Dictatus papae is a compilation of 27 statements of powers arrogated to the Pope that was included in Pope Gregory VII's register under the year 1075. Some historians argue that it was written (or dictated) by Gregory VII himself; others argue that it has been inserted in the register at a later date, and that it had a different origin. In 1087 Cardinal Deusdedit published a collection of decretals, dedicated to Pope Victor III, that embodied the law of the Church – Canon law – which he had compiled from many sources, both legitimate and false (see Pseudo-Isidore). The Dictatus papae agrees so clearly and closely with this collection that some have argued the Dictatus must have been based on it; and so must be of a later date of compilation and insertion in the papal register than 1087.
Dictatus Papae is a heading in the letter-collection that implies that the pope composed the piece himself. It does not mean a 'papal dictate' or any kind of a manifesto; rather it means 'papal dictation'. It was not published, in the sense of being widely copied and made known outside the immediate circle of the papal curia. "None of the conflicts of the years 1075 and following can be directly traced to opposition to it (though several of the claims made in it were also made by Gregory and his supporters during these conflicts)".
The principles expressed in Dictatus papae are those of the Gregorian Reform, which had been initiated by Gregory decades before he ascended the throne as Gregory VII. The axioms of the Dictatus advance the strongest case of papal supremacy and infallibility. The axiom "That it may be permitted to him to depose emperors" qualified the early medieval world-balance embodied in the symbol of the "two swords" - spiritual and temporal, the complementary powers of potestas (or imperium) and auctoritas under which the West had been ruled since Merovingian times, based on Roman precedents - and emphasised the spiritual over the temporal.
The Dictates of the Pope
- That the Roman church was founded by God alone.
- That the Roman pontiff alone can with right be called universal.
- That he alone can depose or reinstate bishops.
- That, in a council his legate, even if a lower grade, is above all bishops, and can pass sentence of deposition against them.
- That the pope may depose the absent.
- That, among other things, we ought not to remain in the same house with those excommunicated by him.
- That for him alone is it lawful, according to the needs of the time, to make new laws, to assemble together new congregations, to make an abbey of a canonry; and, on the other hand, to divide a rich bishopric and unite the poor ones.
- That he alone may use the imperial insignia.
- That of the pope alone all princes shall kiss the feet.
- That his name alone shall be spoken in the churches.
- That this title [Pope] is unique in the world.
- That it may be permitted to him to depose emperors.
- That he may be permitted to transfer bishops if need be.
- That he has power to ordain a clerk of any church he may wish.
- That he who is ordained by him may preside over another church, but may not hold a subordinate position; and that such a one may not receive a higher grade from any bishop.
- That no synod shall be called a general one without his order.
- That no chapter and no book shall be considered canonical without his authority.
- That a sentence passed by him may be retracted by no one; and that he himself, alone of all, may retract it.
- That he himself may be judged by no one.
- That no one shall dare to condemn one who appeals to the apostolic chair.
- That to the latter should be referred the more important cases of every church.
- That the Roman church has never erred; nor will it err to all eternity, the Scripture bearing witness.
- That the Roman pontiff, if he have been canonically ordained, is undoubtedly made holy by the merits of St. Peter; St. Ennodius, bishop of Pavia, bearing witness, and many holy fathers agreeing with him. As is contained in the decrees of St. Symmachus the pope.
- That, by his command and consent, it may be lawful for subordinates to bring accusations.
- That he may depose and reinstate bishops without assembling a synod.
- That he who is not at peace with the Roman church shall not be considered catholic.
- That he may absolve subjects from their fealty to wicked men.
- In a series of letters issued to bishop Opizo of Lodi. Paravicini Bagliani, Agostino. "Sia fatta la mia volontà". Medioevo (143): p. 77.
- Ernst Sackur has made it probable that the so-called "Dictatus Papæ" were composed by Deusdedit.", Catholic Encyclopaedia, sub "Cardinal Deusdedit".
- "Until quite recently Gregory VII himself was generally regarded as the author; Löwenfeld (see below) continued to maintain the authorship of Gregory, but Sackur, however, has shown that the "Indices capitulorum" in the "Collectio canonum" of Deusdedit are closely related to the brief theses known as "Dictatus Papæ" both in respect of sense and verbal text. Most probably, therefore, the latter are taken from the collection of Deusdedit, who put them together from the "Registrum Epistolarum" or letterbook of Gregory. Possibly also Deusdedit was the editor of this famous and important collection of Gregory's correspondence." Catholic Encyclopedia 1908, sub "Cardinal Deusdedit".
- Medieval Sourcebook: Dictatus papae from Ernest F. Henderson, Select Historical Documents of the Middle Ages, (London: George Bell and Sons, 1910), pp. 366–367; reprinted in Brian Tierney, ed., The Middle Ages, Vol. I: Sources of Medieval History, 4th ed., (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1983) pp. 142–143.
- [Das Register Gregors. VII, ed. E. Caspar (in series M.G.H. Epistolae Selectae ii, Berlin 1920-3), pp. 202–8]: section translated by G.A. Loud