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A Hstory Of The Councils Of The Church Volumes 1 to 5 by Charles Joseph Hefele D.D.

SEC. 1. Origin and Authority of Councils

THE two synonymous expressions, concilium and σύνοδος, signify primarily any kind of assembly, even a secular one; but in the more restricted sense of a Church assembly, i.e. of a regularly convoked meeting of the rulers of the Church for the discussion and decision of ecclesiastical business, the word concilium is found for the first time in Tertullian, and σύνοδος in the Apostolical Canons; while the Apostolical Constitutions designate even the ordinary meetings of Christians for divine service by the name of σύνοδος.

That the origin of councils is derived from the Apostolic Synod held at Jerusalem about the year 52, is undoubted; but theologians are not agreed as to whether they were instituted by divine or by human authority. The true answer to this question is as follows: They are an apostolical institution; but the apostles, when they instituted them, acted under the commission which they received from Christ, otherwise they could not have published the decisions of their synod with the words, “It seemed good to the Holy Ghost and to us.” They must have been convinced that the Lord of the Church had promised and had granted His Spirit to the assemblies of the Church.

Later synods have acted and spoken in the same conviction, that the Holy Ghost governed the assemblies of the Church; and Cyprian in his time wrote, in the name of the Council over which he presided, A.D. 252, to Pope Cornelius: “It seemed good to us, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit” (Placuit nobis, Sancto Spiritu suggerente). To the same effect the Synod of Arles, A.D. 314, expressed itself: “It seemed good, therefore, in the presence of the Holy Spirit and His angels” (Placuit ergo, præsente Spiritu Sancto et angelis ejus: Hardouin, Collect. Concil. t. i. p. 262). And it was this conviction, which was so universal, that led the Emperor Constantine the Great to call the decree of the Synod of Arles a heavenly judgment (cæleste judicium); and he added, that the judgment of the priests ought to be so received as though the Lord Himself sat and judged (sacerdotum judicium ita debet haberi, ac si ipse DOMINUS residens judicet). Twenty years later he again publicly expressed the same belief, at the close of the first œcumenical council at Nicæa, in these words: “What seemed good to the three hundred holy bishops (that is, the members of the Nicene Synod) is no otherwise to be thought of than as the judgment of the only Son of God” (Quod trecentis sanctis episcopis visum est, non est aliud putandum, quam solius Filii Dei sententia). In perfect agreement with this are the testimonies of all the ancient Fathers, Greek as well as Latin, of Athanasius as of Augustine and Gregory the Great, the latter of whom goes so far as to compare the authority of the first four general councils with the importance of the four holy Gospels.

The earliest synods known to us were held about the middle of the second Christian century in Asia Minor: they were occasioned by the rise of Montanism. It is, however, not improbable that such assemblies were held earlier in the Greek Church, perhaps on account of the Gnostics, inasmuch as the Greeks from the earliest times had more inclination, and also greater need, for synods, than those of the Western Church.

SEC. 2. Different kinds of Synods

It has been customary, in dealing with ecclesiastical statistics, to divide the councils into four classes; but they may be more accurately divided into eight, since there have actually been ecclesiastical assemblies of the kinds described under the following numbers,—two, five, seven, and eight. Foremost of all stand,—

1. The Universal or Œcumenical Councils, at which the bishops and other privileged persons from all the ecclesiastical provinces of the world are summoned to be present under the presidency of the Pope or his legates, and are bound to attend, unless in case of reasonable hindrance; and whose decisions are then received by the whole Church, and have the force of law for all the faithful. Hence it is clear that a council may possibly be intended to be œcumenical, and be summoned as such, and yet not receive the rank of an œcumenical synod,—as when its progress is stopped, or when it does not accomplish its object, or becomes divided, and the like; and for such reasons does not receive the approval of the whole Church, and particularly of the Pope. So it was with the so-called Latrocinium or Robber-Synod at Ephesus, A.D. 449. The bishops of all provinces were summoned, and the papal legates were present; but violence was used which prevented free discussion, so that error prevailed: and this Synod, instead of being recorded with honour, is marked with a brand on the page of history.

2. The second rank is given to General Councils or Synods of the Latin or Greek Church, at which were present the bishops and other privileged persons either of the whole Latin or of the whole Greek Church, and thus only the representatives of one-half of the whole Church. Thus, in the first instance, the Synod held at Constantinople, A.D. 381, was only a Greek or Eastern general council, at which were present all the four Patriarchs of the East,—those of Constantinople, of Alexandria, of Antioch, and of Jerusalem, with many other metropolitans and bishops. As, however, this Synod was afterwards received by the West, it acquired the rank of an œcumenical council.

3. When the bishops of only one patriarchate or primacy (i.e. of a diocese, in the ancient sense of the word), or of only one kingdom or nation, assembled under the presidency of the patriarch, or primate, or first metropolitan, then we have respectively a national, or patriarchal, or primatial council, which frequently received the name of universal or plenary (universale or plenarium). The bishops of the Latin Church in Africa, for instance, metropolitans and suffragans, often assembled in synods of this kind under the Primate of Carthage; and in the same way the archbishops and bishops of all Spain under their primate, the Archbishop of Toledo. In still earlier times, the metropolitans and bishops of Syria assembled under the Archbishop of Antioch, their supreme metropolitan, afterwards called by the name of Patriarch.

4. A Provincial Synod is considerably smaller, and is formed by the metropolitan of an ecclesiastical province, with his suffragan bishops and other privileged persons.

5. Intermediate between the third and fourth classes are those synods, which are not uncommon in the history of the Church, in which the bishops of several contiguous ecclesiastical provinces united for the discussion of subjects of common interest. They may be called the Councils of several United Provinces; and they rank lower than the national or primatial synod in this respect, that it is not the complete provinces of a nation or of a primacy which are represented in them.

6. By Diocesan Synods we understand those ecclesiastical assemblies which the bishop holds with his clergy, and over which he presides either personally or by his vicar-general.

7. Councils of a peculiar and even abnormal character, and known as σύνοδοι ἐνδημοῦσαι (Synods of Residents), were often held at Constantinople, when the Patriarch not unfrequently assembled around him bishops who happened to be staying (ἐνδημοῦντες) at Constantinople on private or other business, from provinces and patriarchates the most widely separated, for the discussion of important subjects, particularly for the decision of contests between the bishops themselves. We shall have occasion to adduce more on this subject when we come to discuss the ninth and twenty-eighth canons of Chalcedon.

8. Last of all, there appear in history not a few Mixed Councils (concilia mixta); assemblies in which the ecclesiastical and civil rulers of a kingdom meet together in order to take counsel on the affairs of Church and State. We come across them particularly in the beginning of the middle ages,—not unfrequently in France, in Germany, in England, in Spain, and in Italy. Of this character are the fourth to the seventh Synods of Toledo, many synods held under Pepin, under Charles the Great [Charlemagne] and his successors, among others the Synod of Mainz, A.D. 852, and that held in the year 876 in the Palatium apud Ticinum, at which the election of Charles the Fat was approved by the bishops and princes of Italy. We shall further on meet with several English mixed councils, at which even abbesses were present. All such assemblies were naturally summoned by the King, who presided and brought forward the points which had to be discussed. The discussion was either carried on in common, or the clergy and the nobility separated, and formed different chambers,—a chamber of nobles, and a chamber of bishops,—the latter discussing only ecclesiastical questions. The decisions were often promulgated in the form of royal decrees.

Six grounds for the convocation of great councils, particularly œcumenical councils, are generally enumerated:

1. When a dangerous heresy or schism has arisen.

2. When two Popes oppose each other, and it is doubtful which is the true one.

3. When the question is, whether to decide upon some great and universal undertaking against the enemies of the Christian name.

4. When the Pope is suspected of heresy or of other serious faults.

5. When the cardinals have been unable or unwilling to undertake the election of a Pope.

6. When it is a question of the reformation of the Church, in its head and members.

Besides these, there may be many other kinds of reasons for the convocation of smaller synods; but all must have reference to the one supreme aim of all councils—“the promotion of the well-being of the Church through the mutual consultation of its pastors.” In the ancient Church there were very many synods assembled, in order to resolve the contests of the bishops with one another, and to examine the charges brought against some of their number.

SEC. 3. By whom are Synods convoked?

If it is asked who convokes councils, there can be no controversy with regard to the greatest number of the eight kinds just specified. It is undoubted, that the ecclesiastical head of the diocese, the bishop, has to summon the diocesan synod; the ecclesiastical head of the province, the metropolitan, the provincial synod; the ecclesiastical head of a nation, a patriarchate, etc., the patriarch or primate, either at his own instance or at the wish of another, as of the sovereign, calls a national or primatial synod. It is equally clear, that when several provinces meet in a combined synod, the right of convocation belongs to the most distinguished among the metropolitans who meet. At the σύνοδος ἐνδημοῦσα, it was, of course, naturally exercised by the Bishop of Constantinople. Consequently, and from the very nature of the case, the summons to an œcumenical council must go forth from the œcumenical head of the Church, the Pope; except in the case, which is hardly an exception, in which, instead of the Pope, the temporal protector of the Church, the Emperor, with the previous or subsequent approval and consent of the Pope, summons a council of this kind. The case is similar with the other synods, particularly national synods. In the case of these, too, the temporal protector of the Church has occasionally issued the summons instead of the ecclesiastical ruler; and this not merely in ancient times in the Græco-Roman Church, but also later in the German and Roman States. Thus, e.g., Constantine the Great convoked the Synod of Arles in 314, and Theodosius the Great the Synod of Constantinople (already mentioned) in 381, in concert with the four Eastern patriarchs; Childebert, king of the Franks, a national synod at Orleans in the year 549; and Charles the Great, in the year 794, the great Synod of Frankfurt. Even the Arian sovereign, Theodoric the Great, at the beginning of the sixth century, gave orders for the discontinuance of several orthodox synods at Rome. Further examples are noted by Hardouin.

Among those councils which were called by the emperors, the latter undertook many kinds of expenses, particularly the expense of travelling incurred by the numerous bishops, for whom they ordered houses and carriages to be put at their disposal at the public expense. This was done by Constantine the Great at the calling of the Synods of Arles and Nicæa. They also provided for the entertainment of the bishops during the sitting of those assemblies. At the later councils—those of Florence and Trent, for example—many of the expenses were borne by the Popes, the Christian princes, and the cities in which the synods were held.

Bellarmin endeavoured to prove, that it was formally recognised in the ancient Church that the calling of synods belonged to the hierarchical chiefs, and the summoning of œcumenical councils in particular to the Pope; but several of the passages which he adduces in proof are from the Pseudo-Isidore, and therefore destitute of all importance, while others rest upon an incorrect explanation of the words referred to. Thus, Bellarmin appeals above all to the legates of Leo I., who at the fourth Œcumenical Council—that of Chalcedon in 451—had demanded the deposition of the Patriarch Dioscurus of Alexandria, because he had ventured to call an œcumenical council without permission from Rome. Their words are: σύνοδον ἐτόλμησε ποιῆσαι ἐπιτροπῆς δίχα τοῦ ἀποστολικοῦ θρόνου. In their obvious meaning, these words bear the sense indicated, and they are generally so explained. As, however, Pope Leo the Great had, by sending his legates, recognised and confirmed the summoning of the Latrocinium, or Robber-Synod—for it is to this that the reference is made—we are under the necessity of understanding that Dioscurus was accused at Chalcedon of thrusting the papal legates into the background, and taking the direction and presidency of the Council into his own hands. This is the way in which it is understood by the Ballerini and by Arendt. At the same time, it must not be overlooked that the general nature of the expression of which the papal legates made choice at Chalcedon, certainly involves the other side of the papal claim, and implies not only the right to preside over synods, but to convoke them.

Bellarmin appeals further to the seventh Œcumenical Council, which in its sixth session rejected the iconoclastic Synod of 754, and refused to recognise it as œcumenical, for this very reason, that the summons for its assembling did not go forth from the Pope. What the Synod does in fact say, however, is, that “this Synod had not the Roman Pope as its co-operator” (οὐκ ἔσχε συνεργὸν τὸν τῶν Ῥωμαίων πάπαν). There is nothing said in particular of the Pope’s taking part or not in the summoning of the Synod.

On the other hand, it is perfectly certain that, according to Socrates, Julius I., even in his time, about the year 341, expressed the opinion that it was an ecclesiastical canon, μὴ δεῖν παρὰ γνώμην τοῦ ἐπισκόπου Ῥώμης κανονίζειν τὰς ἐκκλησίας; and there can be no doubt, if these words are impartially considered, that they mean that it was “not lawful to pass canons of universal obligation at synods without the consent of the Bishop of Rome.” The question which is here to be decided, however, is this: Who, as a matter of fact, called or co-operated in calling the œcumenical synods? And the answer is: The first eight œcumenical synods were convoked by the Emperors, all later ones by the Popes; but even in the case of the early synods, there, is a certain participation of the Pope in convoking them, which in individual cases is more or less clearly seen.

1. The fact that the summons to the first Œcumenical Synod proceeded from the Emperor Constantine the Great, cannot be disputed. As, however, none of the letters have come down to us, we cannot tell whether they referred to any consultation with the Pope. On the other hand, it is undeniable that the sixth Œcumenical Synod in 680 expressly asserted that the Synod of Nicæa was summoned by the, Emperor and Pope Sylvester (Κωνσταντῖνος ὁ ἀεισεβέστατος καὶ Σιλβεστρος ὁ ἀοίδιμος τὴν ἐν Νικαίᾳ μεγάλην τε καὶ περίβλεπτον συνέλεγον σύνοδον). The same is stated in the ancient Liber Pontificalis attributed to Pope Damasus; and if this authority be considered of slight value, the importance of the former must be admitted. Had the sixth Œcumenical Council been held in the West, or at Rome itself, its testimony might perhaps seem partial; but as it took place at Constantinople, and at a time when the bishops of that place had already appeared as rivals of the Bishop of Rome, and moreover the Greeks formed by far the greater number present at the Synod, their testimony for Rome must be regarded as of great importance. Hence even Rufinus, in his continuation of the Ecclesiastical History of Eusebius, says that the Emperor summoned the Synod of Nicæa at the suggestion of the priests (ex sententia sacerdotum); and certainly, if several bishops were consulted on the subject, among them must have been the chief of them all, the Bishop of Rome.

2. With regard to the second Œcumenical Synod, it is commonly asserted, that the bishops who composed it themselves declared that they were assembled at Constantinople in accordance with a letter of Pope Damasus to the Emperor Theodosius the Great. But the document which has been relied upon as authority, refers not to the Synod of the year 381, the second œcumenical, but, as we shall show further on in the history of this Council, to the Synod of the year 382, which actually did meet in accordance with the wish of Pope Damasus and the Western Synod at Aquileia, but was not œcumenical. It is without effect, moreover, that Baronius appeals to the sixth Œcumenical Council to prove that Pope Damasus had a part in the calling of the second Œcumenical Synod. For what the Council says is this: “When Macedonius spread abroad a false doctrine respecting the Holy Spirit, Theodosius and Damasus immediately opposed him, and Gregory of Nazianzus and Nectarius (his successor in the See of Constantinople) assembled a synod in this royal city.” This passage is obviously too vague and indefinite to afford grounds for concluding that Pope Damasus co-operated in the summoning of the Synod. Nay more, the words, “Gregory of Nazianzus and Nectarius assembled a synod,” rather exclude than include the co-operation of Damasus. Besides, it should not be forgotten that the Synod in question, held A.D. 381, as we have already remarked, was not originally regarded as œcumenical, and obtained this rank at a later period on its being received by the West. It was summoned as a general council of the Greek or Eastern Church; and if the Pope had no share in convoking it, no inference can be drawn from this fact unfavourable to his claim to summon œcumenical synods.

