Like a Horse and Carriage

Please listen here while you enjoy this daily meditation.

“The error of those who say that the Vicar of Christ, the Pontiff of the Roman Church, does not have a primacy over the universal Church is similar to the error of those who say that the Holy Spirit does not proceed from the Son. For Christ himself, the Son of God, consecrates and marks her as his own with the Holy Spirit, as it were with his own character and seal, as the authorities already cited make abundantly clear. And in like manner the Vicar of Christ by his primacy and foresight as a faithful servant keeps the Church Universal subject to Christ. It must, then, be shown from texts of the aforesaid Greek Doctors that the Vicar of Christ holds the fullness of power over the whole Church of Christ.

Thomas Aquinas, Against the Errors of the Greeks, Bk 2, 32.


  1. Monk Patrick,

    Vis-a-vis the quotation from Aquinas…I can see Aquinas’s point, to a certain extent, as well as Perry’s counterpoint, given that the priesthood is constituted in the manner Aquinas assumes.

    My critique has more to do with the contingency of divine external action. The only thing that is necessary is the eternal being of God. Neither the creation, nor the Incarnation, nor any other aspect of the “economy of salvation” was necessary in any absolute sense. Counter-factually, there could have been an entirely different economy of salvation, means of grace, etc., without any revelation of the Trinity, Incarnation, etc. This basic conviction is common to Eastern Fathers, such as Gregory Palamas, as well as Western ones like Aquinas or Duns Scotus. Once one has the creation, each new “step” in the economy is a contingent event built upon the foundation of earlier one. Given that the Word did become Incarnate, he was not in any way obligated perpetuate his presence through a hierarchical, sacramental priesthood. That he did do so in fact is not in dispute. But whether he could have done something else is another matter. What, of course, these other hypothetical economies might have looked like is matter of speculation.

    It is common in the Western tradition, as I’m sure you are aware, to think of the “missions” of the persons as reflective of their eternal origin. Duns Scotus stated the matter a little more strongly: the missions cannot fail to reveal this the mission is simply the eternal origin + common external action (cf. Richard Cross, “Duns Scotus on God”). Assuming that this is model is correct, for the sake of the argument, we then we have to determine where this reflection is visible. Why must we assume that it is recognizable, not just in the Office of Holy Orders in general, but in one particular Order, that of Episcopacy? Given that Christ did establish a particular priesthood that is manifest in the apostolic succession, it is also the case that Christians are a “kingdom of priests,” and that the priesthood, in a sense, is common to everyone. Aquinas himself seems to apply the structure of the trinitarian processions manifest in the missions to the individual believer rather than to the Church’s hierarchical ministry. He says that we imitate the personal property of the Son (filiation/sonship) in a way that we do not for the other persons’ properties. So, participating in the Son, we are connected to the Father in the bond of the Spirit (“hypostatic Love”).

    It is unclear to me exactly how this model might be expanded to account for the structure of the Church as a whole, because that structure is something contingent while the origination of the divine persons is necessary. The link, of course, would be the missions, but I don’t recognize any such link.

    Please forgive the typos, if there were any.


  2. Drew,

    I think that ecclesiology as a topic cannot be separated from other topics, such as liturgy and the mysteries/sacraments. I would say further that no theological topic can be considered as a complete unit separate from other topics. Nevertheless, I believe there is some value in considering issues that apply to the nature and structure of the Church, with ecclesiology as the focus, because of the different models proposed by Protestants and between Roman Catholics and Orthodox, which were perhaps not to the forefront of Medieval questions, although Aquinas links what we would label an ecclesiological question with the “theological” question of the filioque. The linkage between the various topics is, I believe, the purpose of Perry’s post; he is trying to correct a tendency to see ecclesiology as a separate topic.

