The Council of Constance was held during the great Schism of the West, with the object of ending the divisions in the Church. It became legitimate only when Gregory XI had formally convoked it. Owing to this circumstance it succeeded in putting an end to the schism by the election of Pope Martin V, which the Council of Pisa (1403) had failed to accomplish on account of its illegality. The rightful pope confirmed the former decrees of the synod against Wyclif and Hus. This council is thus ecumenical only in its last sessions (42-45 inclusive) and with respect to the decrees of earlier sessions approved by Martin V.Preview This Lesson
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As we have seen, in some Medieval Councils the role of the delegates had been reduced to merely assenting to the Pope’s decisions. The Pope may have discussed different alternatives with smaller groups or there may have been some debates on larger issues but the delegates were not making decisions without the Pope’s guidance. The furthest extreme was at the Council of Vienne, where the delegates had been ordered not to debate the suppression of the Templar Order on pain of excommunication. All of this was about to change. Two days before the Council of Constance began, a memorandum was sent to the anti-pope John XXIII asking that the participants be allowed to debate and vote during outside meetings. The participants were divided into four groups or “nations” — Italian, German, French and English. This was the division in many European universities among the students. The groups were not set strictly according to the person’s native land. The Germans included the Russians, Turks and Scandinavians and Poles while the English included not only the Irish but also all “people from places beyond the sea.” Each nation had their own meeting place and their own president, counsellors and notaries. The voting was by nation so that the individual votes within a nation were not counted — the entire nation only had one vote towards any proposal. This policy stopped the French and Italians (who had the largest contingents at the Council) from outvoting the rest of the delegates due to their numerical superiority. Obviously this method of debating and voting took longer than simply approving prearranged decrees of the Pope and so it proved — the Council of Constance was the longest Council so far.
This Council was radically different in other ways also. This was a Council that tried to promote its own authority. Fortunately, Pope Gregory XII’s dignified resignation upheld, at least in part, the authority of the papacy. He had not been forced to resign like John XXIII or refused to resign like Benedict XIII. Both anti-popes paid for their stubbornness — John XXIII was imprisoned while Benedict XIII was excommunicated (on July 26, 1417). In contrast, Pope Gregory XII started the Council on July 4, 1415, to ensure its legitimacy and then resigned. Yet the prestige of the papacy had suffered and there were those who asked if an ecumenical Council should have the supreme authority in the Church, even over t... Please purchase this lesson to continue learning.
Councils #16: Constance Council, 1415 to 1418 is part of the following course(s):