What Would Mr. Newman Do?

“Yesterday, the eighteenth of the month, which was holy Mid-Pentecost, the patriarch sent me a message, saying,: ‘What church do you belong to? Constantinople? Rome? Antioch? Alexandria? Jerusalem? Look here, all of them are united together with the provinces subject to them. If, therefore, you belong to the catholic church, be united, lest perhaps you devise a strange path by your way of life and you suffer what you don’t expect…’Listen, then,’ they said. ‘The master and the patriarch have decided, following an instruction from the pope of Rome, that you will be anathematised if you do not obey, and that you will be sentenced to the death they have determined.'”

The Letter of Maxmus to Anastasius, His Disciple (CPG 7701)


51 Responses to What Would Mr. Newman Do?

  1. Thomas says:

    Perry, I believe this is your first post since your call for a ‘reboot’. But I’m a bit lost by this. Who is ‘Mr. Newman’?

    I’m unfamiliar with this letter from which you quote. I know St Maximos the Confessor was in communion with Old Rome when the patriarchates of New Rome, Antioch, Jerusalem, and Alexandria were teaching Monothelitism, so I do not understand the above statement that the patriarchates were united.

    Could you please ‘flesh this out’ a bit more?

  2. Thomas,

    I was on vacation and things got away from me. Mr. Newman is John Henry Newman.

    Rome eventually caved and that is just the point. On Catholic principles, what would we need to add here to escape the conclusion that Maximus acted wrongly in not submitting to Rome?

  3. Nick says:

    Hello Perry,

    Good to see you back blogging again. Not to derail this post (or would it eventually tie in??), but could you post the links to where you’ve addressed the ‘circularity charge’ in the past? I’ve not been able to find them, nor has Monk Patrick.

    Also, when you say “Rome eventually caved in,” are you talking about the Honorius issue? If so, I think that’s a highly debatable point.

  4. Nick,

    i’ve addressed here and over at CTC. i don’t remember off hand, but frankly anyone with half a brain who is familiar with conciliarism could give a reasonable and charitable gloss on how to avoid it.

    I don’t take honorius case to be highly contoversial and even if it were it woldn’t be any more so than any other disputed case between us, but that doesn’t stop Catholics from deploying their highly controversial cases, does it?

    Second, the reason I don’t take the Honorius case to be controversial is that most people who discuss it seem not to understand Monothelitism and Monoenergism. The superficial line that Honorius was condemned for failing to teach is in fact compatible with the concliar statements that he in fact did teach the same thing, and hence failed in his duties to teach rightly. Other attempts saying that he was confused won’t wash either since he articulates the classic monothelite reasoning in his letters. the idea of two conflicting wills just WAS the monothelite reductio against the Dyothelite position. Consequently all the attempts to exculpate him form teaching heresy depend on ignorance about what Monothelitism was. His letters are in fact quite clear that he was teaching monothelitism, he even uses the plural of the papal office “we teach” a number of times. Just read the letters for yourself, even an “axe grinder” like Chapman says he was a heretic.

    So the case of Honorius is only controversial because those who think so don’t know what they are talking about.

    Third, Honorius or not, the papal legates communed with the Monothelites and all parties recognized Rome’s compliance, (even Maximus did) and subsequent demands to Maxmius, a layman, to obey. On what grounds do you think Maximus has to stand on? On Catholic principles should he not have obeyed Rome? Would you care to address that question directly?

  5. Nick says:

    Hell Perry,

    The only place I assume you mean where you’ve addressed the issue is the “Against Khomiakov” article. Is that one example?

    As for Honorius and similar cases, my ‘approach’ is to grant the benefit of the doubt, since nobody wants to ‘side’ with a position that’s really built on maybes. I’m not sure what highly controversial cases you’re accusing Catholic of deploying, but I wouldn’t be game for such an approach myself, nor would other Catholics I know.

    In this case, I go with a ‘top-down’ approach, meaning I’d first consider primary sources, particularly the Council’s own words. The 6th EC said:

    “And with these we define that there shall be expelled from the holy Church of God and anathematized Honorius who was some time Pope of Old Rome, because of what we found written by him to Sergius, that in all respects he followed his view and confirmed his impious doctrines.”

    So the evidence of this condemnation is a letter to Sergius. What is not a given is just what degree he was culpable (e.g. material heresy?), much less what level of authority he was speaking. This is where “the devil is in the details” comes to play.

    At this point I’m more than willing to see just what the letter(s) by Honorius to Sergius said, since both sides’ ‘secondary sources’ accuse the other side of being one-sided.

    Do you or anyone else have links to the Letter(s)?

    Without that, I must claim ignorance and thus unable to make my decision one way *or* the other.

  6. Nick,

    No, that is not the only place. I fail to see though why generally, patriarchial ratification would not be a sufficient answer to charge of circularity. Last I checked patriarchs aren’t lay people, aren’t exercising the Protestant notion of the right of private judgment and their actions are public.

    I don’t see a need to grant the benefit of the doubt when the texts are clear about what he taught. What is unclear are the secondary sources that try to explain the primary texts away.

    Highly controversial cases would be like the Formula of Hormisdas, the Nikolatian/Photian schism and such.

    The material from the 6th council confirms what I’ve said, Honorius taught what Sergius taught, which was heresy, ergo, Honorius taught heresy. Done.

    There are actually two letters from Honorius. There exists readily available critical editions with english translations. I read them first prior to drawing conclusions.

    We can only move to the question culpability if we move past obfuscated and obfuscating attempts to say he didn’t actually teach heresy. Furthermore, can you give me a list of uncontroversial occasions on which the pope spoke ex-cathedra prior to the 11th century so that we can have a good reason to think that the conditions articulated in the 19th century failed in some case with respect to Honorius? If not, it seems entirely anachronistic and ad hoc.

    But back to Maximus, even if there were some such conditions that failed and Maxmus was duped into thinking Rome fell when it in fact didn’t, what kind of answer on Catholic principles do you think he should have given to justify his disobedience? And how does that compare with the answer he in fact gave? Again, what would Mr. Newman do?

  7. Thomas says:

    Perry, my observation that I thought this was your first entry since the ‘reboot’ announcement wasn’t a criticism, only an observation — one of which I was not certain. I’m glad you had a vacation and hope you enjoyed yourself.

    I find Newman an interesting case. I’ve long thought he was a definite product of his times and culture, particularly his devotion to ‘Progress’. I’ve also found interesting the similarities he shares with his contemporary who also embraced ‘Progress’ and applied it to biology (Darwin). They certainly lived in a time of unbridled optimism and confidence in the inevitability of ‘Progress’. It is not at all strange that they both applied their view of ‘Progress’ to the past. (A rather dry book that discusses this in Newman is Owen Chadwick’s From Bossuet to Newman.)

    I believe Newman’s famous dictum, ‘To be deep in history is to cease to be a Protestant’, is true. Protestantism fails by any objective study of history. It certainly did not exist in the first centuries of Christianity (despite the extremely tortured attempts of works such as ‘The Trail of Blood’ and its ilk) and represents a clear break from that which preceded it. But I believe that to be deep in history is to cease to be an adherent of Papal Christianity. I think this especially true when one examines the period of the eighth through thirteenth centuries (a period which Newman did not (!) examine in his Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine), particularly the Gregorian Revolution. Harold J. Berman’s award-winning Law and Revolution: The Formation of the Western Legal Tradition, does a good job explaining this revolution — I forget which great historian (Pirenne?) asserted that every European attempt to ‘turn back the clock’ and return to more idyllic times has, in fact, been revolutionary, creating a condition which had never existed.)

    One can only wonder, if Newman had lived in a time which had been disabused of the notion of the inevitability of ‘Progress’ and greater knowledge of Eastern Christianity had been available, how different his choices might have been. Alas, like us all, he was a product of his times and culture.

