Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER XVIII: THE APOSTOLIC SEE, OR CATHEDRA PETRI - The Church
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CHAPTER XVIII: THE APOSTOLIC SEE, OR CATHEDRA PETRI - Jan Huss, The Church 
The Church by John Huss. Translated, with Notes and Introduction by David S. Schaff, D.D. (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1915).
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THE APOSTOLIC SEE, OR CATHEDRA PETRI
Now that certain statements have been made about obedience, I want to return to the statement of the doctors, in which it appears that “obedience is to be rendered by inferiors to the apostolic see1 of the Roman church, and to the prelates in all things whatsoever, where that which is purely good is not forbidden and that which is not purely evil is commanded, but also in that which is intermediate,” etc.
And here consideration must be had of the apostolic see, about which many, and especially the canonists, predicate many things, who, nevertheless, are ignorant what the apostolic see is. For some think that it really is a seat of wood or stone in which the pope is wont to sit bodily. Others think that it is the Roman curia; others that it is the seat of St. Peter, in which he sat bodily; others that it is Rome; others that it is the pope’s power; others still that it is the church or basilica of St. Peter. But it is to be noted that apostolic is derived from apostle, and apostle means one sent from God. The Saviour, whom God sent, said, John 3:34: ‘I speak the words of God.” Hence, he also said to his disciples that “as the Father sent me, so also send I you,” John 20:21—namely, to bear testimony to the truth, to preach the word of salvation, and, by life and teaching, to show the way of blessedness to the people.
Hence, every priest who is not seeking his own glory but the honor of God, the prosperity of the church and the salvation of the people, and who does God’s will and uncovers the wiles of antichrist, preaching the law of Christ—he has the marks which show that God sent him.
As to “glory,” Christ said: “I receive not glory from men,” John 5:41, and, “I seek not mine own glory,” John 8:50. As to the second thing, he said: “I came in my Father’s name and ye received me not. If another would come in his own name, him ye will receive,” John 5:43. In regard to the third thing, Christ said: “I am come down from heaven not to do mine own will but the will of him that sent me,” John 6:38. Christ so did because he sought the prosperity of the church and the people’s salvation. As for the fourth thing, he said: “The world hateth me, because I testify of it that its works are evil,” John 7:7. And finally Christ shows that he was sent from God to do the works of the Father: “If I do not the works of my Father, believe me not; but if I do them, though ye believe not me, believe the works,” John 10:37.
And it is clear that the righteous conduct of a priest and his fruitful labor in Christ’s Word show to the people that he is sent from God, because he does the works of the Father. Nor should a man be pope, bishop, priest or deacon unless he be so sent of God, and hence the apostle says: “How shall they preach unless they be sent?” Romans 10:15. Therefore, St. Augustine, Quæstiones Orosii, 65, thus answers the question of Orosius how we may know who are sent by God: “Recognize that one as sent by God whom the praise of a few men or rather their flattery did not choose, but him whom the best life and morals and examination have approved to the judgment of apostolic priests or all the people—the man who does not hanker after pre-eminence, who does not give money as the price of the episcopal honor. For he who hastens to secure pre-eminence, as one of the Fathers finely expresses it, ‘Let him know that it does not profit him to be a bishop, who desires pre-eminence.’ ” Thus much Augustine.
It being understood by general consent what an apostle is, we can understand what “apostolic” means. For apostolic means keeping the way of an apostle. Just as, therefore, a true Christian is one who follows Christ in his life, so a truly apostolic man is the priest who follows the teaching of the apostles, living the life of an apostle and teaching his doctrine. Hence, any pope is to be called apostolic so far as he teaches the doctrine of the apostles and follows them in works. But, if he puts the teaching of the apostles aside, teaching in word or works what is contrary, then he is properly called pseudo-apostolic or an apostate. Hence Dist. 97 [79:9, Friedberg, 1:278]: If any one shall be enthroned in the papal seat on account of money or human favor or by the help of a popular or military uprising, without a harmonious and canonical election, he is not to be considered apostolic but apostate. Since, therefore, the error is greater in an active election when those electing are forced by the devil to elect an individual whom God condemns—a thing manifestly certain from his works and his neglect of the spiritual office, that he is at variance with the life of the apostles—much more does it follow that such an individual is to be deemed not apostolic but an apostate.
