The Conciliar Heritage: The Politics of Oblivion

Oct 7, 2016
Swift Hall, Common Room
1025 E 58th St,
Chicago, IL 60637
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Francis OakleyWilliams College


Cosponsored by the History Department and the Medieval Studies Workshop

In the early fifteenth century, the general council assembled at Constance and, representing the universal Church, put an end to the scandalous schism which for almost forty years had divided the Latin Church between rival lines of claimants to the papal office. It did so by claiming and exercising an authority superior to that of the pope, an authority by virtue of which it could impose constitutional limits on the exercise of his prerogatives, stand in judgment over him, and if need be, depose him for wrongdoing. This lecture will consider the nature and history of the conciliarist tradition of ecclesiastical constitutionalism across the half millennium down to 1870 when Vatican I, by confirming Cardinal Manning's claim that "ultramontanism is Catholic Christianity", consigned it to oblivion.

You can read more about Professor Oakley's book The Conciliarist Tradition HERE.


Francis Oakley is Edward Dorr Griffin Professor of the History of Ideas Emeritus and President Emeritus at Williams College, where he has taught since 1961. He is also President Emeritus of the American Council of Learned Societies and in 1999 he was Isaiah Berlin Visiting Professor of the History of Ideas at Oxford University. Prof. Oakley is the author of thirteen books, coeditor of three others, and contributor to the journals of around two hundred articles, translations and book reviews on topics in medieval history and on American higher education. In 2004 his Conciliarist Tradition (Oxford University Press, 2003) was awarded the Roland Bainton Book Prize. His most recent book is The Watershed of Modern Politics: Law, Virtue, Kingship, and Consent (1300-1650), the final volume of a trilogy on the emergence of western political thought in the Latin middle ages.