Lateran Council, Fifth
(1512—1517)
   The last general council of the Western church before the outbreak of the Protestant Reformation. It was summoned to Rome by Pope Julius II in order to eclipse a schismatic council convened at Pisa (also in 1512) by King Louis XII of France, the Emperor Maximilian I, and a number of dissident cardinals. The goals of the Lateran Council were to restore the unity of the church, to end warfare among Christian powers, to organize a crusade against the Turks, to extirpate heresy (the Hussite heresy in Bohemia), and to reform church and society. After the death of Pope Julius in 1513, the new pope, Leo X, continued the council.
   It was a splendid gathering, marked by sermons delivered by famous humanist preachers and advocates for moderate reform of the church, and it was well attended, though the overwhelming majority of the bishops attending were Italians, who in general backed papal authority. Under the eventempered Pope Leo, the dispute with the French king that had caused the convocation of the rival body at Pisa was settled by the Concordat of Bologna (1516). Although the Lateran Council endorsed the Concordat, no French delegates came to take part in its final sessions. The ordinary diocesan bishops hoped to secure greater authority within their dioceses, to restrict the special exemptions granted by the papacy to the mendicant orders, and to create a college of bishops sitting permanently at Rome to look after their interests, but they made very few gains.
   As for reform of worship, the council advocated preaching of the Gospel guided by the interpretations of the ancient Church Fathers and the medieval doctors of theology—that is, pretty much the status quo. It noted that the new art of printing created a potential danger to orthodox faith and morals and commanded local bishops to supervise the press in their dioceses. University professors of philosophy were required to uphold the church's traditions on topics such as the immortality and unity of the soul, the unity of truth (that is, that truths taught by reason must conform to the truths taught by religion), and the creation of the world.
   These latter requirements in effect made the doctrine of the soul's immortality and the creation of the world by God dogmas of the Catholic faith rather than just the doctrine traditionally held by the faithful. They were directed against the secular, non-religious interpretation of Aristotle and his ancient and medieval commentators by professors in Italian universities, such as Pietro Pomponazzi at Bologna. Although later defenders of the record of the pre-Reformation church have rightly pointed out a number of conciliar measures encouraging reforms of doctrine and practice, the council failed to prepare the church to face the Protestant Reformation, which broke out little more than six months after the council's adjournment.

Historical Dictionary of Renaissance. . 2004.

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