Writing a review of Scott Butler and John Collorafi’s Keys Over the Christian World is not something that is easy for someone committed to Orthodox theology to write. This is because the (understated) premise of the entire book, that Vatican-I Papal ecclesiology has a historical basis in the pre-schism Church, would in effect cast the Orthodox as both heretics and schismatics. Additionally, many “playing” the “apologetics game” try to “win” by making converts to their cause using dubious tactics, whether that be by omitting facts and research, slandering others, exaggerating their own claims, and etcetera. Merely talking about this book, let alone endorsing any of its contents, is a “losing” move to such people.

Because salvation is not a game and the truth not a chess piece, then one must not “play.” That being the case, I am inclined to speak, even against the express wishes of one of the authors (who prefers that the book not be endorsed, but has at least given me permission to speak my mind).

Keys Over the Christian World is probably the strongest case for the Roman Catholic doctrine of the Papacy that any of us will live to see. If Edward Denny’s Papalism remains after a hundred years the best single book written against the subject, Keys is the (unintentional) response and will likely not be bested in this respect. The reason this is the case is that the sheer degree of primary source research, straight from PL and PG, contains both depth and breadth.

Keys does not contain mere proof texting—rather, it is the sort of work that quote mines steal from. Butler and Collorafi did all the heavy lifting. It appears that two adult-lifetimes worth of research have been poured into it and it reads as a labor of love. I do not think it is likely that anyone on the radar at the moment is suddenly going to write a tome that can equal or best this one in regards to its content, argumentation, and convincing quality. Quite simply, to best this book would require another lifetime of research in its own right.

Hence, to those “playing the game,” me merely saying this is offensive. This review will undoubtedly get people to read the book. Some will choose Roman Catholicism, to my dismay. Some, worse yet, may even convert from Orthodoxy (and lose their eternal souls). On top of that, those unaware of its contents, through following me (out of malicious motives), may seize upon the book to shore up their own attacks against the Orthodox Church. Any of these occurring is tragic. But just as Saint Augustine did not shy from quoting the Donatist-heretic Tychonius, due to the redeeming qualities of his commentary on the Book of Revelation, then I must not shy from discussing what is redeeming in Keys. Read according to the Orthodox mode of approaching the fathers, I think it strengthens the Orthodox faith.

That’s enough of an apology for myself. Let’s get into the book.

Keys’ Style. The book’s style is not pretentious. The recently published version includes mostly PL and PG footnotes. They lack copious historiographies or details on recent scholarship, torturously laid out, which would not be of interest to the vast preponderance of readers. Most of the book follows a “story arc,” which in its simplicity is incredibly effective. Keys largely follows Church history from its very beginning to the resolution of the iconoclast controversy, looking for the Papacy along the way. It reads as a “quote mine” amidst some historical context in between each quote, citing directly the PL and PG. The quotes are rather large (i.e. block quotes), to leave no question of the context behind the Papal ecclesiastical statements therein given. Keys also dabbles in Armenian sources (as well as Syriac, Ge’ez, and others).

The biggest treat to the reader is that there are a lot of original translations. This shows the authors were not copying another man’s work. The book contains mostly new research, even if some of the ground it treads has been tread before (such as Christological controversies preceding the sixth century).

Keys’ authors appear to have intellectual integrity. There are more than a few spots when the book is transparent about a rendering appearing different in Greek than Latin. Additionally, when scholarship doubts the authenticity or ascription of a rendering, the authors state this is so. However, Keys is not always perfect in this regard (which I view as unintentional). For example, in one spot the authors by mistake cite Pseudo-Isidore (PL 83:908, Epistle 5) as the saint himself.

One can become too fixated on a faux pas here or there, which in my view is unwarranted. The majority of the work is not citing forgeries and there is a pronounced sensitivity not to. Anyone dealing with this many primary sources will end up citing a spurious text here or there by mistake. If one is to take a radically skeptical view of all Latin sources and their renderings, then this may justify a sense of dismissiveness as many of the early medieval sources are Latin based. However, I am personally more conservative with my appraisal of manuscripts (I always presume authenticity unless it is completely untenable).

