The Eigth Ecumenical Council


#1

Why does the Catholic Church see the Synod of Constantinople (869-870) as Ecumenical but not the following one (879-880) as the Orthodox do?

It is often claimed by Orthodox polemicists that Rome accepted the later Council as Ecumenical (that council repudiating the earlier one) but this changed in the 12th century.

Today the Catholic Church firmly believes in the (869-870) council as Ecumenical. Why is the 879-880 not? Did not the legates of the Pope sign this council?


#2

A common myth among Eastern Orthodox apologists and polemicists is that the Ecumenical Council of 869-870 was actually a Robber Council abrogated by the Catholic Church in 879-880 in the Photian synod. Actually, the later Photian synod was not ecumenical, whereas the synod a decade earlier was. We know this from seven facts which Dr. Philip Blosser recalls in his excellent post on the Photian schism of the 9th century:

  1. The 869-870 council called itself universalis octava synodus, i.e. the Eighth Ecumenical Council.
  2. People from all the churches were present or represented at the 869-870 council.
  3. Pope Adrian approved the 869-870 council’s ecumenical status in his 11/10/871 letter and his 875 letter to Catholics in Salerno and Amalfo.
  4. Pope John VIII called the 869-870 council sancta octava synodus.
  5. Byzantine Catholics accepted the 869-870 council as ecumenical until 879-880.
  6. The Greek text of the last two sessions of the 879-880 is of dubious authenticity since the party of Patriarch St. Photius I the Great of Constantinople had a history of altering the letters before reading them, which angered Pope John VIII.
  7. The letter of Pope Stephen V to Emperor Basil I in 885-886 says that St. Photius was still trying to have the 869-870 council annulled but he would not be doing this if Pope John VIII had abrogated the 869-870.

God bless you and yours!


#3

Only promoted as such when the Vatican, embroiled in its own investiture contraversy dug up an anti-Photian treatise (the fragmentary record of the 869 Council only survives in this) and its canons. This was post 1054.

We know this from seven facts which Dr. Philip Blosser recalls in his excellent post on the Photian schism of the 9th century:

Look at Dvornic’s excellent book.
Also geocities.com/trvalentine/orthodox/dragas_eighth.html

  1. The 869-870 council called itself universalis octava synodus, i.e. the Eighth Ecumenical Council.

The “council” of Hieria of the Iconclasts called itself Ecumenical too.

  1. People from all the churches were present or represented at the 869-870 council.

Evidentially the number rose to 102 in the last session, but it started with just two dozen. If Ecumenical, it would be the least attended. Constantinople IV 879 had 389 bishops, one of the best attended: actually only Chalcedon had more. The “legates” of Alexandria and Jerusalem to the 869 council seem not to have been sent by those patriarchs.

  1. Pope Adrian approved the 869-870 council’s ecumenical status in his 11/10/871 letter and his 875 letter to Catholics in Salerno and Amalfo.
  2. Pope John VIII called the 869-870 council sancta octava synodus.

He’s the same Pope who accepted Constantinople IV 879. The 869 council itself failed to name the Seventh Ecumenical Council.

  1. Byzantine Catholics accepted the 869-870 council as ecumenical until 879-880.

Byzantines? Who were they?
The only ones at Constantinople were ROMANS.

  1. The Greek text of the last two sessions of the 879-880 is of dubious authenticity since the party of Patriarch St. Photius I the Great of Constantinople had a history of altering the letters before reading them, which angered Pope John VIII.

Given the mileage from the False Decretals and the Donation of Constantine, I always find this rich.
The text of the whole 869 council are of dubious authenticity, conflicting, and mutilated in key spots, i.e. on the filioque.

]7. The letter of Pope Stephen V to Emperor Basil I in 885-886 says that St. Photius was still trying to have the 869-870 council annulled but he would not be doing this if Pope John VIII had abrogated the 869-870.

