Archbishop Minnerath on Rome, the Papacy, and the East

Aug 21st, 2012 | By | Category: Blog Posts

How was the Papacy understood in the ancient Christian East? This is the topic of an essay by Archbishop Roland Minnerath entitled “The Petrine Ministry in the Early Patristic Tradition.” [1] I address Archbishop Minnerath’s essay because I do not want it to become an occassion for misunderstanding. In this ecumenical essay, the Archbishop acknowledges, “The East never shared the Petrine theology as elaborated in the West.”  We must be clear about what this means.

Archbishop Minnerath offers an interpretation of Patristic history in which he extends great liberality to Orthodox sensibilities and construes the historical data in a non-polemical light. Thus, while recognizing the early date for a specifically Petrine claim for Roman primacy, the archbishop acknowledges that this claim was not unanimously accepted, and that some Eastern synods articulated a canonical rather than a Petrine justification for Roman primacy. Key passages in that regard include the following statements:

The Eastern church has never taken into account the developments about the Roman bishop as vicar, successor or heir of the Apostles Peter . . . The East never shared the Petrine theology as elaborated in the West. It never accepted that the protos in the universal church could claim to be the unique successor or vicar of Peter.[2]

We must not construe these passages in the wrong way: “No acceptance of Papal claims in the East!” Rather, there is an important context that cannot be overlooked. It would be surprising indeed if a Catholic archbishop thought that Petrine theology was innovative and uncatholic. However, the archbishop offers important qualifications:

For instance:

If we look at churches established outside the patriarchal territoris of the Roman Empire, we find amazing support for the primacy of the See of Rome on the ground of the Scriptures and not of the synodical canons. So a Persian collection of 73 canons attributed to the council of Nicea and composed around the year 400 develops a mystique of the four patriarchates of Rome, Alexandria, Ephesus, and Antioch. The Syriac version says ‘the patriarch of Rome will have authority over all the patriarchs, as Peter had over the whole community.’[3]

Thus, it clear from the essay that Minnerath does not mean to assert that no one in the East accepted Roman claims for a Petrine primacy. Rather, he has in mind the specifically Byzantine development of an alternate theory to explain (in non-Petrine terms) the universally acknowledged primacy of Rome.


Sylvester I and Constantine

The Archbishop offers other qualifications as well.  He acknowledges, for example, that by Nicea II the cooperation or “Synergeia” of the bishop of Rome was considered necessary for a valid council, even in Byzantium.  He also remarks, “It is worth mentioning that the Petrine claims of the popes were never invoked as a cause for schism by the Eastern church during the first millennium.” Finally, Archbishop Minnerath clearly believes in a Petrine primacy and hopes future ecumenical developments will show that “synodality and primacy are not only compatible, but mutually necessary, and that primacy and synodality are both implied in the words the Lord directed to the apostle Peter.”[4]

Obviously, it is necessary to place the Archbishop’s essay in context, and especially to define what we mean by “The East never accepted Roman claims to a Petrine Primacy.” If we mean that Byzantine theologians offered alternative (and novel) readings of Papal primacy that Orthodox theologians would appropriate in the following millenium, then well and good. No argument here. (We must  recognize, though, how very anachronistic it would be to identify modern Orthodoxy with Eastern Patrology tout court.) If, however, we mean that Petrine primacy was invented in the West, and rejected wholesale in the East as a novelty, then the evidence contradicts that claim.

East and West both accepted the fact of Roman primacy, but the theory of a merely canonical primacy, deriving from convention or from Rome’s location as seat of the Empire is a later  and exclusively Byzantine development. On the contrary, the earliest arguments for Roman primacy were exclusively theological¸ based on Rome’s fidelity to apostolic tradition or upon apostolic succession. The oldest theory we know of explaining the primacy of Rome’s bishop was given by Pope Stephen I (254-257), who claimed unambiguously to sit in cathedra Petri.

In what follows, I wish to consider some of the evidence that this claim was understood, acknowledged, and even embraced by Catholic Christians East and West from antiquity to our own day. Only then can we properly understand the Archbishop’s essay.  That that end, I would suggest we consider four lines of evidence: Papal theology in the Syriac tradition, the witness of the sui iuris churches (especially the Maronites), the surprising acquiescence to Roman claims by even professed Byzantine anti-Romanists, and the full acceptance of Roman claims by at least some pre-schism Byzantines. After we have looked at this evidence, we can assess the significance of the Archbishop’s essay.

The Syriac Tradition

As the Archbishop points out, there is substantial evidence for a doctrine of Petrine succession in the canons, liturgy, and theology of Syriac Christianity. In our own day, we have witnessed the reconciliation to Rome of many of the Nestorian Christians (Assyrian Church of the East). Their own theologian and Bishop Mar Bawai Soro explains one reason why:

The Church of the East attributes a prominent role to Saint Peter and a significant place for the Church of Rome in her liturgical, canonical and Patristic thoughts. There are more than 50 liturgical, canonical and Patristic citations that explicitly express such a conviction . . . The Church of the East possesses a theological, liturgical and canonical tradition in which she clearly values the primacy of Peter among the rest of the Apostles and their churches and the relationship Peter has with his successors in the Church of Rome.[5]

Probably the clearest Syrian witness to Petrine primacy can be found in the works of Theodore Abu Qurrah, a Syrian Catholic bishop who died in 820 A.D. Here is what Qurrah had to say about the Bishop of Rome:

You should understand that the head of the Apostles was St. Peter . . . Do you not see that St. Peter is the foundation of the church, selected to shepherd it, that those who believe in his faith will never lose their faith, and that he was ordered to have compassion on his brethren and to strengthen them? As for Christ’s words, ‘I have prayed for you, that you not lose your faith; but you, have compassion on your brethren, at that time, and strengthen them’, we do not think that he meant St. Peter himself. Rather, he meant nothing more than the holders of the seat of St. Peter, that is, Rome. Just as when he said to the apostles, ‘I am with you always, until the end of the age’, he did not mean just the apostles themselves, but also those who would be in charge of their seats and their flocks; in the same way, when he spoke his last words to St. Peter, ‘Have compassion, at that time, and strengthen your brethren; and your faith will not be lost’, he meant by this nothing other than the holders of his seat.[6]

Based on this tradition alone, it is simply impossible to argue without qualification that “The East” never accepted Roman claims.

Sui Iuris Churches (Especially Maronites)

There are currently 22 sui iuris Churches in communion with Rome. These are Eastern-rite Catholics, with their own hierarchies, canons, and liturgies, but which nevertheless accept all the claims of the Pope.  Each of them has their own unique history with Rome. Many have suffered persecution in the East for their fidelity to the Holy Father. To discuss each in detail is beyond the scope of this article, but their present existence puts the lie to the claim that Eastern Churches have never accepted Papal claims.

Of particular importance are the Maronites, a Syriac rite that has never been in formal schism from Rome.  The Maronites were pre-Arab Semites in the Levant, Chalcedonian in theology, and persecuted by the Jacobin, Monophysite Church. Eventaully, they fled Syria and found refuge in Lebanon. They are named for their 4’th century founder, St. Maron, hermit and one-time friend of St. John Chrysostom.

In 517, the Monastery of St. Maron could address Pope Hormisdas as “Hormisdas, the most holy and blessed patriarch of the whole world, the holder of the See of Peter, the leader of the apostles.”  During the 11th century, at the same time that Constantinople was excommunicating Rome (and vice versa), the Maronites reaffirmed their unity with the Holy See.  Pope Pascal II gave crown and staff to the Maronite Patriarch Youseff Al Jirjisi in 1100 A.D.  Innocent III likewise recognized the authority of their Patriarchate, and a Maronite bishop was present at the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215.  They remain to this day a shining, blatant, everlasting, and definitive rebutal to the bald assertion that “The East” has never accepted Roman claims.

It is worth noting, furthermore, that Byzantium itself was not fully united with Constantinople in issuing the excommunications of 1054. Intercommunion between Eastern and Western Christians persisted for many years after 1054. Many, including the Slavs whose descendants reunited with Rome through the Unions of Brest and Uzhhorod, only accepted the schism as a reality as the centuries went on. (We should also recall that the excommunications  have been revoked.)

Byzantine Acquiescence

As Archbishop Minnerath points out, the doctrine of Petrine primacy was never a cause of schism with the East. Even Photius and Cerularius, the critical players in the East-West schism, never argued that the Petrine doctrine could justify schism.  Therefore, to the extent that modern Orthodoxy rejects reunion with Rome on this basis, to that extent Orthodoxy is novel.

Furthermore, there can be little doubt that ancient Byzantium understood the Roman claim to Petrine succession, and at times even acquiesced to it.  Thus, the Libellus Hormisdae (519), signed by Byzantine bishops, reads:

We cannot pass over in silence the affirmations of our Lord Jesus Christ, “You are Peter, and upon this Rock I will build my Church.’ . . . These words are verified by the facts. It is in the apostolic see that the Catholic religion has always been preserved without blemish . . . This is why I hope that I shall remain in communion with the apostolic see in which is found the whole, true, and perfect stability of the Christian religion.[7]

The papal legates at Ephesus (431) also advanced a very robust doctrine of Petrine primacy. None of the council fathers could have been ignorant of the claim. Consider:

Philip, presbyter and legate of the Apostolic See said: We offer our thanks to the holy and venerable Synod, that when the writings of our holy and blessed pope had been read to you, the holy members by our [or your] holy voices, you joined yourselves to the holy head also by your holy acclamations. For your blessedness is not ignorant that the head of the whole faith, the head of the Apostles, is blessed Peter the Apostle. And since now our mediocrity, after having been tempest-tossed and much vexed, has arrived, we ask that you give order that there be laid before us what things were done in this holy Synod before our arrival; in order that according to the opinion of our blessed pope and of this present holy assembly, we likewise may ratify their determination. (Acts of the Council, session II).

Aidan Nichols, O.P.  expounds on this incoventient truth:

Not only did Cyril preside over the council in the Pope’s name, but Nestorius himself, when faced with the apparent victory of his bitterest opponents – the extreme Alexandrians – at the subsequent latrocinium of 449 (for Monophysites, the Second Council of Ephesus), also appealed to Roman authority as an indispensable element in the determination of doctrine. As he pointed out in criticism of the Ephesian synod: “We did not find there the bishop of Rome, the see of Saint Peter, the apostolic dignity, the beloved leader of the Romans.” Faced with such texts, contemporary Orthodox spokesmen sometimes claim that, in the patristic age, Easterners appealed to Rome only when desperate, plying her with high-sounding titles in the hope of gaining her active support. And yet such appeals are made not only by individuals in difficulties but also by councils themselves.[8]

Finally, let us not forget the famous acclamation of Chalcedon, “Peter has spoken through Leo.” It has been argued that this cry did not amount to an acceptance of specifically Petrine primacy for Rome. Whether or not this is true, however, there can be little doubt that Pope Leo believed in and articulated such a Primacy. If his claims were considered heretical, how could the council fathers have celebrated the faith of Peter, received through an avowed heretic?

Nichols points to a possible rejoinder to these texts. Namely, the East only acquiesced to Roman claims when desperate or under duress. Still, this does nothing to falsify the claim that Papal claims were widely understood and at least sometimes accepted. Nor were they ever understood as a justification for schism.

Byzantine Acceptance

Finally, there is ample evidence that individual Byzantine Church leaders understood and embraced the doctrine of the papacy. We could provide great lists of quotations (see here, and  here) but, as that seems rather pedantic, I prefer to select only one example: St. Maximus the Confessor (c. 650) (Thanks to  www.fisheaters.com):

The extremities of the earth, and everyone in every part of it who purely and rightly confess the Lord, look directly towards the Most Holy Roman Church and her confession and faith, as to a sun of unfailing light awaiting from her the brilliant radiance of the sacred dogmas of our Fathers, according to that which the inspired and holy Councils have stainlessly and piously decreed. For, from the descent of the Incarnate Word amongst us, all the churches in every part of the world have held the greatest Church alone to be their base and foundation, seeing that, according to the promise of Christ Our Savior, the gates of hell will never prevail against her, that she has the keys of the orthodox confession and right faith in Him, that she opens the true and exclusive religion to such men as approach with piety, and she shuts up and locks every heretical mouth which speaks against the Most High. (Maximus, Opuscula theologica et polemica, Migne, Patr. Graec. vol. 90)

How much more in the case of the clergy and Church of the Romans, which from old until now presides over all the churches which are under the sun? Having surely received this canonically, as well as from councils and the apostles, as from the princes of the latter (Peter and Paul), and being numbered in their company, she is subject to no writings or issues in synodical documents, on account of the eminence of her pontificate …..even as in all these things all are equally subject to her (the Church of Rome) according to sacerodotal law. And so when, without fear, but with all holy and becoming confidence, those ministers (the popes) are of the truly firm and immovable rock, that is of the most great and Apostolic Church of Rome. (Maximus, in J.B. Mansi, ed. Amplissima Collectio Conciliorum, vol. 10)

If the Roman See recognizes Pyrrhus to be not only a reprobate but a heretic, it is certainly plain that everyone who anathematizes those who have rejected Pyrrhus also anathematizes the See of Rome, that is, he anathematizes the Catholic Church. I need hardly add that he excommunicates himself also, if indeed he is in communion with the Roman See and the Catholic Church of God …Let him hasten before all things to satisfy the Roman See, for if it is satisfied, all will agree in calling him pious and orthodox. For he only speaks in vain who thinks he ought to pursuade or entrap persons like myself, and does not satisfy and implore the blessed Pope of the most holy Catholic Church of the Romans, that is, the Apostolic See, which is from the incarnate of the Son of God Himself, and also all the holy synods, according to the holy canons and definitions has received universal and surpreme dominion, authority, and power of binding and loosing over all the holy churches of God throughout the whole world. (Maximus, Letter to Peter, in Mansi x, 692).

Conclusion:

The fourth century witnessed rival interpretations of Papal authority. What no one questioned, however, was the fact of Roman primacy.  To quote one Orthodox theologian, Nicholas Afanassieff:

Rome’s vocation [in the pre-Nicene period] consisted in playing the part of arbiter, settling contentious issues by witnessing to the truth or falsity of whatever doctrine was put before them. Rome was truly the centre where all converged if they wanted their doctrine to be accepted by the conscience of the Church. They could not count upon success except on one condition — that the Church of Rome had received their doctrine — and refusal from Rome predetermined the attitude the other churches would adopt. There are numerous cases of this recourse to Rome…[9]

When the Council of Constantinople (381) advanced a theory of Papal primacy based on her connection to the Imperial capital (rather than Petrine primacy), the Roman legates adamantly refused to accept it, and Pope Damasus I repudiated it at a Roman synod the following year (382).  The canonical theory was clearly an alternative to Rome’s older position, argued by Pope Stephen I (254-257), that Rome’s primacy derived from Petrine succession.  That Byzantine theologians would offer alternative interpretation is not surprsing, since they wanted to bolster Constantinople’s position as the new seat of the Empire.  Thus, Aidan Nichols, O.P. in his book Rome and the Eastern Churches, can write, “The rupture between Rome and Orthodoxy may not unfairly be called a separation between Rome and Constantinople.[10]

Modern Orthodox, who deny Papal claims to a specifically Petrine succession, look back to these Byzantine theories for support. As a justification for schism, however, their position is completely novel. The Roman claim is older, and was widely accepted in both East and West. We have provided ample evidence that both Greeks and Syriacs understood and accepted the claim to a Petrine Primacy. Even Byzantine synods and theologians acknowledged them.

Archbishops Minnerath’s essay is no “smoking gun.” He has admitted nothing that has not been common knowledge for 1,000 years. Some Byzantine theologians resisted Papal claims. Their work has provided some theologial “cover” for modern Orthodoxy. But, once again, this just has no significance for the Catholic doctrine of the Papacy. Of the “Blasphemy of Sirmium,” St. Jerome once lamented, “The whole world groaned and marveled to find itself Arian.” At that time, there was but a handful of bishops who maintained the Nicaean faith and stayed faithful to the Pope. This was no threat to the unity or Catholcity of the Church. After all, “Where Peter is, there is the Church.”
___________

[1] In How Can the Petrine Ministry Be a Service to the Unity of the Universal Church?  ed., James F. Puglisi (Grand Rapids, MI and Cambridge, U.K.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2010), pgs. 34-48.

[2] ibid.

[3] ibid.

[4] ibid.

[5] “The Position of the Church of the East Theological Tradition on the Questions of Church Unity and Full Communion” cited at http://rorate-caeli.blogspot.com/2008/05/3000-assyrians-received-into-catholic.html

[6]  John C. Lamoreaux, trans. Theodore Abu Qurrah. (Liberary of the Christian East, vol.1, Provo: Brigham Young University Press, 2005), 68-69.

[7] Aidan Nichols, O.P. Rome and the Eastern Churchs. (San Francisco: Ignatius, 2010), 210.

[8] Ibid., 203-204

[9] (Source)

[10] Nichols, 143.

82 comments
Leave a comment »

  1. Re: Archbishop Minnerath’s statement: Archbishop Minnerath’s statement is not much different than what Archbishop Michael Miller wrote in “The Shepherd and the Rock: Origins, Development, and Mission of the Papacy.” (Our Sunday Visitor, 1995). He gives a rather balanced explanation of how the East and West related to each other:

    “Owing to the polemical character of so many writings, it is necessary to use carefully both Catholic and Orthodox sources, avoiding the extreme positions of each tradition. On the one hand, some Catholics have overemphasized that the East’s willingness to accept a primatial role for the Roman see in the first millennium implied full recognition of papal claims as they were advanced in the West. On the other hand, as Orthodox theologian Alexander Schmemann notes, “Orthodox theology is still awaiting a truly Orthodox evaluation of universal primacy in the first millennium of Church history – an evaluation free from polemical or apologetic exaggerations.”‘ Against the background of the Western tradition already outlined, this chapter examines the Eastern view of the papal ministry from the early Greek Fathers to the Council of Florence.” (page 115)

    “The East, therefore, widely accepted Peter as the coryphaeus (head) of the apostolic college, the first of the disciples who confessed the true faith on behalf of all. However, as Orthodox theologian John Meyendorff explains, the Orientals “simply did not consider this praise and recognition as relevant in any way to the papal claims.” While the Greek Fathers acknowledged Peter’s leadership in the early community, they denied that he had a directing role which involved exercising power over the other apostles. By divine institution Peter enjoyed a preeminence and a dignity above the others but no jurisdiction over them. Praised though he was in the East, Peter held only a primacy of honor and preeminence. The Orientals respected Peter for his witness to the apostolic faith rather than for his power of jurisdiction….

    “From Peter’s prominence among the apostles, Easterners drew different conclusions than Westerners did. Some Orientals held that all believers were successors of Peter. Others limited Petrine succession only to bishops. Very few conceded that the bishop of Rome was the successor to Peter in a unique sense.” (Page 116)

    “Consequently, most Easterners disavowed that the pope was the only successor to Peter. Sts. Basil (+379), John Chrysostom (+407), and John Damascene (+749) wrote glowingly about Peter without concluding that the Petrine texts applied in a particular way to the Roman bishop. Among the Orientals, the pope’s claim to be Peter’s successor was insufficient reason for accepting his claim to universal primacy. The Western argument in favor of papal primacy based on Petrine succession at Rome was unconvincing. Easterners preferred to invoke the decrees of ecumenical councils as the reason for Rome’s privileged position in the koinonia.” (Page 117)

    “The pope intervened in the East’s affairs differently from the way he did in the West. Of the more than 4300 extant papal documents from the first millennium, only 300 refer to the East; most of these touch dogmatic questions. When the bishop of Rome had reason to, and was conceded the right, he adjudicated disciplinary and doctrinal questions as a higher moderator, leaving intact the East’s administrative and canonical autonomy. Yet, despite these periodic interventions, Congar concludes that the East ‘never accepted the regular jurisdiction of Rome.’ [Yves Congar, Diversity and Communion, 1985, p. 26.]

    “For the Byzantines, it was erroneous to interpret Roman primacy as a ‘supreme’ or ‘full’ juridical power over the Church. When evaluating Roman claims to universal jurisdiction, the East judged that the governing authority could not be a power *over* other bishops. For them, the ministry of ecclesial government was a charism, received in episcopal ordination. Schmemann affirms that ‘no sacramental order of primacy’ and ‘no charism of primacy’ exist in the Orthodox Church. Consequently, Western affirmations were in some sense incomprehensible, insofar as they appeared to base papal primacy on a non-sacramental foundation.

    “No evidence exists that in the Eastern tradition as a whole ever admitted papal primacy as it was formulated in the West. A few Byzantine ecclesiastical writers did, on occasion, come close to according Rome the kind of primacy it claimed for itself. For example, St. Maximus the Confessor (died 662), the leading seventh-century Byzantine theologian, wrote: ‘The Apostolic See…from the very Incarnate Word of God and from all the holy synods of all the churches throughout the world in their sacred canons and definitions has received and possesses, in and for everything, dominion, authority, and power to bind and loose. With it the Word, set at the head of the heavenly powers, binds and looses in heaven.’ During the first millennium, a few Eastern bishops and theologians subscribed to the universal jurisdictional primacy of the bishop of Rome. Even so, they always carefully pointed out that the exercise of papal primacy was limited by the decrees of ecumenical councils.

