The Filioque, Constantinople II, and Common Sense Arguments Against Roman Catholicism – Examined (Part 2)


I received some comments which said I did not directly address Craig Truglia’s 2 main points, namely, that the Creed of 381 from Constantinople 879-80’s horos is irreformable, and that the assent to the Conciliarism of the final sentence at the Council of Constantinople 553. I intend to be concentrate on these two issues more below, but my Part 1 is still essential information for the surrounding context.

(1) Creedal formulae can be reformed by legitimate authority, as evidenced by the Council of Ephesus canon 7. Catholics appeal to Papal supremacy as a source of legitimate authority. As it stands, there is a *negative* form of Papal supremacy which follows synodal and episcopal decisions, and that is particularly what happened with the Council of Lyons (1274) and Florence (1440s). The Filioquist-Creed pre-dated Roman intervention in the West, and the Popes had decided that this would remain illegal until a certain point. Were there less than charitable and/or justified means in procuring the filioque in the creed? Of course. But that does not make it illegitimate, or negligible on the part of the Church. In Canon Law tradition of the Latin West, it has been widely considered that a Pope cannot bind all of his successors to a disciplinary rule, and the Creed of 381 is just that, a disciplinary rule. So, in short, the strict lock on the creed of 381 given by the Synod of C’ple 879 has just as much authority as an Ecumenical Council, which can therefore be revised according to the same authority, i.e. an Ecumenical Council or Papal decree.

I sympathize why you would disagree with this, but I find the the reasons you have given not compelling enough to change my mind. If it is the case that Synods are to be given the respect of infallible and irreformable authority *only once they are received as Ecumenical*, then the Council of Constantinople 879 has no place of reference as an infallible source of data for the Eastern Orthodox since, as is evident, it is not in the list of universally accepted Councils. In the case that it does so obtain, it would be interested also to see what the Orthodox would say about the admissions to Papal supremacy in the Acta of that Council, and what that would say about the Greek rejection of the Petrine theory (as specified, say, at the Council of Ephesus 431 by Phillip the Papal legate) of Rome’s primacy in the 2nd-millennium.


(2) On Vigilius’s so-called subscription to the sentence of the Synod, you wrote that the following words clearly manifest that – “But since Christ our God, who is the true light, whom the darkness comprehendeth not, hath removed all confusion from our minds, and hath so recalled peace to the whole world and to the Church, so that what things should be defined by us have been healthfully fulfilled through the revelation of the Lord and through the investigation of the truth.”. But that is not evidence in my reading. First, in the paragraph prior, Vigilius speaks about the division which occurred between himself and other bishops who surrounded him with even more Latin bishops who were in Constantinople during his time there. Thus, the “our” of your citation is likely a reference to the “our” of all of his writings, namely, the entourage of bishops that Vigilius was associated with during his exchanges with Justinian and the Council. When he says, “what needed to be defined by us has been savingly accomplished”, why could it not just as well be what he is defining in the name of the “our” in his very letter to Eutychios? In fact, nowhere in the document of the letter to Eutychios does Vigilius make a direct reference to the Council in Constantinople. Yes, there is inserted portions of its canons, but the surrounding texts gives far more the impression that Vigilius is coming to this decision along with his associates on their own. Yes, they implicitly admit the Council was right, and that he and his associates had to revise their former opinions, but this is slightly different than saying that Vigilius is giving a direct confirmation to the Sentence of the Synod. One part of the letter to Eutychios is revealing – “For all these reasons, therefore, may the whole of the universal Church recognize that we have proceeded to the contents of this our decree justly and in a way that is not open to criticism”. It sounds as though Vigilius is addressing this to the universal Church in the name of the Papal “we”.

But even aside from this, let’s go with the idea that Vigilius totally bought into the Sentence of the Synod. Let’s look at the content:

“….we recalled to his memory the great example of the Apostles and the traditions of the Fathers. For even though individual apostles abounded with the grace of the Holy Spirit so that they did not need the advice of others over what had to be transacted, yet they had no wish to decide in any other way the question that was mooted, whether the Gentiles ought to be circumcised before they met, together and each of them confirmed his statements from the testimonies of the divine Scriptures

I don’t see how this is contradictory to the Catholic doctrine on the Papacy. As I quoted to you from the 1st Vatican Council, even the Pope vows to submit to the tradition of the fathers as they interpreted holy Scripture. Therefore, the 1st Vatican Council is not some sort of expose for Papal isolationism, or worse, Papal automation. After all, as you noted, the 1st Vatican Council was just that, a “Council”. Here the Council fathers of Constantinople note how the individual apostle had the infallible and supreme such that “they did not need the advice of others over what had to be transacted”. So is that really the case? Did they not need each other together ? Or did they? It appears the Council would concede they did not absolutely, but that, for the sake of the normal method of obtaining truth in the Church through synodality, even the Apostles met together into a Synod to arrive at the truth. How is that not only consistent, but also exemplified in not just the Council of Trent, Vatican I, and Vatican II, but also in the ex-cathedra decrees on the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary and her blessed Assumption? Before the latter two decrees were issued, the entire Episcopate was consulted by the Popes on the question, and it was next to a perfect unanimity that obtained agreement towards what the Pope decreed. And not just that, but also the Councils of Lyons, Florence, and even before that with the recognition of the Western tradition of the Filioque doctrine (as well as its use in the Creed), show forth that even the Filioque does not come to the table of the Church by the mechanism of Papal isolationism. I think what has you confused is this part of the Vatican Council :

such definitions of the Roman Pontiff are irreformable of their own nature (ex sese) and not by reason of the Church’s consent

