Branches or Schisms?

Jul 9th, 2009 | By | Category: Blog Posts

What is the difference between a branch and a schism? Many Christians speak of the present plurality of denominations as ‘branches.’ That term makes the present state of disunity among Christians seem quite acceptable. The Scripture prohibits schisms.1 But if there is no principled difference between branches and schisms, then calling schisms ‘branches’ is false and deceptive, because it makes something that is actually evil seem acceptable.

In my “Ecclesial Deism” article I referred to the common Protestant ecclesiology in which the Church Christ founded is itself invisible, though certain members of the Church are visible, namely, embodied believers and their children, as well as local congregations and denominations. In Protestant ecclesiology, there is no universal visible Church; there are local and regional churches which are visible members of the universal invisible Church. I pointed out in that article that conceiving of the Body of Christ as something that is in itself invisible, having no essentially unified visible hierarchy, is both an ecclesial Gnosticism that denies the material principle of the Church as sacrament, and an ecclesial Docetism that implicitly denies Christ’s incarnation.2 This conception of the Church eliminates unity as one of the four essential marks of the Church specified in the Nicene Creed, either by treating unity as only a ‘contingent mark of the Church,’ or by treating unity as a ‘necessary but invisible mark of an invisible Church.’3

Last year I came across a diagram that is based on this conception of the Church as invisible. I found the diagram on the web site request.org, which describes itself as “A free website for teaching about Christianity in Religious Education.” The diagram can be found on request.org’s page explaining denominations, and it portrays the various Christian traditions as branches of a tree. I have copied the diagram below and labeled it “Diagram 1.”

Denominations_As_BranchesDiagram 1

Notice two things about Diagram 1. First, notice that the ‘trunk’ of this ‘tree’ takes an unexplained bend to the right, in the lower-middle part of the diagram. The person who made the diagram determined that there must be no ‘branch’ that is the continuation of the ‘trunk.’ He or she thus assumed that the Church has no principium unitatis (i.e. principle of unity) such that the Church necessarily retains her unity through every possible schism. The assumption that the Church has no principium unitatis is itself based on the more fundamental assumption that the Church itself is not a visible hierarchically unified Body, and therefore that the Church’s essential unity is only at an invisible, spiritual level, not at the visible level.

The person who made Diagram 1 assumed that the Church’s visible unity is not essential to her being. No one would claim that the integrity of a living body is not essential to its being, as though a living body’s being disintegrated by a bomb, for example, does not detract from the existence of that body. So treating the Church as something for which visible unity is optional presupposes a dematerialized (i.e. Gnostic) conception of the Church. Only if the Church is itself invisible (i.e. spiritual, immaterial) could the Church continue to exist after the disintegration of her visible unity. Hence Diagram 1 carries with it the implicit assumption that the Body of Christ is invisible, not a visible hierarchically ordered Body. But for that reason Diagram 1 is in conflict with the doctrine of the incarnation of Christ and with St. Paul’s description of the Church as a Body.4

The second thing to notice about Diagram 1 is that it shows there to be a single ‘trunk’ at least up to AD 1054 — I say “at least” because it is drawn such that the ‘trunk’ appears to continue into the sixteenth century. But Diagram 1 does not show what the ‘tree’ looks like through the first millennium. And that hides the challenge to the Gnostic assumption that went into the making of Diagram 1. During the first millennium, the ‘tree’ looks something like this:

ChurchSchismsFirstMilleniumRvsdDiagram 2

This raises serious questions about the veracity of Diagram 1. If all those sects of the first millennium were not branches but separations from the Church (and Diagram 1 clearly assumes that to be the case, since it shows the Church to be visibly one just prior to AD 1054), then why should we think that at some point, either following AD 1054 or during the sixteenth century, there is no continuing ‘trunk,’ and that therefore these divisions in the second half of the second millennium are all equally authentic ‘branchings within‘ the Church? What is it that makes separations of the first millennium schisms and heresies, but makes separations of the second millennium mere branchings within the Church? Whose determination about whether something is a mere “branch of the Church” or a “schism from the Church” is authoritative? Is it for each person to decide for himself? If so, then if the Ebionites were to construct a diagram of the Church, they could begin the branching in AD 63, and call themselves an authentic branch of the Church.

It seems as though the person who made Diagram 1 simply decided that all the divisions of the first millennium were “separations from the Church,” while the divisions of the second millennium were “separations within the Church.” But on what basis did he or she make this decision? On the basis of some shared ‘mere Christianity’ of the second millennium? Why then couldn’t the extension of ‘mere Christianity’ include all these sects of the first millennium? Who gets to determine or set the extension of ‘mere Christianity’? How is it not arbitrary that, for example, the Baptists, are thought to be included within ‘mere Christianity’ while the monophysites are not? The Pentecostals are, but the Montanists are not? And so on. The answer cannot be “Well the Baptists and Pentecostals share my general interpretation of Scripture,” because any monophysite could say the same thing about fellow monophysites. It is naïve to assume that heretics and schismatics do not appeal to Scripture to justify their positions.5

What counts as mere Christianity therefore cannot be based on what people defend using Scripture. Unless the Protestant wishes to allow mere Christianity to extend to all these divisions of the first millennium, he will need some non-arbitrary, non-stipulative way of limiting the extension of mere Christianity to what Protestants have in common with Catholics and Orthodox. But that is precisely what he does not have.

Both Catholics and Orthodox agree that the trunk of this ‘tree’ did not end in AD 1054. The Catholic Church claims it continues with her; the Orthodox claim it continues with them. So the Protestant must either claim:

(1) That the separation of the Catholics and the Orthodox was the first ‘branching within‘ the Church, OR

(2) In the Orthodox-Catholic schism, the Church continued with the Orthodox, the Pope being in schism from the Church, OR

(3) In the Orthodox-Catholic schism, the Church continued with the Pope, the Orthodox being in schism from the Church.

If the Protestant claims that (1) is true, then he must explain why the Catholic-Orthodox schism is a mere “branching within” (i.e.does not involve a schism from the Church) when every other schism in the prior history of the Church involved a ‘schism from‘ the Church and the preservation of the unity of the Church. He will need to show the principled difference between a ‘branching within‘ and a ‘schism from,’ and the basis for determining, in any division, whether it is a ‘branching within‘ or a ‘schism from,’ and, if it is a ‘schism from,’ which of the separating groups is the continuation of the Church Christ founded, and why. Keep in mind that both Orthodox and Catholics reject (1) — accepting (1) is a modern Protestant notion. But the Protestant cannot (while remaining Protestant) accept (2), because (2) implies that Protestantism is no better than a “branching within a schism from” the Church, and therefore that Protestants should become Orthodox in order to be reconciled to the Church. But if the Protestant accepts (3), then if the diagram does not include the Protestant Reformation it looks something like this:

ChurchSchisms1_4MillsRvsdDiagram 3

But if the Protestant accepts Diagram 3, he is going to have a very difficult time justifying Diagram 1 over something like Diagram 4:

ChurchSchisms1_5MillsRvsdDiagram 4

Nor will he likely wish to claim that some particular Protestant denomination is ‘the trunk,’ i.e. the institution Christ founded and from which all other denominations have separated, because there is no principled reason to pick one Protestant denomination over another in this respect.6 So there seem to be three choices for the Protestant: (1) an ecclesiology that treats the Church itself as invisible, and thus allows all the divisions of the first two millennia (or any arbitrary subset of them) to be “branches within” the Church, even to the degree that any individual could be his or her own branch, always without any ‘trunk,’ or (2) Orthodoxy, or (3) Catholicism. Why are these the only options? Because there is no middle position between apostolic succession and “private judgment.”

So when is a branch not a schism? A branch is not a schism only when the three bonds of unity are preserved: unity of faith, unity of sacraments, and unity of government.7 In the Catechism schism is defined as “the refusal of submission to the Roman Pontiff or of communion with the members of the Church subject to him.”8 Schism always reduces to ‘schism from,’ because with a principium unitatis, ‘schism within’ can only continue as ‘schism from.’

  1. See section II.B of “Christ Founded a Visible Church.” []
  2. See also Christ founded a visible Church.” []
  3. There are two different ecclesial positions in which schism does not detract from unity: (1) an ecclesial position in which there is a visible princium unitatis so that every schism is a schism from, not a schism within, and (2) an invisible Church ecclesiology, such that no matter how many ‘schisms within‘ there are at the visible level, the unity of the Church remains entirely intact, because this essential unity is on a spiritual, invisible level. []
  4. See “Christ Founded a Visible Church.” []
  5. St. Vincent of Lerins (AD 434) writes:

    And if one should ask one of the heretics who gives this advice, How do you prove [your assertion]? What ground have you, for saying, that I ought to cast away the universal and ancient faith of the Catholic Church? he has the answer ready, “For it is written;” and forthwith he produces a thousand testimonies, a thousand examples, a thousand authorities from the Law, from the Psalms, from the apostles, from the Prophets, by means of which, interpreted on a new and wrong principle, the unhappy soul may be precipitated from the height of Catholic truth to the lowest abyss of heresy…. Do heretics also appeal to Scripture? They do indeed, and with a vengeance; for you may see them scamper through every single book of Holy Scripture…. Whether among their own people, or among strangers, in private or in public, in speaking or in writing, at convivial meetings, or in the streets, hardly ever do they bring forward anything of their own which they do not endeavour to shelter under words of Scripture. Read the works of Paul of Samosata, of Priscillian, of Eunomius, of Jovinian, and the rest of those pests, and you will see an infinite heap of instances, hardly a single page, which does not bristle with plausible quotations from the New Testament or the Old. (Commonitory, 25)

    []

  6. See, for example, this diagram of the Presbyterian denominations in the US. []
  7. CCC, 815 []
  8. CCC, 2089 []
Tags: ,

86 comments
Leave a comment »

  1. When folks use the “branch” terminology there is, at least implicitly, an organic metaphor in the background which is, I think, a primary motivation for the terminology. Therefore, one is warranted in asking “but does the analogy really apply?”

    A branch of a tree, while alive, receives nutrients thru the trunk and, via its leaves, contributes energy back to the entire tree via the trunk. However, it is very hard to make that argument for any of the major “branches.” Where is the living flow, back AND forth, between the pre-Lutheran trunk and any of the branches? Or even between major “branches?”

    The entire branch argument assumes a degree of visible, organic coherence that is then largely ignored.

  2. Thomas makes an excellent point. The last sentence is especially apropos.

    I would add that the branch theory is based upon an analogy that, like all analogies, cannot be stretched too far. In this case, it is obvious that a multiplicity of branches pertains to the essence of a tree and is conducive to its life. Most trees do not consist of a single trunk extending upwards without branching off.

    This highlights the strength and the weakness of the branch theory. Its strength is in the effort to account for what the visible Church is actually like, not what she ought to be like, in accordance with her essence. The branches in the Church, unlike the branches in the trees, are not good things–but there they are.

    As to the weakness of the theory: All branch ecclesiology, including that which motivates Anglo-catholicism, denies that at least some of those properties which belong to the essence of the Church (one, holy, catholic, apostolic) are necessarily instantiated at every time in the visible Church. Every sort of branch ecclesiology is predicated upon a Church that is, qua Church (i.e. instantiating all of its essential properties), not visible.

    The weakness of the theory is a theological weakness. It assumes a low (i.e. insufficiently christo-centric) ecclesiology, which is belied by the New Testament. In particular, the branch theory presupposes ecclesial deism and ecclesial gnosticism.

