Answers to Eastern Orthodox Objections (Part 2) – Ecumenicity of Lyons/Florence, Patriarchs, Canon 28, Formula of Hormisdas

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Our interlocutor Max has responded to the previous posting. His comments in bold, my answers in normal type :

Eric Ybarra seems to forget that reunification councils of Lyons (1274) and Florence (1439) were convened with the EXPLICIT aim of re-uniting separated Eastern Churches with the Church of Rome. How can Lyons (1274) and Florence (1439) be described as “Ecumenical Councils” when the Eastern Churches REJECTED them? Are Lyons (1274) and Florence (1439) “Ecumenical Councils” because the Bishop of Rome arbitrarily and unilaterally decided that they were to be “Ecumenical Councils”?

Lyons 1274 is Ecumenical, for starters, because it had universal representation. Around 500 bishops, 60 Abbots , 1000 prelates, alongside kings or their representatives…including the ambassadors of Emperor Michael Palaeologus who brought a letter from the East signed by 50 archbishops and around 500 bishops. The president of this Council, Gregory X (Canon of Lyons), when celebrating mass sung the Creed , and it was done in both Latin & Greek, and which included “qui a patre filioque procedit”, which the Greek clergy sang three times. Secondly, because it was ratified by the bishops in attendence, as well as by the Pope of Rome. Also, not that it means anything in particular for Catholics, but since the Orthodox love the authority of the great Emperor Justinian I, I will mention that Palaeologus and his son, Andronikus, wrote a letter to the Pope recognizing his ecclesial supremacy. Upon the finishing of the Council, the plan of re-union seemed achieved by Palaeologus, but ultimately the Byzantine clergy would not tolerate it. Although, John XI Bekkos, who occupied the See of Constantinople after the council had already completed, was an ardent defender of the union with the Latins. However, in 1282, just 8 years after the completion of the Council of Lyons, Palaeologus had died and the re-union with the Latins was repudiated officially at the Council of Blachernae 1285 under Palaeologus’ son Anronikus. Bekkos, who had campaigned in support of the re-union, was eventually exiled and imprisoned until his death near 1300. For Catholics, an Ecumenical Council is held valid upon its completion, with an a priori binding nature. It is not held in the suspense of reaction (cf A.S. Khamiokov). If this were the case, Chalcedon would have to be erased from the list of Councils, unless the Orthodox want to suggest that it became Ecumenical only under Justinian I with the Formula of Hormisdas or Constantinople III. But even then, it poses a problem. It is a similar situation for the council of Florence, continuation of Basle. The re-union of Latin West and the Oriental churches looked to be secured, but because ultimately the Byzantine clergy, for mixed reasons, of which duress is one, rejected the re-union as the Greek delegates returned to Constantinople. The Council was officially repudiated in Constantinople especially as the sack of the city came in 1453 .Now , whether the Greeks were held entirely under the duress, is a subject still being discussed to this very day; and surely we must be careful how much effect we give to duress, since many could have had this in those councils which are undisputed. What is known objectively is that Eastern representation was achieved in both cases, and under the Emperor of the Byzantines, and that consensus was reached in agreement. Catholics continue to number these in the official lists of Councils, if not for any other reason, than by the fact that the doctrines therein taught were given Papal approval, which at the very least obliges the submission of mind and will. But if an Orthodox Christian who holds to Khamiokov’s theory of “ecumenicity”, one wonders why any Orthodox Christian would have quams with the Catholic Church numbering Lyons 2 and Florence as Ecumenical, since the West has received it, and the Eastern episcopate, as of now, does not possess a jurisdictional right to deliberate on doctrine since they are severed from the communion of the Roman See. In other words, just as the Orthodox Chalcedonians have no problem regarding Chalcedon as ecumenical, despite the rejection by Egypt/Syria/Etc,Etc, since it was eventually accepted by the *true* episcopate, they should have no problem with Catholics numbering Lyons 2 and Florence as universally embraced over time.

Also, not that it means anything in particular for Catholics, but since the Orthodox love the authority of the great Emperor Justinian I, I will mention that Palaeologus and his son, Andronikus, wrote a letter to the Pope recognizing his ecclesial supremacy. Upon the finishing of the Council, the plan of re-union seemed achieved by Palaeologus, but ultimately the Byzantine clergy would not tolerate it. Although, John XI Bekkos, who occupied the See of Constantinople after the council had already completed, was an ardent defender of the union with the Latins. However, in 1282, just 8 years after the completion of the Council of Lyons, Palaeologus had died and the re-union with the Latins was repudiated officially at the Council of Blachernae 1285 under Palaeologus’ son Anronikus. Bekkos, who had campaigned in support of the re-union, was eventually exiled and imprisoned until his death near 1300. For Catholics, an Ecumenical Council is held valid upon its completion, with an a priori binding nature. It is not held in the suspense of reaction (cf A.S. Khamiokov). If this were the case, Chalcedon would have to be erased from the list of Councils, unless the Orthodox want to suggest that it became Ecumenical only under Justinian I with the Formula of Hormisdas or Constantinople III. But even then, it poses a problem. It is a similar situation for the council of Florence, continuation of Basle. The re-union of Latin West and the Oriental churches looked to be secured, but because ultimately the Byzantine clergy, for mixed reasons, of which duress is one, rejected the re-union as the Greek delegates returned to Constantinople. The Council was officially repudiated in Constantinople especially as the sack of the city came in 1453 .Now , whether the Greeks were held entirely under the duress, is a subject still being discussed to this very day; and surely we must be careful how much effect we give to duress, since many could have had this in those councils which are undisputed. What is known objectively is that Eastern representation was achieved in both cases, and under the Emperor of the Byzantines, and that consensus was reached in agreement. Catholics continue to number these in the official lists of Councils, if not for any other reason, than by the fact that the doctrines therein taught were given Papal approval, which at the very least obliges the submission of mind and will. But if an Orthodox Christian who holds to Khamiokov’s theory of “ecumenicity”, one wonders why any Orthodox Christian would have quams with the Catholic Church numbering Lyons 2 and Florence as Ecumenical, since the West has received it, and the Eastern episcopate, as of now, does not possess a jurisdictional right to deliberate on doctrine since they are severed from the communion of the Roman See. In other words, just as the Orthodox Chalcedonians have no problem regarding Chalcedon as ecumenical, despite the rejection by Egypt/Syria/Etc,Etc, since it was eventually accepted by the *true* episcopate, they should have no problem with Catholics numbering Lyons 2 and Florence as universally embraced over time.

Eric Ybarra seems to forget that the modern Catholic Church consists of the (Latin Rite) Roman Catholic Church and 23 sui iuris Eastern Catholic churches in Communion with Rome

No, I have not forgotten 🙂 The point I was making about the artificial structure of Patriarchates, Metropolitanates, etc,etc was that they were not direct institutions from Christ or His Apostles, and thus they are free to be used by the divine ekklesia for the best management of universal communion and administration. That said, we cannot size the Church essentially according to these standards of measurement, such that, as Max unfortunately attempted to do, we say that when Rome “severed from the Church” in the 11th (xx?) century, she broke away as a single Patriarchate versus the total of four other Patriarchates, implying that Rome was like 1/4th of the universal church. Doesn’t work that way. Christ instituted the Apostolate, and the Apostolate continues in the Episcopate which is divided into individual churches led by a single bishop, all cohesively glued together by the ecclesiastical bonds of unity. So if someone wished to give a true description of what broke away from what, they would need to categorize churches/bishops in their least common denominator. That changes the whole perspective.

Also seems odd that Pope St Leo the Great’s legates at the Council of Chalcedon also recognized Patriarchal order and divisions and asked asked why Patriarch St. Flavian had not been given second place in the council at Ephesus (II), the chief legate Paschalis saying “We will, please God, recognize the present bishop Anatolius of Constantinople as the first [i.e. after us], but Dioscorus made Flavian the fifth.

Before I respond to this, I want to note that, as a Catholic, I’m not responsible to answer for the views of Papal legates, particularly when their position is directly contrary to the position of the Pope himself, their ordinary and superior. Secondly, however much these legates arranged the seating at the Council, the very same legates proved themselves to be opposed to the 3rd canon of Constantinople 381 which assigned the Church of Constantinople 2nd place after Elder Rome, thus being ahead of the Churches of Alexandria and Antioch; during which they showed unhesitating certainty that Pope Leo, their superior, would not approve of the 28th canon seeking to renew the 3rd canon from the 381 Council. Anyone can read this for themselves in the 16th session of the Council. So for this point, I say for the neutral reader, he can take his pick. But for Catholics, the Pope set the standard for the legates, and they explicitly admit this fact. The better question on this subject is why did Patriarch Anatolius, the supposed leader of the Council after Rome, and who had the support of the Emperor Marcian, submit to Leo’s annulment of not just the 28th canon, but the 3rd canon of Council 381? Why was Pope Leo allowed to disregard the Council-sanctioned canons on this point?

Seems odd that the Popes of Rome themselves used the title “Patriarch of the West” until Pope Benedict XVI deleted the title “Patriarch of the West” from the Annuario Pontificio — the annual directory of the Holy See relatively recently in 2006.

Again, I admire the title “Patriarch of the West”, but the explanation of my purpose in bringing this up has nothing to do with whether it is a useful title or not. See above.

YES! The East was ravaged by one heresy after the other in the first millennium of Christianity BUT were the Seven Ecumenical Councils of the undivided Church of the first millennium of Christianity held merely to ratify/rubber stamp what Rome had decreed along the lines of “Rome has spoken, the case is closed”?

Sometimes, yes. Sometimes, no. But that is entirely irrelevant since the Pope’s themselves always handled issues in Councils within the Apostolic See. So I sense a straw man here .

Seems odd that the Sixth Ecumenical Council condemned Pope Honorius for heresy, when all he did was express his personal opinion (theologumen) in an unofficial capacity. Roman Catholic apologists also generally attempt to salvage the dogma of papal infallibility from the case with Honorius by saying that he was not giving an ex cathedra statement but merely his opinion as a private theologian. Therefore he was not condemned in his official capacity as the pope. According to the Roman Catholic Church there are certain conditions which must be met for the teaching of the pope to fall within the overall guidelines of that which is considered to be. He must be teaching in his official capacity as the pope and he must be defining doctrine for the entire Church. The claim is made that Honorius did not meet these conditions.

I don’t agree that Honorius expressed his personal opinion. He gave a direct order, and it was certainly in official capacity. It seems to me that Max has misunderstood the distinction between the ordinary magisterium, even Papal ordinary, with extraordinary Papal magisterium. All forms of magisterial teaching are “official”. But as I said in the previous post, this is a very rare situation, and it is arguable whether Honorius was a monothelite anyhow. And there is no sense in appealing to the intelligence of the Council on the matter of Honorius’ personal status. Max should know this more than anyone, since either the Council of Chalcedon or the Council of Constantinople II got it wrong concerning the authors of the Three Chapters. What’s to say that Constantinople III is absolutely infallible in its determination of Honorius as a Monothelite heretic. In any case, the Council, together with and under the presidency of the Popes, felt it their right to condemn the writings of Honorius as heretical, and the West persisted in this belief even afterwards. In fact, to this day, it is still admitted that a Pope, even using his official magistserium, can err and have himself condemned – especially post-mortam.

We NOW know what the Symmachean forgeries are in RETROSPECT, people back then did not have this luxury and obviously did not have a fair chance of distinguishing truth mixed with lies

I have to say I’m disappointed that Max has responded in this way. Here is a perfect opportunity to admit that he was flat wrong . I had originally made the point that Greeks who were victims of the Monophysite control in the East at during the inception of the 6th century had believed that the Roman bishop was successor of Peter by a unique and divine law given by Christ to Peter himself, and which continues today with the prerogative of a universal pastorate over the Church. Max initially hand-waved this as untrue (?) on the basis of the well-known Symmachean forgeries. This letter from the Greeks has nothing to do with the forgery-collection. Neither do the letters of St. Avitus and St. Ennodius, and neither the description of the Italian synod. The best thing to do here is to admit that the forgery objection was entirely irrelevant, leaving my original claim  still standing.

“According t Dr. Klaus Schatz, the Symmachean forgeries were only to get the principle “the First see is judged by none” into canon law. The drafters of the forgery already knew the valid existence of the principle under the pontificate of Pope Gelasius.” What “valid existence”? Is Erick referring to a specific Church Canon from the undivided Church or an Ecumenical Council? Do self-aggrandizing claims constitute “valid existence”?

This response shoves the Max’s erroneous objection with the Symmachean forgeries under the carpet, and he then seeks to undermine the validity of the principle of “the First See is judged by none”. Clearly, the Italian synod, Avitus, Ennodius, and Gelasius beforehand had held to its validity. Gelasius was no doubt referring to the canons of Sardica, which were ratified via Trullo 692 for the Byzantines. But even so, Sardica had the representation of Rome, Alexandria, Spain, Gaul, Illyricum, Palestine, and other places even in the East. There is more to Sardica than normally accrued. Lastly, your spiritual heroes of the East such as St. Theodore the Studite venerated Popes such as St. Leo & St. Innocent, and particularly for their involvement with ecumenical issues, and Max would have it that they were hungry for prestige, making self-aggrandizing claims. I wonder if Max could even be well received by the Eastern saints of the 8th/9th century given the statements he makes about the Pope’s claim for their divinely authorized position.

Eric Ybarra cannot seem to distinguish between Petrine Faith (which all orthodox Bishops are expected to confess), Petrine succession (at the Petrine See’s of Rome, Alexandria and Antioch) and Petrine Primacy (formerly held by Rome on account of the city’s status as the former imperial capital).

I see no point to discuss here, as I don’t disagree with it. What really happened here, however, is that Max initially wanted his readers to know that St. Gregory allegedly held that the See of Peter was really a single See in a tri-partite location, namely, Rome/Alexandria/Antioch. This would, I presume, undermine the singularity claimed by Catholics regarding the Roman see of Peter. That Max was intending to this was clear from his appeal to St. John Chrysostom and St. Theodoret of Cyrus regarding the see of Antioch. However, as I’ve shown in my previous post, St. Gregory was very clear on the subordination of all churches under Rome, and this is admitted by both an Anglican & Lutheran scholar (Kelly & Pelikan), both of whom are widely quoted in the field of scholarship.

What happens when the orthodoxy of the universal primate is questioned by the rest of the Church and when the universal primate only enjoys support within his own Patriarchate?

Before we get to responding to this question, Max needs to show that the Eastern churches were even aware of a divinely created Petrine institution in the Christian episcopate. When they can come to admit this in the Patristic data, then I can proceed to speak on the subject and scenario of Papal failure. Until they acknowledge its existence, what point is there in discussing? Besides, there is enough data material in the debate to determine the question of the last sentence, more so than the original question.

Was the Robber Council at Ephesus (449) repudiated just because Pope Leo overturned the decrees at Ephesus or because the rest of the Church (with the exception of Dioscorus and his thugs from Alexandria) opposed this Council on grounds that it was a “robber” Council?

