Response to Givan2009 on St. Photios

Originally posted 10/27/2009.

WRH: Dear Givan2009,
While I would have liked to cap off my commentary on the Photian controversy with the happy news that St. Photios the Great died in penitence in communion with the Apostolic See and was canonized in a time of union between Old Rome and New Rome,{1} your repetition of historical myths, including your (at least implicit) false portrayal of St. Photios as a man with a blameless ecclesiastical career, has forced me to return to the less pleasant aspects of the patriarch’s career. I apologize for the bare-bones nature of this critique; I’ve been time-constrained by technical difficulties and other business.

Givan2009: There is no rational basis for accusing Photius of grevious sins.
WRH: Besides stirring up division over Filioque, St. Photios did the following. (1) He sent an encyclical against the Latins condemning them over disciplinary differences that he had previously approved of [Epistle 2 in PG 102:604605D].{2} Does this not strike you as duplicitous? His view of Roman orthodoxy depended on whether the Apostolic See accepted him as the legitimate Patriarch of Constantinople.{3} (2) He libeled the representatives of the Eastern Patriarchates at the Eighth Ecumenical Council{4} as “envoys of the Saracens.”{5} (3) From his exile, he sent Emperor Basil I a fake family tree showing his descent from St. Gregory the Illuminator of Armenia, and included a fake prophecy that Basil would be very great.{6} (4) At the 879-880 council, he lied that he “did not seek to return” and lived in exile “without importuning the Emperor, without hope or desire to be reinstated.”{7} (5) He repeated the same anti-Latin charges at the 879-880 council, after lying that the council was for the sake of peace.{8} (6) He altered the letters sent to him, Emperor Basil, and the rest of the Byzantine Church by Pope John VIII, with the ironic and hypocritical excuse that he did not want to start controversy.{9}

Givan2009: His condemnation of Pope Nicholas was fully justified by the traditions of the church. Nicholas asserted supremacy over the churches of the east contrary to practice established in the time of the apostles. Rome was always first in honor among the Patriarchs of the church, but never had a right to interfere in their internal affairs, Roman forgeries such as the Donation of Constantine to the contrary notwithstanding. The totalitarian control of the papacy over the bishops of the west was and remains a scandal.
WRH: The See of Rome always had a primacy not merely of honor, but of jurisdiction. The pre-schism Eastern and Western Fathers alike, based on the Sacred Scriptures and Sacred Tradition, teach that (1) heterodoxy will never prevail over the Roman see; (2) the pope of Rome is the supreme pastor of the universal Church; (3) disobedience of Rome is unacceptable; (4) final doctrinal decisions rest with Rome; (5) the pope has the special authority to teach the entire Christian world; (6) St. Peter is the prince of Apostles who rules over them; (7) this authoritative primacy of Rome is permanent and non-transferable; (8) communion with Rome is necessary. So too, with the pre-schism Ecumenical Councils, especially Ephesus, Chalcedon, Constantinople III, and Nicaea II.{10} The same was not said and cannot be said of the other four ancient sees.{11} Pope St. Nicholas I the Great exercised the prerogatives that the Fathers and Councils describe the pope as having.{12} With regard to the latter pope’s relation to the False Decretals, I appeal to the authority of Heinrich Schrörs:

After exhaustive investigation, Schrörs has decided that the pope was neither acquainted with the pseudo-Isidorian collection in its entire extent, nor did he make use of its individual parts; that he had perhaps a general knowledge of the false decretals, but did not base his view of the law upon them, and that he owed his knowledge of them solely to documents which came to him from the Frankish Empire [Schrörs, “Papst Nikolaus I. und Pseudo-Isidor” in “Historisches Jahrbuch”, XXV (1904), 1 sqq.; Idem, “Die pseudoisidorische ‘Exceptio spolii’ bei Papst Nikolaus I” in “Historisches Jahrbuch”, XXVI (1905), 275 sqq.].{13}

Givan2009: Secondly, Photius’ grasp of the theological issue of the procession of the Holy Spirit was far superior to that of the backward and ignorant western theologians of the time.
WRH: It is strange that you would say this of someone who knew no Latin{14} and failed express the truly Catholic tradition, for he did not include the Latins, St. John of Damascus, and ante-Nicene saints among the Church Fathers.{15} What we will refer to as Photian monopatrism{16} first appears, not in any orthodox writer, but in the work of the Nestorian Bishop Theodore of Mopsuestia,{17} an arch-heretic of the Antiochene school whose writings and person were condemned by the Fifth Ecumenical Council (Constantinople II) in 553.{18}

The following points more than suffice to refute your assertion. (1) St. Photios thought that two supposita spirating entails two principles, whereas the Father and the Son are one principle of the Holy Spirit because they are one form, God.{19} (2) He thought that active spiration is proper to the Father, whereas active spiration is common to the Father and the Son because spiration is not relatively opposed to paternity or filiation.{20} (3) He thought that spiration from the Son is superfluous, whereas spiration from the Son is necessary since the power of the Father and the Son is numerically one and whatever is from the Father has to be from the Son unless it is opposed to filiation (since the Son does not proceed from Himself, but is ever-begotten of the Father).{21} (4) He said that Jn 16:14 means “He shall receive from Him that is Mine” (receive from the Father and not the Son), whereas the Holy Spirit’s reception of being from the Son is the express interpretation of Sts. Hilary the Great of Poitiers, Athanasios the Great of Alexandria, Basil the Great of Caesarea, Epiphanios of Salamis, and Augustine the Great of Hippo.{22} (5) He said that Pope St. Leo I the Great agreed with his view, whereas St. Leo the Great confessed Filioque.{23} (6) He praised Pope St. Gregory I the Great as agreeing with his view, whereas Pope St. Gregory the Great confessed Filioque.{24} (7) He misrepresented Pope St. Zachary as agreeing with his monopatrism.{25} (8) He falsely claimed Pope St. Leo III as a witness to his monopatrism.{26} (9) He dishonestly claimed Pope John VIII as a Photian.{27}

