For those readers interest, the following is a continued dialogue between Erick Ybarra and I over the merits of an article I wrote, “Common Sense Arguments Against Roman Catholicism.” This article is my interaction with Erick’s latest reply. (Link)

I understand we want to stay in the 9th-century, but Craig’s “common sense” argument involves the claim that Popes Leo III and John VIII both uttered, ex-cathedra, that the Creed of Nicaea and Constantinople is irreformable on the basis of faith, and so we have to examine what Catholics mean by the Pope’s infallible teaching ministry on faith. The conditions laid down at the 1st Vatican Council state that the Pope must be (1) exercising his universal office of shepherd and teacher of all Christians, (2) by virtue of his supreme authority, with the intent to (3) define a doctrine concerning faith & morals , and this to be (4) held by the entire Church.

Without conceding that the early Popes had the later Vatican I view of infallibiltiy, I do think the following addresses all of Erick’s points:

(1) It would seem to be fulfilled because the Popes were speaking in response to, or in, councils. A council being local is not reason to say a Papal response is irrelevant to infallibility, because the Pope is being appealed to over and against the council–if we do not accept this, then the only infallible statements we can be sure of are in reference to ecumenical councils specifically, which we have anyway with Pope John VIII who’s letters were addressed to, and then written pertaining to the acceptance of, an ecumenical council. On that note, it would be strange for Pope Leo III to address the existence of ecumenical councils and pass comment on what he cannot do about their creedal statements and for this to somehow not be a statement of ecumenical importance, and therefore infallible, in scope.

(2) Is the default position when a Pope is being appealed to for a decision on a matter of faith and morals, especially when it is in reference to a debate, in my opinion.

(3) The Popes in question claimed to be addressing an issue of faith and morals.

(4) Due to ecumenical councils being addressed or responded to, it seems reasonable to take their statements as something the whole Church must adhere to, presuming upon Papal Infallibility.

Erick then claims that when Pope John VIII accepted Constantinople IV (879-880), he did so allowing for the Filioque, due to it existing during the fifth century:

…even in there, the preface to the horos appears to almost allow an exception to itself, rendering fitting to the reality of creedal development understood in the 5th-century…[quotes council] “adding nothing, falsifying nothing; for subtraction and addition, when no heresy is stirred up by the ingenious fabrications of the evil one…”

However, I think such an “appearance” may be in the eye of the beholder. If we know from several pieces of correspondence that Pope John VIII did not accept the addition of the Filioque into the Creed, then what Erick emphasizes does not leave the proverbial door open for the Filioque. Furthermore, to “almost” allow an exception belies that there is, in fact, no exception! Additionally, historical context absolutely demands that the words therein are definitely not allowing for the Filioque. The whole controversy was obviously over its addition and the Creed is then quoted without it. This is extremely telling, as this shows that the issue with the Filioque was considered a closed case, something Erick to an extent concedes in his response.

In short, the embolden cannot be taken to be about the past addition of the Filioque, but about any unknown future heresies after the year 880 that might need additional Creedal elaboration. This would be a continuation of ancient practice, such as when Constantinople I devised a Creed to replace the Nicene one to address Macedonianism. New Creeds are also possible, as John I of Antioch formed a Creed that was accepted by Saint Cyril of Alexandria in order to secure Antioch’s acceptance of the Council of Ephesus.

On this topic, Erick writes:

They may have all thought Filioque was heretical, but by refraining from inserting this explicitly into the decree, and choosing rather to make a broad prohibition, they left that precise question open.

This is a half truth, however. The issue was left open inasmuch if there was some future heresy after 880 AD that required elaboration, I cannot say it is impossible that a certain terminology perhaps matching the Filioque may be legitimately employed (I am of course presuming it has a legitimate interpretation not pertaining to the Spirit’s eternal causation being directly contingent upon the Son.)

For example, the Council of Blachernae (1285) did the inverse, disallowing for the rendering of “proceeds from the Father through the Son.” This is not because it was wrong (the council goes into some detail about how it is an ancient and legitimate statement if one goes by its correct interpretation). Rather, it is because it was misappropriated and defined as something (according to Blachernae) allegedly heretical during the Council of Lyon (1274).

