Doctrinal Doublespeak

I imagine just about everyone who reads at this site is aware of how those who would defend RCC doctrine and dogma call upon the utterances of men for support. They may cite a few lines from the writings of an Early Church Father or, perhaps, refer to a passage in a document issued by some ecumenical council or other church synod. Though there are occasions when the Catholic apologist may point to a passage of Scripture, usually taken out of context, he often will follow up with the Magisterium's twist on the text. How strange it seems to me that a body professing to be THE true church established by Jesus Christ, so obviously appears to prefer the interpretations of men to the words of God.

Non-Catholics may argue that the teachings of the Roman Church are self-serving and unreliable. Is there any truth in this accusation? My position is that lies, deceptions and fraud are common currency in the Roman Catholic Church. Her spokesmen are experts at manipulating word meanings, using innuendo and spreading disinformation. It has been said that the best lies are those that contain a lot of truth. When it comes to weaving lies into a fabric of truth, none can top the Roman cult. This can be shown from the following example.

As could be seen from the reception given John Paul II during his Jubilee Year visit to the Greek Orthodox monastery at the foot of Mount Sinai, the Orthodox and Roman churches don't get along very well. This enmity has a long history, going back some 12 or more centuries.

After a series of minor breaks over iconclasm and jurisdictional matters, the ecclesiastical leaders of the East and West split into two factions in the ninth century. One followed the pope of Rome, the other the patriarch of Constantinople. The immediate dispute was over the assumption of power by Photius (d. 897), with the confirmation of the Emperor Michael III. . . The breach had been accomplished by a series of political and religious actions that continued for the next 700 years. With the fall of Constantinople in 1453, the center of Oriental Christianity fell and, despite the efforts of the Council of Florence (1439), which had effected a brief reconciliation, the Orthodox Church became official under the Russian Empire. -- Robert C. Broderick, Ed., The Catholic Encyclopedia, Thomas Nelson Publishers (1987), pp.453-54; has Nihil Obstat & imprimatur)

The foregoing is a refreshingly straightforward definition of the Eastern Schism. Though details are not provided, one might deduce that the split between the Eastern and Western churches continues to this day. A somewhat different condition is implied by a prince of the Roman Catholic Church, writing in support of papal infallibility.

Among the General Councils of the Church already held, I shall mention only three, as the acts of these Councils are amply sufficient to vindicate the unerring character of the See of Rome and the Roman Pontiffs. I wish also to call your attention to three facts: 1. That none of these Councils were held in Rome; 2. That one of them assembled in the East, viz., in Constantinople; and, 3. That in every one of them the Oriental and the Western Bishops met for the purpose of reunion. -- James Gibbons, The Faith of Our Fathers, 25th Edition, John Murphy & Co (1884), p. 153; has Nihil Obstat & Imprimatur. See also Denzinger 336ff.

Gibbons, soon to be made a Cardinal, created a masterful blend of truth, half-truth and innuendo to lead his readers to believe that bishops gathered because both churches desired to resolve the issues that separated them. While it is true that none of the councils to which he refers met in Rome, how is that significant? After all, it is not the meeting site that debates and votes..The representatives and their votes likely would have been the same no matter where they may have assembled. This same argument applies to the fact that one of the councils met in the East. So far, we have two undeniably true statements that have no real bearing on the issue under discussion but which clearly were intended to convince the reader that the councils had met in true ecumenical and democratic process.

The third point is the clincher. The statement implies that the bishops of the divided churches sincerely desired to resolve their differences and come together again. Is that true? The general councils to which Gibbons refers met in Constantinople (869), Lyons (1274) and Florence (1439). Perhaps a brief look at each of these councils will help blow away some of the smoke that covers the truth of Rome's relationship with the Eastern churches and, in the process, afford an opportunity to examine the infallibility question.

Relations between Rome and the Eastern church were not all that good when Nicholas I was elected to the papacy in 858 but the two factions had worked out a modus vivendi. Then, Nicholas stirred the pot.

