“Fifth Lateran Council”; Lateran Basilica, General Council: 1512 (3rd May) -1517 (16th March)
Considered the eighteenth general council of Latin Christendom, it was held in the Lateran Basilica under popes Julius II (1503-13) and Leo X (1513-21). Although assigned the traditional goals of restoring church unity and peace among Christians so that they might fight the infidels, of eradicating heresy, and of reforming the Church and society, Julius II convoked it primarily to counter the Council of Pisa-Milan-Asti-Lyon (1511-13) called by his political enemies King Louis XII (1498-1515) of France and Emperor Maximilian I (1493-1519), who were supported by a number of dissident cardinals. The council consisted of an inaugural session on 3 May 1512, followed by five formal sessions under Julius II and seven more under Leo X, ending on 16 March 1517. The popes sent out repeated invitations to Christian rulers and prelates to attend in person or through procurators. All together over 430 persons attended, 280 holding the rank of bishop or higher, with the average participation of about 115 prelates per session. They came mostly from Italy, but important prelates (cardinals, primates, bishop-ambassadors) also came from the major countries of Europe, and procurators represented bishops from as far away as Hispaniola, Portugal, North Africa, Scandinavia, Poland-Lithuania, and Lebanon.
The popes solicited the advice of Christendom. King Fernando of Aragon encouraged the bishops of Spain to send to him their suggestions and at a ceremony held in Burgos on 19 November 1511 he and the bishops of Spain formally adhered to the Lateran Council and the king sent a memorial summarizing a selection of their suggestions to Julius II for his consideration. Leo X actively encouraged the submission of proposals and in response the court prelate Stefano Taleazzi (c 1445-1515) submitted a detailed one, with others coming from the humanist clerics Gianfrancesco Poggio Bracciolini (1477-1522) and Raffaello Lippo Brandolini (1465-1517), from the lay count of Mirandola Gianfrancesco Pico (1469-1533), and a lengthy Libellus from the Venetian Camaldolese Blessed Tommaso (Paolo) Giustiniani (1476-1528) and Vincenzo (Pietro) Querini (1479-1514). Included in many of the sermons preached at the council were also proposals for its consideration. On the urgings of Leo X numerous scholars, especially astronomers from the Empire, sent proposals for the reform of the Julian calendar, which by then was about ten days off when determining the date for Easter. Requests from Christian rulers and prelates also came for the council to deal with the Reuchlin affair and the controversy over the Immaculate Conception, the errors of the Ruthenians, the establishment of peace between the Teutonic Knights and King of Poland, the establishment of an episcopal college in the Roman Curia, and the reform of religious orders, especially of the Friars Minor, plus other topics.
The popes determined the ceremonies and organizational structures used at the council. The master of ceremonies Paride de Grassi (c 1450-1528) consulted the Caeremoniale Romanum (1488) of Agostino Patrizi Piccolomini (c 1435-94) which had a section on councils (Liber I, sectio 14) based on his study of the acta of Konstanz and Basel. To be assured that the prescriptions therein should apply to the Lateran Council or when they were unclear or did not fit new situations, de Grassi consulted a committee of nine cardinals meeting at times with the pope. Their concern was that the council be perceived as legitimate, in part because it conformed to precedents. Julius II set up a committee of twenty-four prelates to prepare material for the council’s consideration, plus nine committees each headed by a cardinal in which the prelates, equally divided among the committees, could discuss proposed legislation prior to a session. Instead of following an internal organization based on nations (Konstanz), Leo X opted for one based on themes (Basel). He had the prelates select twenty-four of their number to sit on the three deputations assigned the following tasks: composing a universal peace among Christian princes and extirpating the schism; formulating a general reformation, and also a specific one of the Curia and its officials; and dealing with the matter of the Pragmatic Sanction of Bourges and with things touching on the faith. He placed eight of the elected prelates on each deputation and assigned eight cardinals and another four prelates of his own choosing to each, thus creating deputations of twenty members each. Materials were sent to the deputations for examination and discussion. The recommendations of the deputations were then sent to the pope for vetting in his inner circle. What was approved was sent to a general congregation in the form of a draft document for further discussion and approval. What secured the approbation of the prelates there was later presented at a solemn session in the form of schedula or draft bull on which a vote was taken and recorded. If approved, the document was sealed as a papal bull (“Leo X, with the council approving, ….”), promulgated in Rome to trumpet blasts, oral recitation, and posting in three locations, and recorded in the papal registers. Those who had the right to a decisive vote were all prelates with ordinary jurisdiction (residential bishops, abbots, and heads of the mendicant orders), plus cardinals and titular bishops. Ambassadors functioned as witnesses to the proceedings, and had only a consultative voice if so granted by the pope. The popes presided over all the sessions, except for the fifth when Cardinal Raffaello Riario, dean of the Sacred College, acted as moderator, due to the pope’s approaching death.
