Did the Ecumenical Patriarch say that the Church is divided?: Response to an Anonymous Greek Orthodox Priest


An anonymous piece by a self-identified Greek Orthodox priest entitled “On the Recent Events in Jerusalem and their Ecclesiological Underpinnings” has recently been circulating in response to the recent meeting in Jerusalem by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and Pope Francis, especially regarding certain statements by the Ecumenical Patriarch about the Church being “divided in time” and its ecclesiological ramifications. It’s been republished in several locations online, perhaps most notably on the ROCOR’s Holy Trinity Monastery (Jordanville) website.

I thought that this was worth a brief response. I will note that I am indebted here especially to Fr. Matthew Baker, who made some cogent comments in an email exchange I recently had with him and provided some of the text incorporated into my piece below. I also very much recommend both his recent appearance on “Ancient Faith Today” with Orthodoxy and Heterodoxy contributor Fr. John Whiteford as well as his comments and translation of the Fr. Georges Florovsky piece “A Sign of Contradiction,” which was written on the occasion of the 1964 meeting in Jerusalem between Pope Paul VI and Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras. I hope you will also excuse the temerity of my recommendation of my own 2013 appearance on “Ancient Faith Today,” which discusses some of these same issues.

We should deal first with what is perhaps most distressing about the anonymous priest’s piece, namely, the ecclesiology that it puts forward itself, which is actually not in keeping with Orthodox history and tradition. There are numerous places in the piece which are problematic, but perhaps the most egregious among them is this passage:

If we recognize their baptism as the one baptism, it is inconsistent not to recognize the Eucharistic Synaxis in which their baptism is performed. And if we recognize their Eucharist as the One Body, it is both hypocritical and sinful not to establish Eucharistic communion with them immediately.

The logic here is of course quite appealing. It is a logical series of identifications: Baptism = Church = Eucharist = Communion. So one must conclude from this logic that the Orthodox Church has never in any sense recognized baptisms outside the canonical boundaries of its communion, and it has also always shared communion with all those whose baptisms it recognizes.

Yet if we were to buy into this ecclesiology, we would have to conclude, for instance, that the entire Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia, which was out of communion with most of Orthodoxy throughout much of the 20th century, was not really Orthodox for all that time, at least not in the eyes of most Orthodox. We would have to conclude this about every single break in communion, in fact. Right now, for example, we would have to say that the Patriarchate of Antioch does not regard the Patriarchate of Jerusalem as part of the one Church because it is out of communion with it in protest against the latter’s placement of a bishop in Qatar.

After all, if Antioch recognizes Jerusalem’s baptisms, shouldn’t it recognize its Eucharist? And if it recognizes its Eucharist, why are they not in communion? If most of Orthodoxy was not in communion with ROCOR for several decades of the 20th century, doesn’t that mean they also didn’t recognize their Eucharist and therefore not their baptisms? Is this what the author really means to say? Perhaps he does, but I rather doubt that most of those who are publishing and sharing his article would mean to say that.

To go a little deeper here, we should examine (though just briefly) the question of what the recognition of baptism by the Church really means. One example should suffice. In the time of St. Basil the Great, he wrote canons stipulating how various heretics and schismatics were to be received into communion in the Church. He explicitly stipulated that some were to be baptized, some to be chrismated, and some to be received by profession of faith. It doesn’t matter which were which for our purposes here. The point is that there were people he was out of communion with whose baptisms he regarded as valid.

Now, some might say that chrismation or profession of faith makes a baptism valid when receiving a convert, but that’s nonsensical on its face. If that previous baptism was not a baptism, then the convert has to be baptized. One does not baptize by chrismating or by hearing a renunciation of heresy. You can’t reach back in time and turn an invalid baptism valid, nor can you baptize someone by chrismating him.