  3. Andrew,
    i think there is a place for something like branch ecclesiology provided the branches are still in vital connection with the trunk. One can, I think, usefully consider Benedictine, Dominican and Jesuit branches which, precisely to the extent that they remain in organic connection, enhance the vitality of the entire “tree” of the Church. And I’m even willing to continance branches which connect beneath the surface, so to speak. But visible and invisible are still in organic connection or, as you say, it’s just gnosticism.

  4. […] 2009 by Andrew Preslar Bryan Cross of Called to Communion has posted a penetrating analysis of branch theory ecclesiology. According to branch theorists, visible unity is not of the essence of the Church that […]

  5. I greatly appreciate your thorough explanations. What about the many-members-of-the-Body perspective of the whole Body of Christ? Thank you.

  6. Hello Mel.

    Good to hear from you. Your question, if I’m understanding you, is “Why shouldn’t we conceive of these different ‘branches’ as members of the Body of Christ?” That question could be asked of any group in schism from the Church. If every schism from remained a member of the Body, then it wouldn’t be in schism, and thus there would be no such thing as schism from.

    The key here is that in order to be members of Christ’s Body, we need to share the same faith that Christ entrusted to the Apostles, the same sacraments that He instituted, and be under the same governing authority that He established. (I wrote briefly about this in the last paragraph above when I talked the three “bonds of unity.”) But these various ‘branches’ (in Diagram 1) are separated from each other precisely because they do no share all those three things. In other words, there is no principled difference between these separations, and schisms. And for that reason, they are schisms, even if we call them ‘branches.’ That’s why they can’t be members of Christ’s Body, because then we would have to say that there is no such thing as ‘schism from’; there is only apostasy.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  7. It’s July 10th and nobody here is wishing John Calvin a “Happy Birthday!”?

    Some ‘reformed’ y’all turned out to be!

  8. I told the guys we should post something on July 10th about it. Guess we got side tracked. Happy belated birthday Calvin.

  9. I think you read too much into the graphic that you are commenting on. Many of the pre-1054 groups/splits you mention are rather obscure. Protestants also don’t have a great sense of history before the Reformation (assuming this was put together by a Protestant but we don’t really know for sure). I think the author of the original graphic is probably just focusing on the two largest splits in Christianity, the Catholic/Orthodox split in 1054 and the Reformation and following in the 1400’s onward. These are the ones that most people are familiar with, and the website seems to be aimed towards a more general audience. I suspect they either ignored or were ignorant of many of the pre-1054 groups. I don’t think they meant anything by not showing anything before 1054.

    That said, I think an analysis of the pre-1054 splits from a Protestant point of view would reveal that some are indeed “branches”, while others are not, “heresies” if you will. After all the Catholic Church itself distinguishes between “schism” and “heresy” and would describe these pre-1054 groups as one or the other. Protestants and Catholics seem to be able to reach similar conclusions are regarding the what is heresy and what is not, despite our differences. Both agree that groups such as Mormons and Jeohvah Witnesses are not Christian, while both agree the Orthodox are Christians. And Catholicism does seem to recognizes some form of “mere Christianity” because it does regard the various Protestant denominations as “Christian” or “separated brethren” as I believe we are called.

    Despite what you say, I don’t think a Protestant is not forced to regard all pre-1054 groups as “branches”. Some would be “branches:” and some would be “heresies”.

  10. Steve,

    Thanks for your comments. St. Jerome wrote:

    Heretics bring sentence upon themselves since they by their own choice withdraw from the Church, a withdrawal which, since they are aware of it, constitutes damnation. Between heresy and schism there is this difference: that heresy involves perverse doctrine, while schism separates one from the Church on account of disagreement with the bishop. Nevertheless, there is no schism which does not trump up a heresy to justify its departure from the Church. (Commentary on Titus 3:10-11).

    So the difference between schism and heresy is typically conceptual. In actuality, there is no schism that does not harbor a heresy in order to justify its separation, and no heresy that does not separate in order to perpetuate itself.

    Catholicism does not recognize any form of “mere Christianity”, which is an abstraction. Protestants have valid baptism, and by this sacrament Protestants are brought into imperfect communion with the Church. The reason baptism in Protestant communities only brings persons into imperfect communion with the Church is because of their denial of one or more Catholic doctrines, not because what is not denied [by Protestants] is recognized as “mere Christianity.”

    What do you think is the principled distinction, for Protestants, between what does belong to, and what does not belong to, mere Christianity? (Otherwise the idea that some pre-1054 groups would be ‘branches’ and others would be ‘heresies’ would be ad hoc i.e. “whichever ones are compatible with my interpretation of Scripture are branches, and the rest are heresies”).

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  11. Protestants and Catholics seem to be able to reach similar conclusions are regarding the what is heresy and what is not, despite our differences. Both agree that groups such as Mormons and Jeohvah Witnesses are not Christian…

    Hold up —

    Didn’t the Westminister Confession declare the Pope the Antichrist and the Catholic Church the Whore of Babylon?

    I don’t see how such a consensus as concerning the Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses would be so particularly significant especially in light of more pressing details as this.

    That seems to me like saying the devil can’t be all that bad since we tend to agree with him as regarding certain aspects as the significance and value of such things as will, determination and ambition, which most of humanity consider virtuous.

  12. Hold up yourself –

    Didn’t Trent declare anathema all Protestants? Do you really want to go there? I sort of thought we had all moved past all that, but if you want to drag all that up again, I guess we can. But I thought this site was called “Called to Communion”, not “Dredging up the Past” :)

    My point still stands. That despite their disagreements both Catholicsm and Protestantism both agree on what is “Christian” and what is not.

  13. Bryan said:

    “So the difference between schism and heresy is typically conceptual. In actuality, there is no schism that does not harbor a heresy in order to justify its separation, and no heresy that does not separate in order to perpetuate itself.”

    So then why do you use the two terms if there is no practical difference? Are Orthodox heretics since they are in schism with Rome? Are Protestants? Let’s be honest and lay it all out on the table. Am I an heretic? And if I am a heretic then how can the Pope call me a “separated brethren”? That seems to imply something else. And why then does the Catholic Church distinguish between most Protestants and Mormons, treating them differently?

    Bryan said:

    “Catholicism does not recognize any form of “mere Christianity”, which is an abstraction. Protestants have valid baptism, and by this sacrament Protestants are brought into imperfect communion with the Church. The reason baptism in Protestant communities only brings persons into imperfect communion with the Church is because of their denial of one or more Catholic doctrines, not because what is not denied [by Protestants] is recognized as “mere Christianity.”

    That doesn’t appear to be true. Why aren’t Mormons or Jehovah’s Witnesses recognized as being in “imperfect communion”. They have a baptism. So have other groups not recognized as “Christian” by the Catholic Church. So there seems to be more to it than merely having a “baptism” then. It seems like the commonality of other doctrines is important also to even be in “imperfect communion” as Protestants supposedly are. Mere baptism does not seem to suffice. It seems to me like there is an implicitly “mere Christianity” recognized on a practical basis. Otherwise how do Catholics draw a distinction between Mormons and Protestants?

    “What do you think is the principled distinction, for Protestants, between what does belong to, and what does not belong to, mere Christianity? (Otherwise the idea that some pre-1054 groups would be ‘branches’ and others would be ‘heresies’ would be ad hoc i.e. “whichever ones are compatible with my interpretation of Scripture are branches, and the rest are heresies”).”

    Not being a theologian, and not having studied the issue, I don’t know. That said, Protestants across the board seem to be able to consistently recognize heresies such as Mormonism, JW, etc (and in agreement with Catholicism) so there seems to be some standard at work here even if I don’t know enough to articulate it. That said, from my reading, most heresies/cults appear to be Christological in nature as are the issues surrounding Mormonism, JW, Arianism, etc. though I assume there are exceptions.

  14. Didn’t Trent declare anathema all Protestants?

    Are you kidding?

    It was upon those Catholics (presumably, Luther et al who were actually Catholics) who opposed genuine Christian (i.e., “Catholic”) doctrine.

    It did not declare anathema “Protestants” (which employs quite an anachronistic lense to these historical events) ; nor is it the equivalent of officially delcaring them Anti-Christ or Whore of Babylon.

    Also:

    That despite their disagreements both Catholicsm and Protestantism both agree on what is “Christian” and what is not.

    Hardly, since Protestants do not even consider Catholics “christian” (worse, as even the Westminster Confession itself originally declared), less there is a tinge of rampant amnesia and revisionism in the air.

  15. Steve – I like your style!

    My point still stands. That despite their disagreements both Catholicsm and Protestantism both agree on what is “Christian” and what is not.

    You are correct.

    Why aren’t Mormons or Jehovah’s Witnesses recognized as being in “imperfect communion”.

    Not sure about JWs but Mormons do not have a Trinitarian baptism from what I understand.

    And as for Protestants being heretics, the term “heretic” applies only to baptized Catholics who reject the true Catholic teaching. If you weren’t baptized Catholic then you cannot be a heretic (properly speaking).

  16. Roma – many Protestants do consider Catholics “Christian” in the ‘mere Christianity’ sense of the term to which Bryan alluded. Steve doesn’t appear to be looking for a fight to me and I don’t think this sort of escalation of rhetoric is going to help this conversation get anywhere.

    Please try to be more irenic in your tone – it will do you a world of good.

  17. Roma,

    While I agree with some of what you are saying, your comments in this thread are more divisive than helpful. The point of our discussion is reconciliation between Protestants and Catholics, so that should be the goal of all our comments as well. Also, the rhetoric “Are you kidding?” is entirely unhelpful and antagonistic. If you wish to participate here, please learn to leave that kind of rhetoric out.

    Steve,

    So then why do you use the two terms if there is no practical difference?

    Because practical difference is not the only difference. (That would be the error of pragmatism.) There is a real difference between the two, even though they are typically found together.

    Are Orthodox heretics since they are in schism with Rome? Are Protestants? Let’s be honest and lay it all out on the table. Am I an heretic? And if I am a heretic then how can the Pope call me a “separated brethren”? That seems to imply something else.

    You need to distinguish between material heresy and formal heresy. I have explained that distinction here.

    And why then does the Catholic Church distinguish between most Protestants and Mormons, treating them differently?

    Because, as Tim said, Mormons do not have a Trinitarian baptism.

    That doesn’t appear to be true. Why aren’t Mormons or Jehovah’s Witnesses recognized as being in “imperfect communion”. They have a baptism. So have other groups not recognized as “Christian” by the Catholic Church. So there seems to be more to it than merely having a “baptism” then. It seems like the commonality of other doctrines is important also to even be in “imperfect communion” as Protestants supposedly are. Mere baptism does not seem to suffice. It seems to me like there is an implicitly “mere Christianity” recognized on a practical basis. Otherwise how do Catholics draw a distinction between Mormons and Protestants?

    Mere baptism does not suffice; it must be a Trinitarian baptism, that is, it must refer to the Three divine Persons who are homoousious. Mormon baptism refers to three gods, who are not homoousious.

    That said, Protestants across the board seem to be able to consistently recognize heresies such as Mormonism, JW …,

    The problem is that for Protestants, the word ‘heresy’ can only ultimately mean, “Contrary to my interpretation of Scripture.” So, when you say, “Protestants across the board seem to be able to consistently recognize heresies,” you are essentially saying that Protestants across the board seem to be able to recognize which beliefs are contrary to their own interpretation of Scripture. I grant you that point, but all the heresies of the first fifteen hundred years did the very same thing, i.e. appealed to Scripture to defend their own position.

