The principal sees of the East were directly founded by the apostles—with the exception .of Constantinople—and had even clearer title to apostolic succession and inheritance than Rome. The Greek church took the lead in theology down to the sixth or seventh century, and the Latin gratefully learned for her. All the ecumenical Councils were held on the soil of the Byzantine empire in or near Constantinople (the church councils of Nicaea, Constantinople, Ephesus, and Chalcedon—H.V.), and carried on in the Greek language. The great doctrinal controversies on the holy Trinity and Christology were fought out in the East, yet not without the powerful aid of the more steady and practical West. Athanasius, when an exile from Alexandria, found refuge and support in the bishop of Rome. Jerome, the most learned of the Latin fathers and a friend of Pope Damasus, was a connecting link between the East and the West, and concluded his labors in Bethlehem. Pope Leo I was the theological master-spirit who controlled the council of Chalcedon, and shaped the orthodox formula concerning the two natures in the one person of Christ. Yet this very pope strongly protested against the action of the Council which, in conformity with a canon of the second ecumenical Council, put him on a par with the new bishop of Constantinople.
And here we approach the secret of the ultimate separation and incurable antagonism of the churches. It is due chiefly to three causes: The first cause is the politico-ecclesiastical rivalry of the patriarch of Constantinople backed by the Byzantine empire, and the bishop of Rome in connection with the new German empire. The second cause is the growing centralization and overbearing conduct of the Latin church in and through the papacy. The third cause is the stationary character of the Greek and the progressive character of the Latin church during the middle ages. The Greek church boasts of the imaginary perfection of her creed. She still produced considerable scholars and divines, as Maximus, John of Damascus, Photius, Oecumenius, and Theophylact, but they most confined themselves to the work of epitomizing and systematizing the traditional theology of the Greek fathers, and produced no new ideas, as if all wisdom began and ended with the old ecumenical Councils. She took no interest in the important anthropological and soteriological controversies which agitated the Latin church in the age of St. Augustin, and she continued to occupy the indefinite position of the first centuries on the doctrines of sin and grace. On the other hand she was much distracted and weakened by barren metaphysical controversies on the abstrusest questions of theology and Christology; and these quarrels facilitated the rapid progress of Islam, which conquered the land of the Bible and pressed hard on Constantinople. When the Greek church became stationary, the Latin church began to develop her greatest energy; she became the fruitful mother of new and vigorous nations of the North and West of Europe, produced scholastic and mystic theology and a new order of civilization, built magnificent cathedrals, discovered a new Continent, invented the art of printing, and with the revival of learning prepared the way for a new era in the history of the world. Thus the Latin daughter outgrew the Greek mother, and is numerically twice as strong, without counting the Protestant secession. At the same time the Eastern church still may look forward to a new future among the Slavonic races which she has Christianized. What she needs is a revival of the spirit and power of primitive Christianity.
When once the two churches were alienated in spirit and engaged in an unchristian race for supremacy, all the little doctrinal and ritualistic differences which had existed long before, assumed an undue weight, and were branded as heresies and crimes. The bishop of Rome sees in the Patriarch of Constantinople an ecclesiastical upstart who owed his power to political influence, not to apostolic origin. The Eastern patriarchs look upon the Pope as an. anti-Christian usurper and as the first Protestant. They stigmatize the papal supremacy as “the chief heresy of the latter days, which flourishes now as its predecessor, Arianism, flourished in former days, and which like it, will in like manner be cast down and vanish away.”
THE PATRIARCH AND THE POPE. PHOTIUS AND NICOLAS.
The doctrinal difference on the procession of the Holy Spirit will be considered in the chapter on the Theological Controversies. Although it existed before the schism, it assumed a practical importance only in connection with the broader ecclesiastical and political conflict between the patriarch and the pope, between Constantinople and Rome.
The first serious outbreak of this conflict took place after the middle of the ninth century, when Photius and Nicolas, two of the ablest representatives of the rival churches, came into collision. Photius is one of the greatest of patriarchs, as Nicolas is one of the greatest of popes. The former was superior in learning, the latter in statesmanship; while in moral integrity, official pride and obstinacy both were fairly matched, except that the papal ambition towered above the patriarchal dignity. Photius would tolerate no superior, Nicolas no equal; the one stood on the Council of Chalcedon, the other on Pseudo-Isidor.
The contest between them was at first personal, The de position of Ignatius as patriarch of Constantinople, for rebuking the immorality of Caesar Bardas, and the election of Photius, then a mere laymen, in his place (858), were arbitrary and uncanonical acts which created a temporary schism in the East, and prepared the way for a permanent schism between the East and the West. Nicolas, being appealed to as mediator by both parties (first by Photius), assumed the haughty air of supreme judge on the basis of the Pseudo-Isidorian Decretals, but was at first deceived by his own legates. The controversy was complicated by the Bulgarian quarrel. King Bogoris had been converted to Christianity by missionaries from Constantinople (861), but soon after applied to Rome for teachers, and the pope eagerly seized this opportunity to extend his jurisdiction (866).
