Claims of “church unity” are a lie

One of the most significant, Protestant-like “divisions” in the early church may be found in the simple designations of “The School of Antioch” or “The School of Alexandria,” both of which held differing views of Scripture, and later, of the person of Christ. This manifested itself in “The Great Schism,” a schism of church governments of “The Church of the East,” the separation of the Church of Alexandria, etc.

Samuel Hugh Moffett, in his work, “A History of Christianity in Asia,” describes this “Great Schism” this way:

What finally divided the early church, East from West, Asia from Europe, was neither war nor persecution, but the blight of a violent theological controversy, that raged through the Mediterranean world in the second quarter of the fifth century. It came to be called the Nestorian controversy, and how much of it was theological and how much political is still being debated, but it irreversibly split the church not only east and west but also north and south and cracked it into so many pieces that it was never the same again. (pg. 169)

This is an ugly memory for the “Greco-Roman” church — it is a far larger and messier divide than the 1054 schism between the Roman and Orthodox churches. It makes a lie of the “unified church” claims of today’s Roman Catholic apologists. It is the clearest example that there never was a governmentally-unified church — especially not “under the papacy” — ever in the history of the church.

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16 Responses to Claims of “church unity” are a lie

  1. Alex says:

    I really do not understand why people like yourself misrepresent what the Church means when it says “unity.” It is right there in the CCC.

    815 What are these bonds of unity? Above all, charity “binds everything together in perfect harmony.”265 But the unity of the pilgrim Church is also assured by visible bonds of communion:

    – profession of one faith received from the Apostles;

    -common celebration of divine worship, especially of the sacraments;

    – apostolic succession through the sacrament of Holy Orders, maintaining the fraternal concord of God’s family.266

    Anyone who rejects a teaching of the Church cannot be said to be in union with her. Here is what we see in Canon Law:

    Can. 750 §1. A person must believe with divine and Catholic faith all those things contained in the word of God, written or handed on, that is, in the one deposit of faith entrusted to the Church, and at the same time proposed as divinely revealed either by the solemn magisterium of the Church or by its ordinary and universal magisterium which is manifested by the common adherence of the Christian faithful under the leadership of the sacred magisterium; therefore all are bound to avoid any doctrines whatsoever contrary to them.

    §2. Each and every thing which is proposed definitively by the magisterium of the Church concerning the doctrine of faith and morals, that is, each and every thing which is required to safeguard reverently and to expound faithfully the same deposit of faith, is also to be firm-ly embraced and retained; therefore, one who rejects those propositions which are to be held definitively is opposed to the doctrine of the Catholic Church.

    Can. 751 Heresy is the obstinate denial or obstinate doubt after the reception of baptism of some truth which is to be believed by divine and Catholic faith; apostasy is the total repudiation of the Christian faith; schism is the refusal of submission to the Supreme Pontiff or of communion with the members of the Church subject to him.

    Can. 1364 §1. Without prejudice to the prescript of ⇒ can. 194, §1, n. 2, an apostate from the faith, a heretic, or a schismatic incurs a latae sententiae excommunication; in addition, a cleric can be punished with the penalties mentioned in ⇒ can. 1336, §1, nn. 1, 2, and 3.

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  2. johnbugay says:

    Alex, I really do not understand how you could think the church of that era was in any way “The Church” that wrote the catechism from which you are quoting.

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  3. Alex says:

    You were discussing modern Catholic apologists. If someone rejected defined doctrines during that time they were labled heretics, excommunicated, and it was understood that they were not in communion with the Church. Unless you can prove that the Church then understood true unity any differently than it is understood today, then we are left to acknowledge your comments as nothing more than rants derived from ignorance.

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    • johnbugay says:

      You were discussing modern Catholic apologists. If someone rejected defined doctrines during that time they were labled heretics, excommunicated, and it was understood that they were not in communion with the Church.

      You are citing the modern Catechism and the modern CIC. The burden of proof is on you to suggest how such things existed in that day.