The 869 council required the members to sign on to the Formula of Hormisdas, which is odd as the apologists of the Vatican claim it showed papal supremacy in the sixth century. The 869 was dealing with the fact that as many bishops as the emperor couldn’t strong arm (Pope Hormisdas told him to use force), refused to sign, included bishops under Rome.


#4

Not particularly fair to bring up. Eastern Patriarchs were perfectly happy using it as an excuse to exercise authority ,on occasion, over the Emperor . Not to mention no one really knew it was a forgery, well except the forger himself.


#5

Can you provide examples? I have to admit, I’ve never heard this.


#6

I’lll have to dig back through Norwich’s history of Byzantium but he makes reference to it, though I can’t remember when.


#7

Note from Moderator:

This thread appears to be focused on a Catholic/Orthodox issue independent of Eastern Catholicism. Anyone wishing to argue in favor of this thread remaining on the Eastern Catholicism forum may click the red triangle in the top right of this post or send me a PM. Please do not respond in this thread. If no responses are received, I will move this thread tomorrow morning.

May God Bless You Abundantly,
Catherine Grant
Eastern Catholicism Moderator


#8

Isa, as I formulate my response to the rest of your points I will say right off the bat that this is false. The 869-870 Council says, “We also know that the seventh, holy and universal synod, held for the second time at Nicaea, taught correctly when it professed the one and same Christ as both invisible and visible lord, incomprehensible and comprehensible, unlimited and limited, incapable and capable of suffering, inexpressible and expressible in writing.”

God bless you and yours!


#9

I have to review Dvornik’s documentation on this issue. I’t’s been a while, but I seem to remember some question about this.


#10

Rome definitely accepted the 879-880 council, but I don’t know if Rome ever accepted it as ecumenical.

Also, you are correct in saying that Rome later decided that the 869-870 council was an ecumenical council, but I believe that happened in the 11th century, not the 12th.


#11

bump


#12

Brother Isa, forgive me for taking so long to respond; I’ve been so busy with college academics and athletics.

Francis Dvornik’s work is very useful for defending the sainthood of Photius the Great but Dvornik is incorrect about the 879-880 council being ecumenical. On the contrary, the following works demonstrate that the Catholic Church did not revoke the ecumenical status of the 869-870 council:
(1) Grumel, Venance. "New Light on the Photian Schism,” Unitas 5 (1953), 140-148.
(2) Jugie, Martin. Le schisme byzantin, apercu historique et doctrinal. Paris: P. Lethielleux, 1941.

Red herring. This Iconoclast council did not have the approbation of the Pope, whereas Pope Adrian II and Pope John VIII both called the 869-870 the eighth ecumenical council.

True, it has the lowest attendance of any ecumenical council, but it still had the necessary qualifications in terms of geographic representation. Could you elaborate on and give a source for your statement that the Eastern legates were seemingly not sent by the patriarchs of Alexandria and Jerusalem? Thanks.

Pope John VIII, desirous of reunion, accepted the abrogation of the disciplinary measures against St. Photius the Great and accepted his reinstatement as Patriarch since St. Ignatius was dead, but he did not accept the condemnation of the Filioque doctrine (q.v. the section after the next).

I won’t get into the red herring of the Donation of Constantine and False Decretals because that is a topic big enough for its own thread. Could you elaborate on and source your statement that the 869-870 council text is mangled and shady? Thanks.

Calvinist historian Philip Schaff says in “Conflict of the Eastern and Western Churches and their Separation” in his History of the Christian Church, "To the Greek acts was afterwards added a (pretended) letter of John VIII to Photius, declaring the Filioque to be an addition which is rejected by the church of Rome, and a blasphemy which must be abolished calmly and by, degrees.”

