22 September 2016

The Tome of S Leo

Did you think I was a bit hard  in my criticisms a day or two ago of bureaucracies which operate under the cover of episcopal conferences? But those of us whom Pope Benedict so graciously invited to bring our own distinctive patrimony into the one true fold of the Redeemer have seen it all before ... these bureaucracies, their unaccountable Spokesmen. Sequuntur a couple of boring old anecdotes of my own. I hope you're sitting comfortably.

Once upon a time, S John Paul II, in the course of his admirable catecheses, spoke about the Perpetual Virginity of the Most Holy Mother of God. Virginity in any shape or form being an unusual concept to journalists, the Press wanted a Story out of this, and so they turned to the Press Office of what our Patron Blessed John Henry Newman so beautifully called the House of Bondage. Duly, next day, it was reported in the public papers that a Spokesman of the Church of England had disclaimed the doctrine and said that Modern Scholarship did not accept it. Since I was working as a priest of the Church of England, I rather objected to this anonymous individual claiming to speak on my behalf. I objected all the more, because 'Ever Virgin', aeiparthenos, is in the Conciliar documents of the Council of Chalcedon, a Council to which the Church of England has historically been regarded as doctrinally committed (under the legislation of Elizabeth I, you could be burned as a heretic for denying its teaching). Semper Virgo is, to be specific, present in the Tome of S Leo, who was one of the dozen greatest latinists of all time. I am very attached to (as we say nowadays) the Spirit of Chalcedon ... but also to its words. And equally attached to the Spirit and words of S Leo. And to the doctrinal interventions of all Roman Pontiffs except Pope Honorius I, whom, of course, I anathematise.

So I made enquiries about this Press Statement. To be brief: my enquiry was passed from hand to hand, office to office, with nobody taking responsibility, everyone disowning it. But I persisted, eventually discovered the identity of the 'Spokesman', and the processes he had gone through.

His media contacts had demanded a response before their press deadline that very same day. So he had 'phoned up the only bishop of the Church of England who had an academic reputation ... a liberal Evangelical who was 'chair' of the Doctrine Commission ... who had told him what to say.

Thus did a 'Spokesman' for the Church of England disclaim, and dissociate his ecclesial body from, the common teaching of the ancient Churches, Latin, Byzantine, Oriental, and their ancient liturgies; and of the ancient Ecumenical Councils. And disrespectfully dismiss the words of the World Leader of one of our 'partners in ecumenical dialogue'. It's as easily done as that! It's what bureaucrats are for!

The waywardness of these proceedings was emphasised by the subsequent ARCIC document on Mary, which spoke about the doctrine with much more respect, and reminded readers that Cranmer, Latimer, and Jewell had subscribed to it. 

Incidentally, I met a similar implicit disrespect for the Tome of S Leo during the period of 'priestly formation' which we had to go through at the beginning of the Ordinariate. One of the 'lecturers' described a formula found in the Tome (De nostro enim illi est minor Patre humanitas; de Patre illi est aequalis cum Patre divinitas) as "heretical" (ipso ipsius verbo). I was not impressed by what this revealed about the reliability of the doctrinal teaching still perhaps being given even today to Catholic seminarians, or the competence of all their teachers.

I pursued that chap, too. You just can't let these people, wherever you may find them, get away with things, can you?


William Tighe said...

"And to the doctrinal interventions of all Roman Pontiffs except Pope Honorius I, whom, of course, I anathematise."

And John XXII?

Cherub said...

Onya Father. Pursue him. What did he say in response? I would love to know.

Tamquam said...

No, indeed one cannot allow these Modernist teachings to stand,lest they carry the day and souls to perdition. We are at the current pass in Church and culture precisely because these lies have been left to fester unchallenged. God grant us grace and raise up more men of erudition and valor.

Fr PJM said...

Would you consider, dear Father, relating some or much of the dialogue with this latter fellow? Keeping his identity secret, of course.
Oh to have been a fly on the wall for *that* conversation.

Alice said...

