Department of Modern History, Politics and International Relations - Politics and International Relations

John XXII, Quia quorundam

Translated by John Kilcullen and John Scott

Copyright (c) 1996, 1998, R.J. Kilcullen, J.R. Scott.


[1] Since it is said that the Father of the Lie has so blinded the minds of some that they have tried, not without much punishable rashness, to destroy {detrahere} our constitutions Ad conditorem canonum and Quum inter nonnullos--composed {digestis} certainly {utique} with diligent preparatory deliberation with our Brothers the cardinals of the holy Roman Church, and with many archbishops and bishops and other prelates of the Church, and also with many masters of sacred theology and professors of both laws, and promulgated with the advice of our Brothers before mentioned-- and try to obscure the truth they contain with mad falsehoods: against such pernicious acts of daring, lest their pestiferous doctrine have power to cause the souls of the simple to stumble and lead them into the by-way of their own error, we have decided, with the advice of the same Brothers, to provide salutarily upon this matter as follows.

[2] To attack the before mentioned constitutions, it is reported, they have used publicly in word and in writing the following argument. They say that

  • whatever, through the key of knowledge [see gloss, col. 154, z], the Roman pontiffs have once defined in faith and morals persists so immutably that it is not licit for a successor to call it again into doubt nor affirm the contrary (though, they say, it is otherwise with things ordained through the key of power).
  • But in the confirmation of the rule of the Order of Friars Minor by our predecessors, the supreme pontiffs Honorius III, Gregory IX, Innocent IV, Alexander IV, and Nicholas IV [rather, III--the confusion continues below], they assert that these words are contained: "This is Christ's gospel rule, and, imitating it, the Apostles' rule, that they have in {quae... habet... habent} nothing in this world proper or common [i.e. no property as individuals or as a group], but they have in the things they use simple use of fact"; presuming to add to these [words] that the before mentioned supreme pontiffs and many general councils have defined through the key of knowledge that the poverty of Christ and the Apostles consisted perfectly in lack of ownership of any temporal civil and worldly lordship, and that their sustenance consisted also solely in bare use of fact; from which they try to conclude
  • that it was not lawful, and is not lawful, for their successors to make any change against the foregoing [i.e. the points defined].

And therefore,

  • since our constitution, going (in the above argument) against the definitions of our predecessors before mentioned (so they say), defined that Christ and the Apostles had, in the things they had, not only simple use of fact, but the right of dealing {faciendi} with them [i.e. of using, giving away, exchanging, etc.], and that sacred scripture testifies that they did do those things, declaring heretical the pertinacious assertion of those who say that they did not have such a right (since they imply {concludere} that their acts were not just, which is wicked to say of Christ),
  • they try to infer, though falsely, that it was not licit for us to declare or enact the things before mentioned.

Again, because the constitution Ad conditorem canonum, against the before mentioned definitions, asserts that the Brothers Minor cannot have in any thing simple use of fact, they try, similarly, to conclude against it.

[3] However, it is evidently clear from the following that the premiss of the above argument--namely, that those things which through the key of knowledge the supreme pontiffs have once defined in faith and morals it is not lawful for a successor to call again into doubt, or affirm the contrary, though it is otherwise (they say) with things ordained by supreme pontiffs through the key of power--is entirely contrary to truth.

First, indeed, according to those who hold that the spiritual key is by no means knowledge, but the power to bind and loose, it is clear that the before mentioned assertors, in stating that it is knowledge, have erred. The definition the learned give of the key supports them [i.e. those who hold that the key is power]: "The key is a special power of binding and loosing, by which the ecclesiastical judge should admit the worthy, and exclude the unworthy from the Kingdom".

Again, because the keys of which we speak are given in the conferring of the priestly order; but it is certain that knowledge is generally not conferred on one ordained to the priesthood: therefore, according to them, it seems that knowledge is not a key, but only the power to bind and loose should be called a key.

