Council of Trent (1564)

The Council of Trent, the 19th ecumenical council of the Roman Catholic church, was held at Trent in northern Italy between 1545 and 1563. It marked a major turning point in the efforts of the Catholic church to respond to the challenge of the Protestant Reformation and formed a key part of the Counter-Reformation. The need for such a council had long been perceived by certain church leaders, but initial attempts to organize it were opposed by Francis I of France, who feared it would strengthen Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, and by the popes themselves, who feared a revival of Conciliarism. The council eventually met during three separate periods (1545-47, 1551-52, 1562-63) under the leadership of three different popes (Paul III, Julius III, Pius IV). All of its decrees were formally confirmed by Pope Pius IV in 1564.

In the area of religious doctrine, the council refused any concessions to the Protestants and, in the process, crystallized and codified Catholic dogma far more than ever before. It directly opposed Protestantism by reaffirming the existence of seven sacraments, transubstantiation, purgatory, the necessity of the priesthood, and justification by works as well as by faith. Clerical celibacy and monasticism were maintained, and decrees were issued in favor of the efficacy of relics, indulgences, and the veneration of the Virgin Mary and the saints. Tradition was declared coequal to Scripture as a source of spiritual knowledge, and the sole right of the church to interpret the Bible was asserted.

At the same time, the council took steps to reform many of the major abuses within the church that had partly incited the Reformation: decrees were issued requiring episcopal residence and a limitation on the plurality of benefices, and movements were instigated to reform certain monastic orders and to provide for the education of the clergy through the creation of a seminary in every diocese.

Attendance at the council was often relatively meager, and it was dominated by Italian and Spanish prelates. Several European monarchs kept their distance from the council’s decrees, only partially enforcing them or, in the case of the French kings, never officially accepting them at all. The Council of Trent helped, however, to catalyze a movement within the Catholic clergy and laity for widespread religious renewal and reform, a movement that yielded substantial results in the 17th century.

Editor’s note: The papal bull on the convocation of the Council of Trent, being a lengthy explanation of the delays in convening the council due to the war with the Turks, has been omitted here.


Paul, Bishop, servant of the servants of God, for a perpetual remembrance hereof

Recognizing at the very beginning of our pontificate, which the divine providence of Almighty God, not for any merit of our own, but by reason of its own great goodness, has committed to us, to what troubled times and to how many distresses in almost all affairs our pastoral solicitude and vigilance were called, we desired indeed to remedy the evils that have long afflicted and well-night overwhelmed the Christian commonwealth; but we also, as men compassed with infirmity,1 felt our strength unequal to take upon ourselves such a burden. For while we realized that peace was necessary to free and preserve the commonwealth from the many dangers that threatened it, we found all filled with hatreds and dissensions, and particularly those princes, to whom God has entrusted almost the entire direction of affairs, at enmity with one another. Whilst we deemed it necessary for the integrity of the Christian religion and for the confirmation within us of the hope of heavenly things, that there be one fold and one shepherd2 for the Lord’s flock, the unity of the Christian name was well-nigh rent and torn asunder by schisms, dissensions and heresies. Whilst we desired the commonwealth to be safe and protected against the arms and insidious designs of the infidels, yet, because of our transgressions and the guilt of us all, indeed, because of the wrath of God hanging over us by reason of our sins, Rhodes had been lost, Hungary ravaged, war by land and sea intended and planned against Italy, and against Austria and Illyria, since the Turk, our godless and ruthless enemy, was never at rest and looked upon our mutual enmities and dissensions as his fitting opportunity to carry out his designs with success.

Wherefore, having been called, as we have said, in so great a tempest of heresies, discords and wars and in such restlessness of the waves to rule and pilot the bark of Peter, and not trusting sufficiently our own strength, we first of all cast our cares upon the Lord,3 that He might sustain us and provide our soul with firmness and strength, our understanding with prudence and wisdom. Then, considering that our predecessors, endowed with admirable wisdom and sanctity, had often in the greatest dangers of the Christian commonwealth had recourse to ecumenical councils and general assemblies of bishops as the best and most suitable remedy, we also decided to hold a general council. When, on consulting the opinions of the princes whose consent in this matter we deemed particularly useful and expedient, we found them at that time not averse to so holy a work, we, as our letters and records attest, summoned an ecumenical council and a general assembly of those bishops and fathers, whose duty it is to attend, to be opened in the city of Mantua on the twenty-third of May in the year 1537 of our Lord’s incarnation and the third of our pontificate; entertaining almost the assured hope that when we should be assembled there in the name of the Lord, He would, as He promised, be in our midst4 and in His goodness and mercy dispel with ease by the breath of His mouth all the storms and dangers of the times. But, as the enemy of mankind always plots against pious enterprises, at the very outset, contrary to all our hopes and expectations, the city of Mantua was refused us, unless we subscribed to certain conditions which were totally irreconcilable with the ordinances of our predecessors, with the condition of the times, with our own dignity and liberty, and with that of the Apostolic See and the ecclesiastical name, as we have made known in other letters.

Wherefore we were obliged to find another place and to choose another city, and since a convenient and suitable one did not immediately present itself, we were constrained to prorogue the celebration of the council to the following first day of November. In the meantime, the Turk, our cruel and everlasting enemy, having attacked Italy with a powerful fleet, captured, sacked and ravaged several cities on the shores of Apulia and carried off as booty the inhabitants, while we, in the greatest fear and general danger, were occupied in fortifying our shores and in furnishing assistance to the nearest neighboring localities. At the same time, however, we did not neglect to consult and exhort the Christian princes to inform us what in their opinion would be a suitable place to hold the council, and since their opinions were various and uncertain, and there seemed to be needless delay, we, with the best intention and, we think, with prudence, chose Vicenza, a populous city, which by reason of the valor, esteem and power of the Venetians, who conceded it to us, offered not only free access but also and especially a free and safe place of residence for all. But since time had already far advanced and the choice of the new city had to be made known to all, the proximity of the first of November precluding any announcement of this change, and winter moreover was near, we were again obliged to prorogue the council to the following spring, that is, to the first of the next May.

This having been firmly settled and decreed, we considered, while preparing ourselves and everything else to hold and celebrate that council successfully with the help of God, that it was a matter of prime importance both for the celebration of the council and for Christendom, that the Christian princes be united in peace and concord, and so we did not fail to implore and beseech our most beloved sons in Christ, Charles, ever august Emperor of the Romans, and Francis, the most Christian King, the two chief props and supports of the Christian name, to come together in a conference with us. Both of them we very often urged by letters, nuncios and legates a latere selected from the number of our venerable brethren, to lay aside their jealousies and animosities, to agree to an alliance and holy friendship, and to succor the tottering state of Christendom, for the preservation of which especially did God give him power; and in case of neglect to do this and of failure to direct all their counsels to the common welfare of Christendom, they would have to render to Him a strict and severe account. Yielding at last to our petitions they repaired to Nice, whither we also, for the cause of God and of bringing about peace, undertook a long and, to our advanced age, very fatiguing journey. Neither did we neglect in the meantime, as the time set for the council, namely, the first of May, approached, to send to Vicenza three legates a latere, men of the greatest worth and esteem, chosen from the number of our brethren, the cardinals of the holy Roman Church, to open the council, to receive the prelates coming from various parts, and to transact and attend to such matters as they should deem necessary, till we ourselves on our return from our journey and mission of peace should be able to direct everything with greater exactness.

In the meantime we applied ourselves with all the zeal, love and energy of our soul to that holy and most necessary work, the establishment of peace among the princes. God is our witness, in whose goodness we trusted when we exposed ourselves to the dangers of the journey and of life. Our conscience is witness, and in this matter certainly cannot reproach us with having either neglected or not sought an opportunity to effect a reconciliation. Witnesses are the princes themselves, whom we so often and so urgently implored through our nuncios, letters, legates, admonitions, exhortations and entreaties of every kind to lay aside their jealousies and form an alliance, that with united zeal and action they might aid the Christian commonwealth, already reduced to the greatest immediate danger. Witnesses, moreover, are those vigils and anxieties, those labors and strenuous exertions of our soul by day and night, which we have endured to such large measure in this matter and cause. For all that, our counsels and labors have not yet produced the desired results; for so it pleased the Lord our God, who, however, we trust will yet look more favorably on our wishes. We ourselves have not in this matter, so far as we could, omitted anything pertaining to the duty of our pastoral office. If there be any who interpret our efforts for peace in any other sense, we are grieved indeed, but in our grief we nevertheless give thanks to Almighty God who, as an example and a lesson of patience to us, willed that His own Apostles should be accounted worthy to suffer reproach for the name of Jesus who is our peace.5

However, though by reason of our sins a true and lasting peace between the two princes could not be effected in our meeting and conference at Niece, nevertheless, a truce of ten years was agreed upon; and hoping that as a result of this the holy council might be celebrated more beneficially and thus by its authority peace be permanently established, we urged the princes to come to the council themselves and to bring with them the prelates who had accompanied them and to summon those absent. On both these points, however, they excused themselves on the grounds that it was necessary for them to return to their kingdoms and that the prelates who had accompanied them, being wearied and exhausted by the journey and its expenses, must recover and recruit themselves, and they besought us to decree yet another prorogation of the time for the opening of the council. While we were rather unwilling to yield in this, we received in the meantime letters from our legates at Vicenza, announcing that though the day for the opening of the council had arrived, indeed had long since passed, hardly more than one or two prelates had repaired to Vicenza from foreign nations. Since we saw on receipt of this information that the council could under no circumstances be held at this time, we yielded to the princes and put off the time for the opening of the council till the following Easter, the feast of the resurrection of the Lord.

The decretal letters concerning this our ordinance and prorogation were given and published at Genoa on the twenty-eighth of June in the year of the incarnation of our Lord 1538. This delay we granted the more readily because each of the princes promised to send ambassadors to us at Rome, that those things which remained for the perfect establishment of peace and which on account of the brevity of time could not be accomplished at Nice, might be considered and negotiated more conveniently in our presence at Rome. And for this reason also both requested that the peace negotiations might precede the celebration of the council, for with peace established the council would be much more beneficial and salutary to the Christian commonwealth. It was this hope for peace that moved us always to yield to the wishes of the princes, a hope that was greatly strengthened by the kind and friendly conference between those two princes after our departure from Nice, the news of which, giving us the greatest joy, confirmed us in the good hope, so that we believed God had at last listened to our prayers and received our earnest wishes for peace.

This conclusion of peace, therefore, we earnestly desired and urged, and since it was the opinion not only of the two aforesaid princes but also of our most dear son in Christ, Ferdinand, King of the Romans, that the work of the council ought not to be undertaken till peace had been established, and all urged us by letters and through their spokesmen to decide on a further prorogation of the time, particularly insistent being the most illustrious Emperor, who declared that he had promised those who dissent from Catholic unity that he would consider the matter with us on their behalf to the end that some plan of agreement might be arranged, which could not be done satisfactorily before his return to Germany, and guided throughout by the same hope of peace and the wishes of such powerful princes, and above all, seeing that even on the said feast of the resurrection no other prelates had assembled at Vicenza, we, now avoiding the word prorogation, which has been so often repeated in vain, preferred to suspend the celebration of the general council during our own good pleasure and that of the Apostolic See. This we therefore did and dispatched letters concerning this suspension to each of the aforesaid princes on the tenth day of June, 1539, as may be clearly seen therein. This suspension having been made by force of circumstances, we looked forward to that more favorable time and to some conclusion of peace that would later bring dignity and numbers to the council as well as a more immediate safety to the Christian commonwealth.

