On the Present Apparent Conflict Between “Orthodoxy” and “Catholicism
From Dissertations on Subjects Relating to the “Orthodox” or “Eastern-Catholic” Communion (1853), by William Palmer, M.A., Fellow of St. Mary Magdalene College, Oxford, and Deacon.
As there is one God and Father, one Lord Jesus Christ, one Holy Ghost, and one Baptism, so also there is One Body of the Church, the essential attributes of which are all inseparably united together. The Church is Holy: the same Church is Catholic, or Universal: the same is Apostolic: the same is Orthodox, or rightly-believing: the same is One. If there can be two Gods, one Almighty and the other all-merciful, then there may be two Churches, one Catholic or Universal, and the other Orthodox.
Yet at a certain point of time, or between two certain points of time, we see that great body of the visible Catholic or Oecumenical Church, which from the division of the Oecumenical Roman Empire (tes oikoumenes) was distinguished superficially into two branches, Eastern and Western, Greek and Latin, without detriment to its essential unity, splitting into two separate and hostile communities, one of which insisting upon “Orthodoxy’” was nevertheless unable to enforce that Orthodoxy upon the consciences of men by the weight of manifest Catholicism, the other insisting at the time on the Roman pre-eminence and the indivisible unity of the Church (and now also upon the note of a greater appearance of Catholicism,) was little careful or able to meet the charge brought against it with regard to Orthodoxy.
The Eastern section of Christendom in condemning the Latins urged openly that they had become heterodox, and assumed or implied tacitly that therefore they could not be Catholic, while their own Eastern Church, in spite of any appearances to her disadvantage, must be also Catholic, because she was unquestionably Orthodox. The Latins retorted that having on their aide the See of Peter (to which was attached the unity and Catholicity of the Church), they must therefore, in spite of any appearances to their disadvantage, be also Orthodox, while the Easterns refusing to follow them, and so breaking off from unity, could not really have any advantage in respect of Orthodoxy, whatever appearances they might think they had in their favour.
Each side had its own strong point, on which it insisted: neither side answered fairly or adequately to the objection of the other. Each alike dissembled the point of its own apparent disadvantage, and trusted to that point on which it felt itself strong to overbalance and hide its weakness.
Under such circumstances if the two contending bodies had been at the first equal in strength the one to the other, and had remained so since, the two forces would have absolutely neutralized one another, and it would have seemed to us now that cither there is no such thing in existence as the Church of the Creed, at once Orthodox and universal, (the two destroying one another,) or else that the two conflicting bodies are both equally the Church, that is parts of the Church, their conflict and external separation being only a superficial accident and disease, and not reaching to the essential orthodoxy and Catholicity inherent in them both.
But whatever may have seemed to be the case at the first separation, when the two sides were in point of extent and in the number of their Bishops nearly equal, (though even then the dignity of the elder Rome and the pre-eminence of the See and Martyrion of Peter turned the balance of mere authority much in favour of the West,) there is certainly no such equality existing now. As time has gone on the evidences of Eastern superiority in respect of Orthodoxy have remained much what they were, while changes have taken place in the world and in Christendom which have greatly increased the advantages of the Westerns in respect of Catholicism.
The so-called “Catholic” or “Roman-Catholic Church appears now plainly to all men to be really Catholic or universally diffused (and this is one part at least of the idea of Catholicism,) in a degree in which the so-called ” Orthodox” Church does not appear to be so. This is a fact, about which there can be no doubt, and no mistake. But on the other side it is only to those who think so that the so-called “Orthodox” Church appears to be really orthodox in a degree in which the so-called ” Catholic” Church does not appear to be so; or that the apparent identity of the spirit of domination in Christian Rome with that of Pagan Rome, and the perpetual self-preaching of the Roman See seem to be strong arguments against the Roman side.
If one is forced to choose upon such data alone, it is clear that we may more easily and more properly suspect of error even the strongest convictions of individuals or minorities as to a deep question of orthodoxy or heterodoxy, than doubt the common sense and sight of all men as to the advantage of superior visible Catholicity, which is a plain matter of fact.
