Now, on to the Fourth Lateran Council, convened by Pope Innocent III in 1215. This council, considered the 12th “ecumenical” council, was one of the all-time most important councils, which strongly shaped catholicism in the â€œhighâ€ middle ages. It was called, in part, to get another crusade going, after some crusading failures and set-backs. The resulting â€œconstitutionsâ€ were proposed (and to some extent written by?) the pope himself. These touch on many doctrinal and practical matters, Jewish issues, and church discipline. Notable doctrinal innovations: transubstantiation, and the explicit claim that no one is saved apart from the one true Church. Here are some of the interesting bits.
â€œConstitutionâ€ or â€œCanonâ€ number 1:
1. Confession of Faith
We firmly believe and simply confess that there is only one true God… three persons but one absolutely simple essence, substance or nature. The Father is from none, the Son from the Father alone, and the holy Spirit from both equally, eternally without beginning or end… consubstantial and coequal, co-omnipotent and coeternal; one principle of all things, creator of all things invisible and visible, spiritual and corporeal; who by his almighty power at the beginning of time created from nothing both spiritual and corporeal creatures…
This holy Trinity, which is undivided according to its common essence but distinct according to the properties of its persons, gave the teaching of salvation to the human race through Moses and the holy prophets and his other servants, according to the most appropriate disposition of the times. Finally the only-begotten Son of God, Jesus Christ, who became incarnate by the action of the whole Trinity in common and was conceived from the ever virgin Mary through the cooperation of the holy Spirit, having become true man, composed of a rational soul and human flesh, one person in two natures, showed more clearly the way of life. Although he is immortal and unable to suffer according to his divinity, he was made capable of suffering and dying according to his humanity….
There is indeed one universal church of the faithful, outside of which nobody at all is saved, in which Jesus Christ is both priest and sacrifice. His body and blood are truly contained in the sacrament of the altar under the forms of bread and wine, the bread and wine having been changed in substance, by God’s power, into his body and blood, so that in order to achieve this mystery of unity we receive from God what he received from us. Nobody can effect this sacrament except a priest… [this sacrament] brings salvation to both children and adults when it is correctly carried out by anyone in the form laid down by the church. …2. On the error of abbot Joachim [of Fiore, c. 1135 â€“ 1202]
We therefore condemn and reprove that small book or treatise which abbot Joachim published… in which he calls Peter Lombard a heretic and a madman because he said in his Sentences, “For there is a certain supreme reality which is the Father and the Son and the holy Spirit, and it neither begets nor is begotten nor does it proceed”. He asserts from this that Peter Lombard ascribes to God not so much a Trinity as a quaternity, that is to say three persons and a common essence as if this were a fourth person. Abbot Joachim clearly protests that there does not exist any reality which is the Father and the Son and the holy Spirit-neither an essence nor a substance nor a nature — although he concedes that the Father and the Son and the holy Spirit are one essence, one substance and one nature. He professes, however, that such a unity is not true and proper but rather collective and analogous, in the way that many persons are said to be one people and many faithful one church, according to that saying : Of the multitude of believers there was one heart and one mind, and Whoever adheres to God is one spirit with him; again He who plants and he who waters are one, and all of us are one body in Christ; and again in the book of Kings, My people and your people are one. In support of this opinion he especially uses the saying which Christ uttered in the gospel concerning the faithful : I wish, Father, that they may be one in us, just as we are one, so that they may be made perfect in one. For, he says, Christ’s faithful are not one in the sense of a single reality which is common to all. They are one only in this sense, that they form one church through the unity of the catholic faith, and finally one kingdom through a union of indissoluble charity. …
We, however, with the approval of this sacred and universal council, believe and confess with Peter Lombard that there exists a certain supreme reality, incomprehensible and ineffable, which truly is the Father and the Son and the holy Spirit, the three persons together and each one of them separately. Therefore in God there is only a Trinity, not a quaternity, since each of the three persons is that reality — that is to say substance, essence or divine nature-which alone is the principle of all things, besides which no other principle can be found. This reality neither begets nor is begotten nor proceeds; the Father begets, the Son is begotten and the holy Spirit proceeds. Thus there is a distinction of persons but a unity of nature. Although therefore the Father is one person, the Son another person and the holy Spirit another person, they are not different realities, but rather that which is the Father is the Son and the holy Spirit, altogether the same; thus according to the orthodox and catholic faith they are believed to be consubstantial. For the Father, in begetting the Son from eternity, gave him his substance, as he himself testifies : What the Father gave me is greater than all. It cannot be said that the Father gave him part of his substance and kept part for himself since the Father’s substance is indivisible, inasmuch as it is altogether simple. Nor can it be said that the Father transferred his substance to the Son, in the act of begetting, as if he gave it to the Son in such a way that he did not retain it for himself; for otherwise he would have ceased to be substance. It is therefore clear that in being begotten the Son received the Father’s substance without it being diminished in any way, and thus the Father and the Son have the same substance. Thus the Father and the Son and also the holy Spirit proceeding from both are the same reality.
