Saturday, November 12, 2016
Pope St. Martin I & the Monothelite heresy
Today is traditionally the Feast of Pope St. Martin I, a great pontiff of the 7th century, and opponent of the Monothelite heresy. His new calendar feast falls on 13 April, for reference. So, what follows is an account I wrote of his rather interesting times:
Patriarch Sergius of Constantinople (610-638), trying to reconcile the Monophysites (an earlier heresy, centered in Egypt, that claimed Christ had one nature), came up with a new heresy that appears on the scene in 630. He argued that Christ has only “one will,” and two natures: this is the Monothelite heresy. The Armenians liked the idea, but the Patriarch of Alexandria objected. Rome, under Pope Honorius I (625-638) responded with a vague letter that was taken as consent. The Emperor Heraclius (610-641) threw his weight behind this idea in 638, and signed a Monothelite statement [Ecthesis] proposed by the Patriarch Sergius.
Here is an article with more detail on the Monothelite heresy: Old Catholic Encyclopedia: Monothelites
The next Emperor, Constans II (641-668) did, however, initially withdraw the Monothelite statement. In 648, though, Constans II actually ended up sided with the Monothelite Patriarch of Constantinople, Paul II (641-654), by forbidding discussion of the issue [the document was called the “Type”].
Pope St. Martin I (649-655)
In 649 a new Pope took the Chair of Peter: St. Martin I (649-655). He convened a synod in 649 at the Lateran, condemned the heresy, and excommunicated the Patriarch of Constantinople – for which he was arrested in that same Church in 653 by Byzantine troops (Pope St. Martin I would die in exile in the Crimea in 655). This was a real persecution.
Here is a link with more information on Pope St. Martin I: Old Catholic Encyclopedia: Pope St. Martin I
Here is a second: Catholic Saints Info: Pope St. Martin I
Finally, a third: Butler's Lives of the Saints: Pope St. Martin I
In 663, Byzantine Emperor Constans II actually came to Rome; the first time an Emperor had been in the city in 200 years. Constans II settled in Sicily, but was murdered in his bath in 668 -- beaten to death with a silver bath bucket -- and followed on the throne by his son, Constantine IV (668-685). Constantine suggested to the Supreme Pontiff that the Monothelite matter be laid to rest.
Pope St. Agatho (678-681) responded with a letter that reaffirmed the teaching of the Popes, and a council – the 6th Ecumenical Council, the Third Council of Constantinople, was opened in November 680. It would meet until September 681. The Emperor presided, and Papal legates led the theological discussions. The Council not only condemned the heresy, but made a list of condemned heretics – a list that included Pope Honorius I! Before he could approve the Council’s acts, though, Pope Agatho died. The new pope elected in his place was Pope St. Leo II (681-683). He was versed in Greek and looked through the documents. He reworded the condemnation of Honorius, to merely condemn his lack of vigor in fighting the heresy, and then approved the council. Indeed, the case of Pope Honorius is a good reminder of how popes may not officially promulgate heresy, but they can be negligent in teaching the truth with clarity. If a pope fails to uphold and teach the truth of the Faith, and this clearly, he has much to answer for!
Remember, of course, that this is happening in the context of the lightening strikes of the Islamic Conquest, which began against the Byzantine Empire during the reign of the Emperor Heraclius and threatened Constantinople itself by the late 600s, having overwhelmed the Holy Land, Syria, Egypt, and much of North Africa.