Historians and Orthodox: Please help!

I would like some help from both the historians and Orthodox among our readership in assessing the accuracy of this (seemlingly useful) Timeline of the East-West Schism
of the Catholic and Orthodox Church
. I am teaching a short course on Church History (starting on Monday) and although I can’t cover the East West relations in detail, would like something to give my students an overview.

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12 Responses to Historians and Orthodox: Please help!

  1. Christine says:

    I found this very interesting from the same site:

    “So, the patriarchal authority of Jerusalem is an invention of the Council of Chalcedon. It did not exist before A.D. 451.

    The same is true of the so-called patriarchal authority of Constantinople. Despite a bunch of medieval, state-sponsored legends (which have no basis in fact or ancient history), Byzantium had no connection to any Apostle, but was a minor church under the jurisdiction of the metropolitan of Herculea in Thrace, which was in-turn directly answerable to Rome. It was the First Council of Constantinople that first tried to give patriarchal authorty to Byzantium (merely because it was the imperial city). But, both Rome and Alexandria rejected this decree, and it was withdrawn. For, according to Apostolic Tradition, Rome held the primacy for the universal Church, and Alexandria was the Church’s second see, having the primacy in the Eastern Church. This is confessed by all the fathers who address this subject, and most clearly by Pope St. Damasus I, who issued the following decree in A.D. 382 –a decree issued in order to defend Alexandria’s place as the primate in the East, which was usurped by the Byzantines at the Constantinople I the previous year:
    “Although all the Catholic churches spread abroad throughout the world comprise but one bridal chamber of Christ, nevertheless, the holy Roman church has been placed at the forefront not by the conciliar decisions of the churches, but has received the primacy by the evangelic voice of our Lord and Savior, Who says: “You are Peter …(Matt 16:18-19).” In addition to this, there is also the companionship of the vessel of election, the most blessed Apostle Paul who, along with Peter in the city of Rome in the time of Caesar Nero, equally consecrated the above-mentioned holy Roman Church to Christ the Lord; and by their own presence and by their venerable triumph, they set it at the forefront over the others of all the cities of the world. The first see, therefore, is that of Peter the Apostle, that of the Roman church, which has neither stain nor blemish, nor anything like that. The second see is that of Alexandria, consecrated on behalf of the blessed Peter by Mark, his disciple and an Evangelist, who was sent to Egypt by the Apostle Peter, where he preached the word of truth and finished his glorious martyrdom. The third see is that of Antioch, which belonged to the most blessed Peter, where first he dwelled before he came to Rome, and where the name “Christians” was first applied, as to a new people.” (Decree of Damasus # 3, 382 A.D.)

    . . . .

    Here, one must also appreciate the fact that Byzantine Christianity is not the be-all-end-all of Eastern Christianity. In the Eastern Orthodox Chuch, you have no representation of the Coptic tradition, or the Syrian tradition, or the Maronite (Lebanese) tradition, or the Ethiopian tradition, or the Malankar (Indian) tradition, or the Armenian tradition, or the Chaldean (Persian) tradition. The Catholic Church, however, includes all of these traditions, as well as the Byzantine and the Antiochian traditons, along with those of the West (Roman and Gallican). What’s more, your present Orthodox theology does not even represent the totality of Greek Christianity, but subordinates the Alexandrian Greek tradition to the Antiochian and the Cappadocian Greek traditions. If you accepted your Alexandria heritage, you would not have a problem with the theology of Filioque (properly understood). So, in short, you Eastern Orthodox do not speak for the ENTIRE East, but merely for the Byzantine-Antiochian tradition –that is, part of the East. And, the part of the East that you speak for is not as old as the Apostolic heritage of Rome.”

  2. analiise says:

    Ohhhhhh.This site makes my head explode.
    Please tell me you are joking, or this is some kind of survey to measure outclicks.

    Do you own anything by Pelikan?
    I think to balance out the rudeness of this site toward the Orthodox I would have to send you to read ROMANIDES.
    An alternative to romanides, not nearly as polemic, but at least presenting the west as less than demonic would be T R Valentines outline of Synods and Councils: Ecumenical (Imperial), local, and heretical http://www.geocities.com/trvalentine/orthodox/

    And though no one has figured out precisely the nature of the animal known as the Young Fogey, I think he does an excellent job is fostering understanding between Roaman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox. http://home.att-net/-sergei592/NewQ_Anew.html
    and his Conservative Blog for Peace.

    I would drop the clean, easy time-line approach-your students, whoever they may be, might as well learn early nothing that has to do with the Church can ever be distilled down to something so simple; much better to teach them one fact…things are complicated and held together through love, repentence, forgiveness and humility. That is worth more than a thousand facts, even if 90% of them are true.

    This is one area where a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, especially if it is biased.
    You may be just be inadvertently adding to the army of sloganists on both sides, which is already large and unwieldy already.

    Sorry. I know that doesn’t help make your job any easier. God bless and guide in your work.

  3. Schütz says:

    Yes, Analiise, I own his history of Christian doctrine set. Have I read all of it? No, not yet.

    Its always hard to judge bias when the bias is in your own direction. It is usually those against whom something is biased who notice the bias. So thanks for noticing!

    However, I am a little confused when people say that it is only the Western Church fathers who speak of Rome’s primacy, when there does appear to be recognition of Rome’s primacy in the East also from the very beginning. Nor do I understand those who charge Rome with “innovation”. I understand that in the early centuries of the Church, it was Rome who was the “stick in the mud” and the East who “innovated”. Rome usually had to catch up! And then, Constantinople as a Patriachate was surely an innovation? (However, we do not object to it on that or on any other basis–we have, as you know, become quite accustomed to innovation over the years!).

