Pope Francis: One Patriarch Among Many?

Pope Francis wearing the pallium
Pope Francis wearing the pallium

(RealClearReligion: Reading the Franciscan Tea Leaves) In his inaugural address from the loggia, he never once used the words “pope” or “pontiff” or their cognates. (There is nothing wrong with either term: pope comes from the Greek for “father” and “pontiff” in Latin means bridge-builder.) Instead he consistently referred to Rome now having a bishop again. This is extremely significant because of the many titles he holds, “bishop of Rome” is not only the oldest but also the most important without which nothing else is possible. Being made a bishop requires a sacrament, which is very serious; being made pope requires no sacrament and nothing more than a simple election which adds nothing to a man’s sacramental character; the pope is not a “super-bishop.”

The program for his installation Mass having been released, we can already see several significant factors that confirm for us Francis’s early understanding of his ministry. He is downplaying the event by simply using the pre-existing prayers and readings for the feast of the day, St. Joseph, celebrated every year in the Roman calendar on March 19th. In addition, he is having the gospel proclaimed only in Greek rather than Latin as well, indicating that there is already enough Latin in the rest of the liturgy. This will be noticed by the Greek Orthodox delegation, headed by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew who is making history by being the first to attend a papal inauguration-along with numerous other Orthodox leaders. Francis’ inauguration, moreover, is also involving the Eastern Catholic patriarchs in an unprecedented way at the outset, and thereby sending a clear signal that Francis, too, is a patriarch like them, a sign that can only greatly cheer Eastern Catholic and Orthodox hearts alike.

This morning, I read with interest this piece by Eastern Catholic theology professor Dr. Adam DeVille (author of Orthodoxy and the Roman Papacy). It makes much of the humbler mien of the new bishop of Rome and tries to put it in the context of the papacy’s relations with the Orthodox and Eastern Catholic churches.

Much has been made over the past few days about the attendance at the papal inauguration of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople, and I have been asked on several occasions what that could mean, what has suddenly changed that the Ecumenical Patriarch should attend such an event for the first time since the Great Schism. Honestly, I do not think that anything significant has really changed that would allow this moment, at least not any one thing that could be pointed to. If political diplomacy is an abstruse and mystifying art, then ecclesiastical diplomacy may well be moreso. There certainly has not been any kind of major theological breakthrough or declaration of communion between the Orthodox and the Roman Catholics.

It should be noted that this is not the first time that Bartholomew or other Ecumenical Patriarchs have been to Rome to see a pope. This just happens to be the first time attending the mass marking this occasion. The mutual lifting of the 1054 anathemas by Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras I and Pope Paul VI in 1965 did not restore communion, by the way. If it had, they would have communed together. They didn’t. Nor have any of their successors.

I honestly don’t think there are any big implications in this gesture from the Ecumenical Patriarch, historic as it is. I could, of course, be wrong, but I haven’t seen any open statements that would point in that direction.

I also get asked every so often how the two communions could come into communion, and I really do not see how it could happen. I wish it could, but I just don’t think it can. There are some folks who see us as being quite close, but the closer I look and the longer I think about it, the bigger the gap seems to be to me.

I think there are valuable things that we could accomplish together as allies, but I do not see anything more than that being possible. We are both so very much invested in our own understandings of history and dogma that I cannot see any way that such things could be changed. How do you go back on the question of whether the papacy has both infallibility and supremacy? Once you have clearly said “yes” or “no” to either question, I cannot see how you can say something else, no matter how you might try to reinterpret it. There’s not really much wiggle room in the language of the documents in question. Some corners cannot be unpainted out of.

And that brings us back to the real point of this post (sorry for the wandering!). Dr. DeVille’s somewhat less exalted view of the papacy, that he is essentially just another bishop with particular administrative duties (the papacy is “simply an office for ecclesiastical administration and not some kind of demiurge”) is of course welcome to Orthodox Christians. I do hope you will read his full post, which touches on a good many fascinating points I haven’t mentioned here.

Yet I suspect that the majority of his fellow Catholics would not see the papacy in that way. And they would have good theological reasons not to. In Roman Catholic theology, the bishop of Rome is the only bishop to whom adhere the dogmas of papal infallibility and papal supremacy. And we cannot stress enough here that these are dogmas, points of faith necessary to be believed for the salvation of one’s soul. Contra DeVille, the papacy is not just an administrative post in the way that the Orthodox patriarchate is. There is unique theology about it.

So until such time as the Roman Catholic Church somehow reverses its position on such dogmatic questions, Pope Francis may not be a “super-bishop,” but he’s not just any bishop, either.

Update: Very much worth reading is Pope Francis’s homily at his inauguration (which was kindly sent to me by a reader), in which he does not specifically address the unique character of the papacy except to say that as Peter’s successor, he has received “a certain power.” He goes on to describe what that means: Today, together with the feast of Saint Joseph, we are celebrating the beginning of the ministry of the new Bishop of Rome, the Successor of Peter, which also involves a certain power. Certainly, Jesus Christ conferred power upon Peter, but what sort of power was it? Jesus’ three questions to Peter about love are followed by three commands: feed my lambs, feed my sheep. Let us never forget that authentic power is service, and that the Pope too, when exercising power, must enter ever more fully into that service which has its radiant culmination on the Cross.

76 comments:

  1. In Roman Catholic theology, the bishop of Rome is the only bishop to whom adhere the dogmas of papal infallibility and papal supremacy. And we cannot stress enough here that these are dogmas, points of faith necessary to be believed for the salvation of one’s soul.

    I just did a couple of Google searches to try to find an answer to this. Of course, what I was inundated with were pages of Protestant polemics against Rome (with a couple against Eastern Orthodoxy–I tip my hat to those otherwise ill-informed and prejudiced authors for knowing that Orthodoxy exists: and then wildly misrepresenting it, of course). In any case, I did not do thorough research, but I wonder, Father, does the Roman Catholic Church really teach this? That is, that one cannot be saved without believing in every one of these dogmas, such as papal infallibility and papal supremacy?

    1. This is what dogma is. How can there be dogmas which are optional?

      In any event, one does not have to speculate about these items in particular on the basis of the definition of dogma. There are explicit anathemas from Vatican I leveled against those who reject these teachings—

      Papal Infallibility: “Therefore, faithfully adhering to the tradition received from the beginning of the Christian faith, to the glory of God our savior, for the exaltation of the Catholic religion and for the salvation of the Christian people, with the approval of the Sacred Council, we teach and define as a divinely revealed dogma that when the Roman Pontiff speaks ex cathedra, that is, when, in the exercise of his office as shepherd and teacher of all Christians, in virtue of his supreme apostolic authority, he defines a doctrine concerning faith or morals to be held by the whole Church, he possesses, by the divine assistance promised to him in blessed Peter, that infallibility which the divine Redeemer willed his Church to enjoy in defining doctrine concerning faith or morals. Therefore, such definitions of the Roman Pontiff are of themselves, and not by the consent of the Church, irreformable. So then, should anyone, which God forbid, have the temerity to reject this definition of ours: let him be anathema.”

      Papal Supremacy: “The sentence of the apostolic see [i.e., Rome] (than which there is no higher authority) is not subject to revision by anyone, nor may anyone lawfully pass judgment thereupon. And so they stray from the genuine path of truth who maintain that it is lawful to appeal from the judgments of the Roman pontiffs to an ecumenical council as if this were an authority superior to the Roman pontiff.

      So, then, if anyone says that the Roman pontiff has merely an office of supervision and guidance, and not the full and supreme power of jurisdiction over the whole church, and this not only in matters of faith and morals, but also in those which concern the discipline and government of the church dispersed throughout the whole world; or that he has only the principal part, but not the absolute fullness, of this supreme power; or that this power of his is not ordinary and immediate both over all and each of the churches and over all and each of the pastors and faithful: let him be anathema.”

      (Source)

      1. Fr. John Hardon, S.J.:

        Since the Vatican definitions on papal authority,however, it is scarlcely possible for a person to be only a schismatic without also being a heretic. And even before the Vatican Council, it was common knowledge that those who originally broke with the Church’s unity for disciplinary reasons, before long ended by questioning certain articles of faith. An outstanding example is the so-called Eastern Orthodox Chruch…(excerpted from “His Broken Body”)

  2. “Honestly, I do not think that anything significant has really changed that would allow this moment…”

    Well, it’s the first papal inauguration since the Ravenna Statement.

    Ravenna isn’t reunification but it isn’t chopped liver either.

  3. This is what dogma is. How can there be dogmas which are optional?

    Why, what a dogmatic view of dogma, Father! Hardy har. But, seriously …. I think, for instance, it is safe to say that the ever-virginity of the Theotokos is a dogma in our church, but I’m hard pressed to think of there being any universal teaching in Orthodoxy that anyone who rejects it is going to suffer damnation: that is, that this is necessary for one’s salvation. That something is a dogma essential, say, to church membership or communion, is not necessarily to say that it is a dogma essential to salvation.

    But you’re right, one should turn to the actual proclamations or rules of the Roman Catholic Church for the answer. Again, I’m no expert in Western canons, but I do know that that phrase “let him be anathema” is all over the place in both Eastern and Western canons. Seems to my vague recollection that there may be a nice number of them from before the Schism that cast such anathemas generally at anyone who failed, say, to fast on certain occasions or, on the other hand, on anyone who insisted on being vegetarian, or what-have-you: my main point being, “let him be anathema” is a popular phrase that could virtually condemn us all in both East and West, if we read it so broadly.

    I get the impression, though, that in the West the “let him be anathema” still relies on a judicial sentence of some sort from the Church itself on whatever particular individual or group is believed to have violated the dogma. Merely personally rejecting a belief does not, I take it, automatically condemn a man. The Church has to make a decision and formally pronounce the anathema in the particular case, I suspect. On top of this, can we take no significance from the mutual lifting of the anathemas by the two Churches, Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox? This suggests rather strongly that the anathema has to flow from some particular authoritative decision rather than just generally applying to anyone who violates this canon or that.

    I did also just now come across a Roman Catholic page that said something about more recent decisions of the Church to remove the penalty of anathema in most cases altogether from Roman Catholic law or practice, but, again, I am not a scholar of Roman Catholic canon law. I do think, though, that we run the risk here of painting it with too broad a brush and speaking somewhat ill-informed, if we just assume that Rome believes anyone who rejects papal infallibility or papal supremacy lacks the faith necessary for his salvation, which is really just a polite way of saying, is condemned.

    1. I think perhaps you may be remembering more anathemas from the ancient Church than are actually there. “Let him be deposed” (for clergy) and “let him be excommunicated” (for laity) are both common enough in canonical penalties, but “let him be anathema” is almost exclusively reserved for heresy and bears with it a permanence that simple excommunication does not. There is of course always the possibility that someone anathematized may repent and return, but anathemas are deliberately open-ended. Excommunication almost always has a particular time limit set to it (which is often reduced in the case of genuine repentance).

      As for the ever-virginity of the Theotokos, I actually would not describe it as dogma, though of course it is strongly within the tradition and I think it should be believed. Dogma has a very technical meaning pertaining to solemn declarations of doctrine, mainly from the Ecumenical Councils. That she was a virgin at the conception and birth of Christ is certainly dogma (it’s in the Creed), but I do not recall the ever-virginity ever being defined in that way. (Perhaps it is, but I do not remember it.)

      The anathemas against heresy (whether East or West) are put in very broad terms (i.e., “if anyone says,” “if anyone teaches” or “if anyone rejects”), giving it a sense that they apply whether explicitly ruled as applicable or not. Certainly, when it comes to forcibly ejecting someone from the communion of the Church there usually needs to be an actual ruling made. But that ruling is not what removes someone from the Church—it’s clearly understood that that separation comes about as a result of that person’s actions, not the act of any canonical authority. You put yourself outside the Church. The canonical judgment simply recognizes that action.

      In any event, it essentially seems that you are arguing that anathemas actually have no real force and/or are not describing anything real. That doesn’t really seem to me to square with their actual usage in history. They’re quite solemnly intended and bear with them no sense that anyone’s not supposed to take them seriously.

  4. Yes, all dogmas must be believed; however, most people don’t realize that the doctrine of infallibility actually limits the powers of the pope and the bishops universal in communion with him. On the surface it seems to be some sort of development in doctrine which empowers the pope with new, special powers. That’s not the case. It’s design and scope limits the abilities of popes to change doctrine or advance new doctrine.

    It’s no mere coincidence that the dogma was proclaimed in the 19th Century and not earlier. The Church recognized Modernism as the synthesis of all heresies and saw that the papacy and the Church at large was about to be beset by doctrinal challenges across the board of sacred theology and morality. In order to protect the Deposit of Faith, the Father of Vatican Council I solemnized the dogma of infallibility to prevent future popes and bishops from leading the faithful astray. So, even if a future pope or even if future bishops throughout the world started to waiver on issues regarding the Sacred Faith and Morals, the faithful would know that the Faith hasn’t changed. That these waiverings and utterances by weak bishops (even popes) under the influence of modernism are not de fide statements requiring the assent of the Faithful.

    1. Michael Whelton has a decidedly less sanguine evaluation of what happened at Vatican I and why. I’m not expert enough to know whether his description is true of the council being a (in some cases, literally) violent imposition of the will of the pope, but it’s a position at least worth reading about.

      1. I must admit I couldn’t follow the Michael Whelton page on Vatican I. All the spliced statements and interrogatives from a sundry of sources.

        But I ask you to consider my point above… Vatican I defined papal infallibility. By defining it, the Council established limits. When we define something, by that very act we limit it.

        Merriam-Webster on “Define”

        – to determine or identify the essential qualities or meaning of

        – to fix or mark the limits of : demarcate

        Through this act of defining, Pius IX and the Council placed a dogmatic restriction on future popes and bishops. The papacy walked away weaker, in a sense, after Vatican I. The popes regularly made judgments or pronouncements on matters of Faith and Morals prior to Vatican I. After Vatican I, however, the Faithfull had a dogmatic ruler stick, of sorts, for passing judgments on all statements made from the pope (and the bishops at large). Unless a statement by the pope satisfied the criteria established by Vatican I, then the statement cannot be de fide binding on the faithful.

