The Councils of the Catholic Church
Church Councils define Church
There are 5 types of councils, Diocesan,
National, Ecumenical, Plenary, and Provincial. No council has ever
changed Church dogma, nor can it, since dogma was proclaimed by
Jesus Christ Himself, Acts 6:12,15,15:6,*Gal 2:2.
An Ecumenical Council is where all the Bishops in the world that are
entitled to vote, gather under the presidency of the Pope or his representative.
There have been 21 Ecumenical councils in the history of the Church, other
important councils called 'synods' are marked '*'.
The very first council or meeting of the Apostles and presbyters is recorded
in Acts 15, and is called the Council of Jerusalem.
Tradition speaks of St. James as being the Bishop of Jerusalem at that time of
about 50 AD.
A Church council is usually a reaction as
opposed to an action. They are held to define a truth after
someone has denied it. Jesus Christ gave His authority in several
verses of Holy Scripture. One example is in Luke 10:16, "He
who hears you hears me". Armed with this authority,
Church teaching has been accepted over the centuries. Then along comes someone
who denies a certain teaching and therefore there becomes a need for a Church
council to react to the denial. The Council of Ephesus of 431,
one such reaction, defined the Blessed Virgin Mary as the
"Theotokos", meaning GOD bearer or Mother of GOD. This formal teaching was only
done after someone had denied it. Another example is the
reaction of the Council of Trent in 1546 which defined again, the canon of Holy
Scripture after seven books were denied by the Protestants in their revolt.
Non-Catholics look at these reactive Church councils as
teaching something new, when in fact, all they are doing is defining a truth
that has been taught for centuries without denials.
The Major Councils Are...
325: The first world council in Church history was convened at the request of
Emperor Constantine I (285-337). Jesus Christ is GOD, and is equal to the Father
and to the Holy Spirit, the Nicene Creed.
Constantinople I, 381:
divinity of the Holy Spirit, condemned the Arian heresy.
Pope Damasus I, settled the New Testament Canon. *
Hippo 393: work on the
New Testament. *
Carthage 397: finalized the New Testament and the
Ephesus, 431: Blessed Virgin is the Mother of GOD,
Chalcedon, 451: condemned
Constantinople II, 553: condemned the Three Chapters, and
Constantinople III, 680: condemned Monothelitism, and
Nicaea II, 787: condemned
Constantinople IV, 869: ended the Greek schism and deposed
Lateran I, 1123: issued decrees on celibacy and simony.
Lateran II, 1139: ended the Papal Schism.
Lateran III, 1179:
condemned Albigensian and Waldensian heresies.
Lateran IV, 1215: planned
a crusade, enacted reforms.
Lyons I, 1245: the Holy Spirit proceeds from
the Father and the Son, true body and blood of Christ in the consecration,
unleavened bread in hosts.
Lyons II, 1274: reunited the Church with the
Vienne, 1311: abolished the Knight Templars.
1414: ended the great schism. Basle, Ferrara.
Florence, 1431: union of
Greeks, and enacted reforms.
Lateran V, 1512: treated of the
Neo-Aristotelians, enacted reforms.
Trent, 1545: convened on Dec 4,
1545, and closed on Dec 4, 1563, it was the longest Church council ever, 18
years, and made the largest number of decrees. It is the most
controversial among the Protestants as they claim falsely that the
deuterocanonicals were 'added' then, but in fact they were
'reaffirmed'. If they were added, then how could Martin Luther have
removed them in 1531? See 'Carthage' above. The council authenticated
the Vulgate, and declared the Bible & Tradition are rules of
Vatican I, 1869: Papal infallibility.
Vatican II, 1962:
the greatest religious event of the 20th century. So much was accomplished
in this council. There are several books written on what was discussed
here. Please refer to Vatican Council II, Vols 1,2,3,4,5.
Updated February 4, 2004
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