Dogmatic Constitution on the Church
Vatican II,November 21, 1964
PART 1-(This Page)[Through Article 25]PART 2 (Article 26-50)
(Article 51 on)
PAUL, BISHOP, SERVANT OF THE SERVANTS OF GOD TOGETHER WITH THE FATHERS OF THE SACRED COUNCIL
FOR A PERMANENT RECORD OF THE MATTER
DOGMATIC CONSTITUTION ON THE CHURCH
1. Christ is the Light of nations. Because this is so, this sacred synod gathered together in the Holy Spirit eagerly desires, by proclaiming the Gospel to every creature
(cf. Mk 16:15), to bring the light of Christ to all men, a light brightly visible on the countenance of the Church. Since the Church is in Christ like a sacrament or as a sign and instrument both of a very closely knit
union with God and of the unity of the whole human race, it desires now to unfold more fully to the faithful of the Church and to the whole world its own inner nature and universal mission. This it intends to do
following faithfully the teaching of previous councils. The present-day conditions of the world add greater urgency to this work of the Church so that all men, joined more closely today by various social, technical and
cultural ties, might also attain fuller unity in Christ.
THE MYSTERY OF THE CHURCH
2. The eternal Father, by a free and hidden plan of his own wisdom and goodness, created the whole world. His plan was
to raise men to a participation of the divine life. Fallen in Adam, God the Father did not leave men to themselves, but ceaselessly offered helps to salvation, in view of Christ the Redeemer, "who is the image of
the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature" (Col 1:15). All the elect, before time began, the Father "foreknew and predestined to become conformed to the image of his Son, that he should be the
firstborn among many brethren" (Rm 8:29). He planned to assemble in the holy Church all those who would believe in Christ. Already from the beginning of the world the foreshadowing of the Church took place. It was
prepared in a remarkable way throughout the history of the people of Israel and by means of the Old Covenant.(1) In the present era of time the Church was constituted, and by the outpouring of the Spirit, was made
manifest. At the end of time it will gloriously achieve completion, when, as is read in the Fathers, all the just, from Adam and "from Abel, the just one, to the last of the elect,"(2) will be gathered
together with the Father in the universal Church.
3. The Son, therefore, came, sent by the Father. It was in him, before the foundation of the world, that the Father chose us and predestined us to become adopted sons,
for in him it pleased the Father to reestablish all things (cf. Eph 1:4-5, 10). To carry out the will of the Father, Christ inaugurated the kingdom of heaven on earth and revealed to us the mystery of that kingdom. By
his obedience he brought about redemption. The Church, or in other words, the kingdom of Christ now present in mystery, grows visibly through the power of God in the world. This inauguration and this growth are both
symbolized by the blood and water which flowed from the open side of a crucified Jesus (cf. Jn 19:34), and are foretold in the words of the Lord referring to his death on the cross: "And I, if I be lifted up from
the earth, will draw all things to myself" (Jn 12:32). As often as the sacrifice of the cross in which Christ our Passover was sacrificed (1 Cor 5:7) is celebrated on the altar, the work of our redemption is
carried on, and in the sacrament of the Eucharistic bread, the unity of all believers who form one body in Christ (cf. 1 Cor 10:17) is both expressed and brought about. All men are called to this union with Christ, who
is the light of the world, from whom we go forth, through whom we live, and toward whom our whole life strains.
4. When the work which the Father gave the Son to do on earth (cf. Jn 17:4) was accomplished, the Holy
Spirit was sent on the day of Pentecost in order that he might continually sanctify the Church, and thus, all those who believe would have access through Christ in one Spirit to the Father (cf. Eph 1:18). He is the
Spirit of Life, a fountain of water springing up to life eternal (cf. Jn 4:14; 7:38-39). To men, dead in sin, the Father gives life through him, until in Christ he brings to life their mortal bodies (cf. Rm 8:10-11).
The Spirit dwells in the Church and in the hearts of the faithful, as in a temple (cf. Cor 3:16; 6:19). In them he prays on their behalf and bears witness to the fact that they are adopted sons (cf. Gal 4:6; Rm 8:15-16,
26). The Church, which the Spirit guides in way of all truth (cf. Jn 16:13) and which he unified in communion and in works of ministry, he both equips and directs with hierarchical and charismatic gifts and adorns with
his fruits (cf. Eph 1:11-12; 1 Cor 12:4; Gal 5:22). By the power of the Gospel he makes the Church keep the freshness of youth. Uninterruptedly he renews it and leads it to perfect union with its Spouse. (3) The Spirit
and the Bride both say to Jesus the Lord, "Come!" (cf. Rv 22:17).
Thus, the Church has been seen as "a people made one with the unity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit."(4)
mystery of the holy Church is manifest in its very foundation. The Lord Jesus set it on its course by preaching the Good News, that is, the coming of the kingdom of God, which for centuries had been promised in the
Scriptures: "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand" (Mk 1:15; cf. Mt. 4:17). In the word, in the works, and in the presence of Christ, this kingdom was clearly open to the view of men. The
Word of the Lord is compared to a seed which is sown in a field (Mk 4:14); those who hear the Word with faith and become part of the little flock of Christ (Lk 12:32) have received the kingdom itself. Then, by its own
power the seed sprouts and grows until harvest time (cf. Mk 4:26-29). The miracles of Jesus also confirm that the kingdom has already arrived on earth: "If I cast out devils by the finger of God, then the kingdom
of God has come upon you" (Lk 11:20; cf. Mt 12:28). Before all things, however, the kingdom is clearly visible in the very Person of Christ, the Son of God and the Son of Man, who came "to serve and to give
his life as a ransom for many" (Mk 10:45).
When Jesus, who had suffered the death of the cross for mankind, had risen, he appeared as the one constituted as Lord, Christ and eternal priest (cf. Acts 2:36; Heb
5:6; 7:17-21), and he poured out on his disciples the Spirit promised by the Father (cf. Acts 2:33). From this source the Church, equipped with the gifts of its Founder and faithfully guarding his precepts of charity,
humility and self-sacrifice, receives the mission to proclaim and to spread among all peoples the kingdom of Christ and of God and to be on earth the initial budding forth of that kingdom. While it slowly grows, the
Church strains toward the completed kingdom, and with all its strength, hopes and desires to be united in glory with its king.
