Schism Explanation (who was really in Schism?)


Being a recent convert to the faith, I am met by my old friends with a lot of questions. I was recently posed with this, how could Orthodoxy be in Schism with Catholicism when it was 4 (Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem) ‘against’ 1 (Rome)? Logically the answer, as my past congregation would say, that Rome, would’ve had to have been in schism with the four Eastern sees, not the other way around. I am also new to this site, so I’m not sure if asking a question like this is appropriate, but here I am anyways! God bless you all!


Jesus established and builds His Church on Peter and those in union with Peter. Peter’s see was Rome. And Peter is buried in Rome. As St Ambrose said in 389 a.d., Where Peter is there is the Church.

Origin of Peter as pope


There is no point in arguing whose fault the Great Schism was. Those people are long gone. We should focus on re-communion.


The argument was originally just between Constantinople and Rome. The Pope ended up excommunicating the Patriarch of Constantinople and the Patriarch excommunicated not only the Pope but also many prominent western Bishops in return. The initial act was not seen by the majority of the Church as important at the time. The Emperors, both Holy Roman and Eastern, saw a way to extend their influence using the excommunications as a political tool and thus fanned the flames of the conflict into the schism which is seen today. It pretty much became east versus west.

The reason that four patriarchs ended up against one is simply that the hierarchical structure is different in the east than it is in the west. The four patriarchs were the four bishops who the eastern Churches generally looked up to and historically came into and went out of prominence, eventually having Constantinople take the lead. Constantinople had been declared having primacy because it was the Imperial capitol whereas the primacy of Rome was Petrine and passed through the ministry of Christ. It ended up that those under the Eastern Empire gave support to the patriarch of their capital rather than the patriarch living in a foreign country.

Both sides were just as manipulated by their civil governments. You can’t really say that one left the other when both made an about-face and marched in the opposite directions.


The whole idea of Pentarchy, and 1st among equals, started in the East. No pope ever accepted that.

  1. "In Christian literature, the expression begins to be used in the East when, from the fifth century, the idea of the Pentarchy gained ground, according to which there are five Patriarchs at the head of the Church, with the Church of Rome having the first place among these patriarchal sister Churches. In this connection, however, it needs to be noted that no Roman Pontiff ever recognized this equalization of the sees or accepted that only a primacy of honour be accorded to the See of Rome. It should be noted too that this patriarchal structure typical of the East never developed in the West. As is well known, the divergences between Rome and Constantinople led, in later centuries, to mutual excommunications with «consequences which, as far as we can judge, went beyond what was intended and foreseen by their authors, whose censures concerned the persons mentioned and not the Churches, and who did not intend to break the ecclesial communion between the sees of Rome and Constantinople.»[1]
  2. The expression appears again in two letters of the Metropolitan Nicetas of Nicodemia (in the year 1136) and the Patriarch John X Camaterus (in office from 1198 to 1206), in which they protested that Rome, by presenting herself as mother and teacher, would annul their authority. In their view, Rome is only the first among sisters of equal dignity."



I meant primacy amongst the Eastern Churches. I never said that Pentarchy was ever accepted by the papacy. I was just examining the Eastern Mindset. While First Among Equals was never accepted, the Patriarch of Constantinople was given “equal privileges” to the See of Rome and “rank next after her” at the Council of Chalcedon, to which Roman Catholicism acknowledges as an Eccumenical Council.

For the Fathers rightly granted privileges to the throne of old Rome, because it was the royal city. And the One Hundred and Fifty most religious Bishops, actuated by the same consideration, gave equal privileges (ἴσα πρεσβεῖα) to the most holy throne of New Rome, justly judging that the city which is honoured with the Sovereignty and the Senate and enjoys equal privileges with the old imperial Rome, should in ecclesiastical matters also be magnified as she is, and rank next after her. (Council of Chalcedon, Canon XXVIII)

It was only after the Schism that the Eastern Churches elevated Constantinople because they had cast the first in rank from communion. It was then that First Among Equals came to be.

You totally exclude my last point off hand without reasoning behind it. Why? What steps did the Church at the time take to attempt reconciliation?

Through the action of the Holy Spirit those differences will be overcome through cleansing of hearts, through regret for historical wrongs, and through an efficacious determination to arrive at a common understanding and expression of the faith of the Apostles and its demands.

They hope, nevertheless, that this act will be pleasing to God, who is prompt to pardon us when we pardon each other. They hope that the whole Christian world, especially the entire Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church will appreciate this gesture as an expression of a sincere desire shared in common for reconciliation, and as an invitation to follow out in a spirit of trust, esteem and mutual charity the dialogue which, with Gods help, will lead to living together again, for the greater good of souls and the coming of the kingdom of God, in that full communion of faith, fraternal accord and sacramental life which existed among them during the first thousand years of the life of the Church. (Joint Catholic-Orthodox Declaration, Dec. 7, 1965)

Pope Paul VI and Eccumenical Patriarch Athenagoras I recognized that there were wrongs which needed to be pardoned on both sides of the schism.


