Wednesday, March 07, 2007

A Response to Orthodox Critiques of Catholic Apostolicity

By Dave Armstrong (1997)

The Catholic Church - notwithstanding all the historical difficulties, culturally-based misunderstanding and theological disputes which have hindered Christian unity - takes a very high view of Eastern Orthodoxy. In the Decree on Ecumenism (Unitatis Redintegratio) from the Second Vatican Council (21 November, 1964), the following glowing words are found:
    From their very origins the Churches of the East have had a treasury from which the Church of the West has drawn largely for its liturgy, spiritual tradition and jurisprudence. Nor must we underestimate the fact that the basic dogmas of the Christian faith concerning the Trinity and the Word of God made flesh from the Virgin Mary were defined in Ecumenical Councils held in the East. To preserve this faith, these Churches have suffered, and still suffer much . . . (Chap. III, I, 14)
     Everyone knows with what love the Eastern Christians celebrate the sacred liturgy, especially the eucharistic mystery, source of the Church's life and pledge of future glory . . .
    These Churches, although separated from us, yet possess true sacraments, above all -- by apostolic succession -- the priesthood and the Eucharist, whereby they are still joined to us in closest intimacy. Therefore some worship in common (communicatio in sacris), given suitable circumstances and approval of Church authority, is not merely possible but is encouraged.
    Moreover, in the East are to be found the riches of those spiritual traditions which are given expression in monastic life especially . . . Therefore, it is earnestly recommended that Catholics avail themselves more often of the spiritual riches of the Eastern Fathers which lift up the whole man to the contemplation of divine mysteries.
    Everyone should realize that it is of supreme importance to understand, venerate, preserve and foster the rich liturgical and spiritual heritage of the Eastern Churches in order to faithfully preserve the fullness of Christian tradition, and to bring about reconciliation between Eastern and Western Christians . . . (Ch. III, I, 15)
    It is the Council's urgent desire that every effort should be made toward the gradual realization of this unity in the various organizations and living activities of the Church, especially by prayer and by fraternal dialogue on points of doctrine and the more pressing pastoral problems of our time . . . the Council hopes that with the removal of the wall dividing the Eastern and Western Church there may be but one dwelling, firmly established on the cornerstone, Christ Jesus, who will make both one. (Ch. III, I, 18)
    The Light of the East (Pope John Paul II)
Likewise, Pope John Paul II concluded his encyclical Orientale Lumen (The Light of the East; May 2, 1995), with this beautiful passage:
    Every day in the East the sun of hope rises again the light that restores life to the human race. It is from the East, according to a lovely image, that our Saviour will come again (cf. Mt 24:27). For us, the men and women of the East are a symbol of the Lord who comes again. We cannot forget them, not only because we love them as brothers and sisters redeemed by the same Lord, but also because a holy nostalgia for the centuries lived in the full communion of faith and charity urges us and reproaches us for our sins and our mutual misunderstandings: we have deprived the world of a joint witness that could, perhaps, have avoided so many tragedies and even changed the course of history . . . The words of the West need the words of the East, so that God's word may ever more clearly reveal its unfathomable riches . . . May God shorten the time and distance. May Christ, the Orientale Lumen, soon, very soon, grant us to discover that in fact, despite so many centuries of distance, we were very close, because together, perhaps without knowing it, we were walking towards the one Lord, and thus towards one another. May the people of the third millennium be able to enjoy this discovery, finally achieved by a word that is harmonious and thus fully credible, proclaimed by brothers and sisters who love one another and thank one another for the riches which they exchange. Thus shall we offer ourselves to God with the pure hands of reconciliation, and the people of the world will have one more well-founded reason to believe and to hope.
    Catholic and Orthodox Ecumenism
The Catholic stance on these matters of ecclesiological unity (following Christ's prayer at the Last Supper: John 17) is, therefore, made very clear in these authoritative Church documents. In his recent encyclicals the Pope refers optimistically to the Joint International Commission for the Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church, established in 1979, and to his encouraging discussions with His Holiness Bartholomew I, Patriarch of Constantinople. The mutual anathemas of 1054 were revoked over thirty years ago (1965), with both sides admitting fault.
Thankfully, the majority view among the Orthodox concerning such ecumenical considerations is similarly open, forward-looking, and charitable (especially among its clergy). For example, Bishop Kallistos (Timothy) Ware, author of The Orthodox Church (NY: Penguin Books, rev. ed., 1980), and an Orthodox ecumenist, expressed the conciliatory Orthodox viewpoint in that well-known work (pp. 315-316, 323-324):
    Over the past half century, there have been a large number of encouraging and fruitful contacts between Orthodox and other Christians. Although enormous obstacles still remain, there has also been great progress towards a reconciliation . . . while it is true to say that Orthodoxy is the Church, it is false to conclude from this that those who are not Orthodox cannot possibly belong to the Church . . . We know where the Church is but we cannot be sure where it is not; and so we must refrain from passing judgment on non-Orthodox Christians . . . There is only one Church, but there are many different ways of being related to this one Church . . . Much is also being achieved more informally through personal contacts . . . signs of a rapprochement are increasing year by year.
    Orthodox Anti-Catholicism
A vocal Orthodox minority, however, is currently expressing itself in an alarmingly different fashion, which might be described as "anti-ecumenical," or, in some instances, "anti-Catholic." This group is largely drawn from converts from evangelical Protestantism or from Catholicism (Orthodoxy, like Catholicism, is experiencing a wave of conversions of late). From this highly polemical perspective, the Catholic Church is regarded as a radically corrupt church which has departed from the apostolic "mainstream," so to speak, rather than as a "sister Church," or as one of the "two lungs" of the Body of Christ, as in the Catholic and mainstream ecumenical Orthodox outlook. According to some of these critics, even the validity of Catholic sacraments (including baptism) is denied: an extremely serious charge reminiscent of the ancient heresy Donatism. 

