Pope Honorius I and the Sixth Ecumenical Council


In regards to the doctrine of Papal Infallibility what would be the proper response to Sixteenth session of Constantinople III:

“To Theodore of Pharan, the heretic, anathema! To Sergius, the heretic, anathema! To Cyrus, the heretic, anathema! To Honorius, the heretic, anathema! To Pyrrhus, the heretic, anathema!”


  • Cody +

Papal infallibility and pope honorius?


Here are a couple of articles on Honorius that might provide useful background information for the discussion:



Here’s an excerpt from the first article:

The Third Council of Constantinople was thus in error when it condemned Honorius for heresy. But a Council, of course, has no authority except insofar as its decrees are confirmed by the pope. The reigning Pontiff, Leo II, did not agree to the condemnation of his predecessor for heresy; he said Honorius should be condemned because “he permitted the immaculate faith to be subverted.” [Carroll, 254]

This is a crucial distinction. Honorius probably should have known the implications of using the “one will” formula; he could have found out by writing a letter to Sophronius of Jerusalem. But he was no heretic.

What has you thinking about Honorius?

  1. His condemnation is found in the Acts of the 13th Session of the 6th Ecumenical Council.

  2. His two letters were ordered to be burned at the same Session.

  3. In the 17th session of the 6th Ecumenical Council, the Council Fathers proclaimed:

“Anathema to the heretic Sergius, to the heretic Cyrus, to the heretic Honorius,…”

**The above clinches it, unless you want to argue that an Ecumenical Council and the Popes who ratified it may err but in that case the burden of proof is on the person who opposes the Council and the papal ratification. **

  1. In the decree of faith published at the 17th Session it is stated that “the originator of all evil the Devil…found a fit tool for his will in…Honorius, Pope of Old Rome…”

  2. The report of the Council to the Emperor says that “Honorius, formerly bishop of Rome” they had “punished with exclusion and anathema” because he followed the monothelites.

  3. In its letter to Pope Agatho the Council says it “has slain Honorius with an anathema”

  4. The imperial decree speaks of the “unholy priests who
    infected the Church and falsely governed” and mentions among them “Honorius, the Pope of Old Rome, the confirmer of heresy who contradicted himself.”

The Emperor goes on to anathematize “Honorius who was Pope of Old Rome, who in everything agreed with them, went with them, and strengthened the heresy.”

  1. Pope Leo II confirmed the decrees of the Council and expressly says that he too anathematized Honorius.

  2. That Honorius was anathematized by the Sixth Council is
    mentioned in the Trullan Canons.

  3. So too the Seventh Council declares its adhesion to the
    anathema in its decree of faith, and in several places in the acts the same is said.

  4. Honorius’s name was found in the Roman copy of the Acts. This is evident from Anastasius’s life of Leo II. (Vita Leonis II.)

  5. The Papal Oath as found in the *Liber Diurnus *taken by
    each new Pope from the fifth to the eleventh centuries, in the form probably prescribed by Gregory II:

“…smites with eternal anathema the originators of the new heresy, Sergius, together with Honorius because he assisted the base assertion of the heretics.” 13. In the lesson for the feast of St. Leo II. in the Roman Breviary the name of Pope Honorius occurs among those excommunicated by the Sixth Synod. This reference to Honorius was removed before the definition of papal infallibility.

  1. The Catholic Encylopedia says that no Catholic may deny that Pope Honorius was a heretic.

With such an array of proof no conservative historian, it would seem, can question the fact that Honorius, the Pope of Rome, was condemned and anathematized as a heretic by the Sixth Ecumenical Council and that the Popes after him used their authority to uphold the decision against him.


Thus spake Fr. Ambrose, Orthodox monk and no friend of Rome! :stuck_out_tongue:

Pope Honorius. The charge against Pope Honorius is a double one: that, when appealed to in the Monothelite controversy, he actually taught the Monothelite heresy in his two letters to Sergius; and that he was condemned as a heretic by the Sixth Ecumenical Council, the decrees of which were approved by Leo II. But in the first place it is quite clear from the tone and terms of these letters that, so far from intending to give any final, or ex cathedra, decision on the doctrinal question at issue, Honorius merely tried to allay the rising bitterness of the controversy by securing silence. In the next place, taking the letters as they stand, the very most that can be clearly and incontrovertibly deduced from them is, that Honorius was not a profound or acute theologian, and that he allowed himself to be confused and misled by the wily Sergius as to what the issue really was and too readily accepted the latter’s misrepresentation of his opponents’ position, to the effect that the assertion of two wills in Christ meant two contrary or discordant wills. **Finally, in reference to the condemnation of Honorius as a heretic, it is to be remembered that there is no ecumenical sentence affirming the fact either that Honorius’s letters to Sergius contain heresy, or that they were intended to define the question with which they deal. The sentence passed by the fathers of the council has ecumenical value only in so far as it was approved by Leo II; but, in approving the condemnation of Honorius, his successor adds the very important qualification that he is condemned, not for the doctrinal reason that he taught heresy, but on the moral ground that he was wanting in the vigilance expected from him in his Apostolic office and thereby allowed a heresy to make headway which he should have crushed in its beginnings. **


In plain English, Honorius did not teach error (which would violate the principle of infallibility), but he was at fault for not putting an end to a heresy quickly.