The Robber synod was repudiated because it taught heresy, and committed a grave offense by concluding a council for the Church in opposition to the Apostolic See. See the letter of St. Fulgentius of Ruspe’s letter to Pelagius, the Roman deacon who accompanied Pope Vigilius (and who would be his successor). Also see the record of admission by the Eastern patriarchs to Pope Vigilius @ the Church of St. Euphemia while the Pope held sanctuary there. Then, read the opening of session 1 of Chalcedon where the Papal legates said that it is impossible to conclude a universal synod without the Apostolic See’s agreement. You can also read Gregory’s letter wherein he said synod acts have no ecumenical authority until ratified by the Apostolic See. Then also see the statements made by the Studite monks of the 8th century, as well as St. Ignatius of Constantinople together with St. Nicephorus, Patriarch of the same church. None of these persons attributed this right to the Roman See on the basis of canonical legislation, but on the divine institution of the Lord Jesus and his investment of universal ecclesial governance in the person & successor of St. Peter.

As for canon 28, Rome accepted Constantinople’s place in writing in 869 and had no issue with Constantinople sitting in second place in 451 (in fact, the papal legates dinged Dioscorus for not putting Flavian in second place at Ephesus so this is really an issue of Rome reneging on a canon)

Sure. In fact, I think Pope Leo should have allowed Constantinople to have 2nd place back @ Chalcedon. Obviously, with some clarifications to the extent of the canonical text.

Dorotheus, bishop of Thessalonica, tore the Formula of Hormisdas in two in front of the people. He was brought to Constantinople for trial, exiled to Heraclea while his case was being considered, but then restored to his see in Thessalonica without ever signing the Formula. The emperor Justin wrote to Hormisdas that many found it difficult to sign the libellus: they “esteem life harder than death, if they should condemn those, when dead, whose life, when they were alive, was the glory of their people.” In reply, Pope Hormisdas urged the emperor to use force to compel them to sign. According to Denny’s Papalism (referenced in Moss’s The Old Catholic Movement) the other patriarchates of the East refused to sign this statement, and were reconciled through a different agreement. Patriarch John was succeeded by Epiphanius in 520. Patriarch Epiphanius (520-35) wrote to the pope to explain that “very many of the holy bishops of Pontus and Asia and, above all, those referred to as of the Orient, found it to be difficult and even impossible to expunge the names of their former bishops … they were prepared to brave any danger rather than commit such a deed.” Pope Hormisdas wrote to Patriarch Epiphanius and gave him authority to act on his behalf in the East. In this letter, Hormisdas made restoration of communion dependent on agreeing to a declaration of faith that left unmentioned the claimed prerogatives of the bishop of Rome.”

This historical revisionism is absolutely embarrassing. It has been over 100 years that anti-Papalists have written in this manner with regard to the transaction between Pope Hormisdas and Justinian/John/Epiphanius. In the first place, the real reason the Bishop of Thessalonica had torn the FoH in two in front of the people was because he was opposed to the Council of Chalcedon, the Tome of Leo, and to Pope Hormisdas since the latter held to the former. Dorotheus had joined the party of Timothy I of Constantinople, an ardent monophysite, who was ordained by Emperor Anastasius. The Emperor had just deposed the former Patriarch Macedonius II for refusing to condemn the Council of Chalcedon. By joining himself to the anti-Chalcedon party, Dorotheus ran into some conflict with both the Greek & Illyricim episcopate. The great Byzantine scholar, Fr. Adrian Fortescue, describes the situation: “Dorotheus of Thessalonica had passed over to the party of Timothy I of Constantinople, now more and more openly Monophysite. So in 515, forty bishops of Illyricum and Greece separated themselves from him and held a synod, which sent legates to Rome to announce that they desired communion with the Holy [Roman] See. The next year, 516, a synod in the south of Illyricum, in the old province of Epirus, chose a certain John to be Metropolitan of Nicopolis. John sent a deacon, Rufinus, to announce his election to Pope Hormisdas; he protests his adherence to Chalcedon and detestation of the Monophysite chiefs; he declares that he adheres without reserve to the dogmatic letter of Leo the Great [Tome], and asks the Pope what he is to do. All the members of the synod at the same time send a letter to the Pope, asking him to recognize their new Metropolitan. The Pope then tells John to be faithful to the Catholic faith; he sends by a subdeacon, Pullio, an Indiculus, that is, an instruction as to how schismatics are to be reconciled to the Church. In a second letter he sends a form to be signed by all who desire communion with the Holy See. This form is the Formula of Hormisdas. It was signed by all, as we shall see; so Illyricum returned to unity with Rome.” (The Reunion Formula of Hormisdas, page 10-11). It gets worse. We read above that John, Metropolitan of Nicopolis, became a defender of Chalcedon. Dorotheus was actually a persecutor of the orthodox in Illyricum, even using the secular government to impose resistance to those who believed the Tome of Leo. Eventually, with enough appeals, Hormisdas was able to see to it that Dorotheus was to be judged at Constantinople for his crimes (see A dictionary of Christian biography and literature to the end of the sixth century A.D., with an account of the principal sects and heresies, page 280). So there you have it. Without knowing it, I’m sure, Max would have his readers find support against the Papal-theory explicated in the Formula of Hormisdas by the resistance of a Monophysite heretic who persecuted the orthodox, and was held to account for such criminal behavior even by the court of Constantinople. Much to the contrary of Max’s import, we find that the metropolitan Bishop of Nicoplis as well as many in the Greek & Illyricum episcopate thought highly of the Formula. What import is left for Max but a withdrawal of his claims against this pro-Papal event? If Max desired to achieve a witness against Papal claims by the reaction of Dorotheus to the Formula of Hormisdas (tearing it in two), it only proves that what was written in the Formula by Hormisdas were actually authentic Papal claims, which means that 6th century Rome was Papalist. And if that was truly the case, than it makes matters even worse since the Eastern Patriachates entered into communion with Papalist Rome in order to escape schism, when, given Max’s coordination of the facts, this only put them in a state of heresy & schism again. But I digress. Especially since the facts show that Dorotheus’ real reason for tearing the Formula was his protest of Chalcedon and the Tome of Pope Leo.
Now, with regard to the sending of the Formula of Hormisdas to the Eastern Sees through Emperor Justinian I. The claim made by Max is that the Eastern bishops were able to be critical of the contents, and in particular, the descriptions of the authority of the Papacy. Pope Hormisdas had written that the Lord Christ had promised to build His Church on the rock of Peter, and that this was proven since “in sede apostolica inviolabilis semper Catholica custoditur religio” (in the Apostolic See the Christian religion has always been kept inviolate). Then, there are condemnations of specific persons. The list contains Nestorius, Eutyches, Dioscorus, Timothy the Cat, Peter of Alexandria, Acacius, and Peter of Antioch. These names, as well as all who do not hold communion with the Apostolic See, are to be banished from the sacred diptychs.  And then the Formula states that those who sign should follow Rome in all things, since it is “in the Apostolic See that the Church’s perfect solidity [perfecta soliditas, the Rock] resides“.  In March, 519, the Patriarch of Constantinople, John, signed the Formula without any subtraction of the Papal claims therein. After this Justinian gave orders the following month that all the bishops of all the provinces should sign as well. Come to find out certain bishops were extremely difficult to persuade to remove from their diptychs the names which were held precious by their flocks, but which were not Chalcedonian. Justinian then sent a subsequent letter to Hormisdas, describing the difficulties. Now, it is important to understand these bishops did not find difficulty expunging the names of Acacius, Dioscorus, Timothy the Cat, the two Peters, but rather they refused to remove the names of those bishops who had been involved in the Acacian schism that they thought were holy men of God. Now, let’s take a halt for a moment. The Eastern bishops were so meticulously seeking to be honest in their signing of the Formula, that they spent the extra time writing to Justinian, and waiting for Justinian to write to the Pope, by expressing their difficulty in removing the names of certain men of the Acacian schism that they believed are worthily included into the diptychs. If they were that honest, why don’t we hear anything of their protest against the Papal claims? Not a single protest on record. Interesting, indeed. And so, Justinian begged Hormisdas to show some leniency, and to allow a dispensation for these specific churches. And note, this was a problem for all the Eastern churches. The Pope wrote back to Justinian leaving the determination of that to Epiphanius, Patriarch of Constantinople, and asserted that he would hold communion with whoever Ephiphanius considered worthy, but yet they had to subscribe to the rest of the Formula in the whole sense in which it was originally written.  Now, pause. If Hormisdas thought that there was a threat of rejecting the Papal claims made in the Formula, why would he transfer the court of this issue to the Patriarch of Constantinople? That would be absurd, indeed. But reality was that there wasn’t a hint of rejection of Papal claims. Only this issue of the expunging of names from the diptychs. What Max has done, from support of hasty scholarship, is to assert that when Hormisdas allowed Epiphanius to take in libelli from the Eastern churches without expunging all the names of certain clergy from the Acaian schism, the Eastern churches intentionally wrote up a new Formula of faith deleting the Papal claims, so as to avoid agreeing with them, yet still fulfilling the need to commune with Rome. Yet, as I’ve mentioned above, there is no objection to the Papalist statements of the Formula by these bishops. If they were honest enough to withhold their agreement and signature because they couldn’t fulfill all the demands of the original request of the Formula, why would they fail to mention their honest objection to the statements made about Peter and the infallibility of the Apostolic See? It is as if Max understands that these Eastern bishops secretly settled for re-union on their own terms without explicitly complaining about their Papalist objections.  And if we read the new Libelli that was written to Justinian from these Eastern churches, they prefaced it with a paraphrase of the original Papal claim, “..the Church of God, which resting upon the rock of the chief of the Apostles, retaining a right and inflexible confession, confidently with him always exclaims, ‘Thou are the Christ, the Son of the Living God'” (Mansi viii. 511). Now, Hormisdas’ indulgence came with a clear requirement. Dom John Chapman writes on this: “Epiphanius is to use his judgment. He must transmit to the Apostolic See a list of all whom he reconciles, enclosing the contents of the Libelli they send in (Mansi viii. 1032). This profession must be faithful to the original formula, ‘eodem tamen, ut dixi, tenore conscriptam’ (ibid. 1036). Similarly in his letter to the Emperor the Pope says that Epiphanius may admit to communion those who are worthy, libelli tamen, qui a nobis interpositus est, tenore servato (ibid. 520)….Nothing can be more certain than that not a bishop of the East was admitted to full catholic communion except on the terms of Rome….there is no evidence of any objection whatever having been made to it, except in so far as it implied the omission from the diptychs of former bishops who had been really orthodox, and had been merely in unavoidable schism through the fault of the Emperor.” (The First Eight General Councils and Papal Infallibility, page 45 footnote 4).

I’d hope that both Max and his informants, if still around, would make a public withdrawal from this claim of the Eastern churches modifying the Formula in order to fit their own theology, which happens to be anti-Roman. It would be very disingenuous of these churches to find restoration to the fullness of ecclesial unity while retaining their own anti-Roman convictions. These former schismatics were in no position to begin representing the right-view of the Episcopate, and yet this is likely what Max would have his readers think otherwise. And I think the weakest part of Max’s argument is that even if it were the case that these Eastern churches did delete those Papal parts of the Formula, that would mean it was clear to them what Rome was claiming at the time, and since Rome was the Church holding fast to orthodoxy throughout this whole process, she makes for a preferable choice of reliable witness. If not for the reason stated, than for the reason that they were claim to hold agreement with the Holy See, but then to implicitly reject certain of her teachings. Lastly, if they were being disingenuous, why use them as reliable witnesses anyhow?

When Patriarch John II of Constantinople accepted the Formula of Hormisdas, he did so with the qualification:”I declare that the See of the apostle Peter and the see of this imperial city are one.”That is, whatever Constantinople recognized of the See of Rome, she also recognized of her own. The basis of Constantinople’s rise to 2nd (at the time) in rank was because of the move of the capital to Constantinople which was New Rome.

Another historical revisionism, but more an issue of interpretation. Max here is claiming that whatever prerogatives that are stated in the Formula of Hormisdas regarding Rome are to be equally attributed to the see of Constantinople, the “Imperial city”. It is the old argument of Anglican F.W. Puller who said, “It will be noticed that by means of this preamble the Patriarch [John] managed to blunt very considerably the edge of his formulary; for by identifying in some curious fashion his own see of new Rome with the Papal see of old Rome, he managed to claim for the Constantinopolitan See a share in all the special privileges which in the formulary were assigned to the Western apostolic chair” (The Primitive Saints and the See of Rome, page 400). But this isn’t supported by the facts. Let’s briefly read the Formula of Hormisdas, and my answer to this objection will be just following:

“The first condition of salvation is to keep the norm of the true faith and in no way to deviate from the established doctrine of the Fathers. For it is impossible that the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, who said, “Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church,”  should not be verified. And their truth has been proved by the course of history, for in the Apostolic See the Catholic religion has always been kept unsullied. From this hope and faith we by no means desire to be separated and, following the doctrine of the Fathers, we declare anathema all heresies, and, especially, the heretic Nestorius, former bishop of Constantinople, who was condemned by the Council of Ephesus, by Blessed Celestine, bishop of Rome, and by the venerable Cyril, bishop of Alexandria. We likewise condemn and declare to be anathema Eutyches and Dioscoros of Alexandria, who were condemned in the holy Council of Chalcedon, which we follow and endorse. This Council followed the holy Council of Nicaea and preached the apostolic faith. And we condemn the assassin Timothy, surnamed Aelurus and also Peter of Alexandria, his disciple and follower in everything. We also declare anathema their helper and follower, Acacius of Constantinople, a bishop once condemned by the Apostolic See, and all those who remain in contact and company with them. Because this Acacius joined himself to their communion, he deserved to receive a judgment of condemnation similar to theirs. Furthermore, we condemn Peter  of Antioch with all his followers together together with the followers of all those mentioned above.Following, as we have said before, the Apostolic See in all things and proclaiming all its decisions, we endorse and approve all the letters which Pope St Leo wrote concerning the Christian religion. And so I hope I may deserve to be associated with you in the one communion which the Apostolic See proclaims, in which the whole, true, and perfect security of the Christian religion resides. I promise that from now on those who are separated from the communion of the Catholic Church, that is, who are not in agreement with the Apostolic See, will not have their names read during the sacred mysteries. But if I attempt even the least deviation from my profession, I admit that, according to my own declaration, I am an accomplice to those whom I have condemned. I have signed this, my profession, with my own hand, and I have directed it to you, Hormisdas, the holy and venerable pope of Rome.” (Formula of Hormisdas)

Now, Max and Puller say that the Patriarch John was intending on telling Hormisdas that whatever the descriptions of the Formula say of Rome, it says of Constantinople, right? Really? The first thing that is said of Rome is that the Christian religion had always been perfectly taught there. How could Constantinople be claiming equation with this when it is the very see that was presently working its way out of the much of the Acacian schism and the Monophysite heresy? Secondly, the Formula involves a petition to retain the communion of the Apostolic See, “in which the whole, true, and perfect security of the Christian religion resides”. If John was saying that Constantinople *is that very communion*, why even sign the Formula? In other words, John is supposed to be signing this formula in order to enter that communion, not to prove that she had always been that communion.

