Oldalképek
PDF
ePub

except that it pronounced in favour of what has subsequently been regarded as heresy. It was controlled by the monks and the furious mobs whom they managed to collect, but hardly more so than the recognised Council by which it was preceded. The account of its proceedings is humiliating enough. The first question addressed by Eusebius of Doryleum to Eutyches, intended to elicit his opinion on the two natures, was met by a fierce clamour, “Away with Eusebius! banish Eusebius! let him be burned alive! As he cuts asunder the two natures in Christ, so be he cut asunder!” In reply to the question. from the President, Dioscorus, Patriarch of Alexandria, “Is the doctrine that there are two natures after the Incarnation to be tolerated ? " there rose from an assembly driven to unanimity, as Dean Milman tells us, “ by the dread of the Imperial soldiery and the savage monks, who environed and even broke in and violated the sanctity of the Council,” one frenzied shout, " Anathema on him who so says !” “I have your voices," said the President, “I must have your hands. He that cannot cry let him lift up his hands.” “Accursed," was the cry again, “ be he who says there are two." One shudders with horror at the thought of such desecration of that which is most sacred, such blasphemous profanity (for it is nothing less) on the part of Christian prelates met together to pronounce on points of Christian faith. Nor did it even stop here, for Flavianus, the Patriarch of Constantinople, against whom the action of the Synod was mainly directed, as the enemy, rival, and accuser of Eutyches, fell a victim to the violence of the Council. It is said that Dioscorus himself forgot so far the dignity of his position and the teachings of the religion of which he professed to be a leading representative, as to take part in the cruel assault upon the aged bishop; and although it is difficult to disentangle the exact truth from the partisan statements with which we have to deal, it is certain that Flavianus died as the result of the treatment he had received.

We do not wonder at the anxiety to disavow this Council, and if it had been the only one at which violence prevailed, or even the only one at which blood was shed, we should accept the disavowal. But this “ Robber Synod” is only too like other assemblies of the kind, more extreme and unscrupulous perhaps, but at most only differing in degree, if even in that, from the previous Council held in the same city. Three hundred and sixty bishops and ecclesiastics were present, and among them the Metropolitans of Antioch, Jerusalem, and Constantinople. It was convened in due form, and an Imperial edict endorsed its decrees, and demanded universal submission to them. It was unfortunate, inasmuch as the tide of circumstances set in steadily against it, the Imperial favour to

which it owed its existence and power passed away from it in consequence of the death of its patron, Theodosius, and the accession of the orthodox Pulcheria, and a Council at Chalcedon reversed its decisions. This new Council, which, however, was not more formal in its constitution than its predecessor, many of whose members pelonged to it, yielding to the Imperial will, received with frantic applause and rejoicing the letter of Pope Leo on condemnation of Eutyches to which that of Ephesus had refused even a hearing, and instead of the shouts which that “Robber Synod” had raised sent up an outcry equally passionate and equally full of bigotry and rage, “ Christ has deposed Dioscorus — Christ has deposed the murderer-God has avenged His martyrs.” “ Accursed be he that admits not that Peter has spoken by the mouth of Leo!” “ Away with the Egyptian, the Egyptian into exile.” And this was the way in which the standard of ecclesiastical orthodoxy was formed. This voice of insensate clamour, influenced as it was by the political surroundings of the time, and expressing far more the opinion of the faction predominant at the Court of Constantinople than of the assembled ecclesiastics, is the voice of the Church, to which we are asked to yield an obedience as though it were the voice of God. The “ Church is stronger than Heaven” Pius impiously tells us, and here in these infuriated bishops, borne to and fro on the waves of popular excitement, and ready at all times to employ any or every instrument to secure the victory of their faction, and with their mouths full of curses and bitterness in relation to all who hold a different dogma, we are invited to recognise the Church, and the Church in its times of special purity. It might certainly seem as if in these displays it was measuring its strength against Heaven, trying how far it was possible to expel everything that savoured of Heaven out of the Church which was designed to bring in the days of Heaven on earth, showing how difficult it was for men to enter into its aims and preserve the spirit that ought to be characteristic of the kingdom of Heaven. The Pope is unconsciously right in suggesting this idea of antagonism between the two, and seldom has it been more marked than in the transactions of these Councils.

The Council of Chalcedon was orthodox enough, and appeared for a time disposed to show implicit deference to the Bishop of Rome, who, in the name and by the authority of the bishops there convened, deposed Dioscorus. But there was one of its decrees which was eminently displeasing to the Papacy, and whose authority it has never acknowledged; for, while Rome has always been eager to quote the edicts of Councils when they could be adduced in her own favour, she has been equally ready to disavow particular Councils, or, as in this case, some one decree of a Council

