An Eastern Orthodox Christian Looks West

This guest post is by my friend, Timothy Flanders, who blogs at Pater Noster. Timothy is an Eastern Orthodox Christian who is passionate about unity in Christ’s Church. He tells his story here.

I expect Catholics, Protestants, and Eastern Orthodox Christians will be intrigued by his journey and perspective, even if they may not agree with all his conclusions. To that end, respectful dialogue is encouraged in the comments, and I will be closely moderating them.

In Nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti, amen. Suscipe, Sancte Pater.

Holy Father

The Struggle of an Orthodox Christian with universal fatherhood in the Church

Bonhoeffer

“When Christ calls a man, He bids him to come and die.”
—Lutheran martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer, executed at Flossenbürg concentration camp, 1945

Wisdom

From my youth my father taught me that “if you could choose just one book of the Bible, you should choose Proverbs.” Later I realized that he was absolutely right. The book of Proverbs, I think, can be summed up in these few precepts:

(1) The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom.
(2) Wisdom is attained by listening to (and being corrected by) the wise (i.e. humility)
(3) Wisdom is the source of life.1

The seventeenth verse of chapter ten seems to sum this up nicely: he who heeds discipline shows the way to life, but he who ignores correction leads others astray. This is what my father taught me. But it would take many years for me start to comprehend this. This brief essay is an attempt to summarize what I’ve learned so far.

Coming to grips with folly

As I grew older, as is often the case, I began to ask questions about the faith I grew up with (which happened to be ELCA Lutheranism). Why could our faith only be traced back five hundred years? What was happening during those hundreds of years in between? Was God asleep? Also, why is the Old Testament so shunned? Why does there seem to be a huge disconnect between the Old and New Testaments in terms of worship, hierarchy, priesthood, sacrifice, etc.? Why, moreover, are there so many divisions? What are these “denominations?” I questioned many about such matters and others but found few who provided satisfactory answers.

But as I read the Holy Scripture and pondered on these difficult questions, I began to feel enormous sorrow above all for the pervasive division among Christians. I became ever more deeply broken in spirit by the countless divisions of Christian brothers and sisters against Christian brothers and sisters. It was unbearable, excruciating. How could all of us say we loved our Lord Jesus, and hate our brother?2 Praise God with our lips yet with those same lips curse our brother, who has been made in God’s likeness?3 The only course of action that seemed justifiable to me was to seek out every Christian division in existence and learn from them and understand them. Could I affect any sort of unity? Could I help someone reconcile? I didn’t know what I was doing, but I knew that I must follow the shuddering of my soul and probe the darkness of this mess—somehow I was called to do it by God. I knew that much. All along the redolence of my father’s words echoed before me as I waded into the murky depths of abrasive rancor and bitter enmity.

And as I trekked out on my quest for Christian understanding, I began to see how right my father really was. I was starting to realize that the problem, as it seemed to me, was that no one had read Proverbs. Christians were not being humble, with the fear of God, they were refusing wisdom (they weren’t even talking to one another, much less learning from past wisdom!), and were thus hopelessly divided and dividing. Groups of Christians seemed to huddle around each other and create their own little world in order to indulgence in apathy for their Christian neighbor and the division between them. I was appalled.

Moreover, as time passed, I became disillusioned with Evangelical Protestantism. So few Protestants seemed to even care about unity. But even more importantly, I came to a grave realization about the Bible. I had always thought, like any good Protestant, that the Bible alone was sufficient to settle all the divisions and doctrinal controversies. But with so many divisions all claiming the Bible’s authority, I began to see the folly in this. The Bible wasn’t crystal clear in all things. It needed to be interpreted for a given situation, especially in these controversial matters. And when I claimed the “Bible Alone” I was actually claiming “my wisdom alone” to interpret.4 I was refusing to be guided from the wisdom of the past who could help me interpret. This, my dear brothers and sisters in Christ, is folly.

Rob Bell

The reason is this: without the foundational truths of Proverbs, the rest of the Bible becomes no longer a two-edged sword cutting you to the heart,5 but you yourself begin to wield that sword to cut others. But like Nahab and Abihu, you offer strange fire before God,6 and in your desperate lunging with a holy blade not made of human hands you fall into the pit that you made for another.7 The divisions among Protestants has gotten to the point where it has made ecumenical reconciliation nearly impossible, since church structures no longer exist to unite them.8 Thousands of divisions of Christians using “The Bible Alone” were all convinced that their doctrine was true. How could we be so blind to this? Oh wretched man that I am, who will save me from this body of death?9

Encounter with the Body of Christ

Now back when I was an Evangelical Protestant, I was far more protestant than most Protestants. When I had come of age as a young man and thought I knew something, I became convinced of one thing. I hated the “whore of Babylon”—the Catholic Church—and the “tyrannical” pope who “usurped the place of Christ,” becoming “the antichrist” who was sending people to hell for their “Mariolatry” and Eucharist worship. But at the same moment as this disillusionment with Protestantism was setting in, God brought into my life pious Catholics (I had never met a pious Catholic before!) who were able to explain better the jarring doctrines of the Communion of Saints, the Liturgy, and the Holy Eucharist. I remember one Catholic friend saying, “When the Catholic Church has a problem, they work it out and stay united.” That sounded good to me! I began to appropriate Catholic devotional practices into my prayers, and since I was still immersed in my Evangelical Church groups, I told others how I had warmed up to Catholicism and tried to alleviate their fears (which were really just misunderstandings). For some reason, however, I never really contemplated the universal fatherhood of Papa.10

Metropolitan Kallistos Ware

Later, as I branched out in my search for understanding among Christians, I began to attend a local Arab church in my city. This Arab church was Antiochian Orthodox, and I began to learn more about church history through their publications, many of which were written by converts to Orthodoxy. I read Ware’s classic The Orthodox Church, but also Gilquest’s Becoming Orthodox, Bernstein’s Surprised by Christ, and listened to Damick’s “Orthodoxy and Heterodoxy” and countless other podcasts on Ancient Faith Radio, and I poured over the many Conciliar Press booklets that you can find in most Orthodox parishes in the U.S. Their central thesis was very intriguing because I had never heard of such a claim: that the first Protestants were the Catholics, who, emboldened by the first individualist (the pope) broke away from the early Church by asserting the pope’s right to change (and invent!) his own doctrine apart from the consensus of the Church’s wisdom. So the answer to Christian unity was this: adhere to the “unanimous teaching of the Church fathers” through consensus, and then you’ll have unity. The Orthodox Christians told me that their church was completely unified in faith, and thus could call others “in all humility” to their church—the one true Church.11 This made sense to me because I believed in wisdom. It seemed that hearkening back to the wisdom of our holy fathers and mothers of the faith was the answer to unity. Perhaps this was the answer to the division of the Church!

But I was still deeply broken in spirit. Somehow this intellectual idea did not satisfy. There was a deeper pain that the intellect couldn’t touch. Then God brought me into the Divine Liturgy. When I was an evangelical Protestant, we liked to sing songs that affirmed us—“Your grace is enough for me!…Oh how He loves us!” Of course these are great, but for some reason I felt worn out by them. I had stumbled into the Divine Liturgy of that Arab church when I was particularly exhausted in spirit over the division of the Church and the apathy of Christians. It was then that I heard chanted “Let us pray to the Lord—Lord have mercy…Lord have mercy…Lord have mercy…Lord have mercy.” It was indelibly imbued with the life-giving grace of repentance. And God drew me into this reverent, majestic worship, and I was brought to my knees weeping as I understood for the first time the reality of the Eucharist—not just in my intellect, but deep down in my heart. God’s answer to the chaotic imbroglio of this tormenting thought of Christian division was this—take and eat, this is my body which is broken for you. I was gasping at the great love of God in Christ.

Then came Lent. Beyond all question, the mystery of godliness is great.12 The liturgical services of Lent in eastern Christianity are indeed mysterious and indeed great—for they penetrate the soul and speak powerfully to the spirit. My priest gave me specific guidance about how to pray during this time, and I began to learn how to pray the Prayer of St. Ephraim—the traditional Lenten prayer of Eastern Christians.13 As I struggled to put these things into practice, our God, who is rich in mercy, out of the whirlwind, came to me and spoke clearly to my spirit.14 In the midst of all my intellectual discovery and torment over the division of the Church, I suddenly knew, deep in my soul, that by my own obstinacy I was responsible for the division in the Church. Like Father Zosima I suddenly knew I was responsible for all men.15 I was spending all my time criticizing others for their lack of humility, calling down fire from heaven upon the wicked man who pilfered the pauper’s ewe lamb.16 But our Lord said to me clearly—you are the man!17 It was I who was responsible for the division of the Church. Get away from me Lord, for I am a sinful man!18

It was then that I began to finally understand that principle of wisdom, instilled from my youth but not yet ingrained. It was in accepting rebuke that I found wisdom, because in accepting rebuke I found humility—and humility is the fear of God. As it is written: Let a righteous man strike me, it is kindness. Let him rebuke me, it is oil on my head; and my head will not refuse it.19 Then I knew with sudden horror and relief, who is in me: the Righteous Man and the wicked man.

In me—the wicked man sits in the seat of the scornful20
In me—the Righteous Man meditates on the Law of wisdom21

In me—the wicked man is furious if someone rebukes him22
In me—the Righteous Man accepts unrighteous scourging patiently23

In me—the wicked man wishes to be free from his brother
In me—the Righteous Man empties himself for his brother’s sake24

In me—the wicked man refuses to forgive25
In me—the Righteous Man forgives his brother as he crucifies him26

In me—the wicked man curses his brother to hell by his wrath27
In me—the Righteous Man is willing to go to hell for the sake of his brother28

In me—the wicked man is independent from every authority
In me—the Righteous Man is responsible to all men

In me—the wicked man will kill his brother to preserve his life
In me—the Righteous Man will die to save his brother

That is how I realized that my father was right—Proverbs is the foundational wisdom which must guide every Christian—wisdom through humility, fear of the Lord, and receiving correction from the wise. Suddenly I experienced a moment of clarity. And contrition. And it was as if I had never known God before that moment.

Dostoevsky

This knowledge of God and self had come within and through the majesty of the most holy sacrifice of the altar in an eastern Church, and so I resolved soon thereafter to become Orthodox. I now knew who the wise were—our holy Christian forefathers and mothers, inspired by the Spirit, who have gone before us. But this was by no means an intellectual relationship. I had real communion with the saints who are living members of the Body of Christ. It was a relationship of filial piety and humble devotion—they were loving parents, guiding me on the way to union with “Christ our God.” The final exhortation of the litany in the eastern service always stirred up this devotion: Calling to remembrance our all-Holy, Immaculate, most-Blessed and Glorious Lady the Theotokos and ever-Virgin Mary, with all the saints, let us commend ourselves and each other, and all our life, unto Christ our God.29

And thus it was through this communion with the Saints that I felt myself drawn into a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ. I could no longer keep myself from communion with the Immaculate Body and the Precious Blood of “our Lord and God and Saviour Jesus Christ.” For He is the Righteous Man. He has to come and bind the strong man (Mk 3:27)the wicked man within me! For I had for the first time, it seems, seen his wicked face—and alas! What power he had over me! I wanted to hate him with a perfect hatred (Ps. 139:22). I longed to curse him to hell—let his children be fatherless and his wife a widow, let his name be blotted out of the book of life (Ps. 109:9; 69:28)—and let his infants be dashed against a rock (Ps. 137:9). But oh how weak was I! How corrupted by sinful passions and desires! Oh wretched man that I am, who will save me from this body of death?

Entering the Church of Christ

In my days as an Orthodox catechumen, I was rather open to Roman Catholicism, especially since I had a western liturgical heritage, and I had been helped along the way by pious Catholics. Even after reading the anti-Catholic books mentioned above, I was always committed to Christian unity, and initially I believed that Catholics, with the Orthodox, were also a part of “the one true Church.” But very soon (God knows) I became flared up with wrath against Rome, in the same way as I had been as a Protestant. For the wicked man cannot bear for an instant to have any authority telling him what to do (and thus demand he be humble). Rather, he lusts after the unclean pleasure of myopic autonomy at any cost (that is, intransigently insisting that your view point is the only thing valid). In order to do this, the wicked man deceived me into condemning the Papa’s authority as unjust, thereby claiming a moral high ground for myself. It was a cunning trick: concealing pride by accusing of pride the one who claims the authority to rebuke your pride. It is the wicked man’s calculated, preemptive strike. It makes you hate evil (which is good)30 but become unwilling to hate the evil inside yourself. Thus the wicked man, with nefarious craftiness, used against me the good intensions the Righteous Man gave me. It’s simply Adam in the garden—blaming someone else for your own sin.

Now as an Evangelical Protestant, my critique against having a Father in Rome was rather shallow. “It’s not biblical. The Body of Christ bears the marks of the folly that comes from trying to wield this two-edged sword. But the Orthodox—ah-ha! I was told that they had “the unanimous teaching of the Church Fathers” on their side! Well, now that’s a different story! When I read the stories of bishops rebuking Papa for his incursion into their business, my hatred was enflamed and the wicked man said through me—“The prideful pope of Rome! It’s his fault!”31 Besides this, the most unassailable argument is undoubtedly this—the forgeries. Surely those Vatican notaries had doctored up this whole business about papal primacy! Yes, those evil, prideful, wicked bishops! They were craving power, and they took it all for themselves and divided the Church!32 I looked at the Holy Father with invincible distrust.

This solution gave me unclean, sinful pleasure—because I now had someone to hate. The wicked man inside me was satisfied, and I was so glad I didn’t have to let anyone tell me what to do. Because in The Orthodox Church, “infallibility resides solely in the ecumenicity of the Church… not of one hierarch but of all the people of the Church.”33) Thus the laity had a right to govern themselves, and nobody was going to domineer us—we just all submitted to the wisdom of Holy Tradition. Somehow I was hoping that the Orthodox Church would be a democracy.

 Blinded by such passions (I had no idea about any of this at the time), I, like many Protestant converts to Orthodoxy in English-speaking lands, never bothered to truly understand Roman Catholicism before I rejected it. The very word “pope” was like a counter-argument in itself—its refutation was a fait accompli to a soul prostituted to the wicked man. I did not evaluate this according to Christian wisdom (even though I thought I had committed myself to the wise). I did not search the Church Fathers to confirm or deny the assertions of these Orthodox polemics. A few quotations was good enough for me, and good enough for my sinful nature—I could submit to wise men of the past, and selectively choose which wise men to listen to (which patristic interpretation), but I sure as hell wasn’t going to be under the pope! I became an Orthodox apologist and polemicist, proving to everyone that the Orthodox Church was the one true Church, and that everything else was an impious derivation therefrom. I saw myself as a pious freedom fighter, liberating others from the tyranny of division, ushering them into the light of Orthodoxy. I was overjoyed to finally have the answer to the division in the Church.

The Sacramental Life

After I was chrismated on Pascha of 2010, I began to receive the Holy Mysteries and begin to live, with God’s help, a Sacramental life—Confession and the Sacrifice of the Eucharist. And like anyone who has entered into the Sacramental life from Protestantism can tell you—it is like night and day. Confession in particular became a crown of thorns to teach me the glory of Christ in humbling myself and piteously pouring forth all of my darkness before another human being: God’s priest. It is the path to humility and wisdom. Confession (thank God) is one of the most powerful weapons of the Righteous Man against the wicked man. I didn’t know it yet, but the Righteous Man was taking hold of a weapon and shield and arising to my help.34

Because I had an authority over me. It was nothing more than Proverbs. He who heeds discipline shows the way to life, but he who ignores correction leads others astray. As I lived the Sacramental life, God’s grace began to open my eyes to see more of that wicked face—oh God, he was all around me! My wounds are loathsome and corrupt, Because of my foolishness.35 Mine eye wastes away because of grief; It grows old because of all mine adversaries.36

Under the direction of my confessor, I began reading from the lives of the Saints. I began to see their wisdom. They taught that obedience is the swiftest route to humility.37 I read the classical ascetical text of St. Ignatii Brianchaninov, The Arena.38 That changed my life. He related the patristic view that “the voluntary giving of advice is a sign that we regard ourselves as possessed of spiritual knowledge and worth, which is a clear sign of pride and self-deception.” The privilege of judgment and teaching should be reserved for those appointed to the task.39 I was also directed to read St. John Cassian, the greater founder of western monasticism. In his Institutions he writes:

It is dangerous to judge others because, being unaware of the need or the motive out of which they do things offensive to us but either correct or excusable in God’s sight, we put ourselves in the position of having judged them rashly; in this we commit no small sin by thinking of our brothers other than we ought.” 40

And again in the Conferences:

The knowledge of everything is attained by those who think well and with simplicity about all matters and who strive to imitate faithfully rather than to discuss everything that they see being taught or done by the elders. But whoever begins to learn by discussion will never enter into the reason for the truth, because the enemy will see him trusting in his own judgment rather than in that of the fathers and will easily drive him to the point where even things which are very beneficial and salutary will seem useless and harmful to him. The clever foe will so play upon his presumption that, stubbornly clinging to his own unreasonable understanding, he will persuade himself that only that is holy which he considers to be correct and righteous, guided by his erroneous obstinacy alone. 41

As I read these words my spirit was in ashes and my heart mourned for the multitude my sins. Mine iniquities are gone over my head: As a heavy burden they are too heavy for me. ((Ps. 38:4))  Oh wretched man that I am! Who will save me from this body of death?

I began to submit myself to my confessor, to other priests, to seek their advice and not my own. The grace of the Righteous Man began to penetrate my spirit. I saw my sin like the gaping horror it was, and my hatred for the wicked man was beginning to grow towards perfect hatred. At the same moment, an unspeakable joy began to enter my heart, as God soothed me into surrendering to obedience and humility. I began to understand the exhortation of Holy Scripture: submit to one another out of fear of Christ. ((Eph. 5:21)) I began to find great joy in submission and obedience. It was the path to humility! It was the wisdom of Proverbs. It was the beginning of repentance.

But as the Righteous Man was waging war against the wicked man inside me (and I was trying my best to not get in the way), I began to learn some disturbing truths. The Orthodox Church was not what I was told it was. I was told that Orthodoxy was completely unified with no need for a pope. But some mischief began to appear among the Orthodox episcopacy. One of our bishops was treated rather unjustly by his superior and I was told (by reliable sources) that racism was the motivation and bribery the means. In response, our bishop simply moved to another jurisdiction in order to be under a different authority. This struck me as deeply disturbing. Of course I was not going to be under the illusion that wicked priests did not exist. But even if all that was alleged was not true, there was still something there that didn’t sit right. In the early Church, didn’t bishops appeal to Rome to be vindicated from something unjust like that? Sure, sometimes the pope’s decision was not accepted,42 but at least a structure existed to judge between bishops. But as I read more and talked to other Orthodox Christians, I discovered a deep-seated rivalry between the Greek Orthodox and the Russian Orthodox. Two competing primacies. What was this? That didn’t seem right. I knew some Church history, and I knew that if the pope of Rome was in heresy, then Constantinople should be the new court of appeals. There must be, as Ignatii stated, the “one who is appointed to judge.”43 But from what I was reading, it seemed that many Orthodox—whole churches, and by far the largest one, Russia—would never submit to that authority. Where then, was the virtue of obedience? Of humility? This deeply disturbed me.

I began to think about the autocephalous organization of the Orthodox Churches. Were they all independent of one another? Was there no structure of obedience that could humble us all and unite us? I began to realize that there must be something to be said about Rome’s approach. To make matters worse, the Orthodox priests I knew were themselves divided on this issue. Some were favorable toward Rome, some were less than favorable.

Then something happened. Because of the sacramental grace given me by the Righteous Man in confession, I realized my own folly. I had completely dismissed the Roman Catholic view point. I had not investigated it as I had the Orthodox faith. I had not read their catechism, their apologetics, or their patristic evidence. I had not tried to look at Catholicism on its own merits. Everything I knew about Catholicism I learned from Orthodox sources (save of course, those basic things my pious friends taught me). Why did I do this? I had actually rejected something without first understanding it—and I had rejected it according to my own wisdom, not the wisdom of our forefathers and mothers. I remembered telling this to an Orthodox convert friend who also treated Rome the same way. I said, “So are we still Protestants then?”

I realized that in my sinful desire to be without authority I had actually unconsciously wanted the Papacy to be heresy (the wicked man had deceived me, as I said above). That’s when I realized that the issue of universal fatherhood in the Church is really a spiritual issue. It’s like talking to an Atheist about God. You can argue with the most unassailable rhetoric and logic, and at the end of the day he’s not going to open his heart to God, unless he allows the Spirit to touch his heart. The reason is because his sinful nature values its own autonomy. If he were to believe in God, he would have to change his whole lifestyle. He would then be under an authority.

So too with the Papacy. Even the thought that an authority can be over me to ultimately check my autonomy immediately engenders a knee-jerk rejection from my sinful nature. Since obedience is the swiftest route to humility, our pride can never countenance such a thing. The wicked man will convince you unconsciously to believe anything but that.

Rapprochement

So I began learning again. I spoke to Catholics themselves this time, and listened to how they understood their own faith. I met a learned Catholic online who stated that “I have never met an Orthodox Christian online or in person who actually understands the Catholic faith.” In the name of Christian unity I took him up on that, and we began to correspond. I began to uncover the massive army of Catholic straw men which Orthodox polemics were fond of conquering. It quickly became clear how deeply we had misunderstood (often intentionally!) Catholic doctrine, and not allowed it to speak for itself. Purgatory. Indulgences. “Satisfaction.” “Merits.” Immaculate Conception. How many of these things had I dismissed without any wisdom? The Righteous Man was opening me. In no wise speak against the truth; but be abashed of the error of thine ignorance. 44

Vladimir Soloviev

I began reading again. I read The Early Papacy and Adrian Fortescue and Russia and the Universal Church by Vladimir Soloviev. Both of these authors deeply understood the Orthodox critique of Catholicism. Both of these authors radically altered my perception of the Church. Fr. Fortescue, while affirming the authority of Holy Tradition, also convinced me of the necessity of a living authority. It was a new concept I had never before considered:

To be obliged to hark back some fifteen hundred years, to judge for yourself, according to the measure of your scholarship, what the documents of that period imply, would be the end of any confidence in a living authority. It is a far worse criterion for religion than the old Protestant idea of the Bible only. We say that it is impossible for a plain man to make up his own religion out of the sixty-six (or seventy-three) books…written at different times, and not specifically for his difficulties now. It is even more obviously impossible if to these you add about a hundred volumes of Migne [i.e. the Church fathers]. All these methods of taking some early documents, whether the Bible or the Fathers, and making them your standard, mean simply a riot of private judgment…Good and learned men…disagree as to what the early Fathers believed…as much as they disagree about the teachings of the Bible. The only possibly real standard is a living authority, an authority alive in the world at this moment, that can answer your difficulties, reject a false theory as it arises and say who is right in disputed interpretations of ancient documents.45

I was deeply moved in my spirit by this appeal to a “living authority.” This idea was revolutionary in my mind. I was open to it because I had tasted the joy of obedience to the priests in the Orthodox Church. But it also made sense to me historically, for the Church as a whole. During the period of the Seven Ecumenical Councils, the Orthodox Catholic Church responded to heresy by calling a universal council and defining dogma explicitly and exactly. Orthodox doctrine is the answer to heresy, and it claimed obedience: the decrees were sent to all the churches for them to obey.46 Could this living authority—the Papacy with the Ecumenical Council—be that which humbles and unites all? Was this not the work of the Righteous Man calling all to obedience to wisdom?

The Orthodox Christians around me were condemning Rome as heresy because of the Papacy, filioque, and other such things (the list is longer or shorter depending on who you talk to). But I realized something: it didn’t add up. If the filioque is a heresy, then what is the Orthodox doctrine of the Holy Spirit? They respond and say “The Orthodox Church teaches that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father alone.” Yes, this is the doctrine of St. Photios. But do you not know, oh my brother, that St. Gregory of Cyprus has a different doctrine? Does the Council of Blechernae (1285) represent the Orthodox doctrine of the Holy Spirit? Is it ecumenical? Why or why not? They respond, “We’re not sure which one is Orthodox, but we know the filioque is heresy.” But tell me, oh my Christian brother: if I cannot find which is the Orthodox dogma, how can I be an Orthodox Christian?

Further, in the local councils (at Jassy and Jerusalem) which responded to Protestantism, according to Kallistos Ware, “one does not find the Orthodox tradition in its fullness.”47  These canons were later modified because of their western influence. Which dogma, then, is the Orthodox dogma? If the council was modified, on what grounds? If it was accepted, on what grounds? If I claim that, for example, Aquinas’ transubstantiatio doctrine is the Orthodox one (since it was affirmed by Jerusalem, 1672), what will an Orthodox Christian tell me? “No, it’s a mystery. We don’t believe in that western scholasticism.” Why not? Because the current view rejects it? The ‘current view’ once accepted the Immaculate Conception, but now does not.48 The “consensus” once condemned the murder of life-creation, but now does not.49 What of the biblical canon? What is the Orthodox canon? The Council of Jerusalem affirmed the Apocrypha but St. Philaret’s catechism denies these books canonical status. “It is mystery,” I am told, “the Church works by consensus. You can’t hope for some papal responsa. Nothing is defined so exactly like the Papists, that’s what makes Orthodoxy beautiful.”50

Fr. Adrian Fortescue

But tell me, oh my Christian brother, have you never read how “the 318 fathers of Nicaea…the 150 fathers of Constantinople…the 600 fathers of Chalcedon” defined indefatigably that “this [and not that] is the faith of the Fathers! The Faith of the Orthodox! The faith that has established the universe!”51 If the Orthodox Church fails to articulate exactly (just as the Ecumenical Church did) what Orthodox doctrine is and what it is not, then what can we say concerning the claim that the Orthodox Church alone constitutes the true Church?

Then Soloviev’s thundering words rang resoundingly clear to me:

Why has not the East set up a true ecumenical council in opposition to those of Trent or the Vatican? How are we to explain this helpless silence on the part of Truth when faced with the solemn self-assertion of Error?…while the great assemblies of the Church continue to fill a prominent place in the teaching and life of Catholicism, it is the Christian east which has for a thousand years been deprived of this important feature of the Universal Church, and our best theologians, such as Philaret of Moscow, themselves admit that an ecumenical council is impossible for the Eastern Church as long as she remains separated from the West. But it is the easiest thing in the world for our self-styled Orthodox to confront the actual councils of the Catholic Church with a council that can never take place and to maintain their cause with weapons that they have lost and under a flag of which they have been robbed…Either we must admit, with our extreme sectarians [i.e. the Old Believers], that since a certain date the Church has lost her divine character and no longer actually exists upon earth; or else…we must recognize that the Universal Church, having no organs of government or representation in the East, possess them in her Western half. 52

I came to realize that the claim that the Orthodox Church was united was a fiction. While the Orthodox condemn the ecclesiology of Rome, our best theologians cannot replace it with something better. “Orthodox theology has not yet built up a systematic doctrine on Church government.”53 But if the alleged ‘heresy’ of the Papacy was condemned, what is the Orthodox answer? An honest look at the history of post-1054 Eastern Christianity will prove that there is no oriental answer. Are the Palamite councils of the 14th century ecumenical and thus infallible? Why is that? Is it because at this time the Orthodox Sees were under Muslim domination, and thus the divine authority of the Imperial capital held sway? And after the fall of Constantinople, why did Moscow assume its primacy on political grounds at the Stoglav Sobor of 1551? And why is the council of 1666 not considered ecumenical, since it was convoked by the Emperor and included all the other Patriarchates? But it repudiated Stoglav and excommunicated millions of Russian Old Believers as heretics. My brother will say: “These things work by consensus, why are you getting so legalistic? That’s the western legalism talking.” But tell me, oh my Christian brother: did not the councils enact canons? Is not canon law the norm of the Church praxis? And if you speak of consensus, why then is the council of Chalcedon ecumenical? Or Ephesus? It was rejected by millions of Christians in Egypt, Armenia, Syria, and the whole of Asia into China. Where does consensus start, and where does it end?

Church of Christ the Savior in Moscow

From 1700-1917 Russian bishops were condemning as uncanonical the abolition of the Patriarchate by the Czar while the rest of the Orthodox churches (dominated by Turk-appointed Greeks) affirmed its canonical status. The whole of Bulgaria was in schism and heresy from the (Greek) Patriarchates of Constantinople, Antioch, Alexandria and Jerusalem for three generations, while in communion with Russia, by far the greatest Orthodox church.54 All the while, since 1453, the See of New Rome has accepted the self-aggrandizement given him by the Turks (in which all other sees were forcibly ruled by Greeks) and then in the 19th century each church, one by one, rebelled against him and created their own ‘canonical’ autocephalism. Again, on what grounds?

Rather, as the Orthodox Metropolitan John Zizioulas writes, the Orthodox communion continues to suffer from “autocephalism” as something like an ecclesiological heresy,

As a result [of which], relations among the ‘sister churches’ tend to resemble more and more the relations between sovereign states, all the more so as a strong dose of nationalism (condemned in 1872 as “phyletism,” which paradoxically all unanimously denounce as a heresy and many, at the same time, profess it in practice) is mixed with this notion of “independence.” 55

I discovered, moreover, that the Orthodox chronology usually given (that the schism began in 1054, for example), was actually itself a Greek suppression of Orthodox history. No one tells the story of Patriarch Peter of Antioch opposing the wicked intrigues of Michael Keroularios, who impiously desecrated the Blessed Sacrament because it did not contain yeast. No one mentions that the sack of Constantinople in 1204 was instigated by a Byzantine prince! Or, as the Orthodox scholar David Bentley Hart has it,

I eagerly await the day when the Patriarch of Constantinople, in a gesture of unqualified Christian contrition, makes public penance for the brutal mass slaughter of the metic Latin Christians of Byzantium – men, women, and children – at the rise of Andronicus I Comnenus in 1182, and the sale of thousands of them into slavery to the Turks. Frankly, when all is said and done, the sack of 1204 was a rather mild recompense for that particular abomination, I would think. 56

What has happened is that the political foundations of primacy which New Rome (Constantinople), Third Rome (Moscow) and Other Rome (Serbia) have dreamed up and attempted to build, have been the virulent voices which shout down the rest of less-nationalist Orthodoxy. They are filled with an unforgiving spirit, forgetting the words of the Righteous Man, that for this they will not be forgiven.57 There are millions of Orthodox who have accepted papal primacy (or at least are amicable to it) and are dismissed as unorthodox by the more nationalist shouts of Greco-Serbo-Russian nationalism. Our patriarchate of Antioch, moreover, was not definitely out of communion with the pope until the 18th century.58  As Orthodox scholar Fr. Laurent Cleenewerck put it,

The Orthodox are extremely distrustful of Roman Catholics and would almost like to forget that their calendar and theology is replete with ‘Popes of Rome’ whose teachings about their own authority is better left unmentioned. They also know that accepting a universal ministry of unity and arbitration—something called for by authentic catholic orthodoxy—would jeopardize their nationalistic and ethno-centric kingdoms. Sadly, everyone is trying to look busy doing nothing about it. 59

What this leads to is innumerable schisms based on things like celebrating Christmas on a different date, or nationalist rebellions like the one in Georgia. These self-styled Orthodox strain out the gnat of festivals, New Moons, and Sabbaths, and swallow the camel of hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, and factions. ((Matt. 23:24, Col. 2:16, Gal 5:20))  This is the massive division of Orthodoxy. As one Orthodox priest told me once, “We couldn’t organize…a birthday party.”

If we cannot organize a birthday party, how will we speak the truth to a dying world? How could we follow the commandment of our Lord to preach to all nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Trinity, if we did not know who to baptize?60 This is the most troubling thing of all. How can I be sure about very fount of the remission of sins? I was baptized Lutheran, and the Antiochian Church only gave me chrism. Is my baptism valid or not?  The Russian Church only chrismates, but Greeks rebaptize (and Mt. Athos will re-do everything). They respond and tell me that “this is only by oikonomia.” But why is this canonical concept of St. Nikodemos the correct one? Was this not a repudiation—in the face of the Arabs finally throwing off the Greek yoke for union with Rome—of the 1484 Constantinopolitan ruling that implied Catholics were still a part of the Church?61 Ware says St. Nikodemos is the “indefatigable saint.”62 But even Florovsky taught that oikonomia was highly dubious.63 I could see the folly in a Church without a living authority.

These two commands of Christ [Mk. 16:16], which must be fulfilled, the one, namely, to teach, and the other to believe, cannot even be understood, unless the Church proposes a complete and easily understood teaching, and is immune when it thus teaches from all danger of erring. In this matter, those also turn aside from the right path, who think that the deposit of truth such laborious trouble, and with such lengthy study and discussion, that a man’s life would hardly suffice to find and take possession of it; as if the most merciful God had spoken through the prophets and His Only-begotten Son merely in order that a few, and those stricken in years, should learn what He had revealed through them, and not that He might inculcate a doctrine of faith and morals, by which man should be guided through the whole course of his moral life.64

I had believed in the authority of the Ecumenical Council for the Church. Now I saw the necessity for the Papacy for the first time—at least in theory. But I was not going to trust my own judgment again. I was going to follow the wisdom of the Saints. Did they teach Papal primacy, supremacy, and infallibility? He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm.65 I prayed to the Righteous Man to grant me humility and wisdom.