[Nicholas] revived the long dormant jurisdictional claims of Rome over Illyricum, and when the Patriarch of Constantinople . . . was forced to abdicate in favor of Photius, the pope refused to recognize Photius and deposed and excommunicated him at a synod held in the Lateran in 863. When the Byzantine emperor Michael III protested, the pope rebuked him, pointing out that he acted in accordance with the rights of the Apostolic See…After denouncing the Latin interference [in Bulgaria] to the other patriarchs of the East, Photius convened a synod in Constantinople (867) which excommunicated and deposed Nicholas. The pope had died . . . before word of the synod's action reached Rome, but the mutual excommunications clearly laid the foundation for the East-West Schism of 1054 – a schism that perdures to this very day. -- Richard P. McBrien, Lives of the Popes, HarperSanFrancisco (1997), pp. 139-40

"A schism that perdures to this very day." How does that match up with the impression fostered by Gibbons? The soon-to-be Cardinal, though failing to make mention of the deposing and excommunication of Photius or the several Canons against him issued by the 8th General Council (Constantinople IV), did cite its solemn profession of faith:

Salvation primarily depends upon guarding the rule of right faith. And since we cannot pass over the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, who says, 'Thou art Peter, and on this rock I will build My Church,' what was said is confirmed by facts, because in the Apostolic See the Catholic religion has always been preserved immaculate, and holy doctrine has been proclaimed. Not wishing, then, to be separated from this faith and doctrine, we hope to merit to be in the one communion which the Apostolic See preaches, in which See is the full and true solidity of the Christian religion. --Gibbons, Op. Cit., pp. 153-54

The reader not familiar with Romish sleight of hand might wonder how the above statement might serve as a foundation stone for the claims that the Bishop of Rome, the so-called Supreme Pontiff, is rightful ruler over all the Christian churches or that under certain conditions his pronouncements are infallibly declared. In that wonderful way that Roman apologists have, Gibbons goes on to argue that it is so because the Magisterium says it is so. Such an argument is no more valid than had Gibbons declared "It is so because I said it is so." I cannot imagine any Roman Catholic defender of his faith would be willing to accept the biblically sound doctrine of Sola Scriptura simply because I said it is true, yet we are to believe Catholic fantasies because the Catholic Magisterium, or in this case a "prince" of the RCC, declares them to be true.

This Council clearly declares that immaculate doctrine has always been preserved and preached in the Roman See. But how could this be said of her, if the Roman See ever fell into error? And how could that See be preserved from error, if the Roman Pontiffs presiding over it ever erred in faith? --Ibid.. p. 154)

By inference and innuendo, a respected Catholic apologist teaches that both the Latin and Greek churches were in agreement on the issues of Roman supremacy and papal infallibility. Another respected Catholic source appears to be in agreement with Gibbons' position. A brief entry on ecumenical councils in a Catholic encyclopedia declares that "Constantinople IV, 869, ended the Greek Schism and deposed Photius." (Robert C. Broderick, Op. cit., p. 181)

If the Roman Catholic understanding is that Constantinople IV healed the Greek Schism, as claimed by Cardinal Gibbons and Broderick, that must also be the understanding of the Eastern church, one would expect. At this point, it should be noted that the Eastern church does not recognize the authority of any so-called ecumenical council after Nicea II (787).

The Fourth Council of Constantinople (AD 869-870, Photian). The Roman Church eventually recognised it as the eighth Ecumenical Council, but the Eastern Church for the most part denied its ecumenicity and continues to recognise only the first seven ecumenical councils. -- Abelard, The Rise and Fall of the Church of Rome, Issue 1.0 (Sep 26, 1999)

A look at some of the facts not mentioned by either side might better equip the reader to evaluate the opposing claims.

Photius fell with the murder of his imperial patron. . . He was imprisoned in a convent, and deprived of society, even books. He bore his misfortune with great dignity, and nearly all the Greek bishops remained faithful to him. Ignatius was restored [as patriarch] after ten years of exile . . . and entered into communication with Pope Hadrian II. (Dec. 867). He convened a general council in the church of St. Sophia (October 869), which is numbered by the Latins as the Eighth Ecumenical Council. The pontifical legates presided and presented a formula of union which every bishop was required to sign before taking part in the proceedings, and which contained an anathema against all heresies, and against Photius and his adherents. . . --Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, Vol IV, Charles Scribner's Sons (1910); reprint Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company (1987), p. 314

