The Council of
Trent: A Summary of Its Positions
The Council of Trent met
three times over a period of 18 years: 1545-1547; 1551-1552; and
1562-1563, as an official response to the standards of the
Protestant Reformers and Conciliarism, the concept that doctrine
of the Roman Catholic Church resided more in official church
councils, than in the interpretation of the Pope. The following
are summary statements of conclusions from that Council.
This Council moved the Roman Church further away from their own
theological positions before and in the early stages of
1. Scripture, the magisterium, and tradition were found to be of
equal authority. The actual holders of the teaching office
(magisterium) in the Church are the pope and the bishops, as the
successors of Saint Peter and the other Apostles. Tradition
holds that the apostles transmitted all they received from
Christ and learned from the Holy Spirit to their successors, the
bishops, and through them to all generations until the end of
treating the canon of Scripture they declare at the same time
that in matters of faith and morals the tradition of the Church
is, together with the Bible , the standard of supernatural
revelation...the Bible should be interpreted according to the
unanimous testimony of the Fathers....Nothing was decided in
regard to the translation of the Bible in the vernaculars.
2. The Latin Vulgate translation
was declared the official Bible of the Church along with what
Protestants call The Apocrypha and given more authority than the
Bible in the Greek and Hebrew manuscripts.
"the Vulgate to be the authentic
text for sermons and disputations..."
3. The Church has the sole authority to interpret the
Scriptures. This teaching essentially denied the need for the
Bible in the language of the common man. In fact, placing the
Bible in the hands of lay people was considered dangerous.
4. Trent upheld the validity of the seven sacraments (baptism,
communion, confirmation of church membership, penance and
reconciliation (and receiving absolution from a priest),
anointing of the sick--extreme unction, holy orders, and
marriage). Protestants believe that the Bible only names two
sacraments: baptism and communion.
5. Trent forbade "communion in both kinds," meaning the laity
were only allowed to partake of the bread, but not the cup.
"the granting of the cup to the
at Communion, which was left to the discretion of the pope..."
6. The nature of justification was broadened to include moral
renovation, as well as the forgiveness of sins. A baptized
individual co-operates with the infused righteousness of Christ
more and more throughout his life. Justification is dependent
upon the act of baptism, not on faith alone. Trent impugned the
sole sufficiency of Christ to save a person from their sin and
made salvation to be a cooperative effort of Christ and the
person. In this way, works is added to the work of Christ for a
person to be finally saved.
7. Trent affirmed the doctrine of transubstantiation in which
the elements of the Eucharist become the very body and blood of
the Lord Jesus and that the Eucharist was a true, propitiatory
sacrifice in which the priest and victim of the sacrifice are
one and the same (Christ), virtually an "unbloody" reenactment
of His sacrifice on the cross.
8. Trent confirmed the efficacy of pilgrimages and penances to
gain the forgiveness of sins.
9. Clerical celibacy was upheld.
10. Veneration of images was upheld.
11. The Council also formally recognized the Pope as the Vicar
of Christ on Earth, that is he has the authority that is held
exclusively by the Lord Jesus Christ alone.
12. The Mass, which had varied locally, was standardized for the
church at large. It became known as the Tridentine Mass, after
the city of Trent where this council met.
After the Council of Trent, Rome moved further away
theologically from their own positions that they had held
before the Reformation. (Thought from R. J. Rushdoony,
The Cure of Souls, Vallecito, CA: Ross House Books,
2007), page 175.
The primary source of the
Ten Rules of the Council of Trent