Councils not accepted by the Church can later be accepted?

As late as the 11th century, only seven councils were recognised as ecumenical in the Roman Catholic Church. Then, in the time of Pope Gregory VII quoted the prohibition in canon 22 of the Council of Constantinople of 869–870 against laymen influencing the appointment of prelates elevated this council to the rank of ecumenical council. Only in the 16th century was recognition as ecumenical granted by Catholic scholars to the Councils of the Lateran, of Lyon and those that followed.

This explains why the Eastern Orthodox only accept seven Councils. I always wondered why it wasn’t eight with the Fourth Council of Constantinople in the ninth century? I didn’t realize the Church could accept Councils it rejected centuries later. It actually kind of is questionable to me unfortunately; as if the Church can just use a document to justify itself and then accept a previously rejected Council in spite of it.

Does this mean the Church could technically stop accepting a Council as well?

I don’t know if the Church “rejected” those earlier councils held after the 7. For over 1000 years there were only 8 identified Doctors of the Church, I suppose people thought there only could be those 8.

I’m sure some people were suspicious when the Church “added” 27 books to the Bible, finalized about 3 centuries after the time of Christ.

Some things, like the Real Presence, are only formally defined, classified, or canonized until much later, when there is a challenge or other reason.

It’s an academic point in those cases where the Pope directly presided and promulgated the acts of the Council for the whole Church. The question in those cases was whether the number of bishops participating was sufficient for it to be ecumenical. There’s no bright line rule as to any specific number or percentage. This is why the papal approbation is important–it makes up for whatever may be lacking from the rest of the episcopal college.

Others, which did not have such direct action by the Pope, often took time to gain universal application or reception by the Apostolic See.

Likewise, disciplinary rules passed by councils are not themselves irreformable and some went in and out of effect.

This potential for the ambiguous scope of authority of Councils is all the more reason that the Church must have a fixed, permanent, reference point–that is, the Apostolic See.

The EOs for example, are in disagreement among themselves as to how many ecumenical Councils there are, some going as high as 10. In general, the authority of various essentially pan-Orthodox Councils are in dispute, ranging from them being ecumenical to authoritative to being repudiated in modern times (e.g. Council in Trullo (692); Council of Constantinople (879–880) ; Council of Constantinople (1341–1351); Council of Jassy (1642) ; Council of Jerusalem (1672); Council of Constantinople (1872), Council of Crete (2016), etc.)

It’s not that the Church rejected the decrees of those councils. The question is whether they were properly called ecumenical councils.

If your position is that only the undivided Church can hold a proper ecumenical council, then there can’t have been one since the schism, and that leaves us with seven. (I think the Orthodox, or some of them, also have something about the lack of a Roman Emperor or equivalent meaning there’s no one who can call a worldwide council, but I am unclear on the details of that. Orthodox brethren, can you help?)

If you position is that those bishops in union with Rome can still hold an ecumenical council even if most of the East is currently separated and we don’t really need to care about the opinions of the Protestants, then you can have a bunch more (currently fourteen on top of the original seven), as we Catholics have done.

This topic was automatically closed 14 days after the last reply. New replies are no longer allowed.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.