3. The third Œcumenical Council at Ephesus, in the year 431, was summoned, as the Acts prove, by the Emperor Theodosius, in union with his Western colleague Valentinian III. It is clear, however, that the Pope Celestine I. concurred, from his letter to Theodosius, dated May 15, 431, in which he says that he cannot personally be present at the Synod, but will send his representatives. Still more distinct is his letter to the Council itself, dated May 8, 431, in which he sets before the assembled bishops their duty to protect the orthodox faith, expresses his expectation that they will agree to the sentence which he has already pronounced upon Nestorius, and adds that he has sent his legates, in order that they may give effect to this sentence at Ephesus. The members of the Synod themselves saw and acknowledged that there was here not merely an assent to the convocation of the Synod, but also directions for their guidance, inasmuch as they declare, in their most solemn act, the sentence of condemnation against Nestorius: “Compelled by the canons and by the letter of our most holy father and fellow-servant Celestine, Bishop of Rome, we have come to this sad sentence of condemnation upon Nestorius.” They expressed the same when they said that “the letter of the Apostolic See (to Cyril, which he had communicated to the Synod of Ephesus) had already set forth the sentence and rule to be followed (ψῆφον καὶ τύπον) in the case of Nestorius; and they, the assembled bishops, had, in accordance with this judgment, followed up this rule.” It is herein clearly acknowledged that the Pope had not simply, like other bishops, so to speak, passively agreed to the convocation of the Synod by the Emperor, but had actively prescribed to the Synod rules for their guidance; and had thus, not in the literal sense, but in a sense higher and more real, called them to their work.

4. The manner in which the fourth Œcumenical Synod at Chalcedon, A.D. 451, met together, we learn from several letters of Pope Leo I., and of the Emperors Theodosius II. and Marcian. Immediately after the end of the unhappy Robber-Synod, Pope Leo requested the Emperor Theodosius II. (October 13, 449) to bring together a greater council, assembled from all parts of the world, which might best meet in Italy. He repeated this request at Christmas in the same year, and besought the Emperor of the West also, Valentinian III., together with his wife and mother, to support his request at the Byzantine Court. Leo renewed his petition on the 16th of July 450, but at the same time expressed the opinion that the Council would not be necessary, if the bishops without it would subscribe an orthodox confession of faith. About this time Theodosius II. died, and was succeeded by his sister S. Pulcheria and her husband Marcian. Both of them intimated immediately to the Pope their disposition to call the Synod which had been desired, and Marcian in particular asked the Pope to write and inform him whether he would attend personally or by legates, so that the necessary invitations might be issued to the Eastern bishops. But Pope Leo now wished at least for a postponement of the Council. He went even so far as to say that it was no longer necessary; a change in his views which has often been made a ground of reproach to him, but which will be thoroughly discussed and justified at the proper place in this History of the Councils. We will only point out, at present, that what Leo had mentioned in his 69th letter, during the lifetime of Theodosius II., as a reason for dispensing with the Council, had actually taken place under Marcian and Pulcheria, inasmuch as nearly all the bishops who had taken part in the Robber-Synod had repented of their error, and in conjunction with their orthodox colleagues had signed the epistola dogmatica of Leo to Flavian, which was, in the highest sense, an orthodox confession of faith. Moreover, the incursions of the Huns in the West had made it then impossible for the Latin bishops to leave their homes in any great number, and to travel to the distant Chalcedon; whilst Leo naturally wished, in the interest of orthodoxy, that many of the Latins should be present at the Synod. Other motives contributed to the same desire; among these the fear, which the result proved to be well grounded, that the Synod might be used for the purpose of altering the hierarchical position of the Bishop of Constantinople. As, however, the Emperor Marcian had already convoked the Synod, the Pope gave his consent to its assembling, appointed legates, and wrote to the Synod describing their duties and business. And thus he could say with justice, in his later epistle, addressed to the bishops assembled at Chalcedon, that the Council was assembled “by the command of the Christian princes, and with the consent of the Apostolic See” (ex præcepto Christianorum principum et ex consensu apostolicæ sedis); as, on the other hand, the Emperor at an earlier period wrote to the Pope, “The Synod is to be held te auctore.” The Pope’s share in convoking the Council of Chalcedon was, moreover, so universally acknowledged, that, soon after, the Bishop of Mæsia said, in a letter to the Byzantine Emperor Leo: “Many bishops are assembled at Chalcedon by the order of Leo the Roman Pontiff, who is truly the head of the bishops” (per jussionem Leonis Romani Pontificis, qui vere caput episcoporum).

5. There can be no doubt that the fifth Œcumenical Synod in the year 553, like the first four, was convoked by the Emperor (Justinian I.); but it is also certain that it was not without consultation with the Pope. Vigilius says himself that he had agreed with the Emperor Justinian, in the presence of the Archbishop Mennas of Constantinople and other ecclesiastical and civil rulers, that a great synod should be held, and that the controversy over the three chapters should rest until this synod should decide it. Vigilius expressed his desire for such a synod in a second letter ad universam ecclesiam, whilst he strongly disapproved of the Emperor’s intention of putting an end to the controversy by an imperial edict, and was for that reason obliged to take to flight. When they had become reconciled, Vigilius again expressed his desire for the holding of a synod which should decide the controversy; and the deputies of the fifth Council afterwards declared that he had promised to be present at the Synod. What is certain is, that Vigilius had desired the postponement of the opening, in order to wait for the arrival of several Latin bishops; and in consequence, notwithstanding repeated and most respectful invitations, he took no part in the sessions of the Synod. The breach was widened when, on the 14th of May 553, the Pope published his Constitutum, declaring that he could not agree with the anathematizing of Theodore of Mopsuestia and Theodoret. At the suggestion of the Emperor, the Synod at its seventh session, May 26, 553, decided that the name of Vigilius should be struck out of the diptychs, which was done, so that the Pope and the Council were now in open antagonism. In his decree to Eutychius of Constantinople, however, dated December 8, 553, and in his second Constitutum of February 23, 554, Vigilius approved of the decrees of the fifth Synod, and pronounced the bishops who had put them forth—that is, the members of the Synod—to be his brethren and his fellow-priests.

6. The case of the sixth Œcumenical Synod, A.D. 680, is quite the same as that of the third. The Emperor Constantine Pogonatus convoked it, and requested the Pope to send legates to it. Pope Agatho, however, not only did this, which involves an assent to the imperial convocation of the Synod; but he sent to the Emperor, and thus also to the Council, a complete exposition of the orthodox faith, and thus prescribed to it a rule and directions for its proceedings; and the Synod acknowledged this, as the Synod of Ephesus had done, inasmuch as they say, in their letter to Agatho, “Through that letter from thee we have overcome the heresy … and have eradicated the guilty by the sentence previously brought concerning them through your sacred letter” (ex sententia per sacras vestras literas de iis prius lata).

7. The seventh Œcumenical Synod—the second of Nicæa, in the year 787—was suggested to the Empress Irene by the Patriarch Tarasius of Constantinople, who endeavoured to restore the reverence for images and union with Rome. The Empress and her son, the Emperor Constantine, approved of this; but before the imperial letters of convocation were issued, they sent an ambassador to Pope Hadrian I. with a letter, in which they requested him to be present at the projected Œcumenical Synod, either personally or at least by his representatives. In the October of the following year, Hadrian I. sent an answer to the Emperor and Empress, as well as to the Patriarch, and promised to send his legates to the intended Synod, which he afterwards did, and thereby practically declared his consent to its convocation. Nay more, in his letter to Charles the Great, he goes so far as to say, “And thus they held that Synod according to our appointment” (et sic synodum istam secundum nostram ordtinationem); and thereby ascribes to himself a still closer participation in the holding of this Synod.

8. The last synod which was convoked by an emperor was the eighth œcumenical, which was held at Constantinople in the year 869. The Emperor Basil the Macedonian had dethroned his former colleague Michael III., or The Drunken, and deposed his creature, the schismatical Photius, from the patriarchal chair, replacing the unlawfully deposed Ignatius, and thereby restoring the union of the Greek and Latin Churches. As, however, Photius still had followers, the Emperor considered it necessary to arrange the ecclesiastical relations by means of a new œcumenical council, and for that purpose sent an embassy to Pope Nicolas I., requesting him to send his representatives to the intended Council. In the meantime Nicolas died; but his successor, Hadrian II., not only received the imperial message, but sent the legates, as it had been wished, to the Council, and thereby gave his consent to the convocation of this Œcumenical Synod.

All the subsequent œcumenical synods were held in the West, and summoned directly by the Popes, from the first of Lateran, the ninth Œcumenical Synod, to the holy Synod of Trent, while smaller synods were still convoked by Kings and Emperors; and Pope Leo X. declared in the most decided way, at the eleventh session of the fifth Lateran Synod, with a polemical reference to the so-called propositions of Constance, that the Pope had the right to convoke, to transfer, and to dissolve œcumenical synods.

SEC. 4. Members of Councils

In considering the further question, who has a right to be a member of a synod, it is necessary first to distinguish between the diocesan and other synods. For whilst in the latter either the only members or at least the chief members are bishops, the diocesan synod, with the exception of the president, is made up of the other clergy; and whilst the privileged members of the other synods have a votum decisivum, a vote in determining the decrees of the synod, those of the diocesan synod have only a votum consultativum, a right to be present and speak, but not to vote on the decrees. Here the bishop alone decides, the others are only his counsellors, and the decision is pronounced in his name. The members of the diocesan synod are divided into three classes.

1. Those whom the bishop is bound to summon, and who are bound to appear. To this class belong deans, archpresbyters, vicarii foranei, the vicar-general, the parochial clergy by deputies; and, according to more recent law and custom, the canons of cathedral churches, the provost and canons of collegiate churches, and the abbates sæculares.

2. Those whom the bishop may, but need not summon, but who are bound to come when he summons them; for example, the prebendaries of cathedrals who are not canons.

3. Lastly, those who in general are not bound to appear, as the clerici simplices. But if the synod has for its special purpose to introduce an improvement in the morals of the clergy, or to impart to them the decisions of a provincial synod, these must also appear when they are summoned.

With respect to the members of other kinds of synods, ancient Church history gives us the following results:—

1. The earliest synods were those held in Asia Minor about the middle of the second century, on the occasion of Montanism. Eusebius does not say who were present at them; but the libellus synodicus informs us that one of these synods was held at Hierapolis by Bishop Apollinaris with twenty-six other bishops, and a second at Anchialus by Bishop Sotas and twelve other bishops.

2. The next synods in order were those which were held respecting the celebration of Easter, in the second half of the second century. With reference to these, Polycrates of Ephesus tells us that Pope Victor had requested him to convoke in a synod the bishops who were subordinate to him, that he did so, and that many bishops had assembled with him in synod. In the chapters of Eusebius in which these two classes of councils are spoken of, only bishops are mentioned as members of the Synod. And, in the same way, the libellus synodicus gives the number of bishops present at each council of this time, without referring to any other members.

3. The letters of convocation for an œcumenical synod were directed to the metropolitans, and to some of the more eminent bishops; and the metropolitans were charged to give notice to their suffragans. So it was, e.g., at the convocation of the third Œcumenical Synod, for which an invitation was sent to Augustine, who was already dead. The invitation to appear at the synod was sometimes addressed to the bishops collectively, and sometimes it was simply required that the metropolitans should personally appear, and bring merely the most able of their suffragans with them. The latter was the case, e.g., in the summoning of the third and fourth Councils; to Nicæa, on the contrary, the bishops seem to have been invited without distinction. Sometimes those bishops who did not attend, or who arrived too late, were threatened with penalties, as well by. the Emperors, e.g. by Theodosius II., as by earlier and later ecclesiastical canons.

4. The chorepriscopi (χωρεπίσκοποι), or bishops of country places, seem to have been considered in ancient times as quite on a par with the other bishops, as far as their position in synods was concerned. We meet with them at the Councils of Neocæsarea in the year 314, of Nicæa in 325, of Ephesus in 431. On the other hand, among the 600 bishops of the fourth Œcumenical Council at Chalcedon in 451, there is no chorepiscopus present, for by this time the office had been abolished; but in the middle ages we again meet with chorepiscopi of a new kind at Western councils, particularly at those of the French Church, at Langres in 830, at Mainz in 847, at Pontion in 876, at Lyons in 886, at Douzy in 871. Bishops without a diocese have a certain resemblance to these; and such we meet with at synods, as in the year 585 at Mâcon in France. It is disputed whether those who are merely titular bishops have a right to vote at a council; and it has generally been decided in this way, that there is no obligation to summon such, but when they are summoned they have a right to vote.

5. Towards the middle of the third century we find a departure from this ancient practice of having only bishops as members of synods, first in Africa, when Cyprian assembled, at those synods which he held with reference to the restoration of the lapsed, besides the bishops of his province and his clergy, confessores et laicos stantes, i.e. those laymen who lay under no ecclesiastical penance. So there were present at the Synod held by S. Cyprian on the subject of baptism by heretics, on the 1st of September (probably A.D. 256), besides eighty-seven bishops, very many priests and deacons, and maxima pars plebis. And the Roman clergy, in their letter to Cyprian on the subject, request that the bishops will take counsel in synods, in common with the priests, deacons, and laicis stantibus. It must not be overlooked, however, that Cyprian makes a difference between the membership of the bishops and of others. We learn from his thirteenth letter, that the bishops come together with the clergy, and the laity are only present (præpositi cum clero convenientes, præsente etiam stantium plebe); from his sixty-sixth letter, that the priests, etc, were the assessors of the bishops (compresbyteri, qui nobis assidebant). In other places Cyprian speaks only of the bishops as members of the synod, and from other passages it comes out that the bishops had at these synods taken the advice and opinion of the laity as well as the clergy. It is never, however, in the least degree indicated that either the clergy or the laity had a votum decisivum; but the contrary is evident, namely, that in the Synod of Cyprian referred to, which was held September 1, 256, only bishops were voters.

6. Eusebius relates that a great number of bishops of Asia assembled in synod at Antioch in the year 264 or 265, on the subject of Paul of Samosata, and he adds that their priests and deacons came with them. In the following chapter Eusebius gives an account of the Synod at Antioch in 269, and makes special reference to the priest of Antioch, Malchion, who was present at the Synod, and by his logical ability compelled Paul of Samosata, who wanted to conceal his false doctrine, to explain himself clearly. In addition to this, Eusebius gives in the thirtieth chapter the circular letter which this Synod, after pronouncing the deposition of Paul, addressed to the rest of the Church. And this letter is sent forth not in, the name of the bishops only, but of the other clergy who were present as well; and among these Malchion is named in the superscription, whilst the names of many of the bishops—and according to Athanasius there were seventy present—are wanting. We see, then, that priests and deacons were members of several synods; but we cannot determine from the original documents how far their rights extended, and whether they had more than a mere consultative voice in the acts of the synod. As far as analogy can guide us, it would appear they had no more.

