Saturday, June 13, 2009

Eastern Rite Catholic's and the Filioque

Perry Robinson has posted on Rome's forbearance (and lack thereof) with respect Eastern Catholics and the Filioque. My comment is here. Apologies in advance to my Catholic readers. Neither Perry nor I are members of the kumbaya club.

While I have great respect for the Roman Church as I have said on multiple occasions, that does not extend to restoring communion absent some fairly major doctrinal shifts on her part. Nor would I expect anything less from Rome than a demand for complete acquiescence to all of her post schism doctrines and dogmas as a precondition to restored communion. Which in a nutshell is why I believe we need to work on the things we can agree on (there are many) and stop trying to put all the water back in the reservoir a thousand years after the dam burst.


Josephus Flavius said...

The anti-Catholic repetitiveness in Energetic Procession is tiring. Too much time is being spent being anti-Rome to no real effect. If you're reading his blog the chances are you're Orthodox and not Catholic Latin or Eastern so I'm not sure what he's trying to accomplish - there are already bookshelves of texts decrying Roman mistakes in the path. The imposition of the filioque over history is not a current practice and has not been one for several decades. We could cherry pick Orthodox problems of the past, but that serves no purpose either. In current practice if an Orthodox or Eastern Catholic hierarch is in the church when the creed is spoken it is without the filioque.

As an Orthodox priest said to me last week, "Your conversion story or what the West believes shouldn't be who you are or what you concern yourself with. Think about where you are in your faith - where you are in your prayers, fasting, and almsgiving- that's the road you need to be walking."

David Dickens said...

Can I ask an odd question? Is there anything at all that we Eastern Orthodox would have to concede, or is the way forward 100% redaction by the Romans alone?

Michael said...

As things stand, right at this present moment, I imagine there would need to be some give on our side as far as the papal claims went. We would also need to alter our understand of the heretical status of certain of Rome's teachings and actions in order to enable ourselves to enter into communion with those who subscribe to such. This would mean modifying our ecclesiology to accommodate this.

To be honest, I would struggle to see where Christ would be in such a move.

David Dickens said...

Hrm, given that many eastern Churches adopt RCC members by Chrismation alone, it would seem some of us are already saying Rome is indeed part of the Church, just that they are in error.

I have no idea what I'm talking about BTW, I'm perfectly happy with whatever my Bishop says and does regarding Catholics and their Pope.

Though I'll admit, I've never bluntly asked the question.

Acolyte4236 said...


If I may take some time to suggest a different way of looking at the post.

First, our blog is no more anti-Catholic than the near legion of Catholics blogs are anti-Orthodox. Second, I strive to be an equal opportunity offender and so I rotate those posts that argue against other theological positions. If you look through the past posts I think you will notice this. I don't single out Rome.
Third, I am responding to actual arguments given by Catholics against Orthodoxy. If my argument in this case is to no real effect, then it seems to follow that the Catholic argument is equally a bad one. Is that what you wish to imply? Fourth, I am commenting on current and continuing Roman policy. Rome still imposes the Filioque as dogma and in the Creed with respect to specific rites. And the impermanent status of the creed with or without the Filioque is also current Roman policy. Fifth and while there are lots of books that discuss the matter, there are lots of books, which Catholic apologists never seem to read, which discuss Catholic objections to Orthodoxy. Yet there is no shortage of Catholic blogs, forums, textbooks, etc. that continue to deploy them, even in cases where they have been proven factually false by Catholic scholars, as in the case of Dr. Blosser and the supposed 2nd excommunication of Saint Photios. Furthermore, many people haven't read these materials and so part of my purpose is didactic. Sixth, the non-recitation of the Filioque in the presence of Eastern Catholic figures depends on the rite I believe so it isn't uniform and in any case leaves untouched the point I made, that even if true, this is not a situation that is beyond revision by Rome. As a consequence, I am not cherry picking. I fully acknowledge practical problems among the Orthodox, but what I pointed out above was in response to a Catholic argument and concerned doctrine.

I know it is hard for some to believe, but I am no Romaphobe and anyone who knows me knows that this has never been the way I have been disposed. I have gone out of my way to defend Rome from Protestant or secular critics when their criticisms were based on caricature or were just bad arguments. I simply try to see things as they are, rather than as I would like them to be.

Acolyte4236 said...


The Orthodox also receive Episcopalians, Lutherans and Presbyterians by Chrismation as well.

David Dickens said...


And I've heard of some groups offering communion to OO's as well. These actions call into question the more formally defended ecclesiology I've heard. I'm trying to deal with the congnative dissonance between what people write in books and what priests do in the fields.

This is probably why this was all quite formal with anathemas and exiles and such in the past. Currently there is a creeping ambiguity.

I know absolutely nothing, but I do think we all need to be concerned, if praxis informs doctrine.

John (Ad Orientem) said...

Thanks for your comments. I think Rome would require us to accept all of her dogmatic additions post-schism in order to restore communion. That said there are some areas where I could see room for compromise on our part. For instance most Orthodox are inclined to believe in the Assumption of the Holy Theotokos.

Also I have readily conceded that we Orthodox have been too quick to declare what primacy is not, while ignoring what primacy is. There seems to be an opinion in certain Orthodox circles that primacy is nothing more than the right to be the first in a procession and to sit at the head of the table. Clearly it is more than that even as Rome's bizarre claims from Vatican I are just as clearly a non-starter with us.