Nicolas, in a Roman Synod (863) decided in favor of the innocent Ignatius, and pronounced sentence of deposition against Photius with a threat of excommunication in case of disobedience. Photius, enraged by this conduct and the Bulgarian interference, held a counter-synod, and deposed in turn the successor of St. Peter (867). The Roman Synod, claiming to be the infallible organ of the Holy Spirit, compared Photius with a robber and adulterer for obtruding himself into the see of Constantinople during the lifetime of Ignatius, deprived him of all priestly honors and, functions “by the authority of Almighty God. St. Peter and St. Paul, the princes of the apostles, of all saints, of the six (why not seven?) ecumenical councils, as also by the judgment of the Holy Ghost,” and threatened him and all his adherents with the anathema and excommunication from the eucharist till the moment of death, “that no one may dare hereafter from the state of the laity to break into the camp of the Lord, as has often been the case in the church of Constantinople.” In his famousEncyclical Letter of invitation to the Eastern patriarchs, Photius charged the whole Western church with heresy and. schism for interfering, with the jurisdiction over the Bulgarians, for fasting on Saturday, for abridging the time of Lent by a, week, for taking milk-food (milk, cheese, and butter) during the quadragesimal fast, for enforcing clerical celibacy, and despising priests who lived in virtuous matrimony, and, most of all, for corrupting the Nicene Creed by the insertion of the Filiogue (“and of the Son,”—H.V.), and thereby introducing two principles into the Holy Trinity.
This letter clearly indicates all the doctrinal and ritual differences which caused and perpetuated the schism to this day. The subsequent history is only a renewal of the same charges, aggravated by the misfortune of the Greek church, and the arrogance and intolerance of old Rome.
Photius fell with the murder of his imperal patron, Michael III. (Sept. 23, 867). He was imprisoned in a convent, and deprived of society, even of books. He bore his misfortune with great dignity, and nearly all the Greek bishops remained faithful to him. Ignatus was restored after ten years of exile by the emperor Basil, the Macedonian (867-886)) and entered into communication with Pope Hadrian II (Dec. 867). He convened a general council in the church of St. Sophia (October 869) which is numbered by the Latins as the Eighth Ecumenical Council. The pontifical legates presided and presented a formula of union which every bishop was required to sign before taking part in the proceedings, and which contained an anathema against all heresies, and against Photius and his adherents. But the council was poorly attended (the number of bishops being at first only eighteen). Photius was forced to appear in the fifth session (Oct. 20) but on being questioned he either kept silence, or answered in. the words of Christ before Caiaphas and Pilate. In the tenth and last session, attended by the emperor and his sons, and one hundred and two bishops, the decrees of the pope against Photius and in favor of Ignatius were confirmed, and the anathemas against the Monothelites and Iconoclasts renewed. The papal delegates signed “with reservation of the revision of the pope.” (The Monothelites owe their origin to an attempt to bridge over the difference between the orthodox position based on the decrees of the Council of Chalcedon, which established the doctrine of the two natures united in the one Person of the Son, and the Monophysite principles, which set forth the one nature of Christ. And the Iconoclasts opposed images and image worship.—H.V.)
But the peace was artificial, and broken up again immediately after the Synod by the Bulgarian question, which involved the political as well as the ecclesiastical power of Constantinople. Ignatius himself was unwilling to surrender that point, and refused to obey when the imperious Pope John VIII commanded, on pain of suspension and excommunication, that he should recall all the Greek bishops and priests from Bulgaria. But death freed him from further controversy.
Photius was restored to the patriarchal see three days after the death of Ignatius, with whom he had been reconciled. He convened a council in November, 879, which lasted till March, 880, and is acknowledged by the Orientals as the Eighth Ecumenical Council, but was denounced by the Latins as the Pseudo-Synodus Photiana. It was three times as large as the Council of Ignatius, and held with great pomp in St. Sophia under the presidency of Photius. It annulled the Council of 869 as a fraud, it readopted the Nicene Creed with an anathema against the Filioque, and all other changes by addition or omission, and it closed with a eulogy on the unrivalled virtues and learning of Photius. To the Greek acts was afterwards added a (pretended) letter of Pope John VIII to Photius, declaring the Filioque to be an addition which is rejected by the Church of Rome, and blasphemy which must be abolished calmly and by degrees. The papal legates assented to all, and so deceived their master by false accounts of the surrender of Bulgaria that he thanked the emperor for the service he had done to the Church by this synod.