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Conciliarism at the Fifth Lateran Council?

  • Francis Oakley (a1)


Conciliarism at the Fifth Lateran Council? Despite the current interest in things conciliar this is a strange and, no doubt to some, a rather forced juxta position. For what, after all, is there to be said about it? The council may indeed have been a great non-event in the religious history of the sixteenth century but it was surely a highly papalist non-event. Was it not, in form and procedure, a faithful copy of the papal general councils of the pre-Conciliar era—of Lateran IV (1215), of Lyons (1274), of Vienne (1311)? To what did it owe its convocation if not the desire of Julius II to cut the ground from under the feet of the dissident conciliabulum of Pisa (1511–12)—itself, of course, summoned by the cardinals of the opposition with the support of the French king and very much a conciliarist's council? Were not the first half-dozen sessions occupied almost exclusively with the condemnation of the activities of that council, the proscription of those who persisted in adhering to it and the reconciliation of those who had abandoned it? Did not the eleventh session witness the definitive rejection of the Pragmatic Sanction of Bourges, the base from which for so long conciliarist thinkers had been able to operate with impunity? Did it not witness also the unambiguous assertion of the superiority of pope to council, and was not this principle underlined in practice by the craven responsiveness of the council fathers to papal demands? And so on. It is easy enough to envisage the questions, the queries, the dissents.1



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1. For the general background to the council and to the conciliabulum of Pisa, see Pierre Imbart de la Tour, Les origines de la reforme. 4 vols. (Melun, 19051946), II, 1178; Renaudet, Augustin, Préréforme et Humanisme à Paris pendant les premières guerres d'Italie: 1496–1517. 2nd ed. (Paris, 1953); Jedin, Hubert, A History of the Council of Trent, tr. Ernest Graf, 2 vols. (London, 19571961), I, 1165; Pastor, Ludwig, The History of the Popes from the Close of the Middle Ages. 40 vols. (London, 18911953), VI, chs. 4–7, VIII, chs. 9 and 10. For the French side of the Pisan affair, reference should also be made to Martin, Victor, Les origines du Gallicanisme. 2 vols. (Paris, 1939), especially II, and to Martimort, Aimé-Georges, Le Gallicanisme de Bossuet (Paris, 1953), ch. 1. For the events of the Lateran Council, see especially Mansi, J., Sacrorum conciliorum nova et amplissima collectio (31 vols.; 1759ff.), XXXII, 6491002; also Hefele, C. J., Histoire des Conciles d'après les documents originaux, tr. and ed. Leclercq, H., 11 vols. (Paris, 19071951), VIII,1297558. For a more recent analysis of its reform program, see Minnich, N. H., “Concepts of Reform Proposed at the Fifth Lateran Council,” Archivum Historiae Pontificiae, VII (1969), 163251; N. H. Minnich and H. W. Pfeiffer, “Two Woodcuts of Lateran V,” Ibid., VIII (1970), 179–214, for an interesting study of “coneiliar iconography”.

2. Thus Major, John, Disputatio de authoritate concilii supra pontificem maximum, in Dupin, Louis Ellies, ed., Joannis Gersonii Opera Omnia. 5 vols. (Antwerp, 706), II, 1132: “Super praefata quaestione sunt modi dicendi oppositi, quorum unus tenet Papa esse supra Concilium Universale: hunc … tenent communiter Thomistae… Alium modum semper nostra Universitas Parisiana, a diebus Concilii Constantiensis imitata est; sic quod in ea, qui praedictam viam tenuerit, in campo cogitur earn revocare” see also col. 1144, and Jacques Almain, Tractatus de authoritate ecclesiae et conciliorum generalium, Ibid., 1070.

