When Father Richard Price coined the term “conciliar fundamentalism,” what he intended to convey was that the early Church understood that the minutes of ecumenical councils as authorities—the canons and decrees issued at the end of the same councils likewise being authorities. On the internet, popular imagination has run amok, not really grasping Price’s point. He does not personally endorse the idea. Rather, he merely acknowledges that the idea was pervasive.
In opposition to “conciliar fundamentalism,” some question how the councils quote heretics (like Nestorius or Dioscorus) if the preceding is the case. This is not a serious objection considering the Scriptures themselves quote the Devil. It suffices to say that no one thought that absolutely every word recorded in the minutes of the councils was true. Rather, taken as a literary whole they revealed the mind of the council. To quote Ferrandus of Carthage, a sixth century deacon closely connected to Saint Fulgentius’:
If there is disapproval of any part of the Council of Chalcedon, the approval of the whole is in danger of becoming disapproval…But the whole Council of Chalcedon, since the whole of it is the Council of Chalcedon, is true; no part of it is open to criticism. Whatever we know to have been uttered, transacted, decreed and confirmed there was worked by the ineffable and secret power of the Holy Spirit. (Price, Constantinople II, Vol. 1, p. 98)
The logic is simple. For a council to err in something that was agreed upon, even if it was not specific to a conciliar decree or canon, calls into question the same’s decree and canons. After all, how could the Holy Spirit be at work in superintending everything the council decreed, but dropped the ball in directing the council’s other decisions which were presumably informed by the same doctrines it expounded?
In this article, the development of “conciliar fundamentalism” will be delineated. After this is reviewed, the first recorded opposition to the idea will be covered. It shall be seen that both when and where the idea of “conciliar fundamentalism” was first questioned reveals precisely how the different epistemic assumptions between eastern and western Christianity had arisen.
The formulation of “conciliar fundamentalism.” In the fourth century, the “ecumenical council” was something whose authority was immediately understood. This is surprising given that none had occurred before Nicea. It would be no exaggeration to say it was instantly recognized that when a plethora of bishops met and there was full agreement, that this consensus was a demonstration of the Holy Spirit’s work.
Saint Constantine the Great states the preceding unambiguously concerning the Council of Nicea in the hope that Alexandria’s synod would receive the council:
This ruling, made by the collective judgment of three hundred bishops, cannot be other than the doctrine of God, especially where the Holy Spirit has illuminated the divine will by placing it upon the minds of so many dignified persons. (Constantine to the Church of Alexandria, 1-2, 8)
A contemporary of his, Eusebius of Caesarea, concurred expressing precisely the same logic:
[W]hen they were all assembled [at Nicea], it appeared evident that the proceeding was the work of God inasmuch as men who had been most widely separated, not merely in sentiment but also personally, and by difference of country, place, and nation, were here brought together, and comprised within the walls of a single city. (Life of Constantine, Book 3, Chap 6)
Why were these claims expected to resonate with their audiences so that their assertions would have not been disputed or laughed at? The most probable explanation is that the Church had always functioned based upon the principle of consensus and this consensus was understood as evidence of the Spirit’s work.
Consensus was a driving motivation behind resolving several controversies in the second and third centuries. Synods were held worldwide to determine the day to celebrate Pascha, the standing of the Ephesian church vis a vis the Roman church, the correct bishop of Rome during the Novatian controversy, the correct way to receive into the Church those baptized from other Christian groups, and the deposition of Paul of Samosata in Antioch. Long before the Church became “an imperial institution,” even without the logistical and legal means to get everyone into one room to resolve an issue, the Church always sought to establish universal consensus on matters of dispute. The drive to forge consensus without any imperial motivation was so strong that at great expense and risk synods would be held on such questions—even in the midst of persecutions.
The motivation may have been familial. The Church started as one “big family” in Apostolic times. Families have fights, but they are expected to work out their problems. There was no other example in which to follow. The family, so to say, had no solitary decision maker and so everyone had to be on board with the decision. Perhaps ecclesiastics had Acts 15:28 in mind. The Council of Jerusalem after attaining to the consensus of all present declared in their decree, “it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us.” When the Church agreed upon something, they spoke—but God spoke with them. The whole undertaking of establishing consensus was theoretically grace filled and a walking in the footsteps of the Apostles.