  8. David Lindblom says:

    Is demonstrating historical failings of various Popes the best way to show Catholics the “error of their ways”? Is the Pope the fundamental thing that keeps Catholics Catholic in view of their history of innovation and departure from the historic faith? As an example I heard an Eastern/Byzantine Catholic priest give a talk on the beliefs of his branch of Eastern Catholicism and they were virtually identical to us Orthodox. He even showed how Roman and Eastern Catholics differ in their beliefs yet felt that these beliefs were complementary to each other. I honestly could not see how that was the case. Despite these significant differences he held to Rome because, he said, his take on church history showed that the Papal Office was the way historic Christianity functioned. He thought there should be a Pope and he should be the boss. He thought the way the Orthodox came to decisions was silly, slow and messy…better to have one dude that has the ability and authority to decide things. So again, is what binds a person to Rome Catholicism primarily the Pope?

  9. Canadian says:

    Perry, my head has been smoking since last night trying to figure out where you are headed here, fool that I am.
    Here goes…..

    Different occasion but similar words as the post, here is Maximus’ reason for rejection of the “Typos” of the emporer at his trial:
    “Then the eparch said to him “are you in communion with the Church of those of this city or are you not?” He answered, “I am not in communion.” He said to him, “For what reason?” He replied, “Because it has rejected the councils.” And he said, “If it has thrown out the councils, then how is it that they are referred to in the diptychs?” But he said, “And what is the use of the words when the dogmas are rejected?”
    ….the bursar said to him “Why do you love the Romans and hate the Greeks?” In answer the servant of God said, “……I love the Romans as those who share the same faith, and the Greeks as sharing the same language.”
    Now, this it seems would be the Orthodox answer: Sharing the same faith is cause for communion! As long as Rome shared the same faith of the father’s and conciliar church, Maximus communed with them.
    On Catholic principles the pope has full, immediate, universal, and supreme authority so Newman and the RC’s would follow the declarations of their infallible head in full trust. And on Catholic principles, Maximus should have wrote to Anastasius and told him to follow him as he follows the pope.
    However, looking back at the event (which is the easy part) RC’s may state the pope issued an “instruction” which is not infallible. Or they may say that a later papally ratified Council (the sixth) affirmed Maximus’ position and therefore exhonerated him of any guilt. Again, on Catholic principles, Maximus could invoke the previous Council’s ratified by pope’s against the present pope’s “instruction”.

    Considering your reference to Newman, I probably have totally missed what you are after.You love to inflict torture, don’t you!

  10. David,

    Which ever way Catholics wish to gloss the failing, this will not be helpful to their case. It will still be the case that a council can judge a pope. That is uncontroversial. How is that possible on their current principles?

    Eastern Rite Catholics can and do say lots of things which are not accurate. Sometimes you get clergy of theirs that are dissenting and other times not. I can only asses their position based on documents and not on what this or that priest says. I think that is only fair.

    The papal claims are more than mere function, which then would exclude that priests particular dissenting views as being within the realm of acceptable beliefs.

    Catholics seem to me to represent their own position as what binds a person to Catholicism to be primarily the papacy.

  11. Canadian,

    There are a number of things in my head, but I figured it best to put a provocative title and the quote and leave the rest for discussion.

    Over at the CTC thread the Catholics there seem to think its all nice, neat and simple. Their view is a slam dunk. Fine. Then on their principles how are we to understand this case? What other conditions needed to be met for Maximus’ submission or what conditions failed to be met that would warrant it if there were? Rome had spoken, case closed? But since monothelitism is heresy even on Catholic principles, Maximus was right as a LAYMAN to not submit to Rome. Why?

    In sum, I can’t see a reason why Catholics should not say that Maximus was wrong to disobey and not submit. Even if the Pope were not exercising his powers of extra-ordinary infallibility, surely his actions seem to be good candidates for an action as the “chief of the apostles” for the ordinary magisterium, especially in light of the fact that Maximus was a layman his whole life long. Why then should that layman refuse a papal command on a theological matter?

    So even if the instruction was not infallible in terms of extra ordinary powers, it still seems to qualify as an exercise of ordinary magisterial powers. If not, why not? What do we need to add here? And we would need a demonstration that it wasn’t such an exercise rather than an ad hoc appeal.

    Appealing to Agatho and the 6th council won’t help. Here is why. Maximus wasn’t alive when they acted. So we need to explain Maximus’ actions in light of his own context and the pope with whom he had to do. The appeal to the 6th council would be open to the Orthodox to justify Maximus’ disobedience, but what could possibly justify Maximus’ disobedience on Catholic principles I wonder?

    Furthermore, it is the case that the 6th council condemned a pope. It makes no difference if it was ratified by some other pope later on or not or whether Honorius in fact taught material heresy or formal heresy or simply failed to teach anything. It is still the case that the council sat in judgment on a pope.

    The local Roman synod under Martin, doesn’t seem to help and Maximus seems aware of this. He seems to give up the line that this was a supremely normative synod. But even if he didn’t, on Catholic principles can popes annul synods or not? Was the 869 synod annulled by Rome at one time or not? Can popes elevate local synods to ecumenical councils and vice versa or no? If so, then why couldn’t the pope simply say to Maximus, I annulled the local synod of my predecessor? That seems to me just the line that the Monothelites at Rome and abroad took. Why then would such an act of annulment by the sitting pope be illegitimate?

    More to the point, we are told by older Catholic apologists (Fortescue for example) that we are to go by what the church teaches now and not this or that earlier stage. If in the case of Maximus, how does that help his case given what he understood the pope to be teaching at that moment? Shouldn’t he have gone with what the church, particularly the pope was publcally teaching then or no?

  12. MG says:


    Could a defender of papal theory say that the Council was able to judge the pope because it had papal backing?

  13. MG,

    Does papal backing mean ratification? If so, that only comes afterwards, not before. If something else, then we need to know what it is. Second, what do we do with cases like the fifth council, which did not have “papal backing?” Third, so councils can judge a pope if they have “papal backing?” How does that fit into V1 exactly?

  14. David Lindblom says:

    Perry, it seems then that we are in agreement that the Pope is usually the binding factor. As far as the Eastern Catholics, they are a strange enigma. This particular priest came to our Eagle River Institute lectures and really seemed to agree and enjoy them…yet he remains under the Pope and thinking Rome’s views are also OK. I just don’t get them…I guess few Orthodox get their fence straddling ways.

  15. Thomas says:

    David, you are correct: few Orthodox understand the fence-straddling of the Uniates. I’ve frequently heard/seen them described as ‘neither fish nor fowl’. In reality, they are all over the map — from those who attempt to be as ‘Eastern’ as possible and flatly deny dogmas taught by the Vatican to those who ‘Latinise’ their services.


    With the direction of the discussions, I don’t understand the reference to Newman.

    I believe St Maximos the Confessor is a unique case. He is often cited by Orthodox as justification for joining a schismatic group. I personally believe it much ‘safer’ for an Orthodox Christian to obediently submit to his bishop even when harbouring doubts about the bishop’s orthodoxy than to dare to think of oneself as a modern-day St Maximos,

  16. Cyril says:

    Thomas, I think we can use Maximus (granted, of course, that he can be abused too), for he had his doctrine from St. Sophronius who was his spiritual father and eventually the patriarch of Jerusalem. Your point is well taken, though, but I think if we decide that we must, as did Maximus, withstand our bishops, we must do so based on the Tradition. Sadly, we now have some in the OCA with a “yea-hath-God-said” attitude about the Tradition toward the nature of the sacrament of marriage. They could try to claim Maximus as justification for their gambit, but it would be hollow, in that Maximus made appeal to the tradition. Generally these vipers just claim to be prophetic.

