The Papal Bull sent to Oxford University directing action against Wyckcliffe.
Gregory the Bishop, the Servant of God’s Servants, to his well-beloved Sons, the Chancellor and University of Oxford, in the Diocese of Lincoln, Greeting and Apostolical Benediction,
We are constrained both to marvel and lament, that you, who, considering the favours and privileges granted to your university of Oxford by the apostolic see, and your knowledge of the Scriptures, the wide ocean whereof (through the favour of the Lord) you so successfully explore ought to be champions and defenders of the orthodox faith (without which there is no salvation of souls), through negligence and sloth on your part allow cockle to spring among the pure wheat in the field of your glorious university aforesaid, and (what is worse) to grow up; and take no means (as we were lately informed) for rooting out of the same; to the great blemishing of your fair name, the peril of your souls, the contempt of the Roman church, and the decay of the orthodox faith. And (what grieveth us still more bitterly) the increase of the said cockle is perceived and felt in Rome before it is in England, where (however) the mean, of extirpating it ought to be applied. It hath, in truth, been intimated to us by many trust-worthy persons (who are much grieved on the subject), that one John Wickliff, rector of Lutterworth, in the diocese of Lincoln, professor of divinity (would that he were not rather a master of errors), hath gone to such a pitch of detestable folly, that he feareth not to teach, and publicly preach, or rather to vomit out of the filthy dungeon of his breast, certain erroneous and false propositions and conclusions, savouring even of heretical pravity, tending to weaken and overthrow the status of the whole church, and even the secular government. Some of these, with a change only in certain of the terms, seem to be identical with the perverse opinions and unlearned doctrine of Marsilius de Padua and John de Ghent of cursed memory, whose book was reprobated and condemned by our predecessor of happy memory, pope John XXII. These opinions, I say, he is circulating in the realm of England, so glorious for power and abundance of wealth, but still more so for the shining purity of its faith, and wont to produce men illustrious for their clear and sound knowledge of the scriptures, ripe in gravity of manners, conspicuous for devotion, and hold defenders of the catholic faith; and some of Christ’s flock he hath been defiling therewith, and misleading from the straight path of the sincere faith into the pit of perdition. Wherefore, being (as in duty bound) unwilling to connive at so deadly a pest, for which if not at once checked, yea, plucked up by the roots, it would be too late to apply a remedy when it had infected multitudes—we strictly charge and command your university by our apostolic letters, in virtue of your holy obedience, and on pain of forfeiting all the graces, indulgences, and privileges, ever granted to you and your society by the said see, that you never again permit conclusions and propositions to be asserted or propounded which bear unfavourably on good works and faith, yea, though the proposer. of them may strive to defend them under some curious disguise of words or terms; and that by our authority you seize or cause to be seized the said John, and send him under trusty keeping to our venerable brethren the archbishop of Canterbury and the bishop of London, or either of them: and moreover that any recusants in the said university, subject to your jurisdiction (if such there be, which God forbid !) who may he infected with these errors, if they obstinately persist in them, that you do (as in duty bound) firmly and anxiously proceed to a like or other seizure and transmission of them, so that you may supply your lack of diligence, which hath been hitherto remiss as touching the premises, and may obtain beside the reward of the divine recompense, the favour and goodwill also of us and the see aforesaid. Given at St. Mary’. the Greater, Rome. xi Cal. of June, and the seventh year of our pontificate. [May 22d, A.D. 1377.]
The conclusions held against Wyckcliffe
1. That the material substance of bread and of wine remains, after
the consecration, in the sacrament of the altar.
2. That the accidents do not remain without the subject, after
the consecration, in the same sacrament.
3. That Christ is not in the sacrament of the altar identically,
truly and really in his proper corporeal presence.
4. That if a bishop or priest lives in mortal sin he does not
ordain, or consecrate, or baptize.
5. That if a man has been truly repentant, all external confession
is superfluous to him or useless.
6. That it is not founded in the gospel that Christ instituted
7. That God ought to be obedient to the devil.
8. That if the pope is fore-ordained to destruction and a wicked
man, and therefore a member of the devil, no power has been given
to him over the faithful of Christ by any one, unless perhaps
by the Emperor.
9. That since Urban VI, no one is to be acknowledged as pope;
but all are to live, in the way of the Greeks, under their own
10. To assert that it is against sacred scripture that men of
the Church should have temporal possessions.
11. That no prelate ought to excommunicate any one unless he first
knows that the man is excommunicated by God.
12. That a prelate thus excommunicating is thereby a heretic or
13. That a prelate excommunicating a clerk who has appealed to
the king, or to a council of the kingdom, on that very account
is a traitor to God, the king and the kingdom.
14. That those who neglect to preach, or to hear the word of God,
or the gospel that is preached, because of the excommunication
of men, are excommunicate, and in the day of judgment will be
considered as traitors to God.
