1. Biblical Sources of the Doctrine.
  2. The Patristic Period.
      Sub-Apostolic Views (§ 1).
      Extension of the Power (§ 2).
      Origen, Cyprian, and Augustine (§ 3).
      Sins Controlled by the Power (§ 4).
      Treatment of the Lapsed and Penitent (§ 5).
      The Power and the Priesthood (§ 6).
  3. The Middle Ages and the Roman Catholic Doctrine.
    1. Penance (§ 1).
      The Priest as Judge or as Mediator (§ 2).
      Combination of the Two Views (§ 3).
      The Twofold Key and Thomas Aquinas (§ 4).
      The Tridentine Decree (§ 5).
      The Problem of Priestly Fallibility (§ 6).
      The Keys in the Greek Church ( § 7).
  4. The Reformation and the Protestant Doctrine.
    1. Luther and Melanchthon (§ 1).
      The Calvinistic Theory (§ 2).
      Lutheran Attacks on the Doctrine (§ 3).
      Theological Aspect of the Doctrine (§ 4).

I. Biblical Sources of the Doctrine:

The "power of the keys" is a symbolical term which in its more extended sense denotes the whole range of the power of the Church, while in its restricted usage it connotes simply the power of granting or refusing absolution. The concept goes back to Christ's words to Peter (Matt. xvi. 19), "I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven." This is doubtless based on "the key of the house of David" mentioned in Isa. xxii. 22, and quoted in Rev. iii. 7, and implies that the steward of the house received the keys so that no one might open the door he had shut, or shut the door he had opened. This metaphor is not carried through in Matt. xvi. 19, but passages like Matt. xxiii. 13 and Luke xi. 52 prove that "binding and loosing" must have been related to the concept of admission and exclusion. In Matt. xviii. 18, where the power of binding and loosing is conferred upon all disciples as the representatives of the Church,


the connection of the passage leaves no doubt that it refers to the exclusion of sinners from or the admission of penitents to the congregation. Nor can the similar words in Matt. xvi. 19 have an essentially different meaning, so that the concept of the early Church, which is shared by the Greek exegetes, can not be wrong in interpreting the passage by John xx. 23. It is especially to be emphasized that in both passages the disciples receive no commission of a new function, but are merely assured that the exercise of their former function is valid before God. It is still more desirable to interpret the passage in Matthew from the whole connection of the Synoptic Gospels, and it thus becomes plain that in consideration of such passages as Matt. xxiii. 8-10 we can not ascribe any legislative power to the disciples. The sense of the "power of the keys" seems to be, therefore, that Jesus gave Peter, or his disciples, or the body of Christian believers, authority to receive into the kingdom of heaven by forgiveness of sins or to exclude from it by refusal of pardon, thus forgiving sin (especially on earth) in the name of God and with efficacy with God in the same way as the Son of Man had hitherto exercised it (cf. Matt. ix. 6).

II. The Patristic Period:
1. Sub-Apostolic Views.

In the patristic period the "power of the keys" was held to connote strictly the remission (or retention) of sins, and not legal enactments. This is clear from Tertul lian (Scorpiace, x.; De pudicitia, xxi.), from the letter of the churches at Lyons and Vienne (Eusebius, Hist. eccl., V., ii. 5), from Cyprian (Epist., lxxiii. 7, lxxv. 16), and from other sources (Ambrose, De pænitentia, i. 2; Augustine, Contra adversarium legis et prophetarum, 136; Faustus of Riez, Sermo vi.; Leo the Great, Sermo xlix. 3; Apostolic Constitutions, ii. 11 sqq.). It would be erroneous to suppose that this was a narrowing of the concept. The development was rather in the opposite direction, for when the "power of the keys" came to be interpreted as a judicial act, especially in relation to the lapsed, the furtherance of the juristic aspect of the concept was easy. Thus the pseudo-Clementine Homilies (iii. 72; cf. Clement, Epist. ad Jacobum, 2) see in the "power to bind and loose" the functions of the episcopal office.

