Is not all power on earth bestowed to us?
And therefore, though we would, we cannot err.
Behold this silver belt whereto is fixed
Seven golden seals, fast sealed with seven seals,
In token of our seven-fold power from heaven,
To bind or loose, lock fast, condemn or judge,
Resign or seal, or what so pleaseth us.
Then he and thou and all the world shall stoop,
Or be assured of our dreadful curse. (3.1.151-159)
Here the pope claims two powers that Catholics traditionally regarded as belonging to the church, as represented by its priests, cardinals, and/or popes. The first is the pope's power to decree infallibly in his papal office. What does this mean? Whatever he decrees officially, as pope, is totally and absolutely true. The other power belongs to all priests (including popes and cardinals). This is the power to forgive sins, here called the power to "bind or loose, lock fast, condemn or judge." With this power, the church controls an individual's access to salvation, since only when his sins are forgiven by a priest can he hope to enter heaven. Corresponding with this power is the "dreadful curse," meaning the ability to excommunicate someone, prohibiting that person from receiving the sacraments. But the Pope uses this power selfishly, to make the whole world "stoop," when that is presumably not what God intended it for.