Did the church dogmatically change it's mind on the Council of 869?


In the Council of 879, Pope John VIII condemned and nulled the Council of 869.

The Church held this view until the 11th century. They later claimed 869 was a real ecumenical council and 879 was nulled instead now.

How does this NOT contradict the infallibility of the Church? It sounds like they blatantly changed their mind.


“Sounds like”

We are going to need a lot - a lot - more information.


I don’t think the Church ever approved of the council of 879.

From what I understand, the Pope approved some things with the 879 council, but never the actual council itself. Also, since the 869 council mostly dealt with reinstating Ignatius as patriarch (who was dead by 879), there really wasn’t much to “overturn.” The Pope accepted the new Patriarch before the 879 council even started.


Pope John VIII writes: “And first of all receive Photios the most amazing and most reverend High-Priest of God our Brother Patriarch and co-celebrant who is co-sharer, co-participant and inheritor of the communion which is in the Holy Church of the Romans… receive the man unpretentiously. No one should behave pretentiously [following] the unjust councils which were made against him. No one. as it seems right to many who behave like a herd of cows, should use the negative votes of the blessed Hierarchs who preceded us. Nicholas, I mean, and Hadrian as an excuse [to oppose him]; since they did not prove what had been cunningly concocted against him… Everything that was done against him has now ceased and been banished…”

“We not only do not assert this idea that the Spirit proceedeth from the Son, but we judge those who first had the hardihood in their own madness to do so to be transgressors of the divine words and refashioners of the theology of the Lord Jesus Christ and of the Fathers, who, assembled together in council, imparted the Holy Creed, or Symbol of Faith, and we class them with Judas.”


Study the limitations of “ex cathedra.”


Here is another declaration from Pope John VIII

“We [Pope John VIII] wish that it is declared before the Synod, that the Synod which took place against the aforementioned Patriarch Photios at the time of Hadrian, the Most holy Pope in Rome, and [the Synod] in Constantinople [869/70] should be ostracized from this present moment and be regarded as annulled and groundless, and should not be co-enumerated with any other holy Synods.”


Don’t you think that, if this was substantive, there would be more discussion of it? Bible types would hammer it home incessantly? Contemporary apologists would directly address it?

Why not call into Dr. David Anders’ EWTN radio show “Called to Communion” for some clarification?

Here, we are only going to dispute needlessly.


The debate boils down to whether John VIII annulled the 869 Council or not. If he didn’t annul it, then the Catholic position is correct. If he did annul it, then the Catholic position on the authority of the Pope is correct. Therefore, either way, the Catholic position is correct.


If the Pope annulled something that can’t be dogmatically annulled, wouldn’t that be a contradiction though, thus making the Catholic position incorrect?

While this may prove the EO position wrong, it doesn’t prove the Catholic position is right. Unless I’m missing something.

I think people focus more on the fact that the Pope contradicted papal infallibility by annulling an infallible council.


Infallability has to do with faith (dogma) and morals.


There wasn’t anything dogmatic about who was the rightful Patriarch of Constantinople or whether an additional clause is added to a Creed (the content of the Creed is dogmatic, but not its form, otherwise Constantinople I erred by adding to the Nicene Creed).



I’m confused now. What exactly was the East’s bone to pick with these Photian Councils then?


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