Friday, July 15, 2011

Answering Orthodox Objections About the Robber Council

Last week, I wrote a post explaining that the only principle upon which any of us (Catholic, Orthodox, or Protestant) can say that the Second Council of Ephesus was a Robber Council, while the other Councils were valid Ecumenical Councils is on the basis of papal approval.  This is true simply as a matter of history -- the Council was rejected as a Robber Council (Latrocinium) after Pope Leo declared it such.  Even the name "Robber Council" comes from Pope Leo. So it's no coincidence that Catholic, Orthodox, and many Protestants accept the seven which the pope accepts, and reject the one that he rejects.

In the comments, Tikhon, an Orthodox reader, responded to this by attacking Robert Ritchie (who I'd quoted, and who had commented) for his “allegedly superficial understanding of what the Church is and how it functions,” saying:
You are misinformed about the Orthodox understanding of an Oecumenical Synod, about Orthodox ecclesiology in general, and about the role of an Oecumenical Synod within Orthodox ecclesiology in particular. You admit to not knowing the details of Second Ephesos as given in the Acta of Chalcedon. Had you been familiar with them, it would have been plain why the Robber Council is so-named. It was a violent affair full of every manner of machination, deceit, and coercion. Your question is moot. It is you who must show that the Seven Oecumenical Synods are not unique. You must show how they are like every false synod with one exception: they have the pope's ratification. It is simply dishonest to rely on abstraction when speaking of concrete events with lengthy records of their proceedings. Learn the facts about the Synods, and then pretend to tell us that there is no hope for distinguishing genuine ecclesiastical rulings from latrocinia.
I was tempted to simply write this off as snobbery in lieu of reason, but I think it warrants a serious response.  Here's what I'd say to each of Tikhon's three claims:

  • You are misinformed about the Orthodox understanding of an Oecumenical Synod, about Orthodox ecclesiology in general, and about the role of an Oecumenical Synod within Orthodox ecclesiology in particular.

This is vague and unpersuasive.  In the original post (and again, above), In the original post, I mentioned a surprising passage from Ketihh Mathison's book, The Shape of Sola Scriptura, in which he quotes the Orthodox Bishop Timothy Ware, who admits, “All Orthodox know which are the seven councils that their Church accepts as ecumenical, but precisely what it is that makes a council ecumenical is not so clear.” So the Catholic position, supported by the clear evidence from history, is that papal approval is necessary.  The Orthodox position is, essentially, “We don't really know why we take these seven, and not the Robber Council.”

So unless Tikhon wants to educate + Ware about what the Orthodox Church's ecclessiology is all about, I don't think that this point stands.  Simply put, the Orthodox accept the Seven on the basis of papal approval, and reject the Robber on the basis of papal rejection ... and don't even have an alibi suggesting otherwise.

  • You admit to not knowing the details of Second Ephesos as given in the Acta of Chalcedon. Had you been familiar with them, it would have been plain why the Robber Council is so-named. It was a violent affair full of every manner of machination, deceit, and coercion. 

This is the alibi that Tikhon suggests: that there was “every manner of machination, deceit, and coercion.”  Except that you could use the exact same argument to discredit the First Council of Nicea.  In fact, those who claim to be Christian while rejecting the Trinity do just this, arguing:
Surrounding the Nicene council you have crime, cover-up, motive, dangerous ambition and power-mongering. You have fear, intimidation, intrigue, back stabbing, conniving, bludgeoning, and terrorizing. Did I mention violence?
So simply showing that there were stupid and sinful things done by some of the stupid and sinful men who attended an Ecumenical Council has no impact on whether or not the Holy Spirit inspired the Council's canons.


As Tikhon himself argued, “It is simply dishonest to rely on abstraction when speaking of concrete events with lengthy records of their proceedings.”  So let's take an honest look at some of the things done in the most revered of Ecumenical Councils, the First Council of Nicea.  From the Trinitarian historian Phillip Schaff,  we're told:
Only two Egyptian bishops, Theonas and Secundus, persistently refused to sign [the Nicene Creed], and were banished with Arius to Illyria. The books of Arius were burned and his followers branded as enemies of Christianity.
Is that machination or coercion?  It could certainly be viewed that way. After all, these bishops were exiled by the Roman Emperor, Constantine, after the Council declared them excommunicated. Ultimately, a lot of coercion” is in the eye of the beholder, but I can certainly say that if the shoe were on the other foot, and orthodox Trinitarianism were subject to a Council which burnt our books, excommunicated our bishops, and forcibly sent them into exile, we'd find it coercive.