    Because Protestantism came out of the 16th century Catholic Church, therefore much of what the Catholic Church had already defined remains by inertia in the Protestant mindset. But Protestants have no principled basis (apart from their own interpretation of Scripture) for declaring some sect of the first millennium a heresy rather than a branch, or a branch rather than a heresy. And every branch and heresy of the first millennium could, on the same basis of personal appeal to Scripture, claim to be either a branch or the continuation of the Catholic Church. To prevent that, the Protestant tacitly ‘uses’ the Catholic Magisterial authority’s decisions regarding the first millennium, even while rejecting that same authority’s decisions regarding the second millennium.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  18. My apologies to Steve for what he (and it seems you) might have mistakened as antagonistic; that wasn’t intended to emit any sort of hostile intention, but merely a article of casual conversation and nothing more.

  19. Roma,

    We understand and we don’t think you have bad intentions. But certain things can come across negatively. They tend to escalate the confrontation even if what you’re saying is true. For example, let’s say someone says the fathers believed in the invisible church. We could respond by saying “that’s not even close to being true” (which is correct) but it escalates the rhetoric. It is better to simply say “that is not true” (and then support it with evidence). I’m sure you can see how incredibly different these two options are and what kind of an impact one would have versus the other.

  20. tim: much obliged. blessings, r.v.

  21. Steve, having been received into the Catholic Church fairly recently (Easter 2008), I can certainly relate to MUCH of what you’re saying. And before I’ll say this, I’ll ask Tim, Bryan, Roma, et al. to correct me where I’m mistaken. Here goes:

    It is my understanding that when a person is baptized according to the Biblical, Trinitarian formula, despite her being outside of the “Catholic fold,” she is essentially Catholic. It isn’t until she faces the Catholic truth and with full knowledge, willfully rejects it that she is rightly identified as schismatic or heretical. In this sense, then, many individuals in Protestant pews are really Catholics! They just don’t know it.

    I believe that some of the subtleties of this issue were worked out through the Church’s dealing with the Donatist rebellion during which lay Catholics found themselves being shepherded by schismatic leaders. The Church had to figure out how Her role must be understood when members of the flock, through zero fault of their own, were being misdirected by their shepherds.

    Steve, I appreciate your honesty. And Roma, I appreciate your zeal.
    blessings! herb

  22. Herbert,

    Let me clarify one point, because it is a common confusion. Many Catholics mistakenly think that Protestants are actually Catholic but simply don’t know it. If that were the case, as soon as a Protestant realized that he was a Catholic, he could just walk into a Catholic mass and receive the Eucharist with us. And that mistaken notion (that Protestants are already Catholic) is what causes many Catholics not to seek to reconcile Protestants with the Church. But Protestants are not Catholics. That would make the schism an illusion, and not a real separation. It is true that Protestants are, by their baptism, in an imperfect communion with the Church, but they are not Catholics. A Protestant has to profess the Church’s faith and be received into the Church, at which point he or she becomes Catholic. I have addressed this question in more detail in my post titled “Baptism, Schism, Full Communion, Salvation.” But I think we could use a post on this subject here at CTC. (And I think we also need a reference post on heresy.)

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  23. herbert,

    And Roma, I appreciate your zeal.

    Thanks; you’re probably the only one here gracious enough to offer such a charitable compliment in spite of myself! God continue to bless you on your journey!

  24. Bryan, Thanks for the info. I certainly look forward to reading whatever is posted here at CTC concerning these topics. I must say, though, that I tracked down something I had read, written by Jay Dyer (and available here: http://www.nicenetruth.com/home/2008/12/questions-from-the-calvinists.html), which had a hand in leading me to my current (albeit fuzzy) understanding of this complex issue. Here is the most pertinent portion of the text from Jay’s article (I trust he doesn’t mind me posting it here):

    “All that to say that membership in the Church is therefore not always visible to the human eye, and we concur that the Lord knows those that are His. Example: an infant baptized, say, in a Lutheran Church, in our view is a Catholic baby. Its not until he reaches an age of full knowledge and maturity and purposefully rejects some Catholic teaching that he becomes a heretic. And so we condemn propositions and leaders, and never every single individual in a group, since God alone knows hearts. Doubtless there have been many and sundry true Catholics in Orthodox Churches who loved the Lord and knew nothing of wilfully rejecting Catholic Doctrine. Heresy is, in our view, a serious sin that removes a person from the Body of Christ, but it requires full knowledge and obstinacy: heresy is not something one is automatically guilty of, simply by being born into a heretical sect. And so we say Lutheranism, Calvinism, etc., are heresies, and we say that the leaders were and are heresiarchs, but we do not say that each and every person associated therein is a heretic and necessarily damned. And we do this because we are human and not omniscient.”
    Again, thanks! h

  25. Herbert,

    Membership in the Church is visible, because the Church is visible, and her sacraments are visible. The conditions for membership are specified in Mystici Corporis Christi 22:

    Actually only those are to be included as members of the Church who have been baptized and profess the true faith, and who have not been so unfortunate as to separate themselves from the unity of the Body, or been excluded by legitimate authority for grave faults committed. … It follows that those who are divided in faith or government cannot be living in the unity of such a Body, nor can they be living the life of its one Divine Spirit.

    Babies baptized in Protestant communities are members of the Catholic Church, in virtue of their baptism, which is a [visible] sacrament of the Catholic Church, no matter who administers it. But they are not under the jurisdiction of the Church until they are formally received into the Catholic Church. Those baptized Protestants who have reached the age of reason (which in canon law is the age of 7), and are divided from the Catholic Church in faith or government, are not members of the Church. That does not mean that they are culpable, or that they ipso facto lose sanctifying grace and salvation. [Full knowledge and full consent] are not necessary to become divided in faith or government from the Catholic Church, and thus from membership. Being in a state of grace is not equivalent to being a member of the Church or being in full communion with the Church. Membership does not have the same extension as does possession of sanctifying grace, and the two categories should not be conflated. There are many who are not members, who have sanctifying grace, and who are not guilty of the sin of heresy, on account of invincible ignorance. Material heresy is not formal heresy. (See the link in comment #17 above.) There are also others who are members but are not in a state of grace (i.e. Catholics in a state of mortal sin). But if a baby is baptized Protestant, and upon reaching the age of reason, is divided from the Catholic Church in faith or government, he is no longer a member of the Catholic Church, though he may remain in imperfect communion with the Church in virtue of his baptism and the sanctifying grace that comes to him through it. The bottom line is that Protestants baptized outside the Catholic Church, who have reached the age of reason (ordinarily age 7 ), are not members of the Catholic Church.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  26. Bryan- I’ve been thinking about your response to my 1st post (#21). I see how what I presented could lead to a decrease in one’s desire to present Catholic truths to Protestants. But if rightly appropriated, this perspective could actually lead one to develop an increased sense of urgency in sharing Catholic truth with Protestants. There is one baptist minister and friend of mine with I’ve been dialoguing for going on 3 years now about these things. And I so desperately wish to see him and his family in full communion with Rome. At the same, time, however, I can still trust in Christ that this man and his family are not entirely separated from the Body of Christ. Thanks for bringing attention to an aspect of what I had written that could easily lead to misunderstanding.
    herbert

  27. Bryan- I posted comment #26 before reading #25… The explanation you’ve offered in post #25 sheds tons of light on this issue for me due to the fact that my acceptance of the fact that Christ established a visible, knowable Church played a huge part in leading me to seek full communion with Rome. The way you’ve brought a bunch of ideas together to shed light on this particular topic is a blessing to me. Thanks. h

  28. What about heretics that were formally condemned by the Catholic Church and burned at the stake? If the Church officially declared these men (and women) as heretics, does God consider these people as having full knowledge of the truth, even if these men and women could not deny their beliefs due to their own conscience?

    More abstractly speaking, when Peter was given the keys, did God reserve the right to override?

  29. Jonathan,

    In God’s design, hierarchical authorities do not compete. Each has genuine authority, but one is subordinate and the other superior. The authority of the Church is genuine, but it remains subordinate to the authority of God. So the Church does not assume that any particular person is in hell, not even the ones who have been formally judged to be heretical. The Church’s judgment does not replace God’s Final Judgment. Only God perfectly knows the human heart, and whether there was contrition before death. But, only the fool would look at that fact and disregard the judgment of the Church. Christ didn’t give the keys to Peter for no reason. Whatever is bound on earth is bound in heaven, and whatever is loosed on earth is loosed in heaven. (Matt 16:19) If with full knowledge and full consent we thumb our nose at the Church, we are thumbing our nose at Christ. “He who listens to you listens to me; he who rejects you rejects me; but he who rejects me rejects him who sent me.” (Luke 10:16) “Hence they could not be saved who, knowing that the Catholic Church was founded as necessary by God through Christ, would refuse either to enter it or to remain in it.” (CCC 846)

    God does not “override” the Church, undermining its authority. When the Church speaks fallibly in matters of judgment, God may give a different final answer only because He is able to see perfectly into the human heart, not because He overrides the authority of His Church. He never gave to the Church the authority to be the Final Judge.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  30. Hi Bryan,

    As a Protestant, I learned that the “you” in Matt 16:19 referred to Peter, not to every judgment of the Church.

    If the “you” in Matt 16:19 is the Church, then if God’s final judgment is different from the Church, wouldn’t that contradict the promise in Matt 16:19?

    It seems that for the promise to be true, then the judgment of the Church must equal God’s “final judgment”. Otherwise, how could what was bound on earth be bound in heaven?

  31. Jonathan,

    Jesus gave the keys to Peter, but the other Apostles in communion with Peter share in this authority. (Matt 18:18) And so do the successors of the Apostles, to this day. The keys of the kingdom did not cease to exist when Peter died; they were passed on to Peter’s successor, just as another person was chosen to fill Judas’ bishopric. (Acts 1:20-26)

    If the “you” in Matt 16:19 is the Church, then if God’s final judgment is different from the Church, wouldn’t that contradict the promise in Matt 16:19?

    No, as I explained in comment #29. The judgment of the Church is not the Final Judgment, nor does the Church pretend it to be. The Church does not teach that any particular person is in hell. But the Church has excommunicated various persons. Therefore, this shows that the Church does not claim that excommunication is identical to God’s verdict on the Final Judgment. Only if Jesus had promised that the Church’s discipline would be the Final Judgment, would there be a contradiction if God then gave a different verdict at the Final Judgment. But the person who receives discipline from the Church, should treat it as the discipline of Christ. He should not expect to be reconciled to Christ on that Day who refuses to be reconciled to His Church on this day.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  32. It may be important to note, also, that St. Joan of Arc was excommunicated in 1431 and condemned as a heretic. The Church, however, eventually canonized her. This case seems to provide some food for thought concerning the contrast between decisions made by individual men within the Church, and the indefectibility granted to the Church as a Body, promised by Christ.
    thanks.

  33. The first clue that diagram one is out of kilter, while perhaps ingeniously conceived as an attempt to play nicely in an academic setting, is its lack of any notation of the Chalcedonian break. The non-Chalcedonian churches in the East, held to be heretical in their Christology, nevertheless maintained a profound witness in the Persian and Arabic world, and far beyond, for many, many centuries. Its interesting to note that contemporary scholarship is indicating that some of the so-called Nestorian positions (and the Eutychian as well) may have been sad misunderstandings rather than, ultimately, whole-sale deviations. This is paving the way for the re-unification of some of these ancient communions (the Syrian Orthodox for instance) with the Patriarch of Constantinople.

  34. With regard to the promised infallibility of the Church, that most-oft quoted phrase from Matthew 16 with regard to the ‘gates of hell’ has a great deal more to do with the resurrection from the dead that the Church has in union with Christ than it does with a notion that it will be kept free from error, either permanently or temporarily. The first Councils didn’t have a Pope present but are regarded as authoritative, and thus the wider issue of Peterine succession (very anachronistic pre Leo) is not an issue either – at least as far as those Councils go.