    I agree with you regarding that the orders of ministry, as numbered in the West, did not include the Papacy and included it with the episcopacy, which in turn was often combined with the Presbytery depending upon which list of orders we look. However, I think that the real problem (for East-West relationships) with the Papacy was much earlier than 1870, which I believe was merely an official manifestation of the problem rather than a cause of the problem. From my investigations, the problem can be traced back to the third century, was “developed” in the fifth-seventh centuries then became a prominent issue in the ninth to the extent that by the eleventh it was one major reason why the eastern churches could not remain in communion with the western churches. 1870 made official a common, long held believe in the west and its main effect is to limit interpretations of primacy in the west, hence the Old Catholic schism, and consequently for further discussions with the Orthodox.

    Could you please comment more specifically on the quote of Aquinas regarding the connection of the filioque and the Papacy and why you cannot see a connection or why the connection that Aquinas raises is not sufficient or only literary? Similarly for my earlier comment.

  3. Before we start talking about a dogmatic impact of the filioque on ecclesiology, I think it is pertinent to ask whether ecclesiology qua ecclesiology genuinely qualifies as a separate area of inquiry. The medievals seemed to have (mostly) covered the subject in the Questions on the Virtues and the Sacraments. For instance, a discussion of apostolic succession would seem to fall under a discussion of the Sacrament of Orders, while schism or heresy would belong to the topic of Faith as a theological virtue, and so on. What does a separate topic for ecclesiology contribute that the previous arrangement did not? Also, despite the fact that the medieval Western Church held the office of Holy Orders to be sevenfold rather than threefold, they did not proceed to make the papacy one of those Orders, but instead included it under the episcopacy. I think the real problem with the Papacy has more to do with the definition of 1870 than anything else (and how this would have anything to do with the filioque escapes me…indeed, all such arguments strike me as being more “literary” than strictly logical). I’m not an apologist for Roman Catholicism here; just trying to contribute to the discussion.

  4. James Dean,

    Rome was enjoying some sort of seniority of honour for sometime for being the capital of the empire but, in practice, that “primacy” passed on to Constantinople for being both New Rome and New Jerusalem.

  5. Like I said at my blog, those quotes are interesting and prove Roman primacy, which is something I hold. I hold, along with a host of church scholars, there is a distinction between primacy and supremacy.

  6. Darlene,

    Trust me, i wasn’t offended at all. You’ve finally at least tacitly admitted that behavior at Liturgy does not guarantee truth of doctrine.


    Perhaps Greece is a bad example but that is entirely beside the point i was making.

    That’s interesting, you’re still at a crossroads. Not sure which Catholics you’re speaking to but if you want a whole bunch of Catholic patristic quotes on the Papacy, from Church Fathers , you can start here(scroll down).

  7. Since everyone is going on anecdotal evidence, here’s mine:

    I read nothing but the wonder of the Fathers and the Glory of Holy Russia for 18 months. I noticed that Catholics really didn’t quote the Fathers on the Papacy whenever they debate EOx. And as I saw Protestantism unravel around me, I figured that EOx was the only real option for this former Calvinist.

    Then I go to an EO church. There were six people in the service. Nobody was really singing. Small kids were throwing those metal model airplanes across the church onto those wooden benches. The first few times were a major letdown.

    But you know what? I didn’t become disillusioned with Orthodoxy. I realized I was in an elderly, very very small village parish. Not every parish is like that. And the major problems in Catholicism and Protestantism were still there. So there wasn’t a fundamental problem with Orthodoxy. I simply had to re-evaluate how much and to what degree I was committed to Orthodoxy (I’m still evaluating at the moment).

  8. James Dean: “compare it to some liberal Greek Orthodox parish in Greece itself…”
    Name one

    Greece is a bad example of the point ure trying to make, there simply is no liturgical renovation in all of Greece plain and simple. If you can find a single parish in all of Greece engaged in ‘liturgical experimentation’ then I’d actually be interested to know. The point of my comments were to merely show how ridiculous it is for RCs to equate Orthodoxy with Protestantism in any way.

  9. James,

    Forgive me if I offended you, or any other Roman Catholics who reads this blog. That was not my intention.