As for how the heterodox are received into the Church that will vary from place to place. However, even where it is done by Holy Chrismation it is important to remember that this is an act of economy and does not confirm acceptance of a non-Orthodox sacrament as being with grace. The Orthodox Church has not ruled definitively on the "validity" of any non-Orthodox sacraments. The teaching of the Church is that there are no sacraments outside of her. But there has been much debate about where the boundaries of the Church lie on one side of which lie grace filled sacraments and on the other empty ones.

We do acknowledge degrees of error, and Rome is certainly the closest to us of the various Western Christian confessions.

Your observation about following the decision of your bishop is I think a very sound one.

The young fogey said...

Two points: most of online Orthodoxy is tiresome anti-Roman rubbish, regurgitated Protestantism, and essentially talking to itself. That said John's right. Celebrate the vast number of things in common but for union to happen one side would essentially have to cease to be. The real sticking point: the scope of the Pope. God-made office channelling the church's infallibility or man-made rank among the bishops for the good order of the church? Better a natural traditionalism with deep local roots (something pre-modern, pre-EWTN Western Catholics had) than what produced Vatican II.

Anonymous said...

The EP site isn't anti-Roman.To be more exact, it's anti-Western . It's even anti-modern, if what is meant by modern is the current Orthodox/ Catholic diversity of theological opinion. It mimics the relatively obscure writings of Joseph Farrell and the better well-known, but somewhat eccentric in attitude, John Romanides. Both are very provocative and make some interesting points but neither is truly regarded as "ecumenical" in the sense that Staniloae, Schemann, Bulgakov, Afanasiev, and other contemporary Orthodox theologians are.
True, there are some post discussing Protestantism but they're mainly to do with esoteric Calvinism,which is not the everyday faith of most Protestants.
I don't think using the term "heretical" is very helpful. The "developments" in Roman Catholic theology have a long parentage with roots in Patristics as is well known. The problem is not the developments themselves as how they were declared "dogma" without the consent of a true ( including "Eastern" and "western" bishops), ecumenical Council of bishops. The EP site is often anachronistic in its views, disregarding the contex historical, political, cultural, that gave rise to such developments. Further, it ignores the often uncharitable and arrogant actions by "Orthodox" towards Roman Catholicism in the pre-schism period and ignores the mutual ignorance each had.
"Traditional" Roman Catholic blogs are as representative of everyday Roman Catholicism as the Protestant blogs EP argues against, which is to say that they're rather esoteric and advocate, quite often, an ultramontane position.
Vatican II originated due, in large part, to the resurgence and "re-discovery" of the common patristic heritage. The result has been a change in theology, ( the common catechism reflects patristic theology on the whole), but there has been a deep resistance, on the part of the upper hierarchy, to its ecclesial vision, ( which again reflects the patristic heritage). The confusion that is seen, ( and decried by "traditionalists" and "progessives" alike), is the result of a poorly thought out program of reform, due, in large part, to overreliance on "authority", ( ultramontanism), and overreaction to said authority.
I read EP with some amusement. It's a theological version of the Itchy and Scratchy show. The Orthodox Itchy always demolishes the RC cat(holic).

Acolyte4236 said...


Let me to respond to the things in your post that aren’t insults. To say that EP is anti-western is rather vague. I suppose the only way in which I am specifically anti-western in terms of holding to ideas that are incompatible with and contrary to western modes of thinking would be in relation to enlightenment and humanistic presuppositions. I suppose one could say that I am anti-western in the same sense with being anti-hellenic, but then that makes me anti-the Greek Country Club nominal Orthodox too.

There really isn’t anything of great obscurity in Farrell’s writings on Maximus that can’t be found in Louth, Barthrellos, Torensen, Thunberg, et al. As for Fr. Romanides, well it is always curious that people deride him but uphold Florovsky when in fast they really don’t say anything different. This is why the latter named the former his best and most faithful student. Likewise I don’t think there is any great distance between Staniloae and Schmemann on the one hand and Romanides on the other. Just read Schmemann’s book on baptism and he quite negative comments about “western” sacramental theology. As for Bulgakov, well he’s got his own problems being faithful to the tradition with the Sophiaology. As for Afanasiev, while I am sure he is quite sincere and godly, saying that Orthodoxy holds to the Reformation doctrine of Sola Fide I think puts him outside the box you wish to construct for him.

As for the everyday faith of most Protestants, the Reformation traditions, at least in the states have made significant inroads to the pop evangelicalism. Outside of the Classical Reformation, there isn’t really much of a coherent target to hit anyhow.

If I were the Romaphobe that you wish to portray to readers here, I seriously doubt that Michael Liccone would permit me to put up entire posts on his blog. It’d be nice for a change if you and commenters like yourself could just stick with the argument of the post rather than insult the person who wrote it.

Anonymous said...

I figured that acolyte4236 would respond the way he has. Any critique of EP is automatically styled as personal insult.

I didn't refer to Farrell's work on Maximus which is a small contribution to the scholarship. His supposed magmum opus is, however, rather obscure to say the least and has yet to be peer reviewed.

