Appeal to a Future Council

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Appeal to a future council is a complaint by a physical or juridic person against a papal act, in order to have this act examined by the next ecumenical council (see councils, general). An appeal of this kind implies a belief in the superiority of a general council over the pope. Two opinions are current concerning the origin of this appeal. However, according to Victor martin this term did not always have the above significance. After studying the earliest of these appealsthose made by the Colonna cardinals (1297), by King philip iv of france and his counselors (1303), and by Emperor louis iv the bavarian (1334)Martin concluded that these early appeals were based on two traditional principles: (1) the pope cannot be judged by anyone (Corpus iuris canonici, ed. E. Friedberg [repr. Graz 1955] C.9 q.3, c.16) and (2) a heretical pope, by deviating from the faith, is already judged and lacks authority (ibid., D.40 c.6). Martin was all the more certain that these first appellants were orthodox, because, in his view, the doctrine of the superiority of a council over a pope arose between 1409 and 1415 and not before. Brian Tierney, on the other hand, has found it curious that a pope could be already judged without the existence of a judge to pronounce on his culpability. He has established that from the end of the 12th century different opinions existed among canonists and that one of these opinions asserted the superiority of a council over a pope (see conciliarism). According to Tierney, when the Council of constance in its fifth session issued the decree Sacrosancta (April 6, 1415) it was not ratifying a recently formed opinion but one that had been in existence for more than two centuries without being condemned. Whatever may be said of Martin's and Tierney's interpretations, it is certain that appeals to a future council were numerous in France, especially during the 15th century. The supporters of gallicanism claimed constantly that one could appeal from a pope to a council; they affirmed this claim in the pragmatic sanction of Bourges (1438), in the quasi-official book in 1594 by Pierre pithou, Les Libertez de l'Église gallicane (art. 78), and in the declaration of the french clergy in 1682 (art. 2). louis xiv appealed to a future council in 1688, and the French Jansenists did so in 1717.

Pius II (145864) was the first pope to denounce this appeal as an "execrable abuse" and ridiculed it by asking how anyone could appeal "to a tribunal that does not yet exist, and, for all anyone knows, may never sit." The same pope also excommunicated appellants (Execrabilis, Jan. 18, 1460) and later repeated his condemnation (Nov. 2, 1460). His example was followed by Sixtus IV (1483), Julius II (1509), Leo X (1520), Benedict XIV (1745), and Pius IX (1869). The Latin and Eastern codes condemn such an appeal [Codex iuris canonici (repr. Graz 1955) c. 333 §3; Codex canonum ecclesiarium orientalium, c. 45 37]. Furthermore, the Latin code provides for a censure for a person who would make such an appeal (Codex iuris canonici [repr. Graz 1955] c. 1372).

Bibliography: v. martin, Les Origines du gallicanisme, 2 v. (Paris 1939). b. tierney, Foundations of the Conciliar Theory (Cambridge, Eng. 1955); "Pope and Council: Some New Decretist Texts," Mediaeval Studies 19 (1957) 197218. p. g. caron, L'Appello per abuso (Milan 1954). a. amanieu, Dictionnaire de droit canonique, ed. r. naz, 7 v. (Paris 193565) 1:807818. h. kÜng, Structures of the Church, tr. s. attanasio (New York 1964).

[c. berthelot du chesnay]