Which Popes before AD 800 were excommunicated for teaching false doctrine?Before the convening of the Eighth Ecumenical Council in the 9th century, were any Bishops of Rome excommunicated and/or...

Which Popes before AD 800 were excommunicated for teaching false doctrine?

Before the convening of the Eighth Ecumenical Council in the 9th century, were any Bishops of Rome excommunicated and/or removed for promoting and teaching heretical doctrines?  If there were any, please list them and their heresies and the dates of their official condemnation/removal, and the Church Synod of Bishops or the Council issuing the decree. 

Expert Answers
larrygates eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Excommunication of a Pope is highly unusual, as the Pope is the vicar of Christ on earth, and until the early modern era, was considered infallible. However, one Pope, Honorius I (625-638) was excommunicated for heresy, although he was only condemned after his death.

Honorius was condemned as a heretic because he taught that Jesus had only a divine nature, a doctrine known as Monotheism. Traditional church doctrine was that Jesus had two natures, one divine and one human. He was postumously condemned by the third Council of Constantinople in in 681, almost fifty years after hid death. He was excommunicated in his official capacity as Bishop of Rome.  The Council's edict stated in part:

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.

Although after 800, another Pope, Formosus, was also condemned posthumously. After his death, his body was exhumed, dressed in his papal garments, and placed on trial at the famed "cadaver council." He was condemned, his robes torn from his body, and the three fingers used to deliver papal blessings cut off.

michaelpaulheart | Student

addendum:  The teaching that Jesus Christ has only one nature is called "Monophysitism", condemned by the Council of Chalcedon in 451; it has also been called "Eutychianism".  It is opposed to the Catholic doctrine of two natures (the divine and the human) in the one Person of Jesus Christ, called "Dyophysitism" or "Diphysitism".

michaelpaulheart | Student

As far as I could determine, neither Honorius I nor Formosus issued dogmatic decrees binding the whole Catholic Church to hold the doctrines for which they were condemned. 

However, I may have overlooked some historical data--Did they:

  1. "declare with supreme and pastoral apostolic authority"
  2. "a definition of the doctrine" (for which they were condemned)
  3. "to be held by the whole Catholic Church"
  4. with an accompanying "anathema" stating that "anyone who dissents or disagrees is outside the Catholic Church (or Church of Christ)"--?

This is the case with the dogmatic decrees of:

  • Pope Boniface VIII in the Bull Unam Sanctum of 1302
  • Pope Eugene IV in the Bull Cantante Domino of 1441
  • Pope Pius IX in the Papal Constitution Ineffabilis Deus of 1854

which have been cited as evidence that they spoke (decreed) ex cathedra "from the chair of Peter" (with the authority of Peter) even before the dogmatic definition of Papal infallibility issued by the First Vatican Council 1868-1870.

Note:  "monotheism" means "one God"--you must have intended to say that Honorius taught "monotheletism" (one will in Christ, not the Catholic doctrine of two wills in Christ, the divine will and the human will in one Person).