Monday, April 14, 2014
Réné-Francois Guettée - The Papacy - part ten
Nicholas did not know what had taken place at
Constantinople at the time of the deposition of Ignatius and the election of Photius. He only knew that Photius was a layman at the time of his election. It is true, many canons of the West forbade hasty ordinations; but
these canons did not obtain in the East, and although usage there was in favour of progressive ordinations, the history of the Church proves, by numerous examples, that these canons and this usage were occasionally passed over in favour of men of distinguished merit and under circumstances of peculiar gravity. We need only to recall the names of Ambrose of Milan, Nectarius, Tarasius, and Nicephorus of Constantinople, to prove that the ordination of
Photius was not without the most venerable precedent. But Nicholas desired to appear in the character of supreme arbiter. Instead of modestly putting off intercommunion with the new Patriarch until he should be more fully informed, he answered the letters of Photius and of
the Emperor in this style:
“The Creator of all things has established the PRINCEDOM of the divine power which the Creator of all things has granted to his chosen Apostles. He has firmly established it on the firm faith of the Prince of the Apostles, that is to say Peter, to whom he preeminently granted the first see. For to him was said by the voice of the Lord, 'Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.' Peter, thus called because of the solidity of the rock, which is Christ, continues to strengthen by his prayers the unshaken edifice of the universal Church, so that he hastens to reform, according to the rule of true faith, the folly of those who fall into errour, and sustains those who consolidate it lest the gates of hell, that is to say, the suggestion of wicked spirits and the attacks of heretics, should succeed in breaking the unity of the Church."*
Nicholas then pretends to be convinced that when Michael sent to
Rome, it was to fulfil the rule established by the Fathers; that"without the consent of the Roman see and the
Roman pontiff, nothing should be decided in controversies."
This principle was admitted in this sense, that no question of faith could be passed upon without the concurrence of the Western churches, which was commonly transmitted through the chief see of those countries; but not in this sense, that the consent of the individual See of Rome or of its bishop was absolutely necessary. Nicholas thus relied upon an errour, and improperly treated it as admitted by the Emperor of the East. Upon this latter point, at least, he knew what the truth was. He next attacks the election of Photius, relying on the canons of the Council of Sardica, and the Decretals of the Popes Celestine, Leo, and Gelasius, whom he calls doctors of the catholic faith. He might have considered that the faith was not in question, but only a mere matter of discipline, and that the East had not, and was entitled not to have, upon this point, the same discipline as the West. Adrian I. had
forbidden in future to raise a layman to the episcopate. Nicholas relies on this as a precedent. But he does not consider whether
Adrian had any better right than himself to make this prohibition. "IT IS OUR WILL," he adds, "that Ignatius should appear before our envoys, that
he may declare why he has abandoned his people without regarding the rules of our predecessors Leo and Benedict......... All the proceedings will then be transmitted to our superior authority, that we may judge by Apostolic authority what is to be done, in order that your church, which is now so shaken, may be firm and peaceful for the future."
Following a practice which was already established in the Roman Church, Nicholas did not permit his duties as supreme pontiff to divert his mind from the material interests of
* Nocol. Ep. 2d and 3d in Labbe’s Collection of the Councils, vol. viii. Nat. Alexand. Hist. Eccl. Dissert. iv. in sæcul. ix.
his see; accordingly, he writes to the Emperor: “Give back to us the patrimony of Calabria and that of Sicily and all the property of our church, whereof it held possession, and which it was accustomed to manage by its own attorneys; for it is unreasonable that an ecclesiastical possession, destined for the light and the service of the Church of God, should be taken from us by an earthly power."
Behold now the temporalities already invested with religious consecration!
"IT IS OUR WILL," adds Nicholas, (these words flow naturally from his pen upon all occasions,) “IT IS OUR WILL that consecration be given by our see to the Archbishop of Syracuse, that the tradition established by the Apostles may not be violated in our time. "This motive is truly strange, to say no more of it.
Sicily was made subject to the Roman Patriarchate in the fourth century. After the fall of the empire, that region bad remained within the dominions of the Emperor of Constantinople. Now, according to the rule admitted time out of mind in the Church, the ecclesiastical divisions should follow every change in the civil divisions. By that rule, Syracuse properly depended upon Constantinople, and not
of his order, except by the consent of the Roman Pontiff.
The earlier popes had never used such language either to the emperors or to their brethren the bishops. In cases where they were obliged to interfere for the defence of faith or of discipline, they did not assume the character of sovereign umpires, and claimed no supreme authority; they appealed to tradition, to the canons; they did nothing without a council, and did not mix things temporal with things spiritual. We have noticed the first
steps of the Papacy in its new ways and its attempts to abolish the ancient canon law. Nicholas I. thought himself prepared to treat these new pretensions as ancient and incontestable prerogatives. He thus deserves a place between Adrian I., the true founder of the modern Papacy, and Gregory VII., who raised it to its highest. But the False Decretals were unknown in the East. Nicholas I., instead of invoking the general principles of the œcumenical councils, quoted the Decretals of his predecessors, as if it were possible for those Bishops of Rome to establish universal laws. Photius, in his second letter, reminded him of the true principles with as much accuracy as moderation.
The legates of Nicholas having arrived at
Constantinople, a council was assembled in that city, in which three hundred and eighteen bishops took part, and which the legates attended. Ignatius appeared before that assembly, and was solemnly deposed. Every one admits this. But the enemies of Photius represent these three hundred and eighteen bishops, who held their sessions publicly and before large crowds, as so many traitors sold to the crown. We find it difficult to believe that so many bishops can have prostituted their consciences unchecked, to a man, by any remorse, and that the people did not protest against such infamy. It is difficult to believe in this connivance of three hundred and eighteen bishops, surrounded by a crowd of clergy and people. It seems to us more probable that, in spite of his virtues, Ignatius had been raised to the Patriarchate less by election than by a powerful influence, and because of his noble blood, whereof he was indeed reproached, and that he was implicated, involuntarily, no doubt, in certain political intrigues. We see no reason to doubt the purity of his intentions; but may he not have been the tool of ambitious men? was it not owing to their baneful influence that he did not imitate the magnanimity and the truly bishop-like self-sacrifice of a Chrysostom?