Either then our personal or inherited opinion that the self-called “Orthodox” Church is really orthodox, and the self-called “Catholic” Church heterodox, must be sacrificed and reversed, so as to make a superior Orthodoxy about which we can doubt submit to a superior Catholicism about which we cannot doubt; or else, if we cannot rid ourselves of our convictions, and yet see the absurdity of supposing a greater apparent Catholicism to be for centuries opposed to true Catholicism and to Orthodoxy, we must infer that the opinion and assumption of there being an essential difference between the two sides (seeing that it leads to such difficulties and absurdities,) is itself false: and we must reconcile the conflicting phenomena of superior Orthodoxy on the one side and superior Catholicism on the other by supposing that the quarrel and schism of the East and West, of the Greeks and Latins, is superficial only, and not essential; and that in some way or other both parts together have continued since their quarrel to constitute the Universal Church, just as they did before the quarrel; and that their true inward unity has no more been broken by their long-standing outward schism, than the true inward unity of the Latin Church was suspended or broken by its disruption into two or even three outward Obediences during seventy years, in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries.
Against such an hypothesis as this there are, no doubt, formidable objections:
In the first place the Latins, fully conscious of their own advantage in the present position of the controversy, will be forward to argue that the outward as well as inward unity of the Church is necessarily always visible and perfect, or, at the least, not liable to such obscuration and interruption as this theory supposes, nor for so long a time: that the theory in question is clearly and peremptorily rejected by both parties; so that any one maintaining it rests upon the merest private judgment against all that either is or pretends to be authority: in fine, that one must choose simply between the two. If it is impossible to embrace as oecumenical an “Orthodoxy” which plainly is not oecumenical, you must be content to stifle all misgivings and receive as orthodox a “Catholicism” which may possibly be orthodox, even though it has strong appearances, and the voice of a large minority, and private judgment against it.
The Easterns, on the other hand, little used to abstract controversy, are either insensible to the disadvantages of their theological position, and careless to improve it; or, if they ever feel that Rome has some advantage, this excites only a perplexity and indignation like what they may feel at the temporary exaltation and tyranny of infidel Empires. Truth, they say, is not at any moment, nor even during any given course of centuries, to be measured by mere geographical extent, or by numbers: nor, so long as God’s promises given to the true Church are generally and sufficiently accomplished to Orthodoxy, is another community, which plainly rebels against the oecumenical law, to be preferred merely because it is larger, even though it may continue to be larger for centuries. Rather, on the contrary, the very zeal of those who are perpetually crying, “The Temple of the Lord, the Temple of the Lord, the Temple of the Lord are we,” and who in this zeal are ever compassing sea and land to make one proselyte, is a great sign that they are far from the true Temple of the Lord, and rather like to the Jews of old, who boasting of the Temple, and confidently identifying it with themselves as children of Abraham, but making it subservient to their own wills, destroyed the true Temple, and crucified as a blasphemer against the Temple the Lord of the Temple Himself. While, on the other hand, the Orthodox, though failing greatly, no doubt, in respect of that zeal and charity which they ought to show for the conversion of the world, and for the reunion in one of all Christians, yet in this are faulty only as almost all men in this evil age (and the Latins equally with others,) are faulty with respect to all virtues and duties which are simply debts to God and man, and which find no adventitious incitements from interest, ambition, or rivalry, within ourselves.
This is what is said on both sides: and once more we must allow that the Latin arguments are the stronger. For, in spite of all that can be said, if the true Church is “a city set on a hill, which cannot be hid,” it must be perplexing to the eyes of a man seeking the true Church to see at once two hills and two cities more or less answering in appearance to what he seeks: and it must sound paradoxical to such an one to hear himself invited to the smaller city and to the lesser hill, rather than to the greater. Even a Greek Christian must feel this, if he chances to hear a member of the Nestorian Church, now reduced to sixty thousand souls in the mountains of Kurdistan, use his own argument that the true Church is not to be discerned by mere extent or numbers. And though there is, doubtless, a vast difference between the self-called “Orthodox” Church and the Nestorian, yet, so far as this argument goes, the difference is not in kind but only in degree. They are both minorities; the one a very small, the other a very large minority; the one making a preposterous demand, the other a less exorbitant demand on private judgment to unite with it against a greater apparent authority. But if a certain degree of inferiority in numbers and extent reduces the claim of the Nestorian Church to an absurdity, then it is clear that any degree of such inferiority must involve some disadvantage to that Church or side to which it attaches. And that this is so is further shown by the fact that men of virtue and piety are often found to pass from the Eastern to the Roman-Catholic Communion: and such men almost always give this as their chief reason, that the apparent authority and universality of the Roman-Catholic Church outweighs the self-asserted Orthodoxy of the Easterns who are only a minority: while no instance, perhaps, or scarcely any instance, can be adduced even of an individual Latin Bishop, Priest, or layman of acknowledged piety and learning passing over to the Eastern Church from a conviction that it alone is Orthodox, and therefore, in spite of all appearances, also Catholic.