Besides the notoriety of the Photian party for altering texts, the letter itself is suspicious. Thus Cardinal Josef Von Hefele, Bishop of Rottenburg, says in the 1879 edition of Conciliengeschichte, Vol. IV p. 482, “Ich kann nicht glauben, dass je ein Papst seine Stellung so sehr vergessen habe, wie es Johann VIII gethan haben müsste, wenn dieser Brief ächt wäre. Es ist in demselben auch keine Spur des Papal bewusstseins, vielmehr ist die Superiorität des Photius fast ausdrücklich anerkannt.” God bless anyone fluent in German who can help us out here with an exact translation, but the sense is that it is incredible that a pope, the supreme pastor, would have forgotten so many of his prerogatives and almost expressly recognized the superiority of Photius, the Patriarch of Constantinople, to the Pope of Rome; cf. note {2} at the bottom of this post.

Cf. Ρ. Stephanou, Berichte zum ΧI. Int. Byz.-Kongress Korreferate, ΙΙΙ, 2, pp. 20 ff.; V. Grumel, “Le décret du synode photien de 879-880 sur le symbole de foi;” ΕΟ, 37 (1938), 357-72; idem, “Le ‘Filioque’ au concile photien de 879-880 et le témoignage de Michel d’Anchialos,” ΕΟ, 29 (1930), 257-64; V. Laurent, “Les Actes du synode photien et Georges le Metochite,” ΕΟ, 37 (1938), 100-106; idem, "Le cas de Photius dans l’apologétique du patriarche Jean ΧΙ Beccos (1275-82), au lendemain du deuxième concile de Lyon,’ ΕΟ, 29 (1930), 396-415.

This citation comes from Milton V. Anastos, Aspects of the Mind of Byzantium (Political Theory, Theology, and Ecclesiastical Relations with the See of Rome), Ashgate Publications, Variorum Collected Studies Series, 2001. ISBN: 0 86078 840 7; Ch. 16 The Patriarch Photius and his disputes with Rome @ myriobiblos.gr/texts/english/milton1_16.html; needless to say, Anastos, as an Eastern Orthodox apologist, draws different conclusions in the body of the chapter as well as in the rest of the notes.

The letter of Pope Stephen that I referenced is the smoking gun which shows that Rome had not revoked the ecumenical status of the 869-870 council, but had accepted the 879-880 council in a limited way as I explained above.

Well, papal supremacy was now becoming a topic of dispute thanks to St. Photius the Great daring to excommunicate Pope St. Nicholas I the Great in 867,{1} despite the constant witness of the Councils and Fathers to the primacy of the Roman See and the pope{2} so it should not be considered odd that the 869-870 council members had to sign the Formula of Hormisdas to confirm they were Catholics in good faith.

{1} Pope Honorius was excommunicated but this was much different because he was already dead and the excommunication was by an Ecumenical Council which is presided over by the Pope and has no authority apart from him:
“Because of his primacy, the Pontiff of Rome is not required to attend an Ecumenical Council; but without his participation, manifested by sending some subordinates, every Ecumenical Council is as nonexistent, for it is he who presides over the Council” (–St. Methodius —N. Brian-Chaninov, The Russian Church (1931), 46; cited by Butler, Church and Infallibility, 210) (Upon This Rock (San Francisco: Ignatius, 1999), p. 177).
“It is not true, as this Canon states, that the holy Fathers gave the primacy to old Rome because it was the capital of the Empire; it is from on high, from divine grace, that this primacy drew its origin. Because of the intensity of his faith Peter, the first of the Apostles, was addressed in these words by our Lord Jesus Christ himself ‘Peter, lovest thou me? Feed my sheep’. That is why in hierarchical order Rome holds the pre-eminent place and is the first See. That is why the leges of old Rome are eternally immovable, and that is the view of all the Churches” (Ibid.)
{2} Huysman, Will R. (9/9/2008) . “Seeds of Papal Infallibility Dogma Pre-Vatican I.” The Banana Republican. thebananarepublican.blogspot.com/2008/09/seeds-of-papal-infallibility-dogma-pre.html.