However, due to the Filioque itself not being an issue addressed in a council in response to heresy as the 879-880 council requires, Rome has canonically violated the said council and used it as justification for excommunicating the eastern churches, in effect going into schism. This is especially shocking due to the fact that during the 8th and 9th century it was understood that the Filioque’s theological underpinning was understood by eminent Frankish theologians to be in direct contradiction to the Second Council of Nicea. As proof of this, read the footnote about the Caroline Books and how the Anglican scholar concurs in detail, explicitly endorsing a heterodox view of the Filioque (see footnote). It appears that only during the 20th century did western theologians begin revisiting the theology of the Filioque and re-frame it’s meaning so that it was be consistent with the orthodox preschism understanding of the doctrine.

It should be noted that the Second Council of Nicea was generally not accepted by the West until the Council of Constantinople 879-880 when Saint Photius listed it among the other six ecumenical councils. Granted, this is strange being that Pope Adrian I accepted Nicea 2’s theological definitions and wrote against the Caroline Books in detail. It should be noted that Rome had valid jurisdictional claims (pretty much all of Greece was lost during the iconoclast controversy) that were ignored during the council and so there were grounds for rejecting it at least in part, but I digress.

Erick then writes, “Moreover, something should be said about this idea that forbidding ‘addition’ and ‘subtraction’ is a matter of ‘faith and morals.’” To this I respond that (1) the 879-880 council allowed for additions/subtractions after 879-880 in response to heresies, which Blachernae was in fact doing; and (2) this does not undo that Leo III’s audience explicitly understood he was teaching on faith and morals in their very statement! (In order to understand number (2) you need to read the previous reply to Erick.)

Erick writes:

Another note on this matter of Leo III and John VIII supposedly teaching on faith and morals. To repeat, this is the aim of Truglia in his argument. He either claims Leo III and John VIII teach, ex cathedra, that adding filioque to the creed would be a violation of faith and morals, or he desires to show that the strict conditions for Papal infallibility in matters of faith and morals are so impractical and too lawyer-esque, pre-doctored up as a way to avoid the obvious contradictions, that it would warrant rejection out-of-hand by any unbiased and reasonable thinker.

In response, I just want to say that going by Rome’s own definitions, without additional “lawyering” and excuse making, it is my view that we have obvious contradictions that eviscerate their own view. As for Orthodoxy, being that we have no such view of infallibility, it does not shatter my worldview that Rome stumbled here or there–especially after the time of schism from the Church.

As for Erick’s response to Pope Vigilius’ conciliar statements, I find this to be mere hand-waving. Using common sense, we cannot reconcile Vatican I (the Pope’s statements are “irreformable” and do not require the Church’s “consent”) and Constantinople II, which taught that all Bishops require one another’s consent and “help of his neighbor.” More simply, the Constantinople II is saying one requires an ecumenical council to speak infallibly as this is what the Apostles did–Vatican I, and modern Roman Catholic practice (i.e. the definition of Marian dogma without an ecumenical council), directly contradict this.

Erick admittedly then asks rhetorical, tangential questions:

If Truglia was to take this point of view, then what must we say of the 6th Council’s acceptance of Pope St. Agatho’s letter which taught Papal infallibility?

This is an issue I studied a little, and I will soon get into more detail. For now, I have two answers:

First, I speculate that just because a legate read something and people concurred in some fashion, this does not mean they accepted its meaning the same way the legates would have viewed it. Or in short, I am employing the “flattery language and stuff is confusing” counterargument, see Pope Leo the Great calling the Emperor infallible. After all, the same council condemned Pope Honorius as a heretic, so of course they would have not taken any implication or assertion of infallibility as literal truth. Pope John VIII’s librarian, when translating the seventh ecumenical council, explicitly warned the Pope that the east regularly uses gross exaggerations and does not take things literally. So, this is not my speculation, as contemporaries were aware of this.