    That said, I am especially interested in the take of the group here on Vatican II, and to what degree, if at all, it embraces somewhat more ‘protestant’ views (or indeed ‘Eastern’ Orthodox views) on liturgy, conciliar authority, the nature of the Church (visible but more than this, even in time; people of God, etc), and the relationship of the Church to the ‘state’. Thanks.

  35. DP- thanks for stopping by. We will get to the papal issues and look closely at the issues that keep so many Christians from being in communion with the See of St. Peter but we’re a long way from there at this point.

    Church infallibility is another issue we have not yet formally addressed but will. It is based in the sound notion that God will not allow His Church to fail and the promises in 16:18-19 are a part of that but not the whole. If the Catholic Church became an instrument, or could become an instrument, of destruction for God’s Word – then why even have a “Church”? The Church is supremely trustworthy on issues of morality and doctrine – that is what infallibility means. We will address it properly at a later point in time.

    Can you be more specific with your questions regarding Vatican 2? We accept the authority of the council reading it, of course, along with all the dogma that has already been received, and not in a vacuum or as a departure from orthodoxy.

  36. DP,

    You said “The first Councils didn’t have a Pope present but are regarded as authoritative, and thus the wider issue of Peterine succession (very anachronistic pre Leo) is not an issue either – at least as far as those Councils go.”

    To clarify your statement (or perhaps to challenge it), I have read that there were always Papal legates–usually two priests or bishops–representing the Pope at every Ecumenical Council, including the earliest ones. So I think it could be misleading to say that the Pope was not present when he was directly represented.

    My knowledge in this area comes primarily from reading Warren Carroll’s The Building of Christendom.

  37. DP,

    Thanks for your comments. I am arguing in this post that without a principled distinction between a branch and a schism, “Diagram 1” is misleading precisely because it fails to include all the other ‘breaks’ in the first millennium (e.g. Diagram 2). They all become branches, and none of them are schisms. Then the distinction between heresy and orthodox breaks down, when all heresies become mere branches. Likewise, the term ‘schism’ becomes needless, describing only the act of separating, because once the separation is completed the separated parties become ‘branches.’ I’m also hoping and praying for reconciliation with those in the Nestorian tradition and in the Coptic tradition (who rejected Chalcedon). But we see these not as mere branches within, but as schisms from.

    As for the infallibility of the Church, it is not based only on Matthew 16. The context of the passage shows that it is about the Church, because it is about what Christ is building His Church on. He is not building His Church on the resurrection. Not only that, but the resurrection is not unique to the Church, but is something shared by all, believers and unbelievers. So the passage isn’t talking about the resurrection, but about the Church in relation to the powers of hell. (Gates represent powers.) According to Christ’s promise, those powers shall never overcome the Church.

    Popes typically did not attend ecumenical councils in the first millennium, not because the pope’s voice didn’t count or wasn’t necessary, but precisely because of the uniqueness of the papal office. It was known by all that no council could be recognized as ecumenical without the approval of the bishop of Rome. And the bishop of Rome could even refuse to ratify certain canons proposed by an ecumenical council. (E.g. canon 28 of Chalcedon) Notice especially the key role of the papal legates in the proceedings of Ephesus in 431, and Chalcedon in 451 (especially in comparison with the Robber Council of 449). Notice in the canons of the Council of Nicea, how the situation in Egypt (where Arianism was the problem) is treated by reference to the pattern at Rome.

    Regarding Vatican II, no pope or ecumenical council can reverse or undo any previous dogma of the Church. It does not have the authority to do so. And nothing stated by Vatican II that was new, was taught as dogma or taught infallibly. The only infallible doctrines taught by Vatican II had already been taught infallibly, prior to the council. It is important to keep that in mind when interpreting Vatican II, so that it is approached with the hermeneutic of continuity, and not the hermeneutic of discontinuity. So nothing in Vatican II negates anything definitively taught by Vatican I, or any previous ecumenical council. Many Protestants seem to think that if they wait long enough, the Catholic Church will eventually come around and renounce Trent, Vatican I, etc. That’s based on a serious misunderstanding of the essence of the Catholic Church. What was definitively taught at those councils can no more be revoked than can what was definitively taught at Nicea in 325. It won’t happen, because it can’t happen. The Church doesn’t have the authority to reverse or revoke a dogma. To try to do so would ipso facto be heresy.

    But Vatican II is authoritative as non-definitive teaching of what is called the the “extraordinary Magisterium” of the Church, and thus we are required to adhere to it with “religious assent.” (CCC 892) Vatican II did not change anything regarding conciliar authority. It did affirm that there are elements of sanctification outside the Church, and that baptized non-Catholics are, in virtue of their baptism, already in an imperfect communion with the Church. The liturgical emphasis at Vatican II (again, not infallible) was on greater cooperation by the laity; that is more Protestant, but I don’t see that as more Eastern Orthodox. The Church’s relation to the state was clarified at Vatican II, but not necessarily in a more Protestant direction, because Protestantism itself has no set position on this. Early Protestantism placed the Church under the authority of the state. American Protestantism was different, not because it was Protestant, but because it was American. The Catholic position affirms both subsidiarity, and yet retains hierarchy, the natural still subordinate to the supernatural, as I discussed here.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  38. “The judgment of the Church is not the Final Judgment, nor does the Church pretend it to be. The Church does not teach that any particular person is in hell. But the Church has excommunicated various persons.”

    So is excommunication the same as a declaration of anathema? And neither of these have eternal consequences? (even if in the declaration of anathema the target was condemned to eternal hellfire?)

  39. Jonathan,

    Jimmy Akin has a helpful explanation of the meaning of anathema here. There he points out the difference between excommunication and anathematizing. I also recommend reading the Catholic encyclopedia article on excommunication, to get a basic understanding of what it is and what it does.

    The question “do these have eternal consequences?” is a bit too loosely formulated. They can have eternal consequences. But, their purpose is medicinal, and that wouldn’t make any sense if they necessitated or necessarily effected the loss of heaven. So, their intention is to have eternal consequences in reconciling the person with the Church and with Christ, as Paul handed persons over to Satan, so that they would be taught not to blaspheme (1 Tim 1:20), and their spirit would be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus (1 Cor 5:5). But if the person responds to this discipline by hardening his heart against Christ, with full knowledge and full consent, and dies without repentance, then the eternal consequences of separation from God are not caused by the excommunication, but by the person’s own sinful choice.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  40. Gents, Thanks for your thoughtful responses. I’ll venture just a brief reply (its way too late for more than that).

    Tim – I look forward to the posts that will outline the CTC position (no doubt the same as that espoused by the Catechism of the Catholic Church). With regard to Vat 2, I had in mind certain changes brought about in liturgy, a view of the Church as ‘people of God’ and so on. SJ scholar John O’Malley outlines a great deal of these and other matters in ‘What Happened at vatican II’ – a fascinating read.

    Devin, Papal legates yes; but even here I would urge a sense of caution: it is vital that one not read back onto the past a current understanding of the papacy. It is not at all certain that, say in 325 or 381, that the view of a world-wide jurisdiction of the Church by the Bishop of Rome was in view. Indeed, most likely that is not the case. We find such a tendency in Leo the Great, and Gregory the Great rebukes his equal in Constantinople for claiming such a title and jurisdiction, not becasue Gregory believed it belonged to him rather than the other but because he held that such a claim was, shall we say, an abuse of the spirit of service. It was he who first used the phrase ‘servant of the servans of Christ’ with regard to his office. That Gregory, who was so key in developing the Mass, should be so fierce in his denunciation of a universal jurisdiction for any of the Bishops of the Pentarchy (canon 26 of Chalcedon) should give those who make such claims – east or west – cause for pause.

    Bryan – I am agreeing with you on diagram one. I would only add that my EO brothers have themselves as the trunk extended up the middle with the RCC veering off in schism (as you are no doubt aware). Both hold me to be schismatic as I would not acceot the iconodule position of the Seventh Council, while affirming the first six (at least). As for Vat 2 I am not asserting that anything was undone, but rather simply asking for the opinion of this group about the efforts and effect of this most remarkable gathering. Four future Popes were present, and it has caused massive shifts and collisions within the RCC since its close. It *appears* to me to possess certain hallmarks of change in practice (which implies a change in doctrine), especially with regard to the relationship of the RCC to other Christian communions and non-Christian religions: Gaudium et Spes as well as Lumen Gentium (two of the four Constitutions issued from the Council) seem to me to indicate a wholly new approach to such matters. Aggiornamento indeed! I am not moaning about this or seeking to score any debating points – just asking. I think you’re quite right on the way that Protestants (and sub-protestant evangelicals) tend to think about things on Church and State, but it did seem to me to be a very new approach for the RCC. Finally, I am aware of course that a dogmatic claim for ecclesial infallibility, or indeed Papal infallibility, rests on more than Matthew 16 in RCC exegesis – I’ve read the Catechism a few times now! Yet this remains the first port of call in the presentation of such dogmas, a kind of locus classicus, and obviously I don’t believe that a sufficient case for either type of infallibility can be made from that text, even in a very basic sense. That said, I look forward to reading what the group will write about this vital subject.

    IX,

    DP Cassidy
    “Run to the Roar!”
    Boniface of Crediton

  41. Oh, I forgot one matter in response to Devin. It seems to me that the Pope himself was present at the so-called “Robber Council”, later refuted. I find it historically important to note that a properly called Council at which a universal assembly of the Bishops were gathered, including the Bishop of Rome, could later be over-turned.

  42. DP,

    One quick point. The Pope was most definitely not at the Robber Council of 449. His legates were present, but Dioscoros, who was presiding, disregarded the letter they bore from Pope Leo, and disregarded the proper protocol with regard to Flavian’s punishment. Afterward, Flavian wrote his appeal (of the verdict of the council) to the Pope, and got it in the hands of the papal legates, before he [Flavian] died three days later. The primary reason this council (449) was not ratified is brought out in the proceedings of the Council at Chalcedon in 451, where Dioscorus himself is disciplined precisely for not heeding the papal legates at the 449 council.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  43. Bryan,
    Thanks for that on Legates at the Robber Council – didn’t have the books here with me and that clears that up.

  44. Bryan,
    Leo’s role at Chalcedon comes into view more strikingly with the aftermath of the Roober Council. While his tome was not read at Ephesus (Legate’s fear of the monks?), it was received with acclamation at Chalcedon. Yet his legates withdrew before the affirmation of the 28th canon elevating Constantinople to a position equal to Rome. This was done because Rome’s claim to supremacy was based, as went the claim, on apostolicity and not on the significance of the city for the empire. Doesn’t this seem to you to be a position at odds with the nature of Conciliar authority and the ecclesial infallibility? Or are such claims reserved exclusively for the dogmatic pronouncements? If the latter, Rome can at least claim to be consistent, but if both canons and decrees are in view – and binding – then it seems to me that Rome was and is under obligation to accept the Chalcedonian affirmation (and the reason for it as well) of Constantinople’s claim to Patriarchal status. Leo of course was not exactly shy about asserting his authority in Rome itself (and had to do so, given the historical context; without his intervention, Rome might have utterly perished as a city). Yet the way in which the Council of Chalcedon priased Leo’s tome while affirming Rome as one of five Patriarchates, based not on apostolicity per se, indicates how far the ancient Church was from accepting the kind of claims for the Roman Bishop which would be made later and are still made today. Any thoughts? Thanks.
    IX
    DPC

  45. RoBBer council – sheesh! More coffee please. Where’s my waitress?

  46. DP, please excuse the numbers and brevity – I think you’re bringing up excellent points worthy of some excellent discussion but I’m pressed for time.

