The Church and the Sacraments, Views During the Second Period (300-750 A.D.), The Doctrine of the Church, The Papcy (by Philip Schaff)

But thus, at the same time, was roused the jealousy of the bishop of Rome, to whom a rival in Constantinople with equal prerogatives, was far more dangerous than a rival in Alexandria or Antioch. Especially offensive must it have been to him, that the council of Chalcedon said not a word of the primacy of Peter and based the power of the Roman bishop, like that of the Constantinopolitan, on political grounds; which was indeed not erroneous, yet only halt of the truth, and in that respect unfair. 

Just here, therefore, is the point, where the Eastern church entered into conflict with the Western, which continues to this day. The papal delegates, protested against the twenty-eighth canon of the Chalcedonian council, on the spot, in the sixteenth and last session of the council; but in vain, though their protest was admitted to record. They appealed to the sixth canon of the Nicene council, according to the enlarged Latin version, which, in the later addition, “Ecclesia Romana semper habuit primatum,” seems to assign the Roman bishop a position above all the patriarchs, and drops Constantinople from notice; whereupon the canon was read to them in its original form from the Greek Acts, without that addition, together with the first three canons of the second ecumenical council with their express acknowledgment of the patriarch of Constantinople in the second rank. After the debate on this point, the imperial commissioners thus summed up the result; “From the whole discussion, and from what has been brought forward on either side, we acknowledge that the primacy over all and the most eminent rank are to continue with the archbishop of old Rome; but that also the archbishop of New Rome should enjoy the same precedence of honor, and have the right to ordain the metropolitans in the dioceses of Asia, Pontus, and Thrace,” etc. Now they called upon the council to declare whether this was its opinion; whereupon the bishops gave their full, emphatic consent, and begged to be dismissed. The commissioners then closed the transactions with the words: “What we a little while ago proposed, the whole council hath ratified:” that is, the prerogative granted to the church of Constantinople is confirmed by the council in spite of the protest of the legates of Rome. 

After the council, the Roman bishop, Leo, himself protested in three letters of the 22nd May, 452; the first of which was addressed to the emperor Marcian, the second to the empress Pulcheria, the third to Anatolius, patriarch of Constantinople. He expressed his satisfaction with the doctrinalresults of the council but declared the elevation of the bishop o! Constantinople to the patriarchal dignity to be. a work of pride and ambition—the humble, modest pope!—to be an attack upon the rights of other Eastern metropolitans- the invader of the same rights in Gaul!—especially upon the rights of the Roman see guaranteed by the council of Nice—on the authority of a Roman interpolation!—and to be destructive of the peace of the church—which the popes have always sacredly kept! He would hear nothing of political considerations as the source of the authority of his chair, but pointed rather to divine institution and the primacy of Peter. Leo speaks here with great reverence of the first ecumenical council, under the false impression that that council in its sixth canon acknowledged the primacy of Rome; but with singular indifference of the second ecumenical council, on account of its third canon, which was confirmed at Chalcedon. He charges Anatolius with using for his own ambition a council, which had been called simply for the extermination of heresy and the establishment of the faith. But the canons of the Nicene council, inspired by the Holy Ghost, could be superseded by no synod however great; and all that came in conflict with them was void. He exhorted Anatolius to give up his ambition, and reminded him of the words: Tene quod habes, ne alius accipiate coronam tuam— Rev. 3:11

But this protest could not change the decree of the council nor the position of the Greek church in the matter, although, under the influence of the emperor, Anatolius wrote an humble letter to Leo. The bishops of Constantinople asserted their rank, and were sustained by the Byzantine emperors. The twenty-eighth canon of the Chalcedonian council was expressly confirmed by Justinian I, in the 131st Novelle (c. 1), and solemnly renewed by the Trullan council (can. 36), but was omitted in the Latin collections of canons by Prisca, Dionysius, Exiguus, and Isidore. The loud contradiction of Rome gradually died away; yet she has never formally acknowledged this canon, except during the Latin empire and the Latin patriarchate at Constantinople, when the fourth Lateran council, under Innocent III, in 1215, conceded that the patriarch of Constantinople should hold the next rank after the patriarch of Rome, before those of Alexandria and Antioch. 

Finally, the bishop of Jerusalem, after long contests with the metropolitan of Caesarea and the patriarch of Antioch, succeeded in advancing himself to the patriarchal dignity; but his distinction remained chiefly a matter of honor, far below the other patriarchates in extent of real power. Had not the ancient Jerusalem, in the year, 70, been left with only, a part of the city wall and three gates to mark it, it would doubtless, being the seat of the oldest Christian congregation, have held, as in the time of James, a central position in the hierarchy. Yet as it was, a reflection of the original dignity of the mother city fell upon the new settlement of Aelia Capitoline, which, after Adrian, rose upon the venerable ruins. The pilgrimage of the empress Helena, and the magnificent church edifices of her son on the holy places, gave Jerusalem a new importance as the center of devout pilgrimage from all quarters of Christendom. Its bishop was subordinate, indeed, to the metropolitan of Caesarea, but presided with him (probably secundo loco) at the Palestinian councils. The council of Nice gave him an honorary precedence among the bishops, though without affecting his dependence on the metropolitan of Caesarea. At least this seems to be the meaning of the short and somewhat obscure seventh canon: “Since it is custom and old tradition, that the bishop of Aelia (Jerusalem) should be honored, he shall enjoy the succession of honor, while the metropolis (Caesarea) preserves the dignity allotted to her.” The legal relation of the two remained for a long time uncertain, till the fourth ecumenical council, at its seventh session, confirmed the bishop of Jerusalem in his patriarchal rank, and assigned to him the three provinces of Palestine as a diocese without opposition.

