The Ecumenical Council of York (also know as "Council of the Earthquake" and Ecumenical Council of York-Berwick) was the fifteenth ecumenical council of the Catholic Church. It was convoked by Pope Clement VI in 1379 to discuss John Wycliffe's teaching and the growing Lollard influence in Britain. Starting in 1380, the Council was hosted in the city of York, in the Kingdom of England. Pope Clement VI and members of the clergy from various European nations gathered in the York Minster to discuss the points of Wycliffe's doctrine, seeking to identify what is divinely inspired and what is heresy. Due to the outbreak of the Peasant Rebelion in 1381, the Council was moved to Berwick-Upon-Tweed, Scotland.
Discussion in Plenary Sessions
Session of 1380
- Pope Clement VI and Roman delegation: After studying the teachings of John Wycliffe, we come to the conclusion that his teachings can be simplified into twelve points: 1) State of the Church; 2) The priesthood; 3) Clerical celibacy 4) Transubstantiation; 5) exorcisms and hallowings; 6) Clerics in secular offices; 7) prayers for the dead; 8) Pilgrimages; 9) Confession; 10) War, battle and crusades; 11) Female vows of continence and abortion; 12) Arts and crafts. We start adressing the first point, the State of the Church. According to Lollard's teachings, the Church has become too involved in affairs of temporal power, this being a sign of corruption. Pope Clement agrees to some degree to this, but he says that as long the Church exist in Earth, it'll be nearly impossible to she not be involved in secular affairs. What the Church can do is try to reduce her involvement in secular affairs and focus in spiritual matters.
- King Robert II, Cardinal Walter Wardlaw and Scottish delegation: We concur with the Lollards on First conclusion: state of the Church, Third conclusion: clerical celibacy, Fifth conclusion: exorcisms and hallowings, Sixth conclusion: clerics in secular offices, Eleventh conclusion: female vows of continence and abortion, Twelfth conclusion: arts and crafts. We partially agree with Seventh conclusion: prayers for the dead stating that prayers for the dead are not harmful. but that requesting prayers for the dead by making financial contributions is wrong, and a form of bribery. Although we certainly appreciate the Pope Clement's honesty and effort to push the Church back to a purer form to focus more on spiritual matters, we concur with the Lollards that the Church shouldn't stray from its original purpose that is spiritual guidance and not temporal affairs. We hold our reservations for Eighth conclusion: pilgrimages, Ninth conclusion: confession. Finally we unequivocally disagree with Second conclusion: the priesthood, Fourth conclusion: transubstantiation, Tenth conclusion: war, battle and crusades.
- Archbishop Birger Gregersson and the Swedish and Norwegian delegates: Archbishop Birger Gregersson and the delegates' views on Lollardy is mixed. Gregersson and the delegates view that the Church is a very important part of Christianity, and that it must remain relevant in secular affairs, for example advising kings and nobles, lest people forget the teachings of Christ, and turn to sodomy and devil-worship. We disagree on the Lollards' views on Transubstantiation, Iconoclasm, ceremiones of ordinations, warfare, pilgrimage and arts and crafts, However, Gregersson concedes to the Lollards' views that 1. confessing to priests should not be done, as only God can truly hear the confessions. 2. Vows of celibacy must not be undertaken by women, as it could lead to sin. 3. Exorcisms by priests are akin to witchcraft. 4. prayers for the dead are not harmful. but that requesting prayers for the dead by making financial contributions is wrong, and a form of bribery. And finally that 5. celibacy among the clergy has encouraged sodomy. The last point is controversial among some of the priests with higher rank, however Gregersson stands firm. In conclusion, the delegates are mixed on this issue, while some concede that some of the Lollards' views are factual, Gregersson warns that further attacks on the Church could be ultimately an attempt to undermine the Papacy.
- Bishop Ludovico Mazzo and Swiss delegation: Mazzo acknowledges the discussion about the secular power of the Church to be an important and difficult one but generally agrees with Gregersson that the Church must retain some secular power, particularly in these trying times when the world of Christendom is ravaged by multiple wars between secular rulers. However, Mazzo especially objects to Wycliffe's views on Transubstantiation, Iconoclasm, ceremonies and pilgrimages, calling these heretical. Mazzo remains quiet on the other points of discussion for the moment.
- Pope Clement VI and Roman delegation: Pope Clement VI agrees with Gregersson and Mazzo that the Church must have some secular power. However, the clergy must not forget that the mission given by Christ to the Church is to spread His Word to all the nations and to practice charity. This way, the pontiff agrees with the example mentioned by Gregersson and suggests that the participation of the Church in secular affairs must be to give advices to the rulers, guiding them in the light of Christ. The clerics will also be responsible to oversee if the rulers and nobles are acting in accordance with the teachings of the Holy Mother Church. If not, they have the responsibility to persuade them to return to the correct way. If this have no effect, them the clerics must warn the pope about the situation and the pontiff will pass judgment over those unrepentant sinners. This way the position of clerics in secular offices will be limited to advisor and overseer. If the delegations and bishops agree with this suggestion, the Council can proceed to analyze next point.