According to modern EOs, all bishops are actually equal, so it shouldn’t matter how many patriarchates each side has.

In any event, those five Patriarchates didn’t represent equal portions of the Church–it’s wrong to say 4 of the 5 eastern patriarchates at the time of the schism were 4/5s of the Church. By divine institution, there is only the order of bishop with all being equal except Rome having primacy. Through positive law and custom, Alexandria and Antioch acquired additional authority based on their Petrine ties (Peter founded the see at Antioch and his disciple, Mark, founded Alexandria) . For a time, these three Patriarchates, Rome, Alexandria, and Antioch–in that order of primacy–governed Europe, Africa, and Asia, respectively, with Rome as the final court of appeal.

As early as the First Council of Constantinople, the emperor tried to get the bishop of his city to replace Alexandria as the Eastern primate. This was opposed by Pope St. Damasus, who reiterated the traditional ordering. This was tried again at Chalcedon, but again, the Roman Pope (St. Leo the Great) vetoed it. However, when Alexandria rejected the definitions of Chalcedon and separated from the Church (leaving only Rome and Antioch), Constantinople filled the void and the Greek Patriarchate of Alexandria was instituted and was essentially a vassal of Constantinople. Jerusalem was also separated from the jurisdiction of Antioch at Chalcedon and fell more under the influence of Constantinople, especially when the emperor later made it a patriarchate. The rise of Islam also significantly weakened Antioch to the point where it became significantly reliant on Constantinople.

So at the schism, you really only had the separation of two original Patriarchates–Rome and Antioch–and Antioch paled in significance at the time. If you prefer, it can also be looked at as a split between the chief See of the Church and the see of the chief imperial city in the East, which held significant influence over the other eastern churches.


The Pentarchy was never accepted by the papacy nor was 1st among equals. So who gave the patriarch of Constantinople equal privileges?

this is the same argument Jesus settled among the apostles, over who is greatest among THEM. Jesus said it was Peter. Argument over. Notice who Jesus said started the argument among the apostles? Satan. And guess who keeps the argument going, ? SATAN .

Isn’t it interesting, the argument is based on politics not based on Peter’s see being Rome.

Canon 28

“Following in all things the decisions of the holy Fathers, and acknowledging the canon, which has been just read, of the One Hundred and Fifty Bishops beloved-of-God (who assembled in the imperial city of Constantinople, which is New Rome, in the time of the Emperor Theodosius of happy memory), we also do enact and decree the same things concerning the privileges of the most holy Church of Constantinople, which is New Rome. For the Fathers rightly granted privileges to the throne of old Rome, because it was the royal city. And the One Hundred and Fifty most religious Bishops, actuated by the same consideration, gave equal privileges to the most holy throne of New Rome, justly judging that the city which is honoured with the Sovereignty and the Senate, and enjoys equal privileges with the old imperial Rome, should in ecclesiastical matters also be magnified as she is, and rank next after her; so that, in the Pontic, the Asian, and the Thracian dioceses, the metropolitans only and such bishops also of the Dioceses aforesaid as are among the barbarians, should be ordained by the aforesaid most holy throne of the most holy Church of Constantinople; every metropolitan of the aforesaid dioceses, together with the bishops of his province, ordaining his own provincial bishops, as has been declared by the divine canons; but that, as has been above said, the metropolitans of the aforesaid Dioceses should be ordained by the archbishop of Constantinople, after the proper elections have been held according to custom and have been reported to him.”


Its actually a complicated question. You had several groups that broke out as a result of the Counsels of Ephesus and Chalcedon. You had the Chalcedonians (primarily the Latin West), the Nestorians (primarily the Mesopotamian, Eastern Syrian churches I believe), the Jacobites (primarily the Coptic churches if I remember correctly), and one more whose names escape me that roughly corresponds with the Western Syrian churches, that disagreed to some extent regarding the Christological controversies of the fifth century. These differences were cemented further over the years through the rise of Islam and eventually culminated in the Great Schism in 1054. While I think the conclusions drawn at Chalcedon are correct doctrinally, it seems like there never was a true agreement there. The issues regarding whether Rome had the right to claim primacy, or whether the bishops of the great sees should have been seen as peers seem to eventually stem from that.


If 49 states secede from the union, only the other 1 and DC are still part of the United States of America


Because truth isn’t democratic.

