The Ecumenical Councils

What is an ecumenical or general council?
DEFINITION: Ecumenical or General councils are legally convened assemblies of ecclesiastical dignitaries and theological experts for the purpose of discussing and regulating matters of church doctrine and discipline. The constituent elements of an ecclesiastical council are the following:

  • A legally convened meeting


  • of members of the hierarchy including the worldwide collection of Bishops lawfully summoned by the Pope, or with his consent,


  • for the purpose of carrying out their judicial and doctrinal functions,


  • WITH THE INTENTION OF UTILIZING THE GIFT OF THE HOLY GHOST, NAMELY, INFALABILITY, WHEN DEFINING FAITH OR MORALS,


  • with and under the authority of the Pope, presided by the Pope or by his legates, with its decrees having the approval of the Sovereign Pontiff,


  • by means of deliberation in common


  • resulting in regulations and decrees invested with the authority of the whole assembly.


  • NOTE: Other types of Councils include a Provincial, National, or a Diocesan Council.

    First Ecumenical Council -- Nicaea I

    SITE: Nicaea (in N.W. Asia Minor)
    YEAR:     A.D. 325
    POPE: St. Sylvester I, 314 - 335
    EMPEROR: Constantine I, The Great, Western Roman Emperor 306-337; Sole Emperor 324 - 337

    Condemned Arianism (which denied the divinity of Christ); Defined the consubstantiality of the Father and the Son, and thus Christ's divinity; Defined Christ will return in glory at the end of time to judge each individually; Pronounced one true Church as: One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic; Formulated Nicene Creed; Fixed date of Easter; promulgated numerous dogmatic and disiplinary canons, including primacy of the Roman Church over all.(TFW: 13, 23, 35, 100)

    Council of Nicaea (325) lasted two months and twelve days. 318 Bishops were present. Hosius, Bishop of Cordova, assisted as legate of Pope Sylvester. The Emperor Constantine was also present. To this council we owe The Creed (Symbolum) Of Nicaea, defining against Arius the true Divinity of the Son of God (homoousios), and the fixing of the date for keeping Easter (against the Quartodecimans).

    ACTION: Called by the emperor and ratified by the Pope, this council Condemned the heresy of Arius (priest of Alexandria, d. 336) by defining the CONSUBSTANTIALITY of God the Son with God the Father. The Son is of the "same substance," homo-ousion, as the Father (St. Athanasius); not merely a "like substance," homoi-ousion (as with the semi-Arians); nor is He (as Arius taught) some sort of super-creature.

    NOTE: St. Athanasius, Doctor of the Church (d. 373), Bishop of Alexandria, was present as deacon and peritus at Nicaea; exiled five times and excommunicated by the Arians.  St. Ephrem, Doctor of the Church (d. 373), deacon, was also present at Nicaea as peritus.

    HERESIARCH:  ARIUS.


    Second Ecumenical Council -- Constantinople I

    SITE: Constantinople (near Bosporus, a strait in today's Turkey).
    YEAR: A.D. 381
    POPE: St. Damasus I, 367 - 384
    EMPEROR: Theodosius I, the Great, 379 - 395

    ReCondemned Arianism and Condemned Semi-Arianism(Christ is divine, but of a "lesser" divinity than the Father); Condemned Macedonians, who denied the divinity of the Holy Spirit; Defined the Holy Spirit as consubstantial with the Father and the Son; Completed the Nicene-Constantinople Creed (professed every Sunday at Holy Mass); Promulgated numerous dogmatic and disiplinary canons, (TFW:13,23,35,100)

    First Council of Constantinople (381), under Pope Damasus and the Emperor Theodosius I, was attended by 150 Bishops. It was directed against the followers of Macedonius, who impugned the Divinity of the Holy Ghost. To the above-mentioned Nicene creed it added the clauses referring to the Holy Ghost (qui simul adoratur) and all that follows to the end.

    ACTION: It appears that Pope St. Damasus I was not contacted in regard to this council attended by about 186 Bishops. Called by the emperor, it was not attended by the Pope or his legates or any Bishops from the West. Nevertheless, it is listed as a General Council of the 4th century by papal decrees of the 6th century, by which time its doctrinal definitions were accepted throughout the Church (Murphy, pg. 41). This council Condemned the heresy of Macedonius by clearly defining the divinity of the Holy Ghost: He is not created like the angels no matter how high an order is attributed to such a "creature." The council also Reaffirmed the faith of Nicaea.

    NOTE: St. Gregory Nazianzen, Doctor of the Church (d. 389), was the bishop presiding. St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Doctor of the Church (d. 386), was also in attendance.

    HERESIARCH: MACEDONIUS.


    Third Ecumenical Council -- Ephesus

    SITE: Ephesus (S. of Smyrna in SW Asia Minor).
    YEAR: A.D. 431
    POPE: St. Celestine I, 423 - 432
    EMPEROR: Theodosius II, 408 - 450

    Condemned Nestorianism, which denied the unity of the divine and human in Christ; Defined that Mary is the Mother of God; Defined that Christ was One Person, with two natures; Pronounced the primacy and necessity of grace for justification and salvation; Condemned Pelagianism, which held that man could earn his own justification and salvation by his nature works; that Adam's sin affedted only himself and not the human race, and that new born's are in that state in which Adam was in before his fall; Promulgated numerous dogmatic canons. (TFW 23,25,31,44)

    Council of Ephesus (431), of 200 Bishops, presided over by St. Cyril of Alexandria representing Pope Celestine l, Defined the true personal unity of Christ, declared Mary the Mother of God (theotokos) against Nestorius, Bishop of Constantinople, and renewed the condemnation of Pelagius.