        Without Vatican I and the dogma of papal infallibility I shudder to think about what condition the Catholic Church would be in today. And given that the current state is abysmal, that’s saying a lot. Many of the recent popes have said and done things very much in contrary to the Catholic faith. Vatican I is of great solace to many devout Catholics confused in these modern times. It dogmatically teaches that the pope’s infallibility is strictly limited and almost never applies to his normal function within his office.

        1. That reading of V1 might make some sense if it were understood that the pope’s infallibility comes from the council. Rather, it is saying that the infallibility comes from and always has come from God, and is thereby “irreformable” and not subject to any ecclesial consensus. So I don’t see it as a limitation in any sense, not if one looks at the actual language. From the Orthodox point of view, this was not only not a limitation, but it was an innovation added that is contrary to the apostolic deposit of faith, which granted infallibility to no one at all but only to the whole Church.

          Do you really think that a pope who could be corrected would be worse than one who answers to no one at all? The Orthodox answer to that is, of course, no. Indeed, Orthodoxy has maintained an unbroken apostolic faith while at the same time maintaining a decentralized governance in which no one is beyond judgment, even a patriarch.

          Apologies regarding parsing the Whelton piece. It’s a book chapter, which is much clearer in its printed text. But it’s not too hard to work out where the quotations start and finish based on the tone. Suffice it to say that he shows how the pope essentially rammed through papal infallibility and also how papal infallibility was something that was strenuously denied by many devout RCs (even in official catechisms) as being a slander about RCs made up by Protestants(!).

      2. Father, I understand your position. To your larger issue of the impossibility of rapprochement between Catholic and Orthodox I think you’re right: it is impossible, given current conditions. Thoughtful Protestants realize the same thing. Any reunion on terms other than Rome’s terms would mean the end of the Catholic Church. The Church cannot change anything that it’s already confirmed as dogma.. Including those issues resident within the universal ordinary magisterium, such as purgatory or permanence of holy matrimony. Since, however, the Orthodox have the ability to re-examine past doctrinal issues (as you stated,, Orthodox can overturn the findings or pronouncements of former patriarchs)the hope of coming to accept Catholic teaching still remains and coming together in real communion still remains. I’d personally like to see a theological commission between Catholics and Orthodox to study marriage. It’s an issue that is obviously in the forefront of the culture wars today and it could be one area where the Orthodox would be willing to accept the Catholic teaching… Hopefully a starting point for other future issues… (Sorry for the ipad typos)

        1. I’m not quite sure you understand how the correction of bishops (even patriarchs) works within Orthodoxy. It is not that everything that has ever been said is subject to revision. Orthodoxy has no sense of development of doctrine in the sense that Rome does, neither in an apparently purely linear form as you describe nor in a multi-directional form such as you ascribe to Orthodoxy. Rather, there is simply the unchanging apostolic deposit of the Orthodox faith which does not grow, shrink or alter. Everyone, from the most exalted patriarch to the lowest layman, is called to be faithful to that unchanging deposit of faith. If anyone errs, he may be brought back to the same faith through the process proper to him—for all, through obedience to one’s father-confessor; for lower clergy, if necessary, obedience to the bishop; for bishops (of whatever rank), obedience to the synod; for synods, obedience to the whole Orthodox Church.

          The judgments that Orthodoxy has made concerning the innovations of Roman Catholic doctrine are not the private opinions of individual bishops. They have been judged again and again for many centuries in the same ways with remarkable consistency by individual bishops and patriarchs, by local synods, by pan-Orthodox synods (some of which are even Ecumenical by some measures), and by saints—they are innovations and have no part in the Orthodox faith. There is no chance that such things will ever be added, because there is no possibility for adding anything at all.

          When dogmatic pronouncements are made in Orthodoxy, they are not newly-formed, newly-revealed or newly-crystallized doctrines. Rather, they are simply restatements of what has always been believed by the Orthodox Church in terms specifically applicable to whatever heresy has shown itself. That is why the phrase “Following the Holy Fathers” is used by the Ecumenical Councils, because they understood themselves not to be contributing anything substantially new.

          Thus, for the Orthodox, any union on terms other than Orthodoxy are impossible. To overturn what has been the consistent and unanimous judgment of the Church for many centuries, not just by synods and patriarchs but indeed by the God-seeing saints, on the matters that Roman Catholics would require would be unthinkable. It would be a betrayal of the faith revealed to the Apostles once for all. Although it may be offensive for some to hear it, for Orthodox Christians, the unity of Christians means nothing other than conversion to Orthodoxy. And I honestly would expect nothing less from any other Christian concerning his own communion.

      3. I understand your position, Father.

        One last thought about the limiting nature of papal infallibility. I can think off the top of my head a dozen current practices within the Catholic Church which I lament. Sad, modernist developments which have led to a weakening of the Faith. I cannot, however, think of one “teaching” of the Church which has been subject to modernist tinkering. That’s the genius of Vatican I. I truly believe the Holy Ghost inspired the Council Fathers to define “infallibility” to stand as a bullwark against the modernist tidal wave which was about to hit to the entire Christian world.

        There’s an aspect of this “infallibility bullwark” which kinda makes me smile too. If you’ve read the dogma, as articulated by Vatican I, think about the type of solemn language and rich context which is necessary for a pope or council to make an “infallible” proclamation. This type of solemn language and rich context is totally abhorrent to modernists. It’s an amazingly practical way to prevent modernist influence over the deposit of faith. Modernists by their nature advance their agenda through weak, water-downed, and obtuse language. Furthermore, they resist any type of universal pronouncements of binding order. They prefer to mislead through unclear and ambiguous language. And they certainly do a lot of damage with these tactics, especially as they occupy high offices within the Church. But it’s sort of funny to think that their own nature prevents them from making any official in roads into the deposit of faith *because* of the requirements imposed on them through the doctrine of infallibility.

        Modernism has led many souls astray and has deeply wounded the Church. But the Faith still stands. The modernists lead a revolutionary army which has won many battles but can never win the war. Unfortunately they can win over souls, but they cannot change doctrine. Changing doctrine, any doctrine at all, would be a total victory for the enemy. Vatican I is one powerful bulwark protecting against the enemy ever realizing victory.

        1. In a sense, though, while not “modernist” (in the sense of relativism), papal infallibility is itself a decidedly “modern” development. Why? Because it posits an external, formal mechanism whereby truth may be known and guaranteed. It is an absolutizing methodology for epistemology in a way that the Fathers never speak of. Rather than the assurance within the community of the Church whereby one knows the truth and works out salvation, now there is an external imposition of epistemological certainty. It is this same sensibility that drives scientism with its insistence on material proof for everything and also drives sola scriptura Protestantism with its insistence on finding everything in the Bible.

          In all cases, in a very real sense, the Kingdom of God is no longer “within” but actually “without,” i.e., outside the person and his community, above and over them—the definition on infallibility actually puts things in essentially these terms, explicitly denying any sense of consensus through or within the church. These things all really only came to their full flower after the “Enlightenment.” Prior to that, communal tradition was the essential means by which such things could be known. No longer is purity of heart, worked out within the ecclesial communion, the means by which one sees God, but now one can simply “look it up.” It’s also no wonder that dictionaries and encyclopedias never really caught on until after the “Enlightenment.”

      4. Wow! Thank you, Father Andrew, especially for that last March 20, 11:26 AM, explanation to Andy. That is really helpful clarification. Thanks, Andy, for your comments. It’s wonderful to have a conversation like this to use as a reference when others have questions as well.

        I have great hope for good and closer cooperative relations between the churches with this new Pope. He seems like a very good and godly man. You are right that nothing less than a full repentance from non-Orthodox doctrinal developments will result in a healing of the schism between the two communions, and that is highly unlikely in our lifetimes. On the other hand, with God all things are possible . . .

  5. In any event, it essentially seems that you are arguing that anathemas actually have no real force and/or are not describing anything real.

    Actually, what I’m saying is that I suspect the Roman Catholic Church does not teach that believing things like papal supremacy and papal infallibility are necessary for the salvation of one’s soul. Otherwise, why would the anathema against Constantinople have been lifted? If one rejects papal supremacy, then let him be anathema, and yet this anathema against a Patriarch and a flock who reject papal supremacy has now been rescinded. Hence my commentary on the apparent need for judicial pronouncement within the Western church, apparent recent walking back by Rome on the use of anathemas, and the caution we should all have in assuming that “let him be anathema” automatically applies (or is believed by Rome to) in every case that appears to violate the canon. One’s salvation is a pretty big deal–especially since the alternative is death or damnation–and saying that anyone who rejects papal supremacy is regarded by Rome as lacking what is necessary for salvation is a statement whose boldness struck me as too much boldness, especially since the point was made in your article with particular emphasis.

    1. The 1054 anathema against Constantinople lifted in 1965 was not regarding papal infallibility or supremacy, things that were not being taught (and certainly not solemnly defined) in 1054.

      None of the issues in question are canons, by the way, but doctrinal decrees—the difference is quite important.

      If a dogma is not really a dogma, then what can it really mean to define something as dogma? Is there actually nothing that is required to be believed for salvation? There really is no more solemn declaration that can be made in Christian tradition than dogma.

      In any event, it’s not as if papal supremacy has never been linked explicitly to salvation in RC tradition. I’m sure you’re aware of this from Pope Boniface VIII’s Unam Sanctam (1302):

      Furthermore, we declare, we proclaim, we define that it is absolutely necessary for salvation that every human creature be subject to the Roman Pontiff.

      Here, it’s not just a belief in papal supremacy that is dogmatically declared, but it’s actual, active subjection. Boniface is saying you cannot be saved if you’re not subject to the pope.

      Mind you, I’m not saying that Unam Sanctam is currently Rome’s teaching on the matter, but it’s not like this is a foreign idea within RCism.

  6. The 1054 anathema against Constantinople lifted in 1965 was not regarding papal infallibility or supremacy, ….

    Thank you for this and another clarification in your comment, Father. The case remains, though, that a Patriarch and a Church who are in violation of two of the “let him be anathema” doctrinal decrees you quoted are now explicitly not anathematized and are in conversation with Rome. Apparently the Roman church does not regard the Eastern church as accursed. The practice of several decades indicates this broadly. I’d be shocked if the Roman pontiff declared that the Patriarch of Constantinople lacked what was necessary for his salvation.

    You’re very focused on a narrow reading of the word dogma. A dogma is an authoritative rule or opinion, but with every one we should then ask, authoritative as to what or to what effect? I see no reason to assume that a dogma must carry an intrinsic penalty of damnation (or, if you prefer, the intrinsic consequence that one lacks what is necessary for salvation). That’s a very specific kind of dogma, but I don’t see why we should just assume that dogma without further qualification means only dogma required for salvation. And there seems to be good reason to think that the Roman Catholic Church does not regard papal supremacy or infallibility in that specific way.

    1. I will certainly not deny that for the past few decades Rome has not acted as if the Orthodox are under anathema, but I also don’t see any sort of reversal on what’s said in the papal dogmatic decrees of Vatican I, which the Orthodox positively reject. Is that a contradiction? It certainly seems so to me.

      As for dogma, it really is a narrow and technical term, with its source in the apostolic formula “it seemed (dedogmai) good to the Holy Spirit and to us.” That formula was deliberately invoked by the Ecumenical Councils when making solemn doctrinal declarations. Are you aware of any real warrant within the Christian tradition for reading dogma as actually not being that important, as actually not really pertaining to salvation? The Fathers all seem to regard it that way, even often calling such teachings “saving dogmas.”

      It at least appears to me that you wish to take Rome’s more affable posture toward the Orthodox and then reinterpret the history of dogma in that light, i.e., if Rome is not being adamant about its dogma then it must mean that dogma really isn’t something worth being adamant about. But isn’t that really just liberalism/modernism? Isn’t that precisely what Rome was attempting to stave off in the late 19th and early 20th c.?

      I’m still interested in the answer to my question from earlier: If dogma really isn’t that serious, then what is? Are there “levels” of dogma? If so, how can you tell? And why don’t the Fathers give any indication of this? It seems you’re saying that the papal dogmas are really just theologoumena (theological opinion, optional regarding salvation), but that’s not at all what is in their definitions, which decry the “temerity” of their rejection.

      1. I thought I had said what I needed to say and was going to let my side rest, but you’ve just called me out in a few ways that are somewhat upsetting to me, Father, so I shall respond to your last comment.

        As for dogma, it really is a narrow and technical term, with its source in the apostolic formula “it seemed (dedogmai) good to the Holy Spirit and to us.”

        So since a word that dogma owes some of its etymology to was used in one sense by the Jerusalem Council, all subsequent uses of the word and its derivatives should be used in exactly the same way? The writing from the Council goes on to specify that what it is saying is necessary. The narrow construction is plain on the face of the text. That one dogma is a salvific necessity or any other kind of necessity does not limit all other dogma in that way. Surely you can understand this.

        But here are the parts that upset me.

        It at least appears to me that you wish to take Rome’s more affable posture toward the Orthodox and then reinterpret the history of dogma in that light, i.e., if Rome is not being adamant about its dogma then it must mean that dogma really isn’t something worth being adamant about. But isn’t that really just liberalism/modernism?

        I am not reinterpreting history, and I am not giving a “liberal/modern” view of dogma. I am disagreeing with your assertion, which “we cannot stress enough here” (as you wrote), that Rome regards belief in papal infallibility and papal supremacy as necessary for salvation. I don’t know what else to say. I’ve offered some evidence and some thoughts to support my view. You seem, however, to think that I believe this:

        If dogma really isn’t that serious, then what is?

