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Tia M. Kolbaba [ 129 ] under the issue of papal primacy.52 So the Latins gave the Greeks good reasons to think that this issue must be settled before any others could be. The Greeks learned the lesson well. When, in 1253, John III Vatatzes (1221–54) sent an embassy to the pope, seeking reunion of the churches, his proposals began with an acknowledgment of papal primacy, including the right of appeal to Rome in all church matters.53 But some Greek clergy and people were less adamant than the debaters of 1204 or
1206. Around 1205 the bishops of Rodosto and Negroponte submitted to papal authority.54 Papal letters from the pontiﬁcates of Innocent III and Honorius III (1216–27) reveal a number of monasteries that submitted to the pope and received, in return, papal protection for their rights and properties.55 In 1214 Patriarch Theodore Irenikos of Nicaea (1214–16) wrote to the people of Constantinople, exhorting them to remain true to their faith and not to vow obedience to the pope: “For how would your faith be preserved and safe-guarded, if you should agree to be one of the pope’s faithful?”56 Often cited as an example of Greek resistance, this letter is equally an indication that some of the people were wavering, possibly because of the “conciliatory policy towards the Greeks” that the second Latin emperor of Constantinople followed.57 Later, the case of the clergy of Cyprus reveals a similar ambivalence within the Orthodox community outside the City. Cyprus had been under Latin rule since 1191, and the Greek clergy there could not agree among themselves about the best way to coexist with the Latins.
To what extent should they compromise? Could they take an oath of obedience to the pope and/or to the Latin bishop without compromising their orthodoxy? They quarreled about this issue for years, arguing about the limits of oikonomia. Asked for guidance, Patriarch Germanos II (1223–40) and his synod in Nicaea also failed to agree. They ﬁrst ruled that the clergy of Cyprus could compromise with the Latin archbishop in various ways without betraying their faith, but later, under pressure from a more radical element from Constantinople, they modiﬁed this decision. Thus they added confusion to the situation instead of alleviating it.58 In light of this evidence, it is fair to say that past scholarship has often overemphasized the Greek clergy and bishops who ﬂed to Nicaea and Epiros rather than take an oath of obedience to the pope. Most Greeks did resist the Latins, but some did so passively, while others compromised. The important point is that the compromisers existed; they must have had reasons for their actions. When their opponents admit that they exist, they Examples of this Latin emphasis on Roman primacy can be found in nearly every piece of papal correspondence from the period. For examples, see Gill, Byzantium and the Papacy, 65, 67, 89, 93.
J. Richard, “The Establishment of the Latin Church in the Empire of Constantinople (1204–1227),” in Latins and Greeks in the Eastern Mediterranean after 1204, ed. B. Arbel, B. Hamilton, and D. Jacoby (London, 1989), 47–48.
Gill, Byzantium and the Papacy, 52–53; Richard, “Establishment of the Latin Church,” 54.
Cited in Gill, Byzantium and the Papacy, 40.
Henry of Hainault reigned from 1206 to 1216 in Constantinople. See G. Ostrogorsky, History of the Byzantine State, trans. J. Hussey (New Brunswick, N.J., 1957), 381.
J. Gill, “The Tribulations of the Greek Church in Cyprus, 1196–c. 1280,” ByzF 5 (1977): 78–80; Hussey, Orthodox Church, 201–6; M. Angold, “Greeks and Latins after 1204: The Perspective of Exile,” in Latins and Greeks in the Eastern Mediterranean after 1204 (as in note 54), 72–75.
[ 130 ] Byzantine Perceptions of Latin Religious “Errors” claim that they were merely weak or evil, willing to sell their souls for safety or political preference. Maybe some were craven traitors, but we need not take their opponents’ word for it. It is equally likely that some men honestly believed that an oath of obedience to the pope was no stain on their orthodoxy. That belief, however, made their deﬁnition of orthodoxy quite diﬀerent from that of the anti-Latin, anti-papal rigorists. Their compromise goes a long way toward explaining the heat with which other men attacked papal pretensions. Those who opposed Western ideas and Western authority—whether we call them intransigent or steadfast—were so ﬁerce in their opposition because their deﬁnition of the boundaries of orthodoxy was not universally accepted. They were trying either to convince the compromisers that they were wrong or, failing that, to convince the rest of their contemporaries that the compromisers should be anathematized.
