But I do praise the most holy Papists for their ability to rage so steadfastly and constantly against the Spirit of God. When such testimonies of the genuine councils and fathers are cited, they do not care about them at all, but let out their mighty fart against it: "The pope is above all councils and is unable to err—moreover, he is above the entirety of holy Christendom throughout the world " And so that he need endure no equal, but he may instead exalt himself even above God, he bellows in his Decretum, the chapter Cuncta: (15) `All Christendom throughout the world knows that the Holy Scripture receives its authority or power from the Roman see." Yes, indeed, Luther says, all Christendom throughout the world knows it: hellfire [be] upon your head, your throne, and your idol, the devil! [LW 60:137]I wondered if Luther perhaps exaggerated, was being sarcastic, or simply misquoted the source he refers to when he wrote "All Christendom throughout the world knows that the Holy Scripture receives its authority or power from the Roman see." LW 60 gives this accompanying footnote. It first states,
(15) Decretum C. 9 q. 3 c. 17 reads: "The whole church throughout the world knows that the Roman church has the right to judge concerning all matters [de omnibus], and that no one is permitted to pass judgment on her verdict" (Friedberg 1:611)."Decretum" refers to Decretum Magistri Gratiani:
The Decretum of Gratian, a Benedictine canonist at the law school of the University of Bologna. It originated in ca. 1140 and represents the first part of Roman Catholic canon law (CIC 1), accepted as such by Pope Gregory IX (1228–1241) in 1234, whose Decretalium became the second part of canon law (CIC 2). Luther studied it during his stay in Erfurt and in preparation for the Leipzig Debate in 1519 [LW 41:20, fn 19]."C. 9 q. 3 c. 17" can be found here:
C. XVII. De eodem.One will note C. 9 q. 3 c. 17 does not say "All Christendom throughout the world knows that the Holy Scripture receives its authority or power from the Roman see." If taken as a literal citation, Luther misquoted the Decretum. On the other hand, it does say "all matters", and that would indeed cover Luther's interpretation. Why would Luther present such an interpretation of this text? The LW 60 footnote goes on to say:
Idem omnibus Episcopis.
Cuncta per mundum nouit ecclesia, quod sacrosancta Romana ecclesia fas de omnibus habet iudicandi, neque cuiquam de eius liceat iudicare iudicio. Siquidem ad illam de qualibet mundi parte appellandum est: ab illa autem nemo est appellare permissus. §. 1. Sed nec illa preterimus, quod apostolica sedes sine ulla precedente sinodo et soluendi quos sinodus iniqua
dampnauerat, et dampnandi, nulla existente sinodo, quos oportuit habuerit facultatem, et hoc nimirum pro suo principatu, quem B. Petrus apostolus Domini uoce et tenuit semper et tenebit.
The specific application to Scripture, claiming that "the doctrine of the Roman church and of the Roman pontiff [is] a rule of faith.. . from which even holy Scripture draws or has drawn its power;' was made by the papal theologian Sylvester Prierias; see Peter Fabisch and Erwin Iserloh; eds., Dokumente zur Causa Lutheri (1517-1521), 2 vols. (Munster: Aschendorff, 1988-91), 1:55; see Luther, preface, notes, and afterword to Prierias, Response (1520), WA 6:341 (LW 71); cf. Why the Books of the Pope and His Disciples Were Burned (1520), LW 31:392.As I understand it, what the footnote here says is that the application of this statement was made by one of Luther's papal opponents, Sylvester Prierias. Prierias was not simply the equivalent of today's Roman Catholic bloggers. "Sylvester Prierias (1456–1523), a Dominican priest and professor, was the pope s counselor in matters of faith. He had been influential in securing the condemnation of Reuchlin and had been commissioned to examine Luther’s writings" (LW 44:118 fn.8).
Prierias was one of Luther's earliest opponents. Since he was Master of the Sacred Palace, he was asked to assess the Ninety-five Theses. He composed his response in three days (ironically, this quick response is not unlike the careless speed of some of Rome's blogging apologists). Some speculate his fast response was due to his considering Luther a nuisance, a distraction from his work on his commentary of selections of Thomistic texts. His twenty-seven page response was entitled In presumptuosas Martini Luther conclusiones de potesate pape dialogus (1518), popularly referred to as the Dialogus. In this work, Prierias made four points and a conclusion:
1. Essentially the universal church is the assembly in divine worship of all who believe in Christ. The true universal church virtually is the Roman Church, the head of all churches, and the sovereign pontiff. The Roman Church is represented by the College of Cardinals; however, virtually it is the pope who is the head of the Church, though in another manner than Christ.There has been considerable scholarly debate as to the competence of these points against Luther, particularly statement three (For an overview of this scholarly debate see the work cited above, Michael Tavuzzi, Prierias (Durham: Duke University Press, 1997, pp.104-115). What I can't discern from my cursory investigation is whether or not Prierias based statement three on Decretum C. 9 q. 3 c. 17. If he did, then Luther may have had this in mind in his comment above (or perhaps one of Rome's other apologists made this connection for him?). Regardless of whether or not Luther's interpretation of "de omnibus" is warranted, the selection from Prierias certainly shows what sort of argumentation Luther was up against from Rome's apologists (for a detailed account see David V.N. Bagchi, Luther's Earliest Opponents (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1991).
2. As the universal church cannot err when it decides on faith and morals, so also a true council cannot err if it does its best to know the truth, at least not in the end result—and that I understand under the inclusion of the head. For even a council can initially be mistaken so long as the investigation of the truth is still in process; indeed a council has sometimes erred: nevertheless it finally knows the truth through the Holy Spirit. Accordingly, the Roman Church and the pope cannot err when he in his capacity as pope comes to a decision, i.e., when he comes to a decision in consequence of his office and thereby does his best to know the truth.
3. He who does not hold the teaching of the Roman Church and the Pope as an infallible rule of faith, from which even Holy Scripture draws its power and authority, he is a heretic.
4. The Roman Church can establish something with regard to faith and ethics not only through word but also through act. And there is no difference therein, except that the word is more suitable for this than the act. In this same sense custom acquires the power of law, for the will of a prince expresses itself in acts which he allows or puts into effect. And it follows that as he is a heretic who wrongly interprets Scripture, so also is he a heretic who wrongly interprets the teaching and acts of the Church in so far as they relate to faith and ethics.
Corollary: He who says in regard to indulgences that the Roman Church cannot do what she has actually done is a heretic (Michael Tavuzzi, Prierias (Durham: Duke University Press, 1997, p.111).