Pope Gregory XI : The Condemnation of Wycliffe 1382 and Wycliffe's Reply, 1384
Bull of Pope Gregory XI, Against John Wycliffe
The Condemned Conclusions of John
Reply of John Wycliffe to his Summons
by the Pope to come to Rome, 1384
Bull of Pope Gregory XI, Against
Gregory, bishop, servus servorum dei, to his beloved sons the
Chancellor and University of Oxford, in the diocese of Lincoln,
grace and apostolic benediction.
We are compelled to wonder and grieve that you, who, in consideration
of the favors and privileges conceded to your University of Oxford
by the apostolic see, and on account of your familiarity with
the Scriptures, in whose sea you navigate, by the gift of God,
with auspicious oar, you, who ought to be, as it were, warriors
and champions of the orthodox faith, without which there is no
salvation of souls, ---that you through a certain sloth and neglect
allow tares to spring up amidst the pure wheat in the fields of
your glorious University aforesaid; and what is still more pernicious,
even continue to grow to maturity. And you are quite careless,
as has been lately reported to us, as to the extirpation of these
tares; with no little clouding of a bright name, danger to your
souls, contempt of the Roman Church, and injury to the faith above
mentioned. And what pains us the more, is that this increase of
the tares aforesaid is known in Rome before the remedy of extirpation
has been applied in England where they sprang up. By the insinuation
of many, if they are indeed worthy of belief, deploring it deeply,
it has come to our ears that John de Wycliffe, rector of the church
of Lutterworth, in the diocese of Lincoln, Professor of the Sacred
Scriptures (would that he were not also Master of Errors), has
fallen into such a detestable madness that he does not hesitate
to dogmatize and publicly preach, or rather vomit forth from the
recesses of his breast, certain propositions and conclusions which
are erroneous and false. He has cast himself also into the depravity
of preaching heretical dogmas which strive to subvert and weaken
the state of the whole church and even secular polity, some of
which doctrines, in changed terms, it is true, seem to express
the perverse opinions and unlearned learning of Marsilio of Padua
of cursed memory, and of John of Jandun, whose book is extant,
rejected and cursed by our predecessor, Pope John XXII, of happy
memory. This he has done in the kingdom of England, lately glorious
in its power and in the abundance of its resources, but more glorious
still in the glistening piety of its faith, and in the distinction
of its sacred learning; producing also many men illustrious for
their exact knowledge of the Holy Scriptures, mature in the gravity
of their character, conspicuous in devotion, defenders of the
Catholic Church. He has polluted certain of the faithful of Christ
by sprinkling them with these doctrines, and led them away from
the right paths of the aforesaid faith to the brink of perdition.
Wherefore, since we are not willing, nay, indeed, ought not to
be willing, that so deadly a pestilence should continue to exist
with our connivance, a pestilence which, if it is not opposed
in its beginnings, and torn out by the roots in its entirety,
will be reached too late by medicines when it has infected very
many with its contagion; we command your University with strict
admonition, by the apostolic authority, in virtue of your sacred
obedience, and under penalty of the deprivation of all the favors,
indulgences, and privileges granted to you and your University
by the said see, for the future not to permit to be asserted or
proposed to any extent whatever, the opinions, conclusions, and
propositions which are in variance with good morals and faith,
even when those proposing strive to defend them under a certain
fanciful wresting of words or of terms. Moreover, you are on our
authority to arrest the said John, or cause him to be arrested
and to send him under a trustworthy guard to our venerable brother,
the Archbishop of Canterbury, and the Bishop of London, or to
one of them.
Besides, if there should be, which God forbid, in your University,
subject to your jurisdiction, opponents stained with these errors,
and if they should obstinately persist in them, proceed vigorously
and earnestly to a similar arrest and removal of them, and otherwise
as shall seem good to you. Be vigilant to repair your negligence
which you have hitherto shown in the premises, and so obtain our
gratitude and favor, and that of the said see, besides the honor
and reward of the divine recompense.
Given at Rome, at Santa Maria Maggiore, on the 31st of May, the
sixth year of our pontificate.
The Condemned Conclusions of
1. That the material substance of bread and of wine remains, after
the consecration, in the sacrament of the altar.
2. That the accidents do not remain without the subject, after
the consecration, in the same sacrament.
3. That Christ is not in the sacrament of the altar identically,
truly and really in his proper corporeal presence.
4. That if a bishop or priest lives in mortal sin he does not
ordain, or consecrate, or baptize.
5. That if a man has been truly repentant, all external confession
is superfluous to him or useless.
6. That it is not founded in the gospel that Christ instituted
7. That God ought to be obedient to the devil.
8. That if the pope is fore-ordained to destruction and a wicked
man, and therefore a member of the devil, no power has been given
to him over the faithful of Christ by any one, unless perhaps
by the Emperor.
9. That since Urban VI, no one is to be acknowledged as pope;
but all are to live, in the way of the Greeks, under their own
10. To assert that it is against sacred scripture that men of
the Church should have temporal possessions.
