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Article I.—THE COUNCIL OF CONSTANCE AND THE COUNCIL OF THE VATICAN.
Conciliengeschichte. Nach den Quellen bearbeitet von Dr. Carl Joseph Hefele, O. 6 Professor an der Universitat Tubingen. Siebenter Band. I. Abth. Gescbichte des Concils von Constanz. Freiburg im Breisgau: 1869.
The Centenary of St. Peter and the General Council: A Pastoral Lettei to the Clergy, dec. By Henby Edward, Archbishop of Westminster. London: Longmans, Green & Co., 1867.
The Council of Constance, which was in session during the interval between the years 1414 and 1418, was the most brilliant and imposing of the ecclesiastical assemblies of the middle ages. If the number of bishops present was not so large as at some of the other great synods of the Church, this difference was more than made up by the multitude of inferior
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clergy, of doctors and of jurists, and by the unexampled array of sovereigns and nobles. Pope and Emperor were both present, each with a numerous and dazzling retinue of officers and attendants. It has been pronounced the first example of a congress of princes in modern times, since there was hardly a kingdom or principality of the catholic world, however smslt or remote, that was not represented by princes or other deputies. A throng of not less than fifty thousand people, drawn by official obligation, curiosity, the lore of gain or of pleasure, flowed into the city of Constance, to witness the doings of the Council. It has been truly said that a detailed description of the scenes that took place within and without the assembly, would afford a complete as well as vivid picture of the life and manners of the time. The occasion that called the Council together was of the gravest character. The abuses in the administration of the Church had grown to be unbearable. In Bohemia there was a formidable religions movement that threatened to result in the establishment of a new and powerful sect. Above all, the long schism which the Council of Pisa had unsuccessfully tried to terminate, demanded an instant and effectual remedy, if Christendom and the Catholic Church were to be saved from permanent division. It is to the proceedings of this Synod, that the new instalment of Hefele'8 copious work on the History of Councils is devoted.
Hefele is one of the most learned and justly esteemed of the Catholic theologians north of the Alps. His work is one to which a Protestant, to be sure, must often take exception ; yet, generally speaking, it is characterized by a spirit of fairness, and it is not probable that it contains any intentional perversion of facts or sophistry in argument. Hefele is frequently called a liberal Catholic; aud so he is, in comparison with the Curialists or extreme nltramontanist party. On the particular question whether the Pope is, by himself and independently of the concurrence of a Council, infallible in matters of faith and morals, we do not find that, in the work before us, he distinctly avows his opinion. But he is far from being a Gallican, in the sense of the old Paris theologians, who exerted a commanding influence in the Reforming Councils of Pisa, Constance, and Basle, or in the sense of Hossuct, who followed
in their track. In fact, he describes his own position as being a middle one, between the Gallicans on the one hand and the Cnrialists on the other. The Pope is neither above nor under the Council, but is the head of the Church; his relation being analogous to that of the head to the members of the human body. A Council without the Pope is incomplete. It is not an oecumenical Council. His assent to the dogmatic decrees of such an assembly is requisite, to give them infallible authority. Yet Hefele holds, as indeed does Bellarmine, that a Council might depose a Pope for heresy, inasmuch as a heretio is ipso facto disqualified from holding an ecclesiastical office, high or low.* But in such a proceeding the Council does not act as an oecumenical assembly. Being cut off from the Pope, it cannot act in this capacity. We have the singular doctrine, then, that an assembly of bishops, which is incompetent, without the Pope's assent, to issue infallible definitions of doctrine, is still competent to put the Pope on trial for heresy, convict him, and degrade him from his office. Hefele shows his conservatism, also, in maintaining that a Pope cannot be deposed by a Council for personal misconduct. He may be a very bad man, but he cannot, for this reason, be deprived of his office. John XXIIL, Hefele expressly says, could not have been lawfully deposed for his crimes. It was only heresy on his part that could authorize such a proceeding. The doubtful validity of his election is brought in, as another sufficient cause for removing him from his station. How far this theory is from that of the Constance theologians and of hosts of able and good Catholics in past ages, we need not stop to point out.