Perhaps the biggest stylistic drawback is how the story arc abruptly ends (with the Triumph of Orthodoxy and end of iconoclasm). After this, the tone of the book then entirely changes. The last few chapters of the book mainly focus on Petrine primacy in non-Greek and Latin sources. After that, there is a final chapter which hammers home quote after quote about Saint Peter being the Rock and how the fathers understood this. These last few chapters should probably be changed into appendices, because they interrupt the understated but eloquent story arc the book otherwise draws.

Keys’ Tone. The tone is easy for me to appreciate, because it is not written against Orthodox. This is not so much because Keys’ authors agree with the Orthodox—the final page of the book prays for their return to Rome. Rather, Keys appears to be a response to Protestant apologetics and the misnomer that Roman primacy is some sort of later development from the Middle Ages. Perhaps, due to me not having Protestant sensitivities, I cannot pick up on a polemical tone. To me, the book is “matter-of-fact” sounding. It just states what happened, when it happened, and what was said.

As a play on the old Fox News slogan: “The fathers report, you decide.” An Orthodox Christian should be quite comfortable reading it even if the specific topic it covers is not emphasized in Orthodox circles. Our fathers are also (largely) Roman Catholic fathers (as the Middle Ages elapse certain western saints were not venerated in the east). We should care about what they said and sincerely appreciate their sentiments.

The preceding is buttressed by the fact that there are no long asides or apologies for events in the attempt of re-explaining them in a Roman sense. In addition, among its many block quotes contain statements that prove out Orthodox doctrine. This I view as unintentional, but keeping with Keys’ honest investigation into the subject matter.

There is a certain dignity to the book, and I presume its authors. This is extremely rare in an apologetics work and is perhaps its best quality. The authors do not want to be heard. They want the fathers heard. This shows from beginning to end.

Keys’ Content. The most important aspect of Keys is its content. There is so much of it. It must also be said that it continually hammers home Petrine primacy. For those unprepared or “uninitiated” in the Patristics, they will certainly find the sheer amount of texts convincing. The anti-Catholic bigots, who simply do not want to be convinced of Roman claims in any event, will likely write off the fathers all together. Because the text covers fathers both east and west, one cannot simply say what is being presented is some sort of Papalist fringe. There is definitely something “going on” and it’s “big.” Therefore, this gives the book real “power” to convert its readers to Roman Catholicism—something as an Orthodox Christian I find most disconcerting.

To be honest, if I was hit with everything from Keys all at once without having taken years to read the Church’s formative texts from cover to cover I’d be more than tempted to convert. I’d feel compelled. Having read all the ecumenical councils (which as of 2020 have had all their documents translated into English), all the pre-schism canons, as well as numerous letters from the fathers on various ecclesiastical questions, I feel that I can appreciate the entirety of Keys without automatically jumping to the Papal ecclesiastical conclusions that come all too easy to the western consciousness (which those of us reading in English, all share). I argue, one cannot fully appreciate Keys without such a background. Collorafi, having read these councils all in the original Latin (and I presume at points consulting the Greek), likely has a similar feeling of immersion (and deeper than mine I am sure).

The Problem of Interpretation. Without this immersion, I have noticed that statements pertaining to Rome’s ecclesiastical prerogatives are automatically equated with Papal Supremacy in the mold of Vatican I by many. Some apologists, such as James White, have dismissed this train of thought as simply “Peter Derangement Syndrome” or PDS (i.e. hearing something about Rome/Peter and automatically equating it to be about the Papacy). However, this slur does not do justice to the fact that it is incontrovertible there was (and is) a Papacy.

Those who have leaned on polemics like that of White’s, when posed with the evidence from Keys, will fold. Early Christian sources, from conciliar minutes, to diplomatic correspondence, to canons, all detail a rather formal ecclesiastical system with the Pope of Rome at the “head.” To deny this is to lose all credibility. Keys thus demolishes Protestant objections through the sheer, incontrovertible weight of the historical source material and what it brings to bear on the subject.

