Council of Constance

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The Council of Constance is the 15th ecumenical council recognized by the Roman Catholic Church, held from 1414 to 1418. The council ended the Western Schism, by deposing or accepting the resignation of the remaining Papal claimants and electing Pope Martin V.

The Council also condemned and executed Jan Hus and ruled on issues of national sovereignty, the rights of pagans, and just war in response to a conflict between the Kingdom of Poland and the Order of the Teutonic Knights. The Council is important for its relationship to the development of the Councilarism and Papal supremacy.

Contents

Origin and background

The council was called by the German King Sigismund (later Holy Roman Emperor), a supporter of John XXIII, the pope recently elected at Pisa (and later declared an Antipope). The council was held from 16 November 1414 to 22 April 1418, in Constance (currently known as Konstanz). Its main purpose was to end the Papal schism which had resulted from the confusion following both the Avignon Papacy and the Council of Pisa (which had sought to resolve the situation). The Council of Constance marked the high point of the Conciliar movement to reform the Church. According to Joseph McCabe, the council was attended by roughly 29 cardinals, 100 "learned doctors of law and divinity," 134 abbots, and 183 bishops and archbishops.

At the time the council was called, there were three claimants to the Papacy (Benedict XIII, Gregory XII and John XXIII). A few years earlier, in one of the first blows to the Conciliar movement, the bishops at the Council of Pisa had deposed the two claimant popes and elected a third pope, claiming that in such a situation, a council of bishops had greater authority than just one bishop, even if he were the bishop of Rome.

An innovation at the Council was that instead of voting as individuals, the bishops voted in national blocs, explicitly confirming the national pressures that had fueled the schism since 1378.

Decrees and doctrinal status

The famous Haec sancta decree on papal primacy and infallibility was promulgated in the fifth session, 6 April 1415. Its declaration that

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