What happened at the Council of Trent?
Publish date:
Summary: The Catholic Council of Trent met 25 times from 1545 to 1563.

In November 1518, Martin Luther published an appeal from the Pope to the emperor and nobility of Germany on behalf of the Reformation of Christianity. He was convinced that he would be condemned at Rome for his heretical doctrines. He wanted to be tried by a Christian council.

Martin Luther Public Domain https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Martin_Luther_by_Cranach-restoration.tif

Because of this precedent, the Diet at Nuremberg, which met in 1522, decided to demand a “free Christian council” on German soil. Rome agreed to the council, but stipulated it wasn’t to be on German soil.

After much disputing between Germany and Rome, Emperor Charles V decided that he considered the calling of a general council to be expedient and proposed the city of Trent as the place of assembly.

The Council of Trent met 25 times and made many decisions about Christian doctrine. However, this doctrine was Catholic, not Protestant, and many Protestants fought against the decisions.

Sessions 1 through 4

In December 1545, the First Session began and lasted until March of 1547. But as soon as they established the Council, fighting broke out again over what to call it.

The Second Session, which lasted from May 1, 1551, until April 28, 1552, was where the Council actually finalized all of the decisions discussed during the period outside of Trent in the four years previous.

The Third Session was held on February 4, 1546. The decisions were as follows:

1. A decree concerning the symbol of faith and matters of faith and morals. Tradition and Scripture were both upheld as valid sources of divine revelation.
2. A decision that the Vulgate is the authentic text. This decision meant rejecting the Received Text, upon which the King James Version is based.

In the Fourth Session on May 24, 1546, deliberations about nature and consequences of original sin ended in the decision that original sin is cancelled by baptism.

Also at this council a Decree Concerning the Canonical Scriptures asserted that "anyone who dared study Scriptures on their own must 'be punished with the penalties by law established.' The Council of Trent went so far as to forbid even the printing of and sale of the Bible. Anyone daring to violate this decree was anathematized, or cursed and damned to Hell for it.”i

What is not generally known is that the Bible had previously been placed on the Index of Forbidden Books list by the Council of Toulouse/Toledo in 1229. It remained in the index until it was discontinued and replaced at Vatican Council II. “Anyone reading or owning a 'forbidden' book was anathematized, or cursed and remanded to hell for doing so.”ii

Cannon 14 from the Council of Toulouse says that the Roman Catholic Church: Forbids the laity to have in their possession any copy of the books of the Old and New Testament...and most strictly forbids these works in the vulgar tongue.iii

Sessions 5 and 6

The Fifth Session, June 17, 1546, brought about the following decisions:

1. A decree concerning original sin. Original sin is the sin that Adam committed in disobeying the commandment of God. As a consequence of this first sin, they lost the grace of original holiness and received a hereditary stain with which we are born on account of our origin or descent from Adam.
2. Five anathemas regarding belief on original sin. If one did not adhere to the above dogma, they would be anathema from the Church.
3. The first decree on reform. This decree included The Establishment of Lectureships in Holy Scripture and the Liberal Arts, and Preachers of the Word of God and Questions of Alms

Between the fifth and sixth sessions there was a war between Charles V and the Protestant Princes.

The Sixth Session, held on January 13, 1547, resulted in a decree concerning justification in 33 canons.

Since there is being disseminated at this time, not without the loss of many souls and grievous detriment to the unity of the Church, a certain erroneous doctrine concerning justification, the holy, ecumenical and general Council of Trent...strictly forbids that anyone henceforth presume to believe, preach or teach otherwise than is defined and declared in the present decree. iv

Sessions 7 through 13

The Seventh Session, on March 3, 1547, brought about these decisions:

1. A decree concerning the Sacraments in general (affecting 13 canons), 14 canons concerning baptism, and 3 canons dealing with confirmation. The canons on the Sacraments in general were essentially trying to discourage anyone from doubting the authority of the recently instigated New Laws, and attempting to justify the changes by claiming God Himself was behind all the reform. The canons on title="Read about the Biblical stance on baptism">baptism also contained many references to the Churches authority and threats of anathema. The 3 canons on confirmation appealed to the authority of the Church and were just as unBiblical as the previous canons in their claims.

2. A decree in 15 chapters concerning reform—the Holy Council intended to continue the work begun concerning residence and reform. They thought it well to decree these reforms by the authority of the Holy See.

An infectious disease broke out in Trent and was killing the members of the council, so the cardinal legates proposed a transfer for the Eighth Session to Bologna. Charles V opposed the change and refused to recognize it, so the Eighth, Ninth and Tenth Sessions were incomplete except for decrees concerning translation, prorogation, and a bull of resumption of the Council of Trent under Julius III. After the Pope died, the Council moved back to Trent in order to placate the emperor.v

During the Eleventh Session, held on May 1, 1551, the dogma on the Sacrament of the Eucharist was composed.