But what do we make of the statement “one See”?  It is more than likely that this “unam esse” (one See) means a closeness of unity. It is similar to the statement made by Pope Gregory the Great when he says that the Sees of Rome, Alexandria, and Antioch were “one See of Peter” (Epistle 7:40). Monsignor Pierre Battifol comments, “This means to say that the bishop of Rome and the Bishop of Constantinople are in agreement, not that he ‘identified his own see with the Roman see’ – a phrase that has no meaning. Compare the letter Quando Deus of the same John to the same Hormisdas which once more uses the same terms – and the reply of Hormisdas to John, consideranti mihi. Coll. Avellan. 161 and 169 (pp. 612, 624)” (Catholicism and Papacy, page 123) .

Was the Emperor Justinian allowed a vote at the Fifth Ecumenical Council? Yes/No?
Was Pope Vigilius in Constantinople and invited to participate at the Fifth Ecumenical Council held in Constantinople? Yes/No?
Were the “Three Chapters” clearly heretical? Yes/No

To #1 – Officially no, practically Yes
To #2 – Yes, but no invitation to the wider West. Nor was Vigilius granted his request to have his Roman synod prior to, which was customary. So you can call it an invitation, but it was more of a summons on secular conditions.
To #3 – Yes

But here is what you aren’t getting. You can be theologically correct and be in the wrong. For example, can a perfectly Orthodox bishop of OCA enter into the internal affairs of ROCOR and begin issuing commands & binding discipline? No. What if he says he subscribes to all the right doctrine? That wouldn’t matter still.

 

Answering Eastern Orthodox Objections (Part 1) – Schism, Greek episcopate on Divine Roman Primacy, Vigilius/Honorius, & Council vs Pope

francisco_de_goya_-_saint_gregory_the_great_pope_-_google_art_project
The Following is a response to an Orthodox interlocutor. He had read my blogpost entitled “Papal Office is internal to the Episcopate , Some Notes On The Mutual Dependency of Bishops to the Pope, Citations from the Church Fathers“, and offered some objections. His real name will go unmentioned. He will be referred to as Max. His comments are in the large bold  lettering, my answers are in the small text.

Where is evidence of this at the false reunification councils of Lyons (1274) and Florence (1439) which were REJECTED by the Eastern Churches only had the support of the Bishop of Rome within his own (western) Patriarchate?

The author of this statement has overridden the natural constitution of the Church’s government in preference of Patriarchal governance. It is fact that Patriarchal governance was not instituted by Jesus Christ, nor the Apostles, nor the early bishops for several centuries. What did Christ establish? He established the 12 Apostles who formed both an administrative college and missionary society. What did Christ establish through the Apostles? He established the successors to the Apostles, bishops, which is formed, like the Apostles, in a governing college and commissioned society. Within this College, there is a distinction between Head and members, Pope and bishops. Later metropolia and patriarchal organization were Church-created organizations for the better managing of the churches. The latter cannot be used to size up any into one grouping. There are churches with their bishops. The church of Rome has the successor of Peter. Thus, the church of Rome as the central head of the worldwide episcopate and the bishops/churches surrounding him in one compact visible administrative unity. Thus, when Max here makes a measurement of the universal church in Patriarchal divisions, leaving the bishops and Pope who agreed with the decrees of Lyons and Florence, he is disregarding fundamental and divine institutions and even mistakes them for the Patriarchal boundaries.

One more thing – I wonder where Max gets the idea that the Patriarchate of Rome was automatically everything Western. At the council of Nicaea, canon 6 alluded to the comparable quasi-Patriarchal rights over Italia suburbicaria, which didn’t quite encompass Gaul, Spain, England, what would become Frankish lands, Africa, etc,etc. So what is it between the Council of Nicaea and the big Councils such as Ephesus 431 and Chalcedon 451 that automatically makes all these Western sees part of the Roman Patriarchate? Sure Rome was a missionary mother to these churches, but that doesn’t entail what has been assumed. The original mother was the city church of Jerusalem, and yet the world is not one big Jerusalem Patriarchate.

Many more questions could be brought up

 Erick Ybarra writes: “But, we can ask, can the Pope go against the entire episcopate?”

—> This is EXACTLY what happened when Rome went into schism and broke away from the ancient Patriarchates of Jerusalem, Antioch, Alexandria, Constantinople and pretty much every Ecclesiastical community mentioned in the New Testament!

Again, another Patriarchal sizing of the divine ekklesia, and coming to the wrong conclusion thereby.  Also, this added part “pretty much every ecclesiastical community mentioned in the New Testament!”, only has enough power to turn around and hit as a target the original shooter. During the 4th century, many Eastern churches went into an Arian disarray and corrupted the pure doctrine of Jesus Christ. Many of these churches were part of the grouping that Max provides. Does this have any significance? Enough to turn his argument into a poor inconsistency?  I think so. But it only gets worse. The condemnation of St. John Chrysostom, eventually shared by the “Patriarchates” of Cple, Alex, and Antioch. Were these churches of the Ecclesiastical new testament community ? If so, what entailments follow? And, if Max’s purported import were proven true, wouldn’t it backfire? But then, it was, in fact, only the Roman See, which had alone taken initiative with Emperor Honorius/Arcadius to hold a synod to examine the case of Chrysostom, and the western sees which had retained Chrysostom’s name in the diptych of the mysteries. I wonder, just what significance Max would glean from a situation where the Eastern patriarchs broke away from one of the foremost heroes of Eastern Orthodoxy, the golden tongue himself? But then, when, once again, the three major “Patriarchal Sees” went into heretical monophysiticism, and the Roman See (together with the Western sees & some Eastern believers underground, including monks) was alone continually standing firm on Chalcedon, does he see any effectual significance of Rome standing alone again, atop of the heretical world as the “pure home of orthodox dogma” (As St. Sophronius of Jerusalem would call her) ? But God forbid the Roman See would ever break “from the ancient Patriarchates of Jerusalem, Antioch, Alexandria, Constantinople and pretty much every Ecclesiastical community mentioned in the New Testament”.

Erick Ybarra writes: “Christ always sustains a remnant, if not all, in the divine vocation of the Episcopate that will always be on the right-believing side of things. Thus, by way of accident [from our perspective], and not by absolute necessity, the Pope will never be alone in his own Papal magisterium for this reason.”

—-> Erick seems to forget that both Pope Honorius and Pope Vigilius were condemned by Ecumenical Councils for HERESY!

It seems that when Max can find a reason to undermine Papal claims, he is willing to even do so when it means doing so in the most abnormal and extra-contextual manner possible. But then, when it suits Orthodoxy, he can expect his interlocutors to understand extenuating circumstances (see his comments above on Lyons/Florence) Pope Honorius I likely didn’t even teach monotheletism. But even if he did, where was he to confirm himself in the error? He was in the grave, and his soul hopefully in heaven or purgatory if not. Be that as it may,  the Council felt free to condemn Honorius as well as many other deceased persons. Doesn’t this mean that the Council has a higher authority than the Pope? I’m sure many thought this. After all, didn’t many think Councils weren’t even more authoritative than the pontifications of their favorite theologians (see the Nestorians/Coptic churches) ?? Anyhow, Catholics have always had a response to this situation. Firstly, the promise of infallibility, which Pope St. Agatho readily asserts for the Roman See in his letter to the Eastern Council, only pertains to a specific mode of teaching. And it isn’t as mechanical as some would like to envision it. It is a mode from where the Pope speaks as the supreme pastor of the church, making a solemn judgement concerning faith &/or morals with the fullness of his God-given authority.  In fact, Pope Agatho explains that Pope Honorius did not appeal to Papal authority and the tradition of Rome when he wrote his letter to Sergius of Cple. One might have thought that it would be entirely anarchronistic to think of someone noting the distinction in modes of Papal teaching. But there it is in the 7th century, by no less than a Greek Pope. Pope Leo, who ratified the decrees , agrees to the condemnation of Honorius, even if it were only that he was negligent. A good case can be made, however, that the words of the condemnation are still much stronger than that. What does this prove? That a Council, working together with a valid Pope, examines and condemns a former Pope for heresy. There is room for that on my bus. In fact, many of us are praying this occurs under the present Pontificate, if in the case of formal heresy. Of course, prayers first go to the wellbeing of all, including the Pope himself.

For Vigilius – How often do you read anti-Papalists go through the whole story of Vigilius? It is rare that I hear it mentioned that the whole Three chapters controversy was an attempt on the part of the Emperor to resolve the church’s theological disputes. This, right off the bat, should signal an abnormality which the Popes themselves had previously warned against (See Gelasius’ letters to the Emperor). This tendency began with the Emperor Constantine, and could obviously serve the Church very well. But it obviously does not serve the Church very well when the secular rulers circumvent the government of the Church and imposes upon the Church its own rules and mandates. Under the power of Justinian, we see this immediately with his 3 chapters plan. He sends an edict to the eastern patriarchs, requiring them to sign. These Eastern patriarchs, knowing that such matters are to be handled only by collaboration with the prelate of the Roman See, signed conditionally. That condition was whether Pope Vigilius, the head of the universal church, would sign. Justinian knew what he was doing, and he knew he would take any measure necessary to acquire the assent of Rome. We know this because when delegates from Justinian arrived in Rome and met with an unwilling Vigilius, they already knew what plan B was. Take Vigilius into custody. *Right there*, the Byzantine Ceasar was imposing himself upon the freedom of the Church to settle her own affairs. He had already done so with the Eastern patriarchs. From here on forward, all Papal actions are rendered suspicious , since the Pope is under duress. I’d only hope that Max would afford the same understanding he expects us to have when he explains the Greeks embraced Florence. But I only hope. When in Constantinople, Vigilius gives way to Justinian and assents. Then, when he realizes his actions afford him great controversy to many churches in the West, he retracts. But Justinian holds on to that. Then the 2nd edict of the three chapters is made by the Emperor, and the eastern patriarchs are made to sign. Vigilius excommunicates all the eastern patriarchs. The very same thing that Max would say was in the power of the Council against himself [Vigilius]. And yet, no one complains. Rather, they visit the Pope and make it clear that they submit to Chalcedon “for it was ratified by the Apostolic See”, insinuating the essential role of the Pope in the determination of doctrine for the universal church. Push comes to shove w/ the Emperor, a slight reconciliation is made, and plans for a council are agreed upon. However, Justinian didn’t comply with Vigilius, the head of the Church, in allowing the West to play a major role in the dispute. Its obvious, Justinian knew it was a waste of time since the West was not going to budge on Chalcedon, even if stupidly not realizing the Nestorianism in Theodore/Theodoret/Ibas. *Right there again* – The Emperor taking the driver position in the church bus. A big no no. But Vigilius has little to choose from, right? I mean, he is being held prisoner, let’s not forget. The Council convenes and Vigilius isn’t very cooperative, but then says he’ll give a statement on his view within a certain time. The Council doesn’t like the result, and they strike his name from the diptychs, and move on with the condemnation of the three chapters. Council is closed. Vigilius is left an outsider. Now, from here, Max believes his Eastern Orthodox position has gained him another leg in the debate with Catholicism. The problem here is that he has sacrificed the Church’s stance on what an Ecumenical Council *is* in order to obtain this idea that Constantinople 553 held jurisdiction over the Pope and the universal church. First of all, the West was absent. So, at the point in time that the Council closed, we aren’t talking about a Universal Council, though Max would attribute it as such. Now, this is even more curious given that Max, unless I’m mistaken, holds to a similar view of Khamiokov on the gradual acceptance of a council as ecumenical, where the full achievement of ecumenical, supreme, and infallible authority is contingent upon the *whole church receiving it*. If that is the case, then I can’t imagine how Max would say that Justinian and the Eastern bishops comprised an ecumenical action against Vigilius which had the authority to do so. Just a few years after this event, Pope St. Gregory I would say ‘without the authority and the consent of the Apstolic See, none of the matters transacted have any binding force’. Now unfortunately, the removal of the Pope’s name from the diptych of the Eastern liturgies had already become a common thing in the East by then, so I’m sure it wasn’t too strange an idea, but what I’m having a difficult time getting is its validity. When Acacius of Cple removed Pope Felix from the diptychs, it is not as if committed Catholics have to then overturn their belief in the supremacy of the Pope. So this is my response. I will add that Cple 553 began abnormally and would thus end abnormally. Vigilius wrote in with repentance to the patriarch of cple saying he was wrong and that the council was right. I don’t know if he ratified the council then or not. His successor Pelagius I would take the task for sure, and he had quite a battle on his hands since the Western churches were not invited to the convocation, and plus, they saw it as a threat to conscience, i.e. their revoking of Chalcedon. A mess created a bigger mess. But what I hope to communicate here, in concluding, is that it is extremely revealing that Orthodox such as Max  would depend so heavily on the actions of Justinian and the eastern bishops against Vigilius, given the rare and abnormal circumstances.

The following citations are from a work by the French historian Claire Sotinel. In it, the author discusses the perimeters of church authority during the time of Justinian and seeks to define the relationship between Church and imperial authority in the period leading up to and following the Fifth Ecumenical Council. When discussing the relevance of Vigilius’ excommunication to her topic, she quotes Justinian’s letter in which Vigilius is clearly singled out. Remember that at this stage, Vigilius had retracted his condemnation of the three chapters:

“The most religious pope of Old Rome [has made himself] a stranger to the catholic Church in defending the impiety of the chapters and, moreover, in separating himself from your communion by his own initiative […]. Thus, since he has made himself a stranger to Christians, we have judged that his name will not be recited in the holy diptychs lest, by this means, we find ourselves in communion with the impieties of Nestorius and Theodore […]. One thing is certain: we serve unity with the apostolic see, and you maintain it. Vigilius’ transformation, or anyone else’s, cannot, in fact, harm the peace of the Churches”.

To which the council responds:

“The plans of the most pious emperor are in conformity with his actions undertaken for the unity of the holy Churches. Let us therefore serve unity with the apostolic see of the all-holy Church of Old Rome by fulfilling everything according to the terms of the imperial decree which has just been read”

The relation of ecclesial authority to Imperial authority, I believe, had been answered correctly by Pope Gelasius. Also see above comments.

 

Erick Ybarra writes:”During the Pontificate of Pope Symmachus, Greeks appealed to him on behalf of the Eastern christians who were suffering from the mono-physite fall out: “You who are taught daily by your sacred teacher, Peter, to feed the sheep of Christ entrusted to you throughout the whole habitable world” (Mansi, 8.221)”

—-> Erick forgets to mention the Symmachean forgeries. See below:

The Symmachean forgeries are a sheaf of forged documents produced in the papal curia of Pope Symmachus (498—514) in the beginning of the sixth century, in the same cycle that produced the Liber Pontificalis.

In the context of the conflict between partisans of Symmachus and Antipope Laurentius the purpose of these libelli was to further papal pretensions of the independence of the Bishops of Rome from criticisms and judgment of any ecclesiastical tribunal, putting them above law clerical and secular by supplying spurious documents supposedly of an earlier age.