6. In the old Testament the revelation of the kingdom is often conveyed by means of
metaphors. In the same way the inner nature of the Church is now made known to us in different images taken either from tending sheep or cultivating the land, from building or even from family life and betrothals; the
images receive preparatory shaping in the books of the prophets.
The Church is a sheepfold whose one and indispensable door is Christ (Jn 10:1-10). It is a flock of which God himself foretold he would be the shepherd
(cf. Is 40:11; Ex 34:11f.), and whose sheep, although ruled by human shepherds, are nevertheless continuously led and nourished by Christ himself, the good shepherd and the prince of the shepherds (cf. Jn 10:11; 1 Pt
5:4), who gave his life for the sheep (cf. Jn 10:11-15).
The Church is a piece of land to be cultivated, the village of God (1 Cor 3:9). On that land the ancient olive tree grows whose holy roots were the prophets and
in which the reconciliation of Jews and Gentiles has been brought about and will be brought about (Rm 11:13-26). That land, like a choice vineyard, has been planted by the heavenly Husbandman (Mt 21:33-43; cf. Is
5:1f.). The true vine is Christ who gives life and the power to bear abundant fruit to the branches, that is, to us, who through the Church remain in Christ without whom we can do nothing (Jn 15:1-5).
Often the Church
has also been called the building of God (1 Cor 3:9). The Lord himself compared himself to the stone which the builders rejected, but which was made into the cornerstone (Mt 21:42; cf. Acts 4:11; 1 Pt 2:7; Ps 117:22).
On this foundation the Church is built by the apostles (cf. 1 Cor 3:11), and from it the Church receives durability and consolidation. This edifice has many names to describe it: the house of God (1 Tm 3:15) in which
dwells his family, the household of God in the Spirit (Eph 2:19-22), the dwelling place of God among men (Rv 21:3); and especially the holy temple. This temple, symbolized in places of worship built out of stone, is
praised by the Holy Fathers, and not without reason is compared in the liturgy to the Holy City, the New Jerusalem(5). As living stones we here on earth are built into it (1 Pt 2:5). John contemplates this holy city
coming down from heaven at the renewal of the world as a bride made ready and adorned for her husband (Rv 21:16).
The Church, further, "that Jerusalem which is above" is also called "our mother"
(Gal 4:26; cf. Rv 12:17). It is described as the spotless spouse of the spotless Lamb (Rv 19:7; 21:2; 9:22:17), whom Christ "loved and for whom he delivered himself up that he might sanctify her" (Eph 5:26),
whom he unites to himself by an unbreakable covenant, and whom he unceasingly "nourishes and cherishes" (Eph 5:29), and whom, once purified, he willed to be cleansed and joined to himself, subject to him in
love and fidelity (cf. Eph 5:24), and whom, finally, he filled with heavenly gifts for all eternity, in order that we may know the love of God and of Christ for us, a love which surpasses all knowledge (cf. Eph 3:19).
The Church, while on earth it journeys in a foreign land away from the Lord (cf. 2 Cor 5:6), is like an exile. It seeks and experiences those things which are above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God,
where the life of the Church is hidden with Christ in God until it appears in glory with its spouse (cf. Col 3:1-4).
7. In the human nature united to himself the Son of God, by overcoming death through his own death
and resurrection, redeemed man and remolded him into a new creation (cf. Gal 6:15; 2 Cor 5:7). By communicating his Spirit, Christ made his brothers, called together from all nations, mystically the components of his
In that body the life of Christ is poured into the believers who, through the sacraments, are united in a hidden and real way to Christ who suffered and was glorified.(6) Through Baptism we are formed in the
likeness of Christ: "For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body" (Cor 12:13). In this sacred rite a oneness with Christ's death and resurrection is both symbolized and brought about: "For we
were buried with him by means of Baptism into death," and if "we have been united with him in the likeness of his death, we shall be so in the likeness of his resurrection also" (Rm 6:15). Really
partaking of the body of the Lord in the breaking of the Eucharistic bread, we are taken up into communion with him and with one another. "Because the bread is one, we though many, are one body, all of us who
partake of the one bread" (1 Cor 10:17). In this way all of us are made members of his Body (cf. 1 Cor 12:27), "but severally members one of another" (Rm 12:5).
As all the members of the human body,
though they are many, form one body, so also are the faithful in Christ (cf. 1 Cor 12:12). Also, in the building up of Christ's body, various members and functions have their part to play. There is only one Spirit who,
according to his own richness and the needs of the ministries, gives his different gifts for the welfare of the Church (cf. 1 Cor 12:1-11). What has a special place among these gifts is the grace of the apostles, to
whose authority the Spirit himself subjected even those who were endowed with charisms (cf. 1 Cor 14). Giving the body unity through himself and through his power and inner joining of the members, this same Spirit
produces and urges love among the believers. From all this it follows that if one member endures anything, all the members co-endure it, and if one member is honored, all the members together rejoice (cf. l Cor 12:26).
The head of this body is Christ. He is the image of the invisible God and in him all things came into being. He is before all creatures and in him all things hold together. He is the head of the body which is the
Church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things he might have the first place (cf. Col 1:15-18). By the greatness of his power he rules the things in heaven and the things on earth, and with
his all-surpassing perfection and way of acting he fills the whole body with the riches of his glory (cf. Eph 1:18-23).(7)
All the members ought to be molded in the likeness of him, until Christ be formed in them (cf.
Gal 4:19). For this reason we, who have been made to conform with him, who have died with him and risen with him, are taken up into the mysteries of his life, until we will reign together with him (cf. Phil 3:21; 2 Tm
2:11; Eph 2:6; Col 2:12, etc.). On earth, still as pilgrims in a strange land, tracing in trial and in oppression the paths he trod, we are made one with his sufferings like the body is one with the head, suffering with
him, that with him we may be glorified (cf. Rm 8:17).
From him, "the whole body, supplied and built up by joints and ligaments, attains a growth that is of God" (Col 2:19). He continually distributes in his
body, that is, in the Church, gifts of ministries in which, by his own power, we serve each other unto salvation so that, carrying out the truth in love, we might through all things grow unto him who is our head (cf.