Ignatius was a second time deposed by the Council of Constantinople in 861. He appealed to the Pope; but his petition was signed by only six metropolitans and fifteen bishops.
The legates returned to
Rome. Shortly after their arrival, an imperial ambassador brought the transactions of the council and a letter from Photius, thus conceived :
"To the very holy among all and most sacred brother and co-minister, Nicholas, Pope of ancient
Rome, Photius, Bishop of Constantinople, the new Rome.
“Nothing is more honourable and precious than charity; this is the general opinion confirmed by Holy Scriptures. By her that which is separated becomes united; contentions are ended; that which is already united and closely tied, becomes united more closely still; she closes all doors to seditions and intestine quarrels; for 'charity thinketh no evil, suffereth
long, hopeth all things, endureth all things, and,' according to the blessed Paul, ‘never faileth.' She reconcileth guilty servants with their masters, insisting, in mitigation of the fault, upon their similar natures; she teaches servants to bear meekly the anger of their masters, and consoles them for the inequality of their state by the example of those who suffered the like with them. She softens the anger of parents against their children, and against their murmurs; she makes parental love a powerful weapon, which comes to their aid and prevents in
families those strifes from which nature shrinks. She easily checks dissensions between friends, and persuades them to kindly and friendly intercourse. As for those who have the same thoughts concerning God and divine things, although distance separate them, and they never behold each other, she unites them and identifies them in thought, and makes true friends of them, and if perchance one of them should too inconsiderately raise accusations against the other, she cures the evil, sets an things to right, and rivets the bond of union."
This picture of the benefits of charity was intended for Nicholas who had not practised it toward Photius, but had shown an -excessive eagerness to rebuke him. The Patriarch of 'Constantinople continues:
“It is this charity that has made me bear without difficulty the reproaches that your paternal Holiness has hurled at me like darts; that has forbidden me to consider your words as the results of anger or of a soul greedy of insults and enmities; that on the contrary has made me regard them as the proof of an affection which cannot dissimulate, and of a scrupulous
zeal for ecclesiastical discipline, a zeal that would have every thing perfect. For if charity will not permit us even to consider evil as wrong, how shall she permit us to call any thing wrong? Such is the nature of true charity, that she will even regard as an intended benefit that which causes us pain. But since there is no reason why truth should not be spoken between brothers or fathers and sons, (for what is there more friendly than truth?) let me speak and write to you with perfect freedom, not from a desire to contradict you, but with intent to defend myself.
“Perfect as you are, you should have considered at the outset that it was quite against our will that we were placed under this yoke, and therefore have had pity upon us instead of rebuking us ; you should not have despised us, but have had compassion on our grief Indeed, we owe pity and kindness and not insult and contempt to those who have suffered violence. But we have suffered violence, how great, God alone, who knows the most secret things, can know; we have been detained against our wishes, we have been watched narrowly, surrounded with spies like a culprit; we have received votes against our will, we have been created a bishop in spite of our tears, our complaints our affliction, our despair. Every one
knows it; for these things were not done in secret, and the exceeding violence to which I have been subjected was so public as to be known of all. What! should not those who have
endured such violence be pitied and consoled as much as possible, rather than be attacked, evil-entreated, and laden with insults? I have lost a sweet and tranquil life; I have lost my
glory, (since there be who love earthly glory;) I have lost my precious leisure, my intercourse so pure and delightful with my friends, that intercourse whence grief, double-dealing, and recrimination were excluded. No one hated me then; and I. . . . I accused, I hated no one, neither at home nor abroad. I had nothing against those who had the least intercourse with me, and nothing á fortiori against my friends. I have never caused such pain to any one as that I should reap an outrage from it, save in those dangers to which I have been exposed for the cause of religion.* Nor has any one so seriously offended me as to drive me to insult him. All were good to me. As for my conduct, I must be silent on that point; but every one proclaims what that has been. My friends loved me better than their parents; as for my parents, they loved me more than the other members of the family, and knew it was I who loved them best."
The enemies of Photius themselves are forced to admit that his life was that of a man devoted to study; that as first secretary of state he possessed the greatest honours to which he could have aspired. How shall such admissions be reconciled with that immoderate lust after the episcopate which they attribute to him? We are nearer the truth in accepting his letters as the actual expression of his sentiments. He resisted as best he could his promotion, and it
was only the will of the Emperor and that of Bardas that forced him to accept a see which no one could fill better than himself.
