The Sins Of Our Forefathers, Part 8.

Councils Of Rome And The Papal States

There were eight councils held in the eastern part of the Roman Empire, which would be considered the Eastern Orthordox Church, only 7 of  which were accepted by the Roman Catholic Church. The word Catholic (in Latin catholicus) meaning universal was first used by Ignatius of Antioch in his letter to the Smyrnaeans in 110 CE. because unification was the goal of these first eight councils. Constantine laid the groundwork for the split when he divided the Empire into east and west, which went beyond politics, but also included the state run church. In 1054 the breakup came and to this day we have the east vs the west in its influence in politics and religion. But the Catholic Church still believes that it is the Universal Church, the mother church to all who came after. So let’s look at a few of the councils of the west.

During the medieval years also known as the “Dark Ages” the church went through its own dark time, as we will see.


Elders were now called priests. An elder was an ordained person who was below an overseer (bishop) but was above a deacon.  Paul writes in Titus 1:5-6 this, “For this reason I left you in Crete, that you would set in order what remains and appoint elders in every city as I directed you, namely, if any man is beyond reproach, the husband of one wife, having children who believe, not accused of indecent behavior or rebellion.”  But as time went on this all changed. The first written mandate requiring elders to be chaste came in AD 304. Canon 33 of the Council of Elvira stated that all bishops, presbyters (priests), and deacons and all other clerics” were to abstain completely from their wives and not to have children. In the First Council of Nicaea, Constantine and the bishops  addressed  the problem of heresies, and argued for a consistent practice of priestly celibacy. This was met with great resistance and contributed to the “ Great Schism.” The practice of priestly celibacy began to spread in the Western Church in the early Middle Ages. In the early 11th Century Pope Benedict VIII responded to the decline in priestly morality by issuing a rule prohibiting the children of priests from inheriting property. Pope Gregory VII attempted to mandate priestly celibacy, but the practice was contested widely by Christians in the Orthodox Eastern Mediterranean world.

The First Council of the Lateran

The First Council of the Lateran was held in the Palace of Lateran in Rome. The church was not as critical about such matters as the earlier Trinitarian and Christological concerns as in the past but the church wanted to rid the secular authorities of interfering with the church, namely the Emperors or Kings. Pope Callixtus II resided over this council. This council was trying to take back its power over the church from the state and one was the discussion of priests marrying. Canon 3 of the council states, “Summary. Priests, deacons, and subdeacons are forbidden to live with women other than such as were permitted by the Nicene Council. Text. We absolutely forbid priests, deacons, and subdeacons to associate with concubines and women, or to live with women other than such as the Nicene Council (Canon 3) for reasons of necessity permitted, namely, the mother, sister, or aunt, or any such person concerning whom no suspicion could arise.” By the Second Council of Lateran in 1139 it was finally compulsory that no clergy could marry, though to this day the Greek Orthadox Priests may marry.  There were a total of four councils at Lateran but at the Fourth Council in 1215 there were several anti-semitic canons which continued the unchristian attitude toward the Jewish people. This council defined the teaching of the Catholic Church on transubstantiation, the doctrine which describes in precise scholastic language the transformation by which the bread and wine offered in the sacrament of the Eucharist becomes the actual blood and body of Christ. We will discuss this in the next episode.

The Papal States

The Papal States also referred to as the Republic of Saint Peter tells us how Constantine had such an influence in church history even more so then the Messiah or even His disciples. When Constantine made the church a state church it was more about power than about Salvation. Beginning in the 8th Century the church went from teaching their doctrine to powerful political leaders. From 756 to 1870 the church was in control of central Italy and even part of France. As early as the 4th Century , the popes had acquired a considerable amount of land around Rome. It was called the Patrimony of St. Peter. In the 5th Century with the separation of the east and west, Pope  Gregory I had even more influence in Central Italy with the Byzantine Empire, and it increased as the people relied on the church for protection against barbarian invaders, like Attila the Hun. Church history is so vast that we cannot discuss all that went on throughout the years, but many popes came and went and many countries got involved and even for a time Rome shared its power with France. There was a period from 1378 to 1417, when there were two  rival popes, each with his own following, his own Sacred College of Cardinals, and his own administrative offices and for a while there were even three popes. I wonder if all three of them were infallible, and took the place of God here on earth?

Avignon Papacy

The Eccumenical Councils kept coming, Council of Lyons I and II, and then the church saw great division. From 1305 to 1378, the popes lived in the Papal Enclave of Avignon, surrounded by Province and under the influence of the French kings. This period was known as the “Avignonese” or “Babylonian Captivity.” During this period the city of Avignon itself was added to the Papal States; it remained a papal possession for some 400 years even after the popes returned to Rome, until it was seized and incorporated into the French state during the French Revolution. Because of the two popes  a council was called in 1409 in Pisa whereby they appointed a third pope who took the name John XXIII. Under pressure from the Emperor Sigismund, John convoked, in 1414, the Council of Constance, which deposed him, received the resignation of the Roman pope, Gregory XII, and dismissed the claims of the Avignon pope, Benedict XIII. That series of events opened the way to the election of Martin V in November 1417, whereby the schism ended. In the 15th Century, popes beginning with Martin V sought to reestablish their control over Central Italy. During his time as pope, Martin V  whose real name was Oddone Colonna, took the opportunity to increase the Colonnas’ power and enriched them with vast estates in papal territory. Martin V was involved in the one hundred year war between France and England. He asserted himself as authority in England, and in the Spanish Kingdom similarly emphasizing the rights of the church against the crown. (1503-13 CE.) Julius II, who was called the warrior pope, expanded the Papal States. Pope Julius actually joined in on many of the war efforts, or should we say, the fight. But by the 16th Century the Papal States were diminished by the Reformation and one thing led to another that even economically the Papal government  was weakened. This leads us to another interesting fact.

 Did the popes play a role in Revelation?

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