The True Causes of Schism

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.

So while the theological problems need to be intensely worked on–which is just what the Catholic-Orthodox commissions are doing currently–the real healing of the schism will only come through deep humility on the part of both parties…and a willingness to extend the other the benefit of the doubt.

In my view, it is the Catholic Church and her leaders who must bend the knee in apology first. The bigger man must lower himself. And, I would point out that JPII and Pope Benedict have already done this multiple times:

1. After raised to the chair of Peter, Benedict promptly dropped the title “Patriarch of the West”
2. JPII returned a revered icon to the Russian Orthodox Church

Interestingly, both of these actions were met with derision in several Orthodox quarters, calling to mind the aphorism, “let no good deed go unpunished.” But it doesn’t matter. The important thing is for the Catholic Church to continue to show humility, which by God’s grace will soften the hearts of the Orthodox and ultimately allow Christ to heal the schism.

Dawson ends his essay on a hopeful note:

I believe that the age of schism is passing and that the time has come when the divine principle of the Church’s life will assert its attractive power, drawing all the living elements of Christian life and thought into organic unity.

For since Christ is the Head of the Church and the Holy Spirit is the life of the Church, wherever there is faith in Christ and the Spirit of Christ there is the spirit of unity and the means of reunion.

33 thoughts on “The True Causes of Schism”

  1. I’m convinced that a heretical notion of ecclesiology rooted in sociological differences between the Eastern and Western Churches was a determining factor in the perpetuation of the Great Schism. Specifically, as the authority of Eastern bishops was weakened by the Caesaro-Papism of the Byzantine Emperors, the monasteries began to view themselves as autonomous arbitors by claiming that it was in their confines that the Church was perfected. From there they sought to rule the Church in the greater society, since the Eastern bishops were selected from the monks. The theology of 13th century monk then bishop Gregory Palamas, rooted in the devotional practices of Mount Athos, is a significant impediment to reunification. A recent display of this impasse was when Pope John Paul II was greeted by Greek monks and nuns holding signs declaring him to be arch-heretic and Anti-Christ.

  2. My view of historical cause and effect:
    1 Islam (610): Monophysite heresy
    2 Orthodox-Catholic schism (1054): Evil popes such as John XII
    3 Fall of Constantinople (1453): See above comment about Gregory Palamos
    4 Protestant Revolt (1517): Great Western Schism
    5 French Revolution (1789): Failure of the king to consecrate France to the Immaculate Heart of Mary
    6 Bolshevik Revolution (1917): Persecution of the Catholic Church in Poland
    7 English Revolt (1531): Murder of Joan of Arc

      1. Thank you Philip. #5 should read Sacred Heart of Jesus.

        Finally, one from the Bible:
        In 587 BC Judah fell to Babylon, and the temple in Jerusalem was destroyed. In 687 Manasseh succeded his father Hezekiah. He was guilty of idolatry. According to Jewish tradition, the prophet Isaiah was sawn in two at his command.

  3. Human Pride seems often to be a factor.
    Having worked on establishing a non-profit shelter for women in crisis pregnancy (that includes some small apartments for women and infants for some months after the baby is born), a saying suggests itself: “It’s amazing how much a group can accomplish if no one cares who gets the credit!”
    Conversely, much in proposed good work is frustrated by human squabbling about how the credit will be allocated.
    TeaPot562

  4. Have you read of the latest schismatic movement – that of “BlackSheepDog”, .ie., Corpai? Sadly, it seems that schisms will always be w/us. Anything that promotes disunity IS schismatic particularly when it grows into a movement. BlackSheepDog is claiming authenticity while refusing to adhere to the authority of the Church and seeks “follower” past and new, to join him in expressing his perspective of the Truth. The Catholic Church is all about unity as reflected by the Vicar of Christ, the Holy Father and the Hierarchy of the Church. When anyone sets themselves outside or above these venues, claiming to be authentic witnesses to the truth, it is quite impossible to believe. There may be elements of Truth in all schisms, but the fullness of Faith exists only in the unity as desired so ardently by Jesus Christ now and forever which implies obedience as Jesus Himself was obedient even unto death. His authentic followers the Apostles et al throughout Church history have also followed this path for the glory of God.

