Dei Filius

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Dei Filius is the incipit of the dogmatic constitution of the First Vatican Council on the Catholic faith, which was adopted unanimously, and issued by Pope Pius IX on 24 April 1870.

The constitution set forth the teaching of "the holy Catholic Apostolic Roman Church" on God, revelation and faith.[1]


The papal bull was influenced by the work of Johann Baptist Franzelin, papal theologian to the council and later cardinal, who had written a great deal on the topic of faith and rationality.[2]

The document begins by observing that "...God, the principle and end of all things, can be known with certainty by the natural light of human reason from created things".[3] However, it then explains that there are other divine truths, the knowledge of which is necessary for salvation, that are beyond the power of natural reason and can only be known through divine revelation.[4]

It also decreed, "If any one shall not receive as sacred and canonical the books of Holy Scripture, entire with all their parts, as the holy Synod of Trent has enumerated them, or shall deny that they have been divinely inspired: let him be anathema."[5]

Name used for the church[edit]

The draft presented to the council on 8 March 1870 drew no serious criticism. But a group of 35 English-speaking bishops, who feared that the opening phrase "Sancta Romana Catholica Ecclesia" might be construed as favouring the Anglican branch theory, raised objections to this expression, "Holy Roman Catholic Church". They proposed that the word "Roman" be omitted out of concern that use of the term "Roman Catholic" would lend support to proponents of branch theory. While the council overwhelmingly rejected this proposal, the text was finally modified to read "The Holy Catholic Apostolic and Roman Church".[6]

The words "Sancta Romana Catholica Ecclesia" were voted on three separate dates. On the first occasion, when this chapter alone was considered, two votes concerned the opening words. The first was on a proposal by a few English-speaking bishops to delete the word "Romana", thus changing "Sancta Romana Catholica Ecclesia" (The Holy Roman Catholic Church) to "Sancta Catholica Ecclesia" (The Holy Catholic Church). This was overwhelmingly defeated.[7][8]

The second vote, held immediately afterwards, was on a proposal to insert a comma, so that "Sancta Romana Catholica Ecclesia" (The Holy Roman Catholic Church) would become "Sancta Romana, Catholica Ecclesia" (The Holy Roman, Catholic Church). This too was defeated, though not as overwhelmingly as the first proposal.

In a later vote, held on 12 April 1870, the text as a whole, which preserved the same opening words, was approved with 515 affirmative votes (placet) and no opposing votes (non placet); but there were 83 placet iuxta modum votes, asking for retouches, many of them regarding the opening words of chapter I.[9][10]

In view of the reservations thus expressed, the text presented for a final vote and approved unanimously on 24 April changed the order of the words and added "Apostolica", so that "Sancta Romana Catholica Ecclesia" became "Sancta Catholica Apostolica Romana Ecclesia" (The Holy Catholic Apostolic Roman Church).[10][11][12]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Roberto De Mattei, John Laughland, Pius IX, p. 137
  2. ^ "Creeds of Christendom, with a History and Critical notes. Volume II. The History of Creeds".
  3. ^ Pope Pius IX, Dei Filius, Chapter II
  4. ^ Trabbic, Joseph G., "Vatican I and God’s natural knowability", October 23, 2012, Ave Maria University
  5. ^ Dei Filius, Canon 4
  6. ^ Avery Dulles (1987), The Catholicity of the Church, Oxford University Press, p. 131, ISBN 0-19-826695-2
  7. ^ Richard Faber. Katholizismus in Geschichte und Gegenwart. 2005, p. 42
  8. ^ Theodorus Granderath. Constitutiones Dogmaticae Sancrosancti Oecumenici Concilii Vaticani. (Herder 1892), p. 5 indicates that the vote was overwhelming. Granderath's book was called "one of the most important contributions to the literature of dogmatic theology in our day" in a review in the American Ecclesiastical Review.[1]
  9. ^ Granderath, p. 27
  10. ^ a b Jean-Yves Lacoste, Encyclopedia of Christian Theology: G - O (CRC Press, 2005 ISBN 1-57958-250-8, ISBN 978-1-57958-250-0), p. 1666
  11. ^ Granderath, pp. 29-32
  12. ^ Lacoste, Jean-Yves (2004). "Vatican I, Council of". Encyclopedia of Christian Theology. New York: Routledge. p. 1666. ISBN 1-57958-250-8.

External links[edit]