Our Forefathers and Mothers

I found that two competing primacies were both the result of bishops claiming power: Rome and Constantinople (New Rome). However, there is a weightier sway of sanctity which more soundly solidifies the former claim. It is clear that the former claimed power based on Apostolic grounds at least since St. Stephen I (d. 257) which was affirmed by numerous individual saints and councils of bishops. They openly supported this universal primacy (including its infallibility) on both Apostolic and political grounds.66 These things were taught by saints. Witness the papal teaching of St. Leo:

In the whole world, Peter alone is chosen…so that, even if there are many priest and shepherds in the people of God, Peter may properly rule over those whom Christ also rules in an eminent way 67

even among the blessed Apostles, there was side by side with an equality of honor a distinction of authority; and though all were equally chosen, nevertheless pre-eminence was given to one over the others. On the same principle distinction is made between bishops, and the mighty design of Providence has ordered it that all may not claim every prerogative but that in each province there should be someone possessing primacy of jurisdiction over his brethren; and again that those presiding in the larger cities should receive a wider responsibility, that through them the care of the Universal Church might ultimately rest upon the one see of Peter and that no part should be anywhere be separated from the head. 68

Peter does not cease to preside in his see and his consortium with the Eternal Pontiff never fails. For that steadfastness with which he was endowed, when he was first made the Rock, by Christ Who is Himself the Rock, has passed to his successors, and wherever any stability is manifest it is beyond doubt the might of the supreme Pastor which is in evidence. Could anyone consider the renown of bless Peter and yet be ignorant or envious enough to assert that there is any part of the Church is not guided by his care and strengthened by his succour? 69

Or how did St. Leo act in reference to the Ecumenical Council of Chalcedon, when by conciliarity the council declared that New Rome was elevated above Alexandria and Antioch?

The agreements of the bishops which are contrary to the holy canons of Nicea…we declare null and void, and by the authority of the blessed Aposle Peter we annul them completely by a general decree. 70

Pope St. Leo the Great turning back the Huns

Shall we accuse St. Leo the Great of pride and an attempt to usurp the power of Christ? Even the preeminent Orthodox scholar Fr. John Meyendorff admits that St. Leo’s ecclesiology anticipates “in every way” the dogma of Vatican I.71 If this was true, what becomes of our claim of Vatican I being heretical? Moreover, what shall we say to any pope who will annul, by petrine authority, the acts of an Ecumenical Council? He is imitating St. Leo the Great. We find ourselves fighting against the man whose sanctity turned back the hordes of Atilla the Hun. The wise in heart accept commands, but the chattering fool comes to ruin. 72

Greater power was grabbed by Papa (starting with St. Gregory the Great, building upon the ecclesiological foundation laid by St. Leo) by necessity because of the Roman Emperor’s  imperial ambitions (often heretical), and Papa turned to the Frankish kingdom to be his new Orthodox protector. This was the effort of Ss. Gregory II, Gregory III, and Zacharias (the latter two being Greeks). These were saints. Should I dismiss their wisdom?

The necessity of this action during Iconoclasm cannot be challenged except by claiming a nationalist Church where political loyalties become religious loyalties. The Roman Empire in the east took grave umbrage at this act by Papa, as if it were a heresy to not pledge allegiance to (heretical) New Rome.73 It would only be a heresy if nationalism had infected the Church of God to the point that New Rome was the only political allegiance a Christian could have. This is precisely what had happened. For the primacy of New Rome was grabbed not on apostolic grounds, but solely on political grounds (though an Apostolic mythos later developed).74 Betrayal of this primacy, then, became synonymous with political disloyalty, which confounds earthly politics with the Church of God. An unwise king will ruin his people.75

This resulted in, as Tia Kolbaba’s seminal works76 detail, a calculated effort by Roman patriots in Constantinople to destroy the religious (and thus political) credibility of the west by any and all means—including denouncing their patristic heritage of azymes, fasting rites, liturgical usages, and even the Latin language itself.77 Moreover, how many saints did this? Shall we pit St. Photios against St. Leo? How could I claim one as heretical over the other? Who am I to disagree with saints? And yet they disagree with each other.

But this petty bickering was tragically exacerbated when the western kings fell into this same base political game and responded in kind. To make matters worse, the Papacy, forgetting the wisdom of St. Leo III (in suppressing the filioque usage rather than the doctrine), allowed the filioque to be chanted in Rome, and the political schism began to coalesce. Then the hoped-for recovery of a Greco-Roman Christendom against Islam was destroyed in the Crusades, when the political loyalties imploded the Christian ones in the most terrible fratricide hitherto unknown. Is this not the most potent tool of the wicked man? The pride of kings and presidents and their ideologies and armies?

Despite all this, some of our Christian forefathers still held to the most salient point about wisdom. In the dialogue that occurred between Nicetas of Nicomedia and Anselm of Havelburg in 1136, we find this shown beautifully. These two great theologians disagreed vehemently on the doctrines of the filioque and such things, but they concluded that these disagreements did not impair salvation, and that they could be resolved by a consensus of the Latin and Greek Fathers.78 But here is what I discovered. No such consensus exists. Or at least, has certainly never existed in the east. East and west both lost the other’s language, but only the west reappropriated Greek. In the process, she became more open over the centuries to Greek theology, to the point that from the Roman perspective, the Orthodox Church is completely Catholic, and is welcome to communion, if they will only reconcile with the Holy Father.

The east, however, has never regained Latin and appropriated the Latin patristics.79 Why am I then surprised that the east rejects the Latin dogmas? Since at least St. Photios (who knew no Latin) the east had had a strong party of anti-Latins, who wanted to “cover the shame” of the Latin fathers by essentially conforming them to the Greek. St. Mark of Ephesos (who also knew no Latin) wrote an entire treatise against Latin customs that were taught by the Latin fathers.80 Instead of following their own fathers, the Latins should follow the Greeks!81 I could not bring myself to agree with this approach. How could God have inspired all the Latin tradition and let it be lead so far astray, cut off from the Greek? It made more sense to me that they must have been unaware of these things at the time, and made a mistake out of ignorance and pious zeal, rather than malice and wickedness. How could I claim that these saints had not vanquished the wicked man with them? Who was I to judge them?

Myopia of Spirituality

Ultimately, the real test for orthodoxy of the west was not the filioque, not the Papacy, not even the catechism. It was the sanctity of their saints. The whole purpose, after all, of every one of these dogmas, doctrines, ecclesiastics and philosophies and whatever else—it is one thing: union with Christ. Heresy, moreover, is always connected with spiritual death. The reason is because it is a rejection of humility and wisdom. It is as Cassian wrote above: “trusting in your own judgment.” Arius. Macedonius. Luther. Calvin.82 Each one chose his own judgment over both the wisdom of the forefathers, and the living authority of the Ecumenical Council.

It seemed to me that I could read no end of books to the weariness of the flesh,83 but in the end I could still be trusting in my own judgment if I was not convinced by the sanctity of the western saints. Because to me, the most serious accusation one can lay to the west is that her saints are delusional. They could have all taught papal authority, but what if they were raving mad? I discovered that none other than St. Ignatii Branchininov, who had taught me so much, held this view, that all the post-1054 western saints suffered from spiritual “drunkeness.” Fr. Seraphim Rose made mention of this in his work Orthodoxy and Religion of the Future, in which he quoted St. Ignatii as saying of western spiritual classic, The Imitation of Christ that

There reigns in this book and breathes from its pages the unction of the evil spirit, flattering the reader, intoxicating him…the book conducts the reader directly to communion with God, without previous purification by repentance…from it carnal people enter into rapture from a delight and intoxication attained without difficulty, without self-renunciation, without repentance, without crucifixion of the flesh with its passions and desires (Gal. 5:24), with flattery of their fallen state. 84

I took these criticisms seriously. Fr. Seraphim Rose said that the Holy Fathers and Mothers spoke of two types of spiritual deception—false miracles and false feelings. Both had one goal: prevent the soul from repenting. In other words, reject wisdom and humility. I knew from experience that various divisions of Protestantism did precisely this.

I decided that the only thing to do would be to read the life of every western saint, to see if any of them truly fell into this delusion. From a few years ago, therefore, I began to collect the summaries of each saint’s life—east and west—from various online sources. I created a collection for every day of the year. I studied the actions of each saint and highlighted every element that seemed suspect—stigmata, mystical visions, ecstasies, etc.

In the process, I was deeply moved by the piety of the western saints, and found that none of them failed to preach repentance. All of them, without exception (from my reading) preached bare contrition and penance. Moreover, they worked innumerable miracles, through faith conquered kingdoms, shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and women received back their dead, raised to life again. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated—the world was not worthy of them. 85

Then I discovered something else: after Florence, numerous Orthodox saints admired western saints and translated their works. For example, the incorruptible St. Dimitri of Rostov prayed the Rosary, was devoted to the passion and heart of our Lord, and filled his library with Bonaventure, Thomas à Kempis, and Peter Canisius among others.86 He also spread a devotion to the sufferings of the Blessed Virgin, which originally was included in the (very conservative) ROCOR Jordanville prayer book, but was later deleted because it was too ‘western.’87 Is this just another example of private opinion? Not against the Latin fathers alone, but even our own incorruptible father? If St. Dimitri is incorruptible, then how can these works be filled with such evil? Would St. Dimitri concur with the sentiments of St. Ignatii? And other Eastern saints were also attracted to western spirituality.88

And I finally read The Imitation of Christ. I couldn’t believe that St. Ignatii could take offense at it. I could find no difference in spirituality to The Arena. I could find no instance of pursuing feelings over repentance, as was alleged. The following quotations from the work explicitly contradict St. Ignatii’s critique:

There is none other way unto life and to true inward peace, except the way of the Holy Cross and of daily mortification… For God will have thee learn to suffer tribulation without consolation, and to submit thyself fully to it, and by tribulation be made more humble…If thou wilt make any progress keep thyself in the fear of God, and long not to be too free, but restrain all thy senses under discipline and give not thyself up to senseless mirth…It is often better and safer for a man not to have many comforts in this life, especially those which concern the flesh. But that we lack divine comforts or feel them rarely is to our own blame, because we seek not compunction of heart, nor utterly cast away those comforts which are vain and worldly… Know thyself to be unworthy of divine consolation, and worthy rather of much tribulation. When a man hath perfect compunction, then all the world is burdensome and bitter to him.89

I realized that what had infected many Orthodox was a ‘myopia of spirituality’—an obtuse concentration on the outward forms of spirituality without the good sense to look beyond the externals. A perfect example of this is an article at the quasi-schismatic site ‘Orthodox Info’ entitled “A Comparison: Francis of Assisi and St. Seraphim of Sarov.”90 It compares the spiritualities of these two great saints, but with a shallow prejudice against the former. In its dialectical approach, it reveals this myopia, essentially asserting that a spirituality that does not replicate 19th-century Ruso-Philokalian asceticism is necessarily heretical. It focuses closely on external manifestations of spirituality, rather than examining its inner substance. Why on earth should the spirituality of 19th century Russia look exactly the same outwardly as 13th-century Italy? This article, moreover, even distorts the eastern tradition, claiming, for example, that public penance is a sign of prelest, or that seeking visions is necessarily pride. Have you forgotten, my Christian brother, of the public penance of the Stylites? How much more public can you get than forty years on a three-story pillar in the middle of town? And the visions: have you forgotten St. Gregory Palamas’ prayer-mantra: “Lord, enlighten my darkness”? Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart. 91

 The Providence of God

In the end, I could not bring myself to conclude that the west was heretical, because of her saints. The saints had taught the Papacy, they had defeated the wicked man in their own bodies, and they could be nowhere else but Paradise, rejoicing in the all-Holy Trinity with all the saints from the east. It was because of this that I could not trust the Orthodox polemics anymore, because they challenged the Providence of God. They claimed that the Latin fathers were forged. If this is so, then prove it. But then we fall into endless historical debate. Where does this really lead? To accusations against brothers and distrust in the Providence of God. If they are not forged, then why did the Providence of God allow for a whole Latin tradition to develop, confessing the filioque, submitting to Papa, and make saints just the same?

Fr. Florovsky

Still, there remained one final recourse: prayer. I needed one final dewy fleece. I knew that I could read until my last breath and even then I would not have all the information (I couldn’t know all the saints). I turned to God. I made a vow. The first I have ever made. During the Triodion of this past year (the pre-Lenten season), I vowed to God that I would say a prayer fifty times a day to ask God to not lead me into temptation. This, in fact, was on the advice of St. Ignatii, who said that a monk should beseech the Lord to deliver him from deception. At the same time, I reexamined everything. I took a Master’s course called “Survey of the Eastern Tradition” as well as “Opposition to Ecumenism.” I read Florovsky, Lossky, Bulgakov, Louth, Meyendorff, Schmemann, Afanassieff, Staniloae, Zizioulas, Colliander, as well as Silouan, Arseny and Khomiakov, Philaret, Popovi, Rose, Romanides, Kalomiros, and Cavarnos, and I also studied St. Photios, and translated some of the works of St. Mark of Ephesos. I prayed and prayed that God would manifest my error and my deception. I trusted that God wills all to come to salvation and the knowledge of the truth 92 and would not allow me to be lead into error. I besought Him with tears.

With God’s help, I fulfilled that vow. For the whole of Lent God did not speak a word to me. Then, during the last week, He brought great peace to my heart and showed me how to follow him. He lead me to the place I am now: an Orthodox Christian who has reconciled himself, in his heart, to the Holy Father, and to his western brothers and sisters, and to our holy fathers and mothers of the lands of the west. To put more eloquently, I will affirm the words of my favorite Russian writer coming to the same conclusions from within his Orthodoxy:

The manifest impossibility of finding or creating in the East a centre of unity for the Universal Church makes it imperative for us to seek it elsewhere. First and foremost we must recognize ourselves for what we are in reality, an organic part of the great body of Christendom, and affirm our intimate solidarity with our Western brethren who possess the central organ which we lack. This moral act of justice and charity would be in itself an immense step forward on our part and essential condition of all further advance.93

The Conclusion of the Matter

I would like to briefly anticipate a few responses from my Orthodox brethren, who may very well:

  1. Accuse me of pride for not following the party of St. Photios or St. Mark of Ephesos, or for sharing publically my personal spiritual struggle
  2. Get into a historical debate (which I have found typically leads nowhere but to the mutual accusation of forgeries, which cannot be confirmed definitely)
  3. Repeat old prejudices and add ranks to the army of straw men that Orthodox polemicists triumphantly cut down with rhetorical flame throwers
  4. Introduce some new information I had not considered
  5. Ask “Why don’t you just become Catholic?”

As to #1 and #2, I repose ultimately on the Providence of God. The fact is that the Latin saints developed the Papacy, the filioque, and the rest. If they had true sanctity, then how could God allow all this to happen except by His providential guidance? And are we left to accusations of forgeries which leads nowhere but to distrust of brothers rather than faith in God? If my brother thinks that he knows me well enough to judge my pride from this brief essay, I will admit that he is not very far off the mark! I have, after all, attempted to admit that my own pride has been the obstructing factor leading to my own spiritual confusion. Nevertheless, let me stress here that I refuse to judge any saint. I have not refrained from honoring with the appellation “St.” those whom I can no longer agree with in all things. I would rather rest on the fact that whatever mistake a saint may or may have made, must have been from his or her ignorance, rather than from any malice on their part. Far be it for me to think myself worthy to utter such folly! If my brother offers something new in #4, what shall I do? I am bound by my own words to listen humbly and be corrected as much as God gives me the power to do so. The way of the fool seems right to him, but a wise man listens to advice. 94

In regards to #3, what is most often misunderstood is the universal fatherhood of the Holy Father. Every Orthodox Christian I have ever talked to about this misunderstands the doctrine.95 The reality is that the fatherhood of Papa is within the Church and conciliarity is the same as a father’s authority is within the family. The Vatican II document Lumen Gentium beautifully elucidated this relationship. Moreover, we should admit that “the fact of primacy at the universal level is accepted by both East and West” but that the differences involve the exercise of that office and its foundation, “a matter that was already understood in different ways in the first millennium.”96

The Church has adopted different ecclesiastical structures according to the time, but the Apostolic primacy of the bishop of Rome is the oldest and most universally recognized institution of ecclesiastical polity—excepting only the threefold episcopal structure witnessed in the New Testament and explicitly in St. Ignatios of Antioch. Bl. John Paul II himself said that the Papacy is “open to a new situation.”97 And Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger published the official statement in 1992: “the worldwide apostolic service [of the Papacy]…while preserving its substance as a divine institution, can find expression in various ways according to the different circumstances of time and place, as history has shown.”98

Those who ask #5, why don’t I just become Catholic, have a different understanding than I do as to the current situation between Rome and the Orthodox. Since Vatican II’s Unitatis Redintegratio (and before), Rome has recognized the full catholicity of the Orthodox Church. In other words, the Orthodox Church is a part of the Una Sancta of the Creed and yet, insofar as it persists in refusing the invitation to full communion and reconciliation with the Holy Father, it is schismatic. For the Orthodox part, our episcopally-blessed theologians in America have come to the same conclusion: we share the same Catholic-Orthodox faith of the Apostles.99 Moreover, the International Dialogue, which was created in 1979 by Pope John Paul II and Ecumenical Patriarch Demetrios I, agreed in 1993 that

On each side it is recognized that what Christ has entrusted to his Church – profession of apostolic faith, participation in the same sacraments, above all the one priesthood celebrating the one sacrifice of Christ, the apostolic succession of bishops – cannot be considered the exclusive property of one of our Churches…It is in this perspective that the Catholic Churches and the Orthodox Churches recognize each other as Sister Churches, responsible together for maintaining the Church of God in fidelity to the divine purpose, most especially in what concerns unity.100

The document goes on to condemn “all proselytism” from both sides.101 This document was signed by official representatives from the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Patriarchates of Alexandria, Antioch, Russia, Romania, Cyprus, as well as by those representing the Church of Poland, Albania, and Finland. Moreover, it is becoming more clear to scholarship (especially as Eucharistic ecclesiology becomes embraced by more Orthodox) that this position on the schism is in fact the one of Holy Tradition and history, and those who oppose it, as Hart states “are in fact not defenders of tradition, but rank modernists.”102 Thus since I posses the Catholic faith by communion at my Orthodox parish, there is no reason for me ‘convert.’ Moreover, since I commune with the Body of Christ, and the same Sacramental reality is present at every Catholic communion, we are in fact in communion with one another.103

At the same time, it is imperative that we make as our identity the statement of our leaders: that we are ‘sister Churches.’ Moreover, even a casual observer cannot fail to see the complementarity of east and west. While the west struggles with a temptation of liberalism and modernism, the east struggles with a temptation of conservatism and legalistic-pharisaicism. As western Catholicism is reeling from a generation of iconoclasm, the Greco-Russian patristic and liturgical tradition of the Orthodox Church, as well as the more localized ecclesiastical structure can provide much needed balance to the current centralized structure of modern Catholicism.104 At the same time, the universal structure given in Catholicism is the antidote to centuries of nationalist ethnophylism rampant in Orthodox ecclesiastics from Moscow to Montana. Moreover, more Orthodox scholars are producing work against the continued schism with Rome.105 We have only a great need to engage in dialogue with Rome in order to re-form these structures along the lines that that Bl. John Paul II said in his famous encyclical Ut Unum Sint:

I insistently pray the Holy Spirit to shine his light upon us, enlightening all the Pastors and theologians of our Churches, that we may seek—together, of course—the forms in which this ministry may accomplish a service of love recognized by all concerned.106

This search for good forms of the Petrine ministry must be pursued with earnest, in obedience to the will of Christ our Lord, knowing that we await a condemnation at His terrible judgment if we fail to build up the Church of God but rather continue to destroy it by our sins.107 Moreover, the Orthodox Church has already acknowledged, in some way, the Petrine primacy of Rome in the Ravenna document quoted supra.108 This mutual dialogue has brought about a deeper understanding of the Petrine ministry as emanating chiefly from the episcopal ministry of the Eucharist (Eucharistic Ecclesiology) in perichoretic relationship with the patriarchal-provincial structures and universal primacy of Rome.109 In the past, these different aspects of Petrine primacy have too often been exclusivised (on both sides) into an either/or polemic rather than a both/and mystery. This helps explain the universal patristic affirmation of the “princedom” of St. Peter, and yet the silence of some great Fathers as to universal Petrine primacy vis-à-vis Rome.110 Both sides must give up their exclusivism to some degree in order to come together. Why has the Church been plagued with so many ambiguities if not to teach us the necessity of love? This openness has already been begun by the west with Vatican II and numerous apologies and acts of public contrition for past atrocities. Except for the courage of Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras I when lifting the anathemas with Paul VI in 1965, the unapologetic silence of our Orthodox bishops sometimes seems dreadfully obstinate.

The conclusion of the matter, in the end, is wisdom, humility, and the fear of the Lord. It is Proverbs. The annihilation of the wicked man and the triumph of the Righteous Man. This has been the beginning and the end of this struggle in my life, and I only hope these words are not too long-winded as to obstruct any edification they might engender. If we only have humility, I believe the problems in the Church will melt away. I leave you, dear reader, to consider this final example.

St. Chad was an Abbot in England who reposed in the later 7th century. He was a holy man who was made bishop of York during a long vacancy. But when St. Theodore, bishop of Canterbury, made a general visitation, he judged that St. Chad’s episcopal consecration had been somewhat invalid. What did St. Chad say to him? Did he attempt to evade correction by using some canon technicality? Did he assert that “no one setteth himself up as a Bishop of Bishops, or by tyrannical terror forceth his Colleagues to a necessity of obeying…every bishop… can no more be judged by another than he can himself judge another,”111 or “The bishops are not to go beyond their dioceses to churches lying outside of their bounds, nor bring confusion on the churches”?112

No. In the face of another bishop’s correction, he said this: “If you know that I have not duly received episcopal ordination, I willingly resign the office, for I never thought myself worthy of it; but, though unworthy, for obedience sake I submitted, when bidden to undertake it.”113

This is the humility wherein the wicked man is put to death. This is the humility that fatherhood demands. This is the humility that will heal the Church.

Placeat tibi, Sancta Trinitas.

Bibliography 

A Library of the Fathers of the Holy Catholic Church (Oxford: Parker, 1844), The Epistles of St. Cyprian

Afanassieff,  Fr. Nicholas. “The Church Which Presides in Love.” The Primacy of Peter. Edited by Fr. John Meyendorff. St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1992.

Alfeyev, Archbishop Hilarion. “The Patristic Heritage and Modernity.” The Ecumenical Review, Vol. 54, No. 1-2. http://www.thefreelibrary.com/The+patristic+heritage+and+modernity.-a087425979

Ambrose, St. De Sacramentis. Edited by Henry Chadwick. Loyola University Press, 1960

Bede, The Venerable. The Ecclesiastical History of England

Branchininov, St. Ignatii. The Arena. Translated by Archimandrite Lazarus. Jordanville, 1997.

Bulgakov, Fr. Sergei. “By Jacob’s Well.” Journal of the Fellowship of Ss. Sergius and Alban, 1933

_____. The Orthodox Church. St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1997.

Cabasilas, St. Nicholas. Commentary on the Divine Liturgy.

Cassian, St. John. Conferences. Translated by Boniface Ransey. Paulist Press, 1997.

_____. Institutes. Translated by Boniface Ramsey. Paulist Press, 2000.

Chadwick, Henry. East and West: the Making of a Rift in the Church. Oxford University Press, 2005

Cleenewerck, Fr. Laurent. His Broken Body. Euclid University Press, 2008

Clément, Olivier. You are Peter. New City Press, 2003

Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Some aspects of the Church understood as Communion. 1992. htttp://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_28051992_communionis-notio_en.html

Dostoyevsky, Fyodor. The Brothers Karamozov.

Dvornik, Fr. Francis. Byzantium and the Roman Primacy. Fordham, 1966

Ekonomou, Andrew. Byzantine Rome and the Greek Popes. Lexington Books, 2007

Encyclical of the Eastern Patriarchs 1848. http://orthodoxinfo.com/ecumenism/encyc_1848.aspx

Florovsky, Fr. Georges. Bible, Church, Tradition. Nordland Publishing Company, 1972

_____. “The Limits of the Church.” Church Quarterly Review, 1933

Fortescue, Fr. Adrian The Early Papacy. Ignatius Press, 2008.

Frank, Chrysostom. “Orthodox-Catholic Relations: An Orthodox Reflection.” Pro Ecclesia, VII, 1, Winter 1998

Hart, David Bentley. “The Myth of Schism.” Ecumenism Today. Ashgate, 2006

John Paul II, Bl. Papa. Ut Unum Sint. 1995. http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/encyclicals/documents/hf_jp-ii_enc_25051995_ut-unum-sint_en.html

Joint International Commission for the Theological Dialogue between the Roman Catholic church and the Orthodox Church. Ecclesiological and Canonical Consequences of the Sacramental Nature of the Church Ecclesial Communion, Conciliarity and Authority, (“The Ravenna Document”). 2007. <http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/pontifical_councils/chrstuni/ch_orthodox_docs/rc_pc_chrstuni_doc_20071013_documento-ravenna_en.html>,

_____. Uniatism, Method of Union of the Past, and the Present Search for Full Communion (“Balamand Statement”). 1993. http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/pontifical_councils/chrstuni/ch_orthodox_docs/rc_pc_chrstuni_doc_19930624_lebanon_en.html

à Kempis, Bl. Thomas. De Imitatione Christi

Kohmiakov, Alexei. On the Western Confessions of Faith. https://www.archangelsbooks.com/articles/east_west/WesternConfessions_Khomiakov.asp

Kolbaba, Tia. The Byzantine Lists. Illinois Press, 2000

_____. Inventing Latin Heretics. Western Michigan University Press, 2008.

Lodyzhenskii, M. V. “A Comparison: Francis of Assisi and St. Seraphim of Sarov.” Light Invisible: Satisfying the Thirst for Happiness. http://orthodoxinfo.com/praxis/francis_sarov.aspx

Meyendorff, Fr. John, Imperial Unity and Christian Division. St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1989.

_____, ed. The Primacy of Peter. St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1992

Nehmé, Lina Murr. Muhammad II Imposes the Orthodox Schism. Aleph Et Taw, 2004

Nichols, Fr. Aidan. Rome and the Eastern Churches. Ingatius Press, 2010.

Orthodox Prayer Book. Holy Trinity Monastery. Jordanville, NY. 1986.  http://www.myriobiblos.gr/texts/english/prayerbook/main.htm

Photios, St. Mystagogy of the Holy Spirit (886). http://www.myriobiblos.gr/texts/english/photios_mystagogy.html

Pius XI, Papa. Mortalium Animos. 1928. http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/pius_xi/encyclicals/documents/hf_p-xi_enc_19280106_mortalium-animos_en.html

Rose, Fr. Seraphim. Orthodoxy and the Religion of the Future. St. Herman Press, 1997.

Soloviev, Vladimir. Russia and the Universal Church. Translated by Herbert Rees. London: Centenary Press, 1948.

Theophanes. The Chronicle of Theophanes. Translated by Harry Turtledove. University of Pennsylvania Press, 1982

United States Conference of Bishops. The Catholic Church in Ecumenical Dialogue 2002. USCCB, 2002

Ware, Kallistos. The Orthodox Church. Penguin, 1993

Zizioulas, Metropolitan John. “Primacy in the Church: An Orthodox Approach.” Petrine Ministry and the Unity of the Church. Edited by James F. S. A. Puglisi. The Liturgical Press, 2002.

 