“During the dispute between Pope St. Symmachus and the anti-pope Laurentius,” the Catholic Encyclopedia reports, “the adherents of Symmachus drew up four apocryphal writings called the ‘Symmachian Forgeries’. …

The object of these forgeries was to produce alleged instances from earlier times to support the whole procedure of the adherents of Symmachus, and, in particular, the position that the Roman bishop could not be judged by any court composed of other bishops.” – Catholic Encyclopedia xiv, 378.

 

This is an extremely uninformed response. First, what does the letter from the Greeks appealing to the Pope have to do with the Symmachean forgeries? Absolutely nothing. I am shocked that this was his response. Allow me to give you the context here. Macedonius (495) was elected in the place of Euphemius of Constantinople, and he was confronted with a demand from the Emperor Anastasius I to issue an official repudiation of the Council of Chalcedon. He responded that without the consent of the Roman see, no repudiation was possible from him. (Caspar, op. cit., vol ii, p. 121). He was immediately deposed. One year later (512) Constantinople, Alexandria, and Antioch were in the hands of Monophysitism. From these states of affairs, we have a letter from some Greeks in the East who were victims of Caesaropapistic tyranny during this Acacian schism. Dr. Trevor Jalland describes this letter: “Reminding the Pope that he enjoys the power to loose as well as to bind his [Greek] petitioners please: ‘Of a truth you are possessed of the Spirit of Christ, who are daily instructed by your holy teacher Peter how to tend the flock of Christ, which has been entrusted to you over all the earth and obys you not by constraint but willingly…All of us, both those in communion with them (sc. Monophysites) and those who decline it, await next to God the light of your visitation and admission to favour. Wherefore hasten to help the East, whence the redeemer Himself sent forth two great luminaries Peter and Paul to give light to the whole world’. What answer, if any, Symmachus returned to this pathetic appeal is unknown. All that remains of his eastern correspondence is a letter to the Illyrian episcopate urging them to take warning from the fate of the eastern churches: ‘For those, who believed they could disregard the admonition of the Apostolic See, have deservedly suffered what is bound to befall those who forsake their duty’” (Church and Papacy, page 335-6).

Max cannot find you a scholar who is contesting these records. Thus, his response to this in terms of the Symmachean forgeries should inform anyone of his readers that he is not closely looking after the things that he writes. That can change, and hopefully it will.

But this may be an opportunity to bring up something of interest here since the topic of forgeries came up. The following sources *are not from the forgery collection*. Symmachus had a rival to the episcopate of Rome, a man named Laurence. When Symmachus won the election, the party of Laurence sought at first change to accuse Symmachus of wrongdoing. Sure enough, when Symmachus had established the date of Easter to March 25th, the pre-Victorian Paschal cycle, in defiance of the Alexandrine date of April 22, the part of Laurence sought to procure his summons to a court in Ravenna to be indicted. They added other charges as well. During this plan, a synod was held in Italy at the church of St. Maria in Trastevere, at which Symmachus appeared in person, though Laurnence was presiding. After two sessions accomplishing nothing, the synod sought Theodoric the Arian King in order to condemn Symmachus by civil power. But this plan didn’t fall through since Symmachus didn’t show up for trial, and neither did Theodoric seek to intervene. The Italian synod ended with an acquittal on Symmachus. Seems like an unimportant event, but it comes with some interesting details. It just so happens that two Western bishops, Ennodius of Milan & Avitus of Vienne, both venerated Saints in the Orthodox churches, both of whom were strong supporters of the authority of the Roman see. These both wrote in response to Symmachus’ enemies during the above context. In the first place, we have a statement coming from some bishops of Italy who wrote to King Theodoric concerning the attempt of the supporters of Laurence to condemn Symmachus : “…the person [Symmachus] who was attacked ought himself to have called the Council, knowing that to his See in the first place the rank or chiefship of the Apostle Peter, and then the authority of venerable councils following out the Lord’s command, had committed a power without its like in the churches; nor would a precedent be easily found to show, that in a similar matter the prelate of the aforementioned See had been subject to the judgment of his inferiors” (Mansi, viii, 248). St. Avitus of Vienne wrote a letter to the Roman senators, which reads: “We were in a state of anxiety and alarm about the cause of the Roman church, inasmuch as we felt that our order [the episcopate of Gaul] was endangered by an attack upon its head…What license for accusation against the headship of the universal church ought to be allowed?…As a Roman senator and a Christian bishop, I conjure you that the state of the Church be not less precious to you than that of the commonwealth. If you judge the matter with your profound consideration, not merely is that cause which was examined at Rome to be contemplated, but as, if in the case of other Bishops any danger be incurred, it can be repaired, so if the Pope of the city be put into question, not a single bishop, but the episcopate itself, will appear to be in danger. He who rules the Lord’s fold will render an account how he administers the care of the lambs he entrusted to him; but it belongs not to the flock to alarm its own shepherd , but to the judge [God]. Wherefore restore to us, if it be not yet restored, concord in our chief” (Mansi, viii. 293). St. Ennodius wrote , “God perchance has willed to terminate the causes of other men by means of men; but the prelate of that See He has reserved, without question, to His own judgment. It is His will that the successors of the blessed Apostle Peter should owe their innocence to Heaven alone, and should manifest a pure conscience to the inquisition of the most severe Judge [God]. Do you answer; such will be the condition of all souls in that scrutiny? I retort, that to one was said, ‘Thou art Peter, and upon this Rock I will build my Church’, and again, that by the voice of holy pontiffs, the dignity of his See has been made venerable in the whole world, since all the faithful everywhere are submitted to it, and it is marked out as the head of the whole body” (Mansi, viii. 284). Some pretty interesting words from these two saints venerated to this day in the Orient.

Dr. Trevor Jalland corroborates on this in addition to the Symmachean forgeries :

“Yet in spite of the Pope’s pathetic situation, enthusiastic champions of the Roman see made a timely appearance in the persons of Ennodius of Milan and Avitus of Vienne. The latter may well have expressed the view of the Italian episcopate as well as that of Gaul when he wrote: ‘If the position of the chief (princeps) is shaken by accusation, we feel the position of everyone of us to be weakened’. The work of Ennodius on the other hand, as a reply to the Pope’s enemies, though characterized by clever evasions, violent abuse and a marked dependence on irrelevant quotations of Holy Scripture, bas a special interest as the product of a church which at one time seemed to overshadow even Rome itself as the primatial see of Italy. In him we find the earliest explicit assertion that a distinction is to be drawn between the Pope as an individual and the Pope as the holder of the Papacy. As an individual he will receive just judgment on the Last Day; as Pope he cannot be guilty of anything demanding judicial punishment. It is not difficult to imagine that such a view would have been highly acceptable to one such as Gregory VII, under whose inspiration the Ennodian principle was embodied in the Dictatus Papae.
Not less remarkable was the abundance of pseudonymous and apochryphal literature which may rightly be regarded as a by-product of this anomalous situation. The chief object of these writings was to make good some of the very obvious defects in the papal structure which recent events had laid bare. They included, besides other suppositious conciliar Acts such as the Gesta Liberii, the Gesta Xysti and Gesta Polychronii, the proceedings of an apocryphal ‘synod of Sineuessa’ at which the unhappy Marcellinus was supposed to have been arraigned. Encouraged to judge himself, the Pope was represented as having declared himself guilty, whereupon Militades, apparently elected and consecrated on the spot, is said to have remarked, ‘Rightly has he been condemned out of his own mouth, for no one has ever judged the Pope, since the first see can be judged by no man’. A similar principle emerges in the contemporary supplement to the Silvestrian saga depicting another imaginary Roman synod, which besides condemning the author of the Paschal cycle, rejected by Symmachus, some hundred years or so before his birth, passed a series of canons of which the last significantly read: ‘No man shall judge the first see’. It is evident from these strange essays in imaginative history that the ideas of Gelasius were already showing themselves prolific, but it would be unjust to Symmachus to attribute to him direct responsibility for the offspring” (Church and Papacy, page 333-4).

According to Dr. Klaus Schatz, the forgeries were only to get the principle “the First see is judged by none” into canon law. The drafters of the forgery already knew the valid existence of the principle under the pontificate of Pope Gelasius. Schatz writes:

“The principle that prima sedes a nemine iudicatur, ‘the principal see is judged by no one’ (which effectively means ‘can be judged by no one’) became in the course of the centuries a succinct way of saying that there can be no court above the pope that can condemn him, depose him, or set aside his decisions. In this sense the principle has developed an enormous influence, especially since the eleventh century. But it was known and effective long before that…..In this succinct phrasing [first see is judge by none] the principle can be traced back to the Symmachian forgeries, written in about 500. Their setting was the period of Ostrogoth domination. Pope Symmachus, politically a supporter of the Arian Ostrogoth king Theodoric, faced strong ecclesiastical opposition within the Roman clergy, whose orientation was to Byzantium, and he was about to be deposed by a synod. The forgers hoped that this principle could be used to prevent his deposition; they referred to supposed cases around the year 300 when the deposition of a pope was averted because of this principle. Of course it was only this bold formulation that was new, not the content. It appears very clearly in two letters of Pope Gelasius I from 493 and 495 in the context of the Acacian schism. According to the canons, every can appeal to the pope, but there is no appeal beyond him, ‘and thus he judges the whole church and himself stands before no tribunal, and no judgment can be passed on his judgment, nor can his decision be abrogated’. But it was through the Symmachian forgeries that the principle entered the legal canon; it was this formulation, and not that of Gleasius, that made history, but only slowly and by roundabout ways. It was apparently not until the ninth century that the principle became a fixed element in the legal traditions of Rome, possibly under Frankish influence.” (Papal Primacy: From its Origins to Present, page 73)

 

Erick Ybarra writes: “So we have, then, a recognition by the Church fathers this idea that the Petrine primacy of the Roman See is not an external reality, as though it was added unto the episcopal constitution. Rather, it is one with the episcopal constitution. Secondly, that this essential element of the episcopal constitution is not something which can pertain to any and all Sees, but only that of the Roman See (we can explain concerning more about Gregory’s letter wherein he speaks of 3 locations of Peter’s see if it is brought up in rebuttal) since it alone receives the succession to Peter’s primacy.”

—> Erick does not bother offering a rebuttal of Pope Gregory’s view on 3 locations of Peter’s See. But let us see what St John Chrysostom and St. Theodoret have to say:

St. John Chrysostom:

“In speaking of St. Peter, the recollection of another Peter [Flavian, Bishop of Antioch, at the time the discourse was written,] has come to me, the common father and teacher, who has inherited his prowess, and also obtained his chair. For this is the one great privilege of our city, Antioch, that it received the leader of the apostles as its teacher in the beginning. For it was right that she who was first adorned with the name of Christians, before the whole world, should receive the first of the apostles as her pastor. But though we received him as teacher, we did not retain him to the end, but gave him up to royal Rome. Or rather we did retain him to the end, for though we do not retain the body of Peter, we do retain the faith of Peter, and retaining the faith of Peter we have Peter” (St. John Chrysostom, “On the Inscription of the Acts”, II; cited by E. Giles, Documents Illustrating Papal Authority (London: SPCK, 1952), p. 168. Cf. Chapman, Studies on the Early Papacy, p. 96).

[NOTE: Note that St. Flavian, Archbishop of Antioch is a Peter and has obtained the chair of Peter, and that as long as he keeps the Faith of Peter’s confession, Antioch has a St. Peter.]

St. Theodoret makes a similar statement about the see of Antioch when he states that Antioch possesses the throne of Peter:

“Dioscurus, however, refuses to abide by these decisions; he is turning the see of the blessed Mark upside down; and these things he does though he perfectly well knows that the Antiochean metropolis possesses the throne of the great Peter, who was the teacher of the blessed Mark, and first and coryphaeus of the apostles.” (Philip Schaff, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1956), Volume III, Theodoret, Epistle 86, To Flavianus, bishop of Constantinople, p. 281).

That the Orthodox continue to bring out Gregory’s letter to the Patriarch of Alexandria is quite shocking. This attempt to equate the Roman see with that of the Alexandrian or Antiochene See is clearly refuted by the following statements of Pope Gregory:

“As regards the Church of Constantinople, who can doubt that it is subject to the Apostolic See? Why, both our most religious Lord the Emperor and our brother the Bishop of Constantinople continually acknowledge it” (Epistles 9:26).

“the Apostolic See, which is the head of all other churches” (13:1)

In a letter to Bishop John of Syracuse, Gregory says : “as to his saying that he is subject to the Apostolic See, if any fault is found in bishops, I know not what bishop is not subject to it. But when no fault requires it to be otherwise, all according to the principle of humility are equal”.

Anglican Patristic scholar, J.N.D. Kelly wrote that Gregory I

“was indefatigable…in upholding the Roman primacy, and successfully maintained Rome’s appellate jurisdiction in the east….Gregory argued that St. Peter’s commission [e.g. in Matthew 16:18f] made all churches, Constantinople included, subject to Rome” (The Oxford Dictionary of Popes, page 67).

Jaroslav Pelikan writes concerning the tri-partite See of Peter Max mentioned:

“To be sure, Peter had also been in Alexandria and in Antioch, and Gregory sometimes put forth the idea that these two patriarchs shared with him the primacy given to Peter: Rome was the see where Peter had died, Alexandria the see to which he had sent Mark, and Antioch the see which he himself had occupied for seven years. There was one see of Peter in three places. But this touch of whimsy about the apostle did not have any far-reaching implications for Gregory’s concrete doctrine of primacy in the church. Everybody knew that the see of Peter was Rome. When the legates at Chalcedon in 451 responded to the reading of Leo’s Tome with the exclamation, ‘Peter has spoken through the mouth of Leo!’ they were simply giving voice to this general assumption. For the early church, primacy had belonged in a special way to Jerusalem, the mother city of all believers. But it had moved from the capital city of the old Israel to the capital city of the world, which became the capital city of the new Israel….The churches of the Greek East, too, owed a special allegiance to Rome. As far as the Church of Constantinople was concerned, ‘who would doubt that it has been made subject to the apostolic see’, that is, of course, to Rome? By hailing the authority of Leo, the fathers at Chalcedon gave witness to the orthodoxy of Rome. One see after another had capitulated in this or that controversy with heresy. Constantinople had given rise to several heretics during the fourth and fifth centuries, notably Nestorius and Macedonius, and the other sees had also been known to stray from the true faith occasionally. But Rome had a special position. The bishop of Rome had the right by his own authority to annul the acts of a synod. In fact, when there was talk of a council to settle controversies, Gregory asserted the principle that ‘without the authority and the consent of the Apstolic See, none of the matters transacted have any binding force’.   (The Christian Tradition, Vol 1, pages 353-4)

Erick Ybarra writes: “Papal failures do not diminish the ontological role of the Papacy, nor does it prove it is of man-made origin or that it is an external machinery created for the sake of good order, but it continues to be of the essential constitution.”

—> Again, Erick seems to forget that both Pope Honorius and Pope Vigilius were condemned by Ecumenical Councils for HERESY!

If an Ecumenical Council can judge a Pope as heretical (as the sixth Ecumenical Council did with regards to Pope Honorius), it seems clear to me that the Ecumenical Council is the highest authority in the Church.