Besides, according to those [a] who say that the one spiritual key is knowledge, and according to those [b] who assert that authority to distinguish "between leprosy and leprosy" [Deut. 17] is one key and another [key] is the power to bind and loose, they are known evidently to have erred.

  • For they suppose that something can be defined by some constitution through such keys [of knowledge] concerning matters which are of faith, and other matters [i.e. of morals]. But the keys which are conferred in the priestly order do not extend to such things; otherwise it would follow that simple priests could make a constitution about the foregoing, which is evidently false.

But if they mean that those keys extend to the general power given in the commission of the pastoral office toblessed Peter, and in his person to his successors (a commission which indeed evidently seems to have granted them everything without which universal pastoral care cannot suitably take place or the office be discharged), again it is clear that they have erred. For they say that things enacted by the key of knowledge and those enacted by the key of power (supposing that some things are enacted, or even defined, by the key of knowledge and others by the key of power) have different effects [the former immutable, the latter not]. This is evidently false. For

  • through the key of knowledge, or through the authority to distinguish or examine between leprosy and leprosy (if we say that that is a key), nothing else is attributed to him to whom it is given except authority {cognoscere} to examine. But
  • to someone given authority to examine concerning some thing, [authority] to define that thing is not understood to be given [see gloss. col.159, d].

It remains, therefore, that for suitably enacting or defining anything, both keys--namely of knowing and of examining--are necessarily required; or that to enact, and also to define, belongs solely to the key of power; but just as physical light directs the key bearer in using a physical key, also, as it were, for this purpose knowledge is the counterpart of light. Our Saviour in the promise of the keys ["and I will give you the keys"] made to blessed Peter seems expressly to have thought this, since he added immediately after it: "And whatever you will bind upon earth will be bound also in heaven, and whatever you will loose upon earth will be loosed also in heaven"--making no mention of knowledge.

[4] What is afterwards put forward in the above argument--namely that in the confirmation and explanation of the rule of the Brothers Minor given by some of our predecessors, namely Honorius III, Gregory IX, Innocent IV, Alexander IV and Nicholas IV, the following words are contained, "This is the gospel rule", etc., quoted above, up to "clearly consisted also solely in bare use of fact"--altogether contradicts the truth. Honorius, indeed, confirmed that rule without any explanation, and in his confirmation there is no mention of the above words, as can be apparent to anyone who looks into his confirmation: except insofar as the gospel life is mentioned in the confirmed rule itself, when it says, "This is the rule of the Brothers Minor, namely to observe the holy Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, by living in obedience, without property, and in chastity". It cannot be inferred from these words that this predecessor of ours defined the things that they assert in the above words [namely, that Christ and the Apostles had nothing]. Indeed, it can be inferred rather that the Gospel life lived by Christ and the Apostles did not exclude some possessions in common, since living "without property" does not require that those living thus should have nothing in common.

In the explanations also of the before mentioned Gregory, Innocent and Alexander, who explain the same rule without other confirmation, there is similarly no mention at all of the above [words]; indeed it is shown evidently by means of those [explanations] that of the things it is licit for these Brothers to possess, use of right [not simple use of fact] belongs to the order itself.

  • Indeed on this matter Gregory inserted in his explanation the following: "We say that they should have property neither individually nor in common; but let the order have the use of the equipment, books and movable things which it is licit to have, and let the Brothers use these things according as the minister general and provincials think should be ordered".
  • Innocent and Alexander before mentioned said in their explanations: "We say, moreover, that since it is contained expressly in the Rule that the Brothers should not appropriate anything to themselves, neither house, nor place, nor any thing, that they should not have property either in common or individually; but let the order have the use of the places, houses, equipment, books, and things it is licit to have, and let the Brothers use them according as the general and provincial ministers think should be ordered".