Think about who attended this ecumenical council. There were representatives from Rome, and they ran the meeting. We are informed that most of the Greek bishops remained faithful to imprisoned Photius, so the only representatives of the Orthodox Church in attendance were drawn from the few bishops who followed Ignatius. Hardly ecumenical. Notice also that, before being permitted to participate in the council's business, attendees were required to sign a document that included a formula for unification, anathemas against Photius and his followers and anathemas against all heresies -- as defined by the Roman Church. It would seem that those bishops who refused to sign the document were denied participation in the proceedings. In that Photius and the bulk of Greek bishops who followed him were anathemized by the clever strategem of the admissions document, it could be claimed by Rome that the few Greek bishops present indeed did represent the Eastern church. A favored strategem of Rome: If anyone should disagree with Rome, kick him out so the fiction of monolithic Catholicism can be maintained.

Schaff has more to tell us concerning the Council of Constantinople:

But the council was poorly attended (the number of bishops being at first only eighteen). . . In the tenth and last session, attended by the emperor and his sons, and one hundred and two bishops, the decrees of the pope against Photius and in favor of Ignatius were confirmed, and the anathemas against the Monothelites and Iconoclasts renewed. The papal delegates signed, "with reservation of the revision of the pope. -- Philip Schaff, Op. cit., pp. 314-15

Even though the Roman delegation was running the council, it did not play fairly. After all the talk had ended, the bishops signed off on all that Rome demanded. Yet the Latin bishops appended their signatures with the proviso that their pope could make changes if he so desired. So, what the curious Council of Constantinople ended up with was a document authored in Rome, for all intents and purposes, and though signed by all attendees left open for modification by the pope. In reality, it was an open-ended document. Hmmmm. Wonder if the current pope is still free to revise it should he choose to do so.?

There are Romish theologians, historians and apologists who would have us believe that the Council of Constantinople ended the Greek Schism and unified the divided Catholic Church. Would they be right? Given the limited participation of Greek bishops in the council and the requirement that those who did attend agree to Rome's conditions, I would say it did not. The two factions did come together for a time, at least on paper, but the honeymoon was of short duration.

But the peace was artificial, and broken up again immediately after the Synod by the Bulgarian questions, which involved the political as well as the ecclesiastical power of Constantinople. Ignatius himself was unwilling to surrender that point, and refused to obey when the imperious Pope John VIII commanded, on pain of suspension and excommunication, that he should recall all the Greek bishops and priests from Bulgaria. . . (Oct. 23, 877). -- Philip Schaff, Op. cit., p. 315

When Ignatius died, Photius was restored to the patriarchal see. He called another council, which met in Constantinople from November 879 to until March 0f 880. This council, three times the size of the 869 gathering, was a busy meeting. It annulled the 869 council as fraudulent and re-adopted the Nicene Creed, with an anathema against Filioque and all other changes by addition or omission. In this gathering of bishops, the Roman delegates once again acted deceitfully; this time going so far as to deceive their own pope.

The papal legates assented to all, and so deceived their master by false accounts of the surrender of Bulgaria that he thanked the [Eastern] emperor for the service he had done to the Church by this synod. -- Ibid., pp. 315-16

The Greek church identifies this as the Eighth Ecumenical Council. Rome, of course, rejects its authenticity, referring to it as the Pseudo-Synodus Photiniana. How dare anyone use Romish tactics against Rome?

So much for the Council of Constantinople as effectively having re-unified the divided church or authoritatively validated the doctrines of papal supremacy and infallibility. Let us now look at the second of Gibbons' mentioned councils -- the Second Council of Lyons. We are told that this council, known to the Latin church as the 14th Ecumenical Council, was convened for the purpose of re-uniting the Greek and Latin churches. Was it successful? At least one other Roman Catholic authority seems to agree with Gibbons that it did.