Therefore, in view of these statements, the apostolic seat may be called the life of the priest who efficiently maintains the life of an apostle, just as the seat of an apostle is the life of an apostle. Hence Chrysostom, Hom. 25, says [Nic. Fathers, 10:395]: “That virtue of any apostle whereby he may have been more perfect than the rest, that is his throne. But all the virtues of Christ together are, as it were, one seat, because he was equally perfect in all the virtues, and he alone.” See how well that saint perceives that the individual life of each of Christ’s apostles is his seat in which he reposes by reason of his merits and for which reason he now sits in the glory of Jesus Christ, as it is said: “Ye also shall sit upon twelve seats,” Matt. 19:28. Here Augustine understands by seats the location of the apostles and of all holy predestinated prelates which, since it is in blessedness, cannot cease to be or suffer destruction at the hand of tyrants. But the Twelve—duodenarius—which is the whole number, does not indicate those twelve apostles man for man, for Iscariot ruled at that time and Paul was yet to become a part of the number.
But the seat of Christ’s majesty is to be understood as the location of the eternal kingdom from which none can be removed. And that seat of Christ is his seat intrinsically, but his external seat in which he reposes, dwells and resides by grace is all the saints, just as, on the other hand, the seats of Satan in which Satan reposes, dwells and resides are all the wicked. Hence it is said: “To the angel which is in the church of Pergamos write, One like unto the Son of Man who hath a sharp two-edged sword saith, I know where thou dwellest, even where Satan’s seat is,” Rev. 2:12, 13. Here the Gloss says: “Understand, this means the places where Satan reposes.” And, “Thou holdest fast my name and didst not deny my faith [even in the days of Antipas who was killed] among you, where Satan dwelleth.” But as to the principal proposition, the apostolic see is the same as the cathedra—seat—of Moses, of which the Saviour said: “The scribes and Pharisees sit in Moses’ cathedra,” Matt. 23:2. But Moses’ cathedra was not Moses nor an old stone or wooden seat on which Moses sat as a presiding judge. Nor is it the synagogue, but that cathedra is the authority to teach and judge the people. And this is shown by Christ’s words, when he said, “in Moses’ cathedra.” And the words follow, “Whatsoever they say,” that is, teach by the authority and doctrine of Moses, “that do.” Therefore the apostolic see is the authority to teach and judge according to Christ’s law, which the apostles taught, and in which men, wise and fearing the Lord, ought to sit, men in whom is the truth and who hate covetousness. For so Ex. 18:15 has it: “And Moses said to his father-in-law, Jethro, The people come unto me seeking the sentence of God, and when any act of false dealing has occurred they come unto me that I may judge between them and show them God’s statutes and his laws.” Here is meant the authority to pronounce judgment and to teach God’s laws. And Jethro said to Moses: “Provide out of all the people able men who fear God, in whom is the truth and who hate covetousness, and Moses did so.” At this place Lyra says: “Able to judge by reason of wisdom and experience. On this account another translation has ‘wise’ where we have ‘able men who fear God’ more than men ‘in whom is the truth,’ that is, the truth of life, of doctrine and righteousness, and men ‘who hate covetousness,’ because covetous men are easily turned away from righteousness by gifts.” So much Lyra.
Would that that cathedra now had such men. And where are they to be found? Certainly in the Roman curia, where they preside over the cathedra of St. Peter, that is, sit in the authority of the apostles, which is the authority to pronounce judgment in spiritual things and teach the law of the Lord Jesus Christ, provided covetousness, unrighteousness and pride are kept out and holy living flourishes. The Saviour himself testified, saying: “Scribes and Pharisees sit in Moses’ cathedra. Therefore all things whatsoever they bid you, these do and observe, but do not ye after their works, for they say and do not,” Matt. 23:2, 3. Here certainly a life lacking the works of the law is referred to. For “they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne and lay them on men’s shoulders.” Certainly unreasonable doctrine and unrighteousness are here referred to. “But they themselves will not move them with their finger.” Certainly an easy-going life! “All their works they do to be seen of men”—certainly vainglory! “For they make broad their phylacteries” in bulls distributed throughout the whole world, as if they were pre-eminent in keeping God’s law. Here is hypocrisy. They enlarge the fringes with which they cover their asses.1 They love the chief places at feasts, seeking pleasure and honor of men, and “the chief cathedras—seats—in the synagogues,” that is, accumulations of church livings, for this one wants to be a cardinal, this one a patriarch, this one an archbishop. “And they love salutations in the market-places,” with genuflexions—that is, in public—“and to be called of men, Rabbin” [Matt. 23:4 sqq.], that is, our Master, and to rule the whole church of Christ.