  17. Cyril,

    All of what you say is true. But the question I put forward is, on Catholic principles, how are we to make sense of the material here? Catholic apologists push the individual to submit to the authority of Rome, especially for laymen. I brought this up, because this is one piece of evidence that is routinely ignored in Catholic apologetic materials. If Maximus isn’t exercising private judgment, then what is he exercising? I know how I would respond and to what I would appeal apart from private judgment, but I am not clear on what Catholics would appeal to.

  18. Cyril says:

    Perry, you are spot on, as usual, in your less-than-rhetorical question. In fact I find it would place most RCs in the proverbial spot, for they have taken the contours of St. Vincent of Lerins’ definition of tradition (quod ubique, quod semper, quod ab omnibus creditum est) and squeezed the papal office into it: as the supreme pontiff and first see it is everywhere, as the Apostolic see it is always, and by universal jurisdiction it is everyone. I don’t find St. Vincent’s definition wholly adequate in thinking about Tradition, though I do think what it says is true as far as it goes. The problem for Catholics here as regards St. Maximus, and where I know a great many RCs (or may I even say all of them) would have to swallow hard, is that Rome was not teaching quod ubique… In that Honorius failed to teach (and if he is not teaching or defending or defining the Faith in a letter to the imperial patriarch I don’t know what he is doing) quod ubique, he has fallen from what is now Catholic teaching about the papacy. Granted, I don’t think this definition obtained till after 1056, but it is the one the RCC is now operating under, and thus one that doesn’t square with what you here address.

  19. Cyril,

    I think that is a very clear way of thinking about the matter in terms of squeezing Vincent into the papacy.

    It is the difficulty of the swallow that is apparent to me and seems directly counter to current Catholic teaching. The rhetoric from the Monothelite imperial and ecclesiastical officials is as strong as any Catholic could wish in terms of manifesting the intention of exercising ecclesiastical power, yet it is directed to the wrong end. So either some condition failed to be met or Maximus was wrong or perhaps some tertium quid that I haven’t thought of.

    I agree that Honorius’ two letters seem to be at least a reaction to a polling of what Rome teaches. They are not private chit chat. Even if they were, it would still be the case that a council judged a pope. I really do not see, having read Journet and other thoughtful Catholic theologians how that is possible on their schema. Perhaps I am missing something. I am willing to grant that possibility, but either I need to be told what I am missing or where to look to find out what it is. so far, I haven’t had any takers and this is one passage that is routinely ignored in the Catholic apologetic literature or so far as I’ve read back to the 1850’s.

    I’d propose this as a problem on Catholic blogs, but frnakly I am a little tired of having my posts deleted.

  20. Nick says:


    Sorry for the delay in getting back to this, I’ve been busy with work (and still am).

    I have tried to find the Two Letters of Honorius which you said were easily available but I’ve had no luck. Could you or someone please post a link? i

    If you do not have a link, could you possibly scan the page or type out the relevant quotations? I think it would do a service to all, not just me.

    Looking over Session XIII, I find it significant the way Honorius is distinguished from the main heretics:

    “But the names of those men whose doctrines we execrate must also be thrust forth from the holy Church of God, namely, that of Sergius some time bishop of this God-preserved royal city who was the first to write on this impious doctrine; also that of Cyrus of Alexandria, of Pyrrhus, Paul, and Peter, who died bishops of this God-preserved city, and were like-minded with them; and that of Theodore sometime bishop of Pharan, all of whom the most holy and thrice blessed Agatho, Pope of Old Rome, in his suggestion to our most pious and God-preserved lord and mighty Emperor, rejected, because they were minded contrary to our orthodox faith, all of whom we define are to be subjected to anathema. And with these we define that there shall be expelled from the holy Church of God and anathematized Honorius who was some time Pope of Old Rome, because of what we found written by him to Sergius, that in all respects he followed his view and confirmed his impious doctrines.”

    I note that Sergius, Cyrus, and Pyrrhus are mentioned in one breath, and that these folks were directly condemned by Pope St Agatho. Only after this is Honorius mentioned. This suggests there is a sense in which Honorius is distinguished as condemned in a different sense.

    Schaff also includes an scholarly synopsis of what the Emperor allegedly publicly pronounced on the situation:

    “The heresy of Apollinaris, etc., has been renewed by Theodore of Pharan and confirmed by Honorius, sometime Pope of Old Rome, who also contradicted himself. Also Cyrus, Pyrrhus, Paul, Peter; more recently. Macarius, Stephen, and Polychronius had diffused Monothelitism. He, the Emperor, had therefore convoked this holy and Ecumenical Synod, and published the present edict with the confession of faith, in order to confirm and establish its decrees. (There follows here an extended confession of faith, with proofs for the doctrine of two wills and operations.) As he recognized the five earlier Ecumenical Synods, so he anathematized all heretics from Simon Magus, but especially the originator and patrons of the new heresy, Theodore and Sergius; also Pope Honorius, who was their adherent and patron in everything, and confirmed the heresy (τὸν κατὰ πάντα τούτοις συναιρέτην καὶ σύνδρομον καὶ βεβαιωτὴν τῆς αἱρέσεως, further, Cyrus, etc., and ordained that no one henceforth should hold a different faith, or venture to teach one will and one energy.”

    If genuine, why does the Emperor note that Honorius “contradicted himself” if not to suggest he was not orthodox in some sense but inconsistently so? It says Honorius was “their adherent and patron,” again suggesting Honorius was in some sense less culpable than “they”.

    Based on that, I suspect those Two Letters were worded poorly rather than full-fledged and intentional heresy, but again I can’t say anything definitive until I read the Letters.

  21. Nick,

    The Greek text with English translation is available in Sophronius of Jerusalem and Seventh-Century Heresy: The Synodical Letter and Other Documents, Oxford, translated and edited by Pauline Allen. If you can’t afford the text or access it via google books, then I’d suggest finding it at a university library.

    If you find it significant that Honorius is condemned as a heretic later in the text, then you need to show what that significance is. How do we get from being anathematized later in the text to the conclusion that his condemnation is qualitatively different than the rest? Do you believe there is some difference in content between say Sergius and Honorius from what you cited from the council?

    Moreover, doesn’t responsibility run from those who have the most power down to those who have the least? Do you mean to suggest that the pope had a lesser standing than the other patriarchates?

    Schaff’s grasp of the issues leaves quite a lot to be desired. One has only to read his section on Chalcedonian Christology in the Creeds of Christendom volumes to see how confused he, like other Calvinist writers were. I can see that he sheds no light on the matter.

    If Honorius was their patron, that means he aided them and supported them. I can’t see how that implies a lesser degree of culpability. What makes you think there is any mitigated culpability for Honorius here?

    The two letters are worded in accordance with typical Monothelite thought, arguments and teaching. Honorius’ letters are worded no more poorly than Sergius or Pyrrus’ writings.

  22. Thomas says:

    Perry wrote:

    Which ever way Catholics wish to gloss the failing, this will not be helpful to their case. It will still be the case that a council can judge a pope. That is uncontroversial. How is that possible on their current principles?

    The same way, I suppose, that a gathering of cardinals can select one of their own and grant him more power than they possess individually or collectively (according to ‘their current principles’).

    Of course, as late as the fifteenth century, Papal Christianity recognised the authority of a council over the pope of Old Rome (Constance, Basel). I guess their ‘development of doctrine’ (back to Newman!) changed all that.

    Perhaps your tertium quid, Perry, is that St Maximos the Confessor was before the doctrine of papal authority was fully ‘developed’.

  23. Nick says:

    Thank you for that reference Perry.

    Unfortunately, I must have used up my “preview” chances for the night because Google Books wont let me see those pages at the moment. I’ll have to wait till tomorrow.

