Review of East/West Debate (Part 2): Crusades and the Greek-Latin Schism


Crusaders Thirsting near Jerusalem – Francesco Hayez (1791-1882)

Recently I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Steve Weidenkopf, a very prominent historian of ecclesiastical history on the Reason and Theology channel, to which I recommend all my readers. However, the purpose of this article is to continue my response to Craig Truglia, Eastern Orthodox apologist, friend, and fellow co-host of Reason and Theology, who had written a nice summary of our live debate, which came out to be titled Is Roman Catholicism Schismatic: The Case for Orthodoxy. Some of my readers have already caught attention to my first response. Well, here I am, Lord permitting, giving a second part as following. 
I bring up the interview with Professor Weidenkopf because Craig had the oppurtunity of making a comment below the video (see link above) which was critical of something I said during the interview. He wrote :

“It was informative, though I found the strange that due to the constraints on secular rulers to have ‘order’ that this was ‘justification’ in Erick’s mind for setting up a schismatic, parallel church body. It shows how the road to Hell can be paved with (alleged) good intentions”

My intention to respond to this motivated me to do just that , but in the context of continuing my overall response to Truglia of the debate and exchanges afterwards. So here it goes.

It was not my intention to say this was ideal, or that no better solution was available. Rather, only to make an appropriate context for leveling a charge. As for “setting up a schismatic, parallel church body“, again, this is a clear oversimplification of the history, and, in my opinion, fails to obtain as a compelling argument against Catholicism. If the readers of this aren’t aware, Truglia had built a basis for the definition of schism, rightly so, in the Patristic conception of the Chair of Peter, which is the seat of the local Bishop in relation to his flock. Since Peter was given only one chair in the Apostolic college, it is reasoned that within each Church, there is to be only one chair as well, unto which all must adhere in harmony and religious unity. To fail to do so, or more particularly, to set up a second chair, i.e. an opposing parallel bishopric, would be the attempt to render the Church in half, since the Church, in se, is unified by the singularity of the Bishop. The argument is therefore not difficult to trace when it comes to the crusades, since it is well known that, with the coming of the Latins into Eastern territories, there was installed Latin clerics to hold episcopal office where churches already existed. Therefore, the Latins are responsible for making the schism between East and West which exists, sadly, unto this very day.

Readers will be aware of my first response to this which includes an elaboration on the concept of the chair of Peter which includes an element missing from Truglia’s gloss, namely, that just like the chair of Peter is the origin-point of unity for the local flock of the Lord, so also the chair of Peter, as the Roman episcopate, is the origin-point for the universal network of flocks. In fact, one of Truglia’s primacy witnesses, St. Optatus of Milevis, held to this point in his work against the Donatists. Therefore, the gloss taken by Truglia here from St. Optatus is already undermined by this fact alone. While Truglia responds to this by explaining the function of Rome in the Optatian argument contra Dontatists as something pertinent merely to the Donatist vs Catholic schism in Rome with Victor of Garba, I have explained that this is a failure to capture the general and universal function of Rome in the Optatus’s argumentation. If I am right, and the primary Patristic witness to Truglia’s gloss on the singularity of Peter’s chair and its defining criteria of unity, and therefore schism, is actually supportive of the indispensability of Roman communion for the same criteria, this would make for a big hole in his overall argument in the debate. But I’m not here to dispute with this point anymore. What I am here doing is zooming in on the details of the Greek-Latin divide during the Crusades, to see if this even matches anything closely with that of the schism in Carthage between Majorinus and Ceacilian, as this was one of Truglia’s examples.