Of course, I take the First Council of Nicea simply as an example.  The heretic Nestorius brought an armed mob to the First Council of Ephesus, with the 1902 Encyclopaedia Britannica explaining that “Nestorius, with sixteen bishops and a large following of armed men, was among the first to arrive; soon afterwards came Cyril with fifty bishops.” The simple fact is, no Council in human history has ever been spotless.  Even the glorious Council of Jerusalem, found in Acts 15, and recognized by every Christian, saw “much disputing” over how Gentiles could be saved, before St. Peter arose to settle the arguments (Acts 15:7).

So no, it won't do to say that a Council isn't an Ecumenical Council because of “machination, deceit, and coercion.”  That will bar the Robber Council, surely, but will leave us with questions as to the status of the other Seven.

  • It is you who must show that the Seven Oecumenical Synods are not unique. You must show how they are like every false synod with one exception: they have the pope's ratification.
This standard is absurd, and even impossible.  It's also not what we believe. The Catholic position isn't that every single false Council looked identical to every single orthodox Council, just like not every book pretending to be Scripture was very convincing -- there were some close calls (the Didache, 1 Clement), and some not-so-close calls (the Gnostic “Gospel of Thomas,” Emily Post's “Etiquette”).  With the Robber Council, we've got a close call: it was called by the Emperor (which is how the early Councils were usually called), and attended by 130 bishops, nearly the same number as attended the Ecumenical Council of Constantinople.  Ignoring the content of what was proclaimed, an observer would have guessed it was Ecumenical.  And for obvious reasons, you can't base a Council's validity on whether or not you happen to agree with the content (or else you are judge of the Councils, instead of vice versa).

But in the first place, why would the burden be on Catholics to prove that the Orthodox couldn't concoct any argument? Shouldn't the Orthodox have some burden to explain their own faith?  To show why they accept these Seven and no others?  Simply showing that these Seven share some unique common features isn't enough. As Robert Ritchie said, we don't “want to start proposing utterly arbitrary characteristics of the first 7 councils as the key to ecumenity. Perhaps they and only they started on odd days of the month, but some things can be chalked up to coincidence.”  So no, the Orthodox have the burden here, and it's one that they've failed to carry.

We Catholics can say why these Seven alone are chosen: papal approval.  Their own bishop, Kallistos Ware, was honest enough to say that they have no answer to this argument, that they can't say why these Seven.  If Tikhon thinks he can succeed where + Ware has failed, coming up with some brilliant way of distinguishing these Seven from every other Council, he's welcome to try.  It's a good question, and one which deserves a lot of thought. But his first attempt - that man's bad behavior makes a Council not Ecumenical - fails.

40 comments:

  1. Very, very nice. And as a guy dealing with wedding planning, shots a Emily Post are always appreciated.

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  2. Your question is a rudimentary piece of Catholic apologetics: How can you know the truth without an infallible pope to tell you, i.e., if you substitute the Scriptures for the Magisterium (Protestants) or the Oecumenical Synods for the Magisterium (Orthodox)?

    Recognizing that Oecumenical Synods are in fact a living voice, unlike the Protestant source, the mute letter of Scripture, you focus the epistemological crosshairs on the Synods' "canonicity" (again not unlike with the Protestant Bible). Yet you have already made a false assumption in presuming that Oecumenical Synods are simply an "Eastern" substitute for the papacy. I agree with you that this would cause problems, not the least of which is their infrequent occurrence, even during the time of the Empire. Yet about this you are misinformed. Oecumenical Synods are not the Orthodox equivalent of, or substitute for, a Roman-style Magisterium. In fact, they aren't even an ecclesiastical institution per se. In that sense Timothy Ware was right: they are not defined canonically. So you have already framed the entire problem in a uniquely Catholic way that cannot but end with inconsistency on the part of anyone but a Catholic.

    But I will repeat my point, to which you failed to give a real response, since you persist in ignorance about the Synods themselves. Neither at Nicaea nor at Ephesos were bishops beaten. Neither at Nicaea nor at Ephesos were bishops forced to sign blank pieces of paper which were only later filled in with professions of faith. Neither at Nicaea nor at Ephesos did the signing bishops come back and recant.

