The First “Great Schism” of Christianity and its Precedent in Division and in Healing

Christians rightfully decry the  “secularization” of Western Civilization, up until recent history known as “Western Christian Civilization, which became the dominant civilization on the planet by developing the scientific method solidly upon Judeo-Christian ontology (metaphysics) and using its advances to colonize the world (see the Judeo-Christian Roots of Science).  But Christians are to blame for the secularization of Western Civilization which happened because Christians failed to maintain the loving unity which is a mark of the Church of Jesus Christ, the one that most shows its beauty to the world.  After the “religious wars” following the Protestant Reformation (even though most of them can be shown to be largely politically motivated, using the religous turmoil following the Protestant Reformation as an excuse), Christianity was no longer seen as a unifying, stabilizing force in Europe (and its new colonies), and so it became increasingly marginalized and secularism gradually became dominant in Western Society.  How did this happen?  How did Christians start losing their loving unity even in great diversity and thus lose so much of the power of their witness to the world?  What can be done to turn it around for the sake of the Christian Church’s mission to the world Jesus loves?  What has been done that might reverse the process?  Here is an answer In Brief (3 paragraphs):

Vatican Council II’s dogmatic ecclesiology (doctrine of the Church) based on the lived reality of the Undivided First Millennium Church, as beautifully further clarified and developed in the Catholic/Orthodox Theological Dialogue since 1982, in the context of an official “Dialogue of Love” since 1958 (before Vatican II) between these two Christian Churches separated in the first “Great Schism” of Christianity which set the bad precedent and the bad tone (“unity equals uniformity“) for all the later Second Millennium Christian divisions (especially since the Protestant Reformation), gives the greatest hope for the healing of the first “Great Schism” of Christianity in our lifetime, setting the best precedent and the best tone (“unity in diversity is God’s plan for His Church”) for the healing of the very many later Christian divisions, mostly stemming from the Protestant Reformation.

Today’s Catholic Church Communion (with 26 Rites or Sister Churches or Patriarchates) and Eastern Orthodox Church Communion (with 16), nearly a thousand years after the 1054 “Great Schism” which separated these two oldest and largest of Christian Church Communions (though it took centuries, and Muslim conquest and interference, to solidify this East/West Schism by 1472), together are still today the majority of today’s Christians (the Anglican Communion and the 35,000 registered Protestant/Evangelical denominations stemming from the Protestant Reformation making up the rest).  Thus the future successful reunification, based on the fruitful Catholic/Orthodox Dialogue which predates and incorporates Vatican II ecclesiology, of these two Church Communions resulting from the first, “Great Schism” of the Undivided Early Church, would put nearly three quarters of all the world’s Christians back into one Christian Church Communion: a Catholic (universal) communion of Orthodox (non-heretical) Christian “Sister Churches” of East and West, which was the reality of the Undivided First Millennium Church. This reunified Catholic Communion of Orthodox Churches, according to Vatican II’s ecclesiology as clarified and developed in the Catholic/Orthodox Dialogue, would recognize that THE ONE CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST IS MEANT TO PROPERLY EXHIBIT GREAT UNITY IN CHRISTIAN FAITH AND LOVE WITHIN GREAT (AND MUTUALLY ENRICHING) DIVERSITY OF EXPRESSIONS (IN THEOLOGY, LANGUAGE, LITURGY, WORSHIP, DEVOTIONS AND PRACTICES) OF THAT ONE SAVING CHRISTIAN FAITH – and thus that the majority of the many differences between today’s divided Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant/Evangelical Christian Churches (which already share vast common faith) are of the kind which did not divide Christians in the First Millennium, but which were part of its unity in diversity, the whole greater than the sum of its Sister Churches, which only together were all they were meant by God to be, as when they all together (by pooling their different insights garnered from their different strengths) clarified and clearly articulated the fundamental tenets of orthodox Christianity against all the many heretical challenges of the First Millennium, at the early Ecumenical Councils.  In these Ecumenical (worldwide) Christian Councils, all of the Catholic (Universal) Christian Sister Churches of East and West – largely corresponding to the first five human cultures as renewed in Jesus, the Jewish, Syrian, Egyptian, Roman and Greek, centred at Jerusalem, Antioch, Alexandria, Rome, and Byzantium/Constantinople – shared together what each had developed theologically in its understanding of the Revelation of God in Jesus Christ and in saving personal relationship with Him, as handed down (Latin: traditio) (Greek: paradosis) within the faith communities founded by the Apostles who had personally introduced members of each culture to Jesus Christ.