Catholicism is criticized and lambasted with a frequency unbefitting self-confident followers of Jesus, at times resembling the "negative campaigning" of politicians (the Catechism of the Catholic Church, on the other hand, mentions Orthodoxy only briefly - e.g., #838 - stressing commonality rather than differences).

The time has come for Catholics to respond to at least some of these severe criticisms (1 Peter 3:15), and in so doing there is always the risk of appearing "unecumenical" or uncharitable. But what follows presupposes what the Second Vatican Council and Pope John Paul II have taught, as excerpted above. Such a reply is especially necessary with regard to certain fairly indisputable historical facts which sorely need to be recounted, as a sort of "Church history refresher course."
An ecumenical Catholic (and we are all called to be that) finds it difficult to respond in the magnificent spirit of Orientale Lumen to a polemical statement such as the following , from a book by Fr. Peter E. Gillquist (former staff member of the Protestant evangelistic group Campus Crusade): Becoming Orthodox (Brentwood, TN: Wolgemuth & Hyatt, 1989, pp. 71-72):
    Rome stepped away from apostolic tradition in 1054. She left one thousand years of unity in the Church behind. No, she's not all wrong - not for a moment. But she is saddled with a papacy and a collection of dogmas that simply do not square with holy tradition. And my opinion is that she is moving further away from Orthodox Christianity, not closer . . . It's time for Rome to come back home to the unity of the Church and the faith of the Apostles and holy fathers which she once held so dear. It's time to come back to the fullness of holy tradition!
Elsewhere (p. 57) Fr. Gillquist exclaims:
    . . . the whole Roman Church ended up dividing itself from the New Testament Church . . . the Roman Church drifted farther and farther from its historic roots. There are inevitable consequences to deviation from the Church. The breaking away of the Roman Church from the historic Church would prove no exception.
The Christian Activist, a free newspaper edited by Frank Schaeffer, Orthodox convert and son of the revered evangelical evangelist and author Francis Schaeffer, is perhaps the leading purveyor (among the laity) of the thought of the anti-ecumenical wing of Orthodoxy. In any given issue, one can expect to find at least a dozen highly derogatory (and sometimes factually incorrect) references to Catholicism, scattered throughout articles and letters to the editor.

