OUNCIL (1139)


IN Lent of 1139 a general council was summoned by Pope Innocent II and held in the Lateran basilica. As we know, the synod had been convoked the previous year; for the papal legates in England and Spain pressed the bishops and abbots to go to the council. Thus, a good number of fathers, at least five hundred, met in Rome. One of these came from the East, the patriarch of Antioch, but he was a Latin. With the pope presiding the council began on 2 April and it seems to have ended before 17 April, as far as we can judge from the sources.

This council is called “general” in the records and more frequently “plenary” by Innocent himself. However, there is a doubt as to its ecumenicity for the same reasons that affect Lateran I.

The Roman church, which for a long time had been divided in its obedience between Innocent II (1130-1143) and Anacletus II (1130-1138), seems to have overcome schism and factionalism, and indeed to have recovered its peace. This was due to the death of Anacletus in 1138 and the efforts of Bernard of Clairvaux, who had fought with the utmost zeal on behalf of Innocent for the restoration of unity. But Innocent, perhaps upset by the agreements which Anacletus had arrived at, vigorously cited and condemned Anacletus’s part in the evil affair, an action which seems to have provoked a complaint from Bernard.

Some heretics were also condemned by the fathers, namely those who followed the monk Henry, and canons were enacted concerning the reform of the church. The pope and the council fathers, following the example and mind of Pope Gregory VII, took up a good many canons which had been established by previous councils, with a view to restoring ecclesiastical discipline to an unblemished state. They furnish a sort of body of precepts for the whole church, taken from councils in the times of Gregory VII (canon 10), Urban II (canons 3, 21-22), Callistus II (canons 3, 7, 23-25) and especially Innocent II (canons 1, 4-7, 9-12, 14-20). Gratian included many of them shortly afterwards in his Decrees (canons 2, 4-6, 8, 19-21, 26-28 and parts of 7, 10, 12, 15-16, 18, 22). Orderic Vitalis, however, was sceptical about their effectiveness in practice.

Baronius was the first to print the thirty canons (Annales ecclesiastici 12,1607, 277-280), having taken them from two manuscript codices (“a register of the Vatican library and a Vatican codex of decrees”). The Roman editors shortly after produced a more accurate version (Rm 4, 1612, 21 -23), from “manuscript codices of the Vatican library and of Anthony Augustine of Tarragona”; this was copied by all later editions, as we have verified, though with some errors. These later editions are as follows: Bn2 {4} 3/2 (1618) 487-489; ER {5} 17 (1644) 123-133; LC {6} 10 (1671) 1002-1009; Hrd {7} 6/2 (1714) 1207-1214; Cl {8} 12 (1730) 1497-1507;Msi {9} 21 (1776) 526-533.The canon which E.Martene and U.Durand published (Thesaurus novus anecdotorum, IV, Paris 1717, 139-140) as being “omitted in the editions, from a manuscript of St Vincent of Bisignano”, is in fact the same as canons 15 and 30. Having collated together all these editions, we have followed the text of the Roman edition.

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