The Fifth Lateran Council (1512-1517)
happened in the sixteenth century before another important council, Trent.
However, there is a considerable difference between the two councils as the second
came to answer to an important matter: Protestantism. However, Lateran V also
addressed issues that were very sensitive in the Church.
Before Lateran V, there had been the
Great Schism or the Western Schism (1378-1417) – to avoid confusion with the
East-West Schism in 1054. The Western Schism (also 'Papal Schism')
consisted in a split that occurred in the Catholic Church when two popes, one
in Avignon and another in Rome, claimed both to be the successors of Saint
Peter. The Council of Constance (1414-1417) put an end to the disagreement but
the division among Christian princes and among church leaders had left lasting
marks. Another event had happened: a strong and divisive argument had erupted
in the Church about the role of the Pope compared to that of the General
Council that used to choose him. Some believed that the Council that chooses a
pope is greater than him. It was called Conciliarism. Others however maintained
the view that the Pope came first and his authority was greater than that of the General Council. This gives one a hint about the climate in
the Church before Lateran V.
|Pope Julius II|
When Giuliano della Rovere became
Pope Julius II he promised to his cardinals to convoke a general council.
However, Pope Julius II, being pre-occupied by many other matters, especially
wars, did honour his promise. The Emperor Maximilian and the king of France Louis
XII convoked a council at Pisa in 1511. A small number of cardinals attended
with a few bishops. The Conciliabulum of Pisa, as it is know, decided to
suspend Pope Julius II, as they believed in Conciliarism. The same year,
Pope Julius convoked a council and many cardinals and bishops joined him in
condemning the conclusions of the Conciliabulum of Pisa. Even the Roman
Emperor and the French king ended up rejecting the conclusions of the council
they had convoked. The cardinals and bishops who met at Pisa were condemned as
heretics and schismatics. When Pope Julius II died in 1513, Pope Leo X
succeeded him and the council, which had been interrupted, resumed.
Lateran V condemned many other things
including a 1438 document called Pragmatic Sanction of Bourges which limited
the powers of the pope, especially when it came to the nomination of bishops
and other religious leaders. However, it did not only condemn aspects that
could have been seen as threats to the papacy; it also addressed other issues
that were calling for a reform. It addressed concubinage,
simony, church property issues, blasphemy, etc. It mostly addressed cardinals
and other church authorities’ behaviours. It also required that books were to be given permission by the local bishop before they were printed.
The Fifth Lateran Council came in a time
when people were calling for radical changes. It came after many church leaders
had given up hope on Pope Julius II to convoke a council as he had promised. It
all ended in condemnations that could have been avoided. It intensified a
climate that would in the end result into a big and sad change in the Church: the
Protestant Reformation. Indeed, by the time the year 1517 ended, the same year
during which the Fifth Lateran Council had been concluded, Martin Luther had
started a movement that would not only split the church, but also strengthen
the divisions among Christian nations.
|Pope Leo XII|