7. In the two Arabian Synods which were held on the subject of Beryllus and the Hypnopsychites, Origen held a place similar to that which had been occupied by Malchion. The bishops summoned him to the Synod, so as to render his learning and ability serviceable to the Church; but it was the bishops themselves who held the Synod.

8. In many synods of the following centuries, besides the bishops, priests and deacons were present. So it was at Elvira, at Arles, at Carthage in 397, at Toledo in 400, etc. The bishops and priests had seats, but the deacons had to stand. The decrees of the ancient synods were for the most part signed only by the bishops. It was so at the Councils of Ancyra, of Neocæsarea—although in this case the subscriptions are somewhat doubtful; at the first and second Œcumenical Councils, those of Nicæa and Constantinople; at the Councils of Antioch in 341, of Sardica, etc. Sometimes also the priests and deacons subscribed the decrees, and then either immediately after the name of their own bishop, as at Arles, or else after the names of all the bishops. It was, however, not so common for the priests and deacons to join in the subscription, and it did not occur in the fourth or fifth century: for we find that, even in the case of synods at which we know that priests and deacons were present, only bishops subscribed; as at Nicæa, at Carthage in 397, 389, 401, at Toledo in 400, and at the Œcumenical Councils of Ephesus. and Chalcedon.1 At a later period we meet again, at some synods, with signatures of priests and deacons, as at Lyons in 830.1 The difference between the rights of the priests and those of the bishops is made clear by the signatures of the Council of Constantinople under Flavian in 448. The deposition of Eutyches which was there pronounced was subscribed by the bishops with the formula, ὁρίσας ὑπέγραψα, definiens subscripsi, and afterwards by twenty-three archimandrites, or superiors of convents, merely with the word ὑπέγραψα without ὁρίσας.1 At the Robber-Synod of Ephesus, on the contrary, along with other anomalies, we find the Archimandrite Barsumas of Syria signing, as a fully privileged member of the Synod, with the word ὁρίσας, and that because the Emperor Theodosius II. had summoned him expressly.

9. It is easily understood, and it is shown by the ancient acts of councils, that priests and deacons, when they were the representatives of their bishops, had a right to give, like them, a votum decisivum, and subscribed the acts of the synod with the formula ὁρίσας. And this is expressed at a much later period by the Synods of Rouen in 1581, and of Bordeaux in 1583,—by the latter with the limitation that only priests should be sent as the representatives of the bishops.

10. Other clergymen, deacons in particular, were employed at synods, as secretaries, notaries, and the like—at Ephesus and Chalcedon, for instance; and they had often no insignificant influence, particularly their head, the primicerius notariorum, although they had no vote. Some of these notaries were official, and were the servants of the synod; but besides these, each bishop could bring his own notary or secretary with him, and employ him to make notes and minutes of the sessions: for it was only at the Robber-Synod that the violent Dioscurus allowed no other notaries than his own, and those of some of his friends. From the nature of the case, there is nothing to prevent even laymen from being employed in such work; and we are informed distinctly by Æneas Sylvius that he performed such duties, as a layman, at the Synod of. Basle. It is, moreover, not at all improbable that the secretarii divini consistorii, who were present at some of the ancient synods—at Chalcedon, for instance—were secretaries of the Imperial Council, and consequently laymen.

11. Besides the bishops, other ecclesiastics have always been brought in at councils, œcumenical as well as inferior, for the purpose of consultation, particularly doctors of theology and of canon law, as well as deputies of chapters and superiors of monasteries; and bishops were even requested to bring such assistants and counsellors with them to the synod. So it was at the Spanish Council at Tarragona in 516. But, at the same time, the fundamental principle is undoubted, that the vote for the decision of a question belonged to the bishops, as to those whom the Holy Ghost has appointed to rule the Church of God, and to all others only a consultative voice; and this was distinctly recognised by the Synods of Rouen in 1581, and Bordeaux in 1583 and 1684, partly in the most general way, in part specifically with reference to the deputies of chapters, titular and commendatory abbots. There has been a doubt with respect to abbots, whether they held a place similar to that of the bishops or not; and a different practice seems to have prevailed at different places and times. We have already seen that in the ancient Church the archimandrites had no vote, even when they were priests. On the other hand, a Synod at London, under the famous Dunstan Archbishop of Canterbury, A.D. 1075, declares: “Besides the bishops and abbots, no one must address the Synod without the permission of the archbishop.” The abbots are here plainly assigned a place of equality with the bishops as members of the Synod; and they subscribed the acts of this Synod like the bishops. In the same way the abbots subscribed at other synods, e.g. at Pontion in France, A.D. 876, at the Council held in the Palatium Ticinum, at Cavaillon, and elsewhere; but, on the other hand, at many other councils of the same time, as well as at those of an earlier and later period, the bishops alone, or their representatives, signed the decrees. So it was at Epaon in 517, at Lyons in 517, at Ilerda and Valencia in Spain in 524, at Arles in 524, at Carthage in 525, at Orange in 529, at Toledo in 531, at Orleans in 533; so also at Cavaillon in 875, at Beauvais in 875, at Ravenna in 877, at Tribur in 895. The archdeacons seem to have been regarded very much in the same way as the abbots, inasmuch as they appeared at synods not merely as the representatives of their bishops; but sometimes they signed the acts of the council, even when their bishop was personally present. So it was at the Synod of London already mentioned. At the end of the middle ages it was the common view that abbots and cardinal priests and cardinal deacons as well had a votum decisivum at the synods,—a fact which is expressly stated, as far as regards the abbots, by the historian of the Synod of Basle, Augustinus Patricius, a Piccolomini of the fifteenth century. He adds, that only the Council of Basle allowed the anomaly, and conceded to other ecclesiastics the right of voting. But we must remark that, according to the statement of the famous Cardinal D’Ailly, even so early as at the Synod at Pisa in 1409, the doctors of divinity and of canon law had a votum decisivum; and that the Council of Constance extended this right, by adopting the division of the Council into nations. These were, however, anomalies; and after this stormy period had passed by, the ancient ecclesiastical order was restored, that only bishops, cardinals, and abbots should have the votum decisivum. A place of equality with the abbots was naturally assigned to the generals of those widespread orders, which had a central authority. This was done at the Council of Trent. With regard to the abbots, a distinction was made between those who possessed real jurisdiction, and those who were only titular or commendatory. To these last there was conceded no more than the votum consultativum; e.g. in the Synod at Rouen in 1581, and Bordeaux in 1583. The former went so far as to refuse to acknowledge any such right as belonging to the abbots; and a later synod at Bordeaux, in the year 1624, plainly declared that it was an error (erronea opinio) to affirm that any others besides bishops had a decisive voice in a provincial synod (præter episcopos quosdam alios habere vocem decisivam in concilio provinciali). In practice, however, abbots were still admitted, only with the distinction that the bishops were members of the synod “by divine right” (jure divino), and the abbots only “by ecclesiastical appointment” (institutione ecclesiastica).

12. We have already seen, that in the time of Cyprian, both in Africa and in Italy, laymen were allowed to be present at synods. This custom was continued to later times. Thus, e.g., the Spanish Synod at Tarragona, in 516, ordained that the bishops should bring to the Synod with them, besides the clergy, their faithful sons of the laity. Viventiolus Archbishop of Lyons, in the letter by which he summoned a synod at Epaon in 517, says: “Laicos permittimus interesse, ut quæ a solis pontificibus ordinanda sunt et populus possit agnoscere.” [We permit the laity to be present, that the people may know those things which are ordained by the priests alone.] Moreover, the laity had the power of bringing forward their complaints with reference to the conduct of the clergy, inasmuch as they had a right to ask for priests of good character. The fourth Synod of Toledo, in 633, says expressly, that laymen also should be invited to the synods. So, in fact, we meet with distinguished laymen at the eighth Synod of Toledo in 653, and at the second of Orange in 529. In English synods we find even abbesses were present. Thus the Abbess Hilda was at the Collatio Pharensis, or Synod of Whitby, in 664, where the question of Easter and of the tonsure, and other questions, were discussed; and the Abbess Ælfleda, the successor of Hilda, at the somewhat later Synod on the Nith in Northumberland. This presence of abbesses of the royal family is, however, exceptional, even when these assemblies were nothing else than concilia mixta, as Salmon, l.c., explains them to be. That, however, distinguished and well-instructed laymen should be introduced without delay into provincial synods, was expressly decided by the Congregatio interpret, concil. by a decree of April 22, 1598; and the Cæremoniale episcoporum refers to the same, when it speaks of the seats which were to be prepared at provincial synods for the laity who were present. Pignatelli recommends the bishops to be prudent in issuing such invitations to the laity; but we still find in 1736 a great many laymen of distinction present at the great Maronite Council which was held by Simon Assemani as papal legate. At many synods the laity present signed the acts; but at others, and these by far the most numerous, they did not sign. At the Maronite Council just mentioned, and at the second of Orange, they did sign. It is clear from the passage already adduced, referring to the Synod of Epaon, that these laymen were admitted only as witnesses and advisers, or as complainants. It is remarkable that the laity who were present at Orange signed with the very same formula as the bishops,—namely, consentiens subscripsi; whilst in other cases the bishops made use of the words definiens subscripsi; and the priests, deacons, and laymen simply used the word subscripsi. As was natural, the position of the laity at the concilia mixta was different: from the very character of these, it followed that temporal princes appeared as fully qualified members, side by side with the prelates of the Church.

13. Among the laity whom we find at synods, the Emperors and Kings are prominent. After the Roman Emperors embraced Christianity, they, either personally or by their representatives and commissaries, attended the great synods, and particularly those which were œcumenical. Thus, Constantine the Great was personally present at the first Œcumenical Council; Theodosius II. sent his representatives to the third, and the Emperor Marcian sent his to the fourth; and besides, at a later period, he was personally present, with his wife Pulcheria, at the sixth session of this Council of Chalcedon. So the Emperor Constantine Pogonatus attended at the sixth Œcumenical Council; at the seventh, on the other hand, Irene and her son Constantine Porphyrogenitus were present only by deputies; whilst at the eighth the Emperor Basil the Macedonian took part, sometimes personally and sometimes by representatives. Only in the case of the second and fifth Œcumenical Synods we find neither the Emperors nor their representatives present; but the Emperors (Theodosius the Great and Justinian) were at the time present in the city of Constantinople, where those councils were held, and in constant communication with the Synod.

It was, as we perceive, simply at the œcumenical synods that the Emperors were present. To this fact Pope Nicholas I. expressly appeals in his letter to the Emperor Michael, A.D. 865, and infers from it that all other synods ought to be held without the presence of the Emperor or his representatives. In agreement with this Pope, a few years later the eighth Œcumenical Council declared, that it was false to maintain that no synod should be held without the presence of the Emperor; that, on the contrary, the Emperors had been present only at the œcumenical councils; and, moreover, that it was not proper for temporal princes to be present at provincial synods, etc., for the condemnation of the clergy. They might have added, that so early as the fourth century the bishops complained loudly when Constantine the Great sent an imperial commissioner to the Synod of Tyre in 335.

In the West, on the contrary, the Kings were present even at national synods. Thus, Sisenand, the Spanish King of the West Goths, was present at the fourth Council of Toledo in the year 633, and King Chintilan at the fifth of Toledo in 638; Charles the Great at the Council of Frankfurt in 794, and two Anglo-Saxon Kings at the Collatio Pharensis, already mentioned, in 664. We find royal commissaries at the eighth and ninth Synods of Toledo in 653 and 655. In later times the opinion gradually gained ground, that princes had a right to be present, either personally or by representatives, only at the œcumenical councils. Thus we find King Philip le Bel of France at the fifteenth Œcumenical Synod at Vienne in 1311, the Emperor Sigismund at the Council of Constance, and the representatives (oratores) of several princes at the last Œcumenical Synod at Trent. Pius IV. and Pius V. forbid the presence of a royal commissary at the Provincial Synod of Toledo; but the prohibition came too late. When, however, a second Provincial Synod was held at Toledo in 1582, in the presence of a royal commissary, Rome, i.e. the Congregatio Concilii, delayed the confirmation of the decrees until the name of the commissary was erased from the acts of the Synod. The Archbishop of Toledo, Cardinal Quiroga, maintained that such commissaries had been present at the ancient Spanish synods; but Rome held fast by the principle, that except in œcumenical synods, ubi agitur de fide, reformatione, et pace (which treated of faith, reformation, and peace), no commissaries of princes had a right to be present. At the later œcumenical synods, this presence of princes or of their representatives beyond all doubt had no other significance than to ensure protection to the synods, to increase their authority, and to bring before them the special wishes of the different states and countries. The celebrated Cardinal D’Ailly long ago expressed this judgment clearly; and, as a matter of fact, there was never conceded to a prince or his orator the right to vote, unless he was also a bishop. In reference to the most ancient œcumenical synods, it has even been maintained that the Emperors were their presidents; and this leads us to the further question of the presidency of the synods.

SEC. 5. The Presidency of Councils

As the presidency of a diocesan synod belongs to the bishop, of a provincial synod to the metropolitan, of a national to the primate or patriarch, so, in the nature of the case, the presidency of an œcumenical council belongs to the supreme ruler of the whole Church—to the Pope; and this is so clear, that the most violent partisans of the episcopal system, who assign to the Pope only a primacy of honour (primatus honoris), yet do not in the least impugn his right to preside at œcumenical synods. The Pope may, however, exercise this presidency in person, or he may be represented, as has frequently been the case, by his legates. Against this papal right of presidency at œcumenical synods the Reformers brought forward the objection, that the history of the Church showed clearly that the Emperors had presided at some of the first eight councils. There was, indeed, no difficulty in bringing forward proof in support of their assertion, since Pope Stephen V. himself writes that the Emperor Constantine presided at the first Council of Nicæa, and the ancient acts of the synods frequently refer to a presidency of the Emperor or his representatives. But all such objections, however dangerous they may at first seem to be to our position, lose their power when we come to consider more closely the state of things in connection with the ancient councils, and are willing to discuss the matter impartially.

