Concilium Basiliense Documenta Omnia [Tanner Translation]




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SESSION 21 9 June 1435

[On annates]

The holy general synod of Basel, legitimately assembled in the holy Spirit, representing the universal church, for an everlasting record. In the name of the holy Spirit the paraclete, this holy synod decrees that in future, both in the Roman curia and elsewhere, for the confirmation of elections, admission of postulations and provision of presentations and for collations, dispositions, elections, postulations, presentations, even if made by layfolk, institutions, installations and investitures, in respect of cathedral and metropolitan churches, monasteries, dignities, benefices and any ecclesiastical offices whatsoever, and for sacred orders, blessings and pallia, nothing whatsoever is to be exacted, either before or after, for sealing the bull of the letters, or for common annates, minor services, first fruits or dues, or under any other title or name, or on the pretext of any custom, privilege or statute, or for any other reason or occasion, directly or indirectly. Only the writers abbreviators and registrars of the letters or minutes shall receive a suitable salary for their work. If anyone dares to contravene this sacred canon by demanding, giving or promising anything, he shall incur the penalty inflicted on simoniacs and shall acquire no right or title to the dignities or benefices thus obtained. Obligations, promises, censures and mandates, and whatever is done to the prejudice of this most salutary decree, are to be deemed null and void. Even if, which God forbid, the Roman pontiff, who beyond all others should carry out and observe the canons of universal councils, should scandalize the church by acting contrary to this sanction, he should be delated to a general council. Others are to be punished by their own superiors with a fitting penalty, proportionate to their offence, in accordance with canonical sanctions.

[About those in peaceful possession]

Whoever has been in possession for the last three years, not through violence but with a specious title, peacefully and without a lawsuit, of a prelacy, dignity, benefice or office, or shall have possession of them in the future, cannot be disturbed afterwards in his claim or possession by anyone, even by reason of a newly enacted law, except in the case of warfare or some other legitimate impediment, which he must protest and intimate in accordance with the council of Vienne. A lawsuit in this case is to be understood as regards future controversies, if the proceedings have reached the execution of the citation, the exhibition of his right in the judgment and the observance of all the terms. Ordinaries, however, should make careful inquiry to see that nobody possesses a benefice without a title. If they find such a person, they shall declare that the right does not belong to him, and they shall give the right either to him, if they think fit, unless he is an intruded person or violent or undeserving in some other way, or to some other suitable person.

[How the divine office is to be celebrated in church]

A person who is about to make a request to a secular prince takes pains to compose himself and his words by decent dress, becoming gesture, regulated speech and close attention of mind. How much more careful ought he to be in all these things when he is about to pray to almighty God in a sacred place! The holy synod therefore decrees that in all cathedral and collegiate churches, at suitable times and at the sound of a bell, the divine praises shall be reverently celebrated by everyone through all the hours, not hurriedly but gravely and slowly and with reasonable pauses, especially in the middle of each verse of the psalms, and with a suitable distinction between solemn and ferial offices. Those who recite the canonical hours shall enter the church wearing an ankle-length gown and a clean surplice reaching below the middle of the shin-bone or a cloak, according to the different seasons and regions, and covering their heads not with a cowl but with an amice or a biretta. Having arrived in the choir, they shall behave with such gravity as the place and the duty demand, not gossiping or talking among themselves or with others, nor reading letters or other writings. They have gathered there to sing, so they should not keep their mouths shut rather all of them, especially those with more important functions, should sing to God eagerly in psalms, hymns and canticles. When "Glory be to the Father and, to the Son and to the holy Spirit" is being recited, all shall rise. Whenever mention is made of the glorious name of Jesus, at which every knee should bow in heaven, on earth and under the earth, they shall bow their heads. Nobody should read or say the office there privately during the public chanting of the hours in common, for not only does this take away due honour from the choir but also it distracts the singers. To ensure that these things and whatever else concerns the performance of the divine office and the discipline of the choir are duly observed, the dean, or the person whose duty it is, shall carefully keep watch, looking round, to see if there is anything not in order. Transgressors shall be punished with the penalty of that hour in which the offence was committed, or even more severely, as the gravity of the fault demands.

[The times at which each one should be in choir]

Whoever is not present at matins before the end of the psalm Come let us exult at the other hours before the end of the first psalm, and at mass before the last Lord have mercy, until the end, except in cases of necessity and then only with the permission of the president of the choir, is to be considered absent from that hour, saving however any stricter regulations of churches in this regard. The same is to be observed with regard to those who do not remain in processions from the start until the finish. To ensure observance of this, someone, who shall be under oath to act honestly and to spare none, should be deputed with the duty of noting individuals who are absent at the appointed times. This holy synod also orders that in churches in which stipends are not allotted for individual hours, a deduction should be made from the gross revenues of delinquents so that their emoluments are more or less proportionate to their labours, thus destroying the abuses whereby anybody present at only one hour gets a full day's stipend and presidents or deans or other officials, from the mere fact of being officials, receive the daily stipends even when absent for purposes other than those of their church.

