+St. Henry II+

In treating the recent rash of papal bashing by the anti-Fatima crowd, the seriousness of appreciating what the Roman Pontiffs teach and how these various teachings must not be taken as isolated and disjointed proclamations was once more brought to the forefront. The remedy for this is the practice of integralism as emphasized by Msgr. Fenton, something this author has stressed and attempted to practice. Whether this has always been accomplished remains to be seen, but at least the effort has been made. Gallicanism is a subject that has been treated often on this blogspot. Likewise the actual sort of jurisdiction possessed by bishops, how it is possessed, and how it can and cannot be exercised. Because questions have been raised regarding these topics, their actual interrelation needs to be explained.

What is Gallicanism?

Gallicanism is an error that surfaced at the time of the Western Schism. There were two types of Gallicanism: political (favoring monarchical interests in France) and ecclesiastical. It was confined almost entirely to France when it first made its appearance, but later spread to England and Germany. As M.L. Cozens, in his 1928 A Handbook of Heresies, explains: “The Gallican school held 1) that the Pope’s definitions were not infallible in themselves but only after acceptance by the Universal Church and 2) that a general council’s authority was above that of a Pope. Some French ecclesiastics also claimed that the king had the right to forbid the publication in France of papal bulls that no act done by the king’s agent on his authority could involve excommunication and that the king could prevent any bishops recourse to Rome even if the Pope commanded his presence.”

One of Gallicanism’s most enthusiastic proponents during the Western Schism era, the theologian Jean Gerson taught: “The decision of the Pope alone, in matters which are of faith, does not as such bind (anyone) to believe; Bishops in the primitive Church were of the same power as the Pope; The Roman Church, the head of which is believed to be the Pope …may err, and deceive and be deceived, and be in schism and heresy, and fail to exist.” (Henry Cardinal Manning, The Ecumenical Council and the infallibility of the Roman Pontiff: a Letter to the Clergy, 1869). And here is recognized the very same teachings which the Anglicans and Luther used to justify their separation from Rome at the time of the Protestant Reformation.

This we find also from Cuthbert Butler’s summary of Gallicanist teachings in his work The Vatican Council, Vol. 1, 1930: “As the common father of Christians, the Pope can make new laws and propose them to the Church. But they have not the force of general laws except by the acceptance of his colleagues in the episcopate. The bishops are bishops by divine right; THEY HOLD THEIR POWER IMMEDIATELY FROM JESUS CHRIST and not from the Sovereign Pontiff WHOSE EQUALS THEY ARE except in the primacy which was established by Christ only to show forth unity (Cyprian). They judge with him in matters of faith and of discipline but their jurisdiction is limited by their diocese, whereas that of the Pope has no limits other than those of the Christian world” (pg. 29). So this demonstrates that the Gallicanists did indeed hold the theory of immediate jurisdiction, and because they held all the bishops in council superior to the pope, they even held themselves, AS A BODY, above him.

Gallicanism, the reformers and jurisdiction

During the Protestant Reformation, the ideas promoted by the Gallicanists were put into practice by Protestant ministers, many of them still possessing valid Orders. They declared their independence from Rome and, as St. Francis de Sales explains mediate and immediate mission or jurisdiction in his The Catholic Controversy (Ch. 2-3), a work sent to Catholics deceived by the Calvinists. He writes:

“To be legates and ambassadors… of Christ …they should have been sent; they should have had letters of credit from him whom they boasted of being sent by. Now you cannot be ignorant that they neither had nor have in any way at all this mission. For if our Lord had sent them it would have been either mediately or immediately. We say mission is given mediately when we are sent by one who has from God the power of sending according to the order which he has appointed in his Church… Immediate mission is when God himself commands and gives a charge without the interposition of the ordinary authority which he has placed in the prelates and pastors of the church such as Saint Peter and the apostles were sent receiving, from our Lord’s own mouth this commandment… But neither in the one or in the other way have your ministers any mission. How then have they undertaken to preach, how shall they preach, says the apostle, unless they be sent?

While Traditionalists and others seem to distinguish mission from jurisdiction, theologians do not. Devivier and Sasa, in the index to their work Christian Apologetics,  lists mission, canonical, which then references the reader to page 589  “on the power of jurisdiction… conferred by canonical institution.” One would think that a Doctor of the Church would be trusted to know what heresy is when he sees it and thendedicates 13 chapters to explaining it, however some question his testimony as insufficient.