Let us begin with the eighth Œcumenical Synod, as the last of those which here come into question—that is to say, the last of the Oriental Synods—and from this ascend back to the first

1. Pope Hadrian II. sent his legates to the eighth Œcumenical Synod, on the express written condition, addressed to the Emperor Basil, that they should preside. The legates, Donatus Bishop of Ostia, Stephen Bishop of Nepesina, and Marinus a deacon of Rome, read this letter before the Synod, without the slightest objection being brought forward. On the contrary, their names were always placed first in the minutes; the duration of the sessions was decided by them; and they gave permission for addresses, for the reading of the acts of the Synod, and for the introduction of other members of the Synod; and appointed the questions for discussion. In short, they appear in the first five sessions without dispute as the presidents of the Synod. At the sixth and following sessions the Emperor Basil was present, with his sons Constantine and Leo; and he obtained the presidency, as the acts relate. But these acts clearly distinguish the Emperor and his sons from the Synod; for, after naming them, they add, “the holy and œcumenical Synod agreeing” (conveniente sancta ac universali synodo). Thus we perceive that the Emperor and his sons are not reckoned among the members of the Synod, whilst the papal legates are constantly placed first among the members. It is the legates, too, who in these later sessions decide the subjects which shall be brought forward: they also are the first who sign the acts of the Synod, and that expressly as presidents (præsidentes); whilst the Emperor gave a clear proof that he did not regard himself as the real president, by wishing to sign them after all the bishops. The papal legates, on the other hand, entreated him to place his own and his sons’ names at the top; but he decidedly refused this, and at last consented to sign after the representatives of the Pope and the Oriental bishops, and before the other bishops. In perfect agreement with this, Pope Hadrian II., in his letter to the Emperor, commended him for having been present at this Synod, not as judge (judex), but as witness and protector (conscius et obsecundator). Still less than the Emperors themselves had the imperial commissaries who were present at synods a right of presidency, since their names were placed, in all minutes of the sessions, immediately after the representatives of the patriarchs, but before the other bishops, and they did not subscribe the acts at all. On the other hand, it may be said that the patriarchs of the East—Ignatius of Constantinople, and the representatives of the others—in some measure participated in the presidency, since they are always named along with the Roman legates, and are carefully distinguished from the other metropolitans and bishops. They form, together with the Roman legates, so to speak, the board of direction, deciding in common with them the order of the business, regulating with them the rule of admission to the synod. They subscribe, like the legates, before the Emperor, and are named in the minutes and in the separate sessions before the imperial commissaries. But, all this being granted, the papal legates still take undeniably the first place, inasmuch as they are always the first named, and first subscribe the acts of the Synod, and, what is particularly to be observed, at the last subscription make use of the formula, “presiding over this holy and œcumenical synod” (huic sanctæ et universali synodo præsidens); whilst Ignatius of Constantinople and the representatives of the other patriarchs claim no presidency, but subscribe simply with the words, “As receiving this holy and œcumenical synod, and agreeing with all things which it has decided, and which are written here, and as defining them, I subscribe” (sanctam hanc et universalem synodum suscipiens, et omnibus quæ ab ea judicata et scripta sunt concordans, et definiens subscripsi). Moreover, as we find a remarkable difference between them and the papal legates, so there is also, on the other side, a considerable difference between their signature and that of the other bishops. The latter, like the Emperor, have simply used the words, suscipiens subscripsi, without the addition of definiens, by which the votum decisivum was usually indicated.

2. At all the sessions of the seventh Œcumenical Synod, the papal legates, the Archpresbyter Peter and the Abbot Peter, came first; after them Tarasius Archbishop of Constantinople, and the representatives of the other patriarchs; next to them the other bishops; and, last of all, the imperial commissaries. The decrees were signed in the same order, only that the imperial commissaries took no part in the subscription. The Empress Irene and her son were present at the eighth and last session of the Council as honorary presidents, and signed the decrees of the first seven sessions, which had been already signed by the bishops. According to a Latin translation of the acts of this Synod, it was only the papal legates, the Bishop of Constantinople, and the representatives of the other Eastern patriarchs, who on this occasion made use of the word definiens in subscribing the decrees, just as at the eighth Council; but the Greek version of the acts has the word ὁρίσας in connection with the signature of the other bishops. Besides, we must not omit to state that, notwithstanding the presidency of the papal legates, Tarasius Archbishop of Constantinople had the real management of the business at this Synod.

3. At the sixth Œcumenical Synod the Emperor Constantine Pogonatus was present in person, together with several high officials of the state. The minutes of the sessions name him as president, and give the names of his officials immediately after his own. They next proceed to the enumeration of the proper members of the Synod, with the formula, “the holy and œcumenical Synod being assembled” (συνελθούσης δέ καὶ τῆς ἁγίας καὶ οἰκουμενικῆς συνόδου),—thereby distinguishing, as in the case already mentioned, the Emperor and his officials from the Synod proper; and name as its first members the papal legates, the priests Theodore and George, and the deacon John. So these legates are the first to subscribe the acts of the Council; and the Emperor signed at the end, after all the bishops, and, as is expressly stated, to give more authority to the decrees of the Synods, and to confirm them with the formula, “We have read and consented” (legimus et consensimus). He thus made a distinction between himself and the Synod proper; whilst it cannot, however, be denied that the Emperor and his plenipotentiaries often conducted the business of the Synod.

4. At the fifth Œcumenical Council, as has been already pointed out, neither the Emperor (Justinian) nor yet the Pope or his legate was present. It was Eutychius, the Archbishop of Constantinople, who presided.

5. The fourth Œcumenical Council is of more importance for the question now before us. So early as on the 24th of June 451, Pope Leo the Great wrote to the Emperor Marcian that he had named Paschasinus Bishop of Lilybæum as his legate (prædictum fratrem et coepiscopum meum vice mea synodo convenit præsidere). This legate, Paschasinus, in the name of himself and his colleagues (for Leo associated with him two other legates—the Bishop Lucentius and the Priest Boniface), at the third session of Chalcedon, issued the announcement that Pope Leo had commanded them, insignificant as they were, to preside in his place over this holy synod (nostram parvitatem huic sancto concilio pro se præsidere præcepit); and soon after, Pope Leo wrote to the bishops of Gaul, speaking of his legates, in the following terms: “My brothers who presided in my stead over the Eastern Synod” (Fratres mei, qui vice mea orientali synodo præsederunt). Pope Vigilius afterwards asserted the same, when, in a circular letter addressed to the whole Church, he says, “over which our predecessor of holy memory, Pope Leo, presided by his legates and vicars” (cui sanctæ recordationis decessor noster papa Leo per legatos suos vicariosque præsedit). Of still greater importance is it that the Council of Chalcedon itself, in its synodal letter to Pope Leo, expressly says, ὧν (i.e. the assembled bishops) σὺ μὲν ὡς κεφαλὴ μελῶν ἡγεμόνευες ἐν τοῖς τὴν σὴν τάξιν ἐπέχουσι; that is to say, “Thou, by thy representatives, hast taken the lead among the members of the Synod, as the head among the members of the body” These testimonies—especially the last—are of so much weight, that they would seem to leave no room for doubt. And yet, on the other hand, it is a matter of fact that imperial commissaries had the place of honour at the Synod of Chalcedon, in the midst, before the rails of the altar; they are the first named in the minutes; they took the votes, arranged the order of the business, closed the sessions, and thus discharged those functions which belong to the president of an assembly. In the sixth session the Emperor Marcian was himself present, proposed the questions, and conducted the business. In these acts the Emperor and his commissaries also appear as the presidents, and the papal legates only as first among the voters. How, then, can we reconcile the contradiction which apparently exists between these facts and the statements already made? and how could the Council of Chalcedon say that, by sending his legates, the Pope had taken the lead among the members of the Synod? The solution of the difficulty is to be found in the same synodical letter written by the Pope to the Synod. It reads thus: “Faithful Emperors have used the presidency for the better preservation of order” (βασιλεῖς δὲ πιστοὶ πρὸς εὐκοσμίαν ἐξῆρχον). In fact, this presidency which was granted to the imperial commissaries referred only to the outward working—to the material conducting of the business of the synod. They were not connected with the internal work, and left the decisions of the synods without interference, gave no vote in the determination of questions concerning the faith, and repeatedly distinguished between themselves and the council. The acts of Chalcedon also show the same distinction. After having mentioned the imperial commissaries, they add these words, “the holy Synod assembled,” etc. We may add also, that neither the Emperor nor his commissaries signed the acts of the Council of Chalcedon: it was the Pope’s legate who always signed first, and repeatedly added to his name, even when the Emperor was present, the title of synodo præsidens

We are thus gradually able to explain the double relations existing between the papal legates and the imperial commissaries, quite analogous to that expressed in the words of Constantine the Great: “And I am a bishop. You are bishops for the interior business of the Church” (τῶν εἴσω τῆς ἐκκλησίας); “I am the bishop chosen by God to conduct the exterior business of the Church” (ἐγὼ δὲ τῶν ἐκτὸς ὑπὸ Θεοῦ καθεσταμένος). The official conduct of business, so to speak, the direction τῶν ἔξω as well as the seat of honour, was reserved for the imperial commissaries. The Pope’s legates, although only having the first place among the voters, had the presidency, κατὰ τὰ εἴσω, of the synod, that is, of the assembly of the bishops in specie; and when the imperial commissaries were absent, as was the case during the third session, they had also the direction of the business.

6. The Emperor Theodosius II. nominated the Comes Candidian as his representative at the third Œcumenical Council, held at Ephesus in 431. In a letter addressed to the assembled fathers, the Emperor himself clearly determined the situation of Candidian towards the Council. He says: “I have sent Candidian to your Synod as Comes sacrorum domesticorum; but he is to take no part in discussions on doctrine, since it is not allowable to any one, unless enrolled among the most holy bishops, to intermeddle in ecclesiastical discussions” (ἀθέμιτον γὰρ, τὸν μὴ τοῦ καταλόγου τῶν ἁγιωτάτων ἐπισκόπων τυγχάνοντα τοῖς ἐκκλησιαστικοῖς σκέμμασιν … ἐπιμίγνυσθαι).

The Emperor then positively indicates what were to be the duties of Candidian: namely, that he was to send away the laity and the monks, if they repaired in too great numbers to Ephesus; he was to provide for the tranquillity of the city and the safety of the Synod; he was to take care that differences of opinion that might arise between the members of the Synod should not degenerate into passionate controversies, but that each might express his opinion without fear or hindrance, in order that, whether after quiet or noisy discussions upon each point, the bishops might arrive at a unanimous decision. Finally, he was to prevent any one from leaving the Synod without cause, and also to see that no other theological discussion should be entered into than that which had occasioned the assembling of the Synod, or that no private business should be brought up or discussed.

Pope Celestine I. on his side had appointed the two bishops Arcadius and Projectus, together with the priest Philippus, as his legates, and had instructed them to act according to the advice of Cyril, and to maintain the prerogatives of the Apostolic See. The Pope had before nominated Cyril as his representative in the Nestorian matter, and in his letter of 10th of August 430 he invested him with full apostolic power. It is known that from the beginning Candidian showed himself very partial to the friends of Nestorius, and tried to postpone the opening of the Council. When, however, Cyril held the first sitting on the 24th June 431, the Count was not present, and so his name does not appear in the minutes. On the contrary, at the head of the list of the bishops present is found the name of Cyril, with this significant observation, “that he took the place of Celestine, the most holy Archbishop of Rome.” Cyril also directed the order of the business, either in person, as when he explained the chief object of the deliberations, or else through Peter, one of his priests, whom he made primicerius notariorum. Cyril was also the first to sign the acts of the first session, and the sentence of deposition pronounced against Nestorius.

In consequence of this deposition, Count Candidian became the open opponent of the Synod, and the protector of the party of Antioch, who held an unlawful council of their own under John of Antioch. Cyril notwithstanding fixed the 10th July 431 for the second session, and he presided; and the minutes mention him again as the representative of Rome. The other papal legates, who had not arrived in time for the first, were present at this second session; and they shared the presidency with Cyril, who continued to be called in the accounts the representative of the Pope. Cyril was the first to sign; after him came the legate Arcadius; then Juvenal of Jerusalem; next, the second legate Projectus; then came Flavian bishop of Philippi; and after him the third legate, the priest Philip. All the ancient documents are unanimous in affirming that Cyril presided over the Council in the name of Pope Celestine. Evagrius says the same; so Pope Vigilius in the profession of faith which he signed; and Mansuetus Bishop of Milan, in his letter to the Emperor Constantine Pogonatus.1 In other documents Pope Celestine and Cyril are indiscriminately called presidents of the third Œcumenical Council; the acts of the fourth1 assert this several times, as well as the Emperor Marcian,1 and in the fifth century the Armenian bishops in their letter to the Emperor Leo.1

7. When we pass on to the second Œcumenical Council, it is perfectly well known and allowed that it was not presided over either by the Pope Damasus or his legate; for, as has been already said, this Council was not at first considered œcumenical, but only a general council of the Eastern Church. The first sessions were presided over by Meletius Archbishop of Antioch, who was the chief of all the bishops present, as the Archbishop of Alexandria had not arrived at the beginning. After the death of Meletius, which happened soon after the opening of the Council, it was not the Archbishop of Alexandria, but the Archbishop of Constantinople, Gregory of Nazianzus, who was the president, and after his resignation his successor Nectarius. This took place through the decision of the Council, which in its third session had assigned to the Bishop of new Rome—that is, Constantinople—the precedency immediately after the Bishop of old Rome.

8. The solution of the question respecting the presidency of the first Œcumenical Council is not without difficulty; and the greatest acumen has been displayed, and the most venturesome conjectures have been made, in order to prove that in the first Council, at any rate, the Pope was not the president. They have endeavoured to prove that the presidency belonged to the Emperor, who in a solemn discourse opened the series of the principal sessions, and took part in them, seated in the place of honour. But Eusebius, who was an eye-witness of the Council, and pays the greatest possible respect to the Emperor, says most explicitly: “After that (meaning after the opening discourse by the Emperor) the Emperor made way for the presidents of the Synod” (παρεδίδου τὸν λόγον τοῖς τῆς συνόδου προέδροις). These words prove that Constantine was simply the honorary president, as the Emperor Marcian was subsequently in the sixth session of the Council of Chalcedon; and, as a matter of course, he left to the ecclesiastical presidents the conducting of the theological discussions. In addition to the testimony of the eye-witness Eusebius, we have to the same effect the following documents:—(a.) The acts of the Council of Nicæa, as far as they exist, contain the signatures of the bishops, but not that of the Emperor. And if that is true which the Emperor Basil the Macedonian said at the eighth Œcumenical Council, that “Constantine the Great had signed at Nicæa after all the bishops,” this proves conclusively that Constantine did not consider himself as the president proper of the Council. (b.) Besides, the Emperor was not present in person at the commencement of the Synod. It must, however, have had its presidents before the Emperor arrived; and a short sentence in Eusebius alludes to these presidents: παρεδίδου … τοῖς προέδροις; that is, “He left the management of the continuation with those who had before presided.” (c.) When several complaints of the bishops against each other were presented to him, the Emperor had them all burnt, and declared that it was not becoming for him to give judgment upon priests. (d.) We will finally recall these words of the Emperor already quoted, that he was the bishop of the outward circumstances of the Church; words which entirely agree with the position in the Council of Nicæa which we have assigned to him.

