Why Does the Pope Convene Ecumenical Councils?


#1

I have a question that’s been nagging at me for some time. As most people know, the first ecumenical Council at Nicea in 325 was convened by emperor Constantine the Great. In modern times, ecumenical councils of the Catholic Church are convened by the Pope. How did this transition occur? Why does the Pope now have this authority when it originally rested with an emperor? Can anyone recommend any good resources for understanding this?


#2

Hi Dauphin,

Emperors never had the authority to convene a council. Emperors have been active in religious matters because controversy threatened public peace. All valid ecumenical councils were approved by the Pope, and it is difficult to conceive that Constantine did not consult the Pope. Don’t forget that this is almost 2000 years ago. It was not just a question of buying an airplane ticket. Travelling long distances was dangerous and the emperor had to insure the safety of the travellers. So the pope and the civil authorities had to work together.

Verbum


#3

An Ecumenical Councils decisions must always be confirmed by the Pope, even if the Council was not called by him. A Council that is not confirmed by the Pope carries no weight or authority. Remember that it took a while to separate the Church from the State. I believe that even today this carries over to the Church of England. The Queen or King is the head of the Church. another example might be China where the State wants control of the Church.

Ecumenical Councils are called to address issues in the Church or how the Chruch interfaces with the world. That separation today is clearly maintained.


#4

I consider the Council at Jerusalem mentioned in Acts 15 to be the first ecumenical Council. An emperor was not involved at all in that one.


#5

What’s very interesting (to me at least) is that at the Lutheran college I attend, we were discussing the council at Nicea in theology class. The pope was never mentioned. Ever. Only Constantine. I didn’t even realize this until I saw this post.


#6

The Canons and decisions of the Council of Nicea had to be approved by the pope for them to become authoritative. This approval did not come right away either.


#7

My question is why does the pope even call a council when he could make the proclamation on his own without a council? It seems that councils add nothing to the situation.


#8

Because a Pope speaking Ex cathedra is exrtaordinary. An Ecumenical Council is an Ordinary exercise of the churches authority.


#9

Moreover, it can help resolve disputes between sections of the Church who might go into schism if they didn’t get a say. Even if it would have been exactly the same if a Pope had issued it. This was a way that eastern and western unity was fostered for quite a long time. (This isnt the reason for them, just an extra positive aspect of a council, the ordinary exercise vs. the extraordinary exercise of a pope speaking ex cathedra is the reason I have always heard).


#10

Hi Jimmy,

The pope does not pick doctrine out of thin air. His decisions reflect the mind of the Church. And how best to know the mind of the Church than through a council?

Verbum


#11

That has nothing to do with what I asked. I did not ask if the pope just pulls doctrines out of thin air. I asked why does the pope call a council to declare a statement that he could have declared on his own.

Because a Pope speaking Ex cathedra is exrtaordinary. An Ecumenical Council is an Ordinary exercise of the churches authority.

What does that distinction mean? How does it affect the situation? Why is one extraordinary and one ordinary? The extraordinary must be used it seems to declare the council to be ecumenical. Why couldn’t the pope just make a call on the matter? It is the same Spirit working in both instances. It is the pope who makes a council authoritative, regardless of the other bishops. The council seems superfluous, pointless.

Moreover, it can help resolve disputes between sections of the Church who might go into schism if they didn’t get a say. Even if it would have been exactly the same if a Pope had issued it. This was a way that eastern and western unity was fostered for quite a long time.

What does their say matter? The only person who has a say is the pope. He is the visible principle of unity(obviously the main principle of unity is God). He is infallible, he has universal jurisdiction.


#12

The Pope does not operate in a vacuum. He does consult other Bishops before making decisions, so instead of doing this a few at a time. Why not gather the Church together and discuss the matter? Going back to the Keys. They were given to Peter alone and then given to the other apostles gathered with Peter.


#13

So are you saying it is like the president of the US calling a meeting with his cabinet? Is it just advice that they bring to the table?

This doesn’t make sense to me because it seems that it is only the pope that binds while the others simply give their thoughts and opinions on the matter. But as you quoted, in Matt18 all the apostles recieved the authority to bind and to loose.


#14

Yes, when gathered with Peter.


#15

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