Introduction By Father Andrew Harrison
This article dated October 14, 1915 about the position of the Orthodox Church toward the Roman
Papacy came originally from the Guardian Newspaper in England. It was found folded up in an old book about the Orthodox
Church. I was carefully scanned and parts had to be re-typed. There are words which are missing because they were
undecipherable. The position of the Orthodox Churches is the same in response to offers by the Roman Pope to return
to the fold.
Our Place In Christendom East And West - (Roman Catholic)
Lecture by: Dr. Frere
Source: The Guardian, October 14, 1915
The second of the series of lectures on "Our Place, in Christendom"
which is being given on Wednesdays at the Church of St. Martin-in-the-Fields was
delivered Frere, D.D., of the Community of the Resurrection, Mirfield. The subject
was "East and West," and the following is the full text thereof.
It is little more than twenty years since Pope Leo XIII., on the
occasion of his Episcopal Jubilee, issued an Apostolical Letter, Praeclara gratulationis,
addressed to all princes and peoples (June 20th, 1894), and dealing with the subject of
Christian Reunion. Two years later it was followed by a larger Encyclical on the same
subject, the Satis cognitum of June 29th, 1896. 1 In the interval there appeared a reply
in the form of a Patriarchal and Synodical Encyclical Letter addressed by the Great
Church of Constantinople to the Metropolitans. Bishops, clergy and laity of the
Patriarchate (August, 1895). Its object was to safeguard the Orthodox faith and piety
against the renewed outbreak of Roman proselytizing in the East which followed upon the
appearance of the former Papal Encyclical. 2
In these documents there is a restatement of the old divergence
between the East and the West on the subject of the doctrine of the Church, the
Divinely-appointed plan of Church government, and the practical solution of problems
connected with doctrine and discipline alike.
THE WESTERN STANDPOINT
There is no need to describe at any length the Papal view of the case,
for in its main outline it is familiar to is all. Moreover the later of the two
Encyclicals not only was met at the time by sharp criticism from our Anglican point of
view,3 but it has since formed the basis of one of the most comprehensive and thorough
replies that have ever been made among us to the Papal claims. 4 It is enough to note
such familiar phrases as these used by Pope Leo in the; former letter: "We' are the
Vicegerent on earth of God Almighty." "Until man put asunder what God had joined . . .
East and West alike agreed unhesitatingly in obedience to the Roman Pontiff as the
legitimate successor of St. Peter, and therefore the Vicar of Jesus Christ on earth."
Such phrases give but little idea of the warmth of charity and elevation of piety which
breathe in the letter; but they bring into relief the Western and Roman conception as
contrasted with the Eastern view.
THE EASTERN STANDPOINT
That view is less familiar to us, and therefore, more time must be
spent in making it clear. It is more congenial, and yet strangely less well-known.
Indeed our Anglican conceptions of the nature of the Church and its government are, not
infrequently more negative than positive, more controversial than constructive; and
consequently a deeper appreciation of the Eastern standpoint has all the more value for
us. The Greek Encyclical remarks how the Pope
"Invites our Orthodox Catholic and Apostolical Church of Christ to
union with the Papal Throne, thinking that such union can only be obtained by
acknowledging him as supreme Pontiff and the highest spiritual and temporal ruler of the
Universal Church, as the-only representative of Christ upon earth and the dispenser of
all grace." 5
After an expression of -no less eagerness for Reunion it continues:
Our Orthodox Church of Christ is always ready to accept any proposal
of union, if only the Bishop of Rome would shake off once for all the whole series of the
many and diverse anti-evangelical novelties that have been privily brought into his
Church and have provoked the sad division of the Churches of the East and West, and
would return to the basis of the seven holy Ecumenical Councils." 6
Some of the "innovations" are then discussed, and the old bones of
contention are reviewed. We are now concerned only with one of these - namely the
question of the Church and its government. This as Pope Leo truly said, is the main
ground of difference between the East and the West; and-thereupon he challenged the
Greeks to look back to the origins, and see what views on the subject were held by the
A CHALLENGE TAKEN UP
The Greeks took up the challenge and replied thus:
"Having recourse to the Fathers and the Ecumenical Councils of the
Church of the first nine centuries, we are fully persuaded that the Bishop of Rome was
never considered as the supreme authority and infallible Head of the Church, and that
every Bishop is head and president of his own particular Church, subject only to the
Synodical ordinances and the Church universal as being alone infallible, the Bishop of
Rome being in no wise excepted from this rule, as Church history shows."
A discussion of the Biblical evidence follows, and is continued thus:
"Such, then, being the Divinely-inspired teaching of the Apostles
respecting the foundation and Prince of the Church of God, of course the sacred Fathers,
who held firmly to the Apostolic traditions, could not have, or conceive any idea of, an
absolute Primacy of the Apostle Peter and the Bishops of Rome. Nor could they give any
other interpretation, totally unknown to the Church, to that passage of the Gospel but
that which was true and right. 7
After some further appeal to history the theory is thus expounded:
"Each particular self-governing Church, both in the East and West, was
totally independent and self-administered in the times of the Seven Ecumenical Councils.
