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Monotheletism

Monotheletism or Monothelitism (both: mənŏthˈə lĭtĭzˌəm) [key] [Gr., = one will], 7th-century opinion condemned as heretical by the Third Council of Constantinople in 680 (see Constantinople, Third Council of). This doctrine, by declaring that Christ operated with but one will, although he had two natures, opposed the intent of the Council of Chalcedon. Monotheletism was first proposed in 622 and was immediately adopted by Byzantine Emperor Heraclius, for political reasons, as a compromise between Monophysitism and orthodoxy. The Eastern hierarchy, while doubtful of the dogma, tended to support Heraclius. In 631, Cyrus of Phasis, patriarch of Alexandria, promulgated a Monothelite thesis, which was opposed by Sophronius, a Palestinian monk (later patriarch of Jerusalem). At Sophronius' behest, Sergius, patriarch of Constantinople, wrote to Pope Honorius I for advice. The pope replied with a letter that apparently supported the doctrine of one will but forbade further discussion of the question. Soon afterward (638) Heraclius published the Ecthesis, which defined Monotheletism as the official imperial form of Christianity. When the Ecthesis arrived in Rome, Pope Severinus, Honorius' successor, immediately condemned it, ex cathedra. Heraclius, before he died, disclaimed the Ecthesis and attributed it to Sergius. Heraclius' successors, Constantine III and Constans II, however, continued to enforce the heresy. Popes John IV and Theodore I anathematized Monotheletism, but they could do little in face of imperial support of it. Constans II withdrew the Ecthesis and promulgated instead the Typus, a decree flatly forbidding the mention of one will or two wills or one energy or two energies in the Second Person. The Typus was favorable to the Monophysitism established in the empire but would have silenced the orthodox. Intended to make peace, it brought the controversy to a crisis. In 649, Pope St. Martin I convened a Lateran Council to condemn Monotheletism and was subsequently seized by the emperor, imprisoned, and exiled. St. Maximus was the most vigorous opponent of Monotheletism. The accession of Constantine IV to the imperial throne brought toleration for the Catholics. After the Council at Constantinople in 680, Monotheletism died out except among the Maronites in Syria. There was a brief revival of imperial Monotheletism from 711 to 713. The last of the Christological controversies, the Monotheletism question enhanced the prestige of the papacy, which took the lead in opposing official imperial heresy.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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