    “Only in matters of appellate jurisdiction were the Orientals willing to submit, on a regular basis, to Roman decisions. In the first millennium, the East recognized that the bishop of Rome had the right to hear appeals from other churches that came to him for judgment. Agreeable to allowing appeals to Rome, the Byzantines nonetheless did so under the specific conditions laid down by their interpretations of the canons of the Synod of Sardica (343-344)….” (Pages 123-124)

    “Did the East, then, accept Roman primacy in the first millennium? If we are asking whether the Byzantines acknowledged papal primacy as claimed by Rome after Leo the Great, then the answer is no. While the Orientals recognized the pope’s jurisdictional primacy over the Western Church, where he was patriarch, they denied that he held the same kind of primacy over the Eastern churches. Easterners rejected the West’s claim that Rome could unilaterally formulate legal norms or doctrine for the whole Church. Notwithstanding their admiration for the apostle Peter, they attributed no special Petrine succession to the bishop of Rome.

    “Besides disagreements about Rome’s jurisdictional claims, East and West also had different theories regarding the theological justification which could be attributed to papal primacy. Even when the Orientals recognized a primacy, they qualified their acceptance. As an institution of ecclesiastical right, it was not essential to the Church’s structure. Pragmatic in their approach to primacy, they were willing to adapt ecclesial structures to the demands of the Empire. Whereas Latins insisted on the special prerogatives of the “apostolic see of Peter,” the only one in the West. Easterners ignored arguments for primacy based solely on a see’s apostolic origins. Instead, they based their recognition of Roman primacy on a mixture of religious, political, and ecclesiastical factors. They accepted Rome neither as the “mother,” “teacher,” and “head” of all churches nor as the unique Petrine see; rather, she was a “sister” which was “the first among equals.” For the Byzantines, canon 28 of the Council of Chalcedon, which attributed ecclesial rank according to political prominence, was axiomatic.” (Pages 134-135)

  2. Thank you Dr. Anders for this article, it was very helpful. I hope to see more articles dealing with the differences between Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy.

  3. One of the difficulties in East-West relations is the fact that the head of Rome is both a Patriarch of the West and the Pope. The Patriarch of the West enjoys privileges that the Pope in the first millennium did not necessarily enjoy in the East and many of the Ecumenical Councils in the West did not deal with doctrinal issues that would concern the East. This confusion causes many Orthodox to condemn the West over things they have no business condemning. Take the ability of Pope to hand pick any bishop for any seat. That privilege was decided by an Ecumenical council to avoid corruption and state interference in Church affairs (see China for a modern example) as in Caesaropapism. That privilege is not necessarily inherent in the Papacy, so any Orthodox who uses this an example why Rome has overreached its power and why East and West cannot reunite unless Rome “repents” is barking up the wrong tree. Personally I think that it is a good idea for a patriarch outside of national borders to confirm the appointment of bishops, especially given that caesaropapism was the primary cause of the East-West split, but it does not necessarily have to take the form of current Catholic practice.

  4. Dave,

    The issue I have with your article, and in fact nearly all apologetics on this issue, is the attempt to draw absolutes by picking and choosing what to present. There were certainly those in the East who supported Papal claims in the west, but they where in the minority. The concept of the papacy as it stands today was something that clearly developed in Rome, and though it showed up from time to time, was not widely held in the East. Leo may have written his Tome and agressively set the foundation of those that came before him, but it’s clear it was never fully accepted in the East.

    At the same time, those from the East who refute all Papal claims as heretical are either ignorant of history, or are engaging in extreme polemics on the issue. Dave Browns quoting of Archbishop Michael Miller’s book (which I’m now going to pick up) is far more in line with what I have read as I’ve worked my way through the history of the Church. There’s no smoking Gun on either side, or rather, if it exists, I haven’t seen it, nor any evidence that builds anything other than a weak Eisegetical attempt at establishing the position as it is understood by the Roman church today.

    I was referred by Devin Rose to your article, which was very good even if I don’t agree with it’s conclusions.

    You’ll be on my reading list :)

    Cheers

    -Paul-

  5. Great post Dr. Anders. I have been thinking about Catholic/Orthodox relations a lot lately due to discussions with an Orthodox co-worker. What I have found is that there is just simply a lot of miscommunication and misunderstanding (on both sides), mixed up real good with a lot of cultural differences, pride, fear, prejudice, and mistrust. If the pot is stirred, and all that “stuff” is moved away briefly, we can see down at the bottom of the pot the real issue of the papacy and its corollary issue the filioque. But just for a brief glance. I find that the bulk of our discussion is usually about perceived barriers to reunion put up by Catholics like priestly celibacy, lack of beards, strange devotional practices, different (and presumably suspect) miracles of Catholic saints, such a stigmata, use of unleavened bread, purgatory, crusades, “the” inquisition, Catholics proselytizing in Orthodox lands, and the list goes on. All these issues have nothing to do with what really divides us… or so I thought. Because I find that they end up being the points talked about the most by my Orthodox friend.
    So when the issue of papal primacy comes up, the discussion then seems to be heavily colored by a sense of mistrust and bad blood based on all these other issues. It is at that point where there is absolutely no admission on his part of any sort of Roman primacy at any point in the past (which is so ahistorical it is hard to respond too), no current or future need or desire for any kind of papal primacy, and just a dismissal of the whole question of primacy as a sad preoccupation of poor Catholics.
    But this attitude goes against what you present in this article. If we read even just what Maximus the confessor wrote, and even what Bishop Ware says today about the Roman primacy, how can many Orthodox continue to just dismiss the primacy entirely? I would love some suggestions on how to deal with this reccurring problem.

    Dave Brown (#1):
    Statement from your excerpt:

    “Only in matters of appellate jurisdiction were the Orientals willing to submit, on a regular basis, to Roman decisions. In the first millennium, the East recognized that the bishop of Rome had the right to hear appeals from other churches that came to him for judgment.”

    If an Orthodox can affirm that then they believe in the pope as the “supreme pontiff” of the Church, for the same reason we call our U.S. appellate court the “Supreme Court”. It is the highest decision maker in the land. Period. If they would submit to an appellate decision as binding on them, then the one appealed to has jurisdiction (to some degree) over them. This seems to me to be in total accord with what Papal Infallibility claims. I am tempted to say “so what’s the big deal!”
    Perhaps seeing the dogma from this “appellate” perspective could enable the modern Orthodox to reconsider it.

  6. If I may, there are two titles written from an Orthodox perspective that I’d highly recommend to those interested in understanding how Orthodox interpret the first millennium interplay between Rome and the Eastern patriarchates. There is simply too much polemical material out there that filters the history through events after the Schism. And, yes, we Orthodox are just as guilty at times at distorting the historical evidence.

    First, I’d recommend Fr. John Meyendorff’s “Imperial Unity and Christian Divisions,” which has just been reprinted after being out of print for many years. It covers in depth many of the events and personalities Dr. Anders refers to in this article (Pope St. Leo, Chalcedon, Formula of Pope St. Hormisdas, etc.) This book, however, is more for the serious reader but I dare say that reading it will be rewarding.

    Second, and perhaps more accessible to most readers is Fr. Laurent Cleenewerck’s book “His Broken Body: Understanding and Healing the Schism Between the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches.” In it, Fr. Laurent, a priest of the Orthodox Church in America, takes issue with polemical writers on both sides. Of course, he takes an Orthodox position but he is far more balanced in his approach than some Orthodox writers in the past have been. He ends with practical ideas towards healing the schism between our Churches.

  7. Garrison,

    You said:

    While Peter is the head of the Apostolic College, he is not himself this College and cannot define or act in opposition to it so as to destroy the unity of the Apostles.

    If that is true then he is not the head. When I read this I thought of the Arian controversy, when Athanasius and the pope were “against the world”. Did this opposition of a minority of the apostolic college and the general episcopate “break the unity” of the college of the apostles? It seems to me that under your view of primacy you must say that it did. Yet there we have the primacy in all its glory, and the promise of Christ to not let Peter’s faith fail.

    …the East (not in the Roman communion) has no reason to accept Rome as truly being interested in fraternal collegiality and should politely, but firmly, refuse interference except when requested or in extraordinary circumstances.

    “except when requested or in extraordinary circumstances”
    Doesn’t the word “except” sort of give away the farm? I think Rome, out of love for the brothers, will have to back way off as far as the everyday, run-of-the-mill “interference” you describe before unity can happen. But I don’t see how what you just wrote about “extraordinary” circumstances conflicts with what Pastor Aeternus says at all. If you let the camels nose of papal interference for “extraordinary circumstances” under the eastern tent, then you have let the whole camel in. Because who is to determine what is extraordinary? The party with the extraordinary problem can’t usually see it. But the one intervening can, and therefore must have the right to interfere whether such interference is wanted or not. It must be all or nothing, because in the case of potential heresy in the episcopate (which historically, is anything but theoretical), the heretic will immediately reject interference on any grounds he can if he is given the chance.
    So I agree that primacy should only be exercised in what is generally considered extraordinary circumstances, and should only be exercised in the east within the context of the college of the apostles, and if in their own affairs, then by their request and with their consent as much as is possible. Generally this should be the way things work… it is the way of love and mutual respect, and Rome has lacked this love at many times over the years, it is true. The pope should be the servant of his brothers, and should rarely invoke his privilege. But the “nuclear option” (the popes ability to intervene in any and every area of the episcopate) must remain on the table. The primacy must retain the ability to steer the ship when all hands have mutinied (think Arianism). In such “extraordinary” circumstances, no one asks permission of the captain for permission to mutiny, no one asks him to steer, and no one cares what the captain says. So it must be understood by all hands that the captain is the one to follow in case of mutiny. If the captain “lords it over” the crew and abuses his position, then he has been a fool and caused scandal. But his unique position still remains and the crew still owes him obedience. Perhaps by such obedience of the crew, the captain will end up napping in his bunk most days while the first mate steers the ship. Perhaps in time, a trusting relationship could develop where his “extraordinary” authority is rarely exercised.

    Peace,

    David Meyer

  8. Dave Brown, Paul, and Garrison,

    Using historical evidence to understand what the church of the first millennium believed about papal authority requires three important things:

    (1) letting the clear evidence inform the unclear evidence;
    (2) being careful about burdens of proof; and
    (3) accepting ambiguity where we find it.

    Too often, silence from the East on an issue is taken to mean not consent (as I think it usually should), but rather an explicit rejection of papal claims.

    In particular, when it is clear that a significant portion of the Church explicitly acknowledged a theological claim, then the rest of the Church in communion with that portion should be taken to agree with that claim unless explicit evidence is drawn up to the contrary. Thus, the burden of proof is on those who would show that the Eastern Christians of the first millennium rejected papal claims. This implies that unclear and indirect evidence regarding their opinions about papal authority cannot override positive and clear evidence regarding papal authority, from whatever portion of the Church in communion with the East that evidence is found.

    Finally, regarding jurisdiction: given the difficulties in travel and communication, given the long-standing ambition of the patriarchs of Constantinople, given the violent interference of emperors, and given the horrendous political and theological warfare throughout the Byzantine empire, one has to accept that there will always be multiple explanations of any given instance of either Eastern acceptance or Eastern rejection of papal jurisdictional actions. In any given instance, it could have been: what they really had been taught to believe; what the geographical costs required; what the magnificent ambitions of Constantinople’s elite clergy desired; what the emperor demanded; or what political necessity in a time of warfare dictated. In light of this, I think one needs to take a step back and adopt a position of epistemic humility regarding the papal data on byzantine jurisdictional actions in particular.

    From what I can discern, there are two things that are abundantly clear in the data of the first millennium:

    (1) Doctrinal Authority: The popes claimed a final doctrinal authority that was worldwide, and more than enough people in both the East and West accepted this authority even during times relatively free of warfare, political interference, and strife to make the rejection of this evidence by us today inconsistent with our acceptance of historical evidence for most of the other doctrines we care about. We can’t have the Eucharist on history if we won’t take the worldwide doctrinal authority of the Bishop of Rome on history.

    (2) Jurisdictional Authority: The popes actually did replace bishops who reported to Eastern patriarchs; they did really engage in jurisdictional actions on a worldwide scale. But because the sample size of Eastern jurisdictional actions is small, and because it was so logistically difficult to undertake those actions that it didn’t make sense to do so except in times of extreme emergency, we as a result do not have enough clear evidence to conclude whether the occasional controversy over those actions implies that: (a) the popes were really thought to have no right to do this except perhaps in extreme circumstances and even then merely as political convenience dictated; or (b) they did have the right but they should have used it even less frequently than they did; or (c) merely that they used it so rarely (due to geographical constraints) that some people who didn’t get what they wanted out of these interventions were tempted to complain about them when they finally did occur.

    Given the firm evidence on the first point, and the unavoidable ambiguity on the second point, where does that leave us?

    Well, the Pope has long declared that it is a matter of doctrine that he has the right to engage in jurisdictional actions if he sees fit. So therefore, first of all, (1) implies (2). Second, only one Church today has anything approaching (1). So looking for greater historical authenticity by adopting the modern Orthodox approach won’t work: we’d throw out something for which we have better historical evidence than we do even for the real presence (1), all in order to preserve one particular interpretation of the very messy historical evidence encapsulated in (2). That would be letting the unclear interpret the clear in a very big way.

    Sincerely,

    K. Doran

  9. For K. Doran:

    My time is limited but I’d like to address this point:

    “In particular, when it is clear that a significant portion of the Church explicitly acknowledged a theological claim, then the rest of the Church in communion with that portion should be taken to agree with that claim unless explicit evidence is drawn up to the contrary. Thus, the burden of proof is on those who would show that the Eastern Christians of the first millennium rejected papal claims.”

    This assumes that the first millennium Church worked much like the modern Roman Catholic Church works. Well, it didn’t.

    Let’s use the Council of Chalcedon for an example. Pope St. Leo (a saint venerated by both Orthodox and Catholics) wrote his famous Tome addressing the christological issue at hand and presented it to the Council as a fruit of his ministry as St. Peter’s successor. (Let it be clear that Orthodox don’t deny a primacy to Rome — it’s how the primacy is to be understood relative to the episcopacy as a whole that becomes the issue — and there was a recognition of the Roman pope as successor to St. Peter — but not as the only successor the St. Peter.) We often hear how St. Leo triumphed at Chalcedon, but this was no “slam dunk” for Pope St. Leo. While Pope St. Leo had sent a letter asking that no debate be allowed on the subject, this request was never read to the Council. Fr. John Meyendorff explains:

    “No wonder [Leo’s] legates were not allowed to read this unrealistic and embarrassing letter [asking for no debate] before the end of the sixteenth session, at a time when acrimonious debates on the issues had already taken place! Obviously, no one in the East considered that a papal fiat was sufficient to have an issue closed. Furthermore, the debate showed clearly that the Tome of Leo to Flavian was accepted on *merits*, and not because it was issued by the pope. Upon the presentation of the text, in Greek translation, during the second session, part of the assembly greeted the reading with approval (“Peter has spoken through Leo!” the shouted), but the bishops from the Illyricum and Palestine fiercely objected against passages which they considered as incompatible with the teachings of St. Cyril of Alexandria. It took several days of commission work, under the presidence of Anatolius of Constantinople, to convince them that Leo was not opposing Cyril. The episode clearly shows that it was Cyril, not Leo, who was considered at Chalcedon as the ultimate criterion of christological orthodoxy. Leo’s views were under suspicion of Nestorianism as late as the fifth session, when the same Illyrians, still rejecting those who departed from Cyrillian terminology, shouted: “The opponents are Nestorians, let them go to Rome!” The final formula approved by the council was anything but a simple acceptance of Leo’s text. It was a compromise, which could be imposed on the Fathers when they were convinced that Leo and Cyril expressed the same truth, only using different expressions.” (Imperial Unity and Christian Divisions, p. 156)

    The reality we see here in the first millennium Church is that while a Pope might be confident of having St. Peter’s assistance in his ministry, an ecumenical council was free to examine and vigorously debate the merits of a solemn document sent to them by the Pope. This is the same sort of relationship Orthodox would expect in a reunited Church.

  10. Dave Brown,

    I never “assume[d] that the first millennium Church worked much like the modern Roman Catholic Church works.” What you wrote afterwords does not demonstrate that I assumed this, nor do I see how it is connected to anything that I said.

    I also disagree with your interpretation of Chalcedon, but let’s save that for another time.

    Sincerely,

    K. Doran

  11. K. Doran,

    All you have to do is read the minutes of Chalcedon to see that his interpretation is indeed correct. Also, our view of Ecclesiology is embedded in the canons of various Ecumenical councils. That in and of itself is way more authoritative(to us) than the statements of an individual.

  12. K. Doran,

    I should never write on such subjects like these when I’m short on time. I can see how the thought processes behind what I wrote would not make sense. Please accept my apologies.

    I’ll try to connect the dots, if I can. I was responding to your statement:

    “The popes claimed a final doctrinal authority that was worldwide, and more than enough people in both the East and West accepted this authority even during times relatively free of warfare,…”

    You had said that the “burden of proof” was ours to show such was not true. So, my citing the example of how Pope St. Leo and the Council of Chalcedon interacted was my attempt to counter your claim. Pope St. Leo knew he might have some trouble with the Council and he attempted to forestall it by asking that no debate be held. Of course, that wasn’t possible and his Tome was judged on its merits by the Council. In the first millennium Church the Pope of Rome was greatly respected but his doctrinal statements were open to review and possible censure. Your statement above implied to me that you viewed the first millennium Church much like how the modern Roman Catholic Church works. That apparently was a wrong assumption on my part and, again, I apologize for that.

    I do think the situation at Chalcedon is germaine to determining whether “more than enough people in both the East and West accepted this [papal doctrinal] authority” as you stated above. As historian Trevor Jalland noted, the idea of “the absolute superiority of a papal judgment to the authority of an oecumenical council” was not present at that time:

    “The assertion with which the third chapter [of Pastor Aeternus] concludes, that the
    Roman Pontiff is the supreme judge of all Christians in ecclesiastical
    causes, and that his decision is not open to reconsideration even by
    an oecumenical council, simply formulates afresh a claim on the
    part of the Roman see made in principle at least as early as the fifth
    century. Yet even if the view that the Papacy constituted a final court
    of appeal in cases involving the judgment of bishops had been
    generally conceded by that time, at any rate wherever the influence
    of Caesaropapism had not made itself felt to any marked extent,
    the same does not appear to be true of the absolute superiority of a
    papal judgment to the authority of an oecumenical council. It was
    certainly not accepted by those who took part in the second council
    of Ephesus (449), which styled itself oecumenical; even at Chalcedon,
    the orthodoxy of which every Pope from Leo I onwards upheld
    with the utmost zeal, it is quite clear that the papal Tome was only
    adopted after it had been very carefully examined, and then not
    without a certain measure of opposition.” (The Church and the Papacy, p. 530)

    On balance, Jalland does say next:

    “Nevertheless, as we have seen, in the pre-Nicene period there are
    signs that Roman judgments were regarded as possessing general
    validity and a universal significance which not even the imposing
    machinery of an oecumenical council could normally ignore. More-
    over it needs to be borne in mind that it was never quite clear
    whether such a council owed its authority to the fact that it expressed
    the will of the Emperor for the time being, or that it was subsequently
    confirmed by the Pope.”

    Text here:

    http://archive.org/stream/TheChurchAndThePapacyByJalland/The_Church_And_The_Papacy_Jalland#page/n541/mode/2up

    From what I can see, the evidence of how the Pope and the episcopacy worked together in the first millennium Church does not favor either Catholic or Orthodox apologists. I believe the truth lies somewhere in between. That is why I suggested the two books above by Fr. John Meyendorff and Fr. Laurent Cleenewerck who, I believe, take note of these untidy elements in the history.

  13. Gentlemen:

    Even the most irenic Orthodox scholars admit that Orthodoxy has yet to reach a clear and practically useful understanding of universal primacy. What makes them irenic, and thus amenable to discussion, is their awareness that some such understanding is necessary. Accordingly, and on their own showing, the “primacy-of-honor-but-not-of-jurisdiction” model won’t do. It’s just marching on the spot. The question for the Orthodox is what would do. Collectively, they aren’t prepared to answer that question.

    I suspect that David Meyer and many others are right to suggest that the chief obstacles to reaching the needed answer are cultural and historical rather than theoretical. What’s been retarding progress is the insistence of Orthodox bishops on maintaining their “traditional” prerogatives, vis-à-vis both the Rome of the first millennium and each other. When I was investigating Orthodoxy as a college student, I found the theological basis for such intransigence to be underwhelming. It amounts to saying “What we are is how we’ve always done things, and Rome is mean and nasty for wanting to change that.” It is precisely that insistence which constitutes the present situation and must soften if any progress is going to be made.