    You are right. Anecdotal testimonies, in and of themselves, are not evidence of the truth. Afterall, I could have remained a Protestant in that case, and either gone to worship with the Conservative Anglicans or the Presbyterian Church of the OPC branch. There I would find a certain sacredness in worship.

    Looking back on what I wrote above, one might get the impression that I became Orthodox simply because of my experience at the Divine Liturgy that day. Such is not the case, however. Rather, as I began to delve into reading the history of the Church, from various perspectives (Prot, Roman Catholic, Orthodox), it was then that I became convinced of the truth of Orthodoxy. Increasingly, I could not be convinced of Papal Primacy, Papal Infallibility, the Treasury of Merit, Indulgences, just to mention a few of the major RCC dogmas. Please understand, I do not say these things to be offensive or insulting or triumphalistic.

    I don’t have blinders on and thus, I can see some rather glaring problems within the Orthodox Church. As my priest recently said to my Evangelical Protestant husband, “There are many tares in the Orthodox Church.” I remember that great Civil War hymn, “He is sifting out the hearts of men before His judgment seat. Oh be swift my soul to answer Him, be jubilant my feet.”

    I have no doubt there will be Protestants from various traditions in Heaven, and there will be Roman Catholics there, and Orthodox too. And, I’ve no doubt many from the same churches who will not be there. “To whom much is given, is much required.” God looks upon the heart and knows those who seek after Him, who love Him, who long to be with Him for eternity. I am thankful that judgment of others eternal salvation has not been left to me. I would have a skewed perspective since I am fraught with weakness.

    May the Lord Jesus Christ be merciful to us all!

  10. Ioannis,

    I’m glad you took it the way it was intended 🙂


    My point being that anecdotal evidence of how liturgy is conducted in one geographical region, means absolutely nothing for correctness of doctrine.

    Generally speaking, The most persecuted christians are always the most serious about their Liturgy.

    Whereas those living in luxury are the ones who are more lax in these thing. Now i’m not condoning, lax liturgies, this is just an observation. if you were to go to Catholic Liturgy in Sudan,compare it to some liberal Greek Orthodox parish in Greece itself, which will look more protestant?

    It’s a silly way of determining anything. That was my point.

  11. Sorry to interrupt this internet, ‘color purple’ moment you guys are having, to bring more anecdotes:

    In Finland, when one of my buddies was moving away from protestantism, he seriously considered the Finish Orthodox Church, he even joined their equivalent of the RCIA while attending private instruction with a priest. The Eastern Orthodox faith that he read about in books, that was on paper, virtually doesn’t exist out there in Finland (with perhaps the exception of a few parishes). I get email sent to me regularly from a conservative Eastern Othodox source (not AFR) mourning and decrying the rank liberalism that exists with the EOC (how priests are ignoring the rubrics of the Liturgy, preaching against the Orthodox faith in homilies, implicitly or explicitly not supporting Synods, promoting liberal ideas, etc, etc.)

    To back track a little, he first began reading about the EOC faith before actually attending a Liturgy. When he finally went to a parish to attend worship, He was dejected and severely disappointed. He felt like he was in a Norwegian protestant church. It wasn’t long thereafter that He began to realize that the “pan-heresy of ecumenism” had virtually pervaded the Finish Orthodox Church. He shouldn’t have been surprised for Churchs are victims of their cultural environment. Even Moses said “they are are stiff necked people.”

    Similarly, when discovering Nestorianism his first route was to read about it. he waited 14 months before actually entering a nestorian Church, because He feared the same experience as with the EOC. However, it was his first experience at a Nestorian Liturgy that he knew this was the worship his heart had been longing for. The worship hyms and took him to another place…an otherworldy place and his heart was lifted up.

    He then challenged me “Walk into any random 10 Finish Orthodox parishes in the area during any service, then walk into any random 10 Nestorian or Assyrian Churchs in the area during any service, and then tell me who looks more Protestant.