    ACTION: Called by the Eastern Emperor, Theodosius II, influenced by his pious sister, St. Pulcheria (Emperor in the West was Valentinian III, 425 - 455), and ratified by Pope Celestine I, this council Condemned the heresy of Nestorius by clearly defining the Divine maternity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. There are two natures in Christ (Divine and Human), but only one Person (Divine). Mary is the Mother of this one Divine Person, the eternal Second Person of the Blessed Trinity. Nestorius was deposed as bishop of Constantinople. This council also briefly affirmed the condemnation of the Pelagians (see local Council of Carthage, A.D. 416).

    NOTE: St. Cyril of Alexandria, Doctor of the Church (d.444), was the bishop presiding.

    HERESIARCH: NESTORIUS.


    Fourth Ecumenical Council -- Chalcedon

    SITE: Chalcedon, (north of Constatinople)
    YEAR: A.D. 451
    POPE: St. Leo I, the Great, 440 - 461
    EMPEROR: Marcian, 450 - 457

    Condemned Monophysitism which denied Christ's human nature believing it was absorbed by His divine nature; Defined that the two natures of Christ are distinct, not confused or blended (Hypostatic Union); Defined that Christ's humanity includes a human rational soul; Promulgated numerous disciplinary canons. (TFW: 23,25)

    Council of Chalcedon (451) -- 603 Bishops under Pope Leo the Great and the Emperor Marcian Defined the two natures (Divine and human) in Christ against Eutyches, who was excommunicated

    ACTION: Called by Emperor Marcian, spouse of the chaste and noble St. Pulcheria, and ratified by Pope St. Leo the Great, the council Condemned the heresy of the Abbot Eutyches, MONOPHYSITISM, which claimed that there existed only "one nature" (the divine) in Christ from the Incarnation onward. Though the council had approved the assertion that Constantinople should be ranked first after Rome ecclesiastically, Pope St. Leo did not. The primacy of the See of Rome was due to it's possession of the Chair of Peter, not to any political power. In his "Dogmatic Epistle," read by his legates at the end of the second session of the council (Oct. 10, 451), Pope St. Leo I also declared invalid all that had been done at the "Robber Synod of Ephesus" (a false Ephesus II):  " ....we see no Council, but a den of thieves (Latrocinium)." In the greatest testimony of the Eastern Council to the primacy of the Pope, the Bishops cried out:  "Behold the faith of the fathers, the faith of the Apostles; thus through Leo has Peter spoken!"  Eutyches was excommunicated.

    NOTE:  Pope St. Leo I, Doctor of the Church (d. 461), was called the "Soul" of Chalcedon.

    HERESIARCH / HERETICS:  EUTYCHES - MONOPHYSITES.


    Fifth Ecumenical Council -- Constantinople II

    SITE: Constantinople
    YEAR: A.D. 553
    POPE: Vigilius, 537 - 555
    EMPEROR: Justinian I, 527 - 565

    Condemned the "Three Chapters:, writings influenced by Nestorianism; Defined that Mary was a virgin throughout her entire life (Perpetual Virginity) Reaffirmed Mary as the Mother of God; Promulgated numerous dogmatic canons. (TFW: 25, 27, 44-45)

    Second Council of Constantinople (553), of 165 Bishops under Pope Vigilius and Emperor Justinian I, Condemned the errors of Origen and certain writings (The Three Chapters) of Theodoret, of Theodore, Bishop of Mopsuestia and of Ibas, Bishop of Edessa; it further confirmed the first four general councils, especially that of Chalcedon whose authority was contested by some heretics.

    ACTION:  Effectively called by Justinian I and eventually ratified by Pope Vigilius, Constantinople II Condemned a collection of statements known as the "Three Chapters":  1) the person and the writings of Theodore of Mopsuestia, Master of Nestorius, originator of that heresy; 2) the writings of Theodoret of Cyrrhus; 3) the writings of Ibas of Edessa.  The last two friends of Nestorius had been restored to their sees by Chalcedon when they no longer opposed the teachings of St. Cyril of Alexandria (d. 444) and of Ephesus. Chalcedon was not discredited here (as the Monophysites had hoped) since it had been concerned with men.  Constantinople II was concerned with their writings, although a hundred years after they had died.

    NOTE:  Two important local councils condemning heresies:  Carthage (416) solemnly approved by Pope Innocent II, (401 - 417), and then in 418 by Pope Zosimus (417 - 418), Condemned Pelagianism (Pelagius, a British Monk), which heresy denied original sin calling it only "bad example."  Orange (429) France, solemnly approved by Pope Boniface II (530 - 532), Condemned Semi-Pelagianism (an over-reaction to St. Augustine on grace), which claimed man needed grace only after his first supernatural act.  St. Augustine made it clear that God's grace is first.

    NOTE:  Council referred much to St. Cyril, Bishop of Alexandria, Doctor of the Church (d. 444).

    HERESIARCH:  THEODORE OF MOPSUESTIA ("3 Chapters").


    Sixth Ecumenical Council -- Constantinople III

    SITE: Constantinople
    YEARS: A.D. 680 - 681
    POPES: St. Agatho, 678 - 681, and St. Leo II, 682 - 683
    EMPEROR: Constantine IV, 668 - 685

    Condemned Monothelitism, which held that Christ had but one will, the divine will; Defined that Christ's humanity includes a free will, which was never contrary to His divine will; Defined that Christ was free from all sin - both original and personal; Censored Pope Honorius I (625-638) for failing to condemn Monothelitism and for a letter wherein he made an ambiguous statement concerning Christ's two wills. (TFW: 23, 26)

    Third Council of Constantinople (680-681), under Pope Agatho and the Emperor Constantine Pogonatus, was attended by the Patriarchs of Constantinople and of Antioch, 170 Bishops, and the emperor. It put an end to Monothelism by defining two wills in Christ, the Divine and the human, as two distinct principles of operation. It anathematized Sergius, Pyrrhus, Paul, Macarius, and all their followers.

