St Vladimir’s Theological Quarterly 58:4 (2014) 401-415



Will Cohen



Nearly everyone knows about the teaching of Vatican I that Catholics affirm it and Orthodox deny it. But not everyone agrees or knows just what it is that Catholics affirm in it and just what Orthodox reject. This paper seeks to bring that question into sharper focus by comparing a representative critical interpretation of Vatican I put forward by a major Orthodox writer, Sergius Bulgakov, with positive interpretations of the council that one finds in the writings of a number of prominent Catholic ecclesiologists of the 20th century, among them Hans Urs von Balthasar. To what extent does the target at which Orthodox critiques are leveled correspond to the reality of the doctrine that Catholics say they hold?


Orthodox and Catholic readings of “ex sese”

In his 1935 work, The Orthodox Church, Sergius Bulgakov wrote: “To save the Christian world from the infinite subdivision to which Protestantism leads and from despotic uniformity as advocated by Rome—this is the vocation of Orthodoxy.”1 Bulgakov saw Vatican Is dogma of papal infallibility as the culmination of a centuries-long movement in the direction of “despotic uniformity” in Roman Catholicism. The dogmatic constitution Pastor aeternus, promulgated in 1870, seemed from his perspective to place the pope above the Church in the manner of a divinely appointed sovereign, or even a demi-god, with no answerability to his subjects, especially in its pivotal assertion in chapter four that the ex cathedra definitions of the pope are irreformable "of themselves, and not from the consent of the Church” (ex sese, non autem ex consensu Ecclesiae). In Bulgakovs view such a teaching grew out of the Latin West’s acceptance of an ecclesiology in which the charism of


1. Sergius Bulgakov, The Orthodox Church [rev. tr.] (Crestwood, NY: SVS Press, 1988), 94.



witnessing to the truth is attributed not to the whole body of the faithful but to the hierarchy alone, and ultimately, to the hiearchy’s supreme representative. As Bulgakov put it:

The Pope possesses in himself all the fullness of “charisma veritatis” inherent in the Church; consequently he has the power to proclaim the truth infallibly, in the name of the Church, “ex cathedra,” and this is exclusively of his own personal knowledge and not from the collective knowledge of the Church. The Pope not only proclaims the truth held by the Church, he not only commands ... faithfulness to that truth, but he testifies himself to that truth, he possesses it, he discovers it for the Church. Thus truth is held to be a sort of external knowledge belonging only to one person, and communicated by him to others.2


Bulgakov elsewhere encapsulates the same point when he describes the pope, according to the conception of him developed in the West, as “an oracle speaking in the name of the Holy Spirit.”3

When one consults Catholic writers, one finds that they would be hardly less troubled than Bulgakov were they also convinced that Vatican I taught what Bulgakov proposes it did. But they are of the view that it taught something else. According to Francis Sullivan,

The pope has no source of revelation that is independent of the faith-life of the Church. As Vatican I had already said, the Holy Spirit is promised to him not so that by the Spirit’s revelation he might proclaim new doctrine, but rather that with the Spirit’s assistance he might guard and explain the revelation handed down from the Apostles (D-S 3070).4


Georges Dejaifve has written similarly: “When the Pope infallibly proclaims a truth to be of faith, he is not a prophet inspired by God, but the interpreter of an article of belief which has been received and preserved in the Church.”5


2. Bulgakov, 58 (emphasis added).

3. Bulgakov, 74.

4. Francis Sullivan, Magisterium: Teaching Authority in the Catholic Church (Ramsey, NJ: Paulist, 1983), 104.

5. G. Dejaifve, ‘“Ex Sese, Non Autem Ex Consensu Ecclesiae,’” Eastern Churches Quarterly 14 (1961/62): 377.



These two comments from Catholic writers are largely apophatic—they indicate mostly what the point of Vatican I was not. As to the dogmas positive purpose, the consensus of mainstream Catholic ecclesiology is that Vatican I sought to clarify that a solemn judgment of the bishop of Rome, as the traditional court of last appeal in the Church, awaits no confirmation from the entire episcopacy before its legitimacy may be established. Cardinal Avery Dulles has observed that Vatican I taught “that the pope in his infallible teaching is not juridically dependent on any prior, concomitant, or subsequent assent of the body of bishops as a condition for the validity of his acts.”6 The target at which Vatican I was aimed was Gallicanism, one of whose principles, based on the fifth session (1415) of the Council of Constance (1414-1418) was that a council, independently of the pope, was the final depository of supreme ecclesiastical authority, a doctrine that lent itself not at all, as some might anachronistically imagine, to any form of organic sobornost within the Church but to a circumstance in which practically speaking, as Fenelon wrote in the 17th century, referring to his native France, “the king is more our head than the pope” and “the laity dominate the bishops.” Although church historians are agreed that it was against this strain of nationalism, two centuries further along, that Vatican Is dogma of papal infallibility was directed, there is no mention made of any of this context by Bulgakov.