2. Extension of the Power.

While in the primitive Church the "power of the keys" may be regarded, roughly speaking, as ascribed to the Church, or to its officials, or to those endowed with the Spirit, in the sense that all three concurred, nevertheless the official element gradually superseded the other two. In this early period the "power of the keys" was indubitably possessed by the Church as a whole (cf. Tertullian, Scorpiace, 10; Cyprian, Epist., lxxv. 16), the Church consisting of the bishops, the clergy, and the body of the faithful (Cyprian (Epist., xxxiii. 1). Cyprian is the first to permit to the clergy what he ascribes to the Church, since "the Church is founded upon the bishops, and every act of the Church is controlled by these same rulers" (Epist., xxxiii. 1), although he still maintains that "remission of sins can not be given by those who, it is certain, have not the Holy Spirit" (Epist., Ixix. 11). Elsewhere the idea is found (cf. Eusebius, Hist. eccl., V., xviii. 7; Cyprian, Epist., xviii. 1, xix. 2, xxxiii. 2; De lapsis, 19) that apostles and prophets, as well as martyrs, have the right to forgive sins as, possessing the Holy Ghost. It is not clear, however, that they exercised this function without the cooperation of the other agents already mentioned, nor does Cyprian grant the martyrs more than intercessionary powers, the remission itself being granted by the priest (De lapais, 16, 29; Epist., Iv. 24) who is "judge in the place of Christ" (Epist., lix. 7). But these three classes were never held to be the sole decisive possessors of the "power of the keys," and Montanistic expressions contain indubitable innovations. Thus Tertullian mentions "God's dear ones" (De pænitentia, 9) as those to whom the lapsed should kneel next after the presbyters. When, however, he grants the "power of the keys" to the "spiritual," whether prophets or apostles (De pudicitia, 21), he includes the Church, instead of excluding it, opposing only a priesthood in which he fails to find this spiritual characteristic.

3. Origen, Cyprian and Augustine.

Alexandrine theology seems to have made little change. Origen, while energetically vindicating the "power of the keys" to Christians of true spiritual insight, presupposes, in the case of grievous faults, the participation of priests or bishops in the forgiveness of sins (De oratione, 28; Commentary on Matthew, xii.14), thus restricting to them such a spiritual character. It is evident, moreover, that the "power of the keys" was held to be vested in the bishop (cf. Tertullian, De baptismate, 17; Apostolic Constitutions, ii. 11); but there is no evidence in Cyprian to show that Peter, to say nothing of his successors at Rome, had any prerogative of this power over other apostles or bishops (Epist., lxxv. 16), his view being that Christ gave this privilege first to Peter, and then to his fellow apostles (Epist., lix. 19; De unitate, 4). So according to Augustine, the keys were given to the Church, represented by Peter (Epist., cxlix. 7, ccxcv. 2). The Church is administered by the bishops (Sermo cccli. 9), but it is the Holy Ghost which remits sins both "above man" and "through man" (Sermo xcix. 9). The bishops of Rome, however, laid special claims at an early date to the "power of the keys" in virtue of their succession to Peter (cf. Tertullian, De pudicitia, 1, 21; Cyprian, Epist., lxxv. 17); while Leo the Great (on Matt. xvi. 19), maintaining the "privilege of Peter," held that the "power of the keys" was extended to the other apostles and to all the heads of the Church; and Optatus (De schismate Donati, vii. 3) believed that Peter received this prerogative that he might communicate it to the other apostles.

4. Sins Controlled by the Power.

The "power of the keys" was used by the Church especially in the administration of baptism, and also in penance for grievous sins committed after baptism, more venial faults being atoned for by the daily penitence of the faithful heart, the fifth petition of the Lord's Prayer, fasting, the oblations, and the Eucharist. Although the list of grievous


sins was somewhat uncertain (cf. Tertullian, De pudicitia, 19; Adversus Marcionem iv. 9; Augustine, Sermo cccli. 4; Pacianus, Parænesis ad pænitentiam, 3), practically idolatry, murder, and adultery were from the very first the chief objects of ecclesiastical discipline. The passages supposed to prove that in the Greek Church the belief was early prevalent that all sins might be forgiven (Clement, Stromata, ii. 13; Origen, Contra Celsum, iii. 51; Dionysius of Corinth in Eusebius, Hist. eccl., iv. 23, 6) are too vague to admit of this interpretation; and while it is clear, from Tertullian's De pudicitia that no rigid rule was followed with respect to carnal sins, he states as a general principle (De pudicitia, 12; cf. 22 and Origen, De oratione, xxviii.) that idolatry and murder were considered unpardonable.