What I think Truglia is missing, with strict respect to the sack of 1204 and its subsequent Latin occupation, is the fact that the Eastern churches, principally Constantinople, had already been severed from communion with the Latins, and this is testified well before 1204. This is shown in the famous letter of Pope Innocent III to Emperor Alexius III. The latter had asked the Pope for support , and the Pope’s response shows the state of affairs between East and West during this time. In this letter, dated 1198, the Pope told the Emperor that he should use his authority to “see that the Church of the Greeks return to the unity of the Apostolic See and the daughter to her mother” (“Byzantium and the Papacy :1198-1400” , Fr Joseph Gill S.J., p. 11; he cites Regesta Innocentii III 353, or MPL 214-17).  In a letter to the Patriarch John X Camaterus, the Pope described the Greek Church as that “which has left the unity of the Apostolic See ( ibid; Regesta 1354 or MPL 214 328B). Now, the Patriarch responded, via messengers from the Emperor, stating that if the Eastern churches really did have a mother, it would be Jerusalem, and that the responsibility of rending the “seamless garment” of Christ “lay not with the Greek Church but with the Latin because of its innovation in the doctrine of the procession of the Holy Spirit” (ibid;  cites from A. Papadakis and Talbot “John X Camaterus confronts Innocent III: An Unpublished Correspondence”). The Emperor, in addition to these messengers carrying the letter of the Patriarch, also responded to the Pope, basically urging a Council. To this, the Pope responded that he did intent to call a Council , ” to which , if on our invitation [the patriarch] shall come and pay due reverence and obedience to the Roman Church…We shall receive him graciously and gladly as our most dear brother and the chief member of the Church” (Gill, 12). Alongside this, several citations from the Fathers on the primacy of Rome were communicated to the Patriarch from the Pope.

The Patriarch responded to this, as described by Gill: “The Patriarch was most concerned to rebut the Latin claim to primacy. Neither Gospel, he asserted, nor Council ever proclaimed Roman primacy; other cities were evangelized by Apostles; why, then, he queried, should Rome be distinguished from them as the ‘Mother’, when five are the sees called Patriarchal , which like fingers on the hand or string on a lyre act in harmony and no one of them is over the others? The Patriarch continued that all the Apostles were taught by the Holy Spirit; all were sent by Christ; to all, the words of Christ apply when he made them the foundation of the Church and bade them feed the flock. Peter had a special mission to the Hebrews; Paul to the Gentiles; James was Bishop of Jerusalem. We declare, he wrote, that Peter was honored by Christ above the other Apostles and that the Church of Rome is first in rank and honor among equal sister, not, however, because Peter was ever bishop of Rome, but because Rome at that time was the residence of the Emperor and of the senate….The faith began in Jerusalem; the name ‘Christian’ originated in Antioch; Rome may have many baptisms, but the size of a church cannot make it universal.” (ibid)

Where am I going with this? The stage needs to be properly set here. Pope Innocent III’s view of the Church of Constantinople, years before the sack of 1204 (which was nowhere in Innocent’s plan), was that the Greeks had severed themselves from unity with the Apostolic See for failure to render it due obedience and submission. Conversely, the Patriarch understood the Latin Church to be severed from the true Church and condemned by God for its doctrine of the Filioque, and its insertion into the Creed, and that union with the Latins, let alone submission, was unthinkable.

Therefore, to reduce the matter to something akin to Majorinus vs Ceacilian is simply an oversimplification. There was a state of schism already existing between the Greeks and the Latins, and that, for some time. We speak of stages to the schism, but this doesn’t mean it did not have real force even *BEFORE* 1054, and this is the fundamental component missing in Truglia’s reasoning. There are certain anomalies which exist in the enduring relations, but they are that, anomalies.

