Was the Tome of Pope St. Leo Ex Cathedra? | Rebuttal to Catholic Apologist Erick Ybarra

Mr. Ybarra has been posting articles that are being circulated online. Many people not familiar with the facts of history and ecclesiological points have been affected by it, causing their faith to be shaken. Therefore, it is necessary to provide a response. This particular post is to address this article of his, attempting to establish the Tome of Leo in 451 as being an exercise of the Pope’s Extraordinary Magisterium.

In this reply, we will argue the following based on the evidence:

Pope St. Leo the Great

1) Not only has Erick Ybarra not read the Acts of Chalcedon, but he is not familiar with the Acts or the history of the Council outside of small select parts he has retrieved from secondary sources acting as quote mines.

2) Neither Pope St. Leo nor the Council Fathers considered the Tome an Ex-Cathedra statement or something foisted onto the bishops. Instead, they considered it a statement submitted to the review and approval process of the Council thus being added to the Council’s approved documents.

All quotations from Mr. Ybarra are given in blue italicized script to differentiate them from other block quotations, which we have provided.   

Mr. Ybarra begins with a fairly simple version of events that he mostly presents accurately, albeit with a few minor mistakes and his own pro-papal eisogesis. Instead of openly stating his thesis, he poses a question:

Erick: How did the Bishops of the Council receive the Tome of Leo?…The idea held by the Eastern Orthodox is that Pope St. Leo’s tome carried no binding authority simply because it was issues by the Magisterium of Rome. On the contrary, they would urge, the Tome of Leo was critically examined, and only when it was judged to be in accordance with the Apostolic faith was it deemed acceptable. This demonstrates, they would argue, that a Pope fiat carried no coercive bind upon the Church until the authority of a Council deemed it so, i.e. Councils are superior in authority than Popes. I even had an Eastern Orthodox Christian tell me at a get together that the Pope’s decision counted as one single vote together with the other bishops equally presiding and contributing. Does this gloss adequately represent the historical facts as seen from the Council of Chalcedon itself? To this we now look.

He is arguing that not only was the Tome of Pope St. Leo the Great an exercise of the Extraordinary Magisterium of the Pope (i.e. an Ex-Cathedra statement) but that it was received so by the vast majority of the council who simply signed it on the good word of the source.

He continues with a series of quotations, none of which really prove his point in any meaningful way as we will see, but do allude to the great respect and auctoritas Rome held in the first millennium. Some of his quotations he has been able to locate in those letters translated and contained in the Nicene and Post Nicene Fathers series (and available at New Advent) but for many of the others that have not been translated, he has actually recycled them from Fr. Luke Rivington’s work “The Roman Primacy 430-451” and took the references Fr. Rivington provided in Migne and Mansi in the footnotes and simply linked to the referenced in said collections. Being that Mr. Ybarra reads neither Latin nor Greek, he has no ability to check those references himself or understand the context surrounding each quotation. Furthermore, most of the commentary Mr. Ybarra provides is simply lightly reworded versions of what Fr. Rivington states in his book and that can be seen here. 

Erick: “Concerning his invitation to Council from Theodosius II, the Pope writes: “The devout faith of our most clement prince, knowing that it especially concerns his glory to prevent any seed of error from springing up within the Catholic Church, has paid such deference to the Divine institutions as to apply to the authority of the Apostolic See for a proper settlement: as if he wished it to be declared by the most blessed Peter himself what was praised in his confession (Letter 33).”

The term St. Leo uses in the Latin original here is “auctoritas” and though it does mean ‘authority’, it does not mean so in the sense Mr. Ybarra thinks. “Auctoritas” does not mean ‘authority’ in the sense of juridical power (“potestas”) but instead refers primarily to soft power (i.e. the ability to convince others to do what you want them to do because of your good reputation). The Romans typically used it in the same way we would speak of someone as “a leading authority in the field of genetics”  or “an authority in ancient music”. There is no doubt Rome had an inordinately large amount of leverage and auctoritas but Mr. Ybarra makes a basic mistake here because not only does he not read any Latin or Greek, but  he has no background in classics or ancient history and is therefore incapable of understanding and appreciating the particularly strong juxtaposition of the two concepts not only within Roman Law, but also Latin Patristics. It should be noted that as indicated in the link to Lewis and Short’s dictionary entry, “authority” is simply one definition of “auctoritas,” it bore many more but they were all linked to reputation, witness, and ratification (which is the right to say yes or no to others’ proposition but not to dole out orders).