5. Treatment of the Lapsed and Penitent.

The Western Church, on the other hand, steadily extended pardon to all sins, thus connecting the "power of the keys" more closely with the episcopal office. After 250 even the lapsed (see LAPSI) were admitted to pardon, thus postulating forgiveness for idolatry, although in many regions the more rigid practise was retained as in Spain at the beginning of the fourth century and at Cæsarea in Cappadocia. Pardon for a second lapse, however, was forbidden by Pope Siricius and was unknown to Augustine (Epist. cliii. 7), besides being rejected by the eleventh canon of the third Synod of Toledo, although Sozomen had already declared his conviction that " God has decreed that pardon should be extended to the penitent, even after many transgressions "(Hist. eccl., vii. 16).

As a matter of fact the "power of the keys" was exercised by the clergy under the supervision of the bishop, and the laity took no further part as early as the middle of the third century (cf. Cyprian, Epist., xix. 2, xlix., lix. 15; Augustine, Sermo cccli.). After excommunication and penance for a mortal sin, the penitent was again received into the Church. This act was termed reconciliation, and was performed by the laying on of hands, prayer, and the kiss of peace by the bishop, assisted by the clergy before the altar in the presence of the congregation. The pardoning power of the Church thus coincided with absolution (see CONFESSION), though not in the medieval sense, since the atoning force of penance rested in the act of the penitent himself, not in the reconciling power of the Church. While God alone forgave sins, the Church, as his merciful institution, could not refuse her cooperation, but pointed out to the penitent the way in which the wound of sin might be healed. Then evolved the attitude represented by Cyprian: "Outside the Church there is no salvation," even though the absolving power of the Church was not final, but must be confirmed at the Last Judgment, thus requiring prayer and the laying on of hands.

6. The Power and the Priesthood.

Beginning with Augustine, the tendency arises to bring the priest's activity in the exercise of the "power of the keys" into closer connection with divine grace; and the sinner is no longer considered as a wounded man to be healed, but as a corpse to be revived. Since this is impossible for the Church, a preliminary working of grace in the heart is assumed, which is later to be completed by the operation of the "power of the keys." While Augustine bases forgiveness in reconciliation simply on the petition of the congregation of the faithful, Leo the Great regards the priests as the specific intercessors for the fallen, basing his view on Matt. xxviii. 20, which he restricts to the clergy (Epist., lxxxii.; Ad Theodorum, 2). The Roman Catholic concept of a clerical priesthood independent of the laity, and with whose mediation all works of grace are connected, thus received sharp and conscious expression, and the accretions of later times are but the development of the basal idea of Leo. There was, however, as yet no formal pronouncement of absolution. An entirely different view is advanced by other Fathers. On the basis of Lev. xiv. 2 sqq., Jerome (Commentary on Matthew, iii.) held that ecclesiastical authority possessed merely the right to decide that they were set free whom the inward grace of God had freed, and that they were bound whom divine grace had not set free. Very similar are the terms used by Gregory the Great (Homilia xxvi. in Evangelia, 6), but it is clear from his own statements how little this theoretic distinction practically implied.

