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Home Catholichs, the Pope and the apostacy CRITICAL ANALISYS OF THE CATHOLIC COUNCILS


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The Catholic church is the oldest of all the Christian churches. It is their claim that since Peter was the first Bishop of Rome, which, to them means he was the first head of the church, or, in other words, the first Pope. From this they conclude that all succeeding bishops of Rome are likewise the head of the church. But if we look at the documents which this church has produced, we see a very different story.

Over the centuries, the Catholic church has convened what they refer to as “councils” where bishops gather together to discuss various doctrinal issues of concern with the intent of defining what it is the church believes on these topics. These council meetings can last several months and each time they meet they are referred to as a “session.” When an agreement on all the issues before them has been reached, they put for a document stating the results of their decisions. Each issue is listed by number and is known as a “cannon.” As such, these documents define the official position of the church on the matters discussed. Therefore, let us examine these doctrinal statements and see what it is they believed in the past.

From the first Council of Nicea held from June 19 to July 25, 325 A.D. This meeting was called by the emperor Constantine, not the Pope. If the supreme Pontif (Pontefix Maximus) for the entire church throughout the world was the bishop of Rome why was this council called by the emperor, who was not even a baptized Christian at that time, and probably was NEVER baptized, instead of the bishop of Rome?

Cannon VI of this document reads: “In Egitto, nella Libia e nella Pentapoli siano mantenute le antiche consuetudini per cui il vescovo di Alessandria abbia autorità su tutte queste province; anche al vescovo di Roma infatti è riconosciuta una simile autorità. Ugualmente ad Antiochia e nelle altre province siano conservati alle chiese gli antichi privilegi. Inoltre sia chiaro che, se qualcuno è fatto vescovo senza il consenso del metropolita, questo grande sinodo stabilisce che costui non debba esser vescovo. Qualora poi due o tre, per questioni loro personali, dissentano dal voto ben meditato e conforme alle norme ecclesiastiche degli altri, prevalga l'opinione della maggioranza.”

Translated in English this says, “In Egypt, in Libya, and in Pentapolis the ancient customs are maintained by the bishop of Alexandria who has authority over all the provinces; also it is recognized that the bishop of Rome in fact also has similar authority. This is equally so in Antioch and in the other provinces where they are granted the same privilege. More over, it is evident that if anyone is made bishop without the consent of the metropolitan, this great synod establishes (determines, decrees) that such a one shall not be [recognized as being] a bishop.”

What this tells us first of all is that there was no such position as a “Pope.” The bishop of Rome was just one of many other bishops having equal authority with other large, metropolitan cities such as Alexandria and Antioch. Secondly, it is clearly stated that if someone is ordained as a bishop without the consent of the bishop (i.e., metropolitan) of the main city, this great synod declares that this person’s ordination will not be recognized by the church. This clearly shows that at this time bishops received their ordination, not from Rome as is done today, but from other bishops.

Cannon VII reads: “Del vescovo di Gerusalemme. Poiché è invalsa la consuetudine e l'antica tradizione che il vescovo di Gerusalemme riceva particolare onore, abbia quanto questo onore comporta, salva sempre la dignità propria della metropoli.
This reads “Of the bishop of Jerusalem. Since it is already a habit and an ancient tradition by which the bishop of Jerusalem receives particular honor, let him be granted everything consequent upon this honor so that it may always save (i.e., maintain) the dignity of the office of the metropolitan.”   

This clearly tells us that the bishop of Jerusalem is also to receive a “particular honor”. From these two cannons we learn that the council of Nicea had determined that the bishops (i.e., metropolitans) of Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem had equal authority within the church. It also shows that the bishops of these larger cities had authority over their provinces, indicating they operated independently from one another rather than under the direction or at the decree of Rome. This, therefore, allowed the bishops of Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem to solve the problems of their own provinces without seeking authority from Rome. This is evident from the schism that occurred in 1054 when two bishops excommunicated each other.

The FIRST COUNCIL OF CONSTANTINOPOLIS was held from May 1 to July 381 A.D. and was called by Emperor Teodosio I. It met to discuss the divinity of the Holy Ghost and contained four canons. This council was composed of one hundred and fifty bishops.

At the conclusion of the council they wrote a letter which begins: “Lettera dei vescovi radunatia a Costantinopoli a papa Daaso e ai vescovi occidentali. (382) Ai signori illustrissimi e reverendissirni fratelli e colleghi Damaso, Ambrogio, Brittone, Valeriano, Acolio, Anemio, Basilio, e agli altri santi vescovi raccolti nella grande Roma, il santo sinodo dei vescovi che professano la vera fede, riuniti nella grande Costantinopoli, salute nel Signore.”

