Exchange Between Orthodoxy and Catholicism on Matters Related to Papacy and History

I had a recent commentator send me some messages on the matter of the Papal doctrine of Roman Catholicism and how it stands under historical criticism. I will first put the interlocutor’s comments in quote boxes, and then respond in the text below each.

nicaeaconstantine


 Of course as a matter of the teaching professed papal infallibility isn’t about new revelation but about identification of doctrines present objectively in the deposit of faith handed down from the Apostles- I’m definitely not under the impression that Roman Catholics believe formally that magisterial fiat can create new doctrines. My problem is that in practice this often seems to be the case. As to Vincent, even if his view’s logical implications lent itself to a high papalist view of the Church, that wouldn’t demonstrate that he himself held that view. Second, I agree that the Pope as Primate of the Universal Church has special prerogatives as befits the head of the college of bishops. The question is really whether Papal ratification is sufficient or whether it is merely necessary. The evidence appears to me strong that it is the latter.”

 Yes, you are right about Papal Infallibility being only to confirm the already held beliefs of the Church. 

Admittedly, St. Vincent does not provide enough to support the high Papalist ecclesiology. But that does not mean there are no hints. He did, mind you, support Pope St. Stephen’s motion contra Africa, and he supports the motions of Popes St. Celestine/Sixtus vis-a-vis Nestorius, Cyril, and John of Antioch. That is explicitly stated in his commonitorium. As you are aware, even Protestant scholars have recognized that Pope St. Stephen’s motion contra Africa on the Cyprianic view of baptism was clearly a sign of an attempt to make enforcements in foreign dioceses. On the other hand, Eastern Orthodox scholars have been wont to be in support of Cyprianisc conciliarity, even citing a particular passage from the Council of Carthage where St. Cyprian decries the “bishop of bishops” category. St. Vincent, on the other hand, doesn’t support either view, and thought Stephen worked well within his right. Presumably, therefore, he believed the same about Celestine/Sixtus contra Nestorius and the Bull of Union (433) between St Cyril and John.  Besides all of this, St. Vincent makes clear that the highest authority is an Ecumenical Council, and if he thought that such a Council could be passed without both the active presidency and subsequent review of the successor of Peter (see last Session of Chalcedon for proof Constantinople 381 was not accorded Ecumenical in the East by St. Vincent’s time), then his own criteria of “unanimity” and “consensus” is violated.  It would only take a review of the first 10 centuries of the Christian Church to see that the consensus understood the Pope as having the prerogative of closing and confirming Councils, as well as the power of veto. If that is the case, then the Council lie under the jurisdiction of the Pope. Lastly, St. Vincent was not the only author of 5th century Latin Christianity. Why would we pass over the views of the very Heads of the West themselves? For example, you are aware that St. Innocent I (401-417) wrote the following in response to requests:“..for you decided that it was proper to refer to our judgment, knowing what is due to the Apostolic See, since all we who are set in this place desire to follow the the very Apostle from whom the very episcopate and whole authority of this name has emerged….So also, you have preserved the institutions of the fathers (cf. St. Vincentian criteria), and have not spurned that which they decreed by a sentence (c.f. Sardica) not human but divine, that whatever is done, even though it be in distance provinces, should not be ended until it comes to the knowledge of this See, that by its authority the whole just pronouncement should be strengthened, and that from there the other churches (like waters proceeding from their natal sources and flowing through the different regions of the world, the pure streams of an uncorrupt head) should take up what they ought to enjoin, whom they ought to wash, and whom that water, worthy of pure bodies, should avoid as defiled, with uncleansable filth” (PL 33.780; taken from Documents Illustrating Papal Authority, E. Giles, Pg. 200)It is very clear that Pope St. Innocent understood that Synods and Councils should not consider themselves at an “end” until it passes the review of the Apostolic See. In other words, the proceedings of Councils are always open to review under the authority of Rome. This is why the accused, for example, could always lodge an appeal to Rome for a re-trial, or something of that sort. In the case of the African councils, it was not even the accused (Celestius & Pelagius) who were seeking to have their case re-opened. Rather, the letters from the Councils (Milevis/Carthage) make it clear that they sought an ecumenical judgment against these men for their hideous doctrines. Thus, the strict Sardican strictures are not being followed to their letter. That only proves that Sardica was putting into canonical form something far more generally understood as preceding its history, namely, that Rome holds jurisdiction over the whole Church and can loosen all inferior episcopal judgments.