Thus, the enemies of papal infallibility are thwarted in their attempts to use Honorius as “proof” that infallibility is false.


I would say that you judge me a little unjustly

In plain English, Honorius did not teach error (which would violate the principle of infallibility), but he was at fault for not putting an end to a heresy quickly.

Thus, the enemies of papal infallibility are thwarted in their attempts to use Honorius as “proof” that infallibility is false.

The Catholic Encyclopedia says of Pope Honorius:

“It is clear that no Catholic has the right to defend Pope Honorius. He was a heretic, not in intention, but in fact…”

This statement has the Imprimatur of John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York


His answer to Sergius did not decide the question, did not authoritatively declare the faith of the Roman Church, did not claim to speak with the voice of Peter; it condemned nothing, it defined nothing.


Good thread, much to consider. I would say while a Pope may be a heretic, he still may not violate infallibility, if he doesn’t try to proclaim his heresy as rule for the Church.

This seems to be the case with Pope Honorius the First. He was, as New Advent stated, not a heretic in intention, but in fact. He did not attempt to squelch the heresy at the time, so his inaction makes him a heretic. But since he did not attempt to impose his heresy on the Church, the charism of infallibility was not in question.

Put another way, no one has ever claimed that all Popes are sinless, in fact, there have been many (and Honorius seems to be one) that have been great sinners.

Thoughts anyone?



The entire article is quite good, but I’ll just quote the conclusion here:

Papal infallibility does not mean the bishops of Rome will be holy, wise, or as vigilant as they ought to be in the discharge of their office. While Honorius’s foresight, as well as his vigilance to his pastoral responsibilities, might be faulted, these are not objects of papal infallibility. Neither is a failure to teach—the doctrine applies only to what is taught. Consequently, the case of Honorius provides no proof against this Catholic dogma. On the contrary, the history of monothelitism and the Sixth Ecumenical Council provides striking evidence of the early Church’s acceptance of the primacy and infallible magisterium of the apostolic see.


Father Ambrose. I’m sad to find out that you are not serving truth. And that you have significantly oversimplified all these events. You shortened Pope Leo’s clarification of Honorius, and is also quite apparent that you have not read both letters of Honorius to Sergius nor you have read the defense of saint Maximus on him. The council erred in not defending the charges against pope Honorius. Nothing was done in this regard nor the conversation of Maximus and Pyrrhus or the testimony of his scribe John, or the defense of pope John IV, or the Letter of pope Agatho’s that clearly defends Honorius when he states “This apostolic Church (that of Peter) never swerved from the way of truth” and few statements alike. It is quite clear from Honorius’ second letter that he believes in two wills and that the “one will” he mentioned in his first letter was referring to the human will in Christ operating under the natural law, the will in Adam before the fall and not that will which humans posses (concupiscence) in addition to the will of the natural law. Remember that Sergius in his letter could not accept two wills in Christ because they could oppose. But Honorius attempted to clarify Sergius, indeed in a very unhappy manner, by saying “one will” so that Sergius reservations were not justified. It’s apparent that Honorius did not understand the concept of energies and operations in connection to wills and natures and that’s what he was silent and made the error of giving a “go ahead” to Sergius proposal “one or two operations” because it would be “hard, very hard indeed” to lose what Cyril has gained for Catholicism regarding the union of Monophysites in Egypt. That is his error, the error of negligence for falling into the trap of the newly developed concept of Patriarch Sergius. By the way what you say regarding the Catholic encyclopedia is also quite inexact although you correct it. When the catolic encyclopedia says in fact, it means instrumental without necessarily involving his consent and understanding. His first letter was used by Sergius to misrepresent Honorius that lead to the publication of Heraklius’ Ecthesis.


I correct myself. Above I meant Cyrus, not Cyril.



You are mistaken. The second latter of Honorious does say “We must confess thatboth natures are naturally united in the One Christ, that eachin communion with each other,the divine works the divine, and the human performs that which is of the flesh” But what is “painful to the soul” is his reaffirmation not to assert one or two energies. This concept of “energy” was a novelty introduced in the Church by Patriarch Sergius as one can infer from the conversation Between St. Maximus and Pyrrhus about 10 years after Honorius death, where he mentions that this concept was introduced by the Patriarcg Sergius himself in his letters to Theodore of Haran and Cyrus of phasis (just before he became patriarch of Egypt). If you read the greek translations (which survive) of both letters from Sergius to Honorius and his first to Sergius. You clearly understand that Honorius 1) was not talking about a divine will but a human one to explain why this human will in Christ could not contradict his Divine will. In other words. Honorius was responding to Sergius: Sergius you are right, there are not to contradicting wills in Christ BUT because Christ did not assume the “vitiata natura” but that before the fall. Hence he has one human will unlike us who have two wills: one driven by reason and natural law as desired by God and assumed by Christ and the other opposing (concupiscense) resulting from the fall of Adam, which was not asummed by Christ. Witnesses in favor of this are his own scribe and St Maximus in his discussion with Phyrrus 2) that the concepts of energies and operations were so new to Honorius that he did not decide on it as he did not see them connected with wills and natures. In fact he says in his first letter “let’s leave these to the grammarians”.


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