    ACTION:  Called by Emperor Constantine IV, and its calling authorized by Pope St. Agatho, this council Condemned the heresy of the Monothelites (Mono-one thelema-will), which attributed only one will, to Christ (the divine), instead of two wills (divine and human), which two are in perfect accord within the one divine person, Jesus.   Constantinople III also reconfirmed Chalcedon.  Pope St. Leo II, 682 - 683, approved the decrees of Constantinople III, Pope St. Agatho having died (Jan. 10) before the council's end.

    NOTE:  Pope St. Leo II also Condemned Pope Honorius I (625 - 638) for negligence of duty in the face of heresy, in that he should have ascertained that Sergius was teaching not a mere harmony (oneness) of wills in Christ but literally one will in Christ, the divine will.  Honorius had not spoken ex cathedra, so infallibility had not been involved.

    HERESY/HERESIARCH:  MONOTHELITISM originated by SERGIUS (patriarch of Constantinople, 610 A.D.).


    Seventh Ecumenical Council -- Nicaea II

    SITE: Nicaea
    YEAR: A.D. 787
    POPE: Hadrian I, 772 - 795
    EMPERORS: Constantine VI, 780 - 797 and Empress Irene (797 - 802)

    Condemned iconoclasm, which held that the use of images constituted idolatry; Condemned Adoptionism, which held that Christ was not the Son of God by nature but only by adoption, thereby denying the Hypostatic Union; Defined that veneration of images and relics of saints is both right and beneficial.(TFW: 48)

    Second Council of Nicaea (787) was convoked by Emperor Constantine VI and his mother Irene, under Pope Adrian I, and was presided over by the legates of Pope Adrian; it regulated the veneration of holy images. 367 Bishops assisted.

    ACTION:  This council, called by Empress Irene (widow of Emperor Leo IV and regent for her son Constantine VI), with its doctrinal decree ratified by Pope Hadrian I, Condemned ICONOCLASM.  The Pope's epistle here, just as with Pope St.Leo I at Chalcedon, set the tone of the council.

    NOTE:  Brewing beneath the surface at this time, however, was a rejection of papal authority. The Eastern Bishops, cut off from Rome and receptive to heresy under persecution, were held suspect by Rome.

    NOTE:  Iconoclasm had been fostered by Emperor Leo III (717 - 741), who was opposed by Popes Gregory II (715 - 731) and Gregory III (731 - 741) and by St. John Damascene (d.749), priest and Doctor of the Church, who published three discourses in defense of images.

    HERESY:  ICONOCLASM.


    Eighth Ecumenical Council -- Constantinople IV

    SITE: Constantinople
    YEARS: A.D. 869 - 870
    POPE: Hadrian II, 867 - 872
    EMPEROR: Basil, 867 - 886

    Pronounced that holding the Catholic Faith is the first condition for salvation; ReCondemned Adoptionism; Deposed Photius as Patriarch of Constantinople, thereby ending the Photian schism; Promulgated numerous disciplinary canons.

    Fourth Council of Constantinople (869), under Pope Adrian II and Emperor Basil numbering 102 Bishops, consigned to the flames the Acts of an irregular council (conciliabulum) brought together by Photius against Pope Nicholas and Ignatius the legitimate Patriarch of Constantinople; it Condemned Photius who had unlawfully seized the patriarchal dignity. The Photian Schism, however, triumphed in the Greek Church, and no other general council took place in the East.

    ACTION:  Called by Emperor Basil and ratified by Pope Hadrian II, this council Condemned and deposed PHOTIUS (820 - 891), the patriarch of Constantinople and author of the Greek schism.

    NOTE:  In 1054 the Greek schism was actually consummated by Michael Cerularius, the Patriarch of Constantinople at that time.  PHOTIUS attacked enforced clerical celibacy, the addition by the West of the "FILIOQUE" to the Creed, and the crowning of Charlemagne in the West. CERULARIUS (about 200 years later) closed the churches of the Latins in Constantinople, had the Blessed Sacrament cast out and trodden underfoot as invalid, and persisted in refusing to see the three delegates sent by Pope Leo IX (1049 - 1054).  On 16 July, 1054, they publicly placed on the altar of Saint Sophia the document containing his excommunication.

    HERESIARCH:   PHOTIUS.


    (Here end the Eastern Councils and begin the Western)

    Ninth Ecumenical Council -- Lateran I

    SITE: The Basilica of Saint John Lateran in Rome
    YEAR: A.D. 1123
    POPE: Callistus II, 1119 - 1124
    EMPEROR: Henry V, 1106 - 1125

    Decrees on condemning simony (the buying or selling of spiritual things, sacraments, prayers, indulgences, etc); Decrees on celibacy, lay investiture and confirmed the Concordat of Worms. This where the Pope and the Emperor sought to end the dispute over investiture(i.e. the attempt by the secular powers to assume authority in appointing Bishops).

    First Lateran Council (1123) held at Rome under Pope Callistus II. 300 Bishops and 600 mitred abbots assisted. It abolished the right claimed by lay princes, of investiture with ring and crosier to ecclesiastical benefices and dealt with church discipline and the recovery of the Holy Land from the infidels.

    ACTION:  Called and ratified by Pope Callistus II, this council confirmed the Concordat of Worms (1122) between Emperor Henry V and Pope Callistus II, which secured that all elections of Bishops and Abbots should be made freely by the proper ecclesiastical authorities (electors).  In Germany the emperor was to preside over these free elections and then bestow temporal power on the bishop so chosen, in return for temporal fealty.  Outside Germany the emperor was to have no part in any elections.