Time prevents me from going into the contexts of Popes St. Zosimus, Celestine, and Leo the Great , but if I would have it, we could show more of the same line of thinking here. I can say by way of assertion (proof can come by request, if needed) that these Popes understood the decrees of Ecumenical Councils, when they are contrary to the judgment of the Apostolic see, to be the sort of inferior episcopal decrees which can be annulled by Papal authority. The perfect example would be the three appeals from the East against the “Ecumenical Council” of Ephesus 449 (I say “Ecumenical” because, for intents and purposes, this is what it was, and the Emperor at the time thought it closed as such). That is, from St. Flavian, Eusebius of Dorylaeum, and Theodoret of Cyrrus, all of whom had been deposed and excommunicated by the Council in Ephesus.

To your note on whether the Pope is a “necessary” or “sufficient” condition for the Ecumenicity of Councils, I would say that it is absolutely necessary for there to be members of the Episcopal College convened into a Council in order to make it Ecumenical. In fact, the participation needs to have a wide breadth of the world’s episcopal territory so as to adequately include the “whole world” of Christian belief. A Council is, by definition, a collegial activity, and thus could never be conducted by the presence and deliberation of one, even the Pope. The Code of Canon Law states the following in regards to the authority of the College of Bishops:

Can. 336 The head of the College of Bishops is the Supreme Pontiff, and its members are the Bishops by virtue of their sacramental consecration and hierarchical communion with the head of the College and its members. This College of Bishops, in which the apostolic body abides in an unbroken manner, is, in union with its head and never without this head, also the subject of supreme and full power over the universal Church.

As to where this College of Bishops exerts its authority, the Code says:

Can. 337 §1 The College of Bishops exercises its power over the universal Church in solemn form in an Ecumenical Council.

Coinciding:

Can. 341 §1 The decrees of an Ecumenical Council do not oblige unless they are approved by the Roman Pontiff as well as by the Fathers of the Council, confirmed by the Roman Pontiff and promulgated by his direction.

Therefore, an Ecumenical Council, in order that it be a truly collegial act, must include the participation of both the Head and Members of the College of Bishops, and, as such, constitutes the sufficient conditions for a Council to be Ecumenical. Now, that will not propitiate the serious Eastern Orthodox questioner since the Pope can, by a motion coming from His own, produce a decree with the same amount of irreformable authority as that of an Ecumenical Council. So even though we can set aside the myth that the Pope “alone” is the sufficient condition for a Council’s ecumenicity, we are still on the same yard line vis-a-vis Eastern Orthodox & Roman Catholic dialogue.


From my reading of the history at this point, and I have to do some more constructive work in this respect, in the first three centuries we see the concept of tradition being linked to the apostolic sees. So for Irenaeus, the Gnostics are wrong because Christians go to the various churches founded by the Apostles and can see that the deposit is consistent from apostolic Church to apostolic Church. Preeminent among these as Nicea recognizes are Rome, Alexandria, and Antioch, the three Churches linked with St. Peter, Prince of the Apostles, and Rome also linked with St. Paul- the second of the “two most glorious Apostles.” The idea of a patriarchate comes from the idea of the apostolic see to whom is entrusted the apostolic deposit

 