      1. What Fr. Corapi is doing is not schism. He has decided that he can’t be obedient to his religious superiors and so he has chosen to function as a lay person in the Church. BTW, I’m not a supporter of his which is why I don’t want to make him out to be larger than life, which is what happens when we call him schismatic.

    1. Sam, your arrogance & that of all your Ilk, is simply breathtaking ! – let alone Contemptible !

      Who are U to sit in judgement of this man, a holy priest of God, & a gifted preacher, by grace of the Holy Spirit !
      He is arguably one of the most gifted preachers of our time, & not bettered since the late / great Bp. Fulton Sheen !

      His unlooked for celebrity, & the blatant spiritual Jealousy of all of his critics & detractors, is the obvious cause for all of the venom in the Catholic Bloggosphere !

      The unwritten phenomena – & the giant spiritual elephant in the room – is that all of these so called wanna-be theologian Catholic Bloggers & commentariat, are more than secretly bitter, resentful & jealous of Father Corapi !

      Their Ego’s are so huge, & taller than proverbial skyscrapers, (or towers of Babel if U wish !) but much more arrogant in their imposing presence, – that they secretly wish, that they had as much influence & as much of a following (or more crudely “fan-base”) as he does ! All the while denouncing such celebrity & such a following as: sinful, evil or demonic ! – & that this is all an “obvious” ? sign of schism within the church ! – yeah right !

      U clowns don’t fool me !

      They are jealous of what he has achieved in 20yrs – which most could never achieve in several lifetimes ! They commit the Sin of Envy at the massive influence he wields within the broader church, not to mention the immense fruits of conversion & reversion to the Faith & the Holy Catholic Church, that the Holy Spirit has achieved thru such a vessel as him !

      They despise his shoot from the hip style & straight talking “tell it like it is” preaching, that has stepped on a great many catholics, Politicians, Teachers, Theologians, Religious, Priestly & Episcopal toes ! – calling them out for their abject failures to protect the flock & transmit faithfully & undiluted, the deposit of Faith to the faithful !

      I’m talking about the rebels / rabble, white-ants, traitors, judases, & 5th Columnists that ran riot in the wake of the hijacking of Vatican II !!
      – All scum ! – may they & all their followers (fan-base) crash & burn !
      – & may Almighty God have mercy on their pathetic Souls !

      Are U another Mark Shea ?

      – & just like that despicable & uncharitable cretin, who dares to present himself as a good & faithful catholic, who is above beyond criticism himself, & who sees himself as the Final word on all things Catholic ! – who is He or You or anyone to sit in judgement of Father Corapi !??

      Balanced journalistic comment is one thing, & so is regret at a tragic & hurtful situation within our beloved church, -….. But to extend & project that to virtual character assassination of the man, without knowing all of the facts of the situation, & without waiting to see the outcome of the investigations & legal processes, is simply disgusting, despicable & reeks of gutter politics !!

      Here below: is a Classic example of why I despise the modern Episcopacy, – or more accurately those that hold it, esp in the West !

      I will ALWAYS respect the office, but I AM NOT Obligated to respect the person who holds it – that respect MUST be earned !!

      The only Bishop I Respect & will listen to is the Bishop of Rome – period !!

      The vast majority of Bishops around the world – esp in the west – can basically go Chase themselves ! – & by the Judgement of God – Reap the Whirlwind ! & Yes I will & Do Pray for them ! – but sadly I know, just like human nature, they won’t change, until God chooses to intervene in human affairs in a Mighty way, just like he did at Fatima !!

      You & your ilk, argue that we should be faithful & obdient to the Hierachy, the Bishops ! – No matter what !?? – Really ???

