A few weeks ago I saw something and I thought to myself that I would have to share it just because it was truly noteworthy. As many can tell, Catholics are continually talking about how questions of infallibility and indefectibility pertain to the Bishop of Rome. More traditionally minded Catholics are trying as hard as they can to become infallible-minimalists, i.e. they realize a far more narrow conditioning of the mode of infallibility is preferable in light of how much they disagree with the Papacy over the last 50 years. So in discussion with a very trad-minded friend, I quoted the below citation (it is actually famous), and inquired of his thoughts:
“When the Latins say that the bishop of Rome is first, there is no need to contradict them, since this can do no harm to the Church. They must only show that he has the same faith as Peter and his successors … and that he possesses all that came from Peter, then he will be the first, the chief and head of all, the supreme high priest… All these qualities have been attributed to the patriarchs of Rome in the past. We will say that his See is apostolic, and he who occupies it is said to be the successor of Peter, as long as he professes the true faith. No one who thinks and speaks truth would dare deny this. That the Bishop of Rome profess only the faith of Silvester, Agatho, Leo, Liberius, Martin, and Gregory, we would proclaim him first among all other high priests, and we will submit to him not simply as to Peter but as to the Savior Himself. But if he is not successor in the faith of these saints, nor is he successor of the throne. Not only is he not apostolic, neither is he first, nor Father, but he is an adversary and devastator and enemy of the Apostles.”
The trad-friend heartily agreed with this statement. I’m not sure if he knew once he read it, but I then said that this was actually said by a 15th century Greek Orthodox monk and theologian Symeon, Archbishop of Thessaloniki (1381-1429), who was not in communion with Rome precisely because of its “errors”. He then said that the monk was wrong on doctrine, and didn’t properly understand the doctrine of the Filioque.
And so on. But this exchange illustrated something profound to me. Some Catholics are willing to have the same understanding that the Byzantine Orthodox had about Rome in the years following the 11th-13th century disputes, only with respect to contemporary Rome (since the 2nd Vatican Council). And yet, where the Byzantine Orthodox thought it was only logical to break religious fellowship with those whom they deemed “heretical”, the trad-Catholics still uphold the invinciblility of the Roman communion for eternal salvation. The former maintains this view that ecclesiastical communion has the criteria of a shared faith, sacramental economy, and mutual recognition of orthodox bishops, whereas the latter maintains this view of ecclesiastical communion where the loss of agreement in faith still maintains the forge of unity.
Let that sink in.