III. The Middle Ages and the Roman Catholic Doctrine:
1. Penance.

The primitive Church distinguished between three classes of members--the faithful, catechumens, and penitents. The "power of the keys " was established chiefly for the third class, though in some respects also for the second; for these two classes alone stood in need of ecclesiastical reconciliation or absolution. Early in the Middle Ages, however, a tendency arose among the newly converted Germanic peoples to make penance, which originally was a special institution for special occasions, a general characteristic of the whole Church, and to establish the "power of the keys," which originally dealt with penitents only, as a general court of judicature above all the faithful. The first indication of this tendency was that, through monastic discipline, sins in thought gradually became subject to the "power of the keys," deviating herein from the practise of the early Church. In the monasteries it was considered a rule of discipline to confess to the brethren even the slightest occurrences of sinful emotions. The penitential of the Irish Vinnians prescribes for sins in thought a rigid fast for half a year, and abstinence from wine and meat for a whole year. The Anglo-Saxon penitential, which bears the name of Theodore of Canterbury, prescribes from twenty to forty days' fast for feeling lust. This system was introduced into the Frankish Church by St. Columban of Luxeuil (q.v.) and his pupils, and received the support of the Frankish bishops, as is evidenced by the eighth canon of the Synod of Chalon-sur-Saône (after 644). It must also be noted, however, that as early as the fifth century, Johannes Cassianus of Marseilles (q.v.), a semi-Pelagian influenced by Eastern monasticism, had postulated eight "principal sins" of thought,


which later developed into the seven deadly sins of scholasticism. The first provincial synod which made confession a general duty was that of Aenham (1109), and Innocent III. (1198-1216) finally introduced confession, and the consequent extension of the "power of the keys" over all Christians, throughout the Church in spite of the opposition which the penitentials produced in France, his evident object being to check the growth of heresy. The result was a radical change in the treatment of penance and reconciliation; for whereas since the fourth century reconciliation had invariably been public, while private penance had been prescribed for secret sins, private penance was now restricted to cases of voluntary private confession; and public penance (followed by public reconciliation, gradually termed absolution) was reserved for open sins attested by witnesses, or for such heinous crimes as murder (Councils of Arles [813], canon 26; Châlon-surSaône [813], canon 25; Mainz [847], canon 31; Pavia [850], canon 6; Mainz [852], canon 10 sqq.; Capilularia Regum Francorum, ed. S. Baluze, Paris, 1677, v. 112). Public penance and reconciliation still remained the prerogative of the bishop, while private confession and absolution were delegated to the priests, though only as the delegates of the bishop (cf. Ratramnus, contra Græcorum opposita, iv. 7; Capitularia Regum Francorum, vi. 206). Whereas, moreover, reconciliation primarily followed immediately after the completion of penance, the penitential of Gildas (§ 1) permitted private reconciliation on the expiration of half the period of penance, and that of Theodore of Canterbury after a year or six months (i. 12, § 4), while in the so-called Statutes of Boniface (cap. 31) reconciliation must immediately follow confession. In the course of the Middle Ages, however, public penance and public reconciliation--the latter performed in the Roman Church on Maundy Thursday as early as the fifth century, and on Good Friday in the Milanese and Spanish churches--were steadily superseded by private confession and private absolution, so that since the Reformation they have become entirely antiquated.