Lyons II, 1274, reunited the Church with the Greeks and enacted disciplinary reforms. -- Robert C. Broderick, Op. cit., p.181

Those troublesome Greeks apparently were unaware that they were supposed to be in submission to the Latin pope. Once again, bishops of the divided church gathered to address issues involving discipline and re-unification. According to Broderick, Lyons II

. . . declared that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and Son in the Holy Trinity, mandated the use of unleavened bread in the Holy Eucharist, proclaimed that there is a true transubstantiation into the body and blood of Christ through consecration, and declared the supreme primacy of the Holy Roman Church over the entire Catholic Church. . . -- Ibid., p. 362

From the outset, things were looking good for the re-unification of the divided church, as Schaff explains:

The second Council of Lyons, known also as the Fourteenth Ecumenical Council, was called by Gregory and opened by him with a sermon. It is famous for the attempt made to unite the Greek and Western churches and the presence of Greek delegates . . .A termination of the schism seemed at hand. The delegates announced the Greek emperor's full acceptance of the Latin creed, including the procession of the Holy Spirit from the Son and the primacy of the bishop of Rome. . . -- Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church Vol V, Charles Scribner's Sons (1910); reprint Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company (1987), pp. 205-06

So far, it would appear that history is on the side of Cardinal Gibbons as touches the unifying work of Lyons II. The Byzantine Emperor, Michael Palaeologus, delivered a statement of faith in which he declared his acceptance of the Roman position on Filioque and the supremacy of the Roman pope over the entire Catholic Church (Denzinger 466). Did Michael really believe this? or could he have been working on his own agenda? How does the Orthodox Church view this council?

The Council of Lyon was convened by Pope Gregory 10th in 1274 after Michael 8th Palaeologus, the Byzantine Emperor, gave assurances that the Orthodox Church was prepared to reunite with Rome. By acknowledging the supremacy of the Pope, Michael hoped to gain financial support for his wars of conquest. Accordingly, a profession of faith, which included sections on purgatory, the sacraments and the primacy of the Pope, was approved by the Orthodox representatives and some 200 Western prelates and reunion was formally accepted. The Greek clergy, however, soon repudiated the agreement. -- Abelard, Op. cit.

A skeptic might think that Emperor Michael sold out his church in the hope of obtaining funding for his wars. That this was the case is strongly suggested by church historian Philip Schaff:

Papal delegates were sent to Constantinople to consummate the union; but the agreement was rejected by the Greek clergy. It is more than surmised that the Greek emperor, Michael Palaeologus, was more concerned for the permancy of the Greek occupation of Constantinople than for the ecclesiastical union of the East and the West upon which the hearts of popes had been set so long. -- Philip Schaff, Op. cit., pp. 205-06

So far, two of the three councils mentioned by Cardinal Gibbons failed to truly unify the divided church. Since the agreements reached in these two councils were rejected by the Greek clergy, it likewise cannot be truly said that either of these councils resulted in the acceptance of the Roman See as having authority over all the Catholic Church. Did the churchman deliberately lie on these matters? He did not, though he in fact did present arguments that strongly suggested that the councils had indeed resolved the schism between East and West and had firmly established the supremacy and infallibility of the Roman pontiff. Perhaps the cardinal will be vindicated when we turn our attention to the Council of Florence.

The 17th Ecumenical council lives in history as a monument to the cupidity of the Greek emperor, patriarch and bishops and to the untrustworthiness of the Latin church. This council spanned eight years and met in Basel, Ferrara, Florence and Rome. It was not their desire for unification that brought the Eastern delegates to the council. Far from it. The Byzantine Empire was being threatened by the Ottoman Turks and desperately seeking assistance from the Western powers. When they came, the Greeks came with empty pockets and a willingness to live on welfare provided by the Roman Church.

The Greek delegation was quite large, numbering some 700 members. Every single one of them, from the Byzantine emperor, through the Greek patriarch, right down to the lowest ranking clergyman in that delegation received a monthly stipend from Rome. The monthly dole for the Greek delegates was 30 florins for the emperor, 25 for the patriarch, four for the prelates and three to the other visitors. I imagine it must have been difficult for the Latin representatives to hold in very high regard the members of the Greek contingent, whose very emperor was living on the Roman dolee. (Philip Schaff, The History of the Christian Church, Vol VI, Charles Scribner's Sons (1910); reprint Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company(1987), pp. 179ff.)