15. To assert that it is allowed to any one, whether a deacon
or a priest, to preach the word of God, without the authority
of the apostolic see, or of a Catholic bishop, or of some other
which is sufficiently acknowledged.
16. To assert that no one is a civil lord, no one is a bishop,
no one is a prelate, so long as he is in mortal sin.
17. That temporal lords may, at their own judgment, take away
temporal goods from churchmen who are habitually delinquent; or
that the people may, at their own judgment, correct delinquent
18. That tithes are purely charity, and that parishoners may,
on account of the sins of their curates, detain these and confer
them on others at their will.
19. That special prayers applied to one person by prelates or
religious persons, are of no more value to the same person than
general prayers for others in a like position are to him.
20. That the very fact that any one enters upon any private religion
whatever, renders him more unfitted and more incapable of observing
the commandments of God.
21. That saints who have instituted any private religions whatever,
as well of those having possessions as of mendicants, have sinned
in thus instituting them.
22. That religious persons living in private religions are not
of the Christian religion.
23. That friars should be required to gain their living by the
labor of their hands and not by mendicancy.
24. That a person giving alms to friars, or to a preaching friar,
is excommunicate; also the one receiving.
I have joyfully to tell to all true men that believe what I hold,
and legates to the pope; for I suppose that if my faith be rightful
and given of God, the pope will gladly confirm it; and if my faith
be error, the Pope will wisely amend it.
I suppose over this that the gospel of Christ be the heart of
the corpus of God's law; for I believe that Jesus Christ, that
gave in His own person this gospel, is very God and very man,
and by this heart passes all other laws.
I suppose over this that the pope be most obliged to the keeping
of the gospel among all men that live here; for the pope is highest
vicar that Christ has here in earth. For moreness of Christ's
vicar is not measured by worldly moreness, but by this, that this
vicar sues more Christ by virtuous living; for thus teacheth the
gospel, that this is the sentence of Christ.
And of this gospel I take as believe, that Christ for the time
that He walked here, was the most poor man of all, both in spirit
and in having; for Christ says that He had nought for to rest
His head on. And Paul says that He was made needy for our love.
And more poor might no man be, neither bodily nor in spirit. And
thus Christ put from Him all manner of worldly lordship. For the
gospel of John telleth that when they would have made Christ king,
He fled and hid Him from them, for He would none such worldly
And over this I take it as believe, that no man should sue the
pope, nor no saint that now is in heaven, but in as much as he
sues Christ. For John and James erred when they coveted worldly
highness; and Peter and Paul sinned also when they denied and
blasphemed in Christ; but men should not sue them in this, for
then they went from Jesus Christ. And this I take as wholesome
counsel, that the pope leave his worldly lordship to worldly lords,
as Christ gave them,and move speedily all his clerks to do
so. For thus did Christ, and taught thus his disciples, till the
fiend had blinded this world. And it seems to some men that clerks
that dwell lastingly in this error against God's law, and flee
to sue Christ in this, been open heretics, and their fautors been
And if I err in this sentence, I will meekly be amended, yea,
by the death, if it be skilful, for that I hope were good to me.
And if I might travel in mine own person, I would with good will
go to the pope. But God has needed me to the contrary, and taught
me more obedience to God than to men. And I suppose of our pope
that he will not be Antichrist, and reverse Christ in this working,
to the contrary of Christ's will; for if he summon against reason,
by him or by any of his, and pursue this unskilful summoning,
he is an open Antichrist. And merciful intent excused not Peter,
that Christ should name him Satan; so blind intent and wicked
counsel excuses not the pope here; but if he ask of true priests
that they travel more than they may, he is not excused by reason
of God, that he should not be Antichrist. For our belief teaches
us that our blessed God suffers us not to be tempted more than
we may; how should a man ask such service? And therefore pray
we to God for our Pope Urban the Sixth, that his old holy intent
be not quenched by his enemies. And Christ, that may not lie,
says that the enemies of a man been especially his home family;
and this is sooth of men and fiends.
Beside this vituperative bull sent to the university of Oxford, pope Gregory sent letters to the archbishop of Canterbury, Simon Sudbury, and to the bishop of London, William Courtney, with his conclusions on John Wickliffe enclosed. He commanded them, by virtue of his letters apostolical, to cause John Wickliffe to be apprehended, and cast into prison. There is a special significance in this instruction in that the pope fully expected the arrest and confinement by his order alone. An almost `courtesy` letter to the young King Richard II at the same time, effectively repeated the `instruction` with the expectation that Richard would support the action. This was in complete defiance of the rule of law and the English Parliament. It was yet another sign of the overbearing attitude of the medieval Catholic Church which was under attack by the likes of Wyckcliffe and Jan Huss.