3. Namely the Bolognese jurist Gozzadini—see Jedin, H., “Giovanni Gozzadini. ein Konziliarist am Hofe Julius II,” Römische Quartalscshrift, XLVII (1939), 193267: also Klotzner, Josef, Kardinal Dominikus Jacobazzi und sein Konzilswerk (Rome, 1948). 236ff. For the fate of conciliar theory in the continental countries see the admirable account in Jedin, , History, I, 32ff. For Scotland see Baxter, J. H., “Four ‘New” Medieval Scottish Authors,” Scottish Hitoricai Reviw, XXV (1928), 9097; Burns, J. H., “John Ireland and ‘The Meroure of Wvssdome’,” Innes Review, VI (1955), 7798, Scottish Churchmen and the Council of Basle (Glasgow, 1962), and “The Conciliarist Tradition in Scotland,” Scottish Historical Review, XLII (1963), 89104. No comparnbly vital conciliar tradition had grown up in England. but conciliar theory did enjoy a temporary vogue there in the sixteenth century—see Baumer, F. L., The Early Tudor Theory of Kingship (New Haven, 1940), 5053; Zeefeld, W. Gordon, Foundations of Tudor Policy (Cambridge, Mass., 1948), 133–35; Sawada, P. A., “Two Anonymous Tudor Treatises on the General Council,” The Journal of Ecclesiastical History, XII (1961), 197214. Sawada suggests (210–11) that the second of his treatises was the work of Alexander Alesius (1500–1565), a Scot who had been in England since 1535. If this attribution is correct, it may perhaps serve as further evidence of the importance of the Scottish conciliarist tradition and of its strength at the University of St. Andrews where Alesins was educated. See Burns, , “Conciliarist Tradition in Scotland.” 89, 100102, and Rueger, Zofia, “Gerson, the Conciliar Movement and the Right of Resistance (1642–1644),” Journal of the History of Ideas, XXV, No. 4 (1964), 467–86 at 483–84. For evidence of Sir Thomas More's adhesion to the conciliar position, see Rogers, E. F., The Correspondence of Sir Thomas More (Princeton, 1947), No. 199. pp. 498–9. A discussion and listing of appeals to a general council after Pius II's prohibition may be found in Picotti, Giovanni, “La pubblicazione e i primi effetti della ‘Execrabilis’ de Pio II,” Archivio della Società Romana di storia patria, XXXVII (1914), 33ff.

4. For a discussion of the conciliarist literature evoked by Pisa, see Klotzner, , Kardinal Dominikus Jacobazzi 209ff. For the contributions of Almain and Major, see Oakley, Francis, “Almain and Major: Conciliar Theory on the Eve of the Reformation,” American Historical Review, LXX (1965), 673–90; Pollet, Vincent-Marrie, “La doetrine de Cajetan sur l'Eglise,” Angelicum, XII (1935), 229–34; de la Brosse, Olivier. Le Pape et le Concile: La comparaison de leurs pouvoirs à veille de la Réforme (Paris, 1965), esp. 185ff.

5. On this matter of subsequent influence (on secular political thinking as well as ecclesiology), see Oakley, Francis, The Political Thought of Pierre d'Ailly: The Voluntarist Tradition (New Haven and London, 1964), 212–32, and “From Constance to 1688 Revisited,” Journal of the History of Ideas, XXVII (1966), 429–32; also Zofia Rueger, “Gerson, the Conciliar Movement and the Right of Resistance (1942–1644),” Ibid., XXV (1964), 467–80.

6. On this matter, the remarks of Paul de Vooght are very much to the point—see his “Le Conciliarisme aux conciles de Constance et de Bâle,” in Botte, B. et al. , Le Concile et Les Conciles: Contributions à l'histoire de la vie conciliaire de l'église (ChevetogneParis, 1960), 143–71 at 146ff. It should be added that even what we will call the strict conciliar theory was susceptible of subtle variations. Thus, whereas for Pierre d'Ailly the plenitudo potestatis concerned the potestas jurisdictionis alone, for Jean Gerson it involved also the potestas ordinis—see d'Ailly, , Tractatus de ecclesiastica potestate, Dupin, II, 950C; Gerson, , De potestate ecclesiastica, Dupin, II, 239B-D.

7. Text in Mansi, XXVII, 1159.

8. Thus d'Ailly, , Tract. de eccl. pot., Dupin, II, 929–30. The words are taken from the alleged professio fidei of Boniface VIII, on which see Baluzins, S. and Mansi, J., Miscellenea. 4 vols. (Lucae, 17611764), III, 418.

9. See Tierney, Brian, Foundations of the Conciliar Theory (Cambridge, 1955), 220–37Oakley, , Political Thought of Pierre d'Ailly, 117–29.

10. Text in Mansi, XXVII, 590.

11. See Tierney, , Foundations, 190ff. Tierney stresses, however (196), that the work of Guilielmus Durantis does provide “an interesting link between the current theories of episcopal authority and the later conciliar doctrines.”.

12. Jedin, , History, I, 9.

13. See Jedin, , History, I, 32ff. Gozzadini is an exception to this generalization for he combined conciliar theory with a fervent appeal for sweeping reforms. See above, note 3.