I would agree that with the sparse statements made in the first three centuries (AD 96-300) that there is certain nodal points of reference for the maintenance of Apostolic tradition such as Ephesus, Corinth, Thessaloniki, Alexandria, Antioch, and of course Rome. However, while the appearance of this looks as if the idea of external criteria for the Apostolic tradition is completely accidental, however much under the auspices of God’s providence, there is more to the story than is often realized. Truly, if it were a matter of happenstance that these Apostolic centers, Rome being chief, were pointed out in the attempt to identify the authentic Christian tradition, then nothing about it is of divine law. It would be helpful to distinguish, therefore, between what is of “divine institution” versus “ecclesial institution”, and then further “human institution”. Although, I would offer somewhat of a caution. The ancients do not show a necessary divergence in the first two. Often enough, what the Church decided in synod was a decision “not of human origin“. Nevertheless, there is still recognized the difference between what was mandated by God through Christ in the Apostles and that which is decided in a holy Synod. For example, by around the late 4th-century we have Pope St. Damasus who says (others date it to a later Pontificate) that “although all the catholic churches diffused throughout the world are but one bridal chamber of Christ, yet the Roman Church has been set before the rest by no conciliar decrees, but has obtained the primacy by the voice of our Lord and Savior in the gospel: ‘Thou art Peter, and upon this Rock I will build My Church’ (Etc, etc.)” (Council of Rome, PL 13.374; Giles 130). This is a pretty strong statement that simply cannot be reconciled with the very limited pickings that natural and uncommitted historians maintain for the origin of Rome’s primacy. As you know, the idea from the secular histories is that Rome “just happened” to be the place of pre-eminence. It had the missions of the two greatest Apostles, their relics, and Rome was the capital of the Roman Empire. All this, together with a famous track record for the defense of orthodoxy, is what somehow fooled the half-baked minds of the 4th-century that Christ established the Roman primacy by some sort of divine institution. Sorry, I just do not buy it. In addition to this, the extending and incorporating of Alexandria and Antioch into the schema of Petrine succession has also been used as an attempt to show how the modern Vaticanal doctrine of the Papacy is out of accord with history. The problem with this is that all the sources from which one could gather evidence which puts Alexandria and Antioch in some relation to the “Chair of Peter” are from sources which attribute to the See of Rome a definition unshared by any Christian body today save Roman Catholicism. I’ve already showed Pope St. Damasus’s understanding, which already disagrees with the schema of an “emerging recognition” by “conciliar decrees” (which, if anything, ground the primacies of Alexandria and Antioch). He is the first to speak of the “second” and “third” Sees of the Apostle Peter. Attached to this, there is the famous statement of Pope St. Gregory the Great who, again, puts the Roman See at the “head” of all the other churches. On what account? On account of the authority of St. Peter. But if Alexandria and Antioch are also the See of Peter, then why is Rome the First? The Anglican and Orthodox historians who appeal to this tri-partite Chair of Peter are left in the dark to speculate. Regardless of what can be fleshed out, these Popes who spoke of the several Sees of Peter, or See of Peter “in three places”, all believed that all Sees, including the two subordinate Petrine Sees, are judged by Rome on account of Rome’s inheritance of the succession from St. Peter. Something makes Rome distinct, and it is not “conciliar decrees”, nor her being the “capital of the Empire”. If that were the case, then not only are Roman Catholics wrong in their Papal-ecclesiology, but the Heads of Christendom from the 4th-century unto the 11th-century were all confused and misled on the nature of their own office of primacy. Such fits into the narrative of those who are willing to attribute the motive of self-aggrandizing to the “Saintly” Bishops of Rome, or that it was a socio-political effort to make off up the fall of the Empire in the West. The fact of the matter is this, neither Eastern Orthodoxy nor Roman Catholicism has made the idea of a tri-partite See of Peter which governs the universal Church a part of her tradition. The Roman Catholic can explain this by saying that while Alexandria and Antioch were subordinate Sees of Peter and obtained certain prerogatives to pre-eminence vis-a-vis their surroundings, they did not inherit the universal administration of St. Peter which derives from the office given to Him by Christ. For that, Rome and Rome alone stands as heir.

