in the Roman Catholic church, a theory that a general council of the church has greater authority than the pope and may, if necessary, depose him. Conciliarism had its roots in discussions of 12th- and 13th-century canonists who were attempting to set juridical limitations on the power of the papacy. The most radical forms of the conciliar theory in the Middle Ages were found in the 14th-century writings of Marsilius of Padua, an Italian political philosopher who rejected the divine origin of the papacy, and William of Ockham, an English philosopher who taught that only the church as a whole-not an individual pope or even a council-is preserved from error in faith.
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