The Councils of the Catholic Church

Church Councils define Church Doctrine:

There are 5 types of councils, Diocesan, National, Ecumenical, Plenary, and Provincial. No council has ever changed Church dogma, nor can it, since dogma was proclaimed by Jesus Christ Himself, Acts 6:12,15,15:6,*Gal 2:2.
An Ecumenical Council is where all the Bishops in the world that are entitled to vote, gather under the presidency of the Pope or his representative. There have been 21 Ecumenical councils in the history of the Church, other important councils called 'synods' are marked '*'.
The very first council or meeting of the Apostles and presbyters is recorded in Acts 15, and is called the Council of Jerusalem. Tradition speaks of St. James as being the Bishop of Jerusalem at that time of about 50 AD.

A Church council is usually a reaction as opposed to an action. They are held to define a truth after someone has denied it. Jesus Christ gave His authority in several verses of Holy Scripture. One example is in Luke 10:16, "He who hears you hears me". Armed with this authority, Church teaching has been accepted over the centuries. Then along comes someone who denies a certain teaching and therefore there becomes a need for a Church council to react to the denial. The Council of Ephesus of 431, one such reaction, defined the Blessed Virgin Mary as the "Theotokos", meaning GOD bearer or Mother of GOD. This formal teaching was only done after someone had denied it. Another example is the reaction of the Council of Trent in 1546 which defined again, the canon of Holy Scripture after seven books were denied by the Protestants in their revolt. Non-Catholics look at these reactive Church councils as teaching something new, when in fact, all they are doing is defining a truth that has been taught for centuries without denials.

The Major Councils Are...

Nicaea I, 325: The first world council in Church history was convened at the request of Emperor Constantine I (285-337). Jesus Christ is GOD, and is equal to the Father and to the Holy Spirit, the Nicene Creed.

Constantinople I, 381: divinity of the Holy Spirit, condemned the Arian heresy.

Rome 382: Pope Damasus I, settled the New Testament Canon. *

Hippo 393: work on the New Testament. *

Carthage 397: finalized the New Testament and the Deuterocanonicals. *

Ephesus, 431: Blessed Virgin is the Mother of GOD, hypostatic union.

Chalcedon, 451: condemned Monophysitism.

Constantinople II, 553: condemned the Three Chapters, and Nestorian heresy.

Constantinople III, 680: condemned Monothelitism, and censured Honorius.

Nicaea II, 787: condemned Iconoclasm.

Constantinople IV, 869: ended the Greek schism and deposed Photius.

Lateran I, 1123: issued decrees on celibacy and simony.

Lateran II, 1139: ended the Papal Schism.

Lateran III, 1179: condemned Albigensian and Waldensian heresies.

Lateran IV, 1215: planned a crusade, enacted reforms.

Lyons I, 1245: the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son, true body and blood of Christ in the consecration, unleavened bread in hosts.

Lyons II, 1274: reunited the Church with the Greeks.

Vienne, 1311: abolished the Knight Templars.

Constance, 1414: ended the great schism. Basle, Ferrara.

Florence, 1431: union of Greeks, and enacted reforms.

Lateran V, 1512: treated of the Neo-Aristotelians, enacted reforms.

Trent, 1545: convened on Dec 4, 1545, and closed on Dec 4, 1563, it was the longest Church council ever, 18 years, and made the largest number of decrees. It is the most controversial among the Protestants as they claim falsely that the deuterocanonicals were 'added' then, but in fact they were 'reaffirmed'. If they were added, then how could Martin Luther have removed them in 1531? See 'Carthage' above. The council authenticated the Vulgate, and declared the Bible & Tradition are rules of faith.

Vatican I, 1869: Papal infallibility.

Vatican II, 1962: the greatest religious event of the 20th century. So much was accomplished in this council. There are several books written on what was discussed here. Please refer to Vatican Council II, Vols 1,2,3,4,5.

Updated February 4, 2004

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