A Reply to Catholic Criticism

A Reply to Sara’s criticism of Orthodoxy.

It is interesting to note that our Orthodox correspondent is apparently ignorant of the nature of Great Schism, which contrary to popular belief, did not originate at a single point (such as the oft-repeated date of 1054), but rather was a gradual process wherein large numbers of Christians in the East slipped away from Union with Rome.

I was not ignorant of that, I just said that was the date the Eastern Churches was officially no longer in communion with Rome. Obviously the seeds of discontent were sowed much earlier.

Moving past the rather irksome grammatical errors, his claims regarding papal infallibility and council infallibility are contradicted by Eastern Patriarchs, as well as by the Byzantine Emperor.

Sorry was typing fast on my phone. Meant to say, the famous second* ecumenical council.

“she [Rome] has the keys of the orthodox confession and right faith in Him, that she opens the true and exclusive religion to such men as approach with piety, and she shuts up and locks every heretical mouth which speaks against the Most High.” (Saint Maximus, Opuscula theologica et polemica, Migne, Patr. Graec. vol. 90, emphasis [hers].)

This quote is taken extremely out of context! St. Maximus was talking about the monothelitist heresy that was plaguing many of the eastern churches. He was praising the Roman church for not falling it to heresy, thus preserving the orthodoxy (as in its literal definition) of the Church.

Then you quote Letter to Peter. I’m not even going to acknowledge this as an argument since it was very likely a forgery, and if not it’s still incomplete as it only exists extracts. The whole thing was written only in Latin even though Maximus spoke Greek and all his writings were in Greek as well. Now we’re going scroll down a bit through her response and then come back:

It follows logically from the papacy’s supreme authority on matters of faith and morals that it has the authority to correctly (or, dare I say it, “objectively”) interpret Scripture.

I would dare you not because a bishop of Rome was anathematized for preaching heresy about the faith. Roughly four decades before the sixth ecumenical council, Pope Honorius I endorsed the monothelite heresy which resulted in his anathematization at the council.

And this again plays a pivotal part in understanding the context St. Maximus was speaking in

“To which church do you belong? To that of Byzantium, of Rome, Antioch, Alexandria, or Jerusalem? For all these churches, together with the provinces in subjection to them, are in unity. Therefore, if you also belong to the Catholic Church, enter into communion with us at once, lest fashioning for yourself some new and strange pathway, you fall      into that which you do not even expect!”

To this the righteous man [Maximus] wisely replied, “Christ the Lord called that Church the Catholic Church which maintains the true and saving confession of the Faith. It was for this confession that He called Peter blessed, and He declared that He would found His Church upon this confession.

However, I wish to know the contents of your confession, on the basis of which all churches, as you say, have entered into communion. If it is not opposed to the truth, then neither will I be separated from it.”

“But what will you do,” inquired the envoys, “when the Romans are united to the Byzantines? Yesterday, indeed, two delegates arrived from Rome and tomorrow, the Lord’s day, they will communicate the Holy Mysteries with the Patriarch. ”

[After hearing their confession of Faith, and after further discussion, he was asked]

The Saint replied, “Even if the whole universe holds communion with the Patriarch, I will not communicate with him. For I know from the writings of the holy Apostle Paul: the Holy Spirit declares that even the angels would be anathema if they should begin to preach another Gospel, introducing some new teaching.”

The Life of Our Holy Father St. Maximus the Confessor pg. 60-62 (emphasis added)

If St. Maximus believed Rome was infallible, why did he not change his mind when he was told that Rome had accepted the monothelitism?

Yielding honor to the Apostolic See and to Your Holiness, and honoring your Holiness, as one ought to honor a father, we have hastened to subject all the priests of the whole Eastern district, and to unite them to the See of your Holiness, for we do not allow of any point, however manifest and indisputable it be, which relates to the state of the Churches, not being brought to the cognizance of your Holiness, since you are the Head of all the holy Churches. (Emperor Justinian, Epist. ad. Pap. Joan. ii. Cod. Justin. lib. I. tit. 1, emphasis mine.).

