- The Church in Council. Conciliar Movements, Religious Practice and the Papacy from Nicea to Vatican II
Many will know Norman Tanner, S.J., professor of Church History at the Gregorian University, as the general editor of the bilingual Decrees of the Ecumenical Councils, co-published in 1990 by Sheed and Ward of London and Georgetown University Press. The present volume offers eleven previously published short works by Tanner on the Church's councils, i.e., two short booklets and nine essays. One booklet, Was the Church too Democratic?, published in 2003 in India and now pp. 55-119 of the new publication, gives an informative survey of the councils enriched by nine original reflections. Four of the essays expound conciliar teaching, treating the Eucharist, Mary, ecumenism, and non-Christian religions, while two essays address aspects of early councils, namely the African presence from 325 AD to 553 AD, and the creative forging of a Christian language of doctrine from pre-existing Greek terms. Two essays study the history-reception of Vatican II in English-language works, the first on the council and the second on the images of Popes John XXIII and Paul VI. The essay, "The Book of the Councils," relates the growth of the Catholic canon of twenty-one councils, their inner differentiation, and the publications of their texts from early modern times to the present.
Critically, I question whether Trent's "primary concern" was doctrine (31), because of the equal importance given, at the insistence of Catholic rulers like Charles V, to the reform measures aiming to renew preaching, [End Page 305] the Catholic episcopate, and pastoral care. Also the Creed professed by Pius IX at Vatican I (36) did not come from the preparation of that council, but was the Professio fidei Tridentina issued by Pius IV in 1564.
Tanner's collection repeats several important points, such as the elasticity and potential for accommodation of early conciliar doctrines, both because of the Greek language and the procedural requirement of virtual unanimity—not just a majority—in adopting dogmatic affirmations. He lets a striking text of the Second Constantinople recur (61-62, 73, 117, 132), which expresses the underlying conviction that the light of truth will prevail "when the disputed question is set out by each side in communal discussions," for in such matters, "everyone requires the assistance of his neighbor." Constance testified to the centrality of the councils in 1417, when it prescribed that the Pope-to-be-elected, with whom the Western Schism would end, must solemnly profess the faith taught by the councils up to the time, that is, by the universal "ecumenical" councils of the first millennium and the medieval "general" assemblies at the Lateran, Lyons, and Vienne (cited, 21, 30, 182). In this volume, the last distinction looms large (113-115, 133, 145, 185). It has the backing of Paul VI and stands now in the title of the new edition of conciliar texts, Conciliorum oecumenicorum generaliumque decreta, eds. G. Alberigo, K. Ganzer, & A. Melloni, in the series Corpus Christianorum (Turnholt: Brepols, 2006-).
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