Where Peter Is…..Not


WherePeterIs has published another article which attempts to argue that all Papal teaching, even non-definitive Papal teaching (i.e. any exercise of the Magisterium of the Pope) is 100% infallibly protected from all error. You can read it here.

In fact, we have at least one historical scenario, completely ratified by Pope St. Leo II, where the opposite is proven. At the 6th Ecumenical Council held in Constantinople (681), the deposed Monothelite Macarius of Antioch had dug up the 2 letters of Honorius, Pope of Rome, which were written to the Patriarch of Constantinople, Sergius. The Council read aloud these 2 letters (they were obviously not ex-cathedra), and proceeded to anathematize Honorius as a heretic alongside Sergius, Cyrus, Pyrrhus, Pharan, Theodore, et al.

When the Council sent its proceedings to the Pope St. Leo II, a dogmatic reply was sent on May 7, 682 AD which states:

And in like manner we anathematize the inventors of the new error, that is, Theodore, Bishop of Pharan, Sergius, Pyrrhus, Paul, and Peter, betrayers rather than leaders of the Church of Constantinople, and also Honorius, who did not attempt to sanctify this Apostolic Church with the teaching of Apostolic tradition, but by profane treachery permitted its purity to be polluted

If the author of this article is willing to admit that a Pope might be able to pollute the purity of the Apostolic See through profane treachery, then he will at least be in light with an Ecumenical Council which was ratified by the then Pope of Rome.

Dom John Chapman, one of the greatest Patristic scholars of the 19th/20th centuries, has this to follow up with those who attempt to think that the condemnation given by Pope St. Leo II was merely to say that Honorius was merely inattentive to his duties:

It has been sometimes said that St. Leo II in these words interprets the decision of the Council about Honorius in a mild sense, or that he modifies it. It is supposed that by ‘permitted to be polluted’ Leo II means no positive action, but a mere neglect of duty, grave enough in a Pope, but not amounting to the actual teaching of heresy. If Leo II had meant this, he would have been mistaken. Honorius did positively approve the letter of Sergius, as the Council pointed out. Further, the merely negative ruling of the typus had been condemned as heresy by the Lateran Council (649). As a fact, the words of Leo II are harsher than those of the Council. He declares that Honorius did not publish the Apostolic doctrine of his See, and he represents this as a disgrace to the Church of Rome itself, as a pollution of the unspotted. This no Eastern bishop had ventured to say” (The Condemnation of Pope Honorius, Pg. 115)

In his letter to the Bishops of Spain, Pope Leo II had written:

With Honorius, who did not , as became the Apostolic authority, extinguish the flame of heretical teaching in its first beginning, but fostered it by his negligence” (ibid)

In his letter to King Erwig, Leo II writes:

And with them Honorius of Rome, who allowed the immaculate rule of Apostolic tradition, which he received from his predecessors, to be tarnished” (ibid)

This last letter seals the deal. Leo says Honorius tarnished the Apostolic tradition. A mere withdrawal from duties does not do that. But one might say, “Ah, but he himself did not tarnish anything, but rather he allowed others to so tarnish”. That is manifestly false, since in his letter to Sergius, Honorius affirmed one will, and forbade the notion of two operations. Even if by “one will” he meant something quasi-orthodox (as some have argued), he still forbade the expression “two operations” and “two wills”, which the Council of Lateran 649 thought was heretical enough to condemn in the Ecthesis of Emperor Heraclius.

And if there were still some who thought Leo II only condemned Honorius was being inattentive to his duties (hardly a reason to dig up his memory and give anathema for), we have Pope Adrian II who, at the Council of Rome (869), whose decrees were read aloud at the Council of Constantinople IV (869), stated the following:

Although we have read of the Roman pontiff having passed judgement on the bishops of all the churches, we have not read of anyone having passed judgement on him. For even though Honorius was anathematized after this death by the easterners, it should be known that he had been accused of heresy, which is the only offence where inferiors have the right to resist the initiatives of their superiors or are free to reject their false opinions” (from the Acts of Constantinople IV, ed. Leonardi, 238)

Thus, the Council of Constantinople (681), Pope St. Leo II , Pope Adrian II, and the Council of Constantinople IV (869) all together believe that a Papal teaching (non-definitive) was at odds with both the definitive Papal teaching and Conciliar teaching of Pope St. Agatho and the 6th Ecumenical Council, respectively.