      Here is an excerpt regarding the Removal of that scumbag rebel Bp Morris:

      “While the removal was almost unprecedented in Australia, it not-so-surprisingly illuminated fault lines within the Church which all reasonably well informed observers have known about for decades. To use somewhat technical language, the fault line is sometimes described as the one which runs between the hermeneutic of continuity, on the one hand and a mentality which can be described, on the other, as a hermeneutic of discontinuity. At the end of the day however, the issue under debate was the simple fact that in the Catholic Church every Bishop, a successor to the apostles, is obliged by sacred oath to teach what the Catholic Church teaches – period.”

      http://www.therecord.com.au/site/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=2556&Itemid=30

      http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/new-document-reveals-years-of-vatican-efforts-before-ousting-toowoomba-bishop/

      http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/in-toowoomba-legacy-of-bishop-bill-is-confusion-and-one-new-priest-in-18-years/

      http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/as-controversy-continues-grave-reasons-seen-in-deposing-australian-bishop/

      These are the types of Bishops that you Demand we be Obedient to ???

      Whilst we can not judge or condemn their souls – we CAN & Must make prudential judgements about what we see & hear !

      It is NOT sinful to criticize their deeds & actions, their sins of Commission & Ommission, – we must be free to be able to do this, as they must be held accountable this side of the veil for what they do & say !!

      The most galling aspect is that ……. the Bishops & the commentariat, (like many on this blog !), have the temerity & arrogant gaul to denounce & hammer Father Corapi, for a relatively minor & UNPROVEN infraction, but have very little or silence to say about Bishops, nuns & priests like Morris, who have been in power for years if not decades, spewing forth their recalcitrant heresy, bile, insubordination & rebellion, all the while leading countless millions of catholic souls to perdition or to leave the faith all together, like some satanic proverbial Pied-Piper !

      Where is the Outrage towards these Liturgical Criminals ? Where is the condemnation of these Spiritual Terrorists ! – that have virtually raped the souls of the faithful all around the world with their poison, & have stalked the catholic landscape like petulant drunken rioters, destroying everything in their path, terra-forming the church into their OWN image !

      Where is the accountability in our Church ??
      Where is Vatican III – the Reform of the Reform !!???
      Where is the New Holy Inquisition ?? – May God bring it on SOON !!

      Sams says: that Father Corapi is “…..expressing his perspective of the Truth”

      …… & I say to you SAM, & all your ilk ! – it wasn’t “his perspective of the truth”, it WAS the TRUTH !

      Show me where anything that Father Corapi has taught or preached to be Heretical ! GO ON ! I DARE YOU !

      If Not……. as Father Corapi says “PUT UP or SHUT UP” !

      Bring It On Sunshine ! – Bring It On !

      “All Men Fear what they Do Not Understand,
      & Hate what they Can Not Conquer” !

  5. Devin, I was under the impression that the Orthodox never had a problem with the papal title “Patriarch of the West” – that’s how they see that office, after all – as one member of the Pentarchy. Happy to be corrected, though.

  6. Chatto, my (limited) understanding of the title matches your understanding. I think relinquishing the title was good because it both cleared up confusion due to the title’s inaccuracy but also it seemed to be a sign where Pope Benedict said “I’m willing to let go of these trappings that pit the Catholic Church against the Orthodox Churches, even if the popes have used them for X hundreds of years.” Same thing with him foregoing the procession with the golden tiara or whatever after he was raised to the chair of Peter.

    So you’re right that it’s not the most direct gesture toward the Orthodox, but I think they were a primary motive behind it.

  7. Thanks for the speedy reply, Devin! I must admit, I’m not that fussed about the title, given that he has others which aren’t so restrictive in their description of his office (I’m not suggesting he drops Bishop of Rome, though!). That said, I really don’t see this as a cause of tension between the Catholic Church and Orthodox churches. I’d think they be more upset by Vicar of Christ or Supreme Pontiff! As for the use of the papal tiara, what are we to make of this?:

    http://orbiscatholicussecundus.blogspot.com/2011/05/pope-receives-tiara-from-catholics-and.html

    I couldn’t agree more with the main thrust of your post, that the divisions are primarily cultural rather than theological, though it seems to me that these two examples, the title of Patriarch and the use of the tiara, are actually two examples of cultural common ground, rather than points of division.

    1. Chatto, yeah you’re right–those examples (which were off the top of my head) are not the best ones. Regarding the gift of the tiara, I guess you can’t refused that kind of thing! I hadn’t heard about it, but it’s very cool.