However, the Orthodox view of the Papacy and its prerogatives is at least (canonically) more nuanced. Despite there being a strain in Orthodoxy that nominally rejects the Papacy, one would need to have his head in the sand to not see that the canons and fathers use the word “Pope” and speak of some sort of prerogatives specific to the Bishop of Rome.

The Orthodox View of the Papacy. In short, the Orthodox view is that the Papacy of Rome was composed of numerous saints who were not ecclesiastical heretics, but had shepherded as Pope canonically. This canonical view of the Papacy, Orthodox posit, is different than the Roman Catholic conception which is popularly understood as the Papacy today. Instead of writing off each statement from history as PDS, Orthodox understand such passages through the following lenses:

1. Honorific/Title. Such titles entail real prerogatives, like being the “Head” or “Prince” (both Patristic terms with Greek equivalents) of the Bishops, but not every logical consequence of the said title. Therefore, the Pope would have certain roles (as covered below) that are canonically delineated and be powerful in these respects, but otherwise (apart from these canonically delineated norms) act as a figurehead without additional powers (like the Queen of England). That is “all” headship would entail.

2. Prerogatives of Patriarchate of the West. Oftentimes, the Pope of Rome is spoken in glowing, seemingly universal terms, but this is not actually intended to mean that the Pope has ecclesiastical jurisdiction over the other Patriarchates. Rather, in these passages his jurisdiction is limited specifically to Western Europe and those lands evangelized by Western Europeans.

3. Appellate Court. Rome is the second highest court of appeals for ecclesiastical disputes below an ecumenical council, though their decisions were only tentative as only ecumenical councils can offer binding decisions in inter-Patriarchal disputes. In the West, in an intra-Patriarch dispute, they would be the highest court of appeals. Hence, Papal jurisdiction would be specific to the capacity to give ecclesiastical judgements in an appellate setting.

Can an Orthodox View of the Papacy Be “Imposed” on Keys? One can readily perceive how the Protestant (and sympathetic Orthodox) expounders of PDS may focus on the fathers allegedly using honorifics, but not seriously interact with the appellate structure of the western bishoprics and the entirety of the Church at large. The Orthodox lens, however, concedes there being a specific kind of Papacy. The latter two criteria demonstrate the Papacy had some real muscle, something people too easily dismiss.

Due to Keys not really being a response to Orthodox (but rather Protestant) claims, it does not categorize statements from historical sources in this sense nor respond to these rationalizations of their meaning. Roman Catholics can justifiably argue that such lenses are overly reductionist and preclude a Vatican-I sort of interpretation. The difference in interpretative categories explains the honest differences between Orthodox and Roman Catholics.

The Orthodox reader, being mindful of these categories, can profit immensely from Keys and determine for himself whether what he reads can be rationalized according to his communion’s canonical norms. It is the main reason for this relatively glowing review of the book.

From the book, examples of the Orthodox crieteria coming into play are numerous. Because of this, I will instead list only a few examples and suggest that where texts are vague or less specific, that it makes sense to interpret them in line with these more specific texts which explicitly align with Orthodox canonical norms. It is with this eye towards the texts’ analysis that I wager the Orthodox understanding of the source material is the most compelling.

Concerning the use of honorifics, Theodore Abuqurra, a Chalcedonian Bishop of Haran during the ninth century, states that Matt 16:18 pertains not specifically to Peter alone, but all his successors: “You see then that St. Peter is the foundation of the Church…It is clear, then, these words designate the successors of St. Peter, who in fact never cease to strengthen their brethren, and never shall, until the end of the ages.” (Keys, 2003, p. 574) This, on the surface, seems to validate that Vatican-I Papal Supremacy had a Syriac adherent right before the Great Schism. Yet, in between these two statements, Theodore states:

Christ wanted to designate by these words those who shall take the place of St. Peter at Rome, and the places of the apostles. In the same way, when he says to the apostles: “I shall be with you all days, even to the end of the ages.” (Ibid.)

As one can see, Theodore is telescoping a passage about Peter and his successor as being indicative of the Church and its numerous bishops at large. Peter is undoubtedly “the foundation,” but this promise and what it entails is not specific to only bishops of Rome, but all with Apostolic Succession.

