14 November 2014

Pope S Agatho and Synods

S Agatho's Synod was, when you think about it, quite a big one: 125 bishops. Larger, I think, than some 'Ecumenical Councils'. He was summoning it (Bede H.E. V 19) adversus eos qui ... dogmatizabant. This Synod was held against a doctrinal error that had just arisen: against those who dogmatized that there was but one Will and Working in the Lord our Saviour (i.e. Monothelites). He did not call his Council to find out what those 125 bishops thought, nor to discover whether they had some splendid new ideas.

Inevitably, there was an Englishman in Rome and inevitably that Englishman was S Wilfrid. This indefatigable missionary tended to find himself embroiled in rows, and his instinct on such occasions was invariably the same: go to Rome. After all, if one got there fast enough, the Holy See only heard one side of the story. I have always warmed to S Wilfrid, and was very pleased to feel his fellowship this summer in the great church wherein he was buried.

So S Agatho invited Wilfrid to join in his synod so as to benefit from his thinking ... NO: not a bit of it; Wilfrid was invited to speak his Faith, in other words, to make formal confession of his orthodoxy; but not of his own merely personal Faith: that of the Province or Island from which he came. His adherence to Catholic orthodoxy was incorporated into the Acta Synodi: "Wilfrid, the God-beloved Bishop of the City of York ... was set in the seat of judgement in Synod with his 125 coepiscopi; and, in the name of (pro) the whole Northern part of Britain and Ireland, and the islands which are inhabited by the nations of the Angles and Britons, and also the Scots and the Picts, he confessed the true and Catholic Faith, et cum subscriptione sua corroboravit."

The confidence with which S Wilfrid spoke for so much of (what in Irish scholarship is now neatly called) the Atlantic Archipelago, and for the orthodoxy of thousands of Scottic monks who had never met him and, had they done so, might have had strong things to say about his Paschal Mathematics, may well take our breath away. But I want to point out what this Synod was for; how it operated; and its integration into the authentic Roman and Catholic conception of the function of the Papacy. A heresy has arisen; it is the role of the Pope to resist it and condemn it; and his brother bishops are there to strengthen his hand by bearing (written, formal) witness to the orthodoxy which they have, each of them, received and to which their Churches bear witness.

There is no record of dissensions or of formal voting on disputed topics.

This is Papacy; this is Episcopacy; this is Collegiality; this is Synodality.


Daniel J said...

Thnk you Fr Hunkwicke for this enlightening post, and for your other learned, straightforward and also witty posts. This is fast becoming the blog I turn to for instruction. Many thanks.

Mighty Joe Young said...

I suspect I am barred, nonetheless, God Bless you for this post

Site Administrator said...

Thank you, Dear Father.

"This is Papacy; this is Episcopacy; this is Collegiality; this is Synodality."

May I add:

"And THIS is the way an Orthodox Catholic priest professes his Faith."

marcianusaristides said...

God grant us another Agatho!