The Protestants differed from the Gallicanists only in the fact that they decided to work outside the Church for reform rather than from within. The Gallican articles themselves were not addressed by the popes until 1690, when Alexander VIII declared them null, void and invalid (DZ 1322). Pope Pius VI later declared them rash and scandalous in Auctorem Fidei in 1794. (Manning in his Civil Allegiance states that the definition of infallibility “…by retrospective action makes all Pontifical acts infallible… such as Unam Sanctam, Unigenitus, and the bull Auctorem Fidei and by prospective action will make all similar acts in future binding upon the conscience.”)

To the above errors should be added those of Febronianism, first advocated by the German bishop of Trier, Johann Nickolaus von Hontheim, (using the pseudonym Febronius), in 1763. Hontheim taught that Christ did not give “…the power of the keys to Peter but to the whole Church; that the pope’s power, as head of the whole Church… is of an administrative and unifying character, rather than a power of jurisdiction;” that the appointment of bishops and the establishment of dioceses should be left to provincial synods and metropolitans and even the determination of matters of faith should be left to these same authorities. “Hontheim advanced along the same lines, in spite of many inconsistencies, to a radicalism far outstripping traditional Gallicanism” (Catholic Encyclopedia). In 1786, Pope Pius VI wrote Super Soliditate, condemning Febronianism, Regalism and Josephism:

“All the more must be deplored that blind and rash temerity of the man [Eybel] who was eager to renew in his unfortunate book errors which had been condemned by so many decrees; who has said and insinuated indiscriminately by many ambiguities that every Bishop no less than the Pope was called by God to govern the Church and was endowed with no less power; that Christ gave the same power Himself to all the apostles and that whatever some people believe is obtained and granted only by the pope, that very thing, whether it depends on consecration or ecclesiastical jurisdiction, can be obtained just as well from any bishop …” (DZ 1500). Some of these propositions were condemned as leading to schism and schismatic, also leading to heresy and heretical. Despite the fact that it also was condemned by so many other decrees, as Pope Pius VI notes, it was still being taught as an acceptable opinion because the brief did not condemn everything Eybel taught as heresy. Its propagators then used this as an excuse to escape censure, allowing it to continue to be taught in some form or other.

The Vatican Council and Gallicanism

And so it remained until the mid-1800s and the plans to convene the Vatican Council. During the Council preparations Cardinal Manning, then only an archbishop, worked within a commission comprised of five cardinal presidents, eight bishops, a secretary and dozens of other members of the clergy. This commission drew up a list of reasons why it was opportune to call the council, and enumerated on that list were the following, found in Manning’s The Vatican Council Decrees and their Bearing on Civil Allegiance (1875):

“5. Now, if the next General Council meet and separate without taking any notice of this denial [of infallibility], one of two inferences may perhaps be drawn. It may be said that Gallicanism has obtained its place among tolerated opinions; or, at least, that it may be held with impunity.

“15. Because the full and final declaration of the divine authority of the Head of the Church is needed to exclude from the minds of pastors and faithful the political influences which have generated Gallicanism, Imperialism, Regalism, and Nationalism, the perennial sources of error, contention, and schism.

“For these, and for many more reasons which it is impossible now to detail, many believe that a definition or declaration which would terminate this long and pernicious question would be opportune; and that it might forever be set at rest by the condemnation of the propositions following:

“1. That the decrees of the Roman Pontiffs in matter of faith and morals do not oblige the con- science unless they be made in a General Council, or before they obtain at least the tacit consent of the Church.

“2. That the Roman Pontiff, when he speaks in matters of faith and morals, as the universal Doctor and Teacher of the Church, may err.

And here we see the very errors expressed above by Gerson, who, Manning relates, later “…himself confessed that he was maintaining an opinion which was so much at variance with the Tradition of the Church before the Council of Constance that anyone who held it would be branded as a heretic.” Cardinal Manning then explains in his The Ecumenical Council and the infallibility of the Roman Pontiff, a Letter to the Clergy, 1869, (written shortly before the opening of the Vatican Council):

“English nationalism became the Anglican schism. French nationalism checked itself at the Gallican Articles. The Anglican Reformation has no perils for the Catholic Church; it is external to it, in open heresy and schism. Gallicanism is within its unity and is neither schism nor heresy. It is a very seductive form of national Catholicism, which, without breaking unity, or positively violating faith, soothes the pride to which all great nations are tempted, and encourages the civil power to patronise the local Church by a tutelage fatal to its liberty. It is therefore certain that Gallicanism is more dangerous to Catholics than Anglicanism. The latter is a plague of which we are not susceptible; the former is a disease which may easily be taken.