      Thanks for your input on this!

  8. Hey, Devin!

    As soon as I read the quote from Christopher Dawson, my mind flashed to Hilaire Belloc’s How the Reformation Happened, which argues quite a bit along the same lines. Have you read it?

    BTW, I just got If Protestantism Is True today, devoured it in one sitting — that’s how marvelous the flow is — and should have the review up on Impractical Catholic by the end of the night.

    1. Tony,

      I haven’t read Belloc’s book, but I definitely want to. (I blame it on Brandon Vogt, who had a giveaway for it a few weeks ago that I *suspiciously* did not win.) :)

      Dude, thanks for reading the book and getting a review of it up! I am so glad that it read easily for you; that was one of my main fears about it. Can’t wait to see what you say–I’ll link to it when you put it up.

  9. \The theology of 13th century monk then bishop Gregory Palamas, rooted in the devotional practices of Mount Athos, is a significant impediment to reunification. \

    Are you talking about SAINT Gregory Palamas?

    You should be aware that he is commemorated on the Second Sunday of Great Lent, not only by Orthodox, but by Byzantine Catholic Churches as well. See, for example, the LENTEN TRIODION published by the Byzantine Catholic Sisters of St. Basil the Great of Uniontown, PA.

  10. Devin,

    I just wanted to comment and say that as an Orthodox Christian, I appreciate your very important comments on schism. In my little research, it seems to me that this point is almost ignored and it is very tragic because it ends up making the figures on both sides completely black and white instead of influenced by the complex social and political situations involved. One of the most deceiving things that Orthodox Christians will try to do is to completely ignore the political ambitions of Constantinople in the schism and simply look at the development of the Papacy as the cause. It’s so tragic that our bishops have not reciprocated the humble gestures of the Holy Fathers. The Orthodox have done wrong too…but I think in many ways it is like the deep wound left from the harm that a Father can cause his son: the deeper wound is upon the son, not the father.

    in Christ,

    Timothy

    1. Timothy, thank you for visiting and your irenic comment. I want more than anything for this schism to be healed, and pray for it. My expertise is in Protestantism, but I have slowly learned more about the Orthodox over the past ten years. I have great respect for them (for you!) and hope that we can build the good will, by God’s grace, to achieve reunion.

  11. I think I would distinguish the points of weakness which define the boundaries of a potential fracture from the cause of the separation itself. The cause is almost always pride; cultural differences and social conflict determine how many join the schism. That pattern not only works in describing schisms from the Catholic Church, but even schisms within Protestant denominations.

  12. From annabahpa: The theology of 13th century monk then bishop Gregory Palamas, rooted in the devotional practices of Mount Athos, is a significant impediment to reunification.

    Can anyone recommend further writing on this? I see the Eastern Catholics have him in their calendar of saints (optional, or in addition to the Holy Relics).

  13. I once read that the split between the Croatians and the Serbs took place when the Serbs were afraid of being absorbed into Croatia (which was already absorbed into greater Hungary); and so the Serbs (who speak the same language as the Croatians, “Serbo-Croatian”) switched to using the Cyrillic (sp.?) alphabet, and from being fellow Catholics of the Croatians to being Serbian Orthodox.

  14. as an irish catholic who has spent a lot of time in eastern europe ,and befriended many orthodox believers,it has always amazed me how nationalism has played such a key role in keeping the schism going. The ottomans were able to completely control the appointments of Patriachs and hierarchs through the phanar. You may recall that in 1453 at the fall of Constantinople ,Mehmet the conqueror simply slaughtered the then Patriarch (who was in union with Rome) and appointed a bishop who was opposed to the council of Florence..thus ensuring centuries of seperation. The Russian tsars were equally effective as they deposed any hierarchs who showed sign of being for reconciliation…remember how Paul I was murdered..(DeMaistre)..and how Nicholas I suppresed the Greek Catholics In Ukraine and Belarus..1830’s..never the less many orthodox and catholic believers in the east long for reunion..and the holy spirit (Who IS the priciple of unity in the church) is still very active…..is mise le meas !