    NOTE:  Also dealt with at this council was the subject of clerical marriages.  It was decided that once ordained, a priest may not marry in either Latin or Eastern Rites.

    CONTROVERSY:  LAY INVESTITURE.


    Tenth Ecumenical Council -- Lateran II

    SITE: The Basilica of Saint John Lateran (Rome)
    YEAR: A.D. 1139
    POPE: Innocent II, 1130 - 1143
    EMPEROR: Conrad III, 1137 - 1152

    Ended a Papal schism by antipope Anacletus II; Reaffirmed baptism of infants; Reaffirmed sacramental nature of priesthood, marriage, and the Eucharist against Medieval heretics; Reaffirmed that holy orders is an impediment to marriage; Promulgated numerous disciplinary canons.

    Second Lateran Council (1139) held at Rome under Pope Innocent II with an attendance of 1000 Bishops(prelates) and the Emperor Conrad. Its object was to put an end to the errors of Arnold of Brescia.

    ACTION:  Called and ratified by Pope Innocent II, this council voided the acts of the deceased antiPope, Anacletus II (d. 1138), ending the Papal schism of the time. It also Condemned the heresies of:  1) Peter Bruys (Bruis) and his NEO-MANICHEANS, who denounced the Mass as a "vain show," opposed the Eucharist, marriage, and the baptism of children -- all this leading to Albigensianism ("Material things are evil in themselves"); 2) Arnold of Brescia, who contended that the Church was an "invisible body," not of this world, and should own no property.

    NOTE:  St. Bernard, Abbot and Doctor of the Church (d. 1153), preached against the abuses and laxity attendant upon lay investiture, and the Lateran Council set down laws to remove them.

    HERESIARCHS:  PETER BRUYS and ARNOLD of BRESCIA.


    Eleventh Ecumenical Council -- Lateran III

    SITE: The Basilica of Saint John Lateran (Rome)
    YEAR: A.D. 1179
    POPE: Alexander III, 1159 - 1181
    EMPEROR: Frederick Barbarossa, 1152 - 1190

    Regulated Papal elections by requiring a two-thirds vote of cardinals;Condemned Waldensiansim and Albigensiansim, a form of Manicheanism (an ancient heresy that held matter is evil and thus denied the Incarnation). Albigensians opposed the authority of the Church and of the state, opposed the Sacrament of Matrimony and all external ritual, and practiced ritual suicide.

    Third Lateran Council (1179) took place under Pope Alexander III, Frederick I being emperor. There were 300 Bishops present. It Condemned the Albigenses and Waldenses and issued numerous decrees for the reformation of morals.

    ACTION:  Called and ratified by Pope Alexander III, this council regulated the election of Popes (two-thirds majority vote by the College of Cardinals was required for the Pope to be elected,  and the emperor was excluded from voting).  It annulled the acts of three antiPopes:  ANTIPOPE VICTOR IV (1159) and TWO SUCCESSORS.  One of its chapters excommunicated the Albigensians, but dealing with them in greater detail was Lateran IV Council, under Pope Innocent III.


    Twelfth Ecumenical Council -- Lateran IV

    SITE : The Basilica of Saint John Lateran (Rome)
    YEAR: A.D. 1215
    POPE: Innocent III, 1198 - 1216
    EMPEROR: Otto IV, 1208 - 1215

    Defined that God is transcendent, above nature and God's perfect attributes; Defined that God created all things ex nihilo (out of nothing); Defined that human nature is composed on two essential parts: a material body and a spiritual soul; Defined that, at His death, Christ's soul separated from His body and descended into hell and that He rose in the flesh from the dead; Defined that outside the Church there is no salvation; Defined that it is the ordained priest who brings about the consecration of the bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ; Defined the Real Presence with the term "transubstantiation". Defined that both Heaven (the Beatific Vision) and Hell (along with its pains) are eternal. Promulgated more disciplinary canons (TFW: 8-9, 13, 16, 21, 32-33, 35, 39, 75, 92, 96)

    Fourth Lateran Council (1215), under Innocent III. There were present the Patriarchs of Constantinople and Jerusalem, 412 Bishops, and 800 Abbots and Friars, sovereigns and princes, the Primate of the Maronites, and St. Dominic. It issued an enlarged creed (symbol) against the Albigenses (Firmiter credimus), Condemned the Trinitarian errors of Abbot Joachim, and published 70 important reformatory decrees. This is the most important council of the Middle Ages, it marks the culminating point of ecclesiastical life and papal power.

    ACTION:  Called and ratified by Pope Innocent III [which Pope Defined ex cathedra (Denz. 430):  "There is but one Universal Church of the faithful, outside of which no one at all is saved."], Lateran IV prescribed at least annual confession and communion for all the faithful and made official the use of the word, "TRANSUBSTANTIATION."  Its only failure was the Fourth Crusade.  It reformed discipline and Condemned the heresies of:  1) ALBIGENSIANISM (NEO-MANICHEANISM), which opposed marriage and all sacraments and belief in the resurrection of the body; 2) WALDENSIANISM (anti-clerical heresy), which claimed that laymen living an apostolic life could forgive sins, while a priest in the state of sin could not absolve.  Waldensianism also held that oath taking and assigning death penalties were held to be mortal sins.  They also held that the Evangelical Counsel of poverty was a commandment, thus they forbad all private ownership of property.

    HERESIES:  ALBIGENSIANISM and WALDENSIANISM.


