The Condemnation of Pope Honorius
Dom John Chapman, O.S.B.
As Catholics, we have had a great advantage for a very long time: our Popes have been unimpeachably faithful. Where they have spoken, there has always been a very clear, very well-defined path we can take from their statements back in time to the Fathers of the Church and the Apostles themselves. Until recently, every Catholic could point to the Pope and use him as an avatar of fidelity, and without hesitation recommend his words and actions as examples of the Catholic Faith.
On the down side of this fact, however, was that Popes almost came to be worshipped as not merely infallible, in the limited scope of the Catholic Tradition, but in fact inerrant, even impeccable. But the fact is that Popes can (and certainly do) sin; can (and certainly do) exercise poor prudential judgment; and can (and certainly do) get things wrong, even in matters of faith and morals, when they are not protected by the charism of infallibility.
It is not our purpose here to explore the limits of that charism; others have done so much more effectively than we could. The expertise required to navigate these troubled waters is beyond our theological competence. It is our purpose here, however, to reproduce this text about an historical fact: an ecumenical council, unquestionably accepted by all Catholic believers, explicitly condemned a Pope for a doctrinal error.
In other words, whatever the limits of papal infallibility, we know that those limits must permit at least this, because at least this has unquestionably happened: a Pope has been doctrinally wrong, on a matter of faith and morals, and was explicitly condemned by an ecumenical council and by one of his own successors, a Pope himself, as such.
Fr. Chapman demonstrates beyond reasonable doubt that Pope Honorius did, in fact, publicly speak heresy; that Pope Honorius's heretical statements were fundamental, and indeed primary, in spreading the heresy of Monothelitism throughout the East; that the Eastern bishops rightly condemned Pope Honorius for those heretical statements; that Pope Honorius's own successors rightly condemned him for the same; and that an ecumenical council, in union with and under Pope Agatho, rightly condemned him, as well.
Still, Fr. Chapman further demonstrates that papal infallibility was clearly believed by these same Eastern bishops, as well as the Popes. Yet none of these great men, in the course of this great drama defending the integrity of the Faith of Jesus Christ, saw any contradiction between the two. That is, there is no contradiction between condemning a Pope who speaks heresy and a Catholic belief in papal infallibility.
This is a powerful testament to the durability of the Catholic Faith, and the general outlines of this interesting historical episode should be wider spread among Catholics.
With that, we leave the reader to the text, and pray that it be a spiritual and historical benefit to him and to the world.
The Point of the Difficulty.
Much ink has been spilt in the cause of Pope Honorius. Some writers have been chiefly occupied in defending or assailing the authenticity of the documents, others in attacking or supporting the orthodoxy of Honorius. But the inner sequence of events as described in the following sketch has never been given in all this voluminous literature.
Though it will, I hope, be made clear in these pages that much has been misunderstood or only half understood, yet the work of so many distinguished writers has no inconsiderable value. Certainty has been attained on some points. The authenticity of the documents is now above suspicion. It has been made clear that Honorius' meaning was far better than his expression, and that his real mind was confused rather than unorthodox.
This is not, however, a very important point, since at the present day no one is likely to teach that Honorius published his famous letters ex cathedra. The real difficulty has been worded with admirable precision by Bishop Gore in his Roman Catholic Claims. He says:—
“Once again, whatever strong language may be quoted from a few later Oriental writers on behalf of the Roman See, as from St. Theodore the Studite in the 8th century, nothing can override the evidence of the formal action of the sixth General Council in 689, when it condemned Honorius the Pope among the Monothelite heretics. ‘With them we anathematize,’ says the Council, ‘and cast out of the Catholic Church, Honorius, who was Pope of the elder Rome, because we found that he followed Sergius' opinion in all respects and confirmed his impious dogmas.’ Roman Catholic writers may endeavour to justify the actual language of Honorius, they may protest that the contemporary Pope never intended to assent to his condemnation except for negligence in opposing heresy—we are not concerned at present with these contentions—but no one can possibly, with any show of reason, contend that the insertion of the name of the Pope in a list of formal heretics by an œcumenical Council does not prove that the Bishops who composed the Council had no, even rudimentary, idea of the papal infallibility” (pp. 103, 104).
As the history of Pope Honorius has been written up till now by Catholic apologists, this indictment is unanswerable. Bishop Gore's admission with regard to St. Theodore the Studite might have suggested to him that his conclusion was not certain, had not so many Catholic writers made it seem that the Council in condemning Honorius was resisting the Pope of its own day, and that the latter explained away a decision which he was afraid of refusing to confirm.
In reality, as the history will appear from the original documents, there is no difficulty at all. The Pope and the Council were in agreement as to the necessity of condemning Honorius, and they were certainly right in doing so under the circumstances.
It will also be made clear that there was no difference between Rome and the East with regard to the force of papal decisions. We do not of course look for the enunciation of the Vatican decree in set words by Eastern Bishops of the 7th century. But evidence will be supplied to enable us to judge the degree of development which the doctrine of papal infallibility had reached in those times, and the whole history will stand out as an interesting and curious page in the history of the evolution of the dogma.
I shall avoid controversy either with Catholics, Gallicans, or Protestants. The facts will best speak for themselves, and I leave the comparison with the views of former writers to be made or not by the reader as he chooses, so as to avoid burdening these pages with tiresome arguments.
The Beginnings of the Heresy.
The origin of Monothelitism is thus told by Sergius.Mansi, xi. 529. The Emperor Heraclius, in a disputation held before him in Armenia in 622, had spoken of “one operation” in Christ, and had later asked Cyrus, Bishop of Lazoe in Phasis, whether this was correct.A few words will explain the theological question. Monothelitism bears the same relation to Monophysitism that the Spanish Adoptionism of the next century bears to Nestorianism. Those who embraced it held firmly the doctrine of the Council of Chalcedon that our Lord's two natures, divine and human, are united in Him without confusion, so that His humanity remains perfect and complete, just as the Adoptionists held firmly the doctrine of the Council of Ephesus that the two natures belong to one divine Person. But the Adoptionists did not see that adoption is not of a nature but of a Person, and therefore they wrongly taught that our Lord in His human nature might be called the adopted Son of God. And, conversely, the Monothelites could not see that activity and will belong to the nature and not to the Person, so that they held Christ to have but one motive power—ἐνεργεία, energy, activity, operation—and one will, whereas in truth there must be a perfect operation and will of each nature. As in the Trinity of three Persons in one Nature there is one operation, ad extra, and one will, so in the two natures of the one Person of Christ there are two operations and two wills—the divine will common to the Son with the Father and the Holy Ghost, and a human will, without which the human nature taken by the Son of God would be incomplete.¶The danger and the attractiveness of this wrong argumentation lay in the fact that it went half way to meet the Monophysites. These heretics called the orthodox Nestorians, and declared that they divided Christ in two. The unity of will and operation was placed before the Monophysites as a proof that those who accepted the Council of Chalcedon safeguarded the oneness of the Person of Christ. The expression “one operation” was indeed a surrender of the perfect distinction of the natures, and therefore was not far off from the more moderate Monophysites, who professed simply to follow the doctrine taught by St. Cyril against the Nestorians. Cyrus replied that he did not know, and referred the question to Sergius, Patriarch of Constantinople. Sergius was in favour of the expression, and sent him a letter said to have been addressed by the Patriarch Mennas, his predecessor, to Pope Vigilius, in which “one operation” was mentioned. Sergius declared that he intended no absolute decision on the matter. Cyrus, however, was satisfied. About 630 he became Patriarch of Alexandria, one of the strongholds of the Monophysites. These were very much divided among themselves, and Cyrus induced one considerable section of them to be reconciled with the Catholic Church by a sort of compromise, which was nicknamed “the watery union.” The doctrine agreed upon was summed up in nine propositions, which profess to render the teaching of Chalcedon, but express themselves in Monophysite phraseology, borrowed indeed from St. Cyril, but meant in a wrong sense by the heretics. The seventh of these propositions anathematizes all who do not confess that the same one Christ works both the divine and human works by “one theandric operation.” This expresses the main thesis of Monothelitism.
Nothing could be more pleasing to the Emperor and Sergius than such a union, and the latter wrote a joyful letter of congratulation to Cyrus. But the Palestinian monk, Sophronius, was in Alexandria at the time, and he disapproved of the teaching of “one operation” as contrary to the Chalcedonian doctrine. His reputation for sanctity was great, and Cyrus proposed that he should lay his objections before Sergius. Sophronius accordingly proceeded to Constantinople, and so far persuaded Sergius that he withdraw the “one operation” for the sake of peace, and Sophronius promised to say no more. It is evident that Sergius now distrusted this formula, but could not formally withdraw it without imperilling the union of the Alexandrian heretics.
In this dilemma he took the obvious course of laying the whole matter before the Pope.
The Letter of Honorius.
His famous letter to HonoriusMansi, xi. 529. begins by saying that he would desire, were it possible, to bring all his actions day by day to the Pope's cognizance and receive his advice. He relates the circumstances, how very hard it seemed to destroy the recent joyful union effected by Cyrus, with all its promises of peace, “of those who once would not hear the name of the divine Leo and the Council of Chalcedon, but who now proclaim them in a loud voice in the holy mysteries.” Sophronius, he says, was not able to quote explicit testimonies of the ancients for two operations; but it seemed that the term “one operation” was novel, and he, Sergius, had therefore written to Cyrus to permit neither one nor two operations to be spoken of, when once the union of the Monophysites with the Church had been effected. Sophronius had agreed to this. At the end of the letter Sergius quotes the celebrated words of Pope Leo, Agit enim utraque forma cum alterius communione,“For He acts in one each form with the communion of the other.” —Ed. which obviously imply two operations; and he seems to have been orthodox enough in meaning, though his expressions are incorrect. He has started from the Chalcedonian doctrine, but has made a sorry conclusion. He does not openly support one will, which he only mentions in connection with the supposititious letter of Mennas to Pope Vigilius, but he thinks “two operations” to be a misleading expression. He concludes:
“We have thought it fitting and also necessary to give an account to your Brotherhood and concordant Blessedness, by the copies which we are sending, of what we have partially related above; and we beg your Holiness to read the whole, and, following its meaning with your God-pleasing and full charity, if there be anything wanting in what has been said, to fill this up with the charity which God has given you; and with your holy syllables and with your desirable assistance, to signify your opinion on the matter.”Hefele says (p. 27, note): “One can see he was a Monothelite, and wanted to mislead the Pope.” I think it clear, on the contrary, that he was puzzled by an involved problem, and wished to get the Pope's help. He seems to have done his best to think and act rightly, but he was no more exempt from error than were a Cyprian or an Aquinas.
The letter of Honorius, in reply,Mansi, xi. 537. praises Sergius for his circumspection in disapproving the new expression, “one operation.” So far so good. But he goes on to admit one will, because our Lord took to Himself a human nature free from the curse of original sin. The reason given implies that our Lord has a human will, only not also a corrupt lower human will. This is in answer to Sergius, who had argued that if two operations were admitted there would follow two contrary wills. The Pope declares that to teach one operation will seem Eutychian, while to teach two will seem Nestorian. Both expressions are consequently to be avoided.
Honorius is thus logically and thologically as much astray as Sergius, though both are orthodox in intention. It would no doubt be uncharitable to regard either the Pope or the Patriarch as a “private heretic.”
Unfortunately these letters were afterwards treated as if they were definitions of faith. As definitions they are obviously and beyond doubt heretical, for in a definition it is the words that matter.
It is, of course, absurd to regard the letter of Honorius as a definition ex cathedra, as was done by Hefele, Pennacchi[,] and others. It was natural to exaggerate at the time of the Vatican Council, but today the decree is better understood. If the letter of Honorius to Sergius is to be ex cathedra, a fortiori all papal encyclicals addressed to the whole Church at the present day must be ex cathedra, quod est absurdum.The Vatican decision explains ex cathedra to mean: Cum [Papa] omnium Christianorum pastoris et doctoris munere fungens, pro suprema sua Apostolica auctoritate doctrinam de fide vel moribus ab universa ecclesia tenendam definit. (“When [the Pope], engaging his office of pastor and teacher of all Christians, defines by his supreme Apostolic authority a doctrine regarding faith or morals must be held by the entire Church.” —Ed.) In this case not even the first condition is certainly fulfilled, for Honorius addressed Sergius alone, and it is by no means evident that he intended his letter to be published as a decree. Further, he does not appeal, as Popes habitually appealed on solemn occasions, to his apostolic authority, to the promise to Peter, to the tradition of his Church. Lastly, he neither defines nor condemns, utters no anathema or warning, but merely approves a policy of silence.
The decision of Honorius was nothing more and also nothing less than an approval given to the disciplinary arrangement suggested by Sergius. Both believed that “one will” had been said, and said in an orthodox sense, by the orthodox Mennas, unrebuked by Pope Vigilius, and neither was aware that “two operations” and “two wills” could be shown to have been consecrated by the usage of the Fathers. Sergius was at least doubtful, and set the matter before the Pope. Honorius had a higher responsibility; he decided in haste to agree with the conduct of Sergius, and he decided wrongly. The result of his letter was the so-called heresy of Monothelitism, which up to this point can scarcely be said to have as yet existed, except as an opinion under discussion.
St. Sophronius of Jerusalem intervenes.
At the time when these two letters were written, St. Sophronius had already been promoted to the patriarchal Chair of Jerusalem, and on the occasion of his enthronization had published the defence of two operations and two wills which Sergius had demanded from him, but which the latter had not yet received when he wrote to the Pope. It is a long document,Mansi, xi. 461–509. afterwards read and approved by the sixth Council, and it has the remarkable merit of being the first complete exposition of the orthodox doctrine of the two wills and natures. It was sent to all the patriarchs, and Sophronius declares that he is ready to receive corrections. For our present purpose his reference to St. Leo as speaking with Peter's voice is of interest.
After detailing his assent to the five General Councils, he adds that he accepts the divine writings of Cyril and the letters of Eastern prelates which were received by Cyril.
