Council of Constance
[The council pronounces John Wyclif a heretic, condemns his memory and orders his bones to be exhumed]
Furthermore, a process was begun, on the authority or by decree of the Roman council, and at the command of the church and of the apostolic see, after a due interval of time, for the condemnation of the said Wyclif and his memory. Invitations and proclamations were issued summoning those who wished to defend him and his memory, if any still existed. However, nobody appeared who was willing to defend him or his memory. Witnesses were examined by commissaries appointed by the reigning lord pope John and by this sacred council, regarding the said Wyclif’s final impenitence and obstinacy. Legal proof was thus provided, in accordance with all due observances, as the order of law demands in a matter of this kind, regarding his impenitence and final obstinacy. This was proved by clear indications from legitimate witnesses. This holy synod, therefore, at the instance of the procurator-fiscal and since a decree was issued to the effect that sentence should be heard on this day, declares, defines and decrees that the said John Wyclif was a notorious and obstinate heretic who died in heresy, and it anathematises him and condemns his memory. It decrees and orders that his body and bones are to be exhumed, if they can be identified among the corpses of the faithful, and to be scattered far from a burial place of the church, in accordance with canonical and lawful sanctions.
[That no priest, under pain of excommunication, may communicate the people under the forms of both bread and wine]
This holy synod also decrees and declares, regarding this matter, that instructions are to be sent to the most reverend fathers and lords in Christ, patriarchs, primates, archbishops, bishops, and their vicars in spirituals, wherever they may be, in which they are to be commissioned and ordered on the authority of this sacred council and under pain of excommunication, to punish effectively those who err against this decree. They may receive back into the church’s fold those who have gone astray by communicating the people under the forms of both bread and wine, and have taught this, provided they repent and after a salutary penance, in accordance with the measure of their fault, has been enjoined upon them. They are to repress as heretics, however, by means of the church’s censures and even if necessary by calling in the help of the secular arm, those of them whose hearts have become hardened and who are unwilling to return to penance.
[Sentence against John Hus]
The most holy general council of Constance, divinely assembled and representing the catholic church, for an everlasting record. Since a bad tree is wont to bear bad fruit, as truth itself testifies, so it is that John Wyclif, of cursed memory, by his deadly teaching, like a poisonous root, has brought forth many noxious sons, not in Christ Jesus through the gospel, as once the holy fathers brought forth faithful sons, but rather contrary to the saving faith of Christ, and he has left these sons as successors to his perverse teaching. This holy synod of Constance is compelled to act against these men as against spurious and illegitimate sons, and to cut away their errors from the Lord’s field as if they were harmful briars, by means of vigilant care and the knife of ecclesiastical authority, lest they spread as a cancer to destroy others. Although, therefore, it was decreed at the sacred general council recently held at Rome [35 ] that the teaching of John Wyclif, of cursed memory, should be condemned and the books of his containing this teaching should be burnt as heretical; although his teaching was in fact condemned and his books burnt as containing false and dangerous doctrine; and although a decree of this kind was approved by the authority of this present sacred council [36 ] ; nevertheless a certain John Hus, here present in person at this sacred council, who is a disciple not of Christ but rather of the heresiarch John Wyclif, boldly and rashly contravening the condemnation and the decree after their enactment, has taught, asserted and preached many errors and heresies of John Wyclif which have been condemned both by God’s church and by other reverend fathers in Christ, lord archbishops and bishops of various kingdoms, and masters in theology at many places of study. He has done this especially by publicly resisting in the schools and in sermons, together with his accomplices, the condemnation in scholastic form of the said articles of John Wyclif which has been made many times at the university of Prague, and he has declared the said John Wyclif to be a catholic man and an evangelical doctor, thus supporting his teaching, before a multitude of clergy and people. He has asserted and published certain articles listed below and many others, which are condemned and which are, as is well known, contained in the books and pamphlets of the said John Hus. Full information has been obtained about the aforesaid matters, and there has been careful deliberation by the most reverend fathers in Christ, lord cardinals of the holy Roman church, patriarchs archbishops, bishops and other prelates and doctors of holy scripture and of both laws, in large numbers. This most holy synod of Constance therefore declares and defines that the articles listed below, which have been found on examination, by many masters in sacred scripture, to be contained in his books and pamphlets written in his own hand, and which the same John Hus at a public hearing, before the fathers and prelates of this sacred council, has confessed to be contained in his books and pamphlets, are not catholic and should not be taught to be such but rather many of them are erroneous, others scandalous, others offensive to the ears of the devout, many of them are rash and seditious, and some of them are notoriously heretical and have long ago been rejected and condemned by holy fathers and by general councils, and it strictly forbids them to be preached, taught or in any way approved. Moreover, since the articles listed below are explicitly contained in his books or treatises, namely in the book entitled De ecclesia and in his other pamphlets, this most holy synod therefore reproves and condemns the aforesaid books and his teaching, as well as the other treatises and pamphlets written by him in Latin or in Czech, or translated by one or more other persons into any other language, and it decrees and determines that they should be publicly and solemnly burnt in the presence of the clergy and people in the city of Constance and elsewhere. On account of the above, moreover, all his teaching is and shall be deservedly suspect regarding the faith and is to be avoided by all of Christ’s faithful. In order that this pernicious teaching may be eliminated from the midst of the church, this holy synod also orders that local ordinaries make careful inquiry about treatises and pamphlets of this kind, using the church’s censures and even if necessary the punishment due for supporting heresy, and that they be publicly burnt when they have been found. This same holy synod decrees that local ordinaries and inquisitors of heresy are to proceed against any who violate or defy this sentence and decree as if they were persons suspected of heresy.