Photius having drawn a comparison, as true as it is eloquent between his former scholar's life and the new life that bad been imposed upon him, thus continues:
"But why repeat what I have already written? If I was believed, then I was wronged in not being pitied; if I was not believed, I was no less wronged in that my words were not believed when I spoke the truth. Upon either side, then, I am unfortunate. I am reproached where I expect consolation and encouragement; grief is thus added to grief I hear said to me,
‘Men ought not to have wronged you.' Then say so to those who have wronged me, 'They ought not to have done you violence.' The maxim is excellent; but who deserves your
reproaches if not those who did me violence? Who should be pitied if not those to whom
violence has been done? If any one left in peace those who did violence in order to attack those who suffered it, I might have hoped from your justice that you would condemn him. The canons of the Church, it is said, have been violated because you are raised from the rank of a layman to the highest office of the ministry. But who has violated them? He who has done violence, or he who has been compelled by force and against his will ? But you should have resisted! How far? I did resist even more than necessary. If I had not feared to excite
still greater storms, I would have resisted even unto death. But what are these canons that are said to have been violated? Canons never to this day received by the Church of Constantinople. Canons can only be transgressed when they ought to be observed; but when they have not been handed down to us there can be no sin in not observing them. I have said enough--even more than was expedient--for I wish neither to defend nor justify myself. How should I wish to defend myself, when the only thing I desire is to be delivered from the tempest, and to be relieved of the burden that bears me down? It is to this degree that I have coveted this see, and only to this degree do I desire to retain it. But if the episcopal chair is a burden to you to-day, it was not thus at the commencement. I took it against my will, and against my will do I remain in it. The proof is that violence was done to me from the first; that from the first I desired as I do this day to leave it. But though some polite things had to be written to me, it was impossible to write to me with kindness and to praise me. We have received all that has been said to us with joy, and with thanks to God who governs the
Church. It has been said to me, 'You have been taken from the laity; that is not a laudable
* Photius here alludes to the resistance he had made to the inconoclastic emperors and their partisans.
act; therefore are we undecided and have deferred our consent until after the return of our apocrisiaries.* It had been better to say, We will not consent at all; we do not approve; we do not accept, and never will. The man who offered himself for this see, who has bought the episcopate, who never received an honest vote, is a bad man in all respects. Leave the episcopate and the office of pastor. One who should have written me thus, would have written agreeably, however falsely. But was it necessary that one who had suffered so much on entering the episcopate, should suffer again in leaving it? That he who had been pushed violently into that office, should be pushed from it with still greater violence? One who has such sentiments, such thoughts, must care very little to repel calumny intended to deprive him of the episcopal chair. But enough upon this subject."
In the remainder of his letter Photius explains at great length that one Church should not condemn the usages of another, provided they are not contrary either to the faith or to the canons of the general councils. He justifies his ordination by this rule, and by the example of his holy predecessors, Nectarius, Tarasitis, Nicepliortis; and also that of St. Ambrose, St. Gregory, father of the theologian, and Thalassius of Cæsarea. He shows to Nicholas that in the last council held in presence of his legates, several disciplinary rules suggested by him were adopted because they appeared useful. He praises the Pope for his love of the maintenance of the canons, and congratulates him for it the more that, having the primacy,
his example was the more powerful. He takes occasion, from this to inform him, in conclusion, that a large number of criminals escape to Rome, under pretext of making a pilgrimage, to hide there their crimes under a false appearance of piety. He begs him , therefore, to observe upon this point the canons which prescribe to each bishop that he shall receive to communion only those who can show letters of recommendation from their own bishop.
In all ages Rome has been thus reproached for serving as a refuge for hypocritical criminals. The Church of France wrote frequently to the Popes in the same strain as Photius
did upon this occasion.
This letter of the Patriarch could not be palatable to Nicholas, for under cover of polished and elegant phrases it carried very just lessons. Photius does not use one harsh word. He does not even adopt his honorary title of œcumenical Patriarch; he recognizes the primacy of the see of Rome; but he does not flatter the ambition of the new Papacy, he does
not bow before it, and his gentleness does not exclude firmness. Such an adversary was more dangerous to Nicholas than a violent and ambitious man. Instead of disputing with him the rights he claimed over certain churches of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, he says to him: "We would have yielded them to you if it had depended upon us; but as it is a question of countries and boundaries, it concerns the state. For my part, I should like not only to render
to others what belongs to them, but even to yield a part of the ancient dependencies of this see. I should be greatly obliged to any one who would relieve me of a portion of my burden."
No better reply than this could have been made to a Pope who only thought of extending his power by every means. But Nicholas did not profit by this lesson, which was
* The Abbé Jager in his History of Photius, Book III. page 64, ed. 1854, has taken this analysis of Nicholas's letter as an assertion of Photius. He therefore adds In a note, A new falsehood! Upon the same page he had just before written, An impudent falsehood! This is a new lie! to characterize the affirmations of Photius, saying that he remained In the bishopric against his will, and that his only ambition was to quit it. These notes are
unworthy of a writer who respects himself. Moreover, before reproaching Photius for a third lie, that writer
should have taken a little trouble to understand his language; he then would not have taken for a personal assertion of Photius, the analysis of the Pope's letter, who had indeed said he would postpone his consent until the return of his envoys.
as just as it was moderate. He would believe neither his legates nor the acts of the council which were presented to him. He even declared to the ambassador Leo, who had been sent to him, that he had not sent his legates to depose Ignatius, or to concur in the promotion of Photius; that he had not consented, and never would consent to either.
Nicholas pretended thus to judge of the legitimacy of bishops, forgetting that the canons only gave him the choice to enter into communion with the one or the other. It was well understood that before entering into relations with Photius, he must have positive information as to the legitimacy of his election; but, according to the laws of the Church, that legitimacy did not depend upon the Papal will, but upon the judgement pronounced upon Ignatius, and the regularity of the election of Photius. A council of three hundred and eighteen bishops had publicly approved that election, and the deposition of Ignatius. The legates had witnessed the proceedings; they gave evidence to what they had seen and heard;
it was certainly enough, it should seem, to decide Nicholas to grant his communion to one whose learning and honourable character made him well worthy of the episcopate. But in taking sides with Ignatius, Nicholas was doing an act of sovereign authority. This prospect flattered his tendencies too much to permit him to eschew it. He therefore assembled the clergy of Rome to solemnly disown his legates, He subsequently wrote to the Emperor, to Photius, and to the whole Eastern Church, letters which are monuments of his pride. We must give them, that the doctrine they contain may be compared with that of the first eight centuries, and that a conviction may thus be arrived at, that the Papacy had abandoned the latter, in order to substitute for it an autocratic system which the Eastern Church could not accept. *At the beginning of his letter to the Emperor Michael, he takes it for granted that this prince has addressed himself “to the holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Roman Church, chief (head) of all the churches, which follows in all its acts the pure authority of the Holy Fathers," for the purpose of being informed what he should think in ecclesiastical matters.