Under Julius II the council devoted its attention to condemning the Pisan Council and reaffirming some earlier reform measures. At the second session the council condemned and nullified everything enacted by the Pisan Council and confirmed earlier papal measures taken against it. At the third session it nullified all the actions of the Pisan Council, especially its imposition of a tenth-tax on the French church, and confirmed the earlier interdict placed on France (the Duchy of Brittany excepted) and the transfer of the fair from Lyon (where the Pisan Council relocated) to the city of Geneva. At the fourth session it denounced the Pragmatic Sanction of Bourges (1438) for detracting from the liberty and authority of the Apostolic See and claimed that it therefore should be abrogated, as was done earlier by Louis XI. Once again it invalidated the actions of the Pisan Council and it also applied to the cause of a crusade against the infidels any tenth-taxes levied by the Pisan Council. At the fifth session it ordered the supporters of the Pragmatic Sanction to appear before the Lateran Council and explain why it should not be abrogated. To remove abuses and reform the practices and fees of the Roman Curia, Julius II had the council at its fourth session reaffirm his bull Et si Romanus Pontifex of 31 March 1512. At the fifth session it reaffirmed his earlier bull Si summus rerum opifex of 14 January 1506 against simony in papal elections. By the time of his death Julius II had secured the adhesion to the council of Spain, England, Hungary, Denmark, Scotland, the Holy Roman Empire, and many minor states.
Within nine months of his election, Leo X had made significant progress on accomplishing the goals of the council. His allies having defeated the French forces at Novara on 6 June 1513, Leo entered into negotiations with representatives of Louis XII that resulted in his abandonment of the Pisan Council and adhesion to the Lateran at the eighth session. On 27 June 1513 in an elaborate ceremony, the two leading dissident Pisan cardinals confessed their error and were reconciled. With the council’s blessing Leo X sent out legates to the rulers of Christendom urging them to make peace and prepare for a crusade against the Turks. One of these legates, Cardinal Tamas Bakócz (c. 1442-1521), was given the additional task of negotiating the return of the Hussites to church unity. In defense of the Catholic faith, Leo X condemned at the eighth session philosophical teachings on the human soul’s mortality, the eternity of the world, and the possibility of contradictory truths. He also had the conciliar fathers at that session confirm with sanctions his earlier detailed curial reform measures mandated in the bull Pastoralis officii of 13 December 1513. At this point Leo X could have ended the council, but he wanted to accomplish something more: the rescission of the Pragmatic Sanction of Bourges and its replacement with a concordat. While that was being negotiated, new issues came to the council’s attention.
On the doctrinal front, Leo X sided with the Franciscans on the validity of the montes pietatis or pawn shops that charged a small management fee (session ten), while refusing to take a stand on the Immaculate Conception controversy. To put a damper on the pamphlet warfare between the German humanist Johannes Reuchlin (1454/5-1522) and his supporters against Johann Pfefferkorn (c. 1469-after 1521) and his Dominican allies over the forced burning of anti-Christian Jewish writings, he had the council mandate preventive censorship of printed works (session ten). To put restraints on prophetic preaching, he required episcopal approval of it (session eleven). And he affirmed papal superiority over councils as based on scripture and tradition (session eleven).