And just as the Bishops of the self-governing Churches of the East, so also those of
Africa, Spain, Gaul, Germany, and Britain, managed the affairs of their own Churches,
each by their local Synods, the Bishop of Rome having no right to interfere and he
himself also was equally subject and obedient to the decrees of Synods. But on important
questions which needed the sanction of the Universal Church an appeal was made to an
Ecumenical Council, which alone was, and is, the supreme tribunal in the Universal
A MODERN RUSSIAN EXPOSITION
This brief statement of theory may with advantage be enlarged, and we
can with profit turn to a modern Russian scholar for a further exposition of the matter.
An excellent statement of Golubinsky, the latest historian of the Russian Church may be
summarized thus: 9
"All Church government is composed of two elements, the one being of
Divine institution, the other being customary and human. The former demands that every
separate Christian community, large or small, should have its own hierarchy, consisting
of Bishop, priests, and deacons; but beyond this all else belongs to the second
category. Originally, every Church community, however small, if it had its own Bishop,
was a completely independent church and a self-sufficient unit. The universal Church
had ideally to bind these countless independent units into some association simply by
the bonds of brotherly love. But in practice, and through human frailty, it was
necessary that the Divine requirement should be supplemented by a human organization;
and this took the form of the establishment of a system of subordination and
administrative centralization, corresponding with the system of civil government.
At the base of each of these systems alike there lie two main foundation principles -
(1) that no community may force another into subjection to itself, and (2) that each may
govern itself independently. In actual fact the Greco-Roman Church of the Empire
developed, on its administrative side, as a human Institution, a system of centralization
which in its higher stages culminated in five Patriarchates. These corresponded with the
'Dioceses' of the civil administration of the Empire and covered only the same Imperial
On these principles as we clearly see, the whole Church can only find
expression by something greater than any Patriarch or any concurrence of all the
Patriarchs. As the Encyclical says: "On important questions which needed the sanctity
of the universal Church an appeal was made to an Ecumenical Council, which alone was and
is the supreme tribunal in the Universal Church. 10
THE HISTORICAL TEST
Such is the Eastern theory, and it concerns both doctrine and
discipline. It may be viewed either historically or dogmatically; and since the Pope
raised his challenge on the ground of history, and the East replied mainly upon that
ground, we will deal with that side of the matter first. There are many occurrences in
the long history, and many phrases in the documents concerned, which will necessarily be
differently interpreted according to the presuppositions existing in the mind of the
interpreter. It is no surprise, therefore, to find these claimed by each of the rival
parties as evidence bearing on his side. But the decision between the two rival
contentions is not to be made by merely balancing the evidence on one side against the
evidence on the other. For the two contentions are fundamentally different in character
from one another. The Papal contention is all-inclusive, and admits of no exception.
"East and West alike, unhesitatingly, and always until the schism, obeyed the Roman
Pontiff, as successor of St. Peter and Vicar of Christ." The Eastern contention does
not involve any such universal statement. The contention is that there have emerged two
views of Church government -- one ancient and federal, the other innovating and Papal;
and that the former is right and the second wrong. In other words, the Papalist has to
prove a universal negative; if his opponent can produce even a single good instance
against him, the Papal case breaks down. From this point of view many of the common
places of the controversy are merely irrelevant, while others only prove what neither
For example, there is plenty of evidence of the early appearance of
that system of administrative subordination, of which the Eastern contention makes much.
In the first century the respect for the Church of Jerusalem gave it a unique position,
which in some degree survived its local transplantation after the destruction of
Jerusalem. The precedence there given to St. James and his immediate successors seems
to have rested on two kinds of respect, partly a reverence for the See and partly for the
Bishops as kinsmen of our Lord. Hence Jerusalem, and the Church gathered there, had to
make the earliest recorded formal decisions of the whole Church; and St. James presided
and gave sentence. A similar respect for other Sees elsewhere led to the establishment
of other rules of precedence. In one case it was the civil pre-eminence of some city
that gave it position; in another case it might be its Christian history, and especially
its connection with Apostolic labors and martyrdom. On both these grounds Rome acquired
in the earliest days a unique position. But that fact does not necessarily imply that
its position, or the position of its Bishop, differed from that of others except in
degree. The Metropolitan Sees soon acquired a similar precedence over the lesser Sees
within the same Province, generally following the lines of the civil organization, 11 but
not uninfluenced by Christian history. It is no part of the Eastern contention to refuse
such a precedence to Rome or its Bishop. But, on the other hand, if the Papalist is to
prove his contention, he must be able to prove a title for the Bishop of Rome wholly
different in nature and in origin from that of any other privileged Metropolitan.
We are at present directly concerned only with examining into the
rightness of the Eastern contention, and there is nothing discordant with it in the
stock passages of Clement, Ignatius, Irenaeus, and others in the second century. They
are obiter dicta, not a little ambiguous, and pre-eminently the sort of passages
which may be differently interpreted by different people according to their presuppositions.