  1. 1:7; 10:8, 10:17, 13:20; 3:19, 4:7; among many others []
  2. 1 Jn. 4:20 []
  3. Ja. 3:9 []
  4. This realization was largely the result of reading Rob Bell’s Velvet Elvis and having an encounter with Mormon missionaries. You can read my whole story here: http://quiesincaelis.wordpress.com/my-testimony-to-grace/ []
  5. Heb. 4:12 []
  6. Lev. 10:1 []
  7. Ps. 7:15 []
  8. This is seen in such fundamental texts such as the Lutheran-Catholic Join Declaration on Justification (1999). Through this the Lutherans (if interpreting their Lutheranism through the Declaration) are no longer excommunicated by the Council of Trent. However, since no supra-ecclesial authority exists in Lutheranism, even an agreed statement like this cannot reconcile Lutherans as a whole to Catholicism, even if the Catholic Church can reconcile to them. []
  9. Rom. 7:24 []
  10. I have taken to use the original Latin title, as its English equivalent seems to me to alleviate the inherent prejudice that the name engenders. The word “pope” itself (because of our sin) is, in the minds of many, a curse word which refutes itself. []
  11. Kallistos Ware, The Orthodox Church, 307 []
  12. 1 Tim. 3:16 []
  13. Found here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prayer_of_Saint_Ephrem []
  14. Job 38:1 []
  15. Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Brothers Karamozov, Bk VI, ch. 3 []
  16. Lk. 9:54; 2 Sam. 12 []
  17. 2 Sam. 12:7 []
  18. Lk. 5:8 []
  19. Ps. 141:5  according to the Hebrew. []
  20. Ps. 1:1 []
  21. Ps. 1:2 []
  22. Prov. 9:8, Rebuke a fool and he will hate you; rebuke a wise man and he will love you []
  23. Ja. 1:2 []
  24. Ph. 2:7 []
  25. Mt. 6:14, If ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses []
  26. Lk 23:34 []
  27. Matt. 5:22, Whoever says, “You fool,” shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell []
  28. Ro. 9:2 []
  29. Theotokos, a transliteration of the Greek, which means “The one who gives birth to God,” or “Mother of God.” This term has a rich history in eastern theology. []
  30. Rom. 12:9; love must be sincere; hate evil, cling to what is good. []
  31. Cf. St. Cyprian (against Pope St. Stephen I), St. Basil (against St. Damasus’ ruling regarding Meletios), the Celtic saints resistance to Wilfrid’s vindication of Pascha via Papal Primacy at Whitby in 567, Photios’ excommunication of pope Nicholas I, etc. The Encyclical of the Eastern Patriarchs 1848, moreover, says that St. Irenaeus “boldly and victoriously opposed and defeated the violence of Pope Victor in the free Church of Christ” (13). On every issue, however, Papa’s ruling seems to have always won, despite opposition. []
  32. I refer here to the infamous Donatio Constantini or the so-called “Isidorean Decretals,” both of which do little to aggrandize Papa beyond what the saints have said of him, as will be said below []
  33. Alexei Kohmiakov, On the Western Confessions of Faith, quoting The Encyclical of the Eastern Patriarchs (1848 []
  34. Ps 35:2 []
  35. Ps. 38:5 []
  36. Ps. 6:7 []
  37. See, for example, the life of St. John of Damascus from the Lives of the Saints by St. Dimitri Rostov []
  38. This text brings together much of the ascetical wisdom of the eastern fathers, and was published before Brianchaninov’s death in 1867. It is still read on Mt. Athos. []
  39. See Branchininov, The Arena, trans. Lazarus (Jordanville, 1997), 53 []
  40. St. John Cassian, Institutes, bk. 5.30 in Boniface Ramsey, trans. (Paulist, 2000), 134 []
  41. St. John Cassian, Conferences, 18.3 in Boniface Ransey, trans. (Paulist, 1997), 636 []
  42. I refer here particularly to the Meletian-Paulinan schism or to the Photian schism among other examples []
  43. Constantinople did in fact claim this right in the synodal tomos of 1663, which attempted to block the ascendency of Moscow as Third Rome. This is cited in Laurent Cleenewerck, His Broken Body, 133 []
  44. Sir. 4:25 []
  45. Adrian Fortescue, The Early Papacy, 22ff. and n2 []
  46. Acts 16:4 []
  47. Ware, 99 []
  48. Sergei Bulgakov flatly states, “The Orthodox Church does not accept the Catholic dogma of 1854” (Bulgakov, The Orthodox Church, 117). On what grounds does he make the claim that the Orthodox Church “does not accept” this or that? Which authoritative council or which consensus said so? On the contrary, Kallistos Ware admits that “in the past individual Orthodox have made statements which, if not definitely affirming the doctrine…at any rate approach close to it; but since 1854 the great majority of Orthodox have rejected [it]” (259). Moreover, the preeminent Orthodox scholar (and Catholic convert) Lev Gillet believed it, and published a solid study documenting its teaching by such greats a St. Photios and St. Gregory Palamas (which can be accessed here: http://eirenikon.wordpress.com/2008/07/31/the-immaculate-conception-and-the-orthodox-church-1/). Orthodox scholar Laurent Cleenewerck writes with characteristic erudition and irenicism: “There are many Orthodox Christians who make the sweeping statement that this Roman Catholic belief is a heresy ‘flatly rejected’ by the Orthodox Church. When asked to point to a local or Ecumenical Council of the Orthodox Church to justify this assertion, they reluctantly have to admit that there is no such authority—only one’s very private opinion” (His Broken Body, 45). Unfortunately Cleenewerck’s words can be applied to many Orthodox assertions of Latin ‘heresies’ []
  49. Commonly known under the euphemism “contraception.” See this erudite study by Taras Baystar: http://www.orthodox-christianity.com/2011/11/orthodoxy-and-contraceptiona-change. As far as I know, no Church father ever taught that deliberately killing life-creation is acceptable. The most allowed is natural birth prevention, by abstinence. []
  50. Sergei Bulgakov writes in The Orthodox Church “The finished character of a religious system does not always proceed from an interior maturity, but sometimes from the fact that everything in it has been hastily forced into the shape of serviceable formulae. This makes things easy for the weaker brethren but it fetters the Christian spirit, for this spirit is ever striving onwards and upwards” (130). What does “onwards and upwards” mean exactly? How is this ambiguous statement to be understood in light of the Ecumenical Councils’ precise definitions? Do these “fetter the Christian spirit”? []
  51. From the proclamations of the Sunday of Orthodoxy []
  52. Vladimir Soloviev, Russia and the Universal Church, trans. Rees (London: Centenary Press, 1948), 49, 50 []
  53. Fr. Nicholas Afanassieff,  “The Church Which Presides in Love,” in The Primacy of Peter, (Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1992), 92 []
  54. This is the Bulgarian schism, which lasted from 1870-1945 []
  55. See his essay “Primacy in the Church: An Orthodox Approach” in Petrine Ministry and the Unity of the Church (ed. Puglisi), 129 []
  56. David Bentley Hart, “The Myth of Schism,” Ecumenism Today (Ashgate, 2006). However, I cannot agree with Hart’s styling the atrocities of 1204 as a “mild recompense.” Nevertheless, his point stands. []
  57. Matt. 6:15; If you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses []
  58. This is documented in Fr. Aidan Nichols study Rome and the Eastern Churches []
  59. Fr. Laurent Cleenewerck, His Broken Body, 34 []
  60. Matt. 28:19 []
  61. The North American Orthodox-Catholic Theological Consultation published a fine study on this concept which puts to rest the claim of rebaptism: http://www.scoba.us/resources/orthodox-catholic/baptism-sacramentaleconomy.html. The Greek Orthodox Archbishop Spiridon of America, however, did not like this document and immediately fired all the official Orthodox theologians of the American Consultation. However, one month later he resigned and his successor, His Eminence Demetrios, reinstated all of them. []
  62. Ware, The Orthodox Church, 205 []
  63. “The ‘economic’ interpretation is not the teaching of the Church. It is only a private ‘theological opinion’, very late and very controversial, which arose in a period of theological confusion and decadence in a hasty endeavor to dissociate oneself as sharply as possible from Roman theology” (Florovsky, “The Limits of the Church,” Church Quarterly Review, 1933). []
  64. Papa Pius XI, Mortalium Animos (1928), 8 []
  65. Prov. 13:20 []
  66. Conspicuous examples in every century seem to be the following: the council of Nicea (325), Serdica (343), Pope St. Damasus I (d. 384) and St. Siricius (d. 389); the council of Chalcedon (451) and St. Leo’s papal ecclesiology (d. 461); the Formula of St. Hormisdas (517); St. Gregory’s papal power (d. 604), the papal ecclesiology of St. Maximos (d. 662) and St. Agatho I (d. 681), St. Wilfrid at the synod of Whitby and St. Bede’s witness of the same (664); papal power of St. Gregory II (d. 731), St. Gregory III (d. 741), and St. Zacharias (d. 752), and the papal ecclesiology of St. Theodore Studios (d. 826) among many others. []
  67. Sermo 4.2 PL 54, col. 149-150 qtd. in Fr. John Meyendorff, Imperial Unity and Christian Division, 151 []
  68. Works (ed. Minge, Paris 1846 etc.) I.676, qtd. in Soloviev, 132 []
  69. Ibid., 155-6 qtd. in Soloviev, 126 []
  70. Ibid., I.1000 qtd. in Soloviev, 130; it is telling that an Orthodox layman uses this very quotation against the primacy of Constantinople: “Canon 28 and Eastern Papalism: Cause and Effect?” http://www.aoiusa.org/canon-28-and-eastern-papalism-cause-or-effect/ []
  71. Fr. John Meyendorff, Imperial Unity and Christian Division (SVS Press, 2011), 153; Meyendorff relegates St. Leo’s papal ecclesiology to a “Janus complex.” Florovsky dismisses saintly deference to the “inviolable decrees” of the “Holy and Apostolic See” as “private opinions” (Bible, Church, Tradition, 84). See my article “Eastern Orthodox Caricatures of Western Orthodoxy” here: http://quiesincaelis.wordpress.com/2012/05/07/eastern-orthodox-caricatures-of-western-orthodoxy/ []
  72. Prov. 10:8 []
  73. The Greek historian Theophanes himself states that at the time of the Iconoclasm of Emperor Leo, “Gregory, pope of Rome, caused Rome, Italy, and all the west to secede from both political and ecclesiastical obedience to Leo and his Empire” The Chronicle of Theophanes, Harry Turtledove, trans. (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1982), 408 []
  74. Detailed in Dvornik’s Byzantium and the Roman Primacy (Fordham, 1966) []
  75. Sir. 10:3 []
  76. Inventing Latin Heretics Western MI, 2008 and The Byzantine Lists Illinois, 2000 []
  77. As the racist comment of Emperor Michael III (d. 867) reveals when he said that “Latin is a barbarian and Scythian tongue,” and St. Photios also denigrates the Latin tongue (Mystagogy, 87). We should point out, however, that St. Gregory the Great expressed similar feelings toward Greek during his stay in New Rome (Andrew Ekonomou, Byzantine Rome and the Greek Popes (Lexington Books, 2007), 15). Fortunately for the west, this anti-Greek sentiment did not seem to become a pan-cultural policy. The same cannot be said of the east. []
  78. See Chadwick’s discussion of this important moment in his classic text East and West: the Making of a Rift in the Church Oxford, 2005 []
  79. One might claim, however, that the attempted ‘Latinization’ of Russia, especially during the 19th century, was an example of this. Some one more learned in this time period should comment on this aspect, which I know little about. []
  80. For example, St. Mark’s treatise That not by the voice of the Lord’s words alone are the divine gifts sanctified, but because of the prayer and blessing of the priest, by the power of the Holy Spirit (PG 160:1080). This Consecration of the elements by the Voce Domini was taught by St. Ambrose in De Sacramentis, Bk. IV.23: “And before the words of Christ the cup is filled with wine and water; but where the words of Christ work, there is proved the blood which redeems the people. See, therefore, by how many great ways the word of Christ tranforms all things!” St. Mark is also opposed some centuries earlier by Greek theologian St. Nicholas Cabasilas in his work Commentary on the Divine Liturgy, which argues (in the face of Latin accusations) that the two consecration rites on substantially the same. []
  81. See St. Photios’ Mystagogia of the Holy Spirit, 68, 70-72 []
  82.  I should note, here, that we should empathize with Luther’s struggle and not necessarily brand him as an outright “heretic.” To do so would fundamentally misunderstand the basic thrust of Protestantism, and put Ecumenical reconciliation progress back one hundred years. Nevertheless, the basic form of the situation from a cultural standpoint is a sound point, I believe, even if noting this very thing is far beyond the scope of this small article. []
  83. Eccl. 12:12 []
  84. See Fr. Seraphim Rose, Orthodoxy and the Religion of the Future, 145 []
  85. Heb. 11:33ff. []
  86. See the lecture of Archbishop Hilarion Alfeyev, “The Patristic Heritage and Modernity,” (The Ecumenical Review, Vol. 54, No. 1-2); accessible here: http://www.thefreelibrary.com/The+patristic+heritage+and+modernity.-a087425979 []
  87. This is the “Tale of the Five Prayers,” which was a revelation of our Lord Jesus to “one of the holy fathers” which included five meditations on the sufferings of the Virgin Mary, complete with spiritual promises attached to each one. Access the original prayer book here: http://www.myriobiblos.gr/texts/english/prayerbook/main.htm []
  88. For example, St. Nikodemos of the Holy Mountain, who argued that Catholics should be rebaptized, helped translate the western text of Spiritual Combat with St. Theophan the Recluse. These eastern saints removed words that were not in their spiritual vocabulary, like “merits” and “satisfaction.” But these were used by Latin fathers St. Benedict and St. Peter Chrysologus. []
  89. Bl. Thomas à Kempis, De Imitatione Christi, Bk II.12, I.11.4 []
  90. Found here: http://orthodoxinfo.com/praxis/francis_sarov.aspx []
  91. 1 Sam. 16:7 []
  92. 1 Tim. 2:4 []
  93. Soloviev, 81; Soloviev was an intimate friend of Dostoyevky, who based the characters of Ivan and Alyosha Karamozov on Soloviev. The latter, however, did not share his friend’s anti-Catholicism and slavophilism, and reconciled with the Holy Father. Bl. John Paul II read Soloviev’s works in Poland and helped to spread the name of this incredible Christian philosopher in the west. His classic text from which I have quoted here twice has been reprinted in an abbreviation under the name The Russian Church and the Papacy Catholic Answers, 2002 []
  94. Prov. 12:15 []
  95. Those who understand it, however, do not object to it. When Orthodox polemics object that “pope Honorius was condemned,” or that “there is no list of infallible statements,” they often show that they are not searching for answers from the Catholics themselves, but rather seeking a reason to condemn something they already object to. We need to get past the polemics and actually engage in a dialogue like Christians should: speaking the truth in love Eph. 4:15 []
  96. Joint International Commission for the Theological Dialogue between the Roman Catholic church and the Orthodox Church, Ecclesiological and Canonical Consequences of the Sacramental Nature of the Church Ecclesial Communion, Conciliarity and Authority, “The Ravenna Document”, 2007, accessed at http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/pontifical_councils/chrstuni/ch_orthodox_docs/rc_pc_chrstuni_doc_20071013_documento-ravenna_en.html, 43, 41 []
  97. Bl. Papa Paulus Johannes II, Ut Unum Sint (1995), 95 []
  98. Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Some aspects of the Church understood as Communion (1992), 18; accessible here: http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_28051992_communionis-notio_en.html []
  99. Some say this dialogue has progressed the farthest of all the world. See their website here: http://www.scoba.us/resources/orthodox-catholic.html. For a great introduction to the work of the American dialogue, listen to this lecture by one of the participants here: http://ancientfaith.com/specials/orientale_lumen_xv_conference/closing_session []
  100. Joint International Commission for the Theological Dialogue between the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church, Uniatism, Method of Union of the Past, and the Present Search for Full Communion (“Balamand Statement”), (1993), 13, 14; accessible online here: http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/pontifical_councils/chrstuni/ch_orthodox_docs/rc_pc_chrstuni_doc_19930624_lebanon_en.html []
  101. Ibid., 35 []
  102. Hart, “Myth of Schism”; for a thorough and lucid historical exploration of this compelling reality, see Chrysostom Frank, “Orthodox-Catholic Relations: An Orthodox Reflection,” Pro Ecclesia, VII, 1, Winter 1998. []
  103. Fr. Sergei Bulgakov actually made this point in his famous essay “By Jacob’s Well,” (Journal of the Fellowship of Ss. Sergius and Alban, 1933): “Churches which have preserved their priesthood, although they happen to be separated, are not actually divided in their sacramental life. Strictly speaking a reunion of the Church is not even necessary here, although generally this is hardly realized. The Churches which have preserved such a unity in sacraments are now divided canonically in the sense of jurisdiction, and dogmatically, through a whole range of differences; but these are powerless to destroy the efficacy of the sacraments.” []
  104. Msgr. Magee said as much in his lecture at the Orientale Lumen XV conference in June 2011, along with Met. Jonah in his lecture entitled “Primacy and Autocephaly: a Contradiction or an Opportunity?” also from the same conference. You can listen to these lectures here: http://ancientfaith.com/specials/orientale_lumen_xv_conference []
  105. Three of note are Dr. Peter Gilbert, who works for the rehabilitation of John Bekkos who worked for the union of 1274. Here is his blog: http://bekkos.wordpress.com/. One cannot fail to mention David Bentley Hart, whose article “The Myth of Schism” (in Ecumenism Today (Ashgate, 2006) 95-106), still remains, to my knowledge, unanwered. Finally, Lina Murr Nehmé’s 2004 text Muhammad II Imposes the Orthodox Schism (Aleph Et Taw, 2004) argues that the schism is uncanonical since Florence was cancelled by the Turks and the Ecumenical Patriarchate coopted for their aims. She quotes the current patriarch of Antioch, Ingatios IV, as stating in 1984 that “There are no dogmatic differences between us…we are capable of reuniting.” For more objective studies by Orthodox scholars, see Olivier Clément, You are Peter (New City Press, 2003), Meyendorff, ed., The Primacy of Peter (SVS Press, 1992), and Laurent Cleenewerck’s recent text His Broken Body Euclid Univ. Press, 2008 []
  106. Bl. John Paul II, Ut Unum Sint (1995), 95 []
  107. 1 Cor. 3:17; whoever destroys God’s temple, God will destroy. []
  108. Note 105 []
  109. This is beautifully expressed in Walter Cardinal Kasper, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity in the 2002 document The Catholic Church in Ecumenical Dialogue 2002 (USCCB, 2002), 14-15: “Although every local church is fully the one Church (LG, nos. 26, 28), it is not the whole Church. The one Church exists in and out of the local churches (LG, no. 23), but the local churches also exist in and out of the one Church (Communiones Notio, nos. 9)—they are shaped in its image (LG, no. 23)… Taking both together, this means that the one Church and the diversity of local churches are simultaneous; they are interior to each other (perichoretic).” []
  110. It should be readily admitted from the Catholic side what Catholic scholar Yves Congor admited, that “the East ‘never accepted the regular jurisdiction of Rome.’ No evidence exists that the Eastern Tradition as whole ever admitted papal primacy as it was formulated in the West” (in Cleenewerck, 36), and other Catholic scholars have said the same. []
  111. A Library of the Fathers of the Holy Catholic Church (Oxford: Parker, 1844), The Epistles of St. Cyprian, The Judgments of Eighty-Seven Bishops in the Council of Carthage on the Question of Baptizing Heretics, 286-287 []
  112. Canon 2 of the Council of Constantinople I, 381 accessed at http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/3808.htm []
  113. This story is found in Bede, Hist. Eccl. Angl., Bk IV, Ch. 2 []

130 thoughts on “An Eastern Orthodox Christian Looks West”

  1. It is out of love for the truth, and love for the neighbor that Martin Luther wrote his 95 Theses.

    The Catholic Church had gotten so far from the gospel of Jesus Christ and was getting into all sorts of money raising schemes to build St. Peters and whatever other projects they had going on that selling indulgences was a big time effort. And therefore robbing the parishioners of sense of the true gospel.

    Unity is great. But never at the expense of the gospel.

    1. Luther’s problem was that he was in error about the Gospel, the Truth resides within the Church and is not a matter of personal interpretation “his” or anyone else.

    1. Timothy briefly answers this question near the end of the article in the paragraph beginning with “Those who ask #5, why don’t I just become Catholic…” you can use your browser’s search feature (Ctrl-F) to quickly find that string of text.

      He may answer it in more detail in the comments though, so it is a good question.

      1. Because our churches have agreed to not convert one another. We already possess the fullness of the Church through the sacraments, and we are sister churches. I see no reason to stop attending Divine Liturgy with my community at St. George where I attend. But please respond more directly to the answer I made to this question in the article.

        1. Not, really no.

          There was a sentiment to avoid proselytizing. Not to refuse to receive converts from the other side who come on their own — these are as freely received by both sides as they always have been (following the way that each side received converts in general according to its own processes), but they are not actively targeted or sought out as targets for missionary type work.

          Of course that doesn’t imply that any one person should or should not convert — it just means that it’s a separate question entirely from the agreement to avoid proselytizing.

            1. While it is true that stopping proselytizing has an ecclesial belief behind it, but it might not be what you think.

              Both Catholics and Orthodox believe that their respective Churches are “the One True Church” and that the other is outside the Church. The documents of Vatican II and the Enclycical Dominus Iesus make this very clear. Both Churches also assert that if one truly does believe that their Church is “the One True Church” and remains outside it, one stands condemned in front of God.

              So what does the stopping proselytizing stance imply? Partially a recognition that both East and West need to stop fighting each other and start working together, and in time reconcil. This is increasingly obvious in this increasingly hostile secular world. The hope is that God will spare people “so close to the truth and with so many valid sacraments” and possibly lead them into “the One True Church”.

              Catholics will accept that all the Orthodox sacraments are valid and I believe all that’s required for conversion is to make a profession of faith that the Catholic Church is the “the One True Church”. A Catholic must however have dispensation to be married in an Orthodox Church for the marriage to be valid. As was stated above, there is no unified stance on Catholic sacraments (I believe the Armenian Catholic and Armenian Orthodox Churches fully recognize each other’s sacraments and allow intercommunion). Given that some Orthodox do not accept any Catholic sacraments, I don’t think they feel bound to the “stopping proselytizing” agreements.

              Also keep in mind that neither the Orthodox nor Catholics have much of a history of proselytizing. By default, both Churches gain converts by simply living out their faith to the fullness. The martyrs gained many converts precisely because they were martyred with such grace and fearless trust in God. Mission workers like Mother Teresa never proselytizing, but many Hindus became Catholics precisely because they saw in her someone that embodied a mercy that was not present in Hinduism. In this sense the “stopping proselytizing” agreement means little.

            2. I mean no disrespect. You seem a faithful and sincere Christian.

              There seems however, to be a disconnect. Proselytism is not the same as coming to a personal conviction.

              Correct me if I’m wrong.

              1. But knowledgeable servants will be punished all the more. You have apparently come to the knowledge that the Catholic Church contains the fullness of the Truth. Those who have not, can be excused on those grounds. But you have been granted a grace of God and it is incumbent upon you to act upon it. Faith without works is dead.

              2. This is not only good for your soul but for those who listen to you and others who may notice and thus be given the impetus to make the same movement.

              I hope I have not overstepped my bounds.

              Sincerely,

              De Maria

    2. If I can stick my 2 cents in. I am from Grand Rapids, MI which is where Mr. Flanders is from too. In fact, my son goes to St. George’s also.

      There is only one Eastern Catholic Church in the whole diocese. It is a small church with only a few members so that’s one reason I can think that that he may not want to join if he prefers east over west.

      1. James,

        Glory to Jesus Christ!

        McDonald…I’m not sure who you’re referring to at St. George? I know two but I don’t think those are who are you talking about. Care to say?

        As for St. Mike’s, no that’s not the reason I’m not fully reconciled with the Holy Father. I explained those reasons above. If you have a question on that score, I’d be happy to talk more.

        Grace and peace of Christ,

        Timothy

    1. Thanks David. I have several friends in that group, though fb groups in general bug me with their constant emails. I know I can turn that off but sometimes I want the emails and other times not.

      1. It’s usually a busy group and the notifications can get annoying. I would recommend turning notifications off and just checking posts as one is able.

  2. Dear Tim,

    Thank you for this heartfelt essay. I’ve read your blog fairly regularly over the past couple years and found myself agreeing with you on many points. I too am an Orthodox admirer of Catholic theology and Catholic piety, and I’m especially glad you brought up the utterly confounding condemnation of Imitatio Christi by St Ignatii Brianchaninov, which, as you clearly show, is full of contradictions. In my (admittedly limited) experience of Orthodoxy, I’ve found that caricatures of Western Christianity are pretty overblown and in many cases limited to certain types of converts, and thus they tend to flourish in times and places new to the Orthodox faith (contemporary America, early 20th c. Paris, etc.). For example (though this is of course pretty anecdotal), even in Russia, which is often characterized by Orthodox in the West as a bulwark against “Westernism”, the attitude toward Catholicism is much more open and porous. I once asked a priest there about taking communion in the Catholic Church, and he essentially said that there’s nothing terribly wrong with it. C.S. Lewis, Chesterton, Tolkien, and many other non-Orthodox writers are routinely read and praised, though unfortunately writings of anti-Westerners like Seraphim Rose are gaining a lot of traction in ecclesiastical circles these days. I think that the Orthodox anti-scholastic narrative is beginning to lose grip (thank God) thanks to writers like DBH and Marcus Plested–I would recommend looking into his new book coming out in January called Orthodox Readings of Aquinas in which he discusses the very positive reception of Aquinas and certain scholastics by Orthodox in Late Byzantium and in Russia after that. I would also recommend a lecture by David Fagerberg, a Catholic lover of all things Orthodox, responding to this narrative, specifically vis-a-vis Schmemann: http://ancientfaith.com/specials/svs_liturgical_symposium/the_cost_of_understanding_schmemann_in_the_west

    I’ve often wanted to ask you what a few commenters above have already asked today, namely, question 5. I find your response very compelling. I think it’s a real shame when Orthodox and Catholics “convert” between each other, and I also strongly feel that being Byzantine Catholic for the sake of ecumenism is woefully misguided (and evidently so do our bishops: http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/pontifical_councils/chrstuni/ch_orthodox_docs/rc_pc_chrstuni_doc_19930624_lebanon_en.html (esp. paragraph 12)

    However, I do want to take issue with two points. First, I don’t think you adequately address the entrance of the filioque into the creed in Rome, which was really at the heart of the formal schism (to the extent that it was formal), except to remark how unfortunate it was for the cause of Christian unity. It seems to me the reason that it was so crucial in undermining Christian unity was the break of trust and loyalty that the Western and Eastern Churches once shared, a break which, as I see, was in this case instigated by Rome. Certainly the East was not at fault in the schism, but it seems to me this event is really at the root of the matter.

    The second follows the first, and is related to your understanding of Providence. You write, “To accusations against brothers and distrust in the Providence of God. If they are not forged, then why did the Providence of God allow for a whole Latin tradition to develop, confessing the filioque, submitting to Papa, and make saints just the same?”

    It’s clear that the Roman Catholic Church has had many persons of great sanctity and any Orthodox that would deny that is living in a self-imposed hole in the ground. However, I don’t think the fact that the RCC possesses such saints automatically legitimates everything done by the church, and it’s just the same in the East. God certainly guides his Church, but people within the church can still sin, and sins have repercussions and can even cause divisions. Providence did not guide the church into schism, a schism for which the Roman decision to recite the filioque in a liturgical context is partially, but crucially responsible. Happily for us, God is willing make good out of our bad but it’s on us to respond to his call and rectify our own sins.

    Anyway, I look forward to more thoughts, and thanks again for writing.

    Mark

    1. Mark,

      Thank you for this comment. For all readers, this is exactly the sort of irenic response that I was hoping for in posting Timothy’s article. Though Mark disagrees on certain points, he expresses his appreciation for good points in the article and puts his arguments in a respectful, balanced form.

      Mark, perhaps you mistyped when you said: “Certainly the East was not at fault in the schism…” and instead meant to say that the East *was* also at fault in the schism…?

      1. Mark!

        It’s good to hear from you. I know we started chatting a bit on my blog a while back but it never went anywhere. Are you back from Russia yet? I pray you and your wife are well!

        Thanks for the irenicism, yes, I thank God that we can talk this through here. What a breath of fresh air!

        So, yes, the filioque, I certainly agree that this is a weakness of the essay, but it was already too long, and I wanted to focus more on the Papacy itself, since the filioque is obviously intimately related to it.

        First, it’s a moot point that the filioque was a bad idea. It was a bad idea for the Papacy to add it in the 11th century, and obviously St. Leo III had more wisdom than that. I hope my mention of this is fair.

        At the same time, it should be noted that the Ecumenical Creed was never standardized in the west. Even the Nicene Creed itself had multiple translations (not to mention other interpolations like Deum de Deo). I mention some of this at the end of this article: http://quiesincaelis.wordpress.com/2012/05/07/eastern-orthodox-caricatures-of-western-orthodoxy/

        Part the reality is that EVERY ecumenical council was universal, yes, but also nearly entirely Greek in both representation and terminology. The expectation that the West would handle the creed in the same way as the east is, to my mind, myopic.

        At the same time, the conduct of the Carolingians in regards to the creed is terrible and simply exacerbated the whole thing. They disobeyed the pope. If they would have removed it then, like Leo III said, perhaps this controversy would have been averted.

        However, we can’t deny that numerous Latin saints actually confessed the Filioque and taught this. St. Mark’s argument at Florence was that they were forged. That prevented that union. What’s preventing this current one?

        I could go on, but I’ll just leave it at this for now. I wrote an article on this, perhaps you’d like to talk about the Filioque there: http://quiesincaelis.wordpress.com/2012/05/21/the-procession-of-the-holy-spirit-approaching-with-the-right-spirit/

        As to Providence, I regret that I may have failed to communicate it clearly enough. What I meant was the overarching guiding force of the WHOLE Church. Of course individual saints can err. But can the whole Church be completely mislead into heresy? Never. And what we have here are two isolated traditions (Latin and Greek) that both developed separately being guided by their own councils and saints and bishops, etc. When certain violence political circumstances brought them together, they found ways to condemn the legitimate development of the other side. Talking about, say, Palamite theology, we could ask, is it a legit development? Of course. It was taught by saints, confirmed by councils, and integrated into the tradition over centuries and centuries.

        By the same criteria, can we ask: is the Filioque a legit development? It was taught by saints, confirmed by councils, and integrated into the tradition over centuries and centuries. (To the point that they were condemning the east for NOT having the filioque!)

        Do you see what I mean? If the Filioque is NOT a legit development by the Holy Spirit then this seems to follow:

        1. The Greek patristic tradition alone was guided by the Holy Spirit
        2. (AND/OR) The Latin patristic tradition was misunderstood by the Latins themselves, and the Greeks (who knew no Latin) understood it better
        3. The Latin patristic witness was forged
        4. Despite all this, it does not impede salvatio

        n since saints confessed it and argued for it.

        Thoughts?

        with respect,

        Timothy

        1. Dear Tim,

          Thanks for the response. My wife (and daughter now 7 months old) are well, thank God! We’re living in Chicago.

          To your response, I wasn’t questioning the legitimacy of the doctrine itself as a natural outgrowth of the Latin theological tradition, and I would hope that most level-headed Orthodox these days would say the same (though I’m not holding my breath). To your point about its gradual acceptance in the Western version of the N-C Creed, indeed, it was accepted by councils, but not ecumenical ones (I’m assuming, by they way, that we agree that the variety of Latin translations/interpolations of the Greek is not as important as the addition of a whole clause). The Popes knew that the addition of the clause into the Creed in Rome would exacerbate the tensions between the Greeks and Latins, which is precisely why they prevented it for so long contra the Carolingians. The issue is that it was simply added surreptitiously without consulting the Greeks. While it’s true that there was less of a Latin presence in the first 7 Ecumenical Councils, they were there and they did ratify what went down of behalf of Rome. While it’s true that the N-C Creed has not held as much liturgical weight in the West as in the East, it seems to me that both agreed that the N-C Creed was a touchpoint of unity throughout the whole Church, whereas local customs may legitimately vary to a degree. And it was this unity, I think, that was compromised by addition of the filioque.

          As to the nature of Providence in the development of doctrine, where do you draw the line? At what point does a “bad idea” (as you put the papal decision to incorporate the fq) become an institutional failure? If I’m understanding your logic correctly, because saints and councils have approved doctrines, therefore their development was guided by the Holy Spirit. But there have also been many saints and councils that have taught, for example, sola scriptura/sola fide, limited atonement, etc. Are these expressions of the faith, which are held on an institutional level for some Christians, devoid of providential oversight or not?

          Looking forward to a response.

          Cordially,
          Mark

          1. Mark!

            Glory to Jesus Christ! I will have to add the three of you to my prayer list…

            As to the Filioque, I agree with everything you wrote, and at the same time would add these simple points.

            1. The confession of the filioque is firmly rooted in the Latin tradition through saints and councils and is not a heresy
            2. Thus it should not bar communion

            When it was condemned (Photios) it was in the heat of political dominion over Bulgaria, and then later with Kerularios more. Of course this isn’t all politics, there’s serious theological issues, but don’t you think those have been largely clarified with the recent documents?

            http://www.cccb.ca/site/Files/Filioque_en.html
            http://www.ewtn.com/library/CURIA/PCCUFILQ.HTM

            Met. John Zizioulas was very positive about the latter statement, and I think it goes a long way. So while the inclusion of the filioque was certainly a bad move, and provoked schism, the schism was also not ultimately justified. We can work these difficult things out as we continue to come together.

            Providence: very good question! A difficult one. For example, where does St. Maximos see providence? It seems to be a combination of saintly prophets and the legal authority of bishops and the Apostolic See. Ultimately Providence can only be discerned through time. This is what makes it finally convincing because, after generations, it has still proved true. Heresies, on the other hand, naturally disintegrate because they are founded on lies and violence. This is what has happened to every heresy, like Protestantism. That which endures goes a long way to proving itself the work of the Holy Spirit, since only God could preserve by His Providence something for so many generations beyond the power of men. As for those councils which taught heresy, there are different ways that God rooted out those things. They were condemned by saintly prophets, the Apostolic See, and eventually died away. This takes a lot longer though, when there’s an army backing up the heresy, but eventually this also dies away.

            Ultimately, though, there’s not a litmus test for Providence, especially as it pertains to current disagreements. In this we have to have faith that God is the ruler of history, and humbly learn from what He preserved and what He destroyed, beseech Him for wisdom, and trust in the prayers of the Virgin Mary. This, coupled with humility and obedience to rightful authority (saintly prophets and the successor(s) of Peter–diocesan or Roman), I trust that will show us and help us. That’s what I did when I said I prayed. I learned these things and then I knew that I couldn’t know it all so I vowed to God and prayed for many weeks and God gave me peace about it.

            Could I be wrong? Of course. I am open to being wrong. I’m trying (failing) to be humble, but that’s why I published this to receive criticism! Which I thank you for giving in the spirit of Christian fraternity.

            in Christ our King,

            Timothy

            1. Dear Tim,

              Thanks for the thoughtful response, again. Indeed, if Met. Zizioulas can get on board with that one, it says a lot. I agree with you fully here regarding filioque, and with regard to Providence and the eventual disintegration of heresies, it’s one of those questions, as you indicate, for which there’s no easy answer. Sometimes the best we can do, as you say, is trust, pray and continue to ponder. :)

              Blessings,

              Mark

          2. Mark I want to interject briefly. You said:

            “But there have also been many saints and councils that have taught, for example, sola scriptura/sola fide, limited atonement, etc.”

            Au contraire. If one reads the writings of Luther and Calvin, and studies their lives, one quickly sees they were not saints. I don’t mean to smear them, not at all.
            The closest thing to a council with saints was perhaps the Westminster assembly of Divines, and I don’t think anyone wants to try to compare that with an eccumenical council. It did not even pretend to be one.

            Peace.

            1. Dear David,

              Thanks for the interjection. I wasn’t suggesting that Luther or Calvin were saints; I have no idea. All I’m saying is that there have been (and I know a few) very saintly people that hold those beliefs. Regarding councils, neither I nor Tim were talking about ecumenical ones in this context.

  3. A very interesting and heart-felt recounting of the writer’s journey.

    Personally, I share many of the same conclusions on the broader level about the differences between Catholicism and Orthodoxy and the need for more intensive work together towards unity in an atmosphere of mutual respect.

    I would respectfully disagree, however, with the idea that we are already in communion with each other. I understand fully the reasoning behind that concept, and it was a version of that concept (not the writer’s Solovyevian version, but a different version) that I used to share when I was a Melkite Catholic back in the 1990s, as it was the position articulated by the Melkite Catholic Synod (see: https://melkite.org/faith/faith-worship/a-call-for-unity-the-melkite-synod):

    I believe everything which Eastern Orthodoxy teaches.
    2. I am in communion with the Bishop of Rome as the first among the bishops, according to the limits recognized by the Holy Fathers of the East during the first millennium, before the separation.

    However, the Vatican itself rejected this idea, of course, which was somewhat predictable because point “2” in the Melkite statement implicitly demurs as to the articulation of the Papal office *after* the separation — a point which was clearly not missed by the Vatican, which responded in a respectfully worded but nevertheless pointed letter which can be read here: (http://orthocath.files.wordpress.com/2011/01/1997_letter_from_rome_on_zoghby_initiative-11.pdf).

    Now, I realize that the position of the Melkite Synod, which then-Cardinal Ratzinger, acting in his official capacity at the time as the head of the CDF, and together with the head of the Vatican’s Congregation on the Eastern Churches, rejected, is different from the position of the author here. My point is that, as irenic as the Catholic Church may be in these areas, nevertheless in the Catholic view the ecclesial *reality* is that Orthodoxy and Catholicism are *not* currently in full communion, due to differences in faith (that is, the Vatican itself considers it to be this way, as irenic as the Vatican is about Orthodox-Catholic unity), most particularly differences in faith concerning the Papal office itself, currently. To be honest, I think this letter reflects the reality, and isn’t a “downer” really — it simply reflects that there is much more work to do before we arrive at a place where communion can be restored.

    Now, of course, one’s own “personal takeaway” from this will differ from person to person. It certainly doesn’t necessitate a conversion to/from one or the other, provided one can personally live with a certain degree of ecclesiastical “dissonance” which can come from standing apart, personally, on a matter of faith that is not really taught by one’s own church currently, nor recognized by the other church as being held by one’s own church. This was certainly where I found myself many years ago before I was received by the Orthodox Church, but I also knew many others who were more comfortable maintaining a degree of ecclesial dissonance that I was not. Different individuals, in my experience, have different tolerance levels for different *kinds* of ecclesial dissonance as well.(**) These matters are somewhat in flux, because they are under discussion/discernment/dialogue/reflection by both the Catholic and Orthodox sides, and I expect that this process will be a lengthy one. In the meantime, I think, different approaches will be taken on the personal level to that specific situation based, I think, to some degree on one’s own tolerance for certain kinds of dissonance.

    ——

    ** — In my own experiences as a (Latin and then later Melkite) Catholic for the first 33 years of my life, I observed that Catholics have a rather high-ish tolerance for de facto ecclesial dissonance in some areas (liturgical practices, de facto adhesion to moral teachings, etc.) in the presence of a perceived de jure ecclesial order and a strong sense of shared Catholic identity. In my years as an Orthodox, I have observed that Orthodox have a rather high-ish tolerance for de facto and de jure ecclesial dissonance in some areas (organizational and jurisdictional chaos, phyletism, etc.) in the presence of a perceived spritual/theological ecclesial order and a strong sense of “X”-Orthodox identity.

    1. Brendan,

      Your understanding of this issue matches closely with my own. Timothy did say “communion” rather than “full communion” there but I think his intent was more “full communion.”

      Fr. Aidan Nichols, Dominican priest, whose book Timothy’s mentions, says that there is an idea that the division was only a “partial” schism, rather than say a full-blown schism as Protestantism was.