    That said, I found that author, Pauline Allen, wrote another book on St Maximus, and the “Introduction” is available online:

    Assuming that is accurate, here is what Allen says in regards to Honorius:

    “Demonstrating a spectacular lack of awareness of the theological issues at stake, Honorius replied with a letter of congratulations (CPG 9375) for obtaining theological agreement in the eastern churches. This letter contained the infamous statement of what was to become the heretical doctrine of mono-thelitism: a confession of’the one will of our Lord Jesus Christ’. Thus the pope was later credited as the inventor of the heretical doctrine.”
    In a second letter to Sergius, Honorius seems to retreat from his former position, perhaps as a result of receiving Sophronius’ Synodical Letter.”

    And later:

    “While Maximus was concerned to defend Honorius against charges of personal heresy, he criticized the Constantinopolitan interpretation of the pope’s formulation of ‘one will in Christ’ as diminishing the Incarnate Word and limiting his saving activity: Honorius’ definition referred only to the humanity of Christ, he argued.”

    This is interesting: so according to Allen, in his first letter, Honorius was ‘spectacularly unaware’ of the theological issues at stake, while in his second letter, he “seems to retreat from his former position.” And later Allen says St Maximus defended Honorius from charges of personal heresy, including the ‘infamous’ phrase, and said Constantinople should grant a benefit of the doubt. IF this is accurate, then this surely sets the table for interpreting Constantinople’s condemnations in a far less damning light than you’re suggesting they be read as.

    This just makes me all the more eager to read those two letters!

  24. Nick,

    I am well aware of what Allen and others say in the literature. But I don’t think this helps. First, how do we get from her assertions to the conclusion that the assertions are true? Well, in academia we get there by a demonstration or an argument. If her arguments are bad, then it really doesn’t matter what her assertions are. So you need to present not just her assertions but her arguments and show that they are good ones.

    You are also looking at a small gloss regarding honorius first letter. That letter needs to be read along with he second letter and the replies from Sergius and most importantly comparing it to the Ekthesis. In comparison with the Ekthesis, Honorius’ statements are no more or lss theologically ignorant of the issues and it is quite clear Honorius is a Monothelite.

    Secondly, ignorance of the theological issues doesn’t imply ignorance of monothelitism.The same is said about Pyrrus and Sergius in the secondary literature. Does this imply that they were ignorant of monothelitism? No. Does it make them any less heretics? No. One has only to read the Disputation with Pyrrus or the Disputation as Byza to see how Maximus theologically shreds his opponents.

    Third, it is well known that initially Maximus tries a rather weak way to defend Honorius, but it is also known that eventually he gives up this line of reasoning. And if Honorius is the Pope threatening him with death for lack of conformity to Monothelitism, as you seem to be suggesting, then the material from Allen that you seem to think implies a lesser degree of condemnation, falls flat.

    If on the other hand, it is a new pope that is so doing, then this widens the failure of the papacy in teaching heresy. And Maximus’ earlier but abandoned defense of Honorius becomes worthles since he gives no such defense of this later pope. In fact, in the documents I cited for this post he gives no defense of the papacy whatsoever as a justification for his lack of obedience. So here is what you need to look at, what justification does Maximus give and how is that consistent with Catholic principles?

  25. Perry,

    Would this be a possible Roman Catholic solution to your question?

    Mr Newman could argue something like: Pope Vitalian, who was the Pope reconciled with Patriarch Peter, was not condemned at the Sixth Ecumenical Council for doing so. Patriarch Peter was condemned for heresy and so Pope Vitalian was strictly wrong in going into communion with him. However, because Pope Vitalian was not condemned then this act could been seen as a mistake of deception or something of which he later repented. Thus, because it was a mistake, St Maximus was not under obligation to obey the command to enter communion with Patriarch Peter since he knew the situation more clearly. This did not mean that he had refused communion with Rome but only the mistaken command to join communion with Patriarch Peter. So, St Maximus was not denying the need to be in communion with Rome but only disobeying a command which he knew to be wrong, and in which it is allowable for a Pope to be mistaken. His rhetoric about the whole universe could be said to be an overstatement to emphasise the heresy of Patriarch Peter without being intended as an ecclesiological statement about the necessity of communion with Rome.

    This argument could provide the justification for St Maximus in that he was right to disobey and he is consistent with Catholic principles because he was not directly denying the need for communion with Rome only that of a heretical Patriarch and the fact that Rome went into communion with him was indeed wrong but not something that excommunicated Rome itself because St Maximus know that it lies within the economia given to Bishops in case of mistakes. That St Maximus was right is confirmed by the fact that Pope Vitalian was not condemned and so his mistake was within the economia of episcopal actions and also that this did not affect the orthodoxy of Old Rome itself.

  26. Fr. Patrick,

    That won’t work either. Even if Maximus was duped, the problem of his grounds for refusing communion with Rome is still a problem. What grounds were those? They weren’t the grounds that you give, since Maximus seems to accept as fact that Rome bothced it. So the line that he knew better is contrary to known facts. Second, Vitalian was still in communion with heretics, which is a problem all by itself. Besides, Maximus refuses communion with Rome along with Constantinople. If what you suggest were the case,either he thinks communion with heretics makes you one too, in which case Rome is still in a heterodox position or Maximus was still wrong to not commune with Rome. Either way, this is not a solution available to Catholics as far as I can see. Further, the command seemingly carries with it papal authority and so we have to ask, what is Maxmius’ trump card for disobeying papal authority, more papal authority? is this the kind of response he gives? No. How is it that papal authority here can be mistaken as you suggest on Catholic principles on a matter of faith, when it is commanding someone to recant on a matter of faith? That isn’t merely a procedural matter or an error in economia.

    Further, his overstatement as you gloss it won’t help either, since it could hardly be an overstatement if it left out Rome.

    The qustion is not if Maximus thinks communion with Rome is necessary when things are honkey dory. The question is whether Maximus thinks it is so under those circumstances. Does he?

    To deny communion with Peter is at that point to deny communion with Rome since they are, as a point of fact in communion with each other. Further, if there was a procedural mistake on Rome’s part and not a dogmatic one, why isn’t it the case that Maximus appeals to this? He doesn’t in his replies but rather takes it to be a dogmatic error. And Maximus doesn’t seem to think in his replies that Rome is operating under something less than its maximal authority, whatever that may be, and so he seems to implicitly agree with those in opposition to him that this is a manifestation of that authority. Otherwise his replies to them concerning Rome make no sense. If Rome authority were more than this, in terms of potential exercise, then Maximus could just say, popes can error when operating at this lower level of authority and so I think this one has. But he doesn’t say that, does he? Why go nuclear when conventional weapons work just fine?

    The fact that Vitalian was not condemned is irrelevant. It is not exculpatory anymore than Theodoret’s lack of condemnation at Chalcedon implied he was Orthodox. He wasn’t. the council just didn’t take up that issue since it had plenty on its plate. The same is true for the Sixth Council. And the same is true for the previous imperial and ecclesiastical figures at the Seventh Council as well.

    Now if it is Vitalian who is issuing an order for Maximus to recant, he is doing so on pain of death. That is an error far more than merely an economic error of communing with the Monothelities. And it would show that Vitalan’s position was a lot less theologically and politically ambiguous as supposed. That would be sufficient to materially place him among the ranks of Pyrrus and Sergius, it would also justify the belief of the imperial and ecclesial authorities with whom Maximus is arguing that Rome in fact backed their position and not his.

    For these and other reasons, this line of thinking is a dead end. It is simply not how Maximus responds even if it were factualy correct and there are good reasons I think for thinking it is not factually correct.

  27. Perry,

    Thanks for the reply and the critique of the argument. While I agree with you and accept your argument, it is interesting to try testing out some potential replies to flesh out your reasoning to develop a shared understanding of strong arguments against papist thinking.