The Palaiologan Period In 1261, in a serendipitous accident that many considered miraculous, a small army from Nicaea recaptured the city of Constantinople. No longer in exile, Michael VIII (1259–82) and the other leaders from Nicaea proceeded to reestablish the Roman Empire of Constantinople. But the question of reunion of the churches of Rome and Constantinople would not evaporate along with the Latin Empire. In fact, for Michael VIII, the question was perhaps more urgent than for any of his predecessors because various Western enemies proposed a “crusade” against the “schismatic Greeks” to recover the empire for catholic Christendom. To fend oﬀ these attackers, Michael opened and maintained negotiations with the papacy for reunion of the churches. For these negotiations, even more than for those during the Empire of Nicaea, papal primacy was the dominant theme, and for many of the same reasons. The popes still insisted that this was the fundamental issue,59 and Byzantines still disagreed among themselves about compromise. In the collection of documents related to the Second Council of Lyons (1274) published ` by Vitalien Laurent and Jean Darrouzes, the dominant issues remain papal primacy, the right of appeal to the papacy, and the commemoration of the pope in the Byzantine liturgy.60 But the Filioque continued to grow in importance. It became the central issue sometime around the Second Council of Lyons. Many will challenge the idea that it was around 1274—and only then—that the Filioque became the crucial issue. After all, it was the most important issue for Photios, for Theophylact of Ohrid, for Greek theologians at Nicaea in 1234, and for theologians of the Palaiologan period. It remains the most important issue for many theologians today. It is quite natural to conclude that it has always been the most important issue, at least for thoughtful Christians. But it has not. The disputants of the 1050s hardly mentioned it. Treatises on the topic, including the statement composed by the Nicene synod in 1234,61 appear in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, but they are far less common than discussions of azymes and papal primSee Kolbaba, “Barlaam the Calabrian,” 43–48, esp. the letter of Clement IV quoted there.
` ´ V. Laurent and J. Darrouzes, Dossier grec de l’Union de Lyon (1273–1277), Archives de l’Orient chretien 15 (Paris, 1976).
Gill, Byzantium and the Papacy, 72.
Tia M. Kolbaba [ 131 ] acy.62 This does not mean that the Filioque was not important to many people and at some times before 1274. Certain men of a philosophical bent seem always to have been troubled by the implications of double procession, while men who were concerned with authority within the church often challenged the unilateral character of the addition to the creed. But the Filioque was not the subject of more treatises, more debates, or more invective than papal primacy or azymes before 1274.
So we should be more surprised than we are when we see how the issue dominated the Palaiologan period. This dominance can be seen in a number of ways. For example, a rough count of the authored works listed in the Greek Index Project reveals that about 70 percent of all the polemical works written in the Palaiologan period were against the Latins. Of those, about half were about the procession of the Holy Spirit.63 For another example, Barlaam the Calabrian wrote twenty-one anti-Latin treatises. Fifteen of these are concerned in some way with the relations of the persons in the Trinity; ten explicitly mention the procession of the Holy Spirit in their titles.64 This dominance needs explaining. We cannot simply claim that the Filioque is the most important issue in an absolute, philosophical sense; such a claim cannot be proven or veriﬁed. More to the point, even if it is the most important issue, it was not always seen and treated as such in Byzantium.
As was true of azymes and papal primacy, the Filioque became a burning issue only when it became an issue within the Eastern church. There were no Byzantine defenders of the Filioque before the 1270s. It was not necessary to write treatises to convince other Byzantines that the addition to the creed was illegitimate and possibly heretical. Within Byzantium—and therefore within most theological discussions in Byzantium—the belief that the Spirit proceeded from the Father alone could be assumed; it did not have to be defended.