Ancient Popes were required to yield to the higher authority of an Ecumenical Council and all decisions effecting the entire church in matters of doctrine and administration were made through CONSENSUS at Ecumenical Councils, they were never made by Papal Decree ALONE.

See comments I made about Vigilius and Honorius. As for Max’s insistence that an Ecumenical Council has more binding authority than the Pope. For starters, an authentic Ecumenical Council requires the Pope’s participation, and thus for Catholics, one cannot divorce Pope and Council in the way Max does. It is as St. Gregeory the Great said, without the authority of the Holy See, no Council can have this sort of authority. Secondly, there are plenty of historical evidences which demonstrate that the court of the Roman See exceeded the authority of a Council supposedly claiming to hold jurisdiction over the universal church. I can give you the following examples. When they were condemned by the Council of Ephesus 449, Eusebius of Dorylaeum, St. Flavianos of Constantionple, and Theodoret of Cyrus all appealed to Pope Leo for the overturning of the decrees at Ephesus, which was finalized under the “authority” of Pope of Alexandria, Dioscorus, and Emperor Theodosius II. From all appearances, this was a Council. And for students such as Max, who love to shout the universal power of Justinian at the 5th Council, there isn’t any reason why he should think Ephesus 449 is not ecumenical, at least in preparation and matter. Moreover, Pope Leo unilaterally annulled the 28th canon of the Council of Chalcedon. Even after the bishops at the Council ratified it together with the Patriarch of Constantinople and Emperor Marcian, the Patriarch of Constantinople finally, after two years, admitted to Pope Leo that all the canons were suspended for his approval or disapproval, and he dropped the whole case – at least, he said he would. Following this, you have the fall out in the East to monophysiticism. It was the Roman See which had continued to herald the decrees of Chalcedon. And the only way the East was brought back into the unity of the Church was through a formula drawn up by Pope Hormisdas and officially signed by a great many in the East under the prodding of Justinian I. There is a rumor going around, made popular by a 19th century Anglican anti-Catholic writer, Fr. Puller, that the East had made all sorts of modifications and demands of their own before coming into union with the Holy See. Such is nonsense. If space allowed, we could go on to the historical context of the Pelagian controversy in North Africa, the Iconoclastic controversy, and the dispute caused by Photius.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eastern Fathers and the Immaculate Existence of the Virgin Mary (AD 681-787)

seventh_ecumenical_council_icon

There is good reason to believe that the Council fathers of Constantinople III (AD 681) and Nicaea II (AD 787), which were predominantly Eastern in attendance, taught the immaculate & sinless existence of the Virgin Mary. And not just her present existence in the blessedness of heaven, but of her earthly life. Let’s take a look at some of the evidence that the Council text provides for us.

“Moreover we confess that one of the same holy consubstantial Trinity, God the Word, who was begotten of the Father before the worlds, in the last days of the world for us and for our salvation came down from heaven, and was incarnate of the Holy Ghost, and of our Lady, the holy, immaculate, ever-virgin and glorious Mary, truly and properly the Mother of God, that is to say according to the flesh which was born of her; and was truly made man, the same being very God and very man. God of God his Father, but man of his Virgin Mother, incarnate of her flesh with a reasonable and intelligent soul” (Letter of Pope St. Agatho to Constantinople)

That Agatho’s letter was well-received by the Council as an authentic expression of orthodoxy is proven by the Conciliar statements in the Prosphoneticus to the Emperor:

“…The ancient city of Rome handed you a confession of divine character, and a chart from the sunsetting raised up the day of dogmas, and made the darkness manifest, and Peter spoke through Agatho, and you, O autocratic King, according to the divine decree, with the Omnipotent Sharer of your throne, judged.”

In this same address to the Emperor, the Council writes concerning Christ:

“For as the Word, he is consubstantial and eternal with God his father; but as taking flesh of the immaculate Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, he is perfect man, consubstantial with us and made in time. We declare therefore that he is perfect in Godhead and that the same is perfect likewise in manhood, according to the pristine tradition of the fathers and the divine definition of Chalcedon.”

Now, this may entail some flowery language, not intended to really describe Mary as literally sinlessly perfect. This fails to convince given that Pope St. Agatho’s letter uses the very same word to describe the disposition of Jesus Christ:

“From all which it is evident that he [Christ] had a human will by which he obeyed his Father, and that he had in himself this same human will immaculate from all sin, as true God and man.”

And, in the 18th session of the Council Acts, we read:

“For as his flesh is called and is the flesh of God the Word, so also the natural will of his flesh is called and is the proper will of God the Word, as he himself says: I came down from heaven, not that I might do my own will but the will of the Father which sent me! where he calls his own will the will of his flesh, inasmuch as his flesh was also his own. For as his most holy and immaculate animated flesh was not destroyed because it was deified but continued in its own state and nature (ὄρῳ τε καὶ λόγῳ), so also his human will, although deified, was not suppressed, but was rather preserved according to the saying of Gregory Theologus: His will [i.e., the Saviour’s] is not contrary to God but altogether deified.”

theotokos_icon_outside_hajdudorog

This is very interesting. Why would these 7th century church fathers, in the presence of an Eastern Council majority, be describing the earthly Virgin Mary as “immaculate” , the very same word describing the Lord Jesus Christ? Now, you may think that it was really just Pope Agatho’s letter which stated that Mary was immaculate, and so part of the Western tradition. But the Council had praised the letter of Agatho. And if that didn’t work, at the Council of Nicaea II (787 AD), the very Decree of the Council towards the very end, just after the recitation of the holy Nicaene-Constantinopolitan creed, we read:

“With the Fathers of this synod we confess that he who was incarnate of the immaculate Mother of God and Ever-Virgin Mary has two natures, recognizing him as perfect God and perfect man”

Add to this the following statement from the Council’s letter to the Emperor and Empress:

And as the hands and feet are moved in accordance with the directions of the mind, so likewise, we, having received the grace and strength of the Spirit, and having also the assistance and co-operation of your royal authority, have with one voice declared as piety and proclaimed as truth: that the sacred icons of our Lord Jesus Christ are to be had and retained, inasmuch as he was very man; also those which set forth what is historically narrated in the Gospels; and those which represent our undefiled Lady, the holy Mother of God  [obviously a description of the earthly Mary]……The things which we have decreed, being thus well supported, it is confessedly and beyond all question acceptable and well-pleasing before God, that the images of our Lord Jesus Christ as man, and those of the undefiled Mother of God, the ever-virgin Mary, and of the honourable Angels and of all Saints, should be venerated and saluted”
But does this provide support for the doctrine of Mary’s Immaculate Conception? Now, I anticipate that the modern day Eastern churches would pitch in that Mary was immaculately conceived just like any other human being, though inflicted with the ancestral curse of death. This is because the East doesn’t always acknowledge the reality of an “original sin” as the Latin dogma has been taught at the Council of Trent. But there is reason for a great misunderstanding between the two traditions here. But I am not here going to explain whether or not the Latin doctrine truly falls prey to the Orthodox objection to an “original guilt” of some sort. What I’d like to address is that these references to Mary as undefiled and immaculate actually do imply something which pertains to a unique conception from her mother.   The East would read these as referring to an earthly sinlessness, and not anything with regard to her conception in the womb of St. Anne. Well, I provide some quotations below from some Eastern saints who seem to think that the immaculate-ness of the Virgin’s initial existence was profoundly unique in comparison to the rest of everyone else. It leads the reader asking why they would make a distinctive character for Mary when all are born the same immaculate way [i.e. without the Latin doctrine of original sin].

“O blessed loins of Joachim, whence the all-pure seed was poured out! O glorious womb of Anna, in which the most holy fetus grew and was formed, silently increasing! O womb in which was conceived the living heaven, wider than the wideness of the heavens” (St. John of Damascus, Homily on the Nativity 2: Patrologia Graeca 96, 664 A)

If each human being is born in the same sinless manner, what purpose would St. John to describe her as the “all pure seed”? Seems like it would be an ordinary description of even St. John’s conception himself, had he believed that everyone was born immaculate.

“Today that [human] nature, which was first brought forth from the earth, receives divinity for the first time; the dust, having been raised up, hastens with festive tread toward the highest peak of glory. Today, from us [Anne’s humanity] and for us [humanity], Adam offers Mary to God as first-fruits, and, with the unpoisoned parts of the muddy dough, is formed a bread for the rebuilding of the human …Today, pure human nature receives from God the gift of the original creation and reverts to its original purity. By giving our inherited splendor, which had been hidden by the deformity of vice, to the Mother of Him who is beautiful, human nature receives a magnificent and most divine renovation, which becomes a complete restoration. The restoration, in turn, becomes deification, and this becomes a new formation, like its pristine state
(St. Andrew of Crete, Homily 1 on the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary in PG 97:809D-812)

In the above citation, St. Andrew is speaking in a homily of the Nativity, so one might try and point out that it is possible these divine interventions were pertaining to the moment of exit from the womb of St. Anne, and not pertaining to the fetal development from conception to delivery. Well, the next citation from St. Andrew would seem to make this observation completely invalid:

“Death, natural to men, also reached her; not, however, to imprison her, as happens to us, or to vanquish her. God forbid! It was only to secure for her the experience of that sleep which comes from on high, leading us up to the object of our hope…No man lives, says Scripture, who will not see death. But even though the human create we celebrate today [Mary] must obey the law of nature, as we do, she is superior to the other humans. Therefore, death does not come to her in the same way that it comes to us. Instead, it comes in a superior way, and for a reason higher than the reason that obliges us to surrender totally to death” (Homily 1 on the Dormition, PG 97, 1052 C-1053 A)

Now, St. Andrew makes clear that Mary’s bodily death was unique to all other human persons. Might this include sinless infants? The saying “Death, natural to men, also reached her…not, however…..as happens to us”. Does the “us” there include infants? If so, then St. Andrew would be distinguishing Mary’s death from even sinless infants, thereby making her whole existence unique even from conception.

Even for the most ardent skeptic, even if these statements do not fully express a detailed formula stating the immaculate conception of the Virgin Mary, they definitely go a long way in revealing what the undivided Church believed in the 7th & 8th century, and, in particular, what the Eastern fathers believed.

[Picture of the Virgin w/ Child https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Theotokos_Icon_Outside_Hajdudorog.JPG%5D

 

 

 

Dr. Klaus Schatz, S.J. , Church History Professor @ St. Georgen School of Philosophy and Theology, & The Roman Primacy

klausschatz

Some students of Church history have taken notice of the seemingly strange admissions that are made by Roman Catholic Jesuit scholar Dr. Klaus Schatz, and have, in fact, used his book Papal Primacy: From Its Origins to the Present as a key witness to the fact that *even* Roman Catholic scholars are now admitting what the Eastern Orthodox & Protestants have been saying all along, namely, that the reality of which is claimed from the Papal claims only came gradually over time in history, and underwent a long process of development where-from new concepts emerged that were born later in time than the Apostolic deposit was given to the saints (Jude 3). A huge blow to the veracity of Vaticanal teaching, indeed. Well, I wanted to provide some of Schatz’ reasoning by revealing some of the larger statements in his book. He can be defensive of Papal continuity as well as inconsistently undermining them whether by accident or oversight, I cannot know. For Schatz, there is definitely a real continuity between the constitution of the Church by the Lord Jesus and the later Papal construction of Church government, but it is one in which isn’t *known by the Church* until years of time go by for the Church to realize it. Students of the Catholic magisterium will quickly note how much this goes contrary to the Pope St. Pius X’s “The Oath Against Modernism”, whose first paragraph includes the following: “Fourthly, I sincerely hold that the doctrine of faith was handed down to us from the apostles through the orthodox Fathers in exactly the same meaning and always in the same purport“. But one wouldn’t really need this confirmation if they are familiar with the perspectives of the Patristic men themselves. From no less than the pro-Papal athlete of the 5th century himself, Pope St. Gelasius, we read the following: “Follow the ancient faith and the things which have come down to us from the holy fathers…We are no wiser than our ancestors, nor is it right for us to interpret in some new and different way what our ancestors learned and taught. We are not more learned than they.” (Letter 1, to the Bishops of the East 1.19). Anyone who is knowledgeable on the Papal claims of Pope Gelasius might be surprised that he could say this while at the same time providing us some of the most comparable teachings to Vatican Council I concerning Papal power. Apparently, it was certain for him that the Papacy was from the beginning and delivered by the Apostles and fathers. But Schatz is not impressed. I’ve provided two extensive quotes from his book which demonstrates his understanding of how continuity exists from the primitive church to the Medieval Papal construction. God bless you if you can understand it in the way Schatz would like it. He insists that the Church cannot invent an artificial authority to practically work the Church better, and that the Papal authority must be of divine origin commensurate with the deposit of faith from the beginning. And yet, he clearly admits that the earliest Christians knew less and less of what “Papacy” might mean than the coming Christians of the 5th century. How he can reconcile this, words cannot explain. At least, his words. But despite all of this, I thought that these quotations also serves to counter some of the popular ideas of how Schatz really didn’t have a Papal-bone in his body, and that his book was practically an apologetic book for Catholics to unconvert. Surely, his interpretation of St. Irenaeus, which I initially provide, goes contrary to the modern scholarship of Papal critics. And then, beyond that, he admits that, at least in the West, whose saints are no less venerated by the Orthodox [with the exception of Gelasius], there was a clear Papal consciousness akin to the Vatican definition. Happy reading.