- Bishop Ludovico Mazzo and Swiss delegation: Mazzo agrees with Pope Clement VI's suggestion.
- Cardinal Ari Arason: The Icelandic Cardinal decides to make an appearance at the council and totally supports John Wycliffe’s ideas and suggests and idea about that money given to the church should first buy food and communion and then every single currency should go to the poor. He also supports full translation of the Bible and the idea of not using Latin in Mass, to support his idea during prayer he prays in Icelandic.
Session of 1381
- Pope Clement VI and Roman delegation: Pope Clement VI informs Wycliffe that the scripture and the sacred tradition of the faith have the same sources of authority and that the scripture was handed down as part of sacred tradition (2 Thessalonians 2:15, 2 Timothy 2:2). The Tradition comes from the apostles and hands on what they received from Jesus' teaching and example and what they learned from the Holy Spirit. However the pontiff sees that some of the points preached by the Lollards are valid, so he proposes to them the position of sui iuris Church using a vernacular-rite, in the same way that the Western Church of Navarre and the Maronite Church of Lebanon. The pontiff make a lists showing the Church's position to the Lollard's teachings and how they can be applied in this new sui iuris Church.
- Celibacy: The position of the Church is that priesthood is a ministry conformed to the life and work of Jesus Christ. Priests as sacramental ministers act in persona Christi, that is in the mask of Christ. Thus the life of the priest must reflect the chastity of Christ himself. The sacrifice of married life is for the "sake of the Kingdom" (Luke 18:28–30, Matthew 19:27–30), and to follow the example of Jesus Christ in being "married" to the Church. Clement quotes Saint Paul, that in 1 Cor 7:25, recommends celibacy, but acknowledges that it is not God's gift to all within the Church. However, the celibacy is not doctrine of the Church, but a matter of discipline. So the pontiff will not forbid the celibacy, but offer that in the Lollard Church, like in the Orthodox Churches, married men can also be ordained priests., but any future priests who wish to marry must do so before becoming priests. Another condition is that candidates to the position of bishops and archbishops must be celibate. The pope justiffies it by saying that these positions require greater responsibility to the Church and that a married bishop will end or neglecting the Church or neglecting his family.
- Female vows and abortion: About it, the pope says that we can't generalize saying that all womans are doing it. He cites Catherine of Siena and other pious women that dedicated their lives to serving Christ and the Church with the celibacy. Clement says that women that not fulfill their vows should be punished and those entering a convent must be sure that it is what they really desire.
- Exorcisms and hallowings: The pope informs that this practice is supported by the scripture. Jesus Christ expelled demons with a simple command (Mark 1:23–26; 9:14–29; Luke 11:14–26). The apostles continued the practice with the power and in the name of Jesus (Matthew 10:1; Acts 19:11–16). However the pope agrees that there is abuses and misinformations involved with these practices. The same occurs with the pilgrimages, the prayers for the dead and arts and craft. To end these abuses, the pope proposes that each Catholic nation have an Ecclesial Tribunal to investigate and judge the absurds and abuses committed by the clerics. To end the misinformation, the pope proposes the creation of a book in vernacular with the main points of the Catholic faith and it's relation with the Biblical teachings and the teachings of the Church Fathers. A specific group of secular priests, the catechists, will be trained to use this book to teach the faithful across Europe the fundaments of the Catholic faith. This book will be named "The Catechism"
- Confession: For the Church, Penance is a sacrament of the New Law instituted by Christ in which forgiveness of sins committed after baptism is granted through the priest's absolution to those who with true sorrow confess their sins and promise to satisfy for the same. It is called a "sacrament" not simply a function or ceremony, because it is an outward sign instituted by Christ to impart grace to the soul. As an outward sign it comprises the actions of the penitent in presenting himself to the priest and accusing himself of his sins, and the actions of the priest in pronouncing absolution and imposing satisfaction. However, the Church knows that a priest, simply as an individual man, however pious or learned, has power to forgive sins. This power belongs to God alone; but He can and does exercise it through the ministration of men. Since He has seen fit to exercise it by means of this sacrament, it cannot be said that the Church or the priest interferes between the soul and God; on the contrary, penance is the removal of the one obstacle that keeps the soul away from God. The mere "telling of one's sins" isn't suffices to obtain their forgiveness. Without sincere sorrow and purpose of amendment, confession avails nothing, the pronouncement of absolution is of no effect, and the guilt of the sinner is greater than before. This is another doctrine that will be better explained in the "Catechism".
- Transubstantiation/Priesthood/War, battle and crusades: The pope maintain the Church position about these three points. He reaffirms that the bread and wine offered in the sacrifice of the sacrament of the Eucharist during the Mass the body and blood of Jesus Christ. This way declaring the Consubstantiation as heresy. Clement says that the priesthood is the continuation of the priestly work of the Apostles handed down in a succession of ordinations. The pontiff declares that the Church must try to stay neutral in secular conflicts, but can intervene when necessary. About crusades, Clement says that Holy Wars can only be called against heretics and heathen, but never against other Catholic nation.
