Catholic History

Ex Cathedra.

CATHEDRA, in the ecclesiastical sense, means (1) the chair in which the bishop sits. It was placed in early times behind the altar, which did not stand, as it usually does now, against the wall, but was surrounded by the choir. The wooden chair which St. Peter is said to have used, is still preserved in the Vatican basilica. Eusebius relates that the chair of St. James still existed in Jerusalem down to the time of Constantine. The chair of St. Mark at Jerusalem was regarded with such religious awe that Peter of Alexandria, archbishop and martyr, did not dare to sit upon it though it was used by his successors. (Thomassin, "Traité des Festes.")

(2) Cathedra was used by a natural extension of meaning for the authority of the bishop who occupied it, so that the feast of the Cathedra or chair commemorated the day on which the bishop entered on his office. Thus we have three sermons of St. Leo on the "natalis cathedræ suæ" i.e. his elevation to the pontificate. In the Sacramentary of St. Gregory we find a Mass for "the Chair of St. Peter," on the 24th of February. According to John Belith, a liturgical writer of the middle ages, this feast was intended to celebrate St. Peter's episcopate both at Antioch and Rome. A feast of St. Peter's chair is mentioned in a sermon attributed to St. Augustine, and in a canon of the Second Council of Tours, which met in 567. In the course of the middle ages, the feast in February was associated with St. Peter's chair at Antioch. Paul IV., in a bull of the year 1558, complains that although the feast of St. Peter's chair at Rome was celebrated in France and Spain, it was forgotten in Rome itself, although the feast of his chair at Antioch was kept in Rome. Accordingly Paul IV. ordered that the feast of St. Peter's chair at Rome should be observed on January 18. The feast of St. Peter's chair at Antioch is kept on February 22. (Thomassin, ib.)

(3) Cathedra is taken as a symbol of authoritative doctrinal teaching. Our Lord said that the scribes and Pharisees sat "super cathedram. Moysis" i.e. on the chair of Moses. Here plainly it is not a material chair of which Christ speaks, but the "chair," as Jerome says, is a metaphor for the doctrine of the law. This metaphor became familiar in Christian literature. Thus Jerome speaks of the "chair of Peter and the faith praised by apostolic mouth." Later theologians use "ex cathedra" in a still more special sense, and employ it to mark those definitions in faith and morals which the Pope, as teacher of all Christians, imposes on their belief. The phrase is comparatively modern, and Billuart adduces no instance of its use before 1305, It is often alleged that the theologians explain the words "ex Cathedra" in many different ways, but a clear and authoritative account of the meaning is given by the Vatican Council, which declares that the Pope is infallible "when he speaks `ex cathedra' i.e. when exercising his office as the pastor and teacher of all Christians, he, in virtue of his supreme apostolic authority, defines a doctrine concerning faith and morals, to be held by the whole Church." (From Ballerini, "De Primatu," and the bull "Pastor æternus," cap. iv.)

What a Cathedral is.

CATHEDRAL (kathedra, the raised seat of the bishop). The cathedral church in every diocese is that church in which the bishop has his chair or seat; whence see, the English form of siége. It is sometimes called simply Domus, "the house" (Duomo, Ital.; Dom, Ger.); for, as "palace" sufficiently indicates the residence of a king, "so the Lord's house, which is the cathedral church, the palace of the King of kings, and the ordinary seat of the supreme pastor of a city and diocese, is sufficiently denoted by the single word Domus." (Ferraris, in Ecclesia.) A cathedral was in early times called the Matrix Ecclesia, but that name is now given to any church which has other churches subject to it.

The establishment of a cathedral church, the conversion of a collegiate church into a cathedral, and the union of two or more cathedrals under one bishop, are all measures which cannot be legally taken without the approbation of the Pope. The temporal power has often performed these and the like acts by way of usurpation, as when the revolutionary government of France reduced the number of French dioceses from more than a hundred and thirty to sixty; but a regular and lawful state of things in such a case can only be restored by the State's entering into a convention with the Holy See, which is always ready, without abandoning principle, to conform its action to the emergent necessities of the times. Thus in the case just mentioned, by the Concordat with Napoleon in 1802, Rome sanctioned the permanent suppression of many old sees, in consequence of which the French episcopate now numbers eightyfour bishops instead of the larger number existing before the Revolution. Analogous changes are provided for in the Anglican communion by the theory of the Royal Supremacy, though this theory has been slightly modified by the progress of political development since the Reformation. The sovereign is still supreme in theory "in all causes and over all persons, ecclesiastical as well as civil," within the Anglican communion; but the supremacy cannot be exercised in any important matter without the consent of the majority of the House of Commons, expressed through a responsible ministry. An Act of Parliament, embodying as it does the united will and action of sovereign and Parliament, solves all difficulties. Thus in 1833 ten Protestant sees in Ireland were suppressed at a stroke, and within the last few years several suffragan sees, at Nottingham and elsewhere, have been erected always by Act of Parliament. In every such case, whatever legality the Act may have is solely due to the action of the temporal power; ecclesiastical authority has nothing to do with it.