In addition, in the same letter (Letter 33, which is written to the council gathered at Ephesus in 449), Pope St. Leo shows no indication that he thought of his Tome as the final judgement on the matter and therefore closed to review and ratification. He writes this to the Council:

“But because the healing even of such men must not be neglected, and the most Christian Emperor has piously and devoutly desired a council of bishops to be held, that all error may be destroyed by a fuller judgment, I have sent our brothers Julius the bishop, Renatus the presbyter, and my son Hilary the deacon, and with them Dulcitius the notary, whose faith we have proved, to be present in my stead at your holy assembly, brethren, and settle in common with you what is in accordance with the Lord’s will.” (Letter 33)

When St. Leo wrote this, the Tome had already been published some months before. Now, if the Tome is the definitive statement on dogma and one all must bow to, exactly how is Pope St. Leo speaking of a council as giving a ‘fuller judgement’ on the issue and why is he saying he will ‘settle in common’ with the bishops present ‘what is the Lord’s will’? According to Mr. Ybarra, the Tome had already settled the issue and given the final judgement.

Erick: “In a letter to the Emperor himself, Leo writes: “But what the Catholic Church universally believes and teaches on the mystery of the Lord’s Incarnation is contained more fully in the letter which I have sent to my brother and fellow bishop Flavian” (Letter 29). Thus, Leo understood his Tome to be the ecumenical standard by which the Council of Ephesus 449 was to judge the orthodoxy of Eutyches, before the Eastern bishops even read it. This Council failed, and is known as a Latrocinium (Synod of thieves).”

St. Leo is simply stating that he is rehashing basic and received dogmas of the Christian Faith in a letter. That is not to say such a letter would not carry more gravitas (weightiness) and auctoritas than a similar letter by any other bishop, but it is a far cry from claiming it is an infallible declaration on previously undefined dogma. In fact, St. Flavian, the Patriarch of Constantinople who tried and condemned Eutyches in Constantinople in 448 and was beaten nearly to death at Ephesus (he died shortly thereafter) says the same thing I am when he speaks of the matter as requiring Rome’s “endorsement” as well as “weight and support”:

Patriarch St. Flavian

“Therefore, most holy father, being stirred by all that he has ventured, and by what has been done, and is being done against us and the most holy Church, use your accustomed promptitude as becomes the priesthood, and in defending the commonweal and peace of the holy churches, consent by your own letter to endorse the resolution that has been canonically passed against him, and to confirm the faith of our most religious and Christ-loving Emperor. For the matter only requires your weight and support, which through your wisdom will at once bring about general peace and quietness. For thus both the heresy which has arisen, and the disorder it has excited, will easily be appeased by God’s assistance through a letter from you: and the rumored synod will also be prevented, and so the most holy churches throughout the world need not be disturbed.” Letter 26 (included in the collection of Pope St. Leo)

It should be noted that Pope St. Leo became involved in this dispute (and Mr. Ybarra has left this important detail out) because after being condemned in 448, Eutyches immediately appealed to Leo for a retrial (Leo, Letter 21) per the appeals process outlined in the 3rd and 5th canons of the Council of Sardica. Flavian then sends Leo the council minutes so he can review the case (Letter 22 begins this but letters 23, 24, and 26 give further details).

Erick: In his letter to the Pope , the new Emperor Marcian mentions that things which “conduce to the Catholic faith shall be laid down as your holiness, in accordance with the canons of the Church, has ruled“ (Epistle 76 – Leo). This “ruling” was nothing less than the Tome.

Emperor Marcian

Mr. Ybarra recycles this from Fr. Luke Rivington’s book but does not understand the context of the quotation. Though the letter was originally written in Greek, the translation into Latin is telling of how they understood the situation:

“…et quae Christianorum religioni atque catholicae fidei prosint, sicut sanctitas tua secundum ecclesiasticas regulas definivit, sua dispositione declarent.” (ibid.)

The pertinent part is better translated as:
“…and which might be beneficial to the religion of Christians and to the catholic faith as your holiness, according to the canons [literally “ecclesiastical rules”] has laid down and by your direction, they might make evident.” (ibid.)
Notice the “they” – it refers to the bishops present who will be “making evident” the truth of the Tome by their ratification. The emperor is telling Pope St. Leo what Pope St. Leo later reiterates in letter 120: The bishops ratified the Tome, not the other way around.

Erick: “Another letter to St. Leo from the Empress St. Pulcheria calibrates our perspective on the how the Tome was understood.; she writes that the Council of Chalcedon was summoned “that the bishops may decide by your authority in accordance with what the faith and the Christian religion demands” (Epistle 77 – Leo). And these two statements, from Emperor and Empress, set the plot for what would happen at Chalcedon.”