Moreover, in general, when the question did come up in arguments with the Latins, its theology was seldom discussed systematically. The error of the Latins in this matter came primarily from their unilateral addition to the creed, as Theophylact of Ohrid expressed so clearly: “But the Symbol of the faithful must be the Symbol freed from all alteration... for not even the axe-wielders of Ezekiel spared those marked with the sign if they did not observe that their sign was not counterfeit.”65 Perhaps the Latins had simply not thought through or were not capable of thinking through the theological implications of this novelty. Theophylact surmised that the Latin language had no way of distinguishing the “procession” of the Holy Spirit from the Father from his “having been sent” by the Son. He assumed that if he simply showed the Latins their misunderI base this statement on a close study of the polemical works catalogued in H.-G. Beck’s Kirche und theologische Literatur, as well as on more recent studies of the theological debates of the period.
R. E. Sinkewicz and W. M. Hayes, Manuscript Listings for the Authored Works of the Palaeologan Period (Toronto, 1989). The other half is divided among the following, in roughly descending order: treatises entitled generally “Contra Latinos” or “De unione” or something similar; treatises against purgatory, against azymes, against papal primacy; and miscellaneous single occurrences, such as a treatise “Against Thomas [Aquinas].” For a list of Barlaam’s works, see R. E. Sinkewicz, “The Solutions Addressed to George Lapithes by Barlaam the Calabrian and Their Philosophical Context,” MedSt 43 (1981): 185–94.
Theophylact, Peri wn ejgkalou'ntai Lati'noi, 251.
[ 132 ] Byzantine Perceptions of Latin Religious “Errors” standing and explained how dangerous the theological implications of this addition were, they would concede the point.66 During the discussions held at Nicaea and Nymphaeum in the period of the Latin Empire of Constantinople, that condescension was less evident. Latins came to discussions armed with both a knowledge of Greek and manuscripts of the writings of the Greek fathers of the church. Still, the Greek theologians involved in those debates stressed the Filioque precisely because it was the area where they felt the ﬁrmest ground beneath their feet. They were utterly convinced of the rightness of their position, and nothing the Latins said changed any of their minds.
But the ﬁrm ground began to shake in the period around the Council of Lyons. In late 1273 or early 1274, John Bekkos (born ca. 1230, patriarch of Constantinople 1275– 82), an important Constantinopolitan churchman, became convinced that the Latin position on the Filioque was theologically defensible. From his time on, there was a debate within Byzantium about the Latin position. The unionist defenders of the Filioque adduced quite sophisticated arguments, based not only on logic but also on the writings of Greek and Latin church fathers. The anti-unionist, anti-Filioque people were caught oﬀ-guard by this, at ﬁrst, and did not always do a good job of defending their position.
Although some partisan historians still dismiss him with a few scathing words, Bekkos was not obviously and self-evidently wrong. He may not have been the most subtle theologian in history, but he convinced many other men of his position. He also became patriarch after the Council of Lyons and the union manufactured there. Later, when that union was repudiated, the ﬁrst synod convened to condemn Bekkos and the other unionists was more a lynch-mob than a thoughtful discussion. The second synod, convened years later, was unable to convert Bekkos and his supporters to the anti-Filioque opinion.67 Patriarch Gregory II of Cyprus (1283–89) produced strong, reasoned refutations,68 but Bekkos had his supporters, both at the time and down to the end of the empire.
John Bekkos did not convert to Roman Catholicism; he merely believed that the theologians who argued in favor of the double procession of the Holy Spirit were correct and in agreement with the fathers of the church. In the centuries after his death, several prominent Byzantine intellectuals would reach a broader conclusion: that Latin theologians and philosophers were right about many things. Some of these intellectuals would convert; the most famous example is Cardinal Bessarion (ca. 1399–1472).69 Demetrios Kydones, a fourteenth-century convert to Catholicism, put it best when describing how, Ibid., 253–55.
Hussey, Orthodox Church, 247.
Hussey, Orthodox Church, 247–49; A. Papadakis, Crisis in Byzantium: The ‘Filioque’ Controversy in the Patriarchate of Gregory II of Cyprus (1283–1289) (New York, 1984).
The most thorough study of his life and work is L. Mohler, Kardinal Bessarion als Theologe, Humanist und Staatsmann, 3 vols. (Paderborn, 1923–42). A more accessible and up-to-date survey is J. Gill, Personalities of the Council of Florence (New York, 1964), 45–54.