    Now is it possible for one see to teach orthodoxy and yet, with all it’s authority enter communion with a see in heresy yet not immediately be made heretical itself, in as much it still refutes the heresy? Could not the situation, where the Pope teaches an orthodox two will position yet still communes with Patriarch Peter who does not, be framed as a failure of act to recognise heresy and wrong act to commune with it but not in itself mean that the Pope is teaching heresy himself, at least not immediately? Thus Rome could be free of heresy in her teaching even though seriously wrong about returning to communion with Patriarch Peter; even though this implies the heresy, it doesn’t necessarily make it culpable of heresy. Else, one Bishop in heresy who is not immediately separated from the Church would bring the whole Church to heresy but this is not the case historically there is room for communion, at least temporarily, with heretics without that affecting the orthodoxy of the others. In this context then perhaps we should see the case of St Maximus as an exception due to his particular context that does not reflect on the situation for other believers say living in Rome or Spain. Thus, the need remains for communion with Rome and that Rome remains free of heresy but in the peculiar circumstances of St Maximus he must repudiate communion with Rome because it would mean communion with Patriarch Peter and so acceptance of his heresy. St Maximus was caused by necessity to do this and thus requires an exception in his particular case to stand against heresy. He is right to say that Rome was at a level of dogmatic error and using its full authority to emphasise the heresy and he is right to not enter communion with it, yet without this meaning that someone in Spain should not continue in communion with Rome or that the Pope was teaching heresy bare-headed. Do you think that Mr Newman could argue such consistently with papist principles or do you think that these principles cannot allow such an exception?

  28. Cyril says:

    Thomas, just a quick correction on the power of the pope. According to Roman canon law (drawn up prior to the fourteenth- and fifteenth-century conciliarist controversy, the plenitudo potestatis devolves to the college of cardinals upon the death of the pope, so that the Church is never deprived of it. With the new pope’s consecration, always at the hands of at least two of the cardinal clergy, it returns to the bishop proper. Since the cardinal clergy are always part of the See of Peter, the plenitudo potestatis never leaves Rome.

    Perry, I don’t know that Rome considers communion with heretics heresy, but it certainly is schism from the truth, and it helps none at all their argument. Rome would argue that Vitalian was ignorant of Peter’s monothelitism since in response to Vitalian’s systatic letter he made no mention of monothelitism (and Vitalian had voiced his opposition to it), and so Vitalian could assume that Peter was Orthodox. Nonetheless, Vitalian dined with the emperor Constans II, and Constans was present at one Mass in St. Peter’s at the least at which Vitalian officiated. Constans II was the one who exiled and mutilated St. Maximus. To quote Jerome: “Nevertheless there is no schism which does not trump up a heresy to justify its departure from the Church.”

  29. Thomas says:

    Cyril, thanks for the correction. It would seem to provide an ‘out’ for that problem.

  30. A note to mark the feast day of St Maximus the Confessor. May he intercede for us.

  31. Canadian says:

    Fr. Patrick,
    Thanks for that.
    Maximus is the name I took as a catechumen. The Orthros service this morning had a canon with some beautiful language about him and his defence of Orthodoxy. I love hearing the constant reminder and stories of the saints in the services.

  32. Jon says:

    Hi Perry,

    We met at St Max’s with Michael Garten and Mark Krause last month–the guy who came out of Thomas Aquinas College and mutually knows (too well) Dean Covalt. I’ve been following this tread a bit so far. The one thing that stands out in my mind from my read of Newman, that you seem to respond to, is Newman’s constant hammering on the fact that the Roman Pope always held the old orthodox positions in the ecumenical councils, and so submitting to the pope on dogmatic issues was an essential “principle” (as he understands it–I think) to development of doctrine. I don’t recall him addressing Honorius’s case, and maybe he did (it’d be nice, if he can maintain consistency), but here, are you more pointing out, “sed contra, look, here’s a Church Father, Maximus the Confessor, who out of hand rejects the Pope on a dogmatic point! How do we maintain this principle of papal submission on dogmatic teachings of the faith?” I’m just trying to understand the problem you’re bringing up here, and how exactly it seems to directly contradict this essential catholic principle of dogmatic submission to the pope. Thanks, and a blessed feast day of St Maximus to you and everyone! And also a blessed forefeast of the Dormition!

    Jon Andrew

  33. Thomas says:

    Fr Patrick wrote:

    A note to mark the feast day of St Maximus the Confessor. May he intercede for us.

    I’ll be sure to celebrate it … on Friday the 26th! 🙂

  34. Nick says:

    Sorry this is coming in bits and pieces, but due to Google Books daily limits, I was only able to view parts of the Two Letters.

    From what I was able to view in the the First Letter, this quote stands out:

    “As we have said, it was not then the sinful nature which is at war with the law of the mind (Rom 7:23) that was assumed by the Savior. Rather he came to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10), that is, the sinful nature of the human race. Another law, or a different or contrary will, was not in the limbs (Rom 7:23) of the Savrior, since he was born above the law of the human (condition). For although it was written: I did not come to do my will but that of the Father who sent me (John 6:38), and Not as I will, but as you will, Father (Matt 26:39), and there are other passages of this kind, these are not expressions of a different will, but of the economy of humanity which he assumed. The words are said on our account, to whom is given an example so that we man follow in his footsteps (1Pet 2:21). The teacher of pious belief teaches the disciples so that each of us may prefer not our own will, but rather the will of the Lord in all things.”

    This could be taken in an orthodox sense, and I don’t see anything that smacks of blatant heresy. If anything, Honorius was using “will” in a different sense, that of Romans 7:23 (“But I see another law in my members, fighting against the law of my mind, and captivating me in the law of sin, that is in my members.”) The fact he quotes Jn 6:38 and Mat 26:39 suggests he distinguishes between a human and divine will, and follows this up with how it should apply to Christians, who are to put God’s will above their own.

    From what I was able to view in the the Second Letter, this quote stands out:

    “A letter was sent, moreover, to Cyrus our brother, the leader of the city of Alexandria, so that he would reject the wording of the new invention of one or two activities, since the mist of shadowy arguments ought not to be spread around or poured around the luminous proclamation of the churches of God. On the contrary, the mention of the newly introduced term ‘one or double activity’ should of course be excluded from the proclamation of the faith. For what else do those who speak of these things suppose but that, according to the similarity of the term ‘the one or the two natures’ of Christ our God, so too are there ‘one or two activities’, concerning which divine scripture declares luminously? To think or allege that the mediator between God and human beings (1 Tim 2:5), Jesus Christ the Lord is or was of one or two activities is completely vain.”

    The problem here appears to be that of weird language being used, that Honorius says should not be used. He rejects the wording “one activity” as well as “two activities”, which means he (a) doesn’t associate either with that of a ‘will’ or (b) doesn’t believe Jesus has a will at all. The latter option doesn’t make sense.

    And concluding:

    “We wrote also to our common brothers, the bishops Cyrus and Sophronius, that they should not appear to side with or adhere to the recent term, that is, the expression of one or a double activity, but, once the expression of the new term has been excluded – of whatever kind – they should proclaim with us one Christ and Lord, who effects divine and human acts in both natures.”

    Again, the situation appears to be that of unconventional language that must cease, and not the siding with ‘one activity’ rather than ‘two activities’. In fact, when he says “one Christ and Lord, who effects divine and human acts in both natures,” I’d say that’s perfectly orthodox.

    Perry or anyone else who has full access, could you post some quotes you believe are particularly damning? If not, then in charity and fairness, I think we cannot rush to condemn Honorius to the same degree and extent as others.

  35. in denying two activities in Christ, he’s denying two energies of Christ. It’s mono-energism/mono-theletism.

  36. Nick says:

    That’s just it though: In what was available for viewing, I don’t see him denying ‘two activities’ as the terms formally came to be understood. Instead, he says “the mention of the newly introduced term ‘one or double activity’ should of course be excluded from the proclamation of the faith.” In otherwords, he has something different in mind, and isn’t affirming nor denying anything in particular.