“And also equally with these holy writings of the all-wise Cyril I receive as holy and honoured together with them, and as propagating the same orthodoxy, the God-given and inspired letter of the great and illustrious and saintly Leo, the light of the Roman Church, or rather of the Church beneath the sun, which he, moved clearly by the Holy Ghost, wrote against the wicked Eutyches and the hateful and perverse Nestorius to the praiseworthy Bishop of the royal city, Flavian, which I denominate and define to be the pillar of orthodoxy (following the holy Fathers, who rightly called it thus) as teaching us all orthodoxy and destroying all heresy and driving it away from the God-protected halls of our holy Catholic Church. And together with these inspired syllables and characters, I accept all his letters and teachings as proceeding from the mouth of Peter the Coryphæus, and I kiss them and salute them and embrace them with all my soul. Receiving these, as I have said, the five holy and divine assemblies of the blessed Fathers and all the writings of Cyril the all-wise, and especially those against the madness of Nestorius and the letters of the Oriental Bishops, written to the same most divine Cyril, and by him acknowledged to be orthodox, and whatever Leo, the most holy pastor of the most holy Church of the Romans, has written, and especially what he composed against the Eutychian and Nestorian abomination, I recognize the latter as definitions of Peter and the former as those of Mark, and besides all the heaven-taught teachings of all the chosen mystagogues of our Catholic Church,” &c.
If St. Sophronius extends the idea of Peter speaking by Leo to St. Cyril, so that he embraces the words of that doctor as the words of St. Mark, this does not detract from the importance of his testimony as an Eastern Bishop that the words of a Pope are to him as the words of a greater than Mark—of the Coryphæus of the apostles.
The Saint lived only until 638. Before his death a memorable scene occurred which has been vividly described for us by the other actor in it, Stephen, Bishop of Dora in Palestine, within the Saint's patriarchate. He speaks as follows in a document which he presented in person to Pope St. Martin at the Lateran Council of 649.Mansi, x. 893. He is speaking of the troubles brought upon the patriarchate of Sophronius by Monothelitism.
“And for this cause, sometimes we asked for water to our head and to our eyes a fountain of tears, sometimes the wings of a dove, according to holy David, that we might fly away and announce these things to the Chair which rules and presides over all, I mean to yours, the head and highest, for the healing of the whole wound. For this it has been accustomed to do from of old and from the beginning with power by its canonical or apostolical authority, because the truly great Peter, head of the apostles, was clearly thought worthy not only to be entrusted with the keys of heaven, alone apart from the rest, to open it worthily to believers, or to close it justly to those who disbelieve the Gospel of grace, but because he was also first commissioned to feed the sheep of the whole Catholic Church; for ‘Peter,’ said He, ‘lovest thou Me? Feed My sheep’; and again, because he had in a manner peculiar and special, a faith in the Lord stronger than all and unchangeable, to be converted and to confirm his fellows and spiritual brethren when tossed about, as having been adorned by God Himself, incarnate for us, with power and sacerdotal authority.”
Nothing could be more confident than this beautiful exposition of the writer's faith in the promises of Christ to Peter. It is noticeable that all the three principal Petrine texts are quoted, showing that then as now they were recognized as the loci classici upon the point. And Stephen goes on to assert that this was the faith of St. Sophronius himself, as, indeed, was indicated by the words of that saint.
“And Sophronius of blessed memory, who was Patriarch of the holy city of Christ our God, and under whom I was Bishop, conferring not with flesh and blood, but caring only for the things of Christ with respect to your Holiness, hastened to send my nothingness without delay about this matter alone to this Apostolic and great See.”
Sophronius had nobly resisted the heretics while he lived, but only succeeded in raising against himself a storm of detraction. But for all this he was confident as a lion:
“Being full of divine zeal and courage, he took me unworthy, and set me on holy Calvary, where for our sakes He who by nature is God above us, the Lord Jesus Christ, voluntarily deigned to be crucified in the flesh, and he bound me with bonds not to be undone, saying: ‘Thou shalt give an account to the God who was crucified for us in this holy place, in His glorious and awful advent, when He shall come to judge the living and the dead, if thou delay and allow His faith to be endangered, since, as thou knowest, I am myself let, on account of the invasion of the Saracens which has come upon us for our sins. Swiftly pass, therefore, from one end of the world to the other, until thou come to the Apostolic See, where are the fouudations of the holy doctrines. Not once, not twice, but many times, make clearly known to all those holy men there all that here has been done; and tire not instantly urging and beseeching, until out of their apostolic wisdom they bring forth judgement unto victory…’
“I, therefore, trembling and confounded at the tremendous adjuration laid on me in that venerable and awful spot, and considering the episcopal dignity which by God's permission was mine, and because I was urged by the requests of almost all the pious Bishops of the East, in agreement with the departed Sophronius (I being the first in the jurisdiction of Jerusalem), I gave not, to speak graphically, sleep to mine eyes, nor slumber to mine eyelids, nor rest to my temples, for the sake of the fulfilment of this beloved command. Without delay I made this journey for this purpose alone; and since then thrice have I run to your apostolic feet, urging and beseeching the prayer of Sophronius and of all, that is, that you will assist the imperilled faith of Christians…”
Such is the witness of Stephen to the belief of the patriarchate of Jerusalem. We shall hear more of him presently.
The synodal letter of Sophronius does not appear to have had any effect upon Sergius, but we have no further knowledge of his conduct. Of Honorius we have two fragments of a letter which were produced and read at the sixth Council. He writes to Sergius telling him that he has informed Cyrus of Alexandria that the new expressions “one or two operations” are to be dropped, the use of such expressions being most silly, πάνυ μάταιον. This was naturally condemned as heresy by the Council. But in this second fragment, Honorius implicitly teaches two operations, for he says rightly that the two natures work each what is proper to it, thus stultifying his own decision. The fragments read as if, after seeing the arguments of Sophronius, the Pope was trying to bolster up his wrong decision with orthodox arguments.
The “Ecthesis” of Heraclius.
In one of the last four months of 638 the Emperor Heraclius issued the famous “Ecthesis,” composed for him by Sergius.Mansi, x. 991. It enforces the decision of Honorius. All the Emperor's subjects are to confess one will of our Lord, but to avoid the expressions “one or two operations.” We have seen that Sergius was in doubt when he wrote to the Pope. Now, having received the reply, he causes the teaching of the See of Rome to be proclaimed by the Emperor.Hefele says, “The agreement of the ecthesis with the two letters of Honorius is only apparent” (v. 63). It may, indeed, be said that the reasons given in the ecthesis are less clearly orthodox, but at least it was simply modelled on the first letter of Honorius. Catholic writers have not been willing to see this, for the sake of the Pope's honour, while Gallicans and Protestants have been equally blind, because they did not choose to admit that Sergius and the Emperor were in intention only giving effect to the Pope's decision and would never have thought of publishing such a proclamation without his authority. December of the same year, he further held a great Synod at Constantinople. Its decision has been preserved, in which the ecthesis is acclaimed as “truly agreeing with the apostolic preaching.” This is apparently a reference to its being based upon the letter of Honorius. “These are the doctrines of the Fathers, these are the supports of the Church,” &c. The decisions were sent to absent Bishops, and Cyrus received them with great rejoicings. The See of Antioch was occupied by a Patriarch who had been uncanonically appointed by Sergius himself. St. Sophronius was dead, and his Chair was usurped by a supporter of the ecthesis. Pope Honorius had also died before its publication. The new Pope, Severinus, who only reigned two months, is said to have had time to reject it.
On the arrival of the envoys from Rome to ask for the Emperor's confirmation of Severinus's election according to custom, the clergy of Constantinople (there was as yet no new Patriarch) presented them with the ecthesis, declaring that they would give them no assistance in the matter for which they had made so long a voyage, unless the envoys would promise to persuade the new Pope to subscribe the document without delay. St. Maximus tells us that he was informed of the event by his friends at Constantinople. He writes:
“Having discovered the tenor of the document, since by refusing they would have caused the first and mother of Churches and the City [ecclesiarum principem et matrem et urbem] to remain so long a time in widowhood, they replied quietly: ‘We cannot act with authority in this matter, for we have received a commission to execute, not an order to make a profession of faith. But we assure you that we will relate all that you have put forward, and we will show the document itself to him who is to be consecrated, and if he should judge it to be correct, we will ask him to append his signature to it. But do not therefore place any obstacle in our way now and do violence to us by delaying us and keeping us here. For none has a right to use violence, especially when faith is in question. For herein even the weakest waxes mighty, and the meek becomes a warrior, and by comforting his soul with the divine word, is hardened against the greatest attacks. How much more in the case of the clergy and Church of the Romans, which from of old until now, as the elder of all the Churches which are under the sun, presides over all? Having surely received this canonically, as well from councils and the apostles, as from the princes of the latter, and being numbered in their company, she is subject to no writings or issues of synodical documents, on account of the eminence of her pontificate, even as in all these things all are equally subject to her according to sacerdotal law.’
“And so when, without fear but with all holy and becoming confidence, those ministers of the truly firm and immovable rock, that is of the most great and Apostolic Church at Rome, had so applied to the clergy of the royal city [Constantinople] it was seen that they had conciliated them and had acted prudently, that the others might be humble and modest, while they themselves made known the orthodoxy and purity of their own faith from the beginning. But those of Constantinople, admiring their piety, thought that such a deed ought rightly to be recompensed; and ceasing from offering them the document, they promised to procure by their own care the issue of the Emperor's order with regard to the episcopal election. When this was accomplished, the apocrisiarii dear to God thankfully returned home.
“Of this document, divinely honoured Father, a copy has been sent to me also. They have explained in it the cause for being silent about the natural operations in Christ our God, that is in His natures, of which and in which He is believed to be; and how in future neither one nor two are to be mentioned. It is only to be allowed to confess that the divine and human [works] proceeded from the same word of God incarnate and are to be attributed to one and the same” (Mansi, x. 677–8).
This evidence with regard to the papacy is very remarkable as proceeding from the Saint's orthodox friends at Constantinople. The Roman envoys claim absolute immunity from all synodal decisions, and declare that their Church is above all others, propter pontificatus provectionem.“Because of the promotion of the pontificate.” —Ed. These rights are from Councils, from apostles, and from the princes of the apostles. Such claims we expect from Rome. But the clergy of Constantinople so amply admit them that they are even touched by the boldness of the envoys. St. Maximus and his friends are exultant: the Church of Rome is truly the immovable rock. We see then that it is a doctrine of Constantinople, as well as of Jerusalem, that “in Rome are the foundations of the holy doctrines.”
The Apology of John IV.
Severinus was not about to be consecrated until May, 640. He was succeeded in December by John IV. The new Pope, before the death of Heraclius (February, 641), held a Synod against Monothelitism. He informed the new Patriarch of Constantinople, Pyrrhus, of his condemnation of the ecthesis, and the Emperor before his death excused himself, laying the blame on Sergius, and wrote to John IV a letter, in which he disowned his own ecthesis.Mansi, x. 9, in Acts of Maximus. The Pope sent an epistle to the elder son of Heraclius, declaring that he was sure the ecthesis would now be withdrawn, and that the whole West rejected the new heresy. This document has become well known as the Apology for Honorius.Mansi, x. 682.
The Pope says that he hears the new patriarch Pyrrhus has been confusing men's minds with his novel teachings, and supporting them by the name of Honorius. The defence which follows is a very lame one. It points out quite truly that both Sergius “of reverend memory” and Honorius only used the expression “one will” because they would not admit contrary wills.St. Maximus uses the same arguments in his letter to Marinus, and he tells us that he had heard from the holy Roman abbot, Anastasius, that he had heard the Abbot John Symponus, the writer of Honorius' letter, affirm that he never made any mention in it of the abolition of the natural human will in our Lord, but only of the lower will of the flesh, adding that the letter had been corrupted by the Greek translators. This seems to be untrue of the version read at the sixth Council, as it was examined and approved by the papal representatives. St. Maximus has perhaps slightly exaggerated the testimony of Abbot John in repeating it (Mansi, x. 695). But the whole argument of the letter of John IV shows that his predecessor was wrong in admitting the expression. What is most remarkable is that not a word is said about the prohibition by Honorius of both one and two operations, the very point for which St. Maximus and Pope St. Martin were to lay down their lives.
It is clear that Pyrrhus taught one will in the heretical sense. But, after the death of Constantine and the exile of his younger brother, Heracleonas, Pyrrhus was himself exiled to Africa, and a successor, Paul, was set up uncanonically in his stead.
John IV died on October 11, 642. Theodore I, his successor, wrote to Paul refusing to confirm his election as he had requested, until Pyrrhus had been properly deposed by a Synod to be held in presence of two papal representatives. “Why has he allowed the ecthesis to remain on the wall, though it had been disowned by the late Emperor and condemned by the late Pope?” The heresy of Pyrrhus is made manifest by his praise of Heraclius, and by his signing, and causing others to sign, the ecthesis.Mansi, x. 702. ¶ We possess an interesting letter to this Pope from a Synod held in Cyprus, May 29, 643, in which the Bishops say (Mansi, x. 914): ¶ “To the most holy and God-confirmed Father of Fathers, Archbishop and œcumenical Patriarch, Lord Theodore, Sergius, least of Bishops, greeting in the Lord: ¶ “Christ, our God, has instituted your apostolic chair, O holy head, as a God-fixed and immovable foundation. For thou, as truly spake the divine Word, art Peter, and upon thy foundation the pillars of the Church have been fixed, and to thee He committed the keys of the heavens, He ordered thee to bind and to loose with authority on earth and in heaven. Thou art set as the destroyer of profane heresies, as Coryphæus and leader of the orthodox and unsullied faith. Despise not then, Father, the faith of our Fathers, tossed by waves and imperilled; disperse the rule of the foolish with the light of thy divine knowledge, O most holy. Destroy the blasphemies and insolence of the new heretics with their novel expressions. For nothing is wanting to your orthodox and apostolic definition and tradition for the augmentation of the faith amongst us. For we (O inspired one, you who hold converse with the holy Apostles and sit with them) believe and confess from of old since our very swaddling clothes, teaching according to the holy and God-fearing Pope Leo, and declaring that ‘each nature works with the communion of the other,’” &c. ¶ They are ready to be martyred rather than forsake the doctrine of St. Leo. ¶ “May God, the Creator of all, preserve for many years our all holy Lord for the stability of His holy Churches and the orthodox faith, the good Shepherd, who lay down your own life for your spiritual sheep, and who chase away the ravages of the wolf with your pastoral staff.” ¶ At this time Cyprus was a province ecclesiastically independent of the Patriarch of Antioch. The recognition of the Pope's primacy could hardly be stronger. But, when persecution arose, Sergius was on the side of the heretics, not of the martyrs.
