The Council of Trent met three times over a period of 18 years: 1545-1547; 1551-1552; and 1562-1563, as an official response to the standards of the Protestant Reformers and Conciliarism, the concept that doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church resided more in official church councils, than in the interpretation of the Pope. The following are summary statements of conclusions from that Council. This Council moved the Roman Church further away from their own theological positions before and in the early stages of the Reformation.

  1. Scripture, the magisterium, and tradition were found to be of equal authority. The actual holders of the teaching office (magisterium) in the Church are the pope and the bishops, as the successors of Saint Peter and the other Apostles. Tradition holds that the apostles transmitted all they received from Christ and learned from the Holy Spirit to their successors, the bishops, and through them to all generations until the end of the world.
  2. “In treating the canon of Scripture they declare at the same time that in matters of faith and morals the tradition of the Church is, together with the Bible , the standard of supernatural revelation…the Bible should be interpreted according to the unanimous testimony of the Fathers….Nothing was decided in regard to the translation of the Bible in the vernaculars. ”

  3. The Latin Vulgate translation was declared the official Bible of the Church along with what Protestants call The Apocrypha and given more authority than the Bible in the Greek and Hebrew manuscripts.
  4. “the Vulgate to be the authentic text for sermons and disputations…”

  5. The Church has the sole authority to interpret the Scriptures. This teaching essentially denied the need for the Bible in the language of the common man. In fact, placing the Bible in the hands of lay people was considered dangerous.
  6. See #1, NewAdvent reference.

  7. Trent upheld the validity of the seven sacraments (baptism, communion, confirmation of church membership, penance and reconciliation (and receiving absolution from a priest), anointing of the sick–extreme unction, holy orders, and marriage). Protestants believe that the Bible only names two sacraments: baptism and communion.
  8. Trent forbade “communion in both kinds,” meaning the laity were only allowed to partake of the bread, but not the cup.
  9. “the granting of the cup to the laity at Communion, which was left to the discretion of the pope…”

  10. The nature of justification was broadened to include moral renovation, as well as the forgiveness of sins. A baptized individual co-operates with the infused righteousness of Christ more and more throughout his life. Justification is dependent upon the act of baptism, not on faith alone. Trent impugned the sole sufficiency of Christ to save a person from their sin and made salvation to be a cooperative effort of Christ and the person. In this way, works is added to the work of Christ for a person to be finally saved.
  11. Trent affirmed the doctrine of transubstantiation in which the elements of the Eucharist become the very body and blood of the Lord Jesus and that the Eucharist was a true, propitiatory sacrifice in which the priest and victim of the sacrifice are one and the same (Christ), virtually an “unbloody” reenactment of His sacrifice on the cross.
  12. Trent confirmed the efficacy of pilgrimages and penances to gain the forgiveness of sins.
  13. Clerical celibacy was upheld.
  14. Veneration of images was upheld.
  15. The Council also formally recognized the Pope as the Vicar of Christ on Earth, that is he has the authority that is held exclusively by the Lord Jesus Christ alone.
  16. The Mass, which had varied locally, was standardized for the church at large. It became known as the Tridentine Mass, after the city of Trent where this council met.

*** Note: After the Council of Trent, Rome moved further away theologically from their own positions that they had held before the Reformation. (Thought from R. J. Rushdoony, The Cure of Souls, Vallecito, CA: Ross House Books, 2007), page 175.


The primary source of the information above.

Ten Rules of the Council of Trent

Seventeen decrees