In order that we might be unceasingly renewed in him (cf. Eph 4:23), he has shared with us his Spirit who, existing as one and the same being in the head and in the members, gives life to, unifies and
moves through the whole body. This he does in such a way that his work could be compared by the holy Fathers with the function which the principle of life, that is, the soul, fulfills in the human body.(8)
loves the Church as his bride, having become the model of a man loving his wife as his body (cf. Eph 5:25-28); the Church, indeed, is subject to its head (Eph 5:23-24). "Because in him dwells all the fullness of
the Godhead bodily" (Col 2:9), he fills the Church, which is his body and his fullness, with his divine gifts (cf. Eph 1:22-23) so that it may expand and reach all the fullness of God (cf. Eph 3:19).
the one Mediator, established and continually sustains here on earth his holy Church, the community of faith, hope and charity, as an entity with visible delineation (9) through which he communicated truth and grace to
all. But the society structured with hierarchical organs and the Mystical Body of Christ are not to be considered as two realities, nor are the visible assembly and the spiritual community, nor the earthly Church and
the Church enriched with heavenly things; rather they form one complex reality which coalesces from a divine and a human element.(10) For this reason, by no weak analogy, it is compared to the mystery of the incarnate
Word. As the assumed nature inseparably united to him serves the divine Word as a living organ of salvation, so, in a similar way, does the visible social structure of the Church serve the Spirit of Christ, who vivifies
it, in the building up of the body (cf. Eph 4:16).(11)
This is the one Church of Christ which in the Creed is professed as one, holy, catholic and apostolic,(12) which our Savior, after his resurrection, commissioned
Peter to shepherd (Jn 21:17), and him and the other apostles to extend and direct with authority (cf. Mt 28:18:f.), which he erected for all ages as "the pillar and mainstay of the truth" (1 Tm 3:15). This
Church constituted and organized in the world as a society, subsists in the Catholic Church, which is governed by the Successor of Peter and by the bishops in communion with him(13), although many elements of
sanctification and of truth are found outside of its visible structure. These elements, as gifts belonging to the Church of Christ, are forces impelling toward catholic unity.
Just as Christ carried out the work of
redemption in poverty and persecution, so the Church is called to follow the same route that it might communicate the fruits of salvation to men. Christ Jesus, "though he was by nature God...emptied himself, taking
the nature of a slave" (Phil 2:6), and "being rich, became poor" (2 Cor 8:9) for our sakes. Thus, the Church, although it needs human resources to carry out its mission, is not set up to seek earthly
glory, but to proclaim, even by its own example, humility and self-sacrifice. Christ was sent by the Father "to bring good news to the poor, to heal the contrite of heart" (Lk 4:18), "to seek and to save
what was lost" (Lk 19:10). Similarly, the Church encompasses with love all who are afflicted with human suffering and in the poor and afflicted sees the image of its poor and suffering Founder. It does all it can
to relieve their need and in them it strives to serve Christ. While Christ, holy, innocent and undefiled (Heb 7:26) knew nothing of sin (2 Cor 5:21), but came to expiate only the sins of the people (cf. Heb 2:17), the
Church, embracing in its bosom sinners, at the same time holy and always in need of being purified, always follows the way of penance and renewal. The Church, "like a stranger in a foreign land, presses forward
amid the persecutions of the world and the consolations of God"(14), announcing the cross and death of the Lord until he comes (cf. 1 Cor 11:26). By the power of the risen Lord it is given strength that it might,
in patience and in love, overcome its sorrows and its challenges, both within itself and from without, and that it might reveal to the world, faithfully though darkly, the mystery of its Lord until, in the end, it will
be manifested in full light.
ON THE PEOPLE OF GOD
9. At all times and in every race God has given welcome to whomever fears him and does what is right (cf. Acts 10:35). God, however, does not make men
holy and save them merely as individuals, without bond or link between one another. Rather has it pleased him to bring men together as one people, a people which acknowledges him in truth and serves him in holiness. He
therefore chose the race of Israel as a people unto himself. With it he set up a covenant. Step by step he taught and prepared this people, making known in its history both himself and the decree of his will and making
it holy unto himself. All these things, however, were done by way of preparation and as a figure of that new and perfect covenant, which was to be ratified in Christ, and of that fuller revelation which was to be given
through the Word of God himself made flesh. "Behold the days shall come saith the Lord, and I will make a new covenant with the House of Israel, and with the house of Judah.... I will give my law in their bowels,
and I will write it in their heart, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.... For all of them shall know me, from the least of them even to the greatest, saith the Lord (Jer 31:31-34). Christ instituted
this New Covenant, the New Testament, that is to say, in his Blood (cf. 1 Cor 11:25), calling together a people made up of Jew and gentile, making them one, not according to the flesh but in the Spirit. This was to be
the new People of God. For those who believe in Christ, who are reborn not from a perishable but from an imperishable seed through the word of the living God (cf. 1 Pt 1:23), not from the flesh but from water and the
Holy Spirit (cf. Jn 3:5-6), are finally established as "a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a purchased people...who in times past were not a people, but are now the People of God" (1 Pt 2:9-10).
That messianic people has Christ for its head, "who was delivered up for our sins, and rose again for our justification" (Rm 4:25), and now, having won a name which is above all names, reigns in glory in
heaven. The state of this people is that of the dignity and freedom of the sons of God, in whose hearts the Holy Spirit dwells as in his temple. Its law is the new commandment to love as Christ loved us (cf. Jn 13:34).
Its end is the kingdom of God, which has been begun by God himself on earth, and which is to be further extended until it is brought to perfection by him at the end of time, when Christ our life (cf. Col 3:4) shall
appear, and "creation itself will be delivered from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the sons of God" (Rm 8:21). So it is that that messianic people, although it does not actually
include all men, and at times may look like a small flock, is nonetheless a lasting and sure seed of unity, hope and salvation for the whole human race. Established by Christ as a communion of life, charity and truth,
it is also used by him as an instrument for the redemption of all, and is sent forth into the whole world as the light of the world and the salt of the earth (cf. Mt 5:13-16).
Israel according to the flesh, which
wandered as an exile in the desert, was already called the Church of God (2 Esdr 13:1; cf. Dt 23:1ff.; Nm 20:4). So likewise the new Israel, which while living in this present age goes in search of a future and abiding
city (cf. Heb 13:14), is called the Church of Christ (cf. Mt 16:18). For he has bought it for himself with his blood (cf. Acts 20:28), has filled it with his Spirit and provided it with those means which befit it as a
visible and social union. God gathered together as one all those who in faith look upon Jesus as the author of salvation and the source of unity and peace, and established them as the Church that for each and all it may
be the visible sacrament of this saving unity.(1) While it transcends all limits of time and confines of race, the Church is destined to extend to all regions of the earth and so enters into the history of mankind.