[How the canonical hours should be recited outside choir]

This holy synod admonishes all holders of benefices, or those in holy orders, since they are bound to the canonical hours, if they wish their prayers to be acceptable to God, to recite the day and night offices, not in a mumble or between their teeth, nor swallowing or abbreviating their words, nor intermingling conversation and laughter, but, whether they are alone or with others, reverently and distinctly and in such a place as will not diminish devotion, for which they ought to dispose and prepare themselves, as the scripture says: Before prayer prepare your soul, and do not be like someone who tempts God.

[About those who wander about the church during services]

Any holder of a benefice in a church, especially of a major one, if he is seen wandering around inside or outside the church during the divine services, strolling or chatting with others, shall automatically forfeit his attendance not only for that hour but also for the whole day. If after being corrected once he does not stop, let him be deprived of his stipends for a month, or, if he is obstinate, let him be subjected to a heavier penalty so that in the end he is forced to desist. Also, noisy comings and goings in the church should not be allowed to impede or disturb the divine service. Regulars who err in these matters in conventual churches should be punished with a heavy penalty at the judgment of their superior.

[About a notice-board hanging in the choir]

So that everything may be well ordered in the house of God and that each person may know what he has to do, let there be affixed a notice-board permanently hanging in the choir, with information on it of the duties of each canon or other benefice-holder as regards reading or singing at the individual hours during the week or a longer time. Anyone who fails to do in person or by proxy what is prescribed there, shall forfeit for each hour the stipend of one day.

[On those who at mass do not complete the creed, or sing songs, or say mass in too low a voice or without a server]

There are abuses in some churches whereby the "I believe in one God", which is the symbol and profession of our faith, is not sung to the end, or the preface or the Lord's prayer is omitted, or secular songs are sung in the church, or masses (including private ones) are said without a server, or the secret prayers are said in so low a voice that they cannot be heard by the people nearby. These abuses are to stop and we decree that any transgressors shall be duly punished by their superiors.

[About those who pledge divine worship]

We abolish also that abuse, so manifestly incompatible with divine worship, whereby some canons of churches, having contracted debts, bind themselves to their creditors in such a way that, if they do not pay their debts by a fixed time there will be a cessation of divine services. We declare this obligation null even if it has been confirmed by oath. We decree that those who make these illicit agreements shall automatically lose for three months their revenues, which shall be applied to their church They shall receive no emoluments from their church until they resume the divine services.

[On holding chapters at the same time as the principal' mass]

This holy synod forbids chapters and other meetings of canons to be held, or chapter business to be transacted, at the same time as the principal mass, especially on solemn feasts, unless an urgent and manifest necessity suddenly occurs. Whoever summons the chapter for that time shall be suspended from receiving his daily stipends for a week, and the canons shall forego their stipends for that hour.

[On not performing spectacles in churches]

In some churches, during certain celebrations of the year, there are carried on various scandalous practices. Some people with mitre, crozier and pontifical vestments give blessings after the manner of bishops. Others are robed like kings and dukes; in some regions this is called the feast of fools or innocents, or of children. Some put on masked and theatrical comedies, others organize dances for men and women, attracting people to amusement and buffoonery. Others prepare meals and banquets there. This holy synod detests these abuses. It forbids ordinaries as well as deans and rectors of churches, under pain of being deprived of all ecclesiastical revenues for three months, to allow these and similar frivolities, or even markets and fairs, in churches, which ought to be houses of prayer, or even in cemeteries. They are to punish transgressors by ecclesiastical censures and other remedies of the law. The holy synod decrees that all customs, statutes and privileges which do not accord with these decrees, unless they add greater penalties, are null.

SESSION 22 15 October 1435

[On the condemnation of the book of friar Augustine of Rome, archbishop of Nazareth]

The holy general synod of Basel, legitimately assembled in the holy Spirit, representing the universal church, for an everlasting record. The main reason, among other pious aims, why this holy synod assembled was to preserve the truth of the catholic faith and to eradicate errors and heresies. Therefore the chief goal of our activity is, as soon as we learn of the spread of something that can harm the purity of the christian faith or in any way obscures the brilliance of the light in the minds of the faithful, to eradicate it completely and carefully to clear the Lord's field of noxious weeds and brambles. This holy synod therefore condemns and censures a certain book by master Augustine, commonly called "of Rome", archbishop of Nazareth. Its first treatise is entitled, "On the sacrament of the unity of Jesus Christ and the church, or on the whole Christ"; the second, "On Christ the head and his glorious sovereignty", another, "On the charity of Christ towards the elect and his infinite love". The holy synod condemns and censures the book as containing teaching that is unsound and erroneous in the faith, as well as its defenders.