        I have not said that it is not serious. If I were a Roman Catholic who rejected papal infallibility or supremacy, I would almost certainly choose to leave that church on account of the seriousness of the difference, if I was not anathematized first (a rare thing that, mind you). If my church started teaching that the Theotokos had sexual relations after the birth of the Savior, I would leave that church. I regard these matters as dogmatic to their faiths. This does not mean that I think, as an Orthodox, that all of my Protestant brethren who believe the Lord had brothers by birth from the Theotokos lack what is necessary for salvation. I think that they are woefully misguided and at a serious disadvantage, but I also have the wholly Orthodox understanding that salvation is a mystery that rests with God’s authority, and excessively specific statements about who has what it takes to be saved are a folly.

        I am sorry, Father, if my tone has now become somewhat strident, but this last comment of yours strikes a nerve in misrepresenting what I have said and even implicitly questioning my Orthodox bona fides. I found your particular statement about salvation to be overbroad. I explained why. That is all.

        1. A few things:

          I didn’t get the sense that your tone was strident at all. But I believe you if you say so. 🙂

          I also never questioned your Orthodoxy. I was only talking about what was being said, both by you and by the historical texts in question. When I mentioned liberalism/modernism, I wasn’t saying that you held to that, but I do think that essentially taking all the teeth out of dogmatic statements is essentially that—a relativizing of what was put in exceptionally anti-relativistic language.

          I think it’s important to talk about what dogma really means and whether there are somehow “levels” of it. If dogmas such as papal infallibility and supremacy, which have anathemas attached to them and are put in very solemn language, are really not very strongly meant, then I must admit I am at a loss as to what dogma could possibly mean. If certain dogmas are not really that important but others are, what measure do you use to determine which ones really have something to do with salvation and which ones don’t?

          I acknowledge that you are taking dogma seriously, but how seriously are you taking it (or suggesting Rome takes it)? If dogma’s purpose is not for the salvation of souls, then what is it? Are any dogmas for that purpose? These are important questions to ask if you are saying that one’s salvation is not at stake when one rejects certain dogmas.

          As for the usage of dogma by the Apostles and subsequently by the Ecumenical Councils, I was not referring only to a single use of a word and then another isolated, unrelated use of that same word. Rather, the ECs quite explicitly quote the apostolic formula when defining dogma. They are self-consciously saying that their pronouncement has the same force and sense to it.

      2. Actually, there are many reversals of the “must be subject to papal authority to be saved” position throughout even the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church of Vatican II, other official decrees and declarations of that Council, and in many other official magisterial documents coming after Vatican I. The very fact that the RC church now acknowledges that the Orthodox Churches are, indeed, churches in the full sense, and there are “churchlike” elements in even reformed and protestant churches, elements which are effective for the salvation of others – these acknowledgements effectively reverse the positions that submission to the bishop of Rome is necessary for one’s salvation.

        1. Right, though “subject to papal authority” is not quite the same as “not rejecting the dogma of papal supremacy.” The former leaves no room for mercy to the ignorant, while the latter implies it.

  7. I wish you Orthodox and Roman Catholics would hurry up and bury the hatchet already. It would make it a lot easier for people like me to decide what to do. It’s not any fun feeling as if I have to dig through the weeds of church history in order to deduce which church I have to join to be saved. It’s already stressful enough when my family and friends are all Protestant, but then I know that if I convert to one side or the other, I’ll always be bothered by the feeling that I picked the wrong one.

    Anyway, if Rome and the Orthodox were reunited, I’d join it in a heartbeat. I think it would also put a lot of pressure on Protestants to join as well.

      1. As a former Protestant who converted to Orthodoxy, I strongly sympathize with what JCon has said. That is precisely how I felt when I converted, and I still feel that way.

        I also believe, and have been told so by friends who are still Protestant, that if Rome and the Orthodox communion were one instead of two, the witness to Protestants would be overwhelmingly stronger. Of course I can’t offer any proof that this would be the case, but I just can’t let the idea be dismissed so quickly.

        Father, you’re right of course that the two churches in question can never be unified while their dogma remains different, even contradictory. And the Orthodox must never change or leave behind the apostolic faith. But can’t we hold on to hope that Rome will change? They have softened so much on papal already (if not yet in dogma, at least in attitude and practice). Is it not possible that they may (by the miraculous work of the Holy Spirit) cut down their old papal claims to the point that it becomes no more than the ancient and perfectly Orthodox concept of the primacy of the bishop of Rome?

        Do you not feel the astounding, nay earth-shattering, tragedy of the schism? In the 11th century the entire western Christian world (including of thousands of pious, Orthodox men and women) became sundered from the church of Christ. Those Christian men and women and their descendants played no part in the events that caused the schism. They are cut off simply because of their geographical location.

        I would here posit the idea that this is a different kind of thing than a schism like that of the Donatists, or like the one in Antioch at the time of St. Basil the Great. Those were schisms within the local church, and the Christians there were were faced with a decision they had to consciously make. The Great Schism was not like that at all. Doesn’t that suggest that this is a schism of a different nature than the typical schism of the early church? This is of course speculation, but to me it suggests that the relationship between the sundered churches may not be quite the same as that between St. Cyprian’s catholic church and the Donatist church that willfully split off from it and was trying to supplant it. Note that the Catholics and Orthodox have (generally) not replaced one another’s hierarchs. For instance, there is no Orthodox bishop of Rome. As long as that is the case, I believe it is not wrong to hope that Rome can and may one day return to it’s primitive faith and be welcomed back into the fold of the Orthodox Church (to be clear: they can and may be reconciled to us en masse, with their hierarchy more or less intact, not in a position of subjugation, and not individually by re-baptism).

        This is a very controversial topic (though it is not always acknowledged as such). I hope I have not fallen error. Lord have mercy.

      2. Jeremy,

        There might not be an Orthodox bishop of Rome, but the Orthodox churches of that region are under the jurisdiction of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, among others.

        However, the Latins have installed Patriarchs in Alexandria, Antioch, Jerusalem, and around the world where Orthodox bishops have jurisdiction. In such a situation, I must ask: Who is furthering the schism?

        Just a point worth considering, I think. The existence of Uniates or “Eastern Catholics” is not only a thorn in the deified flesh of Saint Mark Evgenikos of Ephesus, but also a real hindrance to any semblance of unity or restoration of fellowship between the East Romans and West.

  8. I thank Fr. Andrew for his careful and irenic reply. Of course he is right that Vatican I dogmatized about infallibility and jurisdiction, and these cannot be blithely dismissed–I hope my article did not give that impression. If you read my 2011 book “Orthodoxy and the Roman Papacy” (U. Notre Dame Press) I try to show a way in there that the dogma can be salvaged but lived in such a way that Orthodoxy would not object. That took much longer to demonstrate than a web article!

    As for Michael Whelton, I published a review of his book on the papacy in the Canadian Journal of Orthodox Christianity some years back. Whelton’s book is a complete travesty and disgrace. Never mind that he tendentiously distorts Catholic theology: he can’t even get Orthodox theology right, and despite a wealth of Orthodox writings on the papacy (helpfully summarized in my book), he neglects them all to give his own utterly bizarre portrait that is complete rubbish.

  9. A further question to Fr. Andrew: apart from the dogma of Vatican I (which, frankly, in my more despairing moments I wish never happened: dogmatizing administrative arrangements in the Church seems to me not only superfluous but also, as we’ve now learned at great cost, highly divisive–to ask Newman’s question, and also in a similar way Bulgakov’s: since when is a council a luxury rather than a stern necessity to reign in heresy, of which there was none in 19th century Italy?), what else do you see as holding up Orthodox-Catholic unity? You mentioned being invested in history in different ways, which I agree is significant, but I do not see that as insurmountable. Do you think it is? And are there any other substantial issues not yet addressed?

    1. To be honest, I don’t see Orthodox-Catholic unity as “held up.” That is, I don’t think there’s any sort of inexorable movement toward it that just has a few things blocking it. I see it much the way Patriarch Bartholomew put it in his 1997 speech at Georgetown:

      Assuredly our problem is neither geographical nor one of personal alienation. Neither is it a problem of organizational structures, nor jurisdictional arrangements. Neither is it a problem of external submission, nor absorption of individuals and groups. It is something deeper and more substantive. The manner in which we exist has become ontologically different. Unless our ontological transfiguration and transformation toward one common model of life is achieved, not only in form but also in substance, unity and its accompanying realization become impossible. No one ignores the fact that the model for all of us is the person of the Theanthropos (God-Man) Jesus Christ. But which model? No one ignores the fact that the incorporation in Him is achieved within His body, the Church. But whose church?

      That, I think, is the real problem—an ontological difference, a real, on-the-ground, day-to-day difference in how the faith is lived and breathed, how the members of the church relate to God and to each other. It’s crystal clear to me every time I visit a Roman Catholic church or, perhaps especially, a Roman Catholic bookstore. And of course, like your article which is not as thorough as your book, it would probably take a good bit more than a comment on a weblog to unpack exactly what all of that means. It certainly means more than a wishlist of changes.

      But here’s my wishlist (for good or ill), as published in my own book

        Rejection of:

        1. Papal universal jurisdiction (supremacy)
        2. Papal infallibility
        3. Papal Petrine exclusivism (i.e., that only the pope is Peter’s successor)
        4. Development of doctrine
        5. The Filioque
        6. Original sin understood as guilt transmitted via “propagation”
        7. The immaculate conception of Mary
        8. Absolute divine simplicity
        9. Merit and satisfaction soteriology
        10. Purgatory and indulgences
        11. Created grace

        Acceptance of:

        1. The authority of Ecumenical Councils over the pope
        2. The essence/energies distinction

        Restoration of (already done, of course, for the tiny proportion of Catholics who are Eastern Catholic):

        1. Reconnecting confirmation/chrismation back to baptism rather than delaying it
        2. Giving Holy Communion to all church members, including infants

      Mind you, this is my wishlist, since you asked for it. I’m not really interesting in launching a multi-vectored debate on all these things, since that’s not really what this post is about.

      1. This must have been posted while I was typing. Still, if you had anything to add to my comment below, which you may not, given your “that’s not what this is about” just above, I would be interested in hearing about it.

  10. I hope you know, Fr. Andrew, that I have a tremendous amount of respect, and personal appreciation for you and your work. In fact, I am quite grateful that you have done all that you have done, because your writings and podcasts have been a great support for me on my own journey to Orthodoxy.

    That having been said, I am puzzled by what appears to be resistance to the idea of reconciliation and reunification of the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Christian churches. I agree with a great deal of what you have said, especially this one primary thought: reunification practically must mean a return of the Roman Catholic church to Orthodox Christianity.

    I have been praying fervently, ever since my decision to become Orthodox, that the Roman Catholic communion would hasten its own return to Orthodoxy. In some ways, my decision was part of a “put your money where your mouth is” movement. With this in mind, I (and I bet many others) would find it helpful if there were a minimal list of things the Roman Catholic church could do that would demonstrate a return to Orthodoxy. Here’s what I think of:

    * Explicit renunciation of the claim of papal supremacy over the church, which might be a dialing back to the “presiding over the churches in charity” statement of whichever early church Father coined that phrase. The Roman curia would become more of a facilitative mechanism than a deliberative or judicial mechanism.

    * Removal of the filioque from the symbol of faith, especially in any official (liturgical / oath-taking) context. The theological ideas behind the filioque could then become a topic of discussion, rather than contention, although I think that as much as can (not to mention should) be said about this has been said already.

    * Explicit renunciation of the doctrine of papal infallibility. The church catholic may be capable, by the grace of God, of articulating doctrine infallibly, when one considers the “believed by everyone, everywhere” (and throughout history) understanding of the deposit of faith, but there is no need to pretend that this charism could be exercised by one man. Of course, the two doctrines that were dogmatized via papal declaration after Vatican I, the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, would be reduced to mere theological opinion as an automatic consequence of the renunciation.

    I can’t think of anything else that couldn’t be worked out over time, within a reunified universal communion. Obviously there would be a tremendous amount of work to be done in terms of administrative reorganization, but perhaps smaller diocese, where bishops could actually get to know most of the faithful in their flocks, would be preferable, anyway. I would be interested in knowing what you might add to or subtract from that list.

    Given my experience of four decades as a very active Catholic, and two as a theological student (yeah, they gave me a master’s degree, but that means, to me, that I can bring others along to study with me) and lay pastoral minister / administrator, here’s what I think:

    1- The vast majority of Roman Catholics would breath a sigh of relief if the renunciation of papal infallibility and supremacy were worded sensitively. Most don’t believe that anyone’s salvation depends upon subscription to these teachings, nor do they believe, when it comes down to brass tacks, that the pope is really infallible in any personal way; it only works when he’s declaring something that is already part of the deposit of faith.
    2 – The beautiful language of Orthodox devotion to the Theotokos expresses more the real Catholic belief regarding the Blessed Virgin Mary – all blameless, most pure, etc., once you account for the superstitious fringe (which would likely shrink in a reunified communion).
    3 – The removal of the filioque would, quite frankly, give a great opportunity to educate Catholics about the Holy Trinity in a way that makes sense. I cannot adequately express in words the relief I felt when I heard several different Orthodox speakers address Trinitarian theology in, a) the same way, and b) in words that made sense. And this brings up a final huge point,
    4 – One of the most wonderfully amazing discoveries over my last couple years as an active inquirer and catechumen has been something I could never have adequately appreciated before, namely, the Unity of the Faith. Wow! Without the international machine that is the institutional Roman Catholic Church, the Orthodox have preserved, without doubt, the Unity of the Faith better than the RCC by an order of magnitude. This is to say, while the RCC has a uniform code of law, they do not have, in any real sense, the Unity of the Faith: it is so fragmented that you never really know what a Catholic priest or even bishop is going to say about a topic, and you find them contradicting each other, as well as scripture and the early church Fathers. The Orthodox Church, while admitting much more room for difference in theological opinion, (i.e., without imposing ecclesio-facist control over theological discussions), speaks largely with one voice (in my experience so far) when it comes to most doctrine, not just dogmas. I can tell you that soooo many Catholics would welcome the advent of this genuine order to the veiled chaos that currently exists in the RC world.

