“From the accession of Constantine to the Empire of the East (323) until the seventh Ecumenical Council (787) — that is to say, during a space of 464 years — I count no less than 203 years during which the Eastern Episcopate was and remained in schism from the Apostolic See” (Monsignor L. Duchesne, “The Churches Separated from Rome“, page 164)
This is a very significant statement. In modern Orthodox/Catholics dialogue, the East is often speaking of how the Orientals had a different perspective than the West on the issue of primacy, ecclesial unity, and the governmental administration of the visible Church. And yet, during the entirety of this primary segment of first millennia history, the Eastern churches were nearly 50% of the time out of communion with, not only with Catholicism, but with the only See which had never been in the trenches of heresy during this extent of time (by the East’s own admission), that is, the See of Rome.
The Eastern Episcopate had tampered with the Arian, Semi-Arian, Nestorian, Mono-physite, Mono-thelite, and Iconoclastic heresies, and in each instance of these Eastern churches coming into full communion with the Church, it was by coming back into union with the Roman See and what her Church taught since the beginning. <I’m calling it now…someone’s gonna mention Liberius/Vigilius/Honorius…..Do it….please>
And yet, supposedly we are not to take to heart the Roman rationale for ecclesiastical unity, which is nothing less than the Papal-theory encoded into dogma in 1870 together with the De Ecclesia of the Council of Vatican 2. Instead, we are told by the Orthodox, we should take more to heart the Eastern rationale for ecclesiastical unity. And yet, this statement by Duchesne illustrates just how poor a witness the Orient was in that very specific regard.
It is truly a wonder, therefore, why we are given even an attempt to deny the veracity of St. Maximos the Confessor and his own gloss on Rome. Probably just after the Council of Lateran 649 Maximos wrote the following after the successful council in Rome anathematizing monotheletism:
“For the extremities of the earth and all in every part of it who purely and rightly confess the Lord, look directly towards the most holy Roman Church and its confession and faith, as it were to a sun of unfailing light, awaiting from it the bright radiance of the sacred dogmas of our fathers, according to what the six inspired and holy councils have purely and piously decreed, declaring most expressly the symbol of faith. For from the coming down of the incarnate Word among us, all the Churches in every part of the world have possessed that greatest Church along as their base and foundation, seeing that, according to the promise of Christ our Savior, the gates of hell do never prevail against it, that it possesses the keys of a right confession and faith in Him, that it opens the true and only religion to such as approach with piety, and shuts up and locks every heretical mouth that speaks injustice against the Most High”
My goodness. This could have been written by none less than Pope St. Nicholas I, who unmistakably claiming a universal jurisdiction over the entire earth.
But yet we are often told that Maximos was quick to disregard Rome if she had communed with the heretical see of Constantinople. Well, such a statement comes from St Paul who said that even if himself were to preach a different gospel than what he had delivered, that it should not be received by the Galatians. Such a statement is hyperbolic. And it wouldn’t be right to make the issue so flippant. We really do have a statement from Maximos where he rests the infallibility of the Roman See on the promise of Christ our God. By what impression would we be influenced by to make such a serious claim? I would say because he at least believed it. On the other hand, when under interrogation, he was giving up his all to follow the Roman Council of Lateran 649 and in its accord with the Fathers of the Church. In other words, he was in duress, and the question of Rome contradicting her own finished viewpoint on the question of Christ’s wills is already in the realm of dreamy speculation. And we shouldn’t forget that Maximos wasn’t convinced that Rome had actually turned heretical. At least, I’ve not seen the evidence of this.