Nicholas neglected no occasion of repeating these high-sounding phrases, which disprove themselves, for the Fathers were completely ignorant of them. Coming to the cause
of Ignatius, he complains "that contrary to his orders a sentence had been pronounced against Ignatius; not only had they omitted to do what he had prescribed, but had done just the opposite. Therefore, he adds, since you sustain Photius, and reject Ignatius, without the judgment of our Apostolate, we would have you to know that we do not receive Photius, nor condemn the patriarch Ignatius."
This is certainly talking like a master. He then is at pains to find differences of detail between the promotion of Nectarius and Ambrose, and that of Photius. But these differences, even supposing they were such as he makes them, were not of a nature to override a positive enactment, had it been considered absolute and susceptible of no exceptions.
His letter to the very wise man Photius commences in this solemn manner:
"After our Lord and Redeemer Jesus Christ, who was very God before all ages, had condescended to be born of the Virgin for our redemption, and to appear as very man in the world, he committed to the blessed Peter, prince of the Apostles, the power to bind and loose in heaven and upon earth, and the right to open the gates of the kingdom of heaven; he condescended to establish his holy Church upon the solidity of that Apostle's faith, according to this faithful saying, 'Verily, I say unto thee, thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it: and I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.’”
* Nichol. Epist. 5 and 6.
Such is the great argument on which the modern Papacy has always relied. It openly rejects the catholic and traditional interpretation of these divine words; it makes of rights granted to all the Apostles in common an exclusive and personal right in favour of Saint Peter; it takes its stand, contrary to all ecclesiastical law, and in virtue of a gratuitous sacrilege, as sole inheritor of chimerical prerogatives, and pretends upon these lying and fragile bases to establish the fabric of its universal autocracy. Such was the claim that Nicholas opposed to Photius; and it is now said that this Patriarch, who was perfectly acquainted with ecclesiastical antiquity, ought to have submitted to such authority! His duty was to protest as he did; and would to God that all the Bishops of the Catholic Church had imitated his courage, as firm as it was pure and moderate!
This is Nicholas's commentary upon the words of the Gospel he had quoted: "According to this promise, by the cement of the holy Apostolic institution, the foundations of the edifice, composed of precious stones, began to arise; and, thanks to Divine clemency, and by the zeal of the builders, and the solicitude of the Apostolic authority, to arise to the summit, to endure forever, having nothing to fear from the violence of the winds. The blessed Peter, prince of the Apostles, and doorkeeper of the celestial kingdom, merited the primacy in that edifice, as all who are orthodox know, and as we have just declared." No one, in fact, among those who are orthodox denies the primacy of St. Peter; but did that
primacy give him supreme authority? No, replies Catholic tradition. Yes, answers Nicholas, who thus continues: "After him (St. Peter) his vicars, serving God with sincerity, and delivered from the shadow of darkness that hinders from walking in the right way, have received in a higher sense the care of pasturing the sheep of the Lord, and have carefully accomplished this duty. Among them the mercy of God Almighty has condescended to include our littleness; but we tremble at the thought that we shall answer, first of all, and for all, to Jesus Christ, when he shall call each one to account for his works.
"Now, as all believers come for their doctrine to this holy Roman Church, which is the chief (head) of all the churches; as they ask of her what is the purity of the faith; as those who are worthy, and who are ransomed by the grace of God, ask of her absolution for their crimes; it is our duty, who have received the charge of her, to be attentive, to keep constant watch over the flock of the Lord, the more that there are those who are ever eager to tear it with cruel fangs. . . . It is apparent that the holy Roman Church, through the blessed Apostle Peter, prince of the Apostles, who was thought worthy to receive from the mouth of the Lord the primacy of the churches, is the chief (head) of all the churches; that it is to her that all must apply to know the just course, and the order to be followed in all useful things, and in the ecclesiastical institutions, which she maintains in an inviolable and incontestable manner, according to the canonical and synodical laws of the holy Fathers. Hence it follows that whatsoever is rejected by the rectors of this see--by their full authority--should be rejected, any particular custom notwithstanding; and that whatsoever is ordered by them should be accepted firmly and without hesitation."
Thus Nicholas opposed his sovereign authority to the laws, followed from all antiquity by the Church, which Photius had rehearsed to him. He next endeavours to find differences of detail in the elections of Nectarius, Ambrose, Tarasius, and that of Photius. He succeeds no better upon this point than in his letter to the Emperor Michael, and he silently passes over the other examples mentioned by Photius.
In his letters to the Patriarchs and to the faithful of the East,* Nicholas sets forth like views upon his autocracy. He commands the Patriarchs of Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem to make known to their faithful the decisions of the Apostolic see.
* Nichol. Epist. 1 and 4.
Ignatius, by his appeal to Nicholas from the judgement passed upon him, had too much flattered the pride of the Pope. To prove this it will be sufficient to quote the superscription of his appeal papers.