Moving forward through trial and tribulation, the Church is strengthened by the power of God's grace, which was promised to her by the Lord, so that in the weakness of the flesh she may not waver from perfect fidelity,
but remain a bride worthy of her Lord, and moved by the Holy Spirit may never cease to renew herself, until through the cross she arrives at the light which knows no setting.
10. Christ the Lord, high priest taken
from among men (cf. Heb 5:1-5), made the new people "a kingdom and priests to God the Father" (cf. Rv 1:6; cf. 5:9-10). The baptized, by regeneration and the anointing of the Holy Spirit, are consecrated as a
spiritual house and a holy priesthood, in order that through all those works which are those of the Christian man they may offer spiritual sacrifices and proclaim the power of him who has called them out of darkness
into his marvelous light (cf. 1 Pt 2:4-10). Therefore all the disciples of Christ, persevering in prayer and praising God (cf. Acts 2:42, 47), should present themselves as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God
(cf. Rm 12:1). Everywhere on earth they must bear witness to Christ and give an answer to those who seek an account of that hope of eternal life which is in them (cf. 1 Pt 3:15).
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.(2) The ministerial priest, by the sacred power he enjoys, teaches and rules the priestly people; 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.(3) 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.
11. It is through the sacraments and the exercise of the virtues that the sacred nature and organic structure of the priestly
community is brought into operation. Incorporated in the Church through Baptism, the faithful are destined by the baptismal character for the worship of the Christian religion; reborn as sons of God they must confess
before men the faith which they have received from God through the Church.(4) They are more perfectly bound to the Church by the sacrament of Confirmation, and the Holy Spirit endows them with special strength so that
they are more strictly obliged to spread and defend the faith, both by word and by deed, as true witnesses of Christ(5). Taking part in the Eucharistic Sacrifice, which is the fount and apex of the whole Christian life,
they offer the divine victim to God, and offer themselves along with It.(6) Thus both by reason of the offering and through Holy Communion all take part in this liturgical service, not indeed, all in the same way but
each in that way which is proper to himself. Strengthened in Holy Communion by the Body of Christ, they then manifest in a concrete way that unity of the People of God which is suitably signified and wondrously brought
about by this most august sacrament.
Those who approach the sacrament of Penance obtain pardon from the mercy of God for the offense committed against him and are at the same time reconciled with the Church, which
they have wounded by their sins, and which by charity, example and prayer seeks their conversion. By the sacred Anointing of the Sick and the prayer of her priests the whole Church commends the sick to the suffering and
glorified Lord, asking that he may lighten their suffering and save them (cf. as 5:14-16); she exhorts them, moreover, to contribute to the welfare of the whole People of God by associating themselves freely with the
passion and death of Christ (cf. Rm 8:17; Col 1:24; 2 Tm 2:11-12; 1 Pt 4:13). Those of the faithful who are consecrated by Holy Orders are appointed to feed the Church in Christ's name with the word and the grace of
God. Finally, Christian spouses, in virtue of the sacrament of Matrimony, whereby they signify and partake of the mystery of that unity and fruitful love which exists between Christ and his Church (cf. Eph 5:32), help
each other to attain to holiness in their married life and in the rearing and education of their children. By reason of their state and rank in life they have their own special gift among the People of God (cf. 1 Cor
7:7).(7) From the wedlock of Christians there comes the family, in which new citizens of human society are born, who by the grace of the Holy Spirit received in Baptism are made children of God, thus perpetuating the
People of God through the centuries. The family is, so to speak, the domestic church. In it parents should, by their word and example, be the first preachers of the faith to their children; they should encourage them in
the vocation which is proper to each of them, fostering with special care vocation to a sacred state.
Fortified by so many and such powerful means of salvation, all the faithful, whatever their condition or state, are
called by the Lord, each in his own way, to that perfect holiness whereby the Father himself is perfect.
12. The holy People of God shares also in Christ's prophetic office; it spreads abroad a living witness to him,
especially by means of a life of faith and charity and by offering to God a sacrifice of praise, the tribute of lips which give praise to his name (cf. Heb 13:15). The entire body of the faithful, anointed as they are
by the Holy One (cf. Jn 2:20, 27), cannot err in matters of belief. They manifest this special property by means of the whole people's supernatural discernment in matters of faith when "from the bishops down to the
last of the lay faithful"(8) they show universal agreement in matters of faith and morals. That discernment in matters of faith is aroused and sustained by the Spirit of truth. It is exercised under the guidance of
the sacred teaching authority, in faithful and respectful obedience to which the People of God accepts that which is not just the word of men but truly the Word of God (cf. 1 Thes 2:13). Through it, the People of God
adheres unwaveringly to the faith given once and for all to the saints (cf. Jude 3), penetrates it more deeply with right thinking, and applies it more fully in its life.
It is not only through the sacraments and the
ministries of the Church that the Holy Spirit sanctifies and leads the People of God and enriches it with virtues, but, "allotting his gifts to everyone according as he wills" (1 Cor 12:11), he distributes
special graces among the faithful of every rank. By these gifts he makes them fit and ready to undertake the various tasks and offices which contribute toward the renewal and building up of the Church, according to the
words of the Apostle: "The manifestation of the Spirit is given to everyone for profit" (1 Cor 12:7). These charisms, whether they be the more outstanding or the more simple and widely diffused, are to be
received with thanksgiving and consolation, for they are perfectly suited to and useful for the needs of the Church. Extraordinary gifts are not to be sought after, nor are the fruits of apostolic labor to be
presumptuously expected from their use, but judgment as to their genuinity and proper use belongs to those who are appointed leaders in the Church, to whose special competence it belongs, not indeed to extinguish the
Spirit, but to test all things and hold fast to that which is good (cf. 1 Thes 5:12; 19-21).