To the Eastern anyhow they present no difficulty. The Roman Church writes corporately
a letter of reproof with strong moral authority behind it to its erring sister Church
in Corinth. Certainly it was in all ways justified in doing so. Irenaeus speaks with
great respect of Rome, both because of its Christian history and its civil pre-eminence,
and because of the central position that it held in the West as the place to which people
resorted from on all sides. What is more natural? 12
When we pass from these obiter dicta to action -and fact, the
independence of local Churches which the Eastern contention asserts is seen in the action
of that same Irenaeus. For when Victor of Rome excommunicated the Quarto-decimans of
Asia (as he was confessedly at liberty to do if he thought wise), Irenaeus told him
plainly that he was unwise in doing so; and neither he nor the Church at large followed
Victor's lead in this matter. On the contrary, under pressure from Irenaeus and other
Bishops whom he rallied to his side, Victor very prudently gave way.13 In these early
days there is no clear sign of any rival view to that still held by the Eastern Church.
To say the least, the texts and the events are as easily to be reconciled with it as with
the rival Papal contention. The next century saw further development in the system of
administrative subordination of which the Easterns speak. The position of Metropolitans
and their Provinces became more clearly defined, and some steps were taken in the
direction of the Patriarchs and Patriarchates of later days. The stages of progress
in this development are not very clear. In the West, while some naturally look up to
Rome and turn to it for guidance, others look towards Carthage, especially when so
illustrious a chief as St. Cyprian presides there; and both Spanish and Gallic Bishops
on occasion resort thither rather than to Rome.14 There is no difficulty in all this --
from the Eastern point of view at least. Nor again is there any difficulty when some
Egyptians, dissatisfied about the orthodoxy of Dionysius of Alexandria, have recourse to
Rome; and Dionysius in consequence justifies himself before his brother of Rome and a
Synod held there. 15 The Egyptians were as free to call upon Rome as the Spaniards were
to call upon Carthage. In another far more serious case of trouble, connected with the
position of Paul of Samosata, the occupant of the great See of Antioch, the matter was
settled in the East; and when it was settled, and another Bishop was appointed in his
place, notification was sent round in a letter addressed to Dionysius (of Rome), Maximus
(of Alexandria), and to all our fellow-ministers throughout the world, Bishops,
Presbyters and deacons, and to the whole Catholic Church under heaven. In order to
dispossess the deposed Bishop from his official house, recourse was had to the Emperor
Aurelian at Rome, who decided that "the building should be given to those to whom the
Bishops of Italy and of the See of Rome should adjudge it." 16 A later appeal to the
Emperor in the case of the African Donatists produced a very similar result, for
Constantine ordered the matter to be decided by three Gallic Bishops, in conjunction
with the Pope and the Bishops of Italy. When the Donatists appealed against their
decision the matter was referred to the Council at Arles. 17 Here again are events and
documents which present no difficulty at any rate from the point of view of the Eastern
THE AGE OF THE COUNCILS
We have reached the age of the Councils, and thereupon two things
connected with the subject begin to become clearer. First, we see more plainly the
stages of the development in organization; and, secondly, we notice a growing
dissatisfaction in home with the existing state of things, and increasing attempts to
alter them for its own advantage. With regard to the first point -- the principle of
utilizing the civil system as a model for the ecclesiastical is definitely accepted.
Diocletian had lately improved the civil system by his division of the Empire into
thirteen "Dioceses," comprising ninety-six Eparchies or Provinces. The ecclesiastical
Metropolitan now corresponds with the civil Proconsul, or other officer, as presiding
over a Province, and in the East at any rate in each of five "Dioceses" the occupant of
the See of the chief city corresponds to the civil Vicar of the Diocese. There is at
first no title for this office, but later the term Exarch was used. In 381 the Council
of Constantinople recognized these five areas, and mentioned by name Alexandria, as
administering Egypt and Antioch, which was the head of the Diocese called Oriens.18
Already, perhaps; Constantinople, the new Imperial city, had taken the place of Heraclea
as chief city of the "Diocese of Thrace, and it soon exercised ecclesiastical powers not
only over that Diocese, but also over Asia and Pontus, while the capital cities of those
two "Dioceses," Ephesus and Cesarea, descended into a secondary position. This
pre-eminence of Constantinople grew up by custom; but in 451 submission of all three
Dioceses to Constantinople was formally legalized by the famous twenty-eighth Canon of
Chalcedon. The addition of Jerusalem side by side with Alexandria, Antioch, and
Constantinople was largely honorific. In the Nicene Council it was given a precedence,
while as yet the jurisdiction was reserved to the Metropolitan of the Province at
Cesarea;19 but at the Council of Chalcedon a jurisdiction was also given to Jerusalem,
so that thenceforward, though its sphere was small, it ranked as a Patriarchate. 20 In
this way the Eastern Patriarchates grew into existence, though the name of them was only
now for the first time beginning to make its appearance at that Council, as a technical
THE CASE OF CONSTANTINOPLE
We must go a little more fully into the case of Constantinople; and
observe there also the like advance from a position of precedence and honor to one of
jurisdiction. The sixth Nicene Canon was dealing with jurisdiction when, approving the
existing customs, it recognized a definite area as being subject to Alexandria, just as
another was subject to Rome, and so forth. When the time came for dealing with the new
city of Constantinople, there were no ancient customs like these to be recognized, nor
was there any question at first of jurisdiction. The Council of Nicaea was not called
upon to deal with Constantinople, for the reason that the city was as yet scarcely
founded; but the Council that met upon the spot there in 381 was obliged to do so, and
did so. It did not however, go into any matter of jurisdiction. It merely assigned a
precedence to Constantinople next after Rome, agreeable to the civil status of the two
cities. But in the seventy years that intervened thereupon before the Council of
Chalcedon mere precedence grew into definite authority and jurisdiction. We have already
observed the steady rise which took place in the claims made on the part of the capital.