    Of course, Rome too is going to have to make some practical concessions, such as agreeing not to intervene in the East on non-dogmatic matters unless asked to by the synods concerned. But the million-dollar question is whether the universal protos may ever exercise immediate jurisdiction over the whole Church. So long as the Orthodox answer is no, they will not accept any clear and practically useful understanding of universal primacy. They need to remember the old chestnut: “If I submit only when I agree, the one to whom I submit is me.”

    Best,
    Mike

  14. Mike,

    The Orthodox are quite clear on what won’t do, namely universal and immediate jurisdiction. Certainly their idea isn’t perfect or even unified in many ways, but that does not prove they are wrong (or that Rome is right). They have been rejecting such absolute jurisdiction since at least the fourth century and probably before, e.g.: the negative response of St. Basil concerning Rome’s attempts to install Paulinus as bishop of Antioch over St. Meletius.

    Certainly there are many obstacles that are both cultural and historical, but there are also theoretical obstacles at play here. The insistence of the Orthodox is the maintenance of their apostolic traditions (even the Tradition itself) and that those cannot subject to papal rule. Your characterization of their objections is a caricature of what they believe. Of course, they can turn it right around in like manner: “Rome is mean and nasty to insist on 1. having power she never had and 2. demanding absolute obedience when the East regularly denied she was due such.” And so, they can just as easily say: “It is precisely that insistence which constitutes the present situation and must soften if any progress is going to be made.”

    The East doesn’t seem to be interested in such practical concessions because: 1. we’ve tried this before and still ended up splitting over the same problem; nothing less than absolute agreement with specifics of what can and cannot happen on this subject will be amenable to them, and 2. Rome is, by her own admission, not bound by any agreements she makes as seen by the abrogation of the terms of the Unions of Brest and Uzhhorod. They have functioned fine without such an understanding of papal primacy for two millennia, so why do they need it now? Many Orthodox scholars seem to agree that they need to examine the data to try to develop a unified theory of primacy, but that does not mean Rome’s theory is correct. As for what is a “practically useful understanding of universal primacy”, that is highly subjective.

    “If I submit only when I agree, the one to whom I submit is me.”
    So, to whom (or to what) does the pope submit?

    IC XC NIKA

    Garrison

  15. Very well said, Mike.

    Ultimately, doctrinal authority and jurisdictional authority are related in deep ways. The place where the buck stops during worldwide doctrinal controversies must also be a place that can engage in worldwide jurisdictional actions: if it is not such a place, then doctrinal truth becomes separated from the determinants of communion. The Church would then face the prospect of the permanent harboring of well-defined heterodox subgroups even though those subgroups, by the Church’s own doctrinal definitions, are openly proclaiming heterodox doctrine. The only solution is to have a link between worldwide doctrinal authority and at least the possibility of worldwide jurisdictional authority. Anything less and the worldwide doctrinal authority becomes a dead letter. I believe this says a lot about why the various Eastern Orthodox magisteria have not had a unified, public, and unyielding doctrinal response to new moral issues such as modern contraception.

    Sincerely,

    K. Doran

  16. The Catholic position is always an all or nothing prospect in regards to the papacy, K. Doran’s comments reflect that mindset of centralized universal jurisdiction being the only viable answer. There should be no argument that Rome was considered the keeper of doctrine, and was called upon repeatedly to solve issues of dispute.

    The problem isn’t with the Bishop of Rome, the problem is with the Roman Catholic development of the Papacy from being one of the five patriarchs, into something that can be neither shown from History, the Deposit of Faith, or Scripture. When Pius rammed infallibility into Dogma in 1854, and let’s be honest, even the most jaded apologists can’t deny that the decision didn’t have the shadow of pressure and questionable decisions from the pope. Pius didn’t just overreach, he put the Church in a very tenuous position. It was inevitable if you look at the balancing nature the East had on the West, despite Catholic claims to the contrary there is ample evidence that papal decisions where never looked at as being the final authority in all situations.

    For me the proof of burden is not on the East to disprove Catholic claims of the papacy, it’s on the Catholics to show clear proof that the dogmatic decisions of the 1800’s and later, actually have more of a foundation, than the magical idea of the Doctrine of Development. For a long time I didn’t understand why the East looked at the Catholics and Protestants as not being any different, but I do now.

    There is no clear evidence for the Catholic claims of the papacy in the early church writings, it’s more than a coincidence that same Peter who’s seat now resides in Rome, first started the church in Antioch, who like the rest of the Eastern churches dispute the Catholic claims around the papacy. Why is that?, how could the same Apostles get it so wrong on one side, and so right on the other?. And why did it take 1854 years, skipping over seven ecumenical councils before the Catholic claims to the Papacy where made dogmatic?

    What I personally have seen in my studies, is that the Papacy has gone through an evolution that was effected by culture, doctrinal development, and men who where always redefining what the papacy’s limits where. Once separated from the East, the change continued to the penultimate doctrinal decisions made by Pius IX.

    -Paul-

  17. Thanks for seeking to clarify what Archbishop Roland Minnerath really meant.

    There are currently 22 sui iuris Churches in communion with Rome. These are Eastern-rite Catholics, with their own hierarchies, canons, and liturgies, but which nevertheless accept all the claims of the Pope.

    All of the sui iuris Churches are bound to follow an Eastern code of canon law as promulgated in 1994 by Pope John Paul II, and some of them don’t even have their own patriarch. Their “independence” is not as real as it might seem.

    Plus, it makes sense that they would accept “all the claims of the pope”–they have no choice, if they wish to remain in communion with Rome. For a lot of Eastern Catholics, most of whose Churches are quite small, it may have been easier to swallow the bitter pill and accept as a fait accompli the various dogmas which have been promulgated in the centuries after the agreements of Brest-Litovsk et al. The Melkite patriarch did not take action to rejoin the Antiochian Orthodox autocephalous church despite reportedly being knocked to the ground by the pope’s bodyguards in order to extract Gregory II’s assent to the Vatican I dogmas. The model of “unity” as understood by the reigning pope and with which the Melkite patriarch (if this incident is factual) came face to face was not of equality but submission. It was necessary for Vatican II to call upon the Eastern Catholic Churches to revive their rich patrimony and do away with the latinizations. The Eastern Orthodox Church will, one can expect, desire in case of reunion some ironclad assurances, with an enforcement mechanism, of the pope acting as not an absolute monarch but a humble servant.

    Each of them has their own unique history with Rome. Many have suffered persecution in the East for their fidelity to the Holy Father. To discuss each in detail is beyond the scope of this article, but their present existence puts the lie to the claim that Eastern Churches have never accepted Papal claims.

    I’m not going to deny that the Eastern Catholic Churches and faithful “suffered persecution” at the hands of, e.g., the communist regimes “for their fidelity” to Rome. But it’s a non sequitor to argue that Eastern Orthodox coming into communion with the pope hundreds of years after the Great Schism shows prima facie that the East “accepted papal claims”. Those who signed the various agreements may have been motivated more by, e.g., political than theological concerns. You will have to give at least a few examples where the rationale for inking a reunion accord was clearly the discovery of the West to be teaching the true faith after all.

    In 517, the Monastery of St. Maron could address Pope Hormisdas as “Hormisdas, the most holy and blessed patriarch of the whole world, the holder of the See of Peter, the leader of the apostles.”

    We cannot assume, however, by this flowery language that the Maronites believed in universal ordinary jurisdiction at that time. In all such cases we have to look at the historical context: e.g., did the Maronites wish to cajole the bishop of Rome into aiding them in some fashion?

    It is worth noting, furthermore, that Byzantium itself was not fully united with Constantinople in issuing the excommunications of 1054. Intercommunion between Eastern and Western Christians persisted for many years after 1054. Many, including the Slavs whose descendants reunited with Rome through the Unions of Brest and Uzhhorod, only accepted the schism as a reality as the centuries went on. (We should also recall that the excommunications have been revoked.)

    The excommunications were of individual hierarches, not whole churches, though.

    As Archbishop Minnerath points out, the doctrine of Petrine primacy was never a cause of schism with the East. Even Photius and Cerularius, the critical players in the East-West schism, never argued that the Petrine doctrine could justify schism. Therefore, to the extent that modern Orthodoxy rejects reunion with Rome on this basis, to that extent Orthodoxy is novel.

    Until the definitions of Vatican I, the precise character of the papacy’s role was up for discussion among Catholics. If the East was always fully aware of what the West believed about the privileges of the pope, it may have figured that, as long as no definitive proclamations were made, the role of the papacy could be differed over and hammered out in better times.

    Furthermore, there can be little doubt that ancient Byzantium understood the Roman claim to Petrine succession, and at times even acquiesced to it. Thus, the Libellus Hormisdae (519), signed by Byzantine bishops, reads…

    Wasn’t this document signed under difficult circumstances, even with the bishops facing pressure and coercion to give their assent?

    Nichols points to a possible rejoinder to these texts. Namely, the East only acquiesced to Roman claims when desperate or under duress.

    It’s also important to bear in mind that figures other than the pope were appealed to.

    Finally, there is ample evidence that individual Byzantine Church leaders understood and embraced the doctrine of the papacy.

    Did they ever refer to the pope’s charisms of universal ordinary jurisdiction and doctrinal infallibility? Did they ever state explicitly or allude to implicitly a belief that being in communion with the bishop of Rome was equivalent to being in communion with the visible body of Christ?

    We could provide great lists of quotations

    Surely every Eastern Orthodox apologist and polemicist worth their blessed salt has at their disposal some lists equally long of patristic, canonical, and liturgical citations that they can bring out when quote wars commence to show how eminently reasonable their position is. A better way must be found, otherwise these discussions can never go anywhere.

    (see here, and here)

    The quotes collection at the first link provides a lot of citations about St. Peter, but this strategy fails to account for glowing comments by the Early Church Fathers about other apostles. (As for the Amazon book page at the second link, I don’t own “Upon This Rock” so can’t really comment.) The point of contention between East and West is not over the fact of St. Peter’s primacy, but the post-apostolic implications for the extent of the authority enjoyed by the bishop of Rome. So, it would be best if we stuck to quotes about the bishops of Rome and their role from various points in the history of the early Church following the death of St. John the Evangelist.

    but, as that seems rather pedantic, I prefer to select only one example: St. Maximus the Confessor (c. 650) (Thanks to http://www.fisheaters.com)…

    This is a very strong quote. I’d like to get your take, however, on an excerpt from the first rebuttal from Eastern Orthodox apologist Joseph Suaiden in a debate with Catholic counterpart Jerry Daffer about the role of the pope in the early Church.

    As to whether St Maximus recognized Roman Primacy, since he solely held communion with Rome and had broken communion with the monothelite sees. From the life of St Maximus the confessor (print: HTM, Boston 1982):

    “To which church do you belong? To that of Byzantium, of Rome, Antioch, Alexandria, or Jerusalem?”… To this the righteous man wisely replied, “Christ the Lord called that Church the Catholic Church which maintains the true and saving confession of the Faith. It was for this confession that He called Peter blessed, and He declared that He would found His Church upon this confession. However, I wish to know the contents of your confession, on the basis of which all churches, as you say, have entered into communion. If it is not opposed to the truth, then neither will I be separated from it.”

    The confession which they were proposing to the Saint was not Orthodox, of course, and so he refused to comply with their coercions….

    The Saint said, “They [the Patriarchs of Constantinople and Alexandria and all the other heretical bishops of the East] have been deposed and deprived of the priesthood at the local synod which took place recently in Rome. What Mysteries, then, can they perform? Or what spirit will descend upon those who are ordained by them?”

    [To this the interrogator asked if St Maximus alone would be saved; he replies that he cannot say, but that he would rather die than unite to heresy.—JS.]

    “But what will you do,” inquired the envoys, “when the Romans are united to the Byzantines? Yesterday, indeed, two delegates arrived from Rome and tomorrow, the Lord’s day, they will communicate the Holy Mysteries with the Patriarch. ”

    The Saint replied, “Even if the whole universe holds communion with the Patriarch, I will not communicate with him. For I know from the writings of the holy Apostle Paul: the Holy Spirit declares that even the angels would be anathema if they should begin to preach another Gospel, introducing some new teaching.”

    The Pope who would introduce the succumb to the teaching of monothelitism in the Roman Church would be Pope Honorius, condemned by the Sixth Ecumenical Council.

    God bless,
    T.

  18. Gentleman,

    The reason that the burden of proof is on Eastern Christians to show that the early Eastern Church definitively rejected some kind of worldwide papal authority is the following:

    (1) Everyone (presumably) agrees that the Roman Church at that time believed it had some kind of worldwide doctrinal authority, and that it believed it was not wrong to use jurisdictional authority to back up that doctrinal authority as necessary.

    (2) If two people are in communion with each other, then it is more likely that they agree than that they disagree, in the absence of other information.

    It is impossible that you disagree with (2). To do so would imply saying: “well, I thought that Fred agreed with John about this, but then I found out that they were in communion with each other. So now I know that more likely than not Fred disagrees with John.”

    What are the implications of the burden of proof? They imply that the Eastern Christians must supply equally powerful evidence on their side. But the evidence that is supplied tends to involve using unclear and ambiguous evidence to argue against clearer and less ambiguous evidence. This is a problem for the Eastern argument.

    Regarding the smaller points: I think it would be better to discuss Chalcedon and Maximus and others in their own posts. But suffice it to say for now that the evidence you have brought up regarding Chalcedon is unclear and ambiguous. Chalcedon needs to be interpreted in light of the fact that Bishops had been made to sign Leo’s tome before the debate even began, and the emperor had agreed with Leo that he would be head of the council before it even began as well. The existence of a debate with some of the bishops during the council merely shows that these bishops were not willing to be fully orthodox without persuasion. But we already knew this was true of many bishops, as the Robber Council demonstrates. If the fact that some bishops needed to be persuaded to believe in the Pope means that papal dogma is incorrect, then the fact that some bishops needed to be persuaded of christological orthodoxy also means that christological orthodoxy is incorrect. In fact, the latter is not true, and therefore the former is not true either.

    A better way to determine which type of doctrinal authority is orthodox is to look at what the clear evidence says. Some of the clearest evidence on this issue is from the Pelagian controversy. The Church was united around the world at the time, and the emperor supported the Church’s main bodies of authority (not pitting them against each other, etc). During this time, Pope Innocent’s writings and the reactions of the worldwide Church to these writings demonstrate clearly that the Bishop of Rome had a worldwide doctrinal authority that could over-rule the opinions of other bishops. This is much clearer and more complete evidence in favor of the Roman view than we have from any early source in favor of an Eastern view. Since the burden of proof is on the Eastern view, this implies that the probability lies with the Roman view.

    Sincerely,

    K. Doran

  19. Garrison (#14):

    You wrote:

    The Orthodox are quite clear on what won’t do, namely universal and immediate jurisdiction. Certainly their idea isn’t perfect or even unified in many ways, but that does not prove they are wrong (or that Rome is right).

    The Orthodox won’t do it now, of course, but they are not dogmatically committed to the denial of the Catholic dogmas of the papacy as defined at Vatican I. Therefore, their accepting those dogmas is theoretically possible given what Orthodoxy affirms, as distinct from what it denies.

    As to who can “prove” what, the question isn’t one of proof to begin with. If either the Catholic doctrine of the papacy, or its denial by the Orthodox, could be derived by straightforward deduction from some agreed-on dataset, that would already have been done and there would be no issue to debate. As always, the apologetical issue here is which interpretive framework for the available data yields the most consistent and cohesive conception of ecclesiastical authority. I reverted to Catholicism, rather than converting to Orthodoxy, because the answer to that question I reached was: “The Catholic.”

    Certainly there are many obstacles that are both cultural and historical, but there are also theoretical obstacles at play here. The insistence of the Orthodox is the maintenance of their apostolic traditions (even the Tradition itself) and that those cannot subject to papal rule. Your characterization of their objections is a caricature of what they believe. Of course, they can turn it right around in like manner: “Rome is mean and nasty to insist on 1. having power she never had and 2. demanding absolute obedience when the East regularly denied she was due such.” And so, they can just as easily say: “It is precisely that insistence which constitutes the present situation and must soften if any progress is going to be made.”

    That tu quoque on behalf of the Orthodox can be and has been offered by some Orthodox themselves, but it doesn’t address my point. Precisely because the Orthodox have no defined dogma that would make their ecclesiology irreformable–unlike the irreformable Christology defined at the first seven “ecumenical” councils–their insistence on those aspects of their ecclesiology which are incompatible with Catholicism’s is just that–an insistence, which does not follow from things they actually do affirm irreformably, by their own loose criteria of irreformability. Catholic ecclesiology, on the other hand, has clearer criteria for characterizing the relative degree of authority of various doctrines, and thus of which doctrines are irreformable; and by those criteria, Vatican I’s canons are irreformable. So the theoretical cost to the Orthodox of accepting the papal claims would be far less for them than the cost of repudiating Vatican I would be for Rome.

    They have functioned fine without such an understanding of papal primacy for two millennia, so why do they need it now?

    They have “functioned fine” by their own criteria for determining what is fine. But of course, the question is what really would be fine, aside from what those not in communion with Rome think is fine. So your point just begs the question.

    Many Orthodox scholars seem to agree that they need to examine the data to try to develop a unified theory of primacy, but that does not mean Rome’s theory is correct.

    I never suggested it does mean “Rome’s theory” is correct. But I think it’s a mistake here to talk in terms of ‘theory’. The purpose of acknowledging a universal primacy is precisely to have a way of determining what functions as a doctrinal and disciplinary authority-beyond-appeal for the whole Church. To assume that any account of such primacy is mere “theory” is already to have surreptitiously abandoned that purpose.

    As for what is a “practically useful understanding of universal primacy”, that is highly subjective.

    Actually, it’s pretty objective. A practically useful understanding of universal primacy would be one that posits some authority with doctrinal and disciplinary jurisdiction over the whole Church. A practically useless understanding would be one that does not.

    Best,
    Mike

  20. Paul,

    I think Michael’s answer above is very good. A good resource for examining what the state of the question is for the Orthodox on the papacy–and, as per Mike, it is not an irreformible doctrine, but a set of theological insistences– can be found in Adam DeVille’s recent book. DeVille is a Ukrainian Catholic and has sympathy for Orthodox concerns. He makes a number of suggestions for reforming the Latin Church to make it more acceptable to the Orthodox concerns (these suggestions I can not follow in totum). I reviewed the book here.
    http://www.catholicworldreport.com/Item/965/universal_primate_and_european_patriarch.aspx

    thanks,

    Dave

  21. Michael (re: post #21)–

    As to who can “prove” what, the question isn’t one of proof to begin with. If either the Catholic doctrine of the papacy, or its denial by the Orthodox, could be derived by straightforward deduction from some agreed-on dataset, that would already have been done and there would be no issue to debate. As always, the apologetical issue here is which interpretive framework for the available data yields the most consistent and cohesive conception of ecclesiastical authority. I reverted to Catholicism, rather than converting to Orthodoxy, because the answer to that question I reached was: “The Catholic.”

    Would you clarify, in your view, (1) what the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox interpretive paradigms are, and (2) why the former is better than the latter?

    That tu quoque on behalf of the Orthodox can be and has been offered by some Orthodox themselves, but it doesn’t address my point. Precisely because the Orthodox have no defined dogma that would make their ecclesiology irreformable–unlike the irreformable Christology defined at the first seven “ecumenical” councils–their insistence on those aspects of their ecclesiology which are incompatible with Catholicism’s is just that–an insistence, which does not follow from things they actually do affirm irreformably, by their own loose criteria of irreformability. Catholic ecclesiology, on the other hand, has clearer criteria for characterizing the relative degree of authority of various doctrines, and thus of which doctrines are irreformable; and by those criteria, Vatican I’s canons are irreformable. So the theoretical cost to the Orthodox of accepting the papal claims would be far less for them than the cost of repudiating Vatican I would be for Rome.

    How is the Eastern Orthodox position internally inconsistent by denying the papacy of Vatican I but holding to the christology of the seven ecumenical councils?

    They have “functioned fine” by their own criteria for determining what is fine. But of course, the question is what really would be fine, aside from what those not in communion with Rome think is fine. So your point just begs the question.

    In what concrete ways have the Eastern Orthodox not “functioned fine” since after (as Catholics would contend) and since before (as Eastern Orthodox would argue) the Great Schism?

    God bless,
    T.

  22. K. Doran (re: post #20)–

    The reason that the burden of proof is on Eastern Christians to show that the early Eastern Church definitively rejected some kind of worldwide papal authority is the following:

    (1) Everyone (presumably) agrees that the Roman Church at that time believed it had some kind of worldwide doctrinal authority, and that it believed it was not wrong to use jurisdictional authority to back up that doctrinal authority as necessary.