The Recantation of Pyrrhus.
Pyrrhus was now in Africa, and being no longer at court, had no temptation to remain in heresy, for the Africans were orthodox. In July, 645, probably at Carthage, a great disputation took place in presence of Gregory, the governor, and of many Bishops, between Pyrrhus and St. Maximus Confessor, who had become, since the death of St. Sophronius, the protagonist of orthodoxy in the East. This illustrious saint, born at Constantinople, had been the first secretary of Heraclius, but, leaving the world, had betaken himself to a monastery at Scutari, where he became abbot. The minutes of the disputation are interesting.Mansi, x. 709. Pyrrhus was eventually convinced, his quotations from the Fathers being refuted by Maximus, who declared further that the letter of Mennas to Vigilius was a forgery.
Pyrrhus gives up Vigilius. But what of Honorius, who plainly taught one will? (p. 740). Maximus replies that his letter must be interpreted by the writer of it, who was the same as the writer of the apology of John IV, viz., John Symponus. Pyrrhus can only reply: “My predecessor accepted it too simply, considering the wording alone.” Maximus answers that what he dislikes about Sergius is his changeableness: “You never know where to have him.” Pyrrhus then renounces the “one operation,” and asks pardon for himself and his predecessors, as having failed by ignorance. “Is there no way of saving their memory while rejecting their doctrine?” “There is no other way,” Maximus answers, “but to keep silence as to their persons, yet to anathematize the heresy.” Pyrrhus laments that so the great Synod he had held will be condemned. Maximus replies that it was no Synod.“I marvel that you call that a Synod which was not held according to synodical laws and canons and ecclesiastical sanctions. For the encyclical epistle did not receive the consent of the Patriarchs, nor were the place and day of meeting fixed, and there was neither introducer nor accuser; those who assembled had no letters of commendation, neither the Bishops from their Metropolitans, nor the Metropolitans from their Patriarchs, nor were there letters or representatives sent by the other Patriarchs.” The Synod was thus clearly intended as a kind of General Council of the East, no doubt at the Emperor's wish, and Bishops not subject to Constantinople were present. Hefele (p. 89) should not have called it Pyrrhus's own “Patriarchal Synod.”
“Pyrrhus: If there is no other way than this, I am ready to place my own salvation before everything else; and to do this with completeness, I only beg that I may in consequence be deemed worthy of [approaching] the apostolic seats, or rather the princes of the apostles themselves, and of seeing the face of the most holy Pope, and of presenting him with a libellus“Little book.” —Ed. with respect to the absurdities which have been committed.
“Maximus and Gregory the Patrician said: Since your proposal is good and useful to the Church, so be it.”
Thus end the Acts. A contemporary has added the note:
“Therefore, when he was with us in this famous city of Rome, he fulfilled his promise, and condemned the dogmas of the impious ecthesis, and joined himself to the Catholic Church by a right profession, by the grace and co-operation of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.”
In the following year the Bishops of Africa and the adjoining islands held Synods against the Monothelites by the counsel of St. Maximus. According to rule they sent their decisions to Rome, and four of their letters are still extant in the Acts of the Lateran Council, at which they were read. The first of these is a joint letter from the Primates of Numidia, Byzacene, and Mauritania, in the name of three provincial Councils which they had respectively held.Their introduction is modelled on the well-known letters of Popes Innocent and Zosimus to the African Councils of 417–18. “No one can doubt that there is in the Apostolic See a great and unfailing fountain pouring forth waters for all Christians, whence streams do richly proceed, bountifully irrigating the whole Christian world; to which See also, in honour of B. Peter, the rules of the Fathers have decreed all special reverence in searching out the things of God which ought by all means to be carefully examined, and above all and justly by the Apostolic Head of Bishops, whose care it is of old as well to condemn what is evil as to approve what is laudable. For it is sanctioned by the ancient rules that whatsoever is done, even in remote and distant provinces, shall neither be discussed nor accepted, unless it be first brought to the knowledge of your good See, so that a just sentence may be confirmed by its authority, and that the other Churches may thence receive the original preaching as from its native source, and that the mysteries of the faith of salvation may remain in incorrupt purity throughout the various regions of the world. Wherefore most humbly doing obeisance to your Apostolic Headship, with tears we inform you of that concerning which we cannot be silent without groaning of heart—that some time ago a hateful invention at Constantinople was brought to our notice. If we have been silent until now, it is because we believed that it had been destroyed by the most serene examination of the Apostolic See.”
They have heard that the heresy is spreading, and have read the libellus which Pyrrhus had presented to the Pope; and in consequence they have decided to send a remonstrance to Paul, the Bishop of Constantinople, beseeching him with tears to remove from his Church and himself the new heresy which Pyrrhus had already rejected, and to have the ecthesis taken down from the doors of the churches, where it scandalized the orthodox people of his city. Since the conference of Maximus with Pyrrhus, the patrician Gregory had revolted and made himself Emperor of Africa. In the next year he was vanquished by the Saracens, and for this reason the Africans were afraid to write directly to Constantinople. They therefore enclose their letters to the Pope.The enclosures are a letter to the Emperor Constantine and one to the Patriarch Paul. In the latter are many quotations from Ambrose and Augustine. A fourth letter is from Victor of Carthage, who had become Bishop after the other letters were written. He therefore adds in his own name this letter, replete with rather fulsome compliments to Pope Theodore.
The Condemnation of Paul, and the Relapse of Pyrrhus.
In accordance with the desire of these Councils Pope Theodore addressed a letter to Paul of Constantinople, which has not been preserved. The reply of PaulMansi, x. 1020. commences with professions of the love of union, of charity, of humility, of silence. He relates that the Papal envoys, after much discussion, at last begged him to write his explanation of the will of Christ, and to send it to the Pope. He therefore exposes his views, which are those of the ecthesis. He quotes in his own favour Gregory Nazianzen, Athanasius[,] and Cyril, “with which testimonies Sergius and Honorius of pious memory are in agreement and accord, who adorned respectively the Sees of new and elder Rome.” Paul seems to be more settled in his heresy than were Sergius and Pyrrhus. Upon receipt of this letter Pope Theodore pronounced a sentence of deposition against him.
Meanwhile Pyrrhus had returned, as St. Martin says, like a dog to his vomit. It may have been in this year, 648,We learn from the report handed in to St. Martin at the Lateran Council by Bishop Stephen of Dora, that about this time he was appointed by Pope Theodore to be Vicar Apostolic of Palestine, in the absence of an orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem. Sergius, Bishop of Joppa, has usurped that dignity, after the retirement of the Persians, who had invaded the country; and he had proceeded to consecrate bishops. These intruders agreed to the ecthesis, in order to get the support of Paul of Constantinople, who seems to have claimed even to give the necessary confirmation of their election. Stephen, as papal legate, received back those of them who presented a petition (libellus) of repentance. We gather that the orthodox Bishops of Palestine were at one with Sophronius as to papal authority, and obeyed Stephen. that St. Maximus wrote a letter to a high official in the East, called Peter, of which parts have been preserved. In it he denounces the ecthesis as worse than the old Monophysite doctrine. Yet he defends Honorius once more:
“In this regard the wretches have not conformed to the sense of the Apostolic See, and, what is laughable, or rather lamentable, as proving their ignorance, they have not hesitated to lie against the Apostolic See itself; but as though they were in its counsel, and as if they had received a decree from it, in the acts they have composed in defence of the impious ecthesis, they have claimed the great Honorius on their side.”
He appeals to Sophronius, to Arcadius (the late Metropolitan of Cyprus and predecessor of Sergius, whose letter has been cited in a note), and to the Popes:
“What did the divine Honorius do, and after him the aged Severinus, and John who followed him? Yet further, what supplication has the blessed Pope, who now sits, not made? Have not the whole East and West brought their tears, laments, obsecrations, deprecations, both before God in prayer and before men in their letters? If the Roman See recognizes Pyrrhus to be not only a reprobate but a heretic, it is certainly plain that every one who anathematizes those who have rejected Pyrrhus, anathematizes the See of Rome, that is, he anathematizes the Catholic Church. I need hardly add that he excommunicates himself also, if indeed he is in communion with the Roman See and the Catholic Church of God. I beseech you, therefore, blessed Lord, to order that no one should speak of Pyrrhus as sanctissimus“Most holy.” —Ed. or almificus,Unclear; perhaps “nourishing”? —Ed. for the holy canon does not allow him to be so styled. For he who has wilfully separated from the Catholic Church has fallen from all holiness. For it is not right that one who has already been condemned and cast out by the Apostolic See of the city of Rome for his wrong opinions should be named with any kind of honour, until he be received by her, having returned to her, nay, to our Lord, by a pious confession and orthodox faith, by which he can receive holiness and the name of holy. Therefore, if he wishes neither to be a heretic nor to be accounted one, let him not make satisfaction to this or that person, for this is superfluous and unreasonable. For just as all are scandalized at him when one is scandalized, so also, when satisfaction has been made to one, all without doubt are satisfied. Let him hasten before all things to satisfy the Roman See, for if it is satisfied, all will agree in calling him pious and orthodox. For he only speaks in vain who thinks he ought to persuade or entrap persons like myself, and does not satisfy and implore the blessed Pope of the most holy Church of the Romans, that is, the Apostolic See, which from the incarnate Son of God Himself, and also by all holy synods, according to the holy canons and definitions, has received universal and supreme dominion, authority, and power of binding and loosing over all the holy Churches of God which are in the whole world. For with it the Word who is above the celestial powers binds and looses in heaven also. For if he thinks he must satisfy others, and fails to implore the most blessed Roman Pope, he is acting like a man who, when accused of murder or some other crime, does not hasten to prove his innocence to the judge appointed by law, but only uselessly and without profit does his best to demonstrate his innocence to private individuals, who have no power to acquit him from the accusation. Wherefore, my blessed Lord, extend yet further the precept which it is known that you have made well and according to God's will, by which Pyrrhus is now allowed to speak or mis-speak with regard to dogma. But discover clearly his intention by further inquiry, whether he will altogether agree to the truth. And if he is careful to do this, exhort him to make a becoming statement to the Roman Pope, so that by his command the matter concerning Pyrrhus may be canonically and suitably ordered for the glory of God and the praise of your sublimity.”Mansi, x. 692.
The doctrine of this passage is explicit enough. We have already seen that Maximus was not the only Constantinopolitan who held it. Indeed, he clearly assumes it to be well known and admitted by all.
Consequently we can understand that the rejection by the Pope of Paul's confession of faith was felt by him as a serious blow. At first, indeed, the supplanter of Pyrrhus showed nothing but anger, and wreaked his wrath on the Roman apocrisiarii who had brought the papal sentence of deposition to the East. He revenged himself by destroying the altar in the chapel which belonged to the Holy See in the palace of Placidia at Constantinople, “in order that the envoys should be unable to offer the immaculate, adorable, and spiritual sacrifice, and be partakers of the divine and life-giving sacraments.” In reply to their admonition to him to renounce his heresy, he persecuted them together with other orthodox men and venerable priests, casting some of them into prison, sending others into exile, and subjecting others to stripes.” This information we have from the speech of St. Martin at the Lateran Council a few months later.Mansi, x 879.
The “Typus” of Constans and Paul.
But Paul did not intend to break with the Holy See and with Catholicity altogether, as we learn from his next move, which was nothing less than the final withdrawal of the ecthesis, which his appeal to the name of Pope Honorius had not availed to defend. Up to this time the great objection to the ecthesis on the part of the orthodox—of St. Sophronius, of St. Maximus, and especially of successive Popes—had been its assertion of the one will. It had been confidently asserted that the meaning of Honorius in acknowledging one will had been misunderstood and that his secretary was alive to establish his real intention. This point therefore Paul simply withdrew. But the main idea of the ecthesis was not so much its half-hearted defence of one will as its prohibition of both the expressions “one operation” and “two operations,” and here at least it could not possibly be said to misrepresent the teaching of Honorius. It was indeed logically necessary to apply the same prohibition to “one will” and “two wills,” for it was inconsistent to permit “one will” but to forbid “one operation.”
Paul therefore persuaded the Emperor Constans to substitute for the ecthesis or exposition of faith an imperial decree, approving neither doctrine, but forbidding the naming of one or two wills equally with one or two operations.
“We declare [says the Emperor] to our orthodox subjects that from the present moment they no longer have permission in any way to contend or quarrel with one another over ‘one will’ and ‘one operation,’ or ‘two operations’ and ‘two wills.’ No one is to add anything to the usages or words of the holy Fathers, but the form of doctrine is to be preserved everywhere as it was before the rise of the said controversies, as though no disputes had arisen, and no blame is to attach to any one of all those who have up till now taught one will and one operation, or two wills and two operations.”
For the sake of the union of all, Constans has ordered the ecthesis to be removed from the narthex of Sta Sophia, where it was still posted.
This document is known to history as the typus of Constans. Severe penalties were attached to its contravention:
“Whosoever ventures to transgress the command now given is subject before all to the judgement of God, but he will also be liable to the punishment of the despisers of the imperial commands. If he is a Bishop or cleric, he shall be deposed; if a monk, excommunicated and banished from his monastery; if he is a civil or military official, he shall lose his office and dignity; if he is a private person, he shall, if of the upper class, be mulcted in his property, if lowly, be chastised with corporal correction and permanent exile.”