But the affairs of Christendom meanwhile became worse day by day. The Hungarians on the death of their king called in the Turks; King Ferdinand declared war against them; a portion of Belgium was incited to revolt against the Emperor, who, to crush that rebellion, traversed France into Belgium on the most friendly and peaceful terms with the most Christian King and with a great manifestation of mutual good will toward each other. Thence he returned to Germany where he began to hold diets of the princes and cities of Germany with a view to discuss that agreement of which he had spoken to us. But as the hope for peace was already on the wane and that method of providing and establishing unity by means of diets seemed rather adapted to produce greater discord, we were led to return to our former remedy of a general council, and through our legates, cardinals of the holy Roman Church, proposed this to the Emperor himself, which we also did later and especially in the Diet of Ratisbon, at which our beloved son, Gasparo Contarini, Cardinal of St. Praxedes, acted as our legate with great learning and integrity.

For since, as we had previously feared, we might be petitioned by a decision of the diet to declare that certain articles maintained by the dissenters from the Church be tolerated til they be examined and decided upon by an ecumenical council, and since neither Christian and Catholic truth, nor our own dignity nor that of the Apostolic See would permit us to yield in this, we chose rather to command that it be proposed openly that a council be held as soon as possible. Neither did we ever have any other intention and wish than that an ecumenical and general council should be convened at the earliest opportunity. For we hoped that thereby peace might be restored to the Christian people and integrity to the will and favor of the Christian princes. However, while looking forward to this will, while watching for the hidden time, the time of thy good pleasure, O Lord, we were at last forced to conclude that all time is pleasing to God when there is a question of deliberation on holy things and on such as pertain to Christian piety. Wherefore, beholding with the bitterest grief of our soul that the affairs of Christendom were daily becoming worse, Hungary oppressed by the Turks, Germany endangered, and all other states overwhelmed with apprehension and grief, we resolved to wait no longer for the consent of any prince, but to look solely to the will of the Almighty God and to the good of the Christian commonwealth.

Wherefore, since the city of Vicenza was no longer at our disposal, and we desired in our choice of a new place for holding the council to have in mind both the common welfare of Christians and the conveniences of the German nation, and seeing that among the various places proposed these desired the city of Trent, we, though of opinion that everything could be transacted more conveniently in cisalpine Italy, nevertheless yielded with paternal charity to their desires. Accordingly, we have chosen the city of trent as that in which the ecumenical council is to be held on the following first day of November, selecting that place as a convenient one in which the bishops and prelates from Germany and from the nations bordering on Germany can assemble very easily and those from France, Spain and other more remote provinces without difficulty. In fixing the day for the council, we considered that there should be time both for the publication of this our decree throughout the Christian nations and to make it possible for all the prelates to arrive. Our reason for not announcing the change of place of the council one year in advance, as has been prescribed by certain constitutions,7 was this, that we were not willing that the hope of applying some remedy to the Christian commonwealth, afflicted as it is with so many disasters and calamities, should be delayed any longer, though we know the times and recognize the difficulties, and we understand that what may be looked for from our counsels is a matter of uncertainty. But since it is written: Commit thy way to the Lord, and trust in him, and he will do it,8 we have resolved to trust in the clemency and mercy of God rather than distrust our own weakness, for in undertaking good works it often happens that where human counsels fail the divine power succeeds.

Wherefore, relying on the authority of Almighty God, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, and on that of His blessed Apostles Peter and Paul, which we also exercise on earth, and supported also by the advice and assent of our venerable brethren, the cardinals of the holy Roman Church, having removed and annulled the aforesaid suspension, which by the present we remove and annul, we announce, proclaim, convoke, ordain and decree a holy ecumenical and general council to be opened on the first day of November of the present year 1542 from the incarnation of the Lord in the city of Trent, for all nations a commodious, free and convenient place, to be there begun and prosecuted and with the help of God concluded and completed to His glory and praise and the welfare of the whole Christian people; and we summon, exhort and admonish, in whatever country they may be, all our venerable brethren, the patriarchs, archbishops, bishops, and our beloved sons, the abbots, as well as all others who by law or privilege have the right to sit in general councils and express their sentiments therein, enjoining and strictly commanding them by virtue of their oath to us and to this Holy See, and in virtue of holy obedience and under other penalties that by law or custom are usually imposed and proposed in the celebration of councils against absentees, that they attend and be present personally at this holy council, unless they should perchance be hindered by a just impediment, of which, however, they shall be obliged to give proof, in which case they must be represented by their lawful procurators and delegates.

Also the aforesaid Emperor and the most Christian King, as well as the other kings, dukes and princes, whose presence, if ever, would certainly at this time be very salutary to the most holy faith of Christ and of all Christians, we beg and beseech by the bowels of the mercy of God and of our Lord Jesus Christ, the truth of whose faith and whose religion are now so violently assailed both from within and without, that if they wish the Christian commonwealth to be safe, if they feel themselves bound and under obligation to the Lord for His great favors toward them, they will not abandon His cause and interests but will come personally to the celebration of the holy council, where their piety and virtue would be greatly conducive to the common good, to their own and the welfare of others, temporal as well as spiritual.

But if, which we do not wish, they themselves cannot appear, let them at least send distinguished men entrusted with authority, each of whom may represent in the council with prudence and dignity the person of his prince. But above all, and this is for them an easy matter, let them see to it that the bishops and prelates of their respective kingdoms and provinces proceed to the council without tergiversation and delay, a favor that God himself and we can in justice claim particularly from the prelates and princes of Germany; for since it is chiefly on their account and at their wishes that the council has been summoned, and in the very city that they desired, let them not regard it burdensome to celebrate and adorn it with their presence, so that, God going before us in our deliberations and holding before our minds the light of His wisdom and truth, we may in the holy ecumenical council, in a better and easier manner consider, and with the charity of all concurring to one end, ponder, discuss, execute and bring speedily and happily to the desired result whatever things pertain to the purity and truth of the Christian religion, to the restoration of what is good and the correction of bad morals, to the peace, unity and harmony of Christians among themselves, of the princes as well as of the people, and whatever is necessary to repulse those attacks of barbarians and infidels whereby they seek the overthrow of all Christendom.

And that this our letter and its contents may come to the knowledge of all whom it concerns, and that no one may plead ignorance as an excuse, particularly since there may not perchance be free access to all to whom it ought to be especially communicated, we wish and command that it be read publicly and in a loud voice by the messengers of our court or by some public notaries in the Vatican Basilica of the Prince of the Apostles and in the Lateran Church, at a time when the people are accustomed to assemble there to hear divine services; and after having been read, let it be affixed to the doors of the said churches, also to the gates of the Apostolic Chancery and to the usual place in the Campo di Fiore, where it shall hang openly for some time for the perusal and cognizance of all; and when removed thence, copies of it shall still remain affixed in the same places. For by being thus read, published and affixed, we wish that each and all whom our aforesaid letter concerns be, after the interval of two months from the day of being published and afixed, so bound and obligated as if it had been read and published in their presence. We command and decree also that an unshaken and firm faith be given to transcripts thereof, written or subscribed by the hand of a notary public and authenticated by the seal of some person constituted in ecclesiastical dignity.

Therefore, let no one infringe this our letter of summons, announcement, convocation, statute, decree, command, precept and supplication, or with foolhardy boldness oppose it. But if anyone shall presume to attempt this, let him know that he will incur the indignation of Almighty God and of His blessed Apostles Peter and Paul. Given at Rome at Saint Peter’s in the year 1542 of the Lord’s incarnation on the twenty-second of May, in the eighty year of our pontificate.


Hier. Dand.


1. Heb 5:2. 2. Jn 10:16. 3. Ps. 54:23. 4. Matt. 18. 5. Acts 5:41; Eph 2:14. 6. Ps 68:14. 7. Council of Constance, Sess. XXXIX, const. Frequens. Cf. my work, Disciplinary Decrees of the General Councils (St. Louis, 1937), pp. 447f. 8. Ps. 36:5.



Decree Concerning the Opening of the Council

Does it please you, for the praise and glory of the holy and undivided Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, for the advance and exaltation of the Christian faith and religion, for the extirpation of heresies, for the peace and unity of the Church, for the reform of the clergy and Christian people, for the suppression and destruction of the enemies of the Christian name, to decree and declare that the holy and general Council of Trent begins and has begun?

They answered: It pleases us.

Announcement of the Next Session

And since the solemnity of the Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ is near, and other festivals of the closing and opening year follow thereon, does it please you that the next ensuing session be held on the Thursday after the Epiphany, which will be the seventh of the month of January in the year of the Lord 1546?

They answered: It pleases us.



Decree Concerning the Manner of Living and Other Matters to be Observed During the Council

The holy Council of Trent, lawfully assembled in the Holy Ghost and presided over by the same three legates of the Apostolic See, recognizing with the blessed Apostle James that every best gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights,1 who, to those who ask of Him wisdom, giveth to all abundantly and upbraideth them not;2 and knowing also that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,3 has ordained and decreed that each and all of the faithful of Christ assembled in the city of Trent be exhorted, as they are hereby exhorted, to amend themselves in the evils and sins hitherto committed and to walk henceforth in the fear of the Lord; not to fulfill the lusts of the flesh,4 to be instant in prayer,5 to confess more often, to receive the sacrament of the Eucharist, to frequent the churches, to observe, so far as each one is able, the commandments of the Lord, and to pray daily in private for peace among the Christian princes and for unity of the Church.

The bishops, however, and all others constituted in the sacerdotal order, who are participating in the celebration of the ecumenical council in this city, are to apply themselves diligently to glorifying God, to offer up sacrifices, praises and prayers, to celebrate in accordance with their duty the sacrifice of the mass at least every Sunday, the day on which God made the light, rose from the dead, and poured forth the Holy Ghost upon the disciples;6 making, as the same Holy Ghost commanded by the Apostle, supplications, prayers, intercessions and thanksgivings for our most holy Lord the Pope, for the Emperor, for kings and others who are placed in high stations, and for all men, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life,7 may enjoy peace and witness an increase of the faith.

Furthermore, it exhorts that they fast at least every Friday in memory of the passion of the Lord and give alms to the poor. Every Thursday the mass of the Holy Ghost shall be celebrated in the cathedral with the litanies and other prayers assigned for this purpose; in the other churches there shall be said on the same day at least the litanies and the prayers. During the time that the sacred services are being performed, let there be no talking and idle conversation, but let mouth and mind be united with the celebrant. And since it behooves bishops to be blameless, sober, chaste, ruling well their own household,8 it exhorts also that above all things each observe sobriety at table and moderation in diet; and further, since there idle conversations are often won to arise, that the reading of the Scriptures be introduced at the tables, even at those of the bishops.9 Let each one instruct and charge his servants not to be contentious, given to wine, disrespectful, covetous, arrogant, blasphemous and lovers of pleasure; finally, let them shun vice and embrace virtue, and in attire, in behavior and in all their actions let them manifest decorum as becomes the servants of the servants of God.

