Which is greater Popes or Councils?

Which has greater authority, the Papacy or the Ecuminical Council?

I would ASSUME the Papacy since the Pope does not have to answer to any earthly authority.

This is a good document from Vatican I which covers this topic.
ewtn.com/faith/teachings/papae1.htm

Here’s just one quote:

And so they stray from the genuine path of truth who maintain that it is lawful to appeal from the judgments of the Roman pontiffs to an ecumenical council as if this were an authority superior to the Roman Pontiff.

Within Roman Catholicism, definitely the Papacy.

It has been this way since the crushing of the Council of Basle.

Outside of the Roman Catholic church (in the other Apostolic Christian churches), it is a Church Council that has the final authority since the beginning.

Michael

It’s a fallacy to place the two against each other. Both are organs of the Infallible Magisterium through which speaks the Holy Spirit.

A True Eccumnenical Council and the Pope speak from the exact same source, the Holy Spirit.

Can a Pope override the dogmas of Trent, for example? No, of course not. The Holy Spirit would prevent such an error.

Could a Council revoke the dogma of the Immaculate Conception? No, it could not.

A Council has no true authority over disciplines though.

Yes, this is all true. Basically one cannot look to a previous council and say “Pope, you cannot change this rule because it’s contrary to this or that council” because A) He’s the authentic interpreter of the Truth and B)He’s the authentic legislator of disciplines.

That is because the Pope is the sucessor to St. Peter. Even the Patriarch of Constantinople cannot trace his succession to the Prince of the Apostles.

Dear Brendan,

You are the first Latin Catholic I have read express this notion. It is something I have believed in since I became Catholic (well, perhaps a little before then). This viewpoint is a perfect reflection of the Apostolic Canon 34. The head bishop is an indispensable member of the body of bishops that comprise a council. It is insensible to claim that an Ecumenical Council is above the Pope as the Pope is an indispensable member of the Ecumenical Council as a head is to its body. And neither is it wholly proper for a Pope to consider himself above an Ecumenical Council, as if he can dispense with the body without disrupting the unity for which he is responsible.

I think Catholics and non-Catholic polemicists alike fail to properly interpret the Vatican I decree that states no recourse can be had to an ecumenical Council from the decree of the Pope. Both camps, for drastically different purposes, believe the decree indicates that the Pope is above the Ecumenical Council. What both fail to consider is the much too often neglected mitigating clause “as to an authority above the Pontiff.” No recourse to an Ecumenical Council is approved only in that instance where one believes the Council is above the Pope (which is the Gallican heresy). In truth, the decree is intended to stress nothing more nor less than that the Pope, as head of the college, cannot be excluded from such deliberations or judgments on his person or about any other topic relevant to the entire Church. As such, it is eminently true that a council cannot judge a Pope or his decrees, if one considers the council apart from or above the Pope. As with all deliberations of great import for the Church, the head of the college must be involved. He will have a say, and I daresay, the primary say (according to the Apostolic canon), in all such deliberations of the Council of which he is the indispensable member as its head.

Blessings,
Marduk

8. Since the Roman Pontiff, by the divine right of the apostolic primacy, governs the whole Church, we likewise teach and declare that he is the supreme judge of the faithful [52], and that in all cases which fall under ecclesiastical jurisdiction recourse may be had to his judgment [53]. The sentence of the Apostolic See (than which there is no higher authority) is not subject to revision by anyone, nor may anyone lawfully pass judgment thereupon [54]. And so they stray from the genuine path of truth who maintain that it is lawful to appeal from the judgments of the Roman pontiffs to an ecumenical council as if this were an authority superior to the Roman Pontiff.

Now obviously an ecumenical council is not superior to the Roman Pontiff. Maybe the question is: Is the Roman Pontiff superior to an ecumenical council?

The Pope is the highest authority because even ecumenical councils cannot be binding without his approval.

So in a sense, an ecumenical council has the same authority as the pope since it is a pope promulgating it. I think it would be illogical to say that Pope + bishops of the world has less authority than just the Pope. I think the fact that there are or are not bishops involved is irrelevant to the authority of a Pope.

I’d assume yes since he has the right to call or end one or to set aside or condemn one (of course that’s one that hasn’t been ratified by a previous Pope.)