13. All men are called to belong to the new People of God. Wherefore this people, while remaining one and only one, is to be
spread throughout the whole world and must exist in all ages, so that the decree of God's will may be fulfilled. In the beginning God made human nature one and decreed that all his children, scattered as they were,
would finally be gathered together as one (cf. Jn 11:52). It was for this purpose that God sent his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things (cf. Heb 1:2), that he might be teacher, king and priest of all, the head of
the new and universal people of the sons of God. For this too God sent the Spirit of his Son as Lord and Life-giver. He it is who brings together the whole Church and each and every one of those who believe, and who is
the wellspring of their unity in the teaching of the apostles and in fellowship, in the breaking of bread and in prayers (cf. Acts 2:42).
It follows that though there are many nations there is but one People of God,
which takes its citizens from every race, making them citizens of a kingdom which is of a heavenly rather than of an earthly nature. All the faithful, scattered though they be throughout the world, are in communion with
each other in the Holy Spirit, and so, "he who dwells in Rome knows that the people of India are his members"(9). Since the kingdom of Christ is not of this world (cf. Jn 18:36), the Church or People of God in
establishing that kingdom takes nothing away from the temporal welfare of any people. On the contrary, it fosters and takes to itself, insofar as they are good, the ability, riches and customs in which the genius of
each people expresses itself. Taking them to itself, it purifies, strengthens, elevates and ennobles them. The Church in this is mindful that she must bring together the nations for that king to whom they were given as
an inheritance (cf. Ps 2:8), and to whose city they bring gifts and offerings (cf. Ps 72:10; Is 60:4-7; Rv 21:24). This characteristic of universality which adorns the People of God is a gift from the Lord himself. By
reason of it, the Catholic Church strives constantly and with due effect to bring all humanity and all its possessions back to its source in Christ, with him as its head and united in his Spirit. (10)
In virtue of
this catholicity, each individual part contributes through its special gifts to the good of the other parts and of the whole Church. Through the common sharing of gifts and through the common effort to attain fullness
in unity, the whole and each of the parts receive increase. Not only, then, is the People of God made up of different peoples, but in its inner structure also it is composed of various ranks. This diversity among its
members arises either by reason of their duties, as is the case with those who exercise the sacred ministry for the good of their brethren, or by reason of their condition and state of life, as is the case with those
many who enter the religious state, and tending toward holiness by a narrower path, stimulate their brethren by their example. Moreover, within the Church particular hurches hold a rightful place; these churches retain
their own traditions, without in any way opposing the primacy of the Chair of Peter, which presides over the whole assembly of charity(11) and protects legitimate differences, while at the same time assuring that such
differences do not hinder unity but rather contribute toward it. Between all the parts of the Church there remains a bond of close communion whereby they share spiritual riches, apostolic workers and temporal resources.
For the members of the People of God are called to share these goods in common, and of each of the churches the words of the Apostle hold good: "According to the gift that each has received, administer it to one
another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God" (1 Pt 4:10).
All men are called to be part of this catholic unity of the People of God which in promoting universal peace presages it. And there belong to or
are related to it in various ways, the Catholic faithful, all who believe in Christ, and indeed the whole of mankind, for all men are called by the grace of God to salvation.
14. This sacred Council wishes to turn its
attention firstly to the Catholic faithful. Basing itself upon Sacred Scripture and Tradition, it teaches that the Church, now sojourning on earth as an exile, is necessary for salvation. Christ, present to us in his
body, which is the Church, is the one Mediator and the unique way of salvation. In explicit terms he himself affirmed the necessity of faith and Baptism (cf. Mk 16:16; Jn 3:5) and thereby affirmed also the necessity of
the Church, for through Baptism as through a door men enter the Church. Whosoever, therefore, knowing that the Catholic Church was made necessary by Christ, would refuse to enter or to remain in it, could not be saved.
They are fully incorporated in the society of the Church who, possessing the Spirit of Christ, accept her entire system and all the means of salvation given to her, and are united with her as part of her visible bodily
structure and through her with Christ, who rules her through the Supreme Pontiff and the bishops. The bonds which bind men to the Church in a visible way are profession of faith, the sacraments, and ecclesiastical
government and communion. He is not saved, however, who, though part of the body of the Church, does not persevere in charity. He remains indeed in the bosom of the Church, but, as it were, only in a "bodily"
manner and not "in his heart."(12) All the Church's children should remember that their exalted status is to be attributed not to their own merits but to the special grace of Christ. If they fail, moreover, to
respond to that grace in thought, word and deed, not only shall they not be saved but they will be the more severely judged.(13)
Catechumens who, moved by the Holy Spirit, seek with explicit intention to be
incorporated into the Church are by that very intention joined with her. With love and solicitude, mother Church already embraces them as her own.
15. The Church recognizes that in many ways she is linked with those
who, being baptized, are honored with the name of Christian, though they do not profess the faith in its entirety or do not preserve unity of communion with the Successor of Peter.(14) For there are many who honor
Sacred Scripture, taking it as a norm of belief and a pattern of life, and who show a sincere zeal. They lovingly believe in God the Father Almighty and in Christ, the Son of God and Savior.(15) They are consecrated by
baptism, in which they are united with Christ. They also recognize and accept other sacraments within their own Churches or ecclesiastical communities. Many of them rejoice in the episcopate, celebrate the Holy
Eucharist and cultivate devotion toward the Virgin Mother of God.(16) They also share with us in prayer and other spiritual benefits. Likewise we can say that in some real way they are joined with us in the Holy Spirit,
for to them too he gives his gifts and graces whereby he is operative among them with his sanctifying power. Some indeed he has strengthened to the extent of the shedding of their blood. In all of Christ's disciples the
Spirit arouses the desire to be peacefully united, in the manner determined by Christ, as one flock under one shepherd, and he prompts them to pursue this end.(17) Mother Church never ceases to pray, hope and work that
this may come about. She exhorts her children to purification and renewal so that the sign of Christ may shine more brightly over the face of the earth.