14. Thus Almain and Major—see Oakley, , “Conciliar Theory on the Eve of the Reformation,” 688–90.

15. See Jedin, , History I, 108–09.

16. Hefele-Leclereq, VIII1, 299. The bull is printed in Baronius, C., Raynaldus, O. and Laderchius, J., Annales ecclesiastici. 37 vols. (Paris, 18641883), XXX, ann. 1511, Nos. 9–15; see especially No. 11.

17. de Vio Cardinalis Cajetanus, Thomas, De comparatione auctoritatis papae et concilii, ch.16, No. 237, ed. Pollet, V. M. (Rome, 1936), 110.

18. Printed in Doussinague, José M., Fernando el Catόlico y el cisma de Pisa (Madrid, 1946), App. 50, 539. For a discussion of the memoranda see also Minnich, “Concepts of Reform,” 212–22.

19. “Libellus ad Leonem X,” in Mittarelli, J. B. and Costadoni, A., eds., Annales Comaldulenses. 9 vols. (Venice, 17551773), XI, 708.

20. For the oligarchic tradition in general, see Sägmüller, J. B., Die Thӓtiakeit und Stellung der Cardinӓle (Freiburg im Br., 1896), 170ff., 215ff.; Tierney, , Foundations, 68ff., 180ff., 220ff. For a recent contribution critical of the interpretations sponsored by Sägmüller and Tierney, see Watt, John A., “The Constitutional Law of the College of Cardinals: Hostiensis to Joannes Andreae,” Mediaeval Studies, XXXIII (1971), 127–57.

21. Tierney, , Foundations, 184.

22. Though John of Paris, at the beginning of the fourteenth century, came very close to the final synthesis—see Tierney, Foundations. 157–78. In the case of d'Ailly, it would be fair to say, the adoption of these oligarchic views seems to have been less a function of his conciliarism than an outcome of his elevation to the cardinalate—see Oakley, , Political Thought of Pierre 'Ailly, 251.

23. See especially Almain, , Tract. de auth. eccl., Dupin, II, 1O11C-D: see Ibid., 996C, and Oakley, , “Conciliar Theory on the Eve of the Reformation,” especially 686ff.

24. Compare de Torquemada, Juan, Summa de ecclesia (Rome. 1489), Bk. I, chs. 80–81 (no foliation) with d'Ailly, , Tract. de eccl. pot., Dupin. II, 929ff. For a succinct account of the constitutional struggle, see Jedin, , History, I, ch. 4, 76ff.

25. Jedin, , History, I, 90.

26. For an elaboration of this line of argument by a member of the Pisan camp. see Philippus Decius, Consilium … de auctoritate papae et concilii. in Goldast, Melchior, Monarchia. 3 vols. (Frankfurt, 16111614), II, 1667–76 esp. 1673ff. And by a supporter of the Lateran Council, see Domenico Jacobazzi, De Concilio. esp. Bk. III and Bk. VII. Printed in Mansi, , Sacrorum conciliorum, “Introductio” (Paris, 1903). See especially pp. 112–118 and 286f., where he questions the applicability of the emergency doctrine to the Pisan assembly. For his career, see Klotzner, , Kardinal Domenilcus Jacobazri, 1954.

27. Pastor, , History of the Popes, VIII, 400.

28. Thus Vernet, F. in Dictionnaire de théologie catholique, VIII,2 s.v. “Latran (Ve concile oecumenique de)” makes only passing reference to it (col. 2672), and neither Jedin nor Minnich mentions it at all.

29. These are the words which occur in the documents. See Baronius-Raynaldus, , Annales, XXXI, ann. 1516, Nos. 1–4 (citing Paris ed Grassis, ); also Hefele, C. J.-Hergenröther, J., Conoiliengeschichte. 9 vols. (Freiburg im Br., 18551890), VIII, App. H. and J., 845–53, where two documents, one emanating from the bishops and one from the cardinals, are printed. These documents are not included in Hefele-Leclercq, , Hisipire des Conciles, though the affair is discussed (VIII 1, 517–24).

30. Baronius-Raynaldus, , Annales, XXXI, ann. 1516, No. 1.

31. Hergenröther, , Conciliengeschichte, VIII, App. H, 845–6; Baronius-Raynaldus, , Annales, XXXI, ann. 1516, Nos. 2–3.

32. Hergenröther, , Conciliengeschichte, VIII, App. J, 845–53.

33. Ibid., 848–49.

34. Ibid., 847, 849, 850, 951 and 853. The concluding sentence of the memorandum (853) reads “Ad quod dignoscendum persuasum habeant ipsarum rationum inventores, hocipsum sodalitium eisdem ipsis rationibus a suo clero in singulorum diocesibus postulari, et quod ipsi responderent, habeant pro responso.”