    When he said all this to me i was moved to tears, because somehow i realized that Rubrics in one culture is all that matter, whereas doctrine and dogma, doesn’t matter as long as i look less protestant.

  12. Ioannis,

    Wow, I didn’t realize that such a post could have that kind of impact. Are you Roman Catholic?

  13. Darlene,

    Thanks for sharing- I enjoyed reading about your experience.

    Indeed, whenever I take RC friends to an Orthodox Vespers they are blown away by the beauty and tradition. I honestly feel bad that they’re in this situation, but I get around some that have such a triumphalist attitude.

    You said it perfectly well- what they present as “real Catholicism” hardly exists on the ground level. Many of them speak so ignorantly of Orthodoxy, I think, because they don’t know what to do with us -i.e.-they look at the Orthodox and see that we have what they’ve lost and maybe it confuses them.

    I do really feel them though.

  14. Aglaios,

    You said, “Walk into any random 10 Roman Catholic parishes in the area during any sevice, then walk into any random 10 Orthodox parishes in the area during any service, and then tell me who looks more Protestant.”

    So true! And this is the crux of the matter when observing and discussing the differences between Roman Catholicism and Orthodoxy. As the saying goes, “Lex Orandi, Lex credendi, Lex Vivendi.”

    While on my way out of Protestant Evangelicalism, I seriously considered Roman Catholicism. I joined RCIA while attending private instruction with a priest. The RC faith that I read about in books, that was on paper, virtually doesn’t exist out there (with perhaps the exception of a few parishes). I get email sent to me regularly from a conservative Catholic source (not EWTN) mourning and decrying the rank liberalism that exists with the RCC (how priests are ignoring the rubrics of the mass, preaching against the Catholic faith in homilies, implicitly or explicitly not supporting the Pope, promoting liberal ideas, etc, etc.)

    To back track a little, I first began reading about the RC faith before actually attending a mass. When I finally went to a parish to attend worship, I was dejected and severely disappointed. I felt like I was in a mainline Protestant church. It wasn’t long thereafter that I began to realize that the “spirit of Vatican II” had virtually pervaded the American Roman Catholic Church. I shouldn’t have been surprised for it was Anabal Bugnini’s intention (the architect of Vat. II) to strip away barriers in the mass so as to get rid of stumbling blocks that wayward Protestants might find it easier to return to the RCC. Even Pope Paul VI said, after seeing the results of VAT II exclaimed that “the smoke of Satan had entered the Church.”

    Similarly, when discovering Orthodoxy my first route was to read about it. I waited 14 months before actually entering an Orthodox Church, because I feared the same experience as with the RCC. However, it was my first experience at a Divine Liturgy that I knew this was the worship my heart had been longing for. The worship drew me in and took me to another place…an otherworldy place and my heart was lifted up.

    I was receeived into the Orthodox Church on Lazarus Saturday of this year.

  15. James Dean: “Else…everything reducing to almost the kind of subjectivity we see in Protestantism.”

    As this was offered as the consequence of not having a papal understanding of Patriarchs (and the hint usually is that on a broader universal level, all will devolve into chaos without the Pope of Rome)… I have to say that I’ve heard a number of RC’s on the web and in person attempt a comparison between Orthodoxy and Protestantism. I typically respond to fellow students at my school when they say this in the following way:
    “Walk into any random 10 Roman Catholic parishes in the area during any service, then walk into any random 10 Orthodox parishes in the area during any service, and then tell me who looks more Protestant.”
    When I say this, I don’t tend to hear the same argument ever again, cause they know that what they will find in their own parishes are silly Novus Ordo hippie masses with Protestant pop songs, and “church-in-the-round” hand-holding “Peter Paul & Mary” guitar and drum-bangin charismatic antics with “Fr. Bob” smiling at the congregation as he speaks in a touchy feel-good way during a 30 minute watered down mass… in short Protestantism in sacramental garb.