Interestingly, the canonist Archimandrite Daniel Griffith argued in an unpublished document Fr. Matthew mentioned to me, basing himself on a close study of canons, that in fact whenever the canons accept baptisms, they also accept the priestly orders of those bodies as well. Fr. Matthew hadn’t heard this argued by anyone else, but Fr. Daniel apparently made a compelling case. According to his argument, we are inconsistent in reordaining Roman Catholic priests when we accept Roman Catholic baptism; but likewise, since we don’t accept Protestant orders, we ought not to accept Protestant baptisms. This is very different from the Roman Catholic scholastic ecclesiology which does not see baptism and Eucharist as so closely aligned as we do. Also it is out of accord with the ruling of the Russian church which has accepted Lutheran baptisms for centuries, though not Lutheran orders. It accepts both Roman Catholic baptisms and orders, usually converting their clergy just by vesting and not by reordination. The point of mentioning all this is that things are very much not so cut and dry as our anonymous priestly author would like us to believe.

So what this means is that the Church in its practice has indeed recognized baptisms outside its canonical boundaries as being in some sense valid. Whether they fully join one to the Church, whether they are efficacious for salvation, etc., is another whole discussion. But the fact remains that not just Basil but the Church throughout its history has in its strictest applications of the canons regarded some heterodox baptisms as in some sense valid. But when it looked upon those baptisms in that way, it did not immediately establish communion with those who did the baptizing. Recognizing baptisms outside the Church’s canonical boundaries does not mean an endorsement of the “branch theory” of ecclesiology.

That said, what are we to make of the author’s identification of the “branch theory” of ecclesiology with the documents of Vatican II? He writes that the Patriarch’s alleged ecclesiology “is in total harmony with the Second Vatican Council’s new ecclesiology as laid out in the conciliar documents Lumen Gentium and Unitatis Redintegratio.”

I mean no disrespect to my brother in the priesthood here, but I have to wonder whether he’s actually read those documents. The key text from the Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium is in paragraph 8:

This Church, constituted and organized as a society in this present, world, subsists in (subsistit in) the Catholic Church, governed by the Successor of Peter and by the Bishops in communion with him, although (licet) many elements of sanctification and truth can be found outside her structure; such elements, as gifts properly belonging to the Church of Christ, impel towards Catholic unity.

This is not the branch theory. This is, in plain language, a claim in Vatican II by the Roman Catholic Church that only the Roman Catholic Church is truly the Church, but there are some churchly “elements” outside its structure. Since the Orthodox, for instance, are not “governed by the Successor of Peter” nor by “the Bishops in communion with him,” then that means we’re in the realm where there are such elements. These elements are “properly belonging to the Church of Christ,” but don’t make those who have them the Church.

For Rome the Orthodox are true “churches,” local churches, and indeed a communion of local churches: authentic churches having almost everything in common with the Rome but having a “defectus” on account only of their lack of union with the Pope. This is what the 2000 document Dominus Iesus says. In contrast, Protestant bodies are not churches, but communities having some marks of the Church. This is still not the branch theory, however.

So there is no way that one could speak of the One Church as being divided according to Vatican II. What Vatican II does allow for, and demand, would be a recognition that there are marks of the Church, and even local churches lacking in almost nothing, which stand outside the pale of full communion with the Catholic Church but which are nevertheless united to her, though defectively so.

Also it is strange that the author says that recognition of sacraments beyond canonical boundaries is at odds with the Eucharistic ecclesiology movement, especially given the fact that all of the major architects of Eucharistic ecclesiology in the last century—people like Florovsky, Afanasiev, Schmemann, Meyendorff, Zizioulas and others—did in fact recognize the reality of sacraments beyond canonical boundaries. So did Lossky, Elder Sophrony and Staniloae, who don’t reflect the Eucharistic theology of those other names but are nonetheless not rigorists about these things.

Also the author does not seem to acknowledge that even within the Orthodox Church we have had divisions, including breaks in communion, without denying that all of the local churches are united to Christ, as mentioned above regarding ROCOR, for instance. The anaphora of St. Basil prays for an end to the schisms of the churches (παῦσον τὰ σχίσματα τῶν Ἐκκλησιῶν; not “schisms from the Church”). It acknowledges the divided churches as churches, not parasynagogues. Whether one can apply that to our relationship to the Roman Catholic Church is another question, but still, the insistence that any division whatsoever means that one or the other side must be utterly cut off is highly doubtful and not congruent with the Church’s own history.