The states: “A letter from the bishops gathered in Constantinople to Pope Damaso and to the other western bishops. To the illustrious and revered men who are our brothers and colleagues, Damaso, Ambrogio, Brittone, Valeriano, Acolio, Anemio, Basilio, and to the other bishops gathered in the great city of Rome, the holy synod of bishops who are true to the faith and are reunited (i.e., gathered together) in the great city of Constantinople salute you men.”

From this we learn that it was the Emperor Teodosio I who called this meeting, not the bishop of Rome. Second, it also tells us that the bishop of Rome was not even a part of the council meeting. Whereas the bishop of Rome (a man by the name of Damaso) is referred to in this letter as “Pope” (papa), he had no say in the decision of the council. In fact, this letter was sent to advise him what the council had decided, not to ask his concurrence on what they decided.

More importantly, they addressed Damaso as a brother and a colleague. Whereas the Pope might be considered to be a brother in the gospel sense, he is generally not viewed as a “colleague.” Usually, that term is applied to a fellow worker who belong to the same rank or status within an organization rather than someone who holds a superior position of authority. Since today’s Pope holds a much higher status than any bishop, archbishop, or cardinal, it is inappropriate and somewhat disrespectful to refer to him as a “colleague.” The fact that this letter from the 150 bishops at Constantinople refers to Pope Damaso as a colleague indicates they considered his authority similar to their own. That also seems to indicate that the term “pope” had a different meaning in 382 A.D. than it does today.

In this letter they also informed the bishops gathered at Rome, “abbiamo ordinato vescovo il reverendissimo e amabilissimo in Dio Nettario…. consacrarono vescovo, canonicamente, il reverendissimo e da Dio amatissimo Flaviano, con l'approvazione di tutta la chiesa”

This reads, “We have ordained as bishop the revered and most loved of God, Nettario, (and) consecrated, canonically, as bishop the revered and loved of God, Flaviano, with the approval of the whole church.”

Again we see that men were ordained as bishops without first having to obtain the consent or knowledge of the bishop of Rome.

They then wrote, “Vi informiamo, inoltre, che il reverendissimo e carissimo a Dio Cirillo è vescovo della madre di tutte le chiese, la chiesa di Gerusalemme. A suo tempo egli è stato consacrato, conforme alle norme ecclesiastiche, dai vescovi della provincia, e spesso, in diverse circostanze, ha lottato strenuamente contro gli Ariani.”

This reads, “We inform you that the dearest Cirillo and beloved of God is bishop of the MOTHER OF ALL CHURCHES (madre di tutte le chiese), the church of Jerusalem. At a suitable time he was consecrated and confirmed by ecclesiastical authority as bishop of the province and often, in various circumstances, he has strenuously contended against Arius [the heretic].”

Here, the church at Jerusalem is identified as “the mother of all church” not Rome and again we see that a man was ordained to be a bishop without the consent or knowledge of Rome.

Regarding the canons of this council, the second one declares: “Del buon ordinamento delle diocesi, e dei privilegi dovuti alle grandi città dell'Egitto, di Antiochia, di Costantinopoli; e del non dover un vescovo metter piede nella chiesa di un altro.”

This reads, “Of the good ordering of the dioceses and the privileges given to the great cities of Egypt, Antioch, Constantinople; those who are not a bishop must NOT interfere (mettle) IN THE CHURCH OF ONE ANOTHER.”

What this says is that the bishop of Alexandria has the right to preside over the provinces of Egypt, and the bishops of Asia should preside over the provinces of Asia but they do not have the right to interfere or have authority over each other’s provinces. In other words, their authority is confined to their own provinces. 

From the Council of Calcedonia dated 8 October to 1 November, 451 A.D.
Papa Leone Magno (440-461). (Pope Leo)
Convocato dall'Imperatore Marciano. (Convocation called by Emperor Marcian

Cannon XIV. Chi appartiene all'ordine sacerdotale non può unirsi in matrimonio con eretici.

This reads “Whoever belongs to the priesthood cannot be married to heretics.” What that tells us is that priests  could be married except to those who were considered by the church to be heretics.

Cannon XXVIII. Voto sui Privilegi della sede di Costantinopoli.