  15. St. Gregory Palamas not only is a saint for us Greek Catholics but, like our Orthodox brethren, we celebrate his feast on the second Sunday of Great Lent as a continuation of the feast of the Triumph of Holy Orthodoxy, and is certainly not “optional”. His theology is dogmatic for us, just as the theology of St. Thomas Aquinas is official for the West. His theology is not an impediment to unity – only Latin ignorance of it is.

    You will find ikons of other Orthodox saints in our temples – St. Seraphim of Sarov is especially well-beloved, but you will even find ikons of St. Mark of Ephesus, the only abstainee from signing the reunification documents of the Council of Florence, in Greek Catholic churches. All Orthodox saints are our heritage, because we are not Roman Catholics who preserve a Greek flavor or some elements of the Orthodox liturgical tradition, but we truly are Orthodox believers in communion with the see of Rome. We did not lose our Orthodoxy by recognizing it in the Pope of Rome. “Rubrics” are not as rigoristically, legally defined in the East as in the West, and saints are commemorated by the inclusion of kontakia to them in the Liturgy. If a Greek Catholic priest wants to include a kontakion to a more recent Orthodox saint (or, for that matter, a Roman Catholic saint) on top of the older saint already commemorated on that day, nobody is going to stop him.

    The filioque is also not an impediment to unity. Catholics and Orthodox both hold the same stance on the filioque, although it is more precisely defined in the East than in the West. To say that the Holy Spirit proceeds hypostatically from the Son is heresy; His hypostatic origin is from the Father alone while He receives His divinity through His “eternal manifestation” through the Son – and this occurs through one act, not two. Divinity in the East is regarded as energy not hypostasis, because otherwise we would compromise our own deification and fall into the Protestant heresy of “imputed justification”.

    The real impediments to unity are the jurisdiction of the Papacy and the prevalence of the legal metaphor in theology in the West. Getting rid of the title “Patriarch of the West” was absolutely the worst thing a Pope could have done to smooth things over either with the Orthodox or with the Greek Catholics, because that IS the precise role that defines the vast majority of what he actually does. He is not a fourth level of Holy Orders or a bishop over a universal diocese; the Eastern Churches are truly sui juris, and are not bound to specifically Latin formulations of phrasing in dogma (though the substance of belief is always the same), Papal decrees on canon law or discipline if these decrees come motu proprio (e.g., Aeterni Patris regarding the place of the theology of Thomas Aquinas in seminaries), or the Pope’s control in micromanaging dioceses as he does in the West. Almost all of the things he does in the West he does under his capacity as Patriarch of the West and primate over his suffragan bishops, and for him to remove that title is taken as a dangerous encroachment on the proper rights and duties of bishops of the East that were guaranteed by Vatican I, and as a grab for absolute power as universal bishop which reduces the other bishops to mere middle management.

    The other impediment to unity is the legal phrasing of Catholic dogma in the West. The West needs to explain – and the East needs to understand – that this metaphor is not exclusive of other metaphors (in the East we prefer to think of deification as a process of healing and therapy, rather than judgment and justification), and the West needs to recognize the relative nature of its formulations of the “jurisdiction” of a priest in confession, and of the notion of temporal punishment for sins and Purgatory and indulgences (not that we don’t believe in purgation for sins after death – we always say 40 Liturgies for the soul of the faithful departed to be freed from their sins so they can enter Paradise, and due to a sin of anger committed by St. Philip the Apostle while he was being tortured we have fasted for his soul for 40 days every year for 2000 years). The West is also going to have to overcome the bad tendency (as noted by Cardinal Ratzinger in “The Nature and Mission of Theology”) coming from scholasticism to parse the sacraments and Liturgy to look for the “bare minimum” and “essentials” necessary for validity, which has led to the abominable liturgical abuses and the destruction of the Liturgy in the West, which the future Pope noted would be “unthinkable in the East”. The West is going to have to preserve a view of the totality of the Liturgy and of the sacraments rather than looking to see how much can be changed and experimented with in order to stay valid. The West is also going to have to show the Orthodox that scholasticism and systematic theology do not divorce theology from prayer and make theology an intellectual science that any atheist or unbeliever could engage in as well as a saint.