“Gallicanism has caused a divergence, which Protestants think or pretend to be a contradiction in faith. The combined action of Gallicanism within the Church and of Protestants without it, has given to this erroneous opinion a notoriety in the last two centuries, and especially in France and England, which takes it out of the category of imperfect and innocuous errors which may be left as a vapor to be absorbed. It has inscribed itself in the history of the Church, and will live on until, by the Church, it is finally condemned.” Manning would later remark in his work on Civil Allegiance: “Gallicanism was the only formal interruption of the universal belief of the Church in the Infallibility of its Head. The Vatican Council extinguished this modern error.”

Gallicanism condemned

So as with many other teachings proposed by those appearing to hold a tenable opinion within the Church, prior to its condemnation Gallicanism was condemned only as an error, or so the proponents of this position claimed. But once the Vatican Council concluded, its teachings could only be classified as heresy, which Gerson rightly agrees with above. Manning explains that a century before the Gallican Articles appeared, Gallicanist supporters debated this opinion at the Council of Trent, asking the Council to decide whether bishops receive their powers directly from Our Lord, or rather indirectly, from Christ but only through the Roman Pontiff. The Council refused to take up the question, and this question remained unsettled for over 300 years.  Finally it was answered by the Vatican Council in 1869-70:

“I will give to thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven. And whatsoever thou shalt bind upon earth, it shall be bound also in heaven; and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth, it shall be loosed also in heaven.” And it was upon Simon alone that Jesus, after His resurrection, bestowed the jurisdiction of Chief Pastor and Ruler over all His fold in the words, “Feed My lambs, feed My sheep.” At open variance with this clear doctrine of Holy Scripture, as it has ever been understood by the Catholic Church, are the perverse opinions of those who, while they distort the form of government established by Christ the Lord in His Church, deny that Peter in his simple person preferably to all the other Apostles, whether taken separately or together, was endowed by Christ with a true and proper primacy of jurisdiction; or of those who assert that the same primacy was not bestowed IMMEDIATELY AND DIRECTLY upon Blessed Peter himself, BUT UPON THE CHURCH, and through the Church [clergy and faithful] on Peter as Her minister.

 (Canon) If anyone, therefore, shall say that Blessed Peter the Apostle was not appointed the Prince of the Apostles and the visible head of the whole Church Militant, or that the same directly and immediately received from the same our Lord Jesus Christ a primacy of honour only, and not of true and proper jurisdiction; let him be anathema” (DZ 1822, condemnation of Gallicanism).

As Manning demonstrated above, Protestantism worked hand in hand with Gallicanism, and of the two, Gallicanism was by far the greater worry. The entire thrust of this united effort was to either eliminate the papacy or reduce the popes to mere ministerial heads, with the bishops as equals; the Vatican Council ended that. But then came Liberal Catholicism and Modernism, and as Msgr. Fenton explains, “Liberal Catholicism shares with Jansenism and with Modernism (and this last was preeminently an expression of the liberal Catholic teaching itself) the unhappy distinction of being a movement whose leaders fought to keep active within the Church after its principles had been directly condemned by competent ecclesiastical authority.

Ultimately theological minimalism was a device employed by liberal Catholics to make the rejection of authoritative papal teaching on any point appear to be good Catholic practice. Sometimes it took the crass form of a claim that Catholics are obligated to accept and to hold only those things which had been defined by the explicit decrees of the ecumenical councils or of the Holy See. This attitude…was condemned by Pope Pius IX in his letter Tuas Libenter (DZ 1683). Another crass form of minimalism was the opposition to the Vatican Council definition of papal infallibility. The men who expressed that opposition sometimes claimed to hold the doctrine of papal infallibility as a theological opinion but they showed a furious hostility to the definition which proposed that doctrine as a dogma of divine and Catholic faith” (“The Components of Liberal Catholicism,” The American Ecclesiastical Review, July, 1958).