An initial conclusion might therefore be drawn: Bulgakov seems to have misread Vatican Is primarily juridical claim as an epistemological one. He took the dogma to be saying that the pope must be recognized as knowing more than the rest of us do, when in fact, at least according to the interpretation that is standard in the community that issued the dogma and has lived with it for a hundred- plus years, it meant that decisions of the pope—in very circumscribed conditions—must be recognized as binding in themselves and subject


6. Avery Dulles, “Moderate Infallibilism,” in Teaching Authority & Infallibility in the Church: Lutherans and Catholics in Dialogue VI, ed. Paul C. Empie, T. Austin Mur­phy, & Joseph A. Burgess (Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1978), 81-100, here at 89.



to no further formal ratification.7 In this sense, one might say that the ultimate point of Vatican I's “ex sese" was to insist that in times of controversy where the purity of the faith is at stake, questions are not doomed to remain simply open and irresolvable.

Bulgakov, to be sure, does not share the view that this was all that Vatican I really meant to say. But he does seem sympathetic to the idea, in general, that there must be means in the Church to prevent issues of great theological moment from remaining indefinitely up in the air. In his same work, The Orthodox Church, he acknowledged that “the higher leadership of the Church is vested with an authority” that he called “‘infallible’ in practice.”8 He spoke unhesitatingly of “supreme ecclesiastical power” which he said has, again “in practice, the right to declare necessary doctrinal definitions.” Bulgakov identified this power as an “authority born of love,”9 and he ascribed this authority to episcopal assemblies above all. But his remarks on how the decisions made by them are to be regarded post facto bear an interesting relevance to the discussion of papal authority as defined by Vatican I. Bulgakov insisted, on the one hand, that in order “to be accepted by the Church as such, it is not sufficient for an ecclesiastical assembly to proclaim itself as a council”—in other words, no council has an a priori infallibility (one has only to think of such councils as that of Hieria in 754)— but on the other hand, “This does not mean that the decisions of the councils should be confirmed by a general plebiscite and that without such a plebiscite they have no force. There is no such plebiscite.”10 Now this seems to be very close to what the bishops of the First Vatican Council were wanting to drive home with regard to the solemn decisions of the authority they were discussing as supreme, that of the bishop of Rome: they wanted to say that there could be no question of submitting those (papal) decisions to any


7. Cf. Lumen gentium 25, which, in line with Vatican I, says of the ex cathedra, defini­tions of the pope that “they are in no way in need of the approval of others, and do not admit of appeal to any other tribunal.” (emphasis added)

8. Bulgakov, 80.

9. Bulgakov, 79-80.

10. Bulgakov, 74.



further, otherwise constituted formal body before they would have force. Instead, they were “infallible” — Bulgakov would surely have wanted to say, “infallible ‘in practice’” — in themselves.

This does not mean that the pope merely imposes his understanding of truth on other members of the church, any more than the bishops gathered in council merely impose their understanding of truth on the laity. The authoritative decision made by the pope, as with an authentic council, must arise from and meet with the faith of the whole church — Catholic writers agree with this, and Vatican II’s Lumen gentium affirmed it when it stated that in response to any exercise of infallible teaching authority (whether of the pope or of the episcopacy in its entirety) “the assent of the Church can never be wanting, on account of the activity of that same Holy Spirit, whereby the whole flock of Christ is preserved and progresses in unity of faith.”11


Primacy and Conciliarity

As we have been seeing, Bulgakov and the First Vatican Council differ in their views on what constitutes the highest organ of ecclesial authority. For Bulgakov the final court of appeal is the ecumenical synod, whereas Vatican I envisioned the court of last resort as the pope. The question of how these two loci of authority relate to one another brings us more or less to the heart of the difficulty of East-West relations of the past thousand years and more: the whole matter of the relationship between bishops collegially and the protos, or primate, among them.

