St. Maximos the Confessor
In his third chapter, Steven Runciman chronicles the efforts of late-sixth and seventh-century Emperors to restore unity to the Church and help it to maintain doctrinal purity (as they understood it). Justinian’s successors Justin II, Maurice, and Phocas used a combination of legislation, wooing, and persecution to bring the Monophysites into the fold, but they had little success. The Emperor Heraclius went a step further, placing forth a doctrinal compromise called monoenergism, which stated that while Christ had two natures, he only had one energy. When this effort was rejected by Chalcedonians, the Patriarch Sergius, with Heraclius’ reluctant blessing, published a new statement of faith that forbade any further discussion about Christ’s energies and set forth another new idea. This new doctrine, called monothelitism, affirmed that Christ had two natures, but only one will, was also rejected by Chalcedonian believers.
Heraclius’ successor Constans II continued the policy of imperial support for monothelitism, even though by that time the Muslim conquests of the Near East and Egypt had deprived the Empire of most of its Monophysite territories, eliminating the political purpose of the new doctrine. Constans followed the example of Justinian toward prominent dissenters to his religious policy, jailing and torturing Pope Martin and Maximos the Confessor, the two most notable critics of monothelitism.
Constans’ son and successor Constantine IV reversed his father’s policy of Imperial support for monothelitism. He summoned a council in Constantinople that condemned the doctrine along with major religious figures (though no emperors) who had advanced it. This council, which came to be recognized as the Sixth Ecumenical Council, once again restored unity to the Church, at least the parts still under Byzantine control. But this peace was not to last. In 692, Constantine’s son Justinian II summoned another council to complete the work of the Fifth and Sixth Councils by issuing canons to deal with many problems of church order and discipline. This council, referred to as Quinisext or Trullo, ruled against many customs and practices of the Western Church. The Pope refused to recognize this council, resulting in schism between Rome and Constantinople that would last nearly twenty years.