    And that’s all I want to say about that.

    1. I agree with everything you’ve written here.

      I feel I should clarify, though, since you wrote: “I am puzzled by what appears to be resistance to the idea of reconciliation and reunification of the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Christian churches.”

      I am not at all against reconciliation. In fact, I am for it. That said, I do not think we are very close to it, and I also do not see how it could happen. I still wish it could happen, but I just don’t think it’s likely.

    2. That is certainly a good list for a “starting point” of returning estranged Romans back into the Orthodox-Catholic body of Christ.

      However, several of these doctrinal viewpoints have led to a number of additional ones which would also need renunciation (many of which are at “dogma” level, and accompany no small part of Latin writings for the last 1,000+ years).

      For example, the Immaculate Conception is not merely an outworking of Papal Infallibility and the speculation of a few, but is intimately connected with the entirety of Latin soteriology/anthropology over the last millennium.

  11. I’m sorry, Father. I’m a member of the Antiochan Archdiocese of North America, and live in Southern Indiana. As such, I find myself often a fish out of water; I have to drive over an hour to attend the liturgy in my own church. And I am surrounded by Roman Catholics, and have attended many weddings and funerals for Catholic friends.

    I will be quite frank; I often find the Catholic Churches I go to to be more welcoming to me than other Orthodox Churches. Perhaps I am too American, but the last time I attended the liturgy (A Russian Orthodox one) I felt like I was subjected to a third degree and had to “prove” my bona fides.

    I have never found Catholics to be anything but welcoming to me, often going to great pains to do so. Near where I live is a Catholic Church that I was invited to for their Christmas Eve midnight Mass by a work associate, and it does have a great beauty, peace, and dare I say holiness and reverence that is its own. While the rites they use are different than the Western Rites I find in my own diocese … Well, I’ve had more than one occasion from Non-Antiochans heard that this is why the Western right is an abomination, because they encourage people to what? Regard Catholics as human beings? And “abomination” is the word I have heard used.

    And this is my point. I am often, to be blunt, ashamed sometimes of the stridency, intemperance, and even visceral hate that I hear. This is usually dressed up in all kinds of fancy words. There is a strong segment of our own, I fear, that is determined to hold, and to nurse an ancient grudge, and I really believe that if every point on your list was met, this element in our own church would move the goalposts and find a way to maintain that grudge. It seems like “We’re not Romans!” has become a part of our spiritual DNA.

    This isn’t charitable at all. Sometimes I find us friendlier to Episcopalians whose practice of faith anymore, at least to me, is failing more and more to resemble Christianity in any respect. And I think that is a problem that we have to own and work on.

    And this is far from me saying that I think Rome is lily white in all this, but, at the same time we can’t paint ourselves that way either. And I think we have a tendency to be a little too self righteous and demand submission before we are willing to listen.

    I’ve traveled the world, Father. I see protestants a lot here in America, not so much a lot of other places. Sometimes I have to look long and hard to find us; but I see the Catholics everywhere, feeding the hungry, healing the sick, and preaching the Gospel. Whatever else you may say about it, the proof is in the pudding that they are doing something right, and God is with them as well, and I’m often dismayed by the arrogance among my own that seems to say the contrary, and that we have nothing to learn from them, and nothing to gain by seeking unity. We’re guilty of a lot of navel-gazing, sometimes, and of parsing everything for what seems to be offense and heresy-mongering.

    Maybe we could start by accepting their apologies, burying the hatchet, and doing a little self-examination to see if maybe there are some apologies of our own that are overdue. And your really can’t tell me that there isn’t a strong streak in us of holding, and nursing grudges. I always understood we were to forgive our brothers seventy times seven times.

    1. Thanks for your comments. This is really a separate issue from what is being addressed in the post, but I’ll at least comment:

      I’m sorry that you’ve had bad experiences. I should say, though, that my own experiences have been quite different. I’ve visited RC parishes where I knew I was very much the odd man out (even before I was ordained) and even had almost open hostility to my presence since I was not RC. But I’ve also met some very nice folks at RC parishes. Likewise, I’ve had the same variety of experiences in Orthodox churches, too.

      In any event, regarding the Orthodox feeding the hungry, sick, etc., and the (by comparison) overwhelmingly more obvious work done by RCs here, well, you are right that we are almost invisible. But for every one Orthodox Christian in America (about 1 million), there are 60 Roman Catholics (roughly 1/5 of all Americans are baptized RCs, about 60 million total). One must understand that scale in order to give a proper evaluation of such things. That said, we should of course be doing a lot more. But I think perhaps you are not aware of the amazing amount of work being done by FOCUS North America, OCMC, IOCC, and other Orthodox agencies run by Americans. Should we be doing more? Of course. How does it compare to what the RCs are doing? I’m not sure, but one would also have to measure this sort of thing not only per capita, but also in terms of the amount of time RCs have had to establish themselves in America (more than a century more). So making a fair comparison would be quite difficult.

      All that said, finding mean people or nice people or even finding people good at living out their faith versus those not so good at it is not really the measure of the truth of a faith. It’s related, of course, but it cannot directly mean that it’s right or wrong. Should we judge RCs by their Mother Theresas, Francis of Assisis and Pope Benedicts, or by their Inquisition, Crusaders and Liberation Theologians? Should we judge Orthodox Christians by their Rod Blagojeviches, Stalins (he was a seminarian once!), and pogroms, or by their Florovskys, Silouan the Athonites and Maria Skobstovas?

      The point here is to examine doctrines and history, to see whether certain things are true or not. It is well to say “Bury the hatchet,” but I don’t see anyone here throwing about accusations regarding the sins of various members of these communions. Indeed, this site is largely inhabited by people of various communions who aren’t even bothering with those sins. Rather, we want to look at doctrine and how it works itself out, not the sins of the leaders of the churches, but at what their churches are actually teaching is the best in terms of Christian faith and life.

      Once you start down the path of comparing one side’s best to the other side’s worst, there’s really only one way that can turn out. Why not compare what’s officially the best on all sides?

      Talking about doctrinal differences does not put us at each other’s throats, swinging hatchets, etc. Rather, this is earnest contention for the faith (Jude 1:3). As the eminent Fr. Georges Florovsky famously said (in the context of the World Council of Churches, no less!): “Charity must not be set against truth.”

  12. You raise some very good points.

    Obviously there is the issue of over defining — that Western tendency (which certainly predates the Enlightenment) to want to explain everything, which can result in bastardizing what should be left as mysteries — mysteries which we’ll spend eternity (God willing) marveling in and always approaching but never fully understanding. Most great Catholic theologians have always given Eastern Christianity its “props” for resisting this tendency… and so it is that the popes speak of the need for both lungs within the Church.

    That being said, however, you have at the top of your blog “doctrine matters”. And so, I think the West should not receive overly unjust chastisement for its treatment of doctrine. I’ve read and heard from thoughtful nonCatholic Christians over the years who strongly do not want the Catholic Church to change one iota. Not because they believe in everything the Church holds to be true, but because they recognize the importance of the Catholic position in maintaining the doctrinal stability within their own theological communion. A nonCatholic wouldn’t use this particular analogy, but the Catholic Church is like the Northern Star for many other serious Christian theologians. They might not travel in the direction of that Star, but they still need it to figure out their own bearings and maintain their own heading.

    The other thing that your reply caused me to reflect on is that, in a strong sense, papal infallibility demonstrated a lack of faith in the Church. (my word based off what you wrote.) I think this is a strong point. That the future Church could not be trusted to figure it out for itself. And that an external mechanism needed to be created to ensure stability and doctrinal purity. This is a strong argument. One that I find myself pretty much in agreement with.

    I think, however, we are in a great apostasy. I think we’re living through the greatest apostasy. At least equal to, and I would say even greater than, the reign of Arianism throughout the world. I can only surmise that the Vatican I Fathers, through the influence of the Holy Ghost, presaged this apostasy when they established the doctrine of papal infallibility, because it came at the right time and it is serving its purpose right now. I don’t believe in “chance” of course. So either the Council presaged this apostasy or perhaps one could argue that the Council (and the doctrine of papal infallibility) caused this apostasy, although I can’t see how one could substantiate that line of reasoning. Like I said previously, the Catholic Church would be over, in these current times, if it were not for papal infallibility.

    Like I said early in this thread, the modern Catholic Church has failed in so many areas of orthopraxy. For instance, the absolutely scandalous and sacrilegious use of the annulment process. It’s a great moral tragedy. But it is an abuse of orthopraxy, not orthodoxy. Certainly it is a great moral evil. An evil orthopraxy which certainly undermines the doctrinal reality of marriage. Certainly it may be assisting in the damnation of countless souls. But it’s the limit that the modernists could do to attack Holy Matrimony. They could not undermine it at the level of doctrine. All they could do was establish a system of “group lies”:: if we all believe it (that this annulment is valid) and close our eyes together we’ll be safe as we step off into eternity. There’s no safety in numbers before the judgment seat of God, of course. The annulment orthopraxy evil is a lot like the abuse during the Catholic Mass of everyone, including notorious public sinners, receiving Holy Communion. The Church hasn’t changed doctrine on Holy Communion, but is has tragically changed its orthopraxy. Does this change the fundamental reality of what the Eucharist is? No, of course not. The unrepentant sinners receiving Our Lord are still eating and drinking their own condemnation. Likewise, with their false marriages after false annulments. Doctrine hasn’t changed.

    I’m not an expert on Christian Orthodoxy, but your Church’s position on marriage would bother me greatly. Frankly, should I ever find myself contemplating conversion to Orthodoxy I could accept purgatory and filioque must easier than I could the positions on divorce and remarriage. Doctrine has changed. Granted, one could argue that it’s a more “honest” position than the modernist Catholic answer of annulments. But one would be comparing two moral evils, and the Catholic moral evil is one of orthopraxy. The Orthodox moral evil is one of orthodoxy, in terms of Holy Matrimony, at any rate.

    1. I think you misunderstand the Orthodox position concerning divorce. It’s simple, though—divorce is always a grave sin (even when unavoidable), and usually results in excommunication. If, as you wrote elsewhere, “marriage is eternal” (and that’s all there is to it), then I look forward to when the RCC becomes consistent with that position and never allows remarriage for any reason whatsoever. But it seems to me that that’s not quite the teaching.

      But the difference really is not that Orthodoxy has changed its teaching. Indeed, the teaching and the practice have been consistent for 2000 years. The West once followed the same approach. What happened is that Rome changed its approach to sin. It is now a crime that can be indulged. (Even penances are essentially just the conditions for getting the indulgence.) Orthodoxy, following the Fathers, knows sin to be a wound that must be healed, and so penance is therapeutic, with the aim of bringing a sinner to holiness. In some cases, remarriage is needed to help heal the wound. Is it ever ideal? No. It’s not even ideal for widows to remarry, though the RCC permits that, no? This is essentially the same.

      What has happened with RCs who criticize the consistent Orthodox understanding of marriage is that history has been reinterpreted through the legalistic/merit/indulgence lens of post-Schism RCism. But Orthodoxy has never embraced that approach. Nothing changed with the Orthodox. What changed is that Rome decided sin was about crime and punishment, and salvation about merits and indulgences. Thus, the question is always “What is permitted?” not “What will bring this sinner to salvation?”

      In any event, it seems to me that the out of control situation with annulments is simply the attempt to create a legal fiction that will permit something like the Orthodox approach while denying that sacraments that everyone thought were real ever took place. That is, RC orthopraxy is attempting to get itself right, because it is more in keeping with the actual reality of human existence, but its heterodoxy will not permit it to get it fully right, because it is bound by legal categories that have nothing to do with reality.

      As to whether V1 prevented total apostasy by the RCC, well, one can ask “What if?” unto ages of ages. To me, it was just another step away from the apostolic faith. Was it a big one? Maybe.

      1. Interestingly, my husband and I have a friend who was raised and married in the RC Church. His first wife abandoned the marriage not long after for another man and obtained a divorce from our friend, who was understandably devastated. Many years later, he found a wonderful Episcopal woman, converted to the Episcopal Church and married her. Under his circumstances, he likely would not have had much difficulty obtaining an annulment, but even though he was a simple layman and not even at that time overtly particularly pious in his observance, and being the kind of guy I would characterize as very much grounded in relational reality, he recognized that he had really and truly been married and that getting an annulment would have been to embrace a lie. That is why he quite adamantly and indignantly refused and instead converted to a faith that didn’t require such legal fictions. I doubt his case is unique.

  13. What about the myriad of papal innovations spanning a thousand years that Orthodoxy would never accept? Sprinkling (affusion) instead of baptism, azymes for communion, women, children and even passerby distributing communion, a 45 minute desacralized vatican II peoples mass. I am just beginning. There is nothing in Roman Catholicism that has not been changed, altered, modified or adulterated. Not one iota remains intact from the undivided ancient church. As an Orthodox Christian why would any of this be something I would be interested in? Furthermore, how could I as an Orthodox Christian accept Josephat the Malevolent as a saint?

    1. I think you’ve overstated it a bit (I think there is a good bit more than an iota intact!), but what you point to, namely, the thoroughgoing nature of the innovations present within the RCC—especially as expressed liturgically—is part of the material of the sense that Patriarch Bartholomew’s quote given elsewhere in these comments, that we have become ontologically different. Lex orandi, lex credendi is not just a nice slogan.

  14. I obviously was sloppy when I used the term “eternal” what I talked about marriage. From the Catechism of the Council of Trent, “Hence it is plain that the bond of marriage can be dissolved by death alone, as is confirmed by the Apostle when he says: A woman is bound by the law as long as her husband liveth; but if her husband die she is at liberty; let her marry whom she will, only in the Lord; and again: To them that are married, not I but the Lord commandeth, that the wife depart not from her husband; and if she depart that she remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband. To the wife, then, who for a just cause has left her husband, the Apostle offers this alternative: Let her either remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband. Nor does holy Church permit husband and wife to separate without weighty reasons.”

