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Author Topic: Synod of Whitby and Petrine/Papal Authority  (Read 585 times) Average Rating: 0
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Nephi
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« on: November 01, 2012, 05:43:02 PM »

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Bishop Colmán argued the Ionan calculation of Easter on the following grounds that it was the practice of Columba, founder of their monastic network and a saint of unquestionable holiness, who himself had followed the tradition of St. John the apostle and evangelist. Wilfrid argued the Roman position on the following grounds (according to Bede's narrative):

1)it was the practice in Rome, where the apostles SS. Peter and Paul had “lived, taught, suffered, and are buried”;
2)it was the universal practice of the Church, even as far as Egypt;
3)the customs of the apostle John were particular to the needs of his community and his age and, since then, the Council of Nicaea had established a different practice;
4)Columba had done the best he could considering his knowledge, and thus his irregular practice is excusable, but the Ionan monks at present did not have the excuse of ignorance; and
5)whatever the case, no one has authority over Peter (and thus his successors, the Bishops of Rome).

Oswiu then asked both sides if they agreed that Peter had been given the keys to the kingdom of heaven by Christ and pronounced to be “the rock” on which the Church would be built, to which they agreed. Oswiu then declared his judgment in favor of the holder of the keys, i.e. the Roman (and Petrine) practice.

From: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Synod_of_Whitby

Does anyone know any more about this topic, and how this fits into the Orthodox view of papal development?

Thanks!
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« Reply #1 on: November 01, 2012, 07:29:55 PM »

Whitby is an unfortunate episode in Christian history, but it was a local council and there were saints on both sides. Petrine/papal authority, in a spiritual sense, is an ancient theme in the West. It doesn't contradict Orthodoxy until it goes against the holy canons of the ecumenical councils and creates innovations.
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« Reply #2 on: November 01, 2012, 07:32:58 PM »

It's also interesting that, at the time, in Ireland itself, the Romano-Constantinopolitan paschalion was already being adopted. The Celtic monks from Iona, Scotland, and Britain were following an older paschalion and kept it out of traditional conservatism--it was what they received from the apostles to Britain, and probably from St. John the Evangelist, IIRC. St. John was highly revered in the British Isles as a kind of founder.
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« Reply #3 on: November 01, 2012, 11:38:04 PM »

You can find St. Bede's actual account here http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/basis/bede-book3.asp in Chapter XXV.

Whitby was not actually a local council, at least not in the sense that we normally think of that term. King Oswy of Northumbria found himself with two jurisdictions in his kingdom--one an extension of the Irish Church coming in from the North and the other an extension of the Roman mission that had started in southern England and was now growing northwards. Unlike those of us living in modern secular democracies, Oswy didn't need to put up with parallel jurisdictions. Instead, he summoned the clergy from both sides to determine which was going to be the official church in his kingdom. The 'synod' was not really a council because at a council, bishops deliberate and come to a consensus judgment. At Whitby, the clergy staged a debate and at the end it was the king, not the bishops, that made the decision that he was going to go with the Roman mission (and its traditions). St. Bede (himself a member of Roman mission) claims that "all assented" to the king's decision--but then at the start of the next chapter, immediately following this declaration, he admits that a number of the Irish clergy, including St. (and bishop) Colman who had been the primary representative for the Irish tradition at the synod, were unwilling to be absorbed into the Roman mission and adopt its traditions and so withdrew back to Scotland.

As far as the Orthodox view of papal development, Whitby was an important and unfortunate landmark. It appears to be the very first time that the argument "because the Pope said so" appears to have swayed anybody (in this case King Oswy) to actually change their position. It's also an early example of the Roman approach that starts with "St. Peter had thus and such prerogatives" and then leaps to "so therefore so does the bishop of Rome" without any attempt to justify the leap--its not an approach that ever got much traction in the East where lots of Churches (and not just the Patriarchates) could trace their succession directly back to the Apostles but on the edge of the known world, it convinced a convert king and Roman patriots have been using it ever since.