The holy synod especially condemns and censures, in the book, the assertion which is scandalous, erroneous in the faith and offensive to the ears of the pious faithful, namely: Christ sins daily and has sinned daily from his very beginning, even though he avers that he does not understand this as of Christ our saviour, head of the church, but as referring to his members, which together with Christ the head form the one Christ, as he asserts. Also, the propositions, and ones similar to them, which the synod declares are contained in the articles condemned at the sacred council of Constance, namely the following. Not all the justified faithful are members of Christ, but only the elect, who finally will reign with Christ for ever. The members of Christ, from whom the church is constituted, are taken according to the ineffable foreknowledge of God; and the church is constituted only from those who are called according to his purpose of election. To be a member of Christ, it is not enough to be united with him in the bond of charity, some other union is needed. Also the following. The human nature in Christ is really Christ. The human nature in Christ is the person of Christ. The intimate cause that determines the human nature in Christ is not really distinguished from the nature that is determined. The human nature in Christ is without doubt the person of the Word; and the Word in Christ, once the nature has been assumed, is really the person who assumes. The human nature assumed by the Word in a personal union is truly God, natural and proper. Christ according to his created will loves the human nature united to the person of the Word as much as he loves the divine nature. Just as two persons in God are equally lovable, so the two natures in Christ, the human and the divine, are equally lovable on account of the common person. The soul of Christ sees God as clearly and intensely as God sees himself.

These propositions and others springing from the same root, which are to be found in the said book, this holy synod condemns and censures as erroneous in the faith. Lest it come to pass that any of the faithful fall into error on account of such teaching, the synod strictly forbids anyone to teach, preach, defend or approve the teaching of the said book, especially the aforesaid condemned and censured propositions, and its supporting treatises. It decrees that transgressors shall be punished as heretics and with other canonical penalties. By these measures the synod intends to detract in nothing from the sayings and writings of the holy doctors who discourse on these matters. On the contrary, it accepts and embraces them according to their true understanding as commonly expounded and declared by these doctors and other catholic teachers in the theological schools. Nor does the synod intend by this judgment to prejudice the person of the said author since, though duly summoned, he gave reasons for being absent, and in some of his writings and elsewhere he has submitted his teaching to the church's judgment. Further, this holy synod orders all archbishops, bishops, chancellors of universities and inquisitors of heresy, who are responsible in this matter, to ensure that nobody has the said book and supporting treatises or presumes to keep them with him, rather he shall consign them to these authorities, so that they may deal with them in accordance with the law: otherwise let such persons be proceeded against with canonical censures.

SESSION 23 26 March 1436

[On the election of the supreme pontiff]

The holy general synod of Basel, legitimately assembled in the holy Spirit, representing the universal church, for an everlasting record. Since a good shepherd is the salvation of his flock, it is the duty of this sacred synod to strive, with all the diligence that human law can contrive, that the Roman pontiff, who is first in the Lord's flock and the supreme shepherd, should be and continue to be such as to provide for the salvation of all souls and the benefit of the whole christian world and to fulfil worthily so great an office. Therefore it renews the constitutions about the election of Roman pontiffs which sacred councils and supreme pontiffs have issued and it adds to them some further salutary norms. It decrees that whenever the apostolic see falls vacant, all the cardinals of the holy Roman church who are present in the place where the election of the supreme pontiff is to be held, shall meet together on the tenth day after the see becomes vacant in some chapel or place near the conclave. From there they shall process behind a cross, two by two, devoutly singing the Veni creator Spiritus, and enter the place of the conclave, each taking with him not more than two necessary attendants. In view of the ceremonies, two clerics may also be admitted, at least one of whom shall be a notary. The chamberlain together with the deputies for the custody of the conclave shall ensure that nobody, apart from the aforesaid persons, enters the conclave. After the cardinals have entered and the doors have been closed, the chamberlain shall enter with the deputies and carefully examine the cells of all the cardinals. He shall remove any food and edibles found there, except medicines of the sick and infirm. He shall ensure a careful guard whenever he leaves and closes the door, and each day he shall closely inspect the food being brought in for the cardinals and allow only what seems necessary for moderate refreshment, without prejudice to the decrees passed in the fourth and seventh sessions of this sacred council.

