The Great Western Schism


What are we to make of the Great Western Schism? Does the Council of Constance which , judged the popes, deposed some and appointed others, prove that the Council is superior to the Pope?

Thanks in advance and God bless.


You will need to be more specific than that.

The council did not do what you claim, and no it is not ‘superior to the Pope’.

Thanks for the response. I meant does the Great Western Schism affect Papal claims in any negative way?

What was the purpose of the Council, and didn’t it give rise to Conciliarism?

  • No, not if you agree with the primacy of Peter.
  • Additionally, it should be noted that the line of Peter’s successors is unbroken and has not chosen schism.

Folks might point to one minor event along the way, but it’s essentially unbroken.

Lastly, if others choose to leave, the pope cannot force them to stay.

The second century writings of Irenaeus of Lyon are clear on the Bishop of Rome.

I think people have misunderstood what was meant by the “Great Western Schism.” There was a split in the western Church from 1378 to 1417 during which three different men claimed to be the legitimate Pope at the same time (there were more than three men total; there were three “lines” claiming legitimacy. I believe it was resolved *during *a council.

The Council did not depose a Pope, though. There was only one legitimate Pope at any time : Urban VI to Boniface IX to Innocent VII to Gregory XII. Antipope John XXIII agreed to retract his claim. Antipope Benedict XIII refused to retract his claim and was excommunicated. With his authority recognized, and in order to ensure unity in the church, Gregory XII agreed to resign and have a new Pope elected. The validity of this is not from the council, though, but from the Pope’s authority and decision to resign. The council could not legitimately declare him resigned unless he agreed to it.

I’m not an expert on this topic, but I hope that helped.


…I think that you misunderstand the issue…

If you claim the right to a piece of land while three other people claim the same right to the same piece of land, how could one of you determine who has the legitimate right to the land?

…there has to be the involvement of a third (perhaps even fourth or fifth) party:

“Many members of the new assembly (comparatively few bishops, but many doctors of theology and of canon and civil law, procurators of bishops, deputies of universities, cathedral chapters, provosts, etc., agents and representatives of princes, etc.) strongly favored the voluntary abdication of all three popes, as did King Sigismund.”]Many members of the new assembly (comparatively few bishops, but many doctors of theology and of canon and civil law, procurators of bishops, deputies of universities, cathedral chapters, provosts, etc., agents and representatives of princes, etc.) strongly favored the voluntary abdication of all three popes, as did King Sigismund. (


The claims will be introduced, and the various documentations and relevant witness/transactions must be studied.

The schism could not have been settled by simple reliance on the claim offered by the various individuals… a Council had to be established.

…yet, the church is not a political body–the members of the Council do not rule through the legitimately elected/appointed Pope (I suspect that is what you are intimating or that the Council has the authority to remove and appoint “Popes” at it sees fit).

Maran atha!


Even today we have people who claim to be head of the Catholic Church and claim the title Pope: David Allen Bawden, who takes the name Pope Michael, is an American citizen and a conclavist claimant to the papacy. He stated in 2009 that he had approximately 30 “solid” followers.
Bawden was elected by a group of six laypeople, which included himself and his parents, who had come to believe that the Catholic Church had seceded from the Catholic faith since Vatican II, and that there had been no legitimate popes elected since the death of Pope Pius XII in 1958

How do we know who is pope? Look to the church for the authentic Bishop of Rome.

There is a break in the papacy when a pope dies. We wait for a new one to be elected. But there can only be one bishop of Rome. There can be none. But there cannot be two.

A break does not end the authority of God’s Church nor end the Church’s continuity.

Hi, Evan!

…yeah, them there years when communication moved at the speed of horseback-couriers and the flag-ship would transverse ports in mere months it was easy to set up claims against Church and state… not so much with today’s instant news platforms… of course, this does not mean that jokers wont try! :banghead::banghead::banghead:

Maran atha!


That’s something else which has me confused. If the Papacy is essential to the Church, wouldn’t a break in it be akin to someone losing their head i.e. fatal? Yet the Church operates fine without a pope for seemingly the same reason the Eastern Orthodox Church does without the Papacy. I’m not saying popes need to be immortal, but in order for the Papacy to be truly perpetual, shouldn’t popes consecrate their own successors before their deaths? Moreover, how is it that those of lesser rank elect someone to a higher office? Priests don’t ordain bishops, and laity don’t ordain priests.

The Pope is a point of unity for the Christian Church. He is appointed to the office by the Church of Rome (Cardinals are men who’ve been appointed to official positions within the Diocese of Rome). Anyway, as for the Pope being above other bishops… he is and he isn’t, I think. He exercises canonical authority, is the final authority in judging disputes between Churches, stands for unified Christendom, and exercises special charisms (infallibility when speaking ex cathedra), but his appointment is not a new sacrament. All Bishops share in the same fullness of Holy Orders, the Pope no more than them. It’s by virtue of being the Bishop of Rome, of that Apostolic See, that gives him the authority he has.




…that practice still exists in the world… it is called despotism and dynasty…

The whole premise is that Bishops unite to form a council, and that they seek out candidates, and that choose the one who is to represent the Church… a Pope is not a dictator so he is not* in *to rule through eternity.

Further, how would one person come together to represent the whole Church? Isn’t it more reasonable that the school of Bishops gathers in prayer when choosing, from amongst their rank, the next successor of Peter?

…as for the Church operating in “business as usual,” consider that the Pope does not sign checks nor makes Dogmatic pronouncements on a tip of a hat–what is truly inspiring is that the Church holds her breath when the Pope dies… and joyfully recovers when it is announced: “Habemus Papam!”

Maran atha!


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