I want to mention some brief comments about the Latin patriarchate in Jerusalem. The leaders of the 1st Crusade regarded Patriarch Simeon II as the duly governing Patriarch, but when he died in exile, after being carried off by the Turks to Cyprus, the crusading army elected a Latin Patriarch, Daimbert of Pisa. It made perfect sense to do so, and the context shows no will to create a schism. The Latin succession of Patriarchs, from 1099 to 1187, considered itself as authentically succeeding all previous Eastern Patriarchs in that See. There was no sense where there was the prior Eastern succession, and now a new Latin succession. There was simply  just one succession of Jerusalemite Patriarchs, and Daimbert followed Simeon II in due order, and Simeon followed all prior ordinaries. But more important, how did the Eastern Christians respond to this? Was it something like that of the African clergy who responded to Majorinus as a rival opposition to the lawful chair of Ceacilian? The evidence would suggest otherwise. Taking from the history given by Byzantine historian George Every, there exists narratives, Latin, Armenian, and Russian, which give account of the Easter vigil in the Holy Sepulchre in 1101 and 1115. These indicate that both Latins, Syrians, and Greek monks of the monastery of St. Sabbas worshiped, presided over by the Latin Patriarch, or his representative. In the very rule of St. Sabbas, there exists references to chapels for Latins during this time. Moreover, in John Phocas’s Description of the Holy Land, he speaks respectfully of the Latin bishop of Bethlehem. Therefore, prior to 1187, what clash between the Greeks and the Latins in Jerusalem shows itself worthy of the same description as the 3rd-century schism of the Donatists vs Catholics? Of course, history would prove an eventual disturbance in communion, and this manifested itself by a full blown schism, but, as we can see, the stage is slightly different than what we were told.

I will add some brief comments on Antioch. When the Crusaders arrived in Antioch, they respected by the Greek patriarch John V. However, a political dispute arose between the Byzantine Emperor claimed that Antioch had been part of the Empire from 969 to 1085, and thus his, whereas the Norman Bohemond of Taranto considered it belonging to the Normans from their conquest, and he would therefore not give up Antioch to a Greek Governor. This also put a split between the Latin residents of Antioch. Raymond of Toulouse , for example, defender the rights of the Emperor in this regard. Under the latter’s influence, Peter of Norbonne, a Latin, was consecrated in Antioch in the year 1098 for the bishopric of Albara, most likely by the Eastern Patriarch John. However, when the Papal legate Adhemar du Puy (who respective the Eastern Patriarch of Antioch, and was on good terms with him) had died, Bohemond, recognizing the need for new leadership, wrote to the Pope complaining about “heretics” who were not controllable, i.e. the Greeks, Armenians, Syrians, and Jacobites. It was here that Latins were petitioning for someone to replace John V of Antioch. In the next year, 1099, Radolf of Cadon, who was supportive of Bohemond, recorded that four Latin bishops were consecrated to Syrian territories. In the same year, Radolf records that a certain Bernard of Valence was consecrated to the Patriarchal throne of Antioch. The medieval chronicler, William of Tyre, albeit recording in the Latin defense, states that John V had willfully retired seeing that he could not usefully preside over Latins as a Greek. One may reasonably ponder the probability that he had opposed this, as well as the consecration of other Latins to sees under his care. As the political divide continued between the Byzantines and the Latins, there were moments of attempted compromise by promises from the Latins to restore John V, or allow other Eastern prelates to have their due care of the flocks of Christ. One positive example was in 1159 when the Latin prince consented to receive the Greek Patriarch Athanasius. But soon thereafter, the Latin Patriarch returned as the ordinary, after the former had been killed in a catastrophic earthquake. But then, in 1207-13, prince Bohemond IV gave in to the Greek Patriarch Simeon. So we see a constant struggle for compromise between the Latins and Byzantines, even seeing that the former could take the side of the Greeks, without compromise to unity with the West. Even the Pope was willing to concede to Greek Patriarchs occupying their thrones, such as Nicholas of Alexandria, who himself consented to a Latin to be consecrated to the diaconate. In fact, it was in Alexandria at this time that the Greek Patriarch was willing to give communion to Latin captives. To such a dispensation, the titular Patriarch of Antioch at the time (1190), Theodore Balsamon, a well known and highly venerated canonist as well, had this to say about it:

Because for many years the Western church has been divided in spiritual communion from the other four Patriarchs…and become alien to the Orthodox, for which reason the Pope is not mentioned in the relation of Latins should be communicated unless they first declare that they will abstain from their doctrines and customs and be in subjection to the canons, and be made like unto the Orthodox” (The Byzantine Patriarch 451-1204, George Every, p. 163; he cites PG 138, c. 967)

But to this, Demetrius Chomatenus, a Macedonian Metropolitan (1207-22) states that Balsamon’s view was criticized by man. His words are quite striking. He says that Balsamon’s statement is too severe “because all this…has never been decreed synodically nor have they ever been rejected as heretics, but both eat with us and pray with us” (Every, p. 165; cites PG 119, c. 956-60)

Of course, this was all a matter of debate when you don’t have an Ecumenical Council to condemn the Latins, such as the Emperors and Eastern bishops did when addressing Arius, Nestorius, and Eutyches for three examples. And we must not forget that many of the complaints of the Greeks were far more in regards to the use of ayzmes in the sacred liturgy,  Saturday fasting, and other liturgical usages. Let’s not forget that all the way back since 1009, the Pope of Rome was taken off the holy diptychs in Constantinople, and the Patriarch Michael Cerularius (1054) was willing to make beards a pre-condition for reunion between Latin and Greeks. Even at this time, Cerularius’s letter to Pope Leo IX in 1053 shows that, in Constantinople, the Pope’s name was not cited in the diptychs, for in that letter he proposes a deal to commemorate the Pope again if the Latins would commemorate himself. And despite this, there were several Latin churches and institutions in the East which were duly recognized by Easterners, and vice versa. Another example of this would be the Abbot of St. Mary in Adrianople and the prior of the Hospital of St. John in Constantinople, who both acted as a go-between the Emperor and the French King. The Benedictine monastery of the Amalfitans on Mouth Athos was still operative in 1046, and even continued on through 1196. Anyone who reads the history on the ground would know that the schism was not definitive and final throughout the whole East as one would have expected. And yet, there was clearly a schism recognized by many, as I have shown by witnesses above. And I would say that the primary witnesses and players in the East West divide, especially by the time of the Crusades, would say that the Greeks and Latins were not in communion, albeit the existing anomalies. After all, communication was not instant in this period of history.

In conclusion, I think Truglia’s attempt to point to the origin, or definitive act, of the schism at the Latin occupation of Jerusalem and Antioch, and the Constantinople, and then to try and compare this with the schism of the Donatists, Novatianists, and others who set up parallel churches hardly explains who is at fault in the schism. Obviously, deeds were done on both parts to foster the disunity. But were the Greeks and Latins in perfect communion by the time of the Crusades, such that the Latin hierarchs of the East constitute the schismatic act? Hardly. The letters of Pope Innocent III and the Patriarch of Constantinople shows clearly a formal schism of some sort. The history of Antioch and Jerusalem, while showing a stronger tendency to attempts at cooperation, also demonstrate the tendency of formal schism from significant voices. The unreasonable demands of Greek liturgical usages over the Latins, and the somewhat imprudent appeals to Papal power when brotherly intervention, through an Ecumenical Council, could have averted the hostilities, all led to an impasse for many, and most of all, the political factions, and the cultural animosities, all contributed to the phenomena of the Greek-Latin schism. That the schism cannot be reduced to the Latin bishoprics in the East is seen most powerfully in the reunion efforts. The famous debates between the Latin canonists Anselm of Havelberg and Nicetas Archbisop of Nicomedia, who both emphasized the need to downplay the theological differences, especially with regard to the filioque clause, and who show know “silver bullet” to healing the schism by Truglia’s criteria. Similarly, at the Council of Lyons (1274) and Florence (1439), no one is giving this sort of silver bullet argument. The Latins are said to be in schism and heresy for other reasons. Healing was set in terms of doctrine and discipline, and I would add that this matter was resolved, at least tentatively.