[Sentence of degradation against J. Hus]
Moreover, the acts and deliberations of the inquiry into heresy against the aforesaid John Hus have been examined. There was first a faithful and full account made by the commissioners deputed for the case and by other masters of theology and doctors of both laws, concerning the acts and deliberations and the depositions of very many trustworthy witnesses. These depositions were openly and publicly read out to the said John Hus before the fathers and prelates of this sacred council. It is very clearly established from the depositions of these witnesses that the said John has taught many evil, scandalous and seditious things, and dangerous heresies, and has publicly preached them during many years. This most holy synod of Constance, invoking Christ’s name and having God alone before its eyes, therefore pronounces, decrees and defines by this definitive sentence, which is here written down, that the said John Hus was and is a true and manifest heretic and has taught and publicly preached, to the great offence of the divine Majesty, to the scandal of the universal church and to the detriment of the catholic faith, errors and heresies that have long ago been condemned by God’s church and many things that are scandalous, offensive to the ears of the devout, rash and seditious, and that he has even despised the keys of the church and ecclesiastical censures. He has persisted in these things for many years with a hardened heart. He has greatly scandalised Christ’s faithful by his obstinacy since, bypassing the church’s intermediaries, he has made appeal directly to our lord Jesus Christ, as to the supreme judge, in which he has introduced many false, harmful and scandalous things to the contempt of the apostolic see, ecclesiastical censures and the keys. This holy synod therefore pronounces the said John Hus, on account of the aforesaid and many other matters, to have been a heretic and it judges him to be considered and condemned as a heretic, and it hereby condemns him. It rejects the said appeal of his as harmful and scandalous and offensive to the church’s jurisdiction. It declares that the said John Hus seduced the christian people, especially in the kingdom of Bohemia, in his public sermons and in his writings; and that he was not a true preacher of Christ’s gospel to the same christian people, according to the exposition of the holy doctors, but rather was a seducer. Since this most holy synod has learnt from what it has seen and heard, that the said John Hus is obstinate and incorrigible and as such does not desire to return to the bosom of holy mother the church, and is unwilling to abjure the heresies and errors which he has publicly defended and preached, this holy synod of Constance therefore declares and decrees that the same John Hus is to be deposed and degraded from the order of the priesthood and from the other orders held by him. It charges the reverend fathers in Christ, the archbishop of Milan and the bishops of Feltre Asti, Alessandria, Bangor and Lavour with duly carrying out the degradation in the presence of this most holy synod, in accordance with the procedure required by law.
[Sentence condemning J. Hus to the stake]
This holy synod of Constance, seeing that God’s church has nothing more that it can do, relinquishes John Hus to the judgment of the secular authority and decrees that he is to be relinquished to the secular court.
[Sentence condemning Jerome of Prague]
In the name of the Lord, Amen. Christ our God and saviour, the true vine whose Father is the vine-dresser, said when teaching his disciples and other followers in these matters: If anyone does not abide in me, he shall be cast forth as a branch and shall wither. This holy synod of Constance is following the teaching and carrying out the commands of this sovereign teacher and master in this case of inquiry into heresy which was started by the same holy synod. It notes the public talk and loud outcry against the said master Jerome of Prague, master of arts, layman. From the acts and proceedings of the case it is evident that the said Jerome has held, asserted and taught various heretical and erroneous articles, which were long ago condemned by holy fathers, some of which are blasphemous, others scandalous and others offensive to the ears of the devout as well as rash and seditious. They were long ago asserted, preached and taught by John Wyclif and John Hus, of cursed memory, and were included in various of their books and pamphlets. These articles, doctrines and books of the aforesaid John Wyclif and John Hus, as well as the memory of Wyclif, and finally the person of Hus, were condemned and damned by this same holy synod and its sentence of heresy. The said Jerome later, during the course of this inquiry, in this holy synod, approved and consented to this sentence of condemnation and acknowledged and professed the true, catholic and apostolic faith. He anathematised all heresy, especially that for which he had been defamed-and he confessed himself defamed–and which John Wyclif and John Hus had taught and held in the past in their works, sermons and pamphlets, and on account of which the said Wyclif and Hus, together with their dogmas and errors, had been condemned as heretical by this same holy synod, and their teaching likewise condemned. He professed acceptance of every condemnation of the aforesaid things and swore that he would remain in the truth of the faith, and that if he ever dared to think or preach anything to the contrary then he wished to submit to the severity of canon law and to be bound to eternal punishment. He offered and gave this profession of his, written in his own hand to this holy synod. Many days after his profession and abjuration, however, like a dog returning to its vomit, he asked for a public hearing to be granted to him in this same holy synod, in order that he might vomit forth in public the deadly poison which lay hidden within his breast. The hearing was granted to him and he asserted, said and professed in effect, at a public assembly of the same synod, that he had wrongly consented to the aforesaid sentence condemning the said Wyclif and John Hus and that he had lied in approving the sentence. He did not fear to state that he had lied. Indeed, he revoked now and for eternity his confession, approval and profession regarding the condemnation of the two men. He asserted that he had never read any heresy or error in the books of the said Wyclif and John Hus, even though it was clearly proved, before his profession to the sentence on the two men, that he had carefully studied, read and taught their books and it is clear that many errors and heresies are contained in them. The said Jerome professed, however, that he held and believed what the church holds and believes regarding the sacrament of the altar and the transubstantiation of the bread into the body of Christ, saying that he believed in Augustine and the other doctors of the church more than in Wyclif and Hus. It is evident from the above that the said Jerome adhered to the condemned Wyclif and Hus and their errors, and that he was and is a supporter of them. This holy synod has therefore decreed and now declares that the said Jerome is to be cast away as a branch that is rotten, withered and separated from the vine; and it pronounces, declares and condemns him as a heretic who has relapsed into heresy and as an excommunicated and anathematised person.