    I recognize the elements of truth within Orthodoxy. Approaching the faith from the perspective of “how does this sinner come closer to salvation” is obviously far superior to the attitude of “what is permitted.” But the fullness of the Apostolic Faith requires both/and, not either/or. I’ll even grant you that the Orthodox emphasis is superior than the one you ascribe to Rome. But that doesn’t mean the Roman position is not necessary. Surely there are a host of pastoral circumstances where you need to use the approach of “This is what is and is not permitted!” (I attended a summer camp in Greece as a high school student and the Orthodox bishop who ran the place would regularly sit us boys all down and with a bullhorn let us know what is and is not permitted! When he burned confiscated pornography in a metal trash can in front of us, he wasn’t talking in soft tone language of helping a sinner get to heaven. He sounded very Council of Trent-ish at the time!)

    Did Trent and Scholasticism produce an overemphasis on “what is permitted”, I think they may have. But the danger within Orthodoxy, lacking the doctrinal “OCD” of the West, seems pretty clear – just on the level of the nature of Christian marriage. St. Paul seems pretty clear. Can you provide teachings from early church Fathers which allow for the divorce and remarriage of Christians?

    1. St. Basil’s Canonical Letters 1 & 2

      Canon IX. …from an unbelieving husband a wife is commanded not to depart, but to remain, on account of the uncertainty of the issue. For what do you know, O wife, whether you shall save your husband? 1 Corinthians 7:16 Here then the wife, if she leaves her husband and goes to another, is an adulteress. But the man who has been abandoned is pardonable, and the woman who lives with such a man is not condemned. But if the man who has deserted his wife goes to another, he is himself an adulterer because he makes her commit adultery; and the woman who lives with him is an adulteress, because she has caused another woman’s husband to come over to her. Letter 188

      Canon XLVI. The woman who unwillingly marries a man deserted at the time by his wife, and is afterwards repudiated, because of the return of the former to him, commits fornication, but involuntarily. She will, therefore, not be prohibited from marriage; but it is better if she remain as she is. Letter 199

      Canon L. There is no law as to trigamy: a third marriage is not contracted by law. We look upon such things as the defilements of the Church. But we do not subject them to public condemnation, as being better than unrestrained fornication. Letter 199

    2. There is a very good article about marriage in the Orthodox Church at: http://www.orthodoxresearchinstitute.org/articles/liturgics/athenagoras_remarriage.htm#23. Sections 6 and 7 deal with divorce and remarriage respectively. In the section about divorce, Ss. Cyril of Alexandria and St. John Chrysostom are cited. Note that divorce is, as Fr. Andrew pointed out, always considered a grievous sin, and for example in our Archdiocese always carries with it a mandatory period of excommunication regardless of circumstances. In addition to the section in the above linked article, the service used for Second Marriages itself is a good resource. The service is a penitential one, focused around the idea that a concession is being made to human frailty because it is better to be married than to burn with lust. The brief service for a third marriage, in the rare occasions in which that is allowed, is even more penitential.

      While on paper, Rome doesn’t allow divorce and remarriage, the reality is that depending on where you live, getting an annulment even after many years of marriage can be quite easy, and be accompanied by no corresponding penance whatsoever. Likewise, then, since the original marriage now ‘never existed’ canonically, the next marriage isn’t considered a re-marriage, and so isn’t treated penitentially. To me this is part of the legalism that Fr. Andrew referred to, and I see far far more benefit to the Orthodox practices in which everything is handled above board, and acknowledged, and dealt with in the lives of the individuals involved.

    3. The apostle gives his own personal opinion with regards to the dissolution of a marriage when the spouse is an unbeliever and detrimentally so. But again, that’s just his own apostolic, pious opinion. It seems that not all things are “black and white” and in need of dogmatic pronouncement or “every situation is the same” rigidness. It seems.

  15. About a few items on your list above:

    — # 3 “that only the pope is Peter’s successor” *was* taught in the Dictatus Papae and later papal bulls, but my sense is that while it may still be popular piety it is not regarded as magisterial teaching by RC theologians today. And in Ratzinger’s theology, you will find the idea that every local bishop sits on the chair of Peter, and Rome’s role would be as a center of communion to lead each local church to be open to the universal communion of churches (thus in a sense reconciling the two conflicting recensions of the famous “Petrine” text in St Cyprian’s De Unitate Ecclesiae Catholicae).

    — #4, Development of doctrine, is actually *not* a defined and magisterially RC doctrine. It has never appeared in any magisterial document. It is a theory of theologians — or rather a variety of theories, since there is more than one version of the theory of development (“logical” vs “organic” theories etc). There are a couple statements I think in Vatican II which can be read as presupposing such a theory, but again, it is not an explicitly taught RC doctrine. So if there is a disagreement between Orthodox and RCs on this point, it is a theological disagreement, not a dogmatic one. (Of course we will disagree about the *material* question of whether certain developments are legitimate — eg papal infallibility — but that is a different question, and must be sharply distinguished from the *formal* idea of development itself).

    Further, regarded as a *theory*, Development of Doctrine has *not* been rejected by all Orthodox theologians. Fr Dumitru Staniloae, certainly one of the greatest Orthodox theologians of the last century, defended and elaborated on the idea of doctrinal development: “The Orthodox Conception of Tradition and the Development of Doctrine” Sobornost 5, 1969, 652-62.

    Likewise, Florovsky: based on isolated statements, one could take him to be an opponent of the idea doctrinal development. However, the case is in fact much more subtle than that when you study his corpus as a whole. Right in the midst of his Ways of Russian Theology, a work which contains devastating criticisms of Vladimir Soloviev and the Russian “religious renaissance,” Florovsky devotes a lengthy section to *defending* Soloviev’s book in defense of doctrinal development. Florovsky does not like the term “development” for very specific reasons — association of an evolutionary or Hegelian view of history. Also, in his critical comments on development (not in Ways, but in certain well-known essays), it can be shown that he has in mind not the theory of Newman (whom he respected immensely and whose works he assigned in his classes), but the “logical” (deductive) theory of development that was the dominant theory in the 1930’s in RC theology, as had been put forth by RC theologians like Franzelin, Marin-Sola, and (in GF’s time) Charles Boyer. (I know that Florovsky knew all these theologians’ thought, because I have his copy of a prospectus for a dissertation he advised at Harvard on development, where he wrote their names in the margins, and he also knew Charles Boyer personally from the Amsterdam Assembly.) Yet Florovsky in substance (and occasionally explicitly) *does* defend doctrinal development, and propounds in a way his own specific theory of it, not along the lines of the analogy of organic “evolution” but another organic metaphor: “epigenesis.” Ironically, and quite surprisingly counter to what one would suspect from the usual conservative critique of developmental theories, which are usually concerned with the suggestion that development might be some addition to the depositum fidei, Florovsky’s critique is rather different: he is worried that the organic analogy suggests that everything in the Church was there from the start, that no real creativity or build-up happens through Church history. His concept of history as “epigenesis” (a theory opposed to evolutionary “preformationism”) suggests the opposite: that there is real unpredictability, real growth through interaction with external challenges, etc. Quite surprising, but it is true.

    Some Orthodox (V. Lossky, for instance) have spoken of development as merely a development of terms. Florovsky himself speaks of a “search for terms,” citing St Gregory the Theologian. However, he also clarified elsewhere (in his comments at the Edinburgh Assembly 1937, for instance, and elsewhere) that “terms” indicate “concepts”, and “concepts” imply “systems.” So there is no terminological development without some kind of conceptual development. If we understand “doctrine” here to mean concepts or conceptual systems used to exposit the unchanging kerygma or depositum fidei, then we have inevitably a case of doctrinal development.

    For instance, there is a real development of Christian metaphysical concepts behind St Maximus’ clarification of the gnomic will — and the dogma of the 6th ecumenical council requires this metaphysics for its full theological explanation and reception. There is no addition to the deposit of faith in the strict sense, and the “identity of the message remains the same,” as GF put it. But we cannot kid ourselves in saying that the whole *conceptual* system was there worked out in the 2nd century. In GF’s understanding, there is, in Church history, a historic growth of “Christian philosophy,” through a series of graced creative leaps in rational insight under the impact of revelation, an exercise in “fides quaerens intellectum” (as he characterized it), which mark the synergy of human rational activity and the continuous work of the Holy Spirit in the Church. In his view, such development is tied to a “Chalcedonian” ecclesiology, where the real, fully human intellectual activity in the Church over the centuries is affirmed, and at times permanently canonized in the form of doctrinal developments.

    At some point some Orthodox needs to write an honest, non-reactive and responsible lengthy historical study of this question, starting from those discussions of development that are to be found in the Fathers, and then dealing with the various treatments of the question to be found in RC and Orthodox authors. Because, for instance, St Vincent of Lerins, whose “Commonitorium” is often quoted (“semper, ubique, et ab omnibus”) out of context in discussions against development, has a defense of the idea of legitimate development in the *very next chapter* of that same work (chapter 23).

    I would point you also to this article by my friend, Dan Lattier, who wrote his dissertation recently at Duquesne specifically on Newman and Florovsky:

    http://www.academia.edu/1121332/_The_Orthodox_Rejection_of_Doctrinal_Development_

    — # 6 Original sin understood as guilt transmitted via “propagation” is NOT a magisterially defined RC teaching — neither the “guilt” part nor the “propagation” part. The reality is that the RCC really has been very reticent in its official teaching regarding the nature of original sin. On this I recommend a historical study by Henri Rondet, Original Sin: The Patristic and Historical Background, which drives the point home quite clearly through a review of the evidence over the centuries.

    In fact, contrary to what is usually suggested, even St Augustine himself in his Enarrationes in Psalmos, commenting on the statement from Psalm 50/51, “In sins did my mother conceive me,” explicitly rejects the idea of transmission of sin through the act of generation.

    As for the “guilt” bit:

    (1) there are suggestions of the idea in St Cyril of Alexandria and in St Maximus the Confessor [you might want to look at these: Jean-Claude Larchet, “Ancestral Guilt According to St. Maximus the Confessor: A Bridge Between Eastern and Western Conceptions” Sobornost 20/1 (1998): 26-48; John Boojamra, “Original Sin According to St. Maximus the Confesssor”, St. Vladimir’s Theological Quarterly 20 (1976): 19-30; and Daniel Haynes, “Original Sin in Maximus Confessor: An Eastern Perspective on a Western Doctrine”. St. Vladimir’s Theological Quarterly 2011 (??).]

    But (2): again, the RCC has nowhere defined original sin as contracted guilt. The Council of Trent defined no definition particular theory of original sin, but it favored the teaching of Aquinas that original sin is “the privation of sanctifying grace in consequence of the sin of Adam.” Thus it is the transmission not only of physical death (as Pelagians taught), but also the death of the soul, and thus privation of the original sanctifying grace or original “justice.” The *result* of this absence of sanctifying grace or justice is not only physical death, but also moral concupiscence, and is thus spoken of as an inherited “stain.” (That is the closest the magisterial teaching gets to the idea of inherited “guilt” — but it is not the same idea.)

    It is also a commonplace of RC theologians to explain that in calling what is contracted “sin”, one is speaking *”analogically”*. This is because, as Augustine wrote, “There can be no sin that is not voluntary, the learned and the ignorant admit this evident truth” (De vera relig., xiv, 27). So strictly speaking what is contracted is not sin but the result of sin. It is not an act, but a state.

    Actually, much of the view of original sin which our popular Orthodox apologetics attributes erroneously to Rome was condemned long ago by Rome itself: in the form of the heresies of Baianism and Jansenism.

    — # 8 Absolute divine simplicity — Here there may be real dogmatic disagreement — there is certainly and unquestionably historic theological divergence (as represented by, say, Aquinas and Palamas). But it needs to be explored much more responsibly and sensitively than it has been by the folks at the blog Energetic Processions, or even by David Bradshaw. The 4th Lateran Council and the First Vatican Council, in teaching that God is “absolutely simple”, did not say much more than that, and they were not addressing the so-called Palamite thesis on essence and energies which is dogmatically taught by the Orthodox Church. Nor were the so-called Palamite councils of the 14th c. addressing Thomism or RC dogma, but rather an intra-Byzantine dispute (it is a mistake to treat Barlaam as representing Thomism or Augustinianism — in fact he was merely, as John Meyendorff said, “une mauvaise theologien”). St John Damascus states repeatedly that God is “simple and uncomposite”: this is standard Greek patristic fare, and I don’t think St Gregory Palamas meant to challenge this. Orthodox theology also teaches a doctrine of divine simplicity! Here this book might be helpful: http://www.amazon.com/Caesarea-Gregory-Transformation-Simplicity-Christian/dp/0199574111

    One problem is that Orthodox theologians who have raised this issue in the last century in critical dialogue with Western theology have not really clarified what *kind* of distinction we are speaking about when we speak of the essence/energies distinction. Florovsky for instance just calls it a “real distinction,” and this is typical. In Thomistic terms, however, “real distinction” means not only that the distinction is not merely “conceptual”; it has a much more specific sense: it applies to two things that can exist independently of each other, ie they can be separated. I am not so sure that that is what Palamas or other Fathers are referring to when they distinguish essence and energies; in fact, I highly doubt it. Energies cannot be separated from the essence or exist independently of it; and it is also probably wrong to speak at all of energeia as an entity, when it really means activity.

    John Duns Scotus suggested the idea of an intermediate category between the “real” and the merely “conceptual” or mind-dependent: the “formal distinction” (distinctio formalis a parte rei). The formal distinction applies to entities which are inseparable and indistinct in reality, but whose *definitions* are not identical. As I understand it, there is evidence that St Gennadios Scholarios (who was both a hesychast and an admirer of Aquinas, and who knew his Latin scholastic theology well) and other late Byzantine theologians understood the essence/energies distinction in precisely these terms: as a formal distinction. That seems helpful to me, but this needs to be explored further.