At first glance it is unclear how much someone like Constantine “meant it” when he made such a claim about the Council of Nicea. After all, he and his son would eventually give support to the council’s detractors and its creed was disputed for much of the century. In any event, as the dust settled, it became clear that the Church with undoubting conviction held the Council of Nicea in near Scriptural regard. Saint Athanasius (who attended Nicea) asserted that one hearing “the proceedings of the Fathers” at Nicea “cannot but be reminded by them of the religion towards Christ announced in divine Scripture.” (De Synodis, Par 6) His contemporary, Saint Basil the Great, wrote matter-of-factly: “the three hundred and eighteen who met together without strife [at Nicea] did not speak without the operation of the Holy Ghost.” (Letter 114) To Basil, the consensus of all those involved had clearly revealed the Holy Spirit’s work in the council.
Decades later, the Council of Ephesus operated on the principle that Nicea was the work of God. They decreed (in what became codified as “Canon 7”) that “it is unlawful for any man to bring forward, or to write, or to compose a different Faith as a rival to that established by the holy Fathers assembled with the Holy Ghost in Nicæa.” Ephesus was not merely using its authority to declare a “conciliar fundamentalist” view of Nicea. Rather, it merely recognized what was already taken for granted.
This was not some sort of peculiar idea swirling around the eastern Mediterranean. Less than two decades after Ephesus, Saint Pope Leo the Great spoke of Nicea as “framed by the Spirit of God and hallowed by the whole world’s reverence.” (Letter 14, Chap 3). However, Leo was hardly original in expounding “conciliar fundamentalism” in the West. Saint Augustine applied the idea to the consensus of the whole Church being superior to local councils:
the safe course for us is, not to advance with any rashness of judgment in setting forth a view which has neither been started in any regionary Council of the Catholic Church nor established in a plenary one; but to assert, with all the confidence of a voice that cannot be gainsaid, what has been confirmed by the consent of the universal Church, under the direction of our Lord God and Saviour Jesus Christ. (On Baptism, Against the Donatists, Book 7, Par 102)
The Council of Carthage in 424 quipped in Canon 138 with the preceding in mind:
whosoever thinks himself wronged by any judgment may appeal to the council of his Province, or even to a General Council unless it be imagined that God can inspire a single individual [i.e. the Pope] with justice, and refuse it to an innumerable multitude of bishops assembled in council.
The disputed Council of Ephesus received a letter from Capreolus of Carthage which claimed that “the operation of the Holy Spirit…we believe will be present in your hearts during the proceedings” and that “[heresies in the past] were routed by the authority of the apostolic see and a unanimous priestly vote.” (June 22 Session in Price, Ephesus, p. 279) Capreolus assumed that consensus/unanimity revealed the Spirit’s work. It is also worth noting that Capreolus’ assumption was that the Spirit was involved in all the council’s work. There is nary a hint that the issuing of a decree or canon was the only event where the Spirit’s work was evident.
The preceding reveals not only the universal belief in the “conciliar fundamentalist” mindset in that it was acknowledged matter-of-factly in an ecumenical council, but also that the mindset was flexible. The “consensus” inspired by God can have a “few” detractors (regional councils, the Pope, Nestorius and the entire Antiochian Patriarchate–to name a few). Some minorities, like the Donatists, even claimed their own “Plenary Councils” in opposition to the Church, had an “unerring voice.” (Letter 51.2; cf On Baptism, Book 2, par 4; Answer to Petilian the Donatist, Book 1, Par 11) Whose consensus counted? Some method to discern between true and false claims to Spirit-derived inerrancy was necessary.