Apparently life was good in Italy, for the Eastern delegates did what they could to prolong deliberations and lengthen their enjoyment of Roman hospitality. Even after the council was closed, the Byzantine emperor lingered in Italy another month until he was paid the remainder of his stipend, which was then five months in arrears.

There were other payoffs as well. When the council was concluded, two of the more prominent Greek leaders, Bessarion of Nice and Isadore of Kief, remained behind and were made cardinals by Pope Eugenius.

The agreement reached by this council was a masterpiece of compromise and duplicity in which all the issues that had divided the two churches were eliminated -- not in fact, but by the clever manipulation of semantics and word meanings and, in one instance, by outright fraud. An example is the manner in which the delegates dealt with the Filioque problem:

The Greeks accepted the addition made to the Constantinopolitan creed by the synod of Toledo, 589, declaring that the Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son, but with the stipulation that they were not to be required to introduce the filioque clause when they used the creed. They justified their course on the ground that they had understood the Latins as holding to the procession from the Father and the Son as from two principles. The article of agreement ran: "The Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son eternally and substantially as it were from one source and cause. [2. Aeternaliter et substantialiter tanquam ab uno principio et causa. The statement ex patre et filio and ex patre per filium were declared to be identical in meaning.] -- Philip Schaff, Ibid.

So the disputing parties agreed to a special understanding of two terms in Latin, the dead language Rome prefers to use because, she claims, word meanings do not change. Then, they agreed to the Greek acceptance of the new wording in the creed, so long as they could continue to use the old wording in their religious services. Now that is world class compromise.

What other special arrangements were made in order to arrive at agreement?

The disagreements concerning what happens to the soul at death were also addressed.

In the matter of purgatory, it was decided that immediately at death the blessed pass to the beatific vision, a view the Greeks had rejected. Souls in purgatory are purified by pain and may be aided by the suffrages of the living. At the insistence of the Greeks, material fire as an element of purification was left out. -- Ibid.

When one reads the product of the 6th Session of the Council of Florence, he discovers that the Roman Catholic dogma that is to be believed as a matter of faith by those who bend the knee to the popes can be defined in deliberately vague terms. For example, the Greeks did not accept the doctrine of purgatorial fire, so the council left that out of its definition by declaring

We have likewise defined that, if those truly penitent have departed in the love of God, before they have made satisfaction by worthy fruits of penance for sins of commission or omission, the souls of these are cleansed after death by purgatorial punishments; and so that they may be released from punishments of this kind, the suffrages of the living faithful are of advantage to them, namely, the sacrifices of Masses, prayers, and almsgiving, and other works of piety, which are customarily performed by the faithful for other faithful according to the institutions of the Church. -- Decree for the Greeks, produced by the Sixth Session, July 1439, Council of Florence (Denzinger 693)

By substituting "purgatorial punishments" for "purifying fire" in this dogmatic definition, the Latin delegates did not yield to Greek doctrine -- they sidestepped it. Did the Roman Catholics who helped shape that decree in any way modify RCC teaching concerning Purgatory? Not in the least, as the following demonstrates:

It is not a defined dogma that the principal instrument of the pain of sense [in Purgatory] is material fire, but it is most probable that this is the case. The Catechism of the Council of Trent states that the fire of purgatory exists, and the souls of just men are cleansed by it. St. Thomas says that the least pain of purgatory is greater than the greatest sufferings of this life. -- Francis Spirago, The Catechism Explained, Richard F. Clarke, Trans., Revised by Anthony N. Fuerst, Benziger Brothers (1960), p. 141; has Nihil Obstat & Imprimatur

Should the Roman Catholic reader desire a more recent teaching on the "purifying fires" of Purgatory, the following is taken from the current Catechism:

1031. The Church gives the name Purgatory to this final purification of the elect, which is entirely different from the punishment of the damned. The Church formulated her doctrine of faith on Purgatory especially at the Councils of Florence and Trent. The tradition of the Church, by reference to certain texts of Scripture, speaks of a cleansing fire. . . -- Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd Ed., (c) 1994/1997 United States Catholic Conference, Inc.