  37. ioannis says:


    I think that the passage you are looking for is a couple of paragraphs before the one you cited from the first letter.

    ” In as much as the Humanity was naturally united with the Word, and Christ is therefore One, we acknowledge one will of our Lord Jesus Christ — unam voluntatem fatemur Domini nostri Jesu

  38. Nick says:

    Hopefully the following link works. I believe I have found the Two Letters available online:


    The only “scandalous” passage I’ve been able to come across is that of “we acknowledge one will of our Lord Jesus Christ” in the First Letter. No other similar objectionable passage was found, except for the repeated claims to refrain from the terminology “one or two wills/energies”.

    In response to those two issues, these are my thoughts:

    (1) As I mentioned previously, but now confirmed by context: The context in which Honorius said “one will” in Christ was in speaking of the two-wills in man in the sense St Paul speaks in Romans 7:23. These ‘two wills’ in men were a ‘good’ and ‘sinful’ will, the latter existing due to Adam’s transgression. Honorius says Christ surely doesn’t have the latter of the two, thus He only has the one. He is not speaking of Human vs Divine wills here.

    (2) He expressly says the terminology ‘one or two energies/wills’ should be avoided because (a) no such terminology was ever officially sanctioned, and that each term could be exploited by either Nestorians or Monophysites.

    He repeatedly and expressly affirms the dogma of Two Natures of the One Divine Person, each with it’s own natural abilities performed by the One Subject.

    So in this case, Perry, I believe there are very reasonable grounds to show that the Honorius situation is not to be understood as blatant heresy but negligence.

    You originally said to me:
    “he articulates the classic monothelite reasoning in his letters. the idea of two conflicting wills just WAS the monothelite reductio against the Dyothelite position. Consequently all the attempts to exculpate him form teaching heresy depend on ignorance about what Monothelitism was. His letters are in fact quite clear that he was teaching monothelitism, he even uses the plural of the papal office “we teach” a number of times.”

    And later:
    “I don’t see a need to grant the benefit of the doubt when the texts are clear about what he taught.”

    “The two letters are worded in accordance with typical Monothelite thought, arguments and teaching.”

    “Honorius’ statements are no more or less theologically ignorant of the issues and it is quite clear Honorius is a Monothelite. ”

    These are pretty bold claims, but I’d like you to back up your assertions with arguments/proof (specifically direct quotes) just as you’ve demanded of others. If those are accurate copies of the Two Letters which I’ve linked to, then I fail to see any reasonable grounds for you to claim Honorius’ letters boldly and repeatedly avow Monthelitism. The only times I see Honorius saying “we teach,” he does in regards to affirming One Christ with Two Natures and telling them to avoid ‘new language’ that could be exploited (the “Royal We” by the way is frequently used in non-dogmatic texts; it’s mostly a formality).

    Please give 2-3 direct quotes from EACH Letter that you believe are “typical Monothelite thought and arguments,” otherwise I and no EO in this forum can in good conscience affirm your thesis.

  39. Fr. Patrick,

    I also think it is important to think through positions one does not hold from the inside out as it were.

    It is possible to enter communion with those whom one should not so enter with a diminished level of responsibility. What we would need for that to be the case with either Honorius or Vitalian would be some reasonable impediment. I can’t see that there are any.

    Such an act might not imply the pope taught heresy himself, but it would make him complicit in the heresy, and this is what a good many of the Fathers when combating various heresies thought. It is certainly what Maximus thinks in the documents I cited and others.

    Even if none of that were the case, that at best would excuse Vitalian in communing with Peter, it would excuse compelling Maximus to recant, nor would it touch Honorius at all.

    Another problem is that these events are towards the end of a long struggle. It is not at the outbreak of a heresy in the fog of war as it were. With Martin and a number of intervening popes besides Honorius the path of Orthodoxy was fairly clear. And Vitalian had to know that Peter was fudging the issue along with the Emperor by not including a profession of faith on the exact point of dispute between them.

    So at best, the proposal goes nowhere. It just moves pieces around a bit.

    The point of the case for present purposes is something like the following. We know Maximus was on the right side doctrinally. We know his position is normative. Yet all the conditions for acceptance on Catholic principles seem present for the contrary position. It is therefore something of a thought experiment or an intuition pump to bring to light good reasons for thinking the Catholic take on matters is flawed at some point. If it weren’t, baring a tertium quid, we should all be monothelites.

    If Rome used its full authority in proffering heresy then the Catholic view of the papacy is false. If it isn’t using its full authority in this case, what is it doing?

    So no, I don’t see how Newman’s account of either doctrinal development or the papacy could give us the right conclusion and let us stand with Maximus.

  40. Cyril,

    From my reading of the documents in the monothelite controversy ISTM that the idea is that communion with open heretics makes one complicit in their heresy, baring any impediments to moral responsibility. So I suppose I need to refine my expressions to denote material complicity rather than formal teaching.
    As for Vitalian, I don’t think the line you proffer will wash. Vitalian wasn’t stupid. He had to know of Rome previous opposition to imperial overtures and that that opposition was grounded in a rejection of monothelitism put forward by this or that eastern see, depending on the time. Vitalian had to have some smattering of church history or at least his advisors had to, enough to know the old, we won’t mention it trick. So I don’t think Rome can argue this way. If Constans II compels Maximus with Vitalian’s knowledge, this only makes the problem worse.

  41. Jon,

    I remember you and I apologize for not getting to your email as yet.

    I am placing the case of Maximus directly opposed to Newman. In my reading of his works, I’ve never seen him discuss this matter. That doesn’t mean he didn’t since I haven’t read all of Newman’s works. But given his hammering as you say it seems like a big problem.

    The problem as I’ve tried to express is that all the conditions for papal submission of a layman to the pope seem to be met in this case, yet since we know Maximus was right not to submit, something is either missing that can save the Catholic account of things or the Catholic account of things is wrong. The post facto normative standing of Maximus’ teaching and our relation to it functions as backstop of sorts. There is just no way to get around his doctrinal position. It’s a fixed fact. So, I am inviting people to think through the problem. Maybe there is some ingenious way on Catholic principles to get around this problem. I know how a conciliarist could answer it, but so far, I haven’t see any plausible candidates from Catholic writers.

  42. Nick,

    As for Romans 7 use of will, being contrary, that won’t provide any exculpatory value. Here is why. Monothelites used that text in the way Honorius does. This is why there is no detectable theological difference between Sergius and Honorius, let alone Pyrrus for that matter.

    Second, you aren’t tracking Monothelite thinking here. The reason why Monothelites used Romans 7, John 6 and Matt 26 was to deny the reality of two energies and two wills in Christ. Their reasoning was something like what follows. In order to distinguish two activities and two wills, they could only be distinguished by opposite properties, namely opposite moral properties (good vs. evil). But since the will is hypostatic and not natural (a la Monothelitism) this was impossible in the case of Christ since a divine person cannot will evil. So what Jesus was doing in those passages (Jn 6 and Matt26) was not expressing a willing or an activity of the person, but a desire of the weak human nature. Consequently, Christ never willed other than the Father in the passion. Any human volitional capacity in Christ was used and directed in a predeterminating fashion by the divine will and hence while even admitting there were two wills in terms of powers, there was only one will, the divine behind it all and hence one energy/activity. (here the distorting role of predestinarian models have in Christology should be apparent.) Christ’s words then were exemplary to show us that we too need to subordinate our human desires, giving monothelitism an ascetical component.

