An Inconvenient Conciliar Truth - Part 03
Some folks seem to find relying on councils a comfort. For these folks, there are some inconvenient facts that they must face. This post is the third in what, Lord willing, will be a multi-part series.
Council of Trent (1545 to 1563) - Not Meaningfully Ecumenical
The Council of Trent is often viewed by its proponents as an ecumenical council. It does not deserve this distinction, for several reasons:
1) "The decrees were subscribed by two hundred and fifteen fathers of the council, consisting of four cardinal legates, two cardinals, three patriarchs, twenty-five archbishops, one hundred and sixty-seven bishops, seven abbots, seven generals of orders, and also by nineteen proxies for thirty-three absent prelates. The decrees were confirmed on 26 Jan., 1564, by Pius IV in the Bull "Benedictus Deus," and were accepted by Catholic countries, by some with reservations. " (source) Thus, the total number of bishops eventually signing onto the decrees may seem large, but was smaller than the number of bishops at Nicea (about 300 - some say as many as 318).
2) Obviously, the composition of the council varied over its nearly two decade existence. Nevertheless, Italian (the majority) and Spanish (the next largest group) bishops dominated the counsel. According to one report, the breakdown was:
187 Italian bishops
32 Spanish bishops
28 French bishops
2 German bishops
With only four nations represented, large segments of Christianity were clearly not represented at Trent.
3) Specifically, there was essentially no representation of the Reformed Churches at Trent. There were no Swiss, apparently a few Lutheran representatives during a middle portion of the council, and no English presbyters, though they were invited. Given the huge majority of Italian bishops, and the fact that matters were decided by vote, the Italians were able to control the decisions of the council.
4) Furthermore, Eastern Orthodoxy (and the Coptic churches, and the Ethiopic churches, etc.) was not represented. Thus, vast chunks of Christendom were not involved, and consequently - even to this day - the Eastern Orthodox do not regard Trent to be an ecumenical council.
In short, Trent was - in essence - a regional council of Italy. Its endorsement by the Bishop of Rome is no surprise, but ought not be deemed sufficient to convert it into an ecumenical council.
It must, however, be noted that Trent is considered by modern Catholicism to be an ecumenical council, despite these facts.