Who was, then, really the president of the Synod? Some have tried to solve the question by considering as president that bishop who was seated first at the right hand of the Emperor, and saluted him with a discourse when he entered the Synod. But here arise two observations: first, from the Greek word προέδροις it would appear that there were several presidents; and besides, it is not positively known who addressed the discourse to the Emperor. According to the title of the eleventh chapter of the third book of the Life of Constantine by Eusebius, and according to Sozomen, it was Eusebius of Cæsarea, the historian, himself; but as he was not a bishop of any apostolic or patriarchal see, he could not possibly have had the office of president. We cannot say either with the Magdeburg Centuriators, that Eusebius was president because he was seated first on the right side; for the president sat in the middle, and not at one side; and those patriarchs who were present at the Council (we use this term although it had not begun to be employed at this period), or their representatives, were probably seated together in the middle, by the side of the Emperor, whilst Eusebius was only the first of the metropolitans seated on the right side. It is different with Eustathius Archbishop of Antioch, who, according to Theodoret, pronounced the speech in question which was addressed to the Emperor. He was one of the great patriarchs; and one of his successors, John Archbishop of Antioch, in a letter to Proclus, calls him the “first of the Nicene Fathers.” The Chronicle of Nicephorus expresses itself in the same way about him. He cannot, however, be considered as the only president of the Council of Nicæa; for we must regard the expression of Eusebius, which is in the plural (τοῖς προέδροις); and, besides, it must not be forgotten that the Patriarch of Alexandria ranked higher than the Patriarch of Antioch. To which, thirdly, it must be added, that the Nicene Council itself, in its letter to the Church of Alexandria, says: “Your bishop will give you fuller explanation of the synodical decrees; for he has been a leader (κύριος) and participator (κοινωνός) in all that has been done.” These words seem to give a reason for the theory of Schröckh and others, that Alexander and Eustathius were both presidents, and that they are intended by Eusebius when he speaks of the πρόεδροι. But apart from the fact that the word κύριος is here used only as an expression of politeness, and designates perhaps merely a very influential member of the Synod, and not the president, there is this against the theory of Schröckh, which is expressly asserted by Gelasius of Cyzicus, who wrote a history of the Council of Nicæa in the fifth century: “And Hosius was the representative of the Bishop of Rome; and he was present at the Council of Nicæa, with the two Roman priests Vitus and Vincentius.” The importance of this testimony has been recognised by all; therefore every means has been tried to undermine it Gelasius, it is said, writes these words in the middle of a long passage which he borrowed from Eusebius; and he represents the matter as if he had taken these words also from the same historian. Now they are not to be found in Eusebius; therefore they have no historical value. But it must be remarked, that Gelasius does not copy servilely from Eusebius; but in different places he gives details which are not in that author, and which he had learned from other sources. Thus, after the passage concerning Hosius, he inserts some additional information about the Bishop of Byzantium. A little further on in the same chapter, he changes the number of two hundred and fifty bishops, given by Eusebius, into “three hundred and more,” and that without giving the least indication that he is repeating literally the words of Eusebius. We are therefore brought to believe that Gelasius has acted in the same way as to Hosius in this passage, by introducing the information derived from another source into the passage taken from Eusebius, and not at all from having misunderstood Eusebius.

When Baronius and several other Catholic ecclesiastical historians assign to the papal legate Hosius the honour of the presidency, they are supported by several authorities for this opinion besides Gelasius. Thus, S. Athanasius, in his Apologia de fuga, thus expresses himself about Hosius: ποίας γὰρ οὐ καθηγήσατο; that is to say, “Of what synod was he not president?” Theodoret speaks just in the same way: Ποίας γὰρ οὐχ ἡγήσατο συνόδου. Socrates, in giving the list of the principal members of the Council of Nicæa, writes it in the following order: “Hosius, Bishop of Cordova; Vitus and Vincentius, priests of Rome; Alexander, Bishop of Alexandria; Eustathius, Bishop of Antioch; Macarius, Bishop of Jerusalem.” We see that he follows the order of rank: he would therefore never have placed the Spanish bishop, Hosius, before the great patriarchs of the East, if he had not been the representative of the Pope.

An examination of the signatures of the Council of Nicæa leads us again to the same conclusion. It is true that there are many variations to be found in these signatures, if several manuscripts are consulted, and that these manuscripts are often faulty and defective, as Tillemont has conclusively shown; but in spite of these defects, it is a very significant fact, that in every copy, without one exception, Hosius and the two Roman priests sign the first, and after them Alexander Patriarch of Alexandria signs. On this subject the two lists of signatures given by Mansi may be consulted, as well as the two others given by Gelasius: in these latter Hosius expressly signs in the name of the Church of Rome, of the Churches of Italy, of Spain, and of the West; the two Roman priests appear only as his attendants. In Mansi’s two lists, it is true, nothing indicates that Hosius acted in the Pope’s name, whilst we are informed that the two Roman priests did so. But this is not so surprising as it might at first sight appear, for these Roman priests had no right to sign for themselves: it was therefore necessary for them to say in whose name they did so; whilst it was not necessary for Hosius, who as a bishop had a right of his own.

Schröckh says that Hosius had his distinguished position on account of his great influence with the Emperor; but this reasoning is very feeble. The bishops did not sign according as they were more or less in favour with Constantine. If such order had been followed, Eusebius of Cæsarea would have been among the first. It is highly important to remark the order in which the signatures of the Council were given. The study of the lists proves that they followed the order of provinces: the metropolitan signed first, and after him the suffragans; the metropolitan of another province followed, and then his suffragan bishops, etc. The enumeration of the provinces themselves was in no particular order: thus the province of Alexandria came first, then the Thebäid and Libya, then Palestine and Phœnicia; not till after that the province of Antioch, etc. At the head of each group of signatures was always written the name of the ecclesiastical province to which they belonged; and this is omitted only in the case of Hosius and the two Roman priests. They signed first, and without naming a diocese. It will perhaps be objected, that as the Synod was chiefly composed of Greek bishops, they allowed the Westerns to sign first out of consideration for them; but this supposition is inadmissible, for at the end of the lists of the signatures of the Council are found the names of the representatives of two ecclesiastical provinces of the Latin Church. Since Gaul and Africa are placed at the end, they would certainly have been united to the province of Spain, if Hosius had represented that province only, and had not attended in a higher capacity. Together with the two Roman priests, he represented no particular church, but was the president of the whole Synod: therefore the name of no province was added to his signature,—a fresh proof that we must recognise in him and his two colleagues the πρόεδροι spoken of by Eusebius. The analogy of the other œcumenical councils also brings us to the same conclusion; particularly that of the Council of Ephesus, in which Cyril of Alexandria, an otherwise distinguished bishop, who held the office of papal legate, like Hosius at Nicæa, signed first, before all the other legates who came from Italy.

It would be superfluous, in the consideration of the question which is now occupying us, to speak of the œcumenical councils held subsequently to these eight first, since no one doubts that these more recent councils were presided over either by the Pope or his legates. We will therefore conclude the discussion of this point with the remark, that if in some national councils the Emperor or Kings were presidents, it was either an honorary presidency only, or else they were mixed councils assembled for State business as well as for that of the Church.

The Robber-Synod of Ephesus, which was held in 449, departed from the rule of all the œcumenical councils in the matter of the presidency; and it is well to mention this Synod, because at first it was regarded as an œcumenical council. We have before said that the presidency of it was refused to the Pope’s legates; and by order of the Emperor Theodosius II., who had been deceived, it was bestowed upon Dioscurus of Alexandria. But the sensation produced by this unusual measure, and the reasons given at Chalcedon by the papal legates for declaring this Synod of Ephesus to be invalid, indisputably prove that we may here apply the well-known axiom, exceptio firmat regulam.

SEC. 6. Confirmation of the Decrees of the Councils

The decrees of the ancient œcumenical councils were confirmed by the Emperors and by the Popes; those of the later councils by the Popes alone. On the subject of the confirmation of the Emperors we have the following facts:—

1. Constantine the Great solemnly confirmed the Nicene Creed immediately after it had been drawn up by the Council, and he threatened such as would not subscribe it with exile. At the conclusion of the Synod he raised all the decrees of the assembly to the position of laws of the empire; declared them to be divinely inspired; and in several edicts still partially extant, he required that they should be most faithfully observed by all his subjects.

2. The second Œcumenical Council expressly asked for the confirmation of the Emperor Theodosius the Great, and he responded to the wishes of the assembly by an edict dated the 30th July 381.

3. The case of the third Œcumenical Council, which was held at Ephesus, was peculiar. The Emperor Theodosius II. had first been on the heretical side, but he was brought to acknowledge by degrees that the orthodox part of the bishops assembled at Ephesus formed the true Synod. However, he did not in a general way give his confirmation to the decrees of the Council, because he would not approve of the deposition and exclusion pronounced by the Council against the bishops of the party of Antioch. Subsequently, however, when Cyril and John of Antioch were reconciled, and when the party of Antioch itself had acknowledged the Council of Ephesus, the Emperor sanctioned this reconciliation by a special decree, threatened all who should disturb the peace; and by exiling Nestorius, and by commanding all the Nestorian writings to be burnt, he confirmed the principal decision given by the Council of Ephesus.

4. The Emperor Marcian consented to the doctrinal decrees of the fourth Œcumenical Council, held at Chalcedon, by publishing four edicts on the 7th February, 13th March, 6th and 28th July 452.

5. The close relations existing between the fifth Œcumenical Council and the Emperor Justinian are well known. This Council merely carried out and sanctioned what the Emperor had before thought necessary and decided; and it bowed so obsequiously to his wishes, that Pope Vigilius would have nothing to do with it. The Emperor Justinian sanctioned the decrees pronounced by the Council, by sending an official to the seventh session, and he afterwards used every endeavour to obtain the approbation of Pope Vigilius for this Council.

6. The Emperor Constantine Pogonatus confirmed the decrees of the sixth Council, first by signing them (ultimo loco, as we have seen); but he sanctioned them also by a very long edict which Hardouin has preserved.

7. In the last session of the seventh Œcumenical Council, the Empress Irene, with her son, signed the decrees made in the preceding sessions, and thus gave them the imperial sanction. It is not known whether she afterwards promulgated an especial decree to the same effect.

8. The Emperor Basil the Macedonian and his sons signed the acts of the eighth Œcumenical Council. His signature followed that of the patriarchs, and preceded that of the other bishops. In 870 he also published an especial edict, making known his approval of the decrees of the Council.

The papal confirmation of all these eight first œcumenical councils is not so clear and distinct:

1. The signatures of the Pope’s legates, Hosius, Vitus, and Vincentius, subscribed to the acts of the Council before the other bishops, must be regarded as a sanction from the See of Rome to the decrees of Nicæa. Five documents, dating from the fifth century, mention, besides, a solemn approval of the acts of the Council of Nicæa, given by Pope Sylvester and a Roman synod of 275 bishops. It is granted that these documents are not authentic, as we shall show in the history of the Council of Nicæa; but we nevertheless consider it very probable that the Council of Nicæa was recognised and approved by an especial act of Pope Sylvester, and not merely by the signature of his legates, for the following reasons:—

It is undeniable, as we shall presently see, that

α. The fourth Œcumenical Council looked upon the papal confirmation as absolutely necessary for ensuring the validity of the decrees of the Council; and there is no good ground for maintaining that this was a new principle, and one which was not known and recognised at the time of the Nicene Council.

β. Again, in 485, a synod, composed of above forty bishops from different parts of Italy, was quite unanimous in asserting, in opposition to the Greeks, that the three hundred and eighteen bishops of Nicæa had their decisions confirmed by the authority of the holy Roman Church (confirmationem rerum atque auctoritatem sanctæ Romanæ Ecclesiæ detulerunt).

γ. Pope Julius I. in the same way declared, a few years after the close of the Council of Nicæa, that ecclesiastical decrees (the decisions of synods) ought not to be published without the consent of the Bishop of Rome, and that this is a rule and a law of the Church.

δ. Dionysius the Less also maintained that the decisions of the Council of Nicæa were sent to Rome for approval; and it is not improbable that it was the general opinion upon this point which contributed to produce those spurious documents which we possess.

2. When the Pope and the Western bishops heard the decrees of the Council of Constantinople, held in 381, subsesequently accepted as the second Œcumenical Council, they expressed in an Italian synod their disapproval of some of the steps taken, although they had not then received the acts of the Council. Soon after they had received the acts, Pope Damasus gave his sanction to the Council. This is the account given by Photius. This approval, however, must have related only to the Creed of Constantinople; for the canons of this Council were rejected by Pope Leo the Great, and subsequently, towards the year 600, still more explicitly by Pope Gregory the Great. That the Creed of Constantinople had, however, the approbation of the Apostolic See, is shown by the fact that, in the fourth General Council held at Chalcedon, the papal legates did not raise the least opposition when this creed was quoted as an authority, whilst they protested most strongly when the canons of Constantinople were appealed to. It was, in fact, on account of the creed having been approved of by the Holy See, that afterwards, in the sixth century, Popes Vigilius, Pelagius II., and Gregory the Great, formally declared that this Council was œcumenical, although Gregory at the same time refused to acknowledge the canons it had promulgated.

3. The third Œcumenical Council was held in the time of Pope Celestine, and its decisions were signed by his legates, S. Cyril, Bishops Arcadius and Projectus, and the Priest Philip. Besides this sanction, in the following year Celestine’s successor, Pope Sixtus III., sanctioned this Council of Ephesus in a more solemn manner, in several circular and private letters, some of which have reached us.

4. The decisions of the fourth Œcumenical Council, held at Chalcedon, were not only signed by the papal legates present at the Council, except the canons, and thus obtained a first sanction from the Apostolic See; but the Council, at the conclusion of its sessions, sent all the acts of the Synod to the Pope, in order to obtain assent, approval, and confirmation for them, as is expressly set forth in the letter written by the Synod to the Pope with these acts. We there read: πᾶσαν ὑμῖν τῶν πεπραγμένων τὴν δύναμιν ἐγνωρίσαμιν εἰς σύστασιν ἡμετέραν καὶ τῶν παρʼ ἡμῶν πεπραγμένων βεβαιωσιν τε καὶ συγκατάθεσιν (We acknowledge the whole force of the things which have been done, and the confirmation of all that we have accomplished, to be dependent upon your approval). The Emperor Marcian, like the Council, requested the Pope to sanction the decrees made at Constantinople in a special epistle, which he said would then be read in all the churches, that every one might know that the Pope approved of the Synod. Finally, the Archbishop of Constantinople, Anatolius, expressed himself in a similar way to the Pope. He says: “The whole force and confirmation of the acts has been reserved for the authority of your Holiness” (Gestorum vis omnis et confirmatio auctoritati Vestræ Beatitudinis fuerit reservata). However, Pope Leo confirmed only those articles of the Council of Chalcedon which concerned the faith: he expressly rejected the twenty-eighth canon, which granted inadmissible rights to the Bishop of Constantinople, without taking into account the sixth canon of Nicæa. Leo pronounced the same judgment in several letters addressed either to the Emperor or to the Empress Pulcheria; and he charged his nuncio at Constantinople, Julian Bishop of Cos, to announce to the Emperor that the sanction of the Holy See to the Council of Chalcedon should be sent to all the bishops of the empire.

5. We have already seen that it was after a protracted refusal that Pope Vigilius finally sanctioned the decrees of the fifth Œcumenical Council. We have still two documents which refer to this question,—a decree sent to S. Eutychius Bishop of Constantinople, and the constitutum of February 23, 554.

6. The decisions of the sixth Œcumenical Council were signed and accepted not only by the Pope’s legates; but, like the Council of Chalcedon, this Synod also desired a special sanction from the Pope, and asked for it in a letter written by the Synod to the Pope, whom they name Caput Ecclesiæ, and his see prima sedes Ecclesiæ œcumenicæ. The successor of Pope Agatho, Leo II., gave this sanction in letters addressed to the Emperor and to the bishops of Spain, which still exist. It is true that Baronius has endeavoured to prove these letters to be spurious, because they also mention the anathema pronounced against Pope Honorius; but their authenticity cannot be doubted on good grounds, and it has been successfully maintained by others, particularly by Pagi, Dupin, Dom Ceillier, Bower, and Natalis Alexander.

7. As the Pope had co-operated in the convocation of the seventh Œcumenical Council, which was presided over by his legates, so it was expressly sanctioned by Hadrian I., as he says himself in a letter to Charles the Great. His words are: Et ideo ipsam suscepimus synodum. However, the Pope would not immediately send his sanction of the Council to the Emperor of Constantinople, who had asked it of him, because the Emperor did not accede to two demands of the See of Rome with respect to the jurisdiction of the Patriarchal See, and the restitution of the property of the Church. Subsequently Pope Hadrian confirmed the sanction which he gave to the second Council of Nicæa, by having its acts translated into Latin, sending them to the Western bishops, and defending them against the attacks of the French bishops in the “Caroline Books.”

