I present to the reader an essay presenting the idea that Christianity in the West ceased to exist. This is not an apologia for the Eastern Churches—since to believe in almost any Christian Church requires a belief in both God and Christ. Since I have no intention of discussing either except parenthetically, I cannot safely call this an apologia. What I can call this is a cursory introduction to the fruits of a genuine revisionist history of Christianity—a history which has no more bizarre statements, a history that only has gaps of documentation lost to the ages, and not gaps of logic. However, such a history also concludes that Western Christianity met a fearful and bitter end over a thousand years ago.
Restoring Western History
The Christian, or Catholic, Church began a program of collaboration with the state (after centuries of intermittent persecution) with the conversion of the Roman Emperor Constantine in 313 (2). Constantine's movement of the capital of the Roman Empire in the 4th century, contrary to popular belief, did not separate East and West per se; all it did was facilitate trade to the state capital. Constantinople (named after the Emperor) was central place for trade and commerce and figured prominently in proximity to the spiritual centers of both Alexandria, Egypt and Antioch, Syria. Jerusalem, a place of pilgrimage throughout Christian history, was but a step away. The new imperial capital stood as a bridge for these three important cities in History.
Old Rome, however, fell victim to numerous attacks and takeovers for centuries, due to its distance from the rest of the Roman Empire. As the New Rome grew in importance and prestige, Old Rome faded into virtual obscurity, save for the holiness of her bishops (3), which gave her a usefulness in ecclesiastical controversy (her relative isolation left her Church unmoved by various heretical (4) movements in history).
When the Franks began a program of unification in what would become Western Europe in the 9th century, Rome became a target of suppressive influence. It soon became clear that the populace of Old Rome would not simply submit to a Frankish takeover and rallied around the Pope as their ethnarch (5). This ethnic hatred was clearly mutual, however (6). It became clear that the indigenous populace of Rome at the time refused to submit to the Frankish leadership; there were riots and even appeals to the Imperial Court at Constantinople. Secret attempts at political upheavals were common.
By the Eleventh century, all that was left of the Roman State in the West was the Papacy (7); the Franks had made clear that they viewed themselves as the Roman Empire, through the power of Divine Providence (8). The reality, however, was that the true Roman Empire was still in existence. All that was left for the Franks (best typified in Charlemagne) to do was lie. The Romans of Constantinople were referred to as Greeks (9). All the while, the Roman Empire simply viewed her former capital as lost.
The Logic behind the Lie
Charlemagne (properly known as Karl Insbad) was obsessed with power. To attack the Roman Empire would have been disastrous for him. Rome, however, stood as a ground of former glory, and could be used in the popular mind of the Western peoples as a rallying ground for his own glory and the glory of his abandoned capital. As mentioned above, however, Frankish hatred for the actual Roman populace is clear.
Another factor in this logic is primarily religious. The Franks were not bilingual in dealing with Roman documents - and most of the Church's writings were still, for the most part, in Greek (10). So the Franks had been, for the most part, affected by one Church writer, whose writing was not only in Latin, but in many places erroneous - Augustine of Hippo.
Augustine's theology was a product of his past—which was dualistic and, in consequence, iconoclastic (11). Being a dualist, there was a slight modalism in his Trinitarian views. The idea of the Holy Spirit proceeding, or being eternally generated, from two sources was, when followed to its conclusions—that all members of the Trinity are the same person—was considered heretical. This error was corrected by the teaching of the other Church Fathers (which the Franks, obviously, could not read.) So the Frankish hatred for the Romans extended as well into areas of religion (the Franks approved of the Iconoclasm of the Imperial court in the 8th century (12) which would be ultimately defeated by the Universal Council held in Constantinople in 787.)
It became clear to the contemporary Frankish political mind that to be a Roman meant to be a heretic, since they understood so little of the teaching of Christianity. Such heresy had to be exterminated in the "true" Roman Empire.
To take over the actual Empire, however, meant razing Constantinople. This would have been extremely difficult, considering that it would have meant splitting flanks with Islam (13). So instead, a takeover of old Rome could largely be recognized as symbolic. This was the logic behind the blessing of later "Holy Roman Emperors" by Roman Popes (14).
Needless to say, this met with derision in the Imperial Court of Constantinople, who still viewed their land (quite correctly) as the Roman Empire. Pope Leo III specifically signed the blessing of the Frankish "Emperor" to arouse this derision; he had hoped it would inspire popular support for a war (15).