  4. Anonymous says:

    Which Eastern Fathers recognised Rome’s primacy and can you give a site where I may read about their recognition.


  5. analiise says:

    I don’t deny that the Church Father’s spoke of primacy, but what they meant then and what the Roman Papacy has become is what is creating all that heat and light.

    To deny the whole concept is a result of a very truncated theological education, or an education at the hands of extremely biased teachers.
    Rome’s primacy was not pulled out of thin air; I have met few who make that claim, however there are those, and they tend to be very vocal who teach or do make those claims; if you take time to listen, usually come from situations where their survival or the survival of relatives or ancestors who were hurt or threatened by Rome in some way. (what did you learn from Luther’s little book when you were young???)
    The truth always lies somewhere between the two extremes.

  6. Schütz says:

    I’m thinking of St Maximus the Confessor for one, Sharon. Good essay on this by Jean-Claude Larchet in “The Petrine Ministry: Catholics and Orthodox in Dialogue” edited by Walter Kasper.


  7. Christopher Orr says:

    That is a good book helping to delineate the more sophisticated, less caricatured positions on each side. It is interesting to read about the Orthodox history of accepting primacies that go beyond simply first among equals. At the same time, I thought the proofs given for the early Church’s understanding of Rome’s supremacy (as different from primacy) pretty weak – I was actually surprised.

    You hit on the issue, Schutz, with your comment regarding innovation. Change and increasing formation in doctrine and practice is allowable in Orthodoxy, but what gives it the stamp of acceptability is conciliarity, which is a concept still lacking in an essential way after Vatican I – and even after Vatican II attempts to place papal supremacy within the context of the College of Bishops (Peter with the Apostles, not Peter over the Apostles). Without conciliar acceptance of changes by the entire Body of Christ, rather than just its ‘neck’ (Rome) or for that matter Christ’s leg or arm or heart or…

  8. Schütz says:

    We tend to be of the opinion that Vatican I (like Vatican II, Trent, etc…) WAS an ecumenical council. It was a council of the Catholic Church, in which the one Church of Christ subsists. There are true elements of the Church outside the Catholic Church, but the absence of these true elements does not lessen the Catholicity of the Catholic Church, nor does it detract from the ecumenicity of its Councils. The Vatican Councils were also councils of both the East and the West, as it included all Eastern Churches in Communion with the See of Peter.

    Hermeneutical bias there again, I guess.

  9. Fr John W Fenton says:

    I think the site you posted gives too little significance to Vatican I and the declaration of Papal infallibility. In fact, the entire century is too quickly glossed over. That single declaration, imho, appears to articulate the greatest obstacle to reunification. In addition, I think history will judge that Pope Benedict XVI’s removal of the title “Patriarch of the West” is not insignificant.


  10. Schütz says:

    I wish for the life of me that I knew what that business of leaving out “Patriarch of the West” from his titles was all about. It was never explained. We can only conjecture. However, we should not automatically assume that it was intended to reassert the universal primacy. Remember that Benedict was also the first pope to remove the papal crown from the papal coat of arms and replace it with a simple mitre. Remember too that the Bishop of Rome is simply that: a bishop. That is his proper title: not Patriarch or even Pope. Just plain old “Bishop of Rome”. What more needs to be said?

    And again, I want to stress as I did for Christopher, that Vatican I should be read in the light of Vatican II. Taken on its own, one could well understand how the Orthodox regard it as beyond the pale. But the 1st Vatican Council was untimely interupted, and its work was concluded by the 2nd Vatican Council, within which it must be interpreted.

  11. Christopher Orr says:

    I have heard this argument before, but when I was reading the Catechism carefully as well as other documents pertaining to this issue it was always stipulated very clearly that while consultation with the College of Bishops was a good that was to be promoted it was in no way required and the Pope could at any time for any reason speak ex cathedra on an issue of faith or morals and that statement must be dogmatically held as infallible. Full stop. There is no possibility that a pope can err, and this decidedly takes him out of the ranks of simply being ‘a bishop’.

    That being said, it seems that the de facto practice in the RCC is much more in line with what you are saying, and it is a common explanation one hears. It’s just that, if that is the case, why not change the books? Whatever positive, inclusive, friendly steps have been taken in the past decades – and they have been honestly taken, I think, in the main – there is a long history of RC abuse and domination that is well-remembered by the Orthodox and Protestants. Time will need to go by to ensure that positive language is not simply a marketing ploy, a bait and switch; until Rome can come to a dogmatic determination that is more in line with your explanation of Vatican I and II, most will simply fear not what this or the most recent Pope’s have said or done, but what future ones may do with their dogmatically unfettered power.

    You are correct, though, that Benedict has made a number of overtures toward more of an Orthodox (and orthodox) understanding of Roman primacy. We’ll see whether he can go all the way, and whether the Orthodox can remember how to work within a more defined structure of primacy where each local church is not simply autonomous in all of their choices and decisions but are accountable to the Church as a whole (and not just to Rome either…)

    I had thought that the dropping of the Patriarch of the West title presaged the creation of other Patriarchates in what would otherwise be a rather enormous single Patriarchate. In some ways, this then promotes conciliarity by ‘diluting’ the power of any single Patriarchate. Thus, North America might become a patriarchate, Brazil, Mexico, Sub-Saharan Africa, China, etc.

  12. Schütz says:

    Beware the hermeneutics of suspicion, Christopher!

    And yes, that is one interpretation on the whole Western Patriarch thing. In Lutheran terms, it puts the best construction on everything!

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