The second general council of the church, convened in 381 by the emperor Theodosius, at the instance of Pope St. Damasus, who approved its acts in a council held in Rome in 382. There were present 150 bishops, all belonging to the eastern churches; the chief object of the convocation being to settle the difficulties consequent upon the long domination of the Arians. The council confirmed the election of St. Gregory Nazianzen, who before the accession of Theodosius had been called to govern the church of Constantinople; and at the same time it deposed the intruder Maximus Cynicus. The acts of this council, besides the reaffirmation of the faith of Nice and the condemnation of the Macedonian and other heresies, were chiefly directed toward regulating the government and discipline of the eastern churches, and prescribing proper forms for the readmission of heretics. II. The fifth general council, convened in 553 by the emperor Justinian, for the purpose of obtaining the solemn condemnation of what is known in church history as the "three chapters," viz.: the person and writings of Theodore, bishop of Mopsuestia; the writings of Theodoret, bishop of Cyrrhus, so far as they favored Nestorianism, or opposed the twelve anathemas of St. Cyril; and an epistle written by Ibas, bishop of Edessa, to one Maris, a Persian, censuring Cyril and the council of Ephesus. Justinian, who was much given to theological disputation, had been induced by the Monophysite Theodore Ascidas, bishop of Caesarea, and by the empress Theodora, to issue in 546 a decree called "Confession of Faith," condemning these "three subjects" As they had been passed on by the council of Chalcedon, Pope Vigilius looked upon this unauthorized proceeding of the emperor as a censure of the council. On his arrival in Constantinople, he excommunicated the empress and Theodore Ascidas, assembled a council of bishops, and published a sentence styled judicatum, in which, without pronouncing on the authenticity of the inculpated documents, he condemned their heretical meaning, "without prejudice to the council of Chalcedon." This saving clause incensed the emperor and the Monophysites, and drew upon the pope a cruel persecution which well nigh cost him his life, while the fact of his condemning the " three chapters " roused the indignation of the orthodox and produced a schism. To remedy this evil, the fifth general council was called, the pope barely yielding a reluctant assent, protesting against the partial and irregular way in which the assembly was organized, and refusing to preside over it. The meetings were called conferences. In the third the bishops gave in their adhesion to the four general councils, condemning all that was contrary thereto.
In the eighth and last conference they condemned by a formal sentence the texts laid before them, as well as their authors. The pope, who had pledged himself to give his judgment separately, had prepared what is known as his constitutum, which was published Feb. 24, 554. While condemning the errors contained in the texts, Vigilius reminded the fathers of the council that they themselves regarded these texts as having been probably interpolated. He refused to condemn the person of Theodore of Mopsuestia, dead a century before, and reproved the animosity manifested toward Theodoret and Ibas, whose orthodoxy had been admitted by the council of Chalcedon. This doctrinal sentence and approbation of Vigilius was ratified by his successors. III. The sixth general council met Nov. 7, 680, under Pope Agatho, the emperor Constantine IV. assisting at some of the subsequent sessions. Its object was to condemn the Monothelite heresy, which maintains that in Christ there is but one will. The fathers, after reaffirming the doctrinal decisions of the five general councils, decreed that as in Christ both the divine and the human nature remain unconfused and entire after their union, so each nature performs its own vital operations through its proper faculties, the divine nature through the divine intellect and will, the human nature through its human intellect and will; the human will, however, being ever subject to the divine.
The council closed its labors, after 18 sessions, Aug. 16, 681. IV. The eighth general council, 869, met in the church of St. Sophia under the presidency of the legates of Pope Adrian II., and in presence of the emperor Basil the Macedonian. Its object was to remedy the evil caused by the usurpation of Photius, who was condemned both for his intrusion and his heretical opinions. Those among his followers who subscribed to the profession of faith proposed by the council were allowed to retain their position in the church; the recusants were excommunicated and deposed. The iconoclasts were also condemned.