35. Ibid., 852–53.

36. Döllinger, J. J., Kleinere Schriften, ed. Reusch, F. H. (Stuttgart 1890), 419, describes it as Leo X's “italienisches Taschenkonzil, das sogenannte fünfte lateranische…”

37. Pastor, , History of the Popes, VIII, 400402.

38. See “Supplicatio pro parte et nomine omnium religiosorum,” in Hergenröther, Conciliengeschichte, VIII, App. D, 817–18.

39. “Responsiones Fratrum Reverendissmis Episcopis at Praelatis,” Ibid., App. E, 824.

40. Ibid., 824.

41. Ibid., 824–25.

42. Jedin, , History, I, 137.

43. That is, episcopal, not sacerdotal collegiality, for the central argument in the analysis of the cardinals depended for its force on the assumption that the bishops would not entertain the possibility of applying the same principle to the clergy for their own dioceses.

44. And often has been pointed out, for example, by Maurenbrecher, Wilhelm, Gesehichte des Katholischen Reformation (Nördlingen, 1880). 107; Pastor, , History of the Popes, VI, 412; Hefele-Leclercq, , Histoire des Conciles, VIII 1, 356.

45. In Mansi, XXXII, 967.

46. Jedin, , History, I, 133.

47. See Oakley, “Conciles Theory on the Eve of the Reformation.”

48. As, for instance, in the case of the Cardinals Carvajal and Sanseverino who were reconciled with Leo in 1513. For the short declaration which was read at the seventh session of the council, see Mansi, XXXII, 814–15; for the longer statement to which they subscribed at the consistory held on 27 June 1517, see Baronius-Raynaldus, , Annales, XXXI, ann. 1513, n. 47 (Translation in Hefele-Leclercq, , Histoire des Cocnciles, VIII 1, 406408).

49. He limited himself to denouncing the error that traced its lineage back to the evil days of the Great Schism when nobody knew for certain who was the true successor of Peter—namely, that of trying to subject the pope to the council. Oratio … fratri Thomas de Vio Cajetani, Mansi, XXXII, 719–27, esp. 724E-726A. Minnich has drawn attention to the fact that Mansi omits (at 726B) one section of Cajetan's speech—see “Concepts of Reform,” 177–78 and Appendix 3, 239–41, where he prints the missing section.

50. De comp., ch. 8, esp. Nos. 98–104; ed. Pollet, 54ff.

51. De comp., ch. 16, esp. Nos. 229–231; ed. Pollet, 107–8; see the discussion in Brosse, , Le Pape et le Concile, 168ff.

52. He explicitly rejects this last view, even though he involves himself thereby in an intricate and implausible attempt to avoid admitting that the pope's authority is in some way inferior to that of the council—see De comp., chs. 20–22, ed. Pollet, 125ff.; see Oakley, “Conciliar Theory on the Eve of the Reformation,” 675ff.

53. And if this majority was by no means radical in its views it was radical enough to approve the decree Haec sancta. For a discussion of Torquemada and of the differences between radical and moderate conciliarists, see de Vooght, “Le Conciliarisme aux conciles de Constance et de Bâle,” esp. 179. See also his recent book cited below, note 61.

54. Printed in Mittarelli, and Costadoni, , Annales Camaldulenses, IX, 599611. For the right of the cardinals, indeed of “any of the faithful”, to assemble a council when a pope suspect of heresy refuses to do so, see especially 8–9, pp. 600–603; see § 25, p. 607. See also 40, pp. 610–11, where he argues that the Council of Constance held its authority immediately from Christ since there was at the time no pope whose title to office was everywhere recognized to be legitimate.

55. “Auctoritas pontificis sit supra concilium,” Ibid., 25, p. 606; similarily 23, p. 606: “Concilium Generale superius non est pontifice Romano auctoritate, immo inferius.’

56. De Vooght, “Le conciliarisme aux conciles de Constance et de Bâle,” 175.

57. Mansi, XXXII, 967–68: “Nec illud nos movere debet, quod sanctio ipsa, et in ea coutenta, in Basileensi concilio edita, et ipso concilio instante, a Bituracensi congregatione receptata et acceptata fuerunt, cum ea omnia post translationem ejusdem Basileensis concilii, per felicis memoriae Eugenium papam quartum, etiam praedecessorem nostrum faetam, a Basileensi conciliabulo, seu potius conventicula, quae praesertim post hujusmodi translationem concilium amplius appellari non merebatur, facta extiterint, ac propterea nullum robur habere potuerint: cum etiam solum Romanum pontificem pro tempore existentem, tanquam auctoritatem super omnia concura habentem, tam conciliorum indicendorum, transferendorum, ac dissolvendorum plenum jus et potestatem habere, nedum ex sacrae scripturae testimonio, dictis sanctorum patrum, ac aliorum Romanorum pontificum etiam praedecessorum nostrorum, sacrorumque canonum decretis, sed propria etiam eorumdem conciliorum confessione manifeste constet. …” (Italics mine).