Once again, though originally written in Greek, the Latin of Pope St. Leo’s translators is telling:

“Et proptera tua reverentia quocumque modo perspexerit, significare dignetur; ut omnes etiam totius Orientis episcopi, Thraciae atque Illyrici, sicut etiam nostro domino piissimo imperatori meo coniugi placuit, in unam civitatem velociter ab Orientalibus partibus valeant conveniere; et illic facto concilio, et de catholica confessione, et de his episcopis qui ante hoc segreganti sunt, sicut fides et Christiana pietas exigit, te auctore decernant.” (ibid.)

What is so telling is the Greek word here translated as ‘authority’ with the Latin “te auctore“(II. Transf: C, (γ), b.), which means something more along the lines of ‘your influence’, ‘your urging’, or ‘your encouragement.’ Further, the quotations speak of the bishops as making the decision, which rules out an Ex-Cathedra statement as those are simply to be assented to once issued, not discussed and then approved.

Finally, despite what Mr. Ybarra misinterprets as pandering language, the correspondence between Pope St. Leo and the Emperors (first Theodosius II and then Marcian and his wife Pulcheria) reveal that not only did St. Leo not desire a council at Ephesus in 449 but he loathed the idea of one at Chalcedon in 451 as well. Letters 44, 54, 69, 70, 76, 77, 83, 90, and 95 are prime examples of his pleading against and then final acquiescence to the imperial decision to not just hold a council, but to hold it in the East. Were the Imperial figures as pandering as Mr. Ybarra makes them out to be, they would not have been so insistent as to simply disregard the Pope’s wishes and then order him to attend or to at least to send legates.

Erick: In Session 1, we have recorded the words of Patriarch Maximus of Antioch which are in defense of St. Flavian but which speak to our point: “Archbishop Flavian, of holy memory, expounded the faith rightly and in agreement with the most blessed and holy Archbishop Leo, and we all eagerly receive it” (Session 1). Was it really “we all”? If the “all” is representative of the Eastern bishops in the Council (numbering 600+), then we have it on the testimony of the occupant of Christendom’s Third See that the contemporary Orthodox gloss is a misrepresentation of the facts.

Mr. Ybarra makes an embarrassingly glaring mistake here; there were not ‘600+’ bishops at the council, and had he actually read Fr. Richard Price’s translation and commentary of the Acts instead of resorting to quote mines, he would have seen the number was roughly around 370 actual bishops and representatives. Additional clerics were present as many came with an entourage, which may explain how numbers like 520, 600, 630 mistakenly entered the hymnography and general collective memory but even those numbers vary considerably and have no basis in the Acts itself. Fr. Price brings this up repeatedly in his excellent translation and commentary and each time, points the reader to Appendix II of the Acts where he uses the list of signatures that comes at the end of the sessions. Further, even if Mr. Ybarra had not read Appendix II, the signatures of the bishops at the end of  the sessions are numbered so he would have already acquired a ball park range simply by reading the text alone even without commentary. [1]

Erick: “The Eutychian matter has sprung up; on this a form [ordinance] has been given by the most holy Archbishop Leo, and we go by it, and have all subscribed the letter“, to which the Bishops shouted, “That we also say, the explanation already given by Leo suffices; another declaration of faith must not be put forth” (Mansi vi, 954). Is that so? Not only is this another testimony from the East (Sebastopol), but the record has it in the minutes that the “Bishops” were already satisfied with Leo’s tome from the get-to. This is not what Bishops who were prepared to run the Tome of Leo through the review of a Council would say.”

Though in session II, Cecropius does say this (Price translates it as “There arose the affair of Eutyches. A decree was issued on the subject by the most holy archbishop of Rome; we assent to it and we have all signed his letter.” Acts Vol 2, p. 10), he is later recorded as saying:

“Cecropius the most devout bishop of Sebastopolis in Armenia said: ‘The letter of the most holy Leo archbishop of Rome accords with the definition of the 318 and the definition of the 150 holy fathers, and with the assent expressed by the holy and thrice-blessed Cyril earlier at Ephesus and confirmed by the [present] holy council. We have agreed with them and signed.’” (Session IV. Vol 2, p. 133)

Further, when the imperial commissioner stated that the bishops would indeed create a new statement of faith over and above the letters of St. Cyril and the Tome of Pope St. Leo, Cecropius enthusiastically states:

“We propose that the definition be read out and that those who dissent and will not sign it should leave. For we are agreed with what had been well defined, and raise no objections.” Session V (Acts, Vol 2, p. 199)

So taking his words in context, we see the fuller picture.

Erick: “The Commissioners were not going to let up, and suggested that the Patriarchs should come together to the center of the Church of St. Euphemia and to corroborate on the faith so as to ensure absolute unity. To this a Bishop Florentius of Sardes spoke out: “As those who have been taught to follow the Nicene synod, and also the regularly and piously assembled Synod at Ephesus, in accordance with the faith of the holy fathers Cyril and Celestine, and also with the letter of the most holy Leo, cannot possibly draw up at once a formula of the faith, we therefore ask for a longer delay; but I, for my part, believe the letter of Leo is sufficient.”