It’s a fallacy to place the two against each other

I think this quote is true but that doesn’t mean that people don’t try to do this. We see it all of the time on this forum. It’s never in the context of the Popes that reigned over a specific council but in the context of a later Pope and an earlier council.

Just to add another thought. It is wrong to appeal to a future council above the judgment of the pope because the current pope is the highest authority there is and therefore there is no higher power to appeal to. It is absurd to ask for him to call a council as if the council could somehow compel him to change his judgment.

Dear brother bear (sounds pretty cheeky:D )

I do not see how the Pope can be above an Ecumenical Council. I mean, if you are saying that the Pope is above an Ecumenical Council as if he can dispense with it, then I strongly disagree. I will admit that the Pope can act WITHOUT an Ecumenical Council (though I would reject that a Pope can canonically, realistically or even ideally act in a non-collegial manner), but once an Ecumenical Council is called, I do not see how one can consider that he is above it. He is its preeminent member, and he may even have veto power, but he is not above it. I guess as an Oriental Catholic, I automatically think in terms of one organic body with a head.

I do not think the fact that he can call or end one is evidence that he is above an Ecumenical Council. Your example is only an administrative consideration. The objective authority of an Ecumenical Council does not come from the Pope alone, but from the collegial aspect of the Council - a body with the Pope as its head.

From a canonical or dogmatic perspective, can you provide any explicit statements from the Church that supports your assumption?

There’s more to say, but I want to see how and where the thread develops first.

Blessings,
Marduk

I think the same thing is being said by both of you, but in different ways. The Pope is “above” an Ecumenical Council in that he calls it, presides over it, can dissolve it, and for a decree to be passed it must have his approval. A great example of this is when St. Leo the Great vetoed the canon from the Council of Chalcedon dealing with the authority of the Bishop of Constantinople or when Pope Martin V decided not to promlgate one of the decrees from the Council of Constance passed when the Chair of Peter was vacant.

Of course, as you point out, he is truly part of the council as the head of it. It makes no sense to treat them as separate entities when they are one and the same.

Maybe this will help:
newadvent.org/cathen/04423f.htm

The relations between the pope and general councils must be exactly defined to arrive at a just conception of the functions of councils in the Church, of their rights and duties, and of their authority. The traditional phrase, “the council represents the Church”, associated with the modern notion of representative assemblies, is apt to lead to a serious misconception of the bishops’ function in general synods. The nation’s deputies receive their power from their electors and are bound to protect and promote their electors’ interests; in the modern democratic State they are directly created by, and out of, the people’s own power. The bishops in council, on the contrary, hold no power, no commission, or delegation, from the people. All their powers, orders, jurisdiction, and membership in the council, come to them from above – directly from the pope, ultimately from God. What the episcopate in council does represent is the Divinely instituted magisterium, the teaching and governing power of the Church; the interests it defends are those of the depositum fidei, of the revealed rules of faith and morals, i.e. the interests of God.

The council is, then, the assessor of the supreme teacher and judge sitting on the Chair of Peter by Divine appointment; its operation is essentially co-operation – the common action of the members with their head – and therefore necessarily rises or falls in value, according to the measure of its connection with the pope. A council in opposition to the pope is not representative of the whole Church, for it neither represents the pope who opposes it, nor the absent bishops, who cannot act beyond the limits of their dioceses except through the pope. A council not only acting independently of the Vicar of Christ, but sitting in judgment over him, is unthinkable in the constitution of the Church; in fact, such assemblies have only taken place in times of great constitutional disturbances, when either there was no pope or the rightful pope was indistinguishable from antipopes. In such abnormal times the safety of the Church becomes the supreme law, and the first duty of the abandoned flock is to find a new shepherd, under whose direction the existing evils may be remedied.

BTW, it’s sister bear. Bear was my dog. Just picked it because it was easy to remember.

As Genesis stated, we’re probably on the same page.

Exactly. Excellent post. This is a wonderful, completely cogent and crystal clear post. Thank you.

Dear all,

I agree with everything that has been said so far, except this part of the text provided by SISTER bear:

All their powers, orders, jurisdiction, and membership in the council, come to them from above – directly from the pope, ultimately from God.