This is what Pope Pius XII faced during his pontificate. And in order to make certain all the vestiges of Gallicanism, and Liberalism then manifesting as Modernism, were entirely wiped out, he delivered his unwelcome decision on immediate jurisdiction.

Episcopal jurisdiction decision ends Gallicanist contentions

In writing his encyclicals Mystici Corporis Christi in 1943 and Ad Sinarum Gentum in 1954, Pope Pius XII settled the final remaining question not answered by the Council of Trent — the last nail in the coffin of Gallicanism — by teaching what was already held as the common opinion by the theological schools:

“Bishops must be considered as the more illustrious members of the Universal Church, for they are united by a very special bond to the divine Head of the whole Body and so are rightly called ‘principal parts of the members of the Lord’; moreover, as far as his own diocese is concerned, each one as a true Shepherd feeds the flock entrusted to him and rules it in the name of Christ. Yet in exercising this office they are not altogether independent but are subordinate to the lawful authority of the Roman Pontiff, although enjoying the ordinary power of jurisdiction which they receive directly from the same Supreme Pontiff” (Mystici Corporis Christi). And in Ad Sinarum Gentum: “But the power of jurisdiction, which is conferred upon the Supreme Pontiff directly by divine rights, flows to the Bishops by the same right, but only through the Successor of St. Peter, to whom not only the simple faithful, but even all the Bishops must be constantly subject, and to whom they must be bound by obedience and with the bond of unity.”

This should have settled the question, but the minimalists then existing in the Church challenged the fact that infallible statements could be issued in an encyclical. Pope Pius XII answered this question by writing Humani Generis (1950),teaching that anything entered into the Acta Apostolica Sedis is to be considered as issuing from the ordinary magisterium.

“Nor must it be thought that what is expounded in Encyclical Letters does not of itself demand consent, since in writing such Letters the Popes do not exercise the supreme power of their Teaching Authority. For these matters are taught with the ordinary teaching authority, of which it is true to say: “He who hears you Hears Me,”: and generally what is expounded and inculcated in Encyclical Letters already for other reasons appertains to Catholic doctrine. But if the Supreme Pontiffs in their official documents purposely pass judgment on a matter up to that time under dispute, it is obvious that that matter, according to the mind and will of the Pontiffs, cannot be any longer considered a question open to discussion among theologians.”

And this only confirmed what Msgr. Fenton had already written in 1949: “Where a question of grave moment has been disputed among Catholics, and when the Holy Father intervenes to settle this question once and for all, there is clearly a definition, a decision which all Catholics are bound to accept always as true, even though no solemn terminology be employed.” (“The Doctrinal Authority of Papal Encyclicals,” Sept. 1949, AER).

In this same article, Msgr. Fenton also noted: “The private theologian is obligated and privileged to study these documents, to arrive at an understanding of what the Holy Father actually teaches, and then to aid in the task of bringing this body of truth to the people. The Holy Father, however, not the private theologian, remains the doctrinal authority. The theologian is expected to bring out the content of the Pope’s actual teaching, not to subject that teaching to the type of criticism he would have a right to impose on the writings of another private theologian.” As Revs. Pohle-Preuss write in The Sacraments, Vol. IV: “It matters not what the private opinions of…theologians [are]. It is not the private opinions of theologians but the official decisions of the Church by which we must be guided.” Yet always, Traditionalists favor the opinions of these theologians even over the clear teaching of the Church.

Minimalism and immediate jurisdiction

A friend recently shared the following quote from Cardinal Billot with me, and while it was not objectionable at the time Billot wrote it, prior to the issuance of Mystici Corporis, it is not something that remains true following Pius XII’s definition on the origin of episcopal jurisdiction.