"Ignatius, oppressed by tyranny, etc., to our most holy Lord, and most blessed President, Patriarch of all sees, successor of St. Peter, Prince of the Apostles, Nicholas, œcumenical Pope, and to his most holy bishops; and to the most wise, universal, Roman Church."*
St. Gregory the Great would have rejected such titles as diabolical inventions, as we have already seen by his letters to John the Faster; but the Papacy of St. Gregory the Great was no more; it had given place to a politico-ecclesiastical institution, with only power for its aim. Ignatius, so long as he flattered the ambition of Nicholas, could not but be right in his eyes. Photius, who held to the ancient doctrine, and looked upon the Bishop of Rome simply as first bishop, without granting him any personal authority, could not but be wrong. Accordingly, without further question, Nicholas pronounced anathema against him, in a council which he held at Rome at the commencement of the year 863. “We declare him,” he says, deprived of all sacerdotal honour and of every clerical function by the authority of God Almighty, of the Apostles St. Peter and St. Paul, of all the saints, of the six general councils, and by the judgment which the Holy Spirit has pronounced by us.”† He ventured in the sentence to accuse Photius himself of the persecutions that Ignatius had endured. This was a calumny drawn from the denunciations of the enemies of Photius, and since repeated by all the Romish writers who have spoken of the discussion between this Patriarch and Nicholas.‡
It is apparent, moreover, from all the Pope did, that he had predetermind to bear nothing in favour of Photius, in the way of proof or argument. To him a few monks, partisans of Ignatius, who had come to Rome, were better authority than a council of three hundred and eighteen bishops, beside a large number of ecclesiastics and monks, which held its sessions in presence of an immense concourse of people. It must indeed be admitted that the conduct
of Nicholas must have had an altogether, different motive than the defence of Ignatius or the
justice of his cause. He believed himself the depositary of divine authority, and the organ of the Holy Spirit.
* See Libel. Ignat. in Labbe's Collection, vol. viii. Many scholars doubt the authenticity of this document Notwithstanding his friendly relations with Rome, we can scarcely believe that Ignatius could have addressed the Pope in the form above quoted.
† Labbe’s Collection of Councils, vol. vii.
‡ We have not noticed all that to related by the enemies of Photius, In respect to sufferings of Ignatius. First.
Because these details have nothing to do with the principal question. Secondly. Because these recitals are evidently exaggerated. Thirdly, Because history does not hold Photius responsible for them. Did not Ignatius draw upon himself the hatred of the Emperor and Bardas by his imprudent zeal by his proceedings respecting Gregory of Syracuse, and by his sentiments hostile to the government? These are questions upon which even the recitals of his partisans could not establish his innocence. We may even say that these intemperate recitals
injure him by their very exaggeration. His refusal to resign provoked the violence of the court. We do not deny it, although the details of this violence are very difficult to be admitted completely. But was Photius an
accomplice in this violence? We reply no, first, because impartial historians in no manner attribute it to him,
and because he himself protested, In his letters a to Bardas, against the violence with which his adversaries were treated. These letters, well worthy of a great and holy bishop, may be found among his correspondence. Shall
it be only in the case of Photius that familiar letters are incompetent evidence? Romish historians pretend that his letters to Bardas were written hypocritically. But the impartial and independent writers who confirm the evidence of those letters, were they too hypocrites? Is it credible that only the enemies of Photius had the
privilege of telling the truth when speaking of him? If men were to be judged by the evidence of their enemies
only, who then would ever be innocent? By this system one might easily prove that Christ himself was worthy of death.
It was in this character that he claimed all his rights. But the general councils to which he appealed to support his condemnation had ordained that a bishop should only be tried and condemned by his brethren of the same province, and they had not granted any more authority to the Bishop of Rome than to the others. As for the pretensions of Nicholas to divine authority, we know what they amount to; and his reasoning is worthy of the thesis he would prove.
The Emperor Michael, when he learned the decision of the Council of Rome, wrote to Nicholas a letter filled with threats and contumely, (A.D. 864,) which, of course, the enemies of Photius attribute to him, alleging that the Emperor only thought of his pleasures. This is to them a conclusive argument. Nicholas replied to the Emperor in a very long letter full of apocryphal statements, false logic, and the grossest historical mistakes. We learn from this letter that the Emperor had met the Papal pretensions with a host of facts, which reduced the primacy of the Bishop of Rome to its just proportions. Nicholas discusses them superficially; his reasonings are false, and he confounds some incidental proceedings with the recognition
of the absolute authority which be claimed. To give an instance of his sophistry: "Observe,” he writes, “that neither the Council of Nicea nor any other council, granted any privilege to the Roman Church, which knew that in the person of Peter she was entitled thoroughly to the rights of all power, and that she had received the government of all the sheep of Christ.”*
He rests that doctrine upon the evidence of' Pope Boniface. “If," he continues, "the decrees of the Council of Nicea be carefully examined, it will certainly appear that this council granted no enlargement to the Roman Church, but rather took example from her, in what it granted to the Church of Alexandria." Nicholas does not add that the council had looked upon the authority of the Roman see over the suburbican churches as resting only on usage, and not on divine right; nor that if a similar authority to that of Rome was given to the Alexandrian Church, it followed that there was nothing divine in that authority, since a council could not give by divine authority.
It is with like force of reasoning that Nicholas endeavours to answer all the objections of his adversary against the Papal autocracy.
He concludes with a distinction between the two domains in which the priesthood and the empire should respectively act. If Michael needed to be taught that he had no right over ecclesiastical things, should not the Papacy have understood in like manner that it had no
right over temporal things?
The Eastern Church was in duty bound to protest against the attempts of Nicholas. They were contrary to the ancient law. The Ultramontanes are obliged to admit this, though indirectly. A writer,† who professes to write the history of Photius, but only accepts as true the assertions of the declared enemies of this Patriarch, has been forced, by the weight of evidence, to speak as follows:
“Schism has thrown a clear light upon the doctrines respecting the primacy of the holy see. Never were its prerogatives better established than in the struggle of Pope Nicholas. . . against the Photian schismatics." Is it credible that before the ninth century no occasion had presented to call forth these prerogatives, if they had in fact belonged to the Roman see? The facts we have already related sufficiently answer that question. Questions of far greater moment than the deposition of a bishop had certainly been discussed between
the East and West since the origin of the Church, and these questions, instead of bringing out Papal authority in relief, had reduced it to its strict limits. But in the ninth century circumstances were changed; the Papacy had sacrificed the ancient Catholic doctrine to its
* Quæ in Petro noverat eam totius jura potestatis pleniter meruisse et cunctarum Christi ovium regimen accepisse.