    Again, read the description of the proceedings of Second Ephesos and it will be clear why it was not a legitimate Synod. Just saying, "Well, but all Councils had intrigue!" based again on abstractions, does not invalidate that point. Further, learn something of the canonical processes of the Churc for hearing the cases of accused heretics.

    What makes an Oecumenical Synod Oecumenical? Again, if you are looking for juridical, canonical definitions of a structure and institution, you will not find it. The Church's bishops from around the world (ἠ οἰκουμένη)are convoked into a formal assembly(σύνοδος) at which they proclaim the Church's true faith. If you're asking what invalidates such a meeting, look at the Acts of Chalecedon for the details of what made Second Ephesos a sham.

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    1. I don't have the ability to go into a detailed argument, but you are flat wrong here :

      "Neither at Nicaea nor at Ephesos were bishops beaten."

      Not only are you wrong, but a very prominent Saint is the one who laid the beatdown at Nicaea - St Nicholas.

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  3. Tikhon,

    I'm not looking for juridical or canonical definitions, per se. Rather, I'm looking for some sort of principled basis to say why the Robber Council wasn't valid, but First Nicea or First Constantinople were.

    After all, the key distinction you cite for what makes a Council Ecumenical is that it involves the "Church's bishops from around the world," who "are convoked into a formal assembly," yet the Robber Council (which had Bishops from both East and West) fits this description better than First Constantinople (which had only Eastern Bishops represented).

    Your accusation is that I've been too abstract, and not as interested in the specific facts of the Council. I don't think this is true, but think you make the opposite error. You've focused so squarely on the evils which occurred during the Robber Council that you can simply dismiss it out of hand. My point in the post is that those who reject First Nicea do the same. Both of you can rattle off a litany of horribles. Surely, there's some principle more intelligible than that?

    Your brother in Christ,

    Joe.

    P.S. Obviously, I'm more sympathetic to your litany of horribles than the non-Trinitarians, both because I (a) feel more natural sympathy for the plight of those suffering for the Faith than for heresy, and (b) because your litany is derived from the Acts of the Council of Chalcedon, which we both accept. But obviously, those who would accept the Robber Council wouldn't accept Chalcedon.

    So I think you're at the right conclusion about the Seven Councils, but yes, you seem to me to be like a Protestant who can't explain where his Bible comes from, even if he ends up with the right Books. (I know that a Council isn't the same thing as a Bible, but that objection misses the point.)

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  4. We can keep going around in circles. Synods of bishops, unlike your papal Magisterium, can be rejected as illegitimate. This seems to be the sole point you are making. If you want to advance your conclusions about this by remaining in a historical vacuum and saying that there is really no way of distinguishing genuine episcopal assemblies from raucous mayhem from which the very signatories rescind, then there is no point in continuing this discussion.

    I don't have a problem saying that it takes something of faith to recognize the Church from the outside. And this seems to be the only real consequence of your argument, since what you are demanding of the Orthodox Church is a compelling apologetic thesis for the canon of the Oecumenical Synods. But it's very simple. Unlike the Protestants with their Bible, the Oecumenical Synods are not something we inherited and cannot justify. Those were our bishops--our pastors--getting together and confirming the faith, defending it and dividing it. If sometimes convocations occurred which purported to be legitimate synods of bishops but turned out not to be, the same Church, the same authoritative, catholic voice of the Church (not a splinter group), rejected them, again in synod.

    Ironically, it is you have inherited the Oecumenical Synods and cannot justify them, much to your embarassment. They are so inconsistent with Roman Catholic ecclesiology that you don't know what to make of them. On the one hand you are stuck with them, and in a sense have inherited many of their teachings. On the other hand, there is so much at odds with the system and structure currently in place, especially their theological method, their concept of the Church, their self-awareness. The same holds for the Church Fathers, which only provide apologetic fodder from time to time but possess a disproportionate role and lack of authority to that they held in the pre-modern RC church. They have just become a sea of historical voices in the ongoing search for truth.

    Forgive me if I resign from this dispute. My original intention was to show that this post was based on a lack of information about the Oecumenical Synods, not to mention a false presumption about their role within the Church in relation to the papacy. Those points I have already made. Anything further would be vanity. I hope your readers will examine the sources, not only those that establish their preconceived beliefs, and not only those secondary sources of little worth, which provide impressions without facts and speculation without foundation, but rather the Acts of the Synods themselves, the lives of the Saints that offer spiritual interpretations of historical events, and deeper theological writings.