But you have inserted a meaning into this that is not there. You are interpreting this as an enablement to Papal isolationism. However, all that is said here is that the ex-cathedra decree itself has an authority which does not derive from the consent of the Church, but has its own justification of authority directly from God. This is perfectly consistent with the following scenario. Let’s say Pope X doesn’t quite know the theology of whether Christ could “learn” in his human nature, and yet the Church is wrecked with a scandal over this question. The Pope may convene an Ecumenical Council, admit to the Council that he has not the intellect or knowledge on the matter to make a definitive decision, and would like to hear and learn from the lectureship of all the bishops and theologians attending the Council. Let’s say the Pope, after a few months of learning, comes to see a consensus among the bishops and the tradition of the Church on the subject, and says, “Ok, I have now learned the truth, and I am ready to proceed with an ex-cathedra decree”, the authority of this decree would not derive from the authority of the theologians or the Bishops who lectured in the Council. It would derive from Papal authority alone, even though the Pope himself would never have known the content of the truth unless he deliberated with the Church to learn the matter himself. This is all that the decree on Papal Infallibility is saying. Therefore, your critique is not to the decree on Papal Infallibility, but to another and separate question, namely, can the Pope arrive at the truth of the faith all by himself before he issues a decree on xyz matter? This question actually came up in Bishop Gasser’s relatio at the Council of Vatican (1870), and the bishops and Pope decided that this question would not be dealt with in the Council, but the relatio did say that the Pope has to submit to the apostolic deposit as known and taught in the whole Church in order for himself to know the truth. Therefore, we have two different realities here. The first is (1) how does the truth get known, and (2) by what authority grounds papal decrees. You conflated the two, and this is why you saw the Sentence of the Synod in Constantinople as clashing with Papal infallibility. But let’s continue with what else the Sentence says.

According it was in common that they all pronounced judgement on the mater, writing to the Gentiles and stating in a declaration that ‘when we all assembled together it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us, to impose no other burden on you except these necessary things…….

This is a statement of fact, and in no way directly contradicting anything about the Papacy.

The holy fathers also who convened at various times in the holy four councils followed the ancient precedent and decreed in common on the heresies and problems that had arisen, since it is certain that it is through joint examination, when there is expounded what needs to be discussed on both sides, that the light of truth dispels the darkness of lies

Again, this is a question of how the truth gets arrived at. The decrees of Vatican I never denied the need of the Pope’s collaboration with the Church in order to arrive at the truth. The issue of the decree on Papal infallibility is that when a Pope does conduct an ex-cathedra teaching, that judgement, no matter how reliant on the common deliberation of the universal church, does not derive its authority from the common deliberation of the universal church.

For neither its it permissible in the case of the faith for anyone to anticipate the judgment of the Church in her totality, since each person needs the help of his neighbor……

Again, this is a question of how one arrives at the truth. Is the Council of Bishops in Constantinople saying that it is a *strict* and *absolute* necessity for there to be a consensual meeting before issuing infallible teachings unto the universal Church? I think the bishops would have said, no, since they already said the apostles did not, strictly speaking, need the other before they made transactions, but nevertheless this is the normal rule of the Church. There are some rare exceptions that the Orthodox would even allow, for example, St. Athanasius or Mark Eugenicos of Ephesus. In fact, in the 1st/2nd Council of 861 in Constantinople,

In the relation of Bishop Gasser, which set the standard for the proceedings at Vatican I, says the following in this manner, and I think it sufficiently aligns with the spirit of thought in the Council of Constantinople:

But the issue is pressed by saying (and this is the third axiom): the consent of the Churches is a rule of faith which even the Pope ought to follow, and therefore he should consult those who rule the Churches before he makes a definition in order that he may be certain about the consent of the Churches.  I reply.  The matter has come to its extreme point and we must accurately distinguish between true and false lest we suffer shipwreck in port.  It is true that the Pope in his definitions “ex cathedra” has the same sources (“fontes”) which the Church has, viz., Scripture and tradition.  It is true that the consent of the present preaching of the whole magisterium of the Church, united with its head, is a rule of faith even for pontifical definitions.  But from all that it can in no way be deduced that there is a strict and absolute necessity of seeking that consent from the rulers of the Churches or from the bishops.  I say this because this consent is very frequently able to be deduced from the clear and manifest testimonies of Sacred Scripture, from the consent of antiquity, that is, of the Holy Fathers, from the opinion of theologians and from other private means, all of which suffice for full information about the fact of the Church’s consent.

1 thought on “The Filioque, Constantinople II, and Common Sense Arguments Against Roman Catholicism – Examined (Part 2)

  1. Pingback: Response to Ybarra’s View of the Filioque and Vigilius – Orthodox Christian Theology

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