One article that sadly typifies the "anti-Catholic" material which regularly appears in this paper, was written by Fr. Alexey Young, and entitled "Florence 2000?: An Open Letter to All Roman Catholics and Orthodox on the State of Rome and Orthodoxy" (The Christian Activist, vol. 7, October 1995, pp. 16-20, 47-51). This article is itself an excerpt from Fr. Young's book The Rush to Embrace (Redding, CA: Nikodemos Orthodox Publication Society, 1995). Remarkable - almost unbelievable - assertions about the Catholic Church abound in this article, which are illustrative of the problem here addressed:

    Why is Catholicism a radically different Church than the Orthodox Church? . . . some Orthodox leaders . . . are either shockingly naive about the reality of Rome, or are hoping that no one will notice the dangerous circus to which they are trying to hitch the Orthodox Church, the very Ark of Salvation. (p. 17)
     The Latin or Western Church, known today as the Roman Catholic Church, was once part of the Universal Church. (p. 17)
    Orthodox patriarchs, bishops, priests, and theologians - all you who actively pursue a policy of rapprochement with Rome: Beware. You are trying to bring the Orthodox Church into a lion's den of unbelievable malignancy. You cannot save the Catholic Church; but the Catholic Church can and will contaminate and then destroy you. (p. 47)
    Like a branch that has been cut from a living tree, Rome had the outward appearance of life for many centuries after the Schism, even though lifegiving sap had really ceased to flow in her. Today, however, even the outward appearance testifies that this branch is indeed dead. (p. 48)
    The Orthodox Church is the Catholic Church, in the full and true meaning of the word. She has never departed from the revealed Faith and never compromised the Truth. (p. 48)
    Pope John Paul II . . . must somehow shore up his Church, his papacy. He is now turning in the direction of the east and the ancient, historic Patriarchates of Orthodoxy. He is looking for a blood transfusion for his dying Church. (p. 48)
    Many have passively tolerated this dangerous and false ecumenism . . . We are . . . filled with self-infatuation and self-importance. And this has become a substitute for real spiritual life. It is precisely this - the soul-numbing and worldly subjectivity of the Roman Catholic Church - that we find so attractive, so enticing. (p. 51)
    The Church of the First Millennium
In the Catholic view, the Church was institutionally united (allowing for some temporary schisms) up to 1054, under the supreme ecclesiological jurisdiction of the papacy (a complex issue which cannot be explored within the purview of this article).
In the ecumenical Orthodox perspective, the Church of the first millennium is also regarded as one and united, but under a system of conciliarism, in which all bishops - including the pope- were ultimately equal in authority. The pope was and is granted a primacy of honor ("first among equals"), but not of universal jurisdiction, or headship. The Catholic Church is accepted as part of the universal Church today in this framework, notwithstanding (according to them) aberrations and various heretical tenets (e.g., the Filioque, which has to do with the relationship of the Holy Spirit to the Father and the Son, as expressed in the Nicene Creed).
For the unecumenical Orthodox, on the other hand, the Catholic Church ceased to be part of the universal Church after 1054, and has lost - according to the most severe faction - apostolic succession and valid sacraments, as evidenced by the above quotes.
The Necessity of the Roman See for Doctrinal Orthodoxy

The Catholic response to the latter position is a demonstration that the Roman See and the papacy - irregardless of their ultimate status vis-a-vis the government of the Universal Church (it doesn't affect the validity of the argument) - were absolutely necessary for the purpose of upholding Christian orthodoxy (literally, correct doctrine), and preserving apostolic Tradition. A view that the East was always "primary" and orthodox, was the apostolic "mainline" (over against Roman and Western orthodoxy), and never forsook the Christian Tradition, is incoherent and self-defeating. Neither the Catholic nor the Orthodox ecumenical outlooks entail this logical conundrum. Only the "anti-Catholic" Orthodox view does, based on the following historical facts:
Schisms Prior to 1054