This heading reads “The vote on the privileges of center of Constantinople”

It says: “Seguendo in tutto le disposizioni dei santi padri, preso atto del canone [III] or ora letto, dei 150 vescovi cari a Dio, che sotto Teodosio il Grande, di pia memoria, allora imperatore si riunirono nella città imperiale di Costantinopoli, nuova Roma, stabiliamo anche noi e decretiamo le stesse cose riguardo ai privilegi della stessa santissima chiesa di Costantinopoli, nuova Roma. Giustamente i padri concessero privilegi alla sede dell'antica Roma, perché la città era città imperiale. Per lo stesso motivo i 150 vescovi diletti da Dio concessero alla sede della santissima nuova Roma, onorata di avere l'imperatore e il senato, e che gode di privilegi uguali a quelli dell'antica città imperiale di Roma, eguali privilegi anche nel campo ecclesiastico e che fosse seconda dopo di quella. Di conseguenza, i soli metropoliti delle diocesi del Ponto, dell'Asia, della Tracia, ed inoltre i vescovi delle parti di queste diocesi poste in territorio barbaro saranno consacrati dalla sacratissima sede della santissima chiesa di Costantinopoli.”

In essence what this says is that the 150 most devout bishops approved of making Constantinople the new city of Rome second in authority in the church only to the ancient city of Rome. It further decrees that this New Rome will have the same privileges in the church that the ancient city of Rome had and also it is declared that Rome had those privileges because “Giustamente i padri concessero privilegi alla sede dell'antica Roma, perché la città era città imperiale” meaning,  “Rightly the fathers gave this privileges to Rome because it was an imperial city!” So the claim that Rome has always been the head of the church because Peter was its first bishop has been shown to be untrue by a document from the very church that makes this claim! Rome was granted the privilege of being first in importance not because Peter was its first bishop but because it was an IMPERIAL city. We know this is true because it is voted upon, agreed to by 150 Bishops and so stated in the official proclamation of this council!

Cannon XXX Gli Egizi sono senza colpa Per non aver sottoscritto la lettera di Leone vescovo di Roma.

It reads “The Egyptians are without fault for not accepting the letter from Leo the Bishop of Rome” Notice that Leo is referred to as “the Bishop of Rome” and not as “the Pope” or “the most Holy See.”

It should also be noted that until 787 A.D. all the councils were called for by the ruling emperor, not the bishops and certainly not by the bishop of Rome. In fact, the last emperor who called a council was a woman! This clearly shows who was truly in charge of managing the church. As we look at the dates and circumstances of the following councils this is what we find:

The second Council of Costantinople, the 8th  session, dated 5 maggio al 2 giugno 553.
Papa Vigilio (537-555). (Pope Vigilio)
Convocato dall'Imperatore Giustiniano I. (translation: Convened by emperor Giustiniano I)

Third Council of Costantinopoli, dated 7 November 680 to 16 September 681.
Papi: Agatone (678-681) e Leone II (682-683). (Popes Agatone and Leone II)
Convocato dall'Imperatore Costantino IV.  (Convocation called by emperor Constantine IV)

Second Council of Nicea, dated 24 September to 23 October 787.
Papa Adriano I (772-795). (Pope Adrian I)
Convocato dall'Imperatrice Irene. (Convocation called by the Emperor Irene)

Fourth Council of Costantinople, dated 5 October 869 to 28 February 870 A.D. This is the first council that was not called by an emperor and it is interesting to note that not one of these council meetings were held in Rome.

The First Council of Lateranense, dated 18 al 27 marzo (6 aprile?) 1123 is interesting because in Cannon 3 it declares “Proibiamo nel modo più assoluto ai sacerdoti, diaconi, suddiaconi di vivere con le concubine o con le mogli e di coabitare con donne diverse da quelle con cui il concilio di Nicea [can. 3] (2) ha permesso di vivere soltanto per ragioni di necessità, cioè: la madre, la sorella, la zia paterna o materna, o altre simili, sulle quali onestamente non possa sorgere alcun sospetto (3).”

This reads “It is not allowed (prohibited, forbidden) for the priests (deacons) to live with concubines or wives which the Council of Nicea forbids, as expressed in Cannon #3. They have permission to live only with, for reasons of necessity, their mother, sister, aunts or other similar women who honestly do not posse any suspicion (of immorality).” It seems clear that in the past priests were allowed to have some kind of relationship with wives or concubines of other people, otherwise there would have been no reason to have a council of bishops discuss the matter and vote on it. 