Canons 6 of Nicaea and the concept of Patriarchate are all with reference to the limited jurisdiction of Rome, Alexandria, and Antioch (later Jerusalem and Constantinople). This is unrelated to the universal office of Peter. Rome did have a limited oversight on episcopal elections (i.e. the effective role of the supra-metropolitan), which was restricted to the territory of the suburbicariae (central and southern Italy), but to say that this is identical to the Petrine oversight is to mistake Papal for Supra-Metropolitcal jurisdiction. They are not to be confused. They exist on two different levels.


But just because a particular See is established by an Apostle does not mean that the apostolic deposit remains specially localized there for all time- that teaching spreads from the center to all corners of the world and does not necessarily remain with particular clarity at the point of foundation. Here more historical and theological work must be done, but I think we might find some insight in the Latin word used by Irenaeus vis-a-vis the Church of Rome: “convenire.” Often translated “must agree” (which is a legitimate translation in principle) perhaps a more helpful translation is “gather towards.” The churches were networked from the beginning especially through the bishops who served as nodes in an empire wide Christian postal system. Christians traveled widely like other Romans, and the city of Rome was the center of their travel.

I happen to take convenire as “agree with”. Irenaeus writes: “For it is a matter of necessity that every Church should agree with this Church, on account of its preeminent authority, that is, the faithful everywhere, inasmuch as the tradition has been preserved continuously by those who exist everywhere”. I think we are past the point of debate on whether convenire could mean “agree with” (such has been conceded), and it only remains to show that here is made a point of necessity that every Church should agree with Rome, not on account of how many people travel through, but because of its “pre-eminent authority” (principalitas, by this point, most likely has the meaning of the Greek arche, which makes this passage even more distant from the idea of people passing through by travel). Bottom line here is that Irenaeus says Rome is a doctrinal norm on account of its unique and superior origin. It just so happens that, during Irenaeus’s time, it was the Pontificate of St. Victor where we see attempts to subjugate the Churches of Asia under anathema and excommunication for non-adherence to the universal praxis. Although this was not the best move, it shows that Rome, even during her point of reputed orthodoxy, had the impulse of superintending the universal Church.


“…...papal infallibility is not just one doctrine among many. It’s not like the doctrine of the incarnation or atonement or Trinity. Papal infallibility concerns the criteria by which the content of faith is identified. Papal infallibility is a doctrine about a specific gift which Christ is said to have given the Church for a particular end: that end being clarity about the deposit of faith and the identification of specific truths necessary for belief. But given the particular kind of doctrine that PI is, the fulfillment of its purpose depends on its recognition. Not only does it depend on its recognition, but it depends on the recognition of criteria by which its exercise is picked out and identified.

You say the fulfillment of its purpose depends on its recognition. Yes, but not its fundamental reality. In other words, the truth of Papal infallibility does not depend on recognition. If that were the case, then Scripture, Tradition, and the Ecumenical Councils would depend on recognition. But such would be absurd to even the likes of Fr. Sergius Bulgokov. Either the doctrine is justified by the data of divine revelation, or it is not. Whether a particular statement of the Pope is recognized as “ex-cathedra” or not is another matter.


One might contrast this with the doctrine of the incarnation. There are undoubtedly many persons who have been sanctified through and only through the graces secured by the incarnation while having an innocent- and conceptually severe- idea of what the incarnation constitutes. By contrast, papal infallibility helps nobody and fails to achieve its end if it is unrecognized for what it is. If papal infallibility is meant to clarify the deposit of faith, it has to be clear itself. It seems, for example, that the Tome of St. Leo clearly meets the criteria specified at Vatican I. Yet the Council Fathers did not consider its orthodoxy a given. The contribution it did make to the Council was the ideas it presented.

