Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Ubi Petrus, ibi Ecclesia

Does Orthodoxy sincerely seek reunion?  Or, are they merely patronizing Latin attempts at such so that they don't appear to be the "bad guys?"  I ask these questions because the more I look into the subject, the more I see Catholics seeking reunification, but Orthodoxy throwing up roadblocks.  While it may appear that Orthodoxy and/or its members are sympathetic to the possibility, in reality they do not consider it possible at all.

In recent discussions we've seen here on CathApol, we see the roadblock on the subject of a married clergy being throw up.  Even though we're only talking about a DISCIPLINE here and NOT an Article of Faith, that subject alone seems to be enough for some to "not trust" Rome and/or dismiss any chance at reunification.

The REAL gulf of separation is NOT over a DISCIPLINE which COULD CHANGE!  No, where we REALLY should be talking is about things of DOGMA, declared and or denied.  THAT should be our focus, not the least of which is the papacy and papal infallibility.  These two subjects are fundamental and neither of which are accepted or fully accepted by Orthodoxy.  But what actually caused the split?  If we look beyond the discipline matters - it really had more to do with politics and power grabs going on between the Eastern/Byzantine Empire and the Western/Latin Empire - coupled with the reality of Islam encroaching upon both empires.

The political issues are what contributed more to the split than ecclesial issues.  Let us look at what led up to the 1054 split of the two churches.

476: After the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 the Byzantine Empire continued in Constantinople.
493: the Ostrogoths took over Italy.  The Ostrogoths were defeated in the Gothic War (535-554) by Byzantium's Justinian I.  The war was quite devastating to Italy, now Italy was under Byzantine rule.
568: Byzantine Italy was invaded by the Germanic Lombards who divided the Kingdom of Italy into states.  The northern state of Lombardy still bears their name.
774: Charlemagne takes over the Lombardy Kingdom and make it the Frankish Kingdom of Italy.  The pope crowns Charlemagne as the first emperor of the Holy Roman Empire.
814: Charlemagne dies and soon feudalism breaks out (independent dukes, etc. ruling their own territories).
1053-1059: (note the dates!) Robert "The Wily" Guiscard conquers southern Italy and...
1054: (note the date!) allies himself with Pope Nicholas II.
1071: Robert captures Bari and with Puglia this ends the rule of the Byzantines in southern Italy.  Robert then sets out to conquer Constantinople, but is called back by Pope Gregory VII due to Holy Roman Emperor Henry IV's attempt to take over Rome.
1084: Robert recaptures Rome - but the people of Rome revolt, so he sacks and burns the city.  The removal of the "Saracens" ("people of the east") who were Muslims in southern Italy, progresses under Robert.
1085: In July Robert dies, but his brother Roger continues Robert's work.
1091: the Muslims are gone from the region.  Roger becomes ruler of "Norman Italy" aka "The Two Sicilies" (the southern half of the Italian peninsula and the Island of Sicily).  (Source).

So when I say the tensions between Constantinople and Rome were more over politics and power than religion - by the timeline above you can see where I'm coming from.  Byzantium takes over Italy in 554 (Rome was not too thrilled) and has a foothold (no pun intended) through 1054 when Robert "The Wily" Guiscard defeats the Byzantine forces in Italy and is allied with the Pope.  THEN after restoring Italy/Rome to the papacy, he goes after Constantinople!  Eastern Catholics were not amused, to say the least!  So, when we look at the political events which surrounded the split between East and West (Orthodoxy and Catholicism) the politics certainly played a much larger role than they are given credit for!  To hear modern members of Orthodoxy, it was all over the Filioque, papal infallibility and (now) married priests! 

Don't Leave Peter!

As St. Ambrose stated:  “Ubi Petrus, ibi Ecclesia” which means: “Where there is Peter, there is the Church.”  Orthodoxy has left Peter behind.  They may, some of them, recognize Pope Benedict XVI as St. Peter's current successor and as Patriarch of the West or Latin Church, but at the same time will reject him has having primacy or any authority, as was given St. Peter, over the whole Church.

We, as modern Catholics and Orthodox, need to strive for reunification of the Church - so that we might be one, just as Jesus and the Father are One.  We may have our differences in disciplines - but we truly need to be One in the Faith.  If we can heal this rift - then we can continue this work and try to bring Protestantism back into the fold as well.


  1. Since the Eastern and Western Roman Empires no longer exist, there's really no excuse for any political consideration as an excuse for disunity. However, it seems that the Orthodox, becase of the pride of place they used to have as the Eastern Empire, don't want to submit to the Pope.

    The Orthodox also like to proclaim that their chrch is purer than the Western church and was never under the Bishop of Rome. If that's so, why did nearly every heresy that threatened the Church almost always come from the East? And why did the Bishop of Rome always have to step in and deal with it? Could it be he was in charge of the Universal Church? Yeah, could be!

  2. Hey thanks for this. Sure is a lot of scab-picking going on since then.


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