So what is one to make of this language by the Ecumenical Patriarch that has the author writing his opposition? Here’s the relevant passage from the May 27 speech by the Patriarch:

The One, Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, founded by the “Word in the beginning,” by the one “truly with God,” and the Word “truly God”, according to the evangelist of love, unfortunately, during her engagement on earth, on account of the dominance of human weakness and of impermanence of the will of the human intellect, was divided in time. This brought about various conditions and groups, of which each claimed for itself “authenticity” and “truth.” The Truth, however, is One, Christ, and the One Church founded by Him.

Both before and after the great Schism of 1054 between East and West, our Holy Orthodox Church made attempts to overcome the differences, which originated from the beginning and for the most part from factors outside of the environs of the Church. Unfortunately, the human element dominated, and through the accumulation of “theological,” “practical,” and “social” additions the Local Churches were led into division of the unity of the Faith, into isolation, which developed occasionally into hostile polemics.

Taken with the extreme interpretation that the anonymous priest gives it, the Patriarch’s statement is actually irreconcilable with both Orthodox and Roman Catholic ecclesiology. Personally, I find the “divided in time” language (much like the “two lungs” language) quite problematic, though it could be interpreted in a much more charitable way, indeed, in a way which is very much in keeping with other statements which the Patriarch has either made or approved.

For example, here is a well-known passage from the famous Georgetown University speech by Bartholomew made on October 21, 1997:

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?

One who says there is an ontological difference—a very difference in being, “not only in form but also in substance”—between his church and another isn’t teaching the branch theory.

And here’s something from the oft-discussed, but much-misunderstood (and, I fear, little-read) Ravenna Document, which has no official canonical standing but was approved by theologians on both sides of the Orthodox and Roman Catholic international dialogues:

Orthodox participants felt it important to emphasize that the use of the terms “the Church”, “the universal Church”, “the indivisible Church” and “the Body of Christ” in this document and in similar documents produced by the Joint Commission in no way undermines the self-understanding of the Orthodox Church as the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church, of which the Nicene Creed speaks. From the Catholic point of view, the same self-awareness applies: the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church “subsists in the Catholic Church” (Lumen Gentium, 8); this does not exclude acknowledgement that elements of the true Church are present outside the Catholic communion.

This is both sides saying that they each see themselves as uniquely the Church. Again, not the branch theory.

This language of “divided in time” is, at best, “imprecise.” Does that really mean that the Ecumenical Patriarch is teaching that the Body of Christ is truly divided? And does that mean that anyone who speaks of the first millennium of Christianity as the “undivided Church” (as many Orthodox writers do) means the same thing regarding its second millennium?

Surely the Patriarch’s own actions indicate that what he meant is that those who seek to follow Christ have been divided from each other. I’m not sure why some folks are so eager to interpret these comments in the worst possible way. If we must, then we should also turn that same interpretive method to the Ecumenical Patriarchate in its letter to the Russian church in 1663:

Question: Can an appeal against the judgment of any other church be brought before the throne of Constantinople, and can the latter resolve every ecclesiastical matter?

Answer: This privilege was that of the pope before the Church was torn asunder by presumptions and ill will. But since the Church was split apart, all the affairs of the Churches are brought before the throne of Constantinople, which gives judgment, for, according to the canons, it enjoys the same primacy as the Rome of former times (emphasis added).

As Fr. John Whiteford said in the “Ancient Faith Today” discussion linked above, such words can be interpreted in multiple ways, some good and some bad.

For someone who’s supposedly about to bring us any moment into a new Unia, the Ecumenical Patriarch certainly continually seems to balk at the actual action of communion with Rome. Perhaps it’s because he isn’t actually pursuing that with anywhere near the speed that some suggest. Honestly, if he really meant that the Church itself had been “divided,” then why wouldn’t he be joining in communion with Pope Francis? But he’s not. As noted in brief above, his own representatives at various theological consultations with Roman Catholics repeatedly stress that Orthodoxy regards itself as fully the one Church.