The Rival Patriarchs of Old and New Rome 

Thus at the close of the fourth century we see the Catholic church of the Graeco-Roman empire under the oligarchy of five coordinate and independent patriarchs, four in the East and one in the West. But the analogy of the political constitution, and the tendency toward a visible, tangible representation of the unity of the church, which had lain at the bottom of the development of the hierarchy from the very beginnings of the episcopate, pressed beyond oligarchy to monarchy; especially in the West (Oligarchy means: government by a few—H.V.). Now that the empire was geographically and politically severed into East arid West, which, after the death of Theodosius, in 395, had their several emperors, and were never permanently reunited, we can but expect in like manner a double head in the hierarchy. This we find in the two patriarchs of old Rome and New Rome; the one representing the Western or Latin church, the other the Eastern or Greek. Their power and their relation to each other we must now more carefully observe.

The organization of the church in the East being so largely influenced by the political constitution, the bishop of the imperial capital could not fail to become the most powerful of the four oriental patriarchs. By the second and fourth ecumenical councils, as we have already seen, his actual preeminence was ratified by ecclesiastical sanction, and he was designed to the foremost dignity. From Justinian I he further received supreme appellate jurisdiction, and the honorary title ofecumenical patriarch, which he still continues to hear. He ordained the other patriarchs, not seldom decided their deposition or institution by his influence, and used every occasion to interfere in their affairs, and assert his supreme authority, though the popes and their delegates at the imperial court incessantly protested. The patriarchates of Jerusalem, Antioch, and Alexandria were distracted and weakened in the course of the fifth and sixth centuries by the tedious monophysite controversies (the controversies which centered around the question whether Christ had but one nature—H.V.), and subsequently, after the year 622, were reduced to but a shadow by the Mohanmedan conquests. The patriarchate of Constantinople, on the contrary, made important advances southwest and north; till, in its flourishing period, between the eighth and tenth centuries, it embraced, besides its original, diocese, Calabria, Sicily, and all the provinces of Illyricum, the Bulgarians and Russia. Though often visited with destructive earthquakes and conflagrations, and besieged by Persians, Arabians, Hungarians, Russians, Latins, and Turks, Constantinople maintained itself to the middle of the fifteenth century as the seat of the Byzantine empire and center of the Greek church. The patriarch of Constantinople, however, remained virtually onlyprimus inter pares, and has never exercised a papal supremacy over his colleagues in the East, like that of the pope over the metropolitans of the West; still less has he arrogated, like his rival in ancient Rome he sole dc minion of the entire church. Toward the bishop of Rome he claimed only equality of rights and coordinate dignity. 

In this long contest between the two leading patriarch of Christendom, the patriarchs of Rome at last carried the day. The monarchical tendency of the hierarchy was much stronger in the West than in the East, and was urging a universal monarchy in the church.

The patriarch of Constantinople enjoyed indeed the favor of the emperor, and all the benefits of the imperial residence. New Rome was most beautifully and most advantageously situated for a metropolis of government, of commerce, and of culture, on the bridge between two continents; and it formed a powerful bulwark against the barbarian conquests. It was never desecrated by an idol temple, but was founded a Christian city. It fostered the sciences and arts, at a time when the West was whelmed by the wild waves of barbarism; it preserved the knowledge of the Greek language and literature through the middle ages; and after the invasion of the Turks it kindled by its fugitive scholars the enthusiams of classic studies in the Latin church, till Greece rose from the dead with the New Testament in her hand, and held the torch for the Reformation. 

But the Roman patriarch had yet greater advantages. In him were united, as even the Greek historian Theodoret Concedes, all the outward and the inward, the political and the spiritual conditions of the highest eminence. 

In the first place, his authority rested on an ecclesiastical and spiritual basis, reaching back, as public opinion granted, through an unbroken succession, to Peter the apostle; while Constantinople was in no sense an apostolica sedes, but had a purely political origin, though, by transfer, and in a measure by usurpation, it had possessed itself of the metropolitan rights of Ephesus. Hence, the popes after Leo appealed almost exclusively to the divine origin of their dignity, and to the primacy of the prince of the apostles over the whole church 

Then, too, considered even in a political point of view, old Rome had a far longer and grander imperial tradition to show, and was identified in memory with the bloom of the empire; while new Rome marked the beginning of its decline. When the Western empire fell into the hands of the barbarians, the Roman bishop was the only surviving heir of this imperial past, or, in the well-known dictum of Hobbes, “the ghost of the deceased Roman empire, sitting crowned upon the grave thereof.” 

H.V.