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Trent

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TRENT, Council of. The 19th cecumenical council of the Catholic Church was that of Trent (1545-63). It ranks with Nima, Ephe sus and Chalcedon as one of the greatest of the general councils. Hitherto the Church had been sundered by schism and riven by heresy in the East. Now the West was in revolt. The deposit of faith had been effectively defended against the onslaughts of Arius, Nestorius, Eutyches and Photius. Now Luther and the Protestant reformers had to be met. So the Council of Trent had a twofold purpose: First, clearly to define the teaching of the Church on the issues that Protestantism had raised; sec ondly, effectively to legislate against the abuses that had crept in among the clergy and laity. During the pontificate of Clement VII (1523 34), the Emperor Charles V had frequently urged the advisability of a general council as an effective means of stemming the tide of Prot estantism. This means was purposed by Paul III (1534-49) from the very outset of his reign. The Pope's efforts were again and again frustrated by the bickerings and rivalry that marked the relations between Charles V and Francis I. So the Council of Trent was not opened until 13 Dec. 1545.

1. First Period (1545-47).— The first for mal session of the Council of Trent was at tended by the three papal legates — Cardinals Giovanni del Monte, Marcello Cervini and Reginald Pole-4 archbishops, 22 bishops and 5 generals of religious orders. The right to vote was enjoyed by all of these fathers, though not by the 42 theologians and 9 canonists, who came to the council only as consultors. Paul III was fully aware that political chicanery would prevent many bishops from going to Trent. Yet the prospect of their absence was no hindrance to his determined will to convoke the council. The doctrinal and disciplinary au thority of a general council does not depend on the number of the bishops that attend; but, in the last analysis, is consequent upon the infalli bility and supreme jurisdiction of the Pope.

A very. simple method of procedure was adopted by the council. The cardinal legates

proposed the subjects to be discussed: a con gregation of theologians drew up an elenchus of doctrines to be defined under each subject; com mittees and . particular congregations debated each doctrine at great length; a general congre gation went over the same ground in detail and fixed upon the content and wording of the de cree; finally the council in formal session defini tively voted on the decree. The thoroughness of this mode of procedure accounts for the long time that intervened between the formal ses sions.

The first dogmatic decision of the Council of Trent was given 8 April 1546, in session IV, on Scripture and tradition. It °receives and venerates with equal love and reverence° both Holy Writ and divine tradition ; determines the canon of the Bible; selects the Vulgate as the authoritative Latin version, to the exclusion of all other Latin editions of the Bible then cur rent; and defines the right of the Church to in terpret the inspired Word of God. In session V 17 June 1546, Trent decreed the universality of the fall of the human race in Adam, and other doctrines concerning original sin. Then came the important matter of justification. Sixty-one general congregations, besides many committee meetings and special congregations, were devoted to this doctrinal issue and to the reform measures that were appended thereto. On 13 Jan. 1547, in session VI, the masterful decree was passed. It contains a preface, 16 chapters and 33 canons or condemnations Ses sion VII, 3 March 1547, treated of the sacra ments in general and of baptism and confirma tion. The Smalkald War and an epidemic caused a majority vote of the council, in ses sion VIII, 11 March 1547, to transfer its meet ings from Trent to Bologna. Fourteen bishops remained at Trent ; they were there detained by Charles V. Indeed, the emperor so interfered with the council that it came to no dogmatic de cisions at Bologna, and 13 Sept. 1547 was sus pended by Paul III.

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