The First Council of the Vatican: The American Experience

The First Council of the Vatican: The American Experience

The First Council of the Vatican: The American Experience

The First Council of the Vatican: The American Experience

Excerpt

On December 6, 1864, Pope Pius IX intimated to the cardinals at Rome his hope of summoning an ecumenical council, the first such assembly since that of Trent, 300 years before. Two and one-half years later, on June 29, 1867, in the presence of nearly five hundred bishops who had come to Rome to commemorate the eighteenth centenary of the martyrdom of Saints Peter and Paul, the pope formally announced that a council would be held; and, exactly a year later, on June 29, 1868, the bull of convocation Aeterni Patris was promulgated. Pius IX presided at the solemn inauguration of the twentieth ecumenical council--the First Council of the Vatican--on December 8, 1869. Nine months later the Italian army of Victor Emmanuel II occupied the Eternal City, and, on October 20, 1870, the pope adjourned the council indefinitely by the bull Postquam Dei munere. Its sessions were never resumed.

The story of the First Council of the Vatican has been told several times over and in several languages, but scant attention has been paid to its history as seen from an American point of view. There are reasons for this. In the eighty-nine general congregations which took place between December, 1869, and September, 1870, only eight of the forty-nine American prelates in attendance ventured to speak from the rostrum. The council was set in the context of a clash between liberal and conservative tendencies in the European Church, and the Church in the United States knew little of such doctrinaire controversies. Even . . .

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