† Jager, Hist. de Photius, liv. iv. p. 114, edit 1854.
own ambitious dreams, and now availed itself of every circumstance to establish a spiritual autocracy as contrary to Scripture as it was to the teachings of the Fathers and the councils.
Strong in the ancient canons, Photius looked upon the excommunications of Nicholas as null, and continued to discharge his episcopal duties with a zeal and devotion that his enemies distort with remarkable dishonesty. They will only see in him a beast of prey, combining the most consummate hypocrisy with cruelty carried to extravagance, and do not even take the trouble to reconcile two such characters in one and the same man, and with facts which completely contradict them.
But Nicholas could not bear this contempt of his sovereign authority, and he availed himself of the conversion of the Bulgarians to renew the war against Photius.*
The first seeds of Christianity had been cast among the Bulgarians about the year 845. In 864 Photius contributed powerfully to the, conversion of the King Bogoris,† which was followed by that of all his people. He even addressed to this king a beautiful treatise upon
the duties of princes. Bogoris, at war with the Germans and their Emperor Louis, thought he might appease him by asking for some Latin priests to instruct his people. He sent ambassadors to Rome in 866, shortly after the unlawful excommunication pronounced against Photius. Nicholas could not hesitate to avail himself of so rare an opportunity to extend his power in the East. He therefore sent legates to the King of the Bulgarians with a long "opinion" on the cases submitted by the latter, without stopping to ask if the statements of fact set forth in those cases were true. He did not forget‡ in his “opinion" to exalt beyond measure the Roman see, and to disparage that of Constantinople. According to him, the see of Rome§ is, through St. Peter, the source of the episcopate and the Apostolate; therefore the Bulgarians must accept no bishop save from Rome. It is from Rome also they must receive the doctrine. "St. Peter,"** he says, " yet lives and presides upon his seat, he reveals the truth of the faith to those who seek it; for the holy Roman Church has always been without spot or wrinkle; it was her founder whose confession of faith was expressly approved."
The Pope added to his legates to Bulgaria three more legates for Constantinople,
giving to the latter eight letters dated on the thirteenth of November, 866 ; they are monuments of vainglory.†† He threatens to have Michael's letter against the Roman prerogatives ignominiously burned unless he will disavow it. He writes to the clergy of Constantinople that he deposes all those who adhere to Photius and reëstablishes the
partisans of Ignatius. He complains to Bardas, that Bardas has disappointed him in all that he had hoped from his piety; he notifies Ignatius that he has reëstablished him in his see, and anathematized Photius and his adherents; he flatters Theodora, the Empress dowager, and congratulates himself upon having taken the part of Ignatius whom she herself supported.; he implores the Empress Eudoxia to take the part of Ignatius before the Emperor, and urges
* At this time (866) the Emperor caused Bardas to be put to death, and placed Basil, who had served him in this matter, at the head of affairs. The correspondence of Photius shows that the Patriarch had strongly reproached Bardas for his violence against Ignatius and his followers. When Bardas was dead, Photius wrote to the Emperor, congratulating him on having escaped the intrigues of Bardas. By collating these letters, we see that Photius was not on such familiar terms with Bardas, that the cruelties of the Cæsar could be attributed to the Patriarch. But this conclusion does not suit the enemies of Photius, who would make him answerable for every act of violence. They therefore assert that Photius was coward enough to accuse Bardas after his death, whom he had meanly flattered during his life, and had used as the instrument of his own revenge. Enemies and fanatics may thus write history, but such a course can only excite disgust In honest consciences.
† See Photius, Epist. Book I. letter viii.
‡ See these answers in Labbe’s Collection of Councils, vol. vii.
§ Resp. ixxiii.
** Resp. cvi.
†† Labbe’s Collection, vol. viii. Epist. Nichol. ix. et seq.
upon all the senators of Constantinople that they separate themselves from the communion of
Photius and declare themselves for Ignatius.
His letter to Photius, the third of the series, deserves a special mention; he gives him simply the title of man Nicolas, etc., VIRO PHOTIO. He accuses him of having, "impudently violated the venerable canons, the decisions of the Fathers, and the divine precepts." He calls him thief--adulterer; asserts that he has failed in his own obligations, corrupted the legates, banished those bishops who refused to enter into communion with him; adding that he might justly call him a homicide, a viper, a modern Ham, and a Jew. He falls back upon the canons of Sardica, and the Decretals of his predecessors, and concludes by threatening such an excommunication as should last him during his whole life.
So_pathetic a letter could produce but one result, that of exciting Photius to condemn the Pope.
The legates having reached Bulgaria, all the Greek priests were driven from the country, and the confirmation which they had administered was pronounced invalid. This was to insult the Eastern Church in the grossest manner, and to trample under foot the first principles of Christian theology. Photius could endure neither this insult added to errour, nor the enterprises of Nicholas. In 867 he convoked a council at Constantinople, and invited the Patriarchs and bishops of the East and also three bishops of the West, who had appealed to him against the despotism of Nicholas.* These were the Bishop and Exarch of Ravenna, and
the Archbishops of Tréves and Cologne.† The legates of the three Patriarchal sees of the East, with-a host of bishops, priests, and monks, the two Emperors, and the senate, took part in that assembly.‡
The letters of Nicholas were there read, and by a unanimous vote he was held unworthy of the episcopate, and excommunication and anathema were pronounced against him. This decision was forwarded to Nicholas by Zacharias, Metropolitan of Chalcedon, and Theodore of Cyzicus. Anastasius the Librarian declares that but twenty-one among upward
of a thousand signatures with which this document was covered, were authentic. We know
what this man's testimony is worth. Certain it is that the document was well known in the East, and that the Council of Constantinople, which afterward annulled it, did not consider the signatures as forged. This fact speaks louder than any one mendacious writer. The sentence of the council against Nicholas was more canonical than that pronounced by Nicholas against Photius, for it was only an excommunication and not a deposition; now any
* We shall have occasion to mention his circular letter.