Saint Vincent de Lerins in the Commonitorium was the first to explicitly delineate the epistemology of consensus and its applicability to deciding doctrinal matters:
We shall follow universality if we confess that one faith to be true, which the whole Church throughout the world confesses; antiquity, if we in no wise depart from those interpretations which it is manifest were notoriously held by our holy ancestors and fathers; consent, in like manner, if in antiquity itself we adhere to the consentient definitions and determinations of all, or at the least of almost all priests and doctors. (Par 6)
The (near) consensus of the saints was to Saint Vincent the illumination of the Holy Spirit:
Great then is the example of these same blessed men, an example plainly divine, and worthy to be called to mind, and meditated upon continually by every true Catholic, who, like the seven-branched candlestick, shining with the sevenfold light of the Holy Spirit, showed to posterity how…[heresy] might be crushed by the authority of hallowed antiquity. (Commonitorium, Par 15)
The preceding applied not to just the consensus “of the holy Fathers.” The epistemology of Spirit-led consensus was explicitly applied to the workings of ecumenical councils:
the whole priesthood of the Catholic Church, with the authority of a General Council…according to whose consentient and unanimous judgment, both the sacred preliminaries of judicial procedure were expounded, and the rule of divine truth established. (Commonitorium, Par 77-78)
On the preceding basis, Vincent concluded that Nestorius and his partisans were outside the consensus and thereby devoid of the Spirit and incorrect. This identified the Council of Ephesus, which had a geographic and historical consensus, as fundamentally correct. (Commonitorium, Par 79-83)
It should be no surprise that “conciliar fundamentalism” was presumed upon in all subsequent ecumenical councils. In Chalcedon, a council that had significant attendance worldwide with the exception of Rome (who sent only a few legates), purposely had votes which operated on the principle of consensus. No one dissented—they simply would abstain/absence themselves if they disagreed. Price observes in “Presidency and Procedure at the Early Ecumenical Councils” that this procedure is lacking from secular senatorial procedure. He does not venture a reason as to why councils operated this way but simply that they did. The answer is clear though: if the very premise of the council’s work was consensus (and not popular vote), then for the council to be legitimate it will convey consensus. This must be true even when consensus was arguably not actually obtained yet. This is why councils required synodical reception after they occurred, as this ensured there was an actual consensus (of a retroactive nature perhaps).
Future ecumenical councils revealed the same mindset at work in even more ways. Constantinople II in painstaking detail sought to absolve Chalcedon from the allegation it was Nestorian, because in its ecclesiastical sessions the council had permitted former Nestorian sympathizers to repent. It boggles the mind that the work of a whole other ecumenical council would be necessary, or that Pope Vigilius would have had to write documents as detailed over what had occurred in these sessions such as the Second Constitutim, if the proceedings of an ecumenical council were irrelevant. If the fathers of Constantinople II and Vigilius had a modern view of ecumenicity, they would have simply said the council erred in putting their doctrinal views into practice or, more simply, would have stated the modern canard “ecumenical councils are only infallible in their canons and decrees in matters touching the faith or morals.” However, they did not say either of these things. They clearly assumed that the same Holy Spirit directed both the disciplinary and doctrinal work in a council, so the authority of the decree and canons explicitly depended upon the rest of the council not making doctrinal mistakes when conducting its other business.
Ironically, Constantinople III (coined by Dr. Ryan Strickler “the council of the archivists”) had entire sessions dedicated to the “close textual analysis” of the manuscripts of Constantinople II. The points at issue were passing statements found neither in the decree or canons. In fact, one of the disputed documents, the Letter of Saint Menas, was simply appended to the council’s minutes as a preconiliar document (something that was common to the “official” collections of conciliar proceedings). Hence, the lofty view of the attendees of a council being graced with inerrancy was also applied to those who published the minutes themselves! Pre-conciliar documents likewise were treated with equal authority as the conciliar documents. If the integrity of a council’s teaching was dependent upon what was published, then such scrupulosity makes sense.