Concerning Rome being Patriarch of the West, the following writing from Saint Columban is illustrative. He calls the Pope the “Pastor of pastors,” “the highest [and] greatest,” and amongst these honorifics states, “Rome is the head of the churches of the world…powerful through the office of the holy apostle Peter.” (Ibid., p. 443) Surely, the honorifics place the Pope above every church in the world, no? However, in the same document Columban states that the Pope is the “most beautiful head of all the churches of all Europe.” (Ibid.) Pay in mind, Europe did not mean from Spain to the Urals at this time. It would have applied specifically to modern Western Europe, or if one wants to be picky, perhaps to the Don River in some contexts. However, even then it would have not included Asia Minor, Egypt, Arabia, and many other lands thoroughly Christianized with Patriarchates.

The preceding reveals that when the Pope was called “head of the churches of the world” and other such monikers, the honorific oftentimes could have been more specific in its intended meaning—that being, the Pope’s headship of the West’s churches specifically. Those who read ancient sources will regularly come across the sort of loose way statements such as “all the world” are used. Saint Prosper of Aquataine, for example, was emphatic that the “whole world” in his time had already heard the preaching of Christ. Centuries earlier, even Saint Paul made this pious exaggeration (Rom 10:18)! In the example of Saint Columban, it is in reference simply to Western Europe. One must be cognizant that these overarching statements have (and in the view of the Orthodox, likely) have significantly more narrow meanings.

Concerning the appellate nature of church disputes, Keys is replete with documented examples of people appealing to the Pope above their local prelate. Many of these examples appear to be intra-Patriarchal disputes in the West. Likely with this in mind, Saint Bede states, “Blessed Peter, who confessed Christ with true faith and followed Him with true love, receive in a special manner the keys of the kingdom of heaven and the principality of judicial authority.” (Ibid., p. 602)

Yet, this is not true solely of the West, but in select circumstances inter-Patriarchal disputes per Canons 3-5 of the Council of Sardica (this is of Ecumenical authority due to Canon 2 of the Council of Trullo, though Orthodox canonists generally apply the canons solely to the intra-Patriarchal context). In a fairly detailed and interesting chapter on the “Arabic” (and Syriac/Coptic) “canons of Nicea” (i.e. nomocanons which appear to derive from Saint Maruthas of Martyropolis’ collection of canons used during the Council of Seleucia-Ctesiphon), one of the canons states “the bishop of Rome have [sic] authority over all the patriarchs, as Peter had it over all the rulers of Christianity.” (Ibid., p. 583) The statement taken in isolation may scream of Papal Supremacy to even certain Orthodox authorities, but it squares quite nicely with the non-controversial view that Rome had appellate authority (the view the authors seem to take in Ibid., p. 580; cf reversal of this canon by the Synod of Dadisho a few years later).

The Synod of Dadisho reversed the “Petrine” canons by removing the power of appeals from bishops to go above their Patriarch’s (of Antioch) head.

The Petrine canon also adds a much more compelling reasoning behind Roman primacy to a Sassanid audience than Rome being the seat of the Roman Empire as per Canon 3 of Constantinople I (which Theodore actually attended)! Seen in this context, the motivation behind its composition (and rejection, at least for a while) is understandable.

The appellate structure of the Church is the main factor behind the machinations of how disputes were solved. For example, Saint Pope Leo the Great said the following leading up to the Council of Chalcedon:

“All the churches of our regions,” Leo declared, “and all the bishops tearfully request, because of the appeal contained in the libellus of Flavian, that you command a special council to be held in parts of Italy,”… Such a council, the pope added, must observe “the canon of Nicea,” a “constitution of the bishops of the entire world”— a likely reference to the canons of Sardica; the Romans frequently referred to the Sardican canons as canons of Nicea. [Ep. 43. PL 54: 821-3] (Ibid., p. 193)

What Keys leaves out is how emphatic Leo’s repeated requests were to have the council in Rome or Sicily and when this was denied him by Emperor Marcian, he then asserted that it was not necessary to discuss matters of doctrine. (Ep. 82/39, Par 2; 90/47–Price and Gaddis, Chalcedon, Volume 1, p. 97; 101) Leo was denied again and told the council was to be held in the East (ultimately, Chalcedon). It appears that Leo was maneuvering to have the final say in any event (either by a western council he would dominate or, failing this, just having the final word via the Tome). Emperor Marcian, not wanting to give the final say to someone outside his empire, made sure that an ecumenical council happened in his own backyard. At Chalcedon, matters of doctrine were discussed, because the the existence of the Tome was not considered definitive in settling the issue.

