Monday, February 11, 2008

Did anything happen in 1054?

I just read a fascinating article on the schism of 1054 between the Latin west and the Greek east which posited the position that the schism did not begin in 1054 and that what actually happened in 1054 was inconsequential canonically (though it may have been of monumental importance culturally). The article did not deny that the east was in schism, but questioned whether they went into schism in 1054 (as opposed to at a later or earlier date).

Here's a brief rundown of what led up to the 1054 schism and some things to think about:

Following the Norman conquest of southern Italy in the early 1050's, the Normans began forcibly imposing Latin customs on the Greek churches in Calabria and Sicily, Churches which had maintained a happy coexistence with both Rome and Constantinople for centuries.

Seeing that the popes had fallen under the sway of the Normans (Pope Leo IX was even held prisoner by them on 1053), the Greek Italian churches pleaded with the Patriarch of Constantinople to assist them in maintaining their cultural and liturgical identity. Patriarch Michael I Cerularius ordered the head of the Bulgarian church to draft a letter to be sent to all of the western bishops, including the pope, in which the Latin Church was accused of "Judaizing" (a reference to the west's use of unleavened bread for the Eucharist).

Pope Leo ordered Cardinal Humbert to make a reply to the charges, and sent him, along with Frederick of Lorraine (future Pope Stephen IX) and Archbishop Peter of Amalfi, to Constantinople empowered with legatine powers to answer the charges made against the Latin Church. When they arrived, they immediately got into a heated quarrel with the Patriarch and stormed out of his palace. The Patriarch refused to recognize their authority and would not meet with them anymore.

Meanwhile, Leo IX died on April 19, 1054. The legates waited around Constantinople for several more months, until their anger drove them to their famous act: on July 16, they entered Hagia Sophia during the Divine Liturgy and placed a Bull of Excommunication upon the altar, then left for Rome. The city was in riots over the Bull, and the legates were lucky to escape with their lives. The legates were in turn anathematized by a Byzantine Synod.

Now, a few things to consider:

First, the powers of a legate expire when the pope who grants the legatine powers dies. Pope Leo IX died in April, and the legatine powers were not reconferred upon Humbert, Frederick and Peter, at least not prior to their return to Rome. Therefore, when the excommunication was declared, in July, their legatine powers had expired four months earlier.

Second, their bull only excommunicated Michael I, not any other person. Even if it was valid, it would have expired after Michael's death and not carried on to his successor, much less any of the other eastern bishops.

Third, the anathemas against the legates named only Humbert, Peter and Frederick. Not even the pope was anathematized. Thus, the idea of two churches mutually excommunicating each other is way overblown.
Did the schism begin in 1054? Culturally, perhaps, but canonically no. This cultural schism was definitely solidified in 1204, when the Latins took control of Constantinople and the deep seated Greek hatred for the Latins became irreversible. The point of the article is that the schism was a graudal process with no definable date for when it started or when it was consummated. 1054 has simply served as a convenient marker along the way, though canonically, it is doubtful that anything binding or irreformable took place in that year.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Sounds kind of familiar. AND NO I WAS NOT THERE. I'm not that old. But doesn't it kind of sound like, oh, American bishops of the 60s and 70s leading to today with Pope Benedict's desire to return the Latin and the American bishops objecting? And with that, some priest who pander to the "nonfaithful?"