Fr. Prices’s translation is as follows and is not as pandering:

“Florentius the most devout bishop of Sardis said: ‘Since improvising about the faith is impossible for those taught to follow the holy council of Nicaea and the one that was rightly and piously convened at Ephesus, in accordance with the faith of the holy fathers Cyril and Celestine and the letter of the most holy Leo, we beg your greatness to grant us a postponement so that we may attain the truth of the matter with an appropriate plan – although indeed as regards ourselves, who have signed the letter of the most sacred Leo, we stand in no need of correction.’” Session II (Acts Vol 2, p. 11)

This takes place in session II (specifically at Acts Vol 2, p. 25) but it is put into focus at the end of session IV, which will be commented on shortly.

Erick: “Was there any evidence of question on Leo’s Tome? Yes there was. Let’s see how considerable it is to be given the weight it pretends to have by contemporary scholars. In the 4th Session, we come to learn that bishops from Illyricum and Palestine took issue with 3 passages in the Tome, thinking that they contradicted St. Cyril’s christology.  This group of questioning bishops together formed 48 bishops out of the nearly 600 Bishops in total attendance. Aetius, deacon of Constantinople and one who already subscribed to the Tome, responded by reconciling the first 2 problem passages with St. Cyril’s letter to Nestorius, and the 3rd was left for Theodoret of Cyrus ( Hefele, History of Councils, vol. iii, page 318-318).”

On top of inaccurately stating the number of bishops present, Mr. Ybarra has not added correctly. There were roughly 13 Egyptian bishops present, 32 Illyrians, and 16 Palestinians totaling not 48, but closer to 61. The Egyptian bishops wrote a statement of faith but refused to accept the Tome (Acts, Vol. 2, p. 119 and Vol. 2, 150-151).[2]

Erick: “After this the Imperial Commissioners ask “Has any one still any doubt“? to which the Bishops responded “No one doubts“. Wow. That means there were some Bishops at the Council, all from the East, who were willing to say no one doubted the Tome of Leo. But then Atticus of Nicopolis, one of the Illyricum bishops, requested a few days’ delay. The Imperial Commissioners resorted to allowing this delay so that the questioning bishops could be “instructed“. But then it was cried out “None of us doubts, we have already subscribed“ (Mansi vi, 974).  This of course was the voice of the majority. Even so, the commissioners permitted Anatolius, Patriarch of Constantinople, by way of condescension, to choose certain learned from the vast majority who unquestionably subscribed to the Tome to the task of instructing these Bishops, who make for an undeniable minority (approximately 8% of the Council).”

Considering there were no more than 370 bishops and representatives (Acts, Vol 1, p. 43; Vol 2, p. 35 & 36; Vol  3, p. 195-196 and 210;) and actually closer to 61 raised objections to what even by Pope St. Leo’s admission were poorly worded statements within the Tome, it is closer to 16.5% of attendees raised objections or simply refused to sign.

In addition, Mr. Ybarra inadvertently alludes to but ultimately skips over a key fact on why the Tome was received so well by 5/6 of the bishops present: most of the bishops had already examined and signed the Tome prior to Chalcedon as it had been in circulation prior to the Robber Synod of Ephesus II in 449. By the time of Chalcedon, they didn’t have objections to it and they were ready to sign it because they had had two to three years to scrutinize and ask questions about it. As Fr. Richard Price points out:

“Anatolius of Constantinople had begun collecting signatures to the Tome well before the council (Documents before the Council 9). We may presume that the bishops waiting at Nicaea before the council opened will have been pressed for their signatures. In the fourth session a great number of bishops reported that they had already signed.” Vol. 2, p. 4

St. Empress Pulcheria

“Marcian’s letter was accompanied by one from Pulcheria (Document 3), which added the significant details that Archbishop Anatolius of Constantinople had signed Leo’s Tome, that the council would deal with the cases of those bishops who had been deposed at Ephesus, and that in the meantime these bishops had been told by Marcian to reoccupy their sees, even before the Council’s decision. In fact, the emperor’s agents were active in securing subscriptions to the Tome from as many bishops as possible in the regions dependent on Constantinople and Antioch, as is mentioned in a letter of Leo’s (Document 9); already on 21 October Anatolius had held a synod at Constantinople at which he and his bishops signed the Tome and were formally restored to communion with the Roman see.” Vol 1, p. 88

“When Theodosius II died suddenly in the summer of 450, the court of Constantinople immediately reversed its ecclesiastical policy. Eutyches was subjected to restraint, and the bishops were pressed to sign Leo’s Tome, as the only way to restore ecclesiastical communion with the west.” Vol. 1, p. 118


St. Cyril of Alexandria

Far from having it sprung on them at the Council and, as Mr. Ybarra claims, obediently ‘submitting’ to it, as the bishops sign it, they state they have examined the Tome and found it to be in accord with:

  1. Nicaea
  2. Constantinople
  3. Ephesus
  4. The letters of St. Cyril of Alexandria.

This truncated part of the Acts can be accessed here.[3]

In addition, Fr. Price adds the important note that the Tome took second stage to the Cyrillian definition and writings.