Interestingly, Leo’s letter, as quoted in Ep. 43 in Keys, reveals that Rome viewed appeals made to themselves as final due to their conciliar nature in that such an appeal was to be settled by “the bishops of the entire world”–despite the canons of Sardica literally only naming the Pope. This shows that Leo understood (or conceded) that the final court of appeals is not the Pope individually, but the ecumenical council itself. This is an interpretation of Sardica, taken for granted by Leo in Ep. 43, that one never hears. This is understandable as Sardica does not plainly state this. However, if one understands that the canons of Sardica apply only to the inter-Patriarchal context when there is ecumenical reception of the appeal, then it makes sense. After all, appeals to Rome are never seen as final. For example, Nestorius still retained his office as bishop even after being deposed by Rome–he only lost his titles and prerogatives after June 22, 431 at the Council of Ephesus.

Before one accuses me of radically eisegeting Leo, consider the words of Saint Augustine on precisely this point, in his own Ep. 43. Therein, he retells the controversy between the Donatists and Catholics/Orthodox. Take note of how the appellate nature of church disputes is taken for granted by Augustine:

They [the Donatists] chose, therefore, as it is reported, to bring their dispute with Cæcilianus before the foreign churches [in Rome], in order to secure one of two things, either of which they were prepared to accept: if, on the one hand, by any amount of craft, they succeeded in making good the false accusation, they would abundantly satisfy their lust of revenge; if, however, they failed, they might remain as stubborn as before, but would now have, as it were, some excuse for it, in alleging that they had suffered at the hands of an unjust tribunal—the common outcry of all worthless litigants, though they have been defeated by the clearest light of truth—as if it might not have been said, and most justly said, to them: “Well, let us suppose that those bishops who decided the case at Rome were not good judges; there still remained a plenary Council of the universal Church, in which these judges themselves might be put on their defence; so that, if they were convicted of mistake, their decisions might be reversed.“ Whether they have done this or not, let them prove: for we easily prove that it was not done, by the fact that the whole world does not communicate with them; or if it was done, they were defeated there also, of which their state of separation from the Church is a proof. (Par 19)

As one can see, it was understood Rome was a high court of appeals, but not the highest. The highest specific judge, but not the highest possible authority. A “constitution of the bishops of the entire world” is the one authority above the Pope and his Patriarchal synod in isolation, and the only court which would be absolutely binding in inter-Patriarchal disputes. Appeals below the council could only be “tentatively” accepted barring Churchwide acceptance.

Regrettable, but Understandable, Omissions. Despite its encompassing nature, Keys has some omissions which are surprising given its encompassing nature and frequent fairness. Sometimes it may feel like a partisan sort of historical blinders that leave out details which chip away at the Vatican I. I presume any equivalent Orthodox treatment of early Church history would be similar in this regard, but in the opposite way.

Working in chronological order, Keys’ treatment of the third century rebaptism controversy is rather uncritical. I do not fault the authors of this, as they follow Saints Augustine and Vincent de Lerins in their presentation of the subject. Eusebeius of Cesarea, writing from the East a century earlier (and only approximately 50 years after the actual events), appears to agree in all counts with them. Nevertheless, the “recent” discovery of Saint Dionysius of Alexandria’s authentic letters on the subject, in conjunction with bizarre internal details in Eusebius’ quoting of “Dionysius’ letters,” reveals that Saint Pope Stephen was perceived to be in the wrong during the controversy, not Saint Cyprian. Keys also leaves unsaid some of the excesses of Saint Pope Stephen’s correspondence as Saints Cyprian and Firmilian recount in their own letters, perhaps due to these being outside of the scope of the work.

