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The Fourth Ecumenical Council - A.D. 451

Edited from a variety of translations (mentioned in the preface) by H. R. Percival

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Page 3

After the question as to examining the letter of Leo was put in this form, it will be worth while to weigh the sentences and, as they are called, the votes of the Fathers, in order to understand from the beginning why they approved of the letter; why they afterwards defended it with so much zeal; why, finally, it was ratified after so exact an examination of the council. Anatolius first gives his sentence. "The letter of the most holy and religious Archbishop Leo agrees with the creed of our 318 Fathers at Nice, and of the 150 who afterwards assembled at Constantinople, and confirmed the same faith, and with the proceedings at Ephesus under the most blessed Cyril, who is among the saints, by the Ecumenical and holy Council, when it condemned Nestorius. I therefore agree to it, and willingly subscribe to it." These are the words of one plainly deliberating, not blindly subscribing out of obedience. The rest say to the same effect: "It agrees, and I subscribe." Many plainly and expressly, "It agrees, and I therefore subscribe." Some add, "It agrees, and I subscribe, as it is correct." Others, "I am sure that it agrees." Others, "As it is concordant, and has the same aim, we embrace it, and subscribe." Others, "This is the faith we have long held: this we hold: in this we were baptized: in this we baptize." Others, and a great part, "As I see, as I feel, as I have proved, as I find that it agrees, I subscribe." Others, "As I am persuaded, instructed, informed, that all agrees, I subscribe." Many set forth their difficulties, mostly arising from a foreign language; others from the subject matter, saying, that they had heard the letter, "and in very many points were assured it was right; some few words stood in their way, which seemed to point at a certain division in the person of Christ." They add, that they had been informed by Paschasinus and the Legates "that there is no division, but one Christ; therefore," they say, "we agree and subscribe." Others after mentioning what Paschasinus and Lucentius had said, thus conclude: "By this we have been satisfied and, considering that it agrees in all things with the holy Fathers, we agree and subscribe." Where the Illyrian bishops, and others who before that examination had expressed their acclamations to the letter, again cry out, "We all say the same thing, and agree with this." So that, indeed, it is evident that, in the council itself, and before it their agreement is based on this that, after weighing the matter, they considered, they judged, they were persuaded, that all agreed with the Fathers, and perceived that the common faith of all and each had been set forth by Leo. This is that examination of Leo's letter, synodically made at Chalcedon, and placed among the acts.

(Gallia Orthod., LIX.)

Nor did Anatolius and the other bishops receive it, until they had deliberated, and found that Leo's letter agreed with the preceding councils.

(Gallia Orthod., LX.)

But here a singular discussion arises between the eminent Cardinals Bellarmine and Baronius. The latter, and with him a large number of our theologians, recognize the letter of Leo as the Type and Rule of faith, by which all Churches were bound: but Bellarmine, alarmed at the examination which he could not deny, answers thus: "Leo had sent his letter to the council, not as containing his final and definitive sentence, but as an instruction, assisted by which the bishops might form a better judgment." But, most eminent man, allow me to say that Leo, upon the appeal of Eutyches, and at the demand of Flavian, composed this letter for a summary of the faith, and sent it to every Church in all parts, when as yet no one thought about a council. Therefore it was not an instruction to the council which he provided, but an Apostolic sentence which he put forth. The fact is that out of this strait there was no other escape: Baronius will not allow that a letter, confirmed by so great an authority of the Apostolic See, should be attributed to any other power but that which is supreme and indefectible: Bellarmine will not take that to emanate from the supreme and indefectible authority, which was subjected to synodical inquiry, and deliberation. What, then, is the issue of this conflict, unless that it is equally evident that the letter was written with the whole authority of the Apostolic See, and yet subjected, as usual, to the examination of an Universal Council.

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