    (2) If two people are in communion with each other, then it is more likely that they agree than that they disagree, in the absence of other information.

    It is impossible that you disagree with (2). To do so would imply saying: “well, I thought that Fred agreed with John about this, but then I found out that they were in communion with each other. So now I know that more likely than not Fred disagrees with John.”

    Between the Great Schism and Vatican I, the papacy was still open for discussion among Catholics. That one faction might accept a certain view and a second faction might hold another was permissible at any given time between 1054 and 1870. Such camps would still be in communion with one another, as occasion had not yet arisen for the issue to be settled definitively and lines in the sand to be drawn.

    What are the implications of the burden of proof? They imply that the Eastern Christians must supply equally powerful evidence on their side. But the evidence that is supplied tends to involve using unclear and ambiguous evidence to argue against clearer and less ambiguous evidence. This is a problem for the Eastern argument.

    Regarding the smaller points: I think it would be better to discuss Chalcedon and Maximus and others in their own posts. But suffice it to say for now that the evidence you have brought up regarding Chalcedon is unclear and ambiguous. Chalcedon needs to be interpreted in light of the fact that Bishops had been made to sign Leo’s tome before the debate even began, and the emperor had agreed with Leo that he would be head of the council before it even began as well. The existence of a debate with some of the bishops during the council merely shows that these bishops were not willing to be fully orthodox without persuasion. But we already knew this was true of many bishops, as the Robber Council demonstrates. If the fact that some bishops needed to be persuaded to believe in the Pope means that papal dogma is incorrect, then the fact that some bishops needed to be persuaded of christological orthodoxy also means that christological orthodoxy is incorrect. In fact, the latter is not true, and therefore the former is not true either.

    A better way to determine which type of doctrinal authority is orthodox is to look at what the clear evidence says. Some of the clearest evidence on this issue is from the Pelagian controversy. The Church was united around the world at the time, and the emperor supported the Church’s main bodies of authority (not pitting them against each other, etc). During this time, Pope Innocent’s writings and the reactions of the worldwide Church to these writings demonstrate clearly that the Bishop of Rome had a worldwide doctrinal authority that could over-rule the opinions of other bishops. This is much clearer and more complete evidence in favor of the Roman view than we have from any early source in favor of an Eastern view. Since the burden of proof is on the Eastern view, this implies that the probability lies with the Roman view.

    What are some other examples of “clear” evidence for the Vatican I papacy and “unclear” evidence against it from the early Church?

    If it was acceptable for David Anders to base his argument in part on a quotation from St. Maximus the Confessor, it seems highly inconsistent for you to encourage others commenting to discuss elsewhere their “smaller points” which among other things include a second noteworthy citation from the very same blessed individual. If some of the relevant data is not to be put on the table concerning one person or event, a truly free and open discussion cannot take place.

    God bless,
    T.

  23. Hi Trebor135,

    You wrote:

    “Between the Great Schism and Vatican I, the papacy was still open for discussion among Catholics. That one faction might accept a certain view and a second faction might hold another was permissible at any given time between 1054 and 1870. Such camps would still be in communion with one another, as occasion had not yet arisen for the issue to be settled definitively and lines in the sand to be drawn.”

    This doesn’t really address what I said. It is still the case that two people who are in communion with each other are more likely to agree than to disagree, ceteris paribus. If this were not true, then we would have to say: “I thought Trebor agreed with Bishop Bob about ecclesiology, but then I found out they were in communion with each other. Unless someone gives me more evidence about Trebor’s views, I am going to have to conclude that he disagrees with Bishop Bob about ecclesiology, because, after all, he is in communion with the Bishop, and that is a pretty sure sign that he disagrees with him.” That would be silly. In the absence of other information, if all we know about two people is that they are in communion with each other, then it is more likely that they agree about a doctrine that one of them has publicly proclaimed than that they disagree about this doctrine. We then take that base probability and update it according to everything else we know about the people and about the time period in question. After updating our probability based on other information, we may conclude that they most likely disagree after all. So being in communion doesn’t end the story. But it does provide a starting position of a high probability of agreement. It is then up to the person who claims that people in communion disagree after all, to prove that they most likely disagree, building the case for disagreement on clear evidence that can overturn the natural presumption of agreement.

    You wrote:

    “What are some other examples of “clear” evidence for the Vatican I papacy and “unclear” evidence against it from the early Church?”

    Well, the Condemnation of Pelagianism is the clearest example that I know of of a binding worldwide papal doctrinal authority for the following reasons:
    (1) The Popes explicitly and very publicly claimed the following:
    — all doctrinal questions around the world must be brought to the Bishop of Rome’s attention so that from his Church the true knowledge can flow to all other Churches, even to the most distant provinces
    — This tradition was of divine, not human origin
    (2) The Popes backed up this requirement by asking the Emperor to ensure that Bishops signed the Pope’s Condemnation of Pelagianism. Bishops who refused to sign were removed from their sees.
    (3) This action involved the Pope’s at least implicit over-turning of the decision of the Bishop of Jerusalem.
    (4) Various saints explicitly recorded their affirmation of what the Pope claimed for himself (such as Saint Augustine and Saint Alypius). At the time, Saint Augustine was very well regarded in the East; he was eagerly desired at the First Council of Ephesus (he sadly died just before it started). His public affirmation of the Pope’s rather draconian (by modern Eastern Orthodox standards) intervention cost him nothing in popularity, it seems.
    (5) We are at the earliest possible date of history during which the data set is large enough to make very good arguments from silence. If the Eastern bishops had been offended by the claim the Pope made that it was of divine authority and known by all from the beginning that all doctrinal matters must be brought to Rome so that the truth can flow from Rome to all distant provinces, then we would know about it in the data. But I haven’t noticed any hubub about this in the data at that time, although I would be happy to learn of one if such a hubub exists.
    For more reading on this episode, see:
    Phil Vaz’s version of Dom John Chapman’s essay.
    The actual start of the essay, skipping all the intro stuff.

    So what we have here is the assertion that divine authority has given the Bishop of Rome the responsibility to send the truth on doctrinal questions like clear waters from their source to all distant provinces around the world. And this assertion is either explicitly or implicitly accepted by everyone except a few Pelagians. This happens in the early 400s, before which the data set starts getting so sparse that we rarely have a letter from a Pope for anyone to argue about, let alone the complete record of responses to those letters. As soon as the data set gets rich, while the Church is still united around the world, while the Donatists are coming back and before even the Nestorians have left, we have enough data to see the explicit announcement of papal doctrinal claims, the assertion that these have always been the rules, and the claim that this is of divine authority. Where is the schism in response? Isn’t this worth dying in a ditch for? If it is worth dying in a ditch for today, why wasn’t it worth dying in a ditch for in 417 AD?

    The simplest explanation of this clear evidence is that in 417AD Rome did have some kind of worldwide role in binding doctrinal authority above and beyond the role that other Churches claimed, that this was considered to be of Divine origin, and that most people accepted this, although I acknowledge that most likely no one knew for sure the details of how this had to work. There were some people (who were not heretics) who wrote as if the Pope was basically an oracle (see Peter Chrysologus). There were others who claimed a less strong view, but still claimed that the Pope could make permanently binding decrees. By my reading of the evidence, there were probably others at this time who held a still weaker and more modern view: that the Pope could make permanently binding doctrinal decrees, but that these only happened in very special circumstances, and that these decrees always needed to be interpreted in light of the past and would need to be interpreted in the future in light of any future decrees. There was legitimate diversity around this time. But the data from the Condemnation of Pelagianism is inconsistent with a view of the Church in which God did not intend for the Church of Rome to have the power to ever make binding doctrinal decrees on a worldwide basis.

    The other evidence in favor of the view that God intended for the Church of Rome to have the power to make binding doctrinal decrees around the world ranges from slightly less clear than the case above to much less clear. The other evidence has to be at least somewhat less clear because: (1) right after this period the Church started fragmenting (this does several things to our arguments which produce the end result of multiple interpretations of the evidence); and (2) before this period the data set gets so sparse that we don’t know for sure what it was that a given Pope wrote which caused so-and-so to agree with him and so-and-so to disagree with him, let alone exactly what was written to bring about the resulting conclusion of whatever episode we are considering. But, that said, there is substantial pro-doctrinal authority material in the period leading up to and following the Council of Ephesus, in the period leading up to and following the Council of Chalcedon, and in the periods reconciling the various schisms with Byzantium that continued to occur regularly until the (pray God not) final schism at the close of the millennium. Finally, read in light of the clear evidence, the actions taken by the Popes in the first 300 years of the Church also suggest that the Bishops of Rome always thought they had a binding doctrinal authority on the worldwide Church, and that a substantial number of other Bishops knew this.

    As for relatively unclear evidence in favor of the modern Eastern Orthodox view, I think that all of the apologetical arguments I’ve heard of fall into that category. I don’t want to rehash them here, but I am happy to discuss one if you care to bring it up. The thing is, I just haven’t seen one that is as powerful as even some of the slightly unclear “popes do have authority” arguments, much less as powerful as the arguments based on doctrinal controversy in the the United Church of the early 400s.

    You wrote:

    “If it was acceptable for David Anders to base his argument in part on a quotation from St. Maximus the Confessor, it seems highly inconsistent for you to encourage others commenting to discuss elsewhere their “smaller points” which among other things include a second noteworthy citation from the very same blessed individual. If some of the relevant data is not to be put on the table concerning one person or event, a truly free and open discussion cannot take place.”

    Don’t mistake me. I think Maximus is an important witness. And I think everything he said should be taken into account. I just felt that he is important enough to deserve his own thread. In regards to what you wrote: it is a perfectly modern Catholic view to hold the following opinion when pressed about a hypothetical Papal contradiction (as Maximus was by his jailers): (1) it is very unlikely that a Pope will contradict either himself, his predecessors, or otherwise already known doctrine; but (2), if he does, then his contradictory decree cannot be understood to be binding. There are many points of view on how to respond to the “but what if the Pope doctrinally defines something that contradicts doctrine” question when a Catholic gets it pressed upon him. Starting off by saying that you don’t think this is likely, as Maximus does, is a good way to begin. What you say afterwords is pretty much up for grabs — it depends in part on how many times your interlocutor presses the hypothetical. For what it is worth, I am with Maximus on this one (as I read him): first say you don’t think this is at all likely, then point out that the truth is still the truth. For the details of what hypothetically happens to his position of authority when a hypothetical Pope issues a hypothetical decree contradicting previously agreed-upon doctrine, join the conversation of modern Catholics who ponder such issues. But, in any case, like Maximus, I must start by saying that I don’t think that see will ever make such a decree.

    Sincerely,

    K. Doran

  24. Trebor (#21):

    You ask:

    Would you clarify, in your view, (1) what the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox interpretive paradigms are, and (2) why the former is better than the latter?

    Answering that question without raising more questions would require a book. But I already adumbrated my answer by saying that the Catholic IP yields “the most consistent and cohesive conception of ecclesiastical authority.” I don’t believe it takes a lot of argument to establish that. The real debate centers on the question whether that’s enough to establish the superiority of the Catholic IP ceteris paribus. I believe it is. The only way to counter that conclusion, it seems to me, is to argue that all other things are not equal. That’s a very tall order, and I’ve never seen it done in a way that doesn’t just beg the question.

    You ask:

    How is the Eastern Orthodox position internally inconsistent by denying the papacy of Vatican I but holding to the christology of the seven ecumenical councils?

    I did not say, nor did I imply, that Orthodox ecclesiology is internally inconsistent, in the sense of being logically self-inconsistent. It is not logically self-inconsistent because it is not dogmatically committed to any particular answer to the question under dispute: Whose decisions, under what conditions, bind the universal Church? Thus, Eastern Orthodoxy has no fixed position on the matter of primacy that could be self-inconsistent. What I said, rather, is that Catholic ecclesiological doctrine presents “the most consistent and cohesive conception of ecclesiastical authority.” The Catholic position is more consistent because it always gives the same answer to the question what makes a council’s decrees binding on the universal Church. We all know what that answer is. But the EOs do not always give the same answer.

    Some say that what makes a council’s decrees binding on the universal Church is that they are “received” by the universal Church–which leaves open the question who counts as belonging to the universal Church. On pain of circularity, they cannot exclude the Copts, Nestorians, and Jacobites from the universal Church, but each of those ancient churches rejected councils that the EOs say bind the universal Church. Some EOs, of course, say that the councils which bind the whole Church are those which are convoked and enforced over time by the Byzantine emperors. But that just seems to be a case of “picking the winner,” where the winners are secular ruler. And they do not agree on whether the approval (I do not say ‘participation’) of the Church of Rome is necessary for a council’s decrees to bind the universal Church–which is an important reason why they haven’t been able to hold even an allegedly “ecumenical” council for over 1,200 years. I could go on, but the point should be clear. The EOs do not have a clear, consistent, and agreed-upon answer to the question under dispute.

    In what concrete ways have the Eastern Orthodox not “functioned fine” since after (as Catholics would contend) and since before (as Eastern Orthodox would argue) the Great Schism?

    The EOs “function fine” by their own criteria. They do not function fine by Catholic criteria, since they have no clear, consistent, and agreed-upon account of universal primacy. So the more apposite question is whether such an account would be desirable ceteris paribus, and the task is to answer that question without begging it. A good many Orthodox theologians seem to think that a non-question-begging answer is both possible and desirable. But I don’t believe that such a road will lead anywhere save to Rome.

    Best,
    Mike

  25. […] pointed me to a link on the Papacy and the East (it can be found here: Archbishop Minnerath on Rome, the Papacy, and the East), while I was completely outclassed by the level of participants, my take away from the […]

  26. Michael (re: post #24)–

    Answering that question without raising more questions would require a book. But I already adumbrated my answer by saying that the Catholic IP yields “the most consistent and cohesive conception of ecclesiastical authority.” I don’t believe it takes a lot of argument to establish that. The real debate centers on the question whether that’s enough to establish the superiority of the Catholic IP ceteris paribus. I believe it is. The only way to counter that conclusion, it seems to me, is to argue that all other things are not equal. That’s a very tall order, and I’ve never seen it done in a way that doesn’t just beg the question.

    I wasn’t expecting a book-length response. :) I would like to know, however, by what means (logical, historical, theological) the sincere inquirer may reach your conclusions. Because we were not dialoguing during the period of your discernment between Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy, I have no idea how you came to choose the one over the other. If there are online or print materials you can recommend, I would certainly be open to checking them out. :)

    I did not say, nor did I imply, that Orthodox ecclesiology is internally inconsistent, in the sense of being logically self-inconsistent. It is not logically self-inconsistent because it is not dogmatically committed to any particular answer to the question under dispute: Whose decisions, under what conditions, bind the universal Church? Thus, Eastern Orthodoxy has no fixed position on the matter of primacy that could be self-inconsistent. What I said, rather, is that Catholic ecclesiological doctrine presents “the most consistent and cohesive conception of ecclesiastical authority.” The Catholic position is more consistent because it always gives the same answer to the question what makes a council’s decrees binding on the universal Church. We all know what that answer is. But the EOs do not always give the same answer.

    Some say that what makes a council’s decrees binding on the universal Church is that they are “received” by the universal Church–which leaves open the question who counts as belonging to the universal Church. On pain of circularity, they cannot exclude the Copts, Nestorians, and Jacobites from the universal Church, but each of those ancient churches rejected councils that the EOs say bind the universal Church. Some EOs, of course, say that the councils which bind the whole Church are those which are convoked and enforced over time by the Byzantine emperors. But that just seems to be a case of “picking the winner,” where the winners are secular ruler. And they do not agree on whether the approval (I do not say ‘participation’) of the Church of Rome is necessary for a council’s decrees to bind the universal Church–which is an important reason why they haven’t been able to hold even an allegedly “ecumenical” council for over 1,200 years. I could go on, but the point should be clear. The EOs do not have a clear, consistent, and agreed-upon answer to the question under dispute.

    OK, now your position is becoming clearer to me. :) It seems that one other matter has been overlooked and must be handled adequately before we can conclude that Rome, not Constantinople, is the way to go. Let us grant for the sake of argument that the Catholic answer to the question “Whose decisions, under what conditions, bind the universal Church?” in fact gives the “most consistent and cohesive conception of ecclesiastical authority” when compared to the Eastern Orthodox answers. Can it be demonstrated, however, that the early Church, in both East and West, from Nicea I (AD 325) to Nicea II (AD 787), held the Catholic answer–rather than, in different places, at different times, under different circumstances, giving some or all of the Eastern Orthodox answers?

    The EOs “function fine” by their own criteria. They do not function fine by Catholic criteria, since they have no clear, consistent, and agreed-upon account of universal primacy. So the more apposite question is whether such an account would be desirable ceteris paribus, and the task is to answer that question without begging it. A good many Orthodox theologians seem to think that a non-question-begging answer is both possible and desirable. But I don’t believe that such a road will lead anywhere save to Rome.

    Christianity is not a philosophy, but a divine revelation. The Catholic answer may be reasonable from the standpoint of how the Church would best function in an ideal world at present. But it may also be unsupportable from the data of how the Church actually operated in the real world during the first millennium. We must avoid anachronistically retrojecting our ideas back onto our Christian predecessors. :)

  27. Dear Paul,

    Did you have a specific objection to any of the points I raised in #8, #18, or #23? The description which you made in the link in #25 of how Catholic “apologists” deal with historical evidence did not resemble anything that I wish to do with historical evidence. But since you didn’t raise any specific objections to any of my statements there is no possibility of me responding to specific problems with my argument. What problem do you see? There are a lot of people who would rather find the truth than engage in self-deception. Suppose that you assume for the moment that I am one of them.

    Sincerely,

    K. Doran

  28. It doesn’t matter if Theodore Abu Qurrah understood the papacy as modern Catholics do. And this is not shown by the article – if one accepts that all bishops hold the Chair of Peter.

    Furthermore singular instances of easterners believing something does not amount to widespread belief. One can find a development of papal monarchy in the west. This means that modern Catholic understanding of papal monarchy was not widespread in the west either.

    Catholics, I believe, wish to have several arguments at once – that the papacy was both a legitimate development, and that it was always held to be so.

  29. Gentlemen:

    Rhys’ comment just above has alerted me to this thread again, months after I’d forgotten about it. I shall leave Rhys’ comment to David Anders. Here I want to reply to Trebor135’s #26, which is addressed to me.

    Trebor, you write:

    OK, now your position is becoming clearer to me. :) It seems that one other matter has been overlooked and must be handled adequately before we can conclude that Rome, not Constantinople, is the way to go. Let us grant for the sake of argument that the Catholic answer to the question “Whose decisions, under what conditions, bind the universal Church?” in fact gives the “most consistent and cohesive conception of ecclesiastical authority” when compared to the Eastern Orthodox answers. Can it be demonstrated, however, that the early Church, in both East and West, from Nicea I (AD 325) to Nicea II (AD 787), held the Catholic answer–rather than, in different places, at different times, under different circumstances, giving some or all of the Eastern Orthodox answers?

    I do not believe it can be demonstrated, by purely historical inquiry, that a belief logically equivalent to the present Catholic doctrine of papal primacy (call it ‘PCP’) was the consensus of the entire Church during the period of the “seven ecumenical councils.” My argument would only be that, given what we do know of the relevant history of the period, the truth of something logically equivalent to PCP is the best way to explain why each of those councils qualify as “ecumenical,” in the sense of representing and being normative for the whole Church. That is not a purely historical argument, because the point it’s making is more broadly epistemological and theological. But to object to such an argument on the ground that it isn’t purely historical would be to beg the question against the Catholic interpretive paradigm (CIP).

    Nevertheless, that’s the sort of objection you seem to offer. Thus you write:

    Christianity is not a philosophy, but a divine revelation. The Catholic answer may be reasonable from the standpoint of how the Church would best function in an ideal world at present. But it may also be unsupportable from the data of how the Church actually operated in the real world during the first millennium. We must avoid anachronistically retrojecting our ideas back onto our Christian predecessors. :)

    From the fact that we cannot know, from a purely historical standpoint, that “the Catholic answer”–i.e., PCP–is what was actually operative throughout the first-millennium Church, it does not follow that PCP lacks historical support. All that follows is that historical arguments alone are not enough to yield theological conclusions that are not just opinions, but are actually divinely revealed articles of faith. So if it’s a fact that Christianity is not a “philosophy”–which St. Justin Martyr would have been surprised to hear–it does not follow that the historical rootedness of divine revelation qualifies as an objection to my argument on behalf of the CIP.

    Best,
    Mike

  30. Michael Liccione it is my understanding that the proceedings of the first ecumenical council were read into the record at the second ecumenical council BEFORE that same first council had been accepted by the papacy.

    I may have understood this wrong, of course. But if that understanding is true it does seem to suggest that those at the council didn’t seem to think that the pope’s non-approval was a hamper to it being accepted.

    There was never a universal understanding of papacy in the west either – even if we look up to the First Vatican where a large number of (then) Catholics argued against something such as papal infallibility.