8. Finally, the eighth Œcumenical Council had not merely that kind of sanction which is involved in the signatures of the Pope’s legates at the end of its acts: it desired a more solemn and express approbation, and Hadrian II. yielded to this desire; and in his letter addressed to the Emperor, he sanctioned the dogmatic part of the decisions of the Synod, but noted his dissatisfaction with respect to other points. The fact that the Pope confirmed this Council is, moreover, made clear by his subsequently having a Latin translation of its acts made by the learned abbot and librarian Anastasius, and by the fact that Anastasius without hesitation calls it an Œcumenical Council in the preface addressed to the Pope at the commencement of his translation.

It would be superfluous to show that the Popes always confirmed the œcumenical councils of later times; for it is universally known that the influence of the Popes in all later Western councils has been greater, and that of the Emperor less, than in the first eight councils. Popes have often presided in person over these more recent councils, and then they could give their approbation orally. So it was in the ninth, the tenth, and the eleventh Œcumenical Councils: it was also the case in all the subsequent ones, except those of Basle and Trent; but the latter asked for and obtained an express confirmation from the Pope. Even in the middle ages several distinguished canonists demonstrated with much perspicuity that this papal approbation was necessary for the validity of œcumenical councils; and we shall see the reason for this statement: for the discussion of the celebrated question, “Is the Pope superior or inferior to an œcumenical council?” necessarily leads us to study more closely the relations which obtain between the Pope and the œcumenical council.

SEC. 7. Relation of the Pope to the Œcumenical Council

As every one knows, the Councils of Constance and Basle asserted the superiority of the œcumenical council to the Holy See; and the French theologians placed this proposition among the quatuor propositiones Cleri Gallicani—the so-called Gallican Liberties. Other theologians have affirmed the contrary, saying that the Pope is superior to an œcumenical council: for example, Roncaglia, in his learned reply to Natalis Alexander’s dissertation; also, before Roncaglia, the pros and cons had been disputed at great length and with much animation. The Ultramontanes especially relied upon the fact that, at the fifth Council of Lateran, Pope Leo declared, without the least opposition in the Synod, that the authority of the Pope extended super omnia concilia. The Gallicans could only reply to this as follows: (a.) The Pope, it is true, had a document read in the Council which contained this sentence, and it passed without opposition; but the Council did not give any formal decision: it did not make a solemn decree of this proposition, (b.) The Pope only used this sentence argumentando, and not definiendo, in order to use it as a proof, but without giving it as a general proposition; and (c.) it is not certain that the fifth Lateran Council should be considered œcumenical. Many maintain that Pope Martin V. sanctioned the decree of the Council of Constance establishing the superiority of the œcumenical council to the Pope, and Eugene IV. also sanctioned a similar decree from the Council of Basle. In point of fact, however, these two Popes sanctioned only a part of the decrees of the Councils of Basle and Constance. As for those of Basle, Eugene only sanctioned those which treated of three points, viz. the extinction of heresy, the pacification of Christendom, and the general reform of the Church in its head and in its members. When, therefore, Martin V. declared at the last session of the Council of Constance, that he approved and ratified all that had been decreed by the present holy Œcumenical Council of Constance in materiis fidei conciliariter (that is, by the whole Council, and not merely by individual nations), this approval had immediate reference only to the special matter of Falkenberg (see vol. vii. p. 368 of Hefele’s Conciliengeschichte): he said nothing at all on the decrees respecting the superiority of an œcumenical council to the Pope; and if this Pope, in the bull of the 22d February 1418, required of every one the recognition of the Council of Constance as being œcumenical, and that all which it had decreed in favorem fidei et salutem animarum must be received and believed (vol. vii. p. 347), he evidently avoided giving it a complete and universal confirmation. His words, which we have quoted above, have a decidedly restrictive character. He indicated by them that he excluded some of the decrees of the Council from his approbation (evidently those referring to the superiority of the Council); but for the sake of peace, he did not choose to express himself more clearly. His successor, Eugenius IV., declared himself with greater distinctness in 1446, when he accepted the whole Council of Constance, and all its decrees, absque tamen præjudicio juris, dignitatis, et præeminentiæ sedis apostolicæ. There can be no question that by this he intended to exclude from his approbation the decrees of Constance respecting the superiority of an œcumenical synod to the Pope. Finally, it must not be forgotten that, on the 4th September 1439, Pope Eugene IV. and the Synod of Florence, in an especial constitution, Moses, solemnly rejected the proposition that the council is superior to the Pope,—a proposition which had just been renewed in the thirty-third session of the Council of Basle, and had been there made a dogma.

In confining themselves to this question, Is the Pope superior or inferior to a general council? the Gallicans and the Ultramontanes did not understand that they were keeping on the surface of a very deep question, that of the position of the Holy See in the economy of the Catholic Church. A much clearer and deeper insight into the question has more recently been shown; and the real question may be summed up in the following propositions:—An œcumenical council represents the whole Church: there must therefore be the same relation between the Pope and the council as exists between the Pope and the Church. Now, is the Pope above or below the Church? Neither the one nor the other. The Pope is in the Church; he necessarily belongs to it; he is its head and its centre. The Church, like the human body, is an organized whole; and just as the head is not superior or inferior to the body, but forms a part of it, and is the principal part of it, so the Pope, who is the head of the Church, is not superior or inferior to it: he is therefore neither above nor below the general council. The human organism is no longer a true body, but a lifeless trunk, when the head is cut off; so an assembly of bishops is no longer an œcumenical council when it is separated from the Pope. It is therefore a false statement of the question, to ask whether the Pope is above or below the general council. On the other side, we may rightly ask, Has an œcumenical council the right to depose the Pope? According to the Synods of Constance and Basle and the Gallicans, the Pope may be deposed for two principal reasons: (1) ob mores; (2) ob fidem, that is to say, ob hæresim. But, in reality, heresy alone can constitute a reason for deposition; for an heretical Pope has ceased to be a member of the Church: he therefore can be its president no longer. But a Pope who is guilty of ob mores, a sinful Pope, still belongs to the visible Church: he must be considered as the sinful and unrighteous head of a constitutional kingdom, who must be made as harmless as possible, but not deposed. If the question arises of several pretenders to the pontifical throne, and it is impossible to distinguish which is in the right, Bellarmin says that in this case it is the part of the council to examine the claims of the pretenders, and to depose those who cannot justify their claims. This is what was done by the Council of Constance. In proceeding to this deposition, however, the Council has not the authority of an œcumenical council: it cannot have that authority until the legitimate Pope enters into relation with it, and confirms it. The question is evidently only of the deposition of a pretender, who has not sufficient claim, and not that of a Pope legitimately elected. The Council of Constance would not have had any right to depose even John xxiii. if (a) the validity of this Pope’s election had not been doubtful, (b) and if he had not been suspected of heresy. Besides, he abdicated, thus ratifying the deposition which had been pronounced.

We see from these considerations, of what value the sanction of the Pope is to the decrees of a council. Until the Pope has sanctioned these decrees, the assembly of bishops which formed them cannot pretend to the authority belonging to an œcumenical council, however great a number of bishops may compose it; for there cannot be an œcumenical council without union with the Pope.

SEC. 8. Infallibility of Œcumenical Councils

This sanction of the Pope is also necessary for ensuring infallibility to the decisions of the council. According to Catholic doctrine, this prerogative can be claimed only for the decisions of œcumenical councils, and only for their decisions in rebus fidei et morum, not for purely disciplinary decrees. This doctrine of the Catholic Church upon the infallibility of œcumenical councils in matters of faith and morality, proceeds from the conviction, drawn from Holy Scripture, that the Holy Spirit guides the Church of God (consequently also the Church assembled in an œcumenical council), and that He keeps it from all error; that Jesus Christ will be with His own until the end of the world; that the gates of hell (therefore the powers of error) will never prevail against the Church. The apostles evinced their conviction that the Holy Spirit is present in general councils, when they published their decrees with this formula, Visum est Spiritui sancto et nobis (it seemed good to the Holy Ghost and to us), at the Synod held at Jerusalem. The Church, sharing this conviction of the apostles, has always taught that the councils are infallible in rebus fidei et morum, and has considered all those who did not believe in this infallibility to be heretics, and separate from the Church. Constantine the Great called the decrees of the Synod of Nicæa a divine commandment (θείαν ἐντολήν). Athanasius, in his letter to the bishops of Africa, exclaimed: “What God hath spoken through the Council of Nicæa endureth for ever.” S. Ambrose is so thoroughly convinced of the infallibility of the general council, that he writes: “Sequor tractatum Nicæni concilii a quo me nec mors nec gladius poterit separare” (I follow the guidance of the Nicene Council, from which neither death nor sword will be able to separate me). Pope Leo the Great, speaking of his explanation respecting the two natures in Jesus Christ, says expressly that it has already been corroborated by the “consensu irretractabili” of the Council of Chalcedon; and in another letter, “non posse inter catholicos reputari, qui resistunt Nicæno vel Chalcedonensi concilio” (that they cannot be counted among Catholics who resist the Council of Nicæa or Chalcedon). Pope Leo again says in this same letter, that the decrees of Chalcedon were given “instruente Spiritu sancto,” and that they are rather divine than human decrees.

Bellarmin and other theologians quote a great number of other texts, drawn from the works of the Fathers, which prove that this belief in the infallibility of œcumenical councils has always been part of the Church’s creed. We select from them this of Gregory the Great: “I venerate the four first œcumenical councils equally with the four Gospels” (sicut quatuor Evangelia). Bellarmin as well as Steph. Wiest have refuted every objection which can be brought against the infallibility of œcumenical councils.

The same infallibility must be accorded to councils which are not œcumenical, when their decrees have received the sanction of the Pope, and been accepted by the whole Church. The only formal difference, then, existing between these councils and those which are œcumenical is this, that all the bishops of the Church were not invited to take part in them.

SEC. 9. Appeal from the Pope to an Œcumenical Council

The question, whether one can appeal from the decision of a Pope to that of an œcumenical council, is highly important, and has often been ventilated. Pope Celestine I., as early as the fifth century, declared that such an appeal was inadmissible. It is true that, in the first centuries, questions were often considered by the councils which had before been decided by the Pope; but, as Peter de Marca has shown, that was not an appeal properly so called. He also shows that the Emperor Frederick II. was the first who formally appealed from the decision of a Pope to that of a general council. Pope Martin V., and subsequently Pope Pius II., were led again to prohibit these appeals, because they recurred too often, and especially on account of the exorbitant demands of the Council of Constance. Julius II. and Paul V. renewed these prohibitions in the sixteenth century. In 1717 a great sensation was caused by the appeal of many Jansenists to a general council against the Bull Unigenitus of Pope Clement XI. But in his brief Pastoralis officii the Pope threatened with excommunication every one who promoted the appeal, and did not sign the Bull Unigenitus; and also compelled the abandonment of the appeal, and the dispersion of the appealing party. Even the Protestant historian Mosheim wrote against this appeal, and plainly showed the contradiction there was between it and the Catholic principle of the unity of the Church; and indeed it must be confessed, that to appeal from the Pope to a council, an authority usually very difficult to constitute and to consult, is simply to cloak ecclesiastical insubordination by a mere formality.

SEC. 10. Number of the Œcumenical Councils

Bellarmin reckons eighteen œcumenical councils as universally acknowledged; but on the subject of the fifth Lateran Council, he says that it was doubted by many: “Au fuerit vere generale; ideo usque ad hanc diem quæstio superest, etiam inter catholicos.” Some historians have also raised doubts as to the œcumenical character of the Council held at Vienne in 1311. There are therefore only the following sixteen councils which are recognised without any opposition as œcumenical:—

              1.              That of Nicæa in 325.

              2.              The first of Constantinople in 381.

              3.              That of Ephesus in 431.

              4.              That of Chalcedon in 451.

              5.              The second of Constantinople in 553.

              6.              The third of Constantinople in 680.

              7.              The second of Nicæa in 787.

              8.              The fourth of Constantinople in 869.

              9.              The first Lateran in 1123.

              10.              The second Lateran in 1139.

              11.              The third Lateran in 1179.

              12.              The fourth Lateran in 1215.

              13.              The first of Lyons in 1245.

              14.              The second of Lyons in 1274.

              15.              That of Florence in 1439.

              16.              That of Trent, from 1545 to 1563.

The œcumenical character of the following synods is contested:—

              1.              That of Sardica, about 343–344.

              2.              That in Trullo, or the Quinisext, in 692.

              3.              That of Vienne in 1311.

              4.              That of Pisa in 1409.

              5.              That of Constance, from 1414 to 1418.

              6.              That of Basle, from 1431 to 1439.

              7.              The fifth Lateran, from 1512 to 1517.

We have elsewhere considered whether the Synod of Sardica can lay claim to the title of œcumenical, and we will again take up the question at the proper time. We may here recapitulate, in five short propositions, the result of our researches:—

a. The history of the Council of Sardica itself furnishes no reason for considering it to be œcumenical.

b. No ecclesiastical authority has declared it to be so.

c. We are not therefore obliged to consider it to be œcumenical; but we must also add,

d. That it was very early, and has been in all ages, highly esteemed by the orthodox Church.

e. Besides, it is of small importance to discuss its œcumenical character, for it gave no decree in rebus fidei, and therefore issued no decisions with the stamp of infallibility. As for disciplinary decrees, whatever council promulgates them, they are subject to modification in the course of time: they are not irreformable, as are the dogmatic decrees of œcumenical councils.

The Trullan Council, also called the Quinisext, is considered to be œcumenical by the Greeks only. The Latins could not possibly have accepted several of its decrees, which are drawn up in distinct opposition to the Roman Church: for instance, the thirteenth canon, directed against the celibacy observed in the West; the thirty-sixth canon, on the equal rank of the Bishops of Constantinople and of Rome; and the fifty-fifth canon, which forbids the Saturday’s fast.

The Council of Vienne is generally considered to be the fifteenth Œcumenical Council, and Bellarmin also accedes to this. The Jesuit Damberger, in his Synchronical History of the Middle Ages, expresses a different opinion. “Many historians,” he says, “especially French historians, consider this Council to be one of the most famous, the most venerable, and the most important which has been held, and regard it as the fifteenth Œcumenical. The enemies of the Church will gladly accept such an opinion. It is true that Pope Clement v. wished to call an œcumenical council, and of this the Bull of Convocation speaks; but Boniface VIII. had also the same desire, and yet no one would give such a name to the assembly which he opened at Rome on the 13th October 1302. It is also true that, after the bishops of all countries have been summoned, the title and weight of an œcumenical council cannot be refused to a synod under the pretext that many bishops did not respond to the invitation; but the name demands at least that the assembly should be occupied with the common and universal concerns of the Church—that they should come to decisions which should then be promulgated for the obedience of the faithful. Now,” says Damberger, “nothing of all this took place at the Council of Vienne.” We reply, that this last statement is a mistake. The Council promulgated a whole series of decrees, which in great measure relate to the whole Church, and not merely to one province only—for example, those concerning the Templars; and these decrees were certainly published. Moreover, the fifth Lateran Council, which we admit to be œcumenical, spoke of that of Vienne, in its eighth session, as a generale. A different judgment must be given respecting the Council of Pisa, held in 1409. It was naturally from the beginning considered to be without weight or authority by the partisans of the two Popes whom it deposed, viz. Gregory XII. and Benedict XIII. The Carthusian Boniface Ferrer, brother to S. Vincent Ferrer, and legate of Benedict XIII. at this Synod, called it an heretical and diabolical assembly. But its character as œcumenical has also been questioned by those who took no part for either of the two antipopes—by Cardinal de Bar, and a little subsequently by S. Antonine Archbishop of Florence. We might add to these many friends of reform, like Nicholas of Clémonge and Theodoric of Brie, who were dissatisfied with it. Gerson, on the contrary, who about this time wrote his book De Auferibilitate Papæ, defended the decrees of the Council of Pisa. Almost all the Gallicans have tried, as he did, to give an œcumenical character to this Council, because it was the first to make use of the doctrine of the superiority of a general council to the Pope. But in order that a council should be œcumenical, it must be recognised as such by the whole of Christendom. Now, more than half the bishops of Christendom (episcopatus dispersus), as well as whole nations, have protested against its decisions, and would not receive them. For this reason, neither ecclesiastical authority nor the most trustworthy theologians have ever numbered it among the œcumenical councils. It must also be said that some Ultramontanes have had too little regard for this Council, in saying that the election made by it of Pope Alexander V. was valueless, and that Gregory XII. was still the legitimate Pope until his voluntary abdication in 1415.