There are other practical reasons for why Truglia’s argumentation falls apart under scrutiny. If it were the case that the Latin bishoprics in Eastern territories were the definitive act of schism, then did the schism cease when those Latin bishoprics ceased to exist? No, and due to the issues of the Filioque, papal supremacy, and other subjects, all of which was already creating division between Latin and Greeks several decades before the Latin bishoprics of the East was even a thing. Anti-Latinism also predates the Latin occupation of Constantinople, as is seen by the Massacre of the Latins in 1182. Further, if it were merely an unlawful parallel bishopric which creates a schism, would we not have to go back and comb through all the moments where the Byzantine Emperors deposed Patriarchs and replaced them by their own authority?

Much more could be said, but I will leave it here for now. I suspect a forthcoming reply from Truglia, and perhaps the below space will be to add further answers to objections.


5 thoughts on “Review of East/West Debate (Part 2): Crusades and the Greek-Latin Schism

  1. A few points:
    1. You write something that should be corrected. You write, “Patriarch Simeon II as the duly governing Patriarch, but when he died in exile, after being carried off by the Turks to Cyprus, the crusading army elected a Latin Patriarch.” The Latin Patriarchate in Jerusalem was established in 1099 AD. The rightful Patriarch of Jerusalem, Simeon II, lived on until 1106.
    2. You write, “William of Tyre, albeit recording in the Latin defense, states that John V had willfully retired seeing that he could not usefully preside over Latins as a Greek.” It sounds to me that you correctly identify that his “retirement” was either doubtful or forced. Being that he continued to consider himself Patriarch for another 55 years(!), it is safe to say he was forcefully exiled.
    3. The schism was not complete by 1204, as you posit, and you even cite examples to the contrary. So I think your point here in saying it was not really important that the Latins set up a parallel church to be unconvincing.
    4. You cite that the Orthodox considered Latins schismatics because they were heretics, not because of the whole second chair issue. I dispute this. St Mark of Ephesus, himself a moderate Papalist and coming to Ferrara with the view the Latins could be convinced and have their views tweeked said the following one liner when he started hearing their views: “They are not only schismatics, they are also heretics!” So clearly, he was able to differentiate between their schism and their doctrinal heresies to even make the comment. So, just because some Orthodox seem not to (I think there are some Orthodox who even think it is *they* who left Rome and not the other way around), they would be both historically ignorant and ecclesiologically mistaken.
    5. John X of Constantinople did not die in 1204 (the year the Latins made a replacement, it appears the Pope made it official in May of 1205). The rightful patriarch died in exile in April/May of 1206.
    6. I do not think you have showed from St Optatus that he viewed that Rome, if they had conducted the sort of activities the Donatists did by setting up a parallel church, would have avoided schism by virtue of being the one ecclesiastical constant that all ecclesiastical bodies hinge upon. In fact, such a view would have eviscerated his own point in even pointing out that those who set up second chairs are in fact the schismatics. This seems to me fairly obvious when reading Optatus, and other early writers like Cyprian, but I honestly believe Roman Catholic apologists are so captive to a circular epistemology that they cannot come to grips with this.

    It seems really silly, but I think it is worth everyone here watching the following clip from Big Daddy. Please watch, because it is very important because it helps us grasp the key weakness in Roman apologetics:

    Now, let me frame the above discussion as if it were between a RC and Orthobro:

    Debate about “who started the schism”
    RC: The Pope did not start the schism, because Popes cannot schism by default.
    Orthobro: But, the saints literally define “schism” as setting up a parallel church body and by all accounts the RCs did this and continued this policy, maintaining Latin Patriarchates for almost 1,000 years.
    RC: Well, that does not matter because even though that’s how non-Popes go into schism, Pope’s cannot go into schism by default.

    This is literally the debate, and quite frankly, the Roman position is terrible. In my honest opinion, no one in good conscience can convert to Roman Catholicism precisely for this reason.

    Why should the saints even bother specifying that setting up a parallel church body is schismatic when in the end of the day, it is not, and that *only* being out of communion with Rome herself is schismatic?