During Nicea II, its president (Saint Tarasius of Constantinople) said matter-of-factly to widespread agreement:
Fathers are always concordant with each other; nor is there any opposition between them, though to those who do not understand their scope and intention, they may appear to be in opposition. (Session 1 quoted in Mendham, Nicea II, p. 43)
The preceding makes almost no sense to moderns and it absolutely contradicts the notion that the fathers had anything other than a “conciliar fundamentalist” mindset. Otherwise, why not simply say the questionable passages were not in a decree/canon or even the council itself? This betrays, as alluded to before, that the notion of “fundamentalism” was broader in application than solely the ecumenical council. In general, the Byzantine mind simply had a very high view of the authority of saints, granting them borderline Scriptural authority. Father Maximos Constas observed that Saint Maximus viewed “Gregory’s [Nazianzus] word” with “a sacred, indeed inspired, character, not unlike the words of Scripture.” (Ambigua, p. xiii) Yonatan Moss observed that during Chalcedon:
patristic authority shared a footing with biblical authority. Just as the biblical authors, understood to have been guided by the Holy Spirit, could never be said to have “gone astray,” so too were the fathers now thought to be divinely inspired and therefore correct and unswerving in everything they wrote. (Incorruptible Bodies, p. 107-108)
Even after Chalcedon:
The generation of Neo-Chalcedonian writers immediately aﬅer Severus (Ephrem of Antioch, Leontius of Jerusalem, [Saint] Justinian, et al.) strongly opposed the notion that there were any contradictions or historical changes in the fathers, and developed the hermeneutic of discovering the author’s “intention” (ἔννοια) in any given passage as the key to resolving contradictions. (Ibid., p. 214)
Despite the plethora of obvious problems this creates in interpreting Patristic documents, the fact is several scholars acknowledge that the Church Fathers “quaintly” operated according to such “fundamentalist” presumptions. It should not be surprising that the Council of Nicea II made the overt assertion that they “followed the traditions of the Apostles and Fathers or as I may venture to say being by similar inspiration of the Spirit made of the same mind with them.” (Letter of the Council to Empress Irene and Her Son, Mendham, Nicea II, p. 445) In a letter to Pope Adrian I, the council described its work as heretics that God through the council “has subverted with the word of grace and slain with the sword of the Spirit.” (Ibid., p. 468)
These presumptions did not die off in the first millennium. Constantinople (1351) literally anathematizes those “who did not embrace the Acts of the ecumenical councils” vis a vis “the definition only.” (Par 12) Saint Nicolai of Zica, in the 20th century, echoes the mindset:
They [the fathers] were given the understanding of the mysteries of God because of their faith and love. Therefore, test your understanding against their understanding, and if you see a difference, know that it is you who are not in the right. If, however, your understanding is in accordance with theirs, you have attained the measure of their faith and love, and that means that Christ dwells in your heart. (Prologue of Ochrid, November 17 Homily)
This phronema persists to this day amongst the Orthodox despite the number of academics who question the utility of operating in such a fashion. The vast preponderance of clergy are unyielding in repeating the mantra that “the Church has never changed” and that the saints have maintained consistency.
Even if people quibble over details, the overall mindset is yet another link in the chain of the consensus-fundamentalist mindset of the early Church. It is a manifestation of the consensus-based epistemology evident from the Church’s very beginning and explicitly delineated by Saint Vincent. In light of the preceding, the question becomes when did people start thinking differently about this? Why is it that those who receive a Western-oriented education find the “fundamentalist” mindset bizarre?
Anastasius’ the Librarian’s Innovative View of Ecumenicity. Anastasius the Librarian (the ghostwriter for Popes Nicholas, Adrian II, and John VIII) was the mastermind behind:
- The mainstreaming of the Pseudo-Isidorian decretals.
- The (potential) falsifying of the minutes of Nicea II to insert Papal prerogatives not found in the Greek.
- Alterations to the Formula of Adrian II in the Latin with the same Papal prerogatives.
- Denying the full authority of the canons of Trullo on grounds other than economia.
- Papal infallibility (presuming Saint Pope Agatho’s letter to Constantinople III did not teach this idea).
In effect, one can rightfully call Anastasius the “inventor of Papalism.” He established almost all the positions necessary so that the Hildebrandian reforms, and thereby the modern Papacy, would even make sense. The only exception is that he may have not invented direct jurisdiction (which is something that was devised out of necessity during the Crusades). However, he did add an interpolation to JE 2448 in Nicea 2 that has a direct-jurisdictional logic.
In addition to the preceding, Anastasius is the first person to oppose “conciliar fundamentalism” in that he invented the (modern) western view of ecumenicity (i.e. only the canons/decrees are infallible in matters touching faith and morals). Perhaps no man in the history of Western religion until Martin Luther is singularly as important, and creative, as Anastasius. Ironically, he is a name that almost no one has ever heard of.
