4 thoughts on “Catholic Doctrine on Ecumenical Councils

  1. @Erick Ybarra,

    What are your thoughts on orthodox theologian Vladimir Moss, if you’ve read any of his works on Catholicism-Orthodoxy?

    And what would you say about the claim (Moss makes that argument, but other, more anti-Catholic Orthodox also do) that the Orthodox church did historically and does in fact accept re-baptism for Catholics, and the only reason why Catholics were historically and are today accepted via Chrismation alone is because of “oikonomia” to soften demands and be merciful, all the while in principle the baptisms of Catholics are invalid?

  2. @ErickYbarra,

    How would you respond to the following Eastern Orthodox responses to Catholic citations from the Church Fathers? If you can, I would love to see your response to these EO rebuttals.

    From this forum site: http://www.orthodoxchristianity.net/forum/index.php?topic=62795.0

    A well known Maximus the Confessor quote is cited: “”How much more in the case of the clergy and church of the Romans, which from old until now presides over all the churches which are under the sun? Having surely received this canonically, as well as from councils and the apostles, as from the princes of the latter (Peter & Paul), and being numbered in their company, she is subject to no writings or issues in synodical documents, on account of the eminence of her Pontificate…..even as all these things all are equally subject to her (the church of Rome) according to sacerdotal law. And so when, without fear, but with all holy and becoming confidence, those ministers (the Popes) are of the truly firm and immovable rock, that is of the most great and Apostolic church of Rome.”

    To which someone responds: “Romans usually make a leap there that if Rome was not subject to councils, it means the whole Church was subject to the administration of the Pope beyond the limits of the council in ordinary issues and even into miraculous discernment of metaphysical issues like dogma and morality. That does not follow at all.

    Let’s untie that.

    In the case the Councils or the Church were subject to the Church of Rome, it would not directly to the Pope. St. Maximus argument is clearly of a first collegiate among equal collegiates, the Pope’s proeminence as a side-effect of that, and that is not contemporary Roman’s claim at all, completedly centered in the person of the Pope that it is.

    In that quote, the Church of Rome would be the “throne of St. Peter” in its collegiate of bishops and the Pope at once a leader but also a spokesperson when dealing with other collegiates.

    That, in fact, is the traditional praxis of Rome despite any discourse. The Church of Rome has a lot of power over the Pope and it is good that it is so. Now, if Rome returned to Orthodoxy, traditional Popes would find in the wholeness of the Church and, most importantly, in the ecclesiastical grace of the Holy Spirit, the much needed assistance to counter the abuses of locals.

    That is exactly what St. Maximus says above. He never says the Pope has a personal authority but that “the clergy and church of the Romans” preside, *not* the Pope. By using the contrast “clergy and church”, by church he probably means the whole community, clergy and lay people. The RC systematically uses the words “Pope”, “Rome” or “Church of Rome” and “Peter” in their arguments as if they all referred to the same thing. They don’t.

    Second, St. Maximus also makes clear that Rome *received it* from canons, councils and ultimately from the Apostles. So Rome’s authority is not the principle from which everything else stems, but it itself was dependent on other circunstances.

    As I have stated elsewhere, primacy is based on ecclesiastical law (canons and councils) and eclesiastic historical prestige (appeals to Peter and Paul and later to Peter only), besides secular historical prestige (in other sources, the fact that Rome was capital is one of the arguments for its primacy) and political prestige (while Rome was capital, one does find arguments that everyone should converge to Rome *because* it was the capital).

    Considering the bolded part, Rome’s non-subjection to certain laws and decisions is not proof of its opposite, that is, that synods and churches are subject to Rome’s unilateral unconsulted decisions.

    What St. Maximus is referring there is to a classical principal of parliamentary assemblies, the Catholic counciliar mode of operation being a species of that category: parliamentary immunity:

    Parliamentary immunity, also known as legislative immunity, is a system in which members of the parliament or legislature are granted partial immunity from prosecution. Before prosecuting, it is necessary that the immunity be removed, usually by a superior court of justice or by the parliament itself. This reduces the possibility of pressing a member of the parliament to change his or her vote by fear of prosecution.

    In some countries, many top-level politicians or even judges enjoy a similar privilege that is *necessary* to the proper execution of their offices. Obviously, there are several ways of implementing this principle and the Church in the first millenium, possibly inspired by Greek-Roman traditions of assemblies, senates and councils, had its own.