As a final note, remember that when the English looked to Rome as their 'Mother Church' it was quite literally true in a way that even the fiercest Orthodox critic of the Papacy would agree with. It was Pope St. Gregory who personally selected the missionaries and ordained the first bishop (St. Augustine) who brought Christianity to southern England and provided all their initial support. These days, we know that if St. Gregory hadn't done so, the Irish Church probably would have eventually missionized England (as they were doing Scotland about the time the Roman missionaries arrived in the south), but for the contemporary English, it was very clearly Rome that had brought them the Gospel and they were appropriately grateful and loyal to their parent in Christ.
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« Reply #4 on: November 03, 2012, 10:31:36 PM »

You can find St. Bede's actual account here http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/basis/bede-book3.asp in Chapter XXV.

Whitby was not actually a local council, at least not in the sense that we normally think of that term. King Oswy of Northumbria found himself with two jurisdictions in his kingdom--one an extension of the Irish Church coming in from the North and the other an extension of the Roman mission that had started in southern England and was now growing northwards. Unlike those of us living in modern secular democracies, Oswy didn't need to put up with parallel jurisdictions. Instead, he summoned the clergy from both sides to determine which was going to be the official church in his kingdom. The 'synod' was not really a council because at a council, bishops deliberate and come to a consensus judgment. At Whitby, the clergy staged a debate and at the end it was the king, not the bishops, that made the decision that he was going to go with the Roman mission (and its traditions). St. Bede (himself a member of Roman mission) claims that "all assented" to the king's decision--but then at the start of the next chapter, immediately following this declaration, he admits that a number of the Irish clergy, including St. (and bishop) Colman who had been the primary representative for the Irish tradition at the synod, were unwilling to be absorbed into the Roman mission and adopt its traditions and so withdrew back to Scotland.

As far as the Orthodox view of papal development, Whitby was an important and unfortunate landmark. It appears to be the very first time that the argument "because the Pope said so" appears to have swayed anybody (in this case King Oswy) to actually change their position. It's also an early example of the Roman approach that starts with "St. Peter had thus and such prerogatives" and then leaps to "so therefore so does the bishop of Rome" without any attempt to justify the leap--its not an approach that ever got much traction in the East where lots of Churches (and not just the Patriarchates) could trace their succession directly back to the Apostles but on the edge of the known world, it convinced a convert king and Roman patriots have been using it ever since.

As a final note, remember that when the English looked to Rome as their 'Mother Church' it was quite literally true in a way that even the fiercest Orthodox critic of the Papacy would agree with. It was Pope St. Gregory who personally selected the missionaries and ordained the first bishop (St. Augustine) who brought Christianity to southern England and provided all their initial support. These days, we know that if St. Gregory hadn't done so, the Irish Church probably would have eventually missionized England (as they were doing Scotland about the time the Roman missionaries arrived in the south), but for the contemporary English, it was very clearly Rome that had brought them the Gospel and they were appropriately grateful and loyal to their parent in Christ.

Very interesting indeed. Thank you for thoroughly explaining and the link. Smiley I'll definitely have to learn more about the history of the Church in the British Isles - I often forget that's even a part of my heritage.

One somewhat related question: the Irish Church being referred to, is this the same church that Rome approved armies against to depose its anti-papal leadership in the 11th century?

It's also interesting that, at the time, in Ireland itself, the Romano-Constantinopolitan paschalion was already being adopted. The Celtic monks from Iona, Scotland, and Britain were following an older paschalion and kept it out of traditional conservatism--it was what they received from the apostles to Britain, and probably from St. John the Evangelist, IIRC. St. John was highly revered in the British Isles as a kind of founder.

Interesting. So was the Irish Church independent or was it under an Eastern authority? Either way, it's strange because I always thought that the Pope was the "Bishop of Rome and all the West" or something along those lines.
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« Reply #5 on: November 03, 2012, 11:50:15 PM »

Nephi, could you please give some more information about what you're referring to with

Quote
Irish Church being referred to, is this the same church that Rome approved armies against to depose its anti-papal leadership in the 11th century?