As for Florovsky and Romanides, I'd say Florovsky is far the better historian than Romanides and this is why I argued that his (Romanides), views were eccentric.

Schmeman's critiques of western sacramental theology are in the same line as the critiques that Roman Catholic theologians have made themselves. The rest of those I mentioned are "ecumenical" in trying to broaden the horizon of discourse beyond the overworked polemical field that has proven so sterile to overcoming misunderstandings, anger and bitterness.

This is why I compared EP to the Itchy/ Scratchy cartoon show. It's entertaining but predictable and it ultimately doesn't amount to much.

Acolyte4236 said...

My mistake, the itchy and scratchy reference must be a compliment.

Anonymous said...

For an interesting take on all this, please read the essay by David Bentley Hart who truly does have a very wicked sense of humor.

Joseph Schmitt said...

Anonymous = Evagrius

It is getting all too easy to spot this bird.

Anonymous said...

Of course.

But I do think that D.B. Hart has exactly diagnosed the issue.

Joseph Schmitt said...


Maybe he has. Perry would disagree. I have yet to make up my mind. Nevertheless, your never-ending tirades against EP are tiresome to say the least. Hijacking comment boxes here, there, and everywhere with vacuous rhetoric is hardly the charitable way to express your disagreement. I know you are capable of dialogue, and we would do well to see you engage EP in a respectable manner.

John said...

Hi folks. Just a quick reminder... please play nice. Stick to issues not personalities in the discussion. Ad Hominums are a no no here. Thanking you in advance...


David Dickens said...

I just read Hart. I was surprised at his persuasiveness.

I've always been confused by the exact relationship between doctrinal error and the boundary of the Church. (since no one has anathematized me recently)

On the one hand you don't want to say that an idiot can't enter Heaven, on the other you can't say that someone who disagrees about the very nature of Christ is a part of the body.

There's the tension between the Church being "what these people believe" vs "the people that believe this". Obviously the Anglicans might go to far in the former, but fundamentalists go too far in the latter. Preserving the faith of the Apostles once and for all delivered to the Saints seems like the right balance, but in practice this can be muddied.

If one bishop breaks communion with another, what is that implying about the faithful who live under the "broken" bishop. Do they all have to march on the cathedral and toss him out? Can lay people be expected to figure out whether the monophysites should be communed or not or what to do about it when they hear a bishop communed some, or about their own bishop when he didn't condemn the bishop that communed them? (assuming they can even be sure that these people who were communed were indeed actually monophysites)

This is all very confusing and the more I think about it the more I realize I could write a post far to large for this forum with the endless questions which arise from this line of thinking.

I converted to Orthodoxy. Clearly I had to chose Rome's claim or the conciliar claim of the East. I chose the East. Hart's admission that some of these issues are essentially non-negotiable even in the most charitable position the East could take, was a substantial part of that decision.

Strangely it is the East's inability to heal the breach without changing it's nature, whereas Rome could remain Rome and cross the chasm, that affirms that I made the right choice.

Han said...

Back to the subject of the original post, it seems to me that certainly the filioque itself would have to be removed from Creed since only the Latins profess it (and the Creed is supposed to be the Creed of teh whole Church). However, the theological content behind it pre-dates that schism, and notwithstanding folks like St. Maximos the Confessor finding an orthodox understanding of it, I agree with the Bulgakov (yes, Bulgakov) that there hasn't been a real working out of the procession of the Spirit. What we have had were Latins talking to themselves, Orthodox talking to themselves, and polemics hurled at each other. One could hope that if the issues could be narrowed down and identified, there could be a real Ecumenical Synod to define the boundaries of the Faith. However, both sides would have to be open to the possibility that they might have been mistaken all these years. For us, it would be a blow to our pride, but there is nothing in our ecclesiology that would prevent it. For the Latins, there is the problematic "dogma" of Papal Infalibility which would get in the way.

Joseph Schmitt said...

Sorry, John...

As Hart even admits, the first step seems to be the necessity of removing the filioque from the Creed. How to reconcile the Latin and Greek understandings is another project in itself, but the dialogue has to start here.

The Ochlophobist said...

Strangely it is the East's inability to heal the breach without changing it's nature, whereas Rome could remain Rome and cross the chasm, that affirms that I made the right choice.

Mr. Dickens,

I believe that this view is incorrect.

For Rome to cross the chasm, as you put it, assuming the ecclesiological terms you have used, Rome would have to deny the teaching of Vatican I regarding universal papal jurisdiction. That language is unequivocal, comprehensive, absolute, and coherent. It has been received as such. It has been codified by the RC magisterium, and, most important to this discussion, it is dogma for the RCC.

For the RCC to cross the chasm, as you put it, the RCC would have to deny what it once stated to be dogma. It is a foundational principle of RC identity that dogma cannot be changed or retracted (it may develop so long as there is no formal retraction - development compliments truth upon truth, and does not fragment or formally reverse, in the RC view of this theory). RCs believe that the Church cannot err in the public, magisterial pronouncement of dogma. Thus to admit an error would be to deny that one is what one once said one was.