    Brian Tierney’s “Foundations of the Conciliar Theory: The Contribution of the Medieval Canonists from Gratian to the Great Schism” talks about different theories living side by side.

  31. Rhys (#30):

    You wrote:

    …it is my understanding that the proceedings of the first ecumenical council were read into the record at the second ecumenical council BEFORE that same first council had been accepted by the papacy. I may have understood this wrong, of course. But if that understanding is true it does seem to suggest that those at the council didn’t seem to think that the pope’s non-approval was a hamper to it being accepted.

    I don’t know what criterion you’re using for determining when the papacy had “accepted” the first Council of Nicaea. But in terms of the readily available evidence, I should think the papacy’s known public support for Bishop Hosius of Cordova–whose influence was vital at that council—and for St. Athanasius during the extended Arian controversy of the 4th century should suffice to show that it did. It is true that, after the Arian council of Sirmium in 356, Pope Liberius was coerced by a cruelly maintained exile into excommunicating Athanasius and signing a semi-Arian creed. But within less than two years–after the Arian emperor’s death–he had returned to Rome by popular demand, repudiated those actions of his, and annulled Sirmium’s acts. One might well say that Liberius should have underwent martyrdom rather than do the wrong he had done, but one cannot say he hadn’t really “accepted” Nicaea. Athanasius knew what Liberius had been going through and rejected the latter’s coerced actions from the start. I’ll take his judgment over others.

    You write:

    There was never a universal understanding of papacy in the west either – even if we look up to the First Vatican where a large number of (then) Catholics argued against something such as papal infallibility. Brian Tierney’s “Foundations of the Conciliar Theory: The Contribution of the Medieval Canonists from Gratian to the Great Schism” talks about different theories living side by side.

    If by “universal” you mean ‘consensually accepted by all concerned parties’, and if universality so understood were a necessary condition for a given doctrine’s binding the whole Church, then the councils of Ephesus and Chalcedon could not be binding on the whole Church, since they immediately caused schisms that persist to this very day. But such a view is no more compatible with Eastern Orthodoxy than with Catholicism. Yet if universality so understood doesnot require such consensus, then the fact that, before and during Vatican I, there were various divergent views in the Catholic Church on the authority of the papacy is neither here nor there.

    Best,
    Mike

  32. G’day all,

    The “If by “universal” rebuttal I think misses the point. The western church had a number of competing beliefs on what was the role of the Papacy. This is attested to by Tierney, et al.

    It’s know that during parliamentary committees in Britain (held to examine the question of Catholic emancipation) many leading churchmen denied papal infallibility. That is my understanding of Clifford, B., (ed.) (1985) “The Veto controversy: including Thomas Moore’s Letter to the Roman Catholics of Dublin”, (Athol Books), pp94-5

    “The Catholics of Ireland not only do not believe, but they declare upon oath… that it is not an article of the Catholic faith, neither are they required to believe, that the Pope is infallible.”
    The Dublin Review, Volume 2, December (1837) (William Spooner; London), p586.

    I accept that as it wasn’t defined one wasn’t ‘required’ to believe it, but that in fact proves the point. One could believe it, or not – up to Vatican 1. Unless someone’s going to try to prove to me that it was defined before Vatican 1, and that there was only one way of believing it.

    Many argued against it at First Vatican – even some who would eventually accept it – due to their over-riding belief in the ‘magisterium’ of the church (so it’s not like people who believed in something different and then schismed) – hence your example doesn’t work.

    Likewise the first point doesn’t work. Sending someone to a council doesn’t mean that the Pope was bound to that council’s rulings – does it? Therefore it still remains my understanding that the canons of that council were not accepted by the papacy at the time of Council #2. I still maintain an openess that I could be wrong on this, and that the papacy may have approved those canons quite early. But I am not aware that this is so.

    Both points therefore I believe talk past what I wrote.

  33. G’day again.

    I may not express myself well.

    If the pope approved of people going to a council, and even supported the beginning of a council it does not mean that they supported the council in the end.

    The issue is of “When did the papacy sign-up to the findings of the 1st Ecumenical Council?” As far as I know it wasn’t till after the 2nd had met.

    Thus any reply about the pope supported so-and-so doesn’t mean he signed support to that council.

    Since the issue of the Arians has been raised, I felt it odd that any council would get together to sound out matters for themselves when the pope had already given his ruling.

    Back on those days travel may be long, arduous and dangerous. For people to treck from all over to meet at a council to simply rubber-stamp approval for what the pope’s already decided doesn’t make any sense. It would be far easier for the pope to issue an encyclical and make copies go north and south to all the churches for them to read what he’s decided.

    I think that Catholic apologists have a hard slog in trying to show why any council would form AFTER the pope’s already ruled on a matter.

    Either his ruling was binding on them all, or it wasn’t.

  34. Greetings Rhys,

    Thanks for writing. I’m going to go back to your #28, and your observations concerning modern Catholic Papal theology.

    The main focus of the article is the Primacy of Rome in antiquity (east and west), and whether or not that Primacy was understood in biblical, Petrine terms, or in uniquely canonical terms. I acknowledge that some Byzantine theologians argued for a canonical justification for Roman primacy. The point of the article is that the Petrine claim is older and widely attested – even outside of the Latin West.

    It seems to me that we have to establish that point first before we go in for an interpretation of Papal infallibility which, after all, is not the point of the article.

    Thanks again,

    David

  35. Rhys (#32):

    I agree that we’ve been talking past each other. But I think so because I think you’re running together issues that need to be considered separately.

    In his article, David sums up his thesis is as follows (emphasis added):

    If we mean that Byzantine theologians offered alternative (and novel) readings of Papal primacy that Orthodox theologians would appropriate in the following millenium, then well and good. No argument here. (We must recognize, though, how very anachronistic it would be to identify modern Orthodoxy with Eastern Patrology tout court.) If, however, we mean that Petrine primacy was invented in the West, and rejected wholesale in the East as a novelty, then the evidence contradicts that claim.

    East and West both accepted the fact of Roman primacy, but the theory of a merely canonical primacy, deriving from convention or from Rome’s location as seat of the Empire is a later and exclusively Byzantine development. On the contrary, the earliest arguments for Roman primacy were exclusively theological¸ based on Rome’s fidelity to apostolic tradition or upon apostolic succession.

    The part of the article which follows that passage adduces the evidence for the thesis stated. It was the argument David makes on the basis of that evidence which you criticized in your #28, and he has now replied to your criticism in his #33. The debate on that score is solely about the historical evidence in East and West for belief in some relatively strong form of Roman primacy.

    Your criticism of my own views in your #30, however, was made in response to my #29, which was itself a reply to Trebor’s objection to those views. I took, and still take, the substance of your criticism in #30 to be that there has never been a “universal” understanding of papal primacy in either East or West. The substance of my response to that criticism is that, even if you are correct, your point is essentially irrelevant as a criticism of the present Catholic doctrine of the primacy (PCP). So there are basically three questions on the table in this discussion, and here’s how I frame them: (1) To what extent has there ever been an understanding of papal primacy shared by East and West? (2) If so, how specific is that understanding? (3) If no particular answers to (1) and (2) can be established as fact rather than just opinion, what doctrinal significance might that have? I agree with David’s answers to (1) and (2); you do not. I shall now leave those questions to you and David.

    Your #32 chiefly concerns my answer to (3)–which is, essentially, “None.” I argued for that answer in #30. But most of your #32 is not even relevant as a criticism of my argument. I gladly concede that divergent theories about papal primacy circulated in the West as well as in the East right up to and even during Vatican I. You don’t have to prove that to me by piling up scholarly references. But that fact is simply irrelevant to the question that was at issue between me and Trebor, which is what basis there is for preferring Catholic to Eastern-Orthodox ecclesiology.

    My central reply to Trebor on that score was this:

    I do not believe it can be demonstrated, by purely historical inquiry, that a belief logically equivalent to the present Catholic doctrine of papal primacy (call it ‘PCP’) was the consensus of the entire Church during the period of the “seven ecumenical councils.” My argument would only be that, given what we do know of the relevant history of the period, the truth of something logically equivalent to PCP is the best way to explain why each of those councils qualify as “ecumenical,” in the sense of representing and being normative for the whole Church. That is not a purely historical argument, because the point it’s making is more broadly epistemological and theological. But to object to such an argument on the ground that it isn’t purely historical would be to beg the question against the Catholic interpretive paradigm (CIP).

    Now to that argument, one of the historical points you make in #32 is faintly relevant. Thus you write:

    Sending someone to a council doesn’t mean that the Pope was bound to that council’s rulings – does it? Therefore it still remains my understanding that the canons of that council were not accepted by the papacy at the time of Council #2. I still maintain an openess that I could be wrong on this, and that the papacy may have approved those canons quite early. But I am not aware that this is so.

    That is faintly relevant because, if we knew that the papacy hadn’t even “accepted” Nicaea I (325) when Constantinople I (381) was convened, some would count such knowledge as evidence against the Catholic belief that papal acceptance of a council’s decrees is necessary for that council’s being ecumenical and those decrees’ thus binding the whole Church. Now on logical grounds alone, I don’t believe that such putative papal non-acceptance actually would be evidence against Catholic ecclesiology, but I leave that issue aside for the time being. What’s more pertinent is that you haven’t actually presented such evidence.

    I cited evidence that the papacy actually had accepted Nicaea I by the time of Constantinople I. The only criticism you have of my argument on that score is this:

    Sending someone to a council doesn’t mean that the Pope was bound to that council’s rulings – does it? Therefore it still remains my understanding that the canons of that council were not accepted by the papacy at the time of Council #2. I still maintain an openess that I could be wrong on this, and that the papacy may have approved those canons quite early. But I am not aware that this is so.

    The “someone” you’re referring to is Bishop Hosius of Cordova. But I also cited St. Athanasius and Pope Liberius. Rome saved the former on more than one occasion, and it’s clear where the latter’s sympathies were. You ignore all that. Criticizing my argument while not acknowledging all the evidence I present is just lame.

    Worse, your conclusion doesn’t even follow from your premise. From the fact that you lack evidence that the See of Rome had “approved” the canons of “Nicaea I” before Constantinople I had convened, it does not follow that you’re justified in “understanding that the canons” of the former “were not accepted by the papacy” at the time of the latter. That’s just an argument from ignorance, which ignores much of the relevant evidence about what happened in the Church between those two councils–some of which I cited. You haven’t even told us what you would consider sufficient evidence that Rome had approved Nicaea I. Nor have you explained what doctrinal significance, if any, the absence of such evidence would have.

    So, while I agree we’ve been talking past each other, I don’t believe I’m to blame for that.

    Best,
    Mike

  36. David, I have suggested that there was NO single idea of the primacy of the papacy, in antiquity, the modern world, any time.

    All that I have read shows this. The fact that at the time of Vatican #1 there were still discussion on what the church had always believed demonstrates this too.

    I also suggested that this was demonstrated in the ancient world – exampled by the meaning of ‘ecumenical council’ and how the first one hadn’t been accepted by the papacy by the time the second was underway.

    To this assertion is a speculation that the pope approving of someone doing something was the same as him approving the canons of the council. That’s a non-sequitur. Certainly the papacy had an interpolated version of Canon 6 of Nicea by the time of the 2nd council – which they attempted to use to bolster the position of the papacy.

    Historian Robert Eno said “There was also circulating an interpolated western version of the sixth canon of Nicea which stated flatly that the Roman church had always had the primacy. This had been presented at Chalcedon by the Roman representatives but had been rejected as inauthentic.”
    Eno, B., (1990) “The Rise of the Papacy” (Michael Glazier; Wilmington, DE), p123.
    It is further important that the second was presided over by Meletius who was not then in communion with Rome! After Meletius, Gregory of Nazianzus became the president of the council. “Gregory of Nazianzus, was not in western eyes the legitimate bishop of Constantinople.”
    Davis L. D., (1990), “The First Seven Ecumenical Councils (325-787) Their History and Theology”, (Liturgical Press, Minnesota), p129

    Furthermore my point re: the pope already ruling on the matter is still important. Why a council would convene after the pope’s made his ruling doesn’t seem to suggest that the church accepted it as binding on the church entire.

  37. David Anders article suggests arguments against itself. There is termed the “Syriac Tradition”. Either there’s universal notions of papal prerogatives, or there’s different notions of it. To call something a “Syriac Tradition” to my reading of it suggests that there’s a different school of thought. It has a different label; Syriac. If it were not different, why differentiate the title? It would instead just be “the tradition of the church”, not specific to a different region.

    Theodore Abu Qurrah’s writings on one matter are quoted.

    Anders’ article states from this one quote “Based on this tradition alone, it is simply impossible to argue without qualification that “The East” never accepted Roman claims.”

    One must conclude that Anders believes that Abu Quarrah’s writings represent ‘the east’. It would be better said

    “Based on this example alone, it is simply impossible to argue without qualification that some in “The East” never accepted Roman claims.”… and that is only if the papal claims include what Abu Quarrah says – that every one of the Ecumenical Councils was actually caused to be by the Pope. I am not sure if this is in fact a papal claim (or perhaps it is a more recent papal claim), because it is known that the first Ecumenical Council was ’caused’ by St. Constantine; equal of the Apostles.

    As to the claim specifically in the quote; the See of Peter is said, by a pope himself to exist in three different churches.

    In addressing the See of Alexandria, Pope Gregory said
    “Your most sweet Holiness has spoken much in your letter to me about the chair of Saint Peter, Prince of the apostles, saying that he himself now sits on it in the persons of his successors… Wherefore though there are many apostles, yet with regard to the principality itself the See of the Prince of the apostles alone has grown strong in authority, which in three places is the See of one…He himself stablished (sic) the See in which, though he was to leave it, he sat for seven years. Since then it is the See of one, and one See, over which by Divine authority three bishops now preside, whatever good I hear of you, this I impute to myself.”
    To Eulogius, Bishop of Alexandria Book VII, Epistle XL.

    Of this it is said: “Although his meaning is not entirely clear, Pope Gregory envisioned the see of Peter as being the principal see which gives firmness and stability to all the other churches. But he held to a threefold location [i.e., Alexandria, Antioch, and Rome] of the one chair of Peter, so that the one Petrine see seemed actually to be realized in three places—and that these three were somehow one.”
    La Due, W. J., (1999) The Chair of Saint Peter: A History of the Papacy (Orbis Books; Maryknoll, NY), pp67-68

  38. I think that this part of the article is actually highly misleading:
    “As Archbishop Minnerath points out, the doctrine of Petrine primacy was never a cause of schism with the East. Even Photius and Cerularius, the critical players in the East-West schism, never argued that the Petrine doctrine could justify schism. Therefore, to the extent that modern Orthodoxy rejects reunion with Rome on this basis, to that extent Orthodoxy is novel.”

    The east accepts Petrine primacy. But that’s not like saying “The east accepts ((modern) Catholic understanding) of Petrine primacy”.

    It’s a different thing; primacy and supremacy.

    I, as an Orthodox accept Petrine primacy.

    I don’t accept the Catholic understanding of it.

    The article is like saying “We all support football” and not noting that I support Rugby League (football) (go Eels!) whilst another might support Association Football (soccer), and another American football.

    The same ‘term’ with different definitions is vitally important. Likewise our understanding of ‘Catholic’ may differ.

    The article also misses the point re: the council at Ephesus. Nestorius was condemned as a heretic by the pope and yet still accorded all honour as befitting his position UNTIL the council had ruled on the matter.

  39. Rhys,
    Re: #37

    You utilized a commonly quoted letter of Pope Gregory the Great which when isolated from the rest of Gregory’s thought appears to present an egalitarian outlook of Rome, Alexandria, and Antioch. However, what is rarely, if ever, examined by those who seek to minimize Gregory’s view of the papacy is his response to Patriarch Eulogius in his letter 7.37. After receiving a letter from Eulogius, Patriarch of Alexandria, Gregory responded by writing the following:

    “In your letter, your most delightful Holiness said many things about the chair of Saint Peter, prince of the apostles, stating that he himself sits on it, right up to now, in the persons of his successors. And indeed, I myself recognize that I am unworthy, not only in the honor of those presiding, but also in the number of those just standing. But I gladly accepted everything that was said in it, because that man spoke to me about the chair of Saint Peter, who is sitting on Peter’s chair. And although special honor does not please me in any way, yet I was extremely happy, because you, most holy one, have given to yourself what you bestowed on me. For who would not know that the Holy Church was made firm by the solidity of the prince of the apostles, who brought firmness of mind into his name, to be called Peter from a rock? As the voice of Truth said to him: ‘I shall give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven.’ And again, it was said to him: ‘And once you have turned back, strengthen your brethren,’ and again ‘Simon, son of John, do you love me? Feed my sheep.’ Wherefore, although there are many apostles, yet, with regard to the principality itself, only the see of the prince of the apostles has grown strong in authority, which is in three places and belongs to one. For he himself elevated the see, in which he even deigned to rest and finish his present life.

    (Letter to Eulogius, bishop of Alexandria, 7.37, The Letters of Gregory the Great: Books 5-9, John R.C. Martyn)

    I think this clearly shows that although Pope Gregory viewed Rome, Alexandria, and Antioch to be one see in one sense, he also viewed Rome to have primacy in another sense.

    – Craig

  40. Anyway, I thank the site for allowing me to comment.

    Time constraints are drawing me elsewhere

  41. Hi Rhys,

    Thanks so much for your thoughtful interaction. I appreciate it.
    I would say, though, that I think you misconstrue the point of the article.
    I do not argue that everyone in antiquity understood the Papacy in terms of the Vatican I definition. Obviously not.
    The point of the article is just to establish that some Eastern Christians did accept the explicitly Petrine and biblical claims of the Papacy for its primacy. Not that they necessarily understood or explicitly embraced all that modern Catholics think that entails.

    I appreciate your affirmation of the Petrine primacy of the Pope, and I understand that you don’t see this in the way Catholics do. However, if you agree that the Papacy is Petrine, then you must agree that is of divine origin and necessary to the constitution of the Church. That is a very good starting point for further dialogue.

    Thanks so much again,

    God Bless,
    David

  42. G’day,

    Can I ask about one of your citations viz.;
    “If we look at churches established outside the patriarchal territoris of the Roman Empire, we find amazing support for the primacy of the See of Rome on the ground of the Scriptures and not of the synodical canons. So a Persian collection of 73 canons attributed to the council of Nicea and composed around the year 400 develops a mystique of the four patriarchates of Rome, Alexandria, Ephesus, and Antioch. The Syriac version says ‘the patriarch of Rome will have authority over all the patriarchs, as Peter had over the whole community.”

    What Persians said this? Were they “Orthodox” or heretical Christians?

    There is no conclusive evidence to show that the Council of Nicea was headed by papal legates, and that a canon of this Council elevated the church of Constantinople.

    Is it the argument then that ‘any’ person in the east accepted papal supremacy?

    I think that Catholics also wish to have two arguments at once; that the Popes have always had power over the church, but that it also developed. Thus they use as an argument that there’s no ‘objection’ to papal supremacy till recently. This however ignores argument from such as Cyprian who said none should set themselves up as a bishop of bishops
    (The Seventh Council of Carthage; The Synod held at Carthage over which presided the Great and Holy Martyr Cyprian, Bishop of Carthage.)

    He explicitly denied anyone held the type of primacy of the papacy.
    “For neither did Peter, whom first the Lord chose, when Paul disputed with him afterwards about the circumcision, claim anything to himself insolently, nor arrogantly assume anything, so as to say that he held primacy, and that he ought to be obeyed to novices and those lately come. ”
    (Epistle LXX – (Oxford ed.: Ep. lxxi.) Concerning the baptism of Heretics.
    I give the Oxford collection’s citations here because Cyprian’s epistles are numbered differently according to which collection they are in. )

    Neither Peter nor Paul claimed a primacy!

    Cyprian wrote harshly of the pope, suggesting arrogance and self-contradiction; “matters, which were either haughtily assumed, or were not pertaining to the matter, or contradictory to his own view, which he unskilfully and without foresight wrote.”
    (Epistle LXXIII. (Oxford ed.: Ep. lxxiv.) To Pompey, Against the Epistle of Stephen About the Baptism of Heretics)

    The use of the formula of one pope (you render this Libellus Hormisdae) is exceptionally misleading because it only notes that the formula was signed NOT that the people signing it added anything to it.

  43. Hi Rhys,

    thanks for writing.

    I think I see a few questions here.
    first of all, if you read through the post and Minnerath’s Essay you’ll see the implication that these canons are found throughout ancient Christianity – both in rites that remained in communion with Rome, and in rites that did not.

    Your question: “Is it the argument then that ‘any’ person in the east accepted papal supremacy?”

    The argument is that there is evidence that a specifically PETRINE supremacy was acknowledged in the East. I’m not arguing that that supremacy was acknowledged uniformly everywhere.