    Similar critical and clarifying remarks could also be made regarding the notion of “created grace” — a concept which is also employed by St Gregory Palamas — but we’ve talked about that before, and I’ve already written too much, so I’ll leave it at that. My general thrust: not irenicism or compromise, but a plea for deeper knowledge of the issues and greater carefulness on both sides!

  16. The idea of up to three marriages being permitted is no post-schism development, but goes back at least to St Gregory the Theologian (4th c.), who is famously quoted on this. On the other hand, it should be remembered too that at this point such marriages were almost certainly not being celebrated in church. In fact there are canons from the same period penancing those who contract a second or third marriage (while the estranged spouse is still living) with abstention from communion, and there are also canons forbidding clergyman from attended the celebrations of such marriages. It seems to me our current understanding derives from a later period (the period of St Theodore Studites, who protested against it; or around that period), more or less from the Byzantine Church having taken on the responsibilities of the State in publicly solemnizing marriages; the use of the “common cup” in place of the Eucharist in the marriage service was also probably the result of this.

  17. It probably needs to be said that both the Byzantine and Latin systems of dealing with divorce and remarriage are both products of long historical developments, and these developments were largely divergent and independent of one another (and one finds yet another system developed outside the Roman world, in the Ethiopian Church, for instance). Rome did not even require marriages to be witnessed by a priest until very very late — much later than in the East: at the Council of Trent (and that was in opposition to Luther, to underscore the sacramental nature of marriage). And we also have differences as regards the question of who the minister of the sacrament is: the priest (Orthodoxy) or the couple (Rome). It seems to me that both the Orthodox system of dealing with remarriage as well as the RC system is less than ideal: in the first you have what appears to be a contradiction to the literal sense of the NT, but you avoid legal fiction; in the second, you have what *looks* like a closer maintenance of the literal teaching of the NT, but by way of legal fiction. In both cases, you can say that there is a rejection of rigorism, and an attempt to deal realistically and pastorally with less than ideal human situations.

  18. Andy wrote: “I attended a summer camp in Greece as a high school student and the Orthodox bishop who ran the place would regularly sit us boys all down and with a bullhorn let us know what is and is not permitted! When he burned confiscated pornography in a metal trash can in front of us, he wasn’t talking in soft tone language of helping a sinner get to heaven. He sounded very Council of Trent-ish at the time!)”

    Let me guess: was this Bishop Avgoustinos of Florina? Sounds like him!

  19. Matthew, I’m impressed and grateful for what you offer above. It was fascinating to read. The summer camp was a long time ago… 89 or 90.. It was along the sea or a bay.. The camp housed a few hundred boys along the hillside in concrete shelters. The bishop seemed old to me at the time, but I look back he was probably 60, maybe a little older. I do know every morning he swam the length of the bay or channel.. It was quite a distance at any rate. I spoke no Greek so his sermons with bullhorn were translated to me by a friend. He staff would go through the camp and collect up contraband.. and when materials in violation of the 6th and 9th commandants were found he’d call the camp together and set the magazines on fire, using loads of gasoline, in a metal can.

    I was also not allowed to receive Holy Communion on Sundays 🙂

  20. “For instance, there is a real development of Christian metaphysical concepts behind St Maximus’ clarification of the gnomic will — and the dogma of the 6th ecumenical council requires this metaphysics for its full theological explanation and reception. There is no addition to the deposit of faith in the strict sense, and the “identity of the message remains the same,” as GF put it. But we cannot kid ourselves in saying that the whole *conceptual* system was there worked out in the 2nd century.”

    But, from the Orthodox perspective, the Deposit of Faith is not a conceptual system, nor a collection of propositional content. What we’re talking about is the Vision of the Risen Christ. This Vision is, ultimately, ineffable. Apophatic theology precludes what is incompatible with this Vision. Kataphatic theology is always a qualified, limited attempt to translate this Vision into this or that human conceptual system (be it a language or a philosophical system of understanding). So there can be no ‘development’ of any kind, and someone having a different vision and propounding it is propounding a different gospel.

    St. Maximus, in my reading at least, related to the will propounds no new ‘metaphysical concepts’, everything he’s saying about the will can be found in Aristotle’s Ethics and Physics. He is attempting, on a limited, qualified scale to translate his Vision of the Risen Christ into Greek philosophical terminology in order to make specific points related to precluding particular errors which would lead one away from the path of salvation. In the same way, St. Paul translated his Vision of the Risen Christ into primarily Hebraic terms to guide the recipients of his letters onto the path of salvation. But they had the same Vision of the same (and only) Risen Christ. There’s no kind of progress or sequence from one to the other.

    There are fundamentally two groups who are Orthodox: the few whom Christ has chosen to reveal Himself to visibly in His Uncreated Glory, and those who have not seen, and yet believe. The latter category are those who trust in, abide by, and follow the guidance of the former. The former are those who are rightly called theologians. Someone who speculatively, or even using human logic, seeks to go beyond or outside the testimony of these Theologians, by doing so becomes, charitably, heterodox by definition.

    TLDR; If we disagree about St. Gregory Palamas, we disagree about everything.

  21. Matthew,

    It seems to me that the Pope claimed to be and was considered the successor of Peter in a unique sense by Holy Fathers in the East and West prior to the Dictatus Papae.

    St. Firmilian: And in this respect I am justly indignant at this so open and manifest folly of [Pope] Stephen, that he who so boasts of the place of his episcopate, and contends that he holds the succession from Peter, on whom the foundations of the Church were laid [Matt 16:18]. (Epistle 74 to Cyprian)

    Eusebius: Paul testifies that Crescens was sent to Gaul [2 Tim. 4:10], but Linus, whom he mentions in the Second Epistle to Timothy [2 Tim. 4:21] as his companion at Rome, was Peter’s successor in the episcopate of the church there, as has already been shown. Clement also, who was appointed third bishop of the church at Rome, was, as Paul testifies, his co-laborer and fellow-soldier [Phil. 4:3]. (Church History 3:4:9–10)

    …[W]e have been considered that it ought to be announced that although all the Catholic Churches spread abroad through the world comprise one bridal chamber of Christ, nevertheless, the holy Roman Church has been placed at the forefront not by conciliar decisions of other churches, but has received the primacy by the evangelic voice of our Lord and Savior, who says: “You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it; and I will give to you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you shall have bound on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you shall have loosed on earth shall be loosed in heaven” [Matt. 16:18-19]. The first see, therefore, is that of Peter the apostle, that of the Roman Church, which has neither stain nor blemish nor anything like it. (The Decree of Damasus 3)

    Philip the presbyter and legate of the Apostolic See said: ‘There is no doubt, and in fact it has been known in all ages, that the holy and most blessed Peter, prince and head of the apostles, pillar of the faith, and foundation of the Catholic Church, received the keys of the kingdom from our Lord Jesus Christ, the Savior and Redeemer of the human race, and that to him was given the power of loosing and binding sins: who down even to today and forever both lives and judges in his successors. The holy and most blessed pope Celestine, according to due order, is his successor and holds his place, and us he sent to supply his place in this holy synod.’ (Acts of the Council of Ephesus Session 3)

    For if the lineal succession of bishops is to be taken into account, with how much more certainty and benefit to the Church do we reckon back till we reach Peter himself, to whom, as bearing in a figure the whole Church, the Lord said: Upon this rock will I build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it! Matt.16:18 The successor of Peter was Linus, and his successors in unbroken continuity were these: Clement…Julius, Liberius, Damasus, and Siricius, whose successor is the present Bishop Anastasius. (Letter 53)

    I’m aware that this understanding coexisted with the Cyprianic teaching that every bishop was a successor to Peter and the teaching about three Apostolic and Petrine sees of Rome, Alexandria and Antioch. I’m also aware that bishops East and West disagreed and broke communion with Rome when they felt the need.

    1. Maximus, I am aware of these and other such texts. However, the term “successor of Peter” is not the same as saying that that Peter was a bishop in Rome — these are two different notions, not necessarily tied up with one another, as you will see pointed out and discussed in JMR Tillard’s really fine book, The Bishop of Rome. And the translation of Eusebius you cite obscures his actual position, which if I recall correctly does not claim Peter was a bishop; rather, the succession is “after” Peter, with Linus listed as the first bishop. My point was simply to underscore what Fr A was saying: that the idea of Peter being a bishop is not universal. In fact most of the testimony for this idea comes from Rome. Chrysostom for instance says that Peter and other Apostles were teachers of the whole world, not the bishops of local churches. Hope this helps to clarify what I was saying.

      1. Thanks Matthew!

        Questions sir:

        Is Peter being a bishop in Rome a non-universal patristic tradition?

        Would you say that the ancient Roman tradition about Peter being a bishop in Rome excludes him from being a teacher of the whole world? It seems that the ancient Roman tradition believes that these two concepts intersect.

        Lastly, did the Holy Fathers generally teach that the Roman bishop is a successor to Peter in a unique sense?

        Thanks for your help.

  22. “But, from the Orthodox perspective, the Deposit of Faith is not a conceptual system, nor a collection of propositional content.” I agree entirely. But I did not say that the deposit is a conceptual system; I said it is expressed verbally in concepts. Two entirely different points.

    Further, while the Vision of Christ itself may be “non-conceptual,” faith in Christ is tied to definite beliefs which can be at least partially stated in the form of propositions. I don’t think you want to commit yourself to the idea of “non-conceptual” or “unthematic” experience of God proposed by people like Karl Rahner, Bernard Lonergan and Edvard Schillebeecx! Our Orthodox need to be warned that this is a classic route of Liberal theology.

    If the faith itself is an entirely non-conceptual affair, wuth no inherent logos, then it must borrow its rationality from outside (eg from secular philosophy) in order to express itself. Which is exactly what Liberal theologians of the correlationist mode do.

    “Kataphatic theology is always a qualified, limited attempt to translate this Vision into this or that human conceptual system (be it a language or a philosophical system of understanding)” YES —

    “So there can be no ‘development’ of any kind, and someone having a different vision and propounding it is propounding a different gospel.” — But NO, that doesn’t follow: for while there is no development in the vision or the Gospel itself, there is undoubtedly development in the philosophical/conceptual expression of it. Which is what I was saying. And which is all that a proper notion of doctrinal development entails — nothing more.

    “St. Maximus, in my reading at least, related to the will propounds no new ‘metaphysical concepts’, everything he’s saying about the will can be found in Aristotle’s Ethics and Physics.” — In Aristotle’s system, a single agent with two wills is an absolute contradiction and does not fit. Likewise, Maximus’ treatment of natural and gnomic will goes beyond Aristotle; it is a specifically *Christian* metaphysic, not something you could get simply from Aristotle.

    “But they [Paul and Maximus] had the same Vision of the same (and only) Risen Christ. There’s no kind of progress or sequence from one to the other.” Again, agreed. No progress or development in Vision or in faith. But a progress in terms and, indeed, in philosophical expression. Which is important to the life of faith and the development of genuine Christian reasoning and Christian culture.

    “If we disagree about St. Gregory Palamas, we disagree about everything.” Not sure what prompted this, but I don’t think we do disagree. Rather, I think you missed my point, as you did above. I stated that the teaching of Palamas on essence and energies is the dogmatic teaching of the Church. I also said I believe what Palamas is saying to be consonant with earlier Fathers. However, I pointed out an ambiguity in the 20th c. presentation of that teaching, particularly in dialogue with Western theologians: namely, the particular kind of distinction that is being employed here. Answer that and you will have actually have responded to what I wrote. St Gennadios Scholarios and other Byzantine theologians did not think the question too “scholastic” or “speculative” to address.

    1. Fr. Andrew or Matthew,

      Can either of you please help me answer these questions? I’m trying to find a balanced and Orthodox view of the Papacy. No debate is intended.

      Is Peter being a bishop in Rome a non-universal patristic tradition?

      Would you say that the ancient Roman tradition about Peter being a bishop in Rome excludes him from being a teacher of the whole world? It seems that the ancient Roman tradition believes that these two concepts intersect.

      Lastly, did the Holy Fathers generally teach that the Roman bishop is a successor to Peter in a unique sense?

      Thanks for your help.

      1. Is Peter being a bishop in Rome a non-universal patristic tradition? YES

        Would you say that the ancient Roman tradition about Peter being a bishop in Rome excludes him from being a teacher of the whole world? NO

        It seems that the ancient Roman tradition believes that these two concepts intersect. YES

        Lastly, did the Holy Fathers generally teach that the Roman bishop is a successor to Peter in a unique sense?

        — SOME did, but certainly not all. Mostly Latins, and mostly Roman popes (Leo I, Gregory the Great), it seems, but others too in the East, esp. in the period around the 7th/8th centuries: Maximus the Confessor (if the text is authentic) and Theodore the Studite appear to be two notables with comments in this direction.

        On the other hand, it should be noted that, apart from popes themselves, none of the major Latin fathers interpret the famous Petrine text in Matthew 16 in the manner of modern RC apologists, or make any special connection with Rome. And likewise, very respected older Roman Catholic historical scholars who made a study of this issue in the Greek Fathers (I’m thinking Wilhelm de Vries, Charles Hefele, etc) conclude that there is nothing in either Basil the Great or John Chrysostom that suggests any idea of a special Petrine primacy for Rome.

        So, I’d say, it’s an idea that can be found among some Fathers, but not one with the force or attestation of a truth believed to be necessary for salvation — ie a dogma of the faith.

        Perhaps this is where the conversation really demands a consideration of what constitutes a true or a false development of doctrine. For Orthodox, the dogmas of Vatican I are most certainly a false development.