Moreover, since it is the chief care, solicitude and intention of this holy council that the darkness of heresies, which for so many years has covered the earth, being dispelled, the light of Catholic truth may, with the aid of Jesus Christ, who is the true light,10 shine forth in splendor and purity, and that those things that need reform may be reformed, the council exhorts all Catholics here assembled and who will be here assembled, especially those having a knowledge of the Sacred Scriptures, that by sedulous meditation they ponder diligently within themselves, by what ways and means the intention of the council can best be carried out and the desired result obtained; how the things to be condemned may be condemned more promptly and prudently and those to be approved may be approved, so that throughout the whole world all may with one voice and with the same profession of faith glorify God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.11

In expressing opinions when the priests of the Lord are assembled in the place of benediction, in conformity with the decree of the Synod of Toledo,12 no one ought to be boisterous by immoderate shouting or create disturbance by stamping, nor contentious in false, vain and obstinate disputations, but let whatever is said to be so tempered with mildness that neither the hearers be offended nor the keenness of correct judgment warped by a disturbed mind.

Moreover, this holy council has ordained and decreed that if it should happen that some during the council do not sit in their proper places and also make known their mind by the word Placet, are present at the assemblies and perform any other acts whatsoever, no disadvantage shall thereby accrue to anyone, neither shall anyone thereby acquire a new right.13

Announcement of the Next Session

After this the next session was announced for Thursday, the fourth day of the following February.


1. James 1:17. 2. Idem, 1:5. 3. Ps. 110:10; Prov. 1:7; 9:10; Eccles. 1:16. 4. Gal. 5:16. 5. Rom. 12:12. 6. Acts 2:1 ff. 7. Cf. 1 Tim. 2:1f. 8. Idem, 3:2ff. 9. Cf. III Synod of Toledo (589), c. 7 (c.11, D.XLIV); II Synod of Reims (813), c.17 (Hardouin IV, 1019) and infra, Sess. XXV, chap. 1 de ref. 10. John 1:9. 11. Rom. 15:6. 12. Cf. XI Synod of Toledo (675), c. 1. 13. Cf. Sess. XXV at the end.

THIRD SESSION COUNCIL OF TRENT celebrated on the fourth day of February, 1546


In the name of the holy and undivided Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

This holy, ecumenical and general Council of Trent, lawfully assembled in the Holy Ghost, the same three legates of the Apostolic See presiding, considering the magnitude of the matters to be dealt with, especially those comprised under the two heads, the extirpation of heresies and the reform of morals, for which purposes it was chiefly assembled, and recognizing with the Apostle that its wrestling is not against flesh and blood, but against the spirits of wickedness in high places,1 exhorts with the same Apostle each and all above all things to be strengthened in the Lord and in the might of his power, in all things taking the shield of faith, wherewith they may be able to extinguish all the fiery darts of the most wicked one, and to take the helmet of the hope of salvation and the sword of the spirit, which is the word of God.2

Wherefore, that this pious solicitude [of the council] may begin and continue by the grace of God, it ordains and decrees that before all else a confession of faith be set forth; following herein the examples of the Fathers, who in the more outstanding councils were accustomed at the beginning of their work to use this shield against heresies, with which alone they have at times drawn unbelievers to the faith, overcome heretics and confirmed the faithful. For this reason it has thought it well that the symbol of faith which the holy Roman Church uses as the cardinal principle wherein all who profess the faith of Christ necessarily agree and as the firm and sole foundation against which the gates of hell shall never prevail,3 be expressed in the same words in which it is read in all the churches, which is as follows:

“I believe in one God the Father Almighty, creator of heaven and earth, of all things visible and invisible; and in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God and born of the Father before all ages; God of God, light of light, true God of true God; begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father, by whom all things were made; who for us men and for our salvation descended from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary, and was made man; crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate, he suffered and was buried; and he arose on the third day according to the Scriptures, and ascended into heaven, sits at the right hand of the Father; and again he will come with glory to judge the living and the dead; of whose kingdom there shall be no end; and in the Holy Ghost the Lord and giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son; who with the Father and the Son together is adored and glorified; who spoke by the prophets; and in one holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. I confess one baptism for the remission of sins; and I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.”

Announcement of the Next Session

The same holy, ecumenical and general Council of Trent, lawfully assembled in the Holy Ghost, the same three legates of the Apostolic See presiding, understanding that many prelates in various localities are girded for their journey, and that some also are on their way here; and considering that the greater the attendance of Fathers in sanctioning and confirming all that will be decreed by the holy council, in so much greater esteem and respect will those decrees be held among all men, has ordained and decreed that the next session after the present one be held on the Thursday following the next Laetare Sunday. In the meantime, however, the discussion and examination of those things which the council shall deem necessary to discuss and examine, shall not be deferred.

ENDNOTES 1. Eph. 6:12. 2. Ibid., 6:10, 16 f. 3. Matt. 16:18.


Decree Concerning the Canonical Scriptures

The holy, ecumenical and general Council of Trent, lawfully assembled in the Holy Ghost, the same three legates of the Apostolic See presiding, keeps this constantly in view, namely, that the purity of the Gospel may be preserved in the Church after the errors have been removed. This [Gospel], of old promised through the Prophets in the Holy Scriptures,1 our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, promulgated first with His own mouth, and then commanded it to be preached by His Apostles to every creature2 as the source at once of all saving truth and rules of conduct. It also clearly perceives that these truths and rules are contained in the written books and in the unwritten traditions, which, received by the Apostles from the mouth of Christ Himself, or from the Apostles themselves,3 the Holy Ghost dictating, have come down to us, transmitted as it were from hand to hand.

Following, then, the examples of the orthodox Fathers, it receives and venerates with a feeling of piety and reverence all the books both of the Old and New Testaments, since one God is the author of both; also the traditions, whether they relate to faith or to morals, as having been dictated either orally by Christ or by the Holy Ghost, and preserved in the Catholic Church in unbroken succession. It has thought it proper, moreover, to insert in this decree a list of the sacred books, lest a doubt might arise in the mind of someone as to which are the books received by this council.4

They are the following: of the Old Testament, the five books of Moses, namely, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy; Josue, Judges, Ruth, the four books of Kings, two of Paralipomenon, the first and second of Esdras, the latter of which is called Nehemias, Tobias, Judith, Esther, Job, the Davidic Psalter of 150 Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, the Canticle of Canticles, Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, Isaias, Jeremias, with Baruch, Ezechiel, Daniel, the twelve minor Prophets, namely, Osee, Joel, Amos, Abdias, Jonas, Micheas, Nahum, Habacuc, Sophonias, Aggeus, Zacharias, Malachias; two books of Machabees, the first and second. Of the New Testament, the four Gospels, according to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John; the Acts of the Apostles written by Luke the Evangelist; fourteen Epistles of Paul the Apostle, to the Romans, two to the Corinthians, to the Galatians, to the Ephesians, to the Philippians, to the Colossians, two to the Thessalonians, two to Timothy, to Titus, to Philemon, to the Hebrews; two of Peter the Apostle, three of John the Apostle, one of James the Apostle, one of Jude the Apostle, and the Apocalypse of John the Apostle.

If anyone does not accept as sacred and canonical the aforesaid books in their entirety and with all their parts, as they have been accustomed to be read in the Catholic Church and as they are contained in the old Latin Vulgate Edition, and knowingly and deliberately rejects the aforesaid traditions, let him be anathema. Let all understand, therefore, in what order and manner the council, after having laid the foundation of the confession of faith, will proceed, and who are the chief witnesses and supports to whom it will appeal in conforming dogmas and in restoring morals in the Church.

Decree Concerning the Edition and Use of the Sacred Books

Moreover, the same holy council considering that not a little advantage will accrue to the Church of God if it be made known which of all the Latin editions of the sacred books now in circulation is to be regarded as authentic, ordains and declares that the old Latin Vulgate Edition, which, in use for so many hundred years, has been approved by the Church, be in public lectures, disputations, sermons and expositions held as authentic, and that no one dare or presume under any pretext whatsoever to reject it.

Furthermore, to check unbridled spirits, it decrees that no one relying on his own judgment shall, in matters of faith and morals pertaining to the edification of Christian doctrine, distorting the Holy Scriptures in accordance with his own conceptions,5 presume to interpret them contrary to that sense which holy mother Church, to whom it belongs to judge of their true sense and interpretation,6 has held and holds, or even contrary to the unanimous teaching of the Fathers, even though such interpretations should never at any time be published. Those who act contrary to this shall be made known by the ordinaries and punished in accordance with the penalties prescribed by the law.

And wishing, as is proper, to impose a restraint in this matter on printers also, who, now without restraint, thinking what pleases them is permitted them, print without the permission of ecclesiastical superiors the books of the Holy Scriptures and the notes and commentaries thereon of all persons indiscriminately, often with the name of the press omitted, often also under a fictitious press-name, and what is worse, without the name of the author, and also indiscreetly have for sale such books printed elsewhere, [this council] decrees and ordains that in the future the Holy Scriptures, especially the old Vulgate Edition, be printed in the most correct manner possible, and that it shall not be lawful for anyone to print or to have printed any books whatsoever dealing with sacred doctrinal mattes without the name of the author, or in the future to sell them, or even to have them in possession, unless they have first been examined and approved by the ordinary, under penalty of anathema and fine prescribed by the last Council of the Lateran.7

If they be regulars they must in addition to this examination and approval obtain permission also from their own superiors after these have examined the books in accordance with their own statutes. Those who lend or circulate them in manuscript before they have been examined and approved, shall be subject to the same penalties as the printers, and those who have them in their possession or read them, shall, unless they make known the authors, be themselves regarded as the authors. The approbation of such books, however, shall be given in writing and shall appear authentically at the beginning of the book, whether it be written or printed, and all this, that is, both the examination and the approbation, shall be done gratuitously, so that what ought to be approved may be approved and what ought to be condemned may be condemned.

Furthermore, wishing to repress that boldness whereby the words and sentences of the Holy Scriptures are turned and twisted to all kinds of profane usages, namely, to things scurrilous, fabulous, vain, to flatteries, detractions, superstitions, godless and diabolical incantations, divinations, the casting of lots and defamatory libels, to put an end to such irreverence and contempt, and that no one may in the future dare use in any manner the words of Holy Scripture for these and similar purposes, it is commanded and enjoined that all people of this kind be restrained by the bishops as violators and profaners of the word of God, with the penalties of the law and other penalties that they may deem fit to impose.

Announcement of the Next Session

Likewise, this holy council ordains and decrees that the next session will be held and celebrated on the Thursday after the next most sacred feast of Pentecost.