This future reunified Catholic Communion of Orthodox Churches would define itself, in the terms of the official Catholic/Orthodox Dialogue, as a “unity in plurality” “unity in multiplicity” “a communion of communities” etc., wherein differences between the Sister Churches are expected and celebrated as part of God’s design for His Church, and any concept that “unity equals uniformity” is thus entirely foreign to God’s plan for His Church and to the lived reality of the Undivided Early Church.  It is that concept, sown by the Devil to divide Christ’s Church and so hamper its effectiveness in its mission to the world, that “unity equals uniformity,” which caused the first, “Great Schism” of Christianity.  The 1054 “Great Schism” literally happened over an issue as trivial as whether leavened or unleavened bread should be used for Holy Communion with Jesus in the Eucharist, even though each had been used by the different Sister Churches within the one Catholic/Universal Christian Communion of Orthodox Churches, in complete harmony, for many centuries before.  So the idea that “unity equals uniformity” led to the first “Great Schism” of Christianity, between the Roman and Byzantine (Greek) Sister Churches (and the Catholic and Orthodox Communions around them today), and to the very many further divisions of the Church afterwards. There are 35,000 churches today resulting from the Protestant Reformation which actually took the “unity equals uniformity” concept to the extreme that almost total like-mindedness and conformity of practice is necessary for Christian communion in one Christian church, completely against the mutually enriching unity in diversity of the Undivided Early Church and its Pentarchy of five different Eastern and Western Sister Churches or Patriarchates (Church Provinces) together making up one Universal (Greek katholikos) or Catholic Church of Jesus Christ (more Patriarchates formed later as mission churches planted by the Pentarchy grew into mature Christian Sister Churches in their own right).  Thus the rejection, in the Catholic/Orthodox Dialogue, of the concept of “unity equals uniformity,” replaced by the ideal of “unity in faith and love in mutually enriching diversity of expressions of that one saving faith,” a divinely desired and ordained “unity in diversity,” or “unity in multiplicity,” “unity in plurality, “communion of communities” etc., in the terms of the Joint Commission’s official Catholic/Orthodox Dialogue, will eventually (as the Catholic/Orthodox “Dialogue of Love” and Theological Dialogue continues) allow for the healing of the first Great Schism of Christianity in reunification, and will thus set the good precedent for further reunifications later, further healing of the later divisions within Christianity which happened, especially since the Protestant Reformation with its plethora of 35,000 divisions, by following the 1054 Great Schism’s bad precedent set by the Roman and Byzantine Patriarchates’ first falling for Satan’s lie that “unity equals uniformity.”

© 2012 Peter William John Baptiste SFO

Note:  The above 3 paragraphs were explicitly presented as “in brief.”  A more detailed essay, fleshing out the above assertions and predictions of forthcoming Christian unity according to Jesus’ prayer (how can the Father deny it?), will later be added here.  My Ph.D. (doctoral) thesis, provisionally entitled The History of the Catholic (Universal) Communion of Orthodox Christian Sister Churches of East and West (Commonly Called Simply the Catholic Church in the First Millennium): An Ecumenical Investigation of Unity in Diversity, will have much more detail to add when it is completed.  For now, a few thoughts:

Blessed Pope John Paul II suggested to the Eastern Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch Dimitrios that this first “Great Schism” between their Churches at the beginning of the Second Millennium set the bad precedent and the bad tone for the later schisms of the Second Christian Millennium, which began with this one “Great Schism” turning one Church into two and which has by today resulted in the utter fragmentation of Christianity into 35,000 distinct registered Christian denominations.  Blessed Pope John Paul II expressed the hope that since the Catholic/Orthodox schism set the bad precedent (and negative tone) for future schisms, so the healing of this schism has the hope of likewise setting a good precedent (and positive tone) for the future healing of the many later Second Millennium Christian divisions.