That would have been the 1000s and that doesn't sound familiar.  Could you be meaning the late 12th century (around the 1170s)?

As to Christianity in Ireland in the early centuries, it was not under any "Eastern Authority". Consider the distances involved and the difficulty of travel at the time.  St. Patrick was Romano-British and was in Ireland in the 5th century as was St. Palladius who was sent to Ireland, according to accounts, by Pope Celestine I. 

There were different practices that developed in various areas that did come into conflict at times, such as how to calculate Lent and Easter.

Christianity in Ireland was Celtic but from the west/Rome.  It was seperate from Rome in some ways because it was seperate (Islands/travel etc) and pretty remote.

Ebor
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« Reply #6 on: November 03, 2012, 11:57:21 PM »

Roman/papal authority was pretty much spiritual/moral until the 11th century. It took centuries to consolidate and centralize power in a patriarch as large, diverse, and barbarian as that of Rome. Rome was always repsected in the West, but the local Western churches did not always follow whatever Rome told them to do, believing (rightly) that there was no precedent or authority for this.

The papal-backed crusade against the Irish Church and people is pretty abhorrent, but exists as one chapter in the story of using state power for papal ends.
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« Reply #7 on: November 05, 2012, 01:36:56 PM »

Interesting. So was the Irish Church independent or was it under an Eastern authority? Either way, it's strange because I always thought that the Pope was the "Bishop of Rome and all the West" or something along those lines.
-

The Irish Church was independent. The thing to be bear in mind with regards to "all the West" is that the Patriarchates (including the Roman one) were actually a later development. The earliest Church structure above the level of the individual bishop (reflected in both the Apostolic canons and the canons of Nicea) was at the provincial level. The bishops of each Roman province formed a local synod under the chairmanship of the bishop of the provincial capital (the Metropolitan)--in modern terms, each province was an 'autocephalous Church'. Thus when St. Cyprian, as bishop of Carthage and thus Metropolitan of North Africa, got into into a dispute with St. Stephen, bishop of Rome, in the 3rd century, it was a case of a dispute between equals rather a rebellion by a subordinate bishop against his Patriarch (which is why St. Stephen threatened to break communion with the North Africans rather than deposing and replacing their bishops).

Due to their prestige, size, and all-around importance (in both civil and religious terms), Rome, Alexandria and Antioch were always special cases, but early on this prominence consisted more of informal influence than actual authority. At the time of Nicea, Alexandria was 'Metropolitan' to 3 provinces rather than one and Rome was Metropolitan for all the provinces of Southern Italy, but their formal authority (to approve bishops, to call synods, etc) did not extend beyond this. Over the following centuries, a number of different factors resulted in two more cities (Constantinople and Jerusalem) being added to their number and the formal authority of each of these archbishops expanding to incorporate more and more of the previously independent provinces, until by the late Council period we have the Pentarchy where most of Christendom fell under the direct jurisdiction of one of  the five great Archbishoprics (by now being called Patriarchates).

A case in point is the province/island/Church of Cyprus which the Patriarchate of Antioch tried to absorb in the 4th century. Fortunately (from the Cypriot's point of view), this attempt coincided with the calling of the 3rd Ecumenical Council, a  council at which Antioch was in a relatively weak position. Cyprus was thus able to get an Ecumenical Council to affirm  their autocephaly so that even at the height of the Pentarchy, Cyprus remained an independent Church.

