- The Latin Church, centered at Rome, gradually lost Greek due to historical reasons. However, the Greek and Latin Fathers were always understood to be of equal authority. We see this in St. Thomas, whose Catena Aurea quotes freely from all Fathers Greek and Latin. (Because of this assumption, the Latin Church eventually regained Greek).
- Thus in the west it was thought that, whatever differences existed between the Fathers, not only can they be reconciled, but whatever they agree upon is infallible. “No one in matters of faith and of morals may interpret the sacred Scripture contrary to the unanimous consent of the Fathers” (Trent, Decree Concerning the Use of Sacred Books). “Fathers” was assumed to mean both Latin and Greek.
- In particular, this assumption of equality is shown in the decree of Florence, which acknowledges that the Greek and Latin Fathers used different terms for the Procession of the All-Holy Spirit, but dogmatically defined that they meant the same thing (Denz. 691).
- The Seven Ecumenical Councils, all of them in Greek, were always received in the west, but according to the Latin Fathers, since all actions of the Councils needed to be translated into Latin. This is seen in the three interpolations into the Latin Nicene Creed, understood in the context of the three Latin creeds.
- Those among the Greeks, however, who adhered to schism with Rome (contrasted with the more irenic among them, who followed St. Maximos), began, starting with Photios, to regard the Latin Fathers to be of lesser authority than the Greek. Thus the alleged “heresies” of Rome – the Papacy, the Filioque, the Saturday Fast, no beards, the Azymes, Purgatory – are often actually a rejection of the Latin Fathers, whose writings are the proofs for all of these “heresies.” These excesses became acute in particular when the Greek political power was under threat from Rome.
- It is true that at times throughout history, Latins did disparage Greek practices that were in fact based on the Greek Fathers, but this never gained official sanction. Despite the awful trends of Latinizations, Roman dogmatic theology always assumed the equality of all Fathers.
- Insofar as a Greek adheres to the errors of Photios – that the Latin Fathers are of lesser authority – he adheres to schism with the consensus of the Fathers. Insofar as any Greek confesses the equal authority of the Latin Fathers, he is on his way to communion with Rome.
- Thus the term “Greek Schism” is employed to describe the historical cause of the schism from a doctrinal perspective – it is the Greeks who must come back to a consensus of the Fathers and confess that the Latin and Greek are of equal weight.
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