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Medieval Sourcebook:
Lateran III:
On Papal Elections, 1179


(Doeberl, iv. p. 253.)

Concerning the election of the supreme pontiff. Although, for the sake of avoiding discord at the election of a supreme pontiff, clear enough decrees have emanated from our predecessors,-nevertheless, since often, after their promulgation, the church has suffered grave disunion through the audacity of wicked ambition: we, also, by the counsel of our brothers and the approbation of the holy council, have decided to add something to avert this evil.

We decree, therefore, that if, by chance, some hostile man sowing .discord among the cardinals, full concord cannot be attained with regard to constituting a pope; and, with the two thirds which agree, the other third be unwilling to agree, or presume of itself to ordain some one else: he shall be considered Roman pontiff who shall be elected and received by two thirds. But. if any one, trusting in the nomination of one third, shall usurp for himself the name- the real authority he cannot -of a bishop he himself, as well as those who shall have received him shall be subject to excommunication, and shall be punished by the privitation of all their holy orders; so that the holy Eucharist, except on their death beds, be denied them, and, unless they on their shall come to their senses, their lot shall be with Dathan and Abiron whom the earth swallowed up alive. Moreover if any one be elected to the office of pope by fewer than two thirds,- unless greater concord is attained - he shall be by no means be accepted, and shall be subject to the aforesaid penalty if he be unwilling to humbly abstain. From this, however, let no prejudice to the canonical and other ecclesiastical decrees arise, with regard to which opinion of the greater and the sounder part should prevail; for when a doubt arises with regard to them, it can be defined by the judgment of a higher power. But, in the Roman church, special decrees are made, because recourse cannot be had to a higher power.


trans in Ernest F. Henderson, Select Historical Documents of the Middle Ages, (London: George Bell and Sons, 1910), pp. 336-337


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(c)Paul Halsall Mar 1996