By Bishop Michael Callahan, Apostolic Western Orthodox Church
The Roman Catholic Church, with its majestic heritage and unparalleled reach across continents, began as a part of the Apostolic foundations set by Christ and His chosen Apostles. As I reflect on the tapestry of Christian history from my vantage point as the Bishop of the Apostolic Western Orthodox Church, the transformative journey of Rome, from its early days to the present, is both fascinating and instructive.
The Early Foundations
Rome’s ecclesiastical journey commenced with the teachings of Christ, His Apostles, and the early Church Fathers. This foundation provided the Roman Church its spiritual compass, with the city of Rome being recognized for its significance, primarily due to the martyrdom of Apostles Peter and Paul. The Apostolic Succession, cherished by many Christian denominations, asserts that the lineage of bishops remains unbroken from the times of the Apostles, upholding the continuity and authenticity of teachings.
The ecumenical councils of the early church, particularly the First Council of Nicaea in 325 AD, played a pivotal role in shaping the doctrinal trajectory of the Christian world, ensuring that the faith remained safeguarded from heretical views.
A Unilateral Decision: The Creed
One of the defining moments in Rome’s ecclesiastical journey was the unilateral inclusion of the “Filioque” clause to the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed in the 6th century. This alteration, which intimated that the Holy Spirit proceeds from both the Father and the Son, was not just a theological divergence but also a deviation from the consensus-driven approach of the ecumenical councils. This act was notably at odds with the decree of the Council of Ephesus in 431 AD.
The Great Schism: A Watershed Moment
The Filioque controversy, along with other theological, political, and cultural differences, inevitably led to the Great Schism of 1054 AD. This monumental event saw the formal separation of the Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches, highlighting the different paths the two traditions were embarking upon.
Rome’s Evolving Path
After the schism, the Roman Catholic Church embarked on its distinctive journey, characterized by unique theological developments and liturgical innovations. From the proclamation of doctrines like the Immaculate Conception and Papal Infallibility to the sweeping reforms of the Second Vatican Council in the 20th century, Rome has showcased both continuity and change. However, some of these unilateral doctrinal evolutions also sowed the seeds for further divisions within Western Christianity, most notably leading to the Protestant Reformation.
The journey of the Roman Catholic Church, from its Apostolic roots to its various schisms, serves as a testament to the dynamic nature of ecclesiastical history. Understanding Rome’s decisions, both in aligning with and diverging from the broader Christian tradition, offers deep insights into the complexities and challenges faced by the Church throughout the ages. It’s a journey of faith, reflection, and at times, reformation.