      Unless you can prove that the Church then understood true unity any differently than it is understood today, then we are left to acknowledge your comments as nothing more than rants derived from ignorance.

      What was “defined” during that day, except for the doctrine of the Trinity and Christology? Certainly the papacy was unknown, except to Leo. (See Chalcedon Canon 28).

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  4. Alex says:

    It should also go without saying that Moffett’s analysis of the causes of the “Great Schism” is overly simplistic.

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  5. johnbugay says:

    It should also go without saying that Moffett’s analysis of the causes of the “Great Schism” is overly simplistic.

    It’s easy for you to throw stones. Show me from Moffett’s argument just what it is that is “simplistic.” I reproduced one paragraph. Moffett’s analysis is probably 30-40 pages long. You are the one making ignorant rants.

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  6. Alex says:

    You are the one proposing that the understanding of unity was different now than it was then. You are the one proposing the initial argument. Do you understand what burden of proof even means? Apparently not. Instead of explaining how they are different, you just try to shift the burden on me. As the one who initiated the argument that “modern” Catholic apologists are wrong, prove it.

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  7. johnbugay says:

    Alex, just off the top of my head, the biggest perpetrator of “the lie” was John Paul II.

    He said, “For a whole millennium Christians were united in “a brotherly fraternal communion of faith and sacramental life … ” (“Ut Unum Sint, #95).

    What a mixed up mess. Just a year prior, he signed the “Common Christological Declaration between the Catholic Church and the Assyrian Church of the East,” which contradicted the Council of Chalcedon.

    Chalcedon, of course, said, “But there are those who are trying to ruin the proclamation of the truth, and through their private heresies they have spawned novel formulas … some by daring to corrupt the mystery of the Lord’s economy on our behalf, and refusing to apply the word “God-bearer” (“Theotokos”) to the Virgin …”

    Of course, this was the great “sin” of Nestorius. He called Mary “Christotokos,” suggesting it was a more accurate term.

    You can already find Orthodox church leaders saying “Nestorius was not guilty of the Nestorian heresy.” Of course, Constantinople II condemned him by name, so this “Christological Declaration” does not mention his name.

    But his “Christotokos,” for which Nestorius was condemned (and for which the “Nestorian” churches were NOT “united in a brotherly fraternal communion”), is no longer a sin, according to John Paul: “In the light of this same faith the Catholic tradition addresses the Virgin Mary as “the Mother of God” and also as “the Mother of Christ … We both recognize the legitimacy and rightness of these expressions of the same faith and we both respect the preference of each Church in her liturgical life and piety.”

    Of course, the “Assyrian” church so revered here by John Paul was nothing other than the accursed “Nestorian” church in the year 431.

    This alone should be enough “proof” for you that “the understanding of unity was different then than it is now.”

    For it was simply not true that “all Christians were united in a brotherly unity.” For atleast “half” of that whole millenium, there existed the “Great Schism” that Moffett spoke about.

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  8. johnbugay says:

    This is the anathema from Ephesus, which was ratified also at Constantinople in 553:

    If anyone does not confess that Emmanuel is God in truth, and therefore that the holy virgin is the mother of God (for she bore in a fleshly way the Word of God become flesh, let him be anathema.

    Of course, you had the entire “Nestorian” church under this anathema. It is entirely mistaken to say, “For a whole millennium Christians were united in a brotherly fraternal communion of faith and sacramental life … ”

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  9. Alex says:

    What part that follows below do you not understand:

    815 What are these bonds of unity? Above all, charity “binds everything together in perfect harmony.”265 But the unity of the pilgrim Church is also assured by visible bonds of communion:

    – profession of one faith received from the Apostles;

    -common celebration of divine worship, especially of the sacraments;

    – apostolic succession through the sacrament of Holy Orders, maintaining the fraternal concord of God’s family.266

    If any group refused to submit to what was defined infallible teaching at the time was not considered to be in union with the Catholic Church. The same holds true today. There is no difference between what we are saying about unity today as there was then. If you are arguing that there were groups who rejected the teachings of the Church, then I agree with you, but this is not an argument against unity because you are setting your own standard and definition of what unity means, and then applying that standard over and against how the Church defines it. For your argument to be sound, if you are going to attack the Catholic arguments about unity, then you need to do so within the parameters of how the Church defines unity, otherwise, your argument is without merit.

