The Sixth Ecumenical Council


 Emperor and Council

Pope Honorius

MONOTHELETISM (μονοθελται, from μόνος ‘one’, and θέλειν, ‘to will’). A 7th-cent, heresy confessing only one will in the God-man. The heresy was of political rather than of religious origin, being designed to rally the Monophysites to their orthodox (Chalcedonian) fellow-Christians when division endangered the Empire, faced with Persian and later with Islamic invasions. In 624 conferences of the Monophysite leaders with the Emp. Heraclius resulted in producing a formula seemingly acceptable to both, which asserted two natures in Christ but only one mode of activity (μία ἐνέργεια)—a solution often termed ‘monenergism’. It was referred to Sergius, the Patr. of Constantinople, who, having found a similar formula in the writings of St Cyril of Alexandria, approved the Imperial expedient. When, by its means, Cyrus of Alexandria had reconciled a large number of Monophysites to the Church, its success seemed to prove its truth. It was vigorously rejected, however, by Sophronius of Jerusalem, whose opposition caused Sergius c.634 to write to Pope Honorius (q.v.). In two unguarded letters the Pope approved the Patriarch’s conduct and himself used the unfortunate expression of ‘one will’ in Christ, which henceforth replaced the ‘one energy’. Honorius’ term was taken up in the ‘Ecthesis’ (Ἔκθεσις), probably drawn up by Sergius and issued by Heraclius in 638. This Ecthesis, the chief document of the Monothelites properly so called, forbids the mention of one or two energies and admits only one will (ἕν θέλημα) in Christ. In two Councils held at Constantinople in 638 and 639 the E. Church accepted the Ecthesis. But the successors of Honorius, Severinus, John IV, and Theodore I all condemned Monothelitism, so that the Emp. Constans II, in order to obtain religious peace, withdrew the Ecthesis in 648, replacing it by another document, the so-called Typos. In it he rejected both the monothelitic and the dyothelitic formulas and forbade their use. This, however, did not solve the problem, and the Typos was condemned at the Lateran Council of 649. The controversy was finally settled by the Council of Constantinople in 681, which confirmed the decisions of a synod held at Rome in 680. The Council condemned the Monothelitic formulas and their adherents, and proclaimed the existence of two wills in Christ, Divine and human, to be the orthodox faith.

Theologically, the issues at stake in the controversy were closely similar to those raised by Monophysitism

The main sources are preserved in the Acta of the 7th-cent. Councils, pr. in the standard collections of J. Hardouin and G. D. MANSI; much material also in the writings of St Maximus the Confessor and St Anastasius of Sinai (q.v.). Primary docs. are listed, with refs., in CPG 4 (1980), pp. 167–72 (nos. 9369–97), and Suppl. (1998), p. 475. L. J. Tixeront, Histoire des dogmes, 3 (1912), pp. 160–92. V. Grumel, AA, ‘Recherches sur l’histoire du monothélisme’, ÉO 27 (1928), pp. 6–16, 257–77; 28 (1929), pp. 19–34, 272–82; and 29 (1930), pp. 16–28. G. Krüger in HERE 8 (1915), pp. 821–5, s.v.; M. Jugie, AA, in DTC 10 (pt. 2; 1929), cols. 2307–23, s.v. ‘Monothélisme’; A. Mayer, OSB, in EC 8 (1952), cols. 1319–24, s.v. ‘Monotelismo’; F. Winkelmann in TRE 23 (1994), pp. 205–9, s.v. ‘Monenergetisch-monotheletischer Streit’, with bibl.


Constantinople, Third Council of (680–81). This, the Sixth General Council, was convoked at the demand of the Emp. Constantine IV (Pogonatus) to settle the prolonged Monothelite controversy in the E. Church. Pope Agatho, having held a Synod at Rome (680) in which the doctrine of the Two Wills in Christ was again affirmed, sent his delegates to the Emperor with a letter expounding this teaching. On their arrival the Emperor called a Council of the bishops of the patriarchates of Constantinople and Antioch. The debates of its 18 sessions, conducted chiefly by the Papal envoys, were concerned solely with the Monothelite question. Macarius, the Patr. of Antioch, was condemned as a Monothelite, and in the 13th session the principal leaders of the heresy, among whom the Council included the former Pope Honorius, were anathematized.

The Dogmatic Decree of the Council is principally a reproduction of the profession of faith drawn up at Chalcedon, affirming the doctrine of the Two Natures, to which is added, as a necessary consequence, the statement of the reality of the Two Wills (θελήματα) and the Two Operations (ἐνέργειαι).. The Council rejected all natural unity of the two wills, but admitted the existence of a moral unity, resulting from the complete harmony between the Divine and the human will in the God-man. The same position was affirmed regarding the duality of operations. The decree concluded with a résumé of the Christological teaching of the various Councils. This Council issued no canons.

Hardouin, 3, cols. 1043–644; Mansi, 11 (1765), cols. 189–922. Crit. edn. by R. Riedinger (ACO, 2nd ser. 2; 2 parts, 1990–92). Tanner, Decrees (1990), pp. 123–30. Hefele and Leclercq, 3 (pt. 1; 1909), pp. 472–538. F.-X. Murphy, CSSR, and P. Sherwood, OSB, Constantinople II et Constantinople III (Histoire des Conciles Œcuméniques, 3; 1974), pp. 133–260. P. Conte, ‘II significato del primato papale nei padri del VI concilio ecumenico’, Archivum Historiae Pontificiae, 15 (1977), pp. 7–111. L. Bréhier in Fliche and Martin, 5 (1938), pp. 183–91. CPG 4 (1980), pp. 178–84 (nos. 9416–42), and Suppl. (1998), pp. 479–84. J. Bois in DTC 3 (1908), cols. 1259–73; R. Janin, AA, in DHGE 13 (1956), cols. 760–3, s.v.


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