    Also, I’m not sure where you’re getting the notion that “Catholics” argue that Petrine supremacy was never contested until recently. I certainly say nothing of the sort in this article.

    As to your “two arguments at once” claim – I admit a qualified, “Yes.” The Bishop of Rome has always possessed a de jure authority over the universal church. He has obviously not always exercised a de facto authority over all Christians, nor has his authority gone uncontested. But what of it?

    Just for the sake of argument, please assume that Papal supremacy is an article of faith. How does it matter that this article has been contested? Can you think of any article of faith that has not been contested? I just don’t see that the charge has any relevance at all.

    The relevant facts are that Petrine supremacy is established by divine revelation, and that Roman Petrine succession is well established by sacred tradition. To believe that article is an act of faith.

    Thanks again,

    David

  44. David, you said “Also, I’m not sure where you’re getting the notion that “Catholics” argue that Petrine supremacy was never contested until recently. I certainly say nothing of the sort in this article.”

    The article says ” He also remarks, “It is worth mentioning that the Petrine claims of the popes were never invoked as a cause for schism by the Eastern church during the first millennium”

    I understood this to mean that for at least 1,000 years no one ever argued against claims of supremacy. I can take this to mean that you’re arguing that the popes made such a claim and it wasn’t sufficient to cause a schism. This is a nonsense argument because I can just as easily say that the East’s rejection of such a claim also did not cause a schism… and I have evidenced from Cyprian at least, such a rejection.

    I do not understand the value of your article. To show a – what seems to me – obscure reference to some canons, and to a writer Theodore Abu Qurrah (I have the book on him and he is historically inaccurate*). You claim that they give specific support for papal supremacy, okay. But to what end? If I found any one bishop from the west who rejected papal supremacy would this prove that supremacy was not universally accepted? In fact I did this, with Cyprian. Augustine, though he disagreed with Cyprian on the issue of rebaptism, never-the-less supported his right to come to that conclusion.

    You say “Just for the sake of argument, please assume that Papal supremacy is an article of faith. How does it matter that this article has been contested? Can you think of any article of faith that has not been contested? I just don’t see that the charge has any relevance at” What then is the value of the fact that one or two easterners accepted it?

    You conclude with “The relevant facts are that Petrine supremacy is established by divine revelation, and that Roman Petrine succession is well established by sacred tradition. To believe that article is an act of faith.”

    That seems to be that you are operating on an assumption – an article of faith and then going back into history and applying history to match your assumption.

    It seems to me that the whole article is simply to correct the first quote – which says it was never accepted ‘in the East’ – to qualify it to suggest that some, at least may have accepted it.

    From my understanding is your article then is saying “Some people in the east accepted the papacy. This a matter of faith is what we believe.”

    *- an inaccuracy is that he claims all the councils were convoked by a pope – which is impossible given the 2nd didn’t start out as an Ecumenical Council

  45. Hi Rhys,

    I think you are misconstruing the argument of the article. To say that no one invoked the claim of Petrine succession as a justification for schism is not the same as arguing that no one contested claims of Roman supremacy.

    There are multiple threads here, that I think you are confusing. First, there is the biblical case for Petrine supremacy. Second, the case for Petrine succession passing to Rome. Third, the historical fact of Roman supremacy of some kind. 4th – the de jure extent of that supremacy. 5th – the de facto extent of that supremacy. 6th – the opposition to or acceptance of Rome’s de jure claims. 7th – the extent of practical acquiescence to Roman authority – whether or not de jure claims for the same are recognized. 8th – alternative explanations for Roman authority that do not appeal to the claim of Petrine succession. 9 – Outright rejection of Rome’s Petrine claims. 10- Invoking Rome’s petrine claims and their interpretation as a justification for schism.

    The point of the article is rather narrowly focused. I do not intend to treat each of the points above. Rather, I mean to address a specific misinterpretation of Minnerath’s essay.

    Your summary: “From my understanding is your article then is saying “Some people in the east accepted the papacy. ”

    This is pretty close. Some in the east accepted the Papacy, and some in the east accepted the Specific Petrine theology of the Papacy developed by Rome.

    As to your claim: “That seems to be that you are operating on an assumption – an article of faith and then going back into history and applying history to match your assumption.”

    I’m not sure how to take your use of the word assumption. If you are suggesting that I accept the papacy on faith (i.e., without evidence) and then go poking through history looking for corroborating evidence – that would not be an accurate description of my belief, or my personal experience.

    In my own case, I came to the Papacy first as a determined critic and a skeptic. But I approached the Bible and Christian antiquity as a believer. That is, I believed that God had given a revelation of himself in Jesus, that Jesus spoke and acted with divine authority, and that he truly founded the Christian Church and guaranteed its transmission through time. Initially, I believed that God left us the Scriptures as the Rule of Faith, the touchstone to authenticate and guide that transmission through time. For Reasons I have stated elsewhere, I eventually called that assumption (and it was an assumption – an untested, unexamined assumption) into question. Rather, when I actually traced the historical transmission of the Christian faith through history, I found its primary point of reference to be the apostolic authority of Bishops, councils, and especially the See of Rome. I, of course, knew of Rome’s Petrine claims. It was when I actually examined the historical evidence of Rome’s role in unifying the Church, and defending against heresy that I first considered the truth of those claims to be a hypothetical possibility. Rome actually had been a source for unity and a guardian of orthodoxy – regardless of the personal failings of individual Popes. They had fulfilled their job description. And there was sufficient historical evidence that this is how the broad sweep of Christian antiquity understood Rome’s role. The Roman claim was rationally plausible, but never rationally unassailable. How could it be? If my private interpretation of the Christian faith ever deviates from Rome, this will automatically count as “evidence” against Rome’s doctrinal authority. “Look, Rome was wrong about this!”

    So, I began by assuming that Rome was wrong. Then I recognized that Rome’s claims were plausible, both historically and biblically. Next, I came to the conviction that no other construction of the Christian faith was plausible. Finally, motivated by a desire for relationship with Jesus Christ, I acquiesced to Roman claims as the only rational path for my Christian discipleship.

    I don’t think that process is adequately captured by your characterization. But, once again, none of this was the focus of the article.

    Thanks again for reading and interacting,

    David

  46. G’day David,

    You said “I think you are misconstruing the argument of the article. To say that no one invoked the claim of Petrine succession as a justification for schism is not the same as arguing that no one contested claims of Roman supremacy.”

    I do not understand this. You seem to have done what is called a bait switch by moving from me taking about papal supremacy to talking about Petrine succession. I don’t deny Petrine succession. Never have. Perhaps because for you they all mean the same thing – supremacy, primacy and, Petrine succession. I think we need to be careful about this.

    I showed that claims against SUPREMACY were made – I exampled Cyprian. I also suggested that the formula of one pope is not a good evidence for you because it ignores what was added to the document by a patriarch – which is also evidence against SUPREMACY. None of which lead to a permanent schism. Cyprian would not have denied Rome’s ‘Petrine claims’ because Rome was partly established by Peter. It was also established by Paul, and Pope Leo wrote on this “Rome Owes Its High Position to These Apostles” that there was no difference between the two. “No Distinction Must Be Drawn Between the Merits of the Two.”
    Sermon LXXXII. (On the Feast Of the Apostles Peter and Paul (June 29).)

    On the other hand I don’t deny the possibility that some in the east might support SUPREMACY. You cite Theodore Abū Qurrah.

    His translator, Lamoreaux says “In a word, only those councils are to be accepted that had been summoned by the bishop of Rome. Accordingly while ultimate authority may lie with the councils themselves, one is able to determine which councils are authoritve only through an historical examination of the circumstances of their calling.”
    Lamoreaux, J. C. (trans.) (2005) Theodore Abū Qurrah, (Bringham Young University Press; Utah), p.xxiv

    Lamoreaux then notes that his use of papal authority falls outside the scope of Melkite theological tradition.

    I think your article boils down to this truism “Some people in the east accepted papal supremacy.”

    I apologise if I mischaracterised your journey to Catholicism. I journeyed FROM Catholicism to Orthodoxy and was almost stopped at the first moment when 4 different Catholic friends of mine each (independent of the others) directed me to quote-mine sites that allege support for papal supremacy from the Church Fathers.

    With the aid of sites such as ccel.org I was able to divide these quotes into three
    a) those I couldn’t independently verify – which I ignored for the time being
    b) quotes that were misquotes
    c) quotes that were out of context

    with b) and c) I decided that if the Catholic Church’s supporters were relying on such evidence then in all likelihood they didn’t have a strong case. This of course didn’t prove Orthodoxy ‘correct’.

    I think you mixing Petrine claims with Petrine SUPREMACY was not helpful.

    I quoted much earlier one Pope Gregory acknowledging three different Sees of Peter.

    My church – Antiochian Orthodox is one of these Sees. We have Petrine claims too.

  47. David Anders,

    We have evidence of the East outright rejecting the Supremacy of the bishop of Rome in St. Polycrates, who in response to Bishop Victor of Rome’s attempt to excommunicate all the eastern churches over the date of easter, made mention that he must follow the tradition which was handed on to him from John and Polycarp and rejected the authority of Victor saying “We must obey God rather than man”. At the very least, his conscience was clear with respect to disobedience to the bishop of Rome. Secondly, St. Polycrates gives a pedigree for himself in terms of having known all the universal traditions having conversed with people from all over the world, and having a direct episcopal connection to St. John, having heard the council of all the bishops in his region, and knowing the holy scriptures. If there was any sort of teaching which put the bishop of Rome in supreme categories as if he is the vicar of Jesus, where is St. Polycrates getting the nerve to react in such a rebellious way?

    Also, the very early Councils very clearly show that the Synod of Bishops believed in a Petrine Succession without making his see a Supreme see which has jurisdiction over all other dioceses. In fact, certain Canons ensure that the bishop of Rome needs to respect the limits of his authority which is his own jurisdiction. For instance, the bishop of Alexandria governs Egypt, Libya, one other (Can’t remember off the top of my head) just as Rome governs certain jurisdictions in the northwest. Alexandria and Rome are seen to be equal in authority over their own respective jurisdictions. The Bishop of Alexandria cannot interfere with the affairs of the see of Rome, and vice versa. This is a very clear, though implicit, rejection of Papal supremacy.

  48. Erick Ybarra,

    The issue of Easter in the early church is an interesting one. The ‘Asiatic’ churches had a tradition for dating Easter handed down from John.

    Luke Rivington has to argue from silence “Resistance does not disprove authority; while a resistance which falls short of disputing the authority itself indicates a sense of its lawful existence.”
    Rivington, L (1894) The Primitive Church and the See of Peter (Longmans, Green & Co.; London), p39.

    S Ray in fact offers an example that doesn’t show supremacy in the slightest! “And when the blessed Polycarp was at Rome in the time of [Pope] Anicetus, and they disagreed a little about other things, they immediately made peace with one another, not caring to quarrel over this matter. For neither could Anicetus persuade Polycarp not to observe what he had always observed with John the disciple of our lord neither could Polycarp persuade Anicetus . . . But though matters were in this shape, they communed together, and Anicetus conceded the administration of the Eucharist in the Church to Polycarp, manifestly as a mark of respect. And they parted from each other in peace”, etc.”
    Ray, S., (1996) Upon This Rock: St. Peter and the Primacy of Rome in Scripture and the Early Church (Ignatius Press; San Francisco, CA), p155.

    That is the pope could not change Polycarp’s mind! Ray here is using a primary source
    Euebius The History of the Church – Book V: Chapter XXIV.—The Disagreement in Asia

    The Asiatic church stuck to this different dating, even though two different popes (Anicetus and Victor) had tried to change this. They only changed after an Ecumenical Council!

    The church councils are a great evidence against papal supremacy. Staying with the 1st it made the ‘final decision’ (its words below) on the matter of Arianism, even though a pope had already ruled.

    “Now when the appointed day arrived on which the council met for the final solution of the questions in dispute, each member was present for this in the central building of the palace.”
    Eusebius Life of Constantine. Book III Chapter X.—Council in the Palace. Constantine, entering, took his Seat in the Assembly.

    Even when they read out decisions of popes they then sit down and judge matters for themselves. They then give the decision as their decision, not that they’re acting upon the wishes of the pope.

  49. Rhys McKenzie,

    I see your point. This is an extremely important question, for the whole structure of Roman Catholicism depends upon the fact that St. Peter’s successors are the single source of unity as the time of God’s church continues in this world. The evidence for this is non-existent in the first 3 centuries of the Church. Let’s face it, Clement’s letter to the Corinthians does not display papal authority, neither does St. Ireneaus attribute the authority of Rome to some unique principle of Petrinias, but rather because both Peter and Paul shed their blood their.

    Moreover, the council of Chalcedon explicitly says that the authority given to Rome was on the basis of it’s empirial position in the Empire.

    That stated, from the 5th century onward, the authority occupied in the Roman See is substantial, much more than modern Orthodox wish to see. And this is a cause for wondering whether Christ Himself let go of the reigns of the Church and let it go into heresy, or whether this was the natural development of the Church itself.

  50. Erick Ybarra – my own church is Petrine. I’m Antiochian Orthodox (a convert). I agree that there’s just no evidence for Papal Supremacy in the early church. Some Catholics accept this, albeit sometimes with qualifications.

    Take Ignatius of Antioch; Cardinal Newman recognises a lack of evidence from Ignatius, but tries to argue a reason for this “…it is true, St. Ignatius is silent in his Epistles on the subject of the Pope’s authority; but if in fact that authority could not be in active operation then, such silence is not so difficult to account for…”
    Newman, J. H., (1909) An Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine (Longmans, Green & Co; London), p149.

    The great thing about this quote is that other Catholics will argue evidence for the papacy from the same Antiochian!

    Likewise another source oft misused by Catholic apologists – and also a man with an Antiochian connection – John Chrysostom
    The Catholic encyclopaedia of 1911 offers this frank admission of Chrysostom’s writings “…that there is no clear and any direct passage in favour of the primacy of the pope.”
    http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/08452b.htm/

  51. Hi Rhys,

    Thanks for the comment. I’m going to have to take issue with your unqualified assertion – “No evidence for Papal Supremacy in the Early Church.”

    Although this article was not intended to be an exhaustive list of such evidence, even in this little piece I have provided evidence for Papal supremacy in the early church. Thus, I think what you mean to say is, “There is no unambiguous evidence for a fully-orbed doctrine of universal Roman jurisdiction before . . . (pick your date).”

    But what are we to make of this claim? The same could be said of many orthodox doctrines – including the dogma of the Trinity. The pieces are in place very early, but await a dogmatic definition. The same is true of the Papacy.

    Thanks again for commenting,

    David

  52. David,

    I appreciate your input. I think the difficulty with regard to comparing the Trinity to the Papacy is that we have repeatedly emphasized and deified references to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. It is probable that the Apostles themselves believed that each of the three persons were God. This would not have been a question for the original apostles and elders. However, if Peter and the apostles did not know of a specific and unique succession that would pass on from Peter alone, then we have reason to question. The issue here is whether the apostles handed on the tradition of the Papacy, whereas it is highly improbable that the apostles did not teach that the Father, Son, and Spirit are one. That it became a dispute later on in history does not mean that it was not handed on from the apostles themselves. However, with regard to the Papacy, it seems, just from the evidence of history, that no one really understood Peter to have a succession that would hold infallibility or headship for the universal church. It seems to have been a gradual conception, rather than something taught from the apostles. Whereas the Trinity, being the deity of the Father, Son, and Spirit, could hardly have been ambiguous in the tradition handed from the apostles to the bishops.

  53. Erick

    Of course the apostles believed in the divinity of the three persons! I can assert this with confidence because the Church has defined it! But, I might add, “the divinity of three persons” was not as such disputed at the council. There were Arians who ascribed “divinity” to the son. But what, precisely, this means was a matter for dispute and the arians were not slow to find historical precedent for their views.

    Likewise with the papacy.

  54. Dave Anders,

    I see what you are saying. I think an even stronger proof for the Papacy is the unanimous view of the Church Fathers in one visible Church perpetuated from the foundation of the apostles that would continue to provide a visible governance of the church here on earth. The early Church fathers believed that the Church itself was an article of faith, a supernatural order from Christ and managed by Him from heaven.

    This being said, we have just to look at the Catholic Church and see the marks of the Church of Christ. This together with historical evidence does provide one with a reasonable basis, at least historically, to trace the modern Catholic Church with the founded Church of Christ.

    Now the Orthodox share many things with the Catholic Church and so they are eager to point to the Orthodox Church as the one true Church alone, and not the Roman Catholic Church. But I think just an examination of where the Orthodox Church has gone from the moment of the schism to the present seems to present a very difficult picture of what Christ is doing in heaven.

  55. David,
    Re: No evidence in the early church, I cited two Catholic sources; one from Cardinal Newman and, one Catholic Encyclopedia. The first source dealt with a general lack of evidence. The second specifially regarding John Chyrsostom.

  56. Dear Rhys,

    What you offered was not “evidence of absence,” but rather two secondary sources that claim Ignatius of Antioch and John Chrysostom provide no evidence for Papal primacy.

    But I don’t remember citing either of these fathers in the article above – so I’m not sure how this counts against the Petrine theology of the Roman Church – as articulated in the sources I did cite.

    Thanks,

    David

  57. David,
    These are important Catholic sources. Of course they don’t prove an “evidence of absence” (which I never said – yet you put in quotes); it’s hard to prove a negative.
    In the context of your article they are important for balance because whilst your article deals with a truism (which I dealt with earlier; some evidence of papal primacy exists in singular cases in the east).

    As such they are significant.

    Without wishing to belabour the point your article points to very limited instances of papal primacy from ‘the east’ without showing papal supremacy was widespread in the east, or even in the west. Significant catholic sources, looking back over the evidence specifically say that two major Church Fathers show no evidence for papal supremacy. One (Newman) gives a more general appraisal of the early centuries of the church.

    That is, in weight of evidence two major Catholic sources say that they’ve found no evidence. Against this you have your very minor sources say that there is evidence, but not necessarily for supremacy (at best for primacy).

    Catholic apologists often use quotes from John Chrysostom and Ignatius of Antioch as proofs of the papacy. My two quotes completely undermine this. Let’s look however at another source used by Catholic Apologists – Clement of Rome. I use this example because it is covered in the work you cite:
    The Epistle of Clement of Rome “is a collective letter of the presbyters of the Church of Rome to the presbyters of the Church of Corinth… Yet it does not invoke the authority of Peter…”Minnerath, R., The Petrine Ministry in the Early Patristic Tradition in Puglisi, J. F. (Ed.), (2010) How Can the Petrine Ministry Be a Service to the Unity of the Universal Church? (William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company; Grand Rapids, MI), p35.

    Further that same page, and in line with quotes I used regarding a lack of evidence, Archbishop Minnerath says that evidence that does emerge are merely ‘hints’.

    By weight of evidence your case is shaky.

    On a minor point your citations of his work are poor. You give a general hint of where you’re quoting from – somewhere between pages 34-48. One has to work through to find your specific quotes in order to check context (e.g. the second quote being from page 41).

  58. Rhys:

    As I understand it, the thesis David develops in his article and defends in this combox is more modest than your continued criticisms would suggest. Like Archbishop Minnerath, he does not claim that the Roman-Catholic doctrine you call that of “papal supremacy” was ever widely held in the East. In fact, it was not–as many reputable Catholic scholars have acknowledged. David does claim that the “fact” of papal primacy was widely acknowledged among the Eastern churches of the first millennium, but also acknowledges that there was no clear theological agreement about what such primacy actually amounted to. Given as much, most of your criticisms are off target. From a purely historical point of view, the Minnerath thesis, as qualified and clarified by David, is rather unexceptionable.

    The main question of interest is what that thesis implies theologically. To my mind, it neither proves nor rebuts the Catholic doctrine of the papacy as developed in modern times by Vatican I and Vatican II. It does not prove said doctrine because one cannot, from the acknowledgements of Roman primacy one finds throughout the first-millennium Church, simply deduce the Catholic doctrine of the papacy in its fullness. But neither can one deduce, just from the historical facts, that said doctrine is false. In light of all that, the work needed for the sake of addressing the East-West dispute is that of determining the general criteria for legitimate development of doctrine. Blessed John Henry Newman began that work, but more must be done. For neither his “marks” for authentic DD, nor the historical data themselves, logically predetermine the outcome. Rather, the data are the raw material needed to be interpreted by means of a prior and fuller interpretive paradigm (IP). As I never tire of pointing out, competing IPs should first be assessed in terms of how well-suited they severally are for achieving the purpose of theological IPs: distinguishing, in a principled rather than ad hoc way, between divine revelation as such and human opinions about how to identify and interpret its sources.

    Best,
    Mike

  59. Michael Liccione,

    Thank you for commenting.