In his History, Hefele is evidently biased by the theory as to the relation of the Pope to the Council, to which we have just adverted. He supports by feeble arguments the often refuted assertion that the Bishops of Rome convoked and presided over the eorly oecumenical Councils, including that of Nicsea. The proposition that the Roman Bishop convoked the Council of Nicaea, rests on no proof that has any weight, and is contrary to all the evidence and probabilities in the case. It was Constantine who endeavored to quell the disturbance raised by Arius at Alexandria. It was through his friend Hosius, the Spanish Bishop whom he held in so high esteem, that he sent his letter which was designed to pacify the contending parties. Not a syllable do we hear from the contemporary historians and witnesses, of any connection of the Roman Bishop with these preliminary events. Constantine, in all his letters and missives that relate to the Council, says nothing about the Pope. The assertion that Hosius acted for the Pope and presided in his name, is not only a pure conjecture, but is virtually contradicted by Eusebins, who speaks of the Roman presbyters as acting for the Roman Prelate, and although Hosius is named in the same sentence, no such representative character is ascribed to him. That Hosius signs the decrees of the synod first, is owing to the circumstance that he was a " world-renowned" man, as Eusebius says of him ; to his personal relations to the Emperor; and to the probable fact that he was one of the presidents; not as standing in the Pope's place, but through his own merits. It was he and Eusebius of Csesarea, as Stanley justly thinks, who sat, one on each side of the Emperor, when that august personage took his place in the midst of the Council. The two Roman presbyters signed after Hosius—we assume that the authorities which report the signatures in this order, are correct,—out of respect to the Roman Bishop, to whom a primacy of dignity would probably have been conceded, had he been present; although, even in this case, it is not certain that the name of Hosius would not have been first inscribed. Now that the psendo-Isidorian misconceptions and misrepresentations respecting the powers conceded to the Roman Bishops in the first centuries, have been so long exploded, is it too much to hope that Roman Catholic writers will cease to strain historical evidence for the sake of establishing an indefensible position? The sole authority which Hefele cites for the pretended presidency of the Roman Prelate at Nicaea, is Gelasius of Cyzicus, who wrote towards the end of the fourth century—an utterly worthless witness, a mauvais compUateur, as Dupin calls him. Gelasius interpolates in a quotation from Eusebius the statement that the Pope presided by representatives. But his whole narrative of the Council swarms with errors. He even gives an account of discussions on the doctrine of the Holy Ghost, although, as is well known, the subject was not touched at the Council. One may see how desperate the case is, when a scholar, like Hefele, finding nothing in Eusebius or Socrates or Athanasius, to afford any aid to his position, falls back on Gelasius!
* Bellarmine, as will be explained hereafter, dues not admit, for himself, that a Pope will ever be left to fall from the faith.
The two topics of most interest which are brought forward in Hefele's recent volume on the proceedings at Constance, are the decrees of the 4th and 5th sessions, affirming the subordination of Pope to Council, and the trial and execution of Huss. Hefele dissents, of course, from the view of the extreme Curialists, who deny the oecumenicity of the Constance Council altogether. It requires, indeed, some hardihood even in them to take such ground, in the face of the distinct declaration of Martin V., in the bull against the Hussites. But Hefele allows an oecumenical character only to those acts of the Council which were done ofter the election of tho Pope and with his approval (the 41st to 45th sessions, inclusive), together with such other previous acts and decrees as were ratified by him. All the ingenuity of the Papal theologians has been exerted in the effort to show that the famous doctrines of the 4th and 5th sessions never had Papal sanction. The decrees which had been agreed upon in the meetings of the nations, were to be read in the general session (the 4th) by Zabarella, Cardinal of Florence, the anti-Gallican spokesman. But it was found that in his hands they had undergone an alteration. One of the changes was that in the 1st Article which declared the obligation of all, the Pope included, to obey the Council, the words,—"Reformation in head and members"—one of the points in regard to which the obligation to submit to the Council was affirmed—were left out. This, Hefele states, was by an arrangement between Sigismund and the Cardinals. Then the intelligence came that the Pope had fled again, leaving Schaffhausen. The Council now insisted upon the passage of the Articles as originally conceived, and as approved by the nations, and this took place at the 5th general session, at which Zabarella and seven other cardinals were present. They made no protest, and the Articles were passed in due form. We