The Twelfth Session, however, was essentially cancelled because the French king prohibited his delegates from attending.

The Thirteenth Session on October 11, 1551, included these decisions:

1. A decree concerning the sacrament of the Eucharist in 8 chapters and 11 canons; these solidified proposed dogma from the short Eleventh Session.
2. A decree concerning reform; these related to the authority of Bishops in regard to criminal laws.
3. A decree to postponing the definition of four articles concerning the Eucharist.
4. A decision to grant letters of safe conduct for Protestants attending the next Council.

Session 14


The Fourteenth Session, November 25, 1551, upheld the following decisions:

1. A canonical decree on the Sacrament of Penance.

The manner in which this sacrament is done has developed over time, but the basics have always remained:

Confession: You must confess all known mortal sins to a priest. You can confess all your sins, but start with any mortal sins. The priest is bound by the most absolute secrecy and confidentiality known to humankind. Not even the Pope can get a priest to tell who went to him for confession or what was confessed. The priest must be willing to endure prison, torture, and death before violating the Seal of Confession, the secrecy of the sacrament.

Contrition: You must be sorry you committed the sins and resolve to do your best not to repeat them.

Penance: After you confess your sins, the priest gives you a penance to perform. A penance may be to do something nice for your enemy every day for a week. It may be to visit a nursing home or hospital one day a week for a month. It may be to donate time to a soup kitchen or clothing bank. It may involve any one of the corporal or spiritual works of mercy. Or it may be a set of prayers, such as saying the "Our Father" or the "Hail Mary" a certain number of times. Whatever the penance, it’s merely a token, because Catholics believe that the sacrifice of Christ on the cross is what made atonement for our sins. Your penance is for your benefit—to remind you that God comes first and you come last.

Absolution: The priest or bishop hearing your confession (deacons don’t have the power to celebrate this sacrament), offers forgiveness, saying a prayer that calls on God to give you absolution and peace.”vi

2. Three chapters changed in the canons concerning the Sacrament of Extreme Unction. “The Sacrament "Extreme Unction," also called "Last Rites" or "Anointing of the Sick," is the anointing given to those who are gravely bodily ill, especially those in danger of death from bodily illness or from violence already done to the body"vii

3. Fifteen canons condemning heresies to do with different beliefs about penance.

4. Canons condemning heresies on wrong uses of Extreme Unction.

Sessions 15 through 17

The Fifteenth Session was held on January 25, 1552, and was very brief. The actions of this Fifteenth Session included another safe conduct promise for Protestants.

Newly inducted Protestants who were starting to acquaint themselves with the Council demanded that all earlier decisions of the Council be recalled and that all debates be deferred. The Council did not accept these demands. They were discussing the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and the ordination of priests, but deferred these discussions to the Pope in order to give the Protestants safe conduct.

Around this time, the attack of Maurice of Saxony on Charles V made the city of Trent unsafe for the council, so the Sixteenth Session of April 23, 1552, was forced to produce a decree suspending the Council for two years because of traveling dangers.

Shortly after these events, the Pope died. Pope Paul IV (1555-1559), who was hastily elected, agreed to the proposed reforms to the Catholic Church but did not reconvene the Council. His successor, Pope Pius V (1559-1565), reconvened the Council, but the problem of a new location was an immediate issue. Spain’s emperor Ferdinand and the King of France opposed going back to Trent. The Protestants opposed the Council itself because they knew it would cause many restrictions. After a few altercations, the different countries involved left the decision to the Pope, but the Protestants still argued against the Council.

The Seventeenth Session was ordered to begin on Easter, 1561, in Trent. However, the delegates were not able to arrive on time and it was postponed until January 18, 1562. This session was taken up with arguments against the Council by the Protestants.

Sessions 18 through 24

The Eighteenth Session on February 25, 1562, included these decisions:

1. A decree concerning the choice of books (opinions on this were included in the Index of Forbidden Books).

”Some notable authors and intellectuals whose works are widely read today in leading universities worldwide and are now considered as the foundations of science were listed on the Index. E.g. Kepler's New Astronomy and World Harmony were quickly placed on the Index after their publication.viii

2. The granting of safe conduct to the German nation in a general congregation and, an extension to other nations.

The Ninteenth and Twentieth Sessions were unproductive again because of Protestants’ arguments against the Council.