1. Jer. 31:22. 2. Matt. 28:19f.; Mark 16:15. 3. See II Thess. 2:14; c.%, D.XI. 4. For earlier lists, cf. Synod of Laodicea (end of IV cent.), c. 60, the genuineness of which canon however is contested (Hefele-Leclercq, Hist. des conciles, I, 1026); Synod of Rome (382) under Pope Damasus (Denzinger, Enchiridion, no. 84); Synod of Hippo (393), c. 36, which the III Synod of Carthage (397) made its own in c.47 (idem, no. 92); Innocent I in 405 to Exuperius, bishop of Toulouse (idem, no. 96); Eugene IV in the Council of Florence (Mansi, XXXI, 1736; Hardouin, IX, 1023f.). The Tridentine list or decree was the first infallible and effectually promulgated declaration on the Canon of the Holy Scriptures. 5. St. Jerome, Comment. on Galatians, chap. 5, vers. 19-21, PL, XXVI, 445 (c.27, C.XXIV, q.3); c.39 (par. 70) ead. 6. Quinisext Council (692), c.19 (Mansi, XI, 951; Hardouin, III, 1667). 7. Cf. the bull “Inter sollicitudines,” Schroeder, Disciplinary Decrees of the General Councils, p. 504.


Decree Concerning Original Sin

That our Catholic faith, without which it is impossible to please God,1 may, after the destruction of errors, remain integral and spotless in its purity, and that the Christian people may not be carried about with every wind of doctrine,2 since that old serpent,3 the everlasting enemy of the human race, has, among the many evils with which the Church of God is in our times disturbed, stirred up also not only new but also old dissensions concerning original sin and its remedy, the holy, ecumenical and general Council of Trent, lawfully assembled in the Holy Ghost, the same three legates of the Apostolic See presiding, wishing now to reclaim the erring and to strengthen the wavering, and following the testimonies of the Holy Scriptures, of the holy Fathers, of the most approved councils, as well as the judgment and unanimity of the Church herself, ordains, confesses and declares these things concerning original sin:

1. If anyone does not confess that the first man, Adam, when he transgressed the commandment of God in paradise, immediately lost the holiness and justice in which he had been constituted, and through the offense of that prevarication incurred the wrath and indignation of god, and thus death with which God had previously threatened him,4 and, together with death, captivity under his power who thenceforth had the empire of death, that is to say, the devil,5 and that the entire Adam through that offense of prevarication was changed in body and soul for the worse,6 let him be anathema.

2. If anyone asserts that the transgression of Adam injured him alone and not his posterity,7 and that the holiness and justice which he received from God, which he lost, he lost for himself alone and not for us also; or that he, being defiled by the sin of disobedience, has transfused only death and the pains of the body into the whole human race, but not sin also, which is the death of the soul, let him be anathema, since he contradicts the Apostle who says: By one man sin entered into the world and by sin death; and so death passed upon all men, in whom all have sinned.8

3. If anyone asserts that this sin of Adam, which in its origin is one, and by propagation, not by imitation, transfused into all, which is in each one as something that is his own, is taken away either by the forces of human nature or by a remedy other than the merit of the one mediator, our Lord Jesus Christ,9 who has reconciled us to God in his own blood, made unto us justice, sanctification and redemption;10 or if he denies that that merit of Jesus Christ is applied both to adults and to infants by the sacrament of baptism rightly administered in the form of the Church, let him be anathema; for there is no other name under heaven given to men, whereby we must be saved.11 Whence that declaration: Behold the Lamb of God, behold him who taketh away the sins of the world;12 and that other: As many of you as have been baptized, have put on Christ.13

4. If anyone denies that infants, newly born from their mothers’ wombs, are to be baptized, even though they be born of baptized parents, or says that they are indeed baptized for the remission of sins,14 but that they derive nothing of original sin from Adam which must be expiated by the laver of regeneration for the attainment of eternal life, whence it follows that in them the form of baptism for the remission of sins is to be understood not as true but as false, let him be anathema, for what the Apostle has said, by one man sin entered into the world, and by sin death, and so death passed upon all men, in whom all have sinned,15 is not to be understood otherwise than as the Catholic Church has everywhere and always understood it. For in virtue of this rule of faith handed down from the apostles, even infants who could not as yet commit any sin of themselves, are for this reason truly baptized for the remission of sins, in order that in them what they contracted by generation may be washed away by regeneration.16 For, unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Ghost, he cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven.17

5. If anyone denies that by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ which is conferred in baptism, the guilt of original sin is remitted, or says that the whole of that which belongs to the essence of sin is not taken away, but says that it is only canceled or not imputed, let him be anathema. For in those who are born again God hates nothing, because there is no condemnation to those who are truly buried together with Christ by baptism unto death,18 who walk not according to the flesh,19 but, putting off the old man and putting on the new one who is created according to God,20 are made innocent, immaculate, pure, guiltless and beloved of God, heirs indeed of God, joint heirs with Christ;21 so that there is nothing whatever to hinder their entrance into heaven. But this holy council perceives and confesses that in the one baptized there remains concupiscence or an inclination to sin, which, since it is left for us to wrestle with, cannot injure those who do not acquiesce but resist manfully by the grace of Jesus Christ; indeed, he who shall have striven lawfully shall be crowned.22 This concupiscence, which the Apostle sometimes calls sin,23 the holy council declares the Catholic Church has never understood to be called sin in the sense that it is truly and properly sin in those born again, but in the sense that it is of sin and inclines to sin. But if anyone is of the contrary opinion, let him be anathema.

This holy council declares, however, that it is not its intention to include in this decree, which deals with original sin, the blessed and immaculate Virgin Mary, the mother of God, but that the constitutions of Pope Sixtus IV, of happy memory, are to be observed under the penalties contained in those constitutions, which it renews.24

Decree Concerning Reform


The Establishment of Lectureships in Holy Scripture and the Liberal Arts

The same holy council, adhering to the pious decisions of the sovereign pontiffs and of approved councils,25 and accepting and adding to them, that the heavenly treasure of the sacred books which the Holy Ghost has with the greatest liberality delivered to men may not lie neglected, has ordained and decreed that in those churches in which there exists a prebend or a benefice with an obligation attached, or other income by whatever name it may be known, set aside for instructors in sacred theology, the bishops, archbishops, primates, and other ecclesiastical superiors of those localities compel, even by a reduction of their revenues, those who hold such prebend, benefice or income, to expound and interpret the Holy Scriptures, either personally if they are competent, otherwise by a competent substitute to be chosen by the bishops, archbishops, primates, or other superiors of those places. In the future such prebend, benefice and income shall be conferred only on competent persons and those who can themselves discharge that office; a provision made otherwise shall be null and void. In metropolitan and cathedral churches, however, if the city be an outstanding and populous one, and also in collegiate churches that are situated in a prominent town, even though they do not belong to any diocese, provided the clergy there are numerous, where there is no prebend, benefice or income provided for this purpose, let the prebend that shall first become vacant in any manner whatever, except by resignation, and to which some other incompatible duty is not attached, be understood to be ipso facto and forever set aside and devoted to that purpose.

And should it happen that in those churches there is not any or no sufficient income,26 let the metropolitan or the bishop himself, by assigning thereto the revenues of some simple benefice, the duties connected with it being nevertheless discharged, or by contributions of the beneficiati of his city and diocese, or otherwise, as may be most convenient, provide in such a way with the advice of the chapter that the instructions in Holy Scripture may be procured; so, however, that all other instructions, whether established by custom or any other agency, be by no means on that account omitted.

Churches whose annual revenues are scanty and where the number of clergy and people is so small that instruction in theology cannot be conveniently had therein, may have at least a master, to be chosen by the bishop with the advice of the chapter, to teach grammar gratuitously to clerics and other poor students,27 so that afterwards they may with the help of God pass on to the study of Holy Scripture. For this purpose let the revenues of some simple benefice be assigned to that master of grammar,28 which he shall receive so long as he is engaged in teaching (provided, however, that that benefice be not deprived of the services due to it), or let some suitable remuneration be paid him out of the capitular or episcopal income, or finally, let the bishop himself devise some other arrangement suitable to his church and diocese, that this pious, useful and profitable provision may not under any feigned excuse be neglected. In the monasteries of monks also, where this can be conveniently done, let there be instructions in the Holy Scriptures.29

If abbots prove negligent in this matter, let the bishops of the localities, as the delegates herein of the Apostolic See, compel them thereto by suitable measures. In the convents of other regulars in which studies can conveniently flourish, let there be likewise instructions in the Holy Scriptures, which shall be assigned by the general and provincial chapters to the more worthy masters. In the public gymnasia also where instructions so profitable and of all the most necessary have not thus far been instituted, let them be introduced by the piety and charity of the most religious princes and governments for the defense and increase of the Catholic faith and the preservation and propagation of wholesome doctrine, and where once instituted and neglected, let them be restored.

And that under the semblance of piety impiety may not be disseminated, the same holy council has decreed that no one be admitted to this office of instructor, whether such instruction be public or private, who has not been previously examined and approved by the bishop of the locality as to his life, morals and knowledge; which, however, is not to be understood of instructions in the monasteries of monks. Moreover, those who teach Holy Scripture, as long as they teach publicly in the schools, and also the students who study in those schools, shall fully enjoy and possess in case of absence all the privileges accorded by the common law with regard to the collection of the incomes of their prebends and benefices.30


Preachers of the Word of God and Questions of Alms

But since the preaching of the Gospel is no less necessary to the Christian commonwealth than the reading thereof, and since this is the chief duty of the bishops,31 the same holy council has ordained and decreed that all bishops, archbishops, primates and all other prelates of the churches are bound personally, if not lawfully hindered, to preach the holy Gospel of Jesus Christ. But if it should happen that bishops and the others mentioned above are hindered by a legitimate impediment, they shall be bound, in accordance with the provision of the general council,32 to appoint competent persons to discharge beneficially this office of preaching. If however anyone through contempt fails to observe this, let him be subject to severe punishment. Archpriests, priests and all who in any manner have charge of parochial or other churches to which is attached the cura animarum, shall at least on Sundays and solemn festivals,33 either personally or, if they are lawfully impeded, through others who are competent, feed the people committed to them with wholesome words in proportion to their own and their people’s mental capacity, by teaching them those things that are necessary for all to know in order to be saved, and by impressing upon them with briefness and plainness of speech the vices that they must avoid and the virtues that they must cultivate, in order that they may escape eternal punishment and obtain the glory of heaven.

But if anyone of the above should neglect to discharge this duty, even on the plea that for some reason he is exempt from the jurisdiction of the bishop, even if the churches are said in some way to be exempt, or perhaps annexed or united to some monastery that is outside the diocese, if the churches are really within their dioceses, let not the watchful and pastoral solicitude of the bishops be wanting, lest that be fulfilled: The little ones have asked for bread, and there was none to break it unto them.34 Wherefore, if after having been admonished by the bishop they neglect their duty for a period of three months, let them be compelled by ecclesiastical censures or by other measures at the discretion of the bishop; and should he deem it expedient, let a fair remuneration be paid from the revenues of the benefices to another person to discharge that office, till the incumbent, having come to his senses, shall fulfil his own duty.