- Vernacular Bibles: Clement VI proposes that these Bibles must be used only for consultation and by catechist priests. Together with "The Catechism", these bibles will be used by catechist priests to teach the Catholic faith properly to the people. The translation of these bibles must be requested from the pope, which will send a commission of theologians to help in it. Then the translation must be sent to Rome to be revised before being published. If the Lollards accept the sui iuris proposal, they can use their Bible after it being revised by a commission.
- King Robert II, Cardinal Walter Wardlaw and Scottish delegation: We concur with the Pope as we believe that achieving a resolution to this issue by granting the Lollards the position of sui iuris Church using a vernacular-rite, in the same way that the Western Church of Navarre and the Maronite Church of Lebanon are linked with the Catholic Communion would be the most preferable outcome this Council could conclude.
- Bishop Ludovico Mazzo and Swiss delegation: Mazzo agrees with Pope Clement VI's references to scripture and, though initially not enthusiastic about this about what he perceived as heresy in some of Wycliffe's statements particularly about Transubstantiation and Iconoclasm, he agrees with the Pope and the Scottish delegation that granting the Lollards the position of sui iuris church is is a good idea. Though, Mazzo still urges Wycliffe not to preach those ideas he considers heretic, particularly about Transubstantiation and Iconoclasm.
Session of 1382
- Pope Clement VI and Roman delegation: Pope Clement VI agrees with Bishop Ludovico Mazzo. The pontiff declares the doctrine of Concubstantiation, Iconoclasm and negation of the Sacrament of Penance as heresies. To turn into a sui iuris Church, the Lollards and John Wycliffe must abandon these teachings. For the Lollard Church, the pope proposes that:
- They adopt a liturgical rite using the vernacular of their choice, can be English and Celtic. A commission of theologians will help the Lollards to organize it, this way avoiding confusion and heresies.
- In the Lollard Church, both celibate and married men can be ordained priests. However a priest can't marry after being ordained. They must choose carefully before joining as a member of the clergy. The Latin-rite will continue to ordain celibate priests.
- Bishops and archbishops will always be choose from the celibate priests. The main archbishop will be the leader of this sui iuris Church and will receive the title of Cardinal-Patriarch. He can be elected by the way that the Lollard clerics feel better. After he is elected, the pope must be warned so the pontiff can create the candidate cardinal.
- A Lollard embassy must stay in Rome to show the friendship between the Lollards and the Holy See. An embassy will also be asked from the Western Church and from the Maronites.
- The creation of an Ecclesial Tribunal formed by Lollard clerics. The Tribunal will be responsible to investigate and judge cases of misconduct and abuses of Lollard clerics.
Decrees and Canons of the Ecumenical Council of York
The Sacred, Holy, Ecumenical, and general Council of York, lawfully assembled under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and convoked in the year of Our Lord 1379 by the Holy Father Pope Clement VI, hath in this year of Our Lord 1382, after the solemn deliberations of the bishops, clergy, theologians, and all faithful men of good will, under the guidance of the same Pope Clement VI and under the munificent protection of King Robert II of Scotland, deemed it right and just that the following solemn Decrees be promulgated and published throughout the entire World.
Decrees of the Ecumenical Council of York and Church Governance
- The fathers of the said aforementioned Council hereby confirms the existance of five different rites inside of the Catholic Church: the Latin Rite, the Basque Rite, the Maronite Rite, the Anglican Rite and the Celtic Rite.
- The Basque Rite, the Maronite Rite, the Anglican Rite and the Celtic Rite shall be used in autonomous particular churches sui iuris, each governed by a Cardinal-Patriarch:
- The Basque Rite shall be used in the Western Catholic Church, governed by the Western Patriarch
- The Maronite Rite shall be used in the Syriac Maronite Church of Antioch, governed by the Maronite Patriarch of Antioch and all the East
- The Anglican rite shall be used in the Anglican Lollard Catholic Church, governed by the Anglican Patriarch
- The Celtic Rite shall be used in the Celtic Lollard Catholic Church, governed by the Celtic Patriarch
- The Patriarchs shall be chosen for this position in ways that will vary between the sui iuris churches. After that, the pope must be warned, so he can create them as cardinals
- The pope will only interfere in the matters of the sui iuris churches if his help is requested.
- The Cardinal-Patriarchs shall be candidates for the Papacy
- The sui iuris churches that follow the revised and approved Lollard tradition, must be divided into two:
- The Anglican Lollard Catholic Church, which encompass the Catholic Lollards that use the Anglican Rite.
- The Celtic Lollard Catholic Church, which encompass the Catholic Lolards that use the Celtic Rite.
Decrees of the Ecumenical Council of York on the Faith
- The Ecumenical Council of York, under the providential guidance of the Holy Spirit, affirms that which hath been said in previous Ecumenical Councils regarding the Faith, solemnly accepting and re-affirming the Nicene Creed and the Apostles Creed.
- The Council Fathers affirm the teachings of the past Councils regarding the Trinitarian nature of God, giving especial honour to the Christological definition of the Council of Chalcedon in affirming the Tome of Pope Leo the Great; as well as the profession of the Athanasian Creed.
- The Council Fathers declare that teaching of Transubstantiation is correct and divinely inspired. The doctrine of Consubstantiation is declared heresy.