The Twenty-First Session on July 16, 1562, upheld the following decisions:

1. A decree concerning Communion.
2. A decree on Communion of little children.
3. A decree on reform concerning ordination to the priesthood.

The Twenty-Second Session, September 17, 1562, produced the following:

1. A decree on the sacrifice of the Mass.
2. A decree on the suppression of abuses in offering the sacrifice of the Mass.
3. A decree concerning various morals of the clergy.
4. A decree on the Eucharist.

The Twenty-Third Session, July 15, 1563, concluded with a decree on the Sacrament of Holy Orders and a decree concerning marriage including marital contracts, spiritual relationships, public honesty, fornication, situations wherein marriage is prohibited, punishments for abductors, marriage of vagrants, punishment for concubinage, retaining liberty of marriage, and suspension of marital ceremony on certain Holy dates.

The Twenty-Fourth Session’s decisions on November 11, 1563, included the following:

1. A decree in 12 canons on the doctrine of the Sacrament of Matrimony; particularly to define the institute and then to declare those who disbelieve the stated law to be anathema.
2. A decree on the creation of Bishops and Cardinals and other such related decrees on the religious personnel in the Church.

Session 25

The Twenty-fifth and Final Session, held December 3, 1563, finished with the following eight decisions:

1. A decree on the veneration and invocation of the saints, their relics, and images, and purgatory.
2. A decree concerning reform of monks and nuns.
3. A decree concerning living conditions, authority limits, and duties of cardinals and bishops.
4. A decree upholding chastity among the religious.
5. A decree on indulgences.
6. A decree on fasting and feasting days.
7. A decree that the Pope prepares the Missal, the Breviary, and the Catechism.
8. A list of forbidden books.

This included the blacklisting of some Protestant scholars even when writing on subjects a modern reader would consider outside the realm of dogma. Unless they obtained a dispensation, obedient Catholic thinkers were denied access to the botanist Conrad Gesner's Historiae animalium or the botanical works of Otto Brunfels, those of the medical scholar Janus Cornarius, to Christoph Hegendorff or Johann Oldendorp on the theory of law, Protestant geographers and cosmographers like Jacob Ziegler or Sebastian Münster, as well as anything by Protestant theologians like Martin Luther, John Calvin or Philipp Melancthon. The result from the entire Council of Trent forbidden books policies resulted in the Tridentine Index—which contains over 600 books—remained the basis of all later lists until the Index Leonainus published in 1897. Certain versions of the Bible were prohibited from both of these indexes.”ix


The decisions of the Council were signed by 215 Council members and confirmed by the Pope. It was signed and accepted by all the countries involved by January 26, 1564.

Read about the Vatican Council of 1869

i. Dogmatic Cannons and Decrees of the Council of Trent Copyright Rockford, IL: Tan Books and Publishers, 1977): 11-13.


iii. Ibid.

iv. http://www.ewtn.com/library/councils/trent6.htm

v. https://wikis.engrade.com/counciloftrent

vi. http://www.angelfire.com/ma/romewatch/page21.html

vii. http://www.fisheaters.com/unction.html

viii. "The Congregation of the Index," The Galileo Project (Rice University). Also, Tom Heneghan, "Secrets Behind The Forbidden Books," The National Catholic Weekly (February 7, 2005).

ix. "List of authors and works on the Index Librorum Prohibitorum," Wikipedia.