Therefore, they also call the Roman curia the mistress and teacher of churches. And granting the possibility of this, these persons are seats not of Christ but of Satan, sitting in view of their own life in the cathedra of pestilence. And of this the Psalmist, speaking of Christ, said: “Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the cathedra of pestilence,” Psalm 1:1. Here Augustine says [Com. on Psalms, Nic. Fathers, 8:1]: “This is to be understood of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord-man, who does not sit in the cathedra of pestilence. He did not desire an earthly kingdom with its pride, which is rightly understood to be the cathedra of pestilence, because there is hardly a single one who is wanting in the love of dominion and does not hanker after glory. The pestilence is a disease widely pervasive and involving all or nearly all people. More amply, however, the cathedra stands for pernicious doctrine whose words work as doth a cancer.” Thus much Augustine, who calls the cathedra of pestilence the lust of dominion and pernicious doctrine, a cathedra in which the elders of the church sit, wishing to exercise secular dominion and teaching men to keep their doctrines more carefully than the commandments of God.
In the cathedra, however, that is, in the authority and in the teaching of the law, he verily sits who teaches the law and keeps the commandments of the law. Hence Augustine says on Psalm 1:3: “ ‘And his delight is in the law of the Lord.’ It is one thing to be in the law and another to be under the law; he who is in the law acts and does according to the law; he who is under the law is acted upon according to the law.” See how clear the exposition of this holy man is. Whoso, therefore, “does and teaches, he shall be great in the kingdom of heaven,” says the Saviour, Matt. 5:19. Truly, therefore, he sits in the cathedra of Moses or Peter who lives well and teaches well in the authority of Scripture, who adds nothing extraneous to the law, nor seeks gain or profit from the cathedra.
On the other hand, he sits ill in the cathedra who either teaches ill or lives ill, or who teaches good things and lives ill, or who neither teaches good things nor lives well. And such, alas, are many who seek the things that are their own and not the things of Jesus Christ. Of these our Saviour said: “The scribes and Pharisees sit in Moses’ cathedra, for they say and do not.” And a little later he says: “Woe unto you scribes and Pharisees, who shut up the kingdom of heaven against men, for ye enter not in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering in to enter,” Matt. 23:13.
And see the other part. “Ye have made void the commandment of God because of your tradition. Ye hypocrites, well did Isaiah prophesy of you, saying, This people honoreth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. But in vain do they worship me, teaching the doctrines and commandments of men,” Matt. 15:6. They, therefore, sit ill in the cathedra of Moses and Peter, or of Christ, who teach good things and do them not. Worse are those who neither teach nor do. Worst are those who prevent the teaching of good things. And still worst of all are they who live ill, forbid the teaching of good things and teach their own things. All such are thieves and robbers, as said the Shepherd truly, “As many as came before me are thieves and robbers,” for all such, the aforesaid, came to the sheepfold apart from Christ, ascended to the cathedra by some other way, sought the things that are their own and so they are to be called hirelings, not shepherds. Therefore, the Saviour, showing who is an hireling and not a shepherd, said: “An hireling, and he who is not the shepherd and whose own the sheep are not, beholdeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth away, and the wolf snatcheth and scattereth the sheep,” John 10:12. Here Augustine, Homilies on John [Nic. Fathers, 7:257-259], says: “An hireling here does not bear a good character, yet he is useful in some respects, and he is not called an hireling, unless he receives the reward from the one guiding him. Who is, therefore, that hireling who is at once both guilty and necessary? Here, brethren, let the Lord himself give us light that we may understand who is the hireling and that we be not ourselves hirelings. What is, therefore, an hireling? There are in the church certain officials of whom Paul says that they seek their own and not the things of Jesus Christ. What is it, then, to seek one’s own? They who seek their own are those that do not love Christ freely, do not seek God for God’s sake, who pursue after temporal goods, coveting lucre and hankering after honors from men. When these things are loved by a superior, and when he serves God for the sake of these things, whoever he may be, he is an hireling; let him not count himself among the children. For of such the Lord says: ‘Verily I say unto you, they have received their reward.’ ” Thus far Augustine. But because men of this kind sit in the cathedra, Augustine, after interposing some things, says at the same place: “But take note how the hirelings are necessary. Many, forsooth, in the church who pursue after worldly comforts nevertheless preach Christ and through them Christ’s voice is heard, and the sheep follow not the hirelings but the voice of the Shepherd at the call of the hireling. Listen to the hirelings as they are set forth by the Lord himself. ‘Scribes,’ he said, ‘and Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. Whatsoever they bid you, those things do, but whatsoever they do, do not ye.’ What else did he say except hear the voice of the shepherd when the hireling calls? For, sitting in Moses’ seat, they teach God’s law; therefore God teaches through them. But, if they seek to teach their own things, hear them not, do them not, for certainly such people seek their own things and not the things of Jesus Christ. No hireling, however, has dared to say to the people of God: ‘I seek thy things and not the things of Jesus Christ.’ ” Thus much Augustine. At the close of this homily he uses these words: “See, how the hireling is said to flee when he seeth the wolf. Why? Because he careth not for the sheep. Why does he not care for the sheep? Because he is an hireling. What is an hireling? He is one that seeketh temporal gain, but will not dwell in the house forever.” Thus much Augustine, who shows that there are now hirelings in the church and they sit in the cathedras, that is, in the authority of teaching God’s law.