Anastasius faced the conundrum of dealing with critics who objected to his muscular re-invention of the Papacy into Papalism. These critics cited the fact that an ecumenical council (the highest known authority of his day) had anathematized Pope Honorius as a heretic. The issue with this seems not so much that Papal Infallibility was a doctrine dear to anyone in Rome other than Anastasius, but rather that the Pope was liable to judgement by outsiders (thereby subjugating him to the consensus of the Church, something the Council of Carthage  presumed upon).
This was a “political football” in its day because it would have conceded to Saint Photius and the Pan-Orthodox Council of Constantinople (867) that they validly deposed Pope Nicholas for teaching heresy (specifically the Filioque, see Louth, Greek East and Latin West, p. 171). For those who understand the ecclesiology of the early Church, such a deposition was certainly valid, as the consent of Patriarchs and their synods was all that was necessary to depose a Patriarch–even the Pope of Rome, as had occurred in Constantinople II. This canonical deposition demanded a response from Rome, who absolutely did not consent to it.
Pope Adrian II, who succeeded Nicholas, rejected the 867 council specifically on the grounds that it “passed judgement on” Nicholas. This was something supposedly no authority can do with a Pope, a position first fully expressed by Pseudo-Symmachean forgeries but otherwise not seriously asserted until this point (in light of previous Papal depositions; see section 3). (Price and Montinaro, Constantinople 869-870, p. 314) In voicing his frustration with Photius, Pope Adrian II readily admitted that:
even though Honorius was anathematized after this [sic, “his”] death by the easterners, it should be known that he had been accused of heresy, which is the only offense where inferiors have the right to resist the initiatives of their superiors or are free to reject their false opinions, although even in this case no patriarch or other bishop has the right of passing any judgement on him unless the consent of the pontiff of the same first see has authorized it. (Ibid.)
Papal Infallibility was clearly not a concern to Pope Adrian II. He likely did not even conceive of the idea. His point nonetheless suited his immediate purposes. Constantinople III did not contradict his Papal prerogatives, because it’s anathematization of Honorius was proper procedurally and consented to by the Papacy. Constantinople’s (867) deposition of Nicholas therefore was illegitimate on two separate grounds—they did not judge Nicholas guilty of heresy (perhaps this is a denial that the Filioque was opposed to Orthodox doctrine, as Anastasius had in fact argued, or even taught at all by Rome as at this point their Creed was intact) nor did they have Rome’s consent.
Anastasius, instead of spinning Constantinople III’s anathematization of Honorius as proof of Papal authority, took a different tact. Having at that juncture recently translated the polemical works of Saint Maximus (and his circle), he surely noticed Maximus’ provocative pro-Roman ecclesiology. Maximus clearly entertained the idea of Roman indefectibility (“all the Churches of Christians everywhere have held, and hold the great Church 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,” PG 91:137-40 quoted in Butler and Collorafi, Keys, 2004, p. 352-353) One may venture that from reading Maximus and the Formula of Adrian II as found (or likely interpolated by Anastasius himself) in the Latin minutes of Constantinople (869) (which essentially followed the Latin Formula of Hormisdas), Anastasius gleaned Papal Infallibility. It is plausible, though not a given, that Maximus’ view of indefectibility of the Roman Synod was entirely consistent with Anastasius’ view of infallibility of the person of the Pope. Yet, Adrian II surely did not intend the reading of the words ascribed to himself in his Formula in such a sense to contradict his own assessment (and personal anathema, as all Popes at that time did so in their consecration encyclicals) of Honorius. (see Papadakis, The Rise of the Papacy, p. 162)
In the concocting of the doctrine of Papal Infallibility, Anastasius decided to delegitimize the judgement against Honorius altogether. In his Letter to John the Deacon in Rome he argued that “not even through the agency of Honorius has there been found any trace of the serpent.” (Brownen, Seventh Century Saints, p. 157) Just shortly before he asserted that Pope Anastasius II wrote “with the heavy weight of the authority of Holy Scripture,” a reference not to the quoting of Scriptures but to the nature of the his writing itself. To buttress this view of Papal Infallibility, he devised more than a few reasons why Honorius was wrongly anathematized by Constantinople III (Ibid., p. 151, 153):
- Pope John IV’s apologia correctly identified that Honorius was not intending something heretical.