The following passage from Bulgakov offers some insight into how he viewed that relationship.

The episcopal order possesses the authority to safeguard the purity of doctrine in the Church, and, in the case of profound differences in the heart of the Church, can render a decision having the force of laws. Such a decision should put an end to dissensions. Those who do not submit are automatically


11. Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, 21 November 1964, para 25, in Austin Flan­nery, ed„ Vatican Council II: The Conciliar and post-Conciliar Documents, vol. l, New Revised Edition (Northport, NY: Costello, 1992), 380.



cut off from the Church by anathema. This has been the usual procedure in the history of the Church. The judgment of the councils of bishops is proclaimed by its presiding offi­cer. For a national Church this is naturally its patriarch or its chief hierarch; for the ecumenical Church it is naturally the chief patriarch, “primus inter pares”; the canons always recognized the bishops of Rome as such. The Orthodox world would still continue to accord that prerogative to the Pope, in his capacity of leading Ecumenical Patriarch, if he and his local Church would renounce their pretensions to primacy in the sense of the Vatican definitions.12


Of most immediate interest here is the basic fact that in this passage, both the episcopal order as a whole and its presiding officer in particular are discussed as possessing authority related to the safeguarding of the purity of the doctrine of the Church. It is significant that Bulgakov is concerned in this passage with instances where there are “profound differences in the heart of the Church.” It is just at these times, he is saying, that the teaching authority in the Church is called upon to “render a decision having the force of laws.” Such juridical action within the Church is appropriate where unity of the faith is lacking, in order to “cut off from the Churchthose who “do not submit.” In this much Bulgakov is clear and on solid ground. But beyond this, there would seem to be a certain inner contradiction in Bulgakov’s reflections. This arises when he writes that “the judgment of the councils of bishops is proclaimed by its presiding officer.” This seems to suggest that the judgment of the bishops is reached by the assembly as a whole first and then is proclaimed by the presiding officer, but if the assembly as a whole is itself deeply divided, due to “profound differences in the heart of the Church,” the question is how the protos can proclaim its judgment. Will it be by majority vote that that judgment is revealed?

In the famous Apostolic Canon 34, which has become a touchstone for reflection on the relationship between conciliarity and primacy in the Church, a rather different picture emerges. Originally meant to regulate ecclesial life on the regional level but


12. Bulgakov, 76.



with applicability—according to Kallistos Ware and others—to all levels of the Church’s structure, Apostolic Canon 34 states:

The bishops of each province (ethnos) must recognize the one who is first (protos) amongst them, and consider him to be their head (kephale), and not do anything important without his consent (gnome); each bishop may only do what concerns his own diocese (paroikia) and its dependent territories. But the first (protos) cannot do anything without the consent of all. For in this way concord (homonoia) will prevail, and God will be praised through the Lord in the Holy Spirit.13


In this miraculous balance between two equally legitimate authorities, that of the many bishops together and that of the one protos in distinction, there is no precedence given to either of the two poles. Yet our almost inevitable tendency is to give greater weight to one or the other, in a realist calculus of risks and percentages. And if one side of the formula is to take precedence over the other, common sense might well lead us to say that the many should take precedence over the one. This was Peter of Antioch’s reasonable enough position in the controversy over azymes in the 11th century when he proposed that in inter-patriarchal relations, if unanimity was lacking, the view of the majority, not that of the Roman bishop, should be decisive.14 For a variety of reasons, Peter’s solution was not adequate to the mystery of unity and diversity in the life of the Church; it was largely a concession to human fallenness. Even more, it actually introduces into the mix a further entity, or a different set of relations, than Apostolic Canon 34 presents. Instead of the “first” and the “all” of Apostolic Canon 34, it proposes the majority and the minority — thereby effectively removing the “first” from the picture. A concern that corresponds closely to this very point is expressed in a passage of the Roman Catholic ecclesiologist Francis Sullivan: “To


13. The text of the canon may be found in P. Schaff & H. Wace, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers (second series) vol. 14 (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1999), 596.