I am aware of the work of some who are suggesting that Rome could agree to be in communion with those who hold that VatI was just a local Council and not binding on all Christians. These persons who hold this view would only have to agree to cease to call VatI necessarily false and heretical or heterodox. The problem with this is that the language of VatI is unreservedly universal. It is incoherent to suggest that a person can hold it as mere theologumenon. It is either quite truthful, or quite a distortion of the truth. One or the other. It is also an awkward thing to suggest that one need not assent to VatI, only cease to hold it as heretical, when VatI itself requires and demands assent of all persons, without exception, that are in the Church, and declares those who do not positively assent to its dogmas regarding the papacy to be anathema.

Thus it seems to me that for a unity for Rome and Orthodoxy to be achieved, one of the two must cease to be what they now claim to be - the Church whose dogmas are without error.

Darlene said...

Och, very coherent assessment. So why all this talk of the Roman Church and the EO uniting? The RCC or the EO would have to make compromises to the extent that they would only be a shadow of their former tradition.

It's one thing to forgive past offenses, to heal old wounds that have caused much harm and served no good purpose. But why become what each other is not? IOW, even Christians can acknowledge that the Church (in its many traditions, RC, EO, and Protestant), have mistreated the Jewish people. A formal mea culpa was and has been necessary, for we are to love our neighbor, which includes non-Christians, as ourselves. But apologizing and asking for forgiveness is not the same as uniting in one common faith with the Jewish people, for the obvious reason that they reject Christ as Messiah.

I'm afraid union between the RCC and EO would result in drastic changes to the Christian faith. I may just be persuaded to return to the post-Reformation Church, with all of its quirks. Something I really wouldn't prefer to do.

The young fogey said...

What the Ochlophobist said.

Anonymous said...

According to eucharistic ecclesiology, when we participate in the eucharistic assembly, we are united with all those who at that moment also participate in Eucharistic assemblies-not only those of the orthodox church but also those of the catholic church-for everywhere there is only one and the same Eucharist celebrated.

Nicholas Afanasiev, “Una Sancta” in Michael Plekton (ed), Tradition Alive , 2003 p. 24

Perhaps history does not bind us to the past as much as we think.

The iconoclastic controversy essentially lasted over 100 years
and involved , essentially, only the Eastern part of the Church. Rome did not participate.
Perhaps the same view can hold regarding papal infallibility etc;. One part of the Church is involved, the other not.

As Hart states in his conclusion, there needs to be unity in order for the Church to exist.

Perhaps the Spirit is working unsbeknown to everyone.

William Tighe said...

I agree with the Ochlophobist, too -- which is why I hold in dislike those Eastern (particularly, Byzantine) Catholics who think that they can pick n'choose what Catholic teachings (as enunciated by the Apostolic See) they accept, and which ones they reject -- as perfect a case of "Protestant 'private judgment'" as I can imagine.

I myself am a papalist Ukrainian Catholic (by choice, not by birth), and had I thought the 'papal claims" false or unfounded I would never have remained in the communion of the See of Rome.

As a "footnote," I would add that while there is some plausibility to the claim that the Melkite Byzantine Catholic Church allows, or tolerates, or connives at, the expresion (or profession) of such a "pick n'choose" attitude as I have spurned above -- "plausibility," I write, because I don't really accept that it does -- it is very clear to me that the bishops of the other Byzantine sui juris churches in communon with Rome do not endorse or allow droit de cite for any such views in their respective jurisdictions.

John (Ad Orientem) said...

Dr. Tighe,
Good to hear from you again. I completely agree with you and Owen. The position of the Melkites who wish to deny any Roman doctrine is made untenable by their communion with the Holy See. While I may empathize with them, such claims are intellectually dishonest and incompatible with the historic understanding of what it means to be in communion with someone, a point on which both Rome and Orthodoxy are in substantive agreement.

This is no doubt why you felt compelled to enter communion with Rome (and why I felt obligated to become Orthodox). But their occasional attempts to pose as "Orthodox" in communion with Rome notwithstanding; I really don't think most of them have any major hangups with RC dogma.

Yours in ICXC

Fr. J. said...

The constant readiness of many Orthodox (at least the online variety) to dismiss any possibility of a future return to Christian unity between Catholics and Orthodox remains to me a testament to an ingrained institutionalism that prefers isolation and airs of superiority to an abiding desire to submit to the will of Christ, "that they may be one."

This strikes me at the core as a perseverance in pride rather than in an openness to a movement of the Holy Spirit that in every age makes possible the fulfillment of Christ's sacerdotal prayer, if we were but open to it.

Surely there is need for conversion on all sides. I believe we have seen a remarkable movement of the Holy Spirit toward unity in the Catholic Church particularly through the ministries of Paul VI, John Paul II and Benedict XVI. Of course, there remains a long way to go. But, the first steps have been taken, and the desire to please the Lord in this aspect of Church life is already made manifest.

So I am left to wonder where is the love that is to mark us as Christians? I have seen it in but a couple of Orthodox online, particularly Eirenikon and Fr. Gregory Jensen. Beyond these two, I am truly disappointed in the generally negative discourse.

I am no hippie, but one does not have to be a member of the "kumbaya club" to work toward unity. One only has to be committed to Christ's prayer.

The solutions to the theological problems which divide us may be difficult to imagine at this time. But, whatever the difficulties and no matter even how small they may be, we can always employ them as an excuse to cover our as yet unconverted hearts which are closed to the commands of our Lord. Conversely, however great these difficulties may be, they are easily overcome by the Lord himself if we are committed to accomplishing his will for his Church.