Since a takeover was at the time difficult (16) the Franks had to satisfy their political ambitions through public deception. The term "Greek" began to be applied in the 8th century by the Franks (17). Through the use of the term, the Franks could state that the Romans were not only not Romans, but pagans.
The Struggle with the Roman Empire and the Papal Takeover
As the Bishops of Old Rome slowly realized that the Franks were obsessed with the extermination of their people, they found themselves in a bad political position. The Popes of the time realized that the Franks were out for their blood. All that they could do was use the power of their office to keep them in check.
Early Papal legislation of the time demonstrates the need to keep the Papacy an ethnarchy. A series of forged documents, known as the Pseudo-Isodorean decretals, defined the Papacy as the top of a pyramidal religious structure to which the Franks had to submit (18). Roman knowledge of the forged nature of the document is clear. (19)
In 769, a law was enacted requiring that the Papal office remain in the hands of Roman citizenry and ancestry (20).
By maintaining the Roman control of the Papacy, the Roman Church continued to hold communion with the so-called "Greek Church". The Popes denounced the heretical teachings of the Franks; however, they did not actually do so by name (21). The Franks, then, stood not only condemned by the Roman Empire to the East, but indirectly by the Roman ethnarch. The Franks, then, were left with one choice for political and spiritual domination of the land. The Papacy had to be placed under their control.
The first "problem" that would be solved was the removal of ethnic Roman bishops from their territories and their replacement with Franks (22). (While this was going on, a slander campaign had begun against the morality and literacy of the contemporary holders of the Papal office (23) to arouse a popular revolt against the ethnarchs. The products of this slander survive today.) The next steps would be to transfer the new "bishops" to the see of Rome. Early attempts were failures; the Church's canons did not allow the transfer of one bishop to another episcopal see (24).
As, however, the number of Roman partisans dwindled, the Franks found it simpler to complete their task. By 1002, the Papacy was a Frankish institution (25). The Papal office had been reduced to a political organization, and with the authority of the Pseudo-Isodorean decretals, the supreme religious authority in the West.
All Hell Breaks Loose
The "primacy of love" assigned to the Bishop of Rome was used by the Frankish Popes, now in league with the "Holy Roman Empire", to suppress any sort of indigenous Christian resistance. The first task at hand was the removal of the "Greeks" from the sphere of religious matters. This was accomplished, at least partially, within ten years. (26) By 1054, they had convincingly placed the "Greeks" outside of the Roman communion (27).
The Gregorian Liturgy was slowly altered to reflect Frankish religion and thought. A slow process of standardization and conformity to the "Gregorian" Mass began (28)
However, the local Churches of the Celts, the French, and the Spanish survived. The suppression of the Celtic Church (a process that had been going on innocuously and peacefully—for the most part-- for approximately three hundred years) was quick and destructive. Monasteries were razed and removed, and the liturgy of the Celts was heard no more by the 12th century (29).
The Spanish Church—which to a degree had already joined in the Frankish heresies (30)—was suppressed in the 16th century when the "Roman" liturgy became the standard liturgy of the Church. The Rite of Spain, already altered, is now heard in but one church in Toledo. (31) The Gallican Church saw its bitter end in the 9th century. It would take form in a number of brilliant revivals in France—but she would never again be her own.
The only threat to the Frankish "Roman Catholic Church" was the East.
It had become clear, however, that the "Church" which now existed in the West, once a free union of brother bishops, was now exactly what the decretals deigned—a pyramidal structure with the "Pope" of Rome on top.
Such a structure was far from in line with the Church of the Apostles, nor even with the Church that was codified and defined by the Emperor Justinian in the 7th century (32). The beliefs of the Church had been removed by the 12th century and replaced with a pale Frankish counterpart. The behavior and mindset of the Church as a religious institution, with too few exceptions, was gone.
By the end of the 12th century, Islam had done severe damage to the Roman Empire. The Frankish "Church" was quick to perceive the danger to the Holy Places—and the usefulness of a war. "Pope" Innocent III called a crusade, or Holy war, to keep the Muslims from taking over Jerusalem. Through a series of intrigues, the crusaders decided upon Constantinople, where anti-Latin sentiment was high. A riot had recently ended in where pro-Latin residents in Constantinople were killed. In retaliation, the Crusaders took the city of Constantinople and raped it. The atrocities that had occurred in 1204 have been discussed adequately elsewhere—and occurred with Papal approval (33).
In this context, the opening quote of "Pope" Boniface VIII takes on its full meaning.
The Decisive End
There were two later attempts to unite the Eastern (Roman) Church with the Frankish Church. The first occurred 70 years later; the "Pope" at Rome called a council at Lyons in which the Emperor submitted (alone) to the Frankish faith (34).
