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Basle, A.D. 1431–1442. Lausanne, A.D. 1449.
The next Council recognized by the Romans as General, is that which in pursuance of a decree of the preceding one at Sienna, was assembled at Basle in Switzerland, in the year 1431. It was convened by Martin V., and his successor, Eugenius IV. The object which the Fathers here assembled set before them and pursued with eagerness, was the reform of the many abuses which had been the fertile subject of complaint for many years. But they were not allowed to pursue their course without interruption. One of their first steps was to confirm anew the decrees of Constance concerning the superiority of a General Council over the Bishop of Rome, its power to punish him, if refractory, and its freedom from being dissolved by him. These and some other wholesome regulations, which restored the Church to her liberty, and restrained the tyrannical and most injurious usurpation of the Roman Pontiff, not unnaturally excited the wrath of Eugenius, who attempted to dissolve the Council. Upon this they summoned him to the Council, and threatened to declare him contumacious. Hereupon he revoked his order for dissolution, and engaged to adhere to the Council. But upon the Pope again mustering courage to attempt to transfer the place of the Council to Ferrara, A.D. 1438, they summoned him and his cardinals, and upon their not appearing, declared him and them con
tumacious, and finally deposed him, A.D. 1439; and elected in his stead Amadeus, Duke of Savoy, under the name of Felix V. This was met in turn on the part of Eugenius and his adherents in the Council, which, by this time, had moved from Ferrara to Florence, with excommunications and anathemas. Finally, the Council of Basle moved for an adjournment to Lausanne; and, Eugenius being now dead, and Felix having resigned, they agreed to recognize Nicolas V., the successor of Eugenius, and so came to an end. Besides the dispute with the existing Pope and the endeavour to curtail the Papal power; a chief point which engaged the attention of this Council was to effect a reconciliation between the Eastern and Western Churches. Only a very small portion (QQ) of the acts of this Council are deemed of authority in the Church of Rome.—Conc. xii. 459 and Seq. xiii. 1–4, and 1335.
XVI. Ferrara, A.D. 1438.
Florence, A.D. 1439.
The next General Council, according to the Latins, is that of 141 bishops which was assembled at Ferrara, under Eugenius IV., in opposition to that which he had before convened at Basle. It met in the year 1438, but a plague breaking out in Ferrara, it was the next year transferred to Florence. The chief object of the Council was to consider the means of effecting a reconciliation between the Greek and Roman Churches; an attempt to accomplish which
was undertaken with much zeal by the Pope and the Western Bishops on the one hand, and the Greek Emperor and the Patriarch of Constantinople (Joseph), on the other, which last were present in person, and attended by many Eastern Bishops. The chief points to be got over were the doctrine of Purgatory, the Papal Supremacy, and the Procession of the Holy Spirit from the Son, all which the Greeks denied. At last, after much discussion, the Greek Bishops (with the exception of the Patriarch of Constantinople, who died at the Council,) Mark, Bishop of Ephesus, the Patriarch of Heraclea, and Athanasius, were, by force, and fraud, and bribery, prevailed upon to join in articles of agreement or union. However, this apparent union was to little purpose. No sooner were the Greek deputies returned to Constantinople than the Church there indignantly rejected all that had been done; and in a Council at Constantinople, held, according to their own account, a year and a half after the termination of that at Florence, all the Florentine proceedings were declared null and the Synod condemned (RR). The Patriarch of Constantinople (Gregory), who had succeeded Joseph, and was inclined to the Latins, was deposed, and Athanasius chosen in his stead. The Patriarchs of Alexandria, Antioch, Jerusalem, and the chiefs of the old Patriarchates of Ephesus, Heraclea, and Cæsarea, were all present and concurred in these transactions. Some writers have styled the Synod of Florence, the eighth General Council (ss). Conc. xiii. 141264. For the Council of Constantinople which condemned it, see ibid. 1365.
Pisa. Milan. Lyons, A.D. 1511.
The style of a General Council was assumed by the French and Italian Bishops, who, without any concurrence on the part of the Bishop of Rome, assembled at Pisa, in the year 1511, thence moved to Milan, and afterwards to Lyons. Its proceedings were condemned by the Pope, Julius II., and they are not recognized by the Church of Rome.
XVIII. Lateran, 5. A.D. 1512—1517
· The next Council admitted to be a General one by some of the Romans, is that of no more than 114 bishops assembled by Julius II., in opposition to that of Pisa abovementioned. They met in the Lateran Church in the year 1512. There is nothing worth noticing in its proceedings : and, indeed, according to Bellarmine, its authority altogether is a matter of dispute among the Romans themselves.—Conc. xiv, 14344. Bellarm. de Conc. lib. ii. c. 13.
XVIII. Trent, A.D. 1545—1563.
The last Synod which claimed the character of a General Council, is that which was convened by Paul III., at Trent, in the year 1545, and, by repeated prorogations, was continued throughout the reigns of his successors Julius III., Marcellus II., and Paul IV., and at last eoncluded under Pius IV., in the year 1563. For the enormity of its decrees, for its outrageous violations of former General Councils, and for its rash and reckless sentences of anathema, whereby, if they are to be understood retrospectively, four-fifths at least of the Fathers of the Church, will be found to be condemned, it is without parallel in the annals of the Christian Church. The number of bishops present at it was extremely limited. Labbé and Cossart state, that in the fourth session (which set forth the new canon of Scripture), there were three legates, eight Archbishops, and forty-three bishops, fifty-four in all; in the sixth (which issued the decrees concerning Justification), four Cardinals, ten Archbishops, and forty-seven Bishops, sixty-one in all : in the thirteenth (which defined Transubstantiation), four Legates, six Archbishops, and thirty-four Bishops—forty-four in all. In the last session, Labbé and Cossart have scraped together the names of seven Legates, two Cardinals, three Patriarchs, thirty-three Archbishops, and 237 Bishops, as present; making in all 282, besides eleven proxies. If this is correct, then the Council was very far from being of one mind. In a Roman edition of the Council before me, A.D. 1763, which contains “ Patrum subscriptiones, eadem prorsus ratione, ordineque, quo visuntur in authenticis