But if there should be found parochial churches subject to monasteries that are not in any diocese, and the abbots and regular prelates are negligent in the aforesaid matters, let them be compelled thereto by the metropolitans in whose provinces the dioceses are located, who in this matter shall act as delegates of the Apostolic See, and no custom, exemption, appeal, protest or counteraction shall impede the execution of this decree, till a competent judge, who shall proceed summarily and examine only into the truth of the fact, shall have taken the matter into consideration and given a decision. Regulars of whatever order, unless they have been examined by their superiors regarding life, morals and knowledge and approved by them, may not without their permission preach even in the churches of their order, and they must present themselves personally with this permission before the bishops and ask from these the blessing before they begin to preach. In churches, however, that are not of their orders they must, in addition to the permission of their superiors, have also that of the bishop, without which they may not under any circumstances preach in churches that do not belong to their orders.35

This permission the bishops shall grant gratis. But if, which heaven avert, a preacher should spread errors or scandals among the people, let the bishop forbid him to preach, even though he preach in his own or in the monastery of another order. Should he preach heresies, let him proceed against him in accordance with the requirement of the law or the custom of the locality, even though that preacher should plead exemption by a general or special privilege; in which case the bishop shall proceed by Apostolic authority and as the delegate of the Apostolic See. But let bishops be careful that a preacher be not annoyed by false accusations or calumnies, or have just cause of complaint concerning such. Moreover, let bishops be on their guard not to permit anyone, whether of those who, being regulars in name, live outside their monasteries and the obedience of their religious institute, or secular priests, unless they are known to them and are of approved morals and doctrine, to preach in their city or diocese, even under pretext of any privilege whatsoever, till they have consulted the holy Apostolic See on the matter; from which See it is not likely that privileges of this kind are extorted by unworthy persons except by suppressing the truth or stating what is false.

Those soliciting alms, who are also commonly known as questors,36 what-ever their state, shall not in any manner presume to preach either per se or per alium, and shall, notwithstanding any privilege whatsoever, be absolutely restrained by suitable measures by the bishops and ordinaries of the localities.

Announcement of the Next Session

This holy council also ordains and decrees that the next session be held and celebrated on the Thursday after the feast of the blessed Apostle James.

The session was afterwards prorogued to the thirteenth day of January, 1547.


1. Heb. 11:6. 2. Eph. 4:14. 3. Gen. 3:1 ff.; Apoc. 12:9; 20:2. 4. Gen. 2:17. 5. Heb. 2:14. 6. Cf. II Synod of Orange (529), c.I. Denzinger, no. 174. 7. See 1 Cor. 15:21 f.; II Synod of Orange, c.2. Ibid., no. 175. 8. Rom. 5:12. 9. See 1 Tim. 2:5. 10. See 1 Cor. 1:30. 11. Acts 4:12. 12. John 1:29. 13. Gal. 3:27. 14. Acts 2:38. 15. Rom. 5:12. 16. C.153, D.IV de cons. 17. John 3:5. 18. Rom. 6:4; C.13, D.IV de cons. 19. Rom. 8:1. 20. Eph. 4:22, 24; Col. 3:9f. 21. Rom. 8:17. 22. See II Tim. 2:5. 23. Rom. 6-8; Col. 3. 24. Cc. 1, 2, Extrav. comm., De reliq. et venerat. sanct., III, 12. 25. C.12 D.XXXVII; cc.1, 4, 5, X, De magistr., V, 5. Cf. also Sess. XXIII, chap. 18 de ref. 26. Sess. XXIV, chap. 15 de ref. 27. C.1, X, De magistr., V, 5; Sess. XXIII, chap. 18 de ref. 28. By the bull In sacrosancta of Pius IV (13 Nov., 1564) this master was bound to make a profession of faith. 29. To which Paul V by the constitution Apostolicae (1610) added instructions in Hebrew, Greek and Arabic. 30. C.5, X, De magi{str., V, 5. 31. Cf. Sess. XXIV, chap. 4 de ref.; c.6, D.LXXXVIII. 32. C.15, X, De off. jud. ord., I, 31 (IV Lat., c.10). 33. Cf. Sess. XXIV, chap. cit. 34. Lam. 4:4. 35. C.13 (par. 6), X, De haeret., V, 7; Sess. XXIV, chap. 4 de ref. 36. C.14, X, De poenit. et remiss., V, 38; c.11 (par. 2), VI, De haeret., V, 2; C.2, in Clem., De poenit. et remis., V, 9. By the bull of Pius V, Etsi Dominici (1567), all indulgences which gave occasion for abuse by the questors were withdrawn.

COUNCIL OF TRENT SIXTH SESSION celebrated on the thirteenth day of January, 1547



Since there is being disseminated at this time, not without the loss of many souls and grievous detriment to the unity of the Church, a certain erroneous doctrine concerning justification, the holy, ecumenical and general Council of Trent, lawfully assembled in the Holy Ghost, the most reverend John Maria, Bishop of Praeneste de Monte, and Marcellus, priest of the Holy Cross in Jerusalem, cardinals of the holy Roman Church and legates Apostolic a latere, presiding in the name of our most holy Father and Lord in Christ, Paul III, by the providence of God, Pope, intends, for the praise and glory of Almighty God, for the tranquillity of the Church and the salvation of souls, to expound to all the faithful of Christ the true and salutary doctrine of justification, which the Sun of justice,1 Jesus Christ, the author and finisher of our faith2 taught, which the Apostles transmitted and which the Catholic Church under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost has always retained; strictly forbidding that anyone henceforth presume to believe, preach or teach otherwise than is defined and declared in the present decree.



The holy council declares first, that for a correct and clear understanding of the doctrine of justification, it is necessary that each one recognize and confess that since all men had lost innocence in the prevarication of Adam,3 having become unclean,4 and, as the Apostle says, by nature children of wrath,5 as has been set forth in the decree on original sin,6 they were so far the servants of sin7 and under the power of the devil and of death, that not only the Gentiles by the force of nature, but not even the Jews by the very letter of the law of Moses, were able to be liberated or to rise therefrom, though free will, weakened as it was in its powers and downward bent,8 was by no means extinguished in them.



Whence it came to pass that the heavenly Father, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort,9 when the blessed fullness of time was come,10 sent to men Jesus Christ, His own Son, who had both before the law and during the time of the law been announced and promised to many of the holy fathers,11 that he might redeem the Jews who were under the law,12 and that the Gentiles who followed not after justice13 might attain to justice, and that all men might receive the adoption of sons. Him has God proposed as a propitiator through faith in his blood14 for our sins, and not for our sins only, but also for those of the whole world.15



But though He died for all,16 yet all do not receive the benefit of His death, but those only to whom the merit of His passion is communicated; because as truly as men would not be born unjust, if they were not born through propagation of the seed of Adam, since by that propagation they contract through him, when they are conceived, injustice as their own, so if they were not born again in Christ, they would never be justified, since in that new birth there is bestowed upon them, through the merit of His passion, the grace by which they are made just. For this benefit the Apostle exhorts us always to give thanks to the Father, who hath made us worthy to be partakers of the lot of the saints in light, and hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of the Son of his love, in whom we have redemption and remission of sins.17



In which words is given a brief description of the justification of the sinner, as being a translation from that state in which man is born a child of the first Adam, to the state of grace and of the adoption of the sons of God through the second Adam, Jesus Christ, our Savior. This translation however cannot, since promulgation of the Gospel, be effected except through the laver of regeneration or its desire, as it is written: Unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Ghost, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.18



It is furthermore declared that in adults the beginning of that justification must proceed from the predisposing grace of God through Jesus Christ, that is, from His vocation, whereby, without any merits on their part, they are called; that they who by sin had been cut off from God, may be disposed through His quickening and helping grace to convert themselves to their own justification by freely assenting to and cooperating with that grace; so that, while God touches the heart of man through the illumination of the Holy Ghost, man himself neither does absolutely nothing while receiving that inspiration, since he can also reject it, nor yet is he able by his own free will and without the grace of God to move himself to justice in His sight. Hence, when it is said in the sacred writings: Turn ye to me, and I will turn to you,19 we are reminded of our liberty; and when we reply: Convert us, O Lord, to thee, and we shall be converted,20 we confess that we need the grace of God.



Now, they [the adults] are disposed to that justice when, aroused and aided by divine grace, receiving faith by hearing,21 they are moved freely toward God, believing to be true what has been divinely revealed and promised, especially that the sinner is justified by God by his grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus;22 and when, understanding themselves to be sinners, they, by turning themselves from the fear of divine justice, by which they are salutarily aroused, to consider the mercy of God, are raised to hope, trusting that God will be propitious to them for Christ’s sake; and they begin to love Him as the fountain of all justice, and on that account are moved against sin by a certain hatred and detestation, that is, by that repentance that must be performed before baptism;23 finally, when they resolve to receive baptism, to begin a new life and to keep the commandments of God. Of this disposition it is written: He that cometh to God, must believe that he is, and is a rewarder to them that seek him;24 and, Be of good faith, son, thy sins are forgiven thee;25 and, The fear of the Lord driveth out sin;26 and, Do penance, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of your sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost;27 and, Going, therefore, teach ye all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you;28 finally, Prepare your hearts unto the Lord.29



This disposition or preparation is followed by justification itself, which is not only a remission of sins but also the sanctification and renewal of the inward man through the voluntary reception of the grace and gifts whereby an unjust man becomes just and from being an enemy becomes a friend, that he may be an heir according to hope of life everlasting.30

The causes of this justification are: the final cause is the glory of God and of Christ and life everlasting; the efficient cause is the merciful God who washes and sanctifies31 gratuitously, signing and anointing with the holy Spirit of promise, who is the pledge of our inheritance,32 the meritorious cause is His most beloved only begotten, our Lord Jesus Christ, who, when we were enemies,33 for the exceeding charity wherewith he loved us,34 merited for us justification by His most holy passion on the wood of the cross and made satisfaction for us to God the Father, the instrumental cause is the sacrament of baptism, which is the sacrament of faith,35 without which no man was ever justified finally, the single formal cause is the justice of God, not that by which He Himself is just, but that by which He makes us just, that, namely, with which we being endowed by Him, are renewed in the spirit of our mind,36 and not only are we reputed but we are truly called and are just, receiving justice within us, each one according to his own measure, which the Holy Ghost distributes to everyone as He wills,37 and according to each one’s disposition and cooperation.

For though no one can be just except he to whom the merits of the passion of our Lord Jesus Christ are communicated, yet this takes place in that justification of the sinner, when by the merit of the most holy passion, the charity of God is poured forth by the Holy Ghost in the hearts38 of those who are justified and inheres in them; whence man through Jesus Christ, in whom he is ingrafted, receives in that justification, together with the remission of sins, all these infused at the same time, namely, faith, hope and charity. For faith, unless hope and charity be added to it, neither unites man perfectly with Christ nor makes him a living member of His body.39 For which reason it is most truly said that faith without works is dead40 and of no profit, and in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth anything nor uncircumcision, but faith that worketh by charity.41

This faith, conformably to Apostolic tradition, catechumens ask of the Church before the sacrament of baptism, when they ask for the faith that gives eternal life, which without hope and charity faith cannot give. Whence also they hear immediately the word of Christ: If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.42 Wherefore, when receiving true and Christian justice, they are commanded, immediately on being born again, to preserve it pure and spotless, as the first robe43 given them through Christ Jesus in place of that which Adam by his disobedience lost for himself and for us, so that they may bear it before the tribunal of our Lord Jesus Christ and may have life eternal.