When, therefore, the Truth prays to the Father for those faithful to him, saying I wish that they may be one in us just as we are one, this word one means for the faithful a union of love in grace, and for the divine persons a unity of identity in nature… If anyone therefore ventures to defend or approve the opinion or doctrine of the aforesaid Joachim on this matter, let him be refuted by all as a heretic. By this, however, we do not intend anything to the detriment of the monastery of Fiore, which Joachim founded, because there both the instruction is according to rule and the observance is healthy; especially since Joachim ordered all his writings to be handed over to us, to be approved or corrected according to the judgment of the apostolic see. He dictated a letter, which he signed with his own hand, in which he firmly confesses that he holds the faith held by the Roman church, which is by God’s plan the mother and mistress of all the faithful. …
3. On Heretics
We excommunicate and anathematize every heresy raising itself up against this holy, orthodox and catholic faith which we have expounded above. … Let those condemned be handed over to the secular authorities present, or to their bailiffs, for due punishment. Clerics are first to be degraded from their orders. The goods of the condemned are to be confiscated, if they are lay persons, and if clerics they are to be applied to the churches from which they received their stipends. … Let secular authorities, whatever offices they may be discharging, be advised and urged and if necessary be compelled by ecclesiastical censure, if they wish to be reputed and held to be faithful, to take publicly an oath for the defence of the faith to the effect that they will seek, in so far as they can, to expel from the lands subject to their jurisdiction all heretics designated by the church in good faith. Thus whenever anyone is promoted to spiritual or temporal authority, he shall be obliged to confirm this article with an oath. If however a temporal lord, required and instructed by the church, neglects to cleanse his territory of this heretical filth, he shall be bound with the bond of excommunication by the metropolitan and other bishops of the province. …
Catholics who take the cross and gird themselves up for the expulsion of heretics shall enjoy the same indulgence, and be strengthened by the same holy privilege, as is granted to those who go to the aid of the holy Land. Moreover, we determine to subject to excommunication believers who receive, defend or support heretics. We strictly ordain that if any such person, after he has been designated as excommunicated, refuses to render satisfaction within a year, then by the law itself he shall be branded as infamous and not be admitted to public offices or councils or to elect others to the same or to give testimony. He shall be intestable, that is he shall not have the freedom to make a will nor shall succeed to an inheritance. Moreover nobody shall be compelled to answer to him on any business whatever, but he may be compelled to answer to them. If he is a judge sentences pronounced by him shall have no force and cases may not be brought before him; if an advocate, he may not be allowed to defend anyone; if a notary, documents drawn up by him shall be worthless and condemned along with their condemned author; and in similar matters we order the same to be observed. If however he is a cleric, let him be deposed from every office and benefice, so that the greater the fault the greater be the punishment. If any refuse to avoid such persons after they have been pointed out by the church, let them be punished with the sentence of excommunication until they make suitable satisfaction. Clerics should not, of course, give the sacraments of the church to such pestilent people nor give them a christian burial nor accept alms or offerings from them; if they do, let them be deprived of their office and not restored to it without a special indult of the apostolic see. … http://www.geocities.com/Heartland/Valley/8920/churchcouncils/Ecum12.htm#Confession%20of%20Faith
Any post-medieval, non-Catholic Christian can probably name a dozen things not to like here. (I reckon that post-Vatican II Catholics would have some complaints as well.) This was also the council that imposed certain anti-semitic measures. But sticking to the Trinity, this document strongly asserts what Brian Leftow says is the characteristic thesis of “Latin” trinitarianism, which is that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit share one token, or one trope of divinity. But it goes beyond that. This one essence/substance “is” each of the three individually, and (in the same sense, apparently) “is” also the whole Trinity. If we read this “is” as identity (which is natural enough), we get a contradictory stance – the same one pictured on the famous Trinity shield.
Needless to say, this “is” cries out to be disambiguated, to reveal whether or not what these sentences are asserting is even possibly true. It seems that we can’t read it as identity, though, as it has properties that differ from those of each of the three persons – this essence thing neither begets, nor is begotten, nor proceeds. On the other hand, “they are not different realities, but rather that which is the Father is the Son and the holy Spirit, altogether the same” seems to imply that Father, Son, and Spirit are just three names for one self-identical thing, presumably this individual essence. Could this be “numerical identity” which isn’t, and doesn’t imply what logicians normally call identity? Hard to say – depends on exactly what relation that is supposed to be.
The proof-texting of the claim that the Father “gave” his whole nature/essence to the Son strikes me as quite dodgy. First, even if the text says that, it would surely amount to reading much later interests back into the text. Second, they seem to be referring to John 10:29, which in the NIV reads: “My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.” I take it there’s a problem either with the text or the translation of the Latin Vulgate here, though I haven’t verified this.
The treatment of John 17:11 (“that they may be one as we are one”) seems humorously ad hoc. Well, at least it’d be humorous if they weren’t prepared to have people who disagreed killed, either by the secular authorities, or by professing Christians on a murderous anti-heresy Crusade (in Europe, rather than the Holy Land). As for Joachim, as it says, he managed to cave in quickly and completely enough to save himself.