This tendency was partly resisted in the East, but its result was sanctioned by the
definite action of the Council. The 28th Canon, which ratified those claims, was
strongly opposed at the time by the Roman legates, and it has since only been accepted
in spite of continual protests from Rome. Opposition from that quarter is intelligible
enough and needs no explanation. But one must ask, Why did the East agree? and in
particular, Why did those Dioceses and their ecclesiastical heads who suffered detriment
by the Canon agree to its being passed? The reason is probably to be found in the fact
that they had watched a parallel process of aggrandizement going on in the West, far more
serious and wide-reaching in itself, and actually subversive of all the old Church
organization. The new Canon undermined this, while it established and condoned the large
but not radical aggrandizement of Constantinople. The East, therefore, was willing that
Constantinople should be exalted, if by the same process the more dangerous aggression of
Rome could be foiled.
We turn then to see what has been happening in the West. The course
of events which we have noted in the East amply bears out as historically sound the
contention still maintained by the Eastern Church as to the nature of ecclesiastical
organization and authority. What light will Western events throw upon the matter? In
the West the further development of Church organization had gone on much more slowly.
The Church had much less readily or fully adopted the Provincial system; and the
reorganization of the Empire by Diocletian had borne less fruit in the delimitation of
Church areas and jurisdictions. The city of Rome had been left outside the scheme by
Diocletian. The "Diocese" of Italy had Milan for its capital. That of Africa had
Carthage. But though Carthage had a definite ecclesiastical jurisdiction over the
Province of Africa, its relation was much less definite to other Provinces in the
Dioceses - to Numidia and Mauretania. The central European "Dioceses" of Macedonia,
Dacia and Pannonia had no outstanding Church centers; and the like was the case with
the three Western Dioceses of Gaul, Spain, and Britain. Rome exercised authority over
its own surroundings, and a more than metropolitan jurisdiction. This, as we have seen,
had been recognized in somewhat vague terms by the council of Nicea; and the fact had
been used as a ground for assuring to Alexandria a similar authority. The limits of the
roman jurisdiction were understood in the West to extend to the "suburbicarian Churches,"
which, in the larger interpretation of the phrase, comprehended the ten Provinces of
Central and southern Italy and the islands, as contrasted with the seven Provinces of the
North which depended upon Milan.21 This was the position so far as jurisdiction was
concerned. Besides, there was the question of precedence, and in this respect
undoubtedly Rome had a pre-eminence over the whole of the West.
THE ORIGINAL VIEW
In the early part of the fourth century this position seemed to be
unquestioned. The two Presbyters who represented Pope Silvester at Nicea and signed next
to the President raised no objection. The West was as yet of one mind with the East on
the matter of Church organization. But the existing state of things could hardly
continue. The Western organization, as contrasted with that in the East, was very
incomplete and insufficient. The greater part of the Western Dioceses had no
satisfactory ecclesiastical administration. It was bound to come, in one form or
another. If Africa and Northern Italy were to develop on their own lines, the Sees of
Carthage and Milan must develop larger authority. This they were capable of doing, and
to some extent actually did, before they were, ultimately caught in the net of Roman
Primacy. But there was no such possibility apparent for the other Dioceses. The need
of further organization soon came evident in Central Europe. The Council that met at
Sardica in 343 to consult about the affairs of Athanasius took the opportunity of making
provision that appeals which could not be settled in the Provinces should be sent under
certain restrictions to Julius, Bishop of Rome, out of respect for the memory of St.
THE PROGRESS OF ROMAN JURISDICTION
Thus began an appellate jurisdiction which led on to great things,
although at first it was very limited in extent and was expressly declined in some parts
of the West -- e.g., in Africa. 23 If at first it was personal to Julius, it was soon
taken as general, and soon extended further. There is no sign that this was anything
but a natural and necessary development. Unfortunately the actions and decisions of
Latin Councils have almost uniformly disappeared, the reason will perhaps emerge later.
