Excommunicating and Deposing Elizabeth I of England

February 22, 2018

Pope St. Pius V: Bull “Regnans in Excelsis,” Excommunicating and Deposing Elizabeth I of England, February 25, 1570

Portrait of Pope Pius V by Palma il Giovane

He that reigneth on high, to whom is given all power in heaven and on earth, commited one, holy, Catholike and Apostolike Church, out of which there is no salvation, to one alone upon earth, namely to Peter the chiefe of the Apostles, and to Peters Successour the Bishop of Rome, to be governed in fulnesse of power. Him alone he made Prince over all people, and all Kingdomes, to pluck up, destroy, scatter, consume, plant and build, that he may containe the faithfull that are knit together with the band of charity, in the unity of the spirit, and present them spotlesse and unblameable to their Saviour. In discharge of which function, We which are by Gods goodnesse called to the gouvernement of the aforesayd Church, do spare no paines, labouring with all the earnestnesse that Unity and the Catholike Religion (which the Author thereof hath for the tryall of his childrens faith, and for our amendment, suffered to be punished with so great afflictions) might be preserved uncorrupt. But the number of the ungodly hath gotten such power that there is now no place left in the whole world which they have not assayed to corrupt with their most wicked Doctrines; amongst others, Elizabeth the pretensed Queene of England, the servant of wickednesse, lending thereunto her helping hand, with whom as in a Sanctuary the most pernicious of all have found a refuge.

Mary Queen of Scots in an official portrait at the Blairs Museum – The Museum of Scotland’s Catholic Heritage.

This very woman having seazed on the Kingdome, and monstrously usurping the place of supreme head of the Church in all England, and the chiefe authority and jurisdiction thereof, hath againe brought backe the sayd Kingdome into miserable destruction, which was then newly reduced to the Catholike Faith and good fruits. For having by strong hand inhibited the exercise of the true Religion, which Mary the lawfull Queene of famous memory, had by the helpe of this See restored after it had bene formerly overthrowne by Henry the eighth, a revolter therefrom; and following and embracing the errors of Heretikes, she hath removed the royall Councell consisting of the English Nobility, and filled it with obscure men being Heretikes, suppressed the embraces of the Catholike Faith, placed dishonest Preachers, and Ministers of impieties, abolished the sacrifice of the Masse, Prayers, Fastings, choyce of meates, unmaried life, and the Catholike rites and Ceremonies, commanded Bookes to be read in the whole Realme containing manifest Heresie; and impious mysteries and institutions by her selfe entertained and observed according to the Praescript of Calvin, to be likewise observed by her Subjects; presumed to throw Bishops, Parsons of Churches, and other Catholike Priests, out of their Churches and beneficies, and bestow them and other Church-livings upon Heretikes, and to determine of Church causes, prohibited the Prelats, Clergie and people to acknowledge the Church of Rome, or obey the preceps and Canonicall sanctions thereof; compelled most of them to condescend to her wicked Lawes, and to abjure the authority and obedience of the Bishop Rome, and to acknowledge her to be sole Lady in Temporall and Spirituall matters, and this by Oath; imposed penalties and punishments upon those which obeyed not, and exacted them of those which perservered in the Unity of the Faith and their obedience aforesayd, cast the Catholike Prelats and Rectors of Churches in prison, where many therein beeing spent with long languishing and sorrow, miserably ended their lives. All which things, seeing they are manifest and notorious to all Nations, and by the gravest testimonie of very many so substantially proved that there is no place at all left for excuse, defence or evasion.

Persecution, torture and murder of Catholic clergy during Elizabeth I time.

We seeing that impieties and wicked actions are multiplied one upon another, and moreover that the persecution of the faithfull, and affliction for Religion, groweth every day heavier and heavier through the instigation and meanes of the sayd Elizabeth; because We understand her minde to be so hardened and indurate that she hath not onely contemned the godly requests and admonitions of Catholike Princes concerning her healing and conversion, but also hath not so much as permitted the Nuncios of this Sea to crosse the seas into England, are constrained of necessity to betake our selves to the weapons of Justice against her, not being able to mitigate our sorrow that we are drawne to take punishment upon one, to whose Ancestors the whole State of all Christendome hath beene so much bounden. Being therefore supported with His authority, whose pleasure it was to place Us (though unable for so great a burthen) in this supreme throne of Justice, We doe out of the fulnesse of our Apostolike power declare the aforesayd Elizabeth being an Heretike, and a favourer of Heritikes, and her adherents in the matters aforesayd, to have incurred the sentence of Anathema, and to be cut off from the Unity of the body of Christ.

A genuine and realistic c.1595 portrait of queen Elizabeth I by Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger.

And moreover We do declare Her to be deprived of her pretended Title to the Kingdome aforesayd, and of all Dominion, Dignity, and Priviledge what soever; and also the Nobility, Subjects, and People of the sayd Kingdome, and all others which have in any sort sworne unto Her, to be for ever absolved from any such Oath, and all manner of duty of dominion, alleageance, and obedience. As We also doe by authority of these presents absolve them, and do deprive the same Elizabeth of her pretended title to the Kingdome, and all other things abovesayd. And We do command and interdict all and every the Noblemen, Subjects, People, and others aforesayd that they presume not to obey her, or her monitions, Mandates, and Lawes; and those which shall doe the contrary, We do innodate with the like sentence of Anathema. And because it were a matter of too much difficulty, to conveigh these presents to all places wheresoever it shall be needfull, our will is that the copies thereof under a publike Notaries hand, and sealed with the seale of an Ecclesiasticall Prelate, or of his Court, shall carry altogether the same credit, with all people, iudictally and extrajudically, as these Present should doe, if they were exhibited or shewed.

Given at Rome at Saint Peters in the yeare of the incarnation of our Lord one thousand five hundreth sixty nine, the fifth of the Kalends of March, and of our Popedom the fifty yeare.

Pius PP.


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