For when it is said in the above explanations that the order should have the use of the foregoing things, this must refer to use of right. Facts, indeed, which are of singulars, need and require a true person: but an Order is not a true person but must rather be regarded as a represented and imaginary person. Those things which are of fact therefore cannot truly befit it, though things which are of right can suit it. [See gloss, col.161, q-y] [5] Besides, although the explanation of the saidNicholas IV contains the following: "These [the Franciscans] are thos e professors of the holy Rule [of St Francis] who are founded on the Gospel words, strengthened by the example of Christ's life, and confirmed by the words and deeds of his Apostles, the founders of the Church militant". Afterwards in the same explanation he added that "the renunciation for God's sake of ownership, both individual and common, of all things is meritorious and holy: Christ also, showing the way of perfection, taught this by word and confirmed it by example; and the first founders of the Church militant, as they had drawn it from the source himself, directed it through the channels of their teaching and lives to those who wished to live perfectly".

But from the above words it can by no means be inferred that it was the intention of our predecessor above mentioned, Nicholas, to say that the said Rule is, in respect of everything contained in it, founded on the Gospel words and strengthened by the example of Christ's life, or that it is confirmed by the life and deeds of the Apostles. For it is certain that many things are contained in the said Rule which neither Christ's word taught nor his example confirmed--for example, what the founder of the Rule prescribes to all the Brothers, that they should in no way receive a penny or money, either directly or by means of a go-between, nor also many other things contained in the said Rule that indeed neither Christ nor the Apostles taught in words nor confirmed by example.

It is no objection that Christ forbad the Apostles and disciples to carry money when he sent them to preach (this, however, we read was forbidden to them before he sent them). Gospel truth and apostolic sayings testify in many places that they carried money after they returned. Further, Augustine says explicitly that [not to carry money] was not a precept but a power of receiving necessaries from those to whom they preached the gospel; it was licit for the Apostles to observe this [i.e. to receive necessaries], or, also, not to observe it.

But our predecessor the Roman pontiff Nicholas, in the explanation above mentioned, seems to have meant to say this [that it is founded on the Gospel words etc.] in respect of the three main vows--namely to live in obedience, without property, and in chastity--and other things in the said Rule that are found explicitly in the Gospel, if there are any. This indeed does not conflict in any respect with our declarations above mentioned.

Besides, it does not seem that he said that the sustenance of Christ and his apostles consisted solely in bare simple use of fact, since in his explanation our predecessor above mentioned, Nicholas, made no mention of Christ and the Apostles. Indeed he seems to have thought explicitly enough that they were able to have a right (different from ownership), since the above explanation, as far as it concerns them [Christ and the Apostles], mentions only renunciation of ownership and not any other right.

Besides, the same Nicholas our predecessor seems to have thought that Christ and the Apostles had something in common even in respect of ownership. For when in his explanation above mentioned he had said the words above concerning renunciation of owner ship, answering a tacit objection that could be made to him about the bag which we read in the Gospel [Jn 13:29] that Christ had, he immediately added the following: "Neither let anyone think to object to these things that it is sometimes said that Christ had a bag." For Christ himself, whose works are perfect, practised in his actions the way of perfection in such a way that sometimes, condescending to the imperfection of the weak, he both extolled the way of perfection and did not condemn the weak ways of the imperfect". And in this way he asserts that Christ, in [owning] a bag, took on the person of the weak.

Otherwise, if he did not mean that Christ had the bag even in the sense of ownership, the objection concerning the bag would have been irrelevant. Moreover, if it were said that Christ had in the bag only simple use of fact, it would be pointless to say that Christ had that bag "in the person of the weak", since, according to him [Nicholas], to have simple use of fact befits the perfect also. And if one asks, for the sake of which of the weak did he have the bag?, Augustine, whose statement has been inserted into the Decretum [12, q.1, Habebat Dominus], answers: "The Lord had a bag keeping safe the offerings of the faithful, and distributed them for their [the disciples'] necessities and to other poor persons". Whence it is certain that he thought this [that they were weak] of his disciples.

And this, to have some things in common in respect of ownership, does not derogate from the highest poverty, according to the statement of the before mentioned Gregory IX. In a certain decretal of his he says expressly that the Preaching Brothers and the Brothers Minor serve Christ the poor man "in the highest poverty"; and yet it is certain that the preachers have some things in common even in respect of ownership, which does not conflict with their Rule and state.