14. The original Greek text of Peter’s letter, written to the Venetian hierarch Dominic of Grado, is found in Cornelius Will, Acta et scripta quae de controversiis ecclesiae graecae et latinae saeculo undecimo composita extant (Leipzig & Marburg, 1861 [reprint, Frankfurt: Minerva, 1963]).



admit such juridical dependence of papal definitions on episcopal approval,” Sullivan writes, “would amount to denying primacy and infallibility to papal magisterium and attributing it uniquely to the magisterium of the whole episcopate.”15 Even if Peter of Antioch’s idea of majority rule among the major sister sees was intended somehow to preserve a certain primacy of the Roman see, such that there would be a majority, a minority, and the protos having a unique role, this still would reduce that role of the protos to nothing more than a mouthpiece of the majority (whether he had voted with it or not). Privileging the authority of the many over the authority of the one results inevitably in an elimination of the authority of the one.

The tendency of Bulgakov himself to privilege the many over the one is evident when he writes:

To believe in a “sobornaia” church is to believe in a Catho­lic Church, in the original sense of the word, in a Church that assembles and unites: it is also to believe in a conciliar Church in the sense Orthodoxy gives to the term, that is in a Church of the ecumenical councils, as opposed to a purely monarchical ecclesiology.16


It is the “as opposed to” that gives pause here. Bulgakov does not sufficiently emphasize the sense in which primacy is built into conciliarity. He seems to presuppose a logical antagonism between the two principles rather than a more mysterious complementarity.

Their complementarity has been emphasized in more recent years by both Orthodox and Catholic theologians. According to paragraph 43 of the Ravenna Statement of October 2007, issued by the Joint International Commission for the Theological Dialogue between the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church,

Primacy and conciliarity are mutually interdependent. That is why primacy at the different levels of the life of the Church, local, regional and universal, must always be considered in the context of conciliarity, and conciliarity likewise in the context of primacy.17


15. Sullivan, 103.

16. Bulgakov, 61.

17. The full text of the Ravenna Document, “Ecclesiological and Canonical Conse-



With this in view, it becomes clearer that Bulgakovs rightly construed concern that “in times of profound differences in the heart of the Church” there should be the possibility of a decision “having the force of laws” able to “put an end to dissensions” cannot actually be satisfied in the absence of primacy at each level, including the universal, for the basic reason that conciliarity itself cannot function without primacy.


Vatican I and Christian freedom

In the minds of most Christians, probably including many Catholic Christians, Vatican I is not usually associated with Christian freedom. For Bulgakov there was no doubt that the teaching of Vatican I entailed, at least in principle, the enslavement of the Christian people.

But in the Roman Church obedience to the Pope is oblig­atory for all, and in all the life of the Church — in all that concerns faith, morals, canonical discipline. An obedience without reserve is demanded, not only exterior, but inte­rior. The necessity for blind obedience by all, to an external authority, is a system of spiritual slavery, incompatible with Christian liberty. Subjectively this slavery may sometimes be softened by filial devotion to the Holy Father, and we do not doubt that such is often the case. ... But relation­ships within the Church are not limited to this sentiment. Its predominance condemns the Church to a sort of infantilism or spiritual minority; all responsibility and all initiative in the Church devolves upon its head. This is impossible in the life of the Church. It is impossible even in Catholicism, which saves itself by its inconsistencies from the dead hand of the Vatican dogma.18


According to Bulgakov, salvific life in Christ, in the freedom of the Holy Spirit, does continue to be lived within the Roman


quences of the Sacramental Nature of the Church: Ecclesial Communion, Con­ciliarity and Authority,” is available online at roman_curia/ pontifical_councils/chrstuni/ch_orthodox_docs/rc_pc_chrstuni_doc_20071013_ documento-ravenna_en.html.

18. Bulgakov, 81.



Catholic communion, by the grace of God, to the extent that her members diverge from the teaching handed down to them through “the dead hand” of Vatican I.

The Vatican dogma and its implications for Christian freedom are viewed in a remarkably different way by the Catholic theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar. In his book, The Office of Peter and the Structure of the Church, Balthasar writes,

Let us say it once again: the authoritative form of office that Christ established in the pilgrim Church is not an obstacle to her but the indispensable prerequisite if she is to be communio in the Spirit of Christ here on earth. What took place in the two Vatican Councils is nothing less than the liberation of the Catholica, enabling her to fulfill her unique potential of living under the headship of Christ in his Spirit.19


So which is it ? Did Vatican I put the nail in the coffin of freedom in the Church (à la Bulgakov) — or did it finally and safely secure the Church’s freedom (à la von Balthasar) ?