I always felt Honorius got a raw deal. If Jesus was without sin, then it seems to follow that his human will would not have diverged from his divine will, and if there was no divergence then there must have been identity, and if identity, then in what sense could there have been two wills?

Romulus said...

Some of us are called to be someone else's thorn in the flesh. It is a thankless vocation. Nevertheless I thank you, Father.

Zephyrinus said...

AND, as for that Anglican Bishop chap, who said The Resurrection DIDN'T ACTUALLY TAKE PLACE, and THE VIRGIN BIRTH WAS A MYTH, etc . . .

You couldn't make it up, could you.

But, apparently, THEY DID.

God preserve us.

William Tighe said...

"I always felt Honorius got a raw deal."

Yes and no. He was condemned (along with a number of others) at the (Third) Council of Constantinople in 681 for teaching the heresy of Monothelitism. This is, strictly speaking, untrue, as the "Monothelite" Christology emerged as the Emperor's preferred (and imposed) dogmatic "solution" only after Honorius's death in 638. If Honorius did embrace a heresy, it was the precursor to Monothelitism, the Emperor's first attempt at a Christological compromise, "Monenergism," although an alternative possibility is that Honorius simply wished to shut the discussion down (and not confront the Emperor) by insisting that Christ's divine will and his human will were always in accord with one another. In any event, when Pope Leo II, in 682, endorsed and ratified that council's anathema upon Honorius, he did so for a different reason, in the form, "and also Honorius, who did not attempt to sanctify this Apostolic Church with the teaching of Apostolic tradition, but by profane treachery permitted its purity to be polluted." The New Catholic Encyclopedia notes: "It is in this sense of guilty negligence that the papacy ratified the condemnation of Honorius." That is, the papacy condemned Honorius not for teaching a heresy ex cathedra, but for negligently permitting heretical positions to stand alongside orthodox ones. Perhaps there is a lesson for today in this ...

William Tighe said...

"I always felt Honorius got a raw deal. If Jesus was without sin, then it seems to follow that his human will would not have diverged from his divine will, and if there was no divergence then there must have been identity, and if identity, then in what sense could there have been two wills?"

Also, Alice, your logic leads straight to the position of the anti-Chalcedonian "monophysites" or, more accurately, and as they prefer, "miaphysites," i.e., "then it seems to follow that his human nature would not have diverged from his divine nature, and if there was no divergence then there must have been identity, and if identity, then in what sense could there have been two natures?" - from which they conclude, that his "human nature" (insofar as one might "in theory" attribute a human nature to the Incarnate Logos) was swallowed up in his divine nature, as a drop of wine might be swallowed up in the ocean.

Banshee said...

Parallel lines don't diverge, but they aren't the same line.

Savonarola said...

If by "that Anglican Bishop chap" Zephyrinus means the late David Jenkins, what he said was not, as reported, the Resurrection is a conjuring trick with bones, but the Resurrection is f a r m o r e than a conjuring trick with bones. Before the storm of vituperation broke over his head he was known as a conspicuously orthodox theologian with a particular interest in the Incarnation and its meaning. The trouble is that so many people today have reverted to an unthinking fundamentalism and seem unwilling to address the real questions which our doctrines, if taken seriously, cannot but suggest. A Spanish writer, de Unamuno, said "Fe que no duda es fe muerta" - faith which does not doubt is dead faith. People want certainty where none is to be had - almost the opposite of genuine faith - and then pillory those who point this out.

Alice said...

Thank you William Tighe, but you do not actually point out how "my logic" (if divergence of will is inconceivable, then identity of will is necessary) - is illogical.

And I am not sure what analogical point you are making with your wine drop and ocean of water. Certainly a drop of wine added to an ocean of water, which contained no wine prior to the addition, will not result in a loss of wine, but in an ocean of water now suffused by the fragrance of a drop of wine.

And while we are on the subject, I find it hard to conceive how Jesus could ever have been tempted in his human will. For to be tempted is to be in two minds before either giving way to the object of temptation, or in finally overcoming it.