    The West is also going to have to return to the practice of fasting if they expect the Orthodox to accept them – not fish Fridays in Lent, but true, serious fasting (such as abstinence from all meat, alcohol, oil, fish, eggs, and dairy products on all Wednesdays and Fridays, the days before major feasts, two small fast seasons of two weeks and two longer ones of 40 days – of course, although this used to be the praxis of the West as well of the East, it would be a bit inorganic to adopt this particular regimen in the West – something more in harmony with Western culture would be a bread and water fast on Wednesdays and Fridays, the restoration of the Ember Days, and fasting during Lent and Advent). St. Seraphim of Sarov said that one cannot be a true Christian if he does not practice the fasts, and the Orthodox churches take him seriously.

    The West is also going to have to stop speaking of the Orthodox as being in schism from the Catholic Church and of them needing to “become Catholic” (which in the past has always meant, “convert to the Roman Rite”), but rather acknowledge that the two are in schism FROM EACH OTHER and that this rift needs to be healed. Individual Orthodox faithful are not “schismatics”, because that term properly means someone in rebellion from his bishop – which they are not.

    And the East is going to have to overcome a whole lot of pride in order to recognize that the Roman Church is not as heretical as it is caricatured to be – and the West needs to immerse itself in the Eastern mindset in order to both learn the language needed to explain itself to the East, and also to come to accept those elements of the East that the West has in the past often wrongfully rejected (the hesychastic theology of St. Gregory Palamas, our inalienable tradition of a married priesthood, our canonical prohibition against kneeling during Liturgy on Sundays, our actual theology of the filioque as defined by the Council of Constantinople in 1351 which is NOT “less defined” or “undeveloped” than the West’s teaching, the completion of the Anaphora in the epiklesis AFTER the Words of Institution rather than having a moment of “transusbstantiation” right at the words “This is My Body”, etc. etc. etc.)

    In my humble opinion, these are the real issues perpetuating the schism.

    In Christ,

    Seraphim

  16. Seraphim: “St. Gregory Palamas not only is a saint for us Greek Catholics but, like our Orthodox brethren, we celebrate his feast on the second Sunday of Great Lent as a continuation of the feast of the Triumph of Holy Orthodoxy, and is certainly not “optional”. His theology is dogmatic for us, just as the theology of St. Thomas Aquinas is official for the West. ”

    Please see: http://www.mliles.com/melkite/stgregorypalamas.shtml

    I do not know how authoritative this site is, but it would infer that as far as the Melkites are concerned (which I am not), Palamas was not part of their lexicon until 1971. Did your Greek Catholic Rite do so before 1971?

    As a Greek Catholic, I am interested in your insights on this “Saint” (which this site claims JP2 recognized as such) and how it should be understood from an EC perspective (as compared to be antagonistic of Aquinas; and vice versa). I have asked other Eastern Catholic priests, but have gotten broomed on this topic.

  17. PMG–

    The cultus of St. Gregory Palamas did not make it into Ukraine by the time of the Union of Brest, because his commemoration on the second Sunday of Great Lent was not into the liturgical books introduced into Kieven Rus’.

    Amongst my goodies is the small Chasoslov published at the time of beloved Metropolitan Andrew Sheptitsky, and oddly enough, St. Gregory, St. Mary of Egypt, and St. John of the Ladder are NOT commemorated during Lent therein.

    By the same token, while obviously recognized as saints, they are not in the Triodion or Chasoslov used by the Russian Old Ritualists, either.