And again Augustine, on the words, “Simon Peter drew in the net full of great fishes,” John 21:11 [Nic. Fathers, 7:443], says, “He is least who breaks in deeds what he teaches in words”; and further on: “Finally, to show that those least ones are reprobates, who teach in words, speaking good things, which they break by living ill, and that they will not be as the least in the life eternal and will not even be there, after Christ had said, ‘he shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven,’ Christ added: ‘for I say unto you except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall not enter the kingdom of heaven.’ These certainly are the scribes and Pharisees who sit in Moses’ seat, and of these Christ said: ‘Whatsoever they bid you, do, but whatsoever they do, do not ye, for they say and do not, they teach in words and break in their lives.’ ” Similarly, it is said, Psalm 119:2: “Blessed are they that keep his testimonies, that seek him with a whole heart.”
From what has just been said it is clear that the cathedra of Moses or the apostolic scat is the authority to teach God’s law, that is, the family of holy popes or of bishops succeeding the apostles, which family, as it chiefly thinks of God’s honor, so it chiefly takes care for it and most profitably looks out for the holy church and most helpfully for both superior and subject—not by preferring the unworthy, not in putting aside the more fit, not in confirming without examination an ecclesiastical office to any one for gain or blood relationship or private personal tie.
And, further, it is clear, as concerning the apostolic commands, as said the lord of Lincoln1 in the following reply to the letters of the Roman pontiff about preferring a certain relative to a stall in Lincoln church: “The apostolic commands I fully obey with filial affection, devotedly and reverently. Indeed, I oppose and resist those who oppose themselves to the apostolic commands, myself zealous for the paternal honor. To do both I consider myself held by reason of my sonship and out of regard to the divine commandment. Indeed, apostolic commands are not and cannot be other than apostolic teachings and teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ himself, the teacher of the apostles.” Thus far he of Lincoln. Therefore, Christ’s faithful disciple ought to consider how a command emanates from the pope, whether it is the express command of any apostle or of Christ’s law or whether it has its foundation in Christ’s law, and this being known to be the case, he ought to obey a command of this kind reverently and humbly. But, if he truly knows that a pope’s command is at variance with Christ’s command or counsel or tends to any hurt of the church, then he ought boldly to resist it lest he become a partaker in crime by consent.
For this reason, trusting in the Lord and in Christ Jesus, who mightily and wisely protects the professors of his truth and rewards them with the prize of never-ending glory, I withstood the bull of Alexander V, which Lord Zbynek, archbishop of Prague, secured, 1409, and in which he commands that there should be no more preaching or sermons to the people by any priest whatsoever—even though he might be fortified with an apostolic instrument taking precedence of such a mandate or by any other written instrument1 —except in cathedrals, parochial or cloistral churches or in their cemeteries. This mandate, being contrary to the words and deeds of Christ and his apostles, is not apostolic, for Christ preached to the people on the sea, in the desert, in the fields and houses, in synagogues, in villages and on the streets, and taught his disciples, saying: “Go ye into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature,” Mark 16:15. And these, going forth, preached everywhere, that is, in every place where the people were willing to listen, God working with them. Therefore, this command is to the hurt of the church, and binds the Word of God, that it should not run freely. And, in the third place, it is prejudicial to the chapels which are erected and have with reason been confirmed by diocesans, and have been furnished with privileges by the apostolic see for the preaching of God’s Word in them. For no advantage whatever can be seen to accrue from that command, but it is a fallacious and faithless irony, because the places set apart for divine worship and furnished with privileges for the preaching of the divine Word are deprived of their lawful liberties on account of some personal feeling or of some injurious appeal or some importunity, or on account of some temporal good. Hence, I appealed from that command of Alexander to Alexander himself, better informed.1 And while I was prosecuting the appeal, that lord pope suddenly died. And, no audience being allowed me in the Roman curia, the Lord Zbynek, archbishop of Prague secured papers aggravating the censure against me, from which, ad 1410, I appealed to Pope John XXIII, and he during two years did not grant audience to my legal advocates and solicitors.2 In the meantime I was weighed down still more by ecclesiastical proceedings.3 When, therefore, my appeal from one pope to his successor did not profit me and to appeal from the pope to a council involves long waiting and because it is of uncertain advantage to beg for grace in the matter of a grievance and censure, therefore I appealed finally to the head of the church, Jesus Christ.1 For he is superior to any pope whatever in deciding a case: he cannot err, nor to a suppliant, rightfully begging, can he deny justice, nor is he able in view of his law to condemn a man who in the sight of his law is without demerit.