“There is a much-quoted passage in the third book of Irenaeus of Lyons’ Adversus Haereses (“Against All Heresies”), written ca. 180-190…Then comes the crucial statement : ‘For it is a matter of necessity that every church should agree with this church [Rome], on account of its preeminent authority (potentior principalitas), that is, the faithful everywhere, inasmuch as the apostolic tradition has been preserved continuously by those [faithful persons] who exist everywhere’….There is no convincing solution that takes care of all the difficulties. However, we interpret the passage, we probably cannot deny that it implies that the Roman paradosis had a certain qualified authoritative character, for 1) Even if the text is probably speaking of an a priori agreement, it is not illustrated by just any example, but by something very specific, the potentior principalitas of Rome: That which is the universal tradition of all the churches can be more clearly and reliably demonstrated by looking to that of Rome, 2) Also noteworthy is the multiplication of laudatory terms applied to the Roman Church (“the very great, the very ancient, and universally known church founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious apostles, Peter and Paul”), indicating that it is more than mere example….” (page 9-10)

“We have seen in the cases of the dispute over the date of Easter and the controversy concerning baptism by heretics that an official word from Rome was by no means sufficient to bring either of these matters to a definitive conclusion, and yet in the long run the Roman position on both these questions was ultimately victorious. Nor are these exceptional cases. In almost all the major controversies of the first centuries, Rome established a position at a relatively early date that was then adopted and accepted by the entire Church, although often through a very long process and sometimes with certain modifications. The same is true of the great theological conflicts that began in the fourth century. For the first several centuries we should mention, in addition to the debate on on the date of Easter and the conflict over heretics’ baptism, two importance processes of clarification in which Rome played a decisive part. [he goes on to describe the formation of the canon and the resolution of penance for serious sins]” (page 14-15)

“Cyprian thus appeals simply to the mutual solidarity of all bishops and their responsibility for the whole Church: no bishop can simply practice an ivory tower policy and focus solely on his own church while other churches are being destroyed by their own bishops. He does not rely on any specific responsibility of Stephen as primate. Correspondingly, Bishop Faustinus of Lyons, the most important bishop of the vicinity in Arles, had previously written to Stephen and to Cyprian — in other words, to both the leading bishops in the Latin region. When Stephen did not react, he wrote to Cyprian again, asking him to renew his appeal to Stephen. Throughout this it is noteworthy that it was Stephen who was supposed to act; Cyprian himself did not write to Gaul. Apparently Stephen’s word carried more weight, and although he had no superior status in law, it seems that he did possess greater authority. It is especially through the letters of Cyprian that we can observe a certain wavering in the status of the bishop of Rome. A few years earlier, when Cornelius was elected bishop of Rome, Cyprian spoke of the Roman Church as the ‘matrix and root of the catholic church’; he addressed a letter to the newly elected bishop there, assuring him that ‘all our colleagues….firmly approve and maintain you and your communion, that is, the unity and also the charity of the catholic church’. Elsewhere he speaks of the Roman Church whence sacerdotal unity has sprung’ (ecclesia princinpalis unde unitas sacerdotalis exorta est)…..We may thus summarize the essential information from the third century by saying that the Roman community was held in high esteem, but its status was not yet distinguished from the solidarity of the whole Church in which all the churches are responsible for one another. The Roman church held a preeminent place within the overall framework of universal Christian solidarity and episcopal collegiality. The question that naturally follows is: What happens if this universal ecclesial unity and solidarity is no longer palpable? What is to be done when deep divisions not only afflict individual churches, but draw the entire Church intro tribulation , when synods stand in opposition to one another and one synod seeks to annul what the others have decreed? What should happen when a solution could no longer be effected by the local church? That was the situation in  the fourth century [300s]. However, by that time some significant turning points already lay in the past….” (page 20-21)

“Leo I’s [450 AD] conception of papal primacy revolved around two central ideas: the pope is both the ‘heir of Peter’ within the meaning of Roman law and therefore the possessor of his power of the keys, and he is Peter’s ‘vicar’ or ‘representative’ as Peter is vicar of Christ…In addition, the Petrine succession was more expressly made in the content of the papal claim to leadership over the whole Church. The core concepts were now sollicitudo omnium ecclesiarum (care for all the churches: cf 2 Cor 11:28) and the idea the the Roman church as caput (head), to which the other churches related as members. Rome was now to a much greater degree an active institution that intervened everywhere, and no longer simply the fixed center of communion. Authority to make binding decisions for individual churches was now claimed more explicitly, by reference especially to Matthew 16:18-20…” (page 29)

“Beginning with the last third of the fourth century [366-399] a feeling emerged that the Roman bishop had a position independent of and superior to councils. From the Roman council of 382 onward it was taken for granted that the Roman church outranked other churches not by conciliar decree, but by divine institution. Since the Roman synod in 371 or 372, it had been emphasized that councils, no matter how large their attendance, were invalid without the assent of the Roman bishop….It was the conciliar confusion of the fourth century that made this claim appear plausible and made it necessary to draw some distinction between ‘authentic’ and ‘false’ councils. Councils as such had proved to be rather unreliable institutions. In this situation Rome became, as we will see more clearly from the fifth century onward, a guarantor of a ‘line of continuity’. This came to mean that councils once acknowledged were valid, and their decrees were to be maintained in perpetuity; all others were rejected” (page 30)

“As regards the position of Rome at the ecumenical councils after Chalcedon, there were variations in detail that will be described in their historical context in the next chapter. There is a certain undeniable and constantly recurring tension between the Roman conception of that relationship and the ideas of a majority of the eastern council fathers. At Constantinople III (680-681) and Nicea II (787) the popes, like Leo at Chalcedon, pointed the way for the council through dogmatic letters. They did not expect their discussion, and they always acknowledged the councils’ independent authority. By no means were they seen as merely mouthpieces of papal authority; they had a weight of their own, especially as a manifestation of the horizontal consensus of the whole church. Nevertheless, they excluded any rejection of their own dogmatic decisions by the councils. As is clear from Pope Agatho’s letter to Emperor Constantine IV on the occasion of the Third Council of Constantinople, the basis of that assurance was not the awareness of any papal magisterial infallibility in the later sense . It was, instead, the infallibility of the apostolic tradition of the Roman church stemming from Peter which made it impossible for that church, unlike the church of Constantinople, into error. Because of that assurance, it was no longer necessary for a council ‘to discuss something that is uncertain, but only to define it more completely and to proclaim it as certain and unchangeable’…..Rome was clearly aware from the beginning of the fifth century onward that a council was only valid if it was in union with the bishop of Rome, and the same awareness existed for most of the eastern council fathers as well. But the basis for this special importance of Rome is not always clear. The participation of Rome’s delegates was always regarded as extremely important and usually as necessary for the additional reason that they represented the entire West. Before the iconoclastic conflict in the eighth century there was no clear criterion in the East to determine why and under what conditions a council is ecumenical, especially when there is serious doubt, and even after the conflict there are only traces of such determination. This was connected with the fact that the councils were all imperial councils supported by the unity of Church and empire. Only then that unity became problematic or the imperial office proved ineffective, as in the matter of iconoclasm, did other criteria, such as union with Rome, achieve importance. ” (page 50-51)

“In any case it is clear that Roman primacy was not a given from the outset; it underwent a long process of development whose initial phases extended well into the fifth century. The question is then: Can we reasonably say of this historically developed papacy that it was instituted by Christ and therefore must always continue to exist? This seems a more radical question than the similar challenges posed to other Church offices (e.g., the episcopate [obviously, Schatz doesn’t believe in the full establishment of the Episcopate by Christ/Apostles]) or the sacraments because in the case of the papal office the initial process lasted much longer and clearly extended beyond the “apostolic” era of the church, however one might wish to define that time period. In the case of the episcopal office, or the threefold office of bishop, priest, and deacon, the fundamental process of formation was completed at least by the end of the second century. For papal primacy the process lasted another two or three centuries.
The first answer can only be that recognition of the need for an enduring Petrine office as a guarantor of unity presupposes the historical necessity of a multitude of experiences that build on one another and could not be completed in one or two centuries. That need is unrelated to the greater efficiency of a community with a unified head to coordinate its activities. In fact, until the modern era the Roman Church constituted such a coordinating center only to a very limited degree, and not at all before the eleventh century, if only because very few popes pursued a consistent and active ecclesiastical policy; their actions were mainly reactions.
The need for an office that guaranteed unity presented itself on other than technical or rational grounds, but this supposes a long period of development. If we do not understand the institution of the Church by Jesus Christ in an unhistorical sense, but rather in such a way that an awareness of what is essential and enduring in the Church develops only as a result of historical challenges and experiences, we cannot reasonably expect to discover a ‘primacy from the beginning’  in the sense of a primacy of teaching and jurisdiction as defined by Vatican I.
Instead, without doing violence to history we may interpret this process in terms of theology and salvation history somewhat as follows: Only in the course of history does the Church learn how to preserve both its connection with its historical origin (apostolicity), and at the same time and closely united with that origin its present unity as a visible community of faith and a society in communion (community of the body of Christ). when threatened by heresies, the Church learns that it draws its life from recollection of its apostolic origins. It realizes that tie to its origins in a twofold manner: through the canon of sacred Scripture, which is thus clearly distinguished from the ‘inauthentic’ writings, and through the continuity and ‘apostolic succession’ office, primarily that of bishops. In both of these the Church’s apostolic origins are present. But in this not all churches are equally important. The ‘apostolic’ churches have the greatest importance, because there the connection to the origins is somehow more tangible.
In a further process, the Church learns through the experience of schisms that it needs an enduring center of unity. But because the Church cannot ‘create’ its essential elements, but lives its life as a Church founded by Jesus and endowed with certain gifts and traditions, it cannot produce such a center of unity out of nothing. It must seek within its apostolic traditions for such a point of unity. An artificially created center of unity devised for practical reasons could, of course, have a certain usefulness as an administrative clearinghouse and center for arbitration of disputes, but in times of real crisis and when the faith is in danger there is no guarantee that the Church can maintain itself in truth purely by relying on such a manufactured office of unity. In effect, the Christian imperial throne from Constantine onward was such an ‘artificially manufactured’, humanly devised center, and it is a prime illustration of the problems involved. The Church must therefore seek within its own tradition to see whether it does not possess at least the elements of such a center. In the course of that search it discovers the Roman church, which has an advantage over all the other ‘apostolic’ churches in its ties to the beginning by the fact that it is associated with Peter and Paul, and therefore has a potentior principalitas.
The next element that comes into view against this background of experience of the need for an office that endows the Church with unity and preserves it as one is the biblical Peter as primitive image and model of such unity. Now the Church understands that the words of Jesus to Peter had significance for the entire church as well. The Petrine office is thus the link between two elements: the apostolic (the church’s attachment to its origins because it descends from Peter) and the catholic (the Church’s universality in space because it serves present and enduring unity).
The two elements – the concrete historical demand elicited by current need and a diligent search within the tradition — must coalesce. The synod of Sardica is an especially vivid illustration of the interplay of the two. On the one hand, there was a current need for an office of arbitration and appeal in a situation in which synods met sequentially and annulled each other’s actions. The search for an existing tradition, still very tentative and clumsy, found its expression in the reasoning Petri memoriam honoremus. In other words the Church of Peter, to which special honor is due because of its apostolic rank, should be the one to assume a function that has proved itself necessary in present circumstances” (page 36-38)

“Since the time of Paul VI many, including Cardinal Ratzinger, have repeatedly stated that as far as the Orthodox Churches are concerned the task at hand is to restore the unity that existed in the 1st millennium. The problem is only that such a unity in the 1st millennium is an equivocal concept. It looked very different in different eras and was very differently interpreted, not only in the West and East, but especially *with the Eastern Church itself* [emphasis mine]. One question not easily answered is: Did the Eastern Church as a whole ever recognize more than a ‘primacy of honor’, whereby the Roman bishop was primus inter pares (first among equals) with respect to the other patriarchs, but not more?
“Here the methodological crux is to make a correct assessment of the meaning of ‘more’. If it is understood to mean a ‘primacy of jurisdiction’ in the sense of a leadership of the Church that is sometimes effective and applicable in normal times, the answer must certainly be negative. It is clear especially in the conflict surrounding canon 28 of Chalcedon and the allegiance of Illyricum that Rome was scarcely or not at all able to accomplish its aim in serious jurisdictional questions affecting the whole Church, *especially when the emperor took the opposing side* [emphasis mine].
“The answer would be different if we were to ask whether Rome was acknowledged as the *ultimate norm of ecclesial communion* [emphasis mine]. It would not be difficult to find a *continuing series of witnesses in the Eastern Church throughout the centuries* [emphasis mine – notice the breadth of time-period] who give a clear acknowledgement of that principle, and who speak in one way or another of the Roman chuch, or even the Roman bishop, as the head or presider over all chuches. ! This is especially true when leaders in the Eastern Church sought help at Rome, but by no means all the witnesses can be explained in such interests! [empahsis mine].
“On the other hand, there are also witnesses on the opposite side expressing a different opinion. Often Rome is only the 1st see in the series of patriarchs, but its preeminence does not seem to be qualitatively different from that of the other patriarchates. In the later theory of the pentarcy, the issue is mainly that of harmony among the five patriarchs, and not simply union with Rome. Rome is especially important for communion, but it alone is not decisive. Of course we have also seen that matters were different at Nicaea II and generally among supporters of the veneration of images: *In those cases Rome was not said to be on the same level with other patriarchs, but had a special role* [emphasis mine]. However, that was a particular line of development that did not continue in a consistent manner afterward. In general, then, the question of the ultimate center of Church unity was not posed in such well-defined terms because the East, unlike the West, subsisted on the basis of a union of Church and Empire.
At the same time, there were moments when that unity was problematic, for example during the iconoclastic conflict. Especially in such periods even eastern authors later acknowledged as representatives of orthodox faith recognize that controversies involving the whole Church, especially those having to do with matters of faith, can only be definitively resolved in union with the Roman see and not apart from it.* [empahsis mine]
“Thus especially *when the imperial throne was incapable of fully managing affairs the market value and theological status of the Roman see could rise remarkably, even among eastern authors. One example, who could be cited is Theodore Abu Qurra, who wrote in Arabic works in Syria around 800. For him, the Roman bishop is the successor of Peter, the rock of the Church; therefore he must call a council, for it cannot take place without him and he is its proper leader. But Abu Qurra no longer lived within the world of the imperial Church. The imperial throne no longer meant anything to him, and therefore the papacy had to take its place. In particular, he was engaged in a struggle against the Monophysites that required the development of a clear rule of faith and an unmistakable criterion for the formal legitimacy of councils. Imperial leadership was not an obstacle and a counterargument. Only in the papacy did he find the ultimate criterion for the legitimacy of councils* [emphasis mine].
“Certinaly Abu Qurra, given his circumstances, is not representative but he indicates a particular possibility and a consistent direction. The idea that differences that call the identity of the Church and its faith into question can only be definitively clarified in union with Rome (which certainly does not mean ‘only by Rome’) is a conviction with a very broad tradition in the East. But this conviction is primarily found among authors who have since been regarded as pillars of ‘orthodoxy’ among Roman Catholics as well as Orthodox — in other words, the conviction in itself played a part in the triumph of orthodoxy, and this conviction was expressed particularly in periods when the imperial office failed and was no longer available as a support for the Church. All this means that we must acknowledge that these ‘witnesses to primacy’ are indeed significant as testimony to the common faith of East and West” (Pg 59-61)

Pope St. Leo the Great – Universal Jurisdiction

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A.D. 400-461

Epistle 65
“Through the most blessed Peter, chief of the Apostles, the holy Roman church holds the principiate over all the churches of the whole world” (Epistle #65, M.P.L. 54.879) 

Sermon 5
“…For although the pastors, each one singly, preside over their flocks with a special care and know that they have to render an account for the sheep entrusted to them, we have a duty which is shared with all; in fact the function of each one is part of our work: so that when men resort to the see of the blessed Apostle Peter from the whole world, and seek from our stewardship that love of the whole Church entrusted to him by the Lord, the greater our duty to the whole, the heavier we feel the burden to rest on us. There is further reason for our celebration: not only the Apostolic but also the episcopal dignity of the most blessed Peter, who does not cease to preside over his see, and obtains an abiding partnership with the eternal priest. For the stability which the rock himself was given by that Rock [Christ] ,he conveyed also to his successors, and wheresoever any steadfastness is apparent, there without doubt is to be seen the strength of the Shepherd.” (Leo’s Sermons #5 – PL 54 153)

