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


Not offered in 2020
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.


36 points in Church History


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


second level
  • one 500-word tutorial paper 10%
  • one 1,000-word tutorial paper 20%
  • one 3,000-word essay 70%
third level
  • one 500-word tutorial paper 10%
  • one 1,000-word tutorial paper 20%
  • one 3,500-word essay 70% 


  • Bellitto, Christopher M. The General Councils: A History of the Twenty-One General Councils from Nicaea to Vatican II. New York: Paulist, 2002.
  • Burns, J H., and Thomas M. Izbicki., eds. Conciliarism and Papalism. Cambridge Texts in the History of Political Thought. 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: A History. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2009.
  • O’Malley, John W. 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. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003.
  • Tanner, Norman. The Church in Council: Conciliar Movements, Religious Practice and the Papacy from Nicaea to Vatican II. International library of Historical Studies 72. London: I. B. Tauris, 2011.
  • ‒‒‒., ed. Decrees of the Ecumenical Councils. 2 vols. London: Sheed & Ward, 1990.
  • Valliere, Paul. Conciliarism: A History of Decision-making in the Church. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012.