    Thirteenth Ecumenical Council -- Lyons I

    SITE: Lyons, France
    YEAR: 1245
    POPE: Innocent IV, 1243 - 1254
    EMPEROR: Frederick II, 1215 - 1250

    Exommunicated and deposed Frederick II(Emperor) for heresy and crimes against the Church; planned the seventh crusade (led by Saint Louis, King of France)

    First Council of Lyons (1245). Innocent IV presided the Patriarchs of Constantinople, Antioch, and Aquileia (Venice), 140 bishops, Baldwin II, Emperor of the East, and St. Louis, King of France, assisted. It excommunicated and deposed Emperor Frederick II and directed a new crusade, under the command of St. Louis, against the Saracens and Mongols.

    ACTION:  Called and ratified by Pope Innocent IV, this council excommunicated Emperor Frederick II, grandson of Frederick Barbarossa, for his contumacious attempt to make the Church merely a department of the state.  Lyons I also directed a new crusade (the 6th) under the command of King St. Louis IX (1226 - 1270) of France against the Saracens and the Mongols.

    HERETIC:  EMPEROR FREDERICK II.


    Fourteenth Ecumenical Council -- Lyons II

    SITE: Lyons, France
    YEAR: 1274
    POPE: Blessed Gregory X, 1271 - 1276
    EMPEROR: Rudolph I of Hapsburg, 1273 - 1291

    Defined that the Holy Spirit proceeds from both the Father and the Son as from on Principle(Filioque clause); Defined the primacy and authority of the Roman Church; Defined that there are seven (and only seven) sacraments;

    Council of Lyons (1274) with Pope Gregory X, the Patriarchs of Antioch and Constantinople, 500 Bishops, 70 Abbots, and 100 minor Prelates (dignitaries). It effected a temporary reunion of the Greek Church with Rome. The word filioque was added to the symbol of Constantinople and means were sought for recovering Palestine from the Turks. It also laid down the rules for papal elections.

    ACTION:  Called and ratified by Pope Gregory X, this council declared the double procession of the Holy Ghost from the Father and the Son:  "Qui ex Patre Filioque procedit."  The return of the Eastern Church to union with Rome, sought by the Popes, failed utterly.

    NOTE:  St. Thomas Aquinas, Priest and Doctor of the Church (d. 1274), died on his way to Lyons II.  St. Bonaventure, Cardinal and Doctor of the Church (d.1274), was prominent at Lyons II, died there, and was buried by the council. FILIOQUE Defined and added to Nicene Creed.


    Fifteenth Ecumenical Council -- Vienne

    SITE: Vienne (South of Lyons), France
    YEARS: 1311 - 1312
    POPE: Clement V, 1305 - 1314
    EMPEROR: Henry VII, 1308 - 1313

    Defined that the Vision of God is a supernatural gift beyond the natural powers of the human soul;

    Defined "that there is one baptism which regenerates all those baptized in Christ, just as there is one God and one faith. We believe that when baptism is administered in water in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, it is a perfect means of salvation for both adults and children."

    NOTE: This council does NOT say that administering baptism by water is the only means to reach the same effect of the sacrament, but that Baptism of water is the perfect means to achieve this sacrament, indicating that there are imperfect means to achieve this sacrament as well.

    NOTE: Baptism can manifest itself in 3 different ways, water, blood, or desire, but it is still one and the same baptism.

    NOTE: There is almost always an exception to a rule as Christ has demonstrated in the Gospels, when he appeared to break Jewish laws due to the fact that the Groom is with His bride. Another example of an exception is the fact that Our Lord said that no one is greater than Saint John the Baptist. "Amen I say to you, there hath not risen among them that are born of women a greater than John the Baptist...".(Saint Matthew 11:11) Our Lord did not list the exception of Our Lady. Another example of an exception is the fact that Saint Paul proclamed that "For ALL have sinned ..."(Romans 3:23) Saint Paul did not list the exception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Let us look at the words of Saint Augustine (Doctor of the Church) "For whatever unbaptized persons die confessing Christ, this confession is of the same efficacy for the remission of sins as if they were washed in the sacred font of baptism. For He who said, "Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God,"[Saint John 3:5] (2) made also an exception in their favor, in that other sentence where He no less absolutely said, "Whosoever shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven;"[Saint Matthew 10:32] (3) and in another place, "Whosoever will lose his life for my sake, shall find it." [Saint Matthew 16:25]" (Christ is supporting Baptism of Blood when he says "Whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it".)

    NOTE: The Council of Trent, 1545-1563, Decree on Justification, Ch. 4: "... and this translation after the promulgation of the Gospel cannot be effected without the laver of regeneration(baptism), OR A DESIRE FOR IT, as it is written "Unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God" [Saint John 3:5] (Here Trent interprets Saint John 3:5 to mean we must be baptized either in reality or in desire.)

    NOTE: If a catechumen meets some unforseen death, having desired to be a member of the Church through Baptism of water, he can still attain salvation.

    NOTE: "Augustine says 'that some have received the invisible sanctification without visible sacraments'...the sacrament of Baptism may be wanting to anyone in reality but not in desire." (Summa Theologica IIIa qu. 68 a 2)

    NOTE: "On the other hand, it must likewise be held as certain that those who are affected by ignorance of the true religion, if it is invincible ignorance, are not subject to any guilt in this matter before the eyes of the Lord." Venerable Pope Pius IX

    Abolished the Knights Templars; Promulgated decrees on reforms and morals(TFW: 93)

    Council of Vienne in France (1311-1313) by order of Clement V, the first of the Avignon popes. The Patriarchs of Antioch and Alexandria, 300 Bishops, many Prelates, and 3 kings -- Philip IV of France, Edward II of England, and James II of Aragon -- were present. The synod dealt with the crimes and errors imputed to the Knights Templars, the Fraticelli, the Beghards, and the Beguines, with projects of a new crusade, the reformation of the clergy, and the teaching of Oriental languages in the universities.