    He then cites the “equally subject to her” part and responds thusly:

    “Here is the crux of the matter. Sacerdotal law. Not the ordinary administration of the churches, not dogma and morality. Justinian laws expressed the same idea with different words saying that “the Pope is the head of the bishops”. That is, in analogy, he is “president of the congress” (or Speaker in US and UK tradition), not “president of the country”.

    Catholic tradition, and history, shows us that Christ actively presides the Church through the presence of the Holy Spirit. Providence acting through members of the Church, through miracles, ordinary facts, through enemies of the Church, always make things happen and protect her. The King with universal and ordinary jurisdiction, Who is Infallible and perfect Teacher is the Holy Spirit. That is exactly what Christ promised.

    It’s when the Speaker decides to go beyond his duties, which include real authority over the members of the Congress, and proclaims certain privileges of the King that things go wrong. That is what the Pope started hinting since Rome lost prestige to Constantinople and what he started doing from the 11th century on.”

    Finally, citing the last part of the quote about firm and immovable rock:

    “Do you see how the Popes receive prestige because of the rock, which here is the Church of Rome itself, and not the opposite? The whole church of Rome is “the chair of St. Peter” and it is the rock for all the reasons stated above (historical prestige etc) not because the Pope is there. The Pope just participates in the, dare say, energy of the ministry of the Church of Rome, which on its part, participate in the energy of the primacy and of orthodoxy. None of which exists because of Rome’s authority, but Rome’s authority exist because it had, up to that point, remained faithful to this participation.”

    So, what do you think of this? How would you respond to these arguments?

  3. @EY,

    One more comment, from the same thread, about other quotes.

    The famous Studite quote is cited: Since to great Peter Christ our Lord gave the office of Chief Shepherd after entrusting him with the Keys of the Kingdom of Heaven, to Peter or his successor must of necessity every novelty in the Catholic Church be referred.

    To which the same user responds: “Perfect. Only Peter is not Rome is not the Pope. Different words. Since Rome left the Catholic faith Constantinople sits on “Peter’s chair” that is, it is first among equals.

    And another user says that using the Studite quote to prove infallibility is wrong because, “Orthodox don’t consider “Peter’s successors” to mean a specific Bishop in a specific location in Rome.”

    Another Studite quote, this time about headship during Councils is cited, and the response is interesting:

    “Let him (Patriarch Nicephorus of Constantinople) assemble a synod of those with whom he has been at variance, if it is impossible that representatives of the other patriarchs should be present, a thing which might certainly be if the Emperor should wish the Western Patriarch (the Roman Pope) to be present, to whom is given authority over an ecumenical synod; but let him make peace and union by sending his synodical letters to the prelate of the First See.”

    Response: ” “To whom is given”. In the context, clearly, given by the Emperor, since “ecumenical” means “imperial” in that age. Hence, the political aspect of having the primacy.”

    IOW, it seems he’s saying that “to whom is given” refers to the Emperro giving the Pope the authority.

    Finally a quote by Saint Methodius: “Because of his primacy, the Pontiff of Rome is not required to attend an Ecumenical Council; but without his participation, manifested by sending some subordinates, every Ecumenical Council is as nonexistent, for it is he who presides over the Council.

    To which it is interestingly responded: “That is clearly wrong, because there was at least one Ecumenical Council (I don’t recall now if the 2nd or the 6th) that had not Papal legates.
    But, the principle holds: Congress should not take important decisions without the Speaker presiding somehow.

    This quote refers again to some questions of order and regiment in the role of the Primate in the council, not to the argument that the Pope is the sole and extraordinary successor of Peter, inheriting his personal graces, having universal, ordinary and immovable jurisdiction over all the churches and being infallible.”

    The claim there is that there was a council which didn’t have papal legates, which undermines even the necessity of Papal representation.

    What do you think of all these?

  4. Erick,

    Is it not true that in the first millenium, not only Rome but also Jerusalem Never capitulated to any heresy at an institutional level? For example, there is no time when the Patriarchate of Jerusalem was Arian. There is no time when the Patriarchate pneumatomachian. There is no time when the Patriarchate was Nestorian. There is no time when the Patriarchate was Monophysite (despite Juvenal’s co-chairing of Ephesus II with Dioscorus), though there were many Monophysites among the monastics in Palestine in the 5th and 6th centuries. Jerusalem never accepted the Three chapters, Jerusalem never embraced Monothelitism, not was Jerusalem iconoclastic.

    SO, really, don’t Rome and Jerusalem in the first millenium have the same theological track record?

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