Alexander, also, our predecessor above mentioned, seems to have thought this in his condemnation of a pamphlet published against the state of the Preachers and Minors. Somewhere in this condemnation speaking about the said Brothers he added the following, when in addition he answers that these brothers have abandoned everything for God's sake, "begging the meagre maintenance of life, let them imitate Christ the poor man by embracing Gospel perfection. On account of this it evidently appears that they are not only in the state of those to be saved, but even of the perfect, and that by the observance of their way of life, which indeed follows the model of Gospel perfection itself, they earn excelling glory as the reward of eternal recompense". Here indeed he says explicitly that the Preachers imitate Christ the poor man, and that they embrace Gospel perfection, and are in the state of the perfect, and that observance of their Rule follows the model of Gospel perfection; and yet it is certain that according to their Rule they [i.e. the Order of Preachers] can have some things in common even in respect of ownership.

Neither is it an objection when they say, that Innocent (otherwise Celestine) V, our predecessor, said that high poverty is to have few things of one's own, for God's sake, higher poverty that which has nothing of one's own, but has in common; the highest that which has nothing in this world either individually or in common. We say, indeed, that he said this not as pope, but as Brother Peter of Tarantasia in a certain postill of his; the sayings of the above mentioned supreme pontiffs should therefore rightly be preferred to it.

They say also that the Apostle is speaking of such highest poverty, when he says: "And their highest poverty overflowed in the riches of their simplicity" [2 Cor. 8:2] This is evidently false, because there he is speaking of the poverty of the Macedonians, who held temporal goods even individually, concerning whom the Apostle asserts that beyond their means they had sent alms to the saints.

[6] What is said to be contained in the explanation of our predecessor Nicholas, however, that the Brothers Minor have only simple use of fact in the things that come to them, we say that if he meant simple use of fact devoid of all right, so that the Brothers themselves or the Order would have no right of using, this is explicitly against the declaration of our predecessors, the supreme pontiffs Gregory, Innocent, and Alexander above mentioned, in which it is explicitly contained that the Order has the use of such things: this must necessarily be understood of use of right, as has been proved above.

Besides, we say that this is impossible, namely that simple use of fact without any right (which can properly be called nothing else than the [act of] using {uti} itself) can be held by anyone in any thing, even one not consumable by use, as has been proved in the decretal Ad conditorem canonum, and as Augustine explicitly holds concerning an act in [Confessions] book 11.

Further, if anyone could have simple use, devoid of every right, it is certain that such an act of using would have to be regarded as not-just, since a person would have used to whom no right of using belonged. But a not-just use does not by any means pertain to a state of perfection and adds nothing to perfection, but rather is manifestly known to conflict with it. Now it does not seem probable that the enacter of the canon meant to reserve such not-just use to the Brothers themselves.

Indeed, that he was referring to a just use can appear more evidently from this, that in the same enactment he adds that he was taking to himself and also to the Roman Church the lordship precisely of those things of which it was licit for the Brothers, or for the Order above mentioned, to have use of fact, adding that those Brothers should not have use of all things [e.g. not of money]: but as far as relates to simple use of fact without any right of using, no difference of things can be assigned {censeri} in respect of the Brothers, for de facto they can use prohibited things just as they can things permitted. From this it follows that the use of fact of which this enactment speaks should be understood of such use as is just and for which there belongs a right of using. And the enacter of the canon himself seems also to have thought this, since in the same enactment he added that a moderate use of things previously paid out {in expensis prius rebus} has been granted to the Brothers.

[7] Again, those who attack these constitutions are said {perhibentur] to assert publicly that supreme pontiffs have condemned the pamphlet and statements of the masters who asserted that the said poverty and life of the said Brothers was not evangelical and apostolic, strictly prohibiting by apostolic letter anyone from presuming to assert contumaciously the foregoing [statements], or any of them, or to defend them in any way: providing that anyone presuming to the contrary should be regarded as contumacious, as a rebel against the Roman Church, and as a heretic.