    All the best to you.
    Asking your forgiveness,
    Tikhon

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    1. How are Ecumenical Councils in contrast to Catholic ecclesiology? we call them more frequently than your eastern schismatic Churches.

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  5. P.S. To try to keep from going in another circle, let me reiterate that my basic point in referring to the lack of juridical/canonical definition, was that this is not an institution of the Church per se. So there is no problem taking them on a case by case basis.

    If you want to think of it another way, imagine the Pope today saying, by the way, that Wednesday Audience last week is now being exalted to an Ex Cathedra pronouncement. I wouldn't have a problem with you thinking that an Oecumenical Synod is retroactively determined to have been such by the Church, just like your canon wasn't defined until Trent.

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  6. I'm not sure I understand. Tikhon, how do I know that the Nicene Creed is true? How certain should one be in asserting its truth?

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  7. Daniel, how do you know that the pope's infallibility is true?

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  8. I told you that was coming Joe; do you mind terrible if I charitably tell you I told you so? I still love you.

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  9. Tikhon,

    You said: "If sometimes convocations occurred which purported to be legitimate synods of bishops but turned out not to be, the same Church, the same authoritative, catholic voice of the Church (not a splinter group), rejected them, again in synod."

    The Million-Dollar question is this: What is a "legitimate synod of bishops"?

    Without knowing this, it's unclear how to interpret your comment "the same Church...rejected them, again in synod."


    You also said: "Ironically, it is you have inherited the Oecumenical Synods and cannot justify them, much to your embarassment. They are so inconsistent with Roman Catholic ecclesiology that you don't know what to make of them."

    I'm not sure what you mean by this. Perhaps you are unaware that Catholic ecclesiology was the only option at Nicaea (e.g. see Canon 6 properly understood). Constantinople didn't exist yet, and was basically invented for political reasons in the 4th Century, and has no Apostolic roots.

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  10. Nick,

    A synod of bishops is always a legitimate synod of bishops, and speaks for the Church, as long as it is composed of real bishops and behaves accordingly. In this way, the Lord ensures that they will confirm the truth. You seem to be aware of the Church's canonical tradition, so I need not elaborate what constitutes ecclesial, episcopal behavior. Objectively, the Synod of Theodosius and Dioscorus does not qualify. The Holy Seven do.

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  11. Historically, either the Catholic Church is the pillar of faith or the Orthodox is the pillar of faith.

    There is no unity in the Orthodox faith in moral standards or important items of faith. Is human cloning licit? The death penalty? Abortion?

    There are Orthodox that teach an ecumenical council is infallible, others teach it is not. Some teach consubstantiation. Others transubstantiation.

    Historically, you have venerated icons, repudiated icons, and venerated them again.

    And your definition--no, that word is too charitable--your description of a true council isn't so convincing. Just ask the Oriental Orthodox.

    Your church isn't built on a rock. It's planted its foundation in mud, or something far smellier.

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  12. Ask the Copts what? Why they rejected Chalcedon? I don't understand your point. Does the SSPX nullify Vatican II?

    Everything else is off-topic. I'm not interested in what "some Orthodox teach" any more than you are interested in what Hans Kuhn teaches. And just as your perception of the RC church is not influenced by the droves of priestesses, child-aborters, divorcees, pedophiles, etc., so you should not see dissent or confusion in the ranks of the Orthodox Church as indicative of a lack of ethical teaching.

    As for your insults to the body of Christ, it is inconsistent not only with your church's ecclesiology, but also with its persistent fawning over our spiritual, theological, and liturgical heritage.

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  13. You are skipping by an important point. I don't care if the pope thinks we can be saved by standing on our head as long as he doesn't teach that claim officially. That is how I know what is true. What is true is communicated to the one designated by the Author of Truth to teach infallibly when acting in the official capacity as the guardian of the deposit of faith.

    Does the Eastern Church teach that any truth is infallible?

    Is scripture true? Are the canons of the Holy 7 true?

    How do we know this?

    Please answer those four questions.

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  14. Daniel,

    We are all well aware of the appeal to epistemological security for establishing the need for the papacy. Again, this counter-reformation mentality is ill-suited to Orthodox-Catholic dialogue.

    <>

    I assume this is a mistake. Are you asking if we believe in any kind of certainty? Yes.