Leo X tried to accommodate some of the demands of the bishops for a restoration of their dignity and jurisdictional authority. He prohibited their performance of menial tasks in the households of cardinals (session nine), curtailed the exemptions of curial officials, members of cardinals’ households, and religious sisters and renewed legislation against lay interference in episcopal jurisdiction (session ten), and reduced the privileges of the mendicants (session eleven). But he refused to grant to the bishops a college in the Roman Curia to protect and advance their interests. To assure the proper qualifications of episcopal candidates he set up strict screening procedures (session nine) and legislated university training for the bishops of France (eleventh session).
A sweeping reform bull was approved at the ninth session that spelled out the duties of cardinals and of commendatory abbots and rectors, prohibited excessive pluralism, provided for the religious education of youth, condemned the sequestration of ecclesiastical revenues by lay persons, and punished blasphemy, simony, concubinage, superstition, and Judaizing. A bull of the twelfth session forbade the plundering of the homes of cardinals and their familiars during a conclave.
From Leo X’s perspective the high point of the council came at the eleventh session with the abrogation of the Pragmatic Sanction of Bourges and conciliar confirmation of the Concordat of Bologna. He then quickly moved to end the council at the twelfth session in which he levied a tenth-tax for three years in support of a crusade against the Turks.
The implementation of the decrees was entrusted to local ordinaries. Enforcement of the Great Reform Bull of the ninth session became the concern of officials in Rome (1516), of the provincial council of Florence (1517), of Clement VII’s Meditatio cordis (1524), and of Carlo Borromeo’s provincial councils (1565-73). The Council of Trent renewed its decree on preventive censorship. Evidence is sparse on the implementation of its other decrees. Leo X commissioned Cardinal Antonio del Monte (1461-1533) to edit of the official acta of the council which were published in 1520-21 and its was reprinted in subsequent collections of the decrees of ecumenical councils.
QQ: Del Monte, Antonio, S. Lateranense concilium novissimum sub Julio II et Leone X celebratum, Rome: Jacobus Mazochius Romanae Academiae Bibliopola excudit, 1521, repr. in Mansi 32, ed. by J-B. Martin and L. Petit (Paris and Leipzig: Hubert Welter, 1902), cols. 649–1002; Doussinague, J.M., Fernando el Católico y el cisma de Pisa, Madrid: Espasa-Calpe, S.A., 1946, pp. 504–544; Dykmans, M., “Le cinquième Concile du Latran d’après le Diaire de Paris de Grassi”, Annuarium Historiae Conciliorum 14 (1982), 271–369; Giustiniani, P. and P. Querini, Libellus ad Leonem X. Pontificem Maximum in Annales Camaldulenses ordines Sancti Benedicti, ed. G.-B. Mittarelli and A. Costadoni, 9 vols., Venice: Giovanni-Battista Pasquale, 1755-77, t. IX, cols. 612-719 – Italian translation by G. Bianchini, titled: Lettera al Papa: Libellus ad Leonem X (1513), Modena: Artioli, 1995, English transl. by S.M. Beall, with notes by J.J. Schmitt, titled: Libellus Addressed to Leo X, Supreme, Pontiff [= Reformation Texts with Translation (1350-1650), 14], Milwaukee: Marquette University Press, 2016; Goñi Gaztambide, J. “España y el Concilio V de Latrán”, Annuarium Historiae Conciliorum 6 (1974), 154–222 (particularly 208–220); Hergenröther, J., Conciliengeschichte: Nach den Quellen bearbeitet, Vol. 8: Der Fortsetzung erster Band, ed. by C. J. von Hefele, Freiburg im Breisgau: Herder, 1887. Anhang, pp. 810-31, 845-55; Minnich, N.H., “The Reform Proposals (1513) of Stefano Taleazzi for the Fifth Lateran Council (1512-17)”, Annuarium Historiae Conciliorum 27/28 (1995/96), 543-570.
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Minnich, Nelson H.
Minnich, Nelson H., “Fifth Lateran Council; Lateran Basilica, General Council: 1512 (3rd May) -1517 (16th March)" in: Lexikon der Konzilien [Online-Version], November 2020; URL: http://www.konziliengeschichte.org/site/de/publikationen/lexikon/database/3459.html