2. The Priest as Judge or as Mediator.

With regard to the theological definition of absolution, and the share of the priest in its administration two opposing views inherited from the patristic period, run almost parallel with each other during the first part of the Middle Ages. According to the one, the priest is simply judge in foro ecclesiæ; he declares that forgiveness has taken place by the act of divine grace in the penitent soul, but takes no part himself in the act of forgiving. The divine forgiveness takes place before the absolution by the priest, and even before confession, in the very moment the heart repents; so that the Church's absolution is but the declaration of what God has already done. How prominent this view was, even in the thirteenth century, may be seen from the manner in which Gratian treats the subject. He raises the question whether a sinner can satisfy God by repentance and secret penance without confession, then states the arguments and authorities on both sides, and finally leaves the reader to decide the question for himself. Peter the Lombard, the contemporary of Gratian, defines (iv. 17) the priest's power to bind and to loose merely as a power of declaration, signifying simply he loosed before the Church him who was loosed in the sight of God. Similar but still more explicit were the views of Cardinal Robert Pulleyn (Sent. vi. 52, 61, vii. 1) and Peter of Poitiers, chancellor of the University of Paris (d. about 1204). According to the other view, represented by Leo the Great and Alcuin, the priest is not simply a judge in foro ecclesiæ, but is a mediator, intercessor and reconciler between God and the penitent. This position, taken by the priests throughout the penitentials, and exercising a profound influence on the development of the doctrine of the "power of the keys," attained increased importance in the De vera et falsa pænitentia, a work belonging to the eleventh or twelfth century, but ascribed to Augustine. Here the priest appears as the representative of God in confession, and his forgiveness is the forgiveness of God; while the view of Gregory the Great, that sins in themselves beyond forgiveness become forgivable through penance (but not through absolution), is here modified so that the sinner in his confession does not become clean in the sight of God, but has his mortal sin changed to venial. This residue of venial sins no longer involves eternal punishment, but must be atoned for either by penance on earth or purgatory after death (chaps. 25, 35). These concepts were now evolved into a formal system by the Victorines. To Hugo of St. Victor the priest represents the humanity of Christ, is the visible medium needed by sin-bound man to draw near to God, and is used by God to pour his grace into the human heart. Thus the priestly absolution not only declares forgiveness, but effects it (De sacramentis, ii. 1 sqq., 8). Hugo regards the sinner as bound by the inner bondage of hardness of heart and the outer chain of merited damnation, the former loosed by God alone through contrition, and the latter by the priest as the divine instrument. Going still further, Hugo's pupil, Richard of St. Victor, in his De potestate ligandi et solvendi held that God himself released from sin either immediately or through the mediation of men who were not necessarily priests, this being done by contrition even before confession. He also held that through the priest, who possessed the "power of the keys," God transformed eternal punishment into a transitory one, and that the priest transformed transitory punishment into penance.

3. Combination of the Two Views.

In the case of two views so divergent, yet running parallel, further progress could be possible only in their dialectic reconciliation and combination. This was attained by the great scholastics of the thirteenth century, especially by Thomas Aquinas, although Richard of St. Victor had plainly sought to effect such a result. In his Summa theologiæ (pars iv., quæstio 20, membrum iii., art. 2; quæstio 21, membrum i.; membrum ii., arts. 1-3) Alexander of Hales, closely followed by Bonaventura and Albertus Magnus, held that, while the power to bind and to loose belonged to God alone, the priest merely praying for and obtaining absolution, but not imparting it,


nevertheless, the priest, as the medium between the sinner and God, being the spokesman both of the sinner and of God, was deprecator and judge in one. Eternal punishment can not be remitted by the priest, but only by God. On the other hand, the "power of the keys" extends to temporal punishment, since the priest is a divinely appointed judge; while purgatory is remitted only per accidens, the priest being able to change the pains of purgatory into temporal punishment, and thus into penance.

4. The Twofold Key and Thomas Aquinas.

On this basis Thomas Aquinas completed the Roman Catholic doctrine of the "power of the keys." He distinguished between the clavis ordinis and the clavis jurisdictionis (Summa, quæstio 19, art. 3, resp.), the former, received by the priest in his ordination, opening heaven immediately to individuals through sacramentary absolution; and the latter having this effect only through excommunication and absolution before the forum of the Church. The clavis ordinis alone having a sacramental nature, laymen and deacons may possess the clavis jurisdictionis, which also includes the granting of indulgences (quæstio 25, art. 2 ad 1 m.). The exercise of the clavis ordinis presupposes the possession of the clavis jurisdictionis; but, on the other hand, the clavis ordinis becomes effective only through the clavis jurisdictionis (quæstio 20 art 1-2, resp.), so that by depriving schismatics, heretics, and the like of the clavis jurisdictionis, a bishop may withdraw from them the power of exercising the clavis ordinis (quæstio 19, art. 6, resp.). The sacramental clavis ordinis finds its exercise in priestly absolution, and it was through Thomas Aquinas that the individual elements of the sacrament of penance were united in the Roman Catholic doctrine of the "power of the keys." He bases his view on the concept that God alone remits sin and eternal punishment as a return for a contrition which is perfected by fulness of love and by a desire for sacramental confession and absolution. Such a penitent has the grace given him increased by the "power of the keys"; and in case his contrition is not sufficiently deep, the same power removes the obstacles to the entrance of the atoning grace, provided the sinner himself sets up no opposing barriers. The "power of the keys" remits a portion of the temporal punishment, the residue being atoned for by the prayers, alms, and fasting prescribed to the penitent by the priest as satisfaction (quæstio 18, art. 2-3). These latter, moreover, may be remitted by the clavis jurisdictionis through indulgences (quæstio 25, art. 1, resp.), which, in view of the concept of vicarious satisfaction on which they are based, may be used for the benefit of souls in purgatory. This development of the "power of the keys" essentially changed the form of absolution; for although Alexander of Hales states that in his time the deprecatory formula, was followed by the indicative, the latter must have been an innovation, since until thirty years before Thomas Aquinas the formula used by all priests had been Absolutionem et remissionem tibi tnbuat Deus. He himself defended the use of Ego te absolvo on its analogy to the other sacraments, and as exactly expressing the effect of the sacrament of penance and the " power of the keys," even though retaining the deprecatory formula as a prayer before the indicative, a usage still followed by the Rituale Romanum.