Besides, I withstood in the matter of the indulgences issued or announced ad 1412 through the bulls of Pope John XXIII, about which I have said enough in another place.2 For the pope cannot command anything lawfully except what makes for the destruction of evil and for the edification of the church—a thing which ought to be universally held. To this the apostle bore witness when he said: “The weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but mighty before God to the destruction of strongholds, by which we cast down counsels,3 casting down every high thing which exalted itself against the knowledge of God,” II Cor. 10:4, 5. And again he says: “That I may not deal sharply according to the authority which the Lord gave me for building up and not for destruction,” II Cor. 13:10. Hence, he of Lincoln in his letters to the pope thus writes: “The apostolic see to which is given authority by the holiest of the holies, Jesus Christ, the apostle bearing witness, for building up and not for casting down, cannot commit schism.” And further on he says: “For this reason your Discretion cannot ordain anything hard against me, because all my words and all my actions are not a gainsaying or a rebellion, but a filial honoring due to the father and mother, that is, Christ and the church, because it is the keeping of a divine command. But, recalling in brief, I say that the sanctity of the apostolic see can do nothing except for the building up and not for destroying, for this is the plenitude of power to be able to do all things to build up. These things, however, which they call provisions, are not adapted to build up, but clearly to destroy. Therefore, the most blessed apostolic see is not able to make these provisions.”1 These things by him of Lincoln, who appealed from Pope Innocent to the tribunal of Christ.
For this reason Castrensis, VII, tells how when Robert of Lincoln was dead, a voice was heard in the papal curia, Come, wretch, to thy judgment. And the pope was found the next morning dead as if pierced in the side by the point of a staff. And he of Lincoln, although noted for striking miracles, is nevertheless not admitted to a place in the list of the saints.2
And it is clear that the pope may err, and the more grievously because, in a given case, he may sin more abundantly, intensely and irresistibly [than others], as said Bernard in his book addressed to Pope Eugenius:3 “More abundantly if the sin extends to all Christendom, more intensely if his act concerns the cure of souls and involves the withdrawal of spiritual benefits, and more irresistibly if no one dares to gainsay him, now in view of his alliance with the secular arms, now in view of the cloaked censures which he fulminates against the children of obedience, now in view of promotions and ecclesiastical dignities which he provides for his accomplices. Hence, as the papal office, when it profits the church, is the most deserving, so, when the papal office is perverted in that man who abuses his office, if it do injury to the church, is most undeserving. The evidence of a pope’s defect is if he put aside the law and a devout profession of the Gospel and give heed to human tradition.” It was on this subject that Bernard was reasoning with Eugenius.
This is the first mark. The second is when the pope and ecclesiastical superiors abandon the manner of life Christ followed and are involved in a secular way in things of the world. The third mark is when the pope advances the traffickers of this world in the ministry of Christ and gives himself up chiefly to the continued pursuit of the secular life so that the poor churches are oppressed. The fourth mark is when, by his own command or through the appointment of incapable persons in the pastoral cure, he deprives souls that are to be saved of the Word of God. Hence he of Lincoln, thinking over this, would not admit one of the pope’s relatives to a stall in Lincoln, giving in this matter, among other things, a probable reason [for his conduct]. “After the sin of Lucifer,” he said,“—and the case will be the same in the end of time with the son of perdition, antichrist, whom the Lord Jesus will destroy with the breath of his mouth—there is not, neither can there be, another class so adverse to or at variance with the apostolic and evangelical doctrine, so hateful and detestable to the Lord Jesus Christ himself, and so abominated by him and so pernicious to the human family as the class which kills and destroys by depriving and defrauding of pastoral ministries souls which are to be made alive and saved by the office and ministry of the pastoral cure. And this sin they are known from the very clearest testimonies of holy Scripture to commit who, entrusted with the power of the pastoral cure, satisfy their own fleshly pleasuring with the milk and wool of Christ’s sheep, and do not minister the things due from the pastoral office for the working out of the eternal salvation of Christ’s sheep. For the non-performance of pastoral ministries is, by Scripture testimony, the killing and perdition of Christ’s sheep. And that these two classes of sins, although they are distinguished, are the very worst, and every other class of sin inestimably excels them, is clear from this that, although distinct and dissimilar, they are directly contrary to the very best things. For that is the worst which is contrary to what is best, etc. And because, in good things, the cause of the good is better than the thing caused; and, in evil things, the cause of the evil is worse than the thing caused—it is clear how those who introduce into the church of Christ those worst murderers of godlikeness and divinity among Christ’s sheep are still worse than those worst murderers themselves, and more like Lucifer and antichrist than they. And in this gradation of badness those do more abundantly excel who, in view of the greater and the diviner power given them for edification and not for scattering the sheep, are the more held by the church of God in duty bound to exclude and exterminate those worst murderers.” Thus much he of Lincoln.