† Nicholas was accustomed to depose bishops, even from the greatest sees, by his own authority and in violation of the canons, according to which they could only be Judged by their fellow-bishops in their own province. The most of them took no notice of these condemnations. The Archbishops of Tréves and of Cologne met the
sentence of Nicholas by a protest, wherein, amongst other things, they say: "Without a council, without
canonical inquiry, without accuser, without witnesses, without convicting us by arguments or authorities, without our consent, in the absence of the metropolitans and of our suffragan bishops, you have chosen to condemn us, of your own caprice, with tyrannical fury; but we do not accept your accursed sentence, so repugnant to it, father's or a brother's love ; we despise it as mere insulting language; we expel you yourself from our communion, since you commune with the excommunicate; we are satisfied with the communion of the
whole Church and with the society of our brethren whom you despise and of whom you make yourself unworthy by your pride and arrogance. You condemn yourself when you condemn those who do not observe the apostolic precepts which you yourself the first violate, annulling as far as in you lies the divine laws and the sacred canons, AND NOT FOLLOWING IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF THE POPES YOUR PREDECESSORS." Photius did not write to Nicholas with the rude energy of these Western bishops.
‡ The acts of this council were reversed by another, which was held shortly after the purpose of reïnstating Ignatius. This fact, admitted by the Western writers, has not prevented certain of their number from expressing the absurd opinion that this council never was held, and that Photius invented both the council and its acts. Mr.
Jager has adopted this Idea In his heavy pamphlet against Photius Book IV., p. 146.
church has a right to separate itself from the communion of those she esteems guilty, and no longer consider them as bishops.
The same year that Nicholas was excommunicated, a revolution took place at Constantinople that was to be fatal to Photius in its results. Michael was killed by Basil, whom he had associated with himself in the empire. The murderer of Bardas and Michael necessarily distrusted Photius.*
Moreover, Photius refused to admit the murderer to the communion. He was, therefore, shut up in a monastery. Basil reestablished Ignatius and sent ambassadors to Rome bearing the Acts of the council that had excommunicated Nicholas. This Pope had died and had been succeeded by Adrian II.; who, in 868, assembled a council at Rome to condemn Photius anew. The envoy of the Emperor, in its presence, flung to the ground the Acts of the Council of Constantinople, struck them with his sword, and trampled them under foot. After this extravagant conduct he asserted that the signature of his master upon the document was forged; that the council had only been composed of some bishops who happened to be in Constantinople,† that the other signatures, one thousand in number, were false. The sincerity of this fanatic may well be doubted. If the signatures were false, this ought to have been proved in the East and not in the West. Instead of verifying a fact which could be so easily ascertained, the Council of Rome decided that the acts should be burnt.
Such a proceeding naturally suggests that it seemed easier to burn the Acts than to prove their falsity.
Adrian II. did not fail upon that occasion to exalt the authority of the Bishop of Rome. "The Pope," he said in his council, "judges all the bishops, but we do not read that any have judged him."‡ He mentions, indeed, the condemnation of Honorius, but he pretends that the anathema which fell on him was legitimate only because it was previously pronounced on
him by the see of Rome itself. This assertion is false, as we have already seen. Instead of condemning Honorius, the see of Rome had endeavoured to defend him. It did not mention
him at first among those to be condemned, and it was only after the condemnation by the
council that Rome also decided to pronounce anathema against him.
Before separating, the members of the Council of Rome trampled under foot the acts which anathematized Nicholas, and then threw them into a great fire.
After this expedition Basil's ambassadors returned to Constantinople accompanied by three legates of Pope Adrian, bearing two letters, one addressed to the Emperor, the other to Ignatius. "IT IS OUR WILL," he writes to the Emperor, “that you should assemble a numerous
* The enemies of this Patriarch, who often contradict themselves in their statements, do not agree upon the time or the circumstances of his exile. Anastasius pretends that Basil knew nothing of the dispute between Ignatius and Photius until after the death of Michael; that he informed himself of the matter as soon as he was left sole emperor, and sent two deputies to Rome, one chosen by Ignatius and the other by Photius, to plead their several cause before the Pope: that one of the deputies, the one who represented Photius, was drowned on the voyage; that the other, upon his arrival at Rome, found Nicholas dead. Nicetas, on the contrary, tells us that the day
after the death of the Emperor Michael, Basil caused Photius to be imprisoned in a monastery, in order to reïnstate the legitimate Patriarch. Some Western writers have hastily accepted the account of Nicetas for the
sake of denying the truth of the story that Photius incurred the hatred of Basil by refusing him the communion
on account of the murder he had committed. Of course these writers say that such an act of pastoral courage was incompatible with the character of Photius. This would be quite true if the great and learned Bishop had been such an one as they paint him. But, as the character they attribute to him is diametrically opposite to his real character, as it shines forth in his authentic acts and his writings, they are only, in fact, giving one more proof of their partiality.
† If this were true, it would follow that the rest of the signatures must have been collected outside of the council and by way of concurrence. They would then gain in weight, for the signers, in that case, must have acted with the more freedom.