Ireland was like Cyprus in being a relic of the earlier period. Ireland received its Christianity primarly from Roman Britain, Gaul, and a Roman missionary or two. But it did so at at a time when the far Western Roman provinces were themselves independent Churches (before they had come under the direct jurisdiction of Rome). Between it's placement on the far edge of the known world and the fact that it was never politically joined to Rome or the Holy Roman Empire, Ireland was basically the last part of the West to be absorbed into the "Patriarchate of the West" as a formal matter (and yes, this does tie to Roman sanction of Norman conquests in Ireland in the 12th century).
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« Reply #8 on: November 05, 2012, 05:41:08 PM »

Witega,

What was the church structure like in Ireland? I've heard about abbots having more power than bishops or being bishops in effect. What was the structure after St. Patrick? And was there a time when the chief bishop of Ireland received a pallium from Rome?
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« Reply #9 on: November 05, 2012, 09:41:45 PM »

FWIW, Bede tells of one of the early archbishops of the Celtic lands being imported from the Christian east (or maybe just Alexandria, it's been a while since I read it), but he notes with some smugness that the bishop in question had to be trained the proper western forms on the continent before they let him into the Isles.
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« Reply #10 on: November 06, 2012, 03:20:26 PM »

FWIW, Bede tells of one of the early archbishops of the Celtic lands being imported from the Christian east (or maybe just Alexandria, it's been a while since I read it), but he notes with some smugness that the bishop in question had to be trained the proper western forms on the continent before they let him into the Isles.

You are thinking of St. Theodore of Tarsus, but he wasn't in the Celtic lands. He was ordained as Archbishop of Canterbury (and thus head of the English Church started by St. Augustine of Canterbury) by Pope Vitalian (largely because the English candidate for the position had died while on his way to Rome). He was a Greek from Cilicia but was living as a monk in Rome at the time he was selected:

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There was at that time in Rome, a monk, called Theodore, well known to Hadrian, born at Tarsus in Cilicia, a man well instructed in worldly and Divine literature, as also in Greek and Latin; of known probity of life, and venerable for age, being sixty-six years old. Hadrian offered him to the pope to be ordained bishop, and prevailed; but upon these conditions, that he should conduct him into Britain, because he had already travelled through France twice upon several occasions, and was, therefore, better acquainted with the way, and was, moreover, sufficiently provided with men of his own; as also that being his fellow labourer in doctrine, he might take special care that Theodore should not, according to the custom of the Greeks, introduce anything contrary to the true faith into the church where he presided. Hadrian, being ordained sub­deacon, waited four months for his hair to grow, that it might be shorn into the shape of a crown; for he had before the tonsure of St. Paul, the apostle, after the manner of the eastern people. He was ordained by Pope Vitalian, in the year of our Lord 668, on Sunday, the 26th of March, and on the 27th of May was sent with Hadrian into Britain.

-St. Bede's Ecclesiastical History of the English Nation Book IV.1
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« Reply #11 on: November 06, 2012, 03:35:06 PM »

Witega,

What was the church structure like in Ireland? I've heard about abbots having more power than bishops or being bishops in effect. What was the structure after St. Patrick? And was there a time when the chief bishop of Ireland received a pallium from Rome?

The church in Ireland was thoroughly decentralized. Ireland had no urban centers like the ones that normally formed the seat of a bishop anywhere in the Roman (or former Roman) Empire, so church life was generally organized around monasteries rather than cathedrals. As far as I can tell, the idea that abbots were 'more powerful' than bishops is largely an exaggeration by those who want to emphasize the distinct nature of 'Celtic Christianity' whereas it's more a case of the Irish simply tending to blur the two positions. However, it is true that the Irish had a strong 'cult of Eldership', similar to what we see in certain circles in Orthodoxy today, such that a revered and/or charismatic elder could possess more personal influence than a bishop even if he lacked the formal authority.

Due to their decentralization, the Irish never seem to have had a 'chief bishop'. Flocks were small and with ecclesiatical life all centered in monastic communities, they got along on a localized basis with the occasional council meeting when one was needed. I'm not aware of any instance of a pallium being sent to anyone in Ireland in the first millennium, but I can't claim to have exhaustive knowledge on the matter so I could well be overlooking such an instance.
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