Because of both the Roman Patriarchate and the Byzantine (Greek) Patriarchate eventually subconsciously adopting the inappropriate (and culturally prejudiced) principle that “unity equals uniformity” (or, “there is only one proper or best way in which human beings should worship God”), against the unity in diversity of the First Millennium Church of the First Millennium Ecumenical (worldwide) Councils and its Pentarchy of the first five (very different) cultures renewed in Jesus, a disastrous and ultimately Satanic principle which resulted in the Great Schism which first formed two large Christian Church Communions out of one, the resulting Catholic Church Communion of (today) 26 Rites or Sister Churches or Patriarchates has historically been inappropriately dominated by the Roman Sister Church based in Rome, and the resulting Orthodox Church Communion of 16 Rites or Sister Churches or Patriarchates has historically been inappropriately dominated by the Byzantine Sister Church based in Constantinople.  Both the Roman and the Byzantine Sister Churches have many exceedingly beautiful and meaningful expressions of Christian faith in their different theologies, liturgies, devotional and worship forms and practices, which all should properly beautify the Catholic Communion of Orthodox Sister Churches, the wonderful diversity of which allows all the more people to be attracted to Christ through it (as the brutal pagan world became Christianized in the First Millennium because of this beautiful bouquet of different Christian Rites or Churches united in the Love of Jesus Christ).  But unfortunately, since subconsciously adopting the principle of “unity equals uniformity,” both the Roman and Byzantine Sister Churches in the past have insisted that even ancient non-Roman or non-Byzantine Churches within their spheres of communion (which were weakened by earlier Islamic conquest) alter or abandon their wholly legitimate historic Christian practice, which previously had beautifully enriched the Undivided Early Church.  The Byzantine Patriarchate insisted that all the Sister Churches within its Eastern Orthodox Communion adopt some form of the Byzantine Rite and liturgy, and the Roman Patriarchate in varying degrees at different times pressured the Eastern Rite Churches within its Catholic Communion to “Romanize” their practices – all very much against the character of the Undivided Early Church’s unity in diversity within its single Catholic Communion of Orthodox Churches.

Thankfully, the official Catholic/Orthodox dialogue has officially rejected the notion of “unity equals uniformity” which did so much damage to the unity of Christ’s Church in the Second Millennium.  Even the 1054 mutual excommunications of the Roman Pope and the Byzantine Patriarch which marked the beginning of the first “Great Schism” of Christianity were officially lifted and “consigned to oblivion” in 1965, by Pope Paul VI and Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras.  However, while some movements in the Christian Church are “bottom-up” or “grassroots” movements,  starting at the local level of the common believer (and which often take some time to “bubble up” to highest levels of Church organization), this wonderful rapprochement between the Catholic and Orthodox Churches, the two Church Communions which resulted from the first “Great Schism” of Christianity, has been largely a “top-down” movement, initiated by the highest level of each Church, which will take some time to “trickle down” to the “grassroots” level of the common believer of each Church.

The official Dialogue of Love between the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches began before Vatican Council II, in 1958, growing out of previous Christian brotherly love and friendship between the Eastern Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras and Blessed Pope John XXIII, who began the Second Vatican Council, before he was Pope, when he was the Papal Representative in Turkey where the Ecumenical Patriarch is located.  Vatican II began in the context of recent loving rapprochement between the Catholic and Orthodox Churches, which had already recognized that they were together one Church of Christ for over a thousand years and that they belonged together for the sake of Christ Jesus their Lord and the world He loves. Thus Vatican II was extremely ecumenically-minded, and its dogmatic ecclesiology intended to reflect the lived reality of the Undivided Early Church, when the Orthodox and Catholic Communions were one Church.  The official Theological Dialogue between the Catholic and Orthodox Church Communions began in 1982, in which the best and brightest of each Church’s theologians and other leaders have wonderfully and beautifully further clarified and developed the Ecclesiology of Communion, in a still-unfinished preparing the way for full communion which nevertheless has so far produced much good fruit (current Pope Benedict XVI, then Cardinal Ratzinger, was named on the Joint Catholic and Orthodox Commission’s original roster, and the Joint Commission still includes English Eastern Orthodox Bishop Timothy/Kallistos Ware, whose popular books have explained and introduced Eastern Orthodoxy to the English-speaking world).  Unfortunately, at the level of the common believer, even at the level the common local priest, there remains much ignorance that this official Dialogue of Love has even been going on since 1958, and few have actually read the beautiful official Joint Statement Documents of the JOINT COMMISSION FOR THE THEOLOGICAL DIALOGUE BETWEEN THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH AND THE ORTHODOX CHURCH. Sadly, there are some on both the Catholic and Orthodox sides who, usually ignorant but sometimes not, are in greater or lesser degree still in the grip of the old prejudices, a few even apparently unwilling to follow their leaders so as to grow in Christian love and understanding, who may even oppose the dialogue and its beautiful findings in support of Jesus’ prayer that we “may be one” being finally granted.  Since ignorance is the main problem that keeps Christ’s followers divided (thus serving the Devil’s interests), and since ignorance is the ususal source of prejudice of any kind (which shows the Devil’s influence), this Christian Unity in Diversity Central website and educational ministry of the Institute for Promoting the Gift of Truth exists to through education help to eliminate ignorance, and to help replace it with knowledge, and with love and truth “so that the world may believe” (John 17:21).  The Institute for Promoting the Gift of Truth exists to help all Christians think about Christian unity like the Undivided Early Church lived it, “turning the world upside down” (Acts 17:6), transforming the brutal ancient pagan world with the love of Jesus Christ.  This ministry exists to help educate Christians not only in the facts of the Early Church’s unity which strengthened its effectiveness in its mission to the whole world in the early centuries which bore the greatest fruit of massive conversions to Christ Jesus, but also to help educate Christians in the great love of Jesus Christ for His Bride, and very Body, the Church (see Ephesians 5:22-32), and for the entire world which Jesus wishes to see join His Bride and Body the Church and thus be saved.  We are all called by Jesus in the Bible to love our Christian brothers and sisters, and not unlovingly criticize and denigrate them as we have for 1000 years, specifically “so that the world may believe” (John 17:21) in Him through seeing our Christian family “love for one another”  (John 13:35).