Notwithstanding, however, the above objections from the two sides, and the confessed advantage of the Latins if one is forced to a choice, the theory that the two bodies together constitute the Catholic Church may still be true, and to be accepted. The existence of great difficulties and objections against it is no reason for rejecting it, unless we are also convinced that those difficulties and objections are greater than those which make against either the exclusive Greek or the exclusive Latin theory.
For, without describing them at length, it is plain that the phenomena of the Eastern Church (to say nothing of internal phenomena within the Latin Church herself, or of the view any man may take of particular controversies,) do oppose considerable difficulties to the exclusive Latin theory, difficulties not to be summarily dismissed in a couple of lines. On the other hand, it is also plain that the phenomena of the Latin or Roman-Catholic Church oppose still greater difficulties to the exclusive Eastern theory. The question then is not whether the difficulties and objections making against the third theory (that the two Churches are after all intrinsically one, and their estrangement only superficial,) are great, but whether they are greater than those which lie against either the exclusive Greek or the exclusive Latin theory, and especially against the latter which is confessed to be the stronger of the two.
If any one agrees with the writer that, upon the whole, the difficulty of supposing that the Greek and Latin Churches together still continue to constitute now after their quarrel, as before, the universal Church, is less than the difficulty of supposing that either the Greeks or the Latins are simply and absolutely cut off (as the Arians, Nestorians, and Monophysites have been cut off,) from Orthodoxy and Catholicism, to such a one it will be natural to inquire what signs there may be in ecclesiastical history, or in the present language and feelings of Greeks and Latins respectively, to corroborate that theory which he is inclined for its own sake to accept.
I. In the first place, it must strike every one as extraordinary, and contrary to all experience of ecclesiastical history, if either the Greek or the Latin Church had really fallen into heresy, that the process of their outward alienation and separation should have been so gradual and indistinct, extending from Photius to Cerularius, and even beyond, over a space of more than two hundred years: whereas in the case of all other heresies there have always been holy and learned Bishops and Doctors who denounced them as such from the very time of their first appearance, and who from first to last constantly refused to communicate either with the heretics themselves, or with such as from weakness communicated with them, till they procured the complete and final condemnation of the heresy by the Church at large. But in this case Photius himself, who so publicly and with such effect anathematized the maintainers of the Filioque when he had reasons for attacking Rome, had only a little before, when it suited him to be at peace, thought himself justified in writing that the Greeks and Latins differed only “peri mikron tinon” alluding then unquestionably to this same difference of the Filioque as much as, or more than, to any other. And on the other hand, if the denial of the Filioque by the Greeks was a heresy, (as was maintained afterwards by the Papal Legate Cardinal Humbert, who absurdly charged them with having expunged it from the Creed,) then how could the Popes of Rome come, as they did by their Legates, into the East after Photius and the Easterns had so publicly condemned the Filioque as an error and even as heresy, and take part in and preside in Eastern Councils without saying a word in defence of the truth or for the condemnation of error on this point? dissembling upon it altogether, deposing Photius only on grounds of irregularity, without hinting any suspicion of his orthodoxy, reciting the Creed in the form defended by his Anathemas, and even, as it seems, silently assenting to the repetition of the same Anathemas against the insertion of the addition?