The Gallicans were very anxious to prove the Council of Constance to be œcumenical. It is true that it was assembled in a regular manner; but, according to the principles we have explained above, it necessarily lost its œcumenical character as long as it was separated from the head of the Church. The sessions, however, which were held after the election of Pope Martin V., and with his consent and approbation—that is, sessions 42 to 45—must be considered as those of an œcumenical council. The same consideration must be given to the decrees of the earlier sessions, which concern the faith (res fidei), and were given conciliariter as they were approved by Pope Martin V. There was no special enumeration of them given by the Pope; but he evidently intended those condemning the heresies of Huss and Wickliffe. Natalis Alexander endeavours to show that this sanction also comprehended the fourth and fifth sessions, and their decrees establishing the superiority of councils over the Pope. But Roncaglia has refuted his opinion, and maintained the right view of the matter, which we have already asserted. As for those who entirely refuse an œcumenical character to the Council of Constance in all its parts, it suffices for their refutation to recall, besides the approbation of Martin V., what Pope Eugene IV. wrote on the 22d July 1446 to his legates in Germany: “Ad imitationem ss. PP. et prædecessorum nostrorum, sicut illi generalia concilia venerari consueverunt, sic generalia concilia Constantiense et Basileense ab ejus initio usque ad translationem per nos factam, absque tamen præjudicio juris, dignitatis et præ-eminentiæ S. Sedis apostolicæ … cum omni reverentia et devotione suscipimus, complectimur et veneramur” [In imitation of the most holy Popes our predecessors, as they have been wont to venerate general councils, so do we receive with all reverence and devotion, embrace and venerate the General Councils of Constance and Basle, yet without prejudice to the right dignity and pre-eminence of the Holy Apostolic See]. The moderate Gallicans maintain that the Council of Basle was œcumenical until its translation to Ferrara, and that it then lost this character; for it would be impossible to consider as œcumenical the conciliabulum which remained behind at Basle, and was continued later at Lausanne under the antipope Felix V. Edmund Richer and the advanced Gallicans, on the contrary, consider the whole of the Council of Basle to be œcumenical, from its stormy beginning to its inglorious end. Other theologians, on the contrary, refuse this character to the Council of Basle in all its sessions. This is the opinion of Bellarmin, Roncaglia, and L. Holstenius. According to Gieseler, Bellarmin has given the title of œcumenical to the Council of Basle in another passage of his celebrated Disputationes. This is not so. Bellarmin says that the Council of Basle was legitimate at its opening, that is to say, so long as the papal legate and a great number of bishops were present; but subsequently, when it deposed the Pope, it was only a conciliabulum schismaticum, seditiosum, et nullius prorsus auctoritatis. It was by Bellarmin’s advice that the acts of the Council of Basle were not included in the collection of œcumenical councils made at Rome in 1609.

Those who are absolutely opposed to the Council of Basle, and refuse the œcumenical character to all its sessions, give the following reasons:—

a. There was only a very small number of bishops (7–8) at the first sessions of this Synod, and therefore one cannot possibly consider it to be an œcumenical council.

b. Before its second session, this Council, promising no good results, was dissolved by Pope Eugene IV.

c. From this second session, according to the undeniable testimony of history, the assembly was ruled by passion; its members were embittered against each other; business was not carried on with becoming calmness, but in the midst of complete anarchy; the bishops’ secretaries spoke and shouted in the sessions, as Æneas Sylvius and others testify.

d. Eugene IV. did certainly at a later period, after the fifteenth session, confirm all that had been done in the preceding; but this confirmation was extorted from him when he was ill, and by the threat that, if he did not consent to give it, he should lose the adherence of the princes and cardinals, and be deposed from the papal chair.

e. This confirmation has no value, even supposing that the Pope gave it in full consciousness, and with entire freedom; for it was only signed by him on condition that the members of the Council of Basle should repeal all the decrees which they had given against the authority of the Pope, which they never did.

f. The Pope simply allowed the Council to continue its sessions, and he withdrew his bull of dissolution again; but these concessions imply no sanction of what the Council had done in its preceding sessions, and the Pope took care to declare this himself.

It appears to us to be going too far to refuse an œcumenical character to the whole Council of Basle. The truth, according to our view, lies between this opinion and that of the moderate Gallicans in this way:

a. The Council of Basle was a true one from the first session to the twenty-fifth inclusive, that is, until its translation from Basle to Ferrara.

b. In these twenty-five sessions we must accept as valid only such decrees as treat, 1st, Of the extinction of heresy; 2d, Of the pacification of Christendom; 3d, Of the reformation of the Church in its head and in its members;—and always on condition that these decrees are not prejudicial to the papal power, and are approved by the Pope.

Our authority for the establishment of these two propositions is Pope Eugene IV. himself, who, in a bull read during the sixteenth session of the Council of Basle, sanctions those decrees of the preceding sessions which treat of these three points. In the letter already mentioned, which he wrote on the 22d July 1446 to his legates in Germany, he says: “As my predecessors have venerated the ancient councils (evidently meaning œcumenical councils), so do I receive cum omni reverentia et devotione, etc., the General Councils of Constance and Basle, and this latter ab ejus initio usque ad translationem per nos factam, absque tamen præjudicio juris, dignitatis et præ-eminentiæ, S. Sedis apostolicæ ac potestatis sibi et in eadem canonice sedentibus concessæ.”

But it is asked whether this acceptance be admissible, whether ecclesiastical authority had not already broken the staff over the whole Council of Basle. A passage in a bull published by Pope Leo X., in the eleventh session of the fifth Œcumenical Lateran Council, has been made use of for the support of this objection. It is as follows: “Cum ea omnia post translationem ejusdem Basileensis Concilii.… a Basileensi conciliabulo seu potius conventicula quæ præsertim post hujusmodi translationem concilium amplius appellari non merebatur, facta exstiterint ac propterea nullum robur habuerint.” In this passage Pope Leo X. condemns what was resolved during the latter sessions of the Council of Basle, and which was taken into the pragmatic sanction of Bourges in 1438; and on this occasion he speaks of the Council of Basle in a very unfavourable manner. But apart from the fact that we might allege against this passage, which asserts the superiority of the Pope over a general council, what the Gallicans have already adduced against it, we will observe: (a.) Even in this passage Pope Leo distinguishes between the Council of Basle, the assembly held before the translation, and the conciliabulum which began after the translation. (b.) It is true that he does not speak favourably of the Council itself, and the word præsertim seems to imply blame; but the Pope’s language can be easily explained, if we reflect that he has in view the decrees which diminish the power of the Pope,—decrees which were afterwards inserted in the pragmatic sanction. He might therefore speak unfavourably of these decisions of the Council of Basle, as Pope Eugene IV. did, without rejecting the whole Synod of Basle.

It must also be understood in what sense Father Ulrich Mayr of Kaisersheim was condemned by Pope Clement XIV., viz. for maintaining that the twenty-five first sessions of the Council of Basle had the character and weight of sessions of an œcumenical council. The opinion of Mayr is very different from ours: we do not accept all the decrees of the twenty-five first sessions, but only those which can be accepted under the conditions enumerated above.

Some theologians, particularly Gallicans, since the time of Louis XIV., will not recognise the fifth Lateran Council as œcumenical, on account of the small number of its members; but the true reason for their hostility against this Council is that, in union with the Crown of France, it abolished the pragmatic sanction of Bourges, which asserted the liberties of the Gallican Church, and concluded. another concordat These attacks cannot, however, be taken into consideration: for the great majority of Catholic theologians consider this Council to be œcumenical; and even France, at an earlier period, recognised it as such. Here, then, we offer a corrected table of the œcumenical councils:—

              1.              That of Nicæa in 325.

              2.              The first of Constantinople in 381.

              3.              That of Ephesus in 431.

              4.              That of Chalcedon in 451.

              5.              The second of Constantinople in 553.

              6.              The third of Constantinople in 680.

              7.              The second of Nicæa in 787.

              8.              The fourth of Constantinople in 869.

              9.              The first of Lateran in 1123.

              10.              The second of Lateran in 1139.

              11.              The third of Lateran in 1179.

              12.              The fourth of Lateran in 1215.

              13.              The first of Lyons in 1245.

              14.              The second of Lyons in 1274.

              15.              That of Vienne in 1311.

16. The Council of Constance, from 1414 to 1418; that is to say: (a.) The latter sessions presided over by Martin V. (sessions 41–45 inclusive); (b.) In the former sessions all the decrees sanctioned by Pope Martin V., that is, those concerning the faith, and which were given conciliariter.

17. The Council of Basle, from the year 1431; that is to say: (a.) The twenty-five first sessions, until the translation of the Council to Ferrara by Eugene IV.; (b.) In these twenty-five sessions the decrees concerning the extinction of heresy, the pacification of Christendom, and the general reformation of the Church in its head and in its members, and which, besides, do not strike at the authority of the apostolic chair; in a word, those decrees which were afterwards sanctioned by Pope Eugene IV.

17b. The assemblies held at Ferrara and at Florence (1438–42) cannot be considered as forming a separate œcumenical council. They were merely the continuation of the Council of Basle, which was transferred to Ferrara by Eugene IV. on the 8th January 1438, and from thence to Florence in January 1439.

              18.              The fifth of Lateran, 1512–17.

              19.              The Council of Trent, 1545–63.

SEC. 11. Customs observed in Œcumenical Councils with respect to Signatures, Precedence, Manner of Voting, etc.

In some countries—for instance, in Africa—the bishops held rank in the councils according to the period of their consecration; in other parts they ranked according to the episcopal see which they filled. The priests and deacons representing their absent bishop occupied the place belonging to that bishop in those councils which were held in the East; but in the West this custom was not generally followed. In the Spanish councils the priests always signed after the bishops. The Council of Arles (A.D. 314), in the signatures to which we cannot remark any order, decided that if a bishop brought several clerics with him (even in minor orders), they should give their signatures immediately after their bishop, and before the bishop who followed. The order of the signatures evidently indicates also the order of precedence. This Council of Arles gives an exception to this rule, for the Pope’s legates—the two priests Claudian and Vitus—signed only after several bishops; whilst in all the other councils, and even in the Eastern, the legates always signed before all the other bishops and the patriarchs, even though they were but simple priests.

In the thirteenth century Pope Clement IV. ordained that, in order to distinguish the bishops from the exempt abbots in the synods, the latter should only have mitres bordered with gold, without pearls, without precious stones, or gold plates. The abbots who were not “exempt” were only to have white mitres, without borders.

The members of the councils ordinarily were seated in the form of a circle, in the centre of which was placed the book of the Holy Scriptures. There were added also sometimes the collections of the ecclesiastical canons, and the relics of the saints. Behind each bishop was generally seated the priest who accompanied him; the deacon used to sit lower, on one side, or before the bishop.

With respect to the ceremonies at the opening of the ancient Spanish councils, we have an order of the fourth Council of Toledo, which met in 633 (can. 4), which prescribed as follows: “Before sunset on the day appointed (May 18), all those who are in the church must come out; and all the doors must be shut, except the one by which the bishops enter, and at this door all the ostiarii (porters) will station themselves. The bishops will then come and take their places, according to the times of their ordination. When they have taken their places, the elected priests, and after them the deacons, will come in their turn to take their places. The priests sit behind the bishops; the deacons are in front; and all are seated in the form of a circle. Last of all, those laity are introduced whom the council by their election have judged worthy of the favour. The notaries who are necessary are also introduced.

“All keep silence. When the archdeacon says, ‘Let us pray’ (orate), all prostrate themselves upon the ground. After several moments, one of the oldest bishops rises and recites a prayer in a loud voice, during which all the rest remain on their knees. The prayer having been recited, all answer ‘AMEN;’ and they rise when the archdeacon says, ‘Stand up’ (crigite vos). While all keep silent, a deacon, clad in a white alb, brings into the midst the Book of the Canons, and reads the rules for the holding of councils. When this is ended, the metropolitan gives an address, and calls on those present to bring forward their complaints. If a priest, a deacon, or a layman has any complaint to make, he makes it known to the archdeacon of the metropolitan church; and the latter, in his turn, will bring it to the knowledge of the council. No bishop is to withdraw without the rest, and no one is to pronounce the council dissolved before all the business is ended.” The Synod concluded with a ceremony similar to that of the opening; the metropolitan then proclaimed the time of celebrating Easter, and that of the meeting of the next synod, and some bishops were chosen to assist the metropolitan at Christmas and Easter.

Before the Council of Constance, they voted by numbers in all the councils; but at that Council, to neutralize the advantage the Italian prelates derived from their large number, the votes were given by nations. Five nations—Italy, France, Germany, England, and Spain—each had right to one vote; and within the nation they of course voted by numbers. Another arrangement was introduced into the Council. They divided, without distinctions of nationality, all who were present at the Synod into four great commissions—of the Faith, of the Peace, of the Reform of the Church, and of general business. Each commission had its own president, and they combined the commissions three times a week. When a commission had made a decree, it was communicated to the other three; and if it was approved by three commissions at the least, it was announced as a decree of the Synod by the president of the Council in a general session.

In the councils which followed that of Basle this manner of voting was abandoned; and when, at the commencement of the Council of Trent, the Pope’s legates asked if they would vote by nations or by heads, the latter was the method which was recommended, as being the most conformable to the traditions of the Church. This is at least what Sarpi and Pallavicini relate. Sarpi adds, that several Fathers of the Council of Trent would have demanded to vote by nations; but this statement is refuted by Pallavicini, who proves that no one made that demand, and that the question asked by the legates was simply a prudential measure. The Council of Trent introduced a practice which was a departure from ancient custom. In the ancient councils the discussions upon the decrees to be promulgated took place during the sessions themselves; and the acts of these councils contain discussions of great length. In the Council of Trent, on the contrary, each matter was first carefully discussed in particular commissions; and when all was ready, and in fact decided upon, they presented the decree to the general session for confirmation. The acts of the Council of Trent, for this reason, contain no discussions, but only decrees, etc.