    <>

    The Scriptures are true. The canons are neither true nor false. They are canons, rules for governing the Church. I think what you are referring to are the dogmatic definitions. Yes, they are true.

    <>

    As I tried to hint earlier,the skepticism that attempts to discredit collegial episcopal authority ultimately discredits papal authority, as they both rest on a certain level of faith. I happen to think one is based in reality, though, and the other not.

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  15. In the above comment, substitute the following questions from Daniel for the brackets:

    Does the Eastern Church teach that any truth is infallible?

    Is scripture true? Are the canons of the Holy 7 true?

    How do we know this?

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  16. Is using condoms a sin? How do we know?

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  17. It depends what you use them for.

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  18. Tikhon,

    You said: "A synod of bishops is always a legitimate synod of bishops, and speaks for the Church, as long as it is composed of real bishops and behaves accordingly. In this way, the Lord ensures that they will confirm the truth."

    This definition seems circular/nebulous, and that's precisely the problem Joe has tried to point out.

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  19. Nick,

    A real bishop has apostolic succession and is in communion with the other bishops. A synod of bishops is a big meeting of these men. If they do not violate canonical order and discipline (as at Ephesus II, where the signatories were forced to sign blank documents, an abbot was allowed to vote, dissenting bishops were kept away, and other rules of church order were broken), then one can trust that the Holy Spirit speaks through them. There is nothing circular about this, though an ignorance of the facts of the Synods might indeed lead one into a nebulous state over which is valid and which not.


    Daniel,

    Although my last post was meant as a joke, since you hadn't specified that the condoms would be used as contraception, I'll answer you. I know whether or not I am sinning because I am guided by my spiritual father as well as my conscience. Both have been instructed, hopefully, in apostolic, patristic spiritual laws. He, in turn, will have a knowledge of the canons and disciplinary manuals of the holy Fathers and Synods. Further, we are helped along by the episcopal, synodal guidance of our church. At each stage from the top down the process becomes more and more personalized, so that from general principles we arrive at specific guidelines of behavior. Decisions and choices are made not on juridical lines, but on spiritual. What is befitting an Orthodox Christian life? What is consonant with apostolic spiritual life unto salvation? But we are not lacking clear moral guidance, as you suppose. All of the local synods have spoken on contraception, each orienting their guidance to the particular needs of their flock. You may not be happy with the consequences, but your ultimate conclusion does not stand.

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  20. Remember, also, Daniel, that the history of the Church is not on the side of easy answers to difficult choices.

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  21. Would it be ok if a bishop approved of condoms in Miami, but another bishop opposed them in New York?

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  22. Daniel, this is going round and round. Make your point. I've already tried to address your presuppositions and logic. Go ahead and give your full line of reasoning.

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  23. This is my point:

    "I am guided by my spiritual father as well as my conscience."

    I am guided by Fr Tim Drake, and conscience is the aboriginal Vicar of Christ, I believe.

    "Both have been instructed, hopefully, in apostolic, patristic spiritual laws."

    My priest went to seminary; I study catechism.

    "He, in turn, will have a knowledge of the canons and disciplinary manuals of the holy Fathers and Synods."

    That's done in seminary...

    "Further, we are helped along by the episcopal, synodal guidance of our church."

    My priest is aided by Bishop Dilorenzo, and others. The USCCB etc. provide guidance.

    ..................

    And yet I'm Catholic not Orthodox.

    So either the system of determining truth is defective or you'll be crossing the Tiber at any moment.

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  24. Has anyone mentioned the irony that it was at Chalcedon--so beloved by the East--where one of the charges against Dioscorus was that he took over as head of the robber council without THE POPE'S CONSENT?

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  25. [[So either the system of determining truth is defective or you'll be crossing the Tiber at any moment.]]

    Simply because you claim to have all that we have? I don't see how that follows. I believe that you believe your system is defective without the pope, but you have yet to show how ours is.

    I welcome your last comment. I think a reading of the Synodal Acts of all the councils is just the cure for all this nonsense.

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  26. Daniel and Tikhon,

    I've really appreciated both of your contributions so far. I was been busy all day, but have been periodically reading them on my phone. The one desire I have is that both of you approach the topic with a bit more charity, particularly as we're brothers in Christ, sons of the same Father. Compared with the secular world, or rival religions, or even Protestant Christianity, the very nearness between us makes hostility all the more self-destructive.