The Council of Trent forbids the holding of more than one cathedral church, or the holding of a cathedral along with a parish church by the same bishop1. It enjoins that ordinations shall, so far as possible, be publicly celebrated in cathedral churches, and in the presence of the canons.2


THE part of the church round the high altar reserved for clergy. Euseb. ("H.E." x. 5) speaks of the altar in the church built by Constantine at Tyre as enclosed with wooden rails. In ancient times says Morinus ("De Pen." vi. c. i, n. 10), both the Latin and Greek Churches were divided into two parts, the atrium or court for the laity and the sanctuary (called by the Greeks hierateion, but, most commonly bëma, from its raised position, also hagion tön hagion, aduta, hilastërion, anaktoron) for bishop, priests, and deacons. The porch, or narthëx, is not mentioned till 500 years after Christ. The Latin word sanctuarium occurs, in the thirteenth capitulum of the Second Council of Braga, in 563, which forbids any lay person to enter the sanctuary for the reception of communion. (Le Brun, tom. iii. diss. i. a. viii.)

The Sanctus.

THE Sanctus, also known as the Tersanctus, as the angelic hymn among the Latins, as the triumphal hymn (epinikios humnos) among the Greeks, forms the conclusion of the Preface in all the liturgies. It is composed of the words, "Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of Sabaoth," from Is. vi. and a fragment of Ps. cxvii. 26 (Heb. cxviii.), "Blessed is he who cometh in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest." In the Roman rite, except in the Pontifical chapel and during exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, a small bell is here rung. But Benedict XIV. says he could not discover when this custom began. It is to be observed that the Missal here follows the old Latin version, which retained the word Sabaoth, while the Vulgate has exercituum. This, no doubt, is the right translation, but scholars are not agreed as to the original reference. Ewald believes the reference is to the armies of angels (Ps. ciii. 21, cxlviii. 2; I Kings [3 Reg.], xxii. 19, "the camp of God"; Gen. xxxii. 2). Schrader suggests, which is very unlikely, that the hosts of Israel are intended, while, probably, the opinion of many other critics, Kuenen, Bandessin, Tiele, Delitzch, is the right one viz. that the original reference was, to the stars. These are constantly spoken of as the "host of heaven," and in Is.xl 26 as the host which God musters. The title never occurs in the Pentateuch, Josue, or judges. But it is constantly employed in the historical books from Samuel onwards, in Psalms, in the Prophets, but not in Osee, Ezechiel, or in Micheas, except iv. 14.


SANDALS form part of the bishop's liturgical dress. The fact is interesting, as one of many proofs that Church vestments are derived from the dress of daily life, and had originally no connection with the garb of Jewish priests, who officiated barefoot.

Sandals are first mentioned as part of the liturgical dress by Amalarius of Metz ("De Eccl. Offic." i. 25 and 26). He distinguishes between the sandals of the bishop, which were fastened with thongs, because be had to travel, and those of priests. The deacon's sandals were the same as those of the bishop whom be had to accompany; those of the subdeacons were again distinct. Rabanus Maurus is the next to, mention sandals ("De Cleric. Institut." i. 22 ); he sees a reference to them in Marc. vi. 9, Ephes vi. 15, and, as they covered the under but not the upper part of the foot, he sees here a symbol of the teacher's duty of revealing the Gospel to the faithful and concealing it from infidels. PseudoAlcuin, in the tenth century ("De Div. Offic." 39 ), copies the authors just named. On the other hand, Hugo of St. Victor ("De Sacram." ii. iv. 14), Innocent III. ("De Altaris Myster." i. 10, 34, 48), Honorius of Autun ("Gemma Animæ," i. 210), show that in their time the sandals of bishops only, not of priests, belonged to the liturgical dress, as is the case still. Innocent mentions the stockings of bishops (caligæ,3 also tibialia), which since the twelfth century have been of silk. (Hefele, "Beiträge," vol. ii. P. 219 seq.)


SCAPULAR (from scapulæ, shoulders). A dress which covers the shoulders. It is mentioned in the rule of St Benedict as worn by monks over their other dress when they were at work, and it now forms a regular part of the religious dress in the old orders. But it is best known among Catholics as the name of two little pieces of cloth worn out of devotion over the shoulders, under the ordinary garb, and connected by strings.

It was through the Carmelites that this devotion began, and the following is the story told of its origin: The Blessed Virgin appeared at Cambridge to Simon Stock, general of the Carmelite order, when it was in great trouble. She gave him a scapular which she bore in her hand, in order that by it, "the holy [Carmelite] order might be known and protected from the evils which assailed it," and added, "this will be the privilege for you and for all Carmelites; no one dying in this scapular will suffer eternal burning." Another marvel is related by John XXII. in the famous Sabbatine bull. The Blessed Virgin, he says, appeared to him, and speaking of the Carmelites and those associated to them by wearing the scapular, promised that, if any of them went to Purgatory, she herself would descend and free them on the Saturday following their death "This holy indulgence," says the Pope, "I accept, corroborate, and confirm as, Jesus Christ for the merits of the glorious Virgin Mary granted it in heaven." To gain this privilege it is necessary to observe fidelity in marriage or chastity in the single state. Those who read must recite the office of the Blessed Virgin, unless already bound to the Divine Office, those who cannot, must abstain from flesh meat on Wednesdays and Saturdays, unless Christmas falls on one of these days. So the Sabbatine bull, as given in the Carmelite "Bullarium."