Imagine a chocolate lover on a diet being given a bar of the stuff. He knows he should not eat it, but he is sorely tempted to do so, and for the duration of the temptation he might yet go either way. I cannot conceive of the divine will ever being in such a position of between two minds, or of Jesus' human will of being so, for straightaway he would be out of accord with the divine will.

I can imagine of Jesus desiring to eat the bar, but I cannot imagine him of at any moment considering doing so.

Alice said...

Than you, Banshee. Indeed parallel lines do not meet, but they possess an identity in direction. I can understand how the divine will and the human will of Jesus have an identity in direction, but I am at a loss to conceive of at what point they do not meet.

Perhaps you could further elucidate?

Thomas said...

As always I am very willing to be corrected by more educated and authoritative minds, but @Alice: it seems to me that although Our Lord's human and divine wills were not in conflict, indeed they were in perfect harmony, they are distinct because they belong to the different natures - human and divine - which are perfectly united in Him as a (divine) Person.

The point of any of us having a free human will is not in order that we may sin, but precisely in order to freely align and unite ourselves with God's will through grace. So Jesus' human will is no less human for the fact that his human nature does not fight or rebel against his divine nature. Rather that makes him perfectly human, unlike us.

Perhaps we do see a time where conflict arises between his human and divine will in the Garden of Gethsemane. It was not a temptation to sin, but you could say it was a conflict arising from the fact of sin in us. By an act of his human will, exercised on our behalf and in our shared nature, He chose perfect submission to the Divine will and thus brought about our redemption.

If Jesus does not have a human will then he is not really human. That it was at all times freely submitted within Himself to His divine will does not make any less human or indistinct from his eternal divinity. On a much lesser level of analogy, I could say that my stomach has a physical "will" of its own, but I have learned to submit it most of the time to the higher demands of the soul. If I were a saint perhaps it the two energies - physical and spiritual - in me would always operate seamlessly in harmony. And yet my stomach would remain physical with its own physical characteristics, and mu spirit likewise with its own character and drive. The two might run on completely parallel lines in the peaceful unity of one perfected personality, but my body and my spirit would not become other than what they are as dimensions of my nature. In a similar, but much more profound and mysterious way Jesus' human and divine natures are not confused or merely fused in the Incarnation. They are united in a single Person who is fully God ad fully man.

I hope this is is helpful in some way. It is just my effort to think it through with help from the Church's teaching and Tradition.

Chris Jones said...


The line you seem to be taking is that "Honorius got a raw deal" because the Monothelites were essentially right. Saying that two wills that are always aligned are the same thing as a single will is precisely the argument that the Monothelites made at the time. The Church defined her dogma otherwise. The Church's teaching (ably witnessed to by Pope St Martin and St Maximos Confessor and solemnly defined by the sixth Ecumenical Council) is that Christ's human will and His divine will are quite distinct from one another, because His human will is an essential aspect of His human nature, but his divine will is equally an essential aspect of His divine nature. To collapse the two wills into one will is to confuse the two natures of Christ, something that the definition of Chalcedon forbids us to do.

The difficulty, perhaps, is that we moderns tend to see the will as a phenomenon of the psychological order, and thus an aspect of the person rather than of the nature. But the orthodox teaching of the Church cannot be understood without realizing that the will pertains to our common nature as human beings, not to the particularity of individual persons or hypostases. Once that is understood, it becomes clear that if Christ does not have a fully human will, then He does not fully share our human nature; and so He is not "consubstantial with us according to the humanity" (as the Chalcedonian definition puts it). And of course, since "that which He has not assumed He has not healed" (St Gregory Nazianzen), any compromise on the full humanity of Christ totally undercuts our salvation. The dogmatic definitions of the Church are always fundamentally soteriological.

So no, Honorius did not get a "raw deal." He compromised on a fundamental point of dogma, and that is why he was anathematized not only by an Ecumenical Council, but by his orthodox successors in the see of Rome.

Chris Jones said...

