Thursday, April 26, 2012

Top Five Things I've Learned about the Church Schism

Well folks, I'm sitting around in the library, waiting for my class to start, so I figured I'd write up a reflection of sorts on my study into the East-West Schism. If you don't care, too bad, it's up here. Deal with it. If you do, these are the five most important points I've learned from my time studying the Schism of 1054 so far. This written in the style of a Cracked article. If you need me to cite anything, please ask, and I will do so.

5. Language (and Schoolin') is Crucial
Did you know that the people in Constantinople were reading Augustine at the same time as Aquinas? No? Me neither. It's pretty sad, but it's true. Language was possibly the biggest barrier to people actually understanding each other, since none of the people in the West spoke Greek, and pretty much no one spoke Latin in a non-liturgical setting. At all. Don't believe me? The current top-to-bottom command structure of the Roman Church was made in the tenth century because the lay people could no longer understand their Liturgy, and thus couldn't participate all that much in Church affairs, and so no lay person actually learned all that much theology. In Byzantium (where they still used the vernacular Greek) theology was part of training to be a statesman. That's right: if you wanted to become a part of the government you had to learn theology. Oh, and to convert you usually had to go through about 3 or so years of catechism before being admitted.

What's my point?

The West and East couldn't communicate, and therefore things fell apart. The language barrier was so great that a lot of things took a lot longer to be understood (the Seventh Ecumenical Council, for instance, where the translating was so poor the West  thought the East were preaching the very thing the East was condemning), or were never really looked at at all until centuries out of context (AUGUSTINE ANYBODY???).

4. The State is a Jerk
There's this idea that religious killings were a common thing back in the day, and that if a war wasn't religious it wasn't a war. I appeal to the almighty common sense, and ask you to think about that. You're telling me that politicians actually have a group of people that are worse than them? Just look down, deep in your gut, and ask yourself that.
No, Obama, it wasn't worth a try.
Didn't think so. No, turns out that politicians have always been backstabbing bastards, particularly when it comes to the Church. Don't believe me?
  • The Iconoclast Heresy (all sacred images are bad, essentially) was enacted by the Byzantine Emperor out of a desire to calm down his Arab buddies, who had taken most of his empire. (I know things are a little more complicated  than that, but damn! It sure was convenient!)
  • Charlegmane repeatedly tried to usurp Church authority, and his descendants eagerly played the Eastern and Western Churches against each other in the fillioque controversy, so they could keep their "divine right". (Moral of the story? The Germans have always been awful, awful people) The Germans even attempted to conquer Rome later on, which led to the building of the Papal States that we're all so very afraid of. Hear that? The Papal States were built in self-defense against the state. That's something Obama may need to pay attention to.
  • The Arabs played both East and West against each other when they had control of Constantinople (no, I will not dignify them by calling it the new name), and made darn well sure that Christianity couldn't unite, cause they'd gotten a taste of it at the Battle of Lepanto and knew the whole of Christianity would own them faster than a hacked Halo player.
3. The Fillioque Controversy is No Controversy at All
For the uninformed, the Fillioque is three words from the Western form of the Nicene Creed: "and the Son". These three words did more to damage Church unity back in the day than almost anything. Why? Well, it was sorta unilaterally inserted by the West into their Creed without asking the rest of the Church if it was OK. And back in the day when Rome was a backwater that got steamrollered by barbarians once a week? This sorta stuff just didn't fly. Rome's response was to apologize, and to command the Carolingians (Charlegmane's people, what a coincidence!) to take the Fillioque out of the Creed. But the damage was done. Pushed on by the Carolingian bishops the people kept the Fillioque in place, and it became common usage in the West.

Why's this a big deal?

Back in the day, whenever you needed to get something done doctrine-wise, you called an Ecumenical Council. This was standard procedure. A unilateral insertion was a huge no-no, and considering that Rome didn't have nearly the power and authority that it claims it has now, it couldn't just face the rest of the East without blinking.

Now, granted, there are some doctrinal concerns. The Fillioque appears to further subordinate the Holy Spirit while robbing the Father of his "monarchia" that the East is so concerned about. But considering that even the Cappodocian Fathers (y'know, the guys who basically wrote Byzantine theology) allude to the fact that the Son has something to do with the spiration of the Holy Spirit? It's not that much of a stretch, and if people actually sat down and worked out their terms? It wouldn't be that much of a problem. It's an issue that's there "because we don't wish to understand each other" (Union of Brest). Imagine that!
2. It's Like Watching a Soap Opera
The next two points may seem a bit juvenile in comparison to the first three, but only because the real reasons why everyone were arguing were... well... juvenile! Reading about these people made me think of an awful soap opera, where people are almost schizo in their decisions and the reasonings behind them, circumstances sway more than anything, and just one wrong word will bring the whole damn thing screeching to a halt. It's ridiculous, at best, and well... as soon as you get into the issue of Eastern Catholics, it gets ugly. Real ugly. Now a kid's involved, who loves Mom and Pop, but is understood by neither one of them (and loved even less), but only wants them to be back together again. There's more BS-level angst in Church history than a Twilight novel, which leads me to my next point.

1. If It Seems Like Someone's Being a Jerk, You're Right!
If you've been near the Catholic or Orthodox Church for any longer than two seconds, you've heard the following: We are the true Church, and that's that. We've kept the faith, and everything we've done is to keep it that way. 

Right. Uh huh. Excuse me while I plug my nose, there's a strong smell in the area.

I thought I told you to go outside!
  The fact of the matter is that no one's hands are clean. From the insertion of the Fillioque, the willing ignorance of Western theology (need I re-emphasize that backwater thing again?), the sacking of Constantinople, to selling out to the Communists and helping them almost wipe out the Byzantine Catholics, I think I can safely say that there are some really truly evil people on both sides. This has nothing to do with either side being blessed by God to the exclusion of the other! And it definitely doesn't have anything to do with "the truth" that both sides insist they have the entirety of so strongly it makes me wonder if they actually believe it. Everyone split up because they're fallen, and they're so ashamed to admit their mistakes that they point fingers at the other side and spread blame. I know I have no say, and that my opinion doesn't hold weight with all the bishops of the world, but I have to say it.

ENOUGH IS ENOUGH, GROW UP ALREADY!  I want my family back together again.