Thus heresy is to go without blame, while the truth is to be forbidden. It was clearly impossible for the Holy See to accept the typus. Theodore, John IV, and probably Severinus, had all asserted the two operations and had made the expression a term of communion. But the Patriarch's move was a subtle one. He did not oblige himself to unsay anything that he had said, yet he withdrew, so that he could appear to have some deference to the papal censure. He seemed in effect to say: “I am afraid there is a misunderstanding. These controversies are fruitless; let us be united as we were before they arose.” If then the Pope should try to insist on the two operations and wills, the answer was ready: “Your predecessor pointed out that we had misunderstood the words of Pope Honorius about the one will. I am willing to admit this. Hence the Emperor has issued this disciplinary measure, absolutely according to the true mind of Pope Honorius, and he has withdrawn the ‘exposition’ of Faith. No man's conscience is bound by the new document; the Emperor merely follows the papal decision in imposing silence for the sake of peace.”The typus refuses to condemn those who spoke of “one will,” for had not Honorius been defended by his successors? It refuses to condemn “two wills,” for those successors preferred this expression. Therefore peace is only to be reached by silence, after the manner in which “two operations” and “one operation” were equally discouraged by Honorius. Yet none of the four expressions is condemned or approved. Let us take note that no one who accepted the typus could be called a Monothelite, since he must treat the Monothelite and the Catholic formulæ with equal disdain, as unnecessary and liable to misunderstanding.
It is certain that at Rome it was well understood that Paul had scored heavily. From this time forward not a word is ever again said in defence of Honorius. Until now even Sergius had not been condemned. Maximus had indeed accused him of shiftiness, but he had lived and died in communion with the Holy See. Honorius had approved his letter, and John IV had called him “Sergius of reverend memory.” Now this was all necessarily to be changed. It was not imperative to condemn Honorius at once by name, but Sergius is no longer spared. The typus is condemned, and Sergius with it, and by implication Honorius also. The issue of the typus falls in the Constantinopolitan year between September, 648, and September, 649. Pope Theodore died May 5th, either before he could see the typus, or at least before he could take action against it. He was succeeded on July 1st or July 5th by the illustrious saint and martyr, Martin I. The grave state of affairs demanded that Rome should at last give a solemn and final decision. The preceding Popes had indeed supported the orthodox in every part of the world; they had condemned the ecthesis, and had deposed its partisans. But no Pope had yet issued a definition to the world, or had given a formal exposition of the true answer to the questions that had arisen. The evil had ever grown, and the new decree of the Emperor, intolerantly enforcing mutual toleration, made a protest unavoidable. We are not surprised to find that St. Martin determined to call a Council at Rome at the earliest opportunity. Just three months after his accession he opened in the Lateran Basilica a Council in importance the rival, in authority the equal, of œcumenical Synods, and in interest the superior of many of them. A hundred and five Bishops were present, chiefly from Italy and its dependencies.
St. Martin's Lateran Council of 649.
The proceedings were inaugurated by the “chief notary of the Apostolic See,” who in a set speech invited the Pope to declare his reasons for “summoning the holy Bishops here assembled and presiding, above whom you shine forth by your great and Apostolic Presidency over the Bishops who are in the whole world.”Mansi, x. 870.
St. Martin then exposed the Catholic doctrine of two wills and two operations, relating how it had been denied in the “nine propositions” of Cyrus of Alexandria, how these had been approved by Sergius, who afterwards composed the ecthesis, fixed it at his church door[,] and deceived Bishops into signing it; how Pyrrhus imitated him, but repented, and offered a libellus with his signature to the Apostolic See, condemning his own acts and writings; how he went back to his vomit and was justly deposed; finally, how Paul for his letter to the Apostolic See was also deposed. “This last, to cover his error, imitating Sergius in this also, deceived and persuaded the Emperor to publish a typus which destroyed the Catholic dogma. For in this typus he cast out all expressions of the holy Fathers, together with those of the unspeakable heretics, since he decreed that neither one nor two wills were to be confessed.” He had destroyed the altar of the Holy See at Constantinople, and had insulted the papal envoys. St. Martin adds that many of the orthodox from various parts of the world had made complaints to the Pope in person or by writing, that by apostolic authority the sickness of the Catholic body might be purged.
“Our predecessors have not been wanting both with and without writing at divers times in sending to these aforesaid men with due prudence, both entreating them and canonically rebuking them, and by envoys admonishing them and adjuring them,” &c.
And now he has thought it needful to call this Council together for common consultation and decision.
The speech is a fine one. It is remarkable for what it says and for what it leaves unsaid. The ecthesis is condemned, and so are Cyrus, Sergius, Pyrrhus, Paul, and the typus. Sergius is condemned for his letter approving the nine propositions of Cyrus, but the letter to Honorius in which Sergius withdrew the worst part of the other—the letter which Honorius approved—is passed over. The ecthesis is represented rather unfairly as implying not merely one will, but even one operation, and as thus going beyond the words of Honorius. But of Honorius himself not a word is said. To defend him would necessitate the acceptance of the typus, since its only fault—rightly called heresy—was its prohibition of the orthodox together with the heretical formula, after the example of Honorius.
The Pope betrays his consciousness that he was implicitly condemning one of his predecessors, when he declares that these had repeatedly besought and rebuked the heretics, for he does not give the names of those who had done so: it would have been too striking to mention Severinus, John, Theodore, and omit Honorius. Throughout the Council the same conspiracy of silence on this awkward subject is maintained. None of the documents mention Honorius, none of the speakers breathe his name.
We are manifestly half way between the apology of John IV and the condemnation by Leo II.
The second session commenced with the reading of the memorial of Stephen of Dora. After the Pope had accepted the document with words of sympathy, a deputation of thirty-seven Greek abbots, priests, or monks residing in Rome was introduced. Apparently the irruption of the Saracens had driven them from their own countries. One abbot was from Jerusalem, another from a Greek Laura in Africa; one was an Armenian, another a Cilician. A memorial signed by them all was read: it demanded an anathema on Sergius, Pyrrhus, Paul, and Cyrus, the condemnation of the typus, and the solemn assertion of two wills and two operations. The words as to the papacy alone concern us here. The petition is addressed to the holy Synod “assembled according to the holy command and request of him who by divine choice is the President and Exarch of you all, the Bishop of bishops and Father of fathers, our Lord Martin, the thrice-blessed Pope.” For the confession of the faith they have of necessity appealed, together with every province and city, to the apostolic and head See against the heretics; they implore the Fathers of the Synod, that is, the apostolic and head See, not to despise the prayers of all Christians. They ask that the typus may be anathematized as the work of Paul, “who has already been deposed by your Holiness's predecessor, Theodore.”
The letters of the African Councils above mentioned were also read.On the letter of Victor of Carthage the Pope observed that the Bishop had shown his zeal and also his humility, “since he most properly does not consider Paul to be excommunicate, but calls him fellow-Bishop until he shall learn the judgement about this matter of our Apostolic authority, or, which is the same thing, of Peter the Prince of the Apostles, since he alone was deemed worthy to be entrusted and to receive from the King of kings, Christ our Lord, the keys of the kingdom of heaven, to open it justly for those who believe orthodoxly in the Lord Himself, or to shut it to all heretics who remain in their heresy” (Mansi, x. 950). In the third session, October 17th, were read passages from a letter of Theodore of Pharan, the seventh proposition of Cyrus, the letter of Sergius to Cyrus (but not his milder letter to Honorius); all these were disapproved. Next came the ecthesis, some excerpts from Synods held by Sergius and Pyrrhus, and the approval of the ecthesis by Cyrus, which was considered particularly damning. The Pope remarks that Sergius and Pyrrhus were disappointed, “for the ecthesis [exposition] of their impious and presumptuous novelty was not accepted or acknowledged by any means according to their vain expectation, but was rather anathematized and condemned by apostolic authority.”
The fourth session contains a long speech by St. Martin, in which he shows the heretical nature of the documents already read. Some of his strong language against the ecthesis applies, as he surely was aware, just as well to the letter of Honorius (p. 1012). Afterwards the letter of Paul to Pope Theodore is read. The appeal by Paul in this letter to Sergius and Honorius, quoted above, is the only occasion on which that Pope's name was pronounced in the Council. The Bishop of Cagliari pointed out that Paul had been admonished by preceding Popes in writing and by messengers and asked for the typus to be read.
The Synod on hearing it declared that its contents are not consonant with its good intention (this was to spare the Emperor while condemning Paul); it is good to cut short altercations and discussions, but not to destroy the good with the bad; the heretics had begun by declaring one will and one operation (Cyrus), then they changed and said neither one nor two operations (Sergius), now they go further and say neither one nor two wills (Paul), and there is no knowing what they hold; against this the truth of two operations and two wills must be asserted. Again not a word of Honorius, though the whole story had depended on his declaration. The symbols of Nicæa and Constantinople and the decisions of the third, fourth, and fifth Councils were read. Then Maximus of Aquileia sums up the condemnation of Cyrus, Sergius, Pyrrhus, and Paul.
In the fifth session (October 31st) a quantity of excerpts from the Fathers were read, teaching two wills and two operations, and after these a series of excerpts from older heretics, teaching one will and one operation. After the former series, the Council points out the fallacy of the appeal to the Monothelite leaders to the Fathers; after the second series St. Martin shows the parallel between the teaching of the modern heretics with that of the older heresiarchs. After several long speeches comes a resolution and a set of twenty canons. The eighteenth of these condemns Theodore of Pharan, Cyrus of Alexandria, Sergius of Constantinople, and his successors Pyrrhus and Paul, also the ecthesis of Heraclius and the typus of Constans.
The signatures of the Pope and all the Bishops follow. A letter to the Emperor was also signed by all.Mansi, x. 789.
Publication of the Lateran Decree.
The encyclical letter sent with the Acts throughout Christendom is addressed by St. Martin and his Council to “all our spiritual brethren, bishops, priests, deacons, abbots of monasteries, monks, ascetics, and to the entire sacred fullness of the Catholic Church.” Thus at last was an infallible decision of Rome on the subject published to the world.The Pope wished to get Frankish Bishops deputed by Synods to accompany the papal envoy to Constantinople. He wrote to St. Amand of Tongres on the subject, with regard to the Austrasian kingdom. The Neustrian deputies were to have been St. Eloi and St. Ouen of Rouen, but they were prevented from coming.
After the Lateran Council St. Martin wrote to John, Bishop of Philadelphia, in Palestine, who had been highly recommended by Stephen of Dora, appointing him his Vicar in the East in all ecclesiastical functions and offices, bidding him, “stir up the grace of God that was in him by the imposition of the sacerdotal dignity and of our Apostolical Vicarship.” He is to appoint bishops, priests, and deacons in all the cities subject to the Patriarchates of Jerusalem and Antioch. The Sees are to be filled at once. The Holy See had intended this to be done earlier by Stephen. But those who were to inform him of the powers conferred upon him had only told him of the right to depose bishops, and had kept back from him the injunction to nominate the successors as well. The Pope wrote also “to the Churches of Jerusalem and Antioch,” informing these two Patriarchates that he had condemned the five heretics, and had appointed a papal Vicar, the appointments of Macarius of Antioch and of Peter of Alexandria being null.
The Pope also wrote to the illustrious Peter, St. Maximus's correspondent, to support his Vicar. It should be remembered that Alexandria had been in the hands of the Saracens since 640. At the same time St. Martin deposed John, Archbishop of Thessalonica.
It was probably soon after the Lateran Council that St. Maximus wrote from Rome a letter, part of which has been preserved in Greek:
“For the extremities of the earth, and all in every part of it who purely and rightly confess the Lord, look directly towards the most holy Roman Church and its confession and faith, as it were to a sun of unfailing light, awaiting from it the bright radiance of the sacred dogmas of our fathers, according to what the six inspired and holy Councils have purely and piously decreed,It is not likely that Maximus counted the Lateran Synod as a sixth Council, so that “six” is probably a stupid correction for five by a transcriber who wrote after 680 (Opp. S. Max. p. 72). declaring most expressly the symbol of faith. For from the coming down of the incarnate Word amongst us, all the Churches in every part of the world have possessed that greatest Church alone as their base and foundation, seeing that, according to the promise of Christ our Saviour, the gates of hell do never prevail against it, that it possesses the keys of a right confession and faith in Him, that it opens the true and only religion to such as approach with piety, and shuts up and locks every heretical mouth that speaks injustice against the Most High.”
The scene now changes, and the era of persecution begins.
Persecution and Martyrdom of the Pope.
The Emperor did not confirm Pope Martin's election, but sent his chamberlain Olympius as Exarch to Rome, with orders to force the Pope to accept the typus. The Liber Pontificalis tells the well-known story how the Exarch plotted to have the life of the Pontiff taken while he was giving him Holy Communion. The assassin's eyes were held so that he could not see the Pope as he offered the sacred Host to Olympius. He published the miracle, and the Exarch did not dare to try again. On June 15, 653, a new Exarch, Theodore Calliopas, arrived with an army. The Pope, who was sick, had his bed set in the Lateran basilica before the high altar. But the holy place was no protection, and the Saint was torn from the sanctuary at midnight by an armed force. Within a few days he was put on board ship and removed from Rome. After a year's delay in Naxos, and after grievous sufferings, the Pope arrived in Constantinople on September 17, 654. For the whole of the first day he was lying sick in the ship, subjected to the jeers of the passers-by, until he was carried to prison. It had been declared at the time of his seizure that he had been uncanonically elected and was no true Pope, but a heretic and a rebel. When after three months he was brought to trial, he was too weak and ill to stand without assistance. He was exhibited to the people, stripped of almost all his garments and loaded with heavy chains, and then dragged through the city to be confined in another prison. He suffered terribly from the cold, and in the evening some food was brought to him lest he should succumb. At the same time the Patriarch Paul was dying. On being told next day by the Emperor what had taken place, Paul begged the latter to proceed no further.On the death of Paul, Pyrrhus once more became Patriarch. It was now said that Pyrrhus had been constrained by force to go to Rome and make his recantation, and that he had been imprisoned there. This lie must have been put forward by Pyrrhus himself.
In March, 655, St. Martin was exiled to the Crimea, near Inkerman, and there he died on September 16th. We still possess an account of his sufferings in his own letters,See Mansi, x. 849 foll. or the Collectanea of Anastasius Bibl. (Migne, P.L. 129, 585). St. Martin's feast is kept by the Greeks as that of a confessor, by the Latins as a martyr. The place of his sufferings in the Stadium at Constantinople is still shown, and a cave at Inkerman, where he died. which show the heroism of his soul. The mistake of Honorius had been nobly expiated. If in any way the prestige of Roman purity of faith had suffered, the unconquered constancy of St. Martin had more than made up for the incautiousness of his predecessor.
The Trial of St. Maximus at Constantinople.
