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False Decretals

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Definition:   115 documents that were allegedly written by the early popes, but actually were forgeries drafted around the year 850. At this time, the Church was weak as a result of the strong reign of Charlemagne and the Carlovignian dynasty. As a result, the Church was subject to the State in temporal matters. The lay element of the Church was also strong. The documents were relied upon by future writers and theologians to support Catholic teachings. For example, in 1140 Gratian wrote the “Decretum,” which became influential in the development of Catholic canon law. Gratian quoted 324 passages allegedly written by the early popes. Of these quotations, only eleven were not forgeries. Thomas Aquinas later relied on the errors of Gratian’s work in many of his quotations of the early fathers. As late as 1580 the Church officially deemed the Decretals to be accurate. In 1628, Blondel (a Protestant) published Pseudo-Isadore et Turrianus vapulantes – and since that time, the Decretals have been established to be forgeries.

Discussion: The antiquity of the Roman Catholic religion is often used as proof of its veracity. But Paul warned that false teachers and imposters were entering the early church (Acts 20:28-30). The claim of the Roman Church to an unbroken line of popes beginning with Peter is a fiction; the papacy likely had its roots in the 600’s about the time of Pope Gregory the Great.

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