Both East and West acknowledge wrongdoing in the tragic events leading up to 1054 when the schism finalized. Nevertheless, it is undeniably true that the West (and especially the Roman See) had a much more solid and consistent record of orthodoxy. For example, the Eastern Church split off from Rome and the Catholic Church on at least six occasions before 1054:
    The Arian schisms (343-98);
    The controversy over St. John Chrysostom (404-415);
    The Acacian schism (484-519);
    Concerning Monothelitism (640-681);
    Concerning Iconoclasm (726-87 and 815-43).
This adds up to 231 out of 500 years in schism (46% of the time)! In every case, Rome was on the right side of the debate in terms of what was later considered "orthodox" by both sides. Thus, the East clearly needed the West and the papacy and Rome in order to be ushered back to orthodoxy.
Final Court of Appeal

The Roman See, with its bishop, the pope, was the supreme arbiter of orthodoxy in the Church universal in the early centuries. There is abundant historical evidence for this, but suffice it to say that even many of the East's most revered Church Fathers and Patriarchs sought refuge in Rome (theologically and/or geographically), for example: St. Athanasius (339 to 342), St. Basil the Great (371), St. John Chrysostom (404), St. Cyril of Alexandria (430), and St. Flavian of Constantinople (449).The East all too frequently treated its greatest figures much like the ancient Jews did their prophets, often expelling and exiling them, while Rome welcomed them unambiguously, and restored them to office by the authority of papal or conciliar decree.
Many of these venerable saints (particularly St. John Chysostom), and other Eastern saints such as (most notably) St. Ephraim, St. Maximus the Confessor, and St. Theodore of Studios, also explicitly affirmed papal supremacy. The popes functioned as the "supreme court" of the Church, and they presided over (personally or through papal legates) and ratified the Ecumenical Councils of the Church. One may argue that this was mere custom or a particularly "pragmatic," "governmental" aspect of the primacy of honor, but whatever view one takes, the historical facts of the papacy as "final court of appeal" are undeniable.
Rome and the New Testament Canon