For all of the wonderful theological work that has already been done towards Christian reunification, in the Catholic/Orthodox Dialogue and in other Ecumenical dialogues between divided Christians, to bear its full fruit, we Christians, Eastern and Western, Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant/Evangelical, have to come to truly DESIRE ultimate Christian REUNIFICATION (however long it takes to work out all the practical details) as our Beloved Jesus’ clearly expressed Will, and for the sake of our Mission (as His Body ) to the world He loves.  This ministry hopes to help enflame in the hearts of all Christians, the desire for the unity we all know Jesus prayed for and desired for us, specifically “so that the world may believe” in Him all the more easily and readily, because of the witness of our Christian “love for one another.”

Please note that Biblical Covenant Family Theology  is a way of “getting the most out of reading your Bible,” in fact, a way of “revolutionizing your Bible reading,” which explains well the unity in diversity nature of the Church as God’s intention for His Church from the very beginning, which together with Vatican II’s ecclesiology patterned after the model of the Undivided Early Church, as clarified and developed in the Catholic/Orthodox dialogue, makes a “Grand Synthesis” which is the subject of the vision of this website.  See the CATCH THE VISION tab.

© 2012 Peter William John Baptiste SFO

Demonstration of Just How Far Towards Reunification the Catholic and Orthodox Church Communions Have Come So Far

The following is a (slightly edited) excerpt from a 110 page paper I wrote for one of my doctoral courses, entitled Dialogues of Love:  Taking the Christian Obligation To Unity Seriously So That We “May Be One – So That The World May Believe” — A Review of the Modern Theological Dialogue Documents Involving the Christian Churches of the East.  This excerpt is part of my analysis of the most recent of several beautiful Joint Documents produced by the Joint International Commission for the Theological Dialogue Between the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church, the 2007 “Ravenna” document, entitled Ecclesiological and Canonical Consequences of the Sacramental Nature of the Church:  Ecclesial Communion, Conciliarity and Authority, but commonly cited simply as Ravenna, where the Joint Commission met to compose the document.

Over the 25 years  previous to Ravenna the Joint Commission had identified vast common faith between Catholics and Orthodox and a vast common agreement of the top theologians of both Churches regarding the nature and structure of the Church, that is, regarding ecclesiology.  The two Churches, mindful of their vast agreement already hammered out, and of their Christian obligation to be unified as Jesus wished, were finally ready to discuss in depth the topic of primacy in the Church, the primacy of the Pope being the single biggest difference (and really, the only substantial difference) between Catholic and Orthodox Christians.  Earlier in the document, the Joint Commission had identified and agreed that there are three levels of communion between individual Church communities and a corresponding three levels of the Church’s hierarchy of ordained overseership:  the local, the regional, and the universal, and that throughout Church history there has always been a (New Testament Greek) protos (plural:  protoi), that is, a “first” or “chief” ordained overseer (New Testament Greek episkopos, bishop or eparch), at each level.  The Catholic and Orthodox members of the Joint Commission state together:

“Primacy at all levels is a practice firmly grounded in the canonical tradition of the Church” and “the fact of primacy at the universal level is accepted by both East and West” (43).

[the excerpt from my analysis starts with this above quotation]

It is significant to note in this vein that the traditional papal triple-crowned bishop’s mitre represents the Pope being the protos (first or chief; Head) at all three levels of ecclesial (Church) communion the Joint Commission has here together identified: the Pope is the bishop of the local Church of Rome; the Pope is the regional Patriarch of the Roman Patriarchate, Head of the Roman “Sister Church” of all those who follow the Roman Rite (the specifically Roman cultural expression of and celebration of the Gospel); and the Pope (as Successor of Peter) is the protos (first or chief) of all the regional Patriarchs or otherwise-titled Heads (protoi) of Sister Churches or Rites or other regional groupings within the Catholic Christian Communion (of currently 26 Rites).  It is also very significant to note that the Eastern Orthodox members of the Joint Commission, representing all of the Churches in the Eastern Orthodox Christian Communion, do not even dispute that historically the Pope similarly served as the protos of all the Patriarchs and other regional protoi in the undivided First Millennium Church.

