The First Vatican Council, 1869-1870

The Vatican Council now in session, writes John Raymond, faces many issues very different from that which dominated its predecessor nearly a century ago.

“Although the Vatican Council was convoked to deal with issues of widest import, the errors and calamities of the times, the matter with which in fact it principally dealt was the Papacy; and the outcome of the Council was the settlement of long-standing controversies concerning the position and authority of the Pope in the Church.”

In this opening sentence of his great study of the First Vatican Council, Dom Cuthbert Butler points squarely to the issue dominant in the mind of the 760 or so Fathers of the Roman Church assembled in the Basilica of St. Peter’s during the fateful months of 1869-70.

From every standpoint, human or ghostly, whether one studies the history of the Council as a piece of plain historical narrative, or as the guided manifestation of the Holy Spirit working out a necessary “development of dogma” within the Church Militant, it is essential to bear this fact in mind.

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