Where is this text from? It certainly does not accurately reflect what the Vatican Council (I and II) stated. The powers, orders and membership of the bishops do NOT “directly come from the Pope, ultimately from God,” but from God DIRECTLY. And neither is their jurisdiction the sole prerogative of the Pope, but is rather a mixture of ecclesiastical tradition, decrees by Ecumenical Councils, and papal approval (see Lumen Gentium 3.24).

As an Eastern prelate once wrote (I forget his name, forgive me), we are still waiting for a full implementation of the decrees of Vatican II with respect to the Eastern/Oriental Churches.

IMHO, until ideas such as this - that the bishops are merely appendages of the Pope who completely depend on him for their very existence - are corrected, reunion with the rest of our Eastern and Oriental brethren (i.e., the Orthodox) will certainly not come about. Ideas such as this also serve to push current Eastern/Oriental Catholic members into the Orthodox Church. I joined the Catholic Church only a little over a year ago from Coptic Orthodoxy, because I realize that the ideal of the first millenium Church exists (at least on paper) within the Catholic Church (of which union with the See of Rome is essential), and am willing to wait for its full implementation. But some/many are not willing to wait.

Blessings,
Marduk

I agree. As it stands, the Popes, historically has always acted “above” an Ecumenical Council. Pope Eugene, Pope Martin’s successor, dissolved the Council of Basle in 1431 after he suspected it, with some reason of harboring conciliarist tendencies and when the latter council refused, the Pope called his own councils (Ferrara and Florence) the latter which effected a temporary reconciliation with the Eastern Churches. This Council, without using the term infallibility declared

“We define, that the holy Apostolic See and the Roman Pontiff have the primacy over the whole world, and that the same Roman Pontiff is the successor of St. Peter, the Prince of the Apostles, and the true vicar of Christ, the head of the whole Church, the father and teacher of all the Christians; and that to him, in the person of St. Peter, was given by our Lord Jesus Christ the full power of feeding, ruling and governing the whole Church, as is also contained in the proceedings of the ecumenical councils and in the sacred canons.”

The terms “teacher of all Christians” and the fact that it declares the Pontiff as having received full power from Christ (and not from a Council) is essentially what Papal Supremacy and Infallibility is all about.

Where is this text from? It certainly does not accurately reflect what the Vatican Council (I and II) stated. The powers, orders and membership of the bishops do NOT “directly come from the Pope, ultimately from God,” but from God DIRECTLY. And neither is their jurisdiction the sole prerogative of the Pope, but is rather a mixture of ecclesiastical tradition, decrees by Ecumenical Councils, and papal approval (see Lumen Gentium 3.24).

My friend you are disagreeing with the 1913 (I believe) Catholic Encyclopedia. I provided the link above.

Dear RobedWithLight and Genesis315,

I am very uncomfortable with the use of the word “above”, even in quotes. Any example you can cite does not depend on the authority of the Pope alone - it also depends on the agreement of the other bishops. Without that agreement, the Pope’s credibility is quashed, and even if his statement is objectively correct or true, it still needs the concurrence of the rest of the bishops for it to have any effect as the unitive force it is meant to be.

Let me clarify to avoid misunderstanding (or perhaps possibly stir the pot a bit more):

I agree and believe that:

  1. the prerogatives of the Pope are not dependent on a council or any other part of the Church. They are obtained directly by divine appointment.
  2. the status of an ex cathedra decree of the Pope AS DE FIDE is not dependent on the consensus of a council or the Church.
  3. the Pope cannot be judged by a Council as if the Council can be considered as a separate entity from the Pope, as a body without its head.

I also believe that:

  1. the prerogatives of every bishop are not dependent on the Pope. They are obtained directly by divine appointment.
  2. the power of the papacy as the unifying principle of the Church does not depend on his authority alone. It also depends on the agreement of his brother bishops.
  3. the Pope is subservient to Sacred Tradition. In the context of a Council, of which he is an indispensable member as its head, he can confer with his brother bishops to correct himself if necessary in light of Sacred Tradition.
  4. the Pope CANnot act in a non-collegial manner in anything that will affect the entire Church.

Can you please inform me if there is/are any part(s) of my belief which does not agree with the Sacred Deposit of Faith of the Catholic Church?

Blessings,
Marduk

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