    1. The changes in liturgy from Vatican 2 were attempts to recapture from the early Christian mass – drawing heavily on Justin Martyr and Hippoyltus etc.. as you know. The issue is that they lived in a different world… so it isn’t exactly a smooth transition. We’re still in the middle of it.. such is the nature of the world.. it’s dirty business.

    2. The Church has the same ecclesiology as she always had. Vatican II did not change that. Pope Benedict reiterated that officially just a couple years ago. I’m sure you remember.

    3. You said change in practice implies change in doctrine. This is not true. Practice is accidental, doctrine is substantial.

    4. A council is not ecumenical without the ratification of the pope. By all other standards, unless you have one that I don’t know about, the Robber Council must be held on equal authority as Chalcedon. If you have a principled reason for accepting Chalcedon and rejecting the “Robber Council” that doesn’t involve Petrine authority or jurisdiction, what is it?

  47. DP,

    Yes, both decrees and canons are infallible, when they meet all the conditions for infallibility. Those conditions are (1) the subject is faith or morals, (2) it is taught definitively as something to be believed by all the faithful, and (3) it is taught by the Magisterium, (i.e. the pope speaks ex cathedra, or the totality of bishops in communion with him, including him, speak).

    The twenty-eighth canon of Chalcedon was never ratified, and was in fact nullified by Pope Leo. Pope Leo ratified the rest of the council, but not that canon. And because he didn’t ratify it, the rest of the Church (east and west) recognized that it had not been established. Mark Bonocore has a helpful summary here.

    The Council wrote a letter to Pope Leo asking for their decisions to be ratified (knowing that without his ratification, their decisions had no authority). In that letter, in which they acknowledged Pope Leo’s authority from St. Peter, they write:

    As we have left the decision to the head (kephale, caput), let the head (koryphe, summitas) do its part to the children … In order that you may know that we have done nothing for the sake of favouritism or enmity, but by divine guidance, we have, in proof of our sincerity, left the entire force of our acts to you for your confirmation and acceptance” (”ut autem sciatis quia nihil gratiae causa aut offensionis effecimus, sed nutu divino gubernati, omnem vobis gestorum vim insinuavimus, ad comprobationem nostrae sinceritatis, et ad eorum quae a nobis gesta sunt firmitatem et consonantiam”).

    Pope Leo ratified the rest of the council’s decisions, but nullified the 28th canon, writing:

    “Those things agreed on by the bishops contrary to the rules of the holy canons drawn up at Nicaea, in union with the piety of your faith, we do annul, and by the authority of the Blessed Apostle Peter do, by a general definition, make utterly void” – “Consensiones vero episcoporum sanctorum Canonum apud Nicaeam conditorum repungnantes, unita nobiscum vestrae fidei pietate, in irritum mittimus, et, per auctoritatem Beati Petri Apostoli, generali prorsus definitione cassimus.”

    And when Pope Leo refused to ratify canon 28, Anatolius (bishop of Constantinople), submitted to the Pope’s decision, writing:

    in order that, by obeying you, I might fulfil those things which have seemed good to your mind. For be it far from me to oppose whatsoever was commanded me in those letters. … that the whole force and confirmation of what was done had been reserved for the authority of His Holiness. (”gestorum vis omnis et confirmatio auctoritati vestrae beatitudinis reservata”).

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  48. Bryam,

    Of course you do realize that the Bishops of Constantinople do indeed recognize canon 28. The Nicene Council knew nothing of a pentarchy going in, and Alexandria, Antioch, and Rome had pre-eminence due to apostolicity as well as prominence within the empire (though I appreciate that Rome wishes to make the claim based soley on apostolicity). Indeed the sixth canon at Nicea I demonstrates the equality of those three most anicent Sees – as primi inter pares. But back to Chalcedon, 451, and canon 28. The initial insertion of Constantinople as a patriarchate occurs in 381, giving the See ‘precedence in honor, next to the Bishop of Rome’. The Bishop of Alexandria (Timotheus) didn’t like that either as it moved him to third behind Rome and Constantinople, though he later yielded the point, persuaded by the Emperors. Canon 28 at Chalcedon simply re-states the earlier canon from 381. Obviously Leo was unhappy with the later Chalcedonian canon 28, since he had already laid claim to a universal jurisdictional leadership for Rome, something which his predecessors did not uniformly claim or maintain. Checking the agression of the Alexandrian patriarchs (Note Dioscorus and the aforementioned Robber Council) was a certain advantage of canon 28, but even this was not enough to presuade Leo.

    The sixth canon of Nicea IN LATIN states that Rome has primacy, but that section does not appear in the original Greek version. After a lengthy debate at Chalcedon, those present accepted the primacy of Rome in honor (‘the most eminent rank’), but that Constantinople must enjoy the same precedence of honor. Despite the protest of Leo, the Bishops present unanimously approved this. Leo’s letters of protest wish to maintain the language of the first Council but deny the validity of the Second, specifically canon 3. Anatolius response to Leo that you quote was written under pressure from the Emperor, and all future Emperors continued to manitain the decision of the Council on canon 28, Justinian I very specifically confirming it. The later Trullan Councils affirmed this too, though I suspect you would not find the Trullan Councils very convincing given their rulings with regard to married clergy. Interestingly, the Fourth Lateran Council (such a major Council and so little spoken of!), did indeed recognize the 28th canon – Innocent III saying that the Patriarch of Constantinople should have the preeminence described therein. But back to Justinian – it was from him that the Patriarch of Constantinople received the title “Ecumenical Patriarch”, a title he still holds to this day. His authority was often protested by Rome’s Bishops and their legates. Yet that Patriarch never sought universal jurisdiction or, more to the point, rule over his Roman counterpart. Even Augustine at one point calls the Pope the Patriarch, not of the universal Church, but of the Latin Church.

    Leo’s claims, and those of all future Popes (despite Gregory the Great’s more modest words), have to be based exclusively on the Peterine succession. Oddly then (as I see it) the Roman church which was (until after Avignon) the Pope’s home is St John Lateran and not St Peter’s.

    Until the decimations wrought by the Vandals, North African Bishops protested against Rome’s interference in their diocese, and even in Milan submission to Rome cannot be seen until the late sixth century, their Bishops ordained with or without Rome’s approval. It really is with Leo the Great that we begin to see the kind of Papacy we recognize as the institution of the medieval and modern times. And what of England and Wales? The British Church was not subject to Rome until after Augstine’s missionary efforts inspired by Gregory the Great. The violent threats at Whitby brought the remnant of the Celtic Church under the sway of Rome.

    If one wishes to claim Cyprian as the first one to use the notion of Peter’s perpetual see in Rome (say around 258), one must also note Cyprian’s life-long opposition to Pope Stephen – Cyprian, a great champion of orthodoxy, would never for a moment have imagined that his claim for a Peterine succession meant a succession of infallible fidelity to the truth in the person of the Pope (even under special circumstances that the Dogma of infallibility insists on).

    IX,

    DPC

  49. Andrew McCallum should read the posts above about Chalcedon. I believe that he stated in response to an earlier post that the councils before Trent were conciliar. Chalcedon is an exception to that statement. Andrew: this is one reason why Catholics are not as saddened by the charge of a lack of conciliarism at Trent as magisterial protestants feel we should be. Even very early in Church history there was a lack of conciliarism when there needed to be to protect against heresy. To put this need into context, consider the following summary by Newman of the crisis and it’s resolution:

    “but the historical account of the Council is this, that a formula which the Creed did not contain, which the Fathers did not unanimously witness, and which some eminent Saints had almost in set terms opposed, which the whole East refused as a symbol, not once, but twice, patriarch by patriarch, metropolitan by metropolitan, first by the mouth of above a hundred, then by the mouth of above six hundred of its Bishops, and refused upon the grounds of its being an addition to the Creed, was forced upon the Council, not indeed as being such an addition, yet, on the other hand, not for subscription merely, but for acceptance as a definition of faith under the sanction of an anathema,—forced on the Council by the resolution of the Pope of the day, acting through his Legates and supported by the civil power”

    I think that you should read some of Newman’s historical work for free on line if you haven’t already. The link below will show the chapter that contains the quote above. The context is even more powerful. The belief of the church at this time in the existence of irreformable statements that were to be binding in an absolute sense — as well as the beliefs about the pope’s roles in establishing such statements — become very apparent.

    http://www.newmanreader.org/works/development/chapter6-3.html

  50. Tim,

    Thanks for your response. I am not seeking to charge Vat 2 with ‘change’ in the sense of over-turning the previously held dogmas. Perhaps the word ‘development’ might be more acceptable for those in the RCC. I am not prepared to accept that changes in practice cannot imply changes in doctrine, but such changes need not be either deviations or rejections of what was previously held. Yes, it is a messy business as you say, and the results of Vat 2 have many more years of application before them until one can clearly assess the nature of the changes. Perhaps OMalley is correct to assert that the greatest change was not in doctrinal statements per se but rather in the whole approach to a Council – he calls it a radical modification in the judicial and legislative model that had prevailed since Nicea in 325! That’s quite a claim. In my opinion, ill-informed as it may be, the thing that stands out to me is the spirit in which John XXIII called the Council – not in response to a crisis (as in all other ecumenical councils) but as an invitation to ponder the Church and her mission in the emerging new world of the late 20th century. It was a very different mood than Vat I to be sure!

    Blessings,

    DPC

  51. DP,

    Perhaps OMalley is correct to assert that the greatest change was not in doctrinal statements per se but rather in the whole approach to a Council – he calls it a radical modification in the judicial and legislative model that had prevailed since Nicea in 325! That’s quite a claim. In my opinion, ill-informed as it may be, the thing that stands out to me is the spirit in which John XXIII called the Council – not in response to a crisis (as in all other ecumenical councils) but as an invitation to ponder the Church and her mission in the emerging new world of the late 20th century. It was a very different mood than Vat I to be sure!

    Can you please explain why you think the former mood is a necessary mood in approach to a council?

  52. DP,

    Or are you not assuming the former mood is necessary?

  53. I am not prepared to accept that changes in practice cannot imply changes in doctrine, but such changes need not be either deviations or rejections of what was previously held.

    DP, we might be in agreement. I don’t mean to say that a change in practice cannot possibly imply a change in doctrine only that it does not necessarily. (I did not articulate that the first time). I would think it’s safe to say that a change in practice often does accompany or follow a change in belief. e.g. The changes in Anglican liturgy after their split with Rome reflected real belief changes. But I would maintain that this is not always the case and I’m sure you will agree.

    Whether it is or isn’t in the case of the post-Vatican II reforms is something that would merit further investigation. BTW, very glad to have you around; this sort of dialogue is precisely what we mean to have here.

  54. No I don’t assume it to be necessary. ‘Mood’ is an imprecise term, but what I am saying is that a more defensive posture is evident in Vatican I. At that time the Roman Catholic Church was seeking to respond to the massive shifts in European culture due to modernity, rise of nation-states, and especially revolutionary ferment and outcome in France. Since I am not a Roman Catholic I won’t use a term like ‘reactionary’ because coming from without it may sound a bit pejorative. Vat 2 had a very different approach to a still very radically changing world (it opened as the world sat perched on the edge of nuclear war as the Cuban missile crisis unfloded, and the Church had to deal with the reality of Soviet and Maoist marxist-Lenninism with all the pressures on its own members those dark, satanic systems imposed on so mnay). Yet ‘Good Pope John’ sought for aggiornamento in the Church rather than confrontation with the secularist culture. I think its fair to say that until Vat 2 Councils were called in response to a variety of crises, some of lesser and some of greater significance.