    ACTION:  Called and ratified by Pope Clement V, first of the Avignon Popes (The "Avignon Captivity" lasted from 1305 until 1377, when Pope Gregory XI returned the Holy See to Rome), this council suppressed the Knights Templars (Master: Jacques de Molay) for crimes charged by King Philip IV of France.  Their confiscated property was given to the Hospitalers or, in Spain, to national orders that had fought against the Moors.  The council also declared that anyone who obstinately holds "that the rational or intellectual soul is not the form of the human body in itself and essentially, must be regarded as a heretic." (Denz. 481) The council also Condemned the Beghards (males) and Beguines (females), who so stressed "inner union with God". Quietism, that prayer and fasting became unimportant.  Quietism taught that the "spiritual" person is so perfect that he or she can give free reign to fleshly desires.

    NOTE:  In his 1302 Bull UNAM SANCTAM Pope Boniface VIII (1294 - 1303), declared ex cathedra that it is "...absolutely necessary for the salvation of every human creature to be subject to the Roman Pontiff." (Denz. 469)  He was opposed by the French King Philip IV, the "Fair" (1268-1314), who seems to have given up on gaining a condemnation of Pope Boniface, while gaining one against the Knights Templars at Vienne, 1311.

    HERESIES:  The Errors of Peter John of Olivi and QUIETISM.


    Sixteenth Ecumenical Council -- Constance

    SITE: Constance, Germany
    YEARS: 1414 - 1418
    POPES: Gregory XII, 1406 - 1415; Martin V, 1417 - 1431
    EMPEROR: Sigismund of Luxembourg, 1410 - 1437

    Ended the Great Schism, wich involved three rival claiments to the Papal throne; Condemned the teachings of John Wycliffe, who taught sola scriptura and denied the authority of the Pope and Bishops; denied the Real Presence and indulgences; Condemned the teachings of John Huss, who denied papal authority and its necessity for salvation and who taught wrongly about the nature of the Church; Promulgated disciplinary decrees

    Council of Constance (1414-1418), 200 Bishops and Prelates were present, and was held during the great Schism of the West, with the object of ending the divisions in the Church. It only became legitimate when Gregory XI had formally convoked it. Owing to this circumstance it succeeded in putting an end to the schism by the election of Pope Martin V, which the Council of Pisa (1403) had failed to accomplish on account of its illegality. The rightful pope confirmed the former decrees of the synod against Wyclif and Hus. This council is thus only ecumenical in its last sessions (XLII-XLV inclusive) and with respect to the decrees of earlier sessions approved by Martin V.

    ACTION:  Called by Emperor Sigismund and Pope Gregory XII who authorized the convocation as he abdicated the Papacy.  The anti-popes Benedict XIII (Avignon) and John XXIII (Pisa) also agreed to "abdicate" in the interests of unity.  The council elevated Martin V to the Chair of Peter to end the confustion of the Western Schism.  Pope Martin ratified the council ...except the decrees which proposed conciliarism.  In addition to ending the Western Schism, Constance also Condemned the heresies of:  1) John Wycliffe, who rejected the Holy sacrifice of the Mass, emphasized scripture as the sole rule of faith, subscribed to Donatism, asserted the Pope is not the head of the Church, and Bishops have no authority; and, 2) John Huss, who preached the above after Wycliffe's death.

    HERETICS:  WYCLIFFE and HUSS.


    Seventeenth Ecumenical Council -- Florence

    SITES with YEARS: Basel (Switzerland, near France), 1431 - 1437; Ferrara (Italy, north of Bologna, southwest of Venice), 1438; Florence (Italy, south of Bologna, north of Rome), 1439 - 1445
    POPE: Eugene IV, 1431 - 1447
    EMPERORS: Albrecht II, 1438 - 1439; Frederick III, 1440 - 1493.
    Reaffirmed Papal primacy against the conciliarist heresy, which held that an ecumenical council is superior to a pope; Reaffirmed Filioque clause concerning the procession of the Holy Spirit; Reaffirmed that there are seven and only seven sacraments; Defined the necessity of proper form (words), matter and intention for the validity of the sacraments; Defined that Baptism, Confirmation, and Holy Orders produce a spiritual mark which cannot be removed, hence these sacraments cannot be repeated; Defined that it is by Baptism men are made members of the Church; Defined the effects of Baptism and Confirmation; Pronounced the divine inspiration and authorship and and inerrancy of Sacred Scripture; Pronounced the canon of Scripture as containing 73(72) books; Defined the Province of God; Defined that outside the Catholic Church no one can be saved, "even if he has shed his blood in the name of Christ, unless he has persevered in the bosom and the unity of the Catholic Church." Defined Christ's Second Coming will be in the flesh "intellectually animated"; Decreed and approved of reunion with several eastern churches; (TFW: 5a,c, 13-16, 18, 25, 27, 39, 50, 63, 66, 68, 69a-d, 84a-c, 90-91, 94-99, 101)

    Council of Basle (1431), Eugene IV being pope, with 200 Bishops present and Sigismund Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire. Its object was the religious pacification of Bohemia. Quarrels with the pope having arisen, the council was transferred first to Ferrara (1438), then to Florence (1439), where a short-lived union with the Greek Church was effected, the Greeks accepting the council's definition of controverted points. The Council of Basle is only ecumenical till the end of the twenty-fifth session, and of its decrees Eugene IV approved only such as dealt with the extirpation of heresy, the peace of Christendom, and the reform of the Church, and which at the same time did not derogate from the rights of the Holy See.