58. See Doussinague, Fernando el Catόlico, App. 50, 539. But note that even Ferdinand did not think the pope's superiority to the council to extend to the case of the heretical pope or to the case of the pope whose title to office was in doubt: “… proporneys ante Su Santidad en el conçilio que aquellos dos decretos se revoquen expressamente y se haga nuevo decreto quo declare que el Papa es sobre el concilio excepto en el caso de la eregia como dize el canon Si Papa XL dis. y en el caso que dos o tres son elegidos en çisma por Sumos Pontifices que solo en estos dog casos el Conçilio pueda conosçer y sea juez de la causa del Papa y no en mas.” (Italics mine)

59. It did so on June 26, 1434—see Mansi, XXIX, 91; see Hefele-Leclercq, , Histoire des Conciles, VII 2, 849–54; de Vooght, , “Le Conciliarisme aux conciles de Constance et Bâle,” 168ff.

60. Mansi, XXIX, 78f.; Hefele-Leclercq, Ibid., 841ff; de Vooght, Ibid., 166ff.

61. See Tavard, George H., Holy Writ or Holy Church: The Crisis of the Protestant Reformation (New York, 1959), especially pp. 113209; Jedin, , History, II, 5298.

62. This conclusion is not irrelevant to the current debate in Roman Catholic circles about the doctrinal status of Haeo sancta which Paul de Vooght touched off in 1960 with his claim that the decree was approved by Martin V and recognized by Eugenius IV— see his “Le Conciliarisme aux conciles de Constance et de BâJe,” and the refinement and further elaboration of the case in his Les pouvoirs du Concile et l 'autorité du Pape au Concile de Constance (Paris, 1965).Gill, J., “The Fifth Session of the Council of Constance,” Heythrop Journal, V (1964), 131–43, commenting that “[The] principle of superiority of council over pope, forgotten and denied in the intervening centuries, is being revived,” has dissented sharply from de Vooght's position. Hans, Küng, Structures of the Church, trans. Attanasio, S. (New York, 1964), 268ff., endorses do Vooght 's view, notes that the Fifth Lateran Council did not abrogate Haec sancta and argues for the continuing validity of that decree. Hubert Jedin seeks middle ground between de Vooght and Küng on the one hand, and traditionalists like Gill on the other, in his Bischöfliches, Konzil oder Kirchenparlament? Ein Beitrag zur Ekklesiologie der Konzilien von Konstanz und Basel. 2d. ed. (Basel u. Stuttgart, 1965). And Brian Tierney attempts to carve out a position mediating between Jedin and Kӓng in his “Hermeneutics and History: The Problem of Hoeo Sancta,” in Sandquist, T. A. and Powicke, M. R., eds., Essays in Medieval History for Presentation to Bertie Wilkinson (Toronto, 1969), 354–70. The literature on the issue is now becoming quite extensive, but particular reference may be made to the contributions of Franzen, Zimmermann, Bäumer, Hürten and Riedlinger in Franzen, A. and Mӓller, W., Das Konzil von Konstans: Beiträge zu seiner Geschwhte und Theologie (Freiburg, 1964), and to Pichler, J., Die Verbindlichkeit der Konstanzer Dekrete (Vienna, 1967). In two recent summary statements most of this literature is analyzed, criticized or commented upon—see Oakley, Francis, Council over Pope? Towards a Provisional Ecclesiology (New York, 1969), pp. 105–41, and de Vooght, Paul, “Les controverses sur les pouvoirs du concile et 1 'autorité du pape au Concile de Constance,” Revue Théologique de Louvain, I (1970), 4575. An historical dispute, but clearly one with extremely important theological implications.

63. Defensio Declarationis Conventus Cleri Gallicani de ecclesiastica potestate, Bk. IV, ch.18, in Oeuvres Complètes de Bossuet. 12 vols. (Paris, 1836), IX, 312–13. For a typically strained attempt to circumvent Bossuet's arguments, see Vernet, F. in Dictionnaire de théologie catholique, V111 2, s.v. “Latran (Ve Concile oecumenique de)”, 2679–80.

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