Science Deceptions
Media Deceptions
Spiritual Deceptions
A Basis for Conflict
Is there evidence for Creation science? How does it compare to evolution? The following articles give insight in to these questions and more.
Conforming Under Pressure Evolution Is Not Science—It's Religion How Can We See Stars That Are Billions Of Light Years Away? Creation and Evolution: Is Compromise Possible? Understanding the Creation Week Geocentricity: It's Time to Face the Facts The Rise of Evolutionary Thinking Earth's History: Conflicting Paradigms Lamarck Proposes Natural Selection Where did the Universe Come From? Evidence for a Young Universe Age Of The Earth Is Carbon-Dating Accurate? Flood Chronology
Evidence in Stone
Can we understand the age of the earth by the rocks? What theory does the evidence support?
Soft Rock Evidence for Rapid Washout
The Fossil Record
What does the fossil record show us? Is it all random or a defined science that we can understand? Where does evolution fit? Uncover mysteries in the history of the Earth.
Evolutionary Sequences Order in the Fossil Record Evolution of the Horse Explosive Evolution Fossils prove a Flood Fossil Footprints Dinosaurs and the Flood Petrified Trees The Biblical Flood Reasons For Extinction Fossil Reefs The Post-Flood World Human Evolution
Genes of Genesis
As we study the genome, the molecule, and the atom, we see a vast network of intricate systems beyond our understanding. Were these systems really formed by chance?
Why So Many Species - Glossary Is the Gastraea Hypothesis Viable? Mechanisms For Variation Built-in Variation in the Gene Pool Answering Questions "Species" versus "Kind" Molecules That Began Life Creating Life in a Test Tube? Post-Flood Distribution Natural Selection Reproductive Exchange Natural Selection as a Creative Force Transposable Elements Recombination of Chromosomes The Evidence of Things Not Seen Ernst Haeckel's Theories Dinosaur Extinction and Global Catastrophe Jesus Christ—All Things Become New Variation and Classification Evolution: Miracle of Miracles Why So Many Species? Is The Grand Canyon Proof of Noah's Flood? Spiders and the Creative Genius of God Things That Negate Evolution: Snake Legs Wrong Assumptions in C-14 Dating Methods Rapid Cave Formation The Australian Problem Synesthesia: Mystery of God’s Creation
Creation to Restoration
How did this world change from the perfection depicted in Genesis to a world full of thorns, thistles, parasites, and death? If God made everything perfect, how could it have all been so changed?
A Good World Gone Bad An Imperfect Planet Evidence For Design Evidence For Transformation Rapid Transformation Clean and Unclean: The History of the Human Diet The Dawn Chorus and Life Forces
Archaeology and the Bible
Archaeology and prophecy have proven the Bible to be true. But what's so special about the Bible that makes it a point of so much controversy?
Archaeology Confirms the Bible Tyre and the Bible Petra and the Bible Egypt and the Bible Babylon and the Bible The Lost Books of the Bible
Crossing Musical Boundaries
Music is a powerful emotional motivator that crosses cultural and language barriers. Its message can be understood by every culture and people across the planet.
The Philosophers Talk Music Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Christianity The Pursuit of Pleasure Music and Worship The Beat Whose Music? The Rave Can You Feel the Music? The Bible and Rock Music: Are they Compatible? The Last Great Contest – Worship The Ear Classical Music Therapy Music and the Frontal Lobe From the Horse's Mouth: The Rock Industry Condemns Itself
Hollywood and the Movies
What is the system of worship found most often in our society? Does it glorify God?
Hollywood's History Gnostic Themes in the Movies Hollywood and Gnosticism
Brain Closed—Please Come Again
Research has shown that our sensitivity to stimuli reduces itself yearly by about 1%. Is your brain hibernating?
The Dangers of Television
Beware of the television's abilities to hypnotize, alter moods, and even cause depression.
Violence and Video Games
Like music and movies, video games are addictive and can cause behavioral problems.
The Origins of Halloween
What is the origin behind this popular festival celebrated every October 31?
Introduction to the Reformation
What started the Protestant Reformation? Was the Reformation a success? Does it still matter today?
The Pope Claims to be God on Earth
Read proof that throughout the Roman Church's history, the Papacy has often claimed that the Pope is divine.
The Bloody History of Papal Rome - A Timeline
The oppression of Protestants is widespread and consistent throughout history.
The Bloody History of Papal Rome - Quotes
It was once written in America's oldest Catholic newspaper, the Boston Pilot, that "No good government can exist without religion, and there can be no religion without an Inquisition, which is wisely designed for the promotion and protection of the true faith.”

Read several authors' thoughts on papal Rome's history.
Catholic Councils
What happened at the Council of Trent? The First Vatican Council The Second Vatican Council
The Jesuits
Learn what people throughout history have had to say on the reputation, history, and political nature of the Jesuit Order.
An Introduction to the Jesuits Jesuits and the Hippie Movement Ignatius of Loyola and Martin Luther "Caring" and a New Morality Ignatius' Spiritual Exercises Ignatius Loyola and Spiritual Formation Protestantism Destroyed The Jesuit Superior General
Cross and Crown
This book "Cross and Crown" is a powerful and thrilling recital of the most romantic and dramatic incidents in history to be found on record, told in the simplest, most graphic, and entertaining form.
The Aggressive Intentions of the Papacy
The historian Ranke says this about Protestant-Catholic relations: "In the year 1617, everything betokened a decisive conflict between them. The Catholic party appears to have felt itself the superior. At all events it was the first to take up arms."