In other words, one could appeal to the authority of the Church in order to deflect the abused authority of a particular Pope, even in the realm of doctrine and theology. In any case, the idea that Popes are protected from error in all of their Magisterium is simply untenable by the facts of history. Even if Honorius himself was technically not heretical by some stretch, his successor, Pope St. Leo II, by condemning Honorius for heresy, gave into that belief, as did two Ecumenical Councils. Time has kept me from produces more evidence from the life of Vigilius viz a viz the 5th Ecumenical Council of Constantinople II (553), where said Pope defended, with Magisterial authority, the orthodoxy of the letter of Ibas of Edessa, which later he admitted was wrong. Catholics are only obliged to believe that a Pope is infallible when he, in the exercise of his office as Pastor and teacher of all Christians, produces a decree on faith and morals to be held by all the faithful with catholic and divine faith, at whose dissent we forfeit our salvation. Otherwise known as an Ex-Cathedra teaching. There are some other corollary conditions as well (see this link for details)

5 thoughts on “Where Peter Is…..Not

  1. According to Hefele,

    “With greater precision than the Synod, however, Pope Leo II pointed out the fault of Honorius, when, in his letter to the Emperor, confirming the decrees of the sixth Ecumenical Council, he says: “Pariteranathematizamusnovierrorisinventores, id estTheodorumPharanitanumepiscopum, CyrumAlexandrinum, Sergium, Pyrrhum, Paulum, PetrumConstantinopolitanee Ecclesiae subsessoresmagis quam prsesules, necnon et Ilonorium, qui hancapostolicamecclesiam non apostoliccetraditionisdoctrinalustravit, sedprofundaproditioneimmaculatamjidemsubvertere conatus est (in the Greek, subvertipermisit), et omnes qui in suoerrore defunct isunt” (see p. 180).

    From this it is clear that Pope Leo II also anathematized Honorius, because he did not bring the apostolic doctrine to light, i.e., did not speak out as a teacher, and so, by the violation of his sacred duties, allowed the falsification of the faith, is not only milder, but also more accurate, and consistent with the expression of Leo in his letter to King Ervig, whilst the Latin text (a mere translation from the Greek) plainly does wrong to Pope Honorius).

    In like sense, Pope Leo II expressed himself in his letter to the Spanish bishops: “Qui veto adversumapostolicaetraditionispuritatemperduellionesexstiterant…aeternacondemnationemulctatisunt, i.e. TheodorusPharanitanus, Cyrus Alexandrinus, Sergius, Pyrrhus, Paulus, Petrus Constantinopolitani, cum Honorio qui flammamhaereticidogmatis non, utdecuitapostolicamauctoritatem, incipientemextinxit, sednegligendoconfovit.” (See p. 182.) And so, in fact, it was. Honorius ought; to have suppressed the heresy at its beginning by a clear exhibition of the orthodox doctrine, but he fostered it by his negligence, by his unhappy words to Sergius (in his first letter especially).

    Once more Leo II speaks of the anathematizing of Honorius, in his letter to the Spanish King Ervig, thus: “Omnesquehaereticaeassertionisauctoresvenerandocensenteconciliocondemnati, de catholicae ecclesiae adunationeprojectisunt, i.e. TheodorusPharanitanusepiscopus, Cyrus Alexandrinus, Sergius, Paulus, Pyrrhus, et Petrus, quondam Constantinopolitanipraesules; et una cure eis Honorius Romanus, qui immaculatamapostolicaetraditionisregulam, quam a praedecessoribussuisaccepit, maculaviconsensit” (i. e. he allowed the maculari, (a) from negligence, since he did not come forward against it, and (b) since he used an expression which the heresy turned to its own use). Whether this letter proceeded from Pope Leo himself, or from his successor Benedict II, is here indifferent.”

    (History of the Councils of the Church, Vol. V, pp. 159-160)

    According to Hefele, Pope Leo II made a milder charge against Honorius of permitting heresy (though this is lost in the Latin translation), singling him out with an explanatory clause. Of course, even this “milder” charge was sufficient to condemn the person of Honorius. The distinction has bearing only on the question of papal infallibility, but does nothing to exonerate Honorius.

    “In the letter to the Emperor, in which Leo II confirmed the doctrine of the sixth Synod, he calls it repeatedly, “sancta et universalis et magna sextasynodus, sancta et magna synodus, sanctum sextumconcilium.”

    He then says of Honorius: “Pariterqueanathematizamusnovierrorisinventores, i.e. TheodorumPharanitanum, etc., necnon et Fonorium, qui hancapostolicamecclesiam non apostolicaetraditionisdoctrinalustravit, sad profanaproditioneimmaculatamfidemmacularipermisit, et omnes qui in suoerroredefunctisunt. Similiteranathematizamus et abominamurimitatoreseorum et complices,… i.e. Macarium, etc., quos et sancta universalis supra memoratasextasynodusabdicavit.”