5. The Tridentine Decree.

The teaching of Thomas Aquinas on the "power of the keys "was essentially adopted by Eugene IV. at the Council of Florence (1439) and still more fully by the fourteenth session of the Council of Trent (Nov. 25, 1551). While the Decree (cap. 6) and the Canons (9-10) of the Council of Trent declare that the absolution is not a mere statement of forgiveness, but is a judicial and sacramental set, the Roman Catechism makes the "power of the keys" extend to all sins without exception (i. 11, 5), while the absolution pronounced by the priest, who represents in all sacraments the person of Christ, actually effects the forgiveness of sins (ii. 5, 10, 11, 17). While, moreover, in contrition, confession, and satisfaction the penitent is active (opus operans), he is absolutely passive and receptive toward absolution, which works entirely ex opere operato.

6. The Problem of Priestly Fallibility.

From another point of view, the Roman Catholic priest is essentially a judge, not only in foro ecclesiæ, but in foro Dei. In this capacity he investigates the sins of the penitent to determine their proper punishment, and considers the spiritual state of him who makes confession, that he may know whether to bind or loose. Since, however, on the one hand, the formula Ego te absolvo implies that the absolution is infallible and absolute; while, on the other hand, the possible error of the priest, the infrequency of his ability to know completely the state of his penitent's soul, and the insufficiency of confession as a substitute for omniscience, render his decision only conditional, Roman Catholic dogmatics wavers as a result of the combination, without true union, of the two courses of development sketched above. Practically, however, the entire remission of sins requires from the penitents only contrition (repentance made perfect in love), confession, and satisfaction. For contrition is substituted attrition (mere fear of punishment), and what it lacks in earnestness and depth is made up by confession in its entirety and by absolution. The latter transmutes eternal punishment into temporal, and temporal into penance, this being remitted by indulgences. Thus the infallible judgment of the priest becomes fallible only in the case of the deliberate hypocrite; and the one firm and immutable result of the confused course of development here sketched is the infallibility of the power of the Church to bind and loose, the single unalterable kernel of the entire dogma of the "power of the keys" and of the sacrament of penance.

7. The Keys in the Greek Church.

In the Greek Church private confession was introduced for the monks by Basil (d. 379); and from about the end of the iconoclastic controversy (see IMAGES AND IMAGE WORSHIP. II.) until the middle of the thirteenth century the "power of the keys" was vested exclusively in the monks according to their ecclesiastical grade. Collision with the priesthood


was avoided by ordaining monks as priests and appointing them as confessors; but since the thirteenth century, without annulling the prerogatives of the monks, the "power of the keys" has gradually been taken from the monastic orders and entrusted to the priests; while, under Roman Catholic influence, penance has become a sacrament. The doctrines of the Greek Church in this respect, however, have remained more general than the Roman Catholic, and have not assumed so juristic a character.