    The reason why this CIP is highly questioned (not refuted) is because it seems that teaching ministry of Jesus Christ on this earth depends on carrying on a historical tradition of doctrine handed from Christ unto the apostles. In one sense, this is highly practical. It can be compared to the telephone game, where the first person to say a message matches with the last person who speaks out the message. I understand this is a very simplistic analogy and it breaks down after quick thought. However, it was rather assumed in the early Fathers that if said doctrine was not taught by the apostles, then it is not a part of the rule of faith. And this would also mean that additional doctrines which do not find themselves sourced in the rule of faith but that do not contradict the rule of faith are also not a part of the rule of faith.

    This was an assumption in the writings of St. Ireneaus, Tertullian, Clement, St. Clement of Alexandria, etc,etc,etc. The idea that the early Church Fathers simply knew that there was this CIP which existed and that such a thing, by itself , was the sufficient source of infallible truth hardly matches with what they taught or assumed in their writings. Rather, these early Church Fathers understood that the Bishops were continuing the rule of faith which pre-ceded them. In other words, the bishops did not understand that by ordination, they were transferred into a state of mind where whatever they said, or whatever the bishop of Rome said (under certain conditions), was infallible truth. No, they still maintained the normal human means of continuing on the tradition that was handed on to them. It is much like the practice that St. Paul assumed St. Timothy would do after his departure. The command was to teach other faithful men who will teach other faithful men. We have a teaching function which requires the mind to work at understanding and memorizing what is taught. It is not an automatic Interpretive Principle based off of self-understanding, but rather it is a manual principle based off of working hard to maintain the teaching that a bishop received from his predecessors. Your argument for the CIP is airtight given the assumptions and the unnecessary conclusions. For you, if the CIP does not actually exist, then no one can know anything for sure about divine revelation. However, where is this principle is Judaism? Jesus came to the house of Israel and was Himself a faithful Jew who assumed the human expectations that the faith of Israel had been passed on through the generations, through a tradition which was never explicitly claimed infallibility but was nevertheless respected as much.

  60. Hi Erick,

    You wrote:

    “In other words, the bishops did not understand that by ordination, they were transferred into a state of mind where whatever they said, or whatever the bishop of Rome said (under certain conditions), was infallible truth. No, they still maintained the normal human means of continuing on the tradition that was handed on to them. ”

    I think this is both a straw man and a false dichotomy. Catholic doctrine does not teach that bishops are automatically infallible in virtue of their ordination. Nor does it deny that “normal means” are the way tradition is handed on. In fact, the “ordinary magisterium” is the normal organ of infallible teaching. And, yes, the fathers held this to be infallible.

    -David

  61. Dave Anders,

    I did not intend it to be a straw man because I didn’t think I was casting doubt on the teaching of the Church. Rather I was responding to Mike Liccione when he mentioned his custom explanation regarding the Catholic Interpretive Principle. For Mr. Liccione, one need not address the facts of history, nor the traditions of the Fathers of the Church, at least in the first place. Rather one needs to understand in the preliminary sense what kind of principle they are going to need to interpret and know divine revelation as a contemporary human inquirer. Philosophically he ends up, quite logically strong, with the conclusion that one needs an interpretive principle such as he describes at length called the CIP. When I read the history of the Fathers, though of course we are limited to all the discussions and conversations of all the bishops in the first few centuries, I do not see an emphasis on this idea first of all things.

    What I see is that the church fathers understood the Bishops to succeed the apostles with a certain charism of truth. So the Church has a physical location with certain physical human beings who are also visible to the world. I do not dispute this. However they still understood themselves within the normal mode of human tradition. One could read the New Testament Scriptures and come to their conclusions. In fact, they saw the Scriptures as supporting Catholic doctrine.

  62. In fact, the “ordinary magisterium” is the normal organ of infallible teaching. And, yes, the fathers held this to be infallible.

    David,

    Can you back this statement up? Where in the Fathers that Erick refers to (or other ECF’s) would you go to prove your contention here?

    Cheers….

  63. Michael Liccione, I in fact addressed this earlier. The article in effect is a truism – some easterners accepted some form of papal primacy.

    That’s it!

  64. Hi Andrew,

    Off the top of my head, I would point you to St. Augustine’s “Securus iudicat orbis terrarum,”
    as well as Vincent’s quod semper, . . ubique, . . . et ab omnibus.

    I would also point you to Athanasius’s concept of the skopos – a rule of faith – understood as a universal, ecclesiastical sense of Scripture which is binding on the individual interpreter.

    And behind all of this, really, I think you find the more ancient idea of mystagogy – the theological interpretation of liturgy as a universal and binding norm – as well as the aim and purpose of catechesis. Think about all the places in Tertullian (The chaplet, for example), or Cyril’s catechetical lectures, or St.Basil – where liturgical custom is seen as the normal (and norming) context for handing on the faith.

    -David

  65. Hi Rhys,

    I think that you misconstrue my thesis. I don’t argue that “some easterners accepted some form of papal primacy.” I argue that some easterners accepted the specifically Petrine argument for Papal primacy, and not the merely canonical argument. This is not a truism insofar as someone may misconstrue the words of Archbishop Minnerath on this topic.

    Thanks,

    David

  66. Think about all the places in Tertullian (The chaplet, for example), or Cyril’s catechetical lectures, or St.Basil – where liturgical custom is seen as the normal (and norming) context for handing on the faith.

    David,

    I certainly don’t disagree with this statement, but I’m not sure that this and statements like it necessitate infallibility, as such is defined by Rome. Anyway, I thought that the argument by the folks at CTC in general (and maybe I’m making an over-generalization here), as per Mike L’s comment above, was that infallibility was part of a paradigm that was used to interpret the individual pieces of data from the ECF’s, rather than the data from the ECF’s being used in an inductive fashion to build a doctrine of infallibility. Or in other words, I thought the CTC position was that the doctrines of ecclesiastical and papal infallibility could not be rigorously deduced from the writings of the ECF’s. Not true?

  67. Erick (#60):

    About the CIP and my use of it, you write:

    When I read the history of the Fathers, though of course we are limited to all the discussions and conversations of all the bishops in the first few centuries, I do not see an emphasis on this idea first of all things.

    What I see is that the church fathers understood the Bishops to succeed the apostles with a certain charism of truth. So the Church has a physical location with certain physical human beings who are also visible to the world. I do not dispute this. However they still understood themselves within the normal mode of human tradition. One could read the New Testament Scriptures and come to their conclusions. In fact, they saw the Scriptures as supporting Catholic doctrine.

    I entirely agree with those two paragraphs. What needs to be understood, however, is why they do not contradict my characterization of the CIP and its superiority as an interpretive paradigm for theologically relevant data.

    Given the data you describe in your second paragraph, along with other relevant data from both the NT and post-patristic church history, a reasonable person could reach Catholic, Orthodox, or Protestant theological conclusions. So the question is not, in the first instance, what the data are. We know what they are. The primary question is which IP–Catholic, Orthodox, or Protestant–is best suited for reaching theological conclusions that are not mere opinions about how orthodoxy is to be distinguished from heresy, but actual expressions of God’s revealed will in that matter. Whichever IP one adopts in answer to that question, that IP will determine the theological significance one gives to the data. One cannot derive any theologically interesting conclusions from the data prior to or in isolation from adopting some-or-other IP as best suited for the purpose. Hence, your pointing out that a neutral look at the data doesn’t suffice to reveal the CIP as the normative IP is simply irrelevant. Of course it doesn’t. If we’re going to reach any theologically interesting conclusions, we need to have first the kind of conversation about IPs I advocate as the one which should come first.

    Best,
    Mike

  68. Andrew McCallum (#65):

    You write:

    …I thought that the argument by the folks at CTC in general (and maybe I’m making an over-generalization here), as per Mike L’s comment above, was that infallibility was part of a paradigm that was used to interpret the individual pieces of data from the ECF’s, rather than the data from the ECF’s being used in an inductive fashion to build a doctrine of infallibility. Or in other words, I thought the CTC position was that the doctrines of I thought that the argument by the folks at CTC in general (and maybe I’m making an over-generalization here), as per Mike L’s comment above, was that infallibility was part of a paradigm that was used to interpret the individual pieces of data from the ECF’s, rather than the data from the ECF’s being used in an inductive fashion to build a doctrine of infallibility. Or in other words, I thought the CTC position was that the doctrines of ecclesiastical and papal infallibility could not be rigorously deduced from the writings of the ECF’s. Not true? Not true?

    It is true that the doctrines of “ecclesiastical and papal infallibility” cannot be “rigorously deduced from the writings of the ECF’s” (emphasis added). But it does not follow, and neither I nor any other CTC writer would say, that “the data from the ECF’s” cannot be “used in an inductive fashion to build a doctrine of infallibility” (emphasis added). Nor do we think that doing said induction is incompatible with assessing the the CIP to see how well it achieves the purpose of a theological IP, which is to supply and deploy a principled distinction between divine revelation as such and human theological opinions. In fact, deploying the CIP actually calls for said induction. I shall explain in two stages.

    First, deduction and induction are not the same sort of logical operation. A given argument A is deductively valid just in case A’s conclusion follows necessarily from its premises as a matter of logical form, and thus regardless of what the nouns and predicates actually mean. Clearly, the full-blown Catholic doctrine of the papacy cannot be inferred, by a deductively valid argument, from the dataset we have from the ECFs. Nevertheless, if one uses the CIP to interpret the ECFs along with the entire relevant dataset–which includes both the NT and the richer dataset we have in the first millennium, from the 4th century onwards–then the full-blown Catholic doctrines of ecclesial and papal infallibility, as they later developed, can be seen as one kind of induction from that dataset. That kind of induction is called “inference to the best explanation.” In other words, the best explanation of what the ECFs said about the respective authority of Scripture and the Church is that they believed the Church had teaching authority from Christ in the Holy Spirit to define and interpret Scripture, and that such authority, when exercised, is infallible by virtue of being divine. So, although they did not use the I-word, the Catholic Church’s use of that word best captures what they did in fact believe on the issue at hand, as the best explanation of what they said.

    Second, if we assume that the ECFs gave voice to a conception of doctrinal authority that was and is normative, not just opinion, then deploying the CIP actually requires just that sort of induction. For deploying the CIP would yield the conclusion that the Catholic doctrines of ecclesial and papal infallibility are materially, though not formally, equivalent to what the ECFs did write–at least in what we have that survives–on the relevant issues. That whole procedure, of course, would be radically incompatible with the PIP, which would insist that what’s doctrinally normative is only what’s explicitly stated in the early sources and what can be rigorously deduced therefrom.

    Best,
    Mike

  69. Micheal Liccione,

    Of course I do not think that one can interpret divine revelation and know what is the sum of divine revelation without some sort of interpretive principle. When one looks at the early Church, it seems that they all focused on a “traditional” doctrine which they referred to sometimes as a deposit of faith. The concept of apostleship was intrinsic to the church’s understanding of knowing what the gospel was. Jesus Christ was the Lord’s first apostle. Jesus then set the 12 as His own apostles, who would extend his very own apostleship unto all nations. The apostles then in turn set the bishops to extend their own apostleship (though we know it is not the same in all senses) to the ends of the earth in literal time. So the early church bishops understood that God deposited the gospel doctrine into Jesus Christ as the first apostle, then Jesus deposited the gospel doctrine into the apostles as those extended Christ unto the nations, and the apostles then deposited the gospel doctrine in the churches which they founded. This is the basic line of argumentation in St. Ireneaus, Tertullian, and St. Clement.

    So where is the catholic interpretive principle explained by these authors? It would have been a very useful tool in the warding off of heresies to appeal to this interpretive principle as opposed to manually describing the natural ways of humans handing on tradition faithfully. It is this latter thing that the early church fathers saw as an interpretive principle. There was only one doctrine for the universal church and it was given to the apostles and the apostles handed in onward to the bishops they ordained to be the overseers of the believers to come.

    So how do we know today what that doctrine is? The answer of the early church is presented by St. Vincent of Lerins. He says :

    [4.] I have often then inquired earnestly and attentively of very many men eminent for sanctity and learning, how and by what sure and so to speak universal rule I may be able to distinguish the truth of Catholic faith from the falsehood of heretical pravity; and I have always, and in almost every instance, received an answer to this effect: That whether I or any one else should wish to detect the frauds and avoid the snares of heretics as they rise, and to continue sound and complete in the Catholic faith, we must, the Lord helping, fortify our own belief in two ways; first, by the authority of the Divine Law, and then, by the Tradition of the Catholic Church.

    These last two things the 1) authority of the divine law, and 2) the Tradition of Catholic Church. These two things are to be the means of knowing what is true doctrine versus false doctrine. The Divine Law for St. Vincent is the Holy Scriptures, the old and new testaments. And the Tradition of the Catholic Church is the deposit of faith given from God to Jesus, than Jesus to the apostles, and finally from the apostles to the churches’ bishops. There is no mention of an interpretive principle along the lines of what you describe as distinctively catholic. St. Vincent is not under this complex where if he cannot find a single interpretive principle which is not depended upon the study of history and the Scriptures he ends up in a endless ocean of human opinion. In fact, he thinks that it is by this method that one actually comes to know divine revelation, which is opposed to your common way of reasoning these issues through.

    Then he, follows with:

    But here some one perhaps will ask, Since the canon of Scripture is complete, and sufficient of itself for everything, and more than sufficient, what need is there to join with it the authority of the Church’s interpretation? For this reason—because, owing to the depth of Holy Scripture, all do not accept it in one and the same sense, but one understands its words in one way, another in another; so that it seems to be capable of as many interpretations as there are interpreters. For Novatian expounds it one way, Sabellius another, Donatus another, Arius, Eunomius, Macedonius, another, Photinus, Apollinaris, Priscillian, another, Iovinian, Pelagius, Celestius, another, lastly, Nestorius another. Therefore, it is very necessary, on account of so great intricacies of such various error, that the rule for the right understanding of the prophets and apostles should be framed in accordance with the standard of Ecclesiastical and Catholic interpretation.

    Here, St. Vincent is arguing along the same lines as Catholics, Orthodox, and Anglicans. Sola Scriptura, or Sola-Canon, does not in fact settle the question of the human person inquiring on what is divine and true revelation versus false because of the diversity of interpreting written documents. Therefore, there must be a single “rule”, as he words it, through which one reads the writings of the Canon, so that unity is maintained on what is believed to be true and divine revelation. At this point, St. Vincent of Lerins is describing the line of argumentation employed by Anglicans, Orthodox, and Catholics.
    Then, even more striking:

    Moreover, in the Catholic Church itself, all possible care must be taken, that we hold that faith which has been believed everywhere, always, by all. For that is truly and in the strictest sense Catholic, which, as the name itself and the reason of the thing declare, comprehends all universally. This rule we shall observe if we follow universality, antiquity, consent. We shall follow universality if we confess that one faith to be true, which the whole Church throughout the world confesses; antiquity, if we in no wise depart from those interpretations which it is manifest were notoriously held by our holy ancestors and fathers; consent, in like manner, if in antiquity itself we adhere to the consentient definitions and determinations of all, or at the least of almost all priests and doctors.

    Here, St. Vincent subjects all contemporary inquirers to the teaching of the catholic ecclesiastical predecessors and what is contained in the church universally. It seems as though St. Vincent of Lerins is implying that even “within” the Catholic Church there is no automatic freedom to assume the success of knowing what divine revelation is without the hard work of comparing it with the education that was passed on by those who were before.

    Then, St. Vincent goes on to respond to the question of what a christian should do when a small portion of the catholic church dissents from the universal faith:

    What then will a Catholic Christian do, if a small portion of the Church have cut itself off from the communion of the universal faith? What, surely, but prefer the soundness of the whole body to the unsoundness of a pestilent and corrupt member? What, if some novel contagion seek to infect not merely an insignificant portion of the Church, but the whole? Then it will be his care to cleave to antiquity, which at this day cannot possibly be seduced by any fraud of novelty.

    It is obvious that here, St. Vincent is supposing the difficulty of what happens when a small group or maybe even a significant portion of the contemporary communion (catholic) breaks away from what is held in the contemporary to be catholic. Should a inquiring christian go with the wind? How does he know they are wrong who break away? Suprisingly, St. Vincent does not say ‘Look to Rome’. Although this was a valid point in the early church (see St. Ireneaus, Tertullian), he suprisingly does not mention this. Instead he says to “cleave to antiquity”. This would be what Anglicans, Orthodox, and Catholics do. Obviously, just about every protestant sect does not cleave to antiquity in this sense. Although they do think they believe what the original apostles believed, St. Vincent does not mean this by the word “antiquity”, but rather the tradition that passed on into what can be known from reading the writings of antiquity.

    Finally, it gets even more interesting:

    But what, if in antiquity itself there be found error on the part of two or three men, or at any rate of a city or even of a province? Then it will be his care by all means, to prefer the decrees, if such there be, of an ancient General Council to the rashness and ignorance of a few. But what, if some error should spring up on which no such decree is found to bear? Then he must collate and consult and interrogate the opinions of the ancients, of those, namely, who, though living in various times and places, yet continuing in the communion and faith of the one Catholic Church, stand forth acknowledged and approved authorities: and whatsoever he shall ascertain to have been held, written, taught, not by one or two of these only, but by all, equally, with one consent, openly, frequently, persistently, that he must understand that he himself also is to believe without any doubt or hesitation.

    St. Vincent actually supposes the possibility of a reading inquirer to find error in the ancient ecclesiatical writers. When, in fact, this occurs, St. Vincent says the next resort is to Ecumenical Councils. This is performed by Anglicans, Orthodox, and all Catholics. But then, suprisingly,he then supposes the possibility that the ancient decrees do not settle the question of a certain issue, and when this occurs, he admonishes that one cling to the most ancient of believers. But even these are subject to the universal teaching of the whole Church from the very beginning. And the simple fact of the matter is that St. Vincent assumes that certainty can be attained through studying the history of doctrine in the catholic church, and there is no mention of this alternative as you talk about, the CIP.

    It boils down to this. You can argue quite convincingly that one cannot know divine revelation apart from an infallible mechanism (under certain conditions) because without such a thing there is nothing but opinions. It almost parallels the atheist who refuses to grant Christians with certainty of the existence of God without being sure. What I think is more faithful to the thought of the catholic church in the first 5 centuries of the church is that certainty can be attained by using a smart mind with the available resources of the tradition of the Church and the Holy Scriptures. Like St. Vincent of Lerins teaches, when there is still a question not being answered, read the divine law and the ecumenical councils, and when there is still a question not being answered, just stick to what is known to be the catholic doctrine universal from the very most ancient writers.

    I do not see how Traditional Anglicans, Orthodox, and Catholics fail at keeping the standard taught by St. Vincent of Lerins. Now, just by the fact that these three are not in communion with each other, does that itself mean that one has to be right over the other 2? It is a difficult question to ask. For neither do we see precisely what orthodox believe today in all the catholics writings, but neither do we see anything of Papal infallibility.

  70. David Anders,

    Your article cites evidence that does not support your premise. For e.g. the reference to “a Persian collection of 73 canons” only shows your case if you make assumptions. The sentence “The Syriac version says ‘the patriarch of Rome will have authority over all the patriarchs, as Peter had over the whole community.” works in your favour only if you believe that “as Peter had over the whole community” means Petrine Supremacy. If I also ‘assume’ that Peter’s authority at that time was wholly equal to the others, then “as Peter had over the whole community” supports my stance too.

    The gospels talk about a man being head of a family.
    “But I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ,” (1 Cor. 11:3).

    We know that God the Father does not ‘head’ Christ in the sense of a Pope heading the church, because Jesus is not less God, but fully God. Therefore saying man is the head in no way denotes authority over.

    In the Catholic Church the pope is a bishop, but he is one unlike any other. He has full power over any other See. He can over-rule, circumvent, or ignore other bishops in any aspect. He does indeed rule ‘through’ them (in that he chooses to work with them) but this in no way lessens his authority.

    If I were to say that the Queen of Britain rules over the Commonwealth, this is true, but not of authority. She is the visible head, and the source of unity. But several Commonwealth nations aren’t even monarchies, but are republics. So whilst she is ‘head’, she is not the de jure ruler.

    So, saying Peter had authority “over the whole community”, if I take it to mean a parallel to a husband over a wife, just as God the Father is head over the Son, then it doesn’t support your premise unless you assume that that’s what is meant.

    Thus, I brought in context of other sources of evidence which you complained weren’t dealt with by you in the first instance. That was my point! The evidence from two Catholic sources show that there is a lack of support for a papacy in the early church. Therefore in that context, and the fact we can both look at the Persian canons with our own assumptions, I would think that my assumption is in light with the evidence, and yours is not. (I also cited Minnerath on this matter of lack of evidence too).

    Another way to put this: My evidence from Catholics shows that
    a) Clement of Rome
    b) Ignatius of Antioch
    c) John Chrysostom

    do not support papal primacy. (I could of course add others)

    In the historical context the Persian canons ‘can’ work for you if you read it a certain way, but are therefore not in line with the thinking of the early church – which does not support supremacy!

    I leave it up to others to determine whether your or mine interpretation of that evidence works.