Would the same thing be said of Ecumenical Councils? Who, besides those we could count on less than one hand, in the 4th-century thought of the Council of Nicaea as infallible? What of the rejection of the Council of Chalcedon by the churches of Egypt, Syria, and many others? Does this thereby strip Councils of their authority to speak on behalf of Christ?  If you were to put Councils under the same strict stipulation as you are here doing for the Papacy, then the infallibility of Councils is also at the risk of helping nobody and failing to achieve its end. To this day the Orientals do not include Chalcedon in their theology, and venerate “Saint” Dioscorus. Many Protestants do not accept the Council of Nicaea (787). We could go on. In any case, there were those who saw infallible authority in Councils, as there were in Papal decrees. Now, if we are prepared to say Ecumenical Councils are not, a priori, infallible, then we are put into the receptionist paradigm of ecclesial authority. Many Anglican scholars have come clean in admitting that Councils are not, qua Council, infallibly authoritative. Also,  I think the last two sentences of the above fail to adequately describe what really went on at the Council of Chalcedon. 90% of the Council was on board with St. Leo’s Tome. That means less than 10% of the bishops were hesitant to receive it. I wrote about this extensively in an article , “Tome of St. Leo – Criticially Examined by the Council of Chalcedon”?


That the ideas were developed and written by a Bishop of Rome and Primate of the Universal Church perhaps warranted a more careful read in virtue of the auctoritas commanded by the Apostolic See, but was not itself what made the text useful.”

But this seems to conflict with what your saying because if you intend to say that the Council’s acceptance of Leo’s Tome is what made the text an authoritative piece of the Church’s magisterium (alongside Nicaea and Cyril), then what use is the Council of the Council is likewise rejected alongside Leo’s Tome? (c.f. Orientals)


“…..the Church went through crisis after crisis where something like papal infallibility, if it existed, would, it seems to me, have been naturally invoked if anyone believed it existed

It was invoked. I can think of the letters of St. Innocent and St. Zosimus contra the Pelagian error. If you read the testimony of the contemporary bishops and theologians on this context (c.f. John Chapman’s “Studies in the Early Papacy”), you will see the usefulness of Papal Infallibility. It was there again in St. Leo’s Tome to the East. It was there again in St. Agatho’s letter to the East. It was there in the authoritative decrees on the Icons by Pope Hadrian I (c.f. especially the divine sacra sent by the Emperor Constantine and Empress Irene to the Pope).


Had the Fathers of the fourth century believed something like papal infallibility, wouldn’t one have expected them to point with befuddled disbelief at the fact that the See of Rome had already, utilizing the qualitatively unique prerogative it alone had, settled the issue definitively?

Interestingly enough, St. Athanasius made a reference to Rome’s judgment on the matter as a universal condemnation of Arius, even before the Council of Nicaea. In his De Sententia Dionysii (PG 25.500; Giles 81), Athanasius speaks about the situation in Alexandria whose Pope, Dionysios, was charged by his under clergy of teaching that the Son was creature, and the Father alone was God-in-substance. These clergy appealed to the Rome , whose Pope was also coincidentally named Dionysios, and the Pope took up the matter, and held a Synod condemning this belief. Athanasios wrote, “For since Dionysios bishop of Rome wrote against those who said that the Son of God was creature and made, it is clear that, not now for the first time, but years ago, the heresy of the Arian anti-Christians has been anathematized by all”.