  16. James Dean: “Your assigned Patriarch being your own Pope…”

    This is a very limited understanding of the Orthodox Church and her patriarchal conciliar governance.
    The Patriarch has most influence within a patriarchate, but in doctrinal definition and conciliar decrees he sits as President of the Patriarchal Synod in the sense of Apostolic Canon 34. It is the final decree of the corporate Synod that is binding. In extreme circumstances, even a Patriarch’s own Synod can depose an erring Patriarch -exactly this happened with the last Patriarch of Jerusalem (Irenaeos) when Theopholis replaced him. Due to extreme disciplinary issues, the Jerusalem Synod voted to depose its own Patriarch, and this was upheld by a greater Pan-Orthodox Synod in Constantinople, at which point the diptychs of the universal Church were changed to reflect the decree and Theopholis’ subsequent elevation. There are a wealth of examples both ancient and modern of regional and patriarchal synods working in this way. In my experience Roman Catholics either don’t know about such constant authoritative rulings and actions of the Orthodox Church, or they purposefully ignore an actual understanding of Orthodox governance and ecclesiology. I go to a Roman Catholic University, and most students that speak about Orthodoxy are of the latter camp -they all read the same straw-man articles on Orthodoxy and think they know something, and then they really feel “in the know” when they pick up Solovyev. But then you ask them a simple question about the Orthodox Church, and they interpret everything in papal categories, i.e.-Constantinople= “Vatican of the East,” or “bishops as Cardinals of a Patriarch” or Autocephalous=different Orthodox ‘denomination’.
    Even serious RC scholars writing on the Orthodox East like Dvornik would know that such an approach is false.

  17. It seems to me that Aquinas is confusing some issues regarding the procession of the Holy Spirit and the universal Church. Firstly, the sending of the Holy Spirit is different from the procession of the Spirit, so what he connects to the procession of the Holy Spirit is rather a consequence of the sending of the Spirit, so that it resides/rests in the Church with and in Christ and so manifests it as the Body of Christ. Equating the sending with procession presumes that the Church is external to Christ, thus the Spirit precedes out of Christ to consecrate an external organisation, the Church. This contrasts with the the Church being in Christ and the Spirit rests in the Church because it proceeds from the Father and rests in Christ. The Spirit is sent only to the extent to show that those who did not “naturally” have the Spirit now have the Spirit by uniting to Christ as adopted sons of God.

    This then leads to the next issue with Aquinas. He talks of the Pope having power over the “universal Church”, this is different from a universal (or Ecumenical) Pope or Patriarch. The latter can be seen as a testimony that the Church is one and that each local church is the complete Catholic Church, without requiring direct jurisdiction over each local Church nor that the universal Church is complete on earth. The former suggests that the Church is complete on earth so that the Church on earth is something external to that in heaven and that there can and needs be someone on earth in charge of the external universal Church. The Orthodox model understands the universal Church to be under one Head Christ, including the church militant and church triumphant, for which model it is impossible to speak of someone other than Christ having jurisdiction over the “universal” church because only He can have such jurisdiction over the Saints, who are also in the Church.

  18. To me, Aquinas seems completely unreliable.

    He just tries to justify the Franko-Latin occupation in the aftermath of the liberation of Constantinople.

    “the Vicar of Christ … as a faithful servant keeps the Church Universal subject to Christ.”

    He confused his Pope with the Father of Christ.

  19. James Dean,

    I fully admit that the situation you link to is a big fat mess and I’d be a bigger fool than I am to try and adjudicate such matters.

    That said, I don’t see how you get from an unjust expulsion of Greek-Catholics in Romania to Romania’s subjugation to the Muslims. What was the theological cause of Rome’s fall and subjugation to the pagans in the 5th century?

  20. huh? i never said flow charts were the be all end all of persuasive arguments its just a summary. We can test Solovyevs arguments against future events, however. Here is what i mean:

    If the destruction of Romanian Greek Catholic Churches in Romania continues, to the point where the Catholic presence is utterly rooted out, I expect (not wishing, but as a consequence)following Solovyevs argument, that Romania will be back under the Yoke of islam/Muslim Turks, shortly thereafter.

  21. James Dean,

    When I see most people use the term “anti-western” theyuse it as a term of derisin and to pick out prejudice.

    I’ve read Soloviev’s work and consider either nothing particularly new in it or I take it to be the result of heterodox thinking due to German Idealism.

    Since I reject moral legalism and probably a good number of its analogs in other philosophical areas, flow charts aren’t going to be of much help in persuading me.

  22. As far as protestant ecclesiology, and the filioque, your stretching the analogy a bit there, with you analogy, a case can be made that Eastern Orthodoxy, Oriential Orthodoxy has my implicit reasoning a space for the Papacy. Your “assigned” patriarch being your own Pope. Else, you pick and choose which Regional Councils you believe your subject to, every thing reducing to almost the kind of subjectivity we see in protestantism.

  23. Perry,

    For the record, when i say that you are “anti-western” i don’t mean you’re a bigot, perhap you’ve attached the prefix “anti-” to too strong a connotation. I’ve never thought of you as bigoted in any sort of way.

    As far as making an argument, i’ll do that in due time, it’ll incorporate some of the stuff you probably already recognize, if you’ve read Solovyevs work on Russia & the Universal Church. See if i can quickly churn out some simple flow chart, similar to the one here

  24. James Dean,

    Of course, that by itself isn’t sufficient to show that I am not “anti-western.” What it does show is that making that claim isn’t evidence that I am, which is what I wrote about.

    Whether I am “anti-western” or not is irrelevant to the arguments I put forward. If I think the claims of Rome are wrong, that doesn’t make me a bigot anymore than thinking the claims of Protestantism are wrong makes me anti-western. Neither would the conjunction of the two thoughts imply as much.

    Protestant ecclesiology does have a place for the Filioque and the Papacy, they just make every man his own pope by the same implicit reasoning via the priesthood of all believers. From the Spirit’s anointing of each believer as son, no judgment external can be absolutely binding on the believer unless they assent to it. The individual believer or the Pope in Rome are judged by no one. Its akin to the contrast between Spinoza and Leibniz.

    If you think that atheism or Islam are the cultural consequences of denying the Filioque or the Papacy, then you’d need to give an argument for that. Of course modern Atheism didn’t come from Greece or Russia or any other particularly Orthodox country that I know of, but from Western Europe and Islam came from neither.

    I’d suggest rather that Europe retrace its steps and see where things went wrong.

  25. I happen to agree with St. Thomas that the error is very similar, one is a reflection of the other. Of course that doesn’t mean you’re not “anti-western.”

    You could of course have one without the other. classic Protestant ecclesiology has no place for the Papacy, but still confesses the filioque.

    What people ignore is the cultural consequence of eschwing one or the other. In the first case the logical cultural end is Islam while in the other case its atheism.

    The filioque has become optional or {bracketed} in some confessions in europe, while a significant amout of convert also go the route of Eastern Orthodoxy. A disaster, as Europe is not beset on one side by Atheism and the Other by Islam.

  26. Jerry,

    Often people wish to focus on the papacy apart from the Filioque as if they were two separate issues without any kind of implicaiton from one to the other or any kind of entailment relationship. I think that is false and I think Aquinas (among others) agrees. They go together. I cited Aquinas because when I say such things, I am charged with being “anti-western” or making things up.

    They go together because ecclesiology is constituted by Triadology and Christology. So in making a decision one way or another, one has to consider both.

    Hence Sinatra, you can’t have one without the other and try to separate them, its an illusion.

  27. “The error of those who say that the Vicar of Christ, the Pontiff of the Roman Church, does not have a primacy over the universal Church is similar to the error of those who say that the Holy Spirit does not proceed from the Son.” – Thomas Aquinas

    So? The biggest error Thomas Aquinas made is that he forgot to ask, “when is Frank Sinatra coming on?” and will he sing, “I did it my way?”.

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