Debate with and ortho


ok so I’m barely starting to defend the holy catholic faith and well im debating with an orthodox about the papacy this is what he has replied to me

“DOMINVSMAXIMVS: The foundations of the papist institution, which is abusively called “catholic church,” are a bunch of big lies. This slander against Photius the Great is one such a BIG LIE. The schism of 867 AD was caused by pope Nikolaos A, who interfered in the matters of the Eastern Church, arguing that before electing Photius, the Eastern Church should have consulted him, since he considered himself to be the supreme authority in the Church!
If you do not want to tell lies, read history!”

anyway i hope anybody can help me out and figure out if this is true or not i would suspect it aint but i still got to be sure please help me out


Ivan, this article and others at the same website regarding Catholicism and Orthodoxy may be of help, but it seems you are in discussion with an Orthodox of the more bellicose sort so it may be a fruitless endeavor.


lol—read John Julius Norwich’s excellent and readable 3-volume history of Byzantium for a much more even-handed treatment of the Photius affair.

The fact is that the Patriarchs of Constantinople recognized Roman supremacy right up until 1054, when they produced a remarkably arrogant and abrasive Patriarch who even then started to come around before some Papal ambassadors he’d snubbed excommunicated him without authority (the Pope having died in the meantime). Indeed, the Byzantine Emperors often sought common cause with the Pope against their own Patriarchs.

The Orthodox also tend to have short memories when it comes to the aid received from Rome in quelling various heresies which tended to sprout in the East. They’ll point inevitably to the Filioque, but forget to mention that Photius and that controversy preceded the Great Schism by two centuries. This is akin to claiming that the great hero of the American Civil War was not Grant nor Sherman nor Lincoln but Roger Williams. Also inconvenient to the Orthodox revisionist history is that Photius himself recognized Roman supremacy in appealing to the Pope for his office.

You can understand their anger when you consider that the Great Schism marked the beginning of the end for the Byzantine Empire and led to the loss of most of the East to the Turks.


hey thanks alot this is really what i needed. So in this 3 volume set it only talks about the eastern and western churches or does it go threw all of byzantine history? would you happen to know if pope nicholas had anything to do with the schism of 867?


Dear brother Ivan,

Here is what I know in specific response to the quote you have given above:

  1. Pope St. Nicholas did not “interfere” in the affairs of the Eastern Church. It was the normal practice of the early Church that any new Patriarch peititioned for communion with and to the Bishop of Rome. What happened was that when Patriarch Photius made his petition for communion, the Pope discovered that the election of Patriarch Photius was irregular, which automatically (i.e, by virtue of the ecclesiastical laws themselves) invalidated his claim to the See. Apparently, the Patriarch who held the post before Photius was deposed, or forcibly made to resign, and, further, this was all done with the aid of the secular power. The Church’s laws forbade both these things. Thus, the Pope refused communion and insisted that the former Patriarch be restored to his See.

From there, things got out of hand. The end result of the matter was that Photius was eventually enthroned canonically (i.e., according to the laws of the Church), and the bishop of Rome accepted his petition for communion.

  1. The issue of filioque used to be a local matter in the Western Church. It was Photius who blew it out of proportion. He really had no business in Latin matters. He did not even understand the Latin language. If any division was caused by this, it was by virtue of a man who sincerely thought he was doing the right thing given the limited knowledge he had.

  2. Given the above, Photius really was not a cause of the Great Schism. Photius actually died in communion with the bishop of Rome. So it would not be fair for Catholics to say otherwise.



Norwich covers all of Byzantine history, but as you might imagine the Church is a big factor in this.

Since Pope Nicholas took up Ignatius’ cause and excommunicated Photius, leading to the latter’s undying enmity, I’d say he had something to do with the schism, although I would say Photius caused it.


The rationale for the this is that Photius waged a campaign to undermine Roman supremacy and gave birth to a party which worked to this end. It was this party whence came Michael Caerularius and the Great Schism.

I personally disagree with this rationale and agree with your take, but I think the line of reasoning is good to be aware of.


how did photius blow it out proportion?? sorry if i ask alot of questions im just really curious :smiley:

  1. God consists of three persons — Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
  2. Anything that the Father has the Son has as well.
  3. Therefore, the procession of the third person—the Holy Spirit–is from the Father and the Son.

Photius’ objection—which he claimed rose to the level of a heresy—was that the Greeks held it as “From the Father THROUGH the Son”.

The distinction continues to elude me. The only trouble with the Orthodox formulation is that it might imply the subordination of the Son, or that the Holy Spirit never proceeds directly from the Father to the world.

Photius tried to use this as a hammer against papal supremacy by claiming this was evidence of an heretical pope.

It doesn’t help that the Orthodox have always been very fond of theology and language and tend to slice distinctions at the atomic level. This leads to peevishness of the sort you’ve encountered, where the “faith, hope, and charity” pillars of the Christian faith representing the forest tend to get submerged while they argue over leaves on a tree.