In addition to this, Pope St. Julius had summoned both Athanasius and the semi-Arian Eusebian bishops of the East for a hearing of the dispute on the former. Athanasius was the only one who showed up, and was restored by the Pope, along with 4 other bishops. The 5th-century Greek historian Sozomen (445 AD) wrote about this situation in his Ecclesiastical History :

The Roman bishop, on learning the accusation against each individual, and on finding that they held the same sentiments about the Nicæan dogmas, admitted them to communion as of like orthodoxy; and as the care for all was fitting to the dignity of his see, he restored them all to their own churches. He wrote to the bishops of the East, and rebuked them for having judged these bishops unjustly, and for harassing the Churches by abandoning the Nicæan doctrines. He summoned a few among them to appear before him on an appointed day, in order to account to him for the sentence they had passed, and threatened to bear with them no longer, unless they would cease to make innovations” (Book III.8)

In response to this, the semi-Arian Eastern bishops argued that the Pope was illegally interfering into foreign affairs, since Athanasius had been condemned by the Synods Tyre and Jerusalem (330s). The Pope had no right, they argued, to overturn the decrees of the Bishops. Sozomen describers their reaction:

They called Julius to account for having admitted the followers of Athanasius into communion, and expressed their indignation against him for having insulted their Synod and abrogated their decrees, and they assailed his transactions as unjust and discordant with ecclesiastical right” (ibid)

Pope St. Julius wrote back and insisted that the semi-Arian Eastern bishops had violated the laws of the Church by ignoring the judgment of the Roman See. Sozomen explains:

He [Julius] replied at the same time to the letter of the bishops who were convened at Antioch, for just then he happened to have received their epistle, and accused them of having clandestinely introduced innovations contrary to the dogmas of the Nicene council, and of having violated the laws of the Church, by neglecting to invite him to join their Synod; for he alleged that there is a sacerdotal canon which declares that whatever is enacted contrary to the judgment of the bishop of Rome is null.” (ibid.10)

In year 359 AD, a very large Council was held in Arminium (some say over 400 bishops) which ignored the decrees of the Council of Nicaea. In a Roman Synod in 371, Pope St. Damasus writes the following about the force of this Council:

No prejudice could arise from the number of bishops gathered at Arminium, since it is well known that neither the bishop of the Romans, whose opinion ought before all others to have been waited for, nor Vincent, whose stainless episcopate had lasted so many years, nor the rest gave in their adhesion to such doctrine” (Theodoret, Ecclesiastical History 2.17)


Not even the Bishops of Rome, as far as I am aware, attempt to declare a question settled simply because it was a Bishop of Rome who settled it. Were this a recognized principle of the Spirit’s operation in teaching the Church, surely it would form the centerpiece of any theological argument about which the Church of Rome had come down hard (in the sense that it considered those who disagree to be heterodox)- even if one disagreed with the theological arguments provided for a certain position, one would expect the Fathers to suggest, the position itself cannot be seriously doubted because of the fact that the Bishop of Rome had settled it. Such a resolution would be unique in its clarity and directness. If the intent was persuasion of those who dissented (and not theology in the sense of fides quaerens intellectum), surely this is the best argument on the table.

Well, the positions of the Popes at the time were pretty forthright. I’ve shown what Pope St. Innocent of Rome said at the beginning up top, but we could look at what other Popes of Rome claimed.

Pope St. Siricius (384) to the Bishop of Tarragona:

“And though no priest of the Lord is free to be ignorant of the statutes of the Apostolic See, or of the venerable provisions of the canons, yet it would be more useful , and, on account of the seniority of your priesthood…if those things which have been written generally, and to you especially by name, were brought by your care to the notice of all our brethren”  (Giles 142)

Pope St. Zosimus (418) :

“Although the tradition of the Fathers has attributed such great authority to the Apostolic See that no one would dare to disagree wholly with its judgment, and it has always preserved this [judgment] by canons and rules, and current ecclesiastical discipline up to this time by its laws pays the reverence which is due to the name of Peter, from whom it has itself descended …; since therefore Peter the head is of such great authority and he has confirmed the subsequent endeavors of all our ancestors, so that the Roman Church is fortified … by human as well as by divine laws, and it does not escape you that we rule its place and also hold power of the name itself, nevertheless you know, dearest brethren, and as priests you ought to know, although we have such great authority that no one can dare to retract from our decision, yet we have done nothing which we have not voluntarily referred to your notice by letters … not because we did not know what ought to be done, or would do anything which by going against the advantage of the Church, would be displeasing.…”(P.L. 20.676; Giles 212)

Pope St. Boniface (422):

“For it has never been lawful to reconsider what has once been settled by the Apostolic See” (PL 20.776; Giles 229)

More could be said.