So, while the terms of the theological disagreements may be correctly stated here or there, I say so what? If the tenor in which they are presented even implies the impossibility of union, then this faithless presentation does not serve the Lord, but rather the one who is pleased to exploit human weakness for the sake of our own destruction, the deceiver.

Instead, we should pray for the desire to please the Lord in all things to the One Lord who said "Seek and ye shall find; knock and it shall be opened to you."

And so, it is time to stop saying things like "stop trying to put all the water back in the reservoir a thousand years after the dam burst." It is time to get off our pedestals, beg for forgiveness, pray for a change of heart, roll up our sleeves and do the very work which on all sides deprives us of being more right or more righteous than anyone else.

The Ochlophobist said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The Ochlophobist said...

Fr. J,

Your comment reads like a human resources document insisting upon institutional tolerance. I see no difference in the spirit expressed and the spirit of the age - an intolerance of those who do not share your agenda of tolerance. How far must it go? Venerating a koran at Assisi, as an expression of shared faith with our fellow sons of Abraham?

Your argument rests upon a misreading of John 17. Christ never calls those in the Church to be one with those who hold theological positions which are heretical or heterodox. Your argument assumes that both RC and Orthodox hold theological positions which are not heretical and are not heterodox. This is not the received tradition in the Orthodox Church. Our liturgical texts repeatedly make clear that a number of Roman doctrines are not compatible with Orthodox faith (take, for instance, the aposticha and stychira related to St Mark of Ephesus). While it is true that some Orthodox believe a compromise is possible with regard to the filioque and other disagreements, there are not to be found Orthodox bishops or theologians who publicly assent to the teachings of VatI regarding universal papal jurisdiction, at least not ones who remain Orthodox. To believe that this is due to a lack of conversion on the part of the Orthodox is, obviously, a traditional Roman Catholic position, and not one Orthodox will share.

Online Orthodox are often deemed more anti-Catholic than Orthodox at large. Everyone’s idiots are more idiotic online. Orthodox at large, like any set of Christians at large, generally do not care about these issues at all. Those who do care are usually not the sort who would find your argument convincing. Your average Orthodox monastery is far more deliberate about these matters than most online Orthodox. But the matter is even more complicated than that. Take your average among the more 'liberal' Orthodox priests. They will say nice things about ecumenism and about working with Catholics on this and that and about what we share in common. Ask that same priest to read the decrees of VatI concerning universal papal jurisdiction and share his thoughts with regard to them. The matter will become very clear.

I find it disturbing that when Orthodox bring up the decrees of VatI we are accused of bringing up old hat, and sinfully residing in past theological griefs. The Decrees of VatI are dogma for RCs. They are exactly what we should be talking about. And not ethereal interpretations of the "remarkable movement of the Holy Spirit toward unity" that are laden with the politicized late modern spin that seeks to unite via vague sentiments rather than hard, revealed dogmas, and actual, shared praxis.

Samn! said...

An additional point about 'liberal' Orthodox clergy who are Rome-friendly is that almost always they also hold opinions about birth control, abortion, etc. that go against Roman (not to mention Orthodox) teaching. Much as 100 years ago the Russian theologians who were most Rome-friendly also were the ones to prefer a Quaternity to a Trinity...... It's apparently ironic but ultimately fitting that Rome has the most grounds to talk to those Orthodox who are the most skeptical of the value of talking to Rome.

Anonymous said...

I'm disappointed in Ochlo's response, ( but not surprised), because I thought he would be more insightful.
Obviously, he hasn't read the article by Hart nor wishes to.
If bhe had, he would see that Hart has exactly described the currebt sitruation to a "T".

Fr. J. said...

Wow, a more telling self condemnation one could not expect, Oclophobist.

To assume that Jesus's prayer for unity somehow did not take into account that his followers would call each other heretics and find reasons to convince themselves that each one has all the right and none of the wrong is to attribute to Christ a complete ignorance of human nature. Surely, he knows us better than we know ourselves. And just as surely the historic divisions of Christianity were precisely what he was praying against in his last prayer.

Hautiness is the very spirit which Christ most preached against. And, it is the spirit which the serpent in the garden fostered in the first couple as they bit of the forbidden fruit. And surely it is the attitude which the Evil one continues to raise up in all of us so that we would not desire the unity for which Christ prayed.

Far from being naive, the attitude of Christ requires us in a courageous way to confront the spirit of evil in each one of us so that we may be one.

God will not force himself upon us. He has made us free. And we are free to reject his most fervent desire that we overcome our historic differences.

To think otherwise is to align oneself with all the enemies of Christ and his gospel from the liberals and secularists to communists to the everything that is now the spirit of the age.

In no way does a sincere desire to work through historic differences betray something weak or unchristian. It is a submission to Christ himself.

The Ochlophobist said...

I read the Hart article. I do not find it all that helpful or insightful. He dances around the universal papal jurisdiction issue, though seems aware of it. I very much disagree with Hart that it is imperative that "reunion" occur. The reunion of the two Churches would do nothing to save Europe or Western civilization, and the lustful impulse to have more cultural weight strikes me as more of that Touchstonelike fever. I really wonder how much longer Hart will remain Orthodox. He seems to hate our waters.