It is Tradition that the Chair of Peter has the final say. If it was 99 against Rome, the 1 would be right and the 99 would be wrong.


Even you admit that the patriarch of Constantinople was given equal privilages by the Ecumenical Council of Chalcedon. If you want to say that Satan was dictating the declarations of the Council Fathers, then you also have to reject the Confession of Chalcedon and other canons, namely the two Natures of Christ, the origin of the Catholic Celebret, that monks and nuns could not marry, that it is the authority of a Bishop of a diocese to erect a monastery and many more disciplinary regulations which are commonplace in the Church today.

You seem to be taking the concept of privilages out of context. You will note that it is in specific reference to the throne of New Rome. This is not to be confused with the Throne of St. Peter. It is not with respect to ministry or Petrine authority. If you look at the conflicts of the time, it is centered around Imperial honors within and outside of the Church which had been bestowed upon the Pope by the Roman Emperors. It is with respect to the Throne of Rome, the ruling seat of civil authority. The “next in rank after her” is acknowledging that the imperial honors bestowed upon Constantinople are of a lower rank to those bestowed upon the Pope and the patriarch must pay those privileges and honors to the Pope. Some of these privileges of the Throne of New Rome were to wear purple, use porphyry in construction, the use of a sedia gestatoria and other privileges concerning social respect.

It was only around the time of Great Schism that this Council was distorted into the 1st Among Equals argument. I ask that you take the Council in the context with which it was conducted and not how it was later interpreted.


Did you even read what was said?

Go back and read what was quoted.. What is out of context?

The faith wasn’t even legal till Constantine legalized it in 325. Before that, Civil authority was trying to wipe out the faith.

I quoted Card Ratzinger. He was reviewing the history on certain concepts and phrases and where they were first used…


Yes. You restated the exact quote in which the council fathers gave those privileges to the Patriarch of Constantinople.

The fact that you are assuming that these privileges were theological or spiritual. They were temporal imperial privileges which were bestowed upon the Pope when Constantine I left Rome and again by Theodosius when he recognized Nicene Christianity as the official imperial religion in 380. The magnification in ecclesiastical matters stems from the Patriarch’s influence on the Emperor. The Church at this point was part of the Imperial Government. While spiritual and theological primacy was held by the papacy, the political and temporal power in the Church was primarily held by the Patriarch of Constantinople, only being overruled when the Pope intervened. The Church was still reeling from being going from the despised minority to full fledged power within the imperium. The spiritual center of the East used to be Antioch and Alexandria as a Petrine sees, but after Antioch’s schism after the Council of Constantinople in 381 and Alexandria dwindled in prominence until it became somewhat of a suffragan to Constantinople. The hierarchy in the East was in disarray and the Patriarch of Constantinople stepped in to fill the political role. The ruling of Chalcedon was just confirming the power shift in the Eastern Church as valid. The relationship between the Papacy and the Patriarch of Constantinople was very strong at this point. The St. Flavian, the Patriarch of Constantinople and Pope St. Leo I even worked closely together to bring root out the vestiges of Nestorianism in the years leading up to the Council.

Yes, but by 380 it was an official part of the Roman Imperial Government via the Edict of Thessolonica.

Yes, but Card. Ratzinger does not mention in what context Petrarchy was used, simply that it had its early roots in the fifth century. As the Council of Chalcedon is at almost the exact center of the fifth century (451) it is even possible that pentarchy was fist considered after the Council. If you research it, it does not appear in any Council or legal documents until over a century after the Council of Chalcedon in the Novellas of Justinian in 556 and even then, it is an Imperial legal document.


Canon 28 of Chalcedon was rejected and declared null by St. Leo the Great and therefore was not valid. The Bishop of Constantinople wrote back to St. Leo apologizing:

As for those things which the universal Council of Chalcedon recently ordained in favor of the church of Constantinople, let Your Holiness be sure that there was no fault in me, who from my youth have always loved peace and quiet, keeping myself in humility. It was the most reverend clergy of the church of Constantinople who were eager about it, and they were equally supported by the most reverend priests of those parts, who agreed about it. Even so, the whole force of confirmation of the acts was reserved for the authority of Your Blessedness. Therefore, let Your Holiness know for certain that I did nothing to further the matter, knowing always that I held myself bound to avoid the lusts of pride and covetousness.

– Anatolius of Constantinople to Pope Leo, Ep 132 (on the subject of canon 28 of Chalcedon).


point being

The pope nor his see, gets his position from Secular sources.

As I used a quote saying a secular argument was used post #8 Schism Explanation (who was really in Schism?)

Card Ratzinger was talking about the equalization of sees. No pope ever accepted that idea.


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