The Roman Catholic Church Condemned Pope Honorius I as a Heretic and Excommunicated Him
Pope Honorius I (625-38) was posthumously condemned as a
heretic and excommunicated from the Church by the ecumenical Council of
Honorius actively maintained the heresy in official papal
letters written to Sergius I, patriarch of
To give a brief summary from the Council’s acts, which are quoted more fully later where it is clear that Honorius is being spoken of:
“We find that these documents [including those of Honorius] are quite foreign to the apostolic dogmas, to the declarations of the holy Councils, and to all the accepted Fathers, and that they follow the false teachings of the heretics…there shall be expelled from the holy Church of God and anathematized Honorius who was some time Pope of Old Rome, because of what we found written by him to Sergius, that in all respects he followed his view and confirmed his impious doctrines…To Honorius, the heretic, anathema!… [The devil] has actively employed them [including Honorius]…we slew them [including Honorius] with anathema, as lapsed from the faith and as sinners, in the morning outside the camp of the tabernacle of God. &c.”
In order to approve the decrees of the Council, Pope St. Leo II (681-3) wrote to the Emperor that he anathematised Honorius because he “endeavoured by profane treason to overthrow the immaculate faith of the Roman Church”, not because of mere negligence (as some also lie).
“Nec non et Honorium [anathematizamus], qui hanc apostolicam ecclesiam non apostolicæ traditionis doctrina lustravit, sed profana proditione immaculatam fidem subvertere conatus est.” (Mansi, Tom. XI. p. 731)
The Council of Trullo (692) repeated the condemnation.
Two succeeding ecumenical councils ratified the sentence, Council II Nicea (787) and IV Constantinople (869-70). Popes approved both.
From the eighth to the eleventh century all new popes had to
swear in their Papal Oath before assuming the office that they accepted that
The lessons in the Roman Breviary for the office of
St. Leo II listed until the sixteenth century Honorius among those
First we shall give the testimony of historians regarding the condemnation of Honorius and then we shall give extracts from the acts of the councils in which the condemnation was given, linking also to the full texts.
Testimony of historians
First we cite the Roman Catholic historian and bishop of Rottenburg, Karl Joseph von Hefele (1809-1893). His work on the ecumenical councils is very highly regarded by Catholic theologians.
“The standard work of Hefele’s, however, is the ‘Conciliengeschichte’ in seven volumes, reaching to the fifteenth century and embracing the history of dogma, canon law, liturgy, ecclesiastical discipline, and political history, so far as necessary. Von Funk rightly says that ‘as one of the most detailed and thorough works on church history, it has attained a prominent place in the learned literature of our time.’” (Johannes Baptist Sägmüller, Karl Joseph von Hefele, Catholic Encyclopedia 1910)
He wrote of the condemnations of Honorius as follows.
“It is in the highest degree startling, even scarcely credible, that an Ecumenical Council should punish with anathema a Pope as a heretic!…That, however, the sixth Ecumenical Synod actually condemned Honorius on account of heresy, is clear beyond all doubt, when we consider the following collection of the sentences of the Synod against him:
“At the entrance of the thirteenth session, on March 28, 681, the Synod says: ‘After reading the doctrinal letter of Sergius of Constantinople to Cyrus of Phasis (afterwards of Alexandria) and to Pope Honorius, and also the letter of the latter to Sergius, we found that these documents were quite foreign...to the apostolic doctrines, and to the declarations of the holy Councils and all the Fathers of note, and follow the false doctrines of heretics. Therefore we reject them completely, and abhor...them as hurtful to the soul. But also the names of these men must be thrust out of the Church, namely, that of Sergius, the first who wrote on this impious doctrine. Further, that of Cyrus of Alexandria, of Pyrrhus, Paul, and Peter of Constantinople, and of Theodore of Pharan, all of whom also Pope Agatho rejected in his letter to the Emperor. We punish them all with anathema. But along with them, it is our universal decision that there shall also be shut out from the Church and anathematized the former Pope Honorius of Old Rome, because we found in his letter to Sergius, that in everything he followed his view and confirmed his impious doctrine.’
“Towards the end
of the same session the second letter of Pope Honorius to Sergius was
presented for examination, and it was ordered that all the documents brought
by George, the keeper of the archives in
Again, the sixth
Ecumenical Council referred to Honorius in the sixteenth session, on
important is that which took place at the eighteenth and last session, on
“After the papal legates, all the bishops, and the Emperor had received and subscribed this decree of the faith, the Synod published the usual (logos prosphoneticos), which, addressed to the Emperor, says, among other things: ‘Therefore we punish with exclusion and anathema, Theodore of Pharan, Sergius, Paul, Pyrrhus, and Peter; also Cyrus, and with them Honorius, formerly bishop of Rome, as he followed them.’
“In the same session the Synod also put forth a letter to Pope Agatho, and says therein: ‘We have destroyed the effort of the heretics, and slain them with anathema, in accordance with the sentence spoken before in your holy letter, namely, Theodore of Pharan, Sergius, Honorius.’
“In closest connection with the Acts of the sixth Ecumenical Council stands the imperial decree confirming their resolutions. The Emperor writes: ‘With this sickness (as it came out from Apollinaris, Eutyches, Themistius, etc.) did those unholy priests afterwards again infect the Church, who before our times falsely governed several churches. These are Theodore of Pharan, Sergius the former bishop of this chief city; also Honorius, the Pope of old Rome...the strengthener (confirmer) of the heresy who contradicted himself...We anathematise all heresy from Simon (Magus) to this present...besides, we anathematise and reject the originators and patrons of the false and new doctrines, namely, Theodore of Pharan, Sergius...also Honorius, who was Pope of Old Rome, who in everything agreed with them, went with them, and strengthened the heresy.’