Second, if one carefully reads Agatho’s letter, he appears to be allowing for the interpretation of his words to pertain to the infallibility of the whole Church, which is obviously a more nuanced sort of infallibility, especially considering all of the notorious heresies the Church has experienced. I also think the letter was written in order to intentionally mislead readers into interpreting the statements in both the sense Ybarra reads them and the sense I am asserting. This too was a common practice, which we have abundant manuscript evidence for in the minutes for Nicea II. I will eventually have an article about highlights from the sixth ecumenical council.

Finally, Erick’s article ends with random “common sense arguments” against Orthodoxy:

The East of the first 10 centuries had been riddled with heresy and division…It is also admitted by most Orthodox historians that the Apostolic See of Rome was orthodox for the first ten centuries of the Church. If this is true, then today’s Eastern Orthodox Church must claim to be the spiritual and ecclesial successor of Rome’s doctrine in the first ten centuries. However, as Truglia has admitted many times before, the Popes of Rome during the first 10 centuries were all heretics, at least materially, since they all were Papal supremacists.

Popes do not have an absolutely perfect track record. We have some examples of Papal doctrinal missteps. Pope Liberius’ signing onto the Arianized Creed (due to torture, Saint Athanasius did not take it personally), Pope Vigilius only signing onto an ecumenical council after being tortured (which means he either was teaching heretical doctrine before and during the beginning of the council, which makes him a repentant heretic, or it evaporates the “torture undoes Papal Infallibility” counter-argument), Popes John II and Agapitus endorsing Theopaschism (a heresy condemned by Nicea II as well as Pope Hormisdas–granted this is a vague heresy), and Pope Honorius “disseminating” (to use the words of the sixth council) Christological heresy.

Nevertheless, this is still a pretty good track record for a Patriarchate, arguably only beat by Jerusalem (who somewhat stumbled under Saint Juvenal during the Robber Council of Ephesus, though the council fathers of Nicea II argued he merely kept silent and did not actually subscribe to heresy.)

But, the meat of Erick’s point is that Papal Supremacy was a doctrine in Rome for 10 centuries, making all of their saints ecclesiological heretics. I’d agree up to a point, that being, Papal Supremacy had a governor in the pre-schism church–that being, the consent of the churches and ecumenical councils. Popes Leo III and John VIII took this for granted. Sure, we have some early examples of Popes who probably did not, such as Victor I and Stephen I. Nevertheless, subsequent Popes relented.

So, I’d see Papal stumbling on this ecclesiastical doctrine roughly equivalent to Saint Juvenal’s stumbling, which while not admirable, was mostly of a political nature. As long as it is not pushed too hard to the point of schism, its a tolerable state of affairs. We often forgive saints for their ruthless political measures, such as Saint Cyril of Alexandria. Even in modern Orthodoxy this tolerance persists. As of present, the Patriarchate of Constantinople has exalted their own ecclesiastical position to one not much lower in some respects (and higher in others) than Rome pre-schism. Yet, we live with this tension and its a real tension. So, in short, such a tension is not earth shattering.

So how can the elder Rome of the first millennium be the yard-stick rule of orthodoxy for the first ten centuries, but at the same time be the source of the heresy of Papalism…

Rome was not exalted as the yard-stick of orthodoxy on absolutely every issue. Her views on re-baptism were ignored by the first two ecumenical councils (canons on rebaptism did not appear received by the West judging by Augustine’s writings). Her ecclesiastical views were consistently ignored as well. Rome’s view of icon veneration? Questionable, being that we have Popes which seemed not to accept Nicea II (though, this appears to be jurisdictional in nature). Christology? Perfectly orthodox.

Another “common sense” argument against Orthodoxy, and in particular Truglia’s view of Conciliar authority, is that he does not even claim to believe Councils are authoritative enough to determine their own binding nature. This is popularly understood as the “Receptionist” view of Councils….The obvious problem here is that it devolves into a subjective criteria for content which is supposed to produce an objective standard of orthodox doctrine.

