ‘Relectiones’, in Arbor magna iurisductionis ecclesiasticae (Venice, 1640).

[11] Palmieri, Tractatus de romano pontifice (Prato, 1891), art. 1, thesis XIV, p. 457.

[12] ‘Le pape Innocent IV, au concile général de Lyon,en 1245, établit que tout clerc appelé à gouverner une Église devait, dans l’année même, recevoir l’ordre de la prêtrise. S’il ne le faisait pas, il était de droit et sans autre monition privé de sa charge. Sext. Décret., I. I, tit. vi, c. 14. Le concile de Trente est encore plus précis sur ce point: Neminem etiam deinceps ad dignitatem, canonicatum, aut portionem recipiant, nisi qui eo ordine sacro sit initiatus quam illa dignitas, praebenda aut portio requirit. Sess. xxiv, de Reform., c. xii.’ [Baucher, DTC 8/2, ‘Juridiction’, col. 1991.]

[13] See Msgr. Joseph Clifford Fenton, American Ecclesiastical Review, April 1949, 337-342.

[14] ‘Quamobrem sacrorum Antistites non solum eminentiora universalis Ecclesiae membra habendi sunt, ut qui singulari prorsus nexu iunguntur cum divino totius Corporis Capite, atque adeo iure vocantur « partes membrorum Domini primae » (S. Greg. Magn. Moral. 14, 35, 43); sed, ad propriam cuiusque Dioecesim quod spectat, utpote veri Pastores assignatos sibi greges singuli singulos Christi nomine pascunt ac regunt (cfr. Conc. Vat. Const. de Eccl. cap. 3); id tamen dum faciunt, non plane sui iuris sunt, sed sub debita Romani Pontificis auctoritate positi, quamvis ordinaria iurisdictionis potestate fruantur, immediate sibi ab eodem Pontifice Summo impertita.’

[15] G. van Noort, Dogmatic Theology vol. II: Christ’s Church, tr. and rev. John J. Castelot and William R. Murphy (Westminster, Maryland: Newman Press, 1959), pp. 325-6, citing Ottaviani, Institutiones juris publici ecclesiastici (Rome, 1947), I, 413.

[16] This was pointed out by Benedict XIV in his De synodo dioecesano lib. 1 c. 4 II: ‘ ... quaestio eodem est inter Tridentinos Patres summa contentione jamdiu exagitata, nec definita, de qua Cardinalis Pallavicinius in Historia Concilii Tridentini lib.18. 13. an Episcopi illam accipiant immediate a Christo, aut potius a summo Pontifice.’ See also Hefele-Leclercq, Histoire des conciles (Paris: Letouzey et Ane, 1907ff.), IX, 747ff.; 776ff.: Sforza Pallavicini Histoire du concile de Trente (Montrouge: Migne, 1844), Lib. XVIII, chapters 14ff; Lib. XXI, chapters 11 and 13, II, 1347ff; III, 363ff.

[17] The amendment reads: ‘aut sustinent R. Pontificem non posse, vi huius iurisdictionis, ad bonum religionis uti mediis extraordinariis (quale ineunte hoc saeculo XIX. ad religionis cultum in Galliis resturandum adhibuit P. M. Pius VII., plures Dioeceses extinguendo et novas erigendo), ac ideo huiusmodi ordinationibus obtemperare nolentes, Sanctae Sedi et constitutis ab Ea legitimis Episcopis obedientiam detrectantes, a vera Christi Eccleisa sciuncti, in schismate versantur.’ 25 Feb, 1870. Acta et decreta sacrosancti oecumenici concilii Vaticani, vol. VII (Freiburg, 1892), p. 855.

[18] Acta et decreta sacrosancti oecumenici concilii Vaticani, vol. VII (Freiburg, 1892), p. 368.