Ecumenical, Universal and General:
The History and Impact of Church Councils


Semester 2, 2020
Wednesday 10.00am – 1.00pm
This unit will explore the history and impact of councils in the life of the Catholic Church from Nicaea (325) to Vatican II (1962-65). The unit will give an overview of the historical and theological contexts of councils against wider social, cultural and political forces operative at the time. The councils determined much of what the Church believes and how it articulates and lives its rich and diverse theological heritage across history. Various council texts will be examined in order to highlight the development of key theological ideas throughout the Christian tradition.

Census Date

Tuesday 18 August 


48 points of Church History


face-to-face 3-hour weekly classes in semester


  • two 1,250-word tutorial papers 2 x 20%
  • one 4,500-word essay 60%


  • Bellitto, Christopher. The General Councils: A History of the Twenty-One Church Councils from Nicaea to Vatican II. New York: Paulist, 2002.
  • Burns, J. H. and Thomas M. Izbicki., eds. Conciliarism and Papalism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997.
  • Hughes, Philip. The Church in Crisis: A History of the Twenty Great Councils. London: Burns & Oates, 1961.
  • Kelly, Joseph. The Ecumenical Councils of the Catholic Church. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2009.
  • O’Malley, John. Vatican I: The Council and the Making of the Ultramontane Church. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2018.
  • Oakley, Francis. The Conciliarist Tradition: Constitutionalism in the Catholic Church, 1300-1870. New York: Oxford University Press, 2003.
  • Tanner, Norman., ed. Decrees of the Ecumenical Councils. 2 vols. Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press, 1990.
  • ‒‒‒. The Church in Council: Conciliar Movements, Religious Practice and the Papacy from Nicaea to Vatican II. London: I. B. Tauris, 2011.
  • Valliere, Paul. Conciliarism: A History of Decision-making in the Church. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012.