This article highlights quotes from historical and Catholic sources proving the Papacy's aggressive nature.
Christianity and Violence
Would the world be a safer place without Christian fundamentalism?
Stories of the Reformation
Dive into history to uncover the remarkable stories of faith and passion in early Protestantism.
An Italian mystic. A minister to a British king. An Augustine monk. A Swiss farmer's boy. What do these men have in common? They were used by God in powerful ways to bring about the Protestant Reformation. Enter into the lives of these ordinary people with extraordinary stories.
Inspiration for these articles comes from Gideon and Hilda Hagstoz' Heroes of the Reformation
Philipp Melanchthon John Laski Jerome of Prague John Wycliffe Louis De Berquin Gaspard De Coligny
Religious Doublespeak
Language can be used to communicate both truth and lies. Learn about the religious doublespeak being used to pull the wool over the eyes of the world.
Hegelian Thinking and World Politics
Hegelian dialectic thinking is applied in many situations in world politics. Often the ordinary people are used as pawns in the game of Hegelian psychology played by those who pull the strings of world control.
The Great Controversy
Read this classic work by Ellen G. White.
The Destruction of Jerusalem Persecution in the First Centuries An Era of Spiritual Darkness The Waldenses John Wycliffe Huss and Jerome Luther's Separation From Rome Luther Before the Diet The Swiss Reformer Progress of Reform in Germany Protest of the Princes The French Reformation The Netherlands and Scandinavia Later English Reformers The Bible and the French Revolution The Pilgrim Fathers Heralds of the Morning An American Reformer Light Through Darkness A Great Religious Awakening A Warning Rejected Prophecies Fulfilled What is the Sanctuary? In the Holy of Holies God's Law Immutable A Work of Reform Modern Revivals Facing Life's Record The Origin of Evil Enmity Between Man and Satan Agency of Evil Spirits Snares of Satan The First Great Deception Can Our Dead Speak to Us? Liberty of Conscience Threatened The Impending Conflict The Scriptures a Safeguard The Final Warning The Time of Trouble God's People Delivered Desolation of the Earth The Controversy Ended
Who is Jesus?
Is Jesus really who He says He is?
Did Jesus Ever Exist? Was Jesus the Messiah? Is What Christianity Teaches True? The Godhead and the One True God Movement Is Jesus God? Jesus: The Mercy Seat Why Did Jesus Have To Die? Six Purposes for Christ's Life and Death on Earth What Day Did Jesus Die? The 70-Week Prophecy Jesus, the Recycled Redeemer Names of Christ in Revelation
How will Christ return, and what will it mean for His people?
The First Beast—Comparing Daniel 7 and Revelation 13 Revelation Identifies End-Time Babylon The Second Beast of Revelation 13 Identifying the Antichrist The Final Confederacy Walking Through Daniel The Seven Plagues Walking through Revelation
Religious Trends
What are the trends in the religious world today? Sun Worship, The UN and the One World Religion, Eastern Mysticism and Spiritism... Just what do all these things mean in light of Bible prophecy?
Babylonian Religion Sun Worship The Charismatic Movement Politics and the Papacy Paganism and Mary Wealth Redistribution Spiritism throughout Religions Catholic Pentecostalism Unity at All Cost? Sustainability Pentecostalism The Charismatic Movement and Spiritual Gifts Paganism and Christmas Manifesting the Charismatic Spirit The New Age Movement Paganism in our Culture The United Nations' Global Government The History of Tongues Secret Societies Revival and the "Power of God" Signs and Wonders What’s So Bad about Spiritual Formation? Zionism
Most people can understand the reasoning behind nine of the Ten Commandments—don't kill, don't lie, don't steal. But what about the Sabbath Commandment? Why would God give such a law? Why should we follow it?
What is the Seventh-Day Sabbath? Creation and the Sabbath The Weekly Cycle Why Sunday? Sabbath FAQ
The Second Coming of Christ
How will Christ return, and what will it mean for His people?
Signs of The Second Coming of Christ The Second Coming of Christ Viewpoints How Christ will Return What will Happen to God's People? What will Happen to the Rejecters of God? Will there be a Secret Rapture? The Millennium of Peace
The Bible
Can the Bible be trusted to provide answers to our questions? Does it contain truth? Learn about the evidence that proves the Bible's authenticity.
Archaeology Confirms the Bible Choosing the Books of the Bible Studying Scripture Scripture is Inspired by God Testing the Gospel of Thomas Testing the Gospel of Judas The Spirit in Scripture The Lost Books of the Bible The Gospel Story Spiritual Gifts
Christian Living: Sin and Salvation
Consider the crucial points of the Christian life.
Christian Living Good God, Bad World. Why? God's Plan to Eradicate Sin Salvation By Faith The Ceremonial Feasts Pointed to Christ
Is there more to death than the fact that it is the opposite of life? What are the false doctrines involving the immortality of the soul?
Death: Understanding the Terminology A Biblical Understanding of Death The Resurrection of Lazarus Spiritism Hell and Purgatory An Immediate Afterlife? The Parable of Lazarus