Readers of my material will be familiar, perhaps overly so, with the 6th-century Libellus Hormisdae (Formula of Hormisdas). This was a formula with the condition of union for the Greek bishops who had broken away from public and pure assent to the Council of Chalcedon, the Tome of Pope St. Leo, and the communion of the Roman See. Readers will recall that this formula contained one of the starkest claims of Papal infallibility in the 1st millennium accepted by both West and East. Recent posts have drawn my attention to the “lapse” in faith by Pope Honorius as recognized by the 6th ecumenical Council and the Roman Pontiffs from then and onward for centuries. The letter of Pope Agatho which also made clear claims to Papal infallibility was written before the Church recognized one of the Roman Pontiffs had hereticalized. The Formula of Hormisdas, likewise, was written more than 100 years before the Honorius event. A question, therefore, may rise to the surface as to whether the anathema of Honorius “the heretic!”, as the Council exclaimed, changed the perception within Rome and elsewhere on the claims of Hormisdas and Agatho.
We get a clue, though not a satisfactory answer, from a future ecumenical council. The condemnation of Honorius gets reiterated at the Quinisext Council (692) and the Council of Nicaea II (787), but neither council of these gives any clear recognition of Roman infallibility. However, the Council of Constantinople (869-79) does speak about Roman infallibility while also reiterated the anathema of Honorius! So what we have here in the 8th ecumenical council of the Catholic Church is a reiteration of the Formula of Hormisdas (519) redacted to fit the new circumstances, which claims that Rome has never turned aside from the truth, and then also a description of Honorius’s crime, which was initiating a heresy, as well as a reiteration of Honorius’s anathematization for teaching one-will in Christ. Talk about leaving students of history with a tension!!
Let me give you the relevant sections.
“Salvation lies first and foremost in keeping the rule of the orthodox faith, and then in departing in no way from the decrees of God and the fathers. Of these one pertains to faith and the other to good works. For as it is written, ‘Without faith it is impossible to please God’, so we also read, ‘Faith without works is dead.’ And as it is impossible to overlook the saying of our Lord Jesus Christ, You are Peter and on this rock I shall build my Church’, so these words are proved by the actual outcome, since the catholic religion has always been preserved without stain, and the holy doctrines preached, in the apostolic see. Since therefore we have no desire to depart from her faith and doctrine, but in all things the decrees of the fathers and in particular of the holy bishops of the apostolic see, we anathematize all the heresies together with the iconomachs. We also anathematize Photius, who, after being suddenly raised up from curial administration and secular service, contrary to the sacred canons and the venerable decrees of the holy Roman Pontiffs, was through an invasion, indeed usurpation, installed by certain anathematized and deposed schismatics in the church of Constantinople while the patriarch Ignatius was still alive, until in stubborn disobedience to the decrees of the apostolic see he spurned its verdict both on him and on our patriarch Ignatius, and refused to anathematize the acts of the petty synod which under his leadership had convened in a manner contrary to the respect to the apostolic see…. Because, as we have already said, we follow the apostolic see in all things and observe all its decrees, we hope for the favour of enjoying the single communion that the apostolic see proclaims, in which is the complete and true totality of the Christian religion. And as regards those who are separated from the communion of the catholic church, namely, those who are in opposition to the apostolic see, we promise not to read out their names in the sacred mysteries.” (Price 129-131).
In the 7th session, a statement by Pope Hadrian II from a Roman Synod (869) is read aloud to the Council:
“For even though Honorius was anathematized after his death by the easterners, it should be known that he had been accused of heresy, which is the only offence where inferiors have the right to resist the initiatives of their superiors or are free to reject their false opinions..” (Price, 314)
In the 10th session, we read:
“Together with the aforesaid councils we accept as in harmony and agreement the holy ecumenical sixth council, which sagely asserted that in the two natures of the one Christ there are in consequence two operations and the same number of wills; we therefore anathematize Theodore bishop of Pharan, Sergius, Pyrrhus, Paul and Peter, the impious bishops of the church of Constantinople, and with them Honorius of Rome together with Cyrus of Alexandria, Macarius of Antioch and his disciple Stephen, who, following the doctrines and false opinions of the impious heresiarchs Apollinarius, Eutyches and Severus, taught without sense or reason that the flesh of God, animated by a rational and intellectual soul, lacks both will and operation.” (Price, 414)
So what we have here is a reiteration of the Formula of Hormisdas (519) redacted to fit the new circumstances, which claims that Rome has never turned aside from the truth, and then also a description of Honorius’s crime, which was initiating a heresy, as well as a reiteration of Honorius’s anathematization for teaching one-will in Christ.