- Pope Honorius was not a full-blown heretic because he was not “argumentatively obstinate.”
- He didn’t really write the letter.
- He did write the letter, but his scribe hated him and added the heretical statement.
- He did write the letter, but his scribe did not question Honorius enough resulting in the criterium of “argumentative obstinance” not being met.
- It is not right to judge people (cf Luke 6:37) and Pope Honorius should be “give[n] the benefit of the doubt.”
Apparently unaware that the devising of six separate excuses merely underscores how tenuous a defense for Honorius really was, the fact of the matter is that this directly called into question the “conciliar fundamentalist” mindset of Constantinople III. After all, how could the council err on so significant of a detail? Anastasius puts forward what he frames as a historical view of ecumenicity contrary to “fundamentalism:”
lest we seem to be making an accusation against a council so holy and venerable, or to criticise it carelessly, we think it fitting for us to consider them in the way we know our holy fathers considered the great council of Chalcedon. One of them, namely holy Pope Gregory, indicated that this was to be accepted only “up to the issuing of the canons“. (Ibid., p. 155)
As one can see Anastasius gives a restricted view of “authority” as it corresponds to ecumenical councils, citing Saint Gregory the Great as his precedent. In fact, Anastasius surprisingly does not explicitly endorse the decrees of ecumenical councils, given that he only speaks of them being accepted “up to the issuing of the canons” with no mention of their decrees. This was perhaps intentional as Pope Honorius was condemned in both the decrees of Constantinople III and Nicea II. However, canons tended to be issued with the conciliar decree and it would be bizarre to assert one accepted a council on disciplinary matters, but nothing concerning its teaching on the faith. Anastasius’ overall position was that councils were accepted up to the point that Rome accepted them, as he quotes Popes Gelasius’ Tractate 4 on this point. (Ibid., p. 155) He ascribes to Gelasius the idea that ecumenical councils (presumably the doctrine formulated in their decrees) are only accepted on matters of faith/morals (“for the communion of the faith and the Catholic and apostolic truth,” Ibid., p. 157).Was either Pope’s view of authority in contradiction to “conciliar fundamentalism” as Anastasius claims?
The quotation from Gregory is identified in a footnote to be from “Registrum IX, 148, 702.95-97.” This is in fact Book 9, Letter 52, PL 77 986-987, something I verified by matching the Latin to the PL using Googlebooks. With the help of John Collorafi, I was able to learn that the context of what Gregory stated is (unsurprisingly) inconsistent with Anastasius’ overall point. Gregory did not oppose “conciliar fundamentalism.” Rather, he expounded the notion.
Gregory is responding to accusations made by those who opposed Constantinople II on the basis it contradicted Chalcedon. In the passage that Anastasius is quoting from, Gregory asserts that “the holy synod of Chalcedon spoke of general causes [i.e. the ecclesiastical sessions] up to the definition of the faith [i.e. the decree] and the promulgation of the canons.” As one can see, he is simply stating that Chalcedon conducted ecclesiastical business in addition to issuing a decree and canons. It appears that Anastasius was either purposely excising the part of the quotation about the decree or that he intended to mean “decree and canons.” Anastasius aside, any sort of restricted acceptance of Chalcedon is not explicitly communicated by Gregory.
In fact, he goes ahead and defends details surrounding the “general causes.” He criticizes the Constantinople II denier in that “you recognize the letter [to Maras] in which the most reverend Ibas denies is his own.” He argues that Chalcedon therefore never accepted this letter (concurring with Constantinople II), because the letter obviously condemned Cyril and defends Nestorius. This was something that “contradicts the same synod” as Ibas anathematizes Nestorius “as a heretic and venerates the blessed Cyril.” In defense of Constantinople II’s parsing of the Letter to Maras issue, Gregory cites that there is no way the council accepted it as “without a doubt [it] proved contrary to the definition of the holy synod.”