“It is clear that Pope Leo II also anathematized Honorius...in a letter to the Emperor, confirming the decrees of the sixth Ecumenical Council...in his letter to the Spanish bishops...and in his letter to the Spanish King Ervig. Of the fact that Pope Honorius had been anathematized by the sixth Ecumenical Synod, mention is made by...the Trullan Synod, which was held only twelve years after...Like testimony is also given repeatedly by the seventh Ecumenical Synod; especially does it declare, in its principal document, the decree of the faith: ‘We declare at once two wills and energies according to the natures in Christ, just as the sixth Synod in Constantinople taught, condemning...Sergius, Honorius, Cyrus, etc.’ The like is asserted by the Synod or its members in several other places...To the same effect the eighth Ecumenical Synod expresses itself. In the Liber Diurnus the Formulary of the Roman Chancery (from the fifth to the eleventh century), there is found the old formula for the papal oath...according to which every new Pope, on entering upon his office, had to swear that ‘he recognised the sixth Ecumenical Council, which smote with eternal anathema the originators of the heresy (Monotheletism), Sergius, Pyrrhus, etc., together with Honorius.’” (A History of the Councils of the Church (Edinburgh: Clark, 1896), Volume V, pp. 181-187).
Next we shall cite the testimony given in The Seven Ecumenical Councils by Henry R. Percival, which is likewise very informative on the matter. He wrote, “most Roman controversialists of recent years have admitted both the fact of Pope Honorius’s condemnation, and the Monothelite (and therefore heretical) character of his epistles.”
“I shall therefore say nothing further on this point but shall simply supply the leading proofs that Honorius was as a matter of fact condemned by the Sixth Ecumenical Council.
1. His condemnation is found in the Acts in the xiiith Session, near the beginning.
2. His two letters were ordered to be burned at the same session.
3. In the xvith Session the bishops exclaimed ‘Anathema to the heretic Sergius, to the heretic Cyrus, to the heretic Honorius, etc.’
4. In the decree of faith published at the xviijth Session it is stated that ‘the originator of all evil ... found a fit tool for his will in ... Honorius, Pope of Old Rome, etc.’
5. The report of
the Council to the Emperor says that ‘Honorius, formerly bishop of
6. In its letter to Pope Agatho the Council says it ‘has slain with anathema Honorius.’
7. The imperial decree speaks of the ‘unholy priests who infected the Church and falsely governed’ and mentions among them ‘Honorius, the Pope of Old Rome, the confirmer of heresy who contradicted himself.’ The Emperor goes on to anathematize ‘Honorius who was Pope of Old Rome, who in everything agreed with them, went with them, and strengthened the heresy.’
8. Pope Leo II. confirmed the decrees of the Council and expressly says that he too anathematized Honorius.
‘Also Honorins. qui hanc apostolicam sedem non apostolilcae traditionis doctrina lustravit, sed profana proditione immaculatam fidem subvertere conatus est, et omnes, qui in suo errore defuncti sunt.’
9. That Honorius was anathematized by the Sixth Council is mentioned in the Trullan Canons (No. j.).
10. So too the Seventh Council declares its adhesion to the anathema in its decree of faith, and in several places in the acts the same is said.
11. Honorius’s name was found in the Roman copy of the Acts. This is evident from Anastasius’s life of Leo II. (Vita Leonis II.)
12. The Papal Oath as found in the Liber Diurnus taken by each new Pope from the [eighth] to the eleventh century, in the form probably prescribed by Gregory II., ‘smites with eternal anathema the originators of the new heresy, Sergius, etc., together with Honorius, because he assisted the base assertion of the heretics.’
13. In the lesson for the feast of St. Leo II. in the Roman Breviary the name of Pope Honorius occurs among those excommunicated by the Sixth Synod. Upon this we may well hear Bossuet: ‘They suppress as far as they can, the Liber Diurnus: they have erased this from the Roman Breviary. Have they therefore hidden it? Truth breaks out from all sides, and these things become so much the more evident, as they are the more studiously put out of sight.’
“With such an array of proof no conservative historian, it would seem, can question the fact that Honorius, the Pope of Rome, was condemned and anathematized as a heretic by the Sixth Ecumenical Council.” (The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers (Edinburgh: Clark, 1899))
Unsurprisingly, some Catholic theologians deceived on this matter and some apologists still do, refusing to admit that the pope was condemned and excommunicated as a heretic by the council.
“[They] have been driven to desperate efforts. Some pronounce the acts of the Council, which exist in Greek and Latin, downright forgeries (Baronius); others, admitting the acts, declare the letters of Honorius forgeries, so that he was unjustly condemned by the Council (Bellarmin)—both without a shadow of proof; still others, being forced at last to acknowledge the genuineness of the letters and acts, distort the former into an orthodox sense by a non-natural exegesis, and thus unwillingly fasten upon œcumenical Councils and Popes the charge of either dogmatic ignorance and stupidity, or malignant representation. So Perrone, in his Dogmatics, and Pennachi, in his Liber de Honorii I. Rom. Pont. causa , 1870, which is effectually disposed of by Hefele in an Appendix to the German edition of his tract.” (Philip Schaff, Creeds of Christendom)
Pope Honorius was condemned as a heretic by three ecumenical councils. All newly elected popes had to profess his condemnation before they could assume their office until the eleventh century and all Latin priests recited it in their breviary until the sixteenth. It is incredible that ecumenical councils under the care of papal legates and approved by popes would anathematize and excommunicate a pope without the utmost care and that Rome would have all her popes and priests confess it for a thousand years were it not justified. There is no room for doubt here. His heretical letters were burnt by order of the council and only a scrap survived; it is ridiculous that some should try to construct a case to acquit Honorious on the basis of the scrap and in the face of so much historical testimony.
Ecumenical Council of