Rather (on the basis of the overwhelming historical evidence), they affirm together with the Catholic members in the Commission’s Joint Statement at Ravenna that

Both sides agree that this canonical taxis [order of honour in the Pentarchy: Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem] was recognised by all in the era of the undivided Church. Further, they agree that Rome, as the Church that “presides in love” according to the phrase of St Ignatius of Antioch (To the Romans, Prologue), occupied the first place in the taxis, and that the bishop of Rome was therefore the protos among the  patriarchs. (41)

Moreover, the Joint Commission agrees that

Conciliarity at the universal level, exercised in the ecumenical councils, implies an active role of the bishop of Rome, as protos of the bishops of the major sees, in the consensus of the assembled bishops. Although the bishop of Rome did not convene the ecumenical councils of the early centuries and never personally presided over them, he nevertheless was closely involved in the process of decision-making by the councils. (42)

These statements represent tremendous progress in Catholic/Orthodox relations regarding the basic understanding of the Roman primacy.  At least at the level of the less educated Orthodox laity, all manner of criticisms (even epithets) have been hurled at the papacy which they are out of communion with.  Here the best and brightest of all of Orthodoxy’s Sister Churches affirm unequivocally with the Roman Catholic side the Undivided First Millennium Church of East and West’s easily demonstrable history of the clear and active primacy of the Roman Pope within the all-important First Millennium Ecumenical Councils This great level of common agreement regarding even the Primacy of the Pope in Rome bodes extremely well for the long-term goal of Catholic-Orthodox reunification, even though both sides still “disagree, however, on the interpretation of the historical evidence from this era regarding the prerogatives of the bishop of Rome as protos, a matter that was already understood in different ways in the first millennium” (41).

This brings us to the conclusion of Ravenna, which has now set the stage for the Joint Commission to directly tackle the most difficult questions separating the Catholic and Orthodox Churches:

It remains for the question of the role of the bishop of Rome in the communion of all the  Churches to be studied in greater depth. What is the specific function of the bishop of the “first see” in an ecclesiology of koinonia and in view of what we have said on conciliarity and authority in the present text? How should the teaching of the first and second Vatican councils on the universal primacy be understood and lived in the light of the ecclesial practice of the first millennium? These are crucial questions for our dialogue and for our  hopes of restoring full communion between us. (45)  We, the members of the Joint International Commission for the Theological Dialogue between the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church, are convinced that the above statement on ecclesial communion, conciliarity and authority represents positive and significant progress in our dialogue, and that it provides a firm basis for future discussion of  the question of primacy at the universal level in the Church we can build upon the agreement already reached. (46)

I agree with the Joint Commission’s conviction and in fact in reviewing this document I am in awe at its accomplishment.  Despite the continuing disagreements, this very high level of agreement now reached, backed up as it is by such a thorough and beautiful common ecclesiology of communion (in full conformity with First Millennium Church history and Vatican II’s dogmatic ecclesiology), hammered out together over 25 years of Orthodox/Catholic theological dialogue since 1982, should put the remaining disagreement in a new and very fruitful framework: The Roman Catholic Church now understands that its Second Millennium lack of full respectfor non-Roman Rites and Sister Churches within its Catholic Communion, evidenced by its past level and manner of “Romanizing” dominance and interference in the internal, “regional-level” affairs of the Eastern Catholic Churches, rooted in the deficient “uniatism” approach to achieving Church unity, was inappropriate and violated the norms of the life of the Undivided First Millennium Church which it acknowledges as its proper model for reforms. Therefore the Roman Catholic Church already understands, thanks to this dialogue, that any future reunion with the Eastern Orthodox Churches according to Jesus’ clear will that “they be one” will have to involve the Roman Church treating all of its Sister Churches, those it is already in Universal/Catholic Christian Communion with now and the Eastern Orthodox then joining them, with the “fully equal dignity” Vatican II has already called Roman Catholics to recognize in the non-Roman Catholic Churches, forever giving up past temptations to “Romanize” other Churches in favour of celebrating the mutually-enriching “unity in multiplicity” (Munich Document) God intended for His Church (note here that the Balamand Document was not just an “interruption” of the planned sequence of dialogue; it served the whole dialogue by dealing directly and honestly and effectively with the Roman Church’s past failure in this respect – also implicitly bringing attention to the Byzantine Church’s similar (farther) past use of “uniatism,” inappropriately forcing non-Byzantine Churches within its Orthodox Communion to use the Byzantine Rite, back when Constantinople was as powerful as Rome, so that the Eastern/Byzantine Orthodox, in preparing for reunion, can also make sure they have the best attitudes for truly re-forming God’s Church in the way most pleasing to Him.).