      Regarding dissonance, it’s an interesting question as to whether Timothy might better serve the cause of unity by remaining Orthodox rather than becoming Catholic, since he is unity-minded and balanced in his view of each Church. I thought about that while I was a Protestant but ultimately realized that I had to become Catholic. Orthodoxy, though, is much closer to Catholicism and so an argument could be presented that working toward institutional reunion in an Orthodox Church is more valuable than becoming Catholic and trying to do the same. I don’t know if I would go for such an argument, but it is thought-provoking.

      1. Brendan,

        Thanks for your comment, I wanted to speak first on the Initiative. I didn’t have time yet to read the document, but yes I’ve heard of it. I thought that the CDF officially rejected it because it said that the Orthodox Church officially “taught” that the Papacy was an error. Pending my own digesting of the document, I would ask this question: how can one determine that the Orthodox Church officially teaches this?

        1. When you phrase the question that way, you’re guaranteeing one answer, because, in effect, you’re basically saying that because the Orthodox do not have the same kind of doctrinal/dogmatic precision that exists in Catholicism in a definitive way, therefore it is not possible to demonstrate that the Orthodox believe anything in these areas in a way that is definitive in the same way that Catholic magisterial teaching is definitive. I can understand the attraction of that perspective, but in truth if you take that position seriously, there really isn’t a reason to know that anything beyond the bare bones of the ecumenical councils is “officially” taught by the Orthodox Church. In effect what this does is loads the argument in favor of one perspective by applying the Catholic criterion for determining “official teaching” to the Orthodox Church, which obviously has a different way of discerning what its own teaching is, and generally it doesn’t involve anything like the “officialness” of the Catholic Church with its encyclicals and curial statements and the like. Eastern Orthodoxy doesn’t work that way, as you know. I know you are frustrated with that, and you consider it a non-answer. That is fair enough. But from my perspective, it isn’t “cricket” to load the argument at the beginning with criteria that only really are “native” to one side of the fence — you’re guaranteeing one answer, just on the basis of the criterion you’re choosing to use, rather than looking at the criteria that each side uses and taking that at face value.

          When looked at this way, it’s quite obvious that while there is scant “official” teaching about much of anything in the Orthodox Church (when compared to the Catholic usage of that word), there is nevertheless a broad consensus among Orthodox among most issues. It’s rather clear that the Orthodox Church does not accept the dogmas of Vatican I, for example. It’s true that the condemnations of these dogmas came from only one local Orthodox Church, but it’s also the consensus view in the Orthodox Church.

          The Vatican recognizes this as well, because it takes the Orthodox Churches at face value, rather than searching for an “official Orthodox teaching” on the matter and, in the absence of finding one, asserting that full communion is now a reality because there is no Orthodox “official teaching” that says otherwise.

          To be more granular, the Vatican officials rejected the Melkite statement because they said that the Orthodox do not accept all of the development of doctrine regarding the Papacy to the present day, as evidenced by their refusal to join full communion with the Catholic Church (which would mean accepting all of that teaching):

          With respect to the declaration on the part of Greek-Melkite Catholics of complete adherence to the teachings of Eastern Orthodoxy, one must keep in mind the fact that the Orthodox Churches are today not yet in full communion with the Church of Rome, and that this
          adherence is thus not possible so long as there is not from both sides an identity of professed and
          practiced faith. Furthermore, a correct formulation of the faith requires reference not only to a
          particular Church, but to the whole of the Church of Christ that is limited in neither space nor
          time.

          With respect to communion with the Bishops of Rome, one must not forget that doctrine relating to the primacy of the Roman Pontiff has been the subject of some development within the elaboration of the Church’s faith through the ages, and that it must thus be upheld in its entirety from its origins all the way to the present day. One need only reflect on what the First Vatican Council affirms and on what has been declared at the Second Vatican Council, particularly in NN. 22 and 23 of the Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium and in N. 2 of the Decree on Ecumenism Unitatis Redintegratio.

          As to the ways in which the Petrine ministry could be exercised today, an issue distinct from that of doctrine, it is true that the Holy Father has recently reminded us all how it is possible to “seek—together, of course—the forms in which this ministry may accomplish a service of love recognized by all concerned” (Ut unum sint, 95): but while it is also legitimate to approach the issue at the local level, there is a duty to do so always in communion with a view to the universal Church. In this regard, it would in any case be appropriate to recall that “the Catholic Church, both in her praxis and in her solemn documents, holds that the communion of the particular Churches with the Church of Rome, and of their Bishops with the Bishop of Rome, is—in God’s plan—an essential requisite of full and visible communion” (Ut unum sint, 97).

          What we see here is a recognition by the Vatican that the Orthodox do not have an “identity of professed and practiced faith”. They get there not by identifying some “official teaching” by the Orthodox Church on these matters, but by looking at what the Orthodox Church has professed (and there have been a lot of professions against the Vatican I dogmas among other things that have been developed in the Catholic Church since the time of separation) and what its practiced faith is — i.e., generally, with exceptions noted (and proving the rule), refusing to communicate Catholics, receiving Catholics by sacramental chrismation and so on acting like there is a real separation between the two sides, which has a real basis. The Vatican looks and observes that the Orthodox Church neither teaches these things as dogmas (or otherwise), nor publically accepts them as dogmas (or otherwise), nor, almost universally, does it act as if communion is a reality.

          It then goes on to very gently correct the Melkites by noting that there is a difference between how jurisdiction is practiced, which Rome has said is up for discussion and adjustment, and the doctrinal basis (or, in the case of Vatican I, the dogmatic basis) for that jurisdiction to begin with — something which the Catholic side well admits is a development, and a dogmatic one that must be accepted — Vatican I is specifically mentioned here, together with the Vatican II documents that affirmed Vatican I.

          So, how I read the CDF statement is that it basically takes the Orthodox at face value, rather than assuming a full communion exists because the Orthodox side doesn’t have a Catholic-style “official teaching” on the matters which could prevent that from existing. It’s a document which, as a whole, is quite respectful of the Orthodox point of view as articulated in the way the Orthodox do, while still articulating its own perspective on the necessity of the Catholic point of view in the way that Catholics do.

          1. Brother in Christ Brendan,

            You wrote:

            “In effect what this does is loads the argument in favor of one perspective by applying the Catholic criterion for determining “official teaching” to the Orthodox Church, which obviously has a different way of discerning what its own teaching is, and generally it doesn’t involve anything like the “officialness” of the Catholic Church with its encyclicals and curial statements and the like.”

            Brendan: but this is precisely Soloviev’s argument. See the quotes I gave from him above. This is actually the way the early Church worked. They DID have official statements and councils and what not. The Orthodox Church deprived of the Papacy can no longer do that. That’s a problem.

            Again,

            “There is nevertheless a broad consensus among Orthodox among most issues. It’s rather clear that the Orthodox Church does not accept the dogmas of Vatican I, for example. It’s true that the condemnations of these dogmas came from only one local Orthodox Church, but it’s also the consensus view in the Orthodox Church.”

            I would simply ask you to prove this. Why have millions of Orthodox come into communion with Rome? Does it concern you vast swaths of Orthodoxy accepted the Immaculate Conception before 1854? Does it concern you that many others condemned contraception, so that Kallistos Ware could say in his first edition of The Orthodox Church flatly that “The Orthodox forbids contraception.” Without an official teaching organ, which can lay down teaching and firmly place into tradition, what we are left with is the “wind of every doctrine” (i.e. this or that interpretation of the fathers). That was Soloviev and Fortescue’s point above about living authority. The Church needs that. To some degree, the Orthodox has that, but not to the universal degree, since its petrine primacy only includes the diocesan and patriarchal primacies. Further, have you read Nehme’s book I referenced? She (Orthodox) argues that the Florentine Union was canonical, and was abolished by the Turks and the Patriarch was then appointed by him. At any given time, there might be a great consensus on affirming the primacy of Rome (have you read Nichols, for example?) At this time, as Orthodoxy enters the west for the first time it’s been guarded and cautious at best (the Parisian Russians) or openly hostile and virulent at worst (ROCOR). When will the Arab Orthodox, for example, make a greater contribution to world Orthodoxy? When we stop lying about 1054 and 1204 and 1480, etc etc. and actually approach our history honestly.

            Well, I’ll stop there and ask you for your thoughts my friend. I’m glad we can have this conversation respectfully.

            in Christ our Lord,

            Timothy

            1. Yes, I have read most of the sources you cite, and quite a bit of Soloviev in particular. I simply disagree with the legitimacy of using the Roman Church’s standard way of being as the measuring stick for the Orthodox way of being. The early church is pretty much inapposite — yes, there were councils and letters sent back and forth between the bishops, but there was nothing approaching the way that the Roman Church does this today.

              My general view is that each side has lost something as a result of the separation. Orthodoxy lost access to the center — very true. The Latin Church lost access to the East, which had been the source of a great deal of the doctrinal statements and theological activity in the period prior to the separation. A rigidity has since formed on both sides, which is as understandable as it is regrettable. But in trying to discern a way forward and through this, pre-emptively holding up one side’s “way of being and articulating itself” while simultaneously judging from the outset the other side’s “way of being and articulating itself” as being deficient and lacking, really doesn’t provide a way forward at all — or rather, it provides one, which is squarely in the heavy favor of one side and not the other.

              I realize that this was Soloviev’s view, more or less. I don’t agree with it, however. I believe that the West has as much to learn from the East, and its way of being and articulating itself, as vice-versa — easily as much, if not more — in all areas, including the area of church governance.

              1. “yes, there were councils and letters sent back and forth between the bishops, but there was nothing approaching the way that the Roman Church does this today.”

                Granted! That’s obvious. I’m stating though, that the act of proclaiming infallible dogma (thru ecu council or pope) should be normative for the Church in general, like the early Church.

                “My general view is that each side has lost something as a result of the separation…A rigidity has since formed on both sides, which is as understandable as it is regrettable.”

                Couldn’t agree more with that!

                “…it provides one, which is squarely in the heavy favor of one side and not the other.”

                I’m sorry to insinuate that the Roman Church’s way is the only way. That was not my intention. I tried to say at the end of the essay that their polity needs to be reformed, but I didn’t emphasize this nearly enough.

                “I realize that this was Soloviev’s view, more or less. I don’t agree with it, however. I believe that the West has as much to learn from the East, and its way of being and articulating itself, as vice-versa — easily as much, if not more — in all areas, including the area of church governance.”

                I agree with you, but I don’t think Soloviev would take that view. That’s why I provided that quote above where he says “We [Orthodox] are a organic part of Christendom.” I definitely agree with you that it’s not going to be solved by one side subsuming the other, but like I said above, “Both sides must give up their exclusivism to some degree in order to come together.”

                Thanks for your comments, my friend, I appreciate your openness and objectivity. May our all-Holy Lady the Theotokos move us to contrition for the state of the Body of Christ, and bring us to repentance and good fruit towards true and lasting unity.

                with respect and love in Christ,

                Timothy

  4. I would return to Rome in a heartbeat. (I’m a Lutheran for those of you who don’t know)

    If only Rome would return to the pure gospel. Until they do, I must remain where Christ, and Christ alone, and His finished work on the Cross for sinners, is enough.

    1. Steve,
      See, as a Catholic I can wholeheartedly affirm the statement that “Christ, and Christ alone, and His finished work on the Cross for sinners, is enough.” I suspect that the devil is in the details, however.

    2. Steve,

      This is the second time you’ve commented on this post…while not actually commenting on this post. Do you have any reactions to share concerning Timothy’s (epic) article from a Lutheran point of view?

      God bless,

      David.

  5. If Fortescue is right, then how is one to know if Catholicism is true? If one cannot take up the historical data and evaluate it, then all of the Catholic apologetic works are fundamentally flawed in the same way that Protestants are. So I am at a loss how the author finds out that Catholicism is true?

    It is not clear to me that a mere assertion is sufficient to show that Gregory of Cyprus and Photios had radically different or incompatible views on the hypostatic generation of the Spirit. It seems to me that they are quite compatible and there is nothing in Photios to rule out an energetic procession. In fact, Gregory’s view does not amount to a hypostatic generation, but a shining forth or energetic procession as found in Maximus and Photios both. So it’d be helpful if the author could explain where the great difference and incompatibility supposedly lies.

    As for the Synod of Jerusalem, it seems to me that the fact that there was not permitted any discussion by the bishops and Catholic clerics dictated certain terms, then it is clear why this isn’t an ecumenical council since it falls afoul of canonical requirements. Secondly, if an analysis shows that they meant something different by the key terms than their Catholic aids did, then that is what matters, correct?
    As for the Immaculate conception in ftnt 48, I am not sure how questions amount to a demonstration. Secondly, that Gillet supposedly demonstrates it is something to be shown, not asserted, His work if memory serves not only focus on post schism statements and many of those are sufficiently vague or probably mean from an early life of the Theotokos as is the case with Palamas. It just isn’t the slam dunk asserted here.

    As far as Ftnt 49 goes on contraception, well the tradition asserted that even barrier methods were murder and Rome asserted as much up till the turn of the century and then it stopped asserting as much and fell back on a Natural Law argument. The fact is as the biology became clear, everyone’s position changed.

    As for the disagreement on the canon, this has to do with local Russian synods, but last I checked ecumenical councils that the Russians accept trump those synods, just as they do local Greek synods. No appeal to sticking one’s head in the sands of mystery is necessary. As for the Synod of 1666, asking why it isn’t ecumenical isn’t a reason for thinking it is deficient in some way or needs to be so. The relevant question is, did it assert that it itself was an ecumenical synod or not? If it did, but isn’t considered so, then we need a reason. But if it didn’t, why is this a problem again?

    Furthermore, why don’t Catholics take the synod of 649 as ecumenical? Maximus reported that it was and the pope ratified it, so what did it lack exactly? And what are we to do with the doctrinal decree of the Fifth Ecumenical Council, which excommunicated a sitting pope until he aligned himself with the council, when it declared,

    ““And to this end we brought to his remembrance the great examples left us by the Apostles, and the traditions of the Fathers. For although the grace of the Holy Spirit abounded in each one of the Apostles, so that no one of them needed the counsel of another in the execution of his work, yet they were not willing to define on the question then raised touching the circumcision of the Gentiles, until being gathered together they had confirmed their own several sayings by the testimony of the divine Scriptures.

    And thus they arrived unanimously at this sentence, which they wrote to the Gentiles: ‘It has seemed good to the Holy Ghost and to us, to lay upon you no other burden than these necessary things, that ye abstain from things offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication.’

    But also the Holy Fathers, who from time to time have met in the four holy councils, following the example of the ancients, have by a common discussion, disposed of by a fixed decree the heresies and questions which had sprung up, as it was certainly known, that by common discussion when the matter in dispute was presented by each side, the light of truth expels the darkness of falsehood.

    Nor is there any other way in which the truth can be made manifest when there are discussions concerning the faith, since each one needs the help of his neighbour, as we read in the Proverbs of Solomon: ‘A brother helping his brother shall be exalted like a walled city; and he shall be strong as a well-founded kingdom;’ and again in Ecclesiastes he says: ‘Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour.’”

    How exactly does that fit into current Catholic teaching on the papacy? You can look in vain among the writings of Catholic apologetic works on the papacy for a treatment of this material or really any significant treatment of the case of pope Vigilius.

    Solviev’s questions are just that, questions. Why hasn’t Rome had an ex cathedra statement for the first 1800 hundred years of the church’s life? I mean, is Leo’s Tome ex cathedra or not? Did not Peter speak through Leo or not? Secondly, Soloviev’s works in the edition published contained significant heresy even on Catholic grounds, along the lines of Gnosticism and Hegelianism (there’s no much difference between the two.) The thrust of his work is that the Spirit of history is driving history to a universal point of authority and a universal authority and this feminine world spirit is not the Holy Spirit mind you.

    The complaints about divisions in the 17th century also do not amount to an argument for thinking the Orthodox are wrong. A very similar situation occurred during the Arian heresy with Rome out of communion with various churches and in communion with others, with yet still others maintaining communion with both. If there is any reasoning to this part of the essay it seems to me to just as easily apply here as well to Rome’s claim for being the principle of unity-where was the principle of unity? But the author takes no notice of it. To this day Rome has never yet managed to resolve the schisms in the patriarchate of Antioch even among those in communion with Rome. But why not?

    And if we were to reunite with Rome and then work out the differences, what is there to work out if the magisterium already has normative positions? The answer is nothing. And shall we or Rome take the same attitude with the Copts and the Assyrians? Strangely Rome itself doesn’t recommend such action with them, so this seems like a non-starter.

    As Honorius, just because someone lodges that objection doesn’t imply that they are not looking for answers from Catholic sources. I’ve read just about everything published on the subject and most scholars today (especially Catholic ones) agree that Honorius was a monoenergist and a monothelite. One only goes through the gymnastics when one reads the Catholic polemical literature of the 19th and early 20th centuries which have largely been discarded by Catholic scholars.

    If we are to rely on providence, why isn’t this question begging? Whose’ theory and understanding of providence? And an appeal to sanctity? Why doesn’t this get us right back to what Foretescue says we can’t or ought not do?

    If the papacy operates within the context of conciliarity, then why is it that the ex cathedra statements of the pope are infallible of themselves and not, following Pighius, that of the synod? Last I checked any form of conciliarism has been routinely blasted as the heresy of Gallicanism.

    It also seems to me that the documents of the joint theological commission are agreed to be non-binding on both sides. And this is so because they contain glosses on the papacy for example that Rome rejects or terms taken or used by the Orthodox side that Rome does not accept. Take for example the case of “sister churches” where Rome issued its own formal statement rejecting the sense given to it by committee members. Consequently, I can’t see how pointing to this document advances the claim that we are the same church.

    And there seems every reason for the author to become Catholic, namely that by Catholic lights he is in schism from Rome, not to mention that he openly and knowingly communes with those who reject Catholic dogmas necessary for salvation. Why is that acceptable for the Orthodox but not for a Protestant exactly?

    In any case, the essay has a rantish and cathartic quality to it and deploys matters in a scattershot fashion. Through a lot of complicated material out there across multiple disciplines and hope something sticks. Such is not helpful.

    1. Perry,

      Thanks for your response. One of the challenges created by an article like Timothy’s is that he brings up many issues (that trend toward an overall point), without delving deeply into any one of them. This is the opposite of the way that articles at, say, CalledToCommunion.com are structured, where they focus on a single issue that can then (hopefully) be hashed out and argued in great detail, leading to a (hopefully) convincing demonstration of the main claim. The benefit there is that you get in depth articles on single topics that can be analyzed and argued in a very focused way. The downside, if I could call it that, is that only very specific areas can be addressed within a narrow (if important) range (e.g. CtC focuses not just on Protestantism but on Reformed Protestantism and the specific issues between Reformed Protestantism and Catholicism).

      So it’s good that you made a response and showed that there are at the least *some* kind of answers to the diverse questions Timothy raised. No doubt Timothy has heard many of them before, as I have (from you and other Orthodox scholars, authors, or apologists). But don’t miss Timothy’s broader point that we should be striving for a healing of the schism and that both the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Churches should do their utmost to work toward this.

      His essay probably was cathartic, but I encourage you to remember that this is a fellow Orthodox brother who is, in a somewhat vulnerable way, opening up his heart to describe what he has experienced as a convert from Protestantism to Orthodoxy and how he has tried to understand how the bishop of Rome and the Catholic church fit into it.

      God bless, and may Christ unite us!
      Devin

      1. Brother in Christ Perry,

        We’ve not been acquainted, you and I, but I acknowledge that you are my brother to whom I owe respect and love. I will try to do this, with God’s help, but I hope to clarify my statements at the end.

        “If one cannot take up the historical data and evaluate it, then all of the Catholic apologetic works are fundamentally flawed in the same way that Protestants are. So I am at a loss how the author finds out that Catholicism is true?”

        Perry: this is a straw man. That’s not what Fortescue is saying. It is a combination of both living authority and historical witness. The Apostles themselves disagreed on Easter. A Living authority (Nicea, and the Papacy at Whitby) decided this question and judged between them. Providence guided the quartodecimans to hold to the teachings of St. John the Apostle, and then Providence integrated this into the universal tradition as unity coalesced.

        As to St. Gregory vs. St. Photios, I took that distinction from Kallistos Ware. It’s in The Orthodox Church. If you’d like to reconcile the two, that seems reasonable to me. The same reasonableness that would cause me to reconcile St. Augustine’s filioquism among them.

        “if an analysis shows that they meant something different by the key terms than their Catholic aids did, then that is what matters, correct?”

        This is precisely the reasoning that should lead us to accept the Orthodoxy of the filioque.

        “It just isn’t the slam dunk asserted here.”

        Neither are the slam dunk anti-Catholic polemics I’m critiquing. The point is that it’s a lot more complicated than I’ve heard admitted by Orthodox other than a few select few I mention. Anyways, as Devin said, I couldn’t get into there, nor will I here (see below).

        “The fact is as the biology became clear, everyone’s position changed.”

        Another slam dunk? Or is there more to the story here Perry? Does the Orthodox Church allow artificial contraception?

        “If it did, but isn’t considered so, then we need a reason. But if it didn’t, why is this a problem again?”

        Perry: the central problem is explained by the quotes from Soloviev and Fortescue. Part of this you are addressing is rhetorical. Please respond to their arguments.

        “How exactly does that fit into current Catholic teaching on the papacy? You can look in vain among the writings of Catholic apologetic works on the papacy for a treatment of this material or really any significant treatment of the case of pope Vigilius.”

        Perry: do you understand Roman Catholic teaching on the Papacy? This fits in for those who understand it.

        “Why hasn’t Rome had an ex cathedra statement for the first 1800 hundred years of the church’s life?”

        Another straw man. This objection rests on a misunderstanding of doctrinal development. When the Church defines something, it is certainly new (like homoousios) and tons of people object because there are not clear cut answers in the tradition. This, however, is failing to see how this whole thing works.

        “Soloviev’s works in the edition published contained significant heresy even on Catholic grounds, along the lines of Gnosticism and Hegelianism (there’s no much difference between the two.) The thrust of his work is that the Spirit of history is driving history to a universal point of authority and a universal authority and this feminine world spirit is not the Holy Spirit mind you.”

        This is an interesting straw man. What is your proof of this? Did not Bl. John Paul II call Soloviev an Aquinas? Are you anti-Bulgakovian then?

        “If there is any reasoning to this part of the essay it seems to me to just as easily apply here as well to Rome’s claim for being the principle of unity-where was the principle of unity? But the author takes no notice of it.”

        Another straw man. If the Papacy was taught as you say, then the Church would lose it’s being every time a pope died and we were waiting for a new election.

        “To this day Rome has never yet managed to resolve the schisms in the patriarchate of Antioch even among those in communion with Rome. But why not?”

        I can’t begin to tell you about the pastoral situation of multiple ethnicities, traditions, all under under Muslim domination, can you?

        “And if we were to reunite with Rome and then work out the differences, what is there to work out if the magisterium already has normative positions?”

        Perry: you continually betray your ignorance about what Roman Catholicism is. This is common misconception, but it doesn’t make it any less excusable. Please read the Catechism and the documents of Vatican II and talk to a knowledgeable Catholic.

        “If the papacy operates within the context of conciliarity, then why is it that the ex cathedra statements of the pope are infallible of themselves and not, following Pighius, that of the synod? Last I checked any form of conciliarism has been routinely blasted as the heresy of Gallicanism.”

        Have you read Lumen Gentium? Have you read Catholic theologians post-LG? This appears again to be a straw man. The infallibility of the Papacy can never contradict the infallibility of consensus through an Ecumenical Council, because the Pope himself is a member of that council. Please try to understand the doctrine in all its nuance before you criticize it please.

        Further, you have missed my main point, my brother, which is that of wisdom and humility–and the fact that every historical argument hinges upon our openness to this. I admit I’m not very humble, nor do I have wisdom, nor am I good at communicating, as was shown above, and in this very comment (which is probably why you missed the point). I’m trying my best, and I’m trying to be open to criticism. I’ve dismissed many of your objections above because many of them appeared to be straw men, but also because I have observed the way that you speak to people on this subject and have thus rather refrained from delving too deeply into it. I would much rather meet you in person, but since that is rather difficult, I would like to meet you on Skype. That way, I can see your face and discuss these things respectfully and with love and truth. I can also get to know you better and you me. You can share your knowledge and I can share what I’ve learned. We can be mutually edified. What do you say?

        with respect,

        Timothy

        1. Timothy,

          As for what Fortescue says I can’t see that what you proffer actually helps. If it is the historical witness and the living authority, how am I to know if a candidate is in fact that living authority in the first place? If I need the living authority to know what the historical witness means and amounts to, then I need some other way to know if the candidate for the living authority is in fact the living authority since I can’t use the historical witness. In sum it seems that you have only moved the problem, not answered it. What do you suggest to find if Rome is that living authority apart from history?

          Providence is quite vague. First what theory of providence are you endorsing? Second, doesn’t everything that happens come about because of Providence, including schism? Third, this is the same kind of fallacious argumentation that Protestants use. Providence guided the Reformers to select the right canon of Scripture. Well, don’t we need to know what the right canon of scripture is first to know if it is an outcome that is providential in the appropriate way? In the say way, don’t we need to know that Catholicism is true to know that providence had things come out that way? You can’t assume the end and then use providence to justify it. You seem to have the justificatory cart before the horse.

          As for Gregory of Cyprus and Photios, I am aware that Bp. Ware says as much, but something to think about here. First, Bp. Ware’s book is an introductory text. Wouldn’t it be wiser to base such a heavy point on some work far more substantial? Second, Bp. Ware’s claim is good if he is right. He isn’t. Third, Bp. Ware says lots of things. For example he has said that Women’s Ordination is an “open question” for the Orthodox. Do you accept that as well? If not, why not?

          Photios and Gregory are reconcilable because they both speak of a shining forth or manifestation through the Son following Maximus that isn’t a hypostatic generation. But Augustine doesn’t so speak since he is talking about hypostatic generation, which is why the same reasoning would not license the conclusion that Augustine and Photios are reconcilable.

          As for the synod of Jerusalem, I think you missed my point. If an analysis of the texts and events of that synod shows that while using the term transubstantiation its participants meant something different than what their Catholic contemporaries meant, then there is good reason to think that they didn’t endorse the Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation. That reasoning wouldn’t help to justify the filioque since it would show that Augustine had a different Triadology than the preceding tradition.
          Many of the anti-Catholic polemics (as opposed to the anti-Orthodox polemics you’ve articulated so far) are simplistic and obviously from people who have no real exposure to historical theology, philosophy or biblical theology. Anyone who had read any survey of church history would know that such claims are false or exaggerated. As far as what I wrote concerning the Immaculate Conception, I can’t see how what you’ve written actually engages what I wrote. Your remarks here strike me as a dismissive response.

          As for your question “Another slam dunk?” it is a question and not an argument. The fact is that everyone’s view changed when the biology became clear. Do you assert that barrier methods amount to actual murder as say Tertullian thought or not?
          To my knowledge the Orthodox Church permits non-abortificant methods within certain contexts.
          Simply saying that what I wrote is “rhetorical” isn’t a demonstration that it is so. You need to actually demonstrate as much rather than dismiss what I wrote. I could just as easily dismiss everything you wrote as “rhetorical” but it wouldn’t amount to an argument.

          Second, I did engage Fortescue directly. As for the citation from Soloviev, asking questions doesn’t prove much. In fact, asking a question proves nothing at all, since questions aren’t the kinds of things that prove things. So the fact that Soloviev asks why there hasn’t been such a council means nothing at all. Second, if Philaret says something, given that bishops can be wrong, we need to find out if it is true. First we’d need to verify if he in fact said it and what he meant by it. But putting that aside, how would we go about finding out if what he said was in fact true, especially when other Orthodox figures say otherwise? To be clear, if the Orthodox have no authoritative teaching then whatever Philaret says can’t be representative teaching of Orthodoxy as a whole, now can it?

          Furthermore, Soloviev’s position is predicated on a form of philosophical idealism that requires an ever developing movement through history towards a self-conscious unity, which is why it is important for him that the church have councils and such throughout its history. But last I checked there is nothing in the councils or the Fathers or the Scriptures that requires councils at any particular interval or for any other purpose than to fix a common confession in refutation of heresy and that is done by the episcopate without anyone member being in principle superior to the others, as the Fifth Ecumenical Council teaches, which I cited. Do you believe the Fifth council was in error on that point?

          In reply to your querries about the synod of Moscow in 1666, I asked, did it claim to be ecumenical or not? So far you have not answered. Did it or didn’t it or perhaps you don’t know if it did?

          You ask if I understand Catholic teaching on the papacy, rather than directly respond to my query on the Fifth Council. Suppose I don’t understand it. You seem to propose that you do understand it. Great. Now explain how to reconcile it with the material I provided. Your response here is dismissive and fails to engage. Saying that it “fits in for those who understand it” is just an supported assertion on your part.

          I do think I have a decent grasp of Catholic teaching on the papacy. I’ve read my fair share of Catholic works, both primary and secondary sources, taken college courses on Catholicism and Catholic theology from secular and Catholic universities. To be sure, there is always something to learn, but I am not a novice concerning it.

          I asked why Rome didn’t have any ex cathedra statement for the first 1800 years of the church’s life and you asserted that first this was a straw man and second it turns on a misunderstanding of doctrinal development. Well, asserting these things doesn’t amount to a reason for thinking so. You need to provide some actual reason for thinking it is so.

          Here is why it is not a straw man. First I asked a question, I didn’t make a claim so if I am asking and not representing any thesis then it can’t be a staw man fallacy. Can you answer the question I asked about the Fifth Council?

          Second, doctrinal development won’t help and here is why. Ex hypothesi , doctrinal development doesn’t create things that didn’t exist in prior periods. Rather, doctrinal development clarifies and teases out conceptual content already nascently present in earlier sources. Consequently, doctrinal development would only help us to point out when Popes were making ex cathedra statements even if the conditions for such statements were not explicit in the historical record. In a similar way, it only picks out continuity in Triadology with earlier sources prior to a formal definition and adjudication. Doctrinal development doesn’t create Trinitarianism in Ignatius, Justin and Ireneaus, rather it aims to demonstrate conceptual continuity.
          Consequently, we’d need some instances of papal infallibility in the first 1800 years of the church as material for which doctrinal development could work on to show continuity, but there aren’t any. This is why an appeal to doctrinal development won’t help here.

          Further, even if we were to use doctrinal development as you proffer, it could justify even Protestant distinctives appearing 1500 years later.
          Secondly, doctrinal development to my knowledge isn’t part of the deposit of faith in Catholicism. It is a theory to, on the one hand, explain why certain practices and ideas weren’t explicitly found in certain periods and to justify their explicit appearance at later periods over against Protestant claims that such things were not part of the apostolic deposit. As such it is an apologetic tool but not to my knowledge part of the faith of Catholicism.
          Third, reading Satis Cognitum and other sources of Catholic theology, it is clear that Catholicism claims that the pertrine chrism and the teaching regarding it were present form day one, even if not spelled out formally. If that is so, then there should be instances of ex cathedra judgments by popes for the first 1800 years o the church, just like there are Trinitarian statements prior to Nicea for example. I proffered Leo’s Tome as a possible case. If the council of Chalcedon exclaimed “Peter has spoken through Leo!” then why isn’t that a candidate? If it isn’t, what does it need to be made so? And if it isn’t, does that mean Peter speaks through popes authoritatively without being ex catehdra?

          As for Soloviev’s heretical views, anyone reading about theology in the 19th century would easily find out about the influence of Hegelianism and German Idealism generally. Paul Vallere’s work, Modern Russian Theology (2000) has plenty of material documenting this and Soloviev’s consequent views. Other documentation can be found in say Pomazansky’s Orthodox Dogmatic Theology. The influence of German Idealism on Russian theology is not difficult to find. This is why in part Soloviev’s work had to be edited for publication by Catholic apologetic ministries, which I find not a little misleading.

          So no, my remarks do not constitute a straw man fallacy. If anything, they’d be ad hominem if they were fallacious, but they aren’t. My point was not only was Soloviev heterodox, but that his heterodoxy structured his arguments for reunion. The idea of a World Spirit guiding history inevitably to a universal religion with a singular figure where all particularity and plurality is subordinated to said monad is an essential part of his argument. So it is neither a straw man nor an ad hominem.

          Even if JP2 said Soloviev was an “Aquinas” given that I think Aquinas, while brilliant made mistakes (as even the Catholic Church teaches a la the immaculate conception among other things) how would we get from that designation to the conclusion that he was right in his argument? Isn’t the argument itself supposed to do that, lofty titles or no lofty titles? And just because JP2 says it so what? JP2 kissed the Quran too, but I am not going to kiss the Quran or agree that it is good to do so just because JP2 did so. I do not use this example pejoratively, but just to make the point that simply because JP2 says something laudatory about Soloviev doesn’t mean much. Popes are not personally infallible on anyone’s reading.

          You ask if I am anti-Bulgakovian. The answer is, when his Idealism distorts Christian teaching such as his Sophiaology, I am against that, just as I am when Gregory of Nyssa’s Platonism distorts his Christianity in his apocatastasis or Augustine’s predestinarianism distorts Christology. None of that makes me anti-Cappadocian or anti-Augustinian or anti-Bulgakovian. I am not required (and neither are Catholics) to agree with everything a given figure says or taught.