Again, if the Latins were heretics, how could the Greeks so publicly and so repeatedly, from the time of Photius to the present day, offer to make union with them if only the interpolation were omitted from the Creed, without insisting on any condemnation or retractation of the doctrine itself as heresy? And on the other hand, if the Greek denial of the Filioque was heresy or heterodoxy, how could Pope Leo III by setting up in his two silver shields or tables a public protest against that addition to the Creed which was pressed for by the envoys of Charlemagne, have been showing his love for orthodoxy, and his care lest it should be tampered with ? “Haec Leo posui amore et cauteld orthodoxte Fidei.” Or if it were schism and apostacy from the unity of the Catholic Church for the Easterns to resist the See of Peter when afterwards it countenanced and adopted and even enjoined that novelty, how could the same Pope Leo III who has just been mentioned insist that both he, the Pope himself, and all other Catholic Christians were so subject to the decrees of the Oecumenical Councils forbidding all alteration of the Creed, that if they inserted the clause in question, however orthodox they might think it, they would make it impossible for any man afterwards either to teach, or sing, or say the Creed without blame? Or how could another Pope, John VIII, half a century later, write to Photius, as he did, agreeing with him on this point, condemning strongly the authors of the innovation, and only demanding time and patience on the part of the Easterns, till they should be able to correct in the West so great a prevarication? Or, how could the same Pope, after having summoned to Rome the Apostles of the Slavonians, St. Cyril and St. Methodius, accused as heretics by German Bishops for refusing the interpolation and condemning the doctrine it embodied, how, I say, could the same Pope, John the Eighth, have justified those holy men merely because Rome had not yet herself adopted, though she tolerated in others, the interpolation?
II. Assuming it to be true (what it would need a separate dissertation to prove at length,) that the alienation of the two Churches was owing in great measure to a spirit which grew up gradually within each of them from below, and that, important as were the acts and motives and pretexts of Photius and Cerularius and the Byzantine Court (and especially the matter of the Filioque,) on the one side, and the swellings of Papal Supremacy on the other, still the main forces causing the ultimate separation were rather of a popular kind, consisting in national antipathies between the German-Latins, and the Greeks and Slavonians, and mixed with these ritual prejudices and antipathies, then, in whatever degree any man comes to see and understand this, he will be the more strengthened in the opinion that there is not, probably, besides at the root of this vast and unhappy and long-standing schism any essential theological error either on the one side or the other, but rather moral and spiritual degeneracy on both sides, which has been permitted to work out its own punishment. Because iniquity abounded therefore the love of the brethren waxed cold: and those powerful natural principles of alienation and divergence which though they had early appeared in the Church, and had been on the increase, had yet for centuries been overcome and held together into unity by grace, have rent the visible Church, like the twelve tribes of Israel of old, into two great separate branches.
III. But to leave these general considerations, and to come to matters of fact and history: we find that even after Cerularius, and down to the present day, both the Latins and the Greeks have shown many signs of a deep consciousness that their rivals still belong to the Catholic Church in a sense in which no other heretics or schismatics can be said to do so.
As for the Latins, we see this truth well illustrated by the inconsistent expressions of Pope Gregory VII and Pope Urban II in proposing and preaching the first Crusade. As it were in the same breath Pope Gregory VII writes that a main object with him is to force upon the Eastern Church, which differs from us about the Holy Ghost, and by the instigation of the devil falls away from the Catholic faith, the decision of the faith of Peter, while Pope Urban exhorts all the West to deliver from the oppression of the infidels in Palestine our dear brethren, our very true brethren, and co-heirs of the heavenly kingdom; to save the Church of God from suffering loss to the faith; to defend the Eastern Church, from which hath flowed all our salvation, which suckled us with the divine milk, and first delivered to us the sacred doctrines of the Gospel. And again: their object is at once to promote the general interest of Christianity, and the most desirable exaltation of our Latin Church in particular. With the like inconsistency, the Crusaders, when they first took the city of Antioch, restored with much honour the Greek Patriarch to his chair, thinking this, as William of Tyre writes, more agreeable to the Canons and to the constitutions of the holy Fathers, than to elect and consecrate a Patriarch of our own Latinity: though scarce two years after, changing their minds, they obliged him to retire to Constantinople, and set up a Latin Patriarch. And when they took Jerusalem and Palestine they made a Latin Patriarch there and a Latin Hierarchy at once, expelling the Greek: and at Constantinople, and throughout a great part of the Levant, how they treated their “dear brethren,” their “very true brethren,” and “co-heirs of the heavenly kingdom,” how they did to their Churches exactly what the Turks had done to them in Palestine, and created everywhere a Latin hierarchy, needs not here to be described.