Similarly, the Eastern Orthodox Church now understands that its Second Millennium lack of full respect for the universally active Roman Primacy was likewise inappropriate and violated the norms of the life of the Undivided First Millennium Church which it acknowledges as its proper model for reforms.  Therefore the Eastern Orthodox Church already understands, thanks to this dialogue, that any future reunion with the Catholic Churches according to Jesus’ clear will that “they be one” will have to involve the Eastern Orthodox Churches formally acknowledging and being in communion with an active universal Roman Primacy in some form.

Of course it is the exact proper nature of the papal prerogatives that are the remaining, and most daunting, matter for dialogue.  But this dialogue should now, after Ravenna, take place in the most fruitful framework possible: Even if they still think the current papal prerogatives go farther than warranted by the First Millennium life of the Church, not being in communion with the Roman Primacy at all has been no solution and is the cause of many of Eastern Orthodoxy’s problems; several Orthodox writers have noted that in reunion they do not want or need a merely symbolic Roman Primacy stripped of any active authority as protos (they already have that in the Ecumenical Patriarchate wherein the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople is “First Among Equals” – which does not solve their problems) – indeed, it is their lack of communion with a papacy active on the universal level which currently is what makes them most unlike the Undivided First Millennium Church Even though the papal dogmas, which the Eastern Orthodox are uncomfortable with because they fear the “Romanization” that happened to the Eastern Catholic Churches in the past, cannot be repealed, as long as the Roman Church really learns its lesson from this dialogue (and Vatican II’s own ecclesiology) about the utter inappropriateness of “uniatism” and “Romanizing” other Churches (that is, by not properly distinguishing between what is universally Catholic and what is particularly Roman, and then imposing its particularly Roman ways on non-Roman members of the Catholic Communion), and, having learned their lesson, really and fully implement a policy of recognizing and celebrating the “fully equal dignity” of all the Churches within the Catholic Communion, the lack of which currently is what makes them most unlike the Undivided First Millennium Church, then the reunified Orthodox will have little to fear, in their regional level Catholic Church Patriarchates governed by their regional protoi, the Patriarchs, from a Roman Primacy (even with many prerogatives) who is an active protos on the universal level (as they already agree the Pope of Rome in fact was in the First Millennium).

Remember that a great many of the pope’s prerogatives are actually properly Patriarchal, not universal, in nature, and the Pope already does not interfere in Patriarchal matters of the Eastern Catholic Sister Churches the way he does in the Roman Patriarchate of which he is also the Roman Patriarch.  Perhaps a clearer definition of just which of his prerogatives properly belong to his regional level office as protos, the Roman Patriarch (second crown on the papal tiara) and which properly belong to his universal level office as protos, the Pope and Successor of Peter (third crown on the papal tiara), should be the matter of much of the next discussions between the Catholic and Orthodox members of the Joint Commission for the Theological Dialogue between the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church.

[end of excerpt © 2012 Peter William John Baptiste SFO]

[a few more thoughts follow…]

The Joint Dialogue has progressed to the point that the primacy of the Pope as the universal-level protos,  “First” or “Chief” of all the regional-level protoi, the Patriarchs, has been acknowledged by the Orthodox side in the Ravenna Document (since it cannot be denied that historically the Pope held and exercised this primacy, and in fact it was integrally intertwined with all of the Ecumenical Councils, which depended on this primacy – click to see the Undivided First Millennium Church of East and West’s easily demonstrable history of the clear and active primacy of the Roman Pope within the all-important First Millennium Ecumenical Councils).  The “bottom line” of what remains to be sorted out by the official Catholic/Orthodox dialogue is just which of the Pope’s current prerogatives, even if they were not exercised in exactly the same way in the First Millennium of the Undivided Church,  may be legitimate developments of the Petrine office of the First Millennium, and which might be a “spillover” of the Pope’s Patriarchal prerogatives, which are certainly completely legitimate for him to exercise within his own Roman Patriarchate (some of the Eastern Orthodox Patriarchs exercise similarly immediate and detailed regular interventions within their own Patriarchates) — but which may not be properly part of the Pope’s duties as the Universal-level protos of the Patriarchs, seeing as the Pope did not exercise authority over the non-Roman Patriarchates in that manner during the First Millennium of Christian Unity.  I think that Vatican II’s Decree on the Eastern Catholic Churches (Orientalium Ecclesiarum, OE) provides a useful principle which already guides the Eastern Churches already within the Catholic Communion:

The patriarchs with their synods are the highest authority for all business of the patriarchate . . . without prejudice to the inalienable right of the Roman Pontiff to intervene in individual cases. (Vatican II, OE 9)

This establishes the norm for the Catholic Communion of 26 Eastern and Western Sister Churches or Rites, which reflects the Undivided First Millennium Church’s practice, that the Patriarchs (who usually have a “permanent synod” of bishops which meets occasionally) are the normal highest authority for any business which affects only their one Patriarchate.  It then ideally would be (and was in First Millennium history) extremely rare for the Pope to intervene in the internal affairs of other Patriarchates than his own Roman Patriarchate.  Matters concerning more than one Patriarchate, including disputes and Ecumenical Councils, are of course the purview of the Pope as Pope, as universal-level protos — and Canon Law since AD 343 (enshrined in the 7th Ecumenical Council) gave every bishop who was deposed for whatever reason, in any Patriarchate of the Church, the right to appeal his deposition to the judgement of the Roman Pope, as the successor of Peter (thus concern for all bishops is part of the Petrine office, according to Jesus’ unique commssion to Peter to “strengthen your brothers” – Luke 22:32).  The Eastern Orthodox in the official dialogue have acknowledged the primacy of the Pope because of the First Millennium precedent, but in that precedent the Pope only very rarely intervened in matters outside of his Roman Patriarchate, and clearly for their comfort the Eastern Orthodox would prefer to keep it that way in a reunion.  Eastern Catholics already in Communion with the Pope have, on the other hand, become used to, and in some cases even desire, more direct Papal involvement than was common in the First Millennium (still much less than in the Roman Rite), but this is at least in part because of modern travel and telecommunications making it much easier for the Pope to be involved with his whole universal flock and not just always attending to his “own backyard”, his own Roman Patriarchate.  Thus surely in the modern age one would expect a higher level of papal involvement with the non-Roman Sister Churches, though this may mainly pertain to fatherly pastoral visits and messages and not often to the exercise of authority or decision-making affecting non-Roman Patriarchates, since Vatican II confirms “The patriarchs with their synods are the highest authority for all business of the patriarchate,” even though the Pope as universal-level protos and Successor of Peter has the ability “to intervene in individual cases.”  What will have to be done in the official Joint Dialogue is to sort out just which of the prerogatives the Pope currently in fact exercises – with respect to Roman Catholics and especially with respect to Eastern Catholics – properly belong to his Papal responsibilities, and which properly belong to his Patriarchal responsibilities for the Roman Sister Church and which therefore may not be the most appropriate for him to exercise over the Eastern Sister Churches, at least not as a regular and normal thing, since “the [Eastern] patriarchs with their synods are the highest authority for all business of the [Eastern] patriarchate[s]” and  his universal and immediate jurisdiction is to “intervene in individual cases,” which would not be normal or regular interventions (unless perhaps another Patriarchate desires and requests his more regular involvement in certain matters).  In any case, this next part of the dialogue will require Roman Catholics to get used to thinking about their Church on the Universal level (the Catholic Church) and on the Regional level (the Roman Rite or the Roman Catholic Church) without confusing them, and start making the proper distinctions between the local, regional, and universal levels, which have always been part of the Church’s communion.


[a related musing…]

Note here, in this vein, that the only reason many if not most Catholic Christians (most being specifically Roman Catholic Christians) still regularly confuse the terms “Catholic” and “Roman Catholic” as if they were wholly interchangeable is because after the Great Schism and the Muslim conquests of the Catholic East the Catholic Church became a Church Communion with a vast majority of specifically Roman Catholic members (whereas in the First Millennium Church only 1/4 of all Catholics were Roman Catholics, the others belonging to the other 4 Patriarchates within the ancient Pentarchy).  But in fact the Catholic Church is a Communion of orthodox Christian Patriarchates or Sister Churches or Rites gathered around the Successor of Peter, which includes the Roman Catholic Church as one, currently by far the largest, of its 26 Rites, one of its many particular Sister Churches or Rites.  It is only because the Apostle Peter died in Rome that the succession of his universal overseership is located in Rome:  if Peter had stayed in Antioch where he founded a Church, and died there, the Bishop of Antioch would be the Pope, not the Bishop of Rome, and all Roman Catholics would still have a Roman Patriarch, but not one who had a “third crown” office as Pope (it would be the Antiochian Catholics who would then get confused about when the Pope is acting as universal Pope and when he is acting as regional Patriarch!).  However, with the membership of the Catholic Church for so long unnaturally being mostly of only one Sister Church within the Catholic Communion (thanks mostly to Muslim conquest of and interference with the Catholic East), most Roman Catholics for so long having little if any contact with Catholic Christians who were not Roman Catholic Christians, it is perhaps understandable that Roman Catholic Christians eventually lost all sense of the distinctions between the Pope’s office as Roman Patriarch (2nd Crown on the Papal Tiara) and his office as Successor of Peter and holder of the keys Jesus gave to Peter (3rd Crown on the Papal Tiara)It is understandably confusing, since one man in Rome holds all three offices, represented by the triple-crowned bishop’s mitre known as the Papal Tiara (his 1st Crown office as local bishop of the city of Rome being ususally overlooked).