Epistle to Anastasius, Bishop of Thessaloniki
“But in this present letter the affection displayed seems to us greater than usual: for it informs us of the state of the churches, and urges us to a vigilant exercise of care, by a consideration of our office, so that being placed, as it were, on a watch-tower, according to the will of the Lord, we should both lend our approval to things when they run in accordance with our wishes, and correct, by applying the remedies of compulsion, what we observe gone wrong through any aggression: hoping that abundant fruit will be the result of our sowing the seed, if we do now allow those things to increase which have begun to spring up to the spoiling of the harvest” (Leo’s Letters, # VI)

Another Epistle to Anastasius, Bishop of Thessaloniki
“Seeing that, as my predecessors acted toward yours, so too I, following their example have delegated my authority to you, beloved: so that you, imitating our gentleness, might assist us in the care which we owe primarily to all the churches by Divine institution and might to a certain extent make up for our personal presence in visiting those provinces which are far off from us….” (Letter XIV)

To the Bishops of Sicily
“By God’s precepts and the Apostle’s admonitions we are incited to keep a careful watch over the state of all the churches: and, if anywhere ought is found that needs rebuke, to recall men with speedy care either from stupidity of ignorance or from forwardness and presumption. For inasmuch as we are warned by the Lord’s own command whereby the blessed Apostle Peter had the thrice repeated mystical injunction pressed upon him, that he who loves Christ should feed Christ’s sheep, we are compelled by reverence for that SEE which, by the abyndance of the Divine grace, we hold, to shun the danger of sloth as much as possible: lest the confession of the chief Apostle whereby he testified that he loved God be not found in us: because if he [Peter], through us, carelessly feed the flock so often commended to him he is proved not to love the Chief Shepherd” (Letter XVI)

Leo’s epistle to the Synod of Ephesus (449 AD)
“The devout faith of our most clement prince, knowing that it especially concerns his glory to prevent any seed of error from springing up within the catholic church, has paid such deference to the Divine institutions as to apply to the authority of the Apostolic See for a proper settlement: as if he wished it to be declared by the most blessed Peter himself what was praised in his confession….” (Letter XXXIII)

Letter of Appeal to Bishop Leo of Rome from Flavianus of C’ople from Ephesus 449
“When I began to appeal to the throne of the Apostolic see of Peter, the prince of the Apostles, and to the whole sacred synod which is obedient to your holiness, at once a crowd of soldiers surrounded me and barred the way when I wished to take refuge at the holy altar…Therefore I beseach your holiness not to permit these things to be treated with indifference…but to rise up first on behalf of the cause of our orthodox faith, now destroyed by unlawful acts…further to issue an authoritative instruction, so that a like faith may everywhere be perached, by the assembly of a united synod of the fathers, both eastern and western. Thus the laws of the fathers may prevail and all that has been done amiss be rendered null and void: bring healing to this ghastly wound” (Dr William Carrol, The Building of Christendom, page 114)

Letter from Galla Placidia Augusta (wife of Western Emperor) to Theodosius (Eastern Emperor)
“…the synod held at Ephesus (the Robber synod) is alleged to have rather stirred up hatred and contention, intimidating by the presence of soldiers, Flavianus, the bishop of Constantinople, because he had sent an appeal to the Apostolic SEe, and to all the bishops of these parts by the hands of those who had been deputed to attend the Synod by the most reverend bishop of Rome, who have been always wont to attend, most sacred Lord and Son and adored King, in accordance with the provisions of their Nicene Synod. For this cause we pray your clemency to oppose such disturbances with the Truth, and to order the faith of the catholic religion to be preserved without spot, in order that according to the standard and decision of the Apostolic See, wherein assuredly He first adorned primacy, who was deemed worthy to receive the Keys of heaven: for it becomes us in all things to maintain the respect due to this great city which is the mistress of all the earth; and this too we must most carefully provide that what in former times our house guarded seem not in our day to be infringed, and that by the present example schisms be not advanced either between the bishops of the most holy churches” (Letter LVI from Leo’s collections)

Pope Leo’s letter to Chalcedon
” [The Emperor]…has desired your holy brotherhood to assemble for the purpose of destroying the snares of the devil and restoring the peace of the Church, so far respecting the rights and dignity of the most blessed Apostle Peter as to invite us too by letter to vouchsafe our presence at your venerable Synod….” (Letter XCIII)

Letter from Chalcedon to Leo
“.For if where two or three are gathered together in His name, He has said that there He is in the midst of them , must He not have been much more particularly present with 520 priests, who preferred the spread of knowledge concerning Him to their country and their ease? Of whom you were chief, as the head to the members, showing your goodwill in the person of those who represented you; while our religious Emperors presided to the furtherance of due order, inviting us to restore the doctrinal fabric of the Church, even as Zerubbabel invited Joshua to rebuild Jerusalem…..and besides all this, he [heretic Dioscorus of Alexandria] stretched forth his fury even against him who had been charged with the custody of the vine by the Saviour, we mean of course, your holiness…Accordingly, we entreat you, honour our decision by your assent, and as we have yielded to the head our agreement on things honourable, so may the head also fulfil for the children what is fitting.” (Letter XCVIII)

In response to canon 28, Leo writes to Pulcheria, wife of Marcian (Eastern Emperor)
“…But the bishops’ assents (in passing canon 28), which are opposed to the regulations of the holy canons composed at Nicaea, in conjunction with our faithful grace, we do not recognize, and by the blessed Apostle Peter’s authority, we absolutely dis-annul in comprehensive terms….”

Bishop Anatolius of C’ople to Leo conceding not to accept canon 28
“As for those things which the universal Council of Chalcedon recently ordained in favor of the church of Constantinople, let Your Holiness be sure that there was no fault in me, who from my youth have always loved peace and quiet, keeping myself in humility. It was the most reverend clergy of the church of Constantinople who were eager about it, and they were equally supported by the most reverend priests of those parts, who agreed about it. Even so, the whole force of confirmation of the acts was reserved for the authority of Your Blessedness. Therefore, let Your Holiness know for certain that I did nothing to further the matter, knowing always that I held myself bound to avoid the lusts of pride and covetousness.” — Patriarch Anatolius of Constantinople to Pope Leo, Ep 132 (on the subject of canon 28 of Chalcedon).

Letter from Leo to Theodoret, bishop of Cyrus, on perservering in the faith of Chalcedon
“…But blessed be our God, whose invincible Truth has shown you free from all taint of heresy in the judgement of the Apostolic See. To whom you will repay due thanks for all these labours, if you keep yourself such a defender of the universal Church as we have proved and do still prove you. For that God has dispelled all calumnious fallacies, we attribute to the blessed Peter’s wondrous care of us all, for after sanctioning the judgement of his See in defining the faith, he allowed no sinister imputation to rest on any of you, who have laboured with us for the catholic faith….” (Letter CXX)

Pope Victor I (189-98) & the Roman Primacy – Critical Analysis

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Many have heard the story about Pope St. Victor I and his confrontation with some Eastern churches on the proper dating of the celebration of Easter,  but many of the details and surrounding history are left omitted, and so it is often thought that this scenario could be used as evidence against the Papal theory of Church government. Let’s review the sequence of events, with some added details.

During the short 11 or 12 year pontificate of Victor I ( 189-199), the variance between churches over the celebration date of Easter became a grave controversy. The difference in practice between Rome and some Eastern churches already existed as is evidenced by the record of St. Irenaeus of St. Polycarp’s meeting with Pope St. Anicetus. St. Polycarp held the celebration of Easter to be observed on the 14th day of Nisan, also known as Quartodeciman (the fourteenth) practice. Neither of them were able to persuade each other of the which was day was the correct day to celebrate. Despite this, they were able to maintain peace with each other, and Pope St. Anicetus allowed St. Polycarp to celebrate the Eucharist on the Lord’s Day. That was in AD 154/5. About 11/12 years later, the debate over the date of Easter occurred in Laodicea (a city of Asia) between Asiatics themselves, requiring some of their own to attempt to defend the Quartodeciman practice (Bishop Melito of Sardis). A contemporary bishop of Hierapolis, Claudius Apolinarius, wrote in protest to the Quartodeciman practice likely in response to this Eastern complication in Laodicea:

“There are some now who, from ignorance, love to raise strife about these things, being guilty in this of a pardonable offence; for ignorance does not so much deserve blame as need instruction. And they say that on the fourteenth [of Nisan] the Lord ate the paschal lamb with his disciples, but that He himself suffered on the great day of unleavened bread [i.e. the fifteenth of Nisan]; and they interpret Matthew as favoring their view from which it appears that their view does not agree with the law, and that the Gospels seem, according to them, to be at variance” (Chronicon Paschale)

By year 190, Pope St. Victor obviously knew about the variance between Asia and the consensus of the churches, and so requested synods to be held everywhere concerning the question. There was a synod held in Palestine under Theophilus of Caesarea, Narcissus of Jerusalem, a synod in Pontus under Palmas, another in Gaul under St. Irenaeus. Other bishops involved were the pastor of the church in Osrhoene,  Bacchylus of Corinth,  Cassius of Tyre, Clarus of Ptolemais, and our historical witness Eusebius of Caesarea also notes that there were “letters from many others who expressed the same opinion and judgement and cast the same vote. And the view [Roman tradition] which has been described above was accepted by them all” (Historia Ecclesiastica, V, 23-25). Also, St. Clement, head of the school at Alexandria, published a summation of traditions that he collected and they all agreed with the position of Rome.

All these churches across East and West ruled in favor of celebrating Eastern on Sunday, the Lord’s day. Except the synod in Asia Minor under St. Polycrates of Ephesus. Rather than suggesting that the tradition was open to disagreement, Polycrates insisted in his letter to Pope Victor that the clerics that preceded him in Ephesus and in surrounding Asia all had “kept the fourteenth day of the Passover according to the to the gospel, never departing from it but obeying the rule of faith (ibid 24). Notice here that the Synod of Asia understood that the Quartodeciman practice to be part of the “rule of faith“, even though so many other churches around the world thought opposite. To suggest that the rest of the churches were deviant from the regula fidei was a mighty claim. Often times readers of this historical event find themselves directing their disgust with Pope Victor, not realizing this implication from Asia. In the same letter, Polycrates adds “I, therefore, brethren, who have lived sixty-five years in the Lord and have communed with brethren from all the world have examined every sacred scripture, am not daunted by terrifying words. For those greater than I have said : ‘We ought to obey God rather than man'”.  Now, according to our historian Eusebius, the Asian synod had written this letter in response to Pope Victor who himself had requested Asia to hold a synod on the question. The letter states “I could name the bishops who are here assembled whom you requested me to summon and I did summon“. It is likely that the synods that were held elsewhere we also summoned by Victor himself as well. This requesting of the summoning of synods reveals a hint at how Rome understood her responsibility in ensuring ecclesial unity. On what grounds, we aren’t really told. But I want to point out here that when the Asian synod said “We must obey God rather than man” in protest against changing their quartodeciman rule, it is likely that they are not responding to Victor alone, but to Victor and all the synods of the Christian churches, since it was not until receiving this letter that “thereupon Victor, who was head of the Church at Rome, immediately undertook to cut off from the common unity the parishes of all Asia and such churches as agreed with them as heterdox and he wrote letters pronouncing all the brethren there totally excommunicate“.  It was only after receiving this note of nonconformity that the excommunications were sent. We might think a bit differently if we realize that this initial response of Asia is not merely an act of papal rejection but also a rejection of the consensus of the rest of the world. But even so, the staunch anti-Papalist Edward Denny’s Papalism (page 252-3) seems to only notate that if Asia believed in a Roman Pontiff with an infallible teaching authority and universal jurisdiction would never write “We must obey God rather than man” in response to this Pope. But, as pointed out, this was in response to the entirety of the synods held in both East & West. If Denny’s point is conceded, it will have to equally concede on behalf of the Monophysites who didn’t accept Chalcedon, since they didn’t find the wider Church via Chalcedon to be of any authority for them to obey, and so on. For Denny, then, the churches should never allow any mode of ecumenical authority with any the ability to enforce binds. This, of course, cuts through the Ecumenical Synods. But as an Anglican, how hard was it to deny the authority of Synods? Given the current climate in England, no such feat is thought difficult.

Eusebius also inserts a quotation from a letter from the Palestinian synod mentioned above, whose addressee [most likely Victor] is unknown but which content is entirely relevant to the contemporary controversy. It says, “Do you endeavor to send copies of our letter to every parish, that we may not be blamable for those who carelessly deceived their own souls. And we assure you that in Alexandria also they keep the same day that we do. For letters are carried from us to them and from them to us, so that with one accord and at the same time we keep the sacred day” . It would not seem as though these Eastern folks thought it was such a light issue, either.

We don’t know exactly how this ordeal ended with Pope Victor. Some have tended to believe that he relented from his act of excommunication, but I’ve not come across any good evidence to support this. Victor’s name is in the Roman Calendar as a Martyr, so we may suspect that he died in good faith. Some historians have the following to comment on this Pope and his actions:
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“At no point in its history is this pre-eminence [primacy] so evident as under Pope Victor, 189-90: when ‘from Gaul to Osrhoene [on the Euphrates]” his invitation for the summoning of councils to effect a settlement of the Paschal controversy was everywhere accepted. ‘This initiative of Pope Victor alone, an initiative proved to be effective, suffices to show how evident in those ancient times was the exceptional situation and the ecumenical authority of the Roman church'” (Dr. Beresford Kidd, The Roman Primacy to AD 461, page 18-19)

 

13104876705_383f15d152_b“Pope Victor initiates a movement in favor of unity of observance. Councils are simultaneously held at his request throughout Christendom, and all publish decisions that Easter must be celebrated only on Sunday. The Asiatic churches alone resist this decision. St. Victor ‘tries to cut them off from the common unity’. Some other bishops think this too harsh, for the Bishop of Ephesus had pleaded a tradition received from the Apostle St. John, and they ‘took Victor to task somewhat sharply’. Amongst these St. Irenaeus ‘becomingly’ urged Victor to consider that the difference in the custom of the fast only brought the unity of faith more clearly into relief….However this may be, we find in this incomplete story of a Pope conscious that it is he who is to see the uniformity in the Christian churches. We see councils assembled everywhere at his demand. We see him claim to have the right to excommunicate not, as before, merely individual heresiarchs, but numerous and populous churches of Apostolic foundation .His action ‘did not please all the bishops’, so we see that many were, in fact, satisfied….There is no trace of any denial of the right, but only of the justice of its exercise” (Dom John Chapman, Bishop Gore and Catholic Claims, page 66-67)

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“Victor, who was bishop of Rome, contemporary and friend of Ireaeus, was penetrated with care for all the churches; to this his conduct in the Paschal controversy bears sufficient witness, for his action extended to all the churches of the East, from Egypt to Asia, which he made it his business to rally to the same date for Easter — and was sufficiently energetic for Renan to be able to say of it ‘The Papacy is already born and well born'” (Monsignor Pierre Battifol, Catholicism and Papacy, page 111)

 

“There is no trace of a protest against Victor’s action on grounds of princ
iple. No one suggested that he had not the right to act as he had done.” (Trevor Jalland, Church and Papacy, page 121)

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What we do know is that the Quartodeciman problem persisted, and was continually addressed as time goes forward. For example, at the Council of Arles (314), the bishops wrote their canons in address to newly elected Pope Sylvester I, and the 1st canon reads: “In the first place, as regards the observance of the Lord’s Easter, it was resolved that we should observe it on the same day and at the same time throughout the world and that you should send out letters, according to custom, to everyone” . Arles intended Pope Sylvester to transmit these canons to the wider network of churches, perhaps like the Synod of Palestine sought from Victor [see above]. We know this by the preface of the already quoted letter which states, “…the assembly of bishops gathered in the city of Arles to their most holy lord and brother, Sylvester. What we in common council have decreed we report to your charity, so that everyone may know what ought to be observed in the future”. While this Council met without the Pope since, according to the bishops present, Sylvester “was not able to to leave the place where the Apostles to this day have their seats [place of judge] and where their blood without ceasing witnesses to the glory of God..” , they clearly intended to get their canons ratified by the authority of the Roman see. (Synodical letter to Sylvester, Sylloge Optatiana, Corpus Scriptorum Ecclesiasticorum Latinorum, XXVI, 206-208). They acknowledge to the Pope that were it that he thought it “wise to attend this great assemblage, we firmly believe that a more severe verdict would then have been passed against them [Donatists] and if you had been judging here with us, we should all have rejoiced with deeper joy… and we resolved to write first of all to you, who hold the greater dioceses, that through you preferably our resolutions should be made known to everyone.” (Ibid). On a side note, the 8th canon, the bishops of Arles condemned the Cyprianic position of re-baptism, confirming the position of Pope Stephen (250).