But in the way of Latin admissions in favour of the Eastern Church, no stronger testimony can be conceived than that afforded by the Council of Florence itself, at which, though for the future the Greeks were to submit absolutely to Rome, yet for the past the existence of their Church, of the Greek or Eastern Church as distinguished from the Latin, with all her Saints, was retrospectively recognized. The Pope had recognized the Patriarch of Constantinople as a brother before the opening of the Council, and the other Patriarchs as the legitimate possessors of their Sees; and “a holy union of the two Churches” was thought afterwards to have been concluded without either of them retracting or yielding to the other, both appearing, on explanation, to have all along virtually meant the same thing. Such was the account given by Latin Bishops returning from the Council; and such is the footing on which those Uniats who have accepted the terms of the Council of Florence stand even at the present day with regard to the non-united Church of their ancestors from the time of Cerularius to the formation of the Unia. And some Latin writers connected with the Uniats, seeing the retrospective latitude of the terms accorded to them, and desiring at once to veil the theological consequences of such latitude, and to make the bridge between the two Communions as serviceable for the future as possible, have been emboldened to attempt the most curious and extensive falsifications of history, writing down the whole Eastern Church, in spite of the bitter animosity of so many centuries, as having been all along devoted to the Pope and to “Catholicism,” in their sense of the word, down to the very formation of their Uniat congregations; and the Russian Church, more especially, as having been perfectly “Catholic” down to the time of the Metropolitan of Moscow Photius. Some authors prolong its orthodoxy even to the time of Peter the Great!
Lastly, not the weakest testimony is the continued use of the expressions “Greek Church,” and “Eastern Church,” as distinguished from “Latin Church,” and “Western Church,” and of “the Greeks,” or “the Easterns,” as distinguished from “the Latins,” or “Westerns.” The force of this language was felt and pointed out by one of the most powerful of modern Ultramontane writers, the Count Joseph De Maistre; and he suggested as a remedy for its evil tendency the substitution of the epithet “Photienne.” After the publication of his treatise the Greek or Eastern or Orthodox Churches were no longer to be called by any of these titles, but were to become “les Eglises Photiennes,” and therefore, of course, manifest nullities. But it is more reasonable, perhaps, to think that the theory of a talented writer, when it conflicts with language rooted in continuous history and in the popular use and mind and conscience of all Christendom, is thereby shown to be false, than to expect that the world will remodel its language so as to sustain the theory of an individual, even though that theory should be embraced by the whole Roman-Catholic or Latin Communion. An Anglican theory may require that the Anglican Church should, within her own dioceses at least, be orthodox and Catholic, and an individual or a party may do their best to give her such titles; but the use and conscience of the world at large will continue to refuse them. A Greek theory may lead a Greek to dissemble the strength accruing to the Latins from their greater apparent universality, and from their possession of the title “Catholic,” and of the idea which it embodies; but this advantage will not therefore cease to exist and to be felt, and even to convert occasionally Greeks and Russians to the Roman Communion, so long as the two Churches remain in their present respective attitudes. And in like manner the advantage, such as it is, which is given to the Easterns by the continuance to the present day even among the Latins of the popular distinction of the Latin Church from the Greek, and of the Western from the Eastern, is one of which it is beyond tin- power of either individuals or parties to deprive them.
On the side of the Easterns their continued admission of the existence of the Latin Church as a part of the true Catholic Church is manifest not only from their conduct on all public occasions, whenever there has been any communication with a view to reunion, but also from the common use of the same or similar language to what has been mentioned above in the case of the Latins: and this in a much greater degree. Indeed the doubt most likely to arise in the mind of any one who attentively considers the popular use of language among members of the Eastern Communion (joined with the almost total absence of zeal for the conversion of the Latins,) is not whether they admit the true life of the Roman-Catholic Church, but whether they do not unwittingly doubt or deny their own. The Latins unmistakeably associate both the title and the idea of Catholicism with their own Church, and only by a little lingering inconsistency betray a consciousness of doubt in having narrowed their Catholicism to its present definition: but the Easterns by taking for themselves, as they do, local and particular titles, such as “Eastern,” “Greek,” or “Greco-Russ,” as distinctive of their Church and religion, by conceding practically the Greek epithet “Catholic” as a distinctive appellation to the Latins, and by showing so little disposition to dwell either upon the word or the idea for themselves, go far to admit that they are merely a particular Church, or an aggregate of particular Churches; that is, (so far as there may be in them any radical hostility to the remaining complement of Catholicism,) either schismatical or heretical, or both. But this is more than we want: it is enough for our purpose to say that the popular speech and ideas of the Easterns abundantly recognize the Roman-Catholic Church as a part, at least, of the true Catholic Church. No better instance, perhaps, can be adduced of this than the observation so common in the mouths of Easterns, and not of ignorant people only but of the most learned of their clergy and laity, that there have been but Seven General Councils, and that other Councils held since have not been of equal authority “because of the division of the Churches:” or again, that a General Council now is impossible (that is, among themselves, or among the Latins,) for the same reason. It is true that this same admission seems to have been made also by the Latins in favour of the Greeks when they were willing that the Council of Florence, if only it were accepted, should be reputed and called the “Eighth General Council:” and the galleys of Pope Eugenius and of the Synod of Basle racing against each other, and contending for the accession of the Greeks, hint something of the same sort. But of Greek admissions in favour of the Latins, one of the most remarkable in modern times is that contained in the Acts of the Synod of Bethlehem held under Dositheus Patriarch of Jerusalem in 1672. This Synod, in speaking of the Church, repeatedly distinguishes the “Western” from the “Eastern,” and both from “the whole Catholic Church;” and blames the Lutherans and Calvinists for having invented heresies, and for having gone forth from “that Church” (the Western or Latin certainly,) “in which their ancestors abiding had obtained salvation.”