          As for my counter-example regarding the Arian controversy where you have various bodies in and out of communion with each other, and in mutual communion with a third body, you write that it turns on a straw man. Your reasoning seems to be that it assumes that the principle of unity remains even when there is no pope, presumably among the cardinals and so there was still a principle of unity in that case. But this proves exactly the point since your reply implicitly concedes that the pope wasn’t the principle of unity during those periods of the Arian crisis. It is only on that assumption could there be the comparison you make with cases where the pope has died. So your reply depends on the pope during the Arian crisis not being the principle of unity but the principle of unity residing somewhere else as in cases when the pope has died and a new one has not yet been elected.

          As far as the remarks on the patriarchate of Antioch, you reply that the various non-theological conditions are legion. Presumably you are thinking that it is so complex that there is sufficient reason why the papacy can’t or hasn’t so resolved the matter. That would require an actual demonstration or at least a sketch of one. Second, it seems a tad too convenient when the Orthodox don’t have such a problem in the very same context. Why does Rome have two patriarchates in Antioch while the Orthodox have one when the very same number of ethnicities, traditions, etc. are at work? It seems a bit of special pleading to invoke Islamic domination when Rome can’t seem to resolve a schism within her own ecclesial borders, when it is supposedly a special gift to her alone to be in a position to do so, and reject it when the Orthodox bring it up.

          Saying that I “continually betray my ignorance of what Roman Catholicism is” is not an argument supporting your claims. It is an assertion and a somewhat personal one at that. On a personal note, you seem to have been Orthodox for two years. Not to toot my own horn, but I’ve been Orthodox for well over a decade. I also have a solid book case of Catholic theology under my belt, over forty volumes of patristics, not to mention years of dialog with Catholics, both clerical and lay, and college courses on it. So you are going to have to do more than make assertions about my supposed lack of knowledge. This is not my first dog show.

          I asked why if the papacy operates per se in the context of conciliarity that ex cathedra statements are infallible of themselves and not by references to the synod. You ask if I am read Lumen Gentium. I have. In fact I studied it as an undergrad in a course on Catholicism where I read all of V2.

          To say that the infallibility of the papacy can never contradict the consensus through an ecumenical council since the pope is a member of the council makes a few mistakes. First, articulating a model doesn’t prove that it is true. We’d need a reason for thinking it is true in the face of an objection. Second, articulating it as you did doesn’t address my question. My question was not about the truth of what the pope says or what a council says, but about the source of papal infallibility, namely of the papacy per se and not from the consent of the council. Whether it can or can’t contradict that of a council is another matter. I asked this question because you are making it seem as if papal infallibility is a function of the pope in and with the council, but it isn’t, as V1 makes clear. And Lumen Genitum doesn’t overturn Pastor Aeternus. Papal infallibility is a se.
          Furthermore, a council’s consensus is ecumenical only if it is so ratified by the papacy so it is quite possible for the ex-cathedra judgment to take place not only apart from a council but in contradiction to it if said council’s deliberations have not yet been so ratified. And this is what is so problematic for me about the Fifth Council where Vigilius explicitly invokes Petrine authority over against the council only to be excommunicated by the council and then changes his position jettisoning his previous petreinely sanctioned judgment to come in line with the council. I can’t for the life of me see how that fits with Catholic teaching so perhaps you can indicate how it does so?

          So the question on the table is, if the papal infallibility is a se and not by the consent or functioning of a council how can the infallibility of the pope operate in the context of conciliarity as you suggest? (So I have understood the doctrine prior to raising an objection and it seems that you have neither understood the doctrine nor my question.

          Wisdom and humility are great things, but they don’t amount to conceptual and logical precision. Humility and wisdom can’t make fallacies truth preserving. As for the way I speak to people on this or any other subject, I speak or try to speak directly to the ideas and keep personal remarks out of the discussion for it is the ideas and the arguments that matter when it comes to finding the truth, not personalities. So whatever character flaws I may have, they just aren’t relevant just as yours aren’t relevant either.

          1. To my brother in Christ Perry,

            Thank you for your comments. I would like to give them a more full reply but I wanted write this to you first. In lieu of your last comment, I’m not sure how you will take this, but to me it is a matter of necessity and of Christian charity to say this.

            I must beg your forgiveness. I believe that I erred on the side of harsh and dismissive (rightly, as you said), when I first replied to your first comment. But I also prejudged you and for that I ask your forgiveness. If I have offended in other way, please forgive me.

            I do hope too, that my desire to speak more personally through Skype is not off the table. I’m not sure I understand you correctly in your last comment, but it seems to me that humility is the greatest test for Orthodoxy and truth. As St. Anthony the Great said,

            “There is no profit in studying doctrine unless the life of one’s soul is acceptable and conforms to the will of God. This is the true sign of a theologian.”

            Thus, I am rather hesitant to engage directly with someone on a number of important historical issues unless I am somewhat convinced that the conversation will be a profitable and fruitful one, both mutually, in the spirit of Christian love and respect, and also for those who are reading it.

            Again, since I do not know you but through a few ideas you have iterated, I have no idea how to approach this. I think I did approach it wrong firstly, and thus my apology. If you would appreciate a more impersonal examination of the facts, I would like to hear your opinion on this point first.

            Please excuse my immaturity and lack of erudition. I welcome instruction from you and others, since I readily acknowledge that I have been wrong before and could be wrong again.

            your little brother in Christ,

            Timothy

    2. Perry,

      Timothy’s response reminded me of one other thing I wanted to recommend to you. Regarding this statement:

      “If the papacy operates within the context of conciliarity, then why is it that the ex cathedra statements of the pope are infallible of themselves and not, following Pighius, that of the synod? Last I checked any form of conciliarism has been routinely blasted as the heresy of Gallicanism.”

      Pope Benedict spends a great deal of time on the issues surrounding this question in his book (as Cardinal Ratzinger): God’s Word: Scripture, Office, Tradition. In it he rejects both “papalism” and “conciliarism” as two extremes and draws an image of there being two loci of infallibility that are interrelated.

      1. Yes, we need to come together to share our two ecclesiologies and work together to form a strong bond between fatherhood and conciliarity in order to heal the Church and preach the Gospel to our dying world. That’s all I’m advocating in this whole essay. We need to work together with love and humility.

      2. Devin,

        I am aware of the book but I am not aware how the pope articulates a model where infallibility is not a se of the pope as opposed to of the functioning of a synod. Perhaps you can explicate how he does this if you think he does this.

    1. The issue is whether we are sister churches in full communion. For example, it’s extremely problematic to gather a brothers and sisters around the Thanksgiving table to share the Thanksgiving meal while there are some deep seated issues which have yet to be fully addressed and resolved.

      1. Restless Pilgrim,

        That pretty much explains it in my mind. Many Orthodox have accepted communion (Eastern Catholics), others are very open to it (Romania, Ukraine, Antioch), still others are viciously opposed (Russia, Serbia, Greece). Of course these are broad generalizations but you get the point. God help us.

        in Christ,

        Timothy

  6. Timothy,
    Thanks for a beautiful article, and for an even more beautiful example of seeking the truth, wherever it may lead! I do not second-guess your decision to remain Orthodox, though I, for one, would love to welcome you into full communion with the Catholic Church.

    With you, I ardently await that day when the reunification occurs. I do not believe that the world will once again turn to Christ en masse until that day first comes. We are much weaker apart than we are together. As John 17:20-21 states, “I do not pray for these only, but also for those who believe in me through their word, that they may all be one; even as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.”

    One can easily argue (and I do so argue) that Christendom has been on a downward slide since 1054, and that slide accelerated greatly with the Reformation. We are clearly seeing the dreadful results now, and I believe that unity may be the only possibility to reverse that diabolic momentum.

    1. Brother in Christ Dave,

      Thank you for your kind word. Amen to them! I agree especially with your scope of Christendom. However, there is hope! The Latin American, African, and Asian churches (which are gaining dominance) aren’t hampered by these old prejudices. They will be the leaders in world Christianity in the next hundred + years. I think we’ll see unity very soon, especially with the rise of secularism.

      Through the prayers of the Virgin Mary!

      Timothy

  7. Restless Pilgrim,

    I think Tim Flanders makes a mistake when he thinks that Lutherans believe (or people believe about Lutheranism) that the faith of that denomination, or any denomination only goes as far back as to when that denomination began.

    Our faith is tied to Christ Himself. He is the One who gives us faith. He is the object of our faith. The beginning and the end of it.

    So, I’m not even on the same wavelength as he is on that score. We are all members of the catholic Church. The Church Universal…where only Jesus knows who is a member and who is not.

    For us, it is the Word alone and Christ is our sole Mediator (as the Bible says).

    __

    Dave,

    I can wholeheartedly say , ‘amen!’ to any believer who affirms Christ and His finished work, alone. No matter what denomination or church they belong to.

    1. Steve,

      True. Partially. If you can name one Christian writer after the Bible and before Luther who taught what he taught about concupiscence being sin, I’ll grant your point further.

      However, a better question to ask is this: have you read the Joint Declaration on Justification from 1999?

      with respect,

      Timothy

      1. Tim,

        I haven’t read the Joint Declaration on Justification, personally, but my pastor has. He says is is filled with the same words that Christians use, but with different definitions.

        An example would be ‘grace’. For us that means unmerited favor. And for Catholics it means the ability to do, with God’s help (or something very similar to that)…you get my point.

        But Rome will not open it’s communion railing to Lutherans (officially)…even though we invite all baptized Christians who believe Christ truly present in the Supper to come and receive it.

        I would have to research your question about who did, and who did not believe in the human bondage to sin, and who didn’t. But the Scripture are very clear on the matter. We are in bondage to sin and cannot free ourselves. Luther, in his work, “The Bondage of the Will”, takes Erasmus to school on that point.

        1. “But Rome will not open it’s communion railing to Lutherans (officially)…even though we invite all baptized Christians who believe Christ truly present in the Supper to come and receive it.”

          Lutherans are no longer anathemitized by Trent if their Lutheranism is as the Justification states. Communion is on the way.

          “I would have to research your question about who did, and who did not believe in the human bondage to sin, and who didn’t. But the Scripture are very clear on the matter. We are in bondage to sin and cannot free ourselves. Luther, in his work, “The Bondage of the Will”, takes Erasmus to school on that point.”

          Really. Did you read Erasmus’ work and his response? I found Luther’s work to be filled with personal attacks and very prideful. If the Scriptures are so clear, then why did no one teach this until Luther? That’s what Erasmus asks Luther, and essentially the latter answers and says, “I don’t know and I don’t care.” He ends his Bondage of the Will with this:

          “I am unwilling to submit the matter to anyone’s judgment, but advise everyone to yield assent.”
          (Rupp, E. Gordon and Philip S. Watson eds. Luther and Erasmus: Free Will and Salvation. Philidelphia: Westminster Press, 1969, p. 334)

          Steve, I can’t follow someone who is so obsessed with his own opinion that he refuses to listen to wisdom from his forefathers. That was part of the point of this article.

          with respect,

          Timothy

        2. Steve,

          Inviting everyone to the table is not the same as sharing a common table with everyone. The Lutherans do not have a common table with the Reformed or the Baptists, not to mention the Anabaptists becuse they do not recognize them as true visible churches.

  8. Quote from article: “Since Vatican II’s Unitatis Redintegratio (and before), Rome has recognized the full catholicity of the Orthodox Church.”

    Actually, no. This is further than the Catholic Church can doctrinally go in regards to that question.

    Cf. http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_20070629_responsa-quaestiones_en.html

    “… Since communion with the Catholic Church, the visible head of which is the Bishop of Rome and the Successor of Peter, is not some external complement to a particular Church but rather one of its internal constitutive principles, these venerable Christian communities lack something in their condition as particular churches.”

    The separated Eastern churches lack something which was established _by Christ_ in and for his Church. As such, despite all that these separated particular churches do possess, “full catholicity” is unfortunately not there.

    1. Dear friend,

      Thanks for pointing this out. My words were a little hasty, to some degree. What I meant was that they have the Catholicity of Communion, i.e. the Sacraments and the faith. It is exists in the Orthodox Church. Communion with Rome weeds out all the discrepancies and makes it “fully Catholic.” My point, moreover, with this article, was to argue what you just asserted.

      in Christ,

      Timothy

  9. To Steve’s point as a fellow Lutheran inquiring into the merits of Orthodoxy and Catholicism not only is Lutheran doctrine based on the teachings of Jesus Christ but also Lutherans can cite numerous Church Fathers’ statements which seem to support the teachings of the Lutheran Confessions. Luther was an Augustinian to the core.

    I do have a question for Tim however. Don’t you feel that by promoting your conclusions to someone such as myself who are the inquiry stage you are dissuading me not to unite with Orthodoxy and to enter into communion with the Roman Catholic Church?

    1. Wayne,

      The problem as I see it is, where and when do these divisions stop? Your church is called Lutheran, which means your communion is a product of the actions of Martin Luther. There are denominational divisions in that church, ELCA and whatnot. There are a host of divided Baptist denominations, global feuding Episcopalians and Anglicans, a wide-array of friendly Evangelicals, Quakers, non-denominationals who are “just Christian,” Mormons whom we don’t fully embrace as brother Christians due to peculiar doctrines, Jehovah’s Witnesses (same goes for them, God forgive any rudeness), a variety of Presbyterians, and so forth.

      The Catholic and Orthodox Churches, in the end, really have the only authentic claim to the Gospels. That doesn’t mean God ignores the good work of others, obviously. Between an atheist who does good works (for whatever reason) and a Christian who neglects God’s children, I fear for the soul of the latter.

      Protestants and Evangelicals can’t even find unity among themselves. And many denominations have gone on to be founded in the 20th century, all claiming to be based on the “original biblical” teachings of Jesus Christ. This spiritual anarchy is not healthy for the Body of Christ, and in fact it makes it look comical and unreliable to non-Christians. God’s blessings to you.

    2. I would suggest that the patristic testimony which supports Lutheran teaching is, in fact, the same Catholic teaching which was inherited by Luther – he didn’t create everything out of fresh cloth, after all. It’s the novel doctrines such as Sola Fide and Sola Scriptura where patristic support gets rather problematic.

      I also don’t know if I would really call Luther an “Augustinian to the core”. I say this because I doubt Augustine would have acted as did Luther did, but also because Augustine believed many things which I doubt Luther could affirm (http://socrates58.blogspot.com/2012/08/st-augustine-catholic-not-proto.html).

      I think your final question is a really interesting one and I’d also be interested in hearing Timothy’s reply. In his article he certainly presented the beauty of Eastern Orthodoxy, but also that of the Catholic Church and the importance of the Bishop of Rome. My guess is that it would relate to his answer to objection #5.

      1. Wayne,

        I would encourage you to look a bit more at Luther. To some degree he followed some of Augustine, but not when Augustine affirms free will, or other things that Restless Pilgrim probably references in that link. I encourage compassion for Luther, which is what the Catholic Church failed to do that provoked, in many ways, the Reformation divisions (on the other hand, they take blame too!)

        As to becoming Orthodox or Catholic, since we are both organic members of the ONE CHURCH of Christ, meaning we possess the same faith and same sacraments, there is a schism WITHIN the Church. However, as Soloviev writes above, only one has retained the organ of government necessary for universal communion. Thus I, as an Orthodox Christian, submit to the pope but remain with this communion, knowing that this is a schism within the Church and that I am in communion with Rome in some sense, knowing that I am welcome at their altar. We need to get past the language of “who’s right” and realize that both of us possess great gifts that need to be shared with the other. Is this not the thought of Bl. John Paul II? Both of us, moreover, have great weaknesses. I alluded in the article that the Papacy, though divinely instituted, must be reformed. I also made reference to (faithful) Catholic scholars who argue this as well, in that they should learn (!) something from Orthodox polity, muddled as it is.

        The whole point is humility, which, few of the comments have addressed. I fear I have failed to communicate this.

        In the end, you must go where

        1. You can pray (sometimes Byzantine litugies are difficult for westerners, sometimes not)
        2. There is the authentic Catholic-Orthodox faith of the Apostles (Rome, or one of the Orthodox Churches)
        3. God calls you through discernment and prayer

        God bless!

        Timothy

  10. Divisions and arguments and going off course started immediately in the church.

    Did St. Paul not have to correct St. Peter when Peter wanted to make people good Jews first, before they could become Christians?

    Dis St. Paul not have to correct the Galatian churches when they (too) fell prey to the Judiazers? To the point of telling them that if they were determined to be law keepers (for righteousness sake) then they had better keep them all…and perfectly! And if they wanted to play that game then “they cut themselves off from Christ.”

    We believe that there was a reason that Christ Jesus picked Paul after all the others.

    1. > “Divisions and arguments and going off course started immediately in the church.”

      Arguments don’t necessarily mean broken communion. I, on occasion, don’t exactly get on with all the members of my parish either!

      > “Did St. Paul not have to correct St. Peter when Peter wanted to make people good Jews first, before they could become Christians?”

      That’s not really how Galatians 2:11-13 describes it. Scripture says that Peter was starting to draw back from the Gentile Christians. It was a break in orthopraxy, not orthodoxy. After all, it was through Peter that the Lord first opened the door to the Gentiles (Acts 11).

      And, anyway, throughout the history of the Church Popes have had disagreements with other Christians, and sometimes even humbly received correction (but honestly, who’s going to argue with St. Catherine of Sienna?!)

      > “We believe that there was a reason that Christ Jesus picked Paul after all the others.”

      What’s that reason?

      1. Restless Pilgrim,

        It seems pretty obvious, to me at least, that Paul was correcting Peter.

        The reason, I believe, that Christ picked Paul, after all the others, is that the others just didn’t quite ‘get it’, yet.

        So He picked one steeped in Law, a good religious guy, to say…’it’s not about keeping law…or what ‘you do’…but it’s about what Christ has done.

        The Reformation was just a return, a re-awakening to Pauline theology and getting off of the religious, self-progression project…and back onto the finished work of Christ, and trusting in this…alone.

        1. Paul WAS correcting Peter, just as non-Popes have corrected Popes on certain actions all the way down through the ages.

          It seems that the basic division between Catholic/Orthodox and Protestant understanding of Paul is on the matter of works and the Law. Catholic/Orthodox understanding (that of the Fathers) is that when Paul speaks about works and the Law, he refers specifically to the Mosaic Law and the Old Covenant. Protestants seem to interpret his statements as speaking about the whole idea of following the Commandments and moral behavior in general.

          Of course, both sides agree that any “good works” done APART from Christ are useless.

          1. “The Reformation was just a return, a re-awakening to Pauline theology and getting off of the religious, self-progression project…and back onto the finished work of Christ, and trusting in this…alone.”

            Steve: are you aware that many Protestant scholars (Lutherans, but also Anglicans like N. T. Wright) are repudiating this claim?
            It’s called the “New Perspective on Paul”

            1. Yes, Tim. I am aware.

              I believe they are dead wrong.

              Paul’s writing has never been widely accepted. It was shelved almost immediately.

              The desire of man to play some role in all of this stuff is very great.

              Therefore we flee from paul, and to some sort of cooperative justification/sanctification project.

              Why then was the cross even necessary?

              No. Many of us do believe that we have the correct anthropology as Paul lays out in the first few chapters of Romans…and then the proper antidote, which is at Romans 3:21 and following.

              Thanks.

        2. > “It seems pretty obvious, to me at least, that Paul was correcting Peter.”

          Please see my earlier comment about orthodoxy and orthopraxy.

          > “The reason, I believe, that Christ picked Paul, after all the others, is that the others just didn’t quite ‘get it’, yet.”

          Am I the only one really concerned by this statement? I find something rather disturbing about setting up of Paul against the rest of the Apostles. Who was the one to bring Gentiles first into the Church – Peter or Paul? One of the main points made in the Acts of the Apostles is the *unity* of the missions of both Peter and Paul (demonstrated by numerous parallels between the two figures throughout the narrative).

          > “The Reformation was just a return, a re-awakening to Pauline theology and getting off of the religious, self-progression project…and back onto the finished work of Christ, and trusting in this…alone.”

          So the Apostles didn’t quite get it until Paul…but for how long did they remain on the right track before the need of the Reformation?

          1. I was concerned by that statement, too, R.P.

            I was always under the impression that Christ had picked the apostles because of grace, not because of the talents that they could bring to the table. Even Peter’s confession of Jesus as the Christ in Matt. 16 was a divine gift.

  11. An excellent post, very balanced and fair. I am an English (Latin Rite) monk but long to be united with the Orthodox. This longing goes a small way to make up for the centuries of indifference on both sides of the divide for the other. I had no hand in the events that led to the division; but, if I were to cross the divide, I would be injecting the schism with new, contemporary life. I hope that, one day, it will sink into obscurity. In Lebanon and in other parts of the Middle East, it has not been allowed to interfere too much with Christian daily lives and is not a serious obstacle to mutual ecclesial love.
    May I copy the post and put it in “Monks and Mermaids”? I will, of course, put acknowledgements to “St Joseph’s Vanguard” and the author.

    1. Hi David,

      Thanks for your comment and dedication to religious life. I’m not a huge fan of the copy-pasting of entire posts, but given that this is Timothy’s article, I leave it up to him as to whether he approves of you doing that.

      God bless!
      Devin

  12. I was born, baptized, and remain Roman Catholic, though my sympathies lie with the Orthodox communion. I think Rome has to return to a more traditional stance of the Papacy in order for re-communion with the Orthodox people. St. Peter did not lord himself and authoritatively rule over his brother Apostles, and they should be the model of Christian unity in this distant age.

    Obviously, historical events made Papal supremacy necessary- the occupation of the ancient Sees by Islamic forces and caliphates, secular revolutions aimed at the heart of the Church in the West, and the eventual loss of the Pope’s physical territory, the Papal States, in 1870. The Bishop of Rome was left in centralized position with the fall of his Eastern brother bishops and patriarchs, but that was a historical development. We don’t need papal supremacy in this era, we need widespread Christian unity.

    For the Protestants, that is a matter of rejecting the non-biblical foundations of their religions brought about by Luther and his fellow “reformers.” For the Orthodox and the Roman Catholics, that is a matter of rejecting ecclesial arrogance and adhering to God’s call for unity in this time.

    1. Ben thanks for your comment. I think that Pope Benedict (and Blessed JPII before him) have shown that they do not lord themselves over anyone. Rather than see themselves as the servant of the servants of God. Hopefully we will continue to be blessed with faithful, humble bishops of Rome so that the Orthodox will see that they have nothing to fear.

      1. That’s precisely what I was about to say. It’s a good point, and in many ways the most important one. He is our ‘Holy Father’ and we are his children. We have to be able to trust him.

        1. There are legitimate concerns, nevertheless, based on how the Eastern Catholic churches exist today. It’s true that Rome has repudiated “uniatism” as a *method* of unity — that is, the unification of portions of Orthodox Churches with Rome on a piecemeal basis — and this is a good thing. But the issue is how the Eastern Catholic churches live and exist in the Catholic Church *currently*. Although they are claimed to be self-governing sui juris churches within the Catholic Church, Rome essentially oversees them through a curial office. This office, among other things, promulgates the canon law for the Eastern Catholic churches and also regulates things like the ability of the Eastern Catholics to ordain married men outside their “home territories” (e.g., in North America).

          In a future union between the two sides, what is currently the Orthodox Church would become a larger version of what is currently Eastern Catholicism — true particular churches sui juris in communion with, and under the authority of, Rome. And the current situation of the Eastern Catholics who exist today is not going to work for the Orthodox Church. I realize that the Catholic side has said that it is open to exploring how the exercise of the Pope’s primacy would work in this situation, and that it isn’t wedded to the current setup for the existing Eastern Catholics, but the concern is nevertheless legitimate, as is the related concern of being quite literally swallowed up and subsumed into the globally huge mass of Latin Catholicism, gradually losing what is distinctive and Orthodox over time as things move towards a more universalist vein — one which will almost certainly be much more Latin than Orthodox, just by dint of numbers, and by virtue of the Latin Church’s “way of being”.

          These are concerns, and they are legitimate, and they are legitimate independent of whether any given Pope is a person of goodwill, personally, towards the East, because the issues here are institutional.

          1. “And the current situation of the Eastern Catholics who exist today is not going to work for the Orthodox Church.”

            Brendan, I do not have enough knowledge on this subject to really comment. Although I know the prohibition on marriage for Eastern clergy in the USA seems completely wrong.

            “but the concern is nevertheless legitimate, as is the related concern of being quite literally swallowed up and subsumed into the globally huge mass of Latin Catholicism, gradually losing what is distinctive and Orthodox over time as things move towards a more universalist vein — one which will almost certainly be much more Latin than Orthodox, just by dint of numbers, and by virtue of the Latin Church’s “way of being””
            I would point out though, while I grant that this concern is legit, that numerous popes have defended the integrity of Eastern Catholics, from Benedict XIV in 1743, to Leo XIII in 1894, to Benedict XV in 1917, etc. Perhaps their efforts failed, or were misguided. However, I would say that the efforts of JPII with Oritentale Lumen and beyond, these are positive steps towards good things.

            “…because the issues here are institutional.”

            Yes, despite what I said, your point stands.

          2. It isn’t just how Eastern Catholics were Latinized in the past. It is how Latin liturgical practice or lack thereof exists now.

            Catholics think that reunion will spell reinvigoration for their liturigcal practice while the Orthodox think it will bring about liturugical alteration. When the pope can effectively eliminate women at the altar the Orthodox will take such claims to the contrary seriously and not before.

  13. to all:

    Let me apologize to everyone because no one seems to be addressing the main point of this article. This is probably because I failed to communicate it. The main point is the influence of the “wicked man” on one’s ability to discern these question, especially in regards to authority and humility. Let me requote one of the parts where I said this.

    “I realized that in my sinful desire to be without authority I had actually unconsciously wanted the Papacy to be heresy (the wicked man had deceived me, as I said above). That’s when I realized that the issue of universal fatherhood in the Church is really a spiritual issue. It’s like talking to an Atheist about God. You can argue with the most unassailable rhetoric and logic, and at the end of the day he’s not going to open his heart to God, unless he allows the Spirit to touch his heart. The reason is because his sinful nature values its own autonomy. If he were to believe in God, he would have to change his whole lifestyle. He would then be under an authority.

    So too with the Papacy. Even the thought that an authority can be over me to ultimately check my autonomy immediately engenders a knee-jerk rejection from my sinful nature. Since obedience is the swiftest route to humility, our pride can never countenance such a thing. The wicked man will convince you unconsciously to believe anything but that.”

    This obviously asked every heart who reads it to pray to God ask Him yourself whether or not your pride (like mine) is hampering your ability to discern these issues. That’s why I ended with the story of St. Chad. That’s what we need to focus on here. Since I certainly can’t judge anyone’s humility, I ask anyone reading this to please pray as I did, and ask God to show you yourself.

    the unworthy sinner,

    Timothy

    1. Timothy,

      Thanks for reminding us of this. The temptation in responding to such an article is to find those places where we object or think an error was made and then focus on those to argue about. Instead, we should understand the overall thrust of your article, that humility is needed, for every person, in Catholic and in Orthodox Churches, so that we can discern where we are being prideful and giving a non serviam, and yes that includes Catholics [who already believe in the teachings regarding the bishop of Rome].

    2. Thanks, Timothy. I actually got the point, although I didn’t realize it was the MAIN point. I was actually telling my wife and daughter that you had mentioned that (the immediate context was a discussion regarding how people tend to rationalize reasons why they don’t have to obey authority figures.)

      Our society is quite anti-authoritarian, and so this tendency usually goes unchecked among most of us. At any rate, there are few more important prayers than (paraphrasing from Psalm 19) “Show me my hidden faults!”

      1. Amen, Dave. Thanks a lot. I’m honored that you wanted to mention this with your family! Yea, my main point (garbeled, I guess), was that this pride keeps us (Orthodox, or at least me) from being open to the Papacy.

  14. Interesting post. I totally related to your whole journey to Orthodoxy. Your look west though… not quite as much.

    I think it’s totally a good idea to question the old prejudices. And if you want to observe that hey the west isn’t as bad as Orthodox polemicists make out, then sure I could agree with that. But I have the following problems with what you’re saying:

    I don’t think that anyone Orthodox seriously questions that in the united church the pope had primacy. Primacy, a word coming from Prime, meaning first, just means an ordering. There was a 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th among the bishops. But that ordering changed at various times, which I could document, but you are probably aware of. The question then is, is Rome irrevocably 1st, or can we consider it could lose that position?

    As I pointed out here: http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2012/09/i-fought-the-church-and-the-church-won/

    merely being the 1st bishop was no guarantee the church wouldn’t consider the Pope a heretic. It was no guarantee that the church would care about your opinion if it differed from the majority. It was no guarantee you couldn’t be excommunicated for being unorthodox:

    From the Fifth Ecumenical Council of Constantinople II, Session VII (553): “But we, bishops,answered him (Pope Vigilius): “If your blessedness is willing to meet together with us and the holy Patriarchs,and the most religious bishops, and to treat of the Three Chapters and to give, in unison with us all, a suitable form of the orthodox faith, as the Holy Apostles and the holy Fathers and the four councils have done, we will hold thee as our head, as a father and primate.”

    Primacy was conditional on Orthodoxy. Popes were judged by the Church. How different it would be with Pius IX, the pope of Vatican I, in a conversation with the Archbishop of Bologna, Cardinal Guidi, Pius IX declared: “I am the Tradition!”

    You seem to concerned about all the squabbles that go on within Orthodoxy. Sure, it doesn’t look good does it? But is it new? Did this not happen when we had a Pope? Remember, Chrysostom spent most of his career in Antioch, which at that time was not in communion with Rome! Apparently this was not considered much of a big deal at the time. These squabbles among the sees are nothing new. If Chrysostom lived with it, can’t I? Nobody wants it. But, I can’t see how it is a good indicator of the true church, since the true church always had it. In fact, if Rome doesn’t have it anymore, can it be the same church? Why doesn’t Rome have it? Because Rome has an ecclesiology totally foreign to the early church. There is NO restriction to the Pope’s authority over the Eastern Catholic Churches. Their own canon law guarantees his supreme power.

    Canon 43 (of the Eastern Catholic Churches)

    The Bishop of the Church of Rome of Rome, in whom resides the office (munus) given in special way by the Lord to Peter, first of the Apostles and to be transmitted to his successors, is head of the college of bishops, the Vicar of Christ and Pastor of the entire Church on earth; therefore, in virtue of his office (munus) he enjoys supreme, full, immediate and universal ordinary power in the Church which he can always freely exercise.

    Canon 45:

    1. The Roman Pontiff, by virtue of his office (munus), not only has power over the entire Church but also possesses a primacy of ordinary power over all the eparchies and groupings of them by which the proper, ordinary and immediate power which bishops possess in the eparchy entrusted to their care is both strengthened and safeguarded.

    3. There is neither appeal nor recourse against a sentence or decree of the Roman Pontiff.

    Needless to say, there is no precedent in the early church for such open ended power from any single bishop. Appeals to Rome from outside the west were EXTREMELY rare in the early church. Much more common was the East trampling over the Pope’s power.

    I can do no better than to quote a Roman Catholic Cardinal:
    “The East never accepted the regular jurisdiction of Rome, nor did it submit to the judgment of Western bishops. Its appeals to Rome for help were not connected with a recognition of the principle of Roman jurisdiction but were based on the view that Rome had the same truth, the same good. The East jealously protected its autonomous way of life. Rome intervened to safeguard the observation of legal rules, to maintain the orthodoxy of faith and to ensure communion between the two parts of the church, the Roman see representing and personifying the West…In according Rome a “primacy of honour”, the East avoided basing this primacy on the succession and the still living presence of the apostle Peter. A modus vivendi was achieved which lasted, albeit with crises, down to the middle of the eleventh century.”
    Cardinal Yves Congar, “Diversity and Communion” Mystic: Twenty-Third, 1982, pp. 26-27.
    “Many of the Eastern Fathers who are rightly acknowledged to be the greatest and most representative and are, moreover, so considered by the universal Church, do not offer us any more evidence of the primacy. Their writings show that they recognized the primacy of the Apostle Peter, that they regarded the See of Rome as the prima sedes playing a major part in the Catholic communion. We are recalling, for example, the writings of St. John Chrysostom and of St. Basil who addressed himself to Rome in the midst of the difficulties of the schism of Antioch but they provide us with no theological statement on the universal primacy of Rome by divine right. The same can be said of St. Gregory Nazianzen, St. Gregory of Nyssa, St. Basil, St. John Chrysostom, St. John Damascene.”
    Cardinal Yves Congar, “After Nine Hundred Years” New York: Fordham University, 1959, pp. 61-62.
    “It does sometimes happen that some Fathers understood a passage in a way which does not agree with later Church teaching. One example: the interpretation of Peter’s confession in Matthew 16:16-19. Except at Rome, this passage was not applied by the Fathers to the papal primacy; they worked out an exegesis at the level of their own ecclesiological thought, more anthropological and spiritual than juridical.”
    Cardinal Yves Congar, “Tradition and Traditions” New York: Macmillan, 1966, p. 398.

    It seems to be of great concern to you that Orthodoxy did not provide an ecumenical council in response to Vatican I etc. But the church only creates councils when there is a controversy within the church. Since Rome at that time was not so-considered, and since the position of Orthodoxy about such things as the existence of papal infallibility was clear, what value could such a council add? The word “ecumenical” was a word intimately associated with the imperial Byzantine empire. The 7 councils were in large part an artefact of imperial desire, not church desire. They may have been useful for the church also, but they weren’t called purely out of church desire. If the Orthodox church was terribly split on an important issue, you would have a point.

