Posts Tagged Great Schism
The Great Schism of 1054
Posted by Dallas Wolf in Ekklesia and church on February 5, 2023
The early united Christian Church consisted of five co-equal Patriarchates: Rome, Constantinople, Antioch, Jerusalem, and Alexandria. On July 16, 1054, Patriarch of Constantinople Michael Cerularius was excommunicated from the Christian church based in Rome, Italy. Cerularius’s excommunication was a breaking point in long-rising tensions between the Roman church based in Rome and the Byzantine church based in Constantinople (now Istanbul). The resulting split divided the European Christian church into two major branches: the Western Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church. This split is known as the “Great Schism”, or the “Schism of 1054.”
The Great Schism came about due to a complex mix of religious disagreements and political conflicts festering within the church since the 8th century. From 756 to 857, the Roman papacy shifted from the orbit of the Byzantine Empire to that of the kings of the Franks. The period was characterized by “battles between Franks, Lombards and Romans for control of the Italian peninsula and of supreme authority within Christendom.”1
Some of the many religious disagreements between the western (Roman) and eastern (Byzantine) include:
- Disagreement over a unilateral Roman change to the Nicene Creed (of AD 325/381) adding the words “and the Son” (“filioque” in Latin), thus changing the ontological understanding of the Holy Spirit.
- Dispute whether or not it was acceptable to use unleavened bread for the sacrament of communion. (The west supported the practice, while the east did not.)
- Western belief that clerics should remain celibate.
Other than the dispute over the “filioque”, one can conclude that the remaining religious issues were mainly adiaphora, “indifferent things” that are neither right nor wrong, spiritually neutral things. Afterthoughts of man.
These religious disagreements were made worse by a variety of political conflicts, particularly regarding the power of Rome.
- Rome believed that the pope—the religious leader of the western Roman church—should have authority over the other four Christian Patriarchates— and thus have the religious authority over the eastern church and all of Christendom.
- Constantinople disagreed, pointing out that each of the five co-equal Patriarchates of the united church historically recognized their own leaders.
The western church eventually excommunicated Michael Cerularius and the entire eastern church. The eastern church retaliated by excommunicating the Roman pope Leo III and the Roman church with him.
The Schism became so politically charged that Western Latin Crusaders actually attacked and sacked the Eastern Byzantine capitol of Constantinople in 1204 during the corrupted Fourth Crusade. As with the religious disagreements, discussed above, these political conflicts were mainly adiaphora, “indifferent things”, that had little to no basis in spiritual matters. Afterthoughts of man.
This was the Great Schism of 1054.
1 Goodson, Caroline J. The Rome of Pope Paschal I: Papal Power, Urban Renovation, Church Rebuilding and Relic Translation, 817-824. Cambridge University Press. 2010
Romanides: “The schism between Eastern and Western Christianity was not between East and West Romans.”
Posted by Dallas Wolf in Ekklesia and church, New Nuggets on November 13, 2017
Father John Romanides (1927 – 2001) – was a prominent 20th century Orthodox Christian theologian, priest, and writer. He was Professor of Dogmatic Theology at the Holy Cross Theological School in Brookline, MA and later Professor of Dogmatic Theology at the University of Thessaloniki, Greece. His books include: The Ecclesiology of St Ignatius of Antioch (1956); Franks, Romans, Feudalism, and Doctrine: An Interplay Between Theology and Society (1982); Ancestral Sin (2002); An Outline of Orthodox Patristic Dogmatics (2004); and The Life in Christ (2010).
Romanides traced the 1054 split between the Eastern and Western Christian churches to a long political, military, and ethnic struggle between the Roman East and the Germanic conquerors of the Roman West. These German tribes started with the Visigoths in AD 410, culminating with Charlemagne and the Franks in AD 800. The Great Schism of 1054 had more to do with a Frankish – Eastern Roman power struggle than it did with religious doctrine. In the West, the church was simply used as a tool in that imperial struggle.
“The schism between Eastern and Western Christianity was not between East and West Romans. In actuality, it was a split between East Romans and the conquerors of the West Romans.”
“In the background of dialogue and the Ecumenical Movement for the reunion of Christendom lies the generally recognized fact that there is an interplay between theology and society, which may lead to a dogmatic formulation and become the cause of doctrinal differences.
Within the Roman Empire doctrinal conflicts took place usually among Roman citizens in a atmosphere of religious and philosophical pluralism. With the official recognition of Orthodox Christianity, we witness the beginning of the use of doctrinal differences in support of nationalistic movements of separate identity and secession from Roman rule, both political and ecclesiastical. Both Nestorianism and so-called Monophysitism, although initially promoted by Roman nationals, were finally supported by separatist tendencies among such ethnic groups as Syrians, Copts, and Armenians. Indeed, both Persians and Arabs took care to keep Christians separated.
By the eighth century, we meet for the first time the beginning of a split in Christianity which, from the start, took on ethnic names instead of names designating the heresy itself or its leader. Thus in West European sources we find a separation between a Greek East and a Latin West. In Roman sources this same separation constitutes a schism between Franks and Romans.
One detects in both terminologies an ethnic or racial basis for the schism which may be more profound and important for descriptive analysis than the doctrinal claims of either side. Doctrine here may very well be part of a political, military, and ethnic struggle and, therefore, intelligible only when put in proper perspective. The interplay between doctrine and ethnic or racial struggle may be such that the two can be distinguished, but not separated.
The schism between Eastern and Western Christianity was not between East and West Romans. In actuality, it was a split between East Romans and the conquerors of the West Romans.
The Roman Empire was conquered in three stages: 1st by Germanic tribes who became known as Latin Christianity, 2nd by Muslim Arabs, and finally, by Muslim Turks. In contrast to this, the ecclesiastical administration of the Roman Empire disappeared in stages from West European Romania (the Western part of the Roman nation), but has survived up to modern times in the Roman Orthodox Patriarchates of Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem.
The reason for this is that the conquerors of the West Romans used the Church to suppress the Roman nation, whereas under Islam the Roman nation survived by means of the Church. In each instance of conquest, the bishops became the ethnarchs of the conquered Romans and administered Roman law on behalf of the emperor in Constantinople. As long as the bishops were Roman, the unity of the Roman Church was preserved, in spite of theological conflicts. The same was true when Romanized Franks became bishops during Merovingian times and shared with Roman bishops church administration.
During the seventh century, however, the seeds of schism appear. The Visigoths in Spain had abandoned their Arian heresy and had become nominally Orthodox. But they preserved their Arian customs of church administration, which became that of the Carolingian Franks, and finally, of the Normans. The Visigoths began subjugating the Spanish Romans by replacing Roman bishops with Goths and by 654, had abolished Roman law.
During this same century, especially after 683, the Franks also had appointed Frankish bishops en masse and had rid their government administration of Roman officials.
Earlier, during the sixth and early seventh century, rebellions of leaders in Francia were joint conspiracies of Franks and Romans. By 673, however, the rebellions had become purely Frankish.” ~From the Introduction to “Franks, Romans, Feudalism, and Doctrine; An Interplay Between Theology and Society“