The Reformation, the Enlightenment, and the French Revolution led to the end of the ancient Western monarchical and feudal system. The Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen (1789) is a document of fundamental importance from that period. It sets forth universal, fundamental, inalienable, human rights. Strange, though, such a document served as impulse to the Reign of Terror. Image links to the Yale Law School translation.
Events in Western Christendom, beginning on 31 October 1517, led to widespread revolt against and abandonment of the Roman Catholic Church. Finally in 1545, Pope Paul III was able to convoke a council in Trent (A.D. 1545-63) in order to form a definitive response to the assertions of the Protestants and to effect a general reform of the Church. The Council of Trent is regarded as ecumenical by the Holy See and the initiation of the Counter-Reformation. Image above links to Buckley translation of the Council’s canons and decrees. ISBN recommendation: 0-87840-490-2
The life and acts of St. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuits and towering Catholic spiritual leader during the outbreak of the Reformation. His autobiography was recorded by Fr. Louis Gonzalez, S.J., from the lips of the saint himself during the period of 1553-55. Image links to J. F. X. O’Conor, S.J., edition. ISBN recommendation: 0-14-043385-6
Summoned by Pope Julius II in opposition to a quasi-council assembled in Pisa under the support and protection of King Louis XII of France and the Emperor Maximilian, the general council, Lateran V (A.D. 1512-17), succeeded in quashing the Pisan assembly and attaining the revocation and annulment of the Pragmatic Sanction of Bourges. Image above links to Tanner translation of the decrees. ISBN recommendation: 0-87840-490-2
The Council of Constance called for frequent and regular holding of general councils as a pre-eminent means of cultivating the Lord’s vineyard. Under this principle, the Council of Basel first assembled (A.D. 1431). However, neither Pope Martin V nor Eugene IV demonstrated a strict observance of the Council of Constance’s dictates in regard to the holding of councils. Further, in its struggle to extinguish the Western Schism, the Council of Constance had declared that even the Pope was subject to the authority of a general council. Such a statement is no doubt true when it is unclear whom the true Pope is but otherwise seems a contradiction of Boniface VIII’s Bull Unam Sanctam and of Tradition. Thus, at Basel, a struggle soon ensued between those who espoused conciliar primacy and those who maintained papal predominance. In order to accommodate the participation of the Greeks, Eugene IV ordered the Council be transferred to Ferrara. Nevertheless, apparently, the two thirds majority assent needed (as per the Council of Constance) for such a transfer to take place was not attained. Hence, those opposed to the Pope remained at Basel and those loyal removed to Ferrara. At Ferrara and later at Florence, discussions and negotiations with the Greeks finally led to a decree of union between the Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox Churches. Subsequently in Florence and later in Rome, decrees of union with the Armenian and Coptic Churches and with the Bosnians, Syrians, Chaldeans, and Maronites of Cypress were approved. Nonetheless, the decrees of union bore little fruit and were generally not embraced by the clergy and peoples of the various non-Latin communities involved. Those who remained in Basel went on to elect an antipope but were later reconciled to Rome during the pontificate of Nicholas V in 1449. Image above links to Tanner translation of the Council’s decrees. ISBN recommendation: 0-87840-490-2
The Council of Constance (A.D. 1414-18) was assembled for the eradication of the Western Schism, elimination of errors and heresies, and reform of the Church. During the Council, articles of John Wyclif and John Hus were condemned and it was decreed John Hus be relinquished to secular court for judgment. Also, Martin V (Oddone Colonna) was unanimously elected Pope – thus ending the schism. Image above links to Tanner translation of the Council decrees. ISBN recommendation: 0-87840-490-2
The Crusades began in 1095 with the call, by the Church of Rome, to the use of force in aid of the eastern Christians against the Turks and to recapture those lands and Churches of the eastern Empire under Muslim control. By 1231, use of deadly force against heretics within Christendom was monitored and allowed by the Holy See. By 1307, when King Philip IV of France seized the Knights Templar of his realm and commanded they be rigorously examined by the Inquisitors, use of force (torture) to obtain information was considered legitimate and expedient in Renaissance Europe. Under pressure of King Philip, Pope Clement V approved a general inquisitorial investigation of the Order of Templars. In the French realm, a large group of Templars, who recanted their forced confessions, were burned alive. The issue of the Knights Templar was the primary concern of the Council of Vienne (A.D. 1311-12). After much deliberation among the bishops but with no final decision, a papal bull suppressing the Order of Templars was, at length, delivered to the Council for approval. The bull was approved and the immense wealth of the Order redistributed. At a sentencing following the Council, the Grand Master of the Order, Jacques de Molay, and one of his associates abjured their coerced confessions. They were thus ordered by King Philip to be burned at the stake. It is said that Jacques de Molay, in the midst of the flames, summoned both Philip and Clement to appear, in the course of the year, before the Tribunal of GOD. Philip and Clement both died soon thereafter. Image above links to Tanner translation of the Council decrees. ISBN recommendation: 0-87840-490-2. See also Appendix I, Memory and Reconciliation, for a reflection upon historic grave violations of charity by representatives of the Catholic community.