He wished briefly to establish that the killing and driving to perdition of Christ’s sheep are the two worst sins, although they may be distinguished, even as the making alive of the sheep by grace and their glorification are the two best things for the sheep, although different, and to them the killing and the destroying are opposites. And as killing is the opposite of making alive and murder of glorification, it follows that by as much as these two sins are more serious by so much are they opposed to the good things which are more excellent. And, as God of himself is the cause of these good things, it follows that by as much as the killers and murderers of the sheep are worse than others, by so much are the killing and murdering of the sheep the worse sins. And it is clear that those who kill souls are the worst servants of antichrist and Satan.
In view of these things it is to be held that to rebel against an erring pope is to obey Christ the Lord, because in making his provisions he chiefly makes those which savor of personal affection. Therefore, I call the world to witness that the papal distribution of benefices sows in the church hirelings all too widely. On the part of the popes, it gives them occasion to exalt their vicarial power, to put an excessive value on the world’s dignity and to make an extravagant show of a fantastic sanctity. But these doctors, who are looking for temporal remuneration from the pope or servilely fear his power,1 and also are saying that he has mysterious power and is impeccable and inerrant and that he may do lawfully whatsoever pleases him—these doctors are pseudoprophets and pseudo-apostles of antichrist.
From the things already said, it is clear that the apostolic seat is the authority to judge and teach Christ’s law, or secondly, as has been said, it is the family of holy popes who are successors to Christ. In this sense the apostolic seat is understood, Dist. 22 [Friedberg, 1:74], where Pope Anacletus says: “This apostolic seat has been established as the head and hinge by the Lord and not by another; and just as a gate is ruled by the hinge, so by the authority of the holy apostolic seat all the other churches are ruled, subject to the government of the Lord.” That pope intended that he himself should be the head and hinge, the head in presiding and the hinge in ruling, but he has a weak enough argument for proving his purpose. For he argues from things that are alike, when he says: “As a gate is ruled by its hinge, so by the authority of the holy apostolic see all the churches are ruled.” It would have been sufficient to argue that the pope and cardinals rule themselves well.
For as by one hinge only one door is ruled, so it would be a good thing if by their doctrine and authority they were ruled well themselves, so that afterwards other churches should be well ruled. For in what manner do they rule our church of Prague except by distributing benefices to the covetous and collecting monies? But what has become of teaching and the other ministrations of power?
Thirdly, the seat is conceived of as power, and in this way it is conceived in Dist. Inferior. [21:4, Friedberg, 1:70], where Pope Nicolas says, “an inferior seat is not competent to absolve a superior,” and he draws the conclusion but unfittingly enough from Isaiah 10:15, “Shall the axe boast itself against him that heweth? Shall the saw magnify itself against him that wieldeth it?” when he says: “Seeing these things are set forth in divine Scripture, we have shown more clearly than the sun that no one who is of lesser authority is competent to condemn by his judgments one who is of greater power, or subject him by definitions of his own.” See how he here calls the inferior seat the man of lesser authority and the superior seat the man of greater authority. But how is the seat to be understood? This Pelagius [a mistake for Gelasius] answers, when he says: Dist. 21 [Friedberg, 1:70]: “The first seat of the apostle Peter is the Roman church, which has neither spot nor wrinkle nor any such thing.” See how the seat of Peter is here called the Roman church. But by this is it verified, that it is “without spot and wrinkle”? Since neither is the pope that seat nor that church, nor is the pope in conjunction with the cardinals, for they are not “without spot.” Nor is that seat the stone church. Of a truth, I am not able otherwise to think of that seat except as it is all those who imitate the life of Peter, measured finally by the law of Christ. For these will be “without spot and wrinkle” in the heavenly country. But whether this is the meaning of that pope or not, I do not know.