To this we say that such an assertion is false. For it is not contained in the sentence above mentioned that anyone going against it should be regarded as a heretic. In this respect it contains indeed the following: "For we likewise {nihilominus} by the authority of this document strictly forbid anyone to presume to assert pertinaciously or to defend in any way the foregoing [statements], or any of them. But whoever presumes to do so, let him be regarded by all the faithful as contumacious and as a rebel against the Roman Church". It was not added that he should be regarded as a heretic, as is clear in the text of the above sentence of condemnation.

[8] Again, such assertors are said to have asserted publicly that 'renunciation for God's sake of a right in the ownership of any thing whatever, and in its use, is holy and meritorious, and was observed by Christ himself, and imposed on his Apostles, and undertaken by them under vow. But use of fact by Christ and the Apostles for the sustenance of nature is not on this account proved to be not just; but it is the more just, perfect, acceptable to God, and exemplary for the world, the more fully every right has been renounced by which a person using thus can in any way contend or litigate in court for such a use'. This assertion indeed contains many falsities, since Gospel or apostolic history does not teach that Christ observed in himself the above mentioned renunciation of every right in the ownership of every thing whatever and in its use, or that he imposed it on the Apostles, or that they accepted it under vow; rather, it evidently manifests the opposite.

What is added in the above assertion, however, that by the renunciation of the above mentioned right, namely of property, the use of fact for the sustenance of nature is not proved in Christ and the Apostles to be not just, but is the more just, etc., includes an impossibility, and this statement is evidently an error. For it is impossible for an external human act to be just if the one who does it has no right to do it: indeed, such use is necessarily proved to be not just, but unjust. Again, it is absurd and erroneous that the act of someone who does not have a right to do such an act should be more just and more acceptable to God than the act of one who has such a right, since it implies that an unjust act is more just and more acceptable to God than a just act would be.

[9] From the foregoing, however, they try to infer (it is reported) that the definition of the above mentioned supreme pontiffs which they defined concerning the poverty of Christ and the Apostles and the Rule of the above mentioned Brothers Minor (as quoted above) could not be changed by us. Without doubt they assert falsehoods when they say that our predecessors defined such things, as has been proved above, and again when they speak in this way, when they try to attack our constitutions by such means, they show (if their false assertions were true) that the constitutions by which they support themselves would be invalid, erroneous and infirm.

For if it was not licit for us to enact anything common contrary to the constitution of our predecessor Nicholas IV, on which they chiefly base themselves, neither was it licit for him to enact or declare anything contrary to the enactments of the above mentioned Gregory, Innocent and Alexander; but that he did so (according to their assertion) is evidently known. For since they [Gregory, etc.] declared that the Order of Minors had use of those things which it is licit for them to have--which must necessarily refer to use of right, as was proved above--but he himself (according to them) enacted that neither the Order nor the Brothers have a right of using but only simple use of fact, and further ordered, decreed and enacted that precisely this his constitution, ordinance and declaration must by the Brothers themselves be observed exactly and inviolably for all times, it is certain not only that he made an ordinance contrary to the declarations of his predecessors above mentioned, but that he also revoked them, in respect of the things his own declaration contains.

In his declaration that predecessor [Nicholas] of ours also added that the explanation and ordering of them and of those things he had explained belonged to the Apostolic See, saying: "If in these matter any doubt should arise..., let it be brought to the summit of the Apostolic See, that its meaning in this matter should be made manifest by its apostolic authority, to which alone it has been granted to make laws in these matters, and to explain those that have been made". But these assertors assert the opposite of this.