  18. PMG: I was born after 1971, so I don’t know what the actual practice was before then. My church is Carpatho-Rusyn. Part of the problem is that we don’t really use “official” liturgical books. The ones that everybody in America (in at least the three parishes I’ve lived at) actually uses for the propers of each feast are printed off the internet from the Metropolitan Cantor Institute, which comes with a disclaimer that they are “unofficial” (but cheap). The “official” books are in Slavonic and are a bit of a mess -there are very unorganized relative to the books used by the Latin Rite -and since most parishes are extremely poor (in Slovakia they are usually rural, and in America they are usually extremely small, with 20 communicants being a big crowd), nobody can afford to buy half a dozen extremely expensive thick volumes, which are only published in English by Orthodox presses anyway. So priests use what they can get their hands on. In past times, books pre-dating both the Union of Uzhorod and the Nikonian reforms were simply passed down for generations since nobody could afford to get new ones, preserving some traditions that we share with the Old Believers of Russia apart from the Russian Orthodox. The Old Believers do not celebrate the feast of St. Gregory Palamas during Great Lent, but only in his feast in November which often falls on a weekday. The Greek-language books published in Rome do have the kontakia to St. Gregory Palamas on the second Sunday of Great Lent, but they were added back into the books in 1974 by Cardinal Slipyj. It seems though that they had never been intentionally omitted, and that the revision of the text was a reform meant to reflect actual Greek Catholic practice rather than to change it. Articles by Fr. John Meyendorff on veneration to St. Gregory Palamas had been printed by Rome with the imprimatur well before Vatican II, and most of the synodika were and still are published by individual Eparchies rather than by Rome. All three pastors that I have had (originating from Mount Athos, from Belarus, and a transfer from the Roman Rite respectively) have preached his theology and spirituality.

    Palamas is generally regarded by Greek Catholics as compatible with Aquinas, expressing the same doctrine using different language. The point of Palamas is deification as opposed to Barlaam of Calabria’s nominalism; discussions of real versus virtual separation between the Essence and energies are secondary and off-topic. The main difference seems to be different concepts of knowledge; Aquinas only discusses intellectual or discursive knowledge, and then reduces Heaven to a Beatific “Vision” caused by the life of grace (but distinguishable from it) but accessible only after death, whereas Palamas treats theological knowledge as noetic or “of the heart”, transforming our very being and divinizing us, and makes this communion with God accessible during our lifetime. Aquinas also spends little time talking about uncreated grace, but only talking about its effects -us, or “created grace”. I recommend a study of the two by Anna N. Williams entitled “The Ground of Union: Deification in Aquinas and Palamas”.

    1. Seraphim,

      Thank you for offering this helpful understanding from the eastern point of view. As an Orthodox Christian, the more I learn, the more I lean towards the things that you are saying.

      Timothy

  19. Don Schenk: Serbia has always been of the Byzantine rite, so your statement that it went from being Croatian Catholic to Greek Orthodox is misleading. The only country to go from Latin to Byzantine has been Bulgaria, and the Latin missionaries were expelled within the first century of its Christianization, so it was never fully evangelized Latin to begin with – the East did not start engaging in active proselytization of Western Christians until the 20th century, although the West has actively tried to convert Orthodox to the Roman Rite since the 11th century (usually against its own canon law), another historical factor impeding union. Serbia’s first archbishop, St. Sava, ensured the autocephaly of the Serbian Church by snubbing the Ecumenical Patriarch by having his brother crowned king by (an emissary of the) Pope of Rome instead (this was in the 13th century, after the supposed schism of 1054). Although this makes him a Catholic in the Church’s eyes, this does not mean he was a Catholic of the Latin rite; he was an Athonite monk. Smaller churches seeking autocephaly from Constantinople often did so by appealling to Rome, and it usually worked – for example, the Church of Georgia became autocephalous in the 11th century thanks to a certain St. George, who was infamous for defending the necessity of communion with Rome in person to the Emperor’s face in 1054 immediately after the excommunications were exchanged. Bulgaria attempted a similar stunt in the 19th century and was condemned for “phyletism” by the other Orthodox churches; the monk responsible for framing the Bulgarian Unia was kidnapped and recanted his attempts after several years in prison.

    This does not mean that Georgia was ever Roman Catholic and changed religions, or that Bulgaria was trying to become Latin, and their anti-unionist opponents never charged them with such. It just meant that in the political struggle for ecclesiastical jurisdiction, they believed they had more autonomy under Rome than under Constantinople at that particular time in history. Rome is not the only see which will have to repent of being aggressive as a local primatial see before we can heal the schism – we are all sinners, on both sides.

Comments are closed.