Yet with all these mutual admissions, or half-admissions, in favour of one another, the two Churches are practically at war. The Latins in the middle ages, without any shadow of reason, from mere hatred, re-baptized the Easterns in Poland and Germany; and still reconcile them individually as schismatics or heretics, or as both. And the Easterns in turn reconcile Latin proselytes as from heresy to the true Church, in Russia anointing them with Chrism, like Arians or Macedonians, in the Levant even Baptizing them, like Jews or Turks or Heathens.
As for the Latins, who are the stronger party, their conduct towards the Greeks is both politic and necessary: for any other conduct would be in fact to concede to them the main question between the Churches. But as regards the Greeks, who are the weaker party, and as regards the interest of that truth which they think they represent, it will be worth while to consider the origin of their present custom, and its effect on their controversial position, and the question what would be the bearing and tendency of a contrary practice.
The complete cutting off from the Catholic and Orthodox Church of any body of men who are truly and simply heretics, and the practice of reconciling them, if they return, whether in a body or as individuals, as has been done with Arians, Macedonians, Ncstorians, Mouophysites, and others, is as far from having any bad effect on the Church herself, as is the cutting away of dead wood far from hurting a living tree. On the contrary, for the Church to have remained in Communion with death would have affected her own life. But if we suppose a case where there is disease in any part of a living body but not death, so that the diseased part remains still a living part, then the effect of a total severance of the more sound part from the diseased will have a contrary and pernicious effect both on the sound part and on the diseased. For the diseased part will have no longer any influence in contact with it to correct it; and the sound part will be mutilated, or it may be, even destroyed by losing its coherence with those other parts which are no less necessary than itself (it may be even more necessary,) to the perfection or life of the whole body. Any one can understand this in the case of a natural living body. And thus, even if the Eastern Church were to the Latin in extent and importance as two thirds to one third, and were spread over the whole globe, and possessed the idea and the title of “Catholic,” still, if the Latins were not really and mortally heretics essentially as well as by mere form, it would have been a most uncharitable and pernicious fault to separate them altogether from Communion as heretics, and abandon them to their error, and so lose all chance of influencing them. But much more is this the case when they are not only not essentially heretics, but possess so large a share and interest in the universal body, and such great superiorities in some respects, that the Eastern Church in cutting them off not only loses all influence over them, but seems even rather to bring into question her own existence than to affect theirs. On the other hand, if the sound part were to remain in union with the diseased, and by contact to preserve its influence, then even a smaller part which should be sound and healthy might correct disease and renew health even in a larger, always supposing that there was no careless or indifferent toleration of the disease or error.