Justinian convened the Fifth Ecumenical Council over Pope Vigilius’ express objections, and when Vigilius refused to attend. Although he was dragged to Constantinople anyway, the Council still convened without him. When he refused to ratify its definition, Justinian and the Council struck him from the diptychs.

The whole letter is kinda ironic really since Justinian practiced Caesorpapism making him probably the most powerful person in the Catholic Church. Regardless Justinian expressly gives Rome’s primacy out of honor. That’s not contradictory to any Orthodox teaching since it is the position we have always held.

Without whom (the Romans presiding in the seventh Council) a doctrine brought forward in the Church could not, even though confirmed by canonical decrees and by ecclesiastical usuage, ever obtain full approval or currency. For it is they (the Popes of Rome) who have had assigned to them the rule in sacred things, and who have received into their hands the dignity of headship among the Apostles. (Saint Nicephorus, Patriarch of Constantinople, Niceph. Cpl. pro. s. imag. c 25 [Mai N. Bibl. pp. ii. 30], emphasis [hers].)

That’s describing the order and regiment in a council. Not a capacity of infallible judgement that Romans claim to have.

Thus we see that the doctrines could not be approved as true without the approval of the pope, and that ecumenical councils require the stamp of approval from the pope in order to be validated.

Again not true: Fifth Ecumenical Council and Pope Vigilius.


[After quoting Matthew 16:18f; John 21:15ff]On him [Peter] He builds the Church, and to him He gives the command to feed the sheep; and although He assigned a like power to all the Apostles, yet he founded a single Chair, and He established by His own authority a source and an intrinsic reason for that unity. Indeed, the others were that also which Peter was; but a primacy is given to Peter, whereby it is made clear that there is but one Church and one Chair. So too, all are shepherds, and the flock is shown to be one, fed by all the Apostles in single-minded accord. If someone does not hold fast to this unity of Peter, can he imagine that he still holds the faith? If he desert the chair of Peter upon whom the Church was built, can he still be confident that he is in the Church?(Cyprian, The Unity of the Catholic Church [first edition] 4, c. AD 251, emphasis added.)

So, contra the interpretation of an Orthodox priest and a former Protestant laymen, we have the words of the saint himself, which in fact completely obliterates their misunderstanding of his teaching.

How is this supposed to refute anything, he is literally repeating what he already said in the last excerpt:

And again to the same He says, after His resurrection, Feed my sheep. And although to all the apostles, after His resurrection, He gives an equal power, and says, As the Father has sent me, even so send I you: Receive the Holy Ghost: Whose soever sins you remit, they shall be remitted unto him; and whose soever sins you retain, they shall be retained; John 20:21 yet, that He might set forth unity, He arranged by His authority the origin of that unity, as beginning from one. Assuredly the rest of the apostles were also the same as was Peter, endowed with a like partnership both of honour and power; but the beginning proceeds from unity.

St. Cyprian just reaffirms the primacy Peter holds but this does not mean he’s above his fellow apostles or else that would completely contradict not what he just said but in other quotation as well:

“No one among us sets himself up as a bishop of bishops, or by tyranny and terror forces his colleagues to compulsory obedience, seeing that every bishop in the freedom of his liberty and power possesses the right to his own mind and can no more be judged by another than he himself can judge another. We must all await the judgment of our Lord Jesus Chirst, who singly and alone has power both to appoint us to the government of his Church and to judge our acts therein’

CSEL 3, 1, 436

‘Even Peter, whom the Lord first chose and upon whom He built His Church, when Paul later disputed with him over circumcision, did not claim insolently any prerogative for himself, nor make any arrogant assumptions nor say that he had the primacy and ought to be obeyed”

Epist. 71, 3

Oh, and as for Pope Saint Gregory the Great, he was condemning the Patriarch of Constantinople’s claim to the title of “Ecumenical Patriarch”, and in other writings completely affirms papal supremacy, referring to the See of Peter as the see “to whom was committed the care and primacy of the whole Church”.

That was the issue of the time but Pope St. Gregory did not just stop there, he protested the idea of any single bishop holding jurisdiction over his fellow patriarchs. Again you falsely equate primacy to power or that we have ever denied Romes primacy (which even in schism, still holds as true).


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