Gratian in the 12th century made the claim that “the Apostolic See of Rome has not accepted from the beginning” the third canon of the Ecumenical Council of Constantinople I. Additionally, another Roman Catholic source claims that the council only “achieved its special status when the council of Chalcedon” accepted its canons and creed. This sort of meme history finds its way into Orthodox scholarly sources and often gets cited by Roman Catholic apologists as “proof” that the Pope was needed to “ratify” ecumenical councils and that “Constantinople I” is an example of a “local” council which was “elevated” by the Pope. This, in effect, makes the ecumenical council merely an exercise in Papal Supremacy, instead of the highest court of the land, so to say, which as Saint Augustine taught was able to overturn even the Pope himself and had in Session 7 of Constantinople II carefully deposed Pope Vigilius.

As follows are key evidences which demonstrate that Rome had, in fact, accepted the Council of Constantinople I (both its creed and canons) before Chalcedon. The council was always treated as authoritative. This only changed for Rome when, as a matter of public posturing, Pope Leo seemingly acquired amnesia over Canon 3 of Constantinople I due to the perceived threat of Canon 28 of Chalcedon. Alexandria had only two years beforehand disowned the council during Ephesus II, simply because Canon 3 would have created even more canonical problems for that council. In short, the non-acceptance of Constantinople I appears to be a rather late development and it both cases, the result of political maneuverings inconsistent with the fact that Alexandria had accepted Constantinople I (p. 47, see translation of Codex Theodosian 16.1.3 which explicitly states Alexandria’s communion with Constantinople at the time), as well as the following:

Proof #1: Latin canon law had included Canon 3 since the beginning.

In short, the significance of this proof is that Latin canon law, its earliest extent example being from the 5th century (the period under dispute), included this canon. Cardinal Hefele, a 19th century Roman Catholic apologist and historian, admits the preceding in passing:

[T]he old Latin translations — viz. the Prisca, those by Dionysius Exiguus and Isidore, as well as the Codex of Luna — only recognize the first four canons of the Greek text, and the fact that they agree in this point is the more important as they are wholly independent of each other, and divide and arrange those canons of Constantinople which they do acknowledge quite differently.

The ironic thing is that canon law throughout the first millennium in the Latin west continued to include the canon, despite Saint Pope Leo I and all subsequent Popes after Chalcedon claiming that they never did. This is how strong within the Latin tradition this canon (and thereby, the council’s acceptance) was. Even when “official” policy changed, it was merely a public posture with the eastern churches–the Latin churches never amended their canons accordingly.

Proof #2: The next ecumenical council cites the Constantinopolitan Creed.

Despite the meme history that Constantinople I was merely a local council until it was “elevated” later, its Creed was cited in the ecumenical council in Ephesus. This is found in the July 22, 431 AD proceedings of the Council in its “decree” (as its called in the first session of Chalcedon). Charisius has a long appeal appended to the minutes, treated as an “authoritative” interpretation of the Nicene Creed because it was in response to a “falsified creed” made by Theodore of Mopsuestia. In this letter, he quotes the Constantinopolitan Creed (Price and Graumann, The Council of Ephesus 431, p. 460) even though as footnote 83 points out it contains minor variations as an “adaption” (i.e. representing the fluidity of creeds at the time). Nevertheless, the fact the creed is cited explicitly in the context of it being true vis a vis a false one betrays its acceptance. One should note that in Session I of Chalcedon, the July 22nd minutes are treated as Ephesus’ conciliar decree.

Proof #3: The Tome of Leo (maybe) quotes the Constantinopolitan Creed

It is ironic that a piece of meme history is oft repeated, but its falsity can very well be on display in plain sight in a Papal source. Leo seems to invoke “the [Nicene-Constantinopolitan] Creed” in his tome (Letter 28, Chap 1) and then in the next chapter states that “the whole body of the faithful confess that they ‘believe in [one] God the Father Almighty,’ and ‘in Jesus Christ,’ His only Son , our Lord, who ‘was born of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary.'” One can quickly look at the Nicene and Constantinopolitan Creed side by side and quickly identify he is quoting the latter creed. And so, the first extent source of the council’s rejection in Rome (or at the very least its canon) takes for granted the “whole body of the faithful” adheres to the creed of the Council of Constantinople I. The same creed is quoted in the fifth paragraph as well, saying, “it is that in the Creed also we all confess that the Only-begotten Son of God was crucified and buried.” It is possible that a proto-Apostle’s Creed is being quoted, though his identification with global usage appears to favor an “ecumenical” Creed.

Proof #4: Rome itself accepted Constantinople I’s canons before the Canon 28 debacle

The final piece of evidence is that Rome not only accepted the Council and its creed, but there is explicit proof the Papacy accepted its canons. For example, without any controversy during the first session of Chalcedon (before the issuing of Canon 28) the Roman legate Paschasinus as well as an allied partisan (Diogenes of Cyzicus) cite “the canons” (specifically Canon 3 of Constantinople I) as proof that Constantinople should have been seated ahead of Alexandria during the robber council of Ephesus II:

During the reading the most devout Oriental bishops and those with them exclaimed: ‘Flavian [of Constantinople] went in as if already condemned. There is a blatant case of corrupt prosecution. Why was Flavian not seated in his proper place? Why was the bishop of Constantinople put in fifth place?’ Paschasinus the most devout bishop said: ‘Look, in accordance with the will of God we give first place to the lord Anatolius. But they put the blessed Flavian fifth.’ Diogenes the most devout bishop of the church of Cyzicus said: ‘Because you know the canons.’ (Price and Gaddis, Acts of Chalcedon Vol 1, p. 144 in the paperback)

Even Pope Leo himself had apparently accepted Canon 3 according to an ally of his, Eusebius of Dorlyeum, who claimed:

I signed willingly [the acceptance of Canon 28], since I myself read this very canon [Canon 3] to the most holy pope in Rome in the presence of the clerics of Constantinople and he accepted it. (Ibid., Vol 3, p. 89)

Conclusion. It can be concluded based upon the preceding proofs immediately following the Council of Constantinople I that its creeds and its canons were treated as ecumenical and binding. What other reason can there be than that the council itself asserted its own ecumenical character and it was always treated as such within the Orthodox and Catholic circles? And so, unless anyone can cite historical examples before the controversy over Canon 28 of Chalcedon to demonstrate that Constantinople I somehow lack reception in the West, one must discard with the meme history and accept that Constantinople I was always considered ecumenical and that its creed and canons, as superintended by God, did not require specifically Papal ratification to have an ecumenical nature. Rather, it was ecumenical by virtue of God’s work in the council and recognized as such by the council’s reception by the whole Church, the criteria which in later centuries is described by Nicea II as the means of discerning the ecumenicity of a council.