But when the Apostle says that man is justified by faith and freely,44 these words are to be understood in that sense in which the uninterrupted unanimity of the Catholic Church has held and expressed them, namely, that we are therefore said to be justified by faith, because faith is the beginning of human salvation, the foundation and root of all justification, without which it is impossible to please God45 and to come to the fellowship of His sons; and we are therefore said to be justified gratuitously, because none of those things that precede justification, whether faith or works, merit the grace of justification. For, if by grace, it is not now by works, otherwise, as the Apostle says, grace is no more grace.46



But though it is necessary to believe that sins neither are remitted nor ever have been remitted except gratuitously by divine mercy for Christ’s sake, yet it must not be said that sins are forgiven or have been forgiven to anyone who boasts of his confidence and certainty of the remission of his sins,47 resting on that alone, though among heretics and schismatics this vain and ungodly confidence may be and in our troubled times indeed is found and preached with untiring fury against the Catholic Church. Moreover, it must not be maintained, that they who are truly justified must needs, without any doubt whatever, convince themselves that they are justified, and that no one is absolved from sins and justified except he that believes with certainty that he is absolved and justified,48 and that absolution and justification are effected by this faith alone, as if he who does not believe this, doubts the promises of God and the efficacy of the death and resurrection of Christ. For as no pious person ought to doubt the mercy of God, the merit of Christ and the virtue and efficacy of the sacraments, so each one, when he considers himself and his own weakness and indisposition, may have fear and apprehension concerning his own grace, since no one can know with the certainty of faith, which cannot be subject to error, that he has obtained the grace of God.



Having, therefore, been thus justified and made the friends and domestics of God,49 advancing from virtue to virtue,50 they are renewed, as the Apostle says, day by day,51 that is, mortifying the members52 of their flesh, and presenting them as instruments of justice unto sanctification,53 they, through the observance of the commandments of God and of the Church, faith cooperating with good works, increase in that justice received through the grace of Christ and are further justified, as it is written: He that is just, let him be justified still;54 and, Be not afraid to be justified even to death;55 and again, Do you see that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only?56 This increase of justice holy Church asks for when she prays: “Give unto us, O Lord, an increase of faith, hope and charity.”57



But no one, however much justified, should consider himself exempt from the observance of the commandments; no one should use that rash statement, once forbidden by the Fathers under anathema, that the observance of the commandments of God is impossible for one that is justified. For God does not command impossibilities, but by commanding admonishes thee to do what thou canst and to pray for what thou canst not, and aids thee that thou mayest be able.58 His commandments are not heavy,59 and his yoke is sweet and burden light.60 For they who are the sons of God love Christ, but they who love Him, keep His commandments, as He Himself testifies;61 which, indeed, with the divine help they can do. For though during this mortal life, men, however holy and just, fall at times into at least light and daily sins, which are also called venial, they do not on that account cease to be just, for that petition of the just, forgive us our trespasses,62 is both humble and true; for which reason the just ought to feel themselves the more obliged to walk in the way of justice, for being now freed from sin and made servants of God,63 they are able, living soberly, justly and godly,64 to proceed onward through Jesus Christ, by whom they have access unto this grace.65

For God does not forsake those who have been once justified by His grace, unless He be first forsaken by them. Wherefore, no one ought to flatter himself with faith alone, thinking that by faith alone he is made an heir and will obtain the inheritance, even though he suffer not with christ, that he may be also glorified with him.66 For even Christ Himself, as the Apostle says, whereas he was the Son of God, he learned obedience by the things which he suffered, and being consummated, he became to all who obey him the cause of eternal salvation.67 For which reason the same Apostle admonishes those justified, saying: Know you not that they who run in the race, all run indeed, but one receiveth the prize? So run that you may obtain. I therefore so run, not as at an uncertainty; I so fight, not as one beating the air, but I chastise my body and bring it into subjection; lest perhaps when I have preached to others, I myself should become a castaway.68

So also the prince of the Apostles, Peter: Labor the more, that by good works you may make sure your calling and election. For doing these things, you shall not sin at any time.69 From which it is clear that they are opposed to the orthodox teaching of religion who maintain that the just man sins, venially at least, in every good work;70 or, what is more intolerable, that he merits eternal punishment; and they also who assert that the just sin in all works, if, in order to arouse their sloth and to encourage themselves to run the race, they, in addition to this, that above all God may be glorified, have in view also the eternal reward,71 since it is written: I have inclined my heart to do thy justifications on account of the reward;72 and of Moses the Apostle says; that he looked unto the reward.73



No one, moreover, so long as he lives this mortal life, ought in regard to the sacred mystery of divine predestination, so far presume as to state with absolute certainty that he is among the number of the predestined,74 as if it were true that the one justified either cannot sin any more, or, if he does sin, that he ought to promise himself an assured repentance. For except by special revelation, it cannot be known whom God has chosen to Himself.



Similarly with regard to the gift of perseverance, of which it is written: He that shall persevere to the end, he shall be saved,75 which cannot be obtained from anyone except from Him who is able to make him stand who stands,76 that he may stand perseveringly, and to raise him who falls, let no one promise himself herein something as certain with an absolute certainty, though all ought to place and repose the firmest hope in God’s help. For God, unless men themselves fail in His grace, as he has begun a good work, so will he perfect it, working to will and to accomplish.77 Nevertheless, let those who think themselves to stand, take heed lest they fall,78 and with fear and trembling work out their salvation,79 in labors, in watchings, in almsdeeds, in prayer, in fastings and chastity. For knowing that they are born again unto the hope of glory,80 and not as yet unto glory, they ought to fear for the combat that yet remains with the flesh, with the world and with the devil, in which they cannot be victorious unless they be with the grace of God obedient to the Apostle who says: We are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh; for if you live according to the flesh, you shall die, but if by the spirit you mortify the deeds of the flesh, you shall live.81



Those who through sin have forfeited and received grace of justification, can again be justified when, moved by God, they exert themselves to obtain through the sacrament of penance the recovery, by the merits of Christ, of the grace lost.82 For this manner of justification is restoration for those fallen, which the holy Fathers have aptly called a second plank after the shipwreck of grace lost.83 For on behalf of those who fall into sins after baptism, Christ Jesus instituted the sacrament of penance when He said: Receive ye the Holy Ghost, whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them, and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained.84

Hence, it must be taught that the repentance of a Christian after his fall is very different from that at his baptism, and that it includes not only a determination to avoid sins and a hatred of them, or a contrite and humble heart,85 but also the sacramental confession of those sins, at least in desire, to be made in its season, and sacerdotal absolution, as well as satisfaction by fasts, alms, prayers and other devout exercises of the spiritual life, not indeed for the eternal punishment, which is, together with the guilt, remitted either by the sacrament or by the desire of the sacrament, but for the temporal punishment which, as the sacred writings teach, is not always wholly remitted, as is done in baptism, to those who, ungrateful to the grace of God which they have received, have grieved the Holy Ghost86 and have not feared to violate the temple of God.87 Of which repentance it is written: Be mindful whence thou art fallen; do penance, and do the first works;88 and again, The sorrow that is according to God worketh penance, steadfast unto salvation;89 and again, Do penance, and bring forth fruits worthy of penance.90



Against the subtle wits of some also, who by pleasing speeches and good words seduce the hearts of the innocent,91 it must be maintained that the grace of justification once received is lost not only by infidelity, whereby also faith itself is lost, but also by every other mortal sin, though in this case faith is not lost; thus defending the teaching of the divine law which excludes from the kingdom of God not only unbelievers, but also the faithful [who are] fornicators, adulterers, effeminate, liars with mankind, thieves, covetous, drunkards, railers, extortioners,92 and all others who commit deadly sins, from which with the help of divine grace they can refrain, and on account of which they are cut off from the grace of Christ.



Therefore, to men justified in this manner, whether they have preserved uninterruptedly the grace received or recovered it when lost, are to be pointed out the words of the Apostle: Abound in every good work, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.93 For God is not unjust, that he should forget your work, and the love which you have shown in his name;94 and, Do not lose your confidence, which hath a great reward.95 Hence, to those who work well unto the end96 and trust in God, eternal life is to be offered, both as a grace mercifully promised to the sons of God through Christ Jesus, and as a reward promised by God himself, to be faithfully given to their good works and merits.97

For this is the crown of justice which after his fight and course the Apostle declared was laid up for him, to be rendered to him by the just judge, and not only to him, but also to all that love his coming.98 For since Christ Jesus Himself, as the head into the members and the vine into the branches,99 continually infuses strength into those justified, which strength always precedes, accompanies and follows their good works, and without which they could not in any manner be pleasing and meritorious before God, we must believe that nothing further is wanting to those justified to prevent them from being considered to have, by those very works which have been done in God, fully satisfied the divine law according to the state of this life and to have truly merited eternal life, to be obtained in its [due] time, provided they depart [this life] in grace,100 since Christ our Savior says: If anyone shall drink of the water that I will give him, he shall not thirst forever; but it shall become in him a fountain of water springing up into life everlasting.101

Thus, neither is our own justice established as our own from ourselves,102 nor is the justice of God ignored or repudiated, for that justice which is called ours, because we are justified by its inherence in us, that same is [the justice] of God, because it is infused into us by God through the merit of Christ. Nor must this be omitted, that although in the sacred writings so much is attributed to good works, that even he that shall give a drink of cold water to one of his least ones, Christ promises, shall not lose his reward;103 and the Apostle testifies that, That which is at present momentary and light of our tribulation, worketh for us above measure exceedingly an eternal weight of glory;104 nevertheless, far be it that a Christian should either trust or glory in himself and not in the Lord,105 whose bounty toward all men is so great that He wishes the things that are His gifts to be their merits. And since in many things we all offend,106 each one ought to have before his eyes not only the mercy and goodness but also the severity and judgment [of God]; neither ought anyone to judge himself, even though he be not conscious to himself of anything;107 because the whole life of man is to be examined and judged not by the judgment of man but of God, who will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts, and then shall every man have praise from God,108 who, as it is written, will render to every man according to his works.109

After this Catholic doctrine on justification, which whosoever does not faithfully and firmly accept cannot be justified, it seemed good to the holy council to add to these canons, that all may know not only what they must hold and follow, but also what to avoid and shun.


Canon 1. If anyone says that man can be justified before God by his own works, whether done by his own natural powers or through the teaching of the law,110 without divine grace through Jesus Christ, let him be anathema.

Canon 2. If anyone says that divine grace through Christ Jesus is given for this only, that man may be able more easily to live justly and to merit eternal life, as if by free will without grace he is able to do both, though with hardship and difficulty, let him be anathema.

Canon 3. If anyone says that without the predisposing inspiration of the Holy Ghost111 and without His help, man can believe, hope, love or be repentant as he ought,112 so that the grace of justification may be bestowed upon him, let him be anathema.

Canon 4. If anyone says that man’s free will moved and aroused by God, by assenting to God’s call and action, in no way cooperates toward disposing and preparing itself to obtain the grace of justification, that it cannot refuse its assent if it wishes, but that, as something inanimate, it does nothing whatever and is merely passive, let him be anathema.

Canon 5. If anyone says that after the sin of Adam man’s free will was lost and destroyed, or that it is a thing only in name, indeed a name without a reality, a fiction introduced into the Church by Satan, let him be anathema.

Canon 6. If anyone says that it is not in man’s power to make his ways evil, but that the works that are evil as well as those that are good God produces, not permissively only but also propria et per se, so that the treason of Judas is no less His own proper work than the vocation of St. Paul, let him be anathema.