On the next day all the cardinals, in the presence of all those in the conclave, shall hear a mass of the holy Spirit and receive the eucharist. Before the voting begins, they shall swear before the holy gospels in these words: I, N. , cardinal of . . . , swear and promise to almighty God, Father, Son and holy Spirit, and to blessed Peter, prince of the apostles, that I shall elect as pontiff the person who I think will be beneficial to the universal church in both spiritual and temporal matters and suitable for so great a dignity; I shall not give my vote to anyone who I have reason to think is directly or indirectly aiming at getting himself elected, by his promising or giving some temporal thing or by asking in person or through another or in any other way whatsoever; and I shall not make obeisance to anyone elected as pontiff before he takes the oath prescribed by this council of Basel; so help me God, to whom on the day of tremendous judgment I shall have to give an account of this oath and all my deeds After this each cardinal shall submit a ballot-card, on which he shall nominate a maximum of three persons. If he nominates more than one person, the second and third persons shall be from outside the college of cardinals. There shall not be more than one ballot on any day and it shall be held immediately after the mass. When the ballot-cards have been read, they shall be burnt straightaway unless two-thirds of the votes are for the same person. No approach shall be made to anyone until six ballots have been completed. During this time let the cardinals reflect and seriously ponder how much merit or loss to themselves, how much fruit or damage to the christian people, how much good or evil, they will be causing by their choice of a pontiff. There is nothing, indeed, by which they can more merit the grace or the wrath of our lord Jesus Christ than when they are setting his vicar over his sheep, which he loved so much as to suffer the torments of the cross and to die for them.

[On the profession of the supreme pontiff]

The holy synod decrees that the person elected as pope is obliged to express his consent to the election in the manner stated below. It is fitting that this consent should be made to the cardinals, if the person elected is present in the curia, or to one of the cardinals or someone mandated by them if he is not present there, in the presence of a notary and at least ten persons. After he has been informed of the election, he is bound to act within a day of the demand. If he does not do so, his election is annulled and the cardinals must proceed in the Lord's name to another election. But if he expresses his consent, as stated above, the cardinals shall straightaway make due obeisance to him as supreme pontiff. Once the obeisance has been made by the cardinals, nobody has any right to challenge his pontificate.

[Form of consent]

In the name of the holy and undivided Trinity, Father, Son and holy Spirit. I, N. , elected pope, with both heart and mouth confess and profess to almighty God, whose church I undertake with his assistance to govern, and to blessed Peter, prince of the apostles, that as long as I am in this fragile life I will firmly believe and hold the catholic faith, according to the tradition of the apostles, of general councils and of other holy fathers, especially of the eight holy universal councils -- namely the first at Nicaea, the second at Constantinople, the third which was the first at Ephesus, the fourth at Chalcedon, the fifth and sixth at Constantinople, the seventh at Nicaea and the eighth at Constantinople -- as well as of the general councils at the Lateran, Lyons, Vienne, Constance and Basel, and to preserve intact this faith unchanged to the last dot, and to defend and preach it to the point of death and the shedding of my blood, and likewise to follow and observe in every way the rite handed down of the ecclesiastical sacraments of the church. I promise also to labour faithfully for the defence of the catholic faith, the extirpation of heresies and errors, the reform of morals and the peace of the christian people. I swear also to continue with the holding of general councils and the confirmation of elections in accordance with the decrees of the holy council of Basel. I have signed this profession with my own hand; I offer it on the altar with a sincere mind to you almighty God, to whom on the day of tremendous judgment I shall have to give an account of this and all my deeds; and I will repeat it at the first public consistory.

'So that this salutary institution may not fade from the supreme pontiff's memory with the passage of time, every year on the anniversary of his election or of his coronation, the first cardinal present shall, during mass, publicly and in a loud voice address the supreme pontiff thus: Most holy father, may your holiness heed and carefully ponder the promise which you made to God on the day of your election. He shall then read out the promise and shall continue as follows: May your holiness, therefore, for the honour of God, for the salvation of your soul and for the good of the universal church, strive to observe to your utmost all these things in good faith and without guile or fraud. Recall whose place it is that you hold on earth, namely of him who laid down his life for his sheep, who thrice asked the blessed Peter if he loved him, before he entrusted his sheep to him', and who, as the just judge whom nothing secret escapes, will exact from you an account of everything to the very last farthing. Remember what blessed Peter and his successors as pontiffs did: they thought only of the honour of God, the spread of the faith, the public good of the church and the salvation and benefit of the faithful; finally, imitating their master and Lord they did not hesitate to lay down their lives for the sheep entrusted to them. Do not lay up for yourself or your kinsfolk treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves and robbers break in, but lay up for yourself treasure in heaven. Do not be an accepter of persons or of blood-ties or of homeland or of nation. All people are children of God and have been equally entrusted to your care and safe-keeping. Say after the example of Christ: Whoever does the will of my Father in heaven, he is my brother and sister and mother. In distributing dignities and benefices put before yourself neither the flesh nor gifts nor anything temporal at all, but solely God and the virtues and merits of people. Exercise ecclesiastical discipline in correcting faults, mindful of what grace Phinehas merited and what punishment Eli, the one for avenging injuries to God, the other for pretending not to know them. Defend, help and support the poor and needy. Show a fatherly charity to all.

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