Moreover, the Church of Rome was central in the development of the New Testament Canon, as Protestant scholar Adolf Harnack notes:
    The New Testament canon . . . is primarily traceable to the Church of Rome. It has now been proved that the whole series of New Testament books in their canonical and universally accepted versions were derived from Rome. Finally, new evidence of the greatest value indicates that from the third century the versions of the West, i.e. the Roman texts of the New Testament, entered into the texts of the Oriental biblical manuscripts. These data clearly prove that the Eastern Churches corrected their own versions by comparison with the New Testament received from Rome in those days. It was with special reference to Rome that an authentic list of Bishops extending back to the Apostles was prepared.
    (History of Dogma (1899), German ed., vol. 1, p.443, cited in Asmussen, Hans, et al, The Unfinished Reformation, tr. Robert J. Olsen, Notre Dame, IN: Fides Publishers Assoc., 1961, pp. 87-88.)
An Overview of Early Eastern and Western Dealings with Various Heresies
Marcionism rejected the Old Testament and its God, said to be different from the God of love in the New Testament, and made a complete dichotomy between law and grace. Marcion (d.c.160) came from northeastern Turkey and migrated to Rome but was promptly excommunicated in 144. The heresy was checked by 200 in Rome but lasted for several centuries in the East.
Montanism was an apocalyptic sect which denied the divinely-established nature of the Church. Montanus, who began prophesying in 172, came from central Turkey (which became the heresy's center of operations). Opposition to Montanism was spearheaded by Pope Eleutherus (175-89), and it was condemned by Pope Zephyrinus (199-217).
Docetism was the belief that Jesus Christ was not a real man, but only appeared to be so. The origins of Docetism derive from Hellenistic, Gnostic, and oriental notions that matter is essentially evil, which came out of Alexandria. Later christological heresies emanating from this school (such as Apollinarianism, Eutychianism, and Monophysitism) were influenced by Docetism.
Modalism (also known as Sabellianism) denied the full Personhood of all three Persons of the Trinity, and believed that God operated through mere "modes" or the transferral of power. Theodotus (2nd cent.) came from Byzantium to Rome, only to be excommunicated by Pope Victor (c.189-98). His disciple, also named Theodotus (early 3rd century) was condemned by Pope Zephyrinus (198-217). Artemon (3rd century) was teaching in Rome, c.235, but was excommunicated. Sabellius (fl.. 215) was excommunicated by Pope Callistus I.
Novatianism was a rigorist schism, stating that persons who fell away under persecution or who were guilty of serious sin could not be absolved. Its theology was otherwise orthodox. Novatian (d.258), a Roman presbyter, started the schism in 250. In 251 it was condemned by a Roman Synod and Pope Cornelius, and Novatian became an "antipope". His views were approved at Antioch.
Donatism held that sacraments administered by unworthy priests were invalid, and practiced re-baptism. The sect flourished in Africa, around Carthage. It began in 311 and was condemned by Pope Miltiades (311-14), who also came from Africa, in 313.
Arianism held that Jesus was created by the Father. In trinitarian Christianity, Christ and the Holy Spirit are both equal to, uncreated, and co-eternal with God the Father. Arius (c.256-336), the heresiarch, was based in Alexandria and died in Constantinople. In a Council at Antioch in 341, the majority of 97 Eastern bishops subscribed to a form of semi-Arianism, whereas in a Council at Rome in the same year, under Pope Julius I, the trinitarian St. Athanasius was vindicated by over 50 Italian bishops. The western-dominated Council of Sardica (Sofia) in 343 again upheld Athanasius' orthodoxy, whereas the eastern Council of Sirmium in 351 espoused Arianism, which in turn was rejected by the western Councils of Arles (353) and Milan (355).
Pelagianism is the heretical doctrine that man can make steps toward salvation by his own efforts, without Divine Grace. Pelagius cleared himself at a Synod at Jerusalem around 416, but was condemned at Carthage and Milevis in 416 and excommunicated by Pope Innocent I in the same year. Pope Zosimus reaffirmed this judgment in 418, as did the ecumenical Council at Ephesus in 431.