Therefore it is only by occasional bits of sparse evidence that the development of Roman
jurisdiction that ensues can be traced. Thirty years later, when Damasus was embroiled
in troubles with his rival Ursinus, Rome appealed to the Emperors for the enlargement of
this jurisdiction; and Gratian in his rescript provided for it even more amply than he
had been asked to do for he practically gave (so far as the Emperor could do such a
thing) supreme appellate jurisdiction to the Pope over all the Western Empire. 24 In
practice such authority had probably been gradually and naturally growing, exactly as in
the parallel and almost contemporary case at Constantinople; and in the event the Emperor
did no more than endorse what the Western Church was coming to recognize -- viz., that
Rome was to be the only Church in the West of Patriarchal rank. The crown was set to
this legal edifice nearly seventy years later (445), when Valentinian III. assigned
ampler powers still to Pope Leo, basing the matter on the double ground of the primacy
of Peter and the Apostolic See and the dignity of the City of Rome. 25 The language is
now very different from that of the earlier legal documents; and the last 120 years have
witnessed a great shifting of the ground as regards the claims made by Rome.
DISSATISFACTION WITH EARLY ORGANIZATION
We turn to other sorts of evidence in order to trace the growing
dissatisfaction with the old conception of Church organization and the gradual
introduction of the West of this new point of view, and the new language which went
with it. The early claims had been bound up with the memory of the two great Apostles
and Martyrs who were joint-founders of the Roman Church. But in time St. Paul's name
tends to disappear from this connection and all the main insistence rests upon St.
Peter's. This change is probably connected with other circumstances -- (1) the rise
and diffusion of the Petrine Romances in the course of the third and fourth centuries;
and (2) a new disposition, which begins to show itself, to rest the claims not in
history, but on Scriptural texts, and especially upon Tu es Petrus and Pasce ovesmeas.
In themselves these passages do not stand apart. They are no more convincing as to the
privileges of Peter or the position of the Bishop of Rome than let us say, St. Paul's
phrase, "I withstood him to the face because he was to be blamed," or our Lord's severer
condemnation, "Get thee behind Me, Satan."
A NEW EXEGESIS
The traditional interpretations of the laudatory Petrine passages went
out of favor at Rome. 26 The new school was no longer content to explain the former as a
personal tribute to St. Peter, nor again as a general commendation of the rock of faith;
nor the latter as a charge given equally to all the Apostles; though these had been chief
among the various recognized interpretations of the earlier days. Rome was dissatisfied
and began a new exegesis, which penetrated the West, but found very little foothold in
A NEW LEGAL THEORY
These two changes are not the only signs of dissatisfaction and
innovation in the fourth century. The Sixth Canon of Nicea witnessed to the old view,
and it therefore now caused misgivings. The similar Third Canon of Constantinople, when
it came to the West, caused the like, and though no protests were made at the time they
were raised subsequently. Simultaneously Damasus, as we have seen, was pushing things
ahead, and if the "Decree of Damasus" is a genuine document hailing from a Roman Council
in 382, as is now thought to be quite possible, 27 the new theory had been greatly
developed. The Primacy of Rome is claimed there as not being of conciliar origin, but
due to the appointment of our Lord through the Tu es Petrus text. At the same time two
Eastern Sees are given a mere precedence, and that on the ground of Petrine origin -
Antioch because of St. Peter's sojourn there, and Alexandria through St. Mark. Of
Constantinople nothing is said. This decree is, if genuine, almost the foundation
charter of the Papacy. No doubt many forces had been for some time converging to make
it possible, but this is the earliest clear statement, and the Popes of the fourth
century, even St. Leo himself, really added nothing to it.
It is at this period also that we note the beginning of Papal
decretals. These letters testify to the recourse made to Rome, at least from those parts
of the West where there was no commanding See - as, for example, from Dalmatia, Gaul, and
Spain; but the authority ascribed to them testifies to the growth of the Papal idea. 28
The new doctrine made its way less easily in North Italy and Africa.
The methods adopted in order to make legal justification for it were
not always very secure. The sardican decrees were quoted to Africa as Nicene, and
maintained as such by the Popes of the early part of the fifth century until the mistake
was shown up by recourse to Eastern archives. Moreover, Nicea itself was unpopular.
There was therefore prefixed to some of the Latin translations of the unpalatable sixth
Canon a statement that the Roman Church had always had the Primacy. This interpolation
was regarded as so trustworthy that the Roman Legates did not hesitate to produce it in
support of their protest in full council at Chalcedon. 29 It was, of course, at once shown
up. Such things might pas muster in the West, but not in the East. Thirty-five years
went by, and then a Roman Council claimed that the Nicene Fathers had referred all their
work to the Roman See for confirmation. 30 It was another fable, which in its origin had
been meant for home consumption. Later on in due course documents were forged to support
the fable. 31 Finally it was desirable to obscure the fact that Hosius had presided there
as the representative of the Emperor; so, after other expedients had been tried without
success to disguise the truth, it was boldly maintained that Silvester himself presided,
and to this day visitors to the Vatican may see him doing so in the great fresco in the
WARIER IN THE EAST
In spite of this dislike of the Nicene Council, it is remarkable how,
outside its own immediate area at least, the Roman Church liked to pose as the upholder
of the Canons and the Fathers, and when the new claims to Divine authority were not
likely to be acceptable, the old claim to jurisdiction resting upon conciliar and
patristic authority was the one put forward. 32 There is no sign of the new claims in the
East until 431, when Philip, the Papal Legate, started them out in the Synod of
Ephesus 33 that thence forward these claims became the dominant feature of Roman policy;
though even Leo, their ablest and most consistent expounder, could lapse back, upon
occasion, to the older claims, as he did when he opposed the 28th Canon of Chalcedon,
not on the ground that it infringed a Divinely-conferred privilege of the See of Peter,
but on the ground that it was contrary to the Canons of the Fathers and the decree of
"SUPPRESSION, FALSIFICATION, AND FORGERY"
But in order to get such claims universally accepted in the West -
there was no prospect of this in the East - a double need arose. It was necessary that
the documents which witnessed to the older state of things should either disappear or be
doctored; and it was desirable to have fresh documents, purporting to have ancient
authority, available to be quoted in support of the claims. The dissatisfaction of Rome
with its past thus issued a policy of suppression, falsification, and forgery. As to the
first of these there is, of course, only indirect evidence. But when the wide activity
of the Roman Church in the period previous to the middle of the fourth century is
remembered and the number of Roman Synods held is taken into account, the lack of
documents - as evidenced, for example, in the Dionysian Collection of Canons - can hardly
fail to invoke comment and arouse suspicion. If the falsification of documents we have
already observed one flagrant instance of the Sixth Canon of Nicea. It seems as
if some falsification (if not forgery) was practiced as regards the documents of the
Sardican council, though this is not so certain. 35 The falsification of the writings of
St. Cyprian is notorious; the only uncertainty is how early it began and how far it
went. No one had so conspicuously maintained or so clearly defined as be the old
doctrine of the fundamental equality of all Bishops and church units and the joint
authority of the Episcopate. No one in the West had so capably withstood Rome. So
his writings had to be altered before they were fit for Papal use. How much they were
doctored is a matter of dispute; but at least Pelagius II (579-590) inserted a passage
about the Petrine Primacy in the quotation from St. Cyprian's De Unitate which he
incorporated in his letter to the Istrian Bishops; 36 and this tampering with St. Cyprian's
writing does not stand alone.
The sixth century was full of such manipulations of the earlier Roman
history, and for three hundred years the work went steadily on. The Petrine Romances,
and especially the apocryphal letter of Clement to James of Jerusalem, had exercised a
great influence already in the fifth century; 37 and while some of the later documents
merely re-echoed the earlier ones, others developed their contents still further. There
is a gradual growth in Papal claims to be traced, for example, in the series of
apocryphal documents connected with the relations of Silvester and Constantine, from
the early life of Silvester, which probably belongs to the fifth-sixth century, down
to the full-blown fable of the donation of Constantine as it figured in the eighth and
ninth centuries. 38 Biography was a favorite medium for the emender of history, and the
lives of Popes and Saints afforded him great opportunities. 39 More venturesome were the
forgeries of quasi-legal documents. The early years of the sixth century saw the
appearance of two legends intended to support the view that no one could judge the Pope.
Both were partly biographical and partly juridical, the former telling of a Council at
Sinuessa in 303 in connection with Pope Marcellinus 40 and the latter of a Council at Rome
in 321, held by Silvester. 41 The same point was made in like manner in the fabricated
Acts of Sixtus III. 42 It was a still bolder venture to put forward, in connection with
that Pope, the romance of Polychronius, Bishop of Jerusalem, who was said to be judged
by Rome, and to have made touching amends. 43 It is not easy to say at what point the
romancers cease to glorify the Papacy by design and begin to glorify it quite innocently,
merely because it had become habitual with their craft to do so.
Another production which, whether innocently or not, distorted
systematically the perspective of history belongs to the middle of the same century.
The Liber Pontificalis in its earlier recension is partly occupied with backing up the
already prevalent falsifications; and it also adulterates its own true and historical
statements by mingling with them a number of others, representing the early popes as
legislating for the whole Church, and ascribing to their legislation many prevailing
liturgical customs and the like. This book, in both the earlier and the later
recensions, had a very wide vogue. This particular type of tampering with history
led very naturally to further developments, till the climax of pro-Papal forgeries is
reached in the Isidorian Decretals, wherein the same characteristics are developed with
greater boldness and thoroughness.
THE ISIDORIAN DECRETALS
Some five hundred documents, largely new, are provided, mainly in the
form of Decretals. St. Clement heads the list with eighty-five and Anacletus follows
with forty-one. No later Popes were credited with such activity as these first two; but,
with numbers varying between three and thirty, the succeeding Pontiffs are made to bear
their part down to Damasus (366-384). The forger was well advised to stop there; for it
is with Damasus (as we have seen) that the series of genuine documents claiming a Petrine
Primacy probably begins. It is not the stuff contained in the individual Decretals that
matters. They deal with many topics, and most of them do no more than provide a spurious
early authority for things that were in current vogue. It is the series that matters.
No more subtly convincing argument could be provided for the Petrine Primacy than this
array of Popes, all exorcising it the right down from St. Clement himself. The
moment also was opportune. Nicholas I. (858-867) was taking advantage of the
circumstances of his time to increase the despotic character of the Papal authority in
many directions. Moreover, he was embroiled in a new quarrel with the East; and now
after a considerable period of estrangement and aloofness the two conflicting contentions
were once again brought face to face through the contest between Ignatius and Photius,
the rival occupants of the throne of Constantinople. Nicholas had just made an attempt
to maintain that the Ninth Canon of Chalcedon, which established an appeal in the East to
the Primate of the Diocese or to Constantinople, really established an appeal to Rome.
Failing in this attempt, he found the Isidorian Decretals ready to his hand, and with
them he bombarded Constantinople. The Easterns might well have been surprised and
asphyxiated by this bombardment; but, far from being overpowered, they questioned the
documents and were not convinced when the Pope, with a fine show of indignation, told
them that they had been from ancient times preserved in the archives of the Roman
Church. 44 With these audacious proceedings we must close our survey of the attempts
made in the West to remodel early history because it was at variance with the Roman
claims. The East looked on with more patience than protest. It knew very little of
the details of such remodeling, and it cared less. But when it was brought up against
it, as at Chalcedon in 451 - or Constantinople in 864, it knew well enough that such
methods only condemned the contention which they were meant to justify; and it more
securely than ever maintained the old ecclastical organization of the Church
against the Western innovations.
History, then, we conclude, justifies the Eastern contention. We may
briefly show how dogmatic theology does the like before drawing this lecture to a close
with some pacific suggestions and hopes. To the theologian the two alternatives present
themselves as rival theories of church unity, the one being federal and the other
monarchial. The Pauline conception of the church as the Body of Christ inclines him to
the former view. If there is question of headship, in any supreme sense of the word, the
Head, says the theologian, must be Christ, and no one less. If there is question of
autocracy or monarchy, the rule is in God's Hands. For the Church Militant is not the
whole Church - it is but the earthly members of a body that reaches into heaven; and the
East is therefore justified when it says that the earthly members have not, and cannot
have, an earthly Head, but are bound together by bonds of love in the whole Body of
Christ. But, viewed even on the terrestrial level, the Papal theory is, as Khomiakov
has shown, 45 a displacement. Authority so constituted no longer belongs to the body as
a whole nor even to any function of the body as representing the whole. It is claimed as
a Divine privilege for a particular part. Now authority, if it is allowed thus to become
localized, becomes also external to the body - it works not ab intra but ab extra.
Again, the theologian cannot but observe another effect of the Western contention upon
the general doctrine of the Church. It has clericalized it. For on the Papal theory
ll authority in general also becomes external, and so it comes to be located in the
clergy, as distinct from the Church as a whole. The Western middle ages show this
outcome very clearly; and it is only when Christians have broken away from the Papacy,
that the laity recover their place and their rights as effective members, and not merely
drones or subjects, of the church. This shifting of the place of authority from the
whole Church to a particular church, and from within to without, and from the church in
general to the clergy has introduced both rationalism and legalism. Christian dogma
being no longer attested by the self-consciousness of a Divine body, but resting upon
an external authority, had to be supported by such forces as could be operated from
without. Therefore, it came to rest upon merely logical proof and merely legal
enactment. Khomiakov points to the theory of Purgatory and the doctrine of merits as
representing the first; and to the imposition of Latin as the ecclesiastical language,
and the adoption of temporal power and expedients as examples of the second. The Church
was no longer an inspired body, but a governing state.
A DEEP ANTAGONISM
The antagonism thus revealed between East and West is a very deep
one. We have studied it mainly in a single particular -- viz., the question of Church
organization. But this is only one out of many points that make up the whole antagonism
between the two. We have said nothing of doctrinal differences as such; but it is
evident that these are closely connected with the difference in organization. We
Anglicans hold with the East as regards organization; but in some of the doctrinal
differences our traditional place is on the side of the Latins and against the Greeks.
These parts of the antagonism are therefore of necessity more blurred to us. It is well,
therefore, that we should realize how to the Eastern the whole question is summed up in
the charge, which he brings against the West, of innovation. Not only the Papal claims,
but the Filioque, the custom of Baptism by affusion, the withdrawal of the chalice, the
loss of the Epiklesis, the unleavened Hosts, Purgatory, and the Immaculate Conception are
all equally innovations. 46 The Pope is the first of Protestants, the chief representative
of the error of setting up individual and sectional judgments against the judgment of the
church as a whole. The multiform divisions of the West are small things as compared with
the schism by which the Papal church cut itself off from Orthodoxy, and they are the
natural corollaries of that supreme act of Protestantism or schism. We, as Westerners,
must ponder on such unfamiliar statements of the case, if we are to get to understand
the Eastern contention.
REASONS FOR HOPE
What are we to say in conclusion? Is, then, the case hopeless? We
will not believe that. Are the contentions irreconcilable? We dare not say so. There
has been development in East and West, and if those developments have hitherto widened
the breach, future developments may close it. The Eastern Church has not been so
unchanging as it would think. We have already observed Constantinople aggrandizing, 47
while Rome aggrandized though not radically as Rome did. Rome went on to claim Divine
sanction for what was in its origin a human arrangement; Constantinople, on occasion,
did something similar. It has sometimes tried to exalt the Patriarchal system into
being regarded as of Divine origin;48 at other times it has tried to claim a right to
rule over churches outside its own area. On the whole, however, wiser counsels have
prevailed, as, for example, in the history of the Russian Church, and especially the
setting up of the Patriarchate of Moscow. The east is in these days beginning to
recognize in Anglicanism a Western system of belief and practice which is some respects
is akin to itself and it is more ready now to hear and accept from Anglican theologians
a justification of some of the Western peculiarities - such as the Filioque - than it
ever was to tolerate the defense of them made by Latin theologians at Constantinople or
at Florence. We in our turn, too, are more ready now to understand and learn from the
East than ever was the case in part generations; and we are beginning to foresee that
Anglicanism, please God, may have an important part to play in a future
Even in the matter of Church authority - the point at which Rome and
the East are most directly at variance - there are signs that modern developments are
making some mutual understanding more possible. We are not now as convinced as we were
that a clear line can be drawn between what is of Divine and what is of human
origin in this matter as the hierarchy and constitution of the church. We see the
marks of Divine appointment no so exclusively in the words of our Lord or in the
Scriptural precepts, but increasingly in the work of the Holy Spirit working through
the continuous life of the Church. The advocate of the Papacy appeals less confidently
to texts, and more confidently to ecclesiastical development; and the advocate of
Episcopacy does the same. The way is thus opening for a new situation, in which the
sharpness of the antagonism between East and West in this matter is much reduced, and
each party can more easily recognize in the rival theory the signs of Divine guidance.
Theologically speaking, our hopes of a coming reconciliation all seem to center round a
deeper appreciation of the work of God the Holy Spirit. If we follow His guidance we
cannot go wrong; for is He not the Spirit of Truth? If we follow faithfully, penitently,
and fearlessly, we cannot but be led back into unity; for "in one spirit we were all
baptized into one body," and we are all "builded together for an habitation of God in the
1. Acta Leonis Papae XIII., Vols. V. and VI.
2. Printed 1896 with an English Translation by E. Metallinos for the Orthodox Greek
Community in Manchester, as Answer of the Great Church of Constantinople, &c.
3. See Church Hist., Soc., Tract XIV. (1896).
4. E. Denny, Papalism (1912).
5. Answer, p. 15.
6. Ibid., 17.
7. Answer, p. 39.
8. Answer, p 43.
9. Istoria Russkoi Tserkvi, I. I. 257-260 (Moscow, 1901).
10. Answer, p. 43.
11. Barrow, Treatise on the Pope's Supremacy, Suppos. V.
12. Irenaeus, Hoeres iii. 3, 2.
13. Eusebius, Hist. Eccl. v. 24.
14. Cyprian, Epist. LXVII., LIX.
15. Dionysius, ed. Feltoe.
16. Euseb., H. E. vii. 30.
17. Ibid. x. 5.
18. Canon 2.
19. Canon 7.
20. Actio Septima in Harduin, Conc. ii. 491.
21. Bright, Canons of the First Four General Councils, 22.
22. Canons 3-6.
23. The African Bishops to Pope Boniface in 419. Cod. Canonum Ecclesiae Africanae
cxxxv. In Harduin, Conc. i. 943.
24. Ibid, i. 839.
25. Leo, Epist., ii.; Migne, Patr. Lat., liv., 656.
26. Denny, Papalism, chapters ii.-iv.
27. Journ. Theol. Stud. I. 554.
28. A list of the early genuine ones is in Duchesne's Histoire iii. 29 n.
29. Actio xvi. Harduin, Conc. ii. 638.
30. Ad clericos et monachos orientales, Harduin, Conc. ii. 856.
31. Ibid. i. 343.
32. E.g., Innocent to Victricius, Coustant pp. 747, 749; or Zosimus to Hesychius, Ibid. 974.
33. Actio iii. Harduin, Conc. i. 1478.
34. Leo, Epist. Civ.
35. See the Latin letter of the Synod to Julius: Harduin, Conc. i. 653. Hefele Leclercq, Histoire des Conciles, i. 810.
36. Mansi, Concilia ix. 898.
37. Doellinger-Friedrich, Das Papsthum, note 98, p. 363 (1892).
38. Ibid. 365.
39. Liberius was whitewashed in the Gesta Liberii.
40. Hard. Conc., i. 217.
41. Ibid. i. 291.
42. Ibid. i. 1737.
43. Ibid. i. 1741.
44. Doellinger-Friedrich, Papsthum, 38, 39, 376-378.
45. A. S. Khomiakov L’Eglise Latine et le Protestantisme au point de vue de l’Eglise d’Orient (1872), pp. 36 and ff.
46. Answer, pp. 27-35.
47. Compare further the quarrel about adoption of the title Ecumenical Patriarch by Constantinople in
the sixth century, Dictionnaire of Theool. Cath., sub-voce Constantinople, col.
48. This was said, for example, at the council of Constantinople in 869 (Harduin, v. 7u79, & c. but
perhaps provoked by the Petrine claim set out by the Roman delegates (ib. 778). It was however, a common legal view - e.g., in
49. 1 Cor. xii. 13; Eph. Ii. 22.