Fr. J,

The rhetoric you have just used is substantially no different that the rhetoric used by the WCC.

Let us consider the notion that "his followers would call each other heretics and find reasons to convince themselves that each one has all the right and none of the wrong" and follow this line of thought through. If it is only spiritual delusion that is at hand here, then how can one claim that an Orthodox such as myself is grasping for such reasons out of the air, while a Catholic who says that the RCC will never unite with Mormons is not so grasping for reasons? According to this logic, every division of all religious groups, certainly of all Christian groups, is do to the creation of false reasons and not due to substantial, even ontological differences. It leads to ecclesial anarchy. It is the exact mimesis of those popular political theories which espouse certain forms of tolerance writ large, excepting the intolerance toward those who disagree. It is intellectual suicide.

I have asserted here only that both the RCC and the Orthodox Church assert that the dogmas they teach are without error and irrevocable. I wonder, as it is deemed by you that we sin when we assert that "each one has all the right and none of the wrong" what RC dogma do you believe is wrong?


Spot on. There was an article in First Thing some years ago about the stupidity of Catholics getting excited about the Orthodox in Moscow who were interested in ecumenism with Catholics, along the same lines as you suggest. They love ecumenism almost as much as they love abortion condoms. And, of course, the archecumenist of our Patriarchs, the EP, has made pro-abort statements in the past.

Fr. J. said...


It is not that I think that any one of the Catholic teachings is wrong. Nor do I fault anyone for espousing the teachings of their own church. Where the greater wrong is to be found is in the belief in one or both of these ideas:

1. That visible institutional and doctrinal unity is unachievable. This position cannot be held by anyone while simultaneously claiming to believe in an Omnipotent God. God can and certainly will bring about visible unity among those faithful who are willing to work for unity and whose hearts are open to a conversion. And, yes, God can even work with Mormons.

2. That visible and organic unity is undersireable. Clearly such unity was and is desireable to Christ. If it is his desire, then we too must desire it. And to desire it without working towards it in good faith, is to mock Christ's fervent prayer.

The point is that while no one of us at this time may be able to formulate how doctrinal differences can be overcome, it remains that they ought be overcome and that God CAN overcome them.

Typically, Orthodox commentaries end with half hearted sighs to the effect that "thus sadly it unity it seems is impossible," or "stop trying to put all the water back in the reservoir a thousand years after the dam burst." This attitude is sickening and in the end truly faithless.

Subtle and not so subtle venoms are just so many strikes of the serpent at the heal of Mother Church.

I look forward to the day when this spirit which is not of the Lord is put away among both Catholics and Orthodox.

The Ochlophobist said...

Fr. J,

God can work with Mormons. The manner in which he works with them pertinent to this discussion is to lead them to conversion to the Church. The suggestion that one must be omnipotent (omniscient?) to rightly believe that there cannot ever be a formal union between the Mormon Church and the Orthodox Church is absurd. This is my point: for Mormons to unite with Orthodox one ecclesial body would have to cease to be what it now is. The same is true for RCism and Orthodoxy.

Scripture, the Fathers, and the decrees of the Councils are replete with admonitions that teach us that visible and organic unity with those who are heretics or heterodox (or simply those who teach falsehood, etc.) is not only undesirable, but forbidden. The RCC has as dogma that which is completely incompatible with Orthodox ecclesiology as it is now practiced, and as it was practiced before the schism. An Orthodox cannot accept universal papal jurisdiction. You yourself will admit that real union must involve what is essentially an assent to Roman Catholic dogma, including universal papal jurisdiction as declared dogmatically by VatI, even if, for all I know, you are among those who hold that this assent can be as weak as simply not holding that VatI is heterodox (which involves the problems I refer to above). Thus, when you suggest that because we are not omniscient, therefore there may be some resolution which we cannot see, you are suggesting that there may be some manner in which Orthodox will come to assent (in some fashion) to VatI; I take it as a given that you are not suggesting that there is some manner in which the RCC will recant the decrees and VatI. The language you use is thus dishonest, whether you intend it to be or not. RC dogma is that universal papal jurisdiction as stated by VatI is an irrevocable dogma. It is a dogma rejected by Orthodox, which is clear in formal Orthodox texts, liturgical and otherwise. Thus for a reunion to occur, one ecclesial body will have to cease to be who she claims to be, thus cease to be who she is. There is no way for both Churches to unite without one or both of them ceasing to be that which they claim, in an irrevocable fashion, to be now.

The Ochlophobist said...


