A heretic bishop used the pope’s letters to defend heresy. Granted, the papal letter was highly ambiguous. One could even reasonably argue that the letter itself was heretical. It was obviously ambiguous. And in the context of the culture, this ambiguity gave obvious cover to heretics and heresy.
In short, it was failure to act as pope. Failure to defend the truth clearly. That failure, in the context of the doubts about the faith raised widely in many quarters, opened the door for the promulgation of heresy.
So, when it came time for investigation into the matter, an outright heretic bishop claimed that he had the support of the pope. He mentioned the papal letters to another bishop.
Whether or not his own reading of the pope was accurate, we may now pass over in silence.
Of whom do I speak?
The heretic: Macarius of Antioch.
The pope: Honorius of Rome.
The results: Honorius was condemned as a heretic by the bishops in council. Of course, by this time the council’s Acts would not be promulgated unless approved by Rome. Back in Rome, Pope St. Leo II approved key portions of this council, though perhaps not that portion that condemned Honorius as being a heretic. However, Leo did himself condemn Honorius for failure to condemn heresy so as to preserve the true faith in time of crisis, thus for opening the door to the promulgation of heresy by the neglect of his papal office.
The heresy was about Christ: Whether he had one will only or two wills (one divine and one human).
The aftermath? Many of the lands of those Christians who defended the heresy were being taken over by Muslim conquest. If the imperial hand was too hard on such heretics (when it was actually orthodox, which was certainly not always), nonetheless, the heretics suffered far worse under their new rulers. Many lost the faith altogether.
Let us pray for the conversion of heretics and non-Christians to the one true faith. Let us pray for those in office in Christ’s Church to preserve defend and promote the true faith, in season and out of season, with gentleness of charity and firmness of conviction.