“The council solemnly approved the Tome of Leo, and it was as a result of Roman insistence that the Definition contains an unambiguous statement of two natures in Christ. There were significant non-Cyrillian features in the Christology of Leo, as of the west in general; in a word, while Cyril treated Christ’s human nature as the instrument of the divine Word, Leo emphasized the cooperation of the two natures in ‘the one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus’ (1 Tim. 2:5). If we take Leo’s Christology as our starting point, a very different interpretation of the Definition emerges. But this was certainly not envisaged by the council fathers themselves: they interpreted the Tome as simply a confirmation of the insistence by the Home Synod of Constantinople of 448, in its condemnation of Eutyches, that Christ is consubstantial both with the Father and with us men, and that therefore there are two natures in Christ that remain distinct even after the union (I. 526). The distinctive features of western Christology echoed in the Tome were of no concern to the council fathers whatsoever. In all, despite the formal approval of the Tome by the eastern bishops both before the council, at the council, and in the Definition itself, it remained far less important for them than the conciliar letters of Cyril.” Acts of Chalcedon Vol 1, p. 67

“Similarly, after the reading of Leo’s Tome at the second session Bishop Atticus of Nicopolis argued that the Tome needed to be compared to the Twelve Chapters (II. 29). In a subsequent informal meeting of the bishops, the Roman delegates had to satisfy their eastern colleagues by playing down the dyophysite emphasis in the Tome (IV. 9, after §98)…” Vol 2, p. 68

“and in several of the early sessions it seems likely that additional debate regarding Leo’s Tome or the Definition took place but was not recorded.” Vol. 1, 78

This is the embarrassing part for the Catholic position and Mr. Ybarra attempts to answer it here with a quotation from the Anglican turned Catholic priest, Fr. Rivington:

Erick quoting Fr. Rivington: “In truth, the objection that has been so confidently raised, that the Tome of Leo was sanctioned by the Synod after examination as by a superior authority, collapses fr want of evidence, so soon as we take the whole of the facts into consideration. So far, it had been made from the very beginning the test of orthodoxy. The bishops, by signing it, witnesses to their own orthodoxy rather than set a seal to that of Leo. Their witness, however, did give to the Tome that external recommendation which, though not needed for the strong, was calculated to assist the weak by its impressive exhibition of the Church’s unity. And as events proved, every help was needed to preserve the faith in the coming century” (The Roman Primacy: A.D. 431-451, page 269)

The issue with this quotation by Fr. Rivington is Pope St. Leo himself tells us the council ‘ratified’ the Tome:

“…for in the letter which we issued from the Apostolic See, and which has been ratified by the assent of the entire holy Synod, we know that so many divinely authorized witnesses are brought together.” (Letter 120)

Far from signing on or simply accepting the Tome due to its source, it went through a ratification process, and the Council’s approval is what made the document binding. Had that not been the case, those who had not signed onto the Tome previously would have already been excommunicated if not openly, then lata sententia (this point becomes exceptionally important in the two trials of Dioscorus held at Chalcedon).

Erick: In other words, these were Ecumenical Councils, and as such, possess the supreme authority in matter of faith and morals. Yet, at Nicaea, the duty of the bishops was to measure its Creed against the deposit of faith which was apprehended in the Holy Scriptures and in the Christology which was passed down by the prior forefathers. But just because the bishops of Nicaea were measuring their Creed by this former rule does not negate the Council of Nicaea’s own infallibility proper. In the same way, when the Ecumenical Council of Ephesus met and measured its deliberation on Christ and the Mother of God against the Creed of Nicaea, it did not thereby diminish its own infallibility proper. But then, why is it that when we come to join the Council of Chalcedon, and we find that Leo’s tome is measured against the former Councils of Nicaea/Ephesus, we immediately think the tome is fallible?”

Because the decisions of Nicaea, Constantinople, Ephesus, etc. are not actually infallible until their documents are ratified by the members attending said councils and thereby become official decrees. This is why the rough drafts of decrees are not infallible documents despite taking place within an Ecumenical Council. In other words, not everything that goes on within a council is divinely inspired, only the definitions the councils produce and then formally ratify and that occurs at the end of a council. This is true for both Orthodoxy and Catholicism.