Your confidence of that "spirit which is not of the Lord" is clearly based on your reading of recent Roman Catholic texts. It is the rhetoric of the post VatII RCC and Wotijianism with regard to the Christian East. It also happens to be very much akin to the ecumenical rhetoric of the WCC, and the spirit of this age, which seeks to diminish dogma for the sake of politicized unity whenever possible. To acquire unity with the Church Christ prayed for, one must become Orthodox. Orthodox are deemed arrogant for saying things so directly, but as I suggest above, this is exactly what the RCs mean, only their rhetoric is dubious and postured in a manner that is obviously meant to win folks over, in the manner of an Obama speech. Sure, we Orthodox can keep “everything” (as if our praxis is mere aesthetics) the same as we have it now, but, in the end, we will have to more or less assent to Roman Catholic dogma in order for unity to be achieved. Thus, your beliefs, in the end, are the same as mine on this matter, it is only that I speak without the rhetoric meant to obscure the matter for the sake of ecclesial expediency. Then again, perhaps I am wrong: do you deny that for unity to occur in the future the Orthodox will have to essentially assent to RC dogma? If you assent to RC dogma now, which you say that you do, then you assent to the clear and unequivocal dogmatic assertion that the dogmas of VatI are irrevocable (the very text concerning universal papal jurisdiction makes this utterly clear). Do you honestly believe it is a possibility, as you are not omniscient, that a reunion could occur in which the RCC retracts its formal dogma?

To refuse these questions while we are to vaguely “dwell on the spirit of unity” and chase interpretations of John 17 always kept ethereal is to buy time. Why would the Roman Church advance rhetoric meant to buy time, I wonder? Perhaps in the hope that the expediencies will be different in the days ahead? One or two ancient Orthodox Churches in hard spots get into very difficult political and economic situations and Rome brokers a deal? Perhaps the rest, save one or two stalwarts, fall like dominoes after that? No, that couldn’t be the hope of anyone in Rome. Though Kasper and Taft have more or less said as much on more than one occasion.

Thank God that the gates of hell will not prevail against the Church of Christ.

Fr. J. said...

Well, surely, dear phobist, you must know better than God exactly his plan. And surely you are personally greater and spiritually superior to all Christians who are not Orthodox. And surely the gates of hell will prevail against the Catholic Church and all her members. And surely, dear phobist, this justifies your great pride and personal arrogance. And surely, all your attitudes are precisely those of Christ himself.

Or rather it is just such pride, arrogance, superiority and disdain for any "other" that Christ himself preached against. I have no doubt that you are personally thoroughly converted to the Orthodox Church, but as yet I have witnessed no evidence that you are a Christian!

The Ochlophobist said...

Fr. J,

Nothing I wrote even suggests that I believe that I am "personally greater and spiritually superior to all Christians who are not Orthodox." The tone of my comments is not substantially different from what one might read in Newman, Chesterton, most of the Popes of the past 400 years, one could go on and on with modern Roman Catholic examples, even examples from many a Roman Catholic saint. Heck, it is quite restrained compared to the rhetoric one has heard from Cardinal Kasper from time to time. You find it disagreeable because it is not in the contemporary fashion to which you subscribe. I have engaged here in argument. That argument has been focused and considered. It reflects my own ecclesial commitments. Modern Catholic writers routinely did the same until it was no longer politically expedient to do so.

That you suggest that one might be fully converted to the Orthodox Church and at the same time not be a Christian is telling.

I have no disdain for any "other." I disdain false unities and the demonic machinations which seek them.

Fr. J. said...

Dear phobist,

It is dishonest to appeal to the centuries of polemics between Catholics and Orthodox in order to ascribe to contemporary Catholics an attitude closed to union. If there are statements of Cardinal Kasper that disfavor a return to East West communion, you will have to give citations.

Certainly it is possible for anyone to be completely committed to ones religious institution without having experienced a conversion to Christ's own attitudes and teachings. There are likely many Catholics and Orthodox which fit such a description. I would assert that anyone who thinks that God cannot reunite Christians or does not desire to do so falls in that category.

The desire to see Christ's sacerdotal prayer fulfilled does not really have to do with political expediency. It is a religious obligation.

Lastly, that you charge me with a WCC type approach to Christian relations belies only that you have forgotten who I am and what I have written elsewhere. I do not think that good relations requires a sickening gloss over differences. You might recall that I have written strongly elsewhere that the Orthodox "economy" with regard to divorce is an infidelity to Christ's gospel. I also hold that a Photian Polyarchy as found in the Orthodox Churches (there is no such thing as "the Orthodox Church") is an institutional evil.

That we can be critical of each others churches is essential to the work of unity. But so also is the belief that Christ desires unity and can and will achieve it when his followers are disposed to work for it.

There is much in Orthodoxy that is good. And there is much in Orthodoxy that is contrary to the gospel. But this fact does not prevent me from seeing in those who are Orthodox fellow brothers in Christ. And it certainly does not excuse a laziness, a charity, nor a conviction that our division does not please the Lord.

Thus, I do not refrain from calling out my Orthodox brothers when they assert that "we need to work on the things we can agree on (there are many) and stop trying to put all the water back in the reservoir a thousand years after the dam burst." This sentiments smack of either Protestant Denominationalism which is also contrary to the gospel or an unwillingness to overcome that which divides us.

The Ochlophobist said...

Fr. J,

I refer to comments Kasper has made regarding the Russian Church being "full of shit" and Taft's not so infrequent use of four letter words regarding any Orthodox who disagree with him. This is common knowledge in those circles which follow ecumenicrat dialoging and its discontents. Google it if you wish. My point regarding rhetoric has to do with tone. If my tone is arrogant, etc., then so is the tone of the vast majority of Catholic writers that have written on this topic in even the last 150 years, basically right up to the last generation. If that is your position, so be it. I do not happen to disagree with that tone. It is perfectly appropriate given the convictions of the writers.