    Yes, there have been Orthodox schisms about things like calendar and so forth. It’s not good. BUT… is the schism there because the official church does not have a clear position on such things? No! The church’s position is that Greeks use the new calendar, and Russians the old. The schisms are because Greeks usually could not accept this decision. To complain about that as a lack of authority, would be to blame the Protestant schism on Roman Catholic confusion about authority. Of course, it is no such thing. The Protestant schism is about people’s decision NOT to accept Rome’s authority. Eastern calendar schisms are also about inability to accept authority. Of course the calendar split in itself is unfortunate, but it was caused by things surrounding circumstances at the time, including the Russian revolution. Don’t forget, the Roman Catholic church in Jerusalem is on the old calendar! So RC is not immune to the realities of circumstance. Nor it is immune to sections who can’t accept authority. I fact, Catholicism is full of such factions.

    One final thought: It’s great that you hope for unity, and it’s great that you’re willing to be accommodating to get there. But the reality is unity won’t come from Orthodox looking west, but from Rome looking East? Why do I say that?

    1) Unlike the west, there is not one man who can change our minds. As far as I’m concerned, this is our great strength, not weakness. The existence of the power of one man is what has led to all our differences (Pius IX’s role in promulgating papal infallibility, no chrismation for infants, non-immerion baptism, wine withheld from the laity, the list is long). We have no power to change the faith. The west does.

    2) The orthodox position on divorce and remarriage. Bear in mind, the Orthodox position predates the schism by a long long time, and was in place with seeming papal approval. But the west has backed itself into a big corner on this. They simply cannot seem to accept remarriage. Therefore, Orthodoxy, with many remarried members, simply cannot effectively excommunicate a large number of members of its congregations in order to fall in line with Rome. If Rome could have the humility to say they were totally wrong on this for so long, then they could have the humility to back down on everything else. There is no way we could or would be able to back down on this and excommunicate ourselves. So Rome will give communion to Orthodox in good standing, and you found some Romanian priest who will reciprocate. BUT this is only partial, because Rome won’t give communion to the remarried. Therefore, this faux intercommunion is a fool’s paradise.

    3) No matter how sympathetic we might be to the notion that we would like unity, or that having a Pope in Rome would be good, and/or practical, and/or useful and/or would be a return to the early church, the reality is that the style of papacy that Rome has got now is not the one of the early church. You talk about forgeries. Forget about disputed forgeries, just focus on the forgeries that Rome itself admits to. Rome as we now know it was totally built upon forgeries. The forgeries are now admitted by all, but Rome still stands upon thin air, with all the trappings and claims that came from them. That means the western so-called ecumenical councils are built upon thin air too. Like the claim you need to be in communion with the Pope to be saved. Something that makes sense if you believed the forgeries, but makes little sense when you know Chrysostom spent most of his life out of communion with Rome.

    Pope Eugene IV and the Council of Florence (A.D. 1438 – 1445): “[The most Holy Roman Church] firmly believes, professes, and proclaims that those not living within the Catholic Church, not only pagans, but also Jews and heretics and schismatics cannot become participants in eternal life, but will depart `into everlasting fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels’ (Matt. 25:41), unless before the end of life the same have been added to the flock; and that the unity of the ecclesiastical body is so strong that only to those remaining in it are the sacraments of the Church of benefit for salvation, and do fastings, almsgiving, and other functions of piety and exercises of Christian service produce eternal reward, and that no one, whatever almsgiving he has practiced, even if he has shed blood for the name of Christ, can be saved, unless he has remained in the bosom and unity of the Catholic Church.”

    And if the western councils are built upon thin air, why should we in the East feel ashamed because we didn’t imitate their folly in rushing in where angels fear to tread?

    BTW, did you read “Two Paths” by Michael Whelton?

    1. John,

      I let this through, but think statements like the following are unbalanced to the point of polemics:

      “Rome as we now know it was totally built upon forgeries. The forgeries are now admitted by all, but Rome still stands upon thin air, with all the trappings and claims that came from them. That means the western so-called ecumenical councils are built upon thin air too. ”

      The church of Rome “as we now know it” totally built on forgeries? Really? No. “Thin air?” No. And blithely dismissing the Ecumenical Councils that the Catholic Church has convened post-schism is a disappointing attitude, to put it mildly.

      Similarly, the cavalier waving away as unnecessary for the Orthodox to have held an Ecumenical Council sometime in the past 1,000+ years doesn’t fly.

      Hmmm, divorce and remarriage, and not just once but multiple times like the Orthodox allow? “But the west has backed itself into a big corner on this. They simply cannot seem to accept remarriage.” Seems like Jesus backed Himself into a corner too and could not accept it, either. So, I agree with you that the existence of many divorced and remarried Orthodox is a big obstacle to reunion, but the claim that the fault is all on the Catholic side there is erroneous. And the implication that multiple divorces and remarriages as the Orthodox allow are harmonious with the meaning of the Scriptures on this issue is hard to swallow.

      Your comment, while not outright polemical, reveals a certain spirit that sees the Catholic Church as in the wrong on all these issues and the Orthodox as in the right on them. It’s unbalanced, but all too common among the Orthodox I run into online (less so those I know in person). And it is a great obstacle to reunion.

      In any case, future comments of yours that include substantial portions in this partisan spirit will not go through. I say this so you will not waste your time writing stuff that will never see the light of day.

      God bless,
      Devin

      1. Brother in Christ John,

        I also found your comment very imbalanced. I respectfully submit my thoughts.

        “The question then is, is Rome irrevocably 1st, or can we consider it could lose that position?”

        Yes the question is whether or not it was a divine primacy.

        “Primacy was conditional on Orthodoxy. Popes were judged by the Church. How different it would be with Pius IX, the pope of Vatican I, in a conversation with the Archbishop of Bologna, Cardinal Guidi, Pius IX declared: “I am the Tradition!””

        Right, let’s contextualize a bit here. The 5th Ecumenical Council was pressuring the Pope as an Imperial force which had installed Vigilius and was also attempting subjugate him. There’s mischief involved here that doesn’t get mentioned. Still, your point is valid, in that the pope can be a heretic. However, St. Leo can also annul an ecumenical council by his personal authority. What do you think of that? I think this is an example of the complimentarily of primacy and conciliarity.
        And the voice of Pius IX, what do you think: was his tone the way you are suggesting? Did he roar at the Archbishop in a way that the Iconoclast Emperor did? What do you think he had in mind here?

        “But, I can’t see how it is a good indicator of the true church, since the true church always had it.”

        I’m not claiming either are the true Church, but both are, and schismed from one another.

        “Needless to say, there is no precedent in the early church for such open ended power from any single bishop.”

        St. Leo. St. Agatho. St. Hormisdas. There is a precedent, my brother, please be willing to acknowledge this, even if you think it’s badly developed.

        “Appeals to Rome from outside the west were EXTREMELY rare in the early church. Much more common was the East trampling over the Pope’s power.”

        Hmm. Like I said, context. Perhaps you should add “over the Pope’s power [with legions of Roman spears]?” There are numerous counter examples, like I said.

        Re: Congar. Did you read what I wrote John? I affirmed this very thing above. All of these things are true. But we also need to balance them with the witness of other saints who DID believe in the primacy and its supreme jurisdiction. There’s a mystery here that we can only work out if we come together and actually talk.

        “If the Orthodox church was terribly split on an important issue, you would have a point.”

        I make the point that it is. To claim that this is not the case, is to say that Millions of Orthodox who accepted Florence were all coerced, or that the sacramental division on rebaptism means nothing, or the lack of consensus on murdering love-making is not an important issue. I brought these things up in the article.

        “No! The church’s position is that Greeks use the new calendar, and Russians the old.”

        Hmm. How do you know that’s the official position? Shouldn’t a universal council decide this? You mentioned the RC Church in Jerusalem. Do they follow the calendar against Rome, or do they do so with Rome’s permission?

        “Unlike the west, there is not one man who can change our minds. As far as I’m concerned, this is our great strength, not weakness…We have no power to change the faith. The west does.”

        This is simply not true. You are equivocating ultramontanalism with Vatican I. That is common error of Orthodox. I’m saddened that you bring up the liturgical customs. This really…saddens me.

        “Therefore, this faux intercommunion is a fool’s paradise.”

        Since I have little knowledge on this issue I cannot comment. However, I will suggest that you read Laurent Clernewercke’s thoughts on the subject.

        “Rome as we now know it was totally built upon forgeries. The forgeries are now admitted by all, but Rome still stands upon thin air, with all the trappings and claims that came from them.”

        This comment really loses me, John. It suggests to me that you do not understand what you are criticizing.

        I’m also saddened by your reference to Michael Welton. I can see where you got your perspective. I would encourage you to read more objective scholarship like Cleenewercke, Meyendorff, Clement, Schmemann, and Nehme.

        All in all, John, your arguments are filled with misunderstandings I think I would like to simply suggest those books and be done. I would rather not get into a huge historical debate, but rather suggest that if you found a knowledgeable Catholic who could teach you (and I can recommend one), you would gain a better understanding of the west.

        I would encourage you to be humble and accept the fact that you may be misunderstanding something, learn and discuss. I’m not saying I know everything, but I am looking at your arguments and not seeing a lot of love and understanding. Forgive me for judging this, it’s just the face value. I do not know you, so I cannot really tell. I’m sure you’ve read a lot (you are obviously very knowledgeable), but I respectfully submit that there is more there that you’re missing. It would strengthen your argument to engage with this.

        with respect and love in Christ,

        Timothy

        1. Re; Vigilius, imperial pressure or not, Vigilius invokes Petrine authority over the council and is excommunicated. Then revokes his petrinely enacted authority which he stated was “irreformable” and comes into line with the council. The council is then ratified by the various sees including the Papacy. Now if the Pope was illigetimately strong armed, then the council’s decision must be in error, but it isn’t, which is why any imperial pressure provides zero assistance. Furthermore, the Synod in its doctrinal decree, which is also accepted by Rome as infallible states that no apostle was superior to any other in the execution of his office and so the same is true in the episcopate. that doesn’t seem compatibile to Vat 1. It would be helpful if someone would explain how it is so apart from dismissive statements about imperial power. Imperial power or not, the coucil’s judgement is infallible.

          1. Perry,
            Did Justinian excommunicate Vigilius or the council? I would guess that you that you think the approval of the pentarchy was needed for a council to gain ecumenical force, but perhaps I’m wrong. But if I’m correct about that, then do you think that Rome approved the pseudo-excommunication of Vigilius?

            On a side note, Justinian personally excommunicated Vigilius for changing his mind when Justinian did the same thing and was willing to chuck Chalcedon in his negotiations with the non-Chalcedonians. See Sebastian Brock on this matter.

            As for the execution of the apostolic office, the proclamation of the execution of it certainly wouldn’t contradict the unanimous patristic view that Peter was the head of the apostolic college, and so there is a sense in which their is both equality as well as primacy.

            1. Craig,

              The documents seem to indicate that the council fathers removed his name from the diptychs,hence the council did so.

              How could rome approve the excommunication of Vigilius if Rome is tantamount to Vigilius?

              I don’t think Justinian was willing to chuck Chalcedon and that is entirely the point. A condemnation of Theodoret left Chalcedon intact because Theodoret’s Christology was not compatible with Chalcedon. The problem for many westerners was that because of the use of Theodoret’s writings by Pope Gelasius, they tended to have a Nestorianizing reading of Chalcedon. Justinian and Easterners didn’t

              As for your last remark, I am not clear on what you mean. The synod’s statement seems to preclude a petrine chrism. That isn’t necessarily incompatible with taking peter as a head of the apostolic band. headship can be conceived of in more than one way and it seems that the council conceived of it in a way different than Rome and then promulgated it as the council’s infallible teaching, which you and I are bound to accept.

              1. Perry,
                You said that the “documents seem to indicate that the council fathers [of Constantinople II] removed his [Vigilius’] name from the diptychs, hence the council did so.” Whether that’s true or not, the actions of terrorized and bribed council fathers certainly don’t add up to a legitimate canonical action. It gets even worse when we take into account the fact that Justinian gave orders to his governors to forbid bishops from leaving their sees who were known to oppose Justinian’s desires. So what was gathered in Constantinople was essentially a group of terrorized compliant bishops and ambitious sycophants. (More on this in a bit.) But even if they did remove Vigilius’ name from the diptychs, no one ever held that every actions of every council which was called to be ecumenical necessarily attains ecumenical force. For example, the famous canon 28 of Chalcedon never appeared in any code of canon law, Western or Eastern, until Trullo resurrected it from the grave. Perhaps you may be inclined to argue that such condemnations attained to the level of infallibility. If so, then I think Pope Leo the Great disagreed with you. According to Alois Grillmeier:

                “On 17 August, 458 a delegation proceeded to Constantinople. By way of credentials the two bishops, Geminianus and Domitianus, took the ep. 164 with them. In this letter Leo once again opposed disputations in matters of faith. Reminiscent of the early Church’s discipline of penance is the instruction that acceptance into the Church could be conceded to contrite supporters of Eutyches and Diocorus, but only after complete satisfaction or penance had been performed. But Timothy Aelurus, the suspected murderer – Leo calls him parricida – is conceded no form of ecclesiastical penance. He can only entreat God for clemency. Thus, even in the event of his conversion, the pax cum ecclesia would no longer be granted to him.”
                (Christ in Christian Tradition, Volume Two, Part One, p. 117, Aloys Grillmeier)

                Here is Leo’s epistle 164 .

                You then asked “How could Rome approve the excommunication of Vigilius if Rome is tantamount to Vigilius?” The answer to that question shows that even if the council fathers (as opposed to the layman Justinian) excommunicated Vigilius, that excommunication never was ratified by all five components of the pentarchy. Moreover, we have patristic witness to the fact that without ratification by Rome no action or decree issued by an ecumenical council can possibly attain to ecumenical force (see Patriarchs of Constantinople Nicephorus and Methodius). We should also remember that Justinian violently arrested Pope Vigilius and held him captive such that he would never return to Rome again. During Vigilius’ absence from Rome, no auxiliary Roman bishops acted either in local synod or unilaterally to approve any supposed conciliar excommunication of Vigilius even though some were appointed to act as regents in Vigilius’ forced absence.

                In addition to all of this, Dom John Chapman’s description of events is worth reading. According to Chapman:

                “The emperor [Justinian] also sent a dissertation proving that the Pope, by changing his mind, had now excommunicated himself. The Council, of course could not have done so. This is at least amusing. The Pope had excommunicated all who agree with Justinian; they had begged for pardon. [A description of this incident can be found here.] Now the Emperor appeals to the Pope’s earlier decisions from this later recantation. Yet nothing could be more absurd; since when the Pope was free in Italy he had held the view to which he had returned when in sanctuary at Chalcedon.”

                The Emperor has concluded in his rage, however; “we have decided that it is not proper for Christians to recite his name in the diptychs, lest we should be found thus to be in communion with Nestorius and Theodore… But we preserve unity with the Apostolic see, and are sure that you will preserve it.”

                This was nonsense. Many of the bishops were the recent nominees of the Emperor. But probably most of them preferred the Pope’s policy. Hence their brief reply jumped at the past phrase, and ignored the rest. They said: “The Emperor’s view is in harmony with the labours he has undergone for the unity with the Apostolic See of the holy Church of Rome according to his letter.” The Emperor could take this as an agreement or not, as he chose.”

                This was the seventh session. The Pope had given no directions to the Council, which was officially, at least, in ignorance of his mind. They were in communion with him, and had apparently no intention of removing his name from the diptychs. Their course was therefore clear: the Emperor had ordered what was perfectly orthodox; as the Pope gave no lead, they would obey the Emperor, and escape deposition, exile and imprisonment.

                Hence, on June 2nd, the eighth and last session of the Council condemned the Three Chapters just as the Emperor hand condemned them. Without the Pope’s support what else could they do? Deposition to bishops and clergy who should not accept the decree was enacted as usual.

                The assembly was known to be partly packed, partly terrorized. Would the Pope simply annul it? The Emperor had no intention of permitting this.

                He followed up the decision of the Council by exiling the Pope, the Roman Clergy, and the Western Bishops, imprisoning two deacons….”
                (Studies on the Early Papacy, pp. 234-235, Dom John Chapman)

                In this quote Chapman clearly indicated that the council fathers were selectively chosen and terrorized by Justinian but what’s even more interesting, as well as bears more heavily on our discussion, is the description of events by Jeffrey Richards. According to Richards:

                “The way Justinian went about introducing his formula duplicated exactly the conditions which had produced the Acacian schism. For instead of calling a General Council of the church, he promulgated in 544 an edict, drawn up for him by Theodore Askidas, in which the ‘Three Chapters’ were condemned without prejudice to the authority of Chalcedon. He then proceeded to force the four Eastern patriarchs, Menas of Constantinople, Zoilus of Alexandria, Ephraim of Antioch and Peter of Jerusalem, to sign it. But Menas contrived to make their acceptance conditional upon the agreement of the pope. Despite this the emperor proceeded to bribe and browbeat the rest of the Eastern bishops into accepting it, and they also subscribed to the edict.”
                (The Popes and the Papacy in the Early Middle Ages 476-752, p. 142, Jeffrey Richards)

                “Preparations for the Council got under way. The bishops of Illyricum flatly refused to attend and only seven came from Italy because of the war. But the leading African bishops turned out in force, led by Archbishop Reparatus of Carthage, the primate Firmus of Numidia and Bishops Verecundus and Primasius of Byzacena. Since the African bishops would be the hard-core opposition at the forthcoming Council, the emperor inaugurated the traditional imperial programme of threats and bribes to win them over to condemnation before the Council ever opened. Archbishop Reparatus refused to agree and was promptly deposed and banished. In his place a pliant imperial puppet, Primosus, was appointed archbishop and was installed with the help of imperial troops after he had agreed to condemn the ‘Three Chapters’. However, many African bishops refused to recognize Primosus and withdrew from communion with him. Firmus of Numidia allowed himself to be bribed and was sent home, but died on the way. Primasius of Byzacena refused to condemn and was imprisoned in a monastery; but when the primacy of Byzacena fell vacant with the death of Bishop Boethius, Primasius agreed to condemn the ‘Three Chapters’ in return for the primacy. Verecundus refused to yield and sought the protection of the pope. Zoilus of Alexandria, continuing in his opposition, was deposed and replaced by the pro-condemnation Apollinaris as patriarch. The governor of Africa was ordered to send all those African bishops who would support condemnation to Constantinople, but to prevent all others from leaving the province. In view of the refusal of the Illyrican bishops to attend and the likely opposition of at least some of the African bishops, Justinian tried to persuade Vigilius that they should proceed to a condemnation solely on the basis of support for it by himself and the Eastern bishops.”
                (ibid, pp 148-149)

                “Askidas and his followers … celebrated mass and struck the name of the anti-condemnation Zoilus of Alexandria from the church diptychs, replacing it with that of Apollinaris.”
                (ibid, pp 149-150)

                “The emperor summoned the General Council to meet. But this was only the beginning of a new round of frustrations for the pope. He wanted to be allowed to hold a preliminary synod in Italy or Sicily so that the Western bishops could formulate an agreed policy on the ‘Three Chapters’. The emperor refused to allow it, but suggested instead a smaller synod in Constantinople attended by representatives of each patriarchate. But the emperor meant by this that there should be an equal number of bishops from each patriarchate. Since there were four in the East and only one in the West this would mean a majority of Eastern bishops. The pope therefore asked if there could be equal numbers of Greek and Latin bishops. The emperor refused, and the pope declined to attend the Council.

                The fifth General Council of the church therefore opened without the pope on 5 May 553, attended by the patriarchs Eutychius of Constantinople, Domninus of Antioch and Apollinaris of Alexandria with legates from the patriarch of Jerusalem, and 161 bishops. The attending bishops, apart from a handful of Africans carefully vetted by the governor of Africa and committed to condemnation already, were exclusively Easterners. A deputation was sent by the Council to persuade the pope to attend, but Vigilius pleaded ill health. The deputation came back on 8 May to renew its request. Vigilius renewed the question of equal Greek and Latin representation but was told that the Council was already in session and that this question could not be raised again.” The pope asked for twenty days to consider his position, but the deputation told him he had already had long enough and left. The Council meanwhile proceeded with its work, although the result was a foregone conclusion. Presided over by Patriarch Eutychius, it began with the reading of a letter from the emperor which stressed his duty to unify the church and condemned the ‘Three Chapters’ giving reasons for the charge of heresy against them. 52 There was very little discussion of the matter and when the Council formulated its findings they followed the emperor’s letter closely.

                Meanwhile, Vigilius desperately sought a compromise, and on 14 May 553, issued a Constitutum, which was signed by ten Italian bishops, three Asian bishops, three Illyrican bishops, one African bishop and three senior Roman clerics, Archdeacon Theophanes and the deacons Pelagius and Peter though not Sarpatus and Tullianus. It was very carefully worded and said that, having examined the proceedings of the Chalcedon Council, it condemned the works of Theodore of Mopsuestia but not those of Theodoret or Ibas. It praised the piety of the emperor but said that no one was permitted to act against the decisions embodied in the Constitutum. The subdeacon Servusdei was sent to the emperor with a copy of the Constitutum. Justinian refused to accept it and instead sent the quaestor Constantine to the Council with the secret document which the pope had signed promising to condemn the ‘Three Chapters’. This document was accepted by the Council after Bishop Vincentius of Claudiopolis, formerly a Roman subdeacon and undoubtedly promoted to the Eastern episcopate because of his loyalty to imperial policy, testified that he had been present when the pope signed it. The Council closed on 2 June 553, with the ‘Three Chapters’ duly condemned and with the pope declared to have agreed to this in writing. Those present, 164 in all, signed the proceedings. The emperor confirmed the decision by imperial edict and the conciliar proceedings were sent out to all provinces of the empire for non-attending bishops to subscribe.

                So Justinian had got what he wanted, condemnation of the ‘Three Chapters’ by a church Council. He now set out ruthlessly and systematically to suppress all opposition to his policy. The Roman deacon Rusticus and the African abbot Felix published an attack on the fifth Council, and they and their followers were arrested and banished to the Thebaid. Bishop Victor of Tunnuna and archdeacon Liberatus of Carthage, both of whom also published attacks on the condemnation, were also banished to Egypt. Bishop Facundus of Hermiana went into hiding to avoid the same fate. Pope Vigilius was placed in close confinement on bread and water for six months, his principal advisers, the deacons Pelagius and Sarpatus, were locked up in monastery-prisons and the junior Roman clergy were sent to hard labour in the quarries. In the absence of Pelagius and
                Sarpatus, who had launched bitter attacks on the Constitutum, the deacons Tullianus and Peter gained ascendancy over Vigilius and under their influence, the pope, his spirit broken and his health undermined by ‘the stone’, capitulated. On 8 December 553, in a letter to Eutychius, he declared that a misunderstanding had arisen between himself and his Eastern colleagues due to the machinations of the devil and that on further examination he had decided that his previous view had been wrong and that the ‘Three Chapters’ should be condemned. On 23 February 554 he issued a second Constituturn, drawn up for him by the deacons Tullianus and Peter, in which he endorsed the findings of the fifth Council. Justinian had now finished with him. He was released from prison and allowed to return to Rome. But he never reached his destination, for in Syracuse on 7 June 555 he died, nearly ten years after he had been kidnapped from the church of St Cecilia in Trastevere.”
                (ibid, pp 151-153)

                According to Alois Grillmeier, 168 bishops participated in Constantinople II. Out of that 168, 166 bishops subscribed to it. Ninety-four bishops belonged to the imperial patriarchate of Constantinople. Alexandria was represented by 10 bishops under the compliant sycophant Patriarch Apollinarius whom Justinian installed after deposing his predecessor when he refused to bend to the tyrant’s will. Patriarch Eustochius of Jerusalem was represented by only three to five bishops. The rest of Africa was represented by nine bishops, all of whom were presumably only allowed by Justinian’s governors to attend the council based on their compliance rather than on their free will. (see Alois Grillmeier’s Christ in Christian Tradition: Vol. 2, Part 2, p. 439, footnote 492)

                So, it’s clear that Justinian terrorized and bribed bishops into compliance. It’s just as clear that Chapman was correct when he said that Justinian stacked his personal council by trying his best to only allow those bishops whom he knew would agree with him. The point of all of this is that Constantinople II is the worst possible case of an ecumenical council from which to base an argument. Yes, its canons are binding with ecumenical force for both Catholics and Orthodox, but that’s only because of its later reception and not because of some inherent quality it had. But since the condemnation of Pope Vigilius was never ratified (if it ever happened at all), it therefore follows that arguments based on the precedence of his condemnation cannot hold any water. Similarly, any Petrine formulations of the council cannot be interpreted so as to be compliant with a tyrannical layman. Therefore, no formulations of the council, whether in its canons or other issuances, lend much support to anti-papal primacy arguments.

              2. Perry,
                In my previous comment, I noted how the emperor Justinian was willing to chuck Chalcedon, and now I’ll explain why I said that. According to Alois Grillmeier:

                “What Justinian was striving for at that time is expressed in the edict of 15 March 533. It contains a profession of faith which does not contradict Chalcedonian orthodoxy, but which could appear acceptable also to the Severans. For in it everything is omitted which could provoke them, above all the two-natures formula and the mention of Chalcedon. In contrast the theopaschite formula is acknowledged. The policy of the Henoticon seemed to have returned.”
                (Christ in Christian Tradition: Vol. 2, Part 2, p. 346)

                “At the end of the doctrinal dialogue of 532 Justinian had proposed a compromise, viz., accepting Chalcedon to safeguard correct understanding. He pronounced, however, a condemnation of Diodore of Tarsus, Theodore of Mopsuestia, Theodoret of Cyrus and Ibas of Edessa, but also of Nestorius on the one side and of Eutyches on the other, which was intended to mollify the Chalcedonians. This proposal did not spring from his hostility towards the Antiochenes, nor from a particular interest in the condemnation, but was driven by the determination to bring about the union of post-Chalcedonian parties which were denouncing each other. Even though this proposal was not accepted, it still showed the Emperor’s theological uncertainty, and the ease with which he was prepared to relinquish the strict-Chalcedonian position in favor of a compromise, without demanding that the Severans accept the substance of the Chalcedonian definition. What he demanded after the Syrians’ statement was precious little:

                ‘They should accept the synod at Chalcedon as far as expulsion of Eutyches was concerned, but they need not accept the definition of faith made there . . .’”
                (ibid, p. 346)

                Sebastian Brock provides the full translation of the non-Chalcedonians’ account of their meeting with the emperor Justinian. This is Justinian’s proposal.

                “’Would (the following conditions), perhaps, be acceptable to them [non-Chalcedonians]: they might anathematize Diodore, Theodore, Theodoret, Ibas, Nestoriusand Eutyches, and accept the Twelve Chapters of the holy Cyril, while anathematizing what had been written against them; they might confess one nature of God the Word incarnate, but they should refrain from anathematizing those who speak of two natures after the inexpressible union, (anathematizing) instead those who hold Nestorian views and divide up Christ into two natures, while confessing, as a crafty device which they had discovered long ago, together with the other side ‘the two united and inseparable natures'; they should accept the synod at Chalcedon as far as the expulsion of Eutyches was concerned, but they need not accept the definition of the faith made there’”
                (Studies in Syriac Christianity, chapter 13, p. 116, Sebastian Brock)

                According to Andrew J. Ekonomou, Justinian had no problem ignoring the law when it pleased him.

                “If Gregory’s [Pope Gregory the Great] principal task was to plead Rome’s cause before the emperor there seems to have been little left for him to do once imperial policy toward Italy became evident. Papal representatives who pressed their claims with excessive vigor could quickly become a nuisance and find themselves excluded from the imperial presence altogether. Eutychius’ return as patriarch of Constantinople in 577, after having been driven out by Justinian, raised the practical difficulty as to whether the acts of John III Scholasticus, who had occupied the see in the intervening twelve years, were valid. When the archdeacon of Rome launched into a complicated exposition on how church law would resolve the dilemma the emperor gave him a sharp rebuke and told him not to “trouble himself about the exact letter of the canons.””
                (Byzantine Rome and the Greek Popes, p. 10, Andrew J. Ekonomou)

                We know that Justinian broke his oath to Pope Vigilius by which he agreed to have Vigilius pastorally settle the matter of the Three Chapters. After breaking his oath, Justinian demanded the excommunication of Vigilius for not condemning the person of Theodore of Mopsuestia, and yet Patrick T.R. Gray shows how he contradicted himself on similar grounds. According to Gray:

                “The erasure from the diptychs of the names of bishops who died after Acacius – a demand blithely accepted by Justin upon his accession – proved a major difficulty, as correspondence between Rome and Constantinople illustrates. For instance, Justin wrote to Hormisdas in July of 520 to explain that many bishops were held in such fond memory that the erasure of their names, while right in principle, was a matter that had to be dealt with cautiously and gently. Justinian, writing at the same time, was more forthright: “pars Orientalium non exiliis nec ferro flammisque complli potest, ut condemnet episcoporum nomina post Acacium defunctorum”; therefore the pope should agree to let the matter drop…”
                (The Defense of Chalcedon in the East 451-553, p. 50, Patrick T.R. Gray)

                So, yes, Justinian was willing to chuck Chalcedon. The evidence also shows that he acted hypocritically in his arguments for the excommunication of Pope Vigilius. Thus if Vigilius was a material heretic, then so was Justinian. Either way the anti-papal arguments based on Constantinople II don’t hold up to scrutiny.

                On a side note, I think Alois Grillmeier has shown that Theodoret of Cyrrhus struggled to find language sufficient to properly express orthodox Christology but was very likely orthodox in thought. But that should not come as a surprise given that even Cyril struggled in that area as well. See Grillmeier’s Christ in Christian Tradition, vol. 1, pp. 488-495.

  15. At the risk of offending you, Timothy, I do not know how remaining in the Orthodox Church is an acceptable position once you have seen the necessity of submission to the Bishop of Rome. It seems to me that, by remaining Orthodox, a bit of the “wicked man” is still preventing you from making the changes you (may) need to make. How can you remain in the Orthodox Church and still not be a schismatic (per the Catholic view)?

    1. Brian,

      Good question. I rely on the official position of Rome through the statements I mentioned in the article, that Orthodox possess “churchliness” but are nonetheless refusing to be in communion. If God calls me to be a Latin, I will. I have no qualms about that. But right now I am Orthodox and as other Orthodox who agree with me, I am remaining Orthodox, which helps the Orthodox understand that this is not all one-sided. Our traditions need to be brought together, not subsumed into the other. Have you read the Balamand statement?

      with respect,

      Timothy

  16. I want to thank both Devin for promoting this post and Timothy Flanders for writing it. If a blog post has ever seemed like a personal answer to my prayers, this is it. As you may recall from our brief conversations, Devin, I have long been torn between Catholicism and Orthodoxy, and only recently started moving back towards Rome. This had not been an easy journey due to all the polemics and ambiguities, and I often found myself second guessing my decision to once again begin attending RCIA. Timothy’s post, along with the writings of Soloviev, have given me the assurance and confidence I needed.

    1. Cam,

      Great to hear from you again, and I’m glad that Timothy’s article has been helpful. Hopefully you can see in Timothy and myself examples of Christians in each Church who ardently desire reunion and who recognize the many true, good, and beautiful things about the other.

      I’m sad that you even have to make such a difficult decision, and pray that one day through our Churches reunion, such decisions will be obviated. Our human pride and prejudices run deep, but Christ can overcome them by His grace, helping us to learn humility, as Timothy has repeatedly called us to.

      God bless,
      Devin

      1. Yes, Cam, don’t let polemics get in the way, just join one lung of the ONE CHURCH and receive the Holy Mysteries. That’s what you and all of us need. It’s a shame that all of this polemic gets in the way of people coming to the Eucharist. That’s the biggest offense to Christ.

        with respect,

        Timothy

  17. In the Peace of Our Lord Jesus Christ,

    Timothy, allow me to echo another commenter in thanking you for this remarkably insightful essay, which likewise is in my case the answer to a prayer; furthermore, let me thank you for the charitable manner in which you composed it.

    Your assessment of that perennial struggle between the wicked and righteous man more than hit home. I too am intimately, woefully familiar with this sinful tendency. As someone who in their return to Catholicism was unfortunately unable to avoid the vitriolic, heretic-pronouncing priggishness to which you allude, your testimony was deeply appreciated. I specifically recall once writing the Orthodox off as largely being nationalistic, insular, navel-gazing xenophobes altogether unworthy of my consideration. As if spiteful castigation in the name of good could ever be meritorious! To make matters worse, I would have at the same time balked at a Protestant’s Black Legend-informed appraisal of Catholicism—all while engaging in precisely the same impetuous generalization myself!

    How easy it is for us at times to desire the heresy of others? How arbitrary and self-serving our criteria? And how truly injurious it is that those to whom we are most often likely to ascribe heresy are indeed those closest to us in faith?

    Let me assure you that despite what you may have said just above, in my eyes you most certainly did effectively communicate the crucial need for humility and charity in these conversations about authority which so often concern—and threaten!—our prideful need for self-preservation. If we as Christians sincerely wish to engage in fruitful dialogue, we must eternally invoke the Holy Spirit to quell this “spasm of dogmatic obstinacy, forcing [us] to always defend [our] position,” as the late, great Dietrich von Hildebrand would be wont to say.

    In this regard I too find in Solovyov the inspiration for fruitful dialogue. As a devoted fan myself, I would love to hear your further ruminations on his work; particularly I would be interested in your thoughts on his proposal for the reunification of the East and West and, if possible, how his conception of Sophiology (i.e., not later mischaracterizations of it as being gnostic or heretical, which David Bentley Hart adequately refutes in his foreword to “The Justification of the Good”) might inform or assist this reunification. Do you perhaps discuss him on your blog?