The cruelty of the Emperor to the Pope who had condemned his typus was naturally extended against Abbot Maximus, the leader of the orthodox in the East. He was brought to Constantinople in 653, about the same time as St. Martin, but his examination was delayed till 655 He was accused of having conspired with Pope Theodore and the African usurper Gregory against the Emperor, and it was said that Egypt, Alexandria, Pentapolis, and Africa had been lost through this means. When asked about his doctrine, the Saint replied that he had none but that of the Catholic Church.
“‘Dost thou communicate with the See of Constantinople?’ ‘I do not.’ ‘Why not?’ ‘Because they have cast out the four holy Councils by the propositions made at Alexandria, by the ecthesis perpetrated in this city by Sergius, and by the new typus,… and because the dogmas which they asserted in the propositions they damned in the ecthesis, and what they proclaimed in the ecthesis they annulled in the typus, and on each occasion they deposed themselves. What mysteries, therefore, I ask, do they celebrate, who have condemned themselves, and have been condemned by the Romans and by the [Lateran] Synod and stripped of their sacerdotal dignity?’”The acts are in Mansi, xi. 3, and in Acta SS., Aug. 13th, in Latin only. In P.L. 129 (Coll. of Anast. Bibl.), in Gallandi, vol. xiii., and in Combefis's ed. of St. Maximus (P.G. 90) they are given in Greek also.
This was not conciliating. He is told that envoys who had come from the new Pope Eugenius would communicate with the Patriarch on the morrow.The Emperor having declared that the election of Martin was null, the Roman clergy, after holding out for a year, at last elected an excellent and perfectly orthodox Pope in his stead, Eugenius—although St. Martin was still alive and in his exile had declared such a thing impossible. From the Chersonese St. Martin (though complaining that he has received no relief from the Roman clergy in his dire want) recognized the new Pope, but we have no record of his having made any formal abdication. He replies that this will cause no prejudice to the Roman See, for the envoys brought no letter to the Patriarch. His judges insist: “But what will you do if the Romans do unite with us?” He answers: “The Holy Ghost anathematizes even angels, should they command aught beside the faith.”On another day he is accused of anathematizing the Emperor by rejecting the typus. He replies that he has condemned no more than the document. “Where was it anathematized by the Roman Synod?” he is asked. “In the Church of the Saviour [the Lateran], and in that of the Mother of God,” he answers. He is asked again: “Why do you love the Romans and hate the Greeks?” The servant of God said: “We are commanded to hate no man. I love the Romans because they have one faith with me, and the Greeks because they speak the same tongue as I.” When the conversation turned to the Roman Synod, Demosthenes cried: “The Synod has no validity, since he who celebrated it [St. Martin] has been deposed.” “Not deposed,” said Maximus, “but expelled.” “What Synod,” he goes on, “had deposed him?” And anyhow the canonical decisions previously made would not be annulled, “and with these the writings of the holy Pope Theodore are in agreement.”
The holy Abbot managed to write to his disciple AnastasiusThe two disciples who shared the Saint's sufferings were Anastasius, a Greek monk, and Anastasius, a Roman cleric and papal envoy (apocrisiarius). the monk, that the Patriarch had sent him a message: “Of what Church are you? Of Constantinople, of Rome, of Antioch, of Alexandria, of Jerusalem? Behold, all are one and united, together with their subject provinces.” He had replied that God had declared the Catholic Church to be the true and saving confession of Himself, when He called Peter blessed for his good confession. What then was the confession by which this union had been consummated? He was told, “We confess two operations on account of their diversity, one on account of the union.” This St. Maximus rejects on the ground that the union is not a substance, and cannot have an operation of its own.
“‘Therefore hear,’ said they, ‘it has been decided by the Emperor and the Patriarch, by order of the Roman Pope, that you shall be anathematized unless you obey, and shall suffer the death to which they have condemned you.’ ‘Let that be consummated,’ I replied, ‘which has been predestined by God before the ages.’”
St. Anastasius, on receipt of this letter[,] was able at once to write privately to the monastery of exiled Greek monks at Cagliari in Sardinia, whose Abbot had been present at the Lateran Council, informing them of the new phase of affairs. He shows that the change from the “neither two nor one” of the typus to “both two and one” is absurd. He states that the Roman envoys had been forced into agreeing, and were being sent back to Pope Eugenius with deceitful letters. By this the whole Catholic Church was set in great peril. Anastasius begs the monks if possible to cross over at once on some other pretext “to the men of elder Rome, firm as a rock, who indeed together with you are ever our patrons and most fervent defenders of the truth,” and beseech them with tears that they may deserve the Lord's reward for preserving the orthodox faith. The letter referred to was from the new Patriarch, Peter, and the Liber Pontificalis tells us that it was very obscure, and made no mention of two operations. The Roman people was indignant at it, and made a tumult in Sta Maria Maggiore at a Papal Mass, not allowing the Pope to commence until he had promised not to accept the letter.
Exile and Death of St. Maximus and his Companions.
On the day following the second examination of Maximus, a council of clergy was held, and the Emperor was persuaded by them to condemn him to exile at Byzia in Thrace, and his disciples to other regions. They suffered greatly from cold and hunger.
On September 24, 656, Theodosius, Bishop of Cæsarea in Bithynia, visited St. Maximus by command of the Emperor, accompanied by the consuls Theodosius and Paul. The discussion turned chiefly on the authority of the Fathers, and Maximus had the best of it. At last he knelt down and said: “Do your worst with your servant; I will never communicate with those who receive the typus.”
“And as though they had been frozen by this speech, they bent their heads and were silent for a long space. And raising his head and looking at Abbot Maximus, the Bishop said: ‘We declare to you in response, that if you will communicate, our master the Emperor will annul the typus.’”
Maximus replied that the ecthesis itself had not been disowned, though it had been taken down. The canons of the Roman Council must be formally accepted before he will communicate. The Bishop's reply is characteristically Byzantine in its unblushing Erastianism. “The Synod is invalid, since it was held without the order of the Emperor.” Maximus retorts with vigour: “If it is not pious faith but the orders of the Emperor that validate Synods, let them accept the Synods that were held against the Homoousion at Tyre, at Antioch, at Seleucia, and the Robber Council of Ephesus.”
Eventually St. Maximus takes up the acts of “the holy and Apostolic Roman Synod,” and proves from them that the Fathers spoke of two wills and two operations. The Consul Theodosius reads the testimonies for himself, while the Bishop declares that whatever the Fathers say he says. He is ready at once to write down two wills and two operations. Will not Maximus then consent to communicate? The Saint replies that he is but a monk and cannot receive the Bishop's declaration; the Bishop, and also the Emperor, the Patriarch[,] and his Synod must all send to the Pope, supplicating that if it be possible he should make terms with them. The Bishop says: “If I am sent to Rome, promise to come with me.” Maximus replies that his exiled disciple, the Roman Anastasius, would be a more suitable companion, as knowing the language.
“Then all arose with joy and tears, and knelt down and prayed. And each of them kissed the holy Gospels and the precious Cross and the image of our God and Saviour Jesus Christ and of our Lady who bare Him, the all-holy Mother of God, placing their own hands on them to confirm what had been done.”
Maximus then further instructs them in the faith. Finally, they all embrace, and the Consul Theodosius asks: “But do you think that the Emperor will make a supplication to Rome?” “Yes,” replies the Abbot, “if he will humble himself as God has humbled Himself.” “I hope,” adds the Consul, “that God will assist my memory, that I may repeat this speech to him.” The Bishop presented Maximus with money and a tunic and a cloak. But when they were gone, the Bishop of Byzia at once seized the tunic. Thus the holy Abbot had won a greater victory in his cruel exile than in his famous conference with the insincere Pyrrhus. An extreme anxiety is shown to win over a man so influential by his sanctity and his writings. The typus even might be sacrificed, and it had evidently been already dropped in the arrangement made with the envoys of Pope Eugenius. But the Lateran Council had set down the typus as heretical. Would the Emperor and the Patriarch humble themselves so far as to accept this? It is probable that Maximus had little hope that Rome would modify the personal censures passed on former patriarchs; but much would be gained if Peter would at least admit two operations, withdraw the typus, and open negotiations with the Pope.
But Bishop Theodosius had not reckoned with the obstinacy of Constans and Peter. On September 9th Maximus was honourably sent to Rhegium, and next day two patricians arrived in state with Bishop Theodosius, and offered the Saint great honour, if he would accept the typus and communicate with the Emperor. The Abbot turned to Theodosius, and solemnly reminded him of the day of judgement. The Bishop in a low voice gave the characteristic reply: “What could I do if the Emperor took another view?” “Then why did you touch the Gospels?” asked the Saint? All present then struck him and spat upon him, in spite of the remonstrance of the Bishop. The patrician Epiphanius admitted that all agreed to two wills and two operations, and that the typus was but a compromise. Maximus reiterated the Roman view that to forbid an expression was to deny its truth.
Thus the Emperor adhered to his policy. He had still Honorius for his warrant. He admitted the Catholic doctrine defined by Rome, though he chose to deny the validity of the Lateran Council. We see that the ecclesiastics obeyed him through fear alone. The mind of the new Pope was known; the verdict of the Fathers was not doubtful. No one at Constantinople ventured to support one will or one operation.
Next morning, September 10th, the Saint was stripped of all the money he possessed, and even of his miserable stock of clothes, and was conveyed to Salembria. The officers told him that if only there were repose from the wars, they would deal with Pope Eugenius and all his adherents and with Maximus himself and his two disciples as they had dealt with Pope Martin.
In 662 the three confessors were brought to Constantinople. A trial was held. Maximus, his two disciples, St. Martin, St. Sophronius, and all the orthodox were anathematized. The Prefect was ordered to beat the accused, to cut out their tongues and lop off their right hands, to exhibit them thus mutilated in every quarter of the city, and then to send them into perpetual exile and imprisonment. A letter of the Roman Anastasius has preserved the details of their barbarous treatment. Each was confined in a different fortress in Colchis. The monk Anastasius died on July 24, 662, and Maximus on August 13th. The Roman Anastasius lived on until 666. They have always been revered in East and West as saints.
When St. Jerome spoke tremendous words about the Pope, we are asked to believe that he was exaggerating, or even that he was sarcastic. When the Council of Chalcedon wrote in a like strain to St. Leo, we are to put down its words as empty Oriental flattery. Whatever may be thought of such comments, they cannot be applied to the words in which we have heard St. Maximus again and again set forth the privileges of Rome. Men do not shed their blood to blunt a sarcasm or to justify a compliment.Pope Eugenius was succeeded in 657 by Vitalian. The election was well received by the Emperor. The Pope wrote to Peter in a conciliatory tone, and the Patriarch wrote back a letter full of garbled quotations from the Fathers. This was probably rejected. The Emperor left Constantinople on account of the unpopularity he had incurred by his cruelty and want of orthodoxy, and came to Rome in the guise of an orthodox son of the Church. It may have been politic on his part to conciliate the Monophysites in the East; it was certainly politic to be at peace with the Pope in the West. Though the mutilation and exile of St. Maximus had been carried out but a few months before, yet now the typus was buried in silence. The Pope received his sovereign with all honour, and accepted his presents to the churches. He did not even venture to protest against the spoliation of some churches by the tyrant. The Emperor had the name of Vitalian inscribed on the diptychs of Constantinople.
The Convocation of the Sixth Œcumenical Council.
The murderer of Martin and Maximus was himself murdered in 668. His son Constantine Pogonatus was desirous of uniting East and West once more. The peoples of the East were orthodox; and if their Bishops were silent under the whip of the typus, it was not that they were Monothelites. But it was not till 678 that the Emperor made peace with the Saracens and was able to turn his attention to ecclesiastical affairs. It is probable that the typus had been a dead letter since the death of Peter in the same year as Constans.The successor of Peter, Thomas, addressed an orthodox libellus to Pope Vitalian, but the incursion of the Saracens prevented its being sent to Rome during his short episcopate of two years and seven months. The Emperor's countenance may have been needed in order to enable Patriarchs John (669–74) and Constantine (674–6) to communicate with Rome, or again the wars may have been the preventing cause. These three orthodox Patriarchs were succeeded by a heretic, Theodore.
The Emperor determined to summon a Council, and wrote to Pope Donus on the subject. But Donus was already dead. The new Pope, St. Agatho, collected a preliminary Synod at Rome, and ordered others to be held in the West.We know of one held by St. Theodore of Canterbury, of another in Gaul, and another at Milan. This caused a considerable delay, so that the papal legates to the General Council of Constantinople were unable to arrive until October, 680. This interval of two years caused the heretical Patriarch Theodore and the equally heretical Macarius of Antioch to complain to the Emperor that the Pope despised the Easterns and their monarch, and they asked that the name of Vitalian might be removed from the diptychs. This he refused to do.
Constantine's letter had been written under the influence of the heretical Patriarchs.The Emperor suggested that the Pope should send at least three representatives from Rome, twelve archbishops or bishops from the West, and four monks from each of the Greek monasteries in the West (perhaps to interpret). The Emperor would see to their conveyance to Constantinople. He declares before God that he will show no favour to either side, and if no agreement is reached, the papal commissioners shall be allowed to depart in peace. He clearly regards the matter as a quarrel between the two Romes rather than as a question of faith.
Before the Council met the Patriarch Theodore was sent into exile. Perhaps the Emperor had found out that he would be an obstacle in the way of peace.
The first session of the sixth œcumenical Council took place on November 7, 680. The proceedings were opened by the papal legates, who sat in the place of honour on the left hand of the Emperor, who was the president, the legates being the ecclesiastical presidents.Mansi, xi. 207. At the first session only forty-three Bishops and representatives of Bishops are enumerated as present. The last session was signed by 174. The numbers in the different sessions are various. They say that they have been sent, together with two letters, at the Emperor's request. For some forty-six years four successive Patriarchs of Constantinople, Sergius, Pyrrhus, Paul, and Peter, and also Cyrus of Alexandria, Theodore of Pharan, and others, have greatly disturbed the world by new and unorthodox expressions, in spite of frequent remonstrances “from your servant the Apostolic See.” Those who are on the side of Constantinople must explain the origin of this novelty. The new Patriarch of that city did not budge. But Macarius, with his disciple Stephen, priest and monk, and two Bishops, arose on behalf of Antioch and protested:
“We did not publish new expressions, but what we received from the holy and œcumenical Synods, and from holy approved Fathers, from the prelates of the royal city, that is from Sergius, Paul, Pyrrhus, and Peter, and also from Honorius, who was Pope of old Rome, and Cyrus, who was Pope of Alexandria, with regard to the operation and will. Thus we have believed and do believe and preach, and we are ready to offer proof.”