I’m not a fan of concocted joint prayer services nor of everything that gets done in these meetings (and this recent one in Jerusalem was short on substance and long on media exposure), and there are a lot of directions one could go in regarding all this. It should at least be noted that most of the relevant canons regarding relations with the heterodox aren’t strictly enforced by any Orthodox church in the world. For instance, the canons would prevent any attendance at heterodox services or even eating at the same table with the heterodox. You also can’t give gifts to the heterodox on feast days (so no icons given at official prelate visits, etc.). These strictures are probably because they were devised in a time and place where heretics and schismatics were actively interfering in the canonical Church. That doesn’t make them irrelevant in the context of the modern age of respectful theological dialogues, but how and when to apply them is not an easily answered question. But all that is somewhat beyond the scope of this post.

In short, while I think that the Ecumenical Patriarch’s statement is very much not the best way to say what he was trying to say, I do not think that he should be interpreted as endorsing a branch theory of ecclesiology, which Rome itself isn’t endorsing, either. His own words and actions aren’t consistent with such an interpretation.

We should have no problem criticizing the public actions and words of those engaged in theological dialogues and ecumenical meetings, but if we’re going to do it, we have to do it in the most charitable way and in a way that is consistent with the actual evidence. The article by the anonymous Greek Orthodox priest doesn’t do that.

Editorial Note: Please remember to keep your comments both cordial and about the subject of this post, namely, the ecclesiology being taught by these various people. Also please remember that this post is not an endorsement of the comments of the Ecumenical Patriarch nor the ecclesiology of Rome, but rather a critique of the ecclesiology of the anonymous Greek priest.

This post is also not an invitation to comment about any problem somewhere in the Church, nor is it about ecumenical relations in general, the Ecumenical Patriarchate in general, alleged creeping liberalism in Orthodoxy, etc. We’re even getting comments from folks who want to talk about whether practicing homosexuals should be communed. I’m not really sure what that has to do with this post. That should all go without saying, but based on some of the comment submissions we’re getting, it seems it needs to be said.

As always, comments which are ad hominem or off-topic will not get published, and a persistence in that approach will get the commenter dropped into the “unpublished” category permanently.



  1. “This is not the branch theory. This is, in plain language, a claim in Vatican II by the Roman Catholic Church that only the Roman Catholic Church is truly the Church, but there are some churchly “elements” outside its structure.”

    The question is this: Does the theory of degrees of communion that modern Rome works within have a true patristic basis? After all, the notion of partial communion seems to be the logical endpoint once we begin recognizing “churchly elements” oustide of the structure of the visible Church. The notion of vestigia ecclesiae seems to have more in common with Jean Calvin’s thought than the Fathers.

    What is more important is this: How do the divine Fathers view the papacy, especially the modern papacy? Are Patriarch Bartholomew’s actions and words consistent with what the God-bearing Fathers have taught us in the past centuries? That should be our standard, not whether he might be able to stand up to an Orthodoxy constructed from books.

    St. Mark of Ephesus is very well known for his statement that “the Latins are not only schismatics but heretics… we did not separate from them for any other reason other than the fact that they are heretics,” and this was only in the fifteenth century. Think on how much further into error the Latin church has gone since that time: Bizarre theories of created grace, back and forth definitions on purgatory, a complete dismantling of the traditional sacramental praxis of the Church in regards to order of the Sacraments as well as liturgics, the exaltation of the papacy in the recent dogma of Papal Infallibility, their novel theories of Magisterium which propose to make the Church a bureaucratic office in Italy, etc.

    The list could go on much longer with some elaboration. With that said, we need only look at recent defenders of the faith such as St. Nektarios of Aegina or St. Justin Popovich to see the proper attitude toward the Latins in our day, and it is from that perspective which we must ask “Are the actions of Patriarch Bartholomew in accord with the patristic consensus?” If any of the Kollyvades Fathers read the words of Patriarch Bartholomew, would it be possible for them to agree?