    Perhaps, Tikhon, you view this simply as more of our "persistent fawning" for the East, but I view it as a desire to see the Church Christ founded brought into a full and loving unity. If that's fawning, so be it; "while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him" (Luke 15:20).

    Tikhon, if it is possible for contraception to be okay in Miami, but not New York (as I understood you to be saying; correct me if I'm wrong), why couldn't the same argument be used in favor of Catholicism? After all, do you not recognize the Pope as the valid Patriarch of the West? So even if, from an Eastern Orthodox viewpoint, the papacy claims too much, how can you fault Western Catholics for listening to their spiritual directors, obeying their Fathers, and following their Patriarch?

    Maybe it's a stupid question, but it's one which occurred to me based upon how you described how the Orthodox come to know Truth, and how to act.

    In Christ,

    Joe.

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  27. Tikhon,


    How am I to know what the Scriptures are per the Orthodox Church?

    The Synod of Jerusalem in 1672 says:

    "Following the rule of the Catholic Church, we call Sacred Scripture all those which Cyril [Lucaris] collected from the Synod of Laodicea, and enumerated, adding to Scripture those which he foolishly and ignorantly, or rather maliciously, called Apocrypha; specifically, “The Wisdom of Solomon,” “Judith,” “Tobit,” “The History of the Dragon” [Bel and the Dragon], “The History of Susanna,” “The Maccabees,” and “The Wisdom of Sirach.” For we judge these also to be with the other genuine Books of Divine Scripture genuine parts of Scripture. For ancient custom, or rather the Catholic Church, which has delivered to us as genuine the Sacred Gospels and the other Books of Scripture, has undoubtedly delivered these also as parts of Scripture, and the denial of these is the rejection of those. And if, perhaps, it seems that not always have all of these been considered on the same level as the others, yet nevertheless these also have been counted and reckoned with the rest of Scripture, both by Synods and by many of the most ancient and eminent Theologians of the Catholic Church. All of these we also judge to be Canonical Books, and confess them to be Sacred Scripture."




    But the Catechism of Philaret says:

    "31. How many are the books of the Old Testament?

    St. Cyril of Jerusalem, St. Athanasius the Great, and St. John Damascene reckon them at twenty-two, agreeing therein with the Jews, who so reckon them in the original Hebrew tongue. (Athanas. Ep. xxxix. De Test.; J. Damasc. Theol. lib. iv. c. 17.)

    32. Why should we attend to the reckoning of the Hebrews?

    Because, as the Apostle Paul says, unto them were committed the oracles of God; and the sacred books of the Old Testament have been received from the Hebrew Church of that Testament by the Christian Church of the New."

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  28. @Joe

    Mea culpa. I blame St. Thomas More, the patron saint of invective.

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  29. And Tikhon,

    I hate to overwhelm you, but I'll be off the computer for a while I think so here goes:

    Earlier you stated that nonsense could be eliminated from the councils themselves.

    I draw your attention to Canon 34 of the Canons of the Holy Apostles:

    "The bishops of every nation must acknowledge him who is first among them and account him as their head, and do nothing of consequence without his consent;"

    I draw your attention to Canon 3 of I Constantinople:

    "The Bishop of Constantinople, however, shall have the prerogative of honour after the Bishop of Rome;"

    THEREFORE, any action taken by Constantinople without the consent of the Bishop of Rome is contrary to the authority of God as articulated infallibly by a valid Council assembled.

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  30. Tikhon,

    You're latest response to me said:
    "A real bishop has apostolic succession [1A] and is in communion with the other bishops.[1B] A synod of bishops is a big meeting of these men.[2] If they do not violate canonical order and discipline (as at Ephesus II, where the signatories were forced to sign blank documents, an abbot was allowed to vote, dissenting bishops were kept away, and other rules of church order were broken), then one can trust that the Holy Spirit speaks through them.[3] There is nothing circular about this,[4] though an ignorance of the facts of the Synods might indeed lead one into a nebulous state over which is valid and which not."

    My response:
    [1A] I don't think Apostolic Succession was ever a problem in these situations, since all bishops (even those excommunicated and in heresy) had Valid Orders.

    [1B] To be in communion with "the other bishops" is a bit nebulous, since in these dubious Councils the attending bishops considered themselves in communion with each other, and they obviously werent in communion with those whom they excommunicated. Plus, it's not always possible to be in communion with every other bishop, since there are quite often schisms/heresies and bad blood that prevent such. For example, Mt Athos was not in communion with Constantinople from 1960 to 1970, but we wouldn't say neither side had real bishops.

