We often think schism is caused by heresy, but often it is the case that a heresy is merely propped up as an excuse for the schism, when the real motives lie elsewhere.
In his essay, “Cultural Polarity and Religious Schism,” the great historian Christopher Dawson wrote:
Behind every heresy lies some kind of social conflict, and it is only by the resolution of this conflict that unity can be restored.
He gives as an example the Armenian schism at the time of the Ecumenical Council of Chalcedon.
Yet even from the beginning it is obvious that the passions which filled the steets of Alexandria with tumult and bloodshed and set bishops fighting like wild animals were not inspired by a pure desire for theological truth or even by purely religious motives of any kind.
Dawson goes on to analyze the sociological causes behind schisms, including that of Protestantism in Europe during the time of the Reformation, but I want to focus more specifically on the Orthodox schism.
It seems clear to me that the Orthodox schism from the Catholic Church was caused by motives other than theological. Indeed, reading the history of the events of the schism, the rift between the Latin West and Greek East, coupled with the overweening pride of the leaders on both sides, it is clear that such deep cultural, political, and geographic differences contributed to the schism more than the relatively minor theological differences…