Refuting Some Erroneous Interpretations of the Bull Execrabilis.
The text of Pope Pius II's bull Execrabilis is presented below, followed by a translation of it into English. The Latin text is that which is given on pages 97-98 of Tom. III of Angelo Cherubini's Bullarium Romanum, re-edited by Charles Cocquelines, and published at Rome by Girolamo Mainardi in 1740. From the article entitled "Bullarium" in The Catholic Encyclopedia, Vol. III, p. 49d, 1908 edition: "This Roman edition of the Bullarium ... still remains the most accurate and practically useful ...".
Servus Servorum Dei
Ad futuram rei memoriam.
Execrabilis, et pristinis temporibus inauditus tempestate nostra inolevit abusus, ut a Romano Pontifice, Jesu Christi Vicario, cui dictum est in persona Beati Petri: "Pasce oves meas," et "quodque ligaveris super terram, erit ligatum et in Caelis," nonnulli spiritu rebellionis imbuti, non sanioris cupiditate judicii, sed commissi evasione peccati, ad futurum Concilium provocare praesumant, quod quantum sacris Canonibus adversetur, quantumque Reipublicae Christianae noxium sit, quisquis non ignarus jurium intelligere potest. Namque (ut alia praetereamus, quae huic corruptelae manifestissime refragantur) quis non illud ridiculum judicaverit, quod ad id appellatur quod nusquam est, neque scitur quando futurum sit? Pauperes a potentioribus multipliciter opprimuntur, remanent impunita scelera, nutritur adversus primam Sedem rebellio, libertas delinquendi conceditur, et omnis Ecclesiastica disciplina, et hierarchicus ordo confunditur.
2. Volentes igitur hoc pestiferum virus a Christi Ecclesia procul pellere, et ovium nobis commissarum saluti consulere, omnemque materiam scandali, ab ovili nostri Salvatoris arcere, de venerabilium Fratrum nostrorum Sanctae Romanae Ecclesiae Cardinalium, cunctorumque praelatorum, ac Divini humanique juris interpretum, curiam sequentium, consilio, et assensu, ac certa nostra scientia, hujusmodi provocationes damnamus, et tamquam erroneas ac detestabiles reprobamus, cassantes, et penitus annullantes, si quae hactenus taliter interpositae reperiantur, easque tamquam inanes, ac pestiferas, nullius momenti esse decernimus, et declaramus. Precipientes deinceps, ut nemo audeat quovis quaesito colore, ab ordinationibus, sententiis, sive mandatis quibuscumque nostris, ac successorum nostrorum, talem appellationem interponere, aut interpositae per alium adhaerere, seu eis quomodolibet uti.
3. Si quis autem contrafecerit, a die publicationis praesentium, in Cancellaria Apostolica, post duos menses, cujuscumque status, gradus, ordinis, vel conditionis fuerit, etiam si Imperiali, Regali, vel Pontificali praefulgeat dignitate, ipso facto sententiam execrationis incurrat, a qua nisi per Romanum Pontificem, et in mortis articulo, absolvi non possit. Universitas vero sive Collegium, Ecclesiastico subjaceat interdicto, et nihilominus tam Collegia, et Universitates, quam praedictae, et aliae quaecumque personae, eas poenas ac censuras incurrant, quas rei Majestatis, et haereticae pravitatis fautores, incurrere dignoscuntur. Tabelliones insuper, ac testes, qui hujusmodi actibus interfuerint, et generaliter qui scienter consilium, auxilium dederint, vel favorem talibus appellantibus, pari poena plectantur.
Nulli ergo hominum liceat hanc paginam nostrorum voluntatis, damnationis, reprobationis, cassationis, annullationis, decreti, declarationis, et mandati infringere, vel ei ausu temerario contraire. Si quis autem hoc attentare praesumpserit, indignationem omnipotentis Dei, ac Beatorum Petri, et Pauli Apostolorum ejus, se noverit incursurum.
Datum Mantuae Anno Incarnationis Dominicae, millesimo quadringentesimo quinquagesimo nono decimo quinto Kalendas Februarii, Pontificatus nostri Anno Secundo.
Servant of the Servants of God
For future remembrance of the affair.
Execrable and unheard of in the earliest times, an abuse has grown in our age whereby some men imbued with the spirit of rebellion, and not with the desire of sounder judgment, but with the escaping of the sin they have committed, presume to appeal to a future Council from the Roman Pontiff, the Vicar of Jesus Christ, to whom it was said in the person of Blessed Peter: "Feed my sheep," and "Whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth, it shall be bound also in heaven." Anyone familiar with the law can readily appreciate to what extent this is at variance with the sacred Canons, and how much harm this brings to the Christian commonwealth. For (to pass over other considerations which most clearly oppose this corruption) who would not regard as ridiculous the appealing to something that does not exist anywhere, and the future date of whose existence is unknown? The poor are oppressed in multifarious ways by those who are more powerful, crimes remain unpunished, rebellion against the First See is nourished, freedom to commit offenses is granted, and all ecclesiastical discipline and hierarchical order are confounded.