16. Finally, those who have not yet received the Gospel are
related in various ways to the People of God. (18) In the first place we must recall the people to whom the testament and the promises were given and from whom Christ was born according to the flesh (cf. Rm 9:4-5). On
account of their fathers this people remains most dear to God, for God does not repent of the gifts he makes nor of the calls he issues (cf. Rm 11:28-29). But the plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge
the Creator. In the first place amongst these there are the Mohamedans, who, professing to hold the faith of Abraham, along with us adore the one and merciful God, who on the last day will judge mankind. Nor is God far
distant from those who in shadows and images seek the unknown God, for it is he who gives to all men life and breath and all things (cf. Acts 17:25-28), and as Savior wills that all men be saved (cf. 1 Tm 2:4). Those
also can attain to salvation who through no fault of their own do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, yet sincerely seek God and moved by grace, strive by their deeds to do his will as it is known to them
through the dictates of conscience.(19) Nor does divine Providence deny the helps necessary for salvation to those who, without blame on their part, have not yet arrived at an explicit knowledge of God and with his
grace strive to live a good life. Whatever good or truth is found amongst them is looked upon by the Church as a preparation for the Gospel.(20) She knows that it is given by him who enlightens all men so that they may
finally have life. But often men, deceived by the Evil One, have become vain in their reasonings and have exchanged the truth of God for a lie, serving the creature rather than the Creator (cf. Rm 1:21, 25). Or some
there are who, living and dying in this world without God, are exposed to final despair. Wherefore to promote the glory of God and procure the salvation of all of these, and mindful of the command of the Lord,
"Preach the Gospel to every creature" (Mk 16:16), the Church fosters the missions with care and attention.
17. As the Son was sent by the Father (cf. Jn 20:21), so he too sent the apostles, saying:
"Go, therefore, make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you. And behold I am
with you all days even to the consummation of the world" (Mt 21:18-20). The Church has received this solemn mandate of Christ to proclaim the saving truth from the apostles and must carry it out to the very ends of
the earth (cf. Acts 1:8). Wherefore she makes the words of the Apostle her own: "Woe to me, if I do not preach the Gospel" (1 Cor 9:16), and continues unceasingly to send heralds of the Gospel until such time
as the infant churches are fully established and can themselves continue the work of evangelizing. For the Church is compelled by the Holy Spirit to do her part that God's plan may be fully realized, whereby he has
constituted Christ as the source of salvation for the whole world. By the proclamation of the Gospel she prepares her hearers to receive and profess the faith. She gives them the dispositions necessary for Baptism,
snatches them from the slavery of error and of idols and incorporates them in Christ so that through charity they may grow up into full maturity in Christ. Through her work, whatever good is in the minds and hearts of
men, whatever good lies latent in the religious practices and cultures of diverse peoples, is not only saved from destruction but is also cleansed, raised up and perfected unto the glory of God, the confusion of the
devil and the happiness of man. The obligation of spreading the faith is imposed on every disciple of Christ, according to his state.(21) Although, however, all the faithful can baptize, the priest alone can complete
the building up of the Body in the Eucharistic Sacrifice. Thus are fulfilled the words of God, spoken through his prophet: "From the rising of the sun until the going down thereof my name is great among the
gentiles, and in every place a clean oblation is sacrificed and offered up in my name" (Mal 1:11).(22) In this way the Church both prays and labors in order that the entire world may become the People of God, the
body of the Lord and the temple of the Holy Spirit, and that in Christ, the head of all, all honor and glory may be rendered to the Creator and Father of the universe.
ON THE HIERARCHICAL STRUCTURE OF THE CHURCH AND IN PARTICULAR ON THE EPISCOPATE
18. For the nurturing and constant growth of the People of God, Christ the Lord instituted in his Church a variety of ministries, which
work for the good of the whole body. For those ministers, who are endowed with sacred power, serve their brethren, so that all who are of the People of God, and therefore enjoy a true Christian dignity, working toward a
common goal freely and in an orderly way, may arrive at salvation.
This sacred Council, following closely in the footsteps of the First Vatican Council, with that Council teaches and declares that Jesus Christ, the
eternal shepherd, established his holy Church, having sent forth the apostles as he himself had been sent by the Father (Jn 20:21), and he willed that their successors, namely the bishops, should be shepherds in his
Church even to the consummation of the world. And in order that the episcopate itself might be one and undivided, he placed Blessed Peter over the other apostles, and instituted in him a permanent and visible source and
foundation of unity of faith and communion.(1) And all this teaching about the institution, the perpetuity, the meaning and reason for the sacred primacy of the Roman Pontiff and of his infallible magisterium, this
sacred Council again proposes to be firmly believed by all the faithful. Continuing in that same undertaking, this Council is resolved to declare and proclaim before all men the doctrine concerning bishops, the
successors of the apostles, who together with the Successor of Peter, the Vicar of Christ, (2) the visible head of the whole Church, govern the house of the living God.
19. The Lord Jesus, after praying to the Father,
calling to himself those whom he desired, appointed twelve to be with him, and whom he would send to preach the kingdom of God (Mk 3:13-19; Mt 10:1-42), and these apostles (cf. Lk 6:13) he formed after the manner of a
college or a stable group, over which he placed Peter, chosen from among them (cf. Jn 21:15-17). He sent them first to the children of Israel and then to all nations (Rm 1:16), so that as sharers in his power they might
make all peoples his disciples, and sanctify and govern them (cf. Mt 28:16-20; Mk 16:15; Lk 24:45-48; Jn 20:21-23), and thus spread his Church, and by ministering to it under the guidance of the Lord, direct it all days
even to the consummation of the world (cf. Mt 28:20). And in this mission they were fully confirmed on the day of Pentecost (cf. Acts 2:1-26) in accordance with the Lord's promise: "You shall receive power when the
Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you shall be witnesses for me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and in Samaria, and even to the very ends of the earth" (Acts 1:8). And the apostles, by preaching the Gospel everywhere
(cf. Mk 16:20), and it being accepted by their hearers under the influence of the Holy Spirit, gather together the universal Church, which the Lord established on the apostles and built upon Blessed Peter, their chief,
Christ Jesus himself being the supreme cornerstone (cf. Rv 21:14; Mt 16:18; Eph 2:20).(3)
20. That divine mission, entrusted by Christ to the apostles, will last until the end of the world (cf. Mt 28:20), since the
Gospel they are to teach is for all time the source of all life for the Church. And for this reason the apostles, appointed as rulers in this society, took care to appoint successors.