  55. Bryan,

    Forgot to mention one last thing for tonight. The idea that Papal presence/approval is necessary for a Council to be regarded as ecumenical and binding may well have been in the minds of many for some time, but it only reaches explicit statement as an authoritative dictum with Gregory VII (Hildebrand): 1075, his *dictus papae*.

    Prior to this the various Popes play both minor and major roles in the Councils, from Silvester’s two virtually silent reps at Nicea to Agatho’s statment of faith adopted by the 681 Council in Constantinople (likewise Hadrian’s exposition in opposition to iconoclasm forming the essential outcome for 786 in Constantinople).

    An especially problematic situation involves Vigilius boycotting Constantinople II, then captured and imprisoned by Justinian, allowed to return to Rome only after he (unwillingly) accepted the decrees of the Council. I say ‘problematic’ because it cuts both ways. One can argue that Justinian’s actions demonstrate the necessity of Papal approval or one can argue that here was a Council in which the Pope flatly refused to participate, and affirmed its decrees, etc only under duress.

    Leo stands as the primary figure for a Roman necessity and supremacy, but he was making such claims well beyond the confines of Conciliar discussions.

    A more fascinating study-discussion is the fear of Councils (!) that Popes began to manifest much later when Conciliarism began to threaten the primacy of the Papal claims to supremacy over the council – even those that were, by then, confined to the Western Church. From Papal schism to Trent there was significant pressure on the Popes to tread very carefully indeed when it came to Councils!

    IX,

    DPC

  56. Tim,

    We do indeed agree then. I would wish to maintain the possibility without the necessity, just as you do. While it is still early days (from an historical perspective), Vat 2 may be the perfect test case for such debates and discussions in the coming years.

    All the best,

    DP Cassidy

  57. DPC,

    Have you read Dom John Chapman’s writings on the era of Justinian? He provides context that may clear up for you which of the two positions on the pope’s authority that the orthodox believers of the time largely held.

    In what way does the action of Justinian cut both ways? Vigilius had, I believe, privately told Justinian that he did agree with the decrees but that he didn’t want to affirm the decrees because he thought it would be imprudent and would cause an uproar with his constituents (I think Chapman makes this clear, with references to primary evidence — I don’t have the book with me at the moment so I will tell you more when I get it). Justinian made it clear that he thinks that the pope at least nominally has to sign off on something that he knows is true if the emperor says he should. Justinian never claims that the Pope has to sign off on something that he doesn’t believe is true just because Justinian says it is true. And the orthodox believers (as opposed to the heterodox) expressed continued loyalty to whatever the pope decided during the whole uproar.

    The situation is very different from Chalcedon, in which the East had unambiguously and publicly declared that it rejected the orthodoxy of Leo outright, because it was false. Leo, with the help (apparently) of some Roman soldiers, compelled them to publicly change their minds.

    I will bring forward the primary evidence of these claims once I get my Chapman text.,

    K . Doran

  58. Kevin,

    Thanks for this response. I’ll look forward to getting the specific references from Chapman and look them up when I am back at the office – or perhaps on line if an article is available there).

    Pax Christi,

    DP Cassidy

  59. DP,

    Of course you do realize that the Bishops of Constantinople do indeed recognize canon 28.

    They did not do so for six centuries after Chalcedon. For those six centuries, they spoke of 27 canons of Chalcedon. After the schism Orthodoxy projected its rejection of Petrine authority back into Church’s history, as Soloviev points out.

    Indeed the sixth canon at Nicea I demonstrates the equality of those three most anicent Sees – as primi inter pares.

    I think “demonstrates” is too strong of a term here, because the sixth canon (in the Greek form) is fully compatible with the Catholic position, which involves the principle of subsidiarity. The bishop of Rome has two roles. He is both the bishop of Rome and the shepherd of the Catholic Church. In canon 6, the statement about the bishop of Alexandria is referring to the bishop of Rome in his role as bishop of Rome, not in his universal role. The actual jurisdiction of the bishop of Alexandria over Egypt, Libya and Pentapolis is fully compatible with the universal jurisdiction of the successor of St. Peter, on account of the principle of subsidiarity. That’s why the quotation from Augustine that you cite is fully compatible with the Catholic position.

    Canon 28 at Chalcedon simply re-states the earlier canon from 381.

    As you know, the Council of Constantinople did not become an ecumenical council until it was ratified by the bishop of Rome, after the Council of Chalcedon. And the canons of the Council of Constantinople were not ratified by the pope, even then. So, the canons from 381 had no authority at the time of Chalcedon.

    The great temptation was to subject the Church to the authority of the state / emperor, because the state always wanted to control the Church. And that is what Pope Leo was resisting. The authority of the Church is not based on or derived from the authority of the state. It comes from Christ. Hence it was absolutely essential that Pope Leo stand firm here, and defend the Petrine grounds for the primacy of the bishop of Rome.

    Until the decimations wrought by the Vandals, North African Bishops protested against Rome’s interference in their diocese, and even in Milan submission to Rome cannot be seen until the late sixth century,

    In the late second century, St. Irenaeus, bishop of Lyon, says the following:

    For it is a matter of necessity that every Church should agree with this Church [of Rome], on account of its preeminent authority

    He speaks as though this is something that Catholics all know, not as though he is coming up with something novel or provincial. Similarly, when Origen was condemned by the Alexandrian synod (231-232) for insubordination, self-mutilation, and heterodoxy, he appealed to Pope Fabianus, which wouldn’t make sense unless Pope Fabianus had jurisdiction to hear appeals from decisions of the Alexandrian synod. It is true that St. Cyprian disagreed with Pope Stephen over baptism by heretics, but he didn’t break with Pope Stephen over this issue, and that was fortunate, because St. Cyprian was mistaken on this issue, and Pope Stephen was correct.

    Here’s another example from Africa, prior to the Vandals. Optatus of Milevisu, bishop of Milevis in Africa (367), writes,

    “But you cannot deny that you know that the episcopal seat was established first in the city of Rome by Peter and that in it sat Peter, the head of all the apostles, wherefore he is called Cephas, the one chair in which unity is maintained by all. Neither do other Apostles proceed individually on their own; and anyone who would set up another chair in opposition to that single chair would, by that very fact, be a schismatic and a sinner. It was Peter, then, who first occupied that chair, the foremost of his endowed gifts …. I but ask you to recall the origins of your chair, you who wish to claim for yourselves the title of holy Church.”

    That’s a fairly representative statement of the Catholic understanding of the role of Peter’s successor, being grounded in the unique authority Christ gave to Peter.

    The idea that Papal presence/approval is necessary for a Council to be regarded as ecumenical and binding may well have been in the minds of many for some time, but it only reaches explicit statement as an authoritative dictum with Gregory VII (Hildebrand): 1075, his *dictus papae*.

    It had been the practice of the Church from Nicea. Without approval by the Apostolic See, a council couldn’t count as ecumenical. No one disputes that. Many things are not explicit in the first millennium (or preserved in historical records) simply because they were so universally understood they didn’t even need to be said.

    An especially problematic situation involves Vigilius boycotting Constantinople II, then captured and imprisoned by Justinian, allowed to return to Rome only after he (unwillingly) accepted the decrees of the Council. I say ‘problematic’ because it cuts both ways. One can argue that Justinian’s actions demonstrate the necessity of Papal approval or one can argue that here was a Council in which the Pope flatly refused to participate, and affirmed its decrees, etc only under duress.

    This isn’t a problem for the Catholic position. If Pope Vigilius’ approval had been under duress, his approval would not be legitimate. But Pope Pelagius I (556-561) affirmed it as well. So, either way, it was ratified by Rome.

    Hopefully, in working these things out, we may come to better mutual understanding, and eventual reconciliation in full communion.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  60. DP,

    Sorry that it took me so long. I’ve got my copy of Chapman now. I can’t do justice to Chapter VIII, “The Age of Justinian” here without taking more space than I deserve. But I want to relate one piece of evidence for what I said above about how the Easterns definitely believed that the Pope had the authority to decide for himself in this doctrinal issue, even though the pope in question was a man of bad character and even though the Emperor had seemingly used force and coercion against him.

    The scene is the “famous pilgrimage Church Satin Euphemia,” in which the pope has taken sanctuary against Emperor Justinian and in which the Pope has issued decrees excommunicating a large number of Eastern Bishops, micropolitans, metropolitans and patriarchs. “The effect of the Pope’s belated boldness was electric. . .The Patriarch Menas, together with the metropolitans of Ephesus, Ceasarea (that is Theodore himself), and many others, having incurred excommunication, came across the Bosphorus and presented to the Pope a petition more searching and humiliating than the formula of Hormisdas. They begin by accepting the four general councils, especially Ephesus and Chalcedon, at which the Popes had presided by their legates.

    ‘And we promise that we will follow throughout and in detail whatever is contained in all the acts of the Council of Chalcedon and of the other aforesaid synods, according as it is written in the four synods, in common consent with the legates and Vicars of the Apostolic See (in whom on each respective occasion the blessed Popes of Elder Rome, your Holiness’s predecessors presided), defined, or judged or constituted or disposed, whether as to faith or to any other cases, judgments, constitutions, or dispositions, immovably, inviolably, irreprehensibly, irreformably, without addition or imminution. . . .Whatever things were there said by common consent with the legates and Vicars of the Apostolic orthodox See, these we venerate and receive as orthodox. Whatever they anathematized or condemned, that we anathematize and we condemn; and we preserve all irreformably and unchangeably as, by the aforesaid councils in common consent with the Vicars of the Apostolic See, they are read to have been judged or defined or constituted or disposed. And we promise that we will in all things follow and observe also the letters of Pope Leo of blessed memory, and the constitutions of the Apostolic See which have been published whether as to the faith or the confirmation of the aforesaid councils. Against the constitution of the pious Emperor and of your Holiness, in the recent case of the Three Chapters, I have made no libellus; but I will and I consent that any such documents should be restored to your Blessedness. With regard to the insults inflicted on your Blessedness and to your See, I did not commit them; but because it is right to hasten for peace in all ways, I ask pardon, as though I had committed them’

    Thus each of the chief bishops of the East has to lick the very dust, before a Pope who has been insulted by the civil power, is in sanctuary for safety, has personally no good character, is not obviously in the right, and has already twice contradicted himself. Such is still the prestige in the East of the See of Peter, even in an unworthy representative.”

    Referring to another occasion of Eastern submissiveness to the Pope during Justinian’s reign, Chapman writes:

    “This declaration of a bishop of Asia Minor in 537 astonishes us to-day, because we have been so long fed with Protestant and Galliean fables about the anti-papalism of the Eastern Church. But in the sixth century it was normal.”

    Chapman is one to know about what was normal in the sixth century East — he was considered to be the greatest English patristics scholar of his day.

    My apologies to Bryan and to the others for taking up so much space. The point is merely that the Eastern Church did not consider that it had the right to gain only a nominal approval of the Pope, and that by force. Their submissiveness was much much greater. The rest of the Chapter would help you more, if I could post it!

    Sincerely,

    K. Doran

  61. K,
    Excellent stuff. I’ll get the book. I don’t think there is any disputing that that the Eastern Sees of the Pentarchy always allowed Rome primacy of honor and saw as essential Rome’s involvement and approval of Ecumenical Council decrees, etc. What doesn’t follow from that is the notion of a universal jurisdiction over the whole. And, as Chapman notes, the Pope in question was ‘unworthy’ – not the last to be sure! We can all be in submission to less than godly leaders at times, but there are breaking points, and in the East those became painfully obvious – as you are no doubt aware. Thanks for that recommendation.
    DPC

  62. DPC,

    The Eastern sees allowed much more than a primacy of honor. The quote above, and many other such quotes, make that clear. When the Eastern Sees speak of the Bishop of Rome as “head of the Church” they are giving him power in his primacy. Without writing another such quote on this comment section, I will just for now point out the language of the quote in my post above. In what way is this a mere primacy of honor? How would you interpret their words and actions?