God bless you and yours!


#13

Since most (including myself) Orthodox do not consider Constantinople IV 879 Ecumenical, that’s not the point. The point Dvornik is writing on is not Photius’ sainthood, but the relationship of the First-Second Council.

On the contrary, the following works demonstrate that the Catholic Church did not revoke the ecumenical status of the 869-870 council:
(1) Grumel, Venance. "New Light on the Photian Schism,” Unitas 5 (1953), 140-148.
(2) Jugie, Martin. Le schisme byzantin, apercu historique et doctrinal. Paris: P. Lethielleux, 1941.

If I’m able (I don’t get to research library much now, too much going on) I’ll check them out, but if you can, what New Light does Grumel bring, and what insight Jugie, over Dvornik.

Red herring. This Iconoclast council did not have the approbation of the Pope, whereas Pope Adrian II and Pope John VIII both called the 869-870 the eighth ecumenical council.

As NO patriarch or their representative were present (hence it being called “headless”), and the Second and Third avoided the title Ecumenical, just underlines the point that if a council calls itself Ecumenical or not is not the final word. That the Pope of Rome had nothing to do with the Second, and the Fifth was held over his objections shows the Pope of Rome doesn’t have the final word either, so Adrian and John words are not particularly relevant on this point.

True, it has the lowest attendance of any ecumenical council, but it still had the necessary qualifications in terms of geographic representation. Could you elaborate on and give a source for your statement that the Eastern legates were seemingly not sent by the patriarchs of Alexandria and Jerusalem? Thanks.

We should add here that the Minutes of the Ignatian Council (869/70), which have not survived in the original, are found in two edited versions: Mansi, vol. xvi: 16-208 (Latin) and xvi: 308-420 (Greek) and differ considerably from each other. On this and for a full description of the 10 Acts of these Minutes see Siamakis, op. cit. pp. 54-75. It is important to recall here that this Council was most irregular in its composition, since it included false legates from Alexandria and Jerusalem, more royal lay people than bishops (only 12) at the start and during the first two sessions. Eventually 130 bishops are mentioned in the Minutes but only 84 actually appear signing (op. cit. p. 56f). Most important irregularity, however, was the fact that the Minutes were mutilated at the most crucial points, especially the section of the condemnation of the Filioque (op. cit. p. 74)!
[the 1985 reprint of the Thessalonian Publisher V. Regopoulos: Δοσιθέου Πατριάρχου Ἱεροσολύμων, Τόμος Χαρᾶς, Εἰσαγωγή, Σχόλια, Ἐπιμέλεια Κειμένων Κωνσταντίνου Σιαμάκη, Ἐκδόσεις Βασ. Ρηγόπουλου, Θεσσαλονίκη 1985]
geocities.com/trvalentine/orthodox/dragas_eighth.html

Pope John VIII, desirous of reunion, accepted the abrogation of the disciplinary measures against St. Photius the Great and accepted his reinstatement as Patriarch since St. Ignatius was dead, but he did not accept the condemnation of the Filioque doctrine (q.v. the section after the next).

The condemnation of the Roman Catholic Eighth Council (the anti-Photian Council of Constantinople of 869/70) by Pope John VIII is first given in this Pope’s Letter to the Emperors Basil, Leo and Alexander. In this Letter which was read at the second session of the Photian Council of Constantinople of 879/80 and is included in the second Act of the Minutes, 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…” (The Latin text is this Ac primum quidem a nobis suscipi Photium praetantissimum ac reverentissimum Dei Pontificem et Patriarcham, in fratrem nostrum et comministrum, eundemque communionis cum sancta Romana ecclesia participem, consortem, et haeredem… Suscipite virum sine aliqua exrusatione. Nemo praetexat eas quae contra ipsum factae sunt innjustas synodos. Nemo, ut plerisque videtur imperitis ac rudibis, decessorum nostrorum beatorum Pontificum, Nicolai inquam, et Hadriani, decreta culpet… Finita sunt enim omnia, repudiata omnia, quae adversus cum gesta sunt, infirma irritaquae reddita… Mansi vol xvii, cls. 400D & 401BC. For the Greek see Dositheos op. cit. p. 281f).