    That is why I cited evidence that you had not dealt with. It’s called ‘context’.

    As to Theodore Abū Qurrah, I stated this earlier:
    His translator, Lamoreaux says “In a word, only those councils are to be accepted that had been summoned by the bishop of Rome. Accordingly while ultimate authority may lie with the councils themselves, one is able to determine which councils are authoritve only through an historical examination of the circumstances of their calling.”
    Lamoreaux, J. C. (trans.) (2005) Theodore Abū Qurrah, (Bringham Young University Press; Utah), p.xxiv

    Lamoreaux then notes that his use of papal authority falls outside the scope of Melkite theological tradition.

    Theodore Abū Qurrah’s ‘support’ is therefore the best evidence (and the only evidence) that comes close to supporting your premise, but even there this itself is highly qualified. He believed all the councils were called for by Rome. This is wrong. Catholic historians would acknowledge this. Your best evidence then relies on a person not representative of a correct understanding of the church, who was arguing for a limited point anyway.

  71. Hi Rhys,

    Let me restate the thesis of the article: “The oldest theory we know of explaining the primacy of Rome’s bishop was given by Pope Stephen I (254-257), who claimed unambiguously to sit in cathedra Petri.
    In what follows, I wish to consider some of the evidence that this claim was understood, acknowledged, and even embraced by Catholic Christians East.”

    In the article, I pose this thesis against a very specific foil: ” the specifically Byzantine development of an alternate theory to explain (in non-Petrine terms) the universally acknowledged primacy of Rome.”

    I have not asserted that Papal claims to universal jurisdiction were widely accepted in the East, much less that a modern Catholic understanding of the Papacy was understood and accepted.

    Nothing you have cited refutes my narrowly defined thesis.

    Thank you,
    David

  72. Erick (#68):

    Re the Vincentian Canon, I’ve said my piece in this old blog post. It’s pertinent to what you have said, and it explains why that is not helpful.

    Best,
    Mike

  73. Mike Liccione,

    Thank you for the link. I am excited to read it. I will get back on what influence it had.

    Erick Ybarra

  74. David, regarding Stephen, it still doesn’t help, unless you make your assumptions. However I’ll get to that in a second. Your post in no way addresses anything I wrote (where I directly challenged several of your quotes). Instead you move on to another quote, that I hadn’t addressed in that post. However, let’s deal with that then, shall we?

    I’ve already pointed out three Sees of Peter. Each of these Sees the person sitting in them sits in the chair of Peter. That is in a very straight-forward sense as Peter is said to have founded all three (albeit indirectly with regard to Alexandria)

    However Church Fathers note that ALL Sees, the bishop is the successor of Peter. E.g. Cyprian holds to the belief that each bishop is the successor of all the apostles.
    Faulkner, J. A., (1906) Cyprian the Churchman (Jennings and Graham; Cincinnati), p165
    Kruger, G., (1909) The Papacy: The Idea and its exponents, (T Fisher Unwin; London), p23

    Thus Cyprian figures his own See as the chair of Peter.
    Epistle XXXIX. – To the People, Concerning Five Schismatic Presbyters of the Faction of Felicissimus. (this Epistle is numbered XLIII in the Oxoford collections).

    As for Cyprian, so too Ignatius – each church headed by a bishop is the authority. It is for Ignatius the local bishop that is the chief officer within the church. Some Catholic church historians recognises this is the meaning of Ignatius’ lessons; “In other words the bishop constitutes the unity of the local Church and Jesus Christ the unity of all the local Churches spread throughout the world, the unity of all the dispersed bishops.”
    Batiffol, P., (1911) Primitive Catholicism (Longmans, Green and Co; London), p139

    This idea of Ignatius shows that bishops held ultimate authority in their churches.
    Holmes, J. D., & Bicker, B., (1983) A Short History of the Catholic Church (Burns & Oates; London), pp18-19

    And Ignatius was taught by Peter.

    So, I would accept that your evidence suggests someone thought of themselves as holding a See of Peter. I just don’t assume Papal Supremacy as you do.

  75. It boils down to this. You can argue quite convincingly that one cannot know divine revelation apart from an infallible mechanism (under certain conditions) because without such a thing there is nothing but opinions. It almost parallels the atheist who refuses to grant Christians with certainty of the existence of God without being sure.

    Erick,

    I think you have got the matter exactly right here. I would just add that Vincent is just one of many Fathers we might go to inquire on this matter. Mike L is promoting a certain paradigm in this discussion, and the only way I know to ascertain whether his paradigm is true or not is to read the tradition of the Church, most notably the writings of the Apostles and those who followed them, to see if they shared his paradigm. From all I can tell they did not.

    And what if, just for sake of argument, Mike L’s argument is shown to be false? For some conservative Catholics such a thought is an epistemological impossibility. But as I see it the rejection of Mike’s thesis does not undermine historic Christianity, and part of the apologetic to Roman Catholics entails arguing for a system in which God works through a Church where there is not a hierarchically organized Roman ecclesiastical government that speaks infallibly (under certain conditions). If we can show that the rejection of such a peculiar Roman ecclesiastical government does not necessarily undermine the writings of the Apostles, nor their most immediate successors, then I think we are making some progress.

  76. Andrew,

    I think that the early Christians understood that the Holy Spirit was the primary actor in the salvation of human souls. I mean, for goodness sake, the birth of the Church began when the Holy Spirit was poured out from heaven onto the apostles. For sure, then, it is the Holy Spirit that gives life to the Church and also that gives the energy and means necessary to grow into all the world. Therefore, when a particular people become Christians in a given region, it is because the Holy Spirit has descended upon those people.

    Now, concerning the continuing transmission of the Spirit program unto the ends of the earth, you must have a way of knowing what the external visible truth is and where it is to be gaurded. Given this requirement, I think that a discussion about infallibility is unavoidable.

  77. Andrew M:

    (quoting Erick) It boils down to this. You can argue quite convincingly that one cannot know divine revelation apart from an infallible mechanism (under certain conditions) because without such a thing there is nothing but opinions. It almost parallels the atheist who refuses to grant Christians with certainty of the existence of God without being sure.

    That last sentence just seems sloppy and obfuscating. I would be interested in an argument for this analogy, because the certainty the atheists seeks is motivated by their commitment to materialism. We have no such commitment. If the analogy is simply being committed, that would make the analogy too broad, so I would be interested in your argument for this analogy. All that Mike (and others, myself included) argue is that when considering the type of knowledge Revelation is, and the type of beings we are, we conclude that Divine Revelation known to us is only possible under certain conditions. The force of that argument is strong, and I’m glad you both admit it. Simply shrinking back from it, declaring some analogy to atheists does little to its pull, and I believe misses the point.

    Ironically, the analogy to the skeptic atheist holds more for your position. We are arguing for a supernatural charism. Your commitment to a type of ecclesial deism or ecclesial agnosticism requires you to reject our claim because, more or less, (quotes added by me) “there is no way that evil men could be infallible, the history is just too messy.” Well, I say that is precisely the argument between the atheist and the Christian. Regarding the existence of God, I think the atheist stance need only to be reduced to irrationality. Regarding the existence of Christ — God come in flesh, well then your position regarding an infallible Church parallels much more closely to their position than does ours. We see nothing incompatible with humanity and God, of course under certain conditions.

    Peace to you on your journey,

    Brent

  78. Andrew (#75):

    You wrote:

    Mike L is promoting a certain paradigm in this discussion, and the only way I know to ascertain whether his paradigm is true or not is to read the tradition of the Church, most notably the writings of the Apostles and those who followed them, to see if they shared his paradigm. From all I can tell they did not.

    That indicates that you have still not grasped what is at stake.

    First and in general, no IP as such is either true nor false. IPs are either more or less successful in achieving their purpose, which is to make cognitive sense of the overall body of data they are deployed to interpret. What kind of “cognitive sense” will depend on what the subject matter is and requires. Specifically regarding theological IPs, their purpose is to enable us to distinguish, in a principled way, between divine revelation as such and human theological opinions. My argument is that the CIP achieves that purpose–at least to a certain clear degree–while the CPIP does not achieve it at all. That, however, still leaves open the question whether Catholicism is true. For all my argument says, there might be no divine revelation to begin with. Or if there is, we might not have reliable cognitive access to it, so that whatever “principled distinction” we may have, it is not successfully deployable. Or there might be another theological IP that achieves the relevant purpose better than the CIP does. So, before we even get to the question of the truth and falsity of Catholicism, we need to be clear about what IPs and arguments on their behalf are supposed to do, and compare them on that basis.

    But you haven’t got that far. Indeed, you are still in question-begging mode. If one should evaluate the CIP by examining the early, written Christian sources, so as to determine for oneself whether the CIP appears in or is inferable from those sources, then one is already striving to evaluate the CIP by means of the interpretive criterion most characteristic of the CPIP. Evaluating one IP by means of the criterion most characteristic of an opposing IP is simply begging the question. I hope you know how to do more than that.

    You write:

    And what if, just for sake of argument, Mike L’s argument is shown to be false?

    That’s just an elementary error of logic. Arguments, as such, are neither true nor false: they are sound or unsound. An argument A is sound just in case (a) A’s premises are true, and (b) A’s conclusion follows from its premises if A is a deductive argument, or A’s conclusion is rendered highly probable by its premises if A is an inductive argument. So if you’re going to refute my argument, you have to show either that at least one of its premises is false, or that its conclusion is not supported by its premises, even if the premises are true.

    Best,
    Mike

  79. Specifically regarding theological IPs, their purpose is to enable us to distinguish, in a principled way, between divine revelation as such and human theological opinions.

    Mike,

    I understand what you are saying with this statement and as many times before, I don’t debate the fact that the CIP (the conservative version of this anyway – let’s call it the CCIP) makes the distinctions that you are looking for better than the CPIP. You seem to want to say that the only purpose of theological IP’s is to make the kind of distinctions that you speak of in #76 and #58 (and many other places as well). And if got this right then I’m disagreeing with your assumption here. In the line with the work of Heiko Oberman and many other Protestant theologians I am looking a historic theological IP. CCIP and CPIP provide different frameworks for the interpretation of God’s revelation to us in the Scriptures and in the writings of the Early Church. Theologians like Oberman are asking Catholics and Protestants to evaluate the two paradigms using the writing of the apostolic writers and the ECF’s. This question is this – if we accept the CCIP can we fit the statements of the apostolic writers and the ECF’s into this paradigm without undue violence? Same question if we accept the CPIP.

    You say this:
    If one should evaluate the CIP by examining the early, written Christian sources, so as to determine for oneself whether the CIP appears in or is inferable from those sources, then one is already striving to evaluate the CIP by means of the interpretive criterion most characteristic of the CPIP.

    But this does not describe the way I am proceeding. I’m not at the outset asking the question as to whether the CCIP appears in the Scriptures/ECF’s (although this may be a conclusion that is eventually drawn). I’m granting the CCIP for sake of analysis and asking whether or not the statements of the apostolic and ECF writers fit the paradigm or whether there is a better paradigm. Then I do the same with the CPIP. I’m not assuming something which is characteristic of the CPIP in what I’m doing here, since I would be following the same sort of methodology if I was making an analysis of paradigms that had nothing to do with Protestantism/Catholicism or nothing to do with theology at all. If you think that my general approach to evaluating paradigms is flawed then tell me how. If it’s not flawed then why should I not utilize it in evaluating theological paradigms, in this particular case historical theological paradigms?

    But just for the sake of argument, let’s grant that the CCIP creates the distinctions that you speak of (again as in #76 and #58) better than the CPIP, BUT that the Apostolic and Early Church Fathers didn’t share the CCIP? If this is the case how would you know it? The fact that the CCIP makes better distinctions (as per your #58 and #76) does not mean that the making of such distinctions by the Church is what God intended. Your goal, as I see it, is a theological system that makes the distinctions you speak of in #58 and #76 whether or not such goals were shared by the Apostolic writers and those that followed them. My purpose is to ask whether these early Christians shared the paradigms you are promoting, and my methodology is to compare the respective IP’s using the writings from the biblical writers and the ECF’s.

    For all my argument says, there might be no divine revelation to begin with. Or if there is, we might not have reliable cognitive access to it, so that whatever “principled distinction” we may have, it is not successfully deployable. Or there might be another theological IP that achieves the relevant purpose better than the CIP does.

    Or the CCIP methodology of making principled distinctions may be such that God never intended the Church to utilize. You’ve got your system of making principled distinctions so now the question for you is how you justify such a system from the standpoint of historic Christian theology.

    before we even get to the question of the truth and falsity of Catholicism, we need to be clear about what IPs and arguments on their behalf are supposed to do

    Right. And we’re not there.

    By “false argument” I mean an argument that is based on a false premise. But I’m speaking colloquially here, and yes you are right that technically “false” is not a correct adjective to qualify “argument.” I’m sure you knew what I meant, but thanks for pointing this out.

  80. Andrew (#79):

    Before I address the substance of your comment, I point out that I reject your characterization of what I call “the CIP” as the “conservative” Catholic interpretive paradigm. My characterization of the CIP is not meant as an empirical summary of the position of Catholic clergy and writers–some think conservatively, some do not–but rather as a presentation of the normative means by which the Catholic Church as such interprets the sources of divine revelation. That norm is neither “conservative” nor “liberal” nor “moderate,” but rather the means by which Catholic orthodoxy is authoritatively presented and developed. The essentially political categories you favor, while useful for certain empirical purposes, are useless for presenting a norm.

    With that out of the way, I note that you write:

    You seem to want to say that the only purpose of theological IP’s is to make the kind of distinctions that you speak of in #76 and #58 (and many other places as well). And if got this right then I’m disagreeing with your assumption here. In the line with the work of Heiko Oberman and many other Protestant theologians I am looking a historic theological IP. CCIP and CPIP provide different frameworks for the interpretation of God’s revelation to us in the Scriptures and in the writings of the Early Church. Theologians like Oberman are asking Catholics and Protestants to evaluate the two paradigms using the writing of the apostolic writers and the ECF’s. This question is this – if we accept the CCIP can we fit the statements of the apostolic writers and the ECF’s into this paradigm without undue violence? Same question if we accept the CPIP.

    You have misstated my position and misidentified the overall state of the question.

    I have never said that making a principled distinction between divine revelation and human theological opinion is the “only” purpose of a theological IP. As I said even in my previous comment, the purpose of IPs in general, regardless of subject matter, is “to make cognitive sense of the overall body of data they are deployed to interpret.” The specific purpose of a theological IP is to make the aforesaid distinction so that it may make make theological sense of the data, and in that way achieve the general purpose of any and every IP. I insist often on that specific purpose because, unless and until a given theological IP achieves it, that IP cannot be reasonably assessed against the major alternatives to it. In other words, unless and until a given theological IP is shown to have and deploy a principled distinction between divine revelation and human theological opinion, it cannot be said to make sense of the data in a theologically significant way. It might make other sense of the data–such as historical or literary sense–but that doesn’t suffice to yield anything theologically significant. What’s theologically significant is what God has revealed and what can be inferred from that–not just what some people have said or thought God has revealed, which is simply a matter of historical and literary fact. The latter supplies the data; but only a good theological IP can extract the former from the data.

    With that understood, the “state of the question” is not as you identify it. I believe that both the CIP and the CPIP can facilitate making historical and literary sense of the data “without undue violence” to the data. Indeed, both IPs must do that. But even granted they both do it successfully, that doesn’t suffice to yield anything theologically significant. It doesn’t suffice to tell us what to believe as revealed by God, as distinct from telling us what some people have actually said and done about God.

    That you fail to understand that is evident from what you write next:

    But just for the sake of argument, let’s grant that the CCIP creates the distinctions that you speak of (again as in #76 and #58) better than the CPIP, BUT that the Apostolic and Early Church Fathers didn’t share the CCIP? If this is the case how would you know it? The fact that the CCIP makes better distinctions (as per your #58 and #76) does not mean that the making of such distinctions by the Church is what God intended. Your goal, as I see it, is a theological system that makes the distinctions you speak of in #58 and #76 whether or not such goals were shared by the Apostolic writers and those that followed them. My purpose is to ask whether these early Christians shared the paradigms you are promoting, and my methodology is to compare the respective IP’s using the writings from the biblical writers and the ECF’s.

    That last sentence continues evincing the same misunderstanding I pointed out in my previous comment. Suppose, just for the sake of argument, that “the biblical writers and the ECFs” neither explicitly set forth the CIP nor can otherwise be known to have consciously used it. That supposition might be true, but its truth or falsity hardly matters theologically. Why? Well, if it were true, would it follow that they were not using the CIP? No. All that would follow is that they were not conscious of using it. I would still argue, as an adherent of the CIP, that the best way to explain what they were doing is to interpret the overall body of their writings as deploying what is, in fact, the CIP. And that methodology is justified, because the “principled distinction” contained and deployed by the CIP does a better job than the CPIP of getting something theologically significant and normative out of their writings. Your methodology, however, tries to get that simply by assuming that what’s theologically significant and normative just is what the biblical writers and ECFs explicitly said, along with what can be inferred deductively from it. That of course is the characteristic assumption of the CPIP. But unless you show that the CPIP achieves the specific purpose of theological IPs better than the CIP, that assumption is unwarranted and question-begging.

    The question-begging emerges even more clearly in what you write next:

    …the CCIP methodology of making principled distinctions may be such that God never intended the Church to utilize. You’ve got your system of making principled distinctions so now the question for you is how you justify such a system from the standpoint of historic Christian theology.

    If, as you have already conceded, the CIP makes the distinction I’m “looking for” better than the CPIP, then it begs the question to evaluate the CIP in terms of “historic Christian theology,” as if we could know by means of learning such theology “what God intended the Church to utilize,” which is what’s normative. You’re just assuming that the best way to learn the norm is by a historical study of early Christian theology. On the contrary, I actually argue that such a study is never going to yield anything theologically significant, as distinct from historically significant, without a principled means of distinguishing between divine revelation as such and merely human opinion. Thus, what’s theologically significant is what God has revealed, and what can be inferred from that; merely assuming that we can “know” what God has revealed by studying the writings of people chronologically closest to the alleged time of that revelation is unwarranted–unless there are independent reasons to believe not merely that their empirical knowledge of the “Christ-event” is more reliable than ours, but that they taught with the authority of God himself.

    Best,
    Mike

  81. I am a little confused here. First the Greeks tell us that every bishop is Peter; and yet they call their Bishop of Constantinople the See of Andrew. Will they please make up their mind. So does that make Rome, Antioch, Alexandria the See of Andrew as well? First, some of them (Greek bishops) go to the ends of the earth to say that Peter was not the Rock, was not the leader of the Apostles. And then they say that Byzantium bears the succession of Andrew? Wait a minute, I thought Byzantium like the other cities is of Peter (since they say that every Bishop is Peter?) So are they of Peter or Andrew? You cannot have it both ways. So if they are going to apply particular apostolic succession on their city, why do they crucify Rome as saying they are the chair of Peter?

    The author has quoted some in the ancient Syriac Tradition such as Theodore Abu Qurrah and Monastery of St. Maron as examples of the East being pro-Roman primacy. There are also many others in the East who felt this way. Here is yet another example; it is from the Maronite Patriarch the saintly Youhana Maroun (John Maron) who lived from 628-707AD : “And as a Patriarch has authority over his subjects, the Roman (Pontiff) has authority over all Patriarchs, in the same manner as Peter had it over all chiefs of Christianity, and over all Churches; for he is the successor of Christ, placed over His Church, over His flock, over all peoples. If any one refuses to observe these (statutes), let him be anathema.”

  82. David Anders,

    I have come back to this discussion after spending some time reading into the literature put out there by the Orthodox scholars, and was wondering if you could answer a question which are directly related, in my opinion, to the original post.

    If indeed, there were people in the East who held to Petrine primacy in Rome, and that such Petrine Primacy in Rome was of divine origin, and not by the canonical decrees of men (St. Damasus), but that such Petrine Primacy in Rome was not essentially what was defined @ Vatican 1, thereby placing Rome in doctrinal error, and therefore outside the Body of Christ, how do they “now” continue to say Petrine Primacy is of divine origin, if indeed it fizzled out over time? In other words, how could something be a divinely constituted element of the Church for only a portion of the Church’s life, and then diminish, without this nullifying the promise , “and the gates of hell shall never prevail against it”?

    It is my understanding that since the East has done away with a Petrine Primacy in Rome, that divine Primacy in the Church has been relocated, or displaced by Constantinople, and that the latter is the New Rome, thus obtaining the perogatives of Old Rome in the world today.

    But I see a problem with this. The perogatives of Rome were claimed by the bishops of Rome to have a specific application “only” to the succession from the Apostle Peter “in Rome”. So how could this transfer, accidentally, to another See?

    I am curious to know if you think that this is a pertinent question, and if there is an Orthodox response today for it?

    Thanks
    Erick Ybarra

Leave Comment

Time limit is exhausted. Please reload CAPTCHA.

Subscribe without commenting