Just my two cents, but I think this may be why so many Catholics will warn you that arguing with our Orthodox brethren is often counterproductive.


I appreciate the questions, so ask away.

He blew it out of proportion because:

  1. He made it out to be a heresy which it was not. If he understood Latin (and he did not), he would have realized that, But he interpreted the matter according to the Greek. It is true that according to Greek idiom, filioque would be heretical, but filique must be understood according to LATIN idiom (which is its original context anyway) to understand it is not heretical.,

  2. He attempted to make a judgment on a matter that only had relevance for the Latin Church. And instead of trying to address the issue by meeting with Latin hierarchs for clarification, he decided to make a unilateral judgment.

Having said that, he nevertheless died in communion with Rome. It was about over a century later that others in the East brought up the old Filioque canard again. But we can’t blame Photius for the actions of those later people.



why was it that It was the normal practice of the early Church that any new Patriarch peititioned for communion with the pope? and why all the fuss then? if the patriarch had to petition to the pope? why was it a big deal then and not 100 or 200 or maybe even 500 years earlier? did the Byzantine Emperor have something to do with this? and what was the reason for photius’s exile?


Dear brother Ivan,

I think you have misunderstood the issue, but that is not your fault.

The issue at the time of Photius was NOT “Why do I need to petition the Pope for communion?” It was the most ancient belief of the universal Church that the See of Rome represented the purest standard of the Faith, and that communion with her was a necessary and sure guage to one’s orthodoxy. So there was never any question, even in Photius’ mind that he should petition the Pope for communion. Rather, the issue was simply that the Pope did not grant the communion, and Photius simply believed that the Pope should have done so.

However, MODERN EO polemics want to mislead you into believing that the issue between Patriarch Photius and Pope Nicholas was indeed about the Pope interfering into the affairs of the Church of Constantinople. But he was not interfering. It was the Pope’s right to accept or withhold communion. Don’t give in to the baiting.

Another thing needs to made clear. The Pope’s acceptance of communion was not a condition of Photius’ ordination. It was simply a condition to ensure one’s orthodoxy and unity with and to the rest of the orthodox Catholic Church. I need to point this out because there are non-Catholic polemicists out there who insist on spreading the falsehood that every bishop in the Church is a bishop ONLY because the Pope says so.



That was a very concise and useful correction, Marduk—thank you.

I heartily recommend Norwich’s “Byzantium” series for anyone who’d like to get a better handle on how Pope, Patriarch, and Byzantine Emperor interacted throughout the Middle Ages. The man knows how to weave a narrative and does so in a very evenhanded fashion. It is also a useful corrective for those who tend to read later grievances between East and West backward in time.


Ahem, the Latins were forcing the filioque onto the Bulgarian Church which had been established by the Greeks. He had every right to make a judgement.



Dear brother John,

Actually, the local rulers established the religion for the people, and the Bulgarian ruler INVITED the Latin clergy there. So, no, he had no right to make a judgment. It was NOT his “territory.”



So are you of the opinion that politics trumps ecclesiology? The Bulgarian Church was under the jurisdiction of Constantinople. It could not simply change to another jurisdiction without the blessing of Constantinople. Rome knew this but gladly accepted Bulgaria’s invitation though it was plainly in violation of the canons. St Photius had every right to make a judgement.



Because no church ever appealed to Rome to settle a dispute, right?

Wonder why Photius bothered appealing to Rome himself, since clearly he had all the authority he needed per your view.


Dear brother John,

No, I don’t believe that politics trumps ecclesiology. But if the principle at the time is that the ruler establishes the religion of the people, then Constantinople should not consider under her jurisdiction an area which is UNDECIDED on going East or West, correct?

But regardless of the issue of jurisdiction, a wiser man would have contacted the hierarch of those Latin priests for an explanation instead of blowing the matter out of proportion. Remember what St. Paul did when there was a disagreement about missionaries from Jerusalem? That’s right - he contacted the authorities from whom the missionaries came - the leaders in Jerusalem. If only Patriarch Photius followed the biblical example.



Indeed, the tempestuous history of conflicts between Byzantine and Bulgar underscore why the Bulgars reached out to Pope Nicholas rather than the Patriarch of Constantinople first. There was plenty of bad blood there.


First I’d like to mention that I don’t agree with all of the opinions and sentiments expressed by my fellow Catholic on this thread. (That may perhaps go without saying, given statements I’ve made in the past about taking internet statements with a grain of salt.)


Bishop Kalistos Ware, in his book The Orthodox Church, doesn’t seem to agree with your take on the matter. I’ll quote the entire passage below, but the key portion is this:

The chief point of trouble was Bulgaria, a country which Rome and Constantinople alike were anxious to add to their sphere of jurisdiction. The Khan Boris was at first inclined to ask the German missionaries for baptism: threatened, however, with a Byzantine invasion, he changed his policy and around 865 accepted baptism from Greek clergy. But Boris wanted the Church in Bulgaria to be independent, and when Constantinople refused to grant autonomy, he turned to the west in hope of better terms.

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