I am an Orthodox inquirer. As I "work out my salvation in fear and trembling" I keep bouncing back and forth from East to West in terms of a sense for who was right and who was wrong--so to speak.
Fr. Brian W. Harrison's article, Why I Didn’t Convert to Eastern Orthodoxy (http://tinyurl.com/lgydg4), makes a good point that has given me reasonable doubt about certain claims of the Easter Orthodox faith.
The gist of his argument is based around the two councils which attempted re-uniting the two churches. In both cases, the EO representatives at the councils agreed to re-unite. But in both cases, the councils were rejected by the EO at large. Therefore, the councils were rejected.
Fr. Brian's point is summed up in what he calls in his article, Proposition 4:
"Christians can come to know with certainty what is true doctrine by recognizing the solemn doctrinal decisions of those councils which are not only papally confirmed as ecumenical, but which are also subsequently accepted as such by the whole community of those Christians who adhere to true doctrine."
His point, of course, is that this is a circular proposition. As it is written I would say it is circular, but my questions are:
- Is Proposition 4 accurate in its characterization of the EO position? Why/why not, etc.
- How would you then respond to Fr. Brian's argument?
The Church is not bound by robber councils.
Of course his proposition 4 is inaccurate. The acceptance of a Council by the Pope of Rome carries no more meaning than its acceptance by the other patriarchates. The Second Council was held without a representative of the Pope (something impossible, according to Vatican II), and the Fifth Council was held over the Pope of Rome's explicit objection. The Pope of Rome, along with the Orthodox, accepted Constantinople IV (879) which annulled the council of 869. It was only after the pope of Rome got involved in his own investiture controversy that he flipped on Constantinople IV 400+ years later.
The Council of Siena was convened by the pope as the previous "ecumenical" councils required, and even led to the robber council of Florence. Yet since it confirmed the limits on the pope's power at the Councils of Constance (still accepted by the Vatican) and Pisa (since repudiated), it was later repudiated.
Most of the Councils, except the Second, Third and Fifth perhaps, were tested by fire: St. Athanasius contra mundi was exiled by the emperors several times over Nicea. The emperors went back and forth over Chalcedon, alternating between persecussion and support. The Sixth dealt with the emperors own state enforced heresy, as did the Seventh (whose Triumph of Orthodoxy did not come until another period of persecusion after the Council). The only representatives of the East at the "councils" of Lyons and Florence were the ones that the emperor could strong arm to be dragged to them in the West. The delegation to Florence had St. Mark to refute it, and those who signed did so with the stipulation that their signatures would have to be validated at council specifically held in the East (i.e. not in the heartland of Ultramontanism: Pope Nicholas of Rome's came from Florence), where their Faithful (who already had announced their adamament opposition) could counter the power of the emperor.
It never ceases to amaze me the selective condemnation by the Vatican's apologists over alleged "Caesaro-Papism" and erastianism. State power in the service of Ultramontanism is good, in the service of Orthodoxy it's bad. Does that include Constantine and Nicea I? Theodosius I and Constantinople I? Pulcheiria and Ephesus and Chalcedon? Justinian and Constantinople II? Constantine IV and Constantinople III? The Empresses Irene and Theodora over the icons?
His argument for the papacy is vitiated by the exsistence of "anti-popes," many so declared ex post facto. In the Great Western Schim, the followers of the Vatican were plunged into not knowing "Who's the pope?" for a generation. The official list of popes at the Vatican has been "edited" a la Winston Smith: some of the more honest ones will point out that the numbering of some names is off because of the anti-pope problem. (some Vatican apologists try to make the claim that none of these popes made ex cathedra statements, but then there is the problem that a) no one seems to agree on what ex cathedra statements were made before 1870, leading to conflicting tautologies and b) the succession of pope nullifying and voiding the papacies of his predecessors surrounding the Cadaver Synodhttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cadaver_Synod
muddles any claim that depends on a seamless chain from St. Peter to the present supreme pontiff. Then there is that problem of Pope Leo III, who forbade the recitation of the Creed with the filioque (ordering that the Nicene creed be engraved on silver tablets and put on the doors of St. Peter's and St. Paul's outside-the-walls, so that his conclusion might not be overturned in the future, inscribing underneath «HAEC LEO POSUI AMORE ET CAUTELA ORTHODOXAE FIDEI» (I, Leo, put here for love and protection of the Orthodox faith)(VITA LEONIS, LIBER PONTIFICALIS (Ed.Duchene, TII, p.26)), while Leo IX sent Umbert to impose it on the Church. Which is right? Btw, it was inserted by Pope Benedict VII on order of the Emperor Henry, payback for him deposing the "anti-pope" Gregory VI by force of arms.
His arguement "Not Quite Catholic" also rings hollow: the mass return of those in submission to the Vatican in this country occured because the Latin bishops could not and would not tolerate Easterners. St. Alexis had been married, but when this canonist came to Arb. Ireland, the Father of American Orthodoxy
, telling him that his wife and son were deceased (and thus no occasion for "scandal"), he was still rejected. Married priests are only for luring the Orthodox in Orthodox countries, a ban that I believe is still officially on the books.
The dear father brings up the medieval past, but skips over the frightful battles over that "font of unity" the throne of Peter, which the Great Western Schismhttp://wps.ablongman.com/wps/media/objects/262/268312/art/figures/KISH219.jpghttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Western_Schism
was but one example, which led to the fragmentation of Western Christendom in the Reformation and Counterreformation. Which brings up a point that the Vatican apologists can't answer: if we left the Church over twice as long ago as their Protestant siblings, why is the East also not so fragmented? How is it that the divide between the Chalcedonian and Non-Chalcedonians, three times as old as the internal splintering of the Vatican's patriarchate, is not as deep as the chasm between the Orthodox and the Vatican, nor the Vatican and its Protestant progeny?
He also fails to explain how, since we have no "center," we all still recognize the same Councils: even those who do not recognize Constantonple IV and V as Ecumenical, still accept them as valid and Orthodox. Constantinople IV not being ecumenical is especially problematic for his point 1: it was convened before the schism of 1054, and if V is ecumenical, it was convened after the schism. All its decisions-on the theology of St. Gregory Palamas, memorated every Great Lent-are accepted by all Orthodox. Even the OO express approval. Has anyone who hasn't already bought the Vatican line, expressed approval of its 'ecumenical in Rome' councils?
And all the eleborate preparations going on for the "Great and Holy Council" belie his claim that we can't hold one. It is not our fault that the Western Patriarchate has been so mired in heresy that it has to convene so often to deal with it.
The biggest problem for Fr.'s characterization is that the Orthodox system works. Pisa, Vienne, Siena, Vatican II etc. show that the Vatican system does not.