Two statements, then, have to be examined. Is there any proof that the Blessed Virgin appeared to St. Simon Stock and made the promise related above? Is the Sabbatine bull genuine, and the story it tells true?

We take the latter question first, because it may be dispatched very quickly. Launoy, in a dissertation of wonderful learning, to be found in the second volume of his collected works (the edition we have used is dated 1731, "Coloniæ Allobrogum"), proves by a superabundance of reasons that the bull of John XXII. is a clumsy forgery, and that of Alexander V. another forgery made to cover the former. The autograph has never been found, nor has it any place in the Roman "Bullarium". Its authenticity is unhesitatingly denied by the great Bollandist Papebroch in his reply to the attacks made upon him by the Carmelites and by Benedict XIV. ("De Fest." lxxiv. lxxvii. ) The latter says it is as hard, perhaps harder, to believe in this bull than in the story of the chapel built on Mount Carmel in honor of the Blessed Virgin during her life. He says he could give more reasons against it than he cares to produce, and arguments drawn "from things [in the bull] which want all appearance of truth." He alludes, we suppose, to the style of the bull, which, as Launoy points out, betrays in many ways the hand of the impostor.

As to the fact of the apparition to Simon Stock, it is accepted by Benedict XIV., Papebroch, and Alban Butler on the faith of a "Life" of the saint by Swaynton, who was his secretary and wrote the story of the apparition at his dictation. A fragment of this "Life" was produced from their archives at Bordeaux and printed by one of the Carmelites viz. Cheronensis. We may observe that the Carmelites refused a sight of this "Life" to Papebroch. (See Bollandist "Acta SS. Maii," tom. iii.) Next, to understand the force of Launoy's arguments for regarding this passage in the "Life" if it be authentic, as an interpolation, we must remember that the miracle is represented as gaining immediate notoriety. These are Swaynton's or pseudoSwaynton's words: "The story running through England and beyond it, many cities offered us places in which to live, and many nobles begged to be affiliated to this holy order, that they might share in its graces, desiring to die in this holy habit," If so, the silence of Carmelite authors for more than a century after is remarkable. Simon Stock died in 1250. Ribotus, provincial in Catalonia (about 1340), in his ten books "On the Institution and Remarkable Deeds of the Carmelites," ignores it. So does Chimelensis in two books specially designed to glorify the order ("Speculum Historiale" and "Speculum Ordinis Carmeli"), and so do three other authors of similar books quoted by Launoy. Strangest of all, Waldensis, a, Carmelite, an Englishman, and writing in England ("De Sacramentalibus"), tries hard to prove the religious habit a sacramental, and speaks particularly of the Carmelite habit and the form which it is given. Nothing could have been more to the point than Swaynton's story, but be never alludes to it. The vision is mentioned, apparently for the first time, so far as it is known for certain, by Grossus, a Carmelite of Toulouse, in his "Viridarium" (1389), then by Paleonidorus ("Antiq. Ord. Carm." vi. 8, apud Launoy), published in 1495. It is right to add, however, that the Carmelites claimed the support of an anonymous MS. in the Vatican, said to have been written early in the fourteenth century.

Many of the, later Popes have granted numerous indulgences to the Confraternies of the scapular, and no Catholic, Launoy as little as anyone, doubts the utility and piety of the institution. "The scapular," says Bossuet, "is no useless badge. You wear it as a visible token that you own yourselves Mary's children, and she will be your mother indeed if you live in our Lord Jesus Christ" ("Sermon pour le Jour du Scapulaire," vol. xi. p. 369, in the last edition of Bossuet). Benedict XIV. speaks in a similar tone, but he admits that too many abuse these symbols and badges by a misplaced confidence in them.

There are four other scapulars used in the Church: that of the Trinity, of white linen with a red cross, given by the Trinitarians or priests delegated by them; the Servite scapular of the Seven Dolours, which is of black woolen stuff; that of the Immaculate Conception, of light blue woolen cloth, propagated by Ursula Benincasa in the sixteenth century, and given by the Theatines, who governed the Congregation to which this nun belonged; the red scapular of the Passion, originated by a Sister of Charity at Paris, who is said to have received a revelation on the matter in 1846, and given by the Vincentian Fathers. All these Confraternities are designed to promote prayer and other good works in their members.

(This article has been compiled from Benedict XIV. "De Festis", the Bollandists, Maii, tom. iii.; Launoy, " Dissertat." tom. ii.; Swaynson's "Life" does not seem to have been published entire. At least, we have searched in vain for a copy at the British Museum. There is nothing in Alban Butler which had not been already stated by the authors quoted. The brief notice on the other scapulars is from a little book of Labis, "Notices et Instructions sur les Scapulaires," etc. It is merely practical and has no historical worth.)

1 Sess. vii. 2 , xxiv, 17, De Reform.

2 Sess. xxiii, 8, De Reform.

3 So Hefele understands the term

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