Nestorianism contends that there are two persons in Christ (Divine and human) and denies that Mary is the Mother of God incarnate. Orthodox, Catholic Christianity holds to one Divine Person - a God-man. Nestorius ( d.c.451) studied at a monastery at Antioch and became Patriarch of Constantinople from 428 to 431, having been condemned by Pope Celestine I in the Council at Rome in 430 (after both sides of the controversy appealed to Rome). The ecumenical Council at Ephesus in 431 repeated the Roman condemnation, after which Eastern bishops predominantly from Syria, Persia and Assyria withdrew from the Catholic Church.
Monophysitism was a heresy which held that Christ had one Divine Nature, as opposed to the orthodox and Catholic belief in two Natures (Divine and human). The Henoticon, a semi-Monophysite document was widely acknowledged in the East, but never at Rome. The co-writers of the Henoticon are thought to be Acacius, Patriarch of Constantinople (471-89), and Peter Mongo, Patriarch of Alexandria (477-90). Both were Monophysites who rejected the Council of Chalcedon. Monophysitism was an advanced type of Alexandrian theology. Pope Leo the Great dominated the Ecumenical Council of Chalcedon in 451, which repudiated Monophysitism.
Monothelitism is the heretical belief that Christ had one will (Divine), whereas in orthodox, Catholic Christian dogma, Christ has both Divine and human wills. Sergius (d.638), Patriarch of Constantinople from 610 to 638, was the most influential exponent of Monotheletism. The Ecthesis, a Monothelite statement issued by Emperor Heraclius, was accepted by Councils at Constantinople in 638 and 639, but was finally rejected at the Ecumenical Council of Constantinople in 680, which confirmed the decisions of Pope Agatho and the Synod at Rome in 679.
The Iconoclastic Controversy, a great upheaval of the 8th and 9th centuries, was spurred on notably by Monophysitism and influenced by Islam. This heresy held that images in worship were idolatrous and evil. It was initiated by Eastern Emperors Leo II (717-41), who deposed Germanus (c.634-c.733), Patriarch of Constantinople (715-30) - who appealed to Pope Gregory III. Gregory held two Synods at Rome condemning Leo's supporters in 731. In 784 Tarasius, Patriarch of Constantinople, initiated negotiations with Pope Hadrian I. The Ecumenical Council at Nicaea in 787 condemned the Iconoclasts. The Iconoclast Controversy was a major contributor towards the enduring schism between East and West.
A Chart of Heretical Eastern Patriarchs
    Patriarchal / See / Patriarch / Years / Heresy
    Antioch Paul of Samosata 260-269 Modalist
    Antioch Eulalius c.322 Arian
    Antioch Euphronius c.327-c.329 Arian
    Constantinople Eusebius c.341-42 Arian
    Constantinople Macedonius c.342-60 Semi-Arian
    Antioch Leontius 344-58 Arian
    Alexandria George 357-61 Arian
    Antioch Eudoxius 358-60 Arian
    Constantinople Eudoxius 360 Arian
    Antioch Euzoius 361-78 Arian
    Constantinople Nestorius 428-31 Nestorian!
    Alexandria Dioscorus 448-51 Monophysite
    Alexandria Timothy Aelurus 457-60, 475-77 Monophysite
    Antioch Peter the Fuller 470,475-7, 482-88 Monophysite
    Constantinople Acacius 471-89 Monophysite
    Antioch John Codonatus 477,488 Monophysite
    Alexandria Peter Mongo 477-90 Monophysite
    Antioch Palladius 488-98 Monophysite
    Constantinople Phravitas 489-90 Monophysite
    Constantinople Euphemius 490-96 Monophysite
    Alexandria Athanasius II 490-96 Monophysite
    Alexandria John II 496-505 Monophysite
    Alexandria John III 505-518 Monophysite
    Constantinople Timothy I 511-17 Monophysite
    Antioch Severus 512-18 Monophysite
    Alexandria Timothy III 518-35 Monophysite
    Constantinople Anthimus 535-36 Monophysite
    Alexandria Theodosius 535-38 Monophysite
    Antioch Sergius c.542-c.557 Monophysite
    Antioch Paul "the Black" c.557-578 Monophysite
    Alexandria Damianus 570-c.605 Monophysite
    Antioch Peter Callinicum 578-91 Monophysite
    Constantinople Sergius 610-38 Monothelite
    Antioch Anthanasius c.621-629 Monothelite
    Alexandria Cyrus c.630-642 Monothelite
    Constantinople Pyrrhus 638-41 Monothelite
    Antioch Macedonius 640-c.655 Monothelite
    Constantinople Paul II 641-52 Monothelite
    Constantinople Peter 652-64 Monothelite
    Antioch Macarius c.655-681 Monothelite
    Constantinople John VI 711-15 Monothelite
These historical facts may be briefly summarized as follows: All three of the great Eastern sees were under the jurisdiction of heretical patriarchs simultaneously during five different periods: 357-60 (Arian), 475-77, 482-96, and 512-17 (all Monophysite), and 640-42 (Monothelite): a total of 26 years, or 9% of the time from 357 to 642.