Erick: For an infallible Church to admonish her members to examine the grounds of her infallible teaching seem to sound out of place. To this, the great Anglican convert to Benedictine Catholicism Dom Christopher Butler, wonderfully rebuts in his abridged reply to Salmon entitled Infallibility and the Church by saying: “I would reply, the Church will naturally encourage her children to ‘examine the grounds’. She will do for the obvious reason that any Catholic may be asked by a non-Catholic enquirer to ‘give account’ of his faith; and for the non-Catholic the ‘grounds’ are of great importance. But she will do so also because faith ordinarily requires, for its bene esse, an instructed reason and an understanding which mere assent is not calculated to engender.” (Page 21)

The issue here is the confusion of the term ‘examine’ with ‘understand.’ “Examine means: “to inspect closely, to test the condition of, to inquire into carefully: investigate: to interrogate closely, examine a prisoner; to test by questioning in order to determine progress, fitness, or knowledge”.

In fact, even the synonyms for examine; ‘investigate’ and ‘inspect’, carry the meaning of searching for faults to ascertain facts or verify truth. This is why before the Sacrament of Confession, we put ourselves through an examination of conscience, why we have exams in our schooling, and why a physician giving us a clean bill of health after a physical exam actually means something. In none of those situations does ‘exam’ imply simply trying ‘to understand’. Instead, it means to scrutinize or search for faults. But this is not allowed with an Ex-Cathedra statement, where one is encouraged to understand but no one is allowed to scrutinize the statement for faults once it is issued. For a sincere believer to say they ‘examined’ the Nicene Creed is blasphemous as there is no room for fault finding in it.

Erick: “This analogy could also apply to the study of Sacred Scripture. More often than not, the same persons who tout that Leo’s tome was the opinion of one bishop are often times serious Bible readers. It would be a far stretch for any of these persons to say that they have struggled one or twice with a certain passage in Romans 4 being in harmony with James 2. And yet, with all the ink spilled trying to reconcile this together over the last 500 years, not once has the idea come up that by doing such critical exegesis, one effectively doubts the infallibility or the divine inspiration of the Holy Scriptures. But be sure, if the bishops at Chalcedon work to understand how the Tome of Leo is in harmony with prior dogma of the Church, it must be because the Tome is a base document of man’s opinion.”

Again, one would not ‘examine’ one text in light of another if they were convinced they’re both infallible. They would analyze them, seek to harmonize them, and understand them, yes. But to scrutinize them? Only one doubting a belief in their divine inspiration would be so bold as to put them under test.

Erick: “In conclusion, I think there is ample evidence to believe that the Council of Chalcedon submitted obediently to the Tome of Leo. In the very letter which the Council wrote to Pope Leo after their proceedings were done, this very point is proved. On the Tome of Leo, the Council writes: “And we were all delighted, reveling, as at an imperial banquet, in the spiritual food, which Christ supplied to us through your letter: and we seemed to see the Heavenly Bridegroom actually present with us. For if where two or three are gathered together in His name, He has said that there He is in the midst of them ,must He not have been much more particularly present with 520 priests, who preferred the spread of knowledge concerning Him to their country and their ease? Of whom you were chief, as the head to the members, showing your goodwill in the person of those who represented you“ (Letter 98). Who better than the Council to ask who was Head of the Synod? Whether the Tome was critically examined? Or whether Leo’s letter was merely just an opinion? Indeed, no other testimony is better.”

Firstly, no one serious doubts Pope St. Leo was the head of the council. This point is a moot point unless one mistakenly thinks ‘head’ means ‘infallible autocrat’. A metropolitan is the head of his synod, the Patriarch of Serbia is the head of the Serbian Orthodox Church, the Ecumenical Patriarch was the head of the Council of Crete in 2016. So there’s no issue here and his attempt to make one shows a woeful lack of knowledge concerning Orthodox ecclesiology.

Second, after initially making the mistake of stating “600+ bishops” were present, he quotes a letter giving a significantly lower number and does not realize the discrepancy. Third, “sacerdos” (pl. sacerdotes) refers to priests of bishops and as each bishop was allowed to bring a retinue, 520 is counting everyone regardless of whether they could vote or not just as long as they were a priest or bishop.

Third, ‘critically examined’ is redundant, as ‘to examine’ implies a level of testing and scrutiny, which the bishops informed us they had done as they signed.

Fourth, whether the Tome was “merely just an opinion” or not is irrelevant to whether it had to be ratified by a council, which we see the bishops did. No one actually believes St. Leo just meekly submitted it as “an opinion” any more than any other bishops submits a document as “merely just an opinion.” Had the council not ratified it, St. Leo probably would undoubtedly have continued simply sticking to the Tome insisting anyone who wanted communion with him accept it.