Canon 7. If anyone says that all works done before justification, in whatever manner they may be done, are truly sins, or merit the hatred of God; that the more earnestly one strives to dispose himself for grace, the more grievously he sins, let him be anathema.

Canon 8. If anyone says that the fear of hell,113 whereby, by grieving for sins, we flee to the mercy of God or abstain from sinning, is a sin or makes sinners worse, let him be anathema.

Canon 9. If anyone says that the sinner is justified by faith alone,114 meaning that nothing else is required to cooperate in order to obtain the grace of justification, and that it is not in any way necessary that he be prepared and disposed by the action of his own will, let him be anathema.

Canon 10. If anyone says that men are justified without the justice of Christ,115 whereby Her merited for us, or by that justice are formally just, let him be anathema.

Canon 11. If anyone says that men are justified either by the sole imputation of the justice of Christ or by the sole remission of sins, to the exclusion of the grace and the charity which is poured forth in their hearts by the Holy Ghost,116 and remains in them, or also that the grace by which we are justified is only the good will of God, let him be anathema.

Canon 12. If anyone says that justifying faith is nothing else than confidence in divine mercy,117 which remits sins for Christ’s sake, or that it is this confidence alone that justifies us, let him be anathema.

Canon 13. If anyone says that in order to obtain the remission of sins it is necessary for every man to believe with certainty and without any hesitation arising from his own weakness and indisposition that his sins are forgiven him, let him be anathema.

Canon 14. If anyone says that man is absolved from his sins and justified because he firmly believes that he is absolved and justified,118 or that no one is truly justified except him who believes himself justified, and that by this faith alone absolution and justification are effected, let him be anathema.

Canon 15. If anyone says that a man who is born again and justified is bound ex fide to believe that he is certainly in the number of the predestined,119 let him be anathema.

Canon 16. If anyone says that he will for certain, with an absolute and infallible certainty, have that great gift of perseverance even to the end, unless he shall have learned this by a special revelation,120 let him be anathema.

Canon 17. If anyone says that the grace of justification is shared by those only who are predestined to life, but that all others who are called are called indeed but receive not grace, as if they are by divine power predestined to evil, let him be anathema.

Canon 18. If anyone says that the commandments of God are, even for one that is justified and constituted in grace,121 impossible to observe, let him be anathema.


Decree Concerning the Sacraments


For the completion of the salutary doctrine on justification, which was promulgated with the unanimous consent of the Fathers in the last session, it has seemed proper to deal with the most holy sacraments of the Church, through which all true justice either begins, or being begun is increased, or being lost is restored. Wherefore, in order to destroy the errors and extirpate the heresies that in our stormy times are directed against the most holy sacraments, some of which are a revival of heresies long ago condemned by our Fathers, while others are of recent origin, all of which are exceedingly detrimental to the purity of the Catholic Church and the salvation of souls, the holy, ecumenical and general Council of Trent, lawfully assembled in the Holy Ghost, the same legates of the Apostolic See presiding, adhering to the teaching of the Holy Scriptures, to the Apostolic traditions, and to the unanimous teaching of other councils and of the Fathers, has thought it proper to establish and enact these present canons; hoping, with the help of the Holy Spirit, to publish later those that are wanting for the completion of the work begun.


Canon 1. If anyone says that the sacraments of the New Law were not all instituted by our Lord Jesus Christ, or that there are more or less than seven, namely, baptism, confirmation, Eucharist, penance, extreme unction, order and matrimony,1 or that any one of these seven is not truly and intrinsically a sacrament, let him be anathema.

Canon 2. If anyone says that these sacraments of the New Law do not differ from the sacraments of the Old Law, except that the ceremonies are different and the external rites are different, let him be anathema.

Canon 3. If anyone says that these seven sacraments are so equal to each other that one is not for any reason more excellent than the other, let him be anathema.

Canon 4. If anyone says that the sacraments of the New Law are not necessary for salvation but are superfluous, and that without them or without the desire of them men obtain from God through faith alone the grace of justification,2 though all are not necessary for each one, let him be anathema.

Canon 5. If anyone says that these sacraments have been instituted for the nourishment of faith alone, let him be anathema.

Canon 6. If anyone says that the sacraments of the New Law do not contain the grace which they signify, or that they do not confer that grace on those who place no obstacles in its way,3 as though they were only outward signs of grace or justice received through faith and certain marks of Christian profession, whereby among men believers are distinguished from unbelievers, let him be anathema.

Canon 7. If anyone says that grace, so far as God’s part is concerned, is not impaired through the sacraments always and to all men even if they receive them rightly, but only sometimes and to some persons, let him be anathema.

Canon 8. If anyone says that by the sacraments of the New Law grace is not conferred ex opere operato, but that faith alone in the divine promise is sufficient to obtain grace, let him be anathema.

Canon 9. If anyone says that in three sacraments, namely, baptism, confirmation and order, there is not imprinted on the soul a character, that is, a certain spiritual and indelible mark, by reason of which they cannot be repeated,4 let him be anathema.

Canon 10. If anyone says that all Christians have the power to administer the word and all the sacraments,5 let him be anathema.

Canon 11. If anyone says that in ministers, when they effect and confer the sacraments, there is not required at least the intention of doing what the Church does,6 let him be anathema.

Canon 12. If anyone says that a minister who is in mortal sin, though he observes all the essentials that pertain to the effecting or conferring of a sacrament,7 neither effects nor confers a sacrament, let him be anathema.

Canon 13. If anyone says that the received and approved rites of the Catholic Church, accustomed to be used in the administration of the sacraments, may be despised or omitted by the ministers without sin and at their pleasure, or may be changed by any pastor of the churches to other new ones, let him be anathema.


Canon 1. If anyone says that the baptism of John had the same effect as the baptism of Christ,8 let him be anathema.

Canon 2. If anyone says that true and natural water is not necessary for baptism9 and thus twists into some metaphor the words of our Lord Jesus Christ: Unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Ghost,10 let him be anathema.

Canon 3. If anyone says that in the Roman Church, which is the mother and mistress of all churches, there is not the true doctrine concerning the sacrament of baptism,11 let him be anathema.

Canon 4. If anyone says that the baptism which is given by heretics in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, with the intention of doing what the Church does, is not true baptism,12 let him be anathema.

Canon 5. If anyone says that baptism is optional, that is, not necessary for salvation,13 let him be anathema.

Canon 6. If anyone says that one baptized cannot, even if he wishes, lose grace, however much he may sin, unless he is unwilling to believe, let him be anathema.

Canon 7. If anyone says that those baptized are by baptism made debtors only to faith alone, but not to the observance of the whole law of Christ, let him be anathema.

Canon 8. If anyone says that those baptized are free from all the precepts of holy Church, whether written or unwritten, so that they are not bound to observe them unless they should wish to submit to them of their own accord, let him be anathema.

Canon 9. If anyone says that the remembrance of the baptism received is to be so impressed on men that they may understand that all the vows made after baptism are void in virtue of the promise already made in that baptism, as if by those vows they detracted from the faith which they professed and from the baptism itself, let him be anathema.

Canon 10. If anyone says that by the sole remembrance and the faith of the baptism received, all sins committed after baptism are either remitted or made venial, let him be anathema.

Canon 11. If anyone says that baptism, truly and rightly administered, must be repeated in the one converted to repentance after having denied the faith of Christ among the infidels, let him be anathema.

Canon 12. If anyone says that no one is to be baptized except at that age at which Christ was baptized, or when on the point of death, let him be anathema.

Canon 13. If anyone says that children, because they have not the act of believing, are not after having received baptism to be numbered among the faithful, and that for this reason are to be rebaptized when they have reached the years of discretion;14 or that it is better that the baptism of such be omitted than that, while not believing by their own act, they should be baptized in the faith of the Church alone, let him be anathema.

Canon 14. If anyone says that those who have been thus baptized when children are, when they have grown up, to be questioned whether they will ratify what their sponsors promised in their name when they were baptized, and in case they answer in the negative, are to be left to their own will; neither are they to be compelled in the meantime to a Christian life by any penalty other than exclusion from the reception of the Eucharist and the other sacraments, until they repent, let him be anathema.


Canon 1. If anyone says that the confirmation of those baptized is an empty ceremony and not a true and proper sacrament; or that of old it was nothing more than a sort of instruction, whereby those approaching adolescence gave an account of their faith to the Church, let him be anathema.

Canon 2. If anyone says that those who ascribe any power to the holy charism of confirmation, offer insults to the Holy Ghost, let him be anathema.

Canon 3. If anyone says that the ordinary minister of holy confirmation is not the bishop alone,15 but any simple priest, let him be anathema.

Decree Concerning Reform

The same holy council, the same legates presiding therein, intending to continue, to the praise of God and the increase of the Christian religion, the work begun concerning residence and reform, has thought it well to decree as follows, saving always and in all things the authority of the Apostolic See.


The competency required to conduct cathedral churches

No one shall be chosen to govern cathedral churches unless he is born of lawful wedlock, is of mature age, is known for his integrity of morals, and possesses the required knowledge,16 in accordance with the constitution of Alexander III, which begins, Cum in cunctis, promulgated in the Lateran Council.17


Those holding several cathedral churches are commanded to resign in a specified manner and time all but one

No one, by whatever dignity, rank or pre-eminence distinguished, shall presume, in contravention to the sacred canons,18 to accept and to hold at the same time several metropolitan or cathedral churches, either by title or in commendam or under any other name, since he must be considered exceedingly fortunate who succeeds in ruling one church well, fruitfully and with due interest in the salvation of the souls committed to him. But those who now hold several churches contrary to the tenor of the present decree, shall be bound, retaining the one which they prefer, to resign the rest within six months if they are subject to free disposal by the Apostolic See, in other cases within a year; otherwise those churches, with the sole exception of the one last obtained, shall be eo ipso considered vacant.


Benefices are to be conferred only on competent persons

Inferior ecclesiastical benefices, especially those to which is attached the cura animarum, shall be conferred on worthy and competent persons and on such as can reside in the place and exercise personally the care of souls, in accordance with the constitution of Alexander III in the Lateran Council, which begins, “Quia nonnulli,”19 and that of Gregory X, published in the General Council of Lyons, which begins, “Licet canon.”20 A collation or provision made otherwise is absolutely null, and let the collating bishop know that he will incur the penalties of the constitution of the general council, which begins, “Grave nimis.”21


The holder of several benefices contrary to the canons shall be deprived of them

Whoever shall in the future presume to accept and to hold at the same time several charges or otherwise incompatible ecclesiastical benefices,22 whether by way of union for life or by way of perpetual commendam or under any other name or title whatsoever, in contravention of the provision of the sacred canons and especially of the constitution of Innocent III, which begins, De multa,23 shall be ipso jure deprived of those benefices in accordance with the provisions of that constitution and also by virtue of the present canon.