The Fourth Council of Lateranense dated 30 November 1215
Papa Innocenzo III (1198-1216) (Pope Innocence III)
Cannon V. Rinnovando gli antichi privilegi delle sedi patriarcali, decretiamo, con l'approvazione del santo e universale concilio, che, dopo la chiesa Romana, la quale per volontà del Signore ha il primato della potestà ordinaria su tutte le altre chiese, come madre e maestra di tutti i fedeli cristiani, la chiesa di Costantinopoli abbia il primo posto, l'Alessandrina il secondo, quella di Antiochia il terzo, quella di Gerusalemme il quarto, ciascuna col proprio rango; così che, dopo che i loro prelati hanno ricevuto dal Romano pontefice il pallio, simbolo della pienezza della loro dignità pontificale, possano lecitamente dare a loro volta, quando sia stato prestato loro il giuramento di fedeltà e di obbedienza, il pallio ai loro suffraganei, ricevendo per sé la professione canonica, e per la chiesa Romana la promessa di obbedienza.”

This says, “Renewing the ancient privileges of the patriarchal centers, we decree, with the approval of the holy and universal council, which through the disposition of our Lord, that, after the church of Rome, which has primacy (supremacy) over all other churches, like the mother and master of all faithful Christians, the church of Constantinople has the first position, Alexandria is second, those of Antioch is third, those of Jerusalem is fourth, each maintaining its own rank, and after the prelates have received from the Roman pontiff the pallium, the symbol of the fullness of the dignity of the office of the pontificate, they can lawfully give their time when they have given their guarantee (i.e., oath) of fidelity and obedience, the pallium can be given to the suffragans when they receive it by a canonical profession and by the church at Rome, their promise of obedience.”

Here we have a big change. As we have already seen, the church at Rome was first in importance, with the church at Constantinople being the second most import in authority.   (Think about this. The city of Constantinople was built 400 years after Christ and yet it is in second place just because it was an imperial city) Alexandria was in third place, Antioch was in fourth place, and Jerusalem, the mother of the all churches, was in last place!!!!! And all of them now must give honor to the church at Rome. If you go to the first council held in Nicea you will see that the order is completely different. Back then, the churches of Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria and Jerusalem were all equal. By 1215, however, all of these churches have come UNDER the authority of the pope.

Cannon LIII “Di chi dà a coltivare ad altri le proprie terre per frodare le decime.”    This reads: “There are those who cultivate the land (i.e. property) to swindle or cheat paying their tenth.” “Le decime” means “one tenth” which is what the word “tithing” means. Therefore at this point in time, it is clear that the Catholic church observed the principle of tithing !!!! In fact, there were a series of rules that governed who was to pay tithing and on what.

A little later on in this same cannon we read: “In alcune regioni convivono popolazioni che, secondo i loro riti, non usano pagare le decime, pur essendo cristiane.” This reads “In some regions there are people that, according to their beliefs, don’t pay tithing even though they profess to be Christian.”

Cannon LIV  Le decime devono esser pagate prima dei tribute.” This reads: “Tithing should be paid before taxes.”

Cannon “LV Nonostante i privilegi, devono esser pagate le decime delle terre che si acquistano”  This reads: “Not withstanding their privileges they must pay their tithing on the land they buy.”

Cannon “LVI  Un parroco non deve perdere le decime a seguito di intese private”   reads, “A priest shouldn’t lose the tithing because of a private interest.”

From the Council of Costanza, dated 5 November 1414 to 22 April 1418. “45 sessioni. Composizione del grande scisma. dimissioni del Papa romano Gregorio XII (1405-1415) il 4 luglio 1415; deposizione del papa del concilio di Pisa Giovanni XXIII (1410-1415) il 29 Maggio 1415; del Papa avignonese Benedetto VIII (1394- 1415) il 26 luglio 1417. Elezione di Martino V l’11 novembre 1415. Condanna di Giovanni Huss. Decreto sulla supremazia nel concilio sul papa e sulla periodicità dei concili.

This tells us that the 45th session was composed of the Pope of Rome (Gregory XII), the Pope of Pisa (Giovanni XXIII), and the Pope of Avignonese (Benedetto VIII). That means there were three different Popes at this meeting!!! Either that or the title of Pope (papa) was commonly used to distinquish other bishops besides the one at Rome and did not have the same significance that it does today.

As we have seen, from the very documents by which the Catholic church defines its beliefs, the bishop of Rome was not always in charge of directing the affairs of the entire Catholic church. Nor was there ever any claim that it should be because of Peter being its first bishop. Instead, its authority came from the fact that it was an imperial city. Likewise, the authority of other bishops was based solely on the economic and political importance of the city they presided over.  The larger the city and the more influence it had on the culture of society, the more authority was given to its bishop. It wasn’t until 1215 A.D. that the bishop of Rome was known as the pontiff and that all other churches and bishops were required to swear an oath of loyalty and obedience to him. What this means is that for the first one thousand years of its existence, the Catholic church had no pope as we know it today.

NOTE: You can read all these documents in their entirety in Italian at

Last Updated on Monday, 17 May 2010 08:04  

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