Elsewhere, Keys quotes seemingly every statement exalting Saint Pope Celestine during the events surrounding the Council of Ephesus. For example, it quotes Saint Cyril of Alexandria calling Celestine “Archbishop of the entire habitable world.” (Keys, 2003, p. 178) However, it leaves out the fact that saint in his Letter to John of Antioch specifically said that Celestine’s “decree” pertained specifically to “those who wish to remain in communion with all the West” (Price and Graumann, Ephesus, p. 159), an idea he returns to in his Third Letter to Nestorius. (Chapter 2, Ibid., p. 163) The plain understanding of the preceding is that Cyril saw Celestine as the final word in the West, not of the whole Earth.

Keys also gives a straightforward presentation of the significance of the Formula of Hormisdas without discussing the fact that the libelli signed by those who wished to return to communion with Rome were allowed to be altered as long as the retained the same “tenor” of the original formula. That tenor (going strictly by the details in a letter by Saint Hormisdas’) pertains to the doctrines of Chalcedon specifically. (Hormisdas’, Letter 80, translated thanks to John Collorafi here) If letters, like the appeal from the “proto-Maronite monks” (as I call them), are any indication, the preceding is an accurate inference from Letter 80.

Elsewhere, Keys asserts that Rome never accepted all the canons of the Council of Trullo. This on one hand is arguably true, as western canonists expressed that not all of its canons were accepted. Yet, one must square this with the statement of Pope Adrian I, who asserted he accepted “all its canons” (a statement evidently of Saint Taurisius quoted approvingly by Adrian, but apparently misunderstood by Anastasius the Librarian and early canonists of being by Adrian himself) and in so doing quoted one of the canons that later canonists allegedly do not accept.

There are more examples, but I honestly do not remember that many. Furthermore, there does not appear to be any evidence of foul play–just an understandable difference in emphasis.

The “Tough Nut” of Saint Maximus. So far, there would seem to be nothing that Keys asserts in favor of a Vatican-I Papacy that could not be plausibly explained away in an Orthodox sense. However, this would not be entirely true. Keys is too good a book for this. There are passages whose simplest explanations, at least on the surface, make the Roman Catholic case more strongly than the Orthodox one. Many of these passages come from Saint Maximus himself. To quote a couple of them, it is immediately clear that they do not lend themselves to being mere honorifics or limiting Rome’s jurisdiction in some specific sense:

[Maximus:] Let him hasten to render in all things satisfaction to the see of Rome. When that see is satisfied, everybody will in common proclaim him pious and orthodox…the Apostolic See, which from God the Incarnate Word Himself as well as all the holy Councils, according to the sacred canons and definitions, has received and possesses supreme power in all things and for all things, over all the holy churches of God throughout the world, as well as power and authority of binding and loosing. For with this church, the Word, who commands the powers of heaven, binds and looses in heaven. [PG 91:144] (Keys, 2003, p. 339-340)

These confines of the inhabited world, and those throughout the world who confess the Lord in a pious and orthodox manner, look straight to the most holy Church of Rome, towards her confession and faith, as to a sun of perennial light, receiving from her the bright splendor of the holy teachings of the fathers, as they were explained piously and in all purity by the six holy councils [the five ecumenical councils, plus the Lateran Council(!)], which were inspired and dictated by God in proclaiming very clearly the Symbol of Faith. For ever since the Word of God condescended to us and became man, all the Churches of Christians everywhere have held, and hold the great Church [of Rome(!)] there as their sole basis and foundation, because, according to the very promises of the Lord, the gates of hell have never prevailed over her, but rather she has the keys of the orthodox faith and confession; she opens the genuine and only piety to those who approach her piously, but closes every heretical mouth that speaks injustice… [PG 91: 137-40] (Ibid., p. 352-353)

The preceding are tough for the Orthodox apologist for two specific reasons. For one, Maximus explictly asserts the orthodoxy of Rome to be “the sole basis” of the correctness of doctrine and her power is “supreme.” This would make “Papal Supremacy” a name of a legitimate patristic doctrine. Second, Maximus evidently has an incorrect view of ecumenical councils, as he accepts as ecumenical the Lateran Council of 649 (something that Saint Pope Martin I never explicitly claimed). This is disconcerting because it pits Maximus against the sixth session of Nicea II, which gives Pentarchic/universal ratification, as opposed Papal ratification or the presupposition of the “correctness of doctrine,” as the sole ecumenical criterium.