    So also Pope Leo II, in his letter to the Spanish bishops, entitles the Council the universaleitaque sanctum sextum, and informs them that the Council had condemned Theodore of Pharan, etc., cure Honorio, qui flammamhaereticidogmatis non, utdecuitapostolicam dignitatem, incipientemextinxit, sednegligendeconfovit, and requests of the Spanish bishops that they will subscribe, in a translation, the definitiovenerandiconcilii (i. e. the decree of the faith of the eighteenth session, in which the anathema on Honorius is contained). The same is further contained in Leo’s letter to the Spanish King Ervig (see above, p. 185). He transmits therewith to the Spaniards the definitio of the Council and the lo>govprosfwnhtiko<v, both of which contain the anathema on Honorius, and requires the subscription of the definitiosacraesynodi. How any one can say, on the ground of these documents, that Pope Leo II did not (in all respects) confirm the sixth Ecumenical Synod, but, on the contrary, abrogated its sentence on Honorius, is to me not intelligible; on the contrary, it is true that Pope Leo II estimated with greater precision the fault of Honorius, and thus gave the sense in which the sentence of the Council published against him is to be understood."

    (ibid. pp. 164-165)

    The original of the Pope's letter to the Emperor was in Greek; our Latin is just a translation from that.

    Pariterque does mean "and equally", but these "inventors of a new error" are only Cyrus, Sergius, Pyrrhus, Paul, and Peter. Honorius is tacked on in a separate clause: "necnonet Honorius…", so he is "equally" anathematized, though his crime is different. This doesn't mean there were degrees of anathema – there weren't – it's basically like saying "likewise".

    The bad Latin translation has "subvertere conatus est", i.e., "tried to subvert", but the Greek says "permitted/facilitated the immaculate faith to be defiled by subversion/betrayal". (tebebeloprodosiaimianthenai ten aspilonparechorese).

    The "milder" charge is still pretty severe. Prodosia was the Greek legal term for treason, so Honorius is accused of facilitating treason.

    tebebelo = "by the stain/desecration"
    prodosiai = "by treason" (dative)
    mianthenai = "to be defiled" (refers to the faith)
    tenaspilon = "the immaculate" (refers to the faith)
    parechoresen = "permitted/facilitated" (subject is Honorius)
    Mansi t. xi, pp. 725-736. Quote on pp.732-733

      • I read it. I don’t find his view compelling either.

        The original of the Pope’s letter to the Emperor was in Greek; our Latin is just a translation from that.

        Pariterque does mean “and equally”, but these “inventors of a new error” are only Cyrus, Sergius, Pyrrhus, Paul, and Peter. Honorius is tacked on in a separate clause: “necnonet Honorius…”, so he is “equally” anathematized, though his crime is different. This doesn’t mean there were degrees of anathema – there weren’t – it’s basically like saying “likewise”.

        The bad Latin translation has “subvertere conatus est”, i.e., “tried to subvert”, but the Greek says “permitted/facilitated the immaculate faith to be defiled by subversion/betrayal”. (tebebeloprodosiaimianthenai ten aspilonparechorese).

        The “milder” charge is still pretty severe. Prodosia was the Greek legal term for treason, so Honorius is accused of facilitating treason.

  2. The condemnation of Pope Honorius (625–638) by the Sixth General Council (Third Constantinople, 680), and the confirmatory letter of Leo. II. anathematizing “Honorius, who did not endeavour to sanctify this Apostolic Church by teaching of Apostolic tradition, but permitted the spotless one to be defiled by unholy betrayal,” certainly present some difficulty. We cannot here discuss the question at any length; we must content ourselves with stating what would seem to be the best answer. First, then, the teaching of Honorius was not erroneous. What he held was that there were not two contrary wills in Christ: Our Lord’s action was morally one. St. Maximus, the most determined opponent of Monothelitism, regards him and his expressions as perfectly orthodox. Why, then, was he condemned? Because this doctrine served as a cloak to the Monothelite heresy, especially as he declared that it was foolish to speak of one operation or two operations, and that it was better to leave such subtleties to the grammarians. Leo II., at any rate, condemned him only in this sense. “The crafty Byzantine, Sergius, put the unsuspecting Pope (Honorius) on a false scent, and elicited from him a letter which he was enabled to misuse for his own purpose, and indeed in favour of a heresy advocated by himself, but then totally unknown to the pontiff. These expectations were crowned with success. The expressions of Honorius, as could not fail to happen, were set up by the Greeks in connection with the question then so warmly agitated; and so, as the Byzantines (at the Council of Constantinople) required, to whom the condemnation of so many of their patriarchs was excessively irksome and displeasing, Honorius likewise was condemned” (Hergenröther, Anti-Janus, Eng. trans., p. 80. See supra, p. 83; Franzelin, De Verbo Incarn., p. 396 sqq.; Palmieri, De Rom. Pont., p. 655 sqq.).


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