    ACTION:  This council was called in 1431 for Basel, Switzerland, by Pope Martin V, who died that year.  Pope Eugene IV confirmed this decree for Basel, and the first session was held on 14 December, 1431.  Believing it would become unruly, Eugene IV dissolved the council within four days, angering the Bishops at Basel, who began to reassert the heretical decrees at Constance that "a general council is superior to the Pope".  In January, 1438, the Pope ordered a fresh start at Ferrara.  (Some Bishops remained in open schism at Basel, even electing an anti-pope, Felix V -- two "Popes," two "councils" at one time.)  A plague came to Ferrara, and the Pope moved the Council to Florence.  On June 8, 1439, the Greeks accepted the double procession of the Holy Ghost and, by July 5, agreed on some other points, but lasting union failed:  "Better the turban of the Prophet than the tiara of the Pope."  On May 29, 1453, Constantinople fell to the Mohammedans.  Cantate Domino decreed. (Papal Authority More Firmly Established):  ex cathedra: It [the Roman Catholic Church] firmly believes, professes, and proclaims that none of those who are not within the Catholic Church, not only pagans, but also Jews and heretics and schismatics cannot become participants in eternal life, but will depart "into everlasting fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels" (Matt. 25:41), unless before the end of their life the same have been added to the flock; and that the unity of Ecclesiastical body is so strong that only to those remaining in it are the Sacraments of the Church of benefit for Salvation, and do fastings, almsgiving, and other functions of piety and exercises of Christian service produce eternal reward, and that no one, whatever almsgiving he has practiced, even if he has shed blood for the name of Christ, can be saved, unless he has remained in the bosom and unity of the Catholic Church. [Pope Eugene IV, the Bull Cantate Domino, 1441, Denzinger 714].  Temporary reconciliation with the Greeks RE: Filoque.


    Eighteenth Ecumenical Council -- Lateran V

    SITE: The Basilica of Saint John Lateran (Rome)
    YEARS: 1512 - 1517 (March). (Luther's theses posted 31 October, 1517)
    POPES: Julius II, 1503 - 1513; Leo X, 1513 - 1521
    EMPEROR: Maximilian I, 1493 - 1519

    Condemned errors concerning the soul; Defined that the soul is immortal and that it is the form of the human body; Reaffirmed the necessity of the submission to the Roman Pontiff for salvation, (but not if that obedience harms faith).; Reaffirmed the dogma of Indulgences; Failed to establish thorough reforms within the Church, thus helping the Protestant revolt

    Fifth Lateran Council, sat from 1512 to 1517 under Popes Julius II and Leo X, the emperor being Maximilian I. 120 Bishops, representatives of kings and princes, took part in it. Its decrees are chiefly disciplinary. A new crusade against the Turks was also planned, but came to naught, owing to the religious upheaval in Germany caused by Luther.

    ACTION:  Called by Pope Julius II, this council opened on May 10, 1512; by Feb. 1513 Pope Julius was dying, and the council was reconvened by Pope Leo X in April 1513 and ratified by him.  The most important discussions concerned the "Pragmatic Sanction of Bourges."  In 1438 the King of France, Charles VII, had issued this edict, declaring a general council superior to the Pope and denying his right to nominate Bishops in France.  A later King, Louis XI, had abolished this decree in 1461, but Louis XII (1498 - 1515) had attempted to reintroduce it.  This council clearly rejected the teaching contained in the edict. (The appeal for another Crusade against the Turks met with no enthusiasm, and the situation in Europe relegated such a venture to oblivion.)

    Condemned:  PRAGMATIC SANCTION OF BOURGES (Charles VII/Louis XII).


    Nineteenth Ecumenical Council -- Trent

    SITE: Trent, Italy.
    YEARS: 1545 - 1563
    POPES: Paul III, 1534 - 1549 & 1551 - 1552; Julius III, 1550 - 1555; Pius IV, 1559 - 1565
    EMPERORS: Charles V, 1519 - 1556 & Ferdinand I, 1556 - 1564

    Affirmed Catholic doctrines against the errors of the Protestants; Initiated the Counter-Reformation; Reaffirmed and Defined doctrines of the Bible and Tradition, grace, sin, justification, Mass as real sacrifice, the Real Presence, purgatory, indulgences, jurisdiction of the Pope; Defined numerous points concerning the sacraments; Defined the necessity of Baptism for salvation, whether in reality or desire; Defined the necessity of both faith and good works for salvation; Promulgated numerous decrees on the sacraments and the liturgy; Reformed the clergy and morals; Ordered establishment of seminaries for future training of priests (TFW: 5c, 6, 19-20, 28-31, 37-38, 48-67, 69b-74, 76-89, 98-99)

    Council of Trent, lasted eighteen years (1545-1563) under five popes: Paul III, Julius III, Marcellus II, Paul IV and Pius IV, and under the Emperors Charles V and Ferdinand. There were present 5 cardinal legates of the Holy See, 3 patriarchs, 200 Bishops, 7 abbots, 7 generals of monastic orders, representatives of kings and princes. It was convoked to examine and condemn the errors promulgated by Luther and other Reformers, and to reform the discipline of the Church. Of all councils it lasted longest, issued the largest number of dogmatic and reformatory decrees, and produced the most beneficial results.

    ACTION:  Called by Pope Paul III, this council was continued by Pope Julius III, and, after 18 years and 25 sessions in all, Pope Pius IV concluded it and solemnly confirmed its decrees.  Trent Condemned the heresies of Luther, Calvin, and others.  It issued decrees on the Eucharist, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the Sacraments (notably Baptism and Holy Orders) and teachings on marriage, purgatory, indulgences and the use of images. +See canons II and V, BAPTISM.  The remaining tasks begun by Pope Pius IV were continued by his successor, Pope St. Pius V (1566 - 1572):  reforming of the Missal and Brieviary, writing of the Catechism based on the decrees of Trent, appointing a commission to issue a more exact edition of the Vulgate, and the reforming of morals.