 

Those saintly Popes of Rome who make statements which sound like Roman indefectibility, it seems to me, if they took this to be a recognized principle of Christendom and meant what they said quite literally, would utilize this capacity concretely with its specific invocation.”

But this is precisely how it was understood. Just look at how Pope St. Leo II’s letter speaks of the confirmation of the Council of Constantinople (681). It is well within reason to see the Papal theory embedded into the logic:

“My predecessor, Pope Agatho of Apostolic memory, together with his honorable Synod, preached this norm of the right apostolic tradition. This he sent by letter to your piety by his own legates, demonstrating it and confirming it by the usage of the holy and approved teachers of the Church. And now the holy and great Synod, celebrated by the favor of God and your own has accepted it and embraced it in all things with us, as recognizing in it the pure teaching of the blessed Peter, the prince of the Apostles, and discovering in it the marks of sound piety. Therefore the holy and universal sixth synod, which by the will of God your clemency summoned and presided, has followed in all things the teaching of the Apostles and approved Fathers. And because, as we have said, it has perfectly preached the definition of the true faith which the Apostolic See of blessed Peter the Apostle (whose office we unworthily hold) also reverently receives, therefore we, and by our ministry this reverend Apostolic See, wholly and with full agreement do consent to the definitions made by it, and by the authority of blessed Peter do confirm them, even as we have received firmness from the Lord Himself upon the firm rock which is Christ…” (Letter of Leo II to the East)


 

Even if, for the sake of argument, we take St. Agatho to mean something basically identical with Vatican I or at least legitimately ancestral to it in a way making its successor stages of development necessary, why should I take this local tradition to be normative for the Churches of East and West alike?

Depending on your criteria, there is absolutely no tradition which can be “normative” for the Churches of “East and West” alike. Even St. Vincent’s Commonitorium does not have the criteria for its own criteria. For St. Vincent would have appealed to the Council of Ephesus (431) was an Ecumenical Council, and yet Nestorius could have easily utilized the same criteria of St. Vincent to say that Ephesus (431) is wrong since it violates Nicaea (325). Even Fr George Florovsky has noted the limitations of the Vincentian Canon. If you dial down on Vincent’s canon, you are in a question-begging conundrum since today’s majority-religion or minority-religion appeal to the same criteria. Moreover, I could easily say that since there were a good number of Popes throughout the first ten centuries , alongside many Western and Eastern Saints, who strongly supported the Papal theory, the East’s position of Primacy and Conciliarity cannot ever meet St. Vincent’s Canon since the East is willing to clean off the whole Western tradition (I concede to “Western” for the sake of the conversation). If we are going to yawn and take a nap to all the explicit testimonies to the divinely constituted role of the Papacy, then what right does the Eastern Orthodox have to the Catholic who yawns and naps at the insistence of the East on Equa-Episcopal Conciliarity?  Would it be that St. Vincent’s criteria doesn’t help us, and therefore fails at its purpose and end, and, like Papal Infallibility, is no longer of any use? After all, it is depends on “recognition”, what good is Vincent’s canon?



This was basically the argument I made about the Commonitorium. I think this is a legitimate argument from silence because of the reasonable expectation that a person who believed that the declaration of the Apostolic See was infallibly definitive in the resolution of a doctrinal controversy would make mention of this in a lengthy text about the resolution of doctrinal controversies and how the Catholic Christian is to clarify what is orthodox and what isn’t.

That lengthy text would be the Formula of St. Hormisdas, which was the olive branch for the East to re-enter the Church of God in the beginning of the 6th-century.

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