‡ Labbe’s Collection of Councils, vol. viii.
council, at which our legates shall preside, and in which persons shall be judged according to their faults; and that in this council shall be publicly burnt all the copies of the acts* of the false council held against the Holy See, and that it be forbidden to preserve any of them
under pain of anathema." Adrian then demanded the Roman priests who had gone to Constantinople to complain to Photius of Pope Nicholas. The letter to Ignatius is an instruction as to the treatment of those ecclesiastics who had declared for Photius, but were now willing to abandon his cause. Adrian added to these letters a formula to be signed by the members of the council, in which they agreed to recognize him as Sovereign Pontiff and
The council was opened at Constantinople, in the Church of Saint Sophia, on the 5th of October, 869. There were present the three Papal legates, Ignatius, Thomas, Bishop of Tyre, self-styled representative of the Patriarch of Antioch, and the priest Elias, calling himself the representative of the Bishop of Jerusalem.
The bishops who declared against Photius were brought in. They were twelve in number. They were permitted to take seats, and formed the whole council at the first session. At the second, ten bishops who had adhered to Photius entered to crave pardon for their fault. It was readily granted, and they took their places with the others. Eleven priests, nine deacons, and seven sub-deacons imitated the ten bishops, and were pardoned in the same manner.
Two new bishops arrived at the third session, so that the assembly was composed of twenty-four bishops, without counting the presidents. At the fourth session two bishops, ordained by the former Patriarch, Methodius, asked leave to defend the Patriarch Photius, with whom they declared they remained in communion. The council refused to hear them. The patrician Bahaner opposed this decision in the name of the Senate of Constantinople. The legates of the Pope upheld it on the ground that the Pope had pronounced in the last resort, and it was not lawful to examine the cause of Photius any further. But being obliged
to yield, they added: "Let them enter and hear the synodical decision and judgment of Pope
Nicholas. They are seeking excuses, and only wish to avoid a trial." "But," said the Senate, “if they wished to avoid it, they would not cry out, Let us be judged--they would retire." "Let them enter," said the legates, "but let them remain in the lowest places." The Senate asked that three or four more bishops of the party of Photius should be admitted. "We consent to
it," said the legates, “but on condition that they shall declare that they represent all the rest, and they shall only come in to hear the letter of Nicholas."
It was evident, therefore, that Rome had only caused this council to be called in order to consecrate her assumed sovereign and universal authority.
The bishops who sided with Photius, seeing that the council would not hear them, had retired. Only the first two remained, offering to prove, if the Emperor would give safe- conduct to their witnesses, that Nicholas had communed with them when Photius sent them
to Rome as his deputies.
The safe-conducts were not granted.
At the fifth session, Photius was forcibly brought in. He only answered, in a few words full of dignity, that he excepted to the council, and would not plead to the accusations
* The historians inimical to Photius nevertheless relate that but one copy existed, carefully hidden by Photius, who, they say, had invented the Acts, which copy was seized, carried to Rome, and burnt at the council held in that city.
brought against him. In his eyes thirty-three bishops, assembled by the order of the Emperor, his enemy, should not presume to reverse the sentence of the three hundred and eighteen bishops who had proclaimed him legitimate Patriarch.
In the sixth session, the adjunct Elias attempted to prove that the resignation tendered by Ignatius was null and void. This fact is important, for it confirms what Photius had written to Nicholas, that “his predecessor had abandoned his office." At the same time it proves that Ignatius had understood his duty in the difficult position in which he was placed; that he had at first imitated the great bishops who have always preferred to resign an office which was snatched, however unjustly, from them, rather than to trouble their Church. Left to himself, Ignatius was too virtuous not to imitate such conduct; but, in consequence of the weakness of his character, he became the tool of a few intriguers and of the ambitious projects of the Popes, who disguised their own bad designs under his virtue.
Some bishops, partisans of Photius, were introduced at the sixth session, at which the Emperor was also present. After the speeches that were made against them and their Patriarch, the Emperor said to them, “What do you think of it?” “We will answer you," they replied, and one of them, Anthymius, of Cæsarea, in Cappadocia, added, "My lord, we know your goodness and justice; give us in writing a guarantee of safety if we speak forth freely our justification, and we shall hope to show that these accusations are but idle words." This humble language only irritated the Emperor, who would not give the asked for assurance. The Pope's legates, as well as the Emperor, refused to hear any justification. They considered Photius and his adherents as irrevocably condemned by Nicholas, although the sentence of that Pope was anti-canonical and arbitrary. The legates constantly repeated, in tones of anger, “That it was superfluous to hear condemned persons; that they should be expelled from the assembly, since they had not come there to confess their fault and ask pardon." The supporters of Ignatius also suffered from the bitter language of the legates when they refused to sign the famous formula brought from Rome.
Photius and Gregory of Syracuse were brought in at the seventh session. An officer of the court having asked them, in the name of the legates, if they would sign; "If they had heard what we have already said," replied Photius, "they would not ask this question. Let them do penance themselves for the sin they have committed." This answer exasperated the legates, who overwhelmed Photius with gross language, after their wont. The same officer then asked Photius what he had to reply. "I have no answer to calumnies," he said. The bishops who sided with Photius were again solicted, but in vain, to separate from him. The Bishop of Heracleia even replied, pointing to Photius, "Anathema upon him who anathematized that bishop!" The others displayed equal energy. They insisted on their former demand of perfect liberty to defend themselves. The Emperor interposed a demurrer, saying that the council represented the Church since the live Patriarchs were represented.*
He would not see that one bishop, one monk, and a priest, assuming to represent the three Patriarchs of Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem, gave no guarantee, without the presence of any other bishop of these Patriarchates, and without an opportunity of communicating with the Patriarchs themselves! The friends of Photius replied that the canons, since the Apostles, proved just the opposite; that the pretended representatives of the five Patriarchates did not constitute the Church, which, on the contrary, spoke by means of the canons, followed since the Apostles.
* The Patriarchs of Antioch and Jerusealem had only false representatives. The Patriarch of Alexandria was only represented at the ninth session. In his letter to the Emperor he declares that he knows nothing of the discussions, and that he relies on the Emperor and his bishops and clergy. His envoy was afterward disavowed.
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