But herein lies the irony: as much as many bishops stated they would have preferred to simply ratify the Tome and leave, when the Emperor Marcian insisted on them making a new declaration of faith, the only thing to cajole them into making one was moving the council to Italy and therefore having even more papal involvement. In other words, they were not eager to have a council flooded with Roman bishops and even further papal oversight and so with this threat in mind, they wrote up a new statement of faith that essentially ignored the Tome and cleaved to St. Cyril.[4] Does that sound like people who would eagerly and without hesitation sign onto a document they believed already possessed infallibility?

Fifth, Price’s translation and commentary of the Acts of Chalcedon are the only complete translation into English and Mr. Ybarra never once quotes from it. Being that Mr. Ybarra reads neither Greek nor Latin to any worthwhile level, how is he providing references to Migne, a set that is only in the primary language (Greek) and a Latin translation? Price’s Acts have some random and sparse citations from Migne so he isn’t cross referencing there.

The truth is, Mr. Ybarra simply consults quote mines and some antiquated secondary sources for his information and this is why he has such glaring gaps in his knowledge of the Council. He has not even bothered to read the Acts but has cut and pasted from works by Fr. Luke Rivington, E. Giles, and Kidd and simply copies the reference and quotation, having never read the surrounding text. You can Google quotations and see for yourself which works come up as Mr. Ybarra has uncritically accepted and copied their mistranslations.  Then in the comments section, when someone points out it is obvious Mr. Ybarra has not read the Acts, Mr. Ybarra then actually does muster a quotation from the Acts referenced as “Acts of Chalcedon, Pg. 4.” But no one who has read the Acts would cite it that way, as they would know it is a three volume set so ‘p. 4’ could be any number of locations in the Acts depending on the volume. It’s not simply his lack of familiarity with the details of council but all of these additional details that give him away fairly easily.

In closing, it is clear neither Pope St. Leo nor any of the Council Fathers saw the Tome as an Ex-Cathedra statement but saw it as binding only after the council ratified it. Second, we believe we have demonstrated clearly that Mr. Ybarra has not read the Acts due to the fact he quotes exclusively from collections in languages he cannot understand and all of his quotations are found verbatim in Rivington, Giles, and Kidd.

Finally, we do hope to see Mr. Ybarra’s reply soon as it will undoubtedly unfold into a larger debate on the role of Pope St. Leo the Great in the Council of Chalcedon, it will become even more apparent that Mr. Ybarra is unfamiliar not only with the Acts, but with the history in general.

[1] “Although it is not easy to ascertain the exact number of bishops or their representatives who attended the synod, there seem to have been approximately 370 physically present. Official sources contemporary with the council claimed that 500 or 520 bishops had attended Chalcedon. But the lists preserved in the acts for individual sessions seldom record much more than about 300 present at one time. The discrepancy may be explained by the common practice of metropolitans signing on behalf of absent suffragans. The official count seems to have included many who were not actually present, double-counting both the absent bishop and the presbyter or deacon who represented him. Through such generous reckoning, we arrive at a number close to the traditional 520.” Vol 1, p. 43

“Sources after the council tend to give 600 or 630 as the number of bishops attending; the figure of 600 was already given by a bishop in the fourth session (IV. 53) and is clearly symbolic – twice the attendance at Nicaea (the ‘318 holy fathers’).1 A slightly lower figure of 500 comes in the letter of the council fathers to Pope Leo, while Marcian’s Fourth Edict confirming the council’s decrees gives 520.2 Most historians still repeat these figures, but what support do they receive from the lists of bishops in the conciliar Acts? […] In all, we must admit that an exact calculation of the number of council members cannot be made; complicated patterns of representation frustrate precision either conceptual or mathematical, and our lists of attendees and signatories are less reliable than one would wish. But if a particular figure is to be produced, from the calculation we have made there results a figure for the number of bishops and episcopal representatives, in other words, members of the council with voting rights, of around 370. Though significantly less than 520, let alone 636, it is an impressive enough figure: it is not greatly short of half the total number of bishops in the eastern provinces, and was unequalled at any other early council.” Vol. 3, Appendix 2, pages 193-196

[2] “The Illyrian and Palestinian bishops had now accepted the Tome; the only bishops still resistant were the Egyptians. After the condemnation of Dioscorus, 13 of the Egyptian bishops sent a statement of faith to the emperor in which they affirmed the Nicene Creed, condemned the most gross of the heresies attributed to Eutyches (the notion that the manhood of Christ came down from heaven and is unlike ours), though without mentioning Eutyches by name or affirming two natures after the union, and without referring to either Dioscorus or Leo’s Tome” v2, p 119

[3] List of signatories of the Tome:

“The most glorious officials and the exalted senate said: ‘Since we see the divine gospels displayed by your devoutness, let each of the most devout bishops assembled state if the definition of the 318 fathers who met formerly at Nicaea and of the 150 who convened subsequently in the imperial city is in harmony with the letter of the most devout Archbishop Leo.’ (1) Anatolius the most devout archbishop of imperial Constantinople said: ‘The letter of the most sacred and God-beloved Archbishop Leo accords with the creed of our 318 holy fathers at Nicaea and of the 150 who subsequently assembled at Constantinople and confirmed the same faith, and with the proceedings of the ecumenical and holy council at Ephesus under the most blessed Cyril, [now] among the saints, when it deposed the infamous Nestorius. Therefore I have both expressed agreement and signed willingly.’ (2–4) The most devout bishops Paschasinus and Lucentius and the most devout presbyter Boniface, representatives of the apostolic see, said through the most devout Paschasinus: ‘It is clear and cannot be disputed that the faith of the most blessed pope of the apostolic see Archbishop Leo is one and in accord with the creed of the 318 fathers who met at Nicaea, that it upholds both the creed of the 150 who convened at Constantinople and also the decrees of Ephesus under Cyril of holy memory when Nestorius was deposed on account of his errors; it differs from them in no way at all. Because of this it has been demonstrated that the letter of the most blessed pope, which renewed this faith because of the errors of Eutyches, accords with the same [creed], having one and the same spirit.’ (5) Maximus the most devout bishop of Antioch in Syria said: ‘The letter of the most holy Leo archbishop of imperial Rome accords with the definitions of the 318 holy fathers at Nicaea, of the 150 at Constantinople New Rome, and with the faith defined at Ephesus by the most holy Bishop Cyril, and I have subscribed.’ (6) Stephen the most devout bishop of Ephesus said: ‘The letter is in accord, and I have subscribed to it as being correct.’ (7) Diogenes the most devout bishop of Cyzicus said: ‘It is in accord, and I have signed it.’ (8) Cyrus the most devout bishop of Anazarbus said: ‘It is in accord, and I have signed it.’ (9) Constantine the most devout bishop of Bostra in Arabia said: ‘It is in accord, and I have signed it.’ (10) John the most devout bishop of Sebasteia in Armenia Prima said: ‘According to my understanding the meaning of the letter of the most holy Leo bishop of Rome accords with the creed of the 318 and of the 150 who subsequently assembled at Constantinople, and with the decrees of Ephesus relating to the deposition of the impious Nestorius under the leadership of the most blessed Cyril, and I have subscribed the same letter.’ (11) Constantine the most devout bishop of Melitene in Armenia Secunda said: ‘I am convinced that the letter of the most blessed and holy Pope Leo of Rome, which I have also signed, is in harmony with the definitions of the 318 holy fathers who assembled at Nicaea, of the 150 at Constantinople under Theodosius of divine memory, and of those at Ephesus under the most blessed Cyril bishop of Alexandria.’ (12) Seleucus the most devout bishop of Amaseia said: ‘We have found that the conciliar letters of our most sacred father Cyril are in harmony with the faith defined by the 318 holy fathers, and likewise we have found that the letter of the most holy Archbishop Leo accords with the 318 and with the teaching of the most holy Cyril.’ (13) Patricius the most devout bishop of Tyana said: ‘We have found the letter of the most holy Leo archbishop of Rome to be in harmony with the 318 at Nicaea and with the 150 holy fathers who met subsequently in the imperial city, and I have signed.’ (14) Theodore the most devout bishop of Damascus said: ‘There is no doubt that the letter of our most blessed and holy father Archbishop Leo accords with the definition of the holy fathers at Nicaea, just as the letters of the most blessed Cyril accord with the same definition, and I have signed it.’ (15) Photius the most devout bishop of Tyre said: ‘We find harmony with the faith defined by the 318 holy fathers at Nicaea in the 150 holy fathers who met at Constantinople, in those who subsequently assembled at Ephesus under the most blessed Cyril, and in the letter of our most holy and blessed father Leo archbishop of Rome, and I have signed in my own hand…’ 

[it continues on like this for 19 pages as each bishop states he has examined the Tome and compared it with the councils of Nicea, Constantinople (381), and Ephesus and found the Tome in accordance with said definitions]. V2, p 128-147

[4] “St. Cyril of Alexandria and the Christological Controversy” p. 235-238


One thought on “Was the Tome of Pope St. Leo Ex Cathedra? | Rebuttal to Catholic Apologist Erick Ybarra

  1. Pingback: Tome of Pope St. Leo – Critically Examined by the Council of Chalcedon? Part 2: Response to Ubi Petrus | Erick Ybarra

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