    [2] This condition is likewise nebulous: is a Synod a mere "big meeting" of bishops? What is the minimum number of attendees? The dubious councils could meet such conditions.

    [3] I'm sure dubious Councils have not violated those conditions, and I'm not even sold on the idea Ephesus 2 did so either. I don't know where you're getting your information, but it doesn't seem credible nor consistent. For example, I doubt bishops were forced to sign blank documents, nor would such be necessary if as you indicate the dissenting bishops were already excluded. Such things seem too Ad Hoc, and likewise not verifiable for the average Christian living in times of great upheaval.

    [4] There is nothing circular about #3, but there is a lot of subjectivity to it. It's not even clear what authority you're deriving these conditions from. I would say #1B and #2 do fall within the realm of circularity though.

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  31. Daniel,

    I felt compelled, rightly or wrongly, to offer clarification on why Second Ephesus does not pose a problem. Though the underlying point may be a perennial feature of Catholic apologetics, the specifics of the case are not well known. Your latest points, though, have been addressed many times by more capable minds and tongues, and a search for responses will yield copious results. I hope I don't need to justify my own reticence to spend day after day on this blog.

    Nick,

    First, subjectivity: I've stated that the facts of Second Ephesus come from the Acts of Chalcedon.

    Second, consistency (of Chalcedon's testimony): dissenting bishops, most famously Theodoret and Ibas, were indeed forbidden from attending. I checked my language above, and I never said "all dissenting bishops."

    Third: You have to believe that the Holy Spirit produces unanimity among the bishops in matters of faith. If you don't accept that, your only solution is a papacy; I understand that. Yet this unanimity is not numerical. Individuals can choose to reject the grace and charism of the Holy Spirit, as in all areas of Christian life. But the Church remains in the truth. This is why the Oecumenical Synods have historically voted and not simply asked the bishop of Rome.
    What good is a vote if the episcopate is inherently chaotic and antithetical to the epistemic security you so long for? I know that you cannot escape this historical fact of synodal voting, and you are forced to allow that, at least at moments, infalliblity is exercised outside of the papacy, if still with him and through him. We believe in this same phenomenon but deny that its source is in the papacy. It is what we mean by the infallibility of the Church, as promised by the Lord.

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  32. Joe,

    No, that I uphold the idea that contraception could be "OK" in one place and not another is the wrong conclusion to draw from my response to Daniel's "contraception proof" against the legitimacy of the Orthodox Church. I answered the question, "How do you know that a particular thing is sinful"--generally. This tells you that a classification of contraceptive use as an inherent evil which should be legislated against is not something I take for granted. I liken it to the question, "Are tanktops sinful?" We then moved on to the question of epistemic guarantees, which has been the basic topic here all along under various guises.

    As to your point about the pope's local authority, I'm a little surprised by the question, because I don't fault Catholics for being morally guided by their own pastors. I'm not sure why you got the impression that I do.

    For once we are not at odds. Let me take this opening, then, to clarify a few things. 1) Timothy Ware is the secular name of now Metropolitan Kallistos Ware. He had authored some books under that name before his ordination. 2) Although they amount to little in this discussion, one should not take similarities between our two churches for granted. I don't know if this is caused by the presence of Eastern Catholicism or what. One example is the mention of "valid orders." We do not consider a deposed or excommunicated clergyman to be in orders any longer. Apostolic succession and priesthood are the possession of the Church; one who has been cast out of her fold cannot have either. That would also exclude the possibility of calling the pope the "valid" Patriarch of the West. I don't know the provenance of that title anyway. Interestingly, Benedict struck it from among the official titles of his office a few years ago.

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  33. Why is B16 not valid? I don't understand.

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  34. Are you asking why we don't recognize the canonical authority of someone we consider outside the Church?

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  35. I didn't see anything in Ravenna about being outside the Church?

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  36. I don't know what the Ravenna document does or does not say. The successes and failures of ecumenical gatherings to express Orthodox teaching, though, is not something I'm going to enter into here. I am not sure how the expectation that we accept the current pope as "valid" makes sense. The underlying ecclesiological presuppositions are not clear.

    Regardless, I thank all of you for your forbearance. As profitable as I hope all this has been, I have already spent far too much time here. I wish you all the best.

    Asking your forgiveness,
    Tikhon

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