How one might begin to address that question can be only suggested by touching on three differences between the respective approaches of Bulgakov and Balthasar. First is the fact that Bulgakov reflects on Christian freedom within an almost entirely ad intra ecclesial framework — his concern is with the possible domination of Christians by others within the Church’s internal structure. Balthasar considers the dogma of Vatican I in the light of ad extra concerns, that is, having to do with the relationship between the Church and the imperial or civil powers. So it is that Balthasar makes many historical references to what he calls “the popes’ great freedom struggles with the ‘Holy Emperor’ (first of the West, then of the East), whose power had summoned the councils but also given virulence to many of the great heresies.”20 Through the lens of Balthasar’s perspective, we might say that the real fight in which the papacy was engaged was not an ad intra fight of the first


19. Hans Urs von Balthasar, The Office of Peter and the Structure of the Church, tr. Andrée Emory (San Francisco: Ignatius, 1986), 221. [German original, Der antirömiscbe Affekt (Freiburg: Verlag Herder, 1974).]

20. Von Balthasar, 252.



bishop against his brother bishops, but an ad extra fight of the first bishop against the emperor, in the web of whose influence bishops often were caught up; but in any case the seeming imperialism of the papacy was most deeply and authentically aimed against actual imperialism, and not against the fraternity of the episcopacy in its proper unity and freedom.

Of course a more than minor problem in the history of the papacy is the degree to which popes themselves came to forget this. Balthasar himself acknowledges both the problem and the more than minor nature of it. His doing so points to a second difference between him and Bulgakov in their respective reflections on Vatican I and the question of Christian freedom. Balthasar seems more prepared to acknowledge the downsides and dangers of the robust form of primacy that Vatican I endorsed — the threat it has posed to, specifically, Christian freedom — than Bulgakov is prepared to acknowledge the upsides, again specifically with regard to freedom. Balthasar’s excursus on the papacy’s history in terms of its “great freedom struggles” is much more than a straightforward apologia; there are plenty of mea culpas, or nostra culpas, in it. These may be summed up by Balthasar’s overarching insight about the gradual effort of the Western Church to gain autonomy from imperial control when he writes that in this process, for too long, “spiritual authority was attempting to use secular means to free itself from secular authority.”21 He mentions the crowning of Charlemagne and observes,

The measures the Church took to extricate herself from this new embroilment, namely, the Donation of Constantine (ca. 816) and soon afterward the Pseudo-Isidorian Decre­tals, were to forge her own chains; she embarked on a course that was worldly and not spiritual.22


Narrative threads of a church history congruent with how most Orthodox view 9th-century developments would seem to emerge here. But the absence of any parallel acknowledgment by Bulgakov of the dangers of religious nationalism within world Orthodoxy —


21. Von Balthasar, 255.

22. Von Balthasar, 254-55.



especially in the 19th century and beyond — would suggest that Bulgakov may be more romantic in his conciliarism than is Balthasar in his papalism.

About Balthasars analysis of what occurred at Vatican I, it should also be noted that he was not committed to the irreformability of the wording of that council’s decrees, not in any positivist or “propositionalist” sense. Indeed most mainstream Catholic ecclesiologists are not: Cardinal Dulles, for example, has called it “a limping human effort to articulate a mystery that defies clear expression.”23 Balthasar, for his part, wrote the following:

It seems to me that, once the intention of the Councils is understood and unconditionally affirmed, it can be freely discussed whether the meaning was best communicated by the term “infallible.” ... Just as the terminology of the Council of Ephesus underwent a decisive revision at Chalcedon, in order to express the same thing with even less misunderstanding, it is not inconceivable that what the last two Councils expressed in distinctive terminology might at some time be formulated with other, more easily under­stood words. Heinrich Fries’ suggestion of Verbindlichkeit (binding power), which, “at the highest level can become an ultimate binding power” (Letztverbindlichkeit), seems to me certainly worth considering.24


It would seem that between Balthasar’s openness to this suggestion of “ultimate binding power” and Bulgakov’s notion of “infallibility in practice,” there is considerable resonance.