This was a nasty hit. Macarius quotes the same names as the legates, and adds to them that of Honorius!
The Emperor replies: “If you mean to prove this, you must do so, as you have said, from the œcumenical Synods and approved Fathers.” This Macarius tried to do. The acts of the third, fourth, and fifth Councils were read. The letter of Mennas to Pope Vigilus, and two letters of the latter, to which Macarius had appealed, were shown to be forgeries. So far Macarius had always had the worst of it. George, the new Patriarch of Constantinople, seems at last to have made up his mind. He comes forward with all his suffragans and asks that the letters from Rome be now read. This was accordingly done on November 15th.Mansi, xi. 233.
The Letter of Pope Agatho to the Sixth Council.
The dogmatic letter of St. Agatho is very long. It goes into the whole question, and adds quotations from the Fathers.The Pope praises the Emperor's idea of calling a Council, and of sending the notices of it through the ministry of the Pope to all peoples and tongues, and not directly, lest it should seem the Emperor was using compulsion. Agatho instantly obeyed; but the distance to which he had to send had caused a long delay. He sends, as the Emperor had asked, three Bishops (these represented the Roman Council), two priests and a deacon (representing the Pope himself), and also a priest representing the Church of Ravenna. From all these not learning but simplicity of faith is to be expected, for they live among barbarians. He has entrusted to them extracts “from the Fathers whom this Apostolic Church receives,” in order that they may be able to explain what “this spiritual Mother of your heaven-protected power, the Apostolic Church of Christ, believes and preaches,” not by worldly eloquence, but by simple faith. They have been ordered not to presume to add or take away or change aught, but sincerely to expound “the tradition of this Apostolic See, as it has been taught by our apostolic predecessors.” On bended knee the Pope beseeches Constantine to receive them kindly, and send them back safe, according to his promise. He emphasizes two points. In the first place, he makes it clear that he is declaring the faith as it is to be held, and as the Roman Church holds it, and that there is no room for discussion. In the second place, he repeatedly insists that the Roman See has never taught any other doctrine, but has kept the truth undefiled. This was necessary when the heretics were quite sure to appeal to Honorius as having explained the faith of the Roman Church.
“In order that we may briefly explain to your divinely instituted piety what is the vigour of our apostolic faith, which we have received from apostolic tradition, and from that of apostolic pontiffs and that of the five holy general Synods by which the foundations of the Catholic Church of Christ have been strengthened and confirmed, this then is the condition of the evangelical and apostolical faith and the regular tradition, that believing one, holy, and indivisible Trinity,” &c.
After asserting two natures and two operations, the Pope continues:
“This is the true and undefiled profession of the Christian religion, which no human cleverness invented, but which the Holy Ghost taught by the Prince of the Apostles. This is the firm and irreprehensible doctrine of the apostles, &c.
“And therefore, with a contrite heart and flowing tears, prostrate in spirit, I beseech you, deign to stretch forth the right hand of your clemency to the apostolic doctrine which the co-operator of your pious labours, Peter the Apostle, has handed down, that it be not hidden under a bushel, but be proclaimed more loudly than by a trumpet in the whole world: because his true confession was revealed from heaven by the Father, and for it Peter was pronounced blessed by the Lord of all; and he received also, by a threefold commendation, the spiritual sheep of the Church from the Redeemer of all to be fed. Resting on his protection, this Apostolic Church of his has never turned aside from the way of truth to any part of error, and her authority has always been faithfully followed and embraced as that of the prince of the apostles by the whole Catholic Church and all Councils, and by all the venerable Fathers who embraced her doctrine, by which they have shone as most approved lamps of the Church of Christ, and has been venerated and followed by all orthodox doctors, while the heretics have attacked it with false accusations and hatred. This is the living tradition of the apostles of Christ, which His Church holds everywhere, which is above all things to be loved and cherished and faithfully preached…
“This is the rule of the true faith, which in prosperity and adversity this spiritual Mother of your most serene Empire, the Apostolic Church of Christ[,] has ever held, and defends; and she, by the grace of almighty God, will be proved never to have wandered from the path of apostolic tradition, nor to have succumbed to the novelties of heretics; but even as in the beginning of the Christian faith she received it from her founders, the princes of the apostles of Christ, so she remains unspotted to the end, according to the divine promise of our Lord and Saviour Himself, which He spake to the prince of His disciples in the holy Gospels: Peter, saith He, behold Satan hath desired to have you, that he might sift you as he who sifts wheat; but I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not, and thou one day being converted, strengthen thy brethren. Let your clemency therefore consider that the Lord and Saviour of all, to whom faith belongs, who promised that the faith of Peter should not fail, admonished him to confirm his brethren; and it is known to all men that the apostolic pontiffs, the predecessors of my littleness, have always done this with confidence. These my lowliness desires to follow, though unworthy and small, yet in accordance with the ministry which I have received by the divine mercy.”“For woe is me,” he goes on, “if I neglect to preach the truth of my Lord, which they preached with sincerity. Woe is me, if I cover the truth in silence, when I am bidden to deliver it to the money-changers, that is to instruct the Christian folk therewith. What shall I say in the future judgement of Christ Himself, if here, which God forbid, I should be ashamed to proclaim the truth of His words!… Wherefore also the predecessors of my littleness, of apostolic memory, being furnished with the teachings of the Lord, ever since the prelates of the Church of Constantinople have been trying to introduce heretical novelties into the immaculate Church of Christ, have never neglected to exhort them, and to warn them with entreaties to desist from the heretical error of the false teaching, at least by silence.” ¶ The words “at least by silence” may be taken as a lame reference to Honorius, for he had recommended silence as to one or two operations; and this was not quite so bad as the interdicting by the typus of both expressions under terrible penalties. But it is more probable that if Agatho had intended to apologize for Honorius, he would have done so openly.
Again he explains at great length the doctrine of “the Apostolic Church of Christ, the spiritual mother of your God-founded authority.” He adds a few instances both from Greek and Latin Fathers, and shows that “one operation” is a Monophysite phrase. Cyrus and Theodore of Pharan, and Sergius in his letter to Cyrus, had used the expression. Sergius inserted “one will” in the ecthesis. Pyrrhus confirmed the ecthesis, but afterwards confessed two wills and two operations in the libellus which he offered in the confession of the Prince of the Apostles. Paul declared for one will in his letter to Pope Theodore, and then in the typus forbade the mention of either one or two. Peter, writing to Pope Vitalian, professed to hold “one-two wills” and “one-two operations.” See how they contradict themselves and one another!
The Pope gives his orders to the Council.
Agatho continues: ¶ “Consequently, the holy Church of God, the Mother of your most Christian Empire, must be freed from the errors of teachers like these, and the whole number of prelates and priests, and clergy and people, in order to please God and save their souls, must confess with us the formula of truth and Apostolic tradition, the evangelical and Apostolic rule of faith, which is founded upon the firm rock of blessed Peter, the Prince of the Apostles, which by his favour remains free from all error.”St. Agatho goes on to say that it was in deep grief, not in pride, but in desire for the truth and the salvation of souls that his Apostolic predecessors had warned, begged, entreated, rebuked, besought, refuted, and had used every manner of exhortation. Even after many years of error they had still opened their spiritual arms to embrace the erring, “that they might not make themselves aliens from our fellowship, or rather that of St. Peter, whose ministry, though unworthy, we fulfil, and the form of whose tradition we declare.” He begs the Emperor to continue the zeal that has already given much reason for thankfulness.
He concludes by declaring that, “if the prelate of the Constantinopolitan Church shall elect to hold with us, and to preach this irreprehensible rule of the Apostolic teaching of the Holy Scriptures, of the venerable Synods, of the spiritual Fathers, according to their evangelical interpretations, by which the formula of the truth has been shown to us through the revelation of the Holy Ghost,” then there will indeed be peace. But if he should refuse, “let him know that of such contempt he will have to make satisfaction to the divine judgement of Christ before the Judge of all, who is in heaven, to whom we ourselves shall give an account, when He shall come to judgement, for the ministry we have received.”
Later Councils (as, for instance, that of Trent), have had the office of defining the faith. In the present case it is certain that the Pope has no idea of permitting any such thing. He writes as St. Leo wrote to Chalcedon, and as Hadrian was to write to the seventh Council at Nicæa. St. Agatho leaves no deliberation to the assembled Fathers. All are to accept his ruling at their peril.
The way in which he appeals to his infallibility is the ancient way, so often used by his predecessors. He speaks of the tradition from St. Peter, of which successive Popes are the witnesses and the exponents. To-day, a Pope would rather speak of the tradition of the whole Church. It is obvious that in the 7th century a way of speaking which had been natural in the 2nd had already become somewhat strained. When for many ages the Church has received its faith from Rome, there can evidently no longer be any peculiar tradition at Rome which is not known and accepted by the Church at large. It is true that the East had so often been divided from the West, that the antique formula was still not wholly inapplicable. But the inerrancy of the Roman prelates in declaring the Petrine tradition was already really the main point, then as now.
It should be noticed how St. Agatho insists, again and again, on the continued appeals made by his predecessors. It is as much as to say: “The heretics have followed some passing expressions imprudently set down by one Pope, who made no appeal to his papal authority, nor to tradition from St. Peter. Against this I put the repeated, the continuous protest of Pope after Pope, authoritative, grave, deliberate. Their voice was intended to be, and was, the voice of the infallible Roman Church.”
Thus the claims made on behalf of Rome by the orthodox in the East, by Stephen of Dora and the Palestinians, by Maximus and the Byzantines, are fully taken up by Agatho. He does no less than they would have expected of him. He proposes no terms, and will have nothing but unconditional surrender.
The letter of the Roman Council is similar to that of the Pope, but shorter.The letter of the Roman Synod is signed by Agatho and 125 bishops, among whom were St. Wilfrid of York representing the English Synod, and two representatives of a Synod of Gaul. They say to the Emperor: “What has been granted rarely and to few has been conceded by God to your God-crowned Empire, that by it the light of our Catholic and Apostolic true faith may shine with splendour in the eyes of all, which from the fountain of true light as from a ray of life-giving radiance, by the blessed ministry of Peter and Paul, the princes of the Apostles, by their disciples and Apostolic successors, has by the help of God been preserved, step by step down to our littleness, obscured by no foul darkness of heretical error, nor polluted by the mists of falsehood, nor overshadowed by the clouds of heretical wickedness as with murky fogs, but pure and clear and transparent. For in this the Apostolic See and our littleness have toiled not without dangers, now taking counsel with the Apostolic Pontiffs, now making known to all by a synodical definition the rules of truth, and defending the boundaries which cannot be transgressed even to the loss of life…” Here St. Martin is meant. The painful situation of the West in the midst of the wars of the barbarian nations is given as a reason why learning and eloquence must not be expected to flourish there, but only hard work and poverty. “Our only substance is our faith, to live with which we count the greatest of glories, and to die for which is eternal gain. This is our consummate science, to guard with all the strength of our minds the boundaries of the Catholic and Apostolic faith, which the Apostolic See holds with us and has handed down.” There follows a sort of creed: “This we believe. This we have received by the Apostolic tradition, whose authority in all we follow. So the Council under Pope Martin taught… We, though most humble, strive with all our might that the commonwealth of your Christian Empire—in which the See of blessed Peter is founded, whose authority all Christian nations with us venerate and revere out of reverence for St. Peter himself—may be shown to be higher than all nations.” The reverence of the independent nations of the West for the Apostolic See is intended to suggest to the Emperor that he should be proud of possessing it in his dominions. It concludes with the expression of the hope that the Emperors will show themselves to be like their predecessors who patronized the preceding Councils—Constantine, Theodosius, Marcian—“who embraced the tome of the holy Pope Leo, which by his words Peter the Apostle had published”—and Justinian, greatest of all, and will succour the Catholic Church, “so that it may be more perfectly united in the unity of the true and Apostolic confession which the holy Roman Church now preserves with us” (Mansi, xi. 285 foll.).
The Council deposes Macarius of Antioch.
The fifth session of the Council was held on December 7th. Macarius continued his defence. He had tried the Synods, now he tries the Fathers, and produces two volumes of quotations, which were read but not entered in the acts. In the next session a third volume of testimonies was read. The three tomes were sealed by the Emperor's assessors, by the papal legates and Constantinopolitan deputies, in order that they might be compared with the originals in the Patriarchal Library. The legates declare that some of the citations are falsified and curtailed: they have themselves brought a book of testimonies from the Fathers in favour of two wills and operations, and from heretical writers in favour of one will and operation. These are read next day in the seventh session. The legates ask George of Constantinople and Macarius whether they and their suffragans accept these testimonies as agreeing with the letters of Agatho and the Roman Council. But it is, of course, first necessary in justice to verify them in the same way as those of Macarius. Copies are therefore given to the two patriarchs, and the original is sealed.
After three weeks the eighth session is held on March 7th. The Emperor simply asks “whether they agree with the letter of Pope Agatho.” George replies that he had found the papal testimonies to be accurate, “and so I profess and believe.” He was followed by the Bishops subject to him, beginning with the Metropolitans of Ephesus and Heraclea. Fifteen gave their adherence individually, and then the rest arose together and assented in a body.
George then asked the Emperor's leave to restore the name of Pope Vitalian to the diptychs, from which it had evidently been removed under his heretical predecessor, Theodore, in spite of the Emperor's promise to the contrary. To this the Emperor agreed. So in this session the union of Rome and Byzantium was consummated. The Council proceeded to make acclamations to the Emperor, “The new Constantine, new Theodosius, new Justinian” (taking these titles from the letter of the Roman Synod), and also acclamations to Agatho and George.