But it will be absolutely vital for Church reunification that all Roman Catholics come to REALLY UNDERSTAND the differences between the high Church offices of local Bishop, regional Patriarch, and universal Pope.  Very likely the next stage of the Catholic/Orthodox dialogue will involve sorting out exactly which of the current papal prerogatives involve him acting as Pope of the entire Catholic Communion, and which involve him acting as Patriarch of the Roman Rite of the Catholic Communion.  The Eastern Orthodox have concerns that some of the Pope’s current prerogatives, developed in the Second Millennium when most Catholics were Roman Catholics, go beyond the Pope’s universal prerogatives as exercised in the First Millennium of the Undivided Church, but it may possibly be found that some of these functions are developments within the Roman Patriarchate and not part of the Pope’s universal office as universal-level protos at all.  Certainly anything to do with liturgy, canon law, or other regulations specifying norms for worship within the Roman Rite are regional, Patriarchal matters, not Papal, and each Patriarch within the Catholic Communion (and within the Orthodox Communion) normally looks after such matters for their own particular (non-Roman) Rite (as Vatican II’s OE 9 affirms for the Catholic side.  Canon 1 of the Code of Canon Law specifies its contents are for the Roman Church only, and the Eastern Catholic Churches have their own Eastern Code of Canon Law).  Thus it might be said the majority of the things the Pope does when he exercises authority, he does as Roman Patriarch, affecting only the Roman Rite, and not in his universal office as Pope (even though he is understood to have an immediate jurisdiction throughout all the Rites of the Church and not just the Roman, historically the Pope only rarely exercises it outside his own Roman Patriarchate.  Though the Pope may regularly be in his person a symbol of the universality of the Catholic Church, and all Catholic Christians of all 26 Rites or Sister Churches (25 non-Roman Rites) pray for him and may come to visit him in Rome as such, and he so prays for and may visit them, he only rarely exercises authority in his “3rd Crown” capacity as the universal-level Protos, the Pope.  Certainly the rare functions of ratifying an Ecumenical Council or defining a dogma (a very rarely used Papal prerogative) are among these truly universal or Papal (and not just Patriarchal) matters. *

© 2012 Peter William John Baptiste SFO

* As a final musing . . . The latter being one some on the Orthodox side may be inclined to dispute, within the ongoing brotherly dialogue, though Eastern Catholic Christians like myself might, in the spirit of that loving dialogue, point out that the doctrine of Papal infallibility, potentially independent of an Ecumenical Council, was at least implied as early as the 517 AD Creed of Pope Saint Hormisdas, which was signed by many Eastern Patriarchs and Emperors in the centuries before its papal formula was dogmatized at the 869 AD 8th Ecumenical Council.  Even Byzantine Patriarch Photius, who caused a brief East/West schism ended by that Council while not legitimately holding his office because the Emperor had deposed his predecessor (who had appealed his deposition to the Pope according to the Canons of the 7th Ecumenical Council), was later reinstated as the legitimate Patriarch of Constantinople in full Communion with the Roman Pope, the condition in which he died (Photius caused a brief schism but he died an Eastern Catholic).  It is also worthy of note that the First Ecumenical Council, because it was the first, had no universally recognized authority to end the Arian heresy and there were more Arian heretics after the Council than before.  Ecumenical Councils as an authoritative and infallible institution of the Church only became recognized as such with the endorsement of the much older Papal authority of the Successor of Peter in Rome.  For more details see The Papacy’s Solid Foundation in Undivided Early Church History Since Apostolic Times:  The Papacy’s Long and Wide Acceptance in the East Before the 2nd Millennium Schism of the Largest Portions of the Eastern Orthodox and Catholic Churches from the Catholic (Universal) Christian Communion of Orthodox Eastern and Western Catholic Sister Churches Collectively known as the Catholic Church.