At least two out of three of the sees suffered under the yoke of a heterodox "shepherd" simultaneously for 112 years, or 33% of the period from 341 to 681 (or, two-thirds heretical for one-third of the time), and at least 248 of these same years saw one or more of the sees burdened with sub-orthodox ecclesiastical leaders: an astonishing 73% rate.

Thus the East, as represented by its three greatest bishops, was at least one-third heretical for nearly three-quarters of the time over a 340-year span. If we examine each city separately, we find, for example, that between 475 and 675, the patriarchs of Constantinople, Alexandria, and Antioch were outside the Catholic orthodox faith for 41%, 55%, and 58% of the time respectively.

Furthermore, these deplorable conditions often manifested themselves for long, unbroken terms: Antioch and Alexandria were Monophysite for 49 and 63 straight years (542-91 and 475-538 respectively), while Constantinople, the seat of the Byzantine Empire and the "New Rome," was embroiled in the Monothelite heresy for 54 consecutive years (610-64). There were at least (the list is not exhaustive) 41 heretical Patriarchs of these sees between 260 and 711.

Roman Steadfastness

No such scandal occurred in Rome, where, as we have seen, heresy was vigilantly attacked by the popes and local Synods, and never took hold of the papacy (not even in the ubiquitous "hard cases" of Honorius, Vigilius, and Liberius - none having defined heretical doctrines infallibly for the entire Church to believe). Rome never succumbed to heresy. It experienced barbarian invasions, periodic moral decadence, a few weak or decadent popes, the Protestant Revolt, the "Enlightenment," Modernism, etc., but always survived and rejuvenated itself. The papacy continues unabated to this day, with venerable power and prestige - the oldest continuing institution in the world. Thus, Rome has far and away the most plausible claim for apostolic faithfulness, and its history is a striking confirmation of the Catholic claims. An Orthodox position of papal primacy (not supremacy) can be synthesized fairly plausibly with these facts, but the anti-ecumenical stance assuredly cannot.
The Robber Synod (449) and the Henoticon (482)

Furthermore, essentially the entire Eastern Church seriously missed the mark doctrinally on at least two occasions: the "Robber Synod" at Ephesus in 449, and in the signing of the Monophysite Henoticon of Emperor Zeno in 482. The record of heresy in the East, then, could scarcely be more sobering for those Orthodox polemicists who are deliberately and proudly anti-ecumenical and anti-Catholic. For those who hold to the Universal Church, which has always included both East and West, this poses no difficulty, because Rome, the popes, and the West were there all along to maintain and champion orthodoxy.
Cardinal Newman's Analysis of 5th-Century Eastern Apostasy

John Henry Cardinal Newman commented on these two (thankfully temporary) massive Eastern apostasies, in a striking and eloquent passage from his famous Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine (1878 ed., Part II, chap. 6, sec. 3; emphasis added):
    Eutyches [a Monophysite] was supported by the Imperial Court, and by Dioscorus the Patriarch of Alexandria . . . A general Council was summoned for the ensuing summer at Ephesus [in 449] . . . It was attended by sixty metropolitans, ten from each of the great divisions of the East; the whole number of bishops assembled amounted to one hundred and thirty-five . . . St. Leo [the Great, Pope], dissatisfied with the measure altogether, nevertheless sent his legates, but with the object . . . of "condemning the heresy, and reinstating Eutyches if he retracted" . . .
    The proceedings which followed were of so violent a character, that the Council has gone down to posterity under the name of the Latrocinium or "Gang of Robbers." Eutyches was honourably acquitted, and his doctrine received . . . which seems to have been the spontaneous act of the assembled Fathers. The proceedings ended by Dioscorus excommunicating the Pope, and the Emperor issuing an edict in approval of the decision of the Council . . .
    The Council seems to have been unanimous, with the exception of the Pope's legates, in the restoration of Eutyches; a more complete decision can hardly be imagined. It is true the whole number of signatures now extant, one hundred and eight, may seem small out of a thousand, the number of Sees in the East; but the attendance of Councils always bore a representative character. The whole number of East and West was about eighteen hundred, yet the second Ecumenical Council was attended by only one hundred and fifty, which is but a twelfth part of the whole number; the Third Council by about two hundred, or a ninth; the Council of Nicaea itself numbered only three hundred and eighteen Bishops.
    Moreover, when we look through the names subscribed to the Synodal decision, we find that the misbelief, or misapprehension, or weakness, to which this great offence must be attributed, was no local phenomenon, but the unanimous sin of Bishops in every patriarchate and of every school of the East. Three out of the four patriarchs were in favour of the heresiarch, the fourth being on his trial. Of these Domnus of Antioch and Juvenal of Jerusalem acquitted him, on the ground of his confessing the faith of Nicaea and Ephesus . . . Dioscorus . . . was on this occasion supported by those Churches which had so nobly stood by their patriarch Athanasius in the great Arian conflict. These three Patriarchs were supported by the Exarchs of Ephesus and Caesarea in Cappadocia; and both of these as well as Domnus and Juvenal, were supported in turn by their subordinate Metropolitans. Even the Sees under the influence of Constantinople, which was the remaining sixth division of the East, took part with Eutyches . . .
    Such was the state of Eastern Christendom in the year 449; a heresy, appealing to the Fathers, to the Creed, and, above all, to Scripture, was by a general Council, professing to be Ecumenical, received as true in the person of its promulgator. If the East could determine a matter of faith independently of the West, certainly the Monophysite heresy was established as Apostolic truth in all its provinces from Macedonia to Egypt . . .
    At length the Imperial Government, . . . came to the conclusion that the only way of restoring peace to the Church was to abandon the Council of Chalcedon. In the year 482 was published the famous Henoticon or Pacification of Zeno, in which the Emperor took upon himself to determine a matter of faith. The Henoticon declared that no symbol of faith but that of the Nicene Creed, commonly so called, should be received in the Churches; it anathematized the opposite heresies of Nestorius and Eutyches, and it was silent on the question of the "One" or "Two Natures" after the Incarnation . . . All the Eastern Bishops signed this Imperial formulary. But this unanimity of the East was purchased by a breach with the West; for the Popes cut off the communication between Greeks and Latins for thirty-five years . . .
    Dreary and waste was the condition of the Church, and forlorn her prospects, at the period which we have been reviewing . . . There was but one spot in the whole of Christendom, one voice in the whole Episcopate, to which the faithful turned in hope in that miserable day. In the year 493, in the Pontificate of Gelasius, the whole of the East was in the hands of traitors to Chalcedon, and the whole of the West under the tyranny of the open enemies of Nicaea . . .
    A formula which the Creed did not contain [Leo's Tome at the Council of Chalcedon in 451], which the Fathers did not unanimously witness, and which some eminent Saints had almost in set terms opposed, which the whole East refused as a symbol, not once, but twice, patriarch by patriarch, metropolitan by metropolitan, first by the mouth of above a hundred, then by the mouth of above six hundred of its Bishops, and refused upon the grounds of its being an addition to the Creed, was forced upon the Council . . . by the resolution of the Pope of the day, acting through his Legates and supported by the civil power.
Despite this overwhelming evidence, an anti-ecumenist such as Fr. Alexey Young manages to make statements articulating the minority Orthodox view, such as:
    The Orthodox Church alone has been completely faithful to Christ and the Apostolic Church. (Young, ibid., p. 16)
The perspective of the Catholic Church, the pope, and our highly esteemed ecumenical (mainstream) Orthodox brethren is much more refreshing and optimistic, as exemplified by the hopeful words of Pope John Paul II, with which we shall conclude:
    The method to be followed towards full communion is the dialogue of truth, fostered and sustained by the dialogue of love. . . the Catholic Church desires nothing less than full communion between East and West.(Ut Unum Sint - That They May Be One; [60-61], May 25, 1995)