The last attempt was wildly successful for the Frankish Church. Through a series of political intrigues, the "Latins" caused the hierarchy of the "Greek" Church to submit to them at Florence with one exception (35). They had come at the behest of the Emperor, as was revealed later, for the political union of the Churches and the support of the Frankish Empire in a war against the Muslims. (36).
The Frankish Empire did not assist the Roman Empire and the Church revoked her signatures; the city of Constantinople was taken by the Turks in 1453. Never again was a controversy raised in a public concerning the the "Romanity" of the Christianity of the Church in the West; there were no Romans left to argue.
It's ironic to note that at this period, a nationalist movement began in Russia. It had become clear that the Russians viewed themselves as the successors to Rome in a religious sense. (37)
And so I conclude: The "Christianity" which created the Protestant Reformation was a structure that was created as a political organization. The Reformation was an attempt to give religion back to a dead shell—but instead cracked the shell. Rather than admit to the fact that they, too, were in error, they created a new religion, and called it Christianity as well. More wars would occur. Corruption, always present in Christianity, became a standard part of it. The duality of the Frankish religious mind had become the foundation of Western belief.
Yet, in the face of Muslim domination, without the protection of the Roman Empire, Christianity remained in the countries that the Franks could not touch. The Muslims became the accidental protectors of the Christian faith (which, as the simple name "Christianity" became prostituted, came to be known as the "Orthodox Christian" faith) and even their rule was preferable to that of the "Latins", whose religion required an assent on supposedly trivial matters (38).
And so the conflict continues today. All the Christians claim to be Christian, but who has a historical claim to it? None can say that the Protestant Churches do (they themselves admit this) and I hope that in this essay, I demonstrated that it is extremely difficult (without taking a super-mystical view) to say so about "Roman Catholicism", the successor to a Frankish pseudo-church. Perhaps a new empire will again rewrite history; let us hope that these few shards of a once powerful history remain, lest we again are led into a historical delusion.
(1) Unam Sanctam (1302 CE) is what is known as an Encyclical, or letter extending throughout the jurisdiction of a bishop. I think the intended scope of the jurisdiction, in this case, is clear.
(2) Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History, Book VII, Chap. IX. Eerdmans Translation.
(3) Three such Bishops are St. Leo the Great, St. Gregory the Dialogist, and St. Agatho.
(4) Most Roman Catholic apologists as a defense for Rome's infallibility have noted this fact. Taken out of historical context, it appears to be valid; Dave Armstrong, a well-known Catholic apologist notes, "These historical facts may be briefly summarized as follows… All three of the great Eastern sees were under the jurisdiction of heretical patriarchs simultaneously during five different periods: 357-60 (Arian), 475-77, 482-96, and 512-17 (all Monophysite), and 640-42 (Monothelite): a total of 26 years, or 9% of the time from 357 to 642. At least two out of three of the sees suffered under the yoke of a heterodox "shepherd" simultaneously for 112 years, or 33% of the period from 341 to 681 (or, two-thirds heretical for one-third of the time), and at least 248 of these same years saw one or more of the sees burdened with sub-orthodox ecclesiastical leaders: an astonishing 73% rate (277 years, or 53% from 190 to 715)." (D. Armstrong, "A Response to Orthodox Critiques of Catholic Apostolicity", viewable at "http://ic.net/~erasmus/RAZ134.HTM")
(5) Romanides, John. Franks, Romans, Feudalism, and Doctrine: An Interplay between Theology and Society, Patriarch Athenagoras Memorial Lectures, 1981 Holy Cross Press. "It seems that it was not popular superstition and piety alone that was the foundation of the people's fervor for the pope, but also the common Romanism the majority shared with the pope. It is this Romanism which constituted the power basis for the papal thrones of Saints Peter and Constantine the Great."
(6) Ibid. Liutprand, advisor to Otto I: "We...Lombards, Saxons, Franks, Lotharingians, Bajoarians, Sueni, Burgundians, have so much contempt [for Romans and their emperors] that when we become enraged with our enemies, we pronounce no other insult except Roman (nisi Romane), this alone, i.e., the name of the Romans (hoc solo, id est Romanorum nomine) meaning: whatever is ignoble, avaricious, licentious, deceitful, and, indeed whatever is evil." (Mansi 19.132-33). That this is is obviously still insulting in the 11th century makes the point clear.