A similar condemnation is found in Pope John VIII’s Letter to Photios where he writes: “As for the Synod that was summoned against your Reverence we have annulled here and have completely banished, and have ejected [it from our archives], because of the other causes and because our blessed predecessor Pope Hadrian did not subscribe to it…” (Latin text: Synodum vero, quae contra tuam reverentiam ibidem est habita, rescidimus, damnavimus omnino, et abjecimus: tum ob alias causas, tum quo decessor noster beatus Papa Hadrianus in ea non subscripsit…" Mansi vol. xvii cl. 416E. For the Greek see Dositheos op. cit. p. 292).

Finally in Pope John VIII’s Commonitorium or Mandatum ch. 10, which was read by the papal legates at the third Session of the same Council, we find the following: “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.” The minutes at this point add: “The Holy Synod responded: We have denounced this by our actions and we eject it from the archives and anathematize the so-called [Eighth] Synod, being united to Photios our Most Holy Patriarch. We also anathematize those who fail to eject what was written or said against him by the aforementioned by yourselves, the so-called [Eighth] Synod.” (Latin text: Caput 10. Volumus coram praesente synodo pomulgari ut synodus quae facta est contra praedictum patriarcham Photium sub Hadriano sanctissimo Papa in urbe Roma et Constantinopoli ex nunc sit rejecta, irrita, et sine robore; neque connumeretur cum altera sancta synodo. Sancta Synodus respondit: Nos rebus ispsis condemnavimus et abjecimus et anathematizavimus dictam a vobis synodum, uniti Photio sanctissimo nostro Patriarchae: et eos qui non rejiciunt scripta dictave nostra cum in hac dicta a vobis synodo, anathematizamus. Mansi vol. xvii, cl. 472AB. See also cls. 489/490E which repeats these points as accepted by the Synod. See also Dositheos op. cit. p. 345 and p. 361). I have included these texts here because I repeatedly encounter comments in the works of Western scholars, especially Roman Catholics, who offer confusing and even disputed information about the unanimous Eastern and Western condemnation of the anti-Photian Council of 869/870.

geocities.com/trvalentine/orthodox/dragas_eighth.html

I won’t get into the red herring of the Donation of Constantine and False Decretals because that is a topic big enough for its own thread. Could you elaborate on and source your statement that the 869-870 council text is mangled and shady? Thanks.

For one, look above.

Calvinist historian Philip Schaff says in “Conflict of the Eastern and Western Churches and their Separation” in his History of the Christian Church, "To the Greek acts was afterwards added a (pretended) letter of John VIII to Photius, declaring the Filioque to be an addition which is rejected by the church of Rome, and a blasphemy which must be abolished calmly and by, degrees.”

Besides the notoriety of the Photian party for altering texts, the letter itself is suspicious.

Look below.

“Because of his primacy, the Pontiff of Rome is not required to attend an Ecumenical Council; but without his participation, manifested by sending some subordinates, every Ecumenical Council is as nonexistent, for it is he who presides over the Council” (–St. Methodius —N. Brian-Chaninov, The Russian Church (1931), 46; cited by Butler, Church and Infallibility, 210) (Upon This Rock (San Francisco: Ignatius, 1999), p. 177).

On a thread of by gone days in ECF this quote’s dubia was fleshed out fully, with the added conclusion that if an authentic quote of St. Methodius (and the thread showed that this one isn’t) stating the above were to be had, since most Orthodox Churches owe their existence in part to St. Methodius, we surely would have seen more of this “Letter” from this Equal to the Apostles.

Sorry, I’ve got to cut this short, to be cont.


#14

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.