Student Although many doubts about the foregoing occur to me, nevertheless I will put them aside and return to the main argument. It seems probable to me, however, that no one inferior to the pope can excommunicate or condemn explicitly as heretical any assertion not explicitly condemned, but I still do not know on what principle a pope or a general council should rely in explicitly condemning some assertion as heretical. Would you therefore not delay telling me what the learned think about this.

Student That assertion suggests that the pope can not be a heretic, a matter about which I will have a particular question later. Would you pass over this now, therefore, and set out the opposing assertion, as you promised.

Master Others assert clearly that if a pope, a general council and also the universal church rightly condemn some assertion as heretical strictly speaking, they should rely and clearly base themselves in connection with that heretical assertion on one or more of three principles.

The first is sacred scripture, and the earliest general councils relied on this principle in condemning the heresies of Arius, Macedonius, Nestorius, Euticis and Diostorus. For just as some of those councils based themselves on the authority of divine scripture in producing the creeds, as Isidore attests when he says, as we find in dist 15, c. 1 [col.34], "The holy fathers coming together at the council of Nicea from all the lands on earth handed on the second creed after the apostles in accordance with evangelical and apostolic faith", so also in condemning heresies they laid down sacred letters as their principle. So too, in condemning the assertion that says that Christ is nothing as a man Alexander III based himself on this truth taken from divine scripture, "Christ is true God and true man". So too, when refuting heresies holy doctors tried to convict them through the sacred scriptures, as is clearly found from their books. Hence, as we find in 24, q. 3, c. Quidam autem [col.1001], Isidore too clearly censured many heresies through sacred scripture.

The second principle is apostolic teaching, which has reached us not rendered in apostolic writings but by the account of succeeding believers or in trustworthy writings. As we clearly gather from his Chapter inserted in dist. 22 [c. Omnes, col.73], Pope Nicholas relies on this principle when he determines that it should be considered heretical to say that the Roman church is not the head of all churches. Yet since no mention is found of this in the sacred scriptures, rather the apostles handed this on and taught it to believers, this teaching has reached us in the account of the believers who followed them and in the writings of the holy fathers. The arguments and texts which I brought forward above when I was investigating your question, "Which truths should be regarded as catholic?" tell in favour of this.

The third principle is a new divine revelation or inspiration. For if any eternal truth about those things that pertain to salvation were newly revealed to the church it would be approved as catholic, and the church, and also the pope, could condemn as heretical every falsity opposed to it. And although they do not know how to find an example, that in condemning some heresy the church has ever based itself on such a revelation or inspiration, yet they say that this is not impossible because if it were pleasing to him God could newly reveal or inspire many catholic truths.

Student What if a pope or even a general council says that some truth had been revealed to it, or, also, inspired in it, by God? Are other believers bound to believe?

Master They say that they should not be believed without an obvious miracle, because it is not enough to assert barely that a truth has been revealed to them or even inspired in them, but it is necessary that they confirm a revelation or inspiration of this kind by the clear working of a miracle.

Student What would they say if all christians with no exception were firmly to accept some truth as catholic which nevertheless they could not show from the divine scriptures nor from any earlier teaching of the church?

Master They say that such a truth should be accepted as catholic because such a harmonious agreement of all christians with no exception could not occur in connection with any assertion of this kind without a miracle. For since all believers most firmly hold, in accordance with the Saviour's promise in the last chapter of Matthew [28:20], "I am with you always, to the end of the age", that the church universal will never err, it is certain that without special divine inspiration the universal church will never cling firmly to an assertion which does not derive from earlier teaching of the church, and so if it does ever cling to such a truth it will cling miraculously, and therefore it should be believed that a miracle has happened.

Student What do they think if all christians except a few or one were newly to adhere to an assertion of this kind which could not be proved from the previous teaching of the church?

Master They say that if only one person were to dissent, such a truth should not be accepted because the whole faith of the church can abide in one single person, just as in the time of Christ's death the whole catholic faith endured in the blessed virgin alone, and it should not be believed that at any time after the times of the apostles some people were more accepted by God than the apostles were before the death of Christ. If therefore after his crucifixion Christ permitted all the apostles to turn aside from the catholic faith and the blessed virgin alone to endure firmly in the faith it is rash to assert that never before the end of the world would God permit the whole multitude of christians except one to withdraw from orthodox faith.

Student I do not know how to disprove these things, but it seems that for all catholics to be bound to adhere firmly to some newly revealed truth it is not enough to confirm it with the working of a miracle since miracles are performed by the wicked and by unbelievers, as we gather, so it seems, from the words of the gospel of Matthew, 7[:22-3] when Christ says, "Many will say to me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have not we prophesied in thy name, and cast out demons in thy name, and done many miracles in thy name?' And then I will profess unto them, 'I never knew you.'", that is I never approved you. The gloss on Extra, De hereticis, c. Cum ex iniuncto [col.1678, s.v. miraculi] agrees with this too, saying, "Sometimes miracles are performed by the wicked."

Master They reply to that objection by saying that although miracles are performed by the wicked, yet a true miracle is never performed to confirm a falsity asserted by the wicked; and therefore when they teach some error a true miracle is never performed to confirm it; but if they preach the truth they sometimes perform miracles to confirm this truth even if they are evil. So although the traitor Judas was evil he nevertheless performed miracles because he taught the truth. Therefore when a true miracle is performed to confirm some assertion, it should be held without doubt that such an assertion should be considered the truth whether those to whom it was revealed should be reckoned among the good or among the evil.

Student That reply is clear. Let what you have said about that second opinion be enough, therefore; but do not postpone making known to me if you know that others say something else.

Master Some people think that both a general council and also a pope should base themselves on sacred scripture alone when condemning some assertion as heretical because only truths contained in sacred scripture and those which follow from them should be considered catholic. The preceding treatment can inform you about this opinion.