2. As it is Our wish therefore to drive this pestiferous poison far from the Church of Christ, and to see to the safety of the sheep committed to Our care, and to repel all matter for scandal from the flock of Our Savior, We condemn such appeals because of the advice and assent of Our venerable brethren the Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church, and of all prelates and interpreters of the law, both divine and human, and of all attendants of the Curia, and also because of Our own certain knowledge; if it should be detected that any such appeals are being put forward even now, then We censure them as being erroneous and detestable, destroyed and utterly annulled; and We decree and declare them to be inane and pestilential and of no importance. Next, We command that no one seeking any colorful excuse whatever dare to put forward such an appeal against Our ordinances, judgments, or commands or those of Our successors, or to unite with or exploit in any way at all appeals made by another.
3. After two months have elapsed from the day of the publication of these presents at the Apostolic Chancery, if anyone should act in a contrary manner, regardless of his station, rank, order or condition -- even if he should be of imperial, royal or episcopal dignity, then ipso facto he shall incur the sentence of excommunication, absolution from which is reserved to the Roman Pontiff and only "in articulo mortis." In fact, a university or a college is to be subjected to Ecclesiastical Interdict; and nevertheless both colleges and universities, as well as the aforementioned persons, and as well as any others, are to incur those penalties and censures that they who are guilty of lese majeste and heretical depravity are known to incur. Notaries, moreover, and witnesses who shall have been present during such doings, and generally those who shall knowingly give advice and assistance or show goodwill to such appellants are to be punished with the same penalty.
Let no man therefore infringe this page of Our will, condemnation, reprobation, destruction, nullification, decree, declaration and command, or to contravene it with reckless audacity. But if anyone should presume to attempt this, let him know that he shall incur the wrath of Almighty God, and of Blessed Peter and Paul, His Apostles.
Given at Mantua in the Year of the Incarnation of Our Lord, 1459, on the fifteenth day before the Kalends of February, during the second year of Our Pontificate.
The foregoing is presented in order to demonstrate from the words of the bull itself that the purpose of the Sovereign Pontiff Pius II in issuing it was to condemn and anathematize appeals by anyone at all to a future council against his own "ordinances, judgments or commands" as well as against those of any reigning pope in the future ("nostris, ac successorum nostrorum").
The Pontiff's question: "who would not regard as ridiculous the appealing to something that does not exist anywhere, and the future date of whose existence is unknown?" reinforces his case that it is appeals to a future council that he is condemning. By its very definition, an appeal must be expressed in words, either oral or written.
Gregory of Heimburg, a German statesman of the 15th century, appealed to a future council against Pius II's excommunication of Sigismund of Austria, and posted the appeal on the doors of the Cathedral of Florence. Pius II then excommunicated Gregory, who again appealed to a future council, this time against his own excommunication. This may explain the rationale behind these words of the bull: "if it should be detected that any such appeals are being put forward even now, then We censure them as being erroneous and detestable, destroyed and utterly annulled." (Emphasis added above.)
To turn aside from Execrabilis for a moment, the Vatican Council teaches (cf. Denz., #1830): "Therefore they stray from the straight path of truth who affirm that it is permitted to appeal from the judgments of the Roman Pontiffs to an ecumenical Council, as to an authority higher than the Roman Pontiff." Here appeals to a council in session as well as a future council are forbidden, and the principle involved is that no earthly power is above the Sovereign Pontiff.
Finally, Canon 2332 corroborates, reinforces and legislates regarding the dicta of Execrabilis and the above-cited teaching of the Vatican Council: "All persons of whatever state, rank, or condition, even though they be King, Bishop, or Cardinal, who appeal from the laws, decrees, or mandates of the reigning Roman Pontiff [Romani Pontificis pro tempore existentis] to a universal Council, are suspect of heresy, and ipso facto contract an excommunication which is especially reserved to the Holy See; and universities, colleges, Chapters, or other moral persons of whatever name, who are guilty of the same offense, incur an interdict reserved in the same special way to the Holy See."
There are those who presently cite Execrabilis as somehow being evidence against the legality of Vatican II (which of course was a bogus affair), and who maintain that all who were actively involved with Vatican II have violated Execrabilis and have incurred its censures and anathemas. Some furthermore claim rather mysteriously that Execrabilis actually "is prima facie evidence of a conspiracy deliberately to 'elect' an antipope."
If Execrabilis has anything at all to do with Vatican II, which of course it doesn't, then the exponents of the aforementioned zany views will first of all have to name some person or persons who appealed to Vatican II in words, either oral or written, against the "ordinances, judgments or commands" of the reigning pope (if indeed there actually was a true pope reigning, an hypothesis we deny). And, moreover, it will have to be shown that such a person or persons made the appeal at some time before October 11, 1962, when Vatican II opened and consequently ceased to be a future council.
Ever guided by the Holy Ghost, a sovereign pontiff by necessity always hands down laws, judgments, commands and authoritative doctrinal teachings in language that is clear, precise and unambiguous. No one may presume to "read between the lines" and construe his words to mean or imply anything at all other than what they actually say.
Patrick Henry Omlor
August 11, 1999