      2. It can be noted too that none of the ecumenical synods of the first millennium recognize a special Petrine or apostolic foundation of primacy or primacies in the Church — even though comments were made by papal legates reflecting this view and reflected in the minutes. For the councils themselves, the basis of primacies in the Church appears to be ecclesiastical custom, never any special divine constitution (even though Maximus in his one “Petrine” text interprets the councils in these terms). The later interpretation of the 3 primacies recognized by Nicaea (Rome, Alexandria, Antioch) in Petrine terms is something that had its origin with the popes themselves (Leo I, Gregory), in reaction to the rise of Constantinople. It had no basis in Nicaea itself.

  23. “In Aristotle’s system, a single agent with two wills is an absolute contradiction and does not fit. Likewise, Maximus’ treatment of natural and gnomic will goes beyond Aristotle; it is a specifically *Christian* metaphysic, not something you could get simply from Aristotle.”

    Its only an absolute contradiction in that for Aristotle a single hypostasis with two natures is an absolute contradiction. St. Maximus’ appeal is to the idea that will and energy emanate from nature rather than from hypostasis, and that idea is found in Aristotle, it is not something new which he creates. Utilizing that pre-existing philosophical concept is no different than using a particular pre-existing human word, its a translation. Likewise Aristotle’s concept of a deliberative faculty separate from the natural will.

    My point being that St. Maximus is confronted with a way of speaking about Christ which is incompatible with the Vision of Christ which he himself has experienced, and is answering back to that false way of speaking. The ‘given’ from which he is answering, however, is not taking previous dogma, that Christ is one hypostasis with two natures, and then using Aristotelian reasoning to build further that therefore each nature possesses its own natural will and energy, which would imply a type of progress, the dogma of the Sixth Ecumenical Council built on top of the dogma of the Fourth. Rather, the given for both dogmas is the same Vision of Christ in Uncreated Glory, translated into different conceptual expressions in answer to different challenges.

    ““If we disagree about St. Gregory Palamas, we disagree about everything.” Not sure what prompted this, but I don’t think we do disagree. Rather, I think you missed my point, as you did above. I stated that the teaching of Palamas on essence and energies is the dogmatic teaching of the Church. I also said I believe what Palamas is saying to be consonant with earlier Fathers. However, I pointed out an ambiguity in the 20th c. presentation of that teaching, particularly in dialogue with Western theologians: namely, the particular kind of distinction that is being employed here. Answer that and you will have actually have responded to what I wrote. St Gennadios Scholarios and other Byzantine theologians did not think the question too “scholastic” or “speculative” to address.”

    My point is that you have severed the ‘Essence/Energies distinction’ from its sitz im leiben, and are treating it as an abstract concept in order to see whether or not it contradicts the abstract Platonic concept of simplicity. St. Gregory Palamas was not setting out to make theological distinctions, formulate new dogma, or create ‘Palamism’. St. Gregory was defending the truth that some hesychastic monks, including some with no education whatsoever, theological or otherwise, received the Vision of Christ in Uncreated Glory, which they beheld with their physical eyes. That this occurs is true, and St. Gregory knew that it was true, though Barlaam and others argued on various theological, philosophical, and logical bases that it was impossible.

    So, my response to your question as to what kind of distinction it is is this: It is a conceptual unit used to translate the reality of the Vision of Christ. Like all kataphatic theology, it is qualified, it is limited, and it is an attempt. It is fragile and it doesn’t bear up to philosophical scrutiny (any more than any of the dogmas above would to a consistent pagan philosopher). Nor will it bear the weight of whatever additional speculation we might want to build therefrom. It is foolishness from the perspective of the world, as we should expect. It is really understood only by those who have shared the same experience on which it is based (of whom I am not one).

    St. Gregory said, “For every argument there is a counter-argument, but who can argue against life?” Roman dogma does, indeed, reflect progress, and is built upon argument and counter-argument. Orthodox dogma comes from Vision and from Life itself. Roman theology doesn’t speak the language that St. Gregory Palamas speaks, so taking a piece of his language and attempting to interface it with the Roman system simply won’t work. This is the source of the ambiguity you’re pointing to: the space between a translation into a foreign tongue of a translation and the original experience. Put another way, until the West understands Palamas, by sharing his Vision or trusting his expression thereof, we won’t be able to communicate. Or the way I previously put it, if we disagree about Palamas, we disagree about everything.

  24. “Its only an absolute contradiction in that for Aristotle a single hypostasis with two natures is an absolute contradiction.” OK, then. But that was my point.

    “St. Maximus’ appeal is to the idea that will and energy emanate from nature rather than from hypostasis, and that idea is found in Aristotle, it is not something new which he creates.” — I agree.

    “The ‘given’ from which he is answering, however, is not taking previous dogma, that Christ is one hypostasis with two natures, and then using Aristotelian reasoning to build further that therefore each nature possesses its own natural will and energy, which would imply a type of progress, the dogma of the Sixth Ecumenical Council built on top of the dogma of the Fourth. Rather, the given for both dogmas is the same Vision of Christ in Uncreated Glory, translated into different conceptual expressions in answer to different challenges.”

    — I don’t disagree with you here; but it seems that you are unaware that the idea of development you are opposing here is but one particular theory of development — namely, the so-called “logical” theory of development favored by theologians of the Roman schools in the 19th and early 20th century, whom I mentioned earlier (Marin-Sola, Franzelin, C. Boyer etc). This theory is opposed by Florovsky, Staniloae and every Orthodox theologian I know of; and while many RCs still think like this, it is also opposed by Newman, by DeLubac (see his essay on development) and the better, more patristically oriented RC theologians of the last half century or so. That is, the idea that dogmas are logical “axioms”, from which we can then logically deduce further dogmas, quite apart from the real spiritual experience and spiritual insight to which you refer. However, if you study the issue, you will see there are other notions of development, which your criticism does not touch. And I would submit that while the spiritual experience remains primary, as you stress, St Maximus does not pull his conceptual framework out of a hat: in articulating his true witness to unchanging truth of the faith, he is also concerned to do so in a way that is faithful to the boundaries
    and categories set down by Chalcedon.

    “My point is that you have severed the ‘Essence/Energies distinction’ from its sitz im leiben, and are treating it as an abstract concept in order to see whether or not it contradicts the abstract Platonic concept of simplicity.”

    — I did not detect anything about a concern for historical “Sitz im Leben” in your comments. Rather, I heard something more like the usual “experience” vs “rationality” game that is indulged in all too often in our popular apologetics and seminary teaching (And which, if you know the history, has as much — if not more — to do with the legacy of Romantic and Slavophile reactions against reductionistic Enlightenment notions of rationality as well as 20th c . French reactions against neoscholasticism as it does with the Holy Fathers, who don’t even have a term in Greek that corresponds with our modern notions of “experience”). Also, I noted the implication about being heterodox for having posed such a question . . .

    Sorry, but I do not see St Paul and the great Fathers of the Church degrading reason or discursive argument, or making a *regular* practice of appealing to personal experience as a way of dodging questions regarding the meaning of terms and concepts. I could care less about any supposed “abstract Platonic concept of simplicity,” to which I have no commitment and do not accept; my interest was in the *Orthodox patristic* doctrine of divine simplicity, which is well attested and which I don’t believe St Gregory Palamas has any intention to contradict, in spite of some less-than-adequate 20th c. presentations of his teaching that fail to address this question and thus hazard misleading those less well-instructed. If we communicate at all, then we have to use terms and concepts; it should go without saying that if we want to be well understood, then we need to clarify the nature of the terms and distinctions we are employing, as best as humanly possible.

    “So, my response to your question as to what kind of distinction it is is this: It is a conceptual unit used to translate the reality of the Vision of Christ. Like all kataphatic theology, it is qualified, it is limited, and it is an attempt. It is fragile and it doesn’t bear up to philosophical scrutiny (any more than any of the dogmas above would to a consistent pagan philosopher). Nor will it bear the weight of whatever additional speculation we might want to build therefrom. It is foolishness from the perspective of the world, as we should expect.”

    — Sorry, but that is not an answer a cop-out. The great ecumenical teachers of the Church gave great attention to “akribeia” or exactness in the “search for terms.” For them, there is no contradiction between conceptual “akribeia” and “eusebeia” or piety; in fact protection of the latter necessitates the former. Likewise, as I noted, St Gennadius Scholarios, a hesychast (who criticized Aquinas for lacking the essence/energy distinction, BTW) himself addressed the same question; did he also not respect the Sitz im Leben? Was he also guilty of “speculative” theology?

    You wrote: “until the West understands Palamas, by sharing his Vision or trusting his expression thereof, we won’t be able to communicate.” Granting the limitations of conceptual expression and agreeing with you on that, I should still think that you would want to do all you can to remove any unnecessary and false obstacles to this understanding by clarifying the nature of the terms with which we *might* communicate. Otherwise we only denigrate rational discourse in favor of an inexpressible appeal to the ineffable — something that sounds more to me like the worst of the postmodern than the best of the Christian Hellenism of the Fathers. As Hans-Georg Gadamer said to Jacques Derrida in their 1981 meeting in Paris, if you cannot find a way to communicate with others in terms that others understand, then we have reason to doubt that you something coherent to say.

    The reasoning that “Roman theology doesn’t speak the language that St. Gregory Palamas speaks, so taking a piece of his language and attempting to interface it with the Roman system simply won’t work” owes more to turns in 20th c. philosophy and theology than you think (think Wittgenstein, George Lindbeck, Yale post-liberal school etc). I do not see much support for this particular doctrine of yours regarding the utterly localized and linguistic construction of thought in the authorities of the Orthodox tradition. If figures like Scholarios and Emperor John VI Kantakouzenos, who were hesychasts and staunch followers of Palamas, who were against false union, could encourage and engage in study and dialogue with Latin theology — and I would note the something similar earlier on in St Nicholas Cabasilas — then I think we can and should too.

    So, I would suggest, my question stands as posed. Our theologians have serious work to do. Pop internet polemics and appeals to ineffable experience are easy; it is harder thing to understand in precise terms the teaching of one’s own tradition and fathers, to understand accurately the teachings of another’s tradition (however erroneous in parts it may be), and then to communicate one effectively to the other so that it might possibly be understood.

  25. A final note. Giving the best possible reading of what you (Fr Stephen) have written, I would take the liberty of interpreting and say that what you are arguing for is a strong *theological realism*. That is to say: both the source and the “object” (using that term in the most strictly formal sense, and no more) of genuine theology is the knowledge of Christ Himself — not concepts, not ideas, not philosophical systems, etc. With that I most strongly concur. Concepts are neither the source nor the object of theology in the strict sense; they are at best tools, which assist us in knowing precisely and only as they are employed in an ostensive sense (or katalepsis, as Clement of Alexandria says) — as pointing to realities beyond them. As St Hilary of Poitiers says in his De Trinitate, “Non sermoni res, sed rei sermo subjectus est”: the thing must not be subjected to words, but the word to the thing. And St Gregory of Nyssa says also that orthodoxy or heresy resides not in terms, but in what the terms indicate — their indicative or ostensive sense.

    Yet precisely for that reason, we should do our best to clarify the indicative sense of our terms. It’s for that reason that, while the prime concern of theology is never with concepts, when we are involved in a theological dispute or a disagreement which threatens to divide Christians, or continues to be a longstanding source of division, then we ought to give attention to clarification of terms.

    I would note too that the realist thrust of what you are saying, with which I strongly agree, is at odds with the idea of untranslatable language you invoke. If heresy consists not in terms but in what they intend, their semantic reference, then it is also the case that one can have two sets of terms, even two different conceptual systems, which may possibly intend the same substance of faith. That would be the case, for instance, with the terminology of Chalcedon and the “mia physis” formula of St Cyril of Alexandria, which are *logically* irreconcilable but which intend the same depositum fidei, the same vision of Christ. But in this case the difference of terms requires explanation. It is possible to use different terms and intend the same confession of faith; and it is possible to use the same terms and intend a different (heterodox) confession of faith. One has to know that — although modern scholars generally agree that Cyril’s formula comes from Apollinarius and not from Athanasius (as Cyril thought), Cyril is using the formula with a different sense. Similarly with the “homoousios” of Nicaea 325: the *term* had been rejected in the previous century in the controversy over the modalism of Paul of Samosata; but in this case the term is intended with a different conceptual sense.

    My point: the clarification of concepts between different linguistic “systems” is not at all at odds with the theological realism you are stressing, but rather a necessity acting in its service, particularly in the context of theological controversy and Christian divisions. And, further, as Florovsky put it, ascetic theology (to which you implicitly appeal in your reference to the vision of Christ) is no replacement for dogmatics, and the attempt to do so is only a sign of theological decadence.

    1. “I could care less about any supposed “abstract Platonic concept of simplicity,” to which I have no commitment and do not accept; my interest was in the *Orthodox patristic* doctrine of divine simplicity, which is well attested and which I don’t believe St Gregory Palamas has any intention to contradict, in spite of some less-than-adequate 20th c. presentations of his teaching that fail to address this question and thus hazard misleading those less well-instructed.”

      I’ll leave it at this, since, as you’ve pointed out, I think our actual disagreements here are slight, and we’ve wandered pretty far afield of the original topic. I was not intending to imply anything about you, I was, rather, characterizing the Roman theological project as heterodox. Likewise, I was not accusing you of any devotion to Platonic simplicity, but rather referring to the fact that since St. Augustine and Boethius, the West has been devoted to the Platonic definition, and your question was looking for compatibility, or lack thereof, between the Western notion of simplicity and St. Gregory Palamas. I agree with you that St. Gregory said nothing to contradict the Orthodox patristic doctrine of simplicity. Do you believe that the Roman Catholic communion of today holds to the Orthodox patristic doctrine of simplicity rather than the Platonic one? I have not intentionally been aiming any arrows at you, only at Rome. Perhaps we’ve been speaking at cross purposes.

      “I would note too that the realist thrust of what you are saying, with which I strongly agree, is at odds with the idea of untranslatable language you invoke.”