This has already been addressed during a previous debate. In short, reception does not make something binding. Constantinople I, though not initially accepted by Rome until decades later, asserted it was an “ecumenical council” when it formulated its Creed. The Scriptures, though written by God, took centuries to be recognized in multiple Canons. Acceptance/reception does not give these documents authority, rather, it brings the Church in line with something that is authoritative. It would seem that Erick is presuming an ultra-montanist view of ecclesiology, which requires someone to speak as God Himself in order for anything to have authority.

This is absurd. The truth was once and for all delivered to the saints (Jude 1:3)–it is merely preserved and elaborated upon in councils. Therefore, the authority of a council is based upon its consistency with the Apostolic faith. A council that is received as such is a council recognized to carry the authority of antiquity by virtue of it accurately re-presenting Apostolic doctrine. Not coincidentally, this is precisely how Saint Athanasius justified the Nicene Creed’s orthodoxy in De Synodis, noting that it was like the Scriptures in that it faithfully presented what the Scriptures taught.

An example would be the Miaphysites who rejected Chalcedon, while Rome and those following her chose Chalcedon. The Receptionist view would discriminate on who is right, based on considerations which are not objective, but subjective.

The Miaphysites’ forefathers were schismatics. They are hypocrites in that they accepted the deposition of bishops at previous councils, notably Ephesus I (but also lesser councils), they did not accept the deposition of their own heretical and violent bishop at Chalcedon, Dioscorus. After the council, Dioscorus died and then there was only one, uncontested Chalcedonian Bishop, Saint Proterus. They then murdered him in cold blood, because they saw with a new Roman emperor the opportunity to have one of their partisans (Timothy II Aelurus) installed. Further, Jacob bar Addai set up a parallel church, but this is way past Chalcedon. Nevertheless, the opinions of schismatics are not necessary for reception, something Erick conceded during the Q&A of our first debate.  Interestingly enough, the Arian Goths were schismatics that broke with Nicene Orthodoxy, their two original Bishops signing onto the Creed and one of their disciples being a saint.

My assertion, that the opinions of schismatics are unimportant for the issue of reception, is not just Erick’s or mine own opinion. In fact, before the Miaphysite schism, Saint Vincent de Lerins wrote that the only the opinions of priests who died in the Church matter when discerning doctrine. So, the issue of schism is extremely relevant when discerning ecumenicity.

One last “common sense” argument against Orthodoxy is that many Orthodox scholars today are recognizing a high Papalist position for elder Rome in the first millennium….They would say that this was true insofar as the Pope was orthodox, but as soon as he violates orthodoxy, then he abrogates his role.

Which modern Orthodox saints ascribe to this position? In fact, in all of Christian history, we know of no Orthodox saints that accept modern Papal prerogatives. Those saints who would have at least a solid 90 percent Papal Supremacist view, such as Popes Stephen I and Leo the Great, are never heralded as saints for their ecclesiastical views any more than Saint Hippolytus is. Nor, can we be certain, they shared the views of Vatican I.

I think what Erick is presenting here is too simplistic, because it presents that Orthodox had accepted Papalism for 1,000 years when in fact they have not and we have early resistance recorded against its excesses by early saints such as Irenaeus, Cyprian, and Firmilian. Further, communion with Rome appears to be a non-essential for pre-schism sainthood, something which contradicts the CCC teaching that only those in communion with the Pope are in the Canonical Church. Saint John Chrysostom for most of his life, including the majority of his Bishopric, was not in communion with Rome (this was due to the Meletian schism). Obviously, Saint Meletius of Antioch, venerated by both our communions, lived his whole life without ever being in communion with Rome. If Papalism is true, how can one be a canonized saint for living in utter defiance of it? There is something massive missing from Erick’s narrative here.

For what is the Orthodox Church going to do without its divinely appointed Head? Some point to the Palamite Councils as proof. Well, what about the Council of Jerusalem (1672)? What about the Council of Crete (2016)? These questions are debated unto this day.

We have the Palamite councils as well. The Orthodox church has been able to deal with heresies without a Pope. If an issue can be fixed without a council, it does not need one.  What massive doctrinal issue has plagued Orthodoxy over the centuries that we have failed to address?

Having responded to all of Erick’s points and even a tangent here or there, herein ends my response.

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