The decisions of the synods were regularly published in the name of the synod itself; but sometimes, when the Pope presided, the decrees were published in the form of papal decrees, with the addition of the formula: “with the approbation of the sacred œcumenical council” (sacra universali synodo approbante). This took place at the third, the fourth, and the fifth Lateran Councils, and in part also at the Council of Constance.

SEC. 12. Histories of the Councils

James Merlin, canon and chief penitentiary of the metropolitan church of Paris, was the first who had a collection of the acts of the councils published. This edition, naturally very incomplete, appeared at Paris in 1523, in one folio volume, in two parts. A second impression was published at Köln in 1530, enriched by two documents, the golden bull of Charles IV., and the bull of Pius II. in which he forbade an appeal from the Pope to an œcumenical council. The third edition, in octavo, published at Paris in 1536, had no additions. Like all the collections of the councils which have been made after it, with the exception of the Roman edition of 1609, the edition of Merlin contained, with the acts of the œcumenical councils, those of several provincial synods, as well as many papal decretals. It may be mentioned that this alone had the collection of the false Isidorian Decretals printed in a continuous form, whilst in the more recent collections they are distributed in chronological order, assigning to each council or each Pope the part attributed to him by the pseudo-Isidore.

In 1538 there appeared at Köln a second collection of the acts of the councils (two volumes folio), fuller than that of Merlin. It was published by the Belgian Franciscan, Peter Crabbe, who, to make it more complete, had searched in no less than five hundred libraries. The second edition, enlarged, dated 1551, is in three folio volumes. Lawrence Servius, the celebrated convert and Carthusian, published at Köln another and somewhat more complete collection of the councils in 1657, in four folio volumes; and the printer, Dominic Nicolini, put forth at Venice, in 1585, with the assistance of the Dominican Dominic Bollanus, a new impression, in five volumes folio.

Professor Severin Binius, canon of Köln, surpassed his predecessors by publishing another collection of the councils, in four volumes folio, in 1606. The text of the councils was enriched by historical and critical notes, taken for the most part from Baronius. The second editions, which were published in 1618 and 1636, are still better than the first. The latter was published at Paris by Charles Morel, in nine volumes, as the Roman collection of the acts of the councils could here be made use of. This Roman collection contained only the acts of the œcumenical councils. It consisted of four folio volumes, and was compiled between 1608 and 1612 under the authority of Pope Paul V. This work gave for the first time the original Greek text of many of the synodal acts, copied from the manuscripts of the Vatican and other MSS. The learned Jesuit Sirmond was the principal author of this collection; he wrote the interesting introduction which was prefixed to the whole work. At the beginning of the acts of each council there is a succinct but by no means worthless history of that council in Latin, which has been inserted into several other more modern collections,—in particular, into that of Mansi. We have already said that, by the advice of Bellarmin, the acts of the Synod of Basle were not admitted into this collection.

This Roman edition has served as a basis for all subsequent editions: these have added the acts of the national and provincial synods, besides the most important edicts and decrees of the Popes, all of them avoiding several faults and several singularities of the Roman editors. In these more recent editions the text has often also been improved by the study of various MSS., and has been enriched by many fragments and original documents which were wanting in the Roman edition.

The first collection which was made after the Roman collection is the Collectio Regia, which appeared at Paris in 1644 at the royal printing press, in thirty-seven folio volumes.

The printing and all the material part is magnificent, but the same praise cannot be awarded to the editing; for even those faults of the Roman edition which had been pointed out by Father Sirmond still remained uncorrected. In spite of the great number of its volumes, the royal edition is nearly one-fourth less complete than that of the Jesuit Philip Labbe (Labbeus) of Bourges. Labbe died in 1667, whilst he was labouring on the ninth and tenth volumes of his collection; but Father Gabriel Cossart, a member of the same order, continued his work, which appeared at Paris in 1674. Stephen Baluze wished to add to this edition a supplement which would contain four volumes in folio, but only one volume has seen the light. Almost all the French savans quote from this edition of Labbe’s with Baluze’s supplement, making use of all these works, and consulting, besides, a very large number of MSS. John Hardouin, a Jesuit, gave a new Conciliorum Collectio regia maxima ad P. Labbei et P. Gabrielis Cossarti … labores haud modica accessione facta, etc. Hardouin had been in 1685 entrusted with this work by the French clergy, on the condition that he submitted it for examination to Dr. Vitasse, professor of the Sorbonne, and to Le Merre, an advocate of the Parliament. Hardouin submitted only for a short time to this condition, and gained the protection of Louis XIV., who accepted the dedication of the work, and allowed it to be printed at the royal press. These different circumstances gave to the work a kind of official character, which contributed not a little to render it suspected by the Jansenists and Gallicans, as Hardouin in his dedication to Louis XIV. showed himself a very warm partisan of the Bull Unigenitus, and the bull itself was inserted in the last volume; besides which, the Index rerum betrayed an opposition to Gallican principles. He took care to point out especially (see, e.g., the art. on the authority of councils) the decisions of the Popes or of the councils which were opposed to the principles and maxims of the Gallican divines. Louis XIV. died at the moment when the printing of the work was almost finished; and as the Duke of Orleans, who then became regent, favoured the Jansenists, and showed himself hostile to the Bull Unigenitus, advantage was taken to complain to the Parliament of the publication of Hardouin’s work. Parliament ordered Elias Dupin, Chas. Vitasse, Denys Léger, and Philip Anquetil to draw up a report on the subject; in consequence of which the sale of the work was prohibited, as being opposed to the principles of the State, and to those of the Gallican Church (1716). They destroyed all the copies they could seize, but happily some had already been sent from France. Later on, the Parliament was obliged to yield to the wishes loudly expressed in various quarters for the publication of the work. They authorized it, but on the condition that the Jesuits should add a volume of corrections, thinking they would by these means weaken the Ultramontanism of Hardouin. This volume appeared in 1722, printed at the royal press, under the title, Addition ordonnée par arrêt du Parlement, pour être jointe à la Collection des Conciles, etc. In the following year the Jesuits obtained the free publication of Hardouin’s edition, without its being accompanied by the additional volume; and they gained their point so well, that that volume was even suppressed. Since then the Jansenists have republished it at Utrecht in 1730 and 1751, with this title, Avis des censeurs nommés par le Parlement de Paris pour examiner, etc.

Since Hardouin’s edition has been widely circulated, it has become the favourite text-book of learned men among Catholics as well as Protestants. It is this which Benedict XIV. always quotes in his work, De synodo Diæcesana. It is composed of a rich collection of conciliar acts and other important documents, and extends as far as 1714, thus going much further than Mansi’s celebrated edition. It is recommended on account of its very beautiful and correct although small type, and especially for the five very complete tables which it contains.

These tables contain: (1) a chronological table of all the Popes; (2) a table of all the councils; (3) an index episcoporum, et aliorum qui conciliis interfuerunt; (4) an index geographicus episcopatuum; (5) lastly, a very complete index rerum et verborum memorabilium. On account of these advantages, we have also used and quoted Hardouin’s collection in our History of the Councils, along with the more complete work of Mansi. Salmon has analysed the details of Hardouin’s collection, and has given a long list of its faults. As doctor of the Sorbonne, Salmon was not able to judge favourably of Hardouin’s collection, to which he would rather have preferred that of Labbe and Cossart. He has, however, acknowledged the improvements and additions which distinguish Hardouin’s work.

The collections which follow have been made since the publication of Salmon’s work. The first is that of Nicholas Coleti, which appeared at Venice under the title, Sacrosancta concilia ad regiam editionem exacta. The Dominican Mansi, who became Archbishop of Lucca, his native town, compiled a supplement to Coleti’s work. Several years afterwards, Mansi undertook a new collection of the acts of the councils, which should be more complete than all those which had hitherto appeared. He kept his word; and at the commencement of 1759, thirty-one volumes in folio of this edition appeared at Florence, with the title, Sacrorum conciliorum nova et amplissima collectio, in qua præter ea quæ Phil. Labbæus et Gabr. Cossartus et novissime Nicolaus Coleti in luccm edidere, ea omnia insuper suis in locis optime disposita exhibentur, quæ Jo. Dom. Mansi Lucensis, congregationis Matris Dei, evulgavit. Editio Novissima, ab eodem Patre Mansi, potissimum favorem etiam et opem præstante Em. Cardinali Dominico Passioneo, S. Sedis apostolicæ bibliothecario, aliisque item eruditissimis viris manus auxiliatrices ferentibus, curata, novorum conciliorum, novorumque documentorumque additionibus locupletata, ad MSS. codices Vaticanos Lucenes aliosque recensita et perfecta. Accedunt etiam notæ et dissertationes quam plurimæ; quæ in cæteris editionibus desidcrantur. This edition was not completed, and the thirty-first volume reached only to the fifteenth century. It had consequently no indices, and its type, although larger and more modern than that of Hardouin’s edition, is yet very inferior to the latter in accuracy. The order of the subjects in the latter volumes is sometimes not sufficiently methodical, and is at variance with the chronology.

By the side of these general collections there are other works, which contain only the acts of the councils held in particular countries. To these belong—

1. The Concilia Germaniæ, by Schannat and Harzheim, in eleven volumes folio (Cöln 1749–1790); Binterim, Pragmatische Geschichte der deutschen National- Provincial- und vorzüglichsten Diöcesan-concilien (Mainz 1835–1848), in seven volumes octavo, which reached as far as the end of the fifteenth century. We may, besides, consult, for the history of the German councils: (a) Lünig, Entwurf der in Deutschland von Anfang des Christenthums gehaltenen General- Provincial- und Partikularconcilien, in his Spicilegium des deutschen Reichsarchivs, P. i. p. 822; (b) Pfaff, Delineatio collectionis novæ conciliorum Germaniæ, reprinted in Fabricius, Biblioth. Græca, ed. Harless, t. xii p. 310 sqq.; (c) Joh. And. Schmid, Diss. de historiâ conciliorum Moguntinensium, Helmst. 1713; (d) De conciliis Moguntinis, in the work of Georg Christian Johannes, Scriptor. Mogunt. vol. iii. p. 281 sqq. Cf. Walch, Hist. der Kirchenvers. S. 53, and Salmon, l.c. p. 382 sqq.

2. Concilia antiqua Galliæ, by Father Sirmond (Paris 1629), in three volumes folio, and one volume folio,—a supplement added by his cousin De La Lande in 1666. Concilia novissima Galliæ a tempore concilii Tridentini celebrata, ed. Ludov. Odespun de la Mechinière, a priest of Tours (Paris 1646), one volume folio. Shortly before the Revolution, the Benedictines of the congregation of S. Maur undertook a complete collection of the councils of France; but one folio volume alone appeared (Paris 1789), with the title, Conciliorum Galliæ tam editorum quam ineditorum Collectio, temporum ordine digesta ab anno Christi 177 ad an. 1563, cum epistolis pontificum, principum constitutionibus et aliis ecclesiasticæ rei Gallicanæ monumentis. Opera et studio monachorum congregationis S. Mauri, t. i. ab anno 177 ad annum 591. Paris, sumptibus Petri Didot. In folio.

3. Garcias Loaisa was the first to publish a collection of the Spanish councils, at Madrid 1593, in one volume folio. That of Cardinal Joseph Saenz de Aguirre is much more complete: Collectio maxima Conciliorum omnium Hispaniæ et novi orbis (Rome 1693), in four volumes folio. More recent is the Collectio canonum Ecclesiæ Hispanæ ex probatissimis et pervetustis Codicibus nunc primum in lucem edita a publica Matritensi bibliotheca (per FRANC. ANT. GONZALEZ, publ. Matr. bibl. præfectum), Matriti, ex typographia regia, 1808. In folio.

4. England and Ireland had two collections. The older is that of Henry Spelman: Concilia, decreta, leges, constitutiones in re Ecclesiarum orbis Britannici, London, t. i. 1639, t. ii. 1664; the third volume, although announced, never appeared. That of David Wilkins followed, which is better and more complete: Concilia Magna Britanniæ et Htberniœ, ed. DAV. WILKINS (London 1734), in four volumes folio.

5. Sacra concilia Ecclesiæ Romano-catholicæ in regno Unqariæ, a collection due to Father Charles Peterfy (Vienna 1742), in two volumes folio.

6. There does not exist a general collection of the Italian councils, but the councils of certain periods or of certain provinces have been in part collected. There is, e.g., a collection of the synods held at Milan, by S. Charles Borromeo (in his complete works); a Synodicon Beneventanensis Ecclesiæ, by Vinc. Mar. Orsini (Pope Benedict XIII.), Beneventum 1695, folio.

Among the numerous works on the history of the councils, the most useful to consult are:

1. John Cabassutius’ Notitia Ecclesiastica historiarum conciliorum et canonum, Lyons 1680, folio. Very often reprinted.

2. Hermant, Histoire des Conciles, Rouen 1730, four volumes 8vo.

3. Labbe, Synopsis Historica Conciliorum, in vol. i. of his Collection of Councils.

4. Edm. Richer, Historia conciliorum generalium (Paris 1680), three volumes 4to. Reprinted in 8vo at Cöln.

5. Charles Ludovic Richard, Analysis conciliorum generalium et particularium. Translated from French into Latin by Dalmasus. Four volumes 8vo, Augsburg 1778.

6. Christ Wilh. Franz Walch, Entwurf einer vollständigen Historie der Kirchenversammlungen, Leipzig 1759.

7. Fabricius, Bibliotheca Græca, edit. Harless, t. xii. p. 422 sqq., in which is contained an alphabetical table of all the councils, and an estimate of the value of the principal collections.

8. Alletz, Concilien-Lexikon, translated from French into German by Father Maurus Disch, a Benedictine and professor at Augsburg, 1843.

9. Dictionnaire universel et complet des Conciles, tant généraux que particuliers, etc., rédigé par M. l’Abbé P——, prêtre du Diocèse de Paris, published by the Abbé Migne (Paris 1846), two volumes 4to.

In the great works on ecclesiastical history—for example, in the Nouvelle Bibliothèque des auteurs Ecclesiastiques, by El. Dupin, and the Historia Literaria of Cave, and particularly in the excellent Histoire des auteurs sacrés, by Remi Ceillier—we find matters relating to the history of the councils. Salmon, l.c. p. 387 sqq., and Walch in his Historie der Kirchenversammlungen, pp. 48–67, have pointed out a large number of works on the history of the councils. There are also very valuable dissertations on the same subject in.

1. Christian Lupus’ Synodorum generalium ac provincialium decreta et canones, scholiis, notis ac historica actorum dissertatione illustrata, Louv. 1665, Bruxelles 1673, five volumes 4to.

2. Lud. Thomassin, Dissertationum in Concilia generalia et particularia, t. i. Paris 1667; reprinted in Rocaberti, Bibl. pontificia, t. xv.

3. Van Espen, Tractatus Historicus, exhibens scholia in omnes canones conciliorum, etc., in his complete works.

4. Barth. Caranza has written a very complete and useful abstract of the acts of the councils in his Summa Conciliorum, which has often been re-edited.

5. George Daniel Fuchs, deacon of Stuttgart, has, in his Bibliothek der Kirchenversammlungen (four volumes, Leipsic 1780–1784), given German translations and abstracts of the acts of the councils in the fourth and fifth centuries.

6. Francis Salmon, Doctor and Librarian of the Sorbonne, has published an Introduction to the Study of the Councils, in his Traité de l’Etude des Conciles et de leurs collections, Paris 1724, in 4to, which has often been reprinted.








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