Purgatory... part 4...the councils... florence and lateran v

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Part 4 examines the ecumenical councils of Florence and Lateran V and their contribution, or lack thereof, to codifying Purgatory as dogma in the Catholic Church.

Part 4 examines the ecumenical councils of Florence and Lateran V and their contribution, or lack thereof, to codifying Purgatory as dogma in the Catholic Church.

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  • 1. Purgatory
    Edward J. Hahnenberg, BA, MA, MA, Ed.S.
  • 2. Part 4 -The Councils: Florence & Lateran V
    Often quoted as an authoritative declaration on the dogma of Purgatory is the Council of Florence. The declaration on Purgatory was almost an after-thought considering the mess the papacy had gone through, and was still going through. Actually the Council of Florence was part of a quad-council endeavor known as Basel-Ferrara-Florence-Rome (1431-1445), which came on the heels of the Great Western Schism (1378-1417).
     
    The Great Western Schism does not refer to the split between the eastern (Greek) and western (Latin) churches, but to a period of almost forty years in the western church when two, and then three, popes claimed to be the true successor to Peter and the real bishop of Rome. Driven by politics rather than any real theological disagreement, the schism was ended by the Council of Florence (1414-1418).
     
  • 3. Conciliarism & the Papacy
    What emerged from Constance was a view held by some conciliarists who believed the highest authority in the church was ultimately a general council, and that a church council could supercede the authority of the Pope, whether he attended or not. The view was still around during Basel-Ferrara-Florence-Rome, and this partly accounts for Pope Eugene IV’s movement from Basel, where conciliarists continued to meet, to Ferrara and then to Florence which the Orthodox representatives favored. Although the Pope had convened the council in Basel, once he decided to move the council to Ferrara, he declared that those remaining in Basel had no authority and were a group of agitators. He then excommunicated the hold-outs at Basel, but they continued to meet until 1449. The Orthodox were promised all-expenses-paid travel to Florence. Several issues were brought up in Florence beside the filioque issue and the use of unleavened bread in the Eucharist.
    One issue of interest was discussion on whether souls in Purgatory were burned by fire. Matters were settled by compromises, which, in the long run, did not last. For example, the Orthodox and pope agreed that some souls burned in Purgatory, while others did not. In any case, the Pope had other things than Purgatory on his mind, especially rapprochement with the Orthodox ... and all this with conciliarism still holding significant influence in the “rump council” which continued in Basil.
     
  • 4. Purgatory as dogma in the Catholic Church…
    In Session 6, on July 6, 1439, the following statement was accepted in the Council of Florence:
     
    If truly penitent people die in the love of God before they have made satisfaction for acts and omissions by worthy fruits of repentance, their souls are cleansed after death by cleansing pains; and the suffrages of the living faithful avail them in giving relief from such pains, that is, sacrifices of masses, prayers, almsgiving and other acts of devotion which have been customarily performed by some of the faithful for others of the faithful in accordance with the church's ordinances.
     
    Also, the souls of those who have incurred no stain of sin whatsoever after baptism, as well as souls who after incurring the stain of sin have been cleansed whether in their bodies or outside their bodies, as was stated above, are straightaway received into heaven and clearly behold the triune God as he is, yet one person more perfectly than another according to the difference of their merits
  • 5. Purgatory continues as dogma to this day…
    An ecumenical council had pronounced, not only on the existence of Purgatory, but on the belief that Sacrifices of Masses, prayers, almsgiving, and other acts of devotion remedied the souls in Purgatory ... a belief and practice still held today in the Catholic Church.
     
