The history of the Catholic Church is marked with

manymonumental meetings that have influenced, even changed, therole of the Catholic church in the world. These meetingsare called councils. Councils are meetings of the pope andhis cardinals and bishops designed to deal with a newsituation or crisis that threatens the church. From theCouncil of Jerusalem to Vatican II, they have sought toidentify and define the Catholic church.

The Council of Trent was no different than thecouncils that came before it. This council was held tocounteract Luther and the Reformation, at least originally.The Council was actually held over a span of twenty years.Of this time, only two years were actually spent inmeetings.

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The Council of Trent was convened three timesbefore formally being adjourned. The first period began in1545 and ended in 1548. The purpose of this first periodwas to define doctrine not for the good of the church, butagainst the position of Protestant reformers. One of themajor statements of the first period was regarding theChristian faith and salvation. The Council determined thatthe Christian faith was based on Scripture and ontradition. Tradition meaning “teachings and practices whichhad been current in the church from the beginning and whichhad been handed down to the present day.” The issue ofsalvation was also addressed.

The Council decided thatsalvation was gained through the grace of God, inconjunction with “good and meritous works.” The Councilhoped to reject Luther through this declaration, but all itsucceeded in doing was confusing Catholics worldwide. Thisis because this decision went directly against Ephesians 2:8-9 which states that “by grace ye are saved throughfaith.

..not of works, lest any man should boast.” Therewere many cardinals who realized the biblical truth ofLuther’s view on this subject, but the Jesuit theologians’erroneous views prevailed, and were adopted by the CatholicChurch. The second period- from 1551 to 1552- dealt mainlywith the Eucharist. This meeting of the Council confirmedthat the body and blood of Jesus the Christ was trulypresent whenever communion was celebrated.

This phenomenonis called transubstantion. This decision was made mainly todefy the Calvinist view of the Eucharist. It was alsoduring the second period that penance and extreme unctionwere declared sacraments. The Council asserted that Jesushimself instituted these practices, and that they couldonly be administered by a priest.The third and final period of the Council of Trentconvened in 1563. This period emphasized three doctrines.First, purgatory was defined as a real place in which thosethat had committed sins were detained until they fullyatoned for them.

The priesthood and marriage were alsoordained as sacraments. Finally, indulgences were explainedand justified.All in all, there were four major decisions reached bythe Council of Trent. The most momentous of these was thedeclaration that salvation was gained through works andgrace. Also, the pope’s interpretation of the Bible wasfinal. Anyone who substituted her or his own interpretationwas a heretic.

Regarding the Christian lifestyle, theCouncil decided that the Bible and tradition governed aChristian’s life equally. Finally, indulgences,pilgrimages, and holy relics were all valid ways ofexpressing Catholic piety. All of these decrees to some degree directly refutedthe teachings of the protestant church. In its effort tocontradict Protestant beliefs, the Council of Trent oftenstrayed from biblical truth. Despite its shortcomings, theCouncil of Trent remains one of the most influentialcouncils in the history of the Roman Catholic Church. The Council of TrentElizabeth AtwaterPre-IB World HistoryMrs. OstendorfApril 7, 1997Bibliography1. Dwyer, John C.

Church History. Paulist Press: New York, 1985.2. Hughes, Philip. The Church in Crisis: A History of the General Councils, 325- 1870.Hanover House: Garden City, New York, 1961.

OutlineI.IntroductionII. First periodIII.Second periodIV.Third periodV.Accomplishments of the CouncilVI.Conclusion