For they not only had helpers in
their ministry(4) but also, in order that the mission assigned to them might continue after their death, they passed on to their immediate cooperators, as it were, in the form of a testament, the duty of confirming and
finishing the work begun by themselves,(5) recommending to them that they attend to the whole flock in which the Holy Spirit placed them to shepherd the Church of God (cf. Acts 20:28). They therefore appointed such men,
and gave them the order that, when they should have died, other approved men would take up their ministry.(6) Among those various ministries which, according to tradition, were exercised in the Church from the earliest
times, the chief place belongs to the office of those who, appointed to the episcopate, by a succession running from the beginning(7) are passers-on of the apostolic seed. (8) Thus, as St. Irenaeus testifies, through
those who were appointed bishops by the apostles, and through their successors down in our own time, the apostolic tradition is manifested(9) and preserved.(10)
Bishops, therefore, with their helpers, the priests and
deacons, have taken up the service of the community,(11) presiding in place of God over the flock(12) whose shepherds they are, as teachers for doctrine, priests for sacred worship, and ministers for governing.(13) And
just as the office granted individually to Peter, the first among the apostles, is permanent and is to be transmitted to his successors, so also the apostles' office of nurturing the Church is permanent, and is to be
exercised without interruption by the sacred order of bishops.(14) Therefore, the sacred Council teaches that bishops by divine institution have succeeded to the place of the apostles,(15) as shepherds of the Church,
and he who hears them, hears Christ, and he who rejects them, rejects Christ and him who sent Christ (cf. Lk 10:16).(16)
21. In the bishops, therefore, for whom priests are assistants, our Lord Jesus Christ, the
supreme high priest, is present in the midst of those who believe. For sitting at the right hand of God the Father, he is not absent from the gathering of his high priests(17), but above all through their excellent
service he is preaching the Word of God to all nations, and constantly administering the sacraments of faith to those who believe, by their paternal functioning (cf. 1 Cor 4:15) he incorporates new members in his body
by a heavenly regeneration, and finally by their wisdom and prudence he directs and guides the People of the New Testament in their pilgrimage toward eternal happiness. These pastors, chosen to shepherd the Lord's flock
of the elect, are servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God (cf. 1 Cor 4:1), to whom has been assigned the bearing of witness to the Gospel of the grace of God (cf. Rm 15:16; Acts 20:24), and the
ministration of the Spirit and of justice in glory (cf. 2 Cor 3:8-9).
For the discharging of such great duties, the apostles were enriched by Christ with a special outpouring of the Holy Spirit coming upon them (cf.
Acts 1:8; 2:4; Jn 20:22-23), and they passed on this spiritual gift to their helpers by the imposition of hands (cf. 1 Tm 4 14; 2 Tm 1:6-7), and it has been transmitted down to us in episcopal consecration.(18) 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. For from the tradition, which is expressed especially in liturgical rites and
in the practice of both the Church of the East and of the West, it is clear that, by means of the imposition of hands and the words of consecration, the grace of the Holy Spirit is so conferred(20) and the sacred
character so impressed(21) that bishops in an eminent and visible way sustain the roles of Christ himself as teacher, shepherd and high priest, and that they act in his person.(22) Therefore it pertains to the bishops
to admit newly elected members into the episcopal body by means of the sacrament of Orders.
22. Just as in the Gospel, the Lord so disposing, St. Peter and the other apostles constitute one apostolic college, so in a
similar way the Roman Pontiff, the Successor of Peter, and the bishops, the successors of the apostles, are joined together. Indeed, the very ancient practice whereby bishops duly established in all parts of the world
were in communion with one another and with the Bishop of Rome in a bond of unity, charity and peace,(23) and also the councils assembled together(24) in which more profound issues were settled in common,(25) the
opinion of the many having been prudently considered,(26) both of these factors are already an indication of the collegiate character and aspect of the episcopal order, and the ecumenical councils held in the course of
centuries are also manifest proof of that same character. And it is intimated also in the practice, introduced in ancient times, of summoning several bishops to take part in the elevation of the newly elected to the
ministry of the high priesthood. Hence, one is constituted a member of the episcopal body in virtue of sacramental consecration and hierarchical communion with the head and members of the body.
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. And he is always free to exercise this power. The order of
bishops, which succeeds to the college of apostles and gives this apostolic body continued existence, is also the subject of supreme and full power over the universal Church, provided we understand this body together
with its head the Roman Pontiff and never without this head.(27) This power can be exercised only with the consent of the Roman Pontiff. For our Lord placed Simon alone as the rock and the bearer of the keys of the
Church (cf. Mt 16:18-19), and made him shepherd of the whole flock (cf. Jn 21:15 ff.), it is evident, however, that the power of binding and loosing, which was given to Peter (Mt 16:19), was granted also to the college
of apostles, joined with their head (Mt 18:18; 28:16-20).(28) This college, insofar as it is composed of many, expresses the variety and universality of the People of God, but insofar as it is assembled under one head,
it expresses the unity of the flock of Christ. In it, the bishops, faithfully recognizing the primacy and preeminence of their head, exercise their own authority for the good of their own faithful, and indeed of the
whole Church, the Holy Spirit supporting its organic structure and harmony with moderation. The supreme power in the universal Church, which this college enjoys, is exercised in a solemn way in an ecumenical council. A
council is never ecumenical unless it is confirmed or at least accepted as such by the Successor of Peter, and it is the prerogative of the Roman Pontiff to convoke these councils, to preside over them and to confirm
them(29). This same collegiate power can be exercised together with the pope by the bishops living in all parts of the world, provided that the head of the college calls them to collegiate action, or at least approves
of or freely accepts the united action of the scattered bishops, so that it is thereby made a collegiate act.
23. This collegial union is apparent also in the mutual relations of the individual bishops with particular
churches and with the universal Church. The Roman Pontiff, as the Successor of Peter, is the perpetual and visible principle and foundation of unity of both the bishops and of the faithful.(30) The individual bishops,
however, are the visible principle and foundation of unity in their particular churches,(31) fashioned after the model of the universal Church, in and from which churches comes into being the one and only Catholic
Church.(32) For this reason the individual bishops represent each his own church, but all of them together and with the Pope represent the entire Church in the bond of peace, love and unity.