Holders of several benefices to which is annexed the Cura Animarium must exhibit their dispensations to the ordinary, who shall provide the churches with a vicar, assigning a suitable portion of the revenues

Local ordinaries shall strictly compel all who hold several charges or otherwise incompatible ecclesiastical benefices to exhibit their dispensations, and adopt other procedures in accordance with the constitution of Gregory X, published in the General Council of Lyons, beginning with “Ordinarii,”24 which this holy council believes ought to be renewed and does renew; adding, moreover, that the ordinaries are by all means to provide, even by deputing competent vicars and assigning a suitable portion of the revenues, that the cura animarum be in no way neglected and that those benefices be by no means defrauded of the services due them; appeals, privileges and exemptions whatsoever, even with the appointment of special judges and their inhibitions, being of no avail to anyone in the aforesaid matter.


What unions of benefices shall be considered valid

Perpetual unions,25 made within forty years, may be investigated by the ordinaries as delegates of the Apostolic See, and such as have been obtained through deceit or deception shall be declared null. Those however must be presumed to have been obtained surreptitiously which, having been granted within the aforesaid period, have not yet been carried into effect in whole or in part; those also which shall henceforth be made at the instance of any person, unless it is certain that they have been made for lawful and otherwise reasonable causes, which must be verified before the local ordinary, those persons being summoned whose interests are concerned; hence, unless the Apostolic See shall have declared otherwise, they shall be absolutely devoid of force.


United ecclesiastical benefices must be visited; The Cura Animarum thereto is to be exercised also by perpetual vicars, with whose appointment a portion is to be assigned even for specific purposes

Ecclesiastical benefices having the cura animarum, which are found to have been always united or annexed to cathedral, collegiate or other churches, or to monasteries, benefices, colleges or to pious places of whatever sort,26 shall be visited every year by the local ordinaries, who shall zealously see to it that the cura animarum is exercised in a praiseworthy manner by competent vicars, also perpetual, unless the ordinaries shall deem it expedient for the good government of the churches to provide otherwise, who shall be appointed to the same by the ordinaries with a portion consisting of a third part of the revenues,27 or of a greater or less proportion, at the discretion of the ordinaries, also assigned for the specific purpose; appeals, privileges and exemptions, also with the appointment of special judges and their inhibitions, being of no avail to anyone in the aforesaid matter.


Churches shall be repaired; The Cura Animarum diligently discharged

The local ordinaries shall be bound to visit every year with Apostolic authority all churches in whatsoever manner exempt, and to provide by suitable legal remedies that those that need repair be repaired, and that they be not in any way defrauded of the cura animarum if such be annexed to them or of other services due them;28 appeals, privileges, customs, even though immemorial, appointment of judges and their inhibitions, being absolutely excluded.


The rite of consecration is not to be delayed

Those promoted to major churches shall receive the rite of consecration within the time prescribed by law,29 and any delays granted extending beyond a period of six months, shall be of no avail to anyone.


When a see is vacant, chapters shall not grant releases to anyone unless he be pressed for time because of a benefice obtained or about to be obtained; Various penalties against those who act otherwise

It shall not be lawful for chapters of churches, when a see is vacant, to grant, either by a provision of the common law or by virtue of a privilege or custom, permission to be ordained or dimissory letters or “reverends,” as some call them, within a year from the day of the vacancy, to anyone who is not pressed for time by reason of an ecclesiastical benefice obtained or about to be obtained.30 Otherwise, the contravening chapter shall be subject to ecclesiastical intedict, and those so ordained, if they are in minor orders, shall enjoy no clerical privilege, especially in criminal causes, while those in major orders shall be ipso jure suspended from the exercise thereof during the pleasure of the next prelate.


Authority for promotion without a just cause shall not avail anyone

Authority for promotion by anyone shall be of no avail except to those who have a legitimate reason why they cannot be ordained by their own bishops, which must be expressed in writing; and then they shall not be ordained except by the bishop who resides in his own diocese,31 or by one who exercises the pontifical functions for him, and after a careful examination.


Permission granted for Non-promotion shall not exceed one year

Permission granted for not being promoted shall be good for one year only, except in the cases provided by law.32


With certain exceptions, persons, by whomsoever presented, shall not be appointed without bring first examined and approved by the ordinary

Those presented, elected or nominated by any ecclesiastical persons whatsoever, even by nuncios of the Apostolic See, shall not be appointed to, confirmed in or admitted to any ecclesiastical benefice,33 even under the pretext of some privilege or immemorial custom, unless they shall have been first examined and found competent by the local ordinaries. And no one shall by recourse to an appeal be able to escape from being bound to undergo that examination. Those, however, are excepted who are presented, elected or nominated by universities or by colleges for general studies.34


The civil causes of exempt persons which may be taken cogzizance of by bishops

In the causes of exempt persons the constitution of Innocent IV, beginning with “Volentes,” published in the General Council of Lyons,35 shall be observed, which this holy council has thought ought to be renewed and does renew; adding moreover, that in civil causes relative to wages and to persons in distress, secular clerics and regulars living outside their monasteries, howsoever exempt, even though they have a special judge deputed by the Apostolic See, and in other causes if they have no such judge, may be brought before the local ordinaries as delegated in this matter by that See and be constrained and compelled by law to pay what they owe; no privileges, exemptions, appointment of conservators and their inhibitions, being of any avail whatever against the aforesaid.


Ordinaries shall see to it that all hospitals, even those exempt, are faithfully managed by their administrators

Ordinaries shall take care that all hospitals are faithfully and diligently managed by their administrators, by whatsoever name known and in whatsoever manner exempt,36 observing the form of the constitution of the Council of Vienne, which begins, “Quia contingit,”37 which this holy council has thought ought to be renewed and does renew together with the restrictions therein contained.

Announcement of the Next Session

This holy council has also ordained and decreed that the next session be held and celebrated on Thursday, the fifth day after the coming Sunday in Albis, which will be the twenty-first of April of the present year, 1547.

Bull Authorizing the Transfer of the Council

Paul, Bishop, servant of the servants of God, to our venerable brother John Maria, Bishop of Praeneste, and our beloved sons, Marcellus, priest of the Holy Cross in Jerusalem, and Reginald of St. Mary in Cosmedin, deacon, cardinals, our legates a latere and of the Apostolic See, health and apostolic benediction.

We, by the providence of God, presiding over the government of the universal Church, though with merits unequal thereto, consider it a part of our office that when something of more than ordinary importance must be decided concerning the Christian commonwealth, it be done not only at an opportune time but also in a place at once convenient and suitable.

Wherefore, when we lately, with the advice and consent of our venerable brethren, the cardinals of the holy Roman Church, on hearing that peace had been made between our most dear sons in Christ, Charles, ever august Emperor of the Romans, and Francis, the most Christian King of the French, raised and removed the suspension of the celebration of the holy, ecumenical and general council, which we had on another occasion, for reasons then stated, convoked with the same advice and consent in the city of trent, and which was, for certain other reasons at that time also stated, suspended upon the same advice and consent to another more opportune and suitable time to be made known by us, being ourselves unable, because at that time lawfully hindered, to proceed personally to the aforesaid city and to be present at the council, we, by the same advice, appointed and deputed you as legates a latere on our behalf and on that of the Apostolic See in that council, and we sent you to that city as angels of peace, as is set forth more fully in our various letters dealing with this matter.

Wishing now to provide opportunely that so holy a work as the celebration of this council may not through the inconvenience of the place or in any other manner be hindered or unduly delayed, we, by our own action and certain knowledge, with the plenitude of Apostolic authority and with the same advice and consent, grant to you all together or to two of you, in case the other should be detained by a lawful impediment or perchance be absent therefrom, by the tenor of these presents with Apostolic authority, full and unrestricted power and authority to transfer and change, whenever you shall deem it expedient, the aforesaid council from the city of trent to any other more convenient, suitable and safer city which you shall judge appropriate; also to prohibit, even by ecclesiastical censures and penalties, the prelates and other members of that council to proceed therein to any further measures in the said city of Trent; further, to continue, hold and celebrate the same council in the other city to which it shall have been transferred and changed, and to summon to it the prelates and other members of the Council of Trent, even under penalty of perjury and other penalties named in the letters of the convocation of that council; also to preside and proceed in the council thus translated and changed in the name and by the authority aforesaid, and to perform, regulate, ordain and execute the other things mentioned above and the things necessary and suitable to it, in accordance with the contents and tenor of previous letters addressed to you on another occasion; declaring that we will hold as ratified and pleasing whatsoever shall be done, regulated and ordained by you in the aforesaid matters, and will, with God’s help, see to it that it be inviolately observed; Apostolic constitutions and ordinances and other things whatsoever to the contrary notwithstanding.

Therefore, let no one infringe this letter of our authorization or with foolhardy boldness go contrary to it. But if anyone shall presume to attempt this, let him know that he will incur the indignation of Almighty God and of the blessed Peter and Paul, His Apostles. Given at Rome at St. Peter’s in the year of the Lord’s incarnation 1547, on the twenty-fifth of February, in the eleventh year of our pontificate.

Fab. Bishop of Spol. B. Motta.


1. Eugene IV in decr. ad Armenos (Denzinger, no. 695); Pius IV in the bull Injunctam nobis (idem, no. 996). 2. Cf. Sess. VI, chap. 7 and can. 9. 3. Eugene IV in the decr. cited. 4. Ibid. 5. Cf. Sess. XIV, Penance, chap. 6, and Extr. Unct., chap. 3. 6. Eugene IV in the decr. cited. 7. Cf. c.98, C.I, q.1; cc. 39, 149, D.IV de cons. 8. Cf. c. 135, D.IV de cons. 9. Cf. c.5, X, De bapt., III, 42. 10. John 3:5. 11. C.9, X, De haeret., V, 7. 12. Cc. 97, 98, C.I, q. 1. 13. John 3:5. 14. Cf. c.139, D.IV de cons. 15. Cf. Sess. XXIII, chap. 4. 16. Cf. Sess. XXII, chap. 2 de ref. 17. C.7, X, De elect., I, 6. 18. C.2, D.LXX; c.3, C.X, q.3; cc. 1, 2, C.XXI, q.1; cc.5, 13, 28, X, De praeb., III, 5; c.32, VI, De praeb., III, 4. 19. C.3, X, De cler. non resid., III, 4. 20. C.14, VI, De elect., I, 16. 21. C.29, X, De praeb., III, 5. 22. Cf. Sess. XXIV, chap. 17 de ref. 23. C.28, X, De praeb., III, 5. 24. C.3, VI, De off. ord., I, 16. 25. Cf. Sess. XIV, chap. 9 de ref.; Sess. XXIV, chap. 13 de ref; Sess. XXV, chap. 9 de ref. 26. Cf. Sess. XIV, chap. 9 de ref. 27. Cf. supra, chap. 5 and Sess. XXV, chap. 16 de ref. 28. Cc.10-12, C.X, q.1; Sess. XXI, chap. 8 de ref. and Sess XXIV, chap. 9 de ref. 29. C.2, D.LXXV; c.1, D.C. 30. C.3, VI, De temp ord., I, 9; cf. Sess. XXIII, chap. 10 de ref. 31. Cf. Sess. VI, chap. 5 de ref. and Sess. XIV, chap. 2 de ref. 32. Cc. 14, 34, VI, De elect., I, 6. 33. Cf. Sess. XXV, chap. 9 de ref. 34. Cf. Sess. XXIV, chap. 18 de ref. 35. C.1, VI, De privil., V, 7. 36. Cf. Sess. XXV, chap. 8 de ref. 37. C.2, De relig. dom. in Clem., III, 11.

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