Besides, it is clear that what they assert is false. For although the above mentioned Innocent III in general council forbad the establishment of new religious orders, yet we read that his successors (notwithstanding this prohibition) confirmed many Orders, which also (with some exceptions) were afterwards definitely dissolved by our predecessor Gregory IX in general council. If, therefore, it was licit, after the prohibition of a general council, for supreme pontiffs to confirm unconfirmed orders and for their successors to dissolve completely the orders thus confirmed, it is not surprising if it is licit for his successors to explain, or otherwise to change, what a supreme pontiff alone [without a council] declares or orders concerning the Rules of Orders. But it is clear that neither the above mentioned Honorius, nor Gregory, nor Alexander, nor Nicholas made their confirmation in a general council, since none of them held a general council. Although Innocent IV held a general council, yet his above mentioned declaration was not made in it or by the authority of any [general] council. Nicholas IV neither held a general council nor made any declaration concerning the said Rule. Gregory IX above mentioned neither confirmed nor explained the said Rule, but in a general council where some mendicant Orders were annulled, he did not annul the Orders of the said Brothers Minor and the Preachers, but asserted that they were approved, saying: "We do not allow this present constitution to be extended to those which the evident utility coming from them to the universal Church asserts {perhibet} that they have been approved".

[10] Further, let them tell us where they read such assertions, that it pertains to faith or morals that Christ and the Apostles had in the things they had only simple use of fact? Indeed, this pertains to faith neither directly, since there is no article about this nor any under which it can be comprehended--as is clear in the creeds, in which the articles of faith are contained--nor, also, [does it pertain to faith] reductively, as if scripture contains something like this, so that if it be denied the whole of sacred scripture is made doubtful and as a consequence the articles of faith, which have to be proved by sacred scripture, are made doubtful and uncertain. For this cannot be found in sacred scripture, but rather its opposite. But concerning the above mentioned Brothers Minor it is certain that there is in the above mentioned Creeds, in the Gospel, in the Acts of the Apostles, and in the Epistles, no mention to be found concerning their poverty and simple use of fact, or concerning the lordship of the things offered to them, which the supreme Pontiff reserved or shall have been able to reserve to himself and to the Roman Church, and which once reserved it is not licit for a successor to renounce (if this seems appropriate), or that the successor can not recall the procurators established by the authority of a supreme pontiff for the business {negotiis} of the said Order. Whence they cannot infer from the above, except falsely, anything that implies that a successor cannot order some thing else contrary to orders made concerning such things by supreme pontiffs. The above mentioned Nicholas explicitly inserted this in his declaration, as is more fully contained above [section 9].

[11] Lest the fabricators of such lies, and also the assertors of such pestiferous, erroneous and condemned doctrine, worthy indeed of all confutation and confusion, should be able to glory, and to draw others into error, since by boldness, stealth and wicked impudence they have dared to defend publicly and approve even a heresy condemned by the above mentioned constitution [Cum inter], namely that Christ and his apostles had, in the things we read they had, only simple use of fact without any right, from which (if it were true) it would follow that Christ's use was not just, which certainly contains blasphemy, and something inimical to the Catholic faith, since there is no doubt this has proceeded from pertinacious and erroneous animosity: of each and every one who, in word or in writing, personally or through another or others, has presumed [to assert] such things publicly, and also of those who taught them in such matters and caused them to do the foregoing, we therefore declare, with the advice of our brothers [the Cardinals], that they have fallen into condemned heresy, and that they must be avoided as heretics. But if anyone henceforth knowingly presumes to defend or approve, in word or in writing, the heresies, or either of them condemned by the constitution Cum inter, with the advice of the same brothers [the Cardinals] we decree that he is to be regarded evidently by all as a heretic. Besides, since, as it is reported, they have tried with mad acts of boldness to attack our constitution above mentioned Ad conditorem canonum, we strictly forbid, with the advice of the same brothers, that anyone should knowingly, in word or in writing, approve or defend anything contrary to the things defined, ordered or done by it. But if anyone presumes to the contrary, let him be regarded by all as contumacious and as a rebel against the Roman Church. To no one, therefore, etc. [as in Execrabilis]. Given at Avignon 10th November in the ninth year of our pontificate [1324].


Papal documents relating to Franciscan poverty



See also translations by Jonathan Robinson of texts relating to Franciscan poverty by Bonaventure, Michael de Cesena and William of St-Amour.

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