In addition to everything I said, what Thomas said.

Alice said...

@Thomas and @Chris Jones

"So Jesus' human will is no less human for the fact that his human nature does not fight or rebel against his divine nature. Rather that makes him perfectly human, unlike us."

"His human nature does not fight or rebel." Perhaps not, but it seems to me that in the garden on that fateful eve, Jesus' perfectly natural human desire did wish, as what human being, perfect or imperfect, would not wish, that that cup be taken from him. Yet not for a moment did he will what his Father did not will, even though his all-too-human desire conflicted with what his Father willed.

But what is nature? Consider the dog. His individual character is constituted by a combination of his instinctual being, his dogginess, and how his particular historical circumstances affect him. Thus, a well-tended dog will more likely have a friendly, open disposition, while a brutalized dog would probably have a more withdrawn, suspicious demeanor. It is this combination of his dog nature and how it can be historically conditioned that alone determines how his instinctual life unfolds; he is not free to overcome it by behaving otherwise.

A man too possesses this combination of nature and historical conditioning which affects how his character is formed. But he also, over and above this, and unlike a dog, possesses a freedom that can transcend his conditioned nature. While a hungry dog who encounters food will have no choice but to eat it, a hungry man can of his free will refrain from eating.

This is because a man possess a will; and a will by definition is free, unconditioned. (We loosely say a dog and other creatures have wills, but we only mean by this that they behave with the instincts proper to their conditioned nature.)

The unconditioned freedom of a man's will is other than his nature, which is conditioned, and why we specify it as human nature, as against other types of nature, differently conditioned. It is his will, his freedom over and above his nature, that renders him in the image of God.

Jesus possesses both a human and a divine nature, and his human nature is no different from fallen man's nature. But in his one person he has just one will. How could it be otherwise? It makes no sense to say that one person may be the possessor of two wills, two unconditioned freedoms, for what could distinguish one unconditioned freedom from another? One unconditioned freedom + one unconditioned freedom = one unconditioned freedom. It is the person that wills, not the nature. In fact, it is the unconditioned freedom of the will that renders its possessor a person. To have two unconditioned freedoms one would need two persons.

In Eden, man's freedom operated within an horizon ordered by God, and man, through his awareness and openness to this horizon, was free to participate in its order. But when he fell through an act of self-will, distnacing his will from God's will, this horizon was altered and contracted by the introduction of sin: divergence from God's will. All subsequent acts of will, oriented as they were by an horizon no longer fully mediating God's order, could not fail but to further the extent of divergence: man could not fail but to fall further and further from the Father's will until his freedom became wholly subjected to his own nature and passions.

Jesus, born without sin, took on man's nature, but, unlike other men, his freedom operated within the horizon of God's order. It is only through this person, whose will mediates and reconciles both human nature and divine nature, that the possibility of reconciliation for all men with the divine opens up.

Chris Jones said...


Here is the nub of our disagreement. You write:

The unconditioned freedom of a man's will is other than his nature

and then:

It is the person that wills, not the nature.

and so in your view, the will pertains to the human person, rather than to human nature. It seems to me that you are confusing the notions of personal freedom and natural will.

The sixth Ecumenical Council, in its dogmatic definition, does not make this confusion. The definition is very clear that the will is natural, not personal.

we likewise declare that in him are two natural wills and two natural operations indivisibly, inconvertibly, inseparably, unconfusedly, according to the teaching of the holy Fathers. And these two natural wills are not contrary the one to the other (God forbid!) as the impious heretics assert, but his human will follows and that not as resisting and reluctant, but rather as subject to his divine and omnipotent will.

(Definition of Faith of the third council of Constantinople)

It's clear to me that you believe Honorius got a raw deal because the Monothelites were right and the Ecumenical Council was wrong. That would come as a surprise to the later Popes who anathematized their predecessor Honorius, as well as to many generations of Catholics and Orthodox who have venerated the sixth Ecumenical Council as a reliable witness to the Apostolic Tradition.

Peregrinus said...


