I’m just saying that many parts of the Church did not take the opinions of Roman popes at face-value for doctrine, whether infallible or fallible. For many hundreds of years, they were compared, contrasted, and put up against the writings of other “popes” - i.e. the archbishops of the ancient patriarchates.
Just for full-disclosure, I am very much an Eastern Catholic & have sympathy with the Orthodox in our struggle for unity. I am trying to avoid sounding heretical.
Note that the early Church always accepted the Bishop of Rome as head of the Church. In about 80 A.D., the Church at Corinth deposed its lawful leaders. The third successor of St Peter, the fourth bishop of Rome, Pope Clement I, was called to settle the matter even though St. John the Apostle was still alive and much closer to Corinth than was Rome. Clement, wrote to the Catholics of Corinth as early as A.D. 95: “If any man should be disobedient unto the words spoken by God through us, let them understand that they will entangle themselves in no slight transgression and danger… Render obedience to the things written by us through the Holy Spirit.” (I Clem. ad Cor. 59,1). This Is The Faith, Francis J Ripley, Fowler Wright Books, 1971, p 151; 139-141].
About Pope Victor I’s declaration by edict, about the year 200, that any local Church that failed to conform with Rome was excluded from the union with the one Church by heresy, none other than the radical protestant Adolph von Harnack admitted that Victor I was “recognised, in his capacity of bishop of Rome, as the special guardian of the ‘common unity’. " (See And On This Rock, p 118, 1987, Trinity Communications, Fr Stanley L Jaki).
Harnack asked: “How would Victor have ventured on such an edict – though indeed he had not the power of enforcing it in every case – unless the special prerogative of Rome to determine the conditions of the ‘common unity’ in the vital questions of faith had been an acknowledged and well-established fact?”
It’s interesting also that Arnold Lunn in *Now I See *(Sheed & Ward, 1955), could quote from the Anglican Vicar of Oddington, Rev S Herbert Scott, that St Peter and his successors were recognised as the supreme judges in matters of faith by a long succession of great Eastern saints, Ignatius, Irenaeus, Denys, Athanasius, Chrysostom, and others (p 218).
Scott quotes from the Graeco-Slav Liturgy at the Council of Nicea addressing the Pope, St Sylvester, who was not himself present: “…thou didst appear as a pillar of fire, snatching the faithful from Egyptian error (sc. Arius) and continually leading them with unerring teachings to divine light.” [Op. cit. Lunn, p 218-9]. Sir Arnold remarks that “This unwilling tribute from the Greek Church of today to the “unerring teaching” of the Roman Pope is most impressive.”
Why should there be a “struggle for unity” rather than the acceptance of the primacy and infallibility instituted by Christ which cannot be ignored when it suits – such as with the case of the Orthodox Churches over the infallible teaching against contraception, denial of the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception, and the permission of divorce and remarriage?