    Anyway, I am patently rambling at this point. Suffice it to say that I thoroughly enjoyed your reflection on this issue, and sincerely thank you for it. May Our Lord bless you abundantly and may Our Immaculate Mother keep you always in the folds of Her Mantle.

    Lastly let me thank Devin for hosting it and for his much-appreciated presence on the web and elsewhere in the service of our Holy Faith.

    In Christ,
    Seth

    1. Brother in Christ Seth,

      My dear brother. Grace and peace be with you. I am deeply encouraged by your words, and I thank you for them. I am glad that this blog post has not been all a provocation, which I had prayed that God would not make it such.

      Yes, I have a few essays on Soloviev, but I have not posted them yet because they are rather…Solovievian. I was waiting to post this first.

      Judging from Dostoyevski’s basing Alyosha and Ivan on his friend Soloviev, and after reading Russia and the Universal Church, I was in absolute awe. That’s all I’ve read though, so far, I have not yet gotten to his other works. What are you referring to when you say “his plan for reunification?” Are you talking about the one from Russia and the Universal Church? If so, it didn’t seem that he laid out a detailed plan, but perhaps I’m missing something.

      I look forward to speaking further!

      in Christ,

      Timothy

  18. Bravo.

    I am so excited I am tingling. This gives me so much hope for reunion.

    This is the best thing I have read on the internet, on any topic, since the Called to Communion articles which precipitated my leaving Protestantism in 2010. I was sort of hoping that your story would not end in “becoming Catholic”, and I was pleased it did not! It adds credibility to your conviction about how close the two lungs are. I think that for some people in your situation, their conscience might require that, but I also think that it is quite reasonable to stay where you are considering the reasons you give, particularly Ravena.
    Our Churches are so very close, and share so much, I think it is beautiful that you recognize that we are partaking of the one Christ in our respective liturgies. This is the kind of progress we (C & O) need to make to achieve full communion. We (the boots on the ground/laity) need to see each other as brothers who have a minor disagreement which needs to be worked out, but can still eat supper at Papa’s table together. Once that is the general attitude on both sides, unity will happen, and no one will have to give up or change essential beliefs.

    I have a question that probes a bit deeper into one of your points in the article if I may. It concerns the western saints. I work with a really great Orthodox friend who sometimes challenges me about the differences between eastern and western saints. He points out examples of modern monks and holy men who are considered to be doing visible miracles right now, and points out that there seems to be no examples on the Catholic side. He seems to think this is a real defeater for Catholicism. I pointed to St. Padre Pio, but he seemed not too impressed. I guess I just find it hard to see this from his perspective, because to me St. Francis or St. Padre Pio are just as good of examples as any modern living people, and I dont really pay attention to living Catholics who have reportedly done miracles, that seems to be not as prominant of a focus to Catholics.
    And he also gets critical of distinctive western signs of sanctity like stigmata, and puts lots of weight on the miracle of the light as a proof of Orthodoxy. All of this is off of my radar, and I have a hard time finding good ways to even discuss it with him. It is like a different language.
    What can I say to my friend?

    Peace,

    David Meyer

    1. David,

      If I may insinuate myself in your question to Timothy. I would perhaps suggest showing your friend this article, and requesting that he read it in a charitable manner. The kind of impasse the conversations with your friend seem to be devolving into are precisely what the author Timothy addresses herein.

      Prior to that, however, I would impress upon him the fact that the author is a brother in the Orthodox faith. Not a quasi-convert, not a zealous convert naively romanticizing unity, and not a convert from Protestantism with vestiges of Western or *gasp* Latin sympathies. Rather, the author is a Orthodox Christian who is deeply committed to Our Lord’s prayer that we might be one as He and the Father are One. We must never turn our interlocutors into caricatures or ideologies with mouths.

      Regarding your comments about our respective “miracle men.” First, there are undoubtably many miracle workers in the Church right now and of late. I don’t know how anyone could possibly deny the indubitable sanctity of men like a Solanus Casey or a Padre Pio (I would challenge anyone to claim that a man who often spent 13 hours in the confessional per day didn’t profess the need for repentance :] ), or even a Maria Esperanza (who was herself a spiritual child of Padre Pio). These are all 20th century Catholics whose lives were “straight out of the Old Testament,” as Fr. Benedict Groeschel would say. Furthermore, there is a definite prudence in NOT lauding the purported miraculous behavior of the living. For instance: fakery and the resulting scandal; the tendency for the faithful to overemphasize miracles when the most profound and far more important mysteries of the sacraments are incessantly available to us; or more sinister examples (such as the 15th century Spanish religious, Magdalena of the Cross).

      But all these things are altogether secondary. The point is that anything resembling triumphalism is absolutely poisonous with regards to fruitful conversation. Anytime the lives of our Holy Saints are pitted against one another and irreverently turned into a kind of “Saint-Off,” then all dialogue becomes frivolous and, moreover, impossible.

      However, I hasten to add that to reproach your friend for placing to much emphasis on miracles—or to in any way suggest that Rome’s tendency to act with prudence in these matters is more favorable—would be to continue the same vicious cycle and is to be avoided. I can see it now:

      “The Orthodox has X amount of living saints who are working miracles today!”
      “So do we! It’s just that the Vatican is much more prudent in affirming such matters.”
      “Yeah, well that’s no doubt due to their dry scholasticism and legalism! Rome has lost the faith!”
      “No we haven’t! The Orthodox Church’s preoccupation with miracles proves that THEY are the faithless ones! ‘Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed!'”
      “Heretics!”
      “Schismatic Pretenders!”

      Luckily, Timothy did a great job at highlighting the pitfalls of this tendency in his essay. Perhaps start here.

      In Christ,
      Seth

      1. Thanks so much for that Seth.
        Your example conversation makes me think you have been secretly listening in on us!

        I really agree with you about the danger of reproaching Orthodox for emphasizing miracles. I try hard to steer clear of doing that. But the conversation always gets down to that point because my friend insists Orthodoxy is based on its saints, and Catholicism on its hierarchy (which is described in the “dry scholastic, rationalist” sort of way). So it is very hard to redirect the conversation from there, because for him the saints of Mt. Athos are his axiom. Because they show signs of being saints, they are the real leaders of global Orthodoxy, and what they say about Rome is what Orthodox shoud believe about Rome. So in that way, he is claiming something totally different than what I would claim when I bring up Padre Pio.
        The main thing I have learned from dialogue with him is how very little we each know about the others beliefs, and how there are so many thousand year old wounds that still are open.

        1. That’s sad, because I am amazed and grateful to God for both events like the “Holy Fire” and the exploits of a St. Padre Pio, for example. How sad that some need to minimize some miracles in order to advance their partisan agenda.

        2. Brother in Christ David,

          Thanks for your thoughts, my dear brother. It’s a very difficult thing to get past, I think, because much of the rhetoric that comes from Mt. Athos and other traditionalists in the Orthodox Church (and especially the schismatics) are based largely on fear. They denounce the western saints as delusional and thus an Orthodox Christian is (rightly) fearful about approaching them. However, I had to overcome this fear by realizing that

          1. God is in control
          2. While I must be cautious, I must not be afraid
          3. With fervent prayers and tears to Christ I trust that he will save me from deception

          Once I placed my trust in God to save me from possible deception, I was able to see how St. Ignatii and Bl. Serphim Rose, as I stated above, seem to have misunderstood western piety (though I am no person to judge how or why).

          I would be interested to know what your friend thinks about Orthodox unity with the Miaphysites. This has all but healed completely, and I spoke personally to a spiritual son of Bl. Serphim Rose (within ROCOR, who was schismatic for most of the 20th c.) who said that his bishop instructed him to give communion to Miaphysites. Moreover, at my church they commune every Sunday!

          Despite this, Mt. Athos is (apparently) completely against this. But the dialogue partners who have engaged the Miaphysites have discovered that they have the exact same Orthodox faith just different words. Right now I’m working on a paper called “8 Lessons the Orthodox Church can learn from their Rapprochement with the Miaphysites” which basically argues that our division with them is a stepping stone to reunion with the west.

          Besides that, I would point out to him the Orthodox saints (that I mentioned above) who were rather amicable to the west.

          Anyways, I suppose that’s what I have right now.

          in Christ our King,

          Timothy

  19. I feel like I should reiterate: The Roman Catholic church, if it is following its own rules, would NOT be able to give me, an Orthodox Christian in good standing, and in a canonically correct state, communion. I see zero evidence that Rome has any kind of willingness to change this, even if the filioque, infallibility, etc, etc, etc could be agreed upon and resolved. In light of that, it’s real real hard to have sympathy.

    1. John,

      I’ve heard differently on this. E.g:

      “Members of the Orthodox churches, the Assyrian Church of the East, and the Polish National Catholic Church are urged to respect the discipline of their own churches. According to Roman Catholic discipline, the Code of Canon Law does not object to the reception of Communion by Christians of these churches” (canon 844 § 3).

      But I’ve also heard that Eastern Orthodox bishops are strongly reluctant to allow such intercommunion. Which I think is understandable, given that we are not in full communion with each other.

  20. God bless you, Timothy.

    This was an excellent and courageous article.

    My wife is actually a convert to the Catholic Church from Orthodoxy. It was a difficult and long journey but she loves the Catholic Church and still considers herself Orthodox. She refers to herself as Orthodox in communion with Rome. I am not assuming you have an interest, but if you ever are interested in her reasons please feel free to contact me.

    Pax,

    Dave

    1. Dear brother in Christ Dave,

      Please forgive my late reply. I am glad that what I have written has been in some way beneficial. I’m glad, too, that your wife has not considered her move to really be a “conversion” but a reconciliation, since she considers herself Orthodox in communion with Rome. I consider myself Orthodox in communion with the Holy Father, but only in spirit, not in reality. I would be pleased to speak more. Please comment on my blog and I can email you: quiesincaelis.wordpress.com. (However, I’m taking a break from email during Christmastide. I can write you after that.)

      in Christ,

      Timothy

    1. Dear brother in Christ Bradley,

      Praised be Jesus Christ.

      I would like to stress that my conception of the Church is not one that would allow for the word “conversion” to describe an Orthodox Christian becoming reconciled with the Holy Father. There are some Orthodox Christians who might think this, having “converted” to Rome, then considered Orthodoxy to be in some state of rebellion against the Holy Father and severely lacking in Apostolic grace (God forbid).

      Rather, I consider the Orthodox Church, with the Orthodox-Catholic Soloviev quoted above, to be an “organic part of Christendom” whereby deeming it (as Rome does) a “true local and particular church” and “sister church” to those of the west. As such, according to our agreed statement at Balamand (1993) there is no reason for any one to “convert” to either. Both of us possess the fullness of the Church, we simply need to unite in order to give the fullness to each other.

      Having studied Unitatis Redintegratio and the post-conciliar magisterial teachings of the Holy See (Communionis Notio, Dominus Iesus, etc.) this seems to be the teaching of our Churches from the official levels. (But I could be missing something, or misconstruing something.)

      Therefore, unless your motivation is to further this effort of mutual respect and mutual recognition, I cannot support any effort to endorse an “ecumenism of return” which was rejected by Vatican II (if this what you’re asking).

      Please forgive me if I have misunderstood your desire, and please clarify your meaning and motivations. I would be happy to speak with you further about this, on here or on my blog (quiesincaelis.wordpress.com). I plan to post an article after Epiphany which is provided a better balance in view of the Papacy vis-a-vis the Eastern Churches and Orientalium Ecclesiarum.

      I wish you and your family a blessed feast of Christmas.

      sincerely in Christ,

      Timothy

  21. The foundation on which the article rests is the author’s coming to a “grave realization about the Bible”, i.e., that it could not possibly be the sole rule of faith because of all the divisions and controversies that existed amongst those who claim the Bible’s supreme authority. However, this logic is erroneous to the extreme!
    Just because there are disagreements among Protestants does not in the least take away from the Bible being able to function as the sole rule of faith! If my Christian brother happens to read the directions for baking a cake, and adds two eggs instead of only one according to the directions, the fault does not lie with the recipe, but with my brother….and the Lord’s desire to enlighten that person or not (Luke 24:45). God specifically tells us that there are “diversity of gifts” in 1 Cor 12:3 and Rms 12:6. That being so, it is understandable that in listing the offices in the church, He instituted the office of “teachers” in 1 Cor 12:28 (with no mention of an infallible papacy by the way) because He’s chosen not to give the same learning abilities to everyone, neither do we all spend the same amount of time studying (which is also commanded in 2 Tim 2:15), so intelligence factors are bound to be different (as Jesus recognized when He asked, “whom do men say that I am?”). It’s obvious He purposely did not design us like computer disks, for if He did, we could just flippantly store the info away and not have any need of anybody’s help….including His.
    In addition, He ALLOWS disagreements to arise because He wants the better argument to shine forth (1 Cor 11:19). This forces us to go back to the Text and check things out.
    And He ALLOWED there to be a rift between Paul & Barnabus; a disagreement so great that they had to SEPARATE one from the other (Acts 15:39). Have you ever stopped to consider that the Lord ordained two perfectly capable servants to disagree so that they would go in two opposite directions to more widely spread the good news and minister effectively in different locations? He thus accomplishes a greater objective than their being in…UNITY!

    Furthermore, the underlying principle of this website seems to be the superior unity of Rome, as opposed to the “scandal” or “tragedy” of Protestant denominations. But this is an illusion fostered by the way in which the Roman Church has chosen to draw the boundaries in the first place. By setting itself up as the point of reference and standard of comparison with all those— “schismatics”, they present nothing but a self-serving contrast. By casting the terms of the debate, they have rigged the outcome in its favor.
    I would remind you that God put up with a wide diversity of sects and schools of thought in first century Judaism. We read of Pharisees, Sadducees, Samaritans, Essenes, Zealots, Therapeutae, Jewish Gnostics, Jewish Platonists, Qumranic separatists, as well as the Rabbinical parties of Hillel and Shamai. Doubtless there were many additional groups that our partial and partisan sources have failed to preserve for posterity. Yet God never saw fit to install an infallible Jewish Magisterium in order to prevent this plurality of viewpoints. So Rome’s theology is based on nothing more than a seat-of-the-pants HUNCH which merely ASSUMES Divine providence has ordained infallibility to Vatican residents. The precedent of God’s former dealings with his people goes against that expectation. If we find all this diversity and dissension under the OT dispensation, why assume that the NT economy must operate according to a contrary set of priorities? Wouldn’t the Catholic rationale apply with equal force to the OT church? If Christians require the services of a living Magisterium, wouldn’t the Old Covenant community be under the same necessity? Yet it’s clear from the Gospels that none of the rival parties spoke for God in any definitive sense. The priesthood was the only faction with any institutional standing under the Mosaic Covenant, and its members were frequently and fundamentally MISTAKEN in their construal of its ethical obligations, such as the matter of putting to death their prophesied Messiah (!!!). So much for a divine teaching office to ensure unity and fidelity.
    Consequently, despite what Mr. Flanders asserts, the Scriptures are indeed sufficient for the life of the believer, as all 176 verses of Psalm 119 will attest to, as well as a myriad of other verses in Holy Writ that Catholics obviously wish did not exist since they spend their entire lives railing against them.

    1. Shantel,

      Thank you for visiting. Your make several arguments, but while Protestantism is mentioned at the outset, the main purpose of this article is toward Catholic and Eastern Orthodox topics.

      So I will not make a full reply here to all your claims, but here are a few:

      1. The New Covenant surpasses the Old Covenant in every way

      So your argument that since the People of God in the Old Covenant did not have an infallible teaching authority, the New Covenant People of God must not have one either, doesn’t follow.

      The Old Covenant had manna in the desert. The New Covenant has Christ’s body and blood. The old had circumcision of the physical body; the new has baptism, which circumcizes the heart. The old had animal sacrifices, which could not atone for sin. The new has Jesus Christ, our Savior and the ultimate Sacrifice. Etc.

      Also, Catholics agree that “the Scriptures are indeed sufficient for the life of the believer.” They are materially sufficient for this, but not formally sufficient. So Catholics are not spending “their entire lives railing against” the Scriptures. You should read Dei Verbum to understand how highly Catholics esteem the Scriptures.

      God bless,
      Devin

      1. I will only zero in on one of your comments, which ties in with Mr. Flander’s “grievance” over the Bible:
        “Catholics agree that the Scriptures are indeed sufficient for the life of the believer… but not formally sufficient.”

        This monotonous claim that the Bible is formally DEFICIENT, is unbiblical, a-historical, illogical and heretical. Taking the position that S is “formally deficient” is nothing less than a sneaky way to argue that the RCC must have the last word on what it MEANS. On the contrary, Jesus held the people of His day accountable for knowing the Scriptures, in far too many places to list here. Ditto for the breathtaking scope of early Christian writers who gave Holy Writ the highest place of authority which it deserves, which as Psalm 138:2 reports is magnified even ABOVE the very name of the Lord! That being so, Scripture’s own testimony as to its position and rank are conclusive, and therefore it’s a flat out lie to suppose that the church or any so-called traditions be put on the same pedastal along side it….which is what the RCC teaches by their command to consider these things with “equal esteem” as the word of the Lord. On the contrary, it is readily apparent from the Text that Scripture teaches its own formal sufficiency.
        When 2 Tim 3:16-17 conveys that Scripture is able to FULLY furnish the man of God for every good work, it should be obvious that this blanket statement does not succumb to making any insidious distinctions between “formal and material” sufficiency. This is nothing but a modern RC apologetic trick to exalt the idea of an infallible church, in an effort to imply that Protestants demean the authority of the church—which they most certainly do not. Our position has a very high view of the church – it just does not make the church the ultimate authority and rule of faith and life! Instead, our rule of faith and life is the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, period. Kindly read all 176 verses of Psalm 119.

        What you are surmising by your accusing the Bible of being “formally deficient”, is that it needs the voice of the magisterium to “officially” tell us what it actually means, since the Lord, as it were, speaks with marbles in His mouth.
        Again, 2 Tim 3 tells us the Scriptures are able to FULLY equip us for every good work. Now if I were to ask you, “do you think it is a good work to teach others about the Assumption of Mary?” ….You would answer, “Yes”.
        But the Bible does not teach this….anywhere. How then can the Scriptures “FULLY equip” us to teach others about the Assumption?
        Answer? It can’t. That is why that doctrine must be rejected. But your church teaches that believing this doctrine is “necessary for salvation”, so when you tell me that the Bible is materially sufficient in that it contains or implies all things necessary for salvation, you must not be telling me the truth because there is not a HINT of the Assumption of Maria Maginificent in the Text. Yet your church requires you to believe it anyway, or it’s off to hell you go, per Vatican 1. They said, “the first condition of salvation is to keep the rule of the true faith”, and that means keeping all the peculiar doctrines of the RCC, which of course includes all those things she defines as “mandatory”, in this case the Assumption, proclaimed nearly 2000 years after the birth of Christianity! Jesus, on the other hand, categorically stated that we will be judged by His word ALONE (Jn 12:48); and His word, as you know, is ONLY contained in Holy Writ. I need not remind you that the RCC has not furnished us with one blessed word outside of the Text which the Lord has articulated for our consideration. Consequently, to think for a moment that someone could be damned to hell for refusing a doctrine that the Scriptures do not even address, is the height of deception, because it gives the RCC free reign to conjure up any old thing she chooses–and a ticket to hell for all who do not submit. Vatican 1 was crystal clear on her doctrines to be embraced:

        “This is the teaching of the Catholic truth, from which no one can depart without loss of faith and salvation.”

        Jesus Christ would never agree to that theological threat, and is just one of many reasons why I will never, under any circumstances, become Roman Catholic.
        Thanks for listening.

        1. Shantel,

          While I welcome your future comments on other threads, this will be the last one you are allowed on this particular post. It takes us off-topic to delve into these particular Catholic-Protestant issues here.

          Further, your tone is polemical. To misconstrue the Catholic position of the material sufficiency of Scriptures as a “formal deficiency” is false and sophistical. There is no deficiency in the Scriptures. They are exactly what our Lord intended them to be, serving the exact purpose He intended them to serve, which if you read Dei Verbum you would realize the Catholic Church believes.

          You are trying to make the Scriptures into something beyond what our Lord intended, which is wrong to do. It is like taking a fish out its aquarium and expecting it to live on land. God made it to live in the water of the aquarium, and claiming the fish should be sufficient to live on land is in fact, wrong-headed, as the floundering fish tells you. The fissiparous nature of sola Scriptura Protestantism over the past five hundred years is the floundering that you are not seeing. It is evidence against your claims, though not, it is true, an outright refutation of them.

          While you think you have a “high view” of the Church, in fact you do not. Because you determine what “the Church” is using your interpretation of the Scriptures. So your belief in sola Scriptura actually reduces to solO Scriptura: you as an individual, and not the Church, are the ultimate interpretive authority. The Called to Communion guys demonstrated this fact logically in their landmark article: http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2009/11/solo-scriptura-sola-scriptura-and-the-question-of-interpretive-authority/

          Feel free to head over there and try to refute their argument.

          Your interpretation (and probably your chosen translation as well) of Psalm 138:2 is one of many, and not the one that is most linguistically or theologically accurate. It is also a mistake to always interpret “[God’s] word” as being equated with “the Scriptures.” I recall in Dave Armstrong’s new book he shows convincingly how the referent of “God’s word” differs depending on context: http://www.amazon.com/Biblical-Arguments-Against-Sola-Scriptura/dp/1933919590/ref=tmm_pap_title_0

          In any event, your interpretation of Psalm 138:2 fails on the fact that Jesus Christ is the ultimate revelation of God, the Word of God, which the Scriptures (also called God’s Word in some contexts) testifies to. The purpose of the Scriptures is to testify to God, not to be exalted above Him or exalted above Jesus Christ. This is again where you are, in wanting to extol the Scriptures (a noble goal in and of itself), pushing them beyond what God intended them to be.

          You say it’s “a lie” that tradition should placed (in any sense) alongside the Scriptures. But in fact the Scriptures themselves state that there is divine tradition that should be reverenced alongside the written letters of the Scriptures. Sure, there is also man-made tradition that is at best helpful and at worst opposed to God’s truth, but divine (sacred) tradition also exists. In rejecting the Apostolic Tradition you unwittingly reject the full deposit of faith.

          Arguing over 2 Tim. 3:16-17 is too tiring for me to bear at this moment, so much has it been hashed out. I’ll simply point out that once again you are offering your own interpretation of the verses, and that you are wanting it to say more than it says.

          The Lord does not “speak with marbles in His mouth,” but in the Scriptures “there are some things that are hard to understand,” as the Scriptures themselves say in 2 Peter 3:16. Again you are misconstruing the Catholic teaching to make it sound bad. That is sophistry, and unhelpful in getting to the truth. Rather, the Lord has given shepherds to guide His flock, and the Holy Spirit protects them from error in their teachings, so that all people may be able to know the deposit of faith and discover Christ their Savior. You in fact believe this to a lesser degree in the fact that you believe God’s protected certain writings from error (even though written by otherwise fallible human beings) and then preserved those writings from corruption or error over centuries so that we could have them today and by reading them come to know divine revelation.

          As the Scriptures also say, the Church is the “pillar and bulwark of the truth.” So to deride the Catholic dogma that the Church is infallible is in fact itself contradicting the very Scriptures you so want to champion.

          All the stuff about the Assumption and trying to use those verses to contradict it is a canard. In any case, other people were taken into Heaven in some way before Mary was (e.g. Elijah, Enoch) and whether that equips you for every good work is not something that anyone would even ask because it is almost devoid of sense. The only point I’d make is that you believe others were taken to Heaven so in principle there is no reason to get upset about it with regard to Mary. I would also say, have a care, as if Catholicism is true, you will one day have to eat all your words against Marian doctrines like the Assumption.

          Again, please do not comment again on this article. There will be time and place enough on future ones to hash it all out.

          God bless,
          Devin

  22. I would like to direct readers’ attention to the recent words of Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew I: http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2012/12/bartholomew-is-seeking-to-reinvigorate-dialogue-with-roman-catholics/

    That is to say, we must expend our spiritual energy not in the effort of finding justifications for the strengthening of positions, which we overly defended in the past towards the justification of the schism, but in sincerely endeavoring to find arguments that verify the error of divisive inclinations and that, even more, seek out ways of approaching full restoration of the unity of the Churches.

  23. Timothy,

    Thanks very much for this article. There is much that I agree with, but I also have some questions and comments about it, regarding some possible points of disagreement. My purpose in raising these questions and offering these comments is to begin to resolve those possible points of disagreement. So please take them as offered in charity and respect with an aim toward coming to agreement concerning the truth, even where I raise objections to and [hopefully, constructive] criticisms of the position you put forward.

    You wrote:

    He lead me to the place I am now: an Orthodox Christian who has reconciled himself, in his heart, to the Holy Father …

    This line puzzled me when I first read it, and continues to puzzle me as I re-read it. What exactly does it mean to reconcile oneself, [only] in one’s heart, to a bishop or to the pope? Is it possible to remain voluntarily in schism (as the Catechism of the Catholic Church defines ‘schism’ in CCC 2089) and simultaneously be reconciled in one’s heart to the bishop of Rome? If so, I don’t see what it means to be “reconciled in one’s heart” to the bishop of Rome. That looks to me to be instead a desire to be reconciled, not actual reconciliation. My concern, you might see, is that it could be the James 2:16 version of ‘resolving’ a state of schism, a quasi-gnostic idea of reconciliation that Christ seemed not to acknowledge in Matt. 5:23-24, since it would be much easier merely to reconcile with one’s brother in one’s heart unilaterally, than physically leave one’s gift at the altar and physically go to one’s estranged or offended brother and be reconciled to him.

    I grew even more puzzled when you said in your comments, “I consider myself Orthodox in communion with the Holy Father, but only in spirit, not in reality.” This suggests that whatever spiritual communion you have with the Holy Father is not real, since it is not “in reality.” I don’t think you mean to imply that. But hopefully you see the problem. As an Orthodox believer, you are already in very deep ways opposed to gnosticism and its anti-sacramentalism, and so your phrase “not in reality” seems to be a kind of slip of the tongue by your non-gnostic self, in which you admit that if you are not visibly (hierarchically) reconciled with the Holy Father, then neither are you in reality spiritually reconciled with the Holy Father.

    You claimed that “Rome has recognized the full catholicity of the Orthodox Church.” To the best of my knowledge, no Catholic document makes that claim. (I think someone rightly pointed this out in the comments.) Rather, according to the Catholic Church catholicity is found in its fullness only in full communion with the bishop of Rome. Apart from full communion with the bishop of Rome, there will always be provincialism, nationalism, etc. Universality comes through union with the one to whom Christ entrusted the stewardship of the keys of the universal Kingdom.

    In other words, the Orthodox Church is a part of the Una Sancta of the Creed …

    According to the Catholic Church, there is an “imperfect” communion between the Orthodox Churches on the one hand, and the Catholic Church on the other hand. (Unitatis Redintegratio, 3) But there is also an imperfect communion (more imperfect, of course) between Protestant ecclesial communities and the Catholic Church. Framing the relation of the Orthodox Churches to the “one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church” in terms of “part” seemingly implies that there is no schism between the Orthodox Churches on the one hand, and the Catholic Church on the other, as though the Orthodox Churches are just as much a part of the Catholic Church as are particular Churches in full communion with the bishop of Rome, or as if the Catholic Church is not the universal Church of the Creed, but only a subset of the particular Churches making up the Church referred to in the Creed. But then you go on to say:

    and yet, insofar as it persists in refusing the invitation to full communion and reconciliation with the Holy Father, it is schismatic.

    It seems to me that the question of schism isn’t only about disposition or stance, but also about the present state. Are the Orthodox Churches presently in a state or condition of schism from the Catholic Church, as the term ‘schism’ is defined in the Catechism of the Catholic Church and in canon law? If so, then it seems to me that you will need to qualify your use of the word ‘part’ above, because as you use this term without any qualification, it suggests full integration into the composition of a thing, and therefore no need to seek full communion. There are historical and situational nuances to a condition of schism, to be sure, but nevertheless, those nuances do not transform a schism into something other than schism. Rather, they determine the degree of culpability for its formation and the obstacles remaining to its resolution.

    this position on the schism is in fact the one of Holy Tradition and history, … Thus since I posses the Catholic faith by communion at my Orthodox parish, there is no reason for me ‘convert.’ Moreover, since I commune with the Body of Christ, and the same Sacramental reality is present at every Catholic communion, we are in fact in communion with one another.

    Here you again affirm that there is a schism, but then claim that you are “in communion with” the Catholic Church. So this needs to be clarified, because otherwise it has the appearance of a contradiction. From the Catholic perspective, as I mentioned above, the Orthodox are in an “imperfect” communion with the Catholic Church, not in full communion with the Catholic Church. So then the question is whether, when one is in imperfect communion with the Catholic Church (and in schism from the Catholic Church, given the definition of ‘schism’ in the Catechism and canon law), one should pursue full communion with the Catholic Church. From the fact that one presently enjoys imperfect communion with the Catholic Church, it seems not to follow that one need not cease being in a state of schism from her and instead pursue full communion with her. To point to one’s already being “in communion with” (while not including the “imperfect” qualifier) the Catholic Church, as a sufficient reason not to enter into full communion with the Holy Father, seems to me to be a misleading construal of the Catholic understanding of its own doctrine. Since all validly baptized persons are by their baptism placed in an imperfect communion with the Catholic Church, then if having an imperfect communion with the Catholic Church were a sufficient reason not to enter into full communion with the Catholic Church, then all those in schism would have a sufficient reason not to enter into full communion with the Catholic Church, since only pagans wouldn’t have even an imperfect communion with the Catholic Church, and pagans cannot be in schism from the Catholic Church. But surely you see that if one’s position entails that all those in schism from the Catholic Church have a sufficient reason not to enter into full communion with the Catholic Church, then one’s reasoning has gone wrong somewhere upstream, or at least one’s position is contrary to the teaching of the Catholic Church.

    When a reader asked you why you haven’t become Catholic you replied:

    Because our churches have agreed to not convert one another. We already possess the fullness of the Church through the sacraments, and we are sister churches.

    How does the agreement not to engage in mutual proselytization mean that if one recognizes oneself to be in schism from the Catholic Church, one need not leave that condition and seek full communion with her? You refer to the term “sister Churches,” as if that precludes the need to enter into full communion with the Catholic Church. But that term [i.e. ‘sister Churches’] refers to particular Churches (including the particular Church of Rome); it does not refer to the universal Church. The universal Church is not a sister Church and has no sister Church, because (according to Catholic doctrine) there is only one universal Church, governed by the successor of St. Peter in Rome and all the bishops in full communion with him. Being in a “sister Church” that is in schism from the universal Church (according to the definition of ‘schism’ in the Catechism) does not mean that one may remain in schism from the universal Church. That is, being in a “sister Church” does not entail either that one is in full communion with the universal Church or provide a justification for remaining in schism from the universal Church.

    Moreover, in Catholic doctrine, the fullness of the Church is not limited to the sacraments, but intrinsically and essentially includes the Church’s one hierarchy. So in the Catholic picture, if one is not submitted to the pope, one does not possess “the fullness of the Church.” In Catholic doctrine the papacy is not accidental to the Church Militant, but internal and essential to her divinely established structure. To claim otherwise is to deny the Catholic dogma concerning the papacy. That’s why one cannot have it both ways, i.e. claim to have the fullness of the Church while apart from full communion with the papacy, and simultaneously claim to affirm the Catholic doctrine of the papacy, according to which the papacy is instituted by Christ and is essential to the Church as the office of its universal shepherd until Christ returns. One of those claims has to give way to the other.

    “Both sides must give up their exclusivism to some degree in order to come together.”

    Which Catholic doctrines concerning the Church and the papacy must the Catholic Church give up, in your opinion? How is this claim of yours not taking a stand above both [Orthodox and Catholic authorities], in order to say what they each must give up? I don’t see how this fits with the stance of humility and submission to authority you advocate (beautifully) elsewhere in the article. It is (seemingly) a kind of view from nowhere, or rather, from a position of self-assumed authority. Again, my concern (stated above) is that by claiming to be “reconciled [only] in your heart” to the Holy Father, you seemingly give yourself a free pass to tell him which Catholic dogmas/doctrines [pertaining to Catholic exclusivism] he needs to rescind, in order to bring about Catholic-Orthodox reunion. Catholics who in reality have submitted themselves to the Holy Father don’t have that option. But perhaps I’m deeply misunderstanding you.

    I rely on the official position of Rome through the statements I mentioned in the article, that Orthodox possess “churchliness” but are nonetheless refusing to be in communion. If God calls me to be a Latin, I will. I have no qualms about that. But right now I am Orthodox and as other Orthodox who agree with me, I am remaining Orthodox, which helps the Orthodox understand that this is not all one-sided. Our traditions need to be brought together, not subsumed into the other.

    What strikes me is this line “If God calls me to be Latin …” Doesn’t that sidestep the question, because “Catholic” is not necessarily “Latin” (which is a Rite, and a particular Church within the Catholic Church)? Shouldn’t the question be: If God calls me to be Catholic ….? But then, once the question is worded that way, why couldn’t a Protestant say the same thing: “If God calls me to be Catholic, I will”? If you believe on the basis of Apostolic Tradition that you should be in full communion with the bishop of Rome, then how is that not already a divine calling? Why think one must wait for an inner voice (or whatever else is necessary to count as a divine calling)? Does the fact that the Eastern and Latin traditions need to be brought together, and not be subsumed into the other, give every person who discovers himself to be presently in schism (as the term is defined in the Catechism) from the Catholic Church a dispensation from the obligation to cease being in schism? Which obligation is greater: to cease being in schism from the Catholic Church, or to help the Orthodox understand that this is not all one-sided?

