July 28, 2014

The Days of the Schism of 1054 (6 of 6)

5. The Aftermath of the Schism

The exhaustive research of the sources during the twentieth century led many historians to the conclusion that there was no definitive Schism in 1054. This view is supported by two streams of thought.

The first claims that even before 1054 there was a noted increase of distancing of the two Churches and that in 1054 nothing occurred except a formal seal of separation that already existed between the Greek and Latin speaking world. These two peoples were gradually estranged with the passing of the centuries and the Schism was merely the culmination of the rupture.

The second stream argues that the Schism did not take place in 1054 for the exact opposite reason: despite the cultural and theological differences and the events of 1054, both sides continued their contacts without showing that something definitive happened. Rather, since this was common from past conflicts, they believed that in time they could bridge again the transient gap. This is probably the reason why historians of the time did not consider it worthwhile to record the events of 1054. According to this view, the "definitive" event came at the Fourth Crusade and the Fall of Constantinople by the Westerners. The looting that followed the occupation of the country, the Frankish occupation, "radicalized" the population, "from the most learned theologians of Constantinople to the last farmers of the Peloponnese," as noted by Princeton University professor Tia Kolbaba. Then subsequently the events of 1054 acquired another meaning.

Runciman similarly writes that after the conquest of Constantinople by the Crusaders in 1204, "the Pope remained trapped between the pleasure of the total result and the antipathy of the methods, and so he lost the only opportunity to regain good will with the East. In a critical moment he showed that he lacked compassion and understanding, and he was never forgiven for this."

In our opinion, the truth lies somewhere between the two historiographical streams. It is a fact that the different historical developments of East and West and the cultural differences distanced the two peoples. By itself, however, this is not sufficient to create a schism. The three other Patriarchates of the East (Alexandria, Antioch, Jerusalem) also experienced a different historical development. For centuries there were huge differences on the cultural level between Constantinople and the Slavs. However, there was never a schism between them.

It is also true that in parts of the Byzantine Empire there were no signs of an irreversible rupture in the first years after 1054. In 1073, for example, Byzantine diplomats approached the Pope for an alliance against the Seljuks. The response was positive, although ultimately Constantinople secured the aid of the Normans and did not respond. In 1089, when Alexios I was interested in the dissolution of the alliance between the Pope and the Normans, he received envoys of Pope Urban II and consulted the Synod of Constantinople on the state of the Schism between the Churches. No official documentation has been found for the Schism in the archives of the Patriarchate, and Patriarch Nicholas III wrote to Rome offering a restoration of relations based on the customary condition of the Pope dispatching the confession of the Orthodox faith to Constantinople. "Apparently in the eyes of the Byzantines there was no official 'schism' of Churches, but only an alienation that could be remedied by a simple but formal elimination of the Filioque from the Latin Creed," notes Meyendorff. Of course, the Pope never responded, because he knew very well that the confession of faith with the addition of the Filioque would probably never be accepted in Constantinople. Therefore, although there was a disposition to bridge the differences by the Orthodox, at the same time they recognized that the maintaining of the Filioque was a cause for schism.

It is characteristic that around 1090 Theophylact of Ochrid wrote that a person steeped in the tradition of our Church knows that there is no custom important enough to cause a division of Churches, unless it leads to the destruction of doctrine. This is why he did not agree that the West committed an unforgivable sin regarding issues such as the use of unleavened bread. Conversely he believed that the Filioque was a traumatic error.

Unfortunately, despite the good will of the Orthodox, there was no response from the opposite side. Indeed if there was, it would have been a simple and brief cancellation of the anathemas, to excuse a typical problem: it could have been argued that the actions of the papal envoys lacked legitimacy because Pope Leo had died in April 1054 (the throne remained empty even in July) and therefore Humbert did not have the authorization to do what he did! However, after 1054 the Popes did not denounce the actions of Humbert and so the anathemas were kept in force. In fact, Leo's successor was appointed by the German king Henry III, Stephen IX, who, as Frederick of Lorraine, was one of the two attendants of the embassy of Humbert in 1054. Even though the new Pope was condemned by the Synod of Constantinople on 20 July 1054, it is clear that the choice was a conscious challenge to the Eastern Church and the suggested deeper policy of the Germans against the approach of both peoples. Finally in 1098 a synod in Bari officially condemned as heretics those who did not accept the Filioque, thus finalizing the Schism. It took nine hundred years to get to 1965 for the anathemas to be removed. It was, of course, too late.

In the centuries that followed after the Schism, Western theology took new paths, based on a rational treatment of the truths of the faith. Gradually, rationalism monopolized how to approach God in the West. The Papal Church was trapped in a particular philosophical school and identified with it. So when the scientific discoveries of Copernicus, Galileo and Newton led to the collapse of Western metaphysics, the Papal Church felt threatened and reacted in a known violent manner. Because of these developments, an entirely new culture was born in the West after the Schism. A dispute that began as theological and cultural has now altered the overall development of humanity.

The issue of the union of the Churches has not ceased to concern those who love the Church of Christ throughout the centuries. So far the efforts have proved futile. However, the obligation of the Orthodox remains.

We will close our study with the view of the great theologian of our time, Fr. John Romanides, which is the genuine Orthodox view and the only one based on the historical data:

"The simple lifting of the anathemas of 1054 cannot obtain unity. When we return to the state of things prior to 1054 we find ourselves again in a schism between the Latins and the Romans because of the Filioque." ... "We have a sacred duty, as it was also required by the Orthodox Roman Pope of Rome prior to 1009, to pursue the elimination of the Schism not by the lifting of the anathemas of 1054, but by removing the Filioque and the preconditions and results thereof."

Source 1, 2, 3, 4: Ekklesiastiki Paremvasi, "ΗΜΕΡΕΣ ΤΟΥ ΣΧΙΣΜΑΤΟΣ 1054", May - September 2004. Translated by John Sanidopoulos.