(7) Ibid. "An unsuccessful attempt was made on the life of Pope Leo III (795-816), the successor of Hadrian. Pope Leo was then accused of immoral conduct. Charlemagne took a personal and active interest in the investigations which caused Leo to be brought to him in Paderborn. Leo was sent back to Rome, followed by Charlemagne, who continued the investigations. The Frankish king required finally that Leo swear to his innocence on the Bible, which he did on December 23, 800. Two days later Leo crowned Charlemagne 'Emperor of the Romans.' Charlemagne wanted the title 'Emperor', but not that of 'Emperor of the Romans'. His biographer Einhard claims that had Charlemagne known what the pope was up to, he would not have entered the church." (note: "It is within such a context that the seeming contradiction between Einhard and the Annals of Lorsch may be resolved.")
(8) Fox, Clifton, "WHAT, IF ANYTHING, IS A BYZANTINE?" , Celator Volume 10, Number 3: March 1996. "Of course, well-informed people in the West knew already that the best way to insult the authorities in Constantinople, if that was the goal, was to deny their identity as Romans. Call them "Graecus:" that translated to "Hellene," that implied pagan as well as not Roman."
(9) The people of the Roman Empire continued to view themselves as Romans well after the fall of Rome.
(10) Augustine was the first writer to write exclusively in Latin. (Source: "The Early Church", by Henry Chadwick.)
(11) Catholic Encyclopedia, 1913. Iconoclasm. "There were other reasons why these Frankish bishops objected to the decrees of the council. Their people had only just been converted from idolatry, and so they were suspicious of anything that might seem like a return to it. Germans knew nothing of Byzantine elaborate forms of respect; prostrations, kisses, incense and such signs that Greeks used constantly towards their emperors, even towards the emperor's statues, and therefore applied naturally to holy pictures, seemed to these Franks servile, degrading, even idolatrous.
(12) The above article, however, is sympathetic to the Franks and assumes that this was due to their recent "conversion" from idolatry.
(13) The Crusades were, for the most part, wars between the Franks and Muslims—the Muslims continue to head in both directions throughout their spread, going towards Spain at one point and Russia at another.
(14) Voltaire sarcastically notes that they were "neither Holy, nor Roman, nor an Empire."
(15) Romanides, Franks, Romans, Feudalism, and Doctrine. "Charlemagne had arranged to get the title 'Emperor' in exchange for Leo's exoneration. Leo almost spoiled things because Charlemagne wanted the title recognized by Constantinople-New Rome whose real 'Emperor of the Romans' would never recognize this full title for a Frank. This is why Charlemagne never used this title in his official documents, using instead the titles 'Emperor and Augustus, who governs' or 'administers the Roman Empire'. By claiming that he ruled the Roman Empire, Charlemagne thus clearly meant that he governed the whole Roman Empire. The Franks decided that the Eastern part of the Empire had become 'Greek', and its leader, an emperor of 'Greeks'. This is why Otto III (983-1002) is described in the year 1000 by his chronicler as 'visiting the Roman Empire', meaning, simply, the Papal States."
(16) Distance and the rise of Islam was making this more difficult.
(17) Quoting Hincmar to Pope Hadrian II: "...nos Francos non jubeat servire, quia istud jugam sui antecessores nostris antecessoribus non imposuerunt, et nos illud portare non possumus, qui scriptum esse in sanctis libris audimus, ut pro libertate et haereditate nostra usque ad mortem certare debeamus." Migne, PL 126:181 as quoted in Romanides.
(18) While Romanides gives an excellent description of the Psuedo-Isodorean Decretals, there are a number of excellent articles on them.
(19) Ibid. "It is no accident that Otto III declared the Donation of Constantine to be a forgery, as already mentioned, a fact he probably learned from his East Roman mother and tutors. However, he evidently never suspected that the rest of the decretals had been tampered with."
(20) Mansi 17.489, as quoted in Romanides.
(21) The council approving the Frankish teaching ten years before is considered the eighth ecumenical council by the Roman Church. Few know all its decisions were condemned synodally ten years later.
(22) This is recorded as occurring in Italy as early as the 7th century in "Byzantine" records; Basil I clearly sees the Franks as a religious threat.
(23) A stunning example is quoted in Mansi 19.132-33, as quoted in Romanides. I retain the full text here: "At the Council of Rheims in 991, already mentioned, Arnuld, the bishop of Orleans, lists and violently attacks the alleged "corrupt" popes and, of course, praises Peter of Pavia, i.e., Pope John XIV, the Lombard already mentioned. It is, perhaps, not by accident that the allegedly corrupt popes were attached to Constantinople and the pious one was a Lombard. In this same speech, Arnulf remarks: "But as at this time in Rome (as is publicly known) there is hardly anyone acquainted with letters-without (as it is written) one may hardly be a doorkeeper in the house of God-with what face may he who has himself learnt nothing set himself up as a teacher of others? Of course, in comparison with the Roman pontiff, ignorance is tolerable in other priests, but in the Roman (pope), in him to whom it is given to pass in review the faith, the morals, the discipline of the priesthood, indeed, of the universal church, ignorance is in no way to be tolerated."
