Pope Honorius I (died 12 October 638)[1] was the bishop of Rome from 27 October 625 to his death. He was active in spreading Christianity among Anglo-Saxons and attempted to convince the Celts to calculate Easter in the Roman fashion. He is chiefly remembered for his correspondence with Patriarch Sergius I of Constantinople over the latter's monothelite teachings. Honorius was posthumously anathematized, initially for subscribing to monothelitism, and later only for failing to end it. The anathema against Honorius I became one of the central arguments against the doctrine of papal infallibility.

Honorius I
Bishop of Rome
ChurchCatholic Church
Papacy began27 October 625
Papacy ended12 October 638
PredecessorBoniface V
Personal details
Died(638-10-12)12 October 638
Other popes named Honorius

Early life edit

Honorius was a rich aristocrat who came from Campania. His father was the consul Petronius. Nothing is known about Honorius I's career before he became pope on 27 October 625. He was consecrated only two days after the death of his predecessor, Boniface V. The vacancy was short probably because of the presence in Rome of Isaac the Armenian, who was empowered to confirm the election as the imperial exarch in Italy.[2]

Papacy edit

As pope, Honorius I looked up to Gregory I and employed monks rather than secular clergy as staff at the Lateran Palace. He initially supported Adaloald, the deposed Catholic king of the Lombards, but established cordial relations with Adoald's Arian rival Arioald. He did not succeed in resolving the schism of Venetia-Istria, but took steps to appease the archbishops of Ravenna, who were dissatisfied with their subordination to Rome. Honorius actively supported the difficult Christianisation of Anglo-Saxon England and sent Birinus to convert the West Saxons, but less successful in convincing the Celts to abandon their system of computing the date of Easter. At the Sixth Council of Toledo, Honorius urged the Visigothic bishops to continue baptizing Jews, a policy instituted by Gregory I.[2]

Honorius became involved in early discussions regarding the doctrine of Monothelitism, which is the teaching that Christ has only one energy and one will, in contrast with the teaching that he has two energies and two wills, both human and divine.[3] Patriarch Sergius I of Constantinople wrote an initial letter informing Honorius of the Monoenergism controversy, asking Honorius to endorse a position that Church unity should not be endangered by having any discussions or disputes over Christ’s possessing one energy or two. Sergius added that the doctrine of two energies could lead to the erroneous belief that Jesus has two conflicting wills.[4] Pope Honorius’ reply in 635 endorsed this view that all discussions over energies should cease, and agreed that Jesus does not have two conflicting wills, but one will, since Jesus did not assume the vitiated human nature tainted by Adam's fall, but human nature as it existed prior to Adam's fall.[5]

Honorius however did not endorse Monothelitism as his latter accusers would charge him. Rather it was known in the west that he was not a Monothelite and his secretary and author of the letter, the Abbot John, testified that "When we spoke of a single will in the Lord, we did not have in view His double nature, divine and human, but His humanity only…. We meant that Jesus Christ did not have two contrary wills, that is to say one of the flesh and one of the spirit, as we ourselves have on account of sin, but that, with regard to His humanity, He had but one natural will."

Pope John the IV, Honorius' near immediate successor, also noted that Honorius spoke "only of the human and not also of the divine nature" when commenting on Honorius' use of the phrase "one will". St Maximus the Confessor is another notable figure who rose to the defense of Honorius' orthodoxy.

In writing about Pope Honorius Venerable Bede notes his constant sanctity. A point St Robert Bellarmine does not fail to notice and amplify in saying "Bede repeatedly cites him as an example of the Good Shepherd, i.e. in his Vita Sancti Bortolfi, Abbatis (the Life of Abbot Saint Bortolfus), where he qualifies Honorius sometimes as holy (sanctus), sometimes as blessed (beatus). He says among other things: “Honorius has been a hardy, wise, venerable Pontiff, steady of purpose, illustrious for his doctrine, of conspicuous mildness and humility.”  And a little further on, 'This holy pope did not forget Bortolfus, his (spiritual) father, and invested him with the charge that the latter had wished to get.  He moreover endowed him with the privilege of depending directly upon the Holy See, so that no bishop could pretend to exert any jurisdictional power over the above-mentioned monastery.”

On account of this it is conclusively held that Honorius was not a Monothelite.

