The principle of majority elections has been developed in canon law, especially in the area of episcopal und papal elections. The ecclesiastical majority principle has also shaped the forms of voting in secular law. Controversies concerning the system could easily arise, when members of the minority refused to comply with the majority’s decision, as happened in 1437 at the Council of Basle with regard to the removal of the council to another city, or in 1529 at the 2nd Diet of Speyer concerning the Edict of Worms. To avoid open dissension after elections in the early Middle Ages unsuccessful voters were compelled to adopt the majority’s decision (Folgezwang). Later on proceedings were developed to avoid controversial elections altogether.
Priscillian and some of his followers were victims of synodal and state process procedures in which bishops acted as prosecutors and supporters of the death penalty imposed at Trier. The accusation was that the Priscillians were heretics (Manichaeans) and practiced maleficium, i.e. sorcery, both prohibited by law. The source situation to this already in late antiquity often as scandalous condemned case – among others by the bishops of Tours, Milan and Rome –, is very insufficient for important details. In particular, there are very few texts which can be satisfactorily evaluated for the question of conciliar majorities and minorities and possibly controversial debates. Nevertheless, with the help of the writings of Priscillian and Sulpicius Severus, it is possible at least to reconstruct with some degree of reliability the interaction between ecclesiastical and state jurisdiction, as it was largely regulated by canons and imperial laws.
The councils from Hispania and Gallia are a rich depository that addressed the poor and poverty in the Gallic and Hispano-Roman/Suevic-Visigothic Councils, a topic that has not been explored adequately. For the first time a full consideration of the abundant conciliar evidence about caring for the needs of the poor is executed here. This essay analyzes all of the instances where the councils mention the poor and almsgiving to ameliorate their plight. One of the marks of holiness of Christians, clergy, and laity alike, is the care of the poor. Christ many times referred to the poor and the obligation of others to help them in his teaching and the Church did not lose sight of the obligation to care for those in poverty through individual or collective acts of charity. Paul did so as well and we find the same in some of the non-Pauline epistles of the New Testament. Overall, in the abundant collection of councils there are references to the concerns of the poor. The number of times that the poor are mentioned in the councils is not as numerous as we might expect; there are enough of them that merit our attention, however. The circumstances, moreover, that elicited attention to the poor is diverse and quite revealing. The poor although abundant – we do not know the percentages – in that society could potentially be treated, as in any age, as outcasts that were marginalized or forgotten. This explains why the Church was ever busy admonishing the faithful who did not suffer poverty to remember the poor and be generous to them.
The protest of a single monk, the Jerusalem Abbot Sophronios against the union agreed in 633 between Patriarch Kyros of Alexandria and the opponents of the Council of Chalcedon is usually regarded as the beginning of the so-called monenergist-monothelete controversy. This protest against the formulation that, albeit in in two natures, it is one and the same Christ and Son who effects the divine and the human through one divine-human energy led to the so-called Ekthesis, a law composed by Patriarch Sergios of Constantinople and signed by the emperor Herakleios. With this law a supposedly heretical majority, holding the reins of power, wished by means of a prohibition to silence the orthodox minority and their confession of two modes of action and two wills in Christ. In contrast, this paper makes clear that, with the consent of this very minority – including Sophronios –, already in 633 a synodically secured agreement was made to refrain in future from numerical statements about action in Christ. Because Sophronios, since 634 Patriarch of Jerusalem, challenged this agreement, there ensued in 636 a synod on Cyprus with almost ecumenical representation, which was later consigned to silence and has been known only since 1973. Even though the majority at this council rejected the position of Sophronios and Maximos the Confessor on action in Christ, there was a general agreement to appeal to the emperor as arbitrator, who then promulgated the Ekthesis, which was approved by all the churches represented at the Synod, including those of Pope Honorius and Sophronios! An in-depth analysis will show how these facts were reinterpreted or concealed by Maximos in the 640s; for they told against the campaign he initiated in 641 for the anathematization of the Ekthesis and of the patriarchs Sergios and Kyros, which was then brought to accomplishment at the Lateran Synod of 649.
In order to approach the Origenist crises through the category of “minority”, some remarks are needed. It is necessary to avoid any anachronistic projection of modern understanding on the past. But, at the same time, the epistemological challenge could be useful to go beyond historicism in contemporary Dogmengeschichte. The condemnation of Origenism in the mark of the 2nd Council of Constantinople, in fact, presents a deep difference with respect to the Three Chapters issue. The main question at stake was not merely the Emperor’s ecclesiastical politics in view of the unity of the Empire and of the Church. Having recourse to Christian Gnilka’s categories, it can be shown that the 6th century condemnations were the krisis of a chrêsis, that is a judgement on the use of Origen in (Evagrian) monasticism of that time.
The continuity and recognition enjoyed by communities which identified themselves with notions condemned in fourth- and fifth-century church councils can be related to the concomitant and interrelated processes of consolidation of historiographic narratives about Christian synods, their materialisation in imperial monuments and texts, and the cultural acceptance of theological and political values and categories. Focusing on the Council of Nicaea, the paper reviews the continuous presence of local Arian communities in Constantinople until the seventh century and the use of “Arian” liturgies in the East. The criteria of orthodoxy are examined in the light of the variant readings of the Ekthesis of the Didascalia CCXVIII Patrum Nicaenum and the prayers attributed to Serapion of Thmuis.