IV. The Reformation and the Protestant Doctrine:
1. Luther and Melanchthon.

The entire concept of the "power of the keys" was transformed by the Reformation, Luther especially representing a return to early beliefs. Holding that the "power of the keys" was not legalistic, but denoted simply the forgiveness or retention of sins, he emphasized its entirely spiritual character as contrasted with its secular usage. He taught, moreover, that it concerned the personal relation of the sinner to God, and that it opened or closed the path to sharing in the divine grace, and was not a mode of punishment. As a power conferred on man by God or Christ, it belonged to the Church, this being not the pope or the clergy, but the body of the faithful who have the Holy Spirit. While, however, in theory every Christian has this power and can exercise it in the name of the Church, practically only one commissioned by the Church may do so, again in the name of the Church, and as obeying God and acting in his stead. The spiritual Church thus becomes a mediator between the individual and God. The key of binding proclaims the unrepentant sinner doomed to eternal death; but if he repents, the key of loosing pronounces him free from sin and renews the promise of everlasting life (Von den Schlüsseln, Erlangen edition, xxxi. 178). The "power of the keys" is exercised by the Church first in preaching, the preaching of the law binding and the preaching of the Gospel loosing; in public and private absolution; and in excommunication, or prohibition to receive the Sacrament or to share in the other blessings of the Church until repentance and amendment, although the person so excommunicated was not to be prevented from hearing sermons. All forgiveness was conditioned by faith, but excommunication was to be pronounced only on gross and open sinners, who were to permit this judgment of God and the Church to work in them to repentance. Melanchthon agreed with Luther in his doctrine of the "power of the keys," and maintained the right of the Church to appoint officials to exercise it. He insisted, moreover, on confession and absolution before receiving the Sacrament, and, influenced by Roman Catholicism, he distinguished the "power of the keys," as a potestas jurisdictionis, from the potestas ordinis. He likewise held that the "power of the keys" belonged, at least in practise, to the clergy, while the Reformed concept of the Church regarded her as the essential possessor of this power.

2. The Calvinistic Theory.

The divergent view of the "power of the keys" held by the Reformed, and especially by Calvin, was intimately connected with their distinction between the invisible Church of the predestined and the visible Church. which was to be organized and ruled according to the word of God; additional elements being the line drawn between the divine and the created factors of salvation and a concept by which forgiveness of sins presupposed only the true renewal by the Holy Ghost in regeneration. Accordingly, Calvin, distinguishing between Matt. xvi. and John xx, on the one hand and Matt. xviii. on the other, postulated a double "power of the keys" (Institutes, IV., xi. 1). Proceeding from the theory of individual need and individual pastoral care, he approximates the Lutheran idea of the consolation of private absolution (III., iv. 14, IV., i. 22) although this never gains the importance of an actual absolution. From this "power of the keys," which rests in the "ministry of the word" (cf. III., iv. 14, IV., vi. 4), must be distinguished the "spiritual jurisdiction and discipline" of the Church, which concerns the punishment meted out by the Church as a theocratic and secular institution. It is clear that here there is no question of a direct relation to God. Despite the difficulty of the reconciliation of Calvin's view with the promises of Christ regarding the "power of the keys," his double interpretation was retained in the Reformed confessions, as in the Helvetic Confession, 14, and the Heidelberg Catechism, 83. The Council of Trent, on the other hand, in its opposition to the Reformation, while abandoning the old theory of the two keys, retained the substance of the ancient dogma (session xxiii. 1); and postulated still more explicitly that the "power of the keys" was a prerogative granted by Christ to Peter and his auccesaors.