  • 6. Lateran V (1512-1517): Opportunity Missed 
    Who could imagine today the kind of papacy the dawn of the sixteenth century would see? Giuliano Della Rovere was born in 1443. He was the nephew of Pope Sixtus IV, becoming a Franciscan as his uncle had before.
    On December 15, 1471, the same year his uncle became pope, he was created a cardinal-priest and was given several benefices. Giuliano was a patron of the arts, and spent much of his wealth in the erection of magnificent palaces and fortresses. Still his early private life was far from exemplary, in that before he became Pope Julius II in 1503 he fathered three daughters. He had his enemies, having led papal armies into battle and having a distaste for the influential Borgia family. His opportunity to follow in his uncle’s footsteps came in 1503, but his bid was rejected by his fellow cardinals who chose a sickly and aged Francesco Piccolomini as Pius III. The new pope died twenty-six days later, and the ambitious cardinal made inviting promises and bribed his fellow cardinals which paid off in his election as Julius II at the end of the year.
     
  • 7. Conciliarism still an issue…
     
    However, some dissatisfied cardinals, with political support from the French royalty, called their own council at Pisa in 1511, suspending Julius II. He was not intimidated, however, and called his own council which came to be known as Lateran V, calling the Pisa attendees “schismatics and heretics.”
    The agenda for Lateran V concerned the issue of conciliarism again, with the papal assertion that general councils must meet and act only under papal approval. Other items discussed were reforms involving simony, concubinage, and lay control of church money and property. An interesting innovation concerned the forbidding of the publishing of pamphlets and books without the permission of diocesan bishop ... this involved excommunication. The appeal for another Crusade against the Turks met with no enthusiasm, and the situation in Europe relegated such a venture to oblivion.
  • 8. Julius dies during council
    During the Council, Julius II died in 1513, and his successor, 38-year old Leo X, continued Lateran V.
     
    In Session 11, 1516, the payment of money as a tithe was apparently a custom in some churches as part of sacramental Penance. Absolution could be withheld if payment was not made. The following paragraph was addressed to friars:
     
    Friars may not bless a bride and bridegroom without the consent of those in charge of the parish. In order to render to the mother church the honor due to her, friars and secular clerics may not ring the bells of their churches on Holy Saturday before those of the cathedral or mother church have been rung, even if they are supported on this point by a privilege of the apostolic see. Those acting otherwise incur a penalty of one hundred ducats. They are to publish and observe in the churches of their own houses the censures which are imposed promulgated and solemnly published by the ordinaries in the mother churches of cities as well as in the collegiate and parish churches of castles and towns, when they are asked to do this by the same ordinaries. To provide more fruitfully for the salvation of the souls of Christ's faithful of both sexes, they are obliged to advise and encourage those whose confessions they have heard for a time, no matter of what standing or status they may be, that they are bound in conscience to pay tithes, or a portion of their goods or produce, in those places where such tithes or dues are customarily paid; and they are obliged to refuse absolution to those who will not pay them. They are bound, moreover, to include this in their public preaching and exhortations to the people when they are asked to do so.
  • 9. Leo X
    Leo was a Medici, and is reported to have said after his election: “Let us enjoy the papacy since God has given it to us.” And enjoy it he did. He loved music, dance, the theater, games, and spending money. It is not surprising that the large amount of money left by Julius II was entirely spent in two years. In the spring of 1515 Leo was broke. He created new offices and dignities, and sold Church property. Indulgences were degraded almost entirely into financial transactions, yet without avail, as the treasury was ruined. In all, Leo spent about four and a half million ducats during his pontificate and left a debt amounting to 400,000 ducats. On his unexpected death in 1521 his creditors faced financial ruin. A lampoon proclaimed that "Leo X had consumed three pontificates; the treasure of Julius II, the revenues of his own reign, and those of his successor."
  • 10. Coming… “the drunken German”
    Leo was basically oblivious to the fomenting dissatisfaction of a certain German theologian, Martin Luther, once calling him “that drunken German.” However, the “drunken German” was about to shake the Western church to its core. Lateran V could have addressed the abuses of indulgence selling; however, considering the turmoil the Catholic church had been through involving conciliarism and the papal primacy, indulgences were at the bottom of the list of concerns. What came to be high on the list, despite Leo X’s squandering of the money Julius II had accumulated for the purpose of its rebuilding, was the completion of the largest Catholic church in the world, St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. Who would have known that northern Europe was about to break away from the Church in the Protestant Reformation, due in part to the way in which funds were gathered for the project ...