It was now the turn of Macarius to reply to the Emperor's question. His answer was categorical and bold enough: “I do not say two wills or two operations in the economy of the Incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ, but one will and a theandric operation.” Macarius, therefore, does not take his stand on the compromise of the ecthesis or the typus, but goes in for undiluted Monothelitism. He is almost the only certain representative of this heresy since the nine propositions of Cyrus.
The Synod resolved: “Since the most holy Macarius does not consent to the tenor of the orthodox letters sent by Agatho the most holy Pope of Rome, which have been already read to your piety, we judge that he arise from his seat, and make reply.”
Four of the Bishops of Macarius' own province of Antioch then rose, and acdhered to the letter of Agatho. The testimonies given in by Macarius were unsealed. He read his profession of faith, in which he identified the teaching of two wills and operations with Nestorianism. When in his enumeration of the heretics whom he anathematizes he arrives at Theodore of Mopsuestia, he calls him “the accursed teacher of the heresy of Maximus”; and he adds “to all these heretics the ill-named Maximus, who lately joined their number, with all his impious disciples, who taught Manichæism and the tearing of the humanity of Christ, and his dogma of division which was rejected before our time by our blessed Fathers, I mean Honorius and Sergius and Cyrus, and the subsequent leaders and exarchs of this Church, and Heraclius of pious memory, your great grandfather.” In answer to the Emperor, Marcarius declares that he will never acknowledge two wills or two operations, even if he is to be cut limb from limb, and cast into the sea.
His testimonies are then read and shown to be unfairly quoted. He can only reply that he quoted them in such a way as to prove his own view. Upon this the Synod cried out: “Anathema to the new Dioscorus, the new Apollinarius!” He was stripped of his omophorion, and made to stand in the midst. On the next day the reading was concluded, and Macarius was deposed, together with his disciple, Abbot Stephen.
The patristic testimonies brought from Rome and (at the request of the deputy of the Patriarch of Jerusalem) the synodical letter of St. Sophronius were also read.
Then the Emperor asks the legates if there is any more business. They ask for certain writings of Macarius and Stephen to be examined, and parts of these are read. One excerpt speaks of the opposite party (the Lateran Council?) as having “anathematized absolutely all those who held one will of the Lord, of whom one was Honorius of the Romans, who most clearly taught one will.” Thus Honorius is appealed to for the third time by Macarius.
Pope Honorius is condemned as a Heretic.
In the twelfth session, March 12th, other documents were introduced, which had been sent by Macarius to the Emperor, but had not been read by the latter. The seal of the packet was broken, and the documents read. The first was the letter of Sergius to Cyrus, then came the supposed letter of Mennas to Vigilus. Then for the first time appeared the letter of Sergius to Honorius (which had not been read at the Lateran Council) and that Pope's reply. The Emperor had no knowledge of the contents of the packet, so that the reading of Pope Honorius's letter was doubtless unexpected by the papal legates who presided, though Macarius had thrice appealed to its authority, and had already been condemned as a heretic. All these pieces were now sent to Macarius, in order that he might acknowledge them as his, and this he did. It was decided that Macarius could not now be restored, even if he repented, but that a new Patriarch of Antioch must be made.
On March 28th the decision was given on the letters previously read. First, those of Sergius to Cyrus and Honorius are condemned as alien from the orthodox faith, and as following the false doctrines of heretics. Then, “those whose impious dogmas we execrate, we judge that their names shall also be cast out of the holy Church of God, that is, Sergius, who was prelate of this God-protected and royal city, and was the first to write about this impious dogma, Cyrus of Alexandria, Pyrrhus, Paul and Peter, who presided on the throne of this God-protected city, and who held the same views as the others, and also Theodore, who was Bishop of Pharan; all which persons were mentioned by Agatho, the most holy and blessed Pope of elder Rome, in his letter to the most pious and divinely strengthened and great Emperor, and were cast out by him, as holding views contrary to our orthodox faith; and these we define to be subject to anathema. And in addition to these we decide that Honorius also, who was Pope of elder Rome, be with them cast out of the holy Church of God, and be anathematized with them, because we have found by his letter to Sergius that he followed his opinion in all things and confirmed his wicked dogmas.”The fifth Council under the influence of Justinian had set the example of censuring the dead. It had not only condemned certain writings of Theodoret and Ibas, but it had condemned the person of Theodore of Mopsuestia, though he had died in full communion with the Catholic Church. The Lateran Council had followed this lead, and had condemned Sergius and Cyrus by name. The sixth Council now follows the letter of Pope Agatho, and necessarily adds to his list the name of Pope Honorius, who had been easily passed over in silence at the Lateran, but had been dragged in by Macarius at Constantinople. To have condemned Sergius and to have spared Honorius would have been grossly unfair. No doubt it would have been preferable to condemn the writings only of those who had never shown themselves obstinate or been excommunicated, reserving the personal anathema for Pyrrhus, Paul, and Peter. But the lines had been drawn by Popes Martin and Agatho. If Sergius had begun the heresy, its continuance was due to the approval given by Honorius.
The words of the Council are accurate. The Roman legates raised no objection. It is clear that St. Agatho had not wished to provoke the condemnation of his predecessor; but the resolution must have been proposed to the Council by his legates, who were its presidents, and they must have known that he would not disapprove.
On the other hand the condemnation of Honorius might never have been proposed or deemed needful, had not his letters been read among the documents presented by Macarius to the Emperor, and which the Emperor had not looked at. It was almost an accident, but so far as justice was concerned, a happy accident, however we may regret the unfortunate controversial uses to which the condemnation has been put in modern times.
The representatives of the Emperor now had other writings of the heretics read, though the Council declared it to be unnecessary, since Pope Agatho “in his letter had revealed their contrary view, or rather had made it plain that they agreed with Sergius… Wherefore the holy Pope cast these out by his own letter.” The fragment of Honorius's second letter was among these additional documents. The Council ordered the whole lot to be burned “as agreeing in one impiety and hurtful to the soul.”
On Easter Day, April 14th, the papal legate, John, Bishop of Portus, celebrated Mass according to the Latin rite in the Church of Sta Sophia, in the presence of the Emperor and the Patriarch.
A curious incident enlivened the proceedings at the fifteenth session on April 28th. A priest named Polychronius promised to restore a corpse to life by placing upon it his confession of one will and one operation. A corpse was provided; but after much whispering in its ear in the presence of a great throng of people, he failed ignominiously, and was thereupon deposed and anathematized.
During the summer the meetings of the Council were in abeyance. On August 8th the sixteenth and last session took place. In it George of Constantinople, together with a few of the bishops subject to him, made a petition “for an ‘economy,’ that, if it were possible, the persons be not anathematized by name, that is, Sergius, Pyrrhus, Paul, and Peter.”
He names only his own predecessors, since for them alone was it his place to speak. But the same indulgence must necessarily have been extended to the rest of the condemned. Here was an obvious opening to save Honorius, had the legates had any desire to do so. But the Synod replied simply in the negative.
The final acclamations follow, first to the Emperor, as before, the “new Constantine, Marcian, Theodosius, Justinian.” Then “many years” to Agatho, George, Theophanes (the new Patriarch of Antioch). Anathema to Theodore the heretic, to Sergius the heretic, Cyrus the heretic, Honorius the heretic, Pyrrhus the heretic, Paul the heretic, Peter the heretic, Macarius the heretic, Stephen the heretic, Polychronius the heretic, Apergius of Perga the heretic.
The Council's Formal Decree accepting the Pope's Letter as he had demanded.
It has been said of this Council that it condemned a Pope against the wish of Rome. At least not, we saw, against the will of the Roman legates. ¶ It has also been said that the Council accepted the dogmatic letter of the Pope only after having examined it and compared it with the Fathers. We saw, it is true, that the Pope's book of citations from the Fathers was carefully verified. But this was inevitable, as the same had been done to those of Macarius. The real question is rather: Did the Council ratify merely the dogmatic decision of Agatho, or did it accept his whole letter, including the reiterated statements of Roman inerrancy and the right of the Pope to declare the faith, and the duty of all to accept the faith of Rome?
As the Council made no distinctions, raised no protest, and did exactly what the Pope demanded, we should a priori presume that it agreed with all St. Agatho's pretensions. Further, the analogy of a former reunion of East and West—that under the Emperor Justin in 519—suggests that an explicit assertion of Roman inerrancy would not be out of place.
But we are not left to a priori considerations. A series of documents emanating from the Council and the Emperor exhibits the views of the Council on this subject with entire clearness. They echo the words of Agatho as to the unfailing faith of Rome. They repeat after him that he spoke with the voice of Peter. They represent the whole work of the Council as consisting merely in accepting his letter.
The first of these is the final and solemn decree of the Council which was read on September 11th, and adopted in the last session, September 16, 681. This decree begins by accepting the five general Councils and the creeds of Nicæa and Constantinople. It condemns the heretics, including Honorius,“But the devil raised up Theodore… Sergius, Pyrrhus, Paul, and Peter… and also Honorius, who was Pope of elder Rome… to teach one will and operation after the fashion of the impious Apollinarians, Severians, and Themistians.” and goes on:
“And this holy and œcumenical Synod, faithfully and with uplifted hands greeting the letter of the most holy and blessed Pope of elder Rome, Agatho, to our most faithful Emperor Constantine, which casts out by name those who have preached and taught, as we have said, one will or one operation in the dispensation of the Incarnation of Christ, our true God; and likewise embracing the other synodical epistle to his divinely taught serenity from the holy Synod of 125 God-beloved bishops subject to the same most holy Pope, as being in harmony both with the Council of Chalcedon and with the tome sent to the sainted Flavian by the most blessed Pope of the same elder Rome, Leo, whom the said Council called the pillar of orthodoxy, and also with the synodical letters written by the blessed Cyril against the impious Nestorius”… (an exposition of doctrine follows).Mansi, xi. 632 foll.
This decree was signed by the whole Council, first by the legates, and last by the Emperor. At the moment of his signing, anathema was again exclaimed against all the heretics, including Honorius. The decree clearly implies that the whole work of the Council had been the acceptance of the two letters from Rome as embodying the teaching of the Fathers. They are evidently received ex animo in the sense in which they were intended.
The Council describes the Pope's Authority.
The next document is the customary λόγος προσϕωνητικός addressed to the Emperor by the whole Council, and signed by the Legates and by all the Bishops.Mansi, xi. 657. The Pope is spoken of as the “most high priestly prelate of elder Rome and of the apostolic acropolis,” ὁ τῆς πρεσβυτάρης Ρώμης καὶ ἀποστολι̃κῆς ἀκροπόλεως ἀρχιερατικώτατος πρόεδρος. When the five general Councils are enumerated, it is said that against Arius—
“‘Constantine ever Augustus and the famous Silvester immediately assembled the great and illustrious Synod of Nicæa.’… Similarly against Macedonius ‘the great King Theodosius and Damasus the adamant of the faith, immediately resisted him.’… Against Nestorius arose ‘Celestine and Cyril’… and against Eutyches ‘the trumpet of Leo, like the mighty roaring of a lion echoing from Rome,’… and lastly ‘Vigilius agreed with the all pious Justinian.’”
This description of the Councils as depending on the Emperors and Popes is a most remarkable testimony to the Eastern view in the 7th century, and all the more, because in the case of the first two Councils it is not obviously historical. After such a witness to the relation of Pope and Council, we are not surprised at other passages which deal with the sixth Council itself.
The Bishops praise the Emperor for restoring the integrity of the faith:
“Therefore, in accordance with the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, and in agreement with one another, and assenting to the letter of our most blessed Father and most high Pope Agatho, addressed to your Majesty, and also to that of his holy Synod of 125 Bishops, we glorify our Lord Jesus Christ as one of the holy Trinity,” &c. The two natures are then professed, and Theodore, Sergius, and Paul, Pyrrhus and Peter and Cyrus are anathematized, “and with them Honorius, who was Prelate of Rome, as having followed them in all things,” and Macarius, Stephen, and Polychronius.
“And lest any one should reprehend the divine zeal of the all-holy Pope or the present angelic assemblage, we have followed his teaching, and he the Apostolic and Patristic tradition, and we have found nothing that was not consonant with what they have laid down… Who has ever beheld such wondrous things? The spiritual lists were arrayed, and the champion of the false teaching was beforehand disarmed [i.e., by the Pope's letter], and he knew not that he would not obtain the crown of victory, but be stripped of the sacerdotal crown. But with us fought the Prince of the Apostles, ὁ κορυφαιότατος πρωταπόστολος, for to assist us we had his imitator and the successor to his chair, who exhibited to us the mystery of theology in his letter. The ancient city of Rome proffered to you a divinely written confession and caused the daylight of dogmas to rise by the Western parchment. And the ink shone, and by Agatho Peter spoke; and you the autocrat king, did vote with the Almighty who reigns with you… and the wicked Simons who had flown aloft, fell down with the wing of contempt, and their statue was brought to ruin.”
The allusion is of course to Simon Magus, who was said to have flown into the air in the Roman Forum, but to have fallen at the prayer of St. Peter. This flowery language is addressed to the Emperor, not to the Pope, and cannot therefore be discounted as flattery. The victory over the heresy is attributed to the Pope, and Agatho's own claim to be the mouthpiece of Peter is adopted by the Council. It is, therefore, proved that the acceptance of the Roman letters by the Council was full and whole-hearted.
A third document is the letter, which the Council, in accordance with precedent, addressed to the Pope himself. It begins thus:
“The greatest diseases demand the greatest remedies, as you know, most blessed one. Wherefore, Christ, our true God, has revealed your Holiness as a wise physician, mightily driving away the disease of heresy by the medicine of orthodoxy, and bestowing health on the members of the Church. We therefore leave to you what is to be done,This means that Macarius and other heretics were committed to the Pope to be dealt with at his discretion. since you occupy the first See of the universal Church, and stand on the firm rock of the faith, after we have dwelt with pleasure upon the writings of the true confession from your paternal blessedness to the most pious King, which also we recognize as pronounced by the chiefest head of the Apostles, and by which we have put to flight the dangerous opinion of the heresy which lately arose… Those who erred concerning the faith we have slain by our anathemas in the morning without the precincts of the courts of the Lord (to speak like David), according to the previous condemnation pronounced on them in your holy letters—we mean Theodore of Pharan, Sergius, Honorius, Cyrus, Paul, Pyrrhus, and Peter, and besides these… Macarius… Stephen… and Polychronius.”