(24) Romanides: "In addition, the canons which forbid the transference of bishops became extremely important. The successor of John VIII was not recognized as pope by Emperor Basil I because he had been bishop and had become pope by transference." The canons in question are in the First-Second Synod, which was ratified by the council at Trullo in the 7th century.
(25) Gregory V (996-999), was the first in the unbroken line of Frankish Popes.
(26) The first public recitation of the Filioque clause at Rome was in 1014.
(27) This needs no further elaboration. 1054 is agreed upon by most historians as the decisive break between the two Churches.
(28) Dom Fernand Cabrol, Mass of the Western Rites, Chap. 9 : "From the seventh-sixteenth centuries it (the Mass) was to undergo rather important modifications. Not that there were any essential changes along its principal lines: the Canon remained invariable. But there were a certain number of additions in other parts of the Mass." Since Cabrol was a Roman Catholic monk, these changes were assumed to be positive. I make no such assumption. The attempt at restoring the Western liturgy in the Eastern Church in the 20th century turned out to be a major disaster, since many authentic Western Orthodox features had been removed by the Franks, permanently altering Roman Catholic theology as well. The most notable of these is the removal of the Epiklesis (invocation of the Holy Spirit) which can be found in Western European liturgies until the 10th century. Eucharistic theology was clearly changed to support the Frankish position, who, in their modalism, clearly assumed Catholic Trinitarian philosophy to be tritheistic.
(29) Catholic Encylcopedia (1913). Celtic Rite. "The extreme end of it may be taken as 1172, when the Synod of Cashel finally adopted the Anglo-Roman Rite." However, the Encyclopedia make no genuine mention of when the ritual began its use. Most scholars believe that St. Patrick's arrival in Ireland (he was not the first Celtic Saint, however) solidified—to a large degree—Celtic ecclesiology.
(30) In the 7th century, the creedal controversy hit full stride. At a local council in Toledo, King Reccared declared that the "Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and Son," to the dismay of contemporary Popes. The Spanish change in the belief of the Church found its perfect adherents in the Franks.
(31) Catholic Encyclopedia (1913) Mozarabic Rite. "By the Concordat of 1851 the chaplains of the Capilla Mozárabe were reduced from thirteen to eight, but the continuance of the above two parishes was provided for, and at that time the parochial Mass in these was always Mozarabic. It has almost entirely ceased to be so now, and it is only in the Capilla Muzárabe in the cathedral and in the Capilla de Talavera at Salamanca that the rite can be seen at present–in the former daily (in a High Mass at nine a.m.), and in the latter once or twice a year." As of this writing, only one Church is allowed to celebrate in said rite.
(32) Emperor Justinian I is traditionally recorded as responsible for the first full codification of Canon Law and the calling of the Fifth Ecumenical Council. (Source: Life of Saint Justinian, November 14, The Prologue from Ochrid)
(33) Pope Innocent III, to his credit, does point out that the Crusaders pushed the envelope of morality with their atrocities, but goes on the same letter to point out that the Greeks were perhaps deserving of what they received (Source: "The Papacy", Abbe' Guettee', Reprinted by New Sarov Press.)
(34) This is commonly known as Lyons II, held in 1274.
(35) The exception was Archbishop Mark Evegenikos of Ephesus, known among Eastern Orthodox as St. Mark of Ephesus.
(36) This fact is recorded in the Memoirs of Syropolous, an observer at the council, and is rarely disputed today.
(37) It had become an adage in Russia that Moscow deservedly "became the New Rome…two Romes had fallen, a fourth there will never be." Oddly enough, this led both the Bolshevik revolution and the Old Believers schism of the 18th century to have a decidedly apocalyptic tone.
(38) Prince St. Alexander Yaroslavich (Nevsky) (1220-1263), a general in the Muscovite Army, chose defeat at the hands of the Mongols rather than at the hands of the Teutonic Knights of Sweden, lest the Knights succeed in their desire to fulfill "Pope" Gregory IX's request that Russia be "Christianized". (Sources: Ware, Kallistos (Timothy), The Orthodox Church. See also the Life of Saint Alexander Nevsky.)