Hence Augustine, Com. on Psalm 122:5 [Nic. Fathers, 7:594], “The seats sat in judgment,” speaks thus of the thing in question: “How did those seats sit in judgment? Wonderful enigma, wonderful question, if seat does not mean what the Greeks call throne! The Greeks call chairs thrones, as something honorable. Therefore, my brethren, it is not wonderful if men sit on seats, on chairs, but that the seats themselves sit, how are we to understand this? As if some one were to say, let the cathedras sit here, or the chairs sit here; to sit in a chair, to sit in seats, they sat in cathedras. The seats themselves do not sit. What, therefore, is the meaning of this, that the seats sat for judgment? Surely ye are accustomed to hear what the Lord said: ‘Heaven is my throne and the earth is the footstool of my feet.’ But in Latin the whole is said to be: ‘Heaven is my seat [or seats].’ Who are these but the righteous? Who are the heavens but the righteous? What church? The churches are many and yet they are one. So, therefore, it is also with the righteous. The righteous are heaven that they may be the heavens. On these God sits, and the things pertaining to them God judges. And not without reason was it said that ‘the heavens declare the glory of God.’
“The apostles, however, are made heaven. Whence are they made heaven? Because they are made righteous. How is the sinner made earth, to whom it is said, ‘Thou art earth and unto earth thou shalt go’? Even so those who have been made righteous are made heaven. They have borne God; for their sakes God has made wonderful lights to shine, thundered terrors, rained consolations. Therefore the righteous were heaven and ‘declared the glory of God.’ Now that ye may know that these are the heavens spoken of, it is said in the same Psalm, ‘Their sound is gone out through all the earth, and their words unto the ends of the world.’ You ask, Whose sound? and you will find, the sound of the heavens. If, therefore, heaven is God’s seat and the apostles are heaven, then they are themselves made God’s seat they are God’s throne. In another place it is said: ‘The soul of the righteous man is the throne of wisdom.’ This is a great thing which is said, namely, in the soul of the righteous man wisdom sits as on its throne and from there it judges whatever it judges. Therefore, there will be thrones of wisdom, and so the Lord said to them: ‘Ye shall sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.’ So also they will sit on twelve seats; and they are themselves the seats of God. Of them, indeed, it was said: ‘For there the seats sat.’ How will the seats sit there? And who are the seats of whom it is said, ‘The soul of the righteous man is the seat of wisdom’? And who are the seats of heaven? The heavens. Who are the heavens? Heaven. What is heaven, of which the Lord says, ‘Heaven is my seat’? The righteous themselves are the seats, and have seats; and in that Jerusalem the seats will sit. For what purpose? ‘For judgment, ye shall sit,’ he says, ‘on twelve seats, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.’ Judging whom? Those who are below on the earth. Who will judge? Those who are made heaven.” Thus much Augustine, showing from Scripture that the righteous are God’s seats and they it is who will judge.
Fourthly, seat is understood of the place in which any apostle remains for a given period, ruling the people according to Christ’s law, and, in this sense, Jerusalem was not the bare city, but with its people it was the seat of James the apostle who, elected by the apostles, was there constituted by the Lord its first bishop. And Antioch was the first seat of the apostle Peter, and so Pope Marcellus says, 24:1 [Friedberg, 1:970]: “We beseech you brethren that ye teach and think nothing else than what was taught by St. Peter the apostle and the remaining apostles and Fathers.” And further on: “His seat, that is, Peter’s, was the primary one among you, and it was afterwards, at God’s bidding, transferred to Rome, over which we, with divine grace supporting us, preside this very day. But if your Antiochian seat, which originally was the first, gave way to the Roman seat, there is none which is not subject to its bestowal—ditione.” See how very finely this pope begins and how very confusedly he ends. In the first place, he asks and begs that the priests of Antioch teach nothing else than what they received from Peter and from other apostles and holy Fathers. O that all clerics had done this! Then he says, that the seat of Peter was the primary one among them, that is, the first place of his residence, in which as bishop he taught Christ’s law. And this is true. But when he says, “Afterwards it was transferred to Rome,” that is, Peter’s seat—I certainly do not know what that seat was that was transferred; for no church, no locality, no people were transferred. If it be said, it was the authority of Peter to teach the law, then that authority was at one and the same time in Antioch and in Rome. What then was transferred unless it was Peter, when he came from Antioch to Rome? But Pope Marcellus did not preside over Peter, nor is Peter now the Roman seat. What, therefore, does this expression ‘Over which,’ mean, when he says, “Over which we preside.” Certainly this pope speaks confusedly. For after the dotation, the Roman bishop then living intended that the Roman church by the authority of Cæsar should be called first, that is, the more worthy seat over which he himself presides, and so he intended that the priests of Antioch should be subject to himself. If Peter affected this superiority while he dwelt in Rome, I do not know. But I do know that in his letters he wished that they should follow in the steps of Jesus Christ. And I will pass by the way in which many popes and canonists speak obscurely about the apostolic see. I will, however, not say that the city of Rome is the apostolic seat, so necessary that without it the church of Jesus Christ could not stand. For, if by a possibility Rome, like Sodom, were destroyed, the Christian church would be still standing. And it is not true that, wherever the pope is, there is Rome. Howbeit, it is true that, wherever the pope shall be so long as he is here on the earth, there Peter’s authority abides with the pope, so long as the pope does not depart from the law of our Lord Jesus Christ. So much I have wanted to say about the apostolic seat for the present.