11. That no prelate ought to excommunicate any one unless he first
knows that the man is excommunicated by God.
12. That a prelate thus excommunicating is thereby a heretic or
13. That a prelate excommunicating a clerk who has appealed to
the king, or to a council of the kingdom, on that very account
is a traitor to God, the king and the kingdom.
14. That those who neglect to preach, or to hear the word of God,
or the gospel that is preached, because of the excommunication
of men, are excommunicate, and in the day of judgment will be
considered as traitors to God.
15. To assert that it is allowed to any one, whether a deacon
or a priest, to preach the word of God, without the authority
of the apostolic see, or of a Catholic bishop, or of some other
which is sufficiently acknowledged.
16. To assert that no one is a civil lord, no one is a bishop,
no one is a prelate, so long as he is in mortal sin.
17. That temporal lords may, at their own judgment, take away
temporal goods from churchmen who are habitually delinquent; or
that the people may, at their own judgment, correct delinquent
18. That tithes are purely charity, and that parishoners may,
on account of the sins of their curates, detain these and confer
them on others at their will.
19. That special prayers applied to one person by prelates or
religious persons, are of no more value to the same person than
general prayers for others in a like position are to him.
20. That the very fact that any one enters upon any private religion
whatever, renders him more unfitted and more incapable of observing
the commandments of God.
21. That saints who have instituted any private religions whatever,
as well of those having possessions as of mendicants, have sinned
in thus instituting them.
22. That religious persons living in private religions are not
of the Christian religion.
23. That friars should be required to gain their living by the
labor of their hands and not by mendicancy.
24. That a person giving alms to friars, or to a preaching friar,
is excommunicate; also the one receiving.
Reply of John Wycliffe to his Summons by the Pope to come to Rome, 1384
I have joyfully to tell to all true men that believe what I hold,
and legates to the pope; for I suppose that if my faith be rightful
and given of God, the pope will gladly confirm it; and if my faith
be error, the Pope will wisely amend it.
I suppose over this that the gospel of Christ be [the] heart of
the corpus of God's law; for I believe that Jesus Christ, that
gave in His own person this gospel, is very God and very man,
and by this heart passes all other laws.
I suppose over this that the pope be most obliged to the keeping
of the gospel among all men that live here; for the pope is highest
vicar that Christ has here in earth. For moreness of Christ's
vicar is not measured by worldly moreness, but by this, that this
vicar sues more Christ by virtuous living; for thus teacheth the
gospel, that this is the sentence of Christ.
And of this gospel I take as believe, that Christ for [the] time
that He walked here, was [the] most poor man of all, both in spirit
and in having; for Christ says that He had nought for to rest
His head on. And Paul says that He was made needy for our love.
And more poor might no man be, neither bodily nor in spirit. And
thus Christ put from Him all manner of worldly lordship. For the
gospel of John telleth that when they would have made Christ king,
He fled and hid Him from them, for He would none such worldly
And over this I take it as believe, that no man should sue the
pope, nor no saint that now is in heaven, but in as much as he
sues Christ. For John and James erred when they coveted worldly
highness; and Peter and Paul sinned also when they denied and
blasphemed in Christ; but men should not sue them in this, for
then they went from Jesus Christ. And this I take as wholesome
counsel, that the pope leave his worldly lordship to worldly lords,
as Christ gave them,---and move speedily all his clerks to do
so. For thus did Christ, and taught thus his disciples, till the
fiend had blinded this world. And it seems to some men that clerks
that dwell lastingly in this error against God's law, and flee
to sue Christ in this, been open heretics, and their fautors been
And if I err in this sentence, I will meekly be amended, yea,
by the death, if it be skilful, for that I hope were good to me.
And if I might travel in mine own person, I would with good will
go to the pope. But God has needed me to the contrary, and taught
me more obedience to God than to men. And I suppose of our pope
that he will not be Antichrist, and reverse Christ in this working,
to the contrary of Christ's will; for if he summon against reason,
by him or by any of his, and pursue this unskilful summoning,
he is an open Antichrist. And merciful intent excused not Peter,
that Christ should name him Satan; so blind intent and wicked
counsel excuses not the pope here; but if he ask of true priests
that they travel more than they may, he is not excused by reason
of God, that he should not be Antichrist. For our belief teaches
us that our blessed God suffers us not to be tempted more than
we may; how should a man ask such service? And therefore pray
we to God for our Pope Urban the Sixth, that his old holy intent
be not quenched by his enemies. And Christ, that may not lie,
says that the enemies of a man been especially his home family;
and this is sooth of men and fiends.
From: Oliver J. Thatcher, ed., The Library of Original Sources (Milwaukee: University Research Extension Co., 1907), Vol. V:
The Early Medieval World, pp. 378-382.
Scanned by Jerome S. Arkenberg, Cal. State Fullerton
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