So far, the councils Cardinal Gibbons pointed to in support of his arguments for papal supremacy and infallibility have proved to be monuments to RCC duplicity. Mayhap we will find the support the Cardinal seeks by continuing to examine the documents of Florence. Another bone of contention between East and West had to do with the nature of the bread used in Communion. The Western church used unleavened bread, while the Eastern church made use of leavened bread. How to resolve such a monumental difference? Easy. Just agree to permit each church to follow its own custom (Denzinger 692).

The matter of eucharist was something else, however. The differences between the two bodies was resolved by the Greeks' agreement with the Latins' doctrine, but with the proviso that the specific point of former disagreement not be included in the written articles of the Council. In other words, the Greeks were willing to go along with the Latins, but only if there were no paper trail pointing to that acceptance.

In the matter of the eucharist, the Greeks, who, after the words, "this is my body," make a petition that the Spirit may turn the bread into Christ's body, agreed to the view that transubstantiation occurs at the use of the priestly words, but stipulated that the confession be not incorporated in the written articles. -- Philip Schaff, Op. cit., p. 182-83

The greatest problem confronting the delegates at the wandering council known as Florence had to do with papal supremacy. The participants eventually hammered out an agreement -- which the Roman Catholics later changed, after it had been signed, to support Latin pretentions.

The primacy of the Roman bishop offered the most serious difficulty. The article of union acknowledged him as "having a primacy over the whole world, he himself being the successor of Peter, and the true vicar of Christ, the head of the whole Church, the father and teacher of all Christians, to whom, in Peter, Christ gave authority to feed, govern and rule the universal Church." [1. Diffinimus sanctam apostol, sedem et Romanam pontificem in universum orbem tenere primatum et ipsum pnotificem Romanum successorem esse B. Petri principis apostolorum, et verum Christi vicarium, totiusque ecclesiae caput, et omnium Christianorum patrem et doctorem, etc. Mansi, XXXI. 1697]. This remarkable concession was modified by a clause in the original document, running, "according as it is defined by the acts of the ecumenical councils and by the sacred canons." The Latins afterwards changed the clause so as to read, "even as it is defined by the ecumenical councils and the holy canons." The Latin falsification made the early ecumenical councils a witness to the primacy of the Roman Pontiff. Ibid., p. 183 [Emphasis not in original]

The articles of agreement were signed by 115 Latins and 33 Greeks. A great deal was made of the agreement, with widespread celebrations. The articles were read in Latin and in Greek in the Cathedral of Florence, after which the pope himself celebrated Mass. There was great joy in Mudville.

When the Greek delegates, and their emperor, returned home, it was not to a joyful reception. Quite the contrary.

On their return, the delegates were hooted as Azymites, the name given in contempt to the Latins for using unleavened bread in the eucharist. Isadore, after making announcement of the union at Ofen, was seized and put into a convent, from which he escaped two years later to Rome. The patriarchs of Jerusalem, Antioch, and Alexandria issued a letter from Jerusalem, 1443, denouncing the council of Florence as a synod of robbers and Moetrophanes, the Byzantine patriarch as a matricide and heretic. -- Ibid., p. 184

There you have it. In presenting his arguments for papal infallibility and supremacy, Cardinal Gibbons mentioned three so-called ecumenical councils. He made a point of mentioning that the three councils were not held in Rome and that they had met for the purpose of re-uniting the Latin and Greek churches. As I have shown, these councils were ecumenical in name only, in that the Greek contingents were motivated by agendas having little or nothing to do with resolving the differences between the divided churches. I have also shown that both the Greeks and the Latins were willing to compromise and use devious means to effect a paper reunification. In the process, I have shown how the Roman Church was not above cheating and deceit in order to obtain, at least on paper, her goals.

The Roman Catholic Church declares, Extra ecclesia nulla salus, though she is willing to make concessions to unbelievers and admit the possibility of their salvation, while denying her salvation to Bible-believing, baptized Christians who will not bend the knee to Rome's emperor. The RCC tells her faithful that the teachings of her Magisterium are to be accepted without question by all Catholic faithful, under threat of dire consequences for disobedience. How can anyone trust an organization that has repeated;y shown itself to be unscrupulous and devoid of honor?

The truth is in the Scriptures. Look to them, not the pope and his henchmen.

Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else. Isaiah 45:22

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