Rhys McKenzie said...

A final point of appeal does not make the Catholic Church the authority of the church

Think of the US Supreme Court, the ultimate point of arbitration in the US. But is it executive power? No. That's vested in a different office - the President.

Your analogy of this therefore is deceptive.

Dave Armstrong said...

But there is a final say somewhere, isn't there? In Orthodoxy, that is very difficult to achieve, with all the competing jurisdictions, which are akin to denominations in many ways.

Rhys McKenzie said...

Sorry, but you're missing the point. The analogy is stated so as to suggest that a 'final court of appeal' is also de jure the ultimate power.

It does not necessarily follow.

And that analogy doubly fails in that other churches have appealed to yet other churches than Rome.

Your whole article is spurious in the selective use of evidence; ignoring western schisms and heresies - that's why you have 'anti-popes' and the like.

And of course consider if the pope was the authority of the church for all the life of the church then all the 'eastern' schisms still happened UNDER the pope!

So having a pope didn't stop schisms! It's just a real fraud your argument. Even without the eastern churches you still has schisms

There was the "Great (or Western) Schism" and of course the Reformation where half of Europe left Catholicism. Even more recently with "Old Catholics"

Rhys McKenzie said...

Another confused Catholic argument is mixing dogmatic with administrative matters.

It goes; Rome is the primary See - the councils showed Rome was always accorded first place.

This statement of dogma is 'proven' by administration. We know it's administration, only because we see in the histories of the Councils that Sees could change their place. Constantinople was elevated above other older Sees.