Some Notes on the Acacian Schism

The Acacian Schism and the Formula of Hormisdas are prime apologetic tools employed by Catholic apologists against Orthodoxy. The Formula of Hormisdas is proffered as a prime example of papal jurisdictional primacy over the East. But there are important facts often left out that show that the Formula isn’t the witness to the papal theory that apologists make it out to be.

First, I note that Patriarch of Constantinople, John affixes his signature with the designation “fellow minister” in reference to the Pope.  That by itself may seem unimportant but when John defines his see as being equal with Rome, it takes on a significant meaning.

For I hold that the most holy churches of God, that is yours of Elder Rome and this of New Rome, are one; I define the See of the Apostle Peter and this of the Imperial city to be one see…

John also notes his adherence to the decisions and decrees of all of the ecumenical councils with respect to both the “confirmation of the faith and the constitution of the church…”  This has import for canon 28 of Chalcedon. It is also noteworthy for future controversies down the road that John remarks that

I suffer no disturbance with their wise decisions, for I know that such as attempt to interfere with a single tittle of their decrees have fallen away from the Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church of God.

It is also noteworthy that not all of the eastern churches subscribed to the Formula. The Church of Jerussalem would not do so even under threat of imperial force. And it is important to recall that Justinian designated the church of Jerusalem as “the Mother of the Christian name, from which no one dares to separate.” (PL 63, 503) This is important to keep in mind, say during the monothelite controversy under the patriarch of Jersualem Sophronius  as opposed to Pope Honorius of Rome.

A second shorter dogmatic formula was drafted which would restore communion with Rome, but which curiously did not include any of the petrine language employed in the Formula of Hormisdas. It also did not include demands to strike various Eastern bishops from the diptychs as was demanded in the Formula of Hormisdas. This was the formula that the vast majority of Eastern bishops in fact subscribed to. And so the majority of East never signed or agreed to the Formula of Hormisdas and the majorty of the Roman conditions were never met.

One comment

  1. Hi:

    Just wondering if you could provide sources for this information. I’ve recently been researching the Acacian schism.


    Perry Robinson-Post Author: Since I didn’t get around to this and people are linking to it, and comments are closed, here are some references. First it should be noted that if one reads the controversial literature of the 19th and early 20th centuries on the papacy on the anti-papal side, these facts are brought up often enough. (For example in Fr. Puller’s Primitive Saints and the See of Rome. John of Constantinople’s comments can be read in the Patrologia Latina Lxiii. 314, 343, 418, & 443-45. The Pope’s statements in part recognizing that not all of the conditions could be met can be found at Collect. Avellan., Epist. Clviii, sec. 6-8, p.606.

    A secondary formula was drawn up to reconcile with the majority of eastern bishops who would not sign the formula of Hormisdas even under threat of torture (Coleti, v. 667) and this included nothing regarding papal perogatives. This is Patrologia Latina lxiii, 512-521. This was the means of reconciliation for the other Patriarchates, with Alexandria signing the modified formula in 538 ad.

    The variant Greek and Latin readings of the formula can be seen in the letter of Pope Hadrian to Basil and Constantine in the acts of the 869 council in Mansi, xvi. 21. That council was revoked by both east and west alike, until the late 12th century when Rome reversed itself and re-recognized it, designating it as the Eighth Ecumenical Council.


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