which is recognised as orthodox, for the simple and to her allsufficient reason that it was not compatible with her claims. The prelates of Chalcedon were furious against Eutyches, furious against the members of the “ Robber Synod," who had dared to put a slight upon the dignity of Pope Leo, strong in their assertion of the doctrine Leo had taught; but when it came to a question involving the supremacy of the Roman See, they took a very different tone. They were assembled in a suburb of Constantinople, were for the most part prelates of the East, and were open to those Imperial influences which would undoubtedly be employed to advance the ecclesiastical dignity of the city, which the Emperors had raised to a metropolitan status. It is not wonderful therefore, that, with all their willingness to render due and more than legitimate honour to the Roman See, they should be equally anxious to enhance the glory of that of Constantinople. Among other canons, therefore, they adopted one which admitted the supremacy of the Romish bishop, not on the ground that he was a successor of Peter, but was Bishop of the capital of the West, and which gave to the Patriarch of Constantinople an equal rank in the Eastern world. We cannot pronounce as to the validity of this decree. Leo and his partisans asserted that it was only passed by a limited number of bishops after the work of the Council was really over; and hence it has never been acknowledged in the Romish Church as having any authority. It is valuable, however, as evidence that the Pope occupied a very different position then from that which Pius IX. claims now. His influence is evidently growing, but his primacy is not confessed. He has, as he could hardly fail to have, high standing and great weight in the gatherings of the Christian world, but he does not summon the Council; and though his letter is welcomed because it happens to accord with the general feeling of the assembly, he advances no pretension to absolute authority, and had he done so there is no doubt it would have met with a powerful resistance which he would not have been able to overcome. But everything was helping the development of the Papal power, and it was wielded by men who knew how to seize on every circumstance and use it for their own ambitious purposes. The division of the empire had favoured their plans, and when the Western Empire fell the first Christian Bishop of the West naturally became a personage of great importance and power. But, more than any other, the furious theological controversies of the East into which the patriarchs of the great sees threw themselves, with a passion that often disgraced their order and their religion, led men to turn their eyes to Rome, and to accord to her bishops a reverence due to their unflinching zeal for orthodoxy.

A later Council of Constantinople is important, because of the relation of some of its proceedings to the Pope's claims to infallibility. It was assembled mainly to decide as to what was called the Monothelite controversy, another of those discussions which had arisen out of the tendency to explain that which lies beyond the range of human intellect. It arose out of a discovery by Sergius, Patriarch of Constantinople, of a writing by one of his eminent predecessors, in which it was asserted that Christ had only one will. At first the doctrine spread rapidly. Almost the whole Eastern Church accepted it; and Honorius, the Bishop of Rome, was carried away by the prevailing sentiment. But his successors took an entirely opposite course, and at length a Council was summoned to adjudicate. The Emperor was the president; a hall in the Imperial palace was the council chamber; and there appears to have been more dignity and deliberation in the proceedings than was the wont of these assemblies. The Pope was represented by a considerable number of envoys, and after some discussion the Patriarch of Constantinople confessed himself convinced by their arguments, and renounced Monothelitism. Again Rome appeared in the eyes of all Christendom as the champion of orthodoxy; but, unfortunately, the Council could not separate without indulging in the favourite occupation of anathematising all heretics, living or dead, and amongst others the Pope Honorius. Probably this did not seriously trouble Agatho, his then successor; but in days when the Church is asked to declare the Pope's utterances infallible it is extremely inconvenient to the advocates of this infallibility to have this fact staring them in the face, and hence we have some ingenious but not very ingenuous attempts at present to get rid of the scandal. A Pope pronounced a heretic by a general Council is not easily reconciled with the theory they are so anxious to assert; for even were they prepared to throw the Council overboard, they would not get rid of the difficulty, since another Pope appears to have concurred in the anathema, and this unfortunate Honorius stands alone, his infallibility pitted against the united infallibility of his many successors, who have taught doctrines in direct opposition to his.

The third Council of Constantinople closed the series of those which “ Catholics" of all shades agree to recognise as Ecumenical. They had done much to advance the power of the priesthood, but nothing to promote the spread of Christianity. They had fostered jealousies between rival prelates, they had exhibited the

relatesh riktima ng exhibited hand fierce passions which men professing a Gospel of peace and love could display in defence of their own special tenets, they had evoked the basest of instruments for the settlement of the most sacred questions, they had allowed physical force to take the place of Scriptural argument, and had crushed freedom of thought under

the iron heel of despotic majorities, they had elaborated the simple teaching of the New Testament into creeds with subtle distinctions which few could comprehend, and had enforced them on the belief of all by threats of eternal damnation. This is the sum of their performances. They had not even succeeded in securing that outward uniformity to attain which they were convened. The Eastern and Western Churches drew farther apart as the pretensions of the contending potentates at the head of each. became more irreconcilable, until the schism between them became final and irrevocable. It is not within the province of these papers to tell the story of that separation, originating in the difference as to the procession of the Holy Ghost, and the resolve of the Western Church to retain the term Filioque in the creed. Suffice it to say that the differences about dogma were embittered by the controversy relative to image worship, and by the personal questions with which these disputes were complicated, and that the separation aided the growth of the Papal power. Up to this point there is not the semblance of evidence in favour of the Pope's claim to be regarded as the head of Christendom. It was the Patriarch of Constantinople who first styled himself “Universal Bishop," and Gregory the Great, the Pope of the day, while repudiating the pretension, was so far from meeting it by one of an opposite character that he pronounced any one who advanced it to be Antichrist. Indeed, with the growing power of Constantinople, and the correspondent decline of that of Rome, it seemed at one time to be doubtful with which the supremacy would remain, the balance of probabilities being in favour of the Eastern city. Popes did not summon Councils, did not preside over them, were rarely present at them. Their power was a development, and would never have attained the vast proportions it reached but that skilful men knew how to convert to their own advantage the very things which at first seemed most unpromising. It was long before the supremacy of the Popes, even over the Western world, was confessed, for so late as the seventh century Maurin, Bishop of Ravenna, under shelter of the Imperial sanction, asserted his independence; and it was longer still before the Western world bowed to their sway. Their relations to the Councils of the Western world will form the topic of our next article.

« ElőzőTovább »