“Whether episcopal jurisdiction is immediately from God, or immediately from the Roman Pontiff, was bitterly disputed in the Council of Trent, and nothing was defined at that time. In the Vatican Council, the question was not even proposed, chiefly because in practice, it is nearly indifferent, whether one or the other opinion is accepted. For even those theologians who hold that episcopal jurisdiction is derived immediately from God, also say that without a doubt it is conferred by God with a true and full dependency on the Supreme Pontiff.“

Obviously, in the face of Modernist inroads, Pope Pius XII did not think this was a matter “indifferent” in practice, and a survey of his related works on the subject demonstrates this. Cardinal Billot could scarcely know what Pope Pius XII would have to face during his pontificate. He also may have been hoodwinked by Modernists wishing to de-emphasize the importance of this question and leave it unanswered, for we know they only showed their true colors toward the very end. Bishops ruling 30 years later certainly did not reflect what Billot thought these theologians believed, as later proven by the false Vatican 2 council.

And most importantly, despite his comment above, Billot himself seemed to hold the common opinion, cited by Alfredo Cardinal Ottaviani, that the jurisdictional power of bishops comes only through the Pope: “For authority [in the Church] comes directly from God through Christ, and from Christ to his Vicar, and from the Vicar of Christ it descends to the remaining prelates without the intervention of any other physical or moral person” (Louis Cardinal Billot, S.J., Tractatus De Ecclesia Christi (Rome: Aedes Universitatis Gregorianae, 1927), Vol. 1. p. 524). This information is necessary to place his first statement in its proper perspective, for without it one could be led to believe Billot was either undecided or held the opposite opinion.

Cardinal Billot, then, would have considered the matter settled with Pope Pius XII’s definition, and would have adjusted his thinking on its “indifference” accordingly, just as Cardinal Ottaviani did. Humani generis settled the question on encyclicals and papal decisions made within them, forever closing any further discussion of his decision on the true nature of how bishops receive their powers: from Christ, yes, but only through the Roman Pontiff. Msgr. Fenton, in his articles on Doctrinal Authority, also Infallibility states:

“Thus it would seem that some teachings whose main claim to acceptance on the part of Catholics is to be found in the fact that they are stated in papal encyclicals would actually demand an assent higher than that which must be accorded to the content of the Church’s authentic but non-infallible magisterium. Such truths would demand the kind of assent usually designated in theology under the title of FIDES ECCLESIASTICA… (Doctrinal Authority in the Encyclicals, Pt. II, AER, 1949). “If that supreme power is exercised within the field of dogma itself, that is, by declaring that some particular truth has been revealed by God and is to be accepted by all men as a part of revelation,” Fenton continues, “then the assent called for by the definition is that of divine faith itself. If on the other hand, the Holy Father, using his supreme apostolic authority, does not propose his teaching as a dogma, but merely as completely certain, then the faithful are bound to accept his teaching as absolutely certain. They are, in either case, obliged in conscience to give an unconditional and absolutely irrevocable assent to any proposition defined in this way” (“Infallibility in the Encyclicals,” (AER, March 1953). And Ottaviani and Fenton both agree the teaching on the jurisdiction of bishops is certain. Humani Generis closes all discussion on such issues.

Yet, again, some argue it would be only temerarious to question this teaching and would not involve loss of membership in the Church, as would denying an article contrary to ecclesiastical faith. This appears to be minimism of another sort, and one that is very concerning. It presents as a reluctance to accept the full import of this decision and a desire to leave a crack open in this door, however imperceptible it might be, for whatever reason. This then would be a conditional, not an unconditional assent — an incomplete obedience — when such a decision requires irrevocable assent. Theological pygmies all of us are, who even dare venture into these things. Therefore, it seems that it is far more preferrable to prefer the safest course, as we have in praying at home, especially one recommended by a papally approved theologian. This is true especially since we have no one to consult in such matters.

Immediate mission outside the papacy a Protestant heresy

Gallicanism was an error that became even more dangerous than external heresies, as Cardinal Manning explains, because like Modernism it worked from within, not outside, the Church. It was basically a parasite that weakened the authority of the Roman Pontiff in order to placate the state and counteract the effects of Ultramontism. There are definite indications that those advocating it worked in tandem with secret societies to undermine the influence of the Church. It eventually was absorbed by Modernism. Gallicanism promoted the theory of immediate jurisdiction — that episcopal authority came by Divine right directly from Christ, but within the framework of the papacy. Protestants proposed the theory of immediate or extra-ordinary jurisdiction outside the Church, having rejected the papacy. It was their rejection of the papacy that necessitated resorting to Christ as the ultimate source of their authority. For them, this was part and parcel of their heresy.