    We can get into a thousand different examples, such as the whole world rejecting Victor I’s excommunication, the whole world rejecting Stephen I’s excommunication, the vast majority of the world (with the exception of the Italian peninsula perhaps) rejecting Meletius’ excommunication, and etc. How can we seriously maintain that the whole Church bought into such an absurd view of schism, as I see being expounded here by the RC side?

    It’s not that I do not think that you (Erick) have good intentions, and that you do not sincerely buy into the sort of ecclesiastical and epistemological presuppositions that anchor you into Roman Catholicism, but I honestly don’t need to get all fancy dancy with the philosophy here. I think the RC ecclesiology is a minority view, not even fully elaborated upon by early Popes and rejected by almost everyone else universally. The epistemology is bankrupt because it is simply like what we see in Big Daddy. Lastly, the RC position is historically indefensible. We can equivocate all day that “there are shades of gray,” “it’s more complicated than that,” “both sides were mean,” etcetera, but the fact of the matter is that Rome recognized Bishops who were supplanting the rightful Bishops of the see, and said rightful Bishops lived years afterwards so that there can be no dispute that “maybe the Latins were mistaken and thought they were rightfully replacing a dead guy.”

    This should probably be a round table discussion, as I think typing this out makes it sound way more combative then it should.

    God bless,

    • I don’t think physically setting up another church where one exists is required for schism; if anyone anywhere withdraws from the Church, e.g. by refusing to obey lawful authority, I think that Christian becomes a schismatic just in virtue of that act. Of course knowledge and intention would presumably all also come into play when attempting to ascertain anyone’s guilt. But isn’t anyone who withdraws from the authority of the Church a schismatic? Or anyone who attempts to set up an alternate authority against the true one a schismatic just in virtue of that act?

      Okay, so it appears necessary then to know how authority actually works in the Church. I personally do not buy into pointing to ecumenical councils as the only source of final authority in the Church, if only because the Church existed without holding any for over a quarter of a millennia (between the council at Jerusalem say and the first ecumenical council). Moreover, the Church was already possessed of her own order and hierarchy when the first ecumenical council was called. Local councils and the patriarchal sees seem to have ordinary authority in most cases we can tell from history; but of course what about any disputes between these? We know Rome, Antioch and Alexandria were the major sees of Christendom during this time. If we must rely on final recourse to an ecumenical council to establish authority, we find several problems: what if churches refuse to attend or assent to one, for example? This could leave the Church effectively divided for a very long time if the contesting parties are seen to be ultimately equally legitimate in terms of authority. Is majority vote sufficient to establish doctrine or make adjustments to church order (e.g. depose someone)? Who can summon a council and why do they have the authority to do so? Is agreement between the patriarchal sees required and sufficient to hold one?

      • Two points. I merely reiterated the definition of schism the fathers made. People before the great schism with Drew from one another all the time and we had the same today between Moscow and Constantinople . But there is not a full-blown schism . There is one however when a parallel church is set up within the canonical boundaries of a church that rightly has authority there . My second point is that we have the ecumenical council’s that were ratified by all parties involved in giving us canon law . Therefore because of Constantinople four 879-880 not changing the creed was canon law so Rome was unjustified excommunicating the eastern church by taking upon self to set up a parallel church and add their non-canonical creed it is to all impartial observer’s eminently obvious who started the schism . In Response Roman Catholics can only use a presuppositional argument that none of the preceding manners and the pope has authority anyway which according to the Roman catholic catechism is that simply by not being communion with rome default you are in schism . This is a rational because it means Rome could do everything a schismatic woulddo and for someone else it is schismatic but not for them.

  2. Pingback: Review of East/West Debate (Part 3): Rejoinder to Craig Truglia | Erick Ybarra

  3. Pingback: Saint Optatus on Schism : A Critique of an Eastern Orthodox Interpretation | Erick Ybarra

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