3. Lutheran Attacks on the Doctrine.

In the Evangelical churches, and especially the Lutheran, the exercise of the "power of the keys" became more and more restricted to the clergy, who used it, on the one hand, in private absolution after a general confession, and, on the other, as a punishment in the form of excommunication, though, as a matter of fact, the latter was restricted by the consistories to carnal sins. Gradually, however, protests were raised against the "power of the keys," in part through a more or less mistaken idea regarding the Reformatory concept of the consolation and the sacramental signification of the forgiveness of sins. The pioneer of this tendency was Theophilus Grossgebauer, who required only confession to God for secret sins, but held public confession and reconciliation to be necessary for open sins, in which alone At he believed the power to bind and loose to be effective, judgment being exercised by a body of elders chosen by the congregations concerned. Spener sought to transform private confession and absolution into a declaration before the pastor for counsel and spiritual investigation; but insisted that only the penitent might be absolved, doubtful cases being referred to a body of elders for judgment. While he held that the "power of the keys" belonged to the entire Church or brotherhood, and had wrongly become restricted to the clergy and


the authorities, his followers assailed private confession still more vigorously. On Nov. 16, 1698, as a result of the diatribes of Johann Kaspar Schade of Berlin, an electoral resolution made general confession and absolution binding on all, private confession and absolution being left to the discretion of the individual. Prussia's example was followed by the other national Churches; and what Pietism began rationalism completed. This development diminished the stress laid on the concept of the "power of the keys." Schleiermacher, though reintroducing it into dogmatics, restricted it, with the express exception of the sermon, to the legal and judicial authority of the Church. He was closely followed by Dorner; but, on the other hand, the "Neo-Lutherans" of the nineteenth century endeavored to revive the "power of the keys" as a specific attribute of the pastoral office which had succeeded the apostolate, only to meet the opposition of the Erlangen school.

4. Theological Aspect of the Doctrine.

From the point of view of dogmatics the "power of the keys" may be defined as the duty and the authority of the spiritual Church to make the everlasting decision for mankind and for individuals dependent on the relation to her as the body of Christ. In this sense it presupposes not only special and general absolution, but the entire administration of the sacraments; and this must be exercised in the Holy Ghost. The determination of its concrete forms and its transmission from the spiritual to the earthly Church falls within the province of practical theology. Naturally, however, the "power of the keys" can be ignored only where the Church is regarded merely as a religious association based on the pious thoughts of men; but not where it is held to have arisen from the determination and the participation of the living God.


BIBLIOGRAPHY: J. Morin, Commentarius historicus de disciplina in administratione sacramenti poenitentiae, Antwerp, 1692; J. Waterworth, The Faith of Catholics, i. 98 sqq., iii. 1-25, London, 1846; C. Elliott, Delineation of Roman Catholicism, ed. Hannah, ib. 1851; F. W. H. Wasserschleben, Die Bussordnungen der abendländischen Kirche, Halle, 1851; G. Steitz, Das römische Bussakrament, Frankfort, 1854; idem, Die Privatbeichte und Privat-absolution, ib. 1854; idem, in TSK, 1866, pp. 435-483; T. Kliefoth, Beichte and Absolution, Schwerin, 1856; G. F. Pfisterer, Luthers Lehre von der Beichte, Stuttgart, 1857 J. Barrow, A Treatise of the Pope's Supremacy, ed. A. Napier, pp. 94, 145 et passim, Cambridge, 1859; J. Bowen, The Power of the Keys and the Athanasian Creed, London, 1860; H. L. Ahrens, Das Amt der Schlüssel, Hanover, 1864; F. Frank, Die Bussdisciplin. Mainz, 1867; F. Probst, Sakramente und Sakramentalien, Tübingen, 1872; E. Löning, Geschichte des deutschen Kirchenrechts, i. 252 sqq, ii. 448 sqq., Strasburg, 1878; H. J. Schmitz, Die Bussbücher und die Bussdisciplin der Kirche, Mainz, 1883; H. C. Lea, A Formulary of the Papal Penitentiary in the 13th Century, Philadelphia, 1892; K. Holl, Enthusiasmus und Bussgewalt beim griechischen Mönchthum Leipsic, 1898; F. H. Foster, Fundamental Ideas of the Roman Catholic Church, pp. 41-42, 284, Philadelphia 1899 J. Köstlin, Luthers Theologie, ii. 245 aqq., Stuttgart, 1901; Neander, Christian Church, ii. 200, iii.-v. passim; KL, x. 1834-39; DCG, i. 929.


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