Immediate mission could be held by bishops within the Church as an opinion, until the decision issued by Pope Pius XII that their jurisdiction was mediate, (through the pope, not immediately from Christ). Any direct appeal to Christ for such jurisdiction after that decision amounts to a denial of the necessity and supremacy of the papacy who alone can exercise it in regard to bishops. No matter how much they protest, or claim to still support the papacy, during an interregnum Traditionalists operate by appealing directly to Christ Himself, and this is the same sort of jurisdiction or mission claimed by Protetstants.

The Vatican Council condemned the tenets of the Gallicanists by defining infallibility. Pope Pius XII ruled that the theory of immediate jurisdiction could no longer be held because all jurisdiction comes from Christ to the Roman Pontiff, then to the bishops, a by-product of the Vatican Council definition. Catholics must hold this teaching with a firm and irrevocable assent. Today we see immediate jurisdiction claimed by Traditionalists. Even if they professed immediate jurisdiction under a pope-elect opposed to Rome, they would be in grave error at the very least. But that is not what they are doing. They are claiming to possess immediate jurisdiction during an interregnum in violation not only of Pope Pius XII’s decision on episcopal jurisdiction, but his infallible papal election law Vacantis Apostolicae Sedis (VAS), written several years after that decision was handed down. For this law teaches that during an interregnum, the acts of anyone attempting to exercise papal jurisdiction or who violate papal law are invalid. As Msgr. Fenton comments at the end of his article on episcopal jurisdiction, “[This decision] signifies that any bishop not in union with the Holy Father has no authority in the Church.”

Exercising jurisdiction reserved only to the pope by consecrating bishops, in defiance of VAS and in violation of a host of papal laws, is the full-blown version of the Protestant heresy of immediate mission or jurisdiction. This sort of mission, authority received directly from Christ, is claimed by Sedevancantists; “Those whom Our Lord has bound by divine law to confer sacraments, then, simultaneously receive from Him the legitimate deputation and the apostolic mission to confer them” (Anthony CekadaTraditional Priests, Legitimate Sacraments, 2003). Other Traditionalists claim it implicitly by appealing to Can. 2261 §2 providing supplied jurisdiction, which can come only from a true pope. Since they claim it during an interregnum it can be assumed that they appeal then directly to Christ.

Anglicans believe their mission comes directly from God and from the community — mission Dei; this is extraordinary mission. Various Traditionalists also have stated the people have called them and that therefore they are bound to administer the sacraments to them, since technically they have a right to request them. (This is true, however, only when.such a request can be legitimately fulfilled.) This error, related to Gallicanism and Protestantism, was condemned as heretical at the Council of Trent (DZ 960, 967; Can. 147) to combat precisely what St. Francis de Sales was fighting in trying to free those from error who were following the Calvinists. Certainly jurisdiction was very much an issue then, and so it remains.


It is hoped that by providing a brief history of the origins and progression of the Gallicanist error (basically a denial of the full exercise of papal jurisdiction, condemned at the Vatican Council); and its relation to the theory of immediate jurisdiction (a Protestant heresy which has since been revived by Traditionalists), that those confused on this subject will now understand. For those who still feel that this question has not been settled and immediate jurisdiction as it remains today is not a Protestant heresy, it would be interesting to know: What else should we call it in light of the Trent anathema and Pope Pius XII’s decision? Of course the question answers itself, and the answer explains the incredulity of those denying it is a heresy in the first place.

This topic has always been about the papacy. It is at the core of the extended interregnum we have experienced for nearly 64 years. Is it possible for bishops only to rule the Church, can sitting pope err, does the episcopacy minus its head bishop constitute the Church, can bishops without the pope rule as Christ-assigned teachers if they have not received their mission from a true pope (and cannot even be certain of their own ordination and consecration)? The Church long ago answered “no” to all these questions, but liberals, Modernists and Gallicanists that they are, Traditionalists behave as though these condemnations do not exist and can be easily explained away.

Since today they practice immediate jurisdiction without the pope, Traditionalists now join the Protestants, despite all claims to hold extraneous jurisdiction in various forms. They can possess no authority without the pope. Any objection otherwise is only one more denial of the papacy to add to their long and growing list. I don’t feel obligated to apologize for those objecting to the fact that stripped of their immediate mission/jurisdiction garb, Traditionalist emperors now appear in their birthday suits.

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