The individual bishops,
who are placed in charge of particular churches, exercise their pastoral government over the portion of the People of God committed to their care, and not over other churches nor over the universal Church. But each of
them, as a member of the episcopal college and legitimate successor of the apostles, is obliged by Christ's institution and command to be solicitous for the whole Church,(33) and this solicitude, though it is not
exercised by an act of jurisdiction, contributes greatly to the advantage of the universal Church. For it is the duty of all bishops to promote and to safeguard the unity of faith and the discipline common to the whole
Church, to instruct the faithful to love for the whole Mystical Body of Christ, especially for its poor and sorrowing members and for those who are suffering persecution for justice's sake (cf. Mt 5:10), and finally to
promote every activity that is of interest to the whole Church, especially that the faith may take increase and the light of full truth appear to all men. And this also is important, that by governing well their own
church as a portion of the universal Church, they themselves are effectively contributing to the welfare of the whole Mystical Body, which is also the body of the churches.(34)
The task of proclaiming the Gospel
everywhere on earth pertains to the body of pastors, to all of whom in common Christ gave his command, thereby imposing upon them a common duty, as Pope Celestine in his time recommended to the Fathers of the Council of
Ephesus.(35) From this it follows that the individual bishops, insofar as their own discharge of their duty permits, are obliged to enter into a community of work among themselves and with the Successor of Peter, upon
whom was imposed in a special way the great duty of spreading the Christian name.(36) With all their energy, therefore, they must supply to the missions both workers for the harvest and also spiritual and material aid,
both directly and on their own account, as well as by arousing the ardent cooperation of the faithful. And finally, the bishops, in a universal fellowship of charity, should gladly extend their fraternal aid to other
churches, especially to neighboring and more needy dioceses in accordance with the venerable example of antiquity.
By divine Providence it has come about that various churches, established in various places by the
apostles and their successors, have in the course of time coalesced into several groups organically united, which preserving the unity of faith and the unique divine constitution of the universal Church, enjoy their own
discipline, their own liturgical usage, and their own theological and spiritual heritage. Some of these churches, notably the ancient patriarchal churches, as parent-stocks of the faith, so to speak, have begotten
others as daughter churches, with which they are connected down to our own time by a close bond of charity in their sacramental life and in their mutual respect for their rights and duties.(37) This variety of local
churches with one common aspiration is splendid evidence of the catholicity of the undivided Church. In like manner the episcopal bodies of today are in a position to render a manifold and fruitful assistance, so that
this collegiate feeling may be put into practical application.
24. Bishops, as successors of the apostles, receive from the Lord, to whom was given all power in heaven and on earth, the mission to teach all nations
and to preach the Gospel to every creature, so that all men may attain to salvation by faith, Baptism and the fulfillment of the commandments (cf. Mt 28:18; Mk 16:15-16; Acts 26:17ff.). To fulfill this mission, Christ
the Lord promised the Holy Spirit to the apostles, and on Pentecost day sent the Spirit from heaven, by whose power they would be witnesses to him before the nations and peoples and kings even to the ends of the earth
(cf. Acts 1:8; 2:1ff.; 9:15). And that duty, which the Lord committed to the shepherds of his people, is a true service, which in sacred literature is significantly called "diakonia" or ministry (cf. Acts
1:17, 25; 21:19; Rm 11:13; 1 Tm 1:12).
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)
25. Among the principal duties
of bishops the preaching of the Gospel occupies an eminent place.(39) For bishops are preachers of the faith, who lead new disciples to Christ, and they are authentic teachers, that is, teachers endowed with the
authority of Christ, who preach to the people committed to them the faith they must believe and put into practice, and by the light of the Holy Spirit illustrate that faith. They bring forth from the treasury of
revelation new things and old (cf. Mt 13:52), making it bear fruit and vigilantly warding off any errors that threaten their flock (cf. 2 Tm 4:1-4). Bishops, teaching in communion with the Roman Pontiff, are to be
respected by all as witnesses to divine and Catholic truth. In matters of faith and morals, the bishops speak in the name of Christ and the faithful are to accept their teaching and adhere to it with a religious assent.
This religious submission of mind and will must be shown in a special way to the authentic magisterium of the Roman Pontiff, even when he is not speaking ex cathedra;
that is, it must be shown in such a way that his supreme magisterium is acknowledged with reverence, the judgments made by him are sincerely adhered to, according to his manifest mind and will. His mind and will in the matter may be known either from the character of the documents, from his frequent repetition of the same doctrine, or from his manner of speaking.
Although the individual bishops do not enjoy the prerogative of infallibility, they nevertheless proclaim Christ's doctrine infallibly whenever, even though dispersed through the world, but still maintaining the bond
of communion among themselves and with the Successor of Peter, and authentically teaching matters of faith and morals, they are in agreement on one position as definitively to be held.(40) This is even more clearly
verified when, gathered together in an ecumenical council, they are teachers and judges of faith and morals for the universal Church, whose definitions must be adhered to with the submission of faith.(41)
infallibility with which the divine Redeemer willed his Church to be endowed in defining doctrine of faith and morals extends as far as the deposit of revelation extends, which must be religiously guarded and faithfully
expounded. And this is the infallibility which the Roman Pontiff, the head of the college of bishops, enjoys in virtue of his office, when as the supreme shepherd and teacher of all the faithful, who confirms his
brethren in their faith (cf. Lk 22:32), by a definitive act he proclaims a doctrine of faith or morals.(42) And therefore his definitions, of themselves, and not from the consent of the Church, are justly styled
irreformable, since they are pronounced with the assistance of the Holy Spirit, promised to him in blessed Peter, and therefore they need no approval of others, nor do they allow an appeal to any other judgment. For
then the Roman Pontiff is not pronouncing judgment as a private person, but as the supreme teacher of the universal Church, in whom the charism of infallibility of the Church itself is individually present, he is
expounding or defending a doctrine of Catholic faith.(43) The infallibility promised to the Church resides also in the body of bishops, when that body exercises the supreme magisterium with the Successor of Peter. To
these definitions the assent of the Church can never be wanting, on account of the activity of that same Holy Spirit, by which the whole flock of Christ is preserved and progresses in unity of faith.(44)
either the Roman Pontiff or the body of bishops together with him defines a judgment, they pronounce it in accordance with revelation itself, which all are obliged to abide by and be in conformity with, that is, the
revelation which as written or orally handed down is transmitted in its entirety through the legitimate succession of bishops and especially in care of the Roman Pontiff himself, and which under the guiding light of the
Spirit of truth is religiously preserved and faithfully expounded in the Church.(45) The Roman Pontiff and the bishops, in view of their office and the importance of the matter, by fitting means diligently strive to
inquire properly into that revelation and to give apt expression to its contents,(46) but a new public revelation they do not accept as pertaining to the divine deposit of faith.(47)
Contine with part 2 (articles 26-50)
Go to Part 3 (Articles above 51)
Go to Notes