Honorius was apparently aware of the rise of Islam and viewed this religion's tenets as closely resembling those of Arius.[6]

Legacy edit

In the Third Council of Constantinople on 16 September 681,[7] the monothelites were anathematized by name "and with them Honorius, who was Prelate of Rome, as having followed them in all things" in the XIII session. Citing his written correspondence with Sergius, Honorius was subsequently accused of having confirmed his impious doctrines; the XVI session reaffirmed the condemnation of the heretics explicitly stating "to Honorius, the heretic, anathema!",[8][9] and concluding with the decree of the XVII session that Honorius had not stopped provoking scandal and error in the Body of the Church; for he had "with unheard of expressions disseminated amidst the faithful people the heresy of the one will", doing so "in agreement with the insane false doctrine of the impious Apollinaire, Severus and Themistius".[10] The Roman legates made no objection to his condemnation.[1]

Pope Leo II's letter of confirmation of the Council commended it for it had "perfectly preached the definition of the true faith"[11] and made reference to the condemnation of his predecessor:[12]

We anathematize the inventors of the new error, that is, Theodore, Bishop of Pharan, Sergius, Pyrrhus, Paul, and Peter, betrayers rather than leaders of the Church of Constantinople, and also Honorius, who did not attempt to sanctify this Apostolic Church with the teaching of apostolic tradition, but by profane treachery permitted its purity to be polluted.[10]

Within the year a Latin translation of the Acts of the council had been disseminated and signed by the Bishops throughout the West. The condemnation of Pope Honorius was reiterated by Pope Leo's successors and[13] subsequent councils,[14] and was included in Breviary lessons up until the eighteenth century. As a result, Honorius would later be the subject of vigorous attacks by opponents of papal infallibility in the discussions surrounding the First Vatican Council of 1870.[1] In contemporary times, that Honorius actually agreed with Sergius on the doctrine of monothelitism has given rise to much discussion, and John B. Bury argues that the most reasonable conclusion is that Honorius did not really apprehend the point at issue, considering it more a question of grammar than theology, for he placed "one energy" and "two energies" on exactly the same footing; in Bury's words, "it was for the 'imprudent economy of silence' that he was condemned".[15]

References edit

  1. ^ a b c Chapman, John (1910). "Pope Honorius I" . In Herbermann, Charles (ed.). Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 7. New York: Robert Appleton Company.
  2. ^ a b Attwater, Aubrey (1939). A Dictionary of Popes: From Peter to Pius XII. pp. 67–68.
  3. ^ Catholic Encyclopedia: Monothelitism and Monothelites
  4. ^ Hefele, p. 25
  5. ^ Hefele, pp. 29–30
  6. ^ Ata Ur-Rahim, Thomson 2003, p. 148., quote: "Pope Honorius was aware of the rising tide of Islam, whose tenets very much resembled those of Arius. The mutual killing of Christians by each other was still fresh in his memory, and perhaps he thought that what he had heard about Islam might be applied in healing the differences between the various Christian sects. In his letters he began to support the doctrine of 'one mind' within the doctrine of Trinity. He argued that if God had three independent minds, the result would be chaos. This logical and reasonable conclusion pointed to the belief in the existence of One God."
  7. ^ George Ostrogorsky, History of the Byzantine State (Rutgers University Press, 1995), 127.
  8. ^ Percival, Henry Robert (1900). The Seven Ecumenical Councils of the Undivided Church. A Select Library of Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church (second series). Vol. XIV. James Parker & Co. p. 343. Retrieved 9 September 2021.
  9. ^ Mansi. Sacrorum conciliorum nova et amplissima collectio. Vol. XI. p. 622. Retrieved 9 September 2021., quote: "[...] Sergio hæretico anathema, Cyro hæretico anathema, Honorio hæretico anathema, Pyrro hæretico anathema [...]"
  10. ^ a b Mansi, XI, col. 733
  11. ^ Chapman, John. Condemnation of Pope Honorius. pp. 112–115 para. 24.
  12. ^ Grisar, Hartmann (1899). Analecta romana. Rome: Desclée Lefebvre. pp. 406–407. Retrieved 9 September 2021.
  13. ^ Religion past & present : encyclopedia of theology and religion ([4th, English] ed.). Leiden: Brill. 2007–2013. ISBN 9789004146662.
  14. ^ Hefele, C.J (1909). Histoire des Conciles, vol III. Paris. pp. 520–521.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  15. ^ Bury, p. 252

Bibliography edit

External links edit

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