Therefore, Saint Gregory is not employing the novel epistemology of ecumenicity that Anastasius ascribes to him. Rather, the former is employing what Moss calls “the hermeneutic of…intention” in defending the integrity of the entirety of Chalcedon’s minutes: both the “general causes” and the decree/canons. He is arguing they are all fundamentally consistent and that Chalcedon could not intend to conclude an ecclesiastical matter, or endorse a document when doing so, in a way doctrinally inconsistent with its own definition. This is literally the opposite of what Anastasius was ascribing to him. If this was the best “proof text” he was able to find, this in effect is a concession to the “conciliar fundamentalist” consensus.
Tractate 4 from Pope Gelasius (Thiel, Epistolae Papae Gelasii, Tractatus 4.1, 558) defends the entirety of Chalcedon in a different way. Gelasius argues that:
for either it [Chalcedon] must be admitted in its entirety, or if it is partially redeemable, it is no longer possible to stand firm in its entirety: let them therefore know it according to the Holy Scriptures and the tradition of the elders, as well as the canons and rules of the Church, for the faith, communion, and Catholic and apostolic truth, for which this is delegated by the apostolic see and confirmed [by] the facts, admitted without doubt by the whole Church.
Gelasius then goes on to complain about Canon 28:
But there is another [alleged part of Chalcedon, i.e. Canon 28] which, through incompetent presumption, is brought forth there, or rather fanned out, which the apostolic see fully delegated to carry out, which was manifestly contradicted by the vicars of the apostolic see.
Gelasius’ letter was written during the Acacian Schism in which Chalcedon’s integrity was under attack. His point is that all of Chalcedon “must be admitted in its entirety” like the Scriptures and the saints, otherwise it would not be an ecumenical council at all. In defense of Chalcedon’s integrity against a critique that disagreement over Canon 28 would compromise the integrity of the whole council, Gelasius argues that this canon lacked consensus–particularly Rome’s approval. This was recorded in the minutes of Chalcedon itself in the 16th session (which he alludes to), so this would not be at all inconsistent with the acceptance of the “entirety” of the said council.
Like Gregory’s quote, the quotes from Gelasius actually defend “conciliar fundamentalism.” Additionally, they are damaging to Anastasius’ whole point as Gelasius is merely expounding that consensus determines what precisely is authoritative within “the entirety” of an ecumenical council. The fact that Rome had in fact consented to Pope Honorius’ condemnation as a heretic in two ecumenical councils surely is counterproductive for Anastasius if his basis for disputing these sections of the councils is Gelasius’ criterium of Roman consent. Lastly, Anastasius’ insertion of “for the communion of the faith and the Catholic and apostolic truth,” the idea the part of the council accepted by Rome is authoritative given it touches on matters of faith, is quoting this passage out-of-context. In fact, Gelasius is equating Chalcedon with the Scriptures and Patristics as something which must be upheld in their entirety as they form the basis of “the Catholic and apostolic truth.”
Conclusion. The Patristic pedigree for “conciliar fundamentalism” is undeniable and for this reason several scholars recognize that this Byzantine phronema undergirded their epistemology of ecumenicity and Patristic hermeneutics. The restrictive western presumption that solely the decree and canons of ecumenical councils (relating to faith and morals) are infallible, and not the minutes, is an idea not only lacking Patristic merit, but its originator can actually be named: Anastasius the Librarian. Anastasius, just as he invented so many other ideas out of whole cloth based upon forgeries or out-of-context interpretations of the Patristics, likewise invented what was the antecedent to the modern, western-view of ecumenicity. Not coincidentally, his revised view of ecumenicity was concocted to bolster his innovative Papal claims–just like all his other innovations were. For this reason, the rejection of “conciliar fundamentalism” was one of the changes in the West that would prove to play a role in creating the vastly disparate epistemic assumptions which have since alienated Western Christianity from the Orthodox, Patristic consensus.
Always good materials from Craig
Thanks for the great information. Never knew about this.
For more on Anastasius’ background see https://medievalworlds.net/0xc1aa5576%200x003c9cd2.pdf
In St Gregory Nazianzen’s Oration 42, in the first paragraph he cites 1 Cor 14:32 in reference to him being judged by the council; which implies he believed prophetic work was occurring there.
Also interesting in Par 6 Gregory cites his own prophetic gift: “This is foretold me by the Holy Spirit, if I have any prophetic instinct and insight into the future.”