    Also, it seems obvious that we have two very different kinds of situations in terms of division when we compare the situation of ROCOR in the 20th century or the Antioch/Jerusalem debate with the falling away of the Latins. Even Father Florovsky was able to admit in his article, “House of the Father,” that “Indeed, not only mystically, but also historically, division in faith always appeared through schism and falling away, through separation from the Church. The single path of their redefinition is the path of reunification or return, and not union. One might say that the discordant “creeds” in general are not unified, for each is a self-enclosed whole. In the Church a mosaic of different parts is impossible. There stand opposite each other not “creeds” with equal rights, but the Church and the schism, united in spirit of opposition. It can be whole only through elimination, through a return to the Church. There is no and can be no “partial” Christianity — “can it be Christ was divided?” There is only One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic Church — a single Father’s House; and the believers, as St. Cyprian of Carthage said, “do not have any other home than the one Church.”

    1. I of course agree with Florovsky, but he addresses this question much more keenly in his essay on the limits of the Church. I think that reading him to mean that there is absolutely nothing of Christ and nothing of the Church outside its canonical boundaries is a mistake, however.

      As for the modern voices you mention, such as the Kollyvades fathers, well, they do not represent the whole of the Church’s history and tradition. Would St. Mark of Ephesus have balked at even talking with the Pope of Rome? Surely he must have seen the Pope as some kind of Christian in order to make the journey to Florence.

      I’m not defending Rome (see, for instance, my whole chapter on it in O&H), but neither should we say things about Rome that are not true. While Rome’s liturgical life has, for instance, gone rather downhill in recent decades, it is actually in the process of revising much of its theology in a more Orthodox direction. That should not go unnoticed.

      In any event, the point of this post was not to defend Rome nor even to issue unqualified support for all the statements of the EP, but rather to critique the critique, as it were. I am not a fan of the way the EP chose to express himself in his May 27 speech, but I also do not think he was giving away the farm, either. If he truly meant to do that, there is no doubt he would have celebrated the Eucharist with Pope Francis on the spot.

      1. You do err in presenting it as an all or nothing matter: accept Florovsky and co. on the “limits” or accept that all is “outer darkness.” This is precisely the error of Vatican II’s ecclesiology, where they choose “all.” But, they are somewhat justified in their choice for they do not make distinctions of the energies of the Holy Spirit. For them grace within, grace without, essentially. We, on the other hand, make such crucial distinctions, which are key to understanding that only within the Church do the energies of the Holy Spirit purify, illumine and deify. However, outside the Holy Spirit is present in other ways. A few examples:

        Fr. George Florovsky distinguishes between the “special presence” and “providential presence” of God: “In all the sacraments forming the real core of Church life, God is present in creation, really and effectively – by the special presence of grace, distinct from the providential presence everywhere” (Florovsky, Collected Works, vol. 13, p. 63.)

        “The distinctions between the spiritual stages are the grounds for including among the divine energies the energies of theosis, illumination, and purification, which is the energy associated with those being instructed in the faith. . . . You have to be an Orthodox Christian in order to participate in these energies and every Orthodox Christian does not do so, but only those who are properly prepared, spiritually speaking.” (Romanides, Patristic Theology).

        The Spirit does indeed blow where He wills (Jn. 3:8), but as the Spirit of Truth “we know that He wills to blow in the direction of Christ (John 16:14),” [Zizioulas, J. D., “The Pneumatological dimension of the Church,” in International Catholic Review, Vol. II, No. 2, 1973] which can only mean He leads them to “the pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Tim. 3:15), which is the Church. He is “the Spirit of communion, and wherever He blows He does not create good individual Christians but a community (cf. Acts 2),” [Zizioulas, “The Pneumatological dimension of the Church.”] and this community is the One Church – holy, catholic, and apostolic. The “one Spirit” which dwells in and constantly builds up the “one Body” (Eph. 4:4) cannot be at work creating “incomplete communion,” much less parasynagogues, for, as the Lord has said, “if a kingdom be divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand” (Mark 3:25). The spirit behind such fragmentation is not the Spirit of Truth. That which is not “of the Truth” cannot be in the communion of the Church for “the Spirit of Truth is also that of sanctification and communion.” [Zizioulas, “The Pneumatological dimension of the Church.”]

        St. Maximos the Confessor, in his Questions to Thalassius, explains that while the Holy Spirit is present in all creation, generally, preserving, providing and enlivening, he is present in a particular way in those who have, by their faith, gained the name of Christian – “