[1 ]The word “see” comes from sedes, a seat, and was interchangeable with the Greek word thronas, seat, and Latin cathedra, chair.
[1 ]Quibus operiunt mulas.
[1 ]Robert Grosseteste, the famous bishop of Lincoln, 1235-1253, was one of the chief English ecclesiastics of the Middle Ages. He was a scholar and patron of learning as well as a vigorous and independent episcopal administrator. The letters, quoted here and further on, are found in Luard’s ed., Rolls Series, 1804, pp. 435, 437. Grosseteste made bold protest against Innocent IV’s appointment of his nephew, Fred. of Lavagna to a stall at Lincoln. It was one of the boldest protests made against the custom of appointing Italians to rich English livings. Matthew Paris referred to the papal exactions upon England as “bloodsucking extortion.” Shakespeare expressed a wide-spread feeling, King John, 3:1:
Although Grosseteste on more than one occasion resisted the pope, he did not at one time deny the pope’s right to “dispose freely of all ecclesiastical benefices,” as he wrote, 1238 to the papal legate Otho, Luard’s ed., p. 145. But in the letter from which Huss quotes, he said: “I disobey, I resist, I rebel.” Huss knew of Grosseteste through Wyclif’s quotations, but, as is also probable, at first hand, as Grosseteste’s MSS. are in the Prague library.
[1 ]Alexander V’s bull, dated Dec. 20, 1409, was in answer to protests sent by the part of the Prague clergy hostile to Huss against the spread of Wyclif’s views in Bohemia. Alexander called upon Zbynek to be solicitous to clear his diocese of errors and bade him appoint a commission to detect and summon heretics. Huss’s text in regard to the prohibition of preaching in chapels is taken word for word from Alexander’s bull. Palacky, Doc., 347 sqq. Bethlehem chapel was one of the privileged chapels which had papal sanction for popular preaching in the Bohemian tongue. Zbynek, at first favorable to Huss, was archbishop of Prague, 1403-1411. See Schaff, Life of John Huss.
[1 ]Huss claimed that Alexander had been misinformed by Zbynek and the Prague clergy in regard to the conditions in Prague.
[2 ]John of Jesenicz, Huss’s chief legal advocate, remained faithful till Huss’s death, and after it. He presented Huss’s case at Rome and Bologna, was cast into prison and afterwards escaped and returned to Prague. See Schaff, Life of John Huss, 140 sq.
[3 ]The reference is to the aggravated excommunication issued by the curia against Huss, 1412, in view of his contumacy.
[1 ]Huss repeatedly refers to the appeal he made to Christ, now putting it on the simple ground of the right of a Christian to do so and now citing the case of Paul who appealed to the higher power, Cæsar. See Letter, Doc., 73; Mon., 1:325-392, etc., as well as later in this treatise.
[2 ]Huss’s treatises against Papal Indulgences for the crusade against Ladislaus, king of Naples, Mon., 1:215-237.
[3 ]Huss has quibus consilia demolimur, the Vulgate simply consilia destrucnies.
[1 ]A provision is the gift of a spiritual office or living by pope or bishop. The theory was that all the livings in Christendom were in the pope’s hands for bestowment, a theory receiving its full statement from Clement IV, 1265. See Schaff, Ch. Hist., V, part 2, 83 sqq. The Avignon popes, 1305-1377, appointed two and sometimes three successors with right to succeed living incumbents of ecclesiastical positions. A collation is equivalent to a provision.
[2 ]The full quotation runs, Rolls Series, 8:242: “Robert was summoned to the curia and excommunicated, but he appealed from Innocent’s tribunal to the bar of Christ. Hence it happened after his death, Robert appeared to that pope in the night while he was lying in bed, himself clad as a bishop and said, Arise, wretch, and come to thy judgment. And straightway he pierced him with his pastoral staff in the left side unto the heart, and so the pope’s bed was found in the morning full of blood and the pope was dead.” Variations were given of this popular story. Matthew Paris, who has unbounded admiration for Grosseteste, reports that on the night of his death strange bells were heard.
[3 ]Quoted in chapter IX by its title, de Considerations.
[1 ]Huss frequently ascribes the changed attitude of Palecz and Stanislaus to the fear of ecclesiastical penalties, Doc., 53, 466, etc.