As things now are, the Eastern Church has absolutely no influence on the Western. She has cut herself off: and the Western, being materially the stronger and larger of the two, strengthens herself by this very separation in her errors, and boldly calls on all to choose the one Communion or the other. But let any one consider what would be the prospect for “Orthodoxy,” if only one national Church of the present Latin Communion, (let us suppose the Gallican,) without withdrawing from the rest, confessed the common fault, and called upon the rest to join in amending it; or, amending it at once for itself, received for the future only those laity and clergy from other branches of the Latin Communion, who, on examination, should be found to be personally free from the disposition to defend error? Would not such a state of things be most hopeful? And should we not expect to see immediately individuals in other Latin Churches both of the clergy and laity avowing their agreement and sympathy, and so moving from all quarters the whole body towards amendment? But if any one local Church of the present Latin Communion would probably by such conduct exert so great an influence, and form so hopeful a party, what would not be the influence of the Eastern Church, of one whole third part of Christendom, if only she had preserved, or if she were now to restore her coherence, and so were to become capable of having influence at all? Certainly there can be no doubt that, if she has truth on her side, she would speedily effect the reformation of the West. This attitude might be taken up by the Eastern Church if she were in practice to adopt some such rule as the following; that—
“If any persons coming from the Latins seek to communicate in any Orthodox Diocese, such persons shall first be examined, and if they are found willing to recite the Creed in the Canonical form, and personally free from malicious opposition to Orthodoxy on that and other points, they shall be received as brethren, without troubling them for the existence of faults which they acquiesce in only under the idea of authority, but are personally not unwilling to see reformed.”
Such an attitude towards the Latins, an attitude of half-excommunication and half-recognition, would correspond with that view which we have shown to be taken of the Latin Church by the conscience of the Eastern, (namely, that on the great point it is materially, or in point of outward form, heretical without being intrinsically so, and on other points maintains certain grave errors and corruptions which yet arc not heresies;) and it would give the Eastern Church (without any recognition of error small or great,) the prospect of exerting a salutary and healing influence over the whole West, and of restoring the unity of the whole body.
But it may be objected that such a course is new, unheard of, inconsistent, impracticable; a mere scheme of human policy, invented after a separation of a thousand years to suit the apparent difficulties of the case. It is no such thing. Whatever force there may be in the arguments which have been now alleged in favour of such a course, it has another and an anterior claim upon the attention of all members of the Eastern Church, namely this, that it is the view which was first taken, and by the holiest and wisest men, in their own Church after the completion of the Schism. For after the full ascertainment of the depth of the differences between the East and the West, after the mutual anathemas of the Archbishops of old and new Rome, after the time not of Photius only but of Cerularius, when in consequence of the Latins still continuing from long habit as individuals to recognize the Eastern Church, and to seek the Communion from its Clergy, the question arose how they ought to be treated, and some said in one way, and some in another, and this question was referred to the most holy and learned Bishops of the Eastern Church, such as Theophylact of Bulgaria and Demetrius Chomatenus, the reply and sentence of such men was this: that the Latins applying for Communion should be examined individually, and if not found malicious maintainers of the errors condemned by the Church, should be received as brethren.
But it seemed more consistent and logical to certain Canonists (especially to Theodore Balsamon,) to reason thus: “We excommunicate the Pope of Rome for certain errors: all the Westerns adhere to him, and to his errors; therefore all the Westerns are to be treated simply as other heretics, and a Form must be provided for their abjuration and reconciliation:” (for the gall of bitterness had not yet drenched the Greeks so deeply as to settle the point that the Latins were as heathens and unbaptized: it was enough then for general practice that a Form should be provided for their reconciliation.) For their reconciliation to what? let us ask; (and let the reader attend to this question:) To the Catholic truth of the Catholic or Universal Church, as in the case of all other heretics? No; but to the Catholic truth or Orthodoxy of the “Eastern” or “Greek,” that is, of a particular would-be universal Church: an attempt and a pretension by its own language (necessarily employed) self-refuted and self-condemned. Thus the shortsighted reasonings of controversial Canonists were preferred to the judgments of Saints: the absolute separation of the two Churches has been fixed and stereotyped in the Eastern as well as in the Latin Church-law and ritual: the definition of the primary sacrament of Baptism itself, and the grace of regeneration for the larger part of Christendom, has been made to depend upon the variable will of men, upon the allowance or non-allowance of necessity or economy by spiteful rivals, galled by the sense of their inferiority. Rome profits by the error; “Orthodoxy ” suffers by it. Heathens and Turks and Sectaries sneer, and draw arguments from the divisions of the Apostolic Church against Christianity itself; and ” the Son of God,” as was foretold by Theophylact, has ” suffered a great damage in that heritage which is given Him among the Gentiles.”