    Also, in reference to the breaking points. My problem with the theory that it was just the unworthiness of popes that lead to the breaks is that throughout the first 600 years of the Church there were frequent and prolonged breaks with the East because Eastern patriarchs advocated heresies. Rome stayed true to orthodoxy in every case. But the pattern of seeking independence from Rome by advocating heresy and heterodoxy continued. I think that this established pattern is at least as important in the breaks that occurred later as the unworthiness of the popes in question. It is important to note that between the years 341 and 681 at least one of the chief Eastern sees of Antioch, Constantinople, and Alexandria was occupied by a heterodox bishop for 73% of the time. Two of the three were occupied by heterodox bishops for 33% of the time. The correlation between heterodoxy and the seeking of independence from Rome seems to be very good. And that history has to be taken into account in explanations of the more prolonged schism that we are currently experiencing. Was the East, given its history, in a position to declare the West heterodox? Is it in a position to claim that the Church during Justinian’s reign just had a primacy of honor at Rome, and not something greater? I think the evidence suggests otherwise.

    Sincerely,

    K. Doran

  63. Dear DPC,

    Just a couple questions:

    (1) Are you aware of the many instances from 90 AD onwards in which the see of Rome interfered in what would now be called the “internal affairs” of Eastern sees? If not, would you be interested in looking at some sources and getting back to me with your perspective on these?

    (2) How do you think the early Church dealt with the possibility of all of the East (or the majority of the East) pointing in one direction doctrinally and Rome pointing the other direction? Was Rome’s vote the deciding factor in such a case, or did the majority of the Eastern sees hold sway? Can you relate your answer to the context of Chalcedon, as related by Newman in the following passages:

    “Eutyches [a Monophysite] was supported by the Imperial Court, and by Dioscorus the Patriarch of Alexandria . . . A general Council was summoned for the ensuing summer at Ephesus [in 449] . . . It was attended by sixty metropolitans, ten from each of the great divisions of the East; the whole number of bishops assembled amounted to one hundred and thirty-five . . . St. Leo [the Great, Pope], dissatisfied with the measure altogether, nevertheless sent his legates, but with the object . . . of “condemning the heresy, and reinstating Eutyches if he retracted” . . .

    The proceedings which followed were of so violent a character, that the Council has gone down to posterity under the name of the Latrocinium or “Gang of Robbers.” Eutyches was honourably acquitted, and his doctrine received . . . which seems to have been the spontaneous act of the assembled Fathers. The proceedings ended by Dioscorus excommunicating the Pope, and the Emperor issuing an edict in approval of the decision of the Council . . .

    The Council seems to have been unanimous, with the exception of the Pope’s legates, in the restoration of Eutyches; a more complete decision can hardly be imagined. It is true the whole number of signatures now extant, one hundred and eight, may seem small out of a thousand, the number of Sees in the East; but the attendance of Councils always bore a representative character. The whole number of East and West was about eighteen hundred, yet the second Ecumenical Council was attended by only one hundred and fifty, which is but a twelfth part of the whole number; the Third Council by about two hundred, or a ninth; the Council of Nicaea itself numbered only three hundred and eighteen Bishops.

    Moreover, when we look through the names subscribed to the Synodal decision, we find that the misbelief, or misapprehension, or weakness, to which this great offence must be attributed, was no local phenomenon, but the unanimous sin of Bishops in every patriarchate and of every school of the East. Three out of the four patriarchs were in favour of the heresiarch, the fourth being on his trial. Of these Domnus of Antioch and Juvenal of Jerusalem acquitted him, on the ground of his confessing the faith of Nicaea and Ephesus . . . Dioscorus . . . was on this occasion supported by those Churches which had so nobly stood by their patriarch Athanasius in the great Arian conflict. These three Patriarchs were supported by the Exarchs of Ephesus and Caesarea in Cappadocia; and both of these as well as Domnus and Juvenal, were supported in turn by their subordinate Metropolitans. Even the Sees under the influence of Constantinople, which was the remaining sixth division of the East, took part with Eutyches . . .

    Such was the state of Eastern Christendom in the year 449; a heresy, appealing to the Fathers, to the Creed, and, above all, to Scripture, was by a general Council, professing to be Ecumenical, received as true in the person of its promulgator. If the East could determine a matter of faith independently of the West, certainly the Monophysite heresy was established as Apostolic truth in all its provinces from Macedonia to Egypt . . .

    At length the Imperial Government, . . . came to the conclusion that the only way of restoring peace to the Church was to abandon the Council of Chalcedon. In the year 482 was published the famous Henoticon or Pacification of Zeno, in which the Emperor took upon himself to determine a matter of faith. The Henoticon declared that no symbol of faith but that of the Nicene Creed, commonly so called, should be received in the Churches; it anathematized the opposite heresies of Nestorius and Eutyches, and it was silent on the question of the “One” or “Two Natures” after the Incarnation . . . All the Eastern Bishops signed this Imperial formulary. But this unanimity of the East was purchased by a breach with the West; for the Popes cut off the communication between Greeks and Latins for thirty-five years . . .

    Dreary and waste was the condition of the Church, and forlorn her prospects, at the period which we have been reviewing . . . There was but one spot in the whole of Christendom, one voice in the whole Episcopate, to which the faithful turned in hope in that miserable day. In the year 493, in the Pontificate of Gelasius, the whole of the East was in the hands of traitors to Chalcedon, and the whole of the West under the tyranny of the open enemies of Nicaea . . .

    A formula which the Creed did not contain [Leo’s Tome at the Council of Chalcedon in 451], which the Fathers did not unanimously witness, and which some eminent Saints had almost in set terms opposed, which the whole East refused as a symbol, not once, but twice, patriarch by patriarch, metropolitan by metropolitan, first by the mouth of above a hundred, then by the mouth of above six hundred of its Bishops, and refused upon the grounds of its being an addition to the Creed, was forced upon the Council . . . by the resolution of the Pope of the day, acting through his Legates and supported by the civil power. ”

    Of course we know what the ultimate outcome of this doctrinal controversy was. Rome held sway, even with all the world against her. Why? If it was valid then, why was it not valid for the later schism?

    Finally, to any Catholics who may have been scandalized by post 48 above: please don’t be afraid to email me if you would like me to point you to resources which contain much legitimate documentation from primary sources demonstrating that the early Church had a primacy of power in Rome that was recognized by orthodox (and even sometimes by heterodox) Christians around the world. My email: KBDh02@yahoo.com

  64. I think it’s interesting that the Protestant ‘tree’ takes the form of a deciduous tree, whilst the Catholic ‘tree’ looks like an Evergreen :)

  65. How are the sedavactionists, ultra traditional groups (like robert sungenus, novus ordo watch) , and post VC II groups represented in the tree diagram?

  66. I have been visiting CTC for a couple of weeks and have been impressed with the bloggers’ (on both sides of the argument) knowledge of the reformation period and the causes of the split.

    When i visit other Catholic websites, it appears there are several groups calling themselves the true church. I see the sedavactionists, I see groups that denounce and criticize the new mass and want the traditional mass kept and taught and I see the post vatican II groups.

    My question is; do you see similar traits between this new groups and people of the reformation period and could they cause a split?

    How would you like to see the church handle these groups and differences?

    thanks

  67. Norm,

    Welcome to CTC. Thanks for your comment. See the definition of ‘schism’ in the body of the post (see the link at footnote 8); any group that meets the two conditions laid out in that definition is in schism from the Church. But the particular Churches that are in full communion with the successor of St. Peter are not in schism. There is diversity within the Church. But diversity and schism are not the same thing. Diversity with unity, is a beautiful thing; it shows forth the catholicity of the Church and more fully manifests the glory of God. But schism is ugly, and evil. It is a privation of good where good should be. We should never confuse schism for diversity, or justify schism in the name of promoting diversity. This means that we must maintain a clear conceptual distinction between diversity and schism.

    There is, unfortunately, at least one similarity between those who broke with the Church in the sixteenth century, and those who have done so since Vatican II: they both broke with the Church. Although I myself am in agreement in many respects with the traditionalists regarding the liturgy and liturgical abuses, such problems do not justify schism. See my recent comment here. That said, I think Pope Benedict is graciously, humbly, and patiently reaching out to those who are separated, seeking ways to reconcile them to the Church. That’s what a good shepherd does. He is also addressing their legitimate concerns. Our task is to be faithful servants of Christ and the successors of His Apostles, doing our part to serve them and make their job easier as they shepherd Christ’s Church. We are all called to be peacemakers, reconciling men to God, by reconciling them to His Body, the Church.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  68. Although I appreciate your diagram of the splits within the Christian Church I am sad that you have missed out the Unity of Brethren, founded 1457 in Bohemia as the first established Protestant Church. This led directly to the Moravian Church, which is is still in existence today – a pre-reformation reformed church. For the sake of completeness and accuracy perhaps you should consider adding this denomination to your diagram. The Moravian Church is a small, and yet important denomination, easily forgotten, but there before all other protestant churches and before Luther himself. Thank you. Yours in Christ.

  69. Today, in “Have Denominations Had Their Day?” Michael Horton wrote:

    “Therefore, there really is one church—catholic, spread throughout the world yet united in one Lord, one faith, one baptism—even though its visible shape right now seems to speak against it.”

    The question I asked him in reply is essentially the question of this post. I replied:

    You say that the catholic Church is united (in certain respects) even though “its visible shape now seems to speak against it.” It seems to me that one could look at the present situation and see not a problem with the Church’s “visible shape,” (as though the problem is only a problem between branches within the Church) but rather *schisms from* the visible Church, as were the Donatists in the fourth century. So, what is it, exactly, in your opinion, that distinguishes a *branch within* the catholic Church, from a *schism from* the catholic Church? That is, how does one rightly determine whether a particular denomination is a *branch within* the Church, or a *schism from* the Church?

    Michael then replied:

    With our confessions, I’d say that this is determined by proclamation of the true gospel and the administration of the sacraments according to Christ’s institution. While no church exhibits these marks with complete purity, bodies that reject the gospel or anything essential to it and substitute their own dogmas, duties, and discipline for Christ’s institution have separated themselves from the visible Church.