You continue to evade the basic questions. I do not interpret John 17 as you do. You condemn me as one who is not a Christian because I do not interpret this passage as you do (along with other pertinent passages). I have offered the outline of my own interpretation. You gloss that. You condemn me because I insist that real unity must be a dogmatic unity and that dogmatic unity must involve the preservation of dogma, and that this means that one side must submit to the dogma of the other for actual and coherent unity to be achieved.

Any division between human beings displeases the Lord, but that is not what John 17 is about. I do desire a unity of all human beings. I do want to be brothers in full communion with all. But I believe that full communion can only be achieved through the conversion of all to the holy Orthodox faith. I have never written that God cannot reunite Christians. I have written that there cannot be a union between the Orthodox Church as it is now, dogmatically, and the Roman Church as it is, now, dogmatically. One or both would have to change dogma in order for a union to occur. I pray that people with a Roman Catholic faith do become united with the Orthodox Church, but this uniting must come for them as it does for all, a repentance of past error and an assent to Orthodox faith. I respect, admire, and rhetorically honor my Roman Catholic friends who believe the same would apply to me - that for me to convert to Roman Catholicism with integrity I must repent of my former Orthodox convictions (say, for one, my public support and assent to Orthodox discipline regarding divorce, for one thing) and assent to all Roman Catholic dogma, including VatI. I pray for the ecclesial unity of all persons - but I pray and believe that this unity will only be achieved within the Mysteries of the Orthodox Church. The unity that Christ desires for all is the unity that He prays for the Orthodox Church.

And by the way - I know many Roman Catholics who appear to be far more holy than I am. I know Baptists that appear to be far more holy than I am. I have an old friend who is a Zen Buddhist who lives a life that sure looks to me to be a lot more holy than my life in many respects. As an Orthodox Christian, I pray for them now, and I pray for them when they die. May God remember them all in His Kingdom. But my petty comparisons of holiness are not what this discussion is about. It is about a right assent to dogma, and what can and cannot be negotiated.

I am not willing to overcome Orthodox dogma in order to achieve unity. It seems apparent that there is no Roman dogma that you are willing to overcome to achieve unity – you are not even willing to allow the Orthodox Church to maintain a discipline regarding divorce the predates the schism. The idea that there is some matter of dogmatic content that I am unwilling to concede but you are willing is rhetorical ploy. The only substantial difference between us is that my rhetoric matches my dogmatic firmness and yours does not.

Fr. J. said...

Dear phobist,

The only substantial difference between us is that while neither of us claims to be able to see how God can and will unite our churches organically, I still believe that God does will it and that God will achieve it, despite the desires of some on all sides that it not happen, including yourself.

Acolyte4236 said...

Fr J,

I posted last night but for some reason my comments didn’t make it up so I will give a shorter version of them.

Certainly it does not impugn divine omnipotence to think that God cannot make two contradictory propositions true. So the question is whether there is some tertium quid between our two positions that encompasses both. If you know of such a position, then it would benefit all if you could present it, but I don’t think you in fact know such a position. If you did, you’d probably be able to give a demonstration in the logical sense in its favor. At most you can be said to believe that there is such a conceptual entity. For my part the fact that Catholics have to give reductionistic, minimalist and therefore distorting readings of certain patristic doctrines, such as the energies, shows that Rome or at least its theologians do not know of some third position either. In fact such is strong evidence that we do not in fact share the same faith. Consequently their and your efforts are reduced to showing that Orthodoxy per se is false and rather than merely different but legitimate developments.

As for divorce, certainly not a few Catholic exegetes have ended up supporting the Orthodox read and it is really beyond question that it long pre-existed the schism. As for supposed Photian polarchy, it is hardly polyarchy and hardly to find its source in Photius. As I have noted time and again, the Fifth Council makes it sufficiently clear that none of the apostles required the assistance of the others in the execution of their work of judgment. This was directed to Pope of the time, Vigiulius who had been excommunicated by the council. If the East is polyarchical, then it is infallibly Spirit inspired polyarchy. The Fifth council is long before Saint Photios and is a council which a Catholic is obligated to subscribe. Furthermore, the one Christ and the one faith constitute the one source and if they do not, certainly the one energy of infallibility is certainly sufficient to constitute the principle of unity in the church as it is enhypostacized e.g. Maximus. In light of the doctrine of energies, I would put the “evil” charge on the other foot since Rome’s anhypostatic powers in the office of the papacy constitute an evil for the church contrary to the Gnostics and countless other heretics has always opposed the idea of anhypostatic energies. This becomes plain when we look at the question of whether a Pope can be a heretic or not. The confusion and lack of a precise answer testifies to the underlying theological and philosophical morass.

And when you speak of evil in Orthodoxy, you don’t seem to mean abuses but genuine teachings. I wonder though if you follow Popes Gelasius and Benedict XIV in their encyclicals in teaching that it is “evil” for women to assist at the altar, as is current practice in Catholic churches? In light of Catholicism’s robust moral realism, how can one and the same practice have been “evil” but now permissible? (Allatae Sunt, Sec. 29)

Lastly, my original post was to answer a specific Catholic argument as to whether the Catholic position is more tolerant or not. And I wished to point out the contingency of the Filioque clause in the Creed. As it stands no one has really touched on the purpose of my blog post.