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  10. Alex says:

    Basically, if we were to accept your definitions, then we would have to conclude that the Catholic Church had taught that heresy, schism, etc. were not possible. This would be absurd.

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    • johnbugay says:

      What part that follows below do you not understand:

      I reject this characterization of what is “God’s family.”

      If any group refused to submit to what was defined infallible teaching at the time was not considered to be in union with the Catholic Church.

      The schism with the Nestorian churches is 100% evidence that John Paul’s statement about “unity in the first millennium” is just a pure lie. These “Nestorians,” always were true Christians, and therefore, always were “God’s family.”

      This makes a lie of the Catholic notion, espoused from the top down, that there was somehow “unity” in that first millennium.

      Basically, if we were to accept your definitions, then we would have to conclude that the Catholic Church had taught that heresy, schism, etc. were not possible. This would be absurd.

      I reject your definition of what “the catholic church” is, was, and what it taught, with total seriousness.

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  11. Alex says:

    I reject your definition of what “the catholic church” is, was, and what it taught, with total seriousness.

    Then you are seriously and totally missinformed. You claim that the Nestorians were true Christians. The Church at that time and this disagree. As such, you are imposing your own definition onto the Church’s use of the term “unity” and by doing so, you are making yourself look foolish. Come up with a better argument.

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  12. John Bugay says:

    COMMON CHRISTOLOGICAL DECLARATION
    BETWEEN THE CATHOLIC CHURCH
    AND THE ASSYRIAN [Nestorian] CHURCH OF THE EAST

    His Holiness John Paul II, Bishop of Rome and Pope of the Catholic Church, and His Holiness Mar Dinkha IV, Catholicos-Patriarch of the Assyrian [Nestorian] Church of the East, give thanks to God who has prompted them to this new brotherly meeting.

    Both of them consider this meeting as a basic step on the way towards the full communion to be restored between their Churches. They can indeed, from now on, proclaim together before the world their common faith in the mystery of the Incarnation.

    ***

    As [both traditions are] heirs and guardians of the faith received from the Apostles as formulated by our common Fathers in the Nicene Creed, we [both] confess one Lord Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, begotten of the Father from all eternity who, in the fullness of time, came down from heaven and became man for our salvation. The Word of God, second Person of the Holy Trinity, became incarnate by the power of the Holy Spirit in assuming from the holy Virgin Mary a body animated by a rational soul, with which he was indissolubly united from the moment of his conception….

    …This is the unique faith that we profess in the mystery of Christ. The controversies of the past led to anathemas, bearing on persons and on formulas. The Lord’s Spirit permits us to understand better today that the divisions brought about in this way were due in large part to misunderstandings [between “The Church at that time and this”] …

    If one didn’t know better, one might think that John Paul II was saying “we have erred in matters of faith and morals.”

    http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/pontifical_councils/chrstuni/documents/rc_pc_chrstuni_doc_11111994_assyrian-church_en.html

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  13. johnbugay says:

    Alex: There’s video at this link:

    http://www.oltv.tv/id553.html

    Lumen Orientale III: That’s Orthodox Bishop Kallistos Ware introducing Mar Bawai Soro, a bishop (at that time) of the Assyrian (Nestorian) church.

    Note that there is great laughter (and there are Catholic bishops in the audience) when Ware says, “The Nestorian Churches were not guilty of the Nestorian heresy, and Nestorius himself was not guilty of the Nestorian heresy.”

    You are sadly out of touch.

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