Joseph Farrell's monograph on free will in St. Maximus should clear up the issue for you. There's a difference between the faculty of the will as a natural principle of motion or an innate tendency and the act of choosing. The will (thelema) is natural but choice or deliberation (gnomi) is hypostatic/personal.

Monothelitism terminates in a violation of human freedom since human nature is compelled into salvation. In the end Origen's apokatastasis is the only eschatological option, so you're either a Calvinist or a universalist. Pick your poison.

I guess there's a way out in voluntarism, as well. But then you cannot distinguish between the eternal generation of the Son and the creation of the world. Then you'd be an Arian. Or you can just abandon the faith altogether.

Monothelitism is heretical no matter how you spin it.


Chris Jones said...

I second Peregrinus's recommendation of Prof Farrell's work (Free Choice in Saint Maximus the Confessor, 1989), although it is hard to come by and quite expensive if you can find it.

Nor is it easy reading for those who aren't scholars, but it is well worth the effort. This book was indispensable to my own understanding of these issues.

Alice said...

@Chris Jones, @Peregrinus

Thank you for your terms and definitions. Allow me please to relate them to what I said above.

What I have called nature, you both term natural will. Thus when I say that in the garden Jesus would naturally desire to reject the cup, you would say that Jesus would naturally will to reject the cup. As Peregrinus puts it, the same natural principle of motion and innate tendency operates within Jesus as in all other human beings. If this is what you mean, then I accept your term, and Jesus does indeed have a natural human will. (Although this use of will feels a bit strange to me because I associate will with freedom, and this natural human will is not free.)

Now what I previously termed "will," I defined as man's unconditioned freedom, and said that it was not a part of his nature, but a possession of his as a person. So let me, in the light of my acceptance of your term "natural will," now refer to it as man's unconditioned will. So what for me were previously termed "man's nature" and "man's will," now I term them "man's natural will" and "man's unconditioned will."

What I call unconditioned will, Chris Jones calls operation, and Peregrinus calls deliberation. But while Chris Jones characterizes this operation/deliberation as natural, Peregrinus characterizes it as hypostatic/personal.

Based on what I've already said, and to the extent that I correctly understand what they mean, I would agree with Peregrinus, but not with Chris Jones nor, presumably, with the teaching of the council.

If I may illustrate with a Maximian example: the capacity for speech is natural, but what we say, through a freely operating deliberation, is personal. For if our freely operating deliberation were natural, then we would all say the same thing. Just as we would all reject the cup, naturally.

Now what I've held all along is that it makes no sense to say that Jesus possesses two unconditioned wills, (or two deliberative wills, or two operational wills), because being unconditioned freedoms, there could be nothing to distinguish them in the one person. The unconditioned freedom is what the person is.

The difference between Jesus and fallen man's unconditioned will is that Jesus' freedom operates in the full horizon of God's order, whereas fallen man's, because of his wilful falling away, operates in a constrained horizon, bounded and subjected to his passions and contradictions, and unclarity as to how to express his freedom.

Strictly speaking, there is nothing "deliberative" about Jesus' unconditioned will, because, operating in the full light of truth, there is no question or doubt as to how he should express his freedom. Fallen man, though, must deliberate whether to express his freedom for God's order, or against it. But to know what that order is, he must first look to Christ.

William Tighe said...

"It is the person that wills, not the nature.

and so in your view, the will pertains to the human person, rather than to human nature. It seems to me that you are confusing the notions of personal freedom and natural will."

Also, Alice, if this summary statement is accurate, seems to imply that the Incarnate Lord was "a human person" - a view anathematized alike by orthodox Chalcedonians, anti-Chalcedonians (monophysite, miaphysite, and monothelite alike), and even Nestorians (who believed that the Lord Jesus Christ was two persons in a kind of "moral union"). Is there a classical name to be given to her heresy?

Alice said...

As it happens, William, your summary statement is not accurate, indeed it is wholly inaccurate. Still, if I were to indulge you, I would say that the heresy's name is Schellingian.