A third point to be raised about the difference in perspectives between Bulgakov and Balthasar might involve noting that Bulgakov was writing several decades prior to Vatican II, and Balthasar some years after Vatican II. Much of Balthasar’s book concerns itself with the need for the papacy to be integrated into, and not isolated from, the whole life of the Church. He writes that unfortunately “this [isolation] nevertheless happened at Vatican I,” as “the result of a historical accident which made it impossible to carry out the much


23. Dulles, 93.

24. Von Balthasar, 221-22.



broader plan of the Council.”25 Vatican II went a significant way toward restoring the balance. Indeed an argument can be made that by the time that Vatican II was convened, something of the messianic vocation that Bulgakov had envisioned for Orthodoxy when he had surveyed the ecumenical scene back in 1935 had been taken up by many Orthodox Christians vis-à-vis the West and had already come to have a substantial impact—and that through its many contacts, direct or indirect, with the Orthodox East, the Catholic Church in the decisions it made at Vatican II was being saved from its despotic uniformity.26

An important point to recognize is that the Catholic Church had willingly allowed itself to be pulled back in this way from an imbalance. Nor, of course, was it a reform pressed upon it merely from outside Roman Catholicism, but just as much from within: many Catholics were instrumental in the process. Balthasar makes reference to figures such as Blondel and de Lubac and to the psychological pressures they endured from the Roman curia, saying that “[i]t required [of them] almost superhuman spiritual heroism ... if they were not to become embittered.”27 If anyone would have had reason to doubt the correlation between Roman primacy and Christian freedom it would have been theologians such as these. Balthasar observes the paradox at work here:

After what we have just said [about the suspicion Rome cast on these theologians during the Modernist crisis], it seems rather paradoxical to speak of Rome as the citadel of the freedom of the spirit of Christ (2 Cor 3:17), of the “glorious


25. Von Balthasar, 159.

26. Fr Thomas Hopko has written about Orthodoxy’s participation in the ecumenical movement that “countless changes in the ways of understanding, confessing, wor­shipping, and living the Christian faith have occurred in non-Orthodox Churches because of the witness of the Orthodox. The decisions of Vatican II are an example of this.”T. Hopko, Speaking the Truth in Love: Education, Mission, and Witness in Con­temporary Orthodoxy (Crestwood, NY: SVS Press, 2004), 158. By the time Balthasar was writing, the Catholic West had been, through its contact with and openness to the Christian East, restored to a greater measure of ecclesiological balance than it had enjoyed in the era when Bulgakov had been writing.

27. Von Balthasar, 260.



liberty of the children of God” (Rom 8:21), of “the free­dom of the Christian.” Was it not the whole Church of the faithful whose awareness of the freedom of her “prophetic office” had to free Rome from her captivity to a fear that in turn made her impose fear on others? But why should the Christian people, together with those theologians whose thought springs from the profound depths of the faith, want to rescue Rome at all costs? The answer is that they recognize in her the final guarantor of Christian freedom in the face of the powers of this world.28


I would argue that we must see these Catholic theologians as participating in the Messianic vocation that Bulgakov in 1935 had envisioned for Orthodoxy — the vocation, namely, of saving the Christian world from despotic uniformity as then advocated in some significant measure by a Roman primacy indeed in need of being rescued from its own distorted understanding of itself. But I would also go further and say that in how these once-marginalized Catholic theologians participated in this vocation of “rescuing Rome,” the Orthodox themselves might well be edified today. For they participated in close range, without turning their backs on those with authority over them who in individual instances may have abused that rightful authority; they did so without equating the gift of authority proper to Rome with the abusive exercise of it by Rome that they personally experienced. They did not give up on Rome’s primacy; they did not see Rome’s primacy as merely turned against them as though it did not have the potential and the authentic vocation of being a service for them and the whole Church. So too the Orthodox, who have endured indignities they do not easily forget or forgive, from the installation of a Latin Patriarch in Constantinople and the proselytizing aggressions of post-Tridentine Catholic missionaries to old outlandish polemical claims — e.g., Humbert of Candida’s charges that the filioque had been removed by the Orthodox from the ancient Creed, or that Constantinople had been the seat of the heretical “Patriarch” Honorius — the


28. Von Balthasar, 266.



Orthodox are called to look beyond all this, to not be distracted or too caught up in it but to envision without bitterness and without distortion, without being in any way reactionary, but instead with an “almost superhuman spiritual heroism,” what Romes primacy ought to be and truly is — in what Fr. Alexander Schmemann called “its genuinely Orthodox interpretation.”29


29. A. Schmemann, “The Idea of Primacy in Orthodox Ecclesiology,” in The Primacy of Peter, ed. John Meyendorff (Crestwood, NY: SVS Press, 1963; reprint 1992), 163.




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