Bull issued by Pius VI in condemnation of the Gallican and Jansenist acts and tendencies of the Synod of Pistoia (1786)
Auctorem Fidei, a Bull issued by Pius VI, August 28, 1794, in condemnation of the Gallican and Jansenist acts and tendencies of the Synod of Pistoia (1786). To understand its bearing, it is well to observe that Leopold II, Grand duke of Tuscany (1765-90), pursued the ecclesiastical policy of his brother, Joseph II of Austria; i.e. he practically arrogated to himself supreme authority over all ecclesiastical matters within his dominions. In 1785 he sent fifty-seven articles to each bishop in the grand duchy, with orders to consider them in a diocesan synod, as a preliminary to a national synod, in which they were finally to be discussed. Scipio de’ Ricci, Bishop of Pistoia, held his diocesan synod, and approved not only the fifty-seven articles drawn up by order of Leopold, but added a number of others of similar import. Among them were the following: All ecclesiastical authority comes directly from the members of the Church at large, whose commissioned ministers the pastors are. The pope is only ministerially head of the Church. Bishops do not depend on the pope for any jurisdiction in the government of their diocese. In diocesan synods parish priests have the same right of voting and deciding as the bishop. Reserved cases should be abolished. Excommunication has only an external effect. It is superstition to have more devotion towards one sacred image than towards another. Civil rulers have the right of making impediments diriment of matrimony and of dispensing from them. Bishops are not bound to make an oath of obedience to the pope before their consecration. All religious orders should live under the same rule and wear the same habit. Each church should have only one altar; the liturgy should be in the vernacular, and only one Mass should be celebrated on Sundays. Leopold caused a national synod to be held at Florence in 1787, but he did not find the other bishops as pliant as Scipio de’ Ricci. Nevertheless he continued assuming all ecclesiastical authority, prohibited all appeals to the pope, and even appointed bishops, to whom the pope of course refused canonical institution. Finally, the Bull “Auctorem Fidei” was published, in which eighty-five articles taken from the Synod of Pistoia were catalogued and condemned. After the publication of the Bull, Scipio de’ Ricci submitted. In 1805 he took occasion of the presence of Pius VII in Florence, on his way to Rome from his exile in France, to ask in person for pardon and reconciliation. He died repentant, 1810, in the Dominican convent of San Marco at Florence.