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The pre-Tridentine ecumenical councils of the Roman Catholic church were, as Dr. Francis Wharton has well remarked,' international congresses, working toward the establishment of a uniform law for the civilized world. It was a law confined to one set of subjects; but among them were those having to do with the family relation, and which were therefore of the first importance to human society. Each nation of Christendom was represented in these gatherings by its sovereign or political delegates, as well as by its bishops, and it was for each nation, acting through its political departments, to ratify or reject such rules or laws in these respects as the council might propose.

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