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Thereafter, the Council of Nicaea (325) confronted the issue head on and wrote in the concluding section of the Council’s letter to the Eyptians:

We also send you the good news of the settlement concerning the holy pasch, namely that in answer to your prayers this question also has been resolved. All the brethren in the East who have hitherto followed the Jewish practice will henceforth observe the custom of the Romans and of yourselves and of all of us who from ancient times have kept Easter together with you. Rejoicing then in these successes and in the common peace and harmony and in the cutting off of all heresy, welcome our fellow minister, your bishop Alexander, with all the greater honour and love. He has made us happy by his presence, and despite his advanced age has undertaken such great labour in order that you too may enjoy peace.

The Council of Nicaea implicitly recognizes the priority that Rome placed upon the right celebration of Easter, and even rules that future observance will be in according to the Roman and wider Eastern practice. But it is worth pointing out here that St. Irenaeus’ letter, while it may have come into play with Pope Victor, did not factor in to mitigate the decision of Nicaea. Many of the Papal detractors who have utilized the Victorian pontificate as an evidence against the Papal theory have commented on how much of an overreach Victor made when cutting off the Asian churches. Well, what do we conclude about Nicaea?

But did Quartodecimanism cease because the great and almighty council of Nicaea ruled against it? No, for the Constantinpolitan historian Socrates Scholasticus from the 5th century speaks of St. John Chrysostom having deprived the Quartodecimans of their churches since he ordained Heraclides of Ephesus. (, Historia ecclesiastica, 6.11 (NPNF2 2, pp.  145–147). St. John Chrysostom was born in 354 AD, about 25 years after Nicaea. By the time John was ordained 381 AD, Nicaea had already been passed by more than 50 years. So the existence of Quartodecimans out-lived Nicaea despite the Councils decision. Does that mean that the Council of Nicaea did not have any authority to intrude upon the disciplinary practice of churches all over the world? I can’t seem to think how the Eastern Orthodox or, perhaps, the Anglo-Catholics would be able to deny this. I would expect it from the post-Reformed Protestant historians.

Conclusion

So what typically gets gleaned from the scenario between Victor vs Asia is that the Pope is disobeyed, and ergo, the Pope held no jurisdiction over the universal Church. Whatever we might say in response to this, one would have to ask just what the person who believes this first sentence would constitute as evidence of authority? Surely, Victor himself thought it his right, and surely, his position would eventually become the norm of all. No bishops at the time protested his right to excommunicate. Moreover, as we saw, the Asian synod who flaunted their orthodoxy to Victor claimed their Quartodeciman practice to be the only one which was consistent with the “rule of faith”, in contradistinction to all the synods of East & West. This was not Asia vs Rome, this was Asia vs East/West. So those who find themselves fanning on the side of Asia, for whatever sake, have to maintain consistency and assert that the synodal processes of the universal church likewise have no authority to make binding enforcement on the universal church. Even more so since Quartodeciman practice out-lived the Ecumenical Council of Nicaea. I would suggest, in contradiction to those who would merely cite that the Asian synod didn’t heed Pope Victor, that at this point in history (180AD) we have a witness to the Roman primacy in act, rather than any stated theory. And that is most likely due to the fact that we don’t have many of the survived documents.

Papal Office is internal to the Episcopate , Some Notes On The Mutual Dependency of Bishops to the Pope, Citations from the Church Fathers

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The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Father, when under Fr Josef Ratzginer, published a wonderful paper entitled “The Primacy of the Successor of Peter in the Mystery of the Church”. Certainly, a must-read for understanding more clearly the unique role of the Papacy in the Church’s universal mission. I will be here quoting a portion which pertains to the separation of powers that exist between Pope and the bishops of the Episcopal College, and provide some demonstration from the Fathers, as well as make a brief comment on the often posed question of how far can the Pope act alone:

“All the Bishops are subjects of the sollicitudo omnium Ecclesiarum as members of the Episcopal College which has succeeded to the College of the Apostles, to which the extraordinary figure of St Paul also belonged. This universal dimension of their episkope (overseeing) cannot be separated from the particular dimension of the offices entrusted to them. In the case of the Bishop of Rome – Vicar of Christ in the way proper to Peter as Head of the College of Bishops – the sollicitudo omnium Ecclesiarum acquires particular force because it is combined with the full and supreme power in the Church: a truly episcopal power, not only supreme, full and universal, but also immediate, over all pastors and other faithful. The ministry of Peter’s Successor, therefore, is not a service that reaches each Church from outside, but is inscribed in the heart of each particular Church, in which “the Church of Christ is truly present and active”, and for this reason it includes openness to the ministry of unity. This interiority of the Bishop of Rome’s ministry to each particular Church is also an expression of the mutual interiority between universal Church and particular Church.”

[my notes]

You will see here that *all the bishops are subjects of the sollicitudo omnium ecclesiarum*. This means that Christ Himself has given to the entirety of the episcopate this common vocation of the “care for all the church”. The Orthodox East  might be surprised to find that this very concept is found in a Papal letter to the Council of Ephesus in 431, and it was read aloud at the Council. Pope Celestine, who believed his judgement against Nestorius’ doctrine was the final word, and who was not silent about the nature of ontological Petrinias in the Roman See, writes to the East:

“This duty of preaching has been entrusted to all the Lord’s priests in common, for by right of inheritance we are bound to undertake this solicitude, whoever of us preach the name of the Lord in various lands in their stead for he said to them, Go, teach all nations. You, dear brethren, should observe that we have received a general command: for he wills that all of us should perform that office, which he thus entrusted in common to all the Apostles. We must needs follow our predecessors. Let us all, then, undertake their labours, since we are the successors in their honour. And we show forth our diligence in preaching the same doctrines that they taught, beside which, according to the admonition of the Apostle, we are forbidden to add anything. For the office of keeping what is committed to our trust is no less dignified than that of handing it down” (Letter of Celestine to Ephesus)

A very similar point was made at the Council of Constantinople 553:

“But also the Holy Fathers, who from time to time have met in the four holy councils, following the example of the ancients, have by a common discussion, disposed of by a fixed decree the heresies and questions which had sprung up, as it was certainly known, that by common discussion when the matter in dispute was presented by each side, the light of truth expels the darkness of falsehood. Nor is there any other way in which the truth can be made manifest when there are discussions concerning the faith, since each one needs the help of his neighbour, as we read in the Proverbs of Solomon: A brother helping his brother shall be exalted like a walled city; and he shall be strong as a well-founded kingdom; and again in Ecclesiastes he says: Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour. So also the Lord himself says: Verily I say unto you that if two of you shall agree upon earth as touching anything they shall seek for, they shall have it from my Father which is in heaven. For wheresoever two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”

Anyhow, all bishops are subject to this divine vocation, and the Pope cannot remove that divine calling from his brother bishops. Thus, each Pope finds himself in a situation where, although He is head of the episcopal college, he must submit to the reality of the episcopal college as of divine institution. Often times, people think of the Pope as the singular bishop, where all others rent from his sole power. Nonsense.

That being said, Fr Ratzinger continues to note on the unique prerogative of the Head of the episcopal college, that he has full & supreme authority over the other bishops in the College. I think right there, some Catholics who deny Papal *supremacy* would find, if not a blatant contradiction, a pain for them to explain how it all meshes together.

And Ratzinger’s final point is the most important, and harkens back to what I was speaking about concerning the Papal perpective of the Church fathers. The position of the Pope is not an external office, reaching towards the other bishops from without. Rather, his position is internal to the episcopate, and thus reaches to them from within the very nature of the episcopate. This is why, for us, no matter what failures are in respect to the Papal succession, it remains of the esse of the Church, and thus something to continue with as the Church grows in her mission. When a bishop or group of once valid bishops begins to teach heresy, the episcopate is not said to have been diminished, or proven to be of man-made origin. Rather, those persons sever themselves from the episcopate. In the same way, Papal failures do not diminish the ontological role of the Papacy, nor does it prove it is of man-made origin or that it is an external machinery created for the sake of good order, but it continues to be of the essential constitution.

The East never wrote extensively in agreement with this in the post Schism era, with the exception of a few byzantine’s in the 14th/15th century. But even then, they most likely understood the Papal office to be an external office from the episcopate, coming to it *from the outside*, for the sake of good order. But their predecessors , and I mean here the Greek Catholicism of the 1st millennium, understood that this Papal office came from *within the episcopate*. Some statements from early Byzantine prove this:

During the Pontificate of Pope Symmachus, Greeks appealed to him on behalf of the Eastern christians who were suffering from the mono-physite fall out:

“You who are taught daily by your sacred teacher, Peter, to feed the sheep of Christ entrusted to you throughout the whole habitable world” (Mansi, 8.221)

Two bishops of Thessaly write to Pope Boniface II in 521:

“For these things we appeal to your blessedness and the Apostolic See, and through it we believed we hear and adore thrice blessed Peter, and the chief Shepherd of the Church, Christ our Lord” (Mansi, 8.748)


Also, I wanted to mention a scenario which took place some half a century before the outbreak of the Three Chapters controvery, which involves a Western saint venerated by the Orthodox themselves, St Avitus of Vienne. In 499 AD, King Theodoric wanted the Italian bishops to judge deposed Pope Symmachus for some moral crimes he was accused of. The Synod of Italian bishops, including St Avitus write the following:“..the person who was attacked [Symmachus] ought himself to have called a council, knowing that to his See in the first place the rank of Chiefship of the Apostle Peter, and then the authority of venerable councils following out the Lord’s command, had committed a power *without its like in the churches*; nor would a precedent be easily found to show, that in a similar matter the prelate of the aforementioned see had been subject to the judgement of his inferiors” (Mansi 8.248)

In a letter from the Italian bishops (including the name Avitus of Vienne) to the Roman Senators [the ones wishing Symmachus condemned] , they write:

“We were in a state of anxiety and alarm about the cause of the Roman church , in as much as we felt that our order was endangered by an attack upon its head…What license for accusation against the headship of the universal church ought to be allowed? As a Roman senator and a Christian bishop, I conjure you that the state of the Church be not less precious to you than that of the commonwealth. If you judge the matter with your profound consideration , not merely is that cause which was at Rome to be contemplated, but as, if in the case of any other bishop any danger be incurred, it can be repaired, so if the Pope of the city be put in question, not a single bishop, but the Episcopate itself, will appear to be in danger. He who rules the Lord’s flock will render an account how he adminsters the care of the lambs entrusted to him; but it belongs not to the flock to alarm its own shepherd , but to the judge [God].” (Mansi 8.293)

And even some years later St Avitus writes to Pope Hormisdas:

“Whilst you see that it is suitable to the state of religion, and to the full rules of the Catholic faith, that the ever watchful care of your exhortation should inform the flock committed to you throughout all the members of the universal Church. As to the devotion of Gaul, I will promise that all are watching for your sentence respecting the state of the faith” (Mansi 8.408)

And in another letter to the Count of Patrimony of Theodoric, Senarius, Avitus writes:

“you know that it is one of the laws regarding councils, that, in things which pertain to the state of the Church, if any doubt arises, we should , as obedient members , recur to the supreme bishop of the Roman church , as to our head” (Gallandi x.726)

And even after the Three Chapters controversy was well on its way, Pope Gregory I writes:

“To all who know the gospel , it is manifest that the charge of the whole Church was entrusted by the voice of the Lord to blessed Peter, chief of all the Apostles. For to him it was said ‘Peter , lovest thou me? Feed my lambs’….he hath received the keys of the kingdom of heaven the power of binding and loosing is given him , the care of the whole church is committed to him and the primacy , and yet he is not called universal Apostle” (Book 5, letter 20 – To the Emperor)

So you see here that the Papal office comes from the voice of Christ, and is not an external reality to the Church’s government, as if it is added atop. Rather, it is part of that government; indeed, a vital component. And secondly, notice how Gregory sees a certain universalism with regard to Peter’s position in the Church, but voids out the notion of an universal apostle. What Gregory means is that Peter was not the only Apostle, but yet his primacy is nevertheless universal and from Christ. So likewise, the Roman See always taught that the Bishop of Rome is not the only bishop, but that his primacy is universal, and from the Lord. Gregory thought the title “Universal Bishop” excluded the existence of other bishops.


So we have, then, a recognition by the Church fathers this idea that the Petrine primacy of the Roman See is not an external reality, as though it was added unto the episcopal constitution. Rather, it is one with the episcopal constitution. Secondly, that this essential element of the episcopal constitution is not something which can pertain to any and all Sees, but only that of the Roman See (we can explain concerning more about Gregory’s letter wherein he speaks of 3 locations of Peter’s see if it is brought up in rebuttal) since it alone receives the succession to Peter’s primacy.On the other hand, we saw from the Fathers that all bishops, including the Pope, have received a common calling from the divine Christ, and thus neither the Pope nor the bishops can eradicate each other. They must work in concord.

However, this does not mean that the ministry of the Petrine primacy cannot, if need so, act in such a way so as to impose upon the bishops what a certain group, or even majority, might say in opposition. A perfect example would be the subject of contraception & birth control. Some members of the holy episcopate in the 19th/20th centuries ruled in favor of it, but Pope Paul VI shut it down with the publication of Humanae Vitae.

But, we can ask, can the Pope go against the entire episcopate? I answer no, in both theory & practice. Here is why. It is not because the supreme & immediate power does not reside in the Pope over all the bishops [Vatican I is clear that this is the case], but rather it is because Christ always sustains a remnant, if not all, in the divine vocation of the Episcopate that will always be on the right-believing side of things. Thus, by way of accident [from our perspective], and not by absolute necessity, the Pope will never be alone in his own Papal magisterium for this reason.