Apologetics 1.1: The Council of Chalcedon and Canon 28

It was in the year 451 A.D. that Emperor Marcian has convoked the Ecumenical Council of Chalcedon in order to battle against the heresy of Eutyches and the Monophysites. Contrary to Catholic doctrine and dogma, Eutyches and the monophysites have taught a disordered understanding of Christ in which professed that Jesus Christ is only one nature, that being wholly Divine, rather than both 100% God and 100% Man as the Catholic Church has always taught. With the approval of Pope Saint Leo the First, the council began on October 8, 451 A.D. and ended on November 1, 451 A.D.

While this Holy and Divinely Inspired Ecumenical Council was called to defeat heresy, “ecclesiastical discipline and jurisdiction also occupied the council’s attention.” (Catholic Encyclopedia: Council of Chalcedon, Paragraph 1.) With that in mind, the Council Fathers of Constantinople has passed a canon stating the following: “… We do also enact and decree the same things concerning the privileges of the most holy Church of Constantinople, which is New Rome. For the Fathers rightly granted privileges to the throne of the old Rome, because it was the royal city. And the one hundred fifty most religious Bishops gave equal privileges to the most holy throne of New Rome, justly judging the city is honored with Sovereignty and Senate and enjoys equal privileges with the old imperial Rome…”

Considering the fact that this canon was included within the ecumenical council, it has been argued by orthodox Christians we have encountered that this is an infallible canon in which cannot be rejected. With that in mind, it is also supposed evidence that the Catholic Church has departed from the ancient faith of the early church fathers in regards to ecclesiology because of the universal jurisdiction of the Pope. To understand the position of both the Eastern and Oriental orthodox churches, all of the Patriarchs of the church have equal authority; hence the belief in collegiality.

Even though this canon is within the Council, we must question if this has any authoritative and theological weight. The reason for this is because of the very fact that: (1) it contradicts Church teaching and is foreign to the doctrines of the early church, (2.) It was dismissed and refused to be accepted by Pope Saint Leo the Great, a recognized early church father to the schismatic East; and last but not least (3), the apology of Patriarch Anatolius of Constantinople to Pope Saint Leo the Great.

It has always been a teaching of the Church that infallible declarations from councils are meant to be accepted by all the faithful. If there were any opposition, a threat of excommunication and anathema were taken into consideration if there was any continued refusal to a dogma, which would than consequently make one a heretic. In the light of Pope Leo the First later rejecting a supposed ‘infallible canon’ the question remains: why was he not anathematized? Pope Leo the 1st refused to agree to this very canon and ordered it to be struck from the Council documents.

As a result Bishop Anatolius, pleading the mercy of the Pope, stated the following:

“As for those things which the universal Council of Chalcedon recently ordained in favor of the church of Constantinople, let Your Holiness be sure that there was no fault in me, who from my youth have always loved peace and quiet, keeping myself in humility. It was the most revered clergy of the church of Constantinople who were eager about it, and they were equally supported by the most revered priests of those parts, who agreed about it. Even so, the whole force of confirmation of the acts was reserved for the authority of Your Blessedness. Therefore let Your Holiness know for certain that I did nothing to further the matter, knowing always that I held myself bound to avoid the lusts if pride and covetousness. (Patriarch Anatolius of Constantinople to Pope Leo, Ep 132)

Some points to consider are the following:

  1. If all of the Patriarchs of the Church were equal in regards to authority, it would not be necessary for the Patriarch of Constantinople to both apologize for offending the Pope and even mention that the canon was reserved for his authority to confirm.
  2. If all of the patriarchs were equal, why would there be a necessity to be equal to Rome alone rather than Alexandria or Antioch? Is it because this is the very See in which Peter and Paul died for, with Peter being the earthly head?



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