Monday, February 21, 2011

Pope St. Leo III & Filioque (Palmieri)

Since no one is ignorant that Pope St. Leo III of Rome (795-816) upheld the dogma of Filioque, I am posting a rough translation of Aurelio Palmieri's treatment of Pope St. Leo III's refusal to add Filioque to the Creed, from Dictionnaire de théologie catholique, ed. A. Vacant, et al. (Paris 1913) 5.2:2329-2931. Pope St. Leo III pray for us!

Translation complete as of 9/8/2015, thanks be to God
But if Leo III was convinced of the dogmatic truth of Filioque, why did he blame them for the insertion of this formula to the Symbol, why he did he urge the legates of Charlemagne not to sing the symbol with the addition? Is not his behavior proof that he believed in the inviolability of the Symbol of Constantinople?




Western theologians give different explanations for Leo III's conduct in the Filioque affair. According to Baronius, this pope did not blame the introduction of the Filioque to the Symbol, but the Franks' lack of veneration for the See of Rome, because of which they, on their own, without the prior permission of the sovereign pontiff, had modified the text of the Symbol. Annales, an. 809, m. 112, Lucques, 1743, t. XIII, p. 456. Pagi agrees. He adds, however, another reason for the conduct of Leo III. The pope feared alienating the sympathies of the Greeks. Ibid., p. 457. Bellarmine believes that Leo III wanted to preserve for posterity the Symbol as it was received, and to thereby show that there was nothing in it against the Filioque. De Christo, b. II, c. XXVII. In his notes on the letter of Photius to the Patriarch of Aquileia [Valpert, 875-899], Combefis insinuates that Leo III had not approved the addition of the Filioque for fear of being a heretic in the eyes of the Greeks. P.G., t. CII, col. 800, note 8. According to Fr. Cichowski, Leo III would have decided to respond negatively to the solicitations of the Franks in order to avoid the Greeks inserting the formula "ex Patre solo" in the Symbol. Colloquium kioviense de processione Spiritus Sancti a Patre et Filio, in Tribunal sanctorum Patrum orientalium et occidentialium, Kraków, p. 321. According to Costanzi, Leo III's conduct was inspired primarily by the desire to defend the orthodoxy of the ancient ecumenical councils, lest they should be accused of neglecting to define and explicitly profess a very important dogma of Trinitarian theology; then, in order to avoid also introducing to the Symbol other dogmas that one must believe in order to be saved. Opuscula ad revocandos dissidentes græcos, etc., Rome, 1807, p. 101.

According to Jager, Leo III did not want to touch the Symbol because it was sanctioned by the ecumenical councils, and we should not add to it without serious reasons. Histoire de Photius, p. 356. Cardinal Franzelin believes that Leo III forbade the inclusion of Filioque in the Symbol, because it had not been proposed and approved by legitimate authority, by the See of Rome. De Deo trino, p. 564. He would consider the Filioque affair as a question of discipline alone. Examen doctrinæ Macarii, p. 93. Fr. De Régnon insinuates that Leo III's decision was a temporary expedient, devised by Italian finesse, and that the wise slowness of the pontifical court in its resistance to the prodding of the faithful highlights the providential role of Rome, which is expected to resolve the questions raised by the Christian world. Op. cit., t. III, p. 220. Fr. Brandi points out that Leo III's refusal to Charlemagne's envoys concerned the public chanting of the Symbol with the Latin addition. De l'union des Églises, p. 30.

These various explanations are not all likely to silence the Greek polemicists. Lampryllos concludes that the Latins "bend the events, twist the facts to make them consistent with their intentions." Op. cit., p. 43. We cannot know exactly what reasons led Leo III to blame the insertion of the Filioque to the symbol. Bekkos was perhaps right in saying that the Greeks, by their refusal, Pope Leo III showed his reverence for the ancient monuments of Christian antiquity and implicitly stated that a doctrine need not be contained in the symbol for us to recognize it as a truth of divine revelation. De unione Ecclesiarum, n. 47, P.G., t. CXLI, col. 112, 113. Anyway, there is no doubt that the Filioque, for Leo, is not a false and impious dogma; that he deems belief in Filioque necessary for salvation; that he does not consider the insertion of Filioque to the symbol as a falsification of the faith of Nicaea and Constantinople. He therefore leaves intact the dogmatic side of the Filioque, although he believes that we should wait to propose to the faithful explicit adherence to the solemn dogma of the Christian faith.
Considered from this point of view, the conduct of Leo III is consistent with the approach followed at all times by the supreme magisterium of the Church. There have always been dogmatic truths that the Church has proposed for the explicit belief of the faithful after careful consideration and with a wise slowness. She was waiting for fierce opposition, reiterated denials that obliged her to fulfill her mission to appease the debate and to teach the faithful what to believe. Leo III merely held that the time was not favorable to add a new dogmatic formula to the Symbol. But he was so convinced of the truth of the Filioque he did not ask for the immediate removal of this formula; he did not separate from his communion churches of Spain and Gaul, because they confined themselves to their custom and did not follow his advice. See Rozaven, op. cit., p. 43, 44. Fr. Baur recalls about an episode that has much in common with what happened under Leo III. A council held at Antioch in 267, or 272, according to the Πηδάλιον, rejected the term ὁμοούσιον that the Nicene Council should include in its symbol, like the tessera of orthodoxy. Hefele, op. cit., trans. Leclercq, t. I, p. 202, 203. The Πηδάλιον does not blame the decision of this council, because, he says, its condemnation was about the word, not about doctrine. By the introduction of a new term, the Fathers of the Council did not want to provide heretics the pretext for new charges. Πηδάλιον, Athens, 1886, p. 106, n. 2; Baur, Argumenta contra orientalem Ecclesiam, Innsbruck, 1897, p. 40, 41. Similarly, Leo III held that the insertion of the Filioque was not timely because it would have embittered the dissensions between Greeks and Latins. But it stands to reason that opportunism should not last forever. New circumstances pushed the successors of Leo III to not procrastinate, especially as their silence would operate by as an implicit condemnation of a dogma whose belief was already general in the Latin Church. The conduct of the papacy is not contradictory in the case of the Filioque. There was probably some variations on a disciplinary point, with regard to the dogma itself expressed by the Filioque, through the mouth of its supreme pastors, the Roman Church has always professed that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Son as well as the Father.

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