"The Myth of Schism" (from an Orthodox writer)

David Bently Hart makes some admissions of reflexive animosity on both sides. I’m curious what people think on this site!

There are things I was surprised to hear (though I’m not very well familiar with the history of Catholic-Orthodox relations), including accepting (however distantly) that an Orthodox mob under one Byzantine emperor (Andronikos I Komnenos) conducted a massacre of “Latin” (Catholic) Christians in 1182, which may have been the instigation leading to the later sack of Constantinople during the Fourth Crusade. Overall, the tone is one of reproach of those on both sides that are unwilling to come together. However, I have already heard from one other Catholic that he didn’t like the ecclesiology section.



This is a very interesting article. I don’t know how many hold his opinions, but my observations or comments would be as follows:
-If you look at the events surrounding the timing of the schism, it is fairly easy to conclude that there was plenty of blame to be shared. Yes, there was the massacre of the Italians in Constantinople. Yes, the Venetian Doge, (blinded, it was said in the massacre) Enrico Dandolo subverted and tricked the participants in the Fourth Crusade for passage to the Holy Land. Yes, the Franks supported an unpopular pretender for the Byzantine throne and used his claim somewhat as an excuse to extort money and military support from Byzantium in the crusade. Yes, the Byzantines acted foolishly in attacking the Franks before the walls of Constantinople, having massively underestimated the military capabilities of the outnumbered Franks and the naval capabilities of the Venetians. Yes, the Franks and Venetians looted the city. No, the Franks and Venetians were not justified in doing that, and were, in fact, already excommunicated by the Pope for attacking other Christians on the way. Yes, the Byzantines could have achieved unity even so, but wouldn’t have it.

-If you look at the failure of the west to come to Constantinople’s aid when the Turks finally took the city, there was a failure. But it was almost certainly hopeless. 9,000 Franks took the city in the Fourth Crusade. The Turks had 200,000 soldiers in the final assault of the city, as well as cannon, which the westerners did not have. The Hungarians had suffered a terrible defeat by the Turks shortly before. Perhaps the west should have come, but it probably would not have mattered if it did. Western fighters were impressive on a man-to-man basis, but western Christendom could never have raised an army anywhere near as large as that of the Turks, and couldn’t have gotten it there anyway, since the passage was, by then, already controlled by the Turks.

-Notwithstanding all of that, the Turkish blow to the Eastern Church was so devastating, modern Orthodox people bear the memory as if it was yesterday, and many truly feel the western Church bears responsibility for the loss, which is ongoing to this day. Christianity is suppressed in Turkey. The Turks require that the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople be a Turk, not a Greek. Hagia Sophia has never been restored to the Orthodox Church, and has been, and may again be a mosque. The four horses atop St. Mark’s Cathedral in Venice came from the hippodrome in Constantinople and for some, that is a bitter reminder of the Fourth Crusade.

-In the meanwhile, Moscow declared itself to be the “Third Rome”. The Russian E.O. is more numerous than the Greek, has a far more powerful state behind it than do the Greeks. There is an imperial overlay to Eastern Orthodoxy, and to the Russians, that crown has passed to Moscow. Notwithstanding a brief identification with the Carolingian Empire, the Church in the west has, from the fall of Rome, always been wary of the state and has often been at odds with the state(s) of the west. The Catholic Church, perhaps as a result, has no sense of “place” and no identification with ethnicity or locale. Orthodoxy, in its heart of hearts, still dreams of a “Holy Byzantine Empire”, and looks back to it with a sort of melancholy and bitter resentment.

-It is, by some, deemed impossible to resolve the various theological issues, not so much because they’re intractable, (many are not even comprehensible to any but expert theologians) but because there are barriers of other sorts. One is the concept of territorial jurisdiction. That is important to many Orthodox, but the Latin Church claims the right to be anywhere on the planet. Another is the seeming impossibility for there to be a “true” Ecumenical Council at which other things might be resolved. Many of the Orthodox consider the Latin Church irredeemably heretical and consider the Chair of Peter to be occupied by a heretical usurper. A true Ecumenical Council, some believe, cannot happen until all of the true Patriarchs are present. But for that to happen, the “Patriarch of Rome” must give up the “Latin heresies”, and become an Orthodox Patriarch with jurisdiction limited to the City of Rome and some outlying countryside. I don’t much doubt that this very strict view of things was not always there (as is asserted in the article) but it’s very much a firm view now.

-So, it seems to me (and I make no claim to expertise, but I can read) the barriers are awfully close to being insurmountable. Maybe not so much with the Greeks, but much more so with the Russians.

-The Oriental Orthodox are another subject entirely, but this post is already too long.:slight_smile:

Thank you for this interesting article.

Most of the Orthodox I know wouldn’t sign on to this definitively. The historical events to them are not the main issues. To a few they are, just not to most.

I am glad to see from this article that at least some orthodox theologians now are beginning to challenge the Augustinian-Greek hegemony on the trinity of the divine essence. It was something that always irked me about the 16th century protestant reformers such as Luther and Calvin - that they were always prepared to meekly submit to Augustine and his predecessors. I never really understood how a former Manichean reprobate came to be entrusted with so much authority by either the Roman or reformed churches, but presumably he did a good job of entrenching Roman power and history is written by the victors.

The Greek church in the east ultimately disappeared under Muslim conquests. All the places that gave rise to what today is term “orthodoxy” disappeared, including Nicaea, Byzantium, the capital of Christendom, and the seat of residence of Augustine of Hippo, all conquered by the Muslim “God has no son” hegemony. May be orthodox and Roman theologians should ponder on that one whilst they are debating the Trinity of the divine essence, and reflect, if they really got it right, then why was God so angry at them?

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