The rest of the letter is in a like strain. Finally the Pope is requested to confirm the decision “by an honoured rescript.” This epistle is signed by all the Fathers of the Council.Honorius is here numbered among those whom the Pope had already condemned, though in the original condemnation he had been rightly set down as an addition made by the Council. Here it seems to be the chronological order which has determined the inclusion of Honorius in the wrong division. Hefele (Eng. trans., v. p. 187) has suggested that it was this passage which misled Hadrian II, when in an allocution which was read in the eighth Council in 870 he declared that the other bishops would never have judged Honorius, who was their superior, “unless the authorization of the consent of the Pontiff of the first See had preceded.” But Hadrian does not say, “Unless the Pope had first himself condemned.” I take it, therefore, that he is referring to a permission presumed to have been given in previous instructions to the legates.
The Emperor describes the Prerogatives of Rome.
Effect was given to the decrees of the Council by the Emperor in an edict of considerable length.He mentions the heretics who had infected the Church: “That is to say, Theodore… Sergius… and also Honorius, who was Pope of elder Rome, the confirmer of the heresy and contradicter of himself, and Cyrus… Pyrrhus,” &c. And further on: “We mean Theodore… and Sergius… and also Honorius, who was Pope of elder Rome, who in all things agreed and accepted and confirmed their heresy, and Cyrus… Pyrrhus, Paul,” &c. (Mansi, xi. 697 foll.). I quote one passage, which is an official declaration of the inerrancy of Rome by the head of the State:
“These are the teachings of the voices of the Gospels and Apostles, these the doctrines of the holy Synods, and of the elect and patristic tongues; these have been preserved untainted by Peter, the rock of the faith, the head of the Apostles; in this faith we live and reign,” &c.
The Emperor wrote also to the Pope. He recounts how he had invited the Pope to send representatives to a Council and the other Patriarchs to send their subject Bishops, on account of the inroads of heretics. This is not quite the same as his view before the Council, when he had spoken as if there was but a quarrel between Rome and Byzantium, in which he would be an unbiassed arbiter. The letter must be somewhat later than that of the Council to Agatho, as it is addressed to Leo II. St. Agatho had died soon after the end of the Council, on January 10, 682. I cite one striking paragraph from the letter:
“The letter of Pope Agatho, who is with the saints, to our majesty having been presented by his envoys… we ordered it to be read in the hearing of all, and we beheld in it as in a mirror the image of sound and unsullied faith. We compared it with the voices of the Gospels and of the Apostles, and set beside it the decisions and definitions of the holy œcumenical Synods, and compared the quotations it contained with the precepts of the Fathers, and finding nothing out of harmony, we perceived in it the word of the true confession [i.e., of Peter] unaltered. And with the eyes of our understanding we saw it as it were the very ruler of the Apostolic choir, the πρωτοκάθεδρος Peter himself, declaring the mystery of the whole dispensation, and addressing Christ by this letter: ‘Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God’; for his holy letter described in word for us the whole Christ. We all received it willingly and sincerely, and embraced it, as though it were Peter himself, with the arms of our soul. Macarius alone, who was Prelate of Antioch, with those whom he dragged after him, divided from us, and drew back from the yoke of Christ, and leapt out of the sacerdotal circle; for he refused altogether to agree to the all-holy writings of Agatho, as though he were even raging against the coryphæus Peter himself… And since he so hardened his heart and made his neck a cord of iron, and his forehead of brass, and his ears heavy that they should not hear, and set his heart unfaithful that it should not obey the law, for the law goeth forth from Sion, the teachings of the Apostolic height, for this cause the holy œcumenical Synod stripped him, Macarius, and his fellow heretics, of the sacerdotal office. In a written petition all of one accord begged our serenity to send them to your blessedness. This we have done… committing to your fatherly judgement all that concerns them… Glory be to God, who does wondrous things, Who has kept safe the faith among you unharmed. For how should He not do so in that rock on which He founded His Church, and prophesied that the gates of hell, all the ambushes of heretics, should not prevail against it? From it, as from the vault of heaven, the word of the true confession flashed forth, and enlightened the souls of the lovers of Christ, and brought warmth to frozen orthodoxy. This we have completed happily by God's help, and have brought all the sheep of Christ into one fold, no longer deceived by false shepherds and the prey of wolves, but pastured by the one Good Shepherd, with whom you have been appointed to join in pasturing them, and to lay down your life for the sheep”He continues: “Wherefore be strong, play the man, and gird on the sword of the Word, and whet it with divine zeal, and stand firm to fight for piety, and be bold to cut off every rumour or introduction of heresy, as erst Peter cut off the sense of hearing of the Jew; foreshadowing the destruction of the legal and servile synagogue. Stretch forth the axe of the Spirit, and every tree that bears the fruit of heresy either transplant by instruction or cut it down by canonical penalties, and cast it into the fire of the future gehenna, in order that by the universal destruction of those who injure the faith, the body of the Church may be strong and whole, being connected and compacted by the peace of the Spirit. When this remains firm, the attack and resistance of the enemy is confounded and the throne of our serenity rests upon the rock of the faith, counsels and motions are directed for the benefit of our power, and the State of the whole Roman Empire is set at peace with the peace of the faith. We urge your all-holy headship to send without delay an Apocrisiarius appointed by yourself to dwell in our royal and God-protected city, to represent the person of your Holiness in all matters that may arise, dogmatic, canonical, or simply ecclesiastical.” (Mansi, xi. 713 foll.).
The Emperor also addressed a short letter to the Roman Synod, in which he says:
“You yourselves were present with your œcumenical chief pastor, τῷ οἰκουμενικῷ ἀρχιπομένῳ, speaking with him in spirit and in writing. For we received, besides the letter from his blessedness, also one from your sanctity. It was produced, it was read, and it detailed for us the word of truth and painted the likeness of orthodoxy… We did not neglect to compare them with care. And, therefore, in harmony of mind and tongue we believed with the one and confessed with the other, and we admired the writing of Agatho as the woice of divine Peter, for nobody disagreed, save one” (p. 721).
Papal Infallibility and the Sixth Council.
These letters may help us to decide whether “the Bishops who composed the Council had no, even rudimentary, idea of Papal Infallibility.” The Pope imposed terms of communion. The Council accepts the letter in which the Pope defined the faith. It deposes those who refused to accept it. It asks him to confirm its decisions. The Bishops and the Emperor declare that they have seen the letter to contain the doctrine of the Fathers; Agatho speaks with the voice of Peter himself; from Rome the law had gone forth as out of Sion; Peter had kept the faith unaltered. The Council holds the same traditional views about Rome which we have heard from Constantinople, from Palestine, from Africa, from Cyprus.
All this is not the Vatican definition, for it is not definite. But the very least that is implied is that Rome has an indefectible faith, which is authoritatively promulgated to the whole Church by the Bishops of the Apostolic See, the successors of Peter and the heirs at once of his faith and of his authority.
How was it possible to assert this, and yet in the same breath to condemn Pope Honorius as a heretic? The answer is surely plain enough. Honorius was fallible, was wrong, was a heretic, precisely because he did not, as he should have done, declare authoritatively the Petrine tradition of the Roman Church. To that tradition he had made no appeal, but had merely approved and enlarged upon the half-hearted compromise of Sergius. The Roman tradition had been asserted with authority by Popes Severinus, John IV, Theodore, Martin, and their successors; and Martin had sealed his testimony with his sufferings and death. Neither the Pope nor the Council consider that Honorius had compromised the purity of Roman tradition, for he had never claimed to represent it.
Therefore just as to-day we judge the letters of Pope Honorius by the Vatican definition, and deny them to be ex cathedra, because they do not define any doctrine and impose it upon the whole Church, so the Christians of the 7th century judged the same letters by the custom of their own day, and saw that they did not claim what papal letters were wont to claim, viz., to speak with the mouth of Peter, in the name of Roman tradition. The grounds of both judgements are in reality the same, viz., that the Pope was not defining with authority and binding the Church.
It is true that in the East, as we have seen, the whole of the continued resistance to the true doctrine had been built upon the authority of Honorius, and that without his unfortunate letters in all probability no Monothelite troubles would have disturbed the page of history. But even in a case where no appeal was made by the Pope to the apostolic tradition, and where no penalties were threatened by him, there could be no anticipation that any incorrect mandate should issue from a Church whose faith was so pure, nor that such a letter as that of Honorius could be disowned by his successors. It was natural for the Byzantines, therefore, to treat it as giving the Roman view, natural that it should be followed by Sergius (whom in fact it bound since it was addressed to him), natural that it should remain a tower of strength to heretics until it had been authoritatively declared by Rome to be no embodiment of her tradition. Such a disavowal had become absolutely necessary as the complement of the Roman condemnation of the ecthesis and the typus, which had both been founded on Honorius, as we saw.
But once disowned by Rome, the words of Honorius were harmless against Rome. They were instantly reduced to their true value, as the expression of his own view.Infallibility is, as it were, the apex of a pyramid. The more solemn the utterances of the Apostolic See, the more we can be certain of their truth. When they reach the maximum of solemnity, that is, when they are strictly ex cathedra, the possibility of error is wholly eliminated. The authority of a Pope, even on those occasions when he is not actually infallible, is to be implicitly followed and reverenced. That it should be on the wrong side is a contingency shown by faith and history to be possible, but by history as well as by faith to be so remote that it is not usually to be taken into consideration. There are three or four examples in history. Of these the condemnation of Galileo is the most famous, and the mistake of Honorius makes a good (or rather bad) second. But in this case the mistake was rectified within a few months, and after that, no one followed Honorius in good faith.
The infallibility of the Pope is for the sake of the Church. Wherever his fall would necessarily involve the Church in the same error, he is infallible. Therefore he is infallible whenever he binds the Church by his authority to accept his ruling, and only then. It is a matter of history that no Pope has ever involved the whole Church in error. It is a matter of history that Pope after Pope has solemnly defined the truth and bound the Church to accept it. It is a matter of history that Pope after Pope has confirmed the Councils which decided rightly and has annulled those which decided wrongly. It is a matter of history that Rome has always retained the true faith. If this was wonderful in the 7th century, it is more wonderful after thirteen more centuries have passed.
The Condemnation of Pope Honorius is confirmed by numerous Pontiffs and by two Œcumenical Councils.
The confirmation of the sixth Council by Pope Leo II is contained in a long dogmatic letter to the Emperor, dated May 7, 682. The central paragraph is as follows:
“My predecessor, Pope Agatho of apostolic memory, together with his honourable Synod, preached this norm of the right apostolic tradition. This he sent by letter… to your piety by his own legates, demonstrating it and confirming it by the usage of the holy and approved teachers of the Church. And now the holy and great Synod, celebrated by the favour of God and your own, has accepted it and embraced it in all things with us, as recognizing in it the pure teaching of blessed Peter, the prince of the apostles, and discovering in it the marks of sound piety. Therefore the holy and universal sixth Synod, which by the will of God your clemency summoned and presided, has followed in all things the teaching of the apostles and approved Fathers. And because, as we have said, it has perfectly preached the definition of the true faith which the Apostolic See of blessed Peter the apostle (whose office we unworthy hold) also reverently receives, therefore we, and by our ministry this reverend Apostolic See, wholly and with full agreement do consent to the definitions made by it, and by the authority of blessed Peter do confirm them, even as we have received firmness from the Lord Himself upon the firm rock which is Christ.”
St. Leo thus enumerates the heretics condemned:
“And in like manner we anathematize the inventors of the new error, that is, Theodore, Bishop of Pharan, Sergius, Pyrrhus, Paul, and Peter, betrayers rather than leaders of the Church of Constantinople, and also Honorius, who did not attempt to sanctify this Apostolic Church with the teaching of apostolic tradition, but by profane treachery permitted its purity to be polluted.”
It has been sometimes said that St. Leo in these words interprets the decision of the Council about Honorius in a mild sense, or that he modifies it. It is supposed that by “permitted to be polluted” Leo II means no positive action, but a mere neglect of duty, grave enough in a Pope, but not amounting to the actual teaching of heresy. If Leo II had meant this, he would have been mistaken. Honorius did positively approve the letter of Sergius, as the Council pointed out. Further, the merely negative ruling of the typus had been condemned as heresy by the Lateran Council.In a letter to the Bishops of Spain, St. Leo has the similar phrase, “With Honorius, who did not, as became the apostolic authority, extinguish the flame of heretical teaching in its first beginning, but fostered it by his negligence.” He means that Honorius did not detect the error latent in Sergius' expressions. To King Erwig he says: “And with them Honorius of Rome, who allowed the immaculate rule of apostolic tradition, which he received from his predecessors, to be tarnished.” A mere omission to rebuke would not have caused a tarnish. The Emperor had apologized more efficaciously for Honorius when he said that Honorius contradicted himself.
As a fact the words of Leo II are harsher than those of the Council. He declares that Honorius did not publish the apostolic doctrine of his See, and he represents this as a disgrace to the Church of Rome itself, as a pollution of the unspotted. This no Eastern Bishop had ventured to say.
The anathemas on Pope Honorius have been again and again confirmed. A few years later he is included in the list of heretics by the Trullan Synod, a Council whose canons were not, however, and could not be received by Rome and the West. But the seventh and eighth œcumenical Councils did the same, although the eighth Council formally declared that the Church of Rome had never erred. It is still more important that the formula for the oath taken by every new Pope from the 8th century till the 11th adds these words to the list of Monothelites condemned: “Together with Honorius, who added fuel to their wicked assertions” (Liber diurnus, ii. 9). Unquestionably no Catholic has the right to deny that Honorius was a heretic (though in the sense that Origen and Theodore of Mopsuestia were heretics), a heretic in words if not in intention.
Finally Honorius was mentioned as a heretic in the lessons of the Roman Breviary for June 28th, the feast of St. Leo II, until the 18th century, when the name was omitted as liable to cause misunderstanding. In the Middle Ages, “to lie like the second nocturn” was a proverb, and no doubt the Breviary is still full of historical errors. Nevertheless, the persistence of this reading through many centuries at all events shows that it was not found scandalous by our forefathers, and was perfectly well understood until controversy with later views, Gallican and Protestant, suggested difficulties.