    NOTE:  St. Peter Canisius, Priest, Doctor of the Church (d. 1597), represented the Pope at Trent, and was an opponent of Melancthon.

    HERESY:  PROTESTANTISM


    Twentieth Ecumenical Council -- Vatican I

    SITE: The Vatican (St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican City-State, Rome).
    YEARS: 1869 - 1870
    POPE: Pius IX, 1846 - 1878
    EUROPEAN RULERS DURING THE COUNCIL: AUSTRIA: Francis Joseph, 1848 - 1916; ENGLAND: Victoria, 1837 - 1901; FRANCE: Napolean III, 1852 - 1870; SPAIN: Republic, 1868 - 1870; PRUSSIA: German Empire Prussian Kingdom William I, 1861 - 1888; RUSSIA: Alexander II, 1855 - 1881; ITALY: Victor Emmanuel II, 1848 - 1861 (King of Sardinia) 1861 - 1878 (King of Italy); Ulyssyes S. Grant, 1869 -1877 (United States President).

    Defined Papal infallibility; Defined the constitution, mission and infallibility of the Church; Defined nature of Divine Revelation and dogmas; Pronounced necessity of believing the Catholic Faith for salvation; Condemned errors concerning relationship between faith and reason, revelation and scientific knowledge and other modern errors (TFW: 1-12, 16-18, 21, 34, 36, 38, 40-41, 56)

    First Vatican Council was summoned to the Vatican by Pius IX. It met 8 December, 1869, and lasted till 18 July, 1870, when it was adjourned; it is still (1908) unfinished. There were 704 Patriarchs, Bishops, and superiors of Religious Orders present. Besides important canons relating to the Faith and the constitution of the Church, the council decreed the infallibility of the pope when speaking ex cathedra, i.e. when as shepherd and teacher of all Christians, he defines a doctrine concerning faith or morals to be held by the whole Church.

    ACTION:  Convened and ratified by Pope Pius IX, the First Vatican Council Defined the INFALLIBILITY of the Pope when, as Supreme Pontiff, he speaks from the Seat of Peter (ex cathedra), on a matter of Faith and Morals, pronouncing a doctrine to be believed by the whole Church.


    Twenty-first Ecumenical Council -- Vatican II

    SITE: The Vatican (St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican City-State, Rome).
    YEARS: 1962 - 1965
    POPES: John XXIII, 1958 - 1963 Paul VI, 1963 - 1978

    Issued pastoral documents on matters of Church life: spiritual renewal, the reform of religious institutions, disciplines, liturgy, evangelization and the work for Christian unity and religious tolerance, for a total of 16 documents. Of these 16 documents two are entitled "dogmatic" but neither involves any definitive dogmatic pronouncements.

    ACTION:  Called by Pope John XXIII and ratified by Pope Paul VI, the Second Vatican Council was a Pastoral Council (not dogmatic) with 16 documents emphasizing ecumenism understood as religious fellowship, rather than emphasizing Catholic missionary enterprise for the conversion to the Faith.  In 1960 Pope John XXIII declined to reveal the third secret of Fatima, which message was due that year, declaring it did not bear on his pontificate.  Then in 1962 Pope John XXIII entered into a Vatican-Moscow agreement. In this agreement it was stated that for the Russian Orthodox to be present at his Council, NO condemnation of Communism was to be allowed there.  1968 -- Pope Paul VI issued his encyclical, Humanae Vitae, against artificial contraception but however promotes Natural Family Planning which has never been a part of True Catholic Doctrine and is a form of birth control in its truest sense, however NFP can be practiced under very rare exceptional cases that must be consulted with a traditional confessor.  1969 -- Pope Paul VI promulgated the Novus Ordo Missae.

    NOTE:  There was no dogma Defined and no heresy Condemned at Vatican Council II.

    NOTE: The heresy of religious freedom taught erroneously and religious indifferentism was not only, not Condemned but was actually promoted.


    18 of the 1917 Code of Canon Law is "Ecclesiastical laws are to be understood according to the proper (appropriate, corresponding) significance of the words ... and to the INTENT or mind of the legislator(one who proposes laws or norms(for example pastoral norms and guidance))."

    This principle can easily be applied to Council Documents. The Intent of the author of a document, for example, a document of a Council, determines its authority.

    "There will be no infallible definitions. All that was done by former Councils. That is enough." --Pope John XXIII (apud Fr. Yves Congar)

    "In view of the pastoral nature of the Council, it avoided proclaiming in an extraordinary manner any dogmata carrying the mark of infallibility." (Pope Paul VI, General Audience of January 12, 1966)

    NOTE:   All the Popes since the existence of communism have condemned this most fatal social organization. Vatican Council II failed to condemn communism, in fact specifically FORBID anyone from condemning communism, or any heresy for that matter and did not define any dogma. By not condemning Communism, Vatican II implicitly approved of it. Vatican Council II was the only Council out of 20 Ecumenical Councils that specifically did not intend to implore that special protection from the Holy Ghost to be infallible and therefore the Vatican Council II is quite fallible. The past 20 Ecumenical Councils practiced an entirely different ecumenism than what is being practiced today. True ecumenism consists of the conversion of non-Catholics to the Catholic Faith NEVER treating the Catholic Faith as an equal among equals with other faiths.

    NOTE:   All the Ecumenical Councils of the Most Holy Roman Catholic Church have either condemned a heresy, excommunicated a heretic, promulgated dogmatic canons, or defined infallible doctrines, except Vatican II. All Ecumenical Councils had and MUST have the OBJECTIVE point of view. Vatican II was the ONLY Council that had the subjective point of view.

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