    It seems to me that Michael’s reply defines schism from the Church as synonymous with heresy, and in this way eliminates the very possibility of schism from the Church [in the traditional sense of ‘schism from’ as treated in the Church Fathers]. For the traditional sense of schism from the Church, see, for example, what the fourth century bishop St. Optatus says about schism in “St. Optatus on Schism and the Bishop of Rome.” Similarly, St. Jerome wrote:

    Between heresy and schism there is this difference, that heresy perverts dogma, while schism, by rebellion against the bishop, separates from the Church. Nevertheless there is no schism which does not trump up a heresy to justify its departure from the Church. (In Ep. ad Tit., iii, 10)

    In St. Augustine’s work titled “Of Faith and the Creed” which he delivered to the bishops assembled at the Council of Hippo-Regius in AD 393, which was the “general assembly of the North African Church,” he wrote the following:

    Inasmuch, I repeat, as this is the case, we believe also in The Holy Church, [intending thereby] assuredly the Catholic . For both heretics and schismatics style their congregations churches. But heretics, in holding false opinions regarding God, do injury to the faith itself; while schismatics, on the other hand, in wicked separations break off from brotherly charity, although they may believe just what we believe. Wherefore neither do the heretics belong to the Church catholic, which loves God; nor do the schismatics form a part of the same, inasmuch as it loves the neighbor, and consequently readily forgives the neighbor’s sins, because it prays that forgiveness may be extended to itself by Him who has reconciled us to Himself, doing away with all past things, and calling us to a new life. And until we reach the perfection of this new life, we cannot be without sins. Nevertheless it is a matter of consequence of what sort those sins may be. (Of Faith and the Creed, 10)

    To the best of my knowledge, St. Optatus, St. Jerome, St. Augustine and all the Church Fathers who wrote about schism wrote about schism from as something conceptually distinct from heresy. Yes, any schism from the Church would invariably fall into some heresy, at least in order to justify its schism from the Church. But, nevertheless, schism from the Church referred to a particular Church’s (or smaller group’s) visible break in communion with the Catholic Church (even where that particular Church or group had not embraced any heresy), whereas ‘heresy’ referred to a departure from the Apostolic faith, even if communion had not yet been visibly broken.

    So, it seems to me that Michael has departed from the Church Fathers in this respect, by defining schism from the Church as heresy, and thus eliminating (from his conceptual system) the possibility of schism from the Church [in the traditional sense of schism from]. And when schism from the Church is defined out of existence, one loses the possibility of recognizing whether one (or anyone else) is in schism from the Church; it becomes a meaningless question, a question that evokes a blank face, or an attempt to translate the question into the only definition of ‘schism’ one knows, namely, a question about heresy, which is then answered with an assurance that one is holding on to the biblical gospel and sacraments, and therefore that one is not in schism from the Church. When terms in the Tradition are redefined in a way that replaces (rather than develops) their essential meaning, then not only does this lead to ecumenical difficulties, but it also leads communities who adopt these redefinitions to a different way of seeing, in this case, a way of seeing in which schism from is not even conceptually visible. By redefining schism from the Church as heresy, the community that adopts this redefinition as essentially goes blind to schism from the Church.

    What has happened, when an entire patristic concept is no longer even accessible or intelligible? This concept of schism from the Church dropped out of Protestant theology because the justification of the Protestant departure from the Catholic Church required an underlying radical change in ecclesiology, from a visible catholic Church to an essentially invisible catholic Church with local visible expressions. The reason the concept of schism from the Church is no longer available (and has to be redefined as heresy to cover the semantic hole its absence would leave) is that the conjunction of (a) the denial of the ministerial priesthood and Holy Orders and (b) the denial of an essentially unified divinely established visible principle of unity entails that the Church is not essentially visible, and therefore that visible unity is not essential to her. (See “Why Protestantism has no “visible catholic Church.”“) But schism from the Church is impossible unless the Church has visible unity. Hence the Protestant move from a visible Church ecclesiology to an invisible Church ecclesiology (even though the language of ‘visible Church’ is retained by Reformed persons like Michael) eliminated conceptually the very possibility of schism from the Church, and thus required redefining schism from as just a synonym for heresy.

    For this reason, even if Michael wanted to hold to the possibility of schism from the Church by claiming that the visible Church is, say, NAPARC (or some other association of Reformed denominations), he couldn’t do so. That’s because if some denominations which held to the same doctrines affirmed by NAPARC denominations were not in communion with NAPARC denominations, nothing would make those denomination the ones in schism from the Church, rather than the other way around. Without a divinely established visible principle of unity that serves as the defining point of reference for the location of the Church, schism from the Church must be redefined as “not holding to [my interpretation of Scripture regarding what is] the gospel and [my interpretation of Scripture regarding what are] the sacraments.” For Catholics, by contrast, that divinely established principle of unity is St. Peter, as St. Ambrose said: “Where Peter is, there is the Church.” (For the role of St. Peter as the Church’s principle of unity see “The Chair of St. Peter.”)

    Moreover, to justify redefining schism from as heresy, one must assume that all the early Church Fathers who addressed schism from the Church were mistaken, having departed from the Apostolic faith regarding the nature of schism from the Church. In that sense, to justify departing from the Church Fathers regarding the nature of schism from the Church, one must presuppose ecclesial deism. Otherwise, if in their teaching concerning schism from the Church, the Church Fathers were faithfully preserving and defending the Apostolic faith they had received, then it is those who are redefining ‘schism from’ as heresy who are departing from the Apostolic faith, and thus ironically (given their own their definition of ‘schism’) in that respect separating themselves from the visible Church.

  70. Greetings,

    Long time lurker, first time poster. I want to thank David Meyer and Holly Whittemore (who don’t know each other) for pointing me here. This site was instrumental in my conversion to the Catholic church. I was part of the OPC, and then I became sympathetic to Federal Vision and then NT Wright. The ecclesiological ground was sufficient to bring me to Rome. I didn’t come to the one true faith because I believed everything the church had to say about Mary, sacraments, the Pope, Purgatory, etc. It wasn’t like I took a list of Catholic doctrines and lined them up against Protestant doctrines and took a tally. That would be no different than church shopping.

    I first believed because I first had to trust that this is the church Christ founded. In time, as I mature, I trust that the church will help me understand the things than ran contrary to my Protestant sensibilities. So, when attempting to reason with a Protestant, especially one sympathetic to the importance of a “strong ecclesiology”, it helps to ask them how they know they are not schismatic. I asked myself whether I was in the right “branch”? And then I asked what gave Calvin and Luther authority to separate or “reform” in the first place.

  71. Welcome, Andre! What a great bit of news to see this morning!

  72. Andre,

    welcome home.

    dt

  73. Andre,
    You are on the right website. This site is like one of those glue traps for mice, except for Reformed people. And also it doesnt kill you. Anyway…
    If you encounter resistence from your session or whoever, there is probably a solid, relevant article on Called to Communion to refer them to if you get stuck. I find if I bug Bryan Cross when I get stuck, he always comes through with home-run answers.

    I am so happy I could help an old friend dip into the Tiber! You will love the swim.

    God Bless,

    David M.

  74. Andre,

    Welcome to the Church brother!

    Best,
    Mark

  75. Andre,

    Welcome home!

  76. Welcome home and welcome to the family! I was OPC as well!

  77. Annie,

    Are you the same Annie that was on the podcast on this site? A lot of the things you said on it personally ministered to my wife. She initially was opposed to converting to catholicism but a lot of what you said helped her.

    PS–I apologize to the moderators for speaking off topic but I was hoping that I was contacting the Annie!

  78. Dear Andre,
    Yes it is. Ask the guys to give you my email. If I can help her, you, and/or the both of you please contact me. I am happy to help anyone along the journey. God’s peace to both of you!

    Annie

  79. When you view your denomination as a branch, rather than as a schism, there is no shame in publicly discussing the possibility of intentionally dividing your denomination, and thereby making more ‘branches.’ The ecclesiology underlying such a discussion does not fit well with early Church statements like “You shall not make a schism. Rather, you shall make peace among those who are contending” from the Didache, or “There is nothing more grievous than the sacrilege of schism….there can be no just necessity for destroying the unity of the Church,” from St. Augustine. The very notion of destroying the unity of an invisible Church is unintelligible. When schism has been redefined as heresy, there is no longer such a thing as schism; it has been defined out of existence, and is therefore no longer a sin one must be careful to avoid.

    Attaining the unity for which we pray during this Week of Prayer for Christian Unity requires going to the very roots of our disunity. May God grant us the grace to do that.

  80. Bryan,

    Its a shame that my ecclesiology can be so easily rolled out and diced up. Maybe where you say dioceses I say denominations, each has strong ethnic and cultural ties reflected in worship and life. Each is identifiably separate, and each has views which might make partnership easier with some rather than others. Hopeful submitting to the rule of Christ, and there for but each is simply a part of the Visible Church.
    Maybe my ecclesiology has room to make new denominations is a celebratory way the same that yours sees new dioceses as a good thing.

  81. Hello Sam, (re: #80)

    Thanks for your comment. I agree that the formation of a new diocese in an area where there is no existing diocese, is a good thing, all other things being equal. And I agree that each diocese is a part of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church. But there are important and relevant differences between a diocese and a denomination. A diocese is the juridical territory administered by a bishop, and through its bishop is in full communion with the pope and thus with all the other dioceses in full communion with the pope. That means that the dioceses all share one and the same doctrine, share all and only the same sacraments, and share one and the same hierarchy, through each bishop’s union with the episcopal successor of St. Peter. Through these three bonds of unity each diocese is a member of the Catholic Church, and not separated from the Catholic Church. But distinct denominations do not necessarily share one and the same doctrine (even if they agree on certain articles), do not necessarily share all and only the same sacraments, and do not share the same government, even if they share the same government type. So the formation of a new diocese is [ordinarily] merely the expansion of the Church into an area it had not previously been. By contrast, the formation of a new denomination by the splitting of an existing denomination is a further fragmentation of Christians into different sects divided by differences in faith, ecclesial government, and/or sacraments. It is in essence division, not expansion, even if it results in the expansion of both resulting denominations.

    The difficulty, from the denominational point of view, is trying to make sense of the sin of schism, that is, trying to figure out how one would even go about committing the sin of schism. There is no non-arbitrary way to distinguish forming a schism from separating from one’s denomination and forming a new denomination. And since, from the denominational point of view there is seemingly nothing at all wrong with splitting a denomination (since otherwise even one’s own denomination would be the product of a sinful act), there is therefore seemingly nothing wrong with schism, and thus no way to make sense of its alleged sinfulness.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  82. Can someone explain why Orthodox churches are still considered to be churches with valid apostolic succession and sacraments? Also, why isn’t the Anglican communion considered to have valid apostolic succession? From what I’ve read, Orthodox, or at least some, do not grant the same validity to the Roman Catholic church, which they consider to be in schism from Orthodoxy.

    Thanks,
    Jeff

  83. Jeff, (re: #82)

    The validity of the sacrament of Holy Orders does not depend on whether the ordaining bishop is in full communion with the pope. If the bishop was himself validly ordained, in an unbroken line of ordinations extending back to the Apostles, then he can validly ordain, even if he is not in full communion with the pope. This is why, from the Catholic perspective, Orthodox orders are valid, and hence the Orthodox have a true Eucharist, and are thus true particular Churches.

    The reason for the invalidity of Anglican orders is explained in comment #128 of The Tu Quoque post.

    And yes, the Orthodox view of Catholic orders is commonly as you describe.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  84. […] Catholic bishops under the leading of the bishop of Rome. They would perpetuate their heresies in schism from the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church. Sometimes they came back, sometimes they […]

  85. […] Finally, because it is through Christ’s Church that the fullness of the means of salvation can be obtained, many significant elements in the life to the Church may be missed by those outside her visible boundaries – but many do exist. It follows that although these separated communities are deficient or even distorted, they retain some measure of grace (often quite a bit). Thus, while the Catholic Church does not consider herself in complete disunity with those who have separated from her in one way or another, the wounds to unity are not simply accepted (as opposed to “Branch Theory“). […]

  86. What my thought and his question have in common is the issue of ecclesiology, which is what actually makes a tradition coherent. Denominationalism (the belief that there can be many denominations within the one Church, all differing on doctrine and praxis and often contradicting each other) precludes a robust ecclesiology. If the congregation moves from the PCUSA to ECO, no one would say that they have “left” or “joined” the Church. They have just repositioned themselves within it.

    Orthodox priest Fr. Andrew Stephen Damick, in “My Presbyterian Field Trip: A Fragmenting Tradition.”

Leave Comment

Subscribe without commenting