    Rather, I consider the Orthodox Church, with the Orthodox-Catholic Soloviev quoted above, to be an “organic part of Christendom” whereby deeming it (as Rome does) a “true local and particular church” and “sister church” to those of the west. As such, according to our agreed statement at Balamand (1993) there is no reason for any one to “convert” to either. Both of us possess the fullness of the Church, we simply need to unite in order to give the fullness to each other.

    Here again it seems to me that you sidestep the question by referring to “Christendom.” As you know, the Creed does not refer to “Christendom,” but to the universal Church. The question therefore is not whether one is “an organic part of Christendom” but whether one is in full communion with (or in some form of schism from) the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church. The Balamand Declaration has to be understood rightly. The term ‘convert’ there has a much stronger connotation than merely “enter into full communion with the other Church.” It is situated in a context in which the very salvation of persons in the other Church was called into question, as was the validity of its sacraments. But the Declaration is not an agreement on the part of the Catholic Church that there is no reason the Orthodox should enter into full communion with the bishop of Rome while retaining everything that is true and good and holy in their tradition and patrimony. That would defeat the ultimate purpose of the document itself, from the Catholic point of view, just as (presumably) Balamand is not an agreement (from the Orthodox point of view) that there is no reason Catholics should give up uniquely Catholic dogmas as dogmas, when entering full communion with the Orthodox. The Balamand agreement is a practical pastoral agreement to remove ecumenical obstacles in a step-wise process aimed at restoring full communion between the Churches by their respective pastors; it is not a theological concession on the part of the Catholic Church that there is no reason for the Orthodox (individually or collectively) to enter into full communion with the bishop of Rome. That would be to read too much into the Declaration, far more than it is saying.

    If you need not enter into full communion with the Catholic Church and with the bishop of Rome, then why do the Orthodox Churches need to do so? But if they ought to do so, then how is it that you need not do so? How does the obligation apply to others but not to you? But if it doesn’t even apply to others, then I don’t see how that fits with what you say in this article concerning the importance of the papacy as a divinely instituted office. Why can’t the Orthodox Churches simply use the same “reconciled [to the Holy Father] in our hearts, but not in reality” move you are using? If that is a sufficient move for you, why isn’t it a sufficient move for them? Why expect them to do more than you yourself are willing to do? That, to me, is what is communicated by remaining Orthodox in order to “help the Orthodox understand that this is not all one-sided.” It performatively communicates, whether you intend this or not, that you think entering full communion with the bishop of Rome is not necessary. At least I don’t see how you think it avoids communicating this.

    When one’s priest goes into schism, does one have no obligation to remain in communion with one’s bishop, all other things being equal? And when one’s bishop goes into schism from the universal Church, does one have no obligation to remain in communion with the universal Church? Likewise, if one discovers that one’s bishop is in schism from the universal Church, does one have an obligation to remove oneself from the schism and pursue full communion with the universal Church, or can one justifiably knowingly remain in schism from the universal Church as long as one’s bishop is in a sincere long-term ecumenical dialogue aimed at the restoration of full communion with the universal Church? If the latter, then what if the situation also included [material] heresy? Is it permissible knowingly to remain in heresy within a schism from the Church as long as one’s heretical and schismatic bishop is in a sincere long-term ecumenical dialogue aimed at reconciliation with the universal Church? It seems to me that we have an obligation before God not to follow a bishop into schism from the universal Church, or to remain with a bishop who is in schism from the universal Church, if we know the bishop to be forming a schism from the universal Church or to be remaining in a schism from the universal Church. If we know a bishop to be in schism from the universal Church, and not yet willing to submit to the Magisterium of the universal Church, how can we justifiably follow him, since our higher obligation is to the Magisterium of the Church, from which this bishop has separated, and to Christ, who authorized the Magisterium which speaks for and in His Name?

    Having studied Unitatis Redintegratio and the post-conciliar magisterial teachings of the Holy See (Communionis Notio, Dominus Iesus, etc.) this seems to be the teaching of our Churches from the official levels. (But I could be missing something, or misconstruing something.)

    Therefore, unless your motivation is to further this effort of mutual respect and mutual recognition, I cannot support any effort to endorse an “ecumenism of return” which was rejected by Vatican II (if this what you’re asking).

    In your article you seem to be advocating the idea that the fullness of the Church is “through the sacraments,” as when you say “We already possess the fullness of the Church through the sacraments,” and when you say:

    especially as Eucharistic ecclesiology becomes embraced by more Orthodox) that this position on the schism is in fact the one of Holy Tradition and history, and those who oppose it …. Thus since I posses the Catholic faith by communion at my Orthodox parish, there is no reason for me ‘convert.’ Moreover, since I commune with the Body of Christ, and the same Sacramental reality is present at every Catholic communion, we are in fact in communion with one another

    The notion that having the Eucharist is sufficient for full communion with the Catholic Church is not taught by Unitatis Redintegratio or any post-conciliar magisterial teachings of the Holy See, including Communionis Notio and Dominus Iesus. Communionis Notio 14 and 17, for example, teach quite the opposite, namely, that particular Churches not in communion with the bishop of Rome are deficient in certain respects, even in their Eucharist, not because it is an invalid Eucharist (it isn’t), but because there is a contradiction between the Eucharist on the one hand, and not being in full communion with the head of the episcopacy on the other hand. Communionis Notio 18 entails precisely a certain form of “ecumenism of return,” not necessarily by the abandonment of true but separated particular Churches, but instead by the return on the part of those separated particular Churches (and individuals) to the unity that has never been lost, and has always been preserved only within the Catholic Church.

    Similarly, Unitatis Redintegratio 3 claims that “the separated Churches” are “deficient in some respects.” It teaches that “Our separated brethren, whether considered as individuals or as Communities and Churches, are not blessed with that unity which Jesus Christ wished to bestow on all those who through Him were born again into one body.” They are separated from the Catholic Church, God’s “only flock” (Unitatis Redintegratio 2) which is ruled by “the bishops with Peter’s successor at their head,” the Church that is “shepherded in perfect unity” under St. Peter and his successors. (Unitatis Redintegratio 2.) But the Catholic Church is said to possess that unity, and never to have lost it or even be capable of losing it. (Unitatis Redintegratio 4) So the reunion of these “separated [particular] Churches” has to be one of return to that unity that has never been lost, but has always been preserved only within the Catholic Church.

    And similarly in Dominus Iesus 16, the Catholic Church teaches that “the unicity and the unity of the Church, like everything that belongs to the Church’s integrity, will never be lacking.” The document reads:

    This Church, constituted and organized as a society in the present world, subsists in [subsistit in] the Catholic Church, governed by the Successor of Peter and by the Bishops in communion with him. With the expression subsistit in, the Second Vatican Council sought to harmonize two doctrinal statements: on the one hand, that the Church of Christ, despite the divisions which exist among Christians, continues to exist fully only in the Catholic Church, and on the other hand, that outside of her structure, many elements can be found of sanctification and truth, that is, in those Churches and ecclesial communities which are not yet in full communion with the Catholic Church. But with respect to these, it needs to be stated that they derive their efficacy from the very fullness of grace and truth entrusted to the Catholic Church.

    17. Therefore, there exists a single Church of Christ, which subsists in the Catholic Church, governed by the Successor of Peter and by the Bishops in communion with him. The Churches which, while not existing in perfect communion with the Catholic Church, remain united to her by means of the closest bonds, that is, by apostolic succession and a valid Eucharist, are true particular Churches. Therefore, the Church of Christ is present and operative also in these Churches, even though they lack full communion with the Catholic Church, since they do not accept the Catholic doctrine of the Primacy, which, according to the will of God, the Bishop of Rome objectively has and exercises over the entire Church. (Dominus Iesus, 16-17)

    The same teaching was repeated in the CDF’s Responsa ad quaestiones in 2007. You seem to think that according to post-VII Catholic doctrine, the Catholic Church believes herself to be just one communion among many communions, and that reunion between these various separated communions will not involve a return to the unity established by Christ only in the Catholic Church and preserved only in the Catholic Church. But that’s not what any post-VII Catholic document teaches. They teach, on the contrary, that the Catholic Church alone was given, has preserved, and presently possesses the fullness of this unity, and therefore that reconciliation and reunion between the Catholic Church and the separated Churches is not by the re-creation of a new unity that had at some point in the past vanished from the earth, but rather by the return by those presently separated from that unity to the unity always preserved within and only within the Catholic Church governed by the successor of St. Peter and the bishops in communion with him. The Eucharistic ecclesiology according to which possession of the fullness of the universal Church is entailed by possession of the Eucharist is in this way a denial of the possibility that particular Churches (preserving Holy Orders and valid sacraments) can fall into schism from the universal Church, and in that sense is contrary to Catholic doctrine and the Catholic account of Church history, according to which schism of this very sort is not only possible, but has happened many times in Church history.

    So it seems to me that in certain important respects the position you are advocating is one that is not consistent with the teaching of the Catholic Church, but is based on a misunderstanding of the relevant post-VII documents. I’d be glad to hear your thoughts about this.

    May God by His Spirit bring us together in full visible unity, under the mantle of the blessed Theotokos.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

    1. Bryan,

      Thank you kindly for your thoughtful reply to my thoughts. I appreciate especially that you have offered them in a spirit of Christian love. Please forgive me for delaying to respond until now. With God’s help, I hope to respond in kind.

      This line puzzled me when I first read it, and continues to puzzle me as I re-read it:

      “What exactly does it mean to reconcile oneself, [only] in one’s heart, to a bishop or to the pope? Is it possible to remain voluntarily in schism (as the Catechism of the Catholic Church defines ‘schism’ in CCC 2089) and simultaneously be reconciled in one’s heart to the bishop of Rome? If so, I don’t see what it means to be “reconciled in one’s heart” to the bishop of Rome. That looks to me to be instead a desire to be reconciled, not actual reconciliation.”

      Yes, I desire to be reconciled, and I desire to be in communion. I desire to submit fully to the governance of the Holy Father. At the same time, I want to serve the unity of the Church. I’m not sure the best way to do that.

      I grew even more puzzled when you said in your comments,

      “I consider myself Orthodox in communion with the Holy Father, but only in spirit, not in reality.” This suggests that whatever spiritual communion you have with the Holy Father is not real, since it is not “in reality.” I don’t think you mean to imply that. But hopefully you see the problem.”

      Yes, I see the problem, and my wording doesn’t help either. I am looking to the unity of the Church as a whole. I feel like an Eastern Catholic on the other side of the divide. One who wishes to suffer in the difficulty of quasi-schism for the sake of the Church. It is an atempt to bridge a gap that seems impassable when the continued schism resonates in the depths of one’s soul as nothing but the continuing the tears of the Blessed Virgin. If it seems convoluted, that’s because it is. I don’t know how to heal the schism, but I do know that uniatism and absorbtion (including legitimate ecclesiastical traditions) is not the way to unity, as our agreed statement of Balamand affirmed.

      What do you think Bryan: Does the Zoghby Initiative, from your interpretation of CCC2089, constitute schism? Does Gregory II Youssef’s qualified acceptance of Pastor Aeternus strike you as schismatic? Or what do you think of Maximos IV vigorous defense against Latinization at Vatican II? In comparing Orientalium Ecclesiarum with Ea Semper and Cum Data Fuerit, an Eastern Catholic (and an Orthodox) would consider the former as the Vatican’s mea culpa for the sake of Christian unity. I’m admitting the same from my side. I admit the “woundedness” of Orthodoxy (as CDF’s 1992 Notio Communionis put it). I assert, however, and I think many Eastern Catholics would agree, that there is also a “woundness” within the Papacy and it is exercised now. Is this not what Bl. John Paul elucidated in Ut Unum Sint?

      I acknowledged … the Catholic Church’s conviction that in the ministry of the Bishop of Rome she has preserved, in fidelity to the Apostolic Tradition and the faith of the Fathers, the visible sign and guarantor of unity, constitutes a difficulty for most other Christians, whose memory is marked by certain painful recollections. To the extent that we are responsible for these, I join my Predecessor Paul VI in asking forgiveness.(88)

      When addressing the Ecumenical Patriarch His Holiness Dimitrios I, I acknowledged my awareness that “for a great variety of reasons, and against the will of all concerned, what should have been a service sometimes manifested itself in a very different light. But … it is out of a desire to obey the will of Christ truly that I recognize that as Bishop of Rome I am called to exercise that ministry … I insistently pray the Holy Spirit to shine his light upon us, enlightening all the Pastors and theologians of our Churches, that we may seek—together, of course—the forms in which this ministry may accomplish a service of love recognized by all concerned”. (95)

      Bl. John Paul also mentions elsewhere that “Not only personal sins must be forgiven and left behind, but also social sins, which is to say the sinful “structures” themselves which have contributed and can still contribute to division and to the reinforcing of division.” (34). An Eastern Catholic who is struggling to maintain the Eastern ecclesial tradition in union with Rome, for the sake of the Church, is attempting to balance the monarchical papal authority with the conciliar tradition of the East. The CDF should clarify the fact that schism is not only juridical, but also personal and spiritual, and elaborate on the Blessed Pope’s encyclical, explore these possibilities. The Papacy as a structure, despite its divine authority and foundational reality for the Church, must be reformed to accommodate the legitimate traditions. Fathers, provoke not your children to wrath.

      “There are historical and situational nuances to a condition of schism, to be sure, but nevertheless, those nuances do not transform a schism into something other than schism. Rather, they determine the degree of culpability for its formation and the obstacles remaining to its resolution.”

      A valid point! I would simply point out that both are at fault. Both sides. To a large extent, the west has done a lot of metanoia. The East has not. I’m trying, with God’s help, to share in that. I’m trying to, yes, “determine the degree of culpability,” and I see that the east has a long way to go. I do not believe that at this moment for me personally the answer is to become Catholic. I’m trying to witness to the integrity of the Orthodox faith, but also its weakness, and its need for the west.

      “But surely you see that if one’s position entails that all those in schism from the Catholic Church have a sufficient reason not to enter into full communion with the Catholic Church, then one’s reasoning has gone wrong somewhere upstream, or at least one’s position is contrary to the teaching of the Catholic Church.”

      Bryan: I do not deny the validity of your argument. I grant it. However, I do believe that you are simplifying something that is more complex than this. Let me point you to an article I wrote on this difficulty: http://quiesincaelis.wordpress.com/2013/01/14/is-the-papacy-a-constitutive-element-of-the-church/

      The point is that the schism between the east and west is not a schism that is comparable to schisms that have often happened within one geographical jurisdiction (which is what CCC 2089 seems to be discussing). In the western schisms, a failure to submit to the Pope is a rejection of the Latin tradition. In the west-east schism, a failure to submit to the pope is at worst a phyletistic nationalism, and at best an attempt to safeguard the Greek tradition and qualify the papal dogmas.

      “How does the agreement not to engage in mutual proselytization mean that if one recognizes oneself to be in schism from the Catholic Church, one need not leave that condition and seek full communion with her? You refer to the term “sister Churches,” as if that precludes the need to enter into full communion with the Catholic Church. But that term [i.e. ‘sister Churches’] refers to particular Churches (including the particular Church of Rome); it does not refer to the universal Church. The universal Church is not a sister Church and has no sister Church, because (according to Catholic doctrine) there is only one universal Church, governed by the successor of St. Peter in Rome and all the bishops in full communion with him. Being in a “sister Church” that is in schism from the universal Church (according to the definition of ‘schism’ in the Catechism) does not mean that one may remain in schism from the universal Church. That is, being in a “sister Church” does not entail either that one is in full communion with the universal Church or provide a justification for remaining in schism from the universal Church.”

      It would seem that I must address the objection of schism more fully. I wonder, first, about your knowledge of Eastern Catholicism and Christianity and its struggle to define itself in the midst of Latinized domination, bearing the cross of Church unity. Then, I wonder if you would place the schism of the SSPX, for example, along the same lines as the Orthodox. I certainly would not. When one has a legitimate tradition (Greek) which does not readily assert itself in ways that another (Latin) tradition does, and the latter demands the former accept it without further discussion (like Pius IX’s In Suprema Petri Apostoli Sede), assuming that the Latin tradition is fully understood and integrated into the Greek, is, as Aiden Nichols graciously observed, “tactless.” Further, as my friend John above pointed out, no less than a Catholic Cardinal (Yves Congor) admits that when the East objects to Vatican I, in one sense their objection is legitimate. I did not write the above essay to explain that legitimate refusal, I wrote it to explain the illegimitate refusal. Its purpose was to personally share with my Christians brothers and sisters my own struggle with the spiritual side of the question, the unrepentant rancor that I found in Orthodoxy, which is hateful to God and leads nowhere but hell. I’m simply claiming that the schism between our Churches is within the one Church. I hope the article I linked will help explain that better.

      “Moreover, in Catholic doctrine, the fullness of the Church is not limited to the sacraments, but intrinsically and essentially includes the Church’s one hierarchy. So in the Catholic picture, if one is not submitted to the pope, one does not possess “the fullness of the Church.” In Catholic doctrine the papacy is not accidental to the Church Militant, but internal and essential to her divinely established structure. To claim otherwise is to deny the Catholic dogma concerning the papacy. That’s why one cannot have it both ways, i.e. claim to have the fullness of the Church while apart from full communion with the papacy, and simultaneously claim to affirm the Catholic doctrine of the papacy, according to which the papacy is instituted by Christ and is essential to the Church as the office of its universal shepherd until Christ returns.”

      Yes, I do not deny this. I simply point out in the article (that I linked), that perhaps the Papacy is not as constitutive as the Eucharist, since the Orthodox Church is given the term “church” while the Protestants are not. By the same vein, collegiality and conciliarity are also fundamental principles of the Church, but these have only begun to be dogmatized in the west. If the west dogmatizes one principle, and the east dogmatizes its balancing principle, then we have two extreme position that need to come into equilibrium. That’s the Ecumenical Struggle.

      One of those claims has to give way to the other.
      “Both sides must give up their exclusivism to some degree in order to come together.”

      “Which Catholic doctrines concerning the Church and the papacy must the Catholic Church give up, in your opinion? How is this claim of yours not taking a stand above both [Orthodox and Catholic authorities], in order to say what they each must give up? I don’t see how this fits with the stance of humility and submission to authority you advocate (beautifully) elsewhere in the article. It is (seemingly) a kind of view from nowhere, or rather, from a position of self-assumed authority. Again, my concern (stated above) is that by claiming to be “reconciled [only] in your heart” to the Holy Father, you seemingly give yourself a free pass to tell him which Catholic dogmas/doctrines [pertaining to Catholic exclusivism] he needs to rescind, in order to bring about Catholic-Orthodox reunion. Catholics who in reality have submitted themselves to the Holy Father don’t have that option. But perhaps I’m deeply misunderstanding you.”

      Hmm. I’m sorry to give the impression that I seek to exalt myself! I certainly don’t want to do that. I’m drawing on different scholars who have said such things. Also, having read all of our agreed statements as churches, this concept seems to flow from it. For example, Balamand again:

      On each side it is recognized that what Christ has entrusted to his Church – profession of apostolic faith, participation in the same sacraments, above all the one priesthood celebrating the one sacrifice of Christ, the apostolic succession of bishops – cannot be considered the exclusive property of one of our Churches.
      14. It is in this perspective that the Catholic Churches and the Orthodox Churches recognize each other as Sister Churches, responsible together for maintaining the Church of God in fidelity to the divine purpose, most especially in what concerns unity. According to the words of Pope John Paul II, the ecumenical endeavour of the Sister Churches of East and West, grounded in dialogue and prayer, is the search for perfect and total communion which is neither absorption nor fusion but a meeting in truth and love (cf. Slavorum Apostoli, n. 27).
      (13, 14: http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/pontifical_councils/chrstuni/ch_orthodox_docs/rc_pc_chrstuni_doc_19930624_lebanon_en.html)

      I rely on the official position of Rome through the statements I mentioned in the article, that Orthodox possess “churchliness” but are nonetheless refusing to be in communion. If God calls me to be a Latin, I will. I have no qualms about that. But right now I am Orthodox and as other Orthodox who agree with me, I am remaining Orthodox, which helps the Orthodox understand that this is not all one-sided. Our traditions need to be brought together, not subsumed into the other.

      “What strikes me is this line “If God calls me to be Latin …” Doesn’t that sidestep the question, because “Catholic” is not necessarily “Latin” (which is a Rite, and a particular Church within the Catholic Church)? Shouldn’t the question be: If God calls me to be Catholic ….? But then, once the question is worded that way, why couldn’t a Protestant say the same thing: “If God calls me to be Catholic, I will”? If you believe on the basis of Apostolic Tradition that you should be in full communion with the bishop of Rome, then how is that not already a divine calling? Why think one must wait for an inner voice (or whatever else is necessary to count as a divine calling)? Does the fact that the Eastern and Latin traditions need to be brought together, and not be subsumed into the other, give every person who discovers himself to be presently in schism (as the term is defined in the Catechism) from the Catholic Church a dispensation from the obligation to cease being in schism? Which obligation is greater: to cease being in schism from the Catholic Church, or to help the Orthodox understand that this is not all one-sided?”

      As I stated above, I do not believe the Orthodox Church to be in schism in the same way as you are asserting. To a degree, I agree, but to another I do not. The reason one should try to discern one’s place in the difficulty of this division is because both of us possess “what Christ entrusted to the Church” in the form of sacraments, which, as Valamo put it, “it is at the eucharist that the Church manifests its fullness” (34). For your information, I have sought out a monastic vocation, including at Catholic monasteries. Some have actually recommended I stay Orthodox and work with the Ecumenical Struggle here. That, to me, seems to be in line with the quotation from our agreed statement above. I would like to discuss your interpretation of Balamand, because it seems to suggest that we should not seek conversion but cooperation towards full unity: “It is not a question of seeking the conversion of persons from one Church to the other. This latter type of missionary activity, which has been called “uniatism”, cannot be accepted either as a method to follow or as a model for the unity which is being sought by our Churches.” (Intro: http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/pontifical_councils/chrstuni/ch_orthodox_docs/rc_pc_chrstuni_doc_19930624_lebanon_en.html)

      “Rather, I consider the Orthodox Church, with the Orthodox-Catholic Soloviev quoted above, to be an “organic part of Christendom” whereby deeming it (as Rome does) a “true local and particular church” and “sister church” to those of the west. As such, according to our agreed statement at Balamand (1993) there is no reason for any one to “convert” to either. Both of us possess the fullness of the Church, we simply need to unite in order to give the fullness to each other.”

      “Here again it seems to me that you sidestep the question by referring to “Christendom.” As you know, the Creed does not refer to “Christendom,” but to the universal Church. The question therefore is not whether one is “an organic part of Christendom” but whether one is in full communion with (or in some form of schism from) the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church. The Balamand Declaration has to be understood rightly. The term ‘convert’ there has a much stronger connotation than merely “enter into full communion with the other Church.” It is situated in a context in which the very salvation of persons in the other Church was called into question, as was the validity of its sacraments. But the Declaration is not an agreement on the part of the Catholic Church that there is no reason the Orthodox should enter into full communion with the bishop of Rome while retaining everything that is true and good and holy in their tradition and patrimony. That would defeat the ultimate purpose of the document itself, from the Catholic point of view, just as (presumably) Balamand is not an agreement (from the Orthodox point of view) that there is no reason Catholics should give up uniquely Catholic dogmas as dogmas, when entering full communion with the Orthodox. The Balamand agreement is a practical pastoral agreement to remove ecumenical obstacles in a step-wise process aimed at restoring full communion between the Churches by their respective pastors; it is not a theological concession on the part of the Catholic Church that there is no reason for the Orthodox (individually or collectively) to enter into full communion with the bishop of Rome. That would be to read too much into the Declaration, far more than it is saying.”

      Ah, I think I understand now. So you are saying that Balamand’s effort to discourage conversion is not effort to discourage it per se, but rather denounce an unhealthy uniatism. I understand that. I see two different legimitate positions, however, wherein you and I differ. One takes this to a theological step, as I do, the other, fits it within a more exclusive framework. I understand your perspective. Have you read the documents from the North American dailogue? My sense from them is that they more advocate a schism-within-the Church concept, while the international is less open to that. I would wonder what an Eastern Catholic would say to this.

      “If you need not enter into full communion with the Catholic Church and with the bishop of Rome, then why do the Orthodox Churches need to do so? But if they ought to do so, then how is it that you need not do so? How does the obligation apply to others but not to you?”

      Bryan, let me explain this as best I can. The Church is broken. I’m broken, you’re broken. The Papacy, though divinely instituted, is broken. In the words of our North American dialogue’s most recent pronouncement, “Steps to a reunited Church”

      To be what we are called to be, we need each other. In the words of the Second Vatican Council, “The divisions among Christians prevent the Church from realizing in practice the fullness of catholicity proper to her” (Unitatis Redintegratio 4). To become what we are, effectively and permanently, we cannot stop short of re-establishing full Eucharistic communion among ourselves. Clearly, this cannot be achieved without new, better harmonized structures of leadership on both sides: new conceptions of both synodality and primacy in the universal Church, new approaches to the way primacy and authority are exercised in both our communions. (5: http://www.scoba.us/articles/towards-a-unified-church.html)
      I am not claiming that since I am not entering into full communion, the Orthodox need not so, or vice versa, I am trying to work out my vocation as an Orthodox Christian working towards unity. If the whole Orthodox Church decided to reconcile, I would certainly reconcile! I do not know if it is best for me to stay Orthodox and work for unity, or reconcile myself fully with the Holy Father now. I do not see the urgency for reconciling myself personally as you do, since I’m trying to find my place in the midst of a larger struggle. I have reconciled myself to the Holy Father, but my brethren have not (largely). What shall I do? Abandon my brethren? Or stick with them for the sake of the Church’s unity? To work among Orthodox in order to be fully Orthodox and believe that Catholicism is Orthodoxy too. I’m trying to find some moderate way like Zoghby, but it’s not pretty. I know that. I think ultimately I can’t answer your question except with the fact that I commune with the Body of Christ at my Orthodox altar, and thus commune with you. And I weep at our disunity, seeking to rectify it any way that I can. In this point in my discernment, I do not believe that reconciling myself to the Holy Father at this point is precisely what I must do. If I discern otherwise, I will do otherwise. God help me!

      “But if it doesn’t even apply to others, then I don’t see how that fits with what you say in this article concerning the importance of the papacy as a divinely instituted office. Why can’t the Orthodox Churches simply use the same “reconciled [to the Holy Father] in our hearts, but not in reality” move you are using? If that is a sufficient move for you, why isn’t it a sufficient move for them?”

      It’s not. It’s an effort to try to work for Christian unity and walk the line like Eastern Catholics, as I stated above. It’s not a sufficient move. Nothing is sufficient until we are all one. You seem to accuse me of bad faith. Forgive my sins, my brother, for I am a sinner with very little faith. I do hope, God helping me, that I can do something for unity among the Orthodox, as other Catholics (whom I respect) have told me and advised me to do. I know not.

      “Why expect them to do more than you yourself are willing to do? That, to me, is what is communicated by remaining Orthodox in order to “help the Orthodox understand that this is not all one-sided.” It performatively communicates, whether you intend this or not, that you think entering full communion with the bishop of Rome is not necessary. At least I don’t see how you think it avoids communicating this.”

      Well, shall I simply be clear? Communion with Rome is necessary. I’m trying to show that by staying Orthodox it is not a sublimation of our tradition to believe in the Papacy. That has been the concern for generations. The Orthodox fear losing to Latinization and papal supression. History teaaches that these fears are not altogether unjustified. However, as I attempted to show in this essay, they are ultimately untenable, according to Christian love and Holy Tradition.

      “When one’s priest goes into schism, does one have no obligation to remain in communion with one’s bishop, all other things being equal? And when one’s bishop goes into schism from the universal Church, does one have no obligation to remain in communion with the universal Church? Likewise, if one discovers that one’s bishop is in schism from the universal Church, does one have an obligation to remove oneself from the schism and pursue full communion with the universal Church, or can one justifiably knowingly remain in schism from the universal Church as long as one’s bishop is in a sincere long-term ecumenical dialogue aimed at the restoration of full communion with the universal Church? If the latter, then what if the situation also included [material] heresy? Is it permissible knowingly to remain in heresy within a schism from the Church as long as one’s heretical and schismatic bishop is in a sincere long-term ecumenical dialogue aimed at reconciliation with the universal Church? It seems to me that we have an obligation before God not to follow a bishop into schism from the universal Church, or to remain with a bishop who is in schism from the universal Church, if we know the bishop to be forming a schism from the universal Church or to be remaining in a schism from the universal Church. If we know a bishop to be in schism from the universal Church, and not yet willing to submit to the Magisterium of the universal Church, how can we justifiably follow him, since our higher obligation is to the Magisterium of the Church, from which this bishop has separated, and to Christ, who authorized the Magisterium which speaks for and in His Name?”

      I think the point of our disagreement is on the nature of the schism. I would point out to you that there are Catholics who disagree with you on your interpretation of CCC 2089. I’m sorry I’m not giving a bunch of references (I sort of want to get this response done finally!), but Aidan Nichols explores this in his book Rome and the Eastern Churches and discusses how the Orthodox churches have been viewed differently by Roman Catholics. The approach, of course, has softened dramatically from In Suprema Petri Apostoli Sede to Orientale Lumen. One could argue, moreover, that the threat of the heresy of Ultramontanism, which was somewhat successful at Vatican I (though never excplicitly affirmed), is evidence to the Orthodox that they cannot accept the primacy. But if we sift through these difficulties, we find that Rome does not in fact profess this heresy, and that’s what I’m trying to get at. To what extent can the eastern churches be culpable for the schism? To the extent that they reject love, pridefully reject authority, and refuse to forgive. To what extent can the west be culpable? By failing to make the primacy a service of love, but of supressing legitimate eastern traditions.

      “The notion that having the Eucharist is sufficient for full communion with the Catholic Church is not taught by Unitatis Redintegratio or any post-conciliar magisterial teachings of the Holy See, including Communionis Notio and Dominus Iesus. Communionis Notio 14 and 17, for example, teach quite the opposite, namely, that particular Churches not in communion with the bishop of Rome are deficient in certain respects, even in their Eucharist, not because it is an invalid Eucharist (it isn’t), but because there is a contradiction between the Eucharist on the one hand, and not being in full communion with the head of the episcopacy on the other hand. Communionis Notio 18 entails precisely a certain form of “ecumenism of return,” not necessarily by the abandonment of true but separated particular Churches, but instead by the return on the part of those separated particular Churches (and individuals) to the unity that has never been lost, and has always been preserved only within the Catholic Church.”

      Bryan: of course the Eucharist alone is not sufficient for the fullness. Nevertheless, as UR states, “through the celebration of the Holy Eucharist in each of these [eastern] churches, the Church of God is built up and grows in stature” (15). We’re clinging to this part, Bryan, because this is the “closest intimacy” which the document speaks of two paragraphs later. We’re focusing on this because it is our life. The universal Church, though perichoretically part of the esse of the local Eucharistic sacrifice, does not itself have a Eucharistic sacrifice, but seeks to validate the local churches. The language that you use, simply, needs to be mutual. There is a “return” of the Orthodox Churches to unity, yes, and there is also a “turn” of the Papacy to love and service that was mentioned by Blessed John Paul in Ut Unum Sint, a repentance of the Papacy.

      “You seem to think that according to post-VII Catholic doctrine, the Catholic Church believes herself to be just one communion among many communions, and that reunion between these various separated communions will not involve a return to the unity established by Christ only in the Catholic Church and preserved only in the Catholic Church.”

      No, I do not. But that return does not mean submission, but mutual cooperative and sharing. That’s the sense I get from the documents. I am focusing on the more cooperative elements and wishing not to down play what you are saying, but to balance.

      “They teach, on the contrary, that the Catholic Church alone was given, has preserved, and presently possesses the fullness of this unity, and therefore that reconciliation and reunion between the Catholic Church and the separated Churches is not by the re-creation of a new unity that had at some point in the past vanished from the earth, but rather by the return by those presently separated from that unity to the unity always preserved within and only within the Catholic Church governed by the successor of St. Peter and the bishops in communion with him.”

      Bryan: it’s only your wording that I take issue with. There is a certain “recreation” of unity that is asked for by Blessed John Paul in Ut Unum Sint, in asking people to reflect on the papacy. This is what I’m emphasizing. On the other hand, as the Notio Communionis mentioned, the divine primacy is not up for argument, but its exercise is. That’s the real issue we’re working out here. I think the Orthodox, if we’re honest about our tradition, we’ll affirm that the Papacy is divine, but we can both admit that it’s not been rightly exercised too. Any Eastern Catholic will tell you that.

      “The Eucharistic ecclesiology according to which possession of the fullness of the universal Church is entailed by possession of the Eucharist is in this way a denial of the possibility that particular Churches (preserving Holy Orders and valid sacraments) can fall into schism from the universal Church, and in that sense is contrary to Catholic doctrine and the Catholic account of Church history, according to which schism of this very sort is not only possible, but has happened many times in Church history. So it seems to me that in certain important respects the position you are advocating is one that is not consistent with the teaching of the Catholic Church, but is based on a misunderstanding of the relevant post-VII documents.”

      Well, I respectfully disagree that I am misunderstanding these documents. I admit that I could be, but I see a balance (which I have gleaned from Catholic scholars) that the perspective you seem to be advocating lacks. I admit I’m not very good at articulating it, and I’m quite fallible, so I hope that we can continue the conversation over that blog entry I shared.

      In addition, I’ve invited a well-respected Eastern Catholic friend to share his two cents on the matter, and perhaps we can have a fruitful discussion.

      I remain faithfully your brother in Christ, for the cause of reconciliation and love,

      Timothy Flanders

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