The papacy. When all is said and done, the issue of papal supremacy is the true issue behind all others in the debate between East and West. So, what do the Orthodox churches argue against, and do their arguments make sense historically and logically?
Until encountering Orthodoxy, I don’t remember having clearly defined opinions about the Catholic Church or the Pope. The Catholics and the Pope were enigmatic, dark entities that were anti-Christ. Orthodoxy used those fuzzy lines and drew a clearer picture – in the words of Photius (yes, he of the famous schism), Roman Catholics were “forerunners of apostasy, servants of Antichrist who deserve a thousand deaths, liars, fighters against God.”
I read everything I could get my hands on concerning the early Church, Orthodox ecclesiology, and other similar topics. Almost all of them were from the Orthodox perspective and contained not a little of anti-Westernism (if that’s not a legitimate term, it should be). Rome was “first among equals,” but with no real authority. Rome was only “first among equals” due to political circumstances, and not the will of God. When Rome abandoned Orthodoxy, her prerogatives (as they were) passed to the Bishop of Constantinople. Rome, in her lust for power and her knack for innovation, had split the Church.
All of these ‘facts’ were new to me. As I said, Rome was the bogeyman of my youth, but I never considered that the shadow would take shape. Yet it did, and I was confronted with the image of a monster – always seeking to undermine Orthodoxy. Her agents infiltrated nations. Her objective was subjugation. Her motives were lust for power and blind ambition.
But I started, around this same time, to pay attention to that other face of Rome. It was gentle. Meek. Strong. Holy. The face, of course, was that of Pope John Paul II.