Maximus’ zeal for dyotheletism, at least according to the secondary sources I have read, was not appreciated during the sixth ecumenical council. Being that it is not translated into English, I cannot verify this, but from what I understand Maximus and Lateran 649 are largely passed over in silence–generally because of both being viewed as seditious. (“He [Maximus] and his teaching were totally ignored by Constantinople III;” Price, Constantinople III and Constantinople IV, p. 132) Applying what Saint Photius asserts in Mystagogy (Par 70), it would be best to pass over these questionable things in Maximus’ with silence.

To his defense, perhaps one can cite details that come up in the Disputation in Bizye. For one, Maximus asserts that it is not Papal ratification, but the correctness of doctrine which determines ecumenicity:

Theodosius: The synod at Rome was not ratified, because it was held without the order of the emperor.’

Maximus: The devout canon of the church recognizes those synods as holy and approved which the correctness of their teaching approved. (Bizye quoted in Ubi Petrus)

Elsewhere, Maximus’ is quoted when under trial in Constantinople in 655. When told Rome accepts monotheletism he responds:

I’ll never be convinced that the Romans will be united with the Byzantines, unless they confess that our Lord and God by nature wills and works our salvation according to each (of the natures) from which he is, and in which he is, as well as which he is. (Ibid.)

When told, “But if the Romans should come to terms with the Byzantines, what will you do?,” Maximus responds: “The Holy Spirit, through the apostle, condemns even angels who innovate in some way contrary to what is preached.” (Ibid.) As one can see, while Maximus certainly clings to his earlier views (as quoted by Keys) on the indefectability of Rome, his words (taken plainly) betray that he at least theoretically allows for the possibility that Rome can fall under the condemnation of a doctrinal innovator.

The preceding can easily be explained away as Maximus merely entertaining a theoretical. I would grant this much. However, due to Maximus on the surface being factually incorrect on the criteria for ecumenicity on both counts, what one can glean is that the only non-negotiable for Maximus was unimpeachable orthodoxy of the Christological doctrine under dispute. He was at least willing to entertain his ecclesiology being wrong, but not his Christology.

A Roman Catholic or netural observer may evaluate the preceding rationalization as insufficient or not all that compelling. So be it. One must be able to live with the tensions of history and the fathers, as well as the Scriptures–they do not always meet our presuppositions and Church dogmas, at least on the surface. I’d prefer to tip my hat to Keys and admit they make a stronger case than Orthodoxy here or there than to pretend this were not possible at all. However, according to the Orthodox understanding of magesterium, Maximus does not pose an insurmountable difficulty. In any event, he is probably the toughest nut in church history for the Orthodox to crack on the issue of Papal ecclesiology.

Conclusion. I will not belabor this book review any longer. In short, Keys is fantastic as it is an incredible source of information, much of it original translations one cannot get elsewhere. From the Orthodox vantage point, the book can even be “dangerous” as due to Western interpretative presuppositions, one would find the case Keys makes in favor of Vatican-I dogma to be compelling. Yet, the authors are not to blame, as their tone is quite neutral and they should be commended for this fact.

It is up to the Orthodox reader to understand Church history according to the canons and canonical norms. Reading Keys with such an Orthodox attention to detail (honing in on Papal 1. Honorifics, 2. Patriarchal prerogatives in Western Europe, and 3. Appellate prerogatives) is extremely profitable. Perhaps the Roman Catholic, reading the same book, being mindful of these Orthodox ecclesiastical views may find that Keys allows the saints speak for themselves and in so doing unintentionally proclaims Orthodoxy—not Roman Catholicism.