      I’m not arguing for language being untranslatable in any absolute sense. I’ll use a (probably bad) analogy. Lets imagine a man who had never seen a tree, but was fascinated by them. This person reads every book he can find about trees. He reads poetry about trees, scientific treatises about tree biology, looks at paintings and even photos of trees, etc. Finally, he comes out and writes his own treatise on trees. In that treatise, there are many good things, but there are some errors. So if another man, who has lived his whole life in a forest, surrounded by trees, comes to him, and tries to explain to him his errors, the first man is likely to argue back and defend his errors based on his own reasoning, or based on things he can cite from various books he read (which he may misunderstand). The second man’s lifetime of experience is not subjective or ephemeral, and it can be described in words, to some degree, though words fail to conjur up the experience in its fullness.

      So the first man has three options. He can go and spend time in the forest and share the experience. Barring that, he can choose to believe the second man concerning his experience. Otherwise, he can continue to trust in his own reading, research, and reasoning. But, barring being granted the experience, he has to make a choice, to believe or not. If he fails to accept the testimony of experience, it is not a failure of reason, it is an ethical failure of pride.

      The not-so-subtle implication I’ve been making all along is that none of the Western theologians in question have received the Vision of Christ in Uncreated Glory, and so they are like the first man in the analogy. (I personally think that Thomas probably did, but it was after that that he stopped writing and disavowed his former works). They are writing about something that they don’t know first hand. That itself isn’t a fault, I’m doing the same thing on this blog. The problem comes that they are unwilling to submit themselves to the testimony of, for example, a St. Gregory Palamas unless what he says can be squared logically with their pre-existing system of reasoning. So even if we were to succeed in finding a way to tweak their doctrine of simplicity or to add some further logical distinctions to the ‘Essence/Energies’ distinction on a conceptual level so that they could accept it on that same conceptual level, we would be no closer to real Communion of Faith, because we would still be operating out of completely separate ethoi.

      1. Mmmm. I both agree and disagree.

        “Do you believe that the Roman Catholic communion of today holds to the Orthodox patristic doctrine of simplicity rather than the Platonic one?”

        — I think the RCC has been a great crisis for almost the last half century, and a crossroads, so that it is hard to generalize anymore about RC theology or indeed RC faith. Neoscholasticism was overthrown a half century ago, and was replaced (broadly speaking) by two conflicting currents: the patristic ressourcement (De Lubac, von Balthasar, Danielou, Congar, Ratzinger, Schoenborn etc) and the progressivist aggiornamento current (transcendental Thomism, Rahner, Schillebeecx, Kung), the latter which was broadly represented in N. American seminaries and theological departments in the 70’s and 80’s fed somewhat into the secularizing political liberationist theologies of the same period up until very recently.

        So it is hard to generalize. But I will say this: I am certain that the picture of Latin theology presented by people like Fr John Romanides, Joseph Farrell, and Met Hierotheos Vlachos, while possessing valuable insights at times, is still nevertheless an indulgence in gross, inaccurate and uncharitable caricature — over-schematized, oversimplified and distorted. While you can still find Neo-Thomists that might fit the characterization *somewhat*, they are not the people leading the dialogue with Orthodoxy today from the RC side. Among the better patristically oriented RC theologians today, one would be hard pressed to find any great “anti-Palamite” sentiment, or any special commitment to Platonic notions of simplicity. In fact there has been a good bit of significant, sympathetic scholarship on Palamas by RC scholars of late, particularly in French. And even if it is true that St Augustine reflects a Platonic (or really Neo-Platonic) notion of divine simplicity, and this has had enormous impact in Western theology — I grant you that — still, we must be careful not to over-schematize: for instance, it can be argued that John Duns Scotus departs from this paradigm in significant ways. (Recall it was my mention of Scotus and his notion of “formal distinction” that started this exchange.)

        I don’t think that there’s any debate among us Orthodox as to whether RCism is heterodox (ie believing “other” than Orthodoxy), marked with certain errors in both belief and practice. However, there *is* real diversity of view — including among those who are recognized Orthodox saints and fathers — on just *how* heterodox, and in what way.

        In terms of general attitude, I trust the views of Fr Florovsky over the likes of Romanides, Vlachos, Farrell, Yannaras and the like.

        Here is what Fr Florovsky wrote to Elder Sophrony Sakharov in a letter of May 1958:

        “With respect to the Western (Roman) theology, I, too, for myself, anyway, prefer cautious judgments. First, we should not generalize too much and lump all ‘Latin’ theology together. In particular, Duns Scotus deserves more attention than he is paid under the hypnosis of Thomism. In the second place, I doubt very much the centrality of the filioque for the dogmatic development of the West, and I do not think that ‘papism’ could derive from the filoque – that is, maybe you can ‘derive’ it, but me as a historian, I’m not interested in logical deduction but in the actual filiation of ideas. ‘Papism’ already existed when the filioque was not yet even in prospect. Leo the Great hardly knew Augustine’s De Trinitate. ‘Papism’ can be derived rather from a lack of clarity in Christology, which, however, it still needs to find more clearly. As far as I can see, it was a ‘crypto-Nestorianism’ rooted in the ‘hyper-historicism’ of the West. Or in other words, the ascension of Christ was perceived in such a way that the ‘historic’ and the ‘ontological’ planes were broken and the ‘historical sojourning’ Church was isolated in an autonomous sphere. Probably the filioque is somehow included in this course of ideas, but this requires more careful and clear-cut analysis than we have hitherto known. The ‘fashion’ regarding the filioque in modern Russian (diaspora) theology was started by Karsavin, and V.N. Lossky learned it from Karsavin, and then it was clumsily developed by Verkhovsky, who does not know the history and adopted logical deductions from the course of existential developments. Finally, the belief of the Western church is not confined to Western ‘theology.’ I think that the faith of Catholicism is more Orthodox than in its school (or metaphysical) theology.”

        Mind you, this was the Florovsky to whom Elder Sophrony, the spiritual child of St Silouan, submitted his “theological confession” the same year with the statement: “I need you to keep me on the ‘royal road’ of the Fathers.” And, I would add, as Florovsky himself recognized in comments made a decade later, Roman theology changed greatly since 1958 on account of the influence of the ressourcement. Ironically, I think that while the theology has grown more Orthodox (e.g. compare the catechism of 1997 with the catechism of Trent), the actual liturgical life has grown less so, on account of the iconoclastic liturgical reforms of Paul VI.

        I agree with you and your analogy about the tree, and also with the statement of Patriarch Bartholomew quoted by Fr Andrew — about our manner of life becoming “ontologically different.” We can sign all the agreed statements we like, but if we do not see the same life of faith, the same church at work in Rome (and as of know I think we all agree: we don’t), then the agreement is nothing but words. There is a need for not only doctrinal but also “spiritual ecumenism.”

        Here I would point to the statement of Msgr Klaus Gamber, the liturgiologist whom Ratzinger called the chief expert on the failed liturgical reform, speaking in an article he published in the German Orthodox journal *Orthodoxie Heute* in 1977, on the conflict between the Pope and Archbishop Lefebvre in ecumenical perspective:

        “A simple Restoration, as in the 19th century, and as Lefebvre seems to want, is not enough. . . . The Roman Catholic Church will overcome modern errors and gain new vitality only when she succeeds in being united again — to the supporting powers of the Eastern Church, to her mystical theology based upon the great Fathers of the Church and to her culture of piety. This cannot be achieved simply by an embrace of the Greek Patriarch by the Pope.”

        Similarly, Ratzinger has called upon the West to fully and truly receive the theology of the Fathers of the 7th ecumenical council regarding the icon (see Ratzinger, The Spirit of the Liturgy) and also said that RCism must look East in order to overcome its defects regarding both the understanding and practice of the liturgy *and* of *authority* — including the problem of “infallibility” (see the book by Ratzinger, The Nature and Mission of Theology, 1995).

        So again, as you said in the tree analogy, we need to identify the same life, not just verbal agreements, and for that one has to participate in that same life. It seems the two RC witnesses I cite above in a way kind of intuit this somehow in part. However, I would not draw all the same conclusions that you do from this truth, for several reasons:

        (1) I am not so sure who is in a position to say with certainty whether this or that Western theologian has had the vision of Christ or not; or at the very least, it’s an issue you can’t prejudge, in particularly where the confession of faith approaches that of Orthodoxy. Romanides in his later period seemed to think he could “empirically” verify who was or wasn’t “theoumene”. This, it has been convincingly argued, had as much to do with the influence of the verificationism of American positivist psychology on his formation as it did with any patristic study or experience of his own.

        (2) The implicit thrust of your argument and the theology behind it is that without this rarified “experience” testified to by the hesychasts, rational discourse in theology is pointless and understanding maybe even impossible. I disagree; and I do not think this represents the mainstream of patristic tradition. Such a view underestimates the value given to rationality in the knowledge of God found in the Greek Fathers — including the late Byzantine followers of Palamas.

        Here Staniloae especially, and Florovsky, are much more trustworthy than the reactionary theology of Romanides, Vlachos and co. You can find a much more sound treatment of rationality in theology and the spiritual life, deeply grounded in the Fathers, in Staniloae’s dogmatics as well as in his book on *Orthodox Spirituality* (published in English by St Tikhon’s Press). Staniloae stresses that for the Fathers, the gradual growth in the knowledge *does not bypass the rational faculties.* To recall the motto of St Philaret of Moscow, which Florovsky liked to repeat: “Theology reasons.”

        And again (at the risk of beating a dead horse), hesychasts like Gennadios Scholarios and John Katakouzenos did not think theological dialogue with Latins pointless. Here I highly recommend Marcus Plested’s book *Orthodox Readings of Aquinas* (Oxford 2012). Among other things, Plested shows that, unlike some of our 20th century theologians (Lossky, Romanides, Vlachos), Byzantine theologians who engaged critically with Aquinas and other Latin theology — including those who were known as hesychasts and “Palamites” — did not criticize Latin theology on the issues of *method* which you highlight (use of Aristotle, philosophy, etc, versus hesychastic/experiential approach). Rather, the criticisms were substantive, on particular points of *doctrine* held not to be in agreement with earlier Fathers (filioque, rejection of essence/ energies distinction etc).

        Earlier we spoke of the “deposit of faith,” and you identified this with “the vision of Christ in uncreated glory.” It may be illuminating here to look at St Irenaeus, who has a lot to say about the deposit or the “body of truth,” as well as about “visio”. For him these terms are very closely aligned, but they are not quite simply controvertible. Likewise, for Irenaeus, neither the deposit nor the “visio” is the exclusive property of a small charismatic elite, but rather the common property of the Church, guarded especially by the succession of bishops and presbyters — and participated in according to different degrees (both of person and of time). There is no over-realized eschatology in Irenaeus’ doctrine of vision: according to him, the fullness of the “visio” is given only at the Second Coming, in the form of the *lux paterna* shining on the resplendent flesh of Jesus. And finally, as Eric Osbourn says in his fine study, “Irenaeus’ passion for the vision of God is not, as some have suggested, an alternative to conceptual thought: Irenaeus insists that both the truth and the beauty, the logic and the aesthetics of Christian revelation can only be discovered through prolonged awareness of the saving presence of God in Christ.”

        I call attention to Irenaeus only as a corrective example to a certain tendency I see — *not* to pit him against Palamas (or any other Father, God forbid). However, one must avoid making of Palamas what a certain kind of Neo-Thomism made of Aquinas: the lynchpin and the summation of the entire tradition, so that all of patristics becomes prologue to Palamas. He is one great Father, who must be read and interpreted together with all the others. And I am not alone in being utterly unconvinced that the Neo-Palamism found in such authors as Romanides and Vlachos are an entirely accurate interpretation of the actual teaching of the great 14th century Father.

        Elder Vasileios of Iveron, in his beautiful book Hymn of Entry, in discussing the Athonite attitude to dialogue with RCism, stresses the need for Orthodox to be help and a guide to RCs in resolving the problems of their own communion. Elder Vasileios approvingly quotes Fr Staniloae as saying that “perhaps the Orthodox are not mature enough” at present to meet the RCs in constructive and faithful dialogue. Judging from a lot of our output, especially on the internet, I sometimes feel that Fr Staniloae’s intuition was right. Too often we really just embarrass ourselves with ill-informed assertions, broad-brush painting, and a refusal to respond to the legitimate questions that have been fairly posed to us by non-Orthodox Christians (usually, I think, because we have not given our own teachers that close of a look). A bit more humility, a bit more charity, and a bit more knowledge both of our own tradition and that of interlocutors, should be in order. “Always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect” (1 Pet. 2:15). Surely this teaching applies here; and it requires of us a good bit more work.

        Sorry I have written so much, and forgive me if anything I’ve written is just longwinded and not helpful. However, I am glad we are having this conversation, and I hope others here will constructively join in.

  26. Matthew, I did a google search for Bishop Avgoustinos and it really has me wondering if in fact he was the one running the summer camp. Do you know anything personal about him in terms of him being a great swimmer or being associated with a seaside summer camp?

    1. Not sure about swimming, but I know that he ran camps and high schools, and what you described sounds very like his “pastoral style” (a bit demagogic and moralistic). He died two years ago at the age of 103.

      1. The fact that he lived to 103 makes me think too that he was the same man.. surely that level of physical activity helped him reach such an advanced age. Regarding his pastoral style, I was a relatively unchurched nominal Catholic at the time and found him somewhat frightening. (wouldn’t any slave to sin be frightened by the godly?) But today I look back and think he was fantastic. The boys were living in a cesspool of sin and were fortunate to have had such a pastor attempting to save them. (I’m sure there must have been some pious ones in the group, but none I personally knew.)

        1. Avgoustinos was a controversial figure. He started a “brotherhood” — “O Stavros” (The Cross), I think. A group of celibate laymen and priests focused on evangelization etc. His books reminded me very much of the writings Josemaria Escriva, the founder of Opus Dei — same style, same pattern of thinking.

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