Givan2009: The reconciliation you mention was due to the results of negotiations between John VIII and Photius in which Rome conceded all points in Photius’ critique. The temporary abandonment of the filioque by Rome and Rome’s interference in the east were what made the restoration of communion possible.
WRH: This claim is, at best, debatable. Provide some reliable sources for your assertions and then I will interact with your point in more detail. Pope John VIII mercifully reinstated Patriarch St. Photios the Great of Constantinople, but this was the extent of his approval of the acts of the 879-880 Council of Constantinople (Mann 270).{28} The following points demonstrate that the 879-880 Photian council held in Constantinople was a false council:
1. There were Eastern “legates” from sees unmentioned in any other council (266-267).
2. There is extreme doubt as to whether Cosmas and the other purported legates of the Eastern Patriarchates were duly credentialed representatives of those sees (267).
3. The first of three canons from the council’s fifth session said that the council did not mean to innovate concerning the prerogatives of the See of Rome, but this same canon and the rest of the acts of the council refer to the pope as a mere patriarch of the West with the same rank as the rest of the patriarchs (267).
4. In session five, Metropolitan Basil of Martyropolis, who allegedly represented the See of Antioch, said that Photios was the highest bishop by divine right (267). The acts record no one, not even the papal legates, protesting at this novelty (268).
5. In session one, the papal legate Eugenius says, “The soul of the Pope was so intimately united to that of Photius as to form, as it were, but one soul with it; and just as he desired to be united with God, so he desired to become one with Photius” (268). It is incredible that Eugenius would have said that.
6. Photios and the council promised they would obey Pope John VIII’s instructions on the Bulgarian jurisdiction, but later said that the boundary-marking was up to the emperor (268).
7. The seventh session said that Photios “had the spiritual priority over the whole Church” (269).
8. A forged anti-Filioque letter ascribed to Pope John VIII was added to the acts of the 879-880 council (269).
9. Pope John VIII said that he does not approve of whatever his legates have done against his instructions (270), yet, if the acts of the council give a reliable record of what the papal legates did, they in fact acted against his instructions (270).
10. Photios altered Pope John VIII’s Epistle 248 to him to turn Pope John VIII’s praises of God into praises of Photios himself, and altered it to make Pope John VIII explicitly and wholly condemn the Eighth Ecumenical Council of 869-870 (261). More examples of fraud could be adduced.

God bless you and yours,
Will R. Huysman

Notes & References
{1} Huysman, Will R. “St. Photios the Great Died In Communion With Rome.” The Banana Republican. 31 July 2009. 27 Oct. 2009 <>.
{2} Huysman, Will R. “Timeline of the Life of St. Photios the Great.” The Banana Republican. 10 Mar. 2009. 30 Oct. 2009 <>.
{3} Ibid.
{4} Ibid.
{5} Ibid.
{6} Ibid.
{7} Ibid.
{8} Ibid.
{9} Ibid.
{10} Huysman, Will R. “Papal Infallibility & Primacy.” The Banana Republican. 6 Mar. 2009. 27 Oct. 2009 <>.
{11} Ibid.
{12} Ibid.
{13} Ibid.
{14} Malanczuk, V. “Byzantine Theology.” New Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 2. 2nd ed. Detroit: Gale, 2003. 822. 15 vols. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Gale. Fordham University Libraries. 23 Mar. 2009.
{15} Ibid.
{16} This is the terminology of the venerable Avery Cardinal Dulles, S.J.
{17} “The doctrine of the double procession of the Holy Spirit came into discussion early … Theodore of Mopsuestia denied it … None [of the Greek Fathers] ever wrote ‘from the Father only’…” Gill, J., and B. L. Marthaler. “Filioque.” New Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 5. 2nd ed. Detroit: Gale, 2003. 719-720. 15 vols. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Gale. Fordham University Libraries. 23 Mar. 2009.
{18} Huysman, Will R. “The Nestorian Writers.” The Banana Republican. 21 Aug. 2009. 30 Oct. 2009 <>.
{19} Huysman, Will R. “Filioque: Fathers, Popes, & Councils.” The Banana Republican. 4 Aug. 2009 <>.
{20} Ibid.
{21} Ibid.
{22} Ibid.
{23} Ibid.
{24} Ibid.
{25} Ibid.
{26} Ibid.
{27} Ibid.
{28} Mann, Rev. Horace Kinder. The Lives of the Popes in the Early Middle Ages vol. III, 2nd ed. London: Kegan, Paul, Trench, Trübner, & Co., Ltd., 1925. 1 Nov. 2009 <>. Although the Rev. Mann of pious memory wrongly says that Pope John VIII excommunicated St. Photios in 881, his other points about the atrocious fraud of the 879-880 council remain valid.


2 Responses to Response to Givan2009 on St. Photios

  1. […] Memory on the Appropriateness of Catholic Veneration of St. Gregory Palamas *On Gregory Palamas *Response to Givan2009 on St. Photios *St. Photios the Great Died in Communion with Rome *The Photian Robber Council of 879-880 *Venance […]

  2. […] This manuscript predates the controversy between Pope St. Nicholas I the Great of Rome (†867) and Patriarch St. Photios the Great of Constantinople. It is not likely that a Latinizing forger could have written and so neatly inserted such […]

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