    So the reason you’re not seeing Monothelitism in the first Letter of Honorius is that you aren’t recognizing what you are looking at. It takes a bit ore familiarity with the heresy itself to see it his two letters. I’d recommend reading the letters from Sergius. Cyrus, the Ekthesis, along with Maximus’ Disputation at Byzia, along with the Disputation with Pyrrus. In short, the material you cited from Honorius is perfectly in line with Sergius’ expressed Monothelitism. There is no substantial difference between what the two men teach, exactly as the council stated in condemning both of them. If you take the council as ultimately normative, then there is no room for any other judgment. If you don’t, then you’ve abandoned Catholic principles for Protestant ones.

    As for your citation from the Second Letter, the language is not weird, but perfeclty in line with the Ekthesis. I’d recommend reading it.

    As Maximus, and others, including Pope Martin, made clear, forbidding the Orthodox faith is just to teach heresy. Added to this, I think other commentators have made clear in at least one spot where Honorius actually teaches
    Monothelitism/Monoenergism. If the expression of one Lord who effects divine and human acts in both natures looks perfeclty orthodox to you, does Nestorius saying that he believes in the God-man seem perfectly Orthodox to you as well?
    The fact is that the council condemns Honorius for teaching heresy, along with the others. His expressions match and track theirs. If he isn’t a heretic, then neither were they.

    I am not rushing to judgment. Plenty of scholars, (Catholics like Chapman) admit he was a personal heretic. I’ve read these and other pieces of 2ndary literature for over twenty years. I haven’t rushed to a judgment. I understand your desire to defend Catholicism and I do not fault you for it, but I think in charity you are rushing to judgment before you’ve made a careful study of the documents and the professional literature.

    Now if you think there is a reason for thinking that the council somehow gives some kind of lesser anathema (if that were even coherent) to Honorius, you’ll need to present that reason. Simply mentioning him last is hardly sufficient to think so.

  43. Cyril says:

    Perry, I wasn’t noting Vitalian’s comity with Constans II as anything other than asserting that he was complicit in the heresy by not objecting to it. Rome, by its own admission, does not honor those who by force renounce the faith. Vitalian wasn’t even forced, he just didn’t stand up for it.The second half of my second paragraph is to vitiate the argument I was making in the first half.

  44. Nick,

    What you take to be scandalous is simply reporting what you find offensive. But that isn’t the standard here. The standard of measurement is what the council so judged and materially in comparison with what other monothelites wrote. What then you take to be scandalous then is irrelevant since it doesn’t necessarily or even probably act in a truth preserving way.

    Second, the one “scandalous” passage just is an explicit expression of monothelitism. One doesn’t need much more than that to see why the council anathematized Honorius.

    Third, as I noted already, the context of which Honorius uses Romans 7 is in a Monothelite/Monoenergist context. Take Sergius’ remarks in his first letter to Honorius.

    “For to follow that expression and to advance two wills in mutual conflict, such that, while the God the Word wished to bring to fulfillment his saving Passion, his humanity stood in the way of his will and opposed it, and thereby two are introduced who will opposing things, is impious. For it is impossible for two wills to subsist at the same time in one and then same subject. The saving instruction of the God-bearing Fathers clearly teaches that the intellectually ensouled flesh of the Lord never separately and of its own initiative made its own natural movement at variance with the approval of God the Word united to is hypostatically, but at the time and according to the nature and quantity with the God the Word himself wished. To put it clearly, just as our body is governed and ordered, and subject to our intellectual and rational soul, so too in the case of Christ the Master his whole human constitution always and in every case was led by the Godhead of his Word and move by God…” First letter of Sergius to Honorius, p. 191, in Allen, ed. & trans., Sophronius of Jerusalem and Seventh Century Heresy: The Synodal Letter and Other Documents.

    Please notice a few things here. The way Sergius thinks of two wills is necessarily two wills in opposition, that is, dialectically related. The only way to distinguish them he thinks is by opposite moral properties. If the good is simple, then the only other object of choice is evil. Consequently to will otherwise entails the ability to will evil. This is impossible in the case of Christ and so, there cannot be two wills. To will differently is to will contrary to. This is why it makes sense for Honorius to bring in Romans 7. In this context with these assumptions to say that Christ wills differently in the Passion is to say that he is a sinner, like us, which Honorius has enough brains to know is impossible. What bother Sergius and Honorius mean here by “two wills” is two contrary wills or that two different things are in fact willed, and this is what they deny.

    Second, notice the relationship that Sergius offers as the proper model in Christology, one of subordination. Just as the body is used and subordinated to the soul, so too the humanity of Christ is subordinated and used by the divinity.

    The same idea is expressed by Pyrrus in the Disputation with Pyrrus, where Pyrrus states,

    “But it is impossible for two wills to exist in one person without opposition.” (Sec. 16)

    This was also the view expression in the Psephos of 633,

    “It is impossible for one and the same Subject to have two contrary wills simultaneously and in the same way.” (Chap. I.C.4.b)

    The same point is reiterated in the Ekthesis,

    “In a similar way the expression ‘the two activities’ scandalizes many, on the grounds that it was uttered by none of the holy and select spiritual leaders of the church, and certainly to follow it s to uphold also two wills at variance with one another, such that while God the Word wished to fulfill the salvific suffering, his humanity resisted and opposed him with its own will and as a result two persons with conflicting wills are introduced, which is impious and foreign to Christian teaching.” Allen, Sophronius, p. 215.

    This is why in the subsequent passages after the explicit monothelite expression by Honirus in his first letter, he begins to speak against the idea that Christ was sinful. This is the context of his subsequent use of Romans 7 in the passage just below it. Consequently you’ve simply misread and not understood Honorius’ use f Romans 7 in its context. The same can be said of his use of Jn 6:38. The monothelite and subordinating framing of the matter then supports his ascetical charge when he wrote,

    “These words are said on our account, to whom is given an example so that we may follow in his footsteps (1 Pet 2:21). The teacher of pious belief teaches the disciples so that each of us may prefer not our own will, but rather the will of the Lord in all things.” Honoroius, First Letter, p. 199.

    The idea being expressed is that humanity is subordinated to divinity in Christ and so too must our wills be subordinate to the divine.

    This is why your attempt to remove blame from Honorius in reference to Romans 7 won’t work and the council didn’t think it worked either and even before that Maximus himself drops that line of reasoning. The above texts show why those who take this line of reasoning in the 19th century to defend Honorius simply do not understand what Monothelitism was and taught. Honorius uses Romans 7 because he thinks of the idea of two wills willing differently as implying two contrary wills, just like all the other monothelities did.

    As to your second point, Honorius on the one hand follows imperial policy and that expressed by Sergius of Constanitnople (how is that for Caesaro-papism?) on the forbidding of the terminology, while at the same time using it himself. So either he is directly contradicting himself or he has something else in mind, much like other Monothelites did in using the same expressions of forbidding the two expressions. All of the monothelites spoke this way, so this can only be exculpatory for Honorius, if it is for Pyrrus, Sergius and company. It isn’t for the latter and so it isn’t for the former either.

    I agree that Honorius affirms the dogma of the two natures of one divine person with acts as performed by one subject, but that doesn’t make him any less a Monothelite than Sergius, Cyrrus and Pyrrus who affirmed the same.

    Consequently, you have no reasonable grounds to show that Honorius’ position is one of negligence and not of heresy, especially since the council says otherwise.

    No my claims are not bold. They are fairly standard in the secondary literature and born out in the primary texts as I have demonstrated. I gave sufficient evidence to support my claims above, but even if I didn’t, given that the texts are readily available and the same judgments are fairly widespread in the secondary literature, anyone familiar with them would recognize what I’ve said.

    The “royal we” line is grasping at straws and is ad hoc. First it is used b Catholics to claim that the Pope is teaching authoritatively in other sources, except here when there is a real problem. By what criterion do we say he is teaching the faith in other places when he uses such language but not here when identical language is being employed? If the charge against non-Catholics is that they wish to “explain away” strong language in other papal texts is to stick, then it sticks here. That is a two way street, especially in a context when the Pope is being polled for what his church teaches.

    Added to all of this is the fact that if what you were saying was true, we still have no explanation of why Maximus was wrong not to submit to Rome in the citation I gave. Was Maximus wrong to disobey Rome or no? If so, why? If not, why not?

  45. Perry,

    To get your thought on a point: is the term “one or double activity” meant to refer to the two positions referring to a prohibit of discussing the matter or is it a phrase used by supporters of two activities two wills to express their position as the quotes of Pope Honorius seem to suggest? If the latter why is “one or double” mentioned by those supporting two activities.

    I cannot see how the Scripture “not my will but thy will be done” can mean anything other than two wills. Thy will being that one the Father is the same for both Son and Spirit, there is one will in the Trinity, so to say “not my will but” would be a contradiction if Christ one had one will that of the Father because he would be negating His own will. I can only see it meaning that Christ had a second human will that was genuinely free, which does not mean any necessity of opposition of will even at the implication of the potential.

    I agree that even if there was an exceptional need for St Maximus not to be in communion with Rome to defend the truth from heresy, which does not affect the orthodoxy of Rome itself or communion for one in Spain, then the reason for the papist interpretation of primacy to ensure that the faithful are kept away from the poisonous food of error is still contradicted.

    To quote from Vatican 1’s quote from the Council of Lyons:

    “The holy Roman church possesses the supreme and full primacy and principality over the whole catholic church…. And since before all others she has the duty of defending the truth of the faith, so if any questions arise concerning the faith, it is by her judgment that they must be settled.”

    In this case St Maximus did not and could not rely on the judgement of Rome to settle the matter, let alone accept that the matter must be settled by the judgement of Rome. So, it is false in this case that the issue must be settled by the judgement of Rome. Hence, “must” is either not true or open to qualification and hence destroying the force and reason for the primacy in terms defined by papists.

    Also from Vatican I:

    This gift of truth and never-failing faith was therefore divinely conferred on Peter and his successors in this see so that they might discharge their exalted office for the salvation of all, and so that the whole flock of Christ might be kept away by them from the poisonous food of error and be nourished with the sustenance of heavenly doctrine. Thus the tendency to schism is removed and the whole church is preserved in unity, and, resting on its foundation, can stand firm against the gates of hell.

    If Pope Honorius could write a letter that failed to explain the true faith and to bring Patriarch Sergius, one member of the whole flock, to the truth then his office failed in its duty contrary to its reason to be. This is regardless of the letter being private, personal opinion or a neglect to teach, because any of these reasons would still mean failure of the discharge of the office. If St Maximus, one member of the whole flock, had to separate himself from Rome to defend the truth, even as an exception, then Rome fails to discharge its exalted office and hence it has no gift of truth to ensure that it does because he is not resting on the foundation as papists would define as being in agreement with Rome.

    All the schisms and all the heresies seen in history, particularly in the case of the Reformation show that the gift of truth and never-failing faith is almost impotent to remove the tendency to schism and keeping the whole flock free from error. The problem is that it is only effective in the case of those who already believe that what it teaches is the truth, based on other grounds, then so accept its claim. If other grounds can be used to determine the truth then they can be used to defend the truth and to guide the faithful, so the papal gift becomes superfluous and rather a source of pride and hence error as pride separates from Him, who is true. Papal infallibility is really only meaningful with Mr Newman’s “Development of Doctrine” as a means of justifying prima facie change or new doctrine and this was needed because it is clear, at least to Mr Newman, that the present doctrines of Old Rome are not the same as those of the western Catholic church in the first centuries nor those continuing in the eastern Catholic (aka Orthodox) churches.

    All this does not bring to mention the artificial division of Roman Catholicism between truth of doctrine and that of practice. Thus, not only should Popes be completely inerrant at all times in terms of doctrinal definitions both written and spoken expressions of the faith for the office to be discharged properly, they also should have complete purity of life so that the whole church can be taught by their lives as to the true way of life and holiness in deed as well as word. This has very clearly not been the case with the Popes, a number of whom have led scandalous lives.

  46. ioannis says:

    Perhaps the Ekthesis reflects the letters of Honorius because it was inspired by them. It seems that Sergius abandoned the language of monoenergism following the advice of the Pope and adopted monothelitism as a means of bringing about the reconciliation with the antichalcedonians because that was what he found explicitly taught by Honorius whose letters made a heresy in itself what before was just an argument against the two energies position.

  47. Nick says:


    I’m still trying to read through the relevant documents – particularly Sergius’ Letter.

    I have just finished the Ekthesis and the Disputation with Pyrrus, which both are apparently post-Honorius. They did use similar phrases, but that’s not a guarantee that what they took and ran with was what Honorius intended. What I appreciated about the Disputation was that any Father that Pyrrus quoted that said something that could be taken as heretical was examined by Maximus for context and intent so as to yield an orthodox rendering.

    This passage of the Disputation stood out to me:
    Pyrrus: “But Pope Honorius, in his letter to Sergius, maintained only one will.”

    Maximus: “The drawer-up of that letter of Honorius, who was afterwards commissioned by John IV. to write to the Emperor Constantine, gives the assurance that he only said in the letter, that as man Jesus had only one will (the law of the Spirit), and not at the same time also the will of the members.”

    Pyrrus: “My predecessor understood it differently.”

    If I’m reading that right, the very passage you and others assert is blatant heresy, St Maximus didn’t grant and instead said there was an orthodox understanding of it – specifically the Romans 7:23 distinction – and this is right in the midst of Pyrrus affirming the Monothelites “understood differently” Honorius’ words and ran with them.

    I’ll try to catch up with the rest of the comments once I read the Sergius Letter and have time to post.

  48. Nick,

    I believe I’ve already dealt with this point in the Disputation with Pyrrus. I already noted that this was a tentative position of Maximus, which eventually he abandons. This is why it has no exculpatory value for Honorius. Another reason it has no exculpatory value is the council still condemns Honorius for his teaching.

    if you think Maximus took that route as a settled position, then please explain his answers when the imperial and papal legates are brought forward to presurre him to recant his dyothelitism? Why doesn’t he appeal to to it rather than directly implying that Rome has erred? Why quote Galatians 1:8-9 about an apostle preaching another gospel when confronted with papal authority if papal authority wasn’t compromised in his mind?

    Plenty of scholars, Catholic and non recognize the statement by Honorius as heretical. It is no different than practically identical statements in Pyrrus, Sergius or any other Monothelite source. So again, if Honorius wasn’t a heretic in stating then neither were the others. But the others were, therefore Honoris was as well. And this is the infallible judgment of the council to boot. The only way out is to say the council was not infallible and make an appeal to protestant principles or it was infallible and appeal to Orthodox principles.

  49. Thomas says:

    I know when Pius IX was ramming ‘papal infallibility’ through his (First) Vatican Council there was a lot of opposition, especially from those with the better knowledge of history. But didn’t they deal with the case of heretical popes such as Honorius? And if they didn’t, surely later apologists for the papacy must have done so. What is/are the method(s) for doing so? (Other than dismissing it as failure to adequately teach, a method with which I am familiar and think quite lame. Fr Patrick’s reply above shows how lame that line of thinking is. Also, other than denying Honorius was a heretic, which flies in the face of the judgement of his contemporaries.)

    It seems, Perry, you don’t think the papists have adequately addressed the situation of St Maximos the Confessor’s stance, and from what I’ve read, I agree. But I’m looking for something even more basic: the heresy of Honorius himself.

  50. Nick says:

    I Have not forgotten about this post and the catching up I want to do; it is still at the top of the list of a stack of emails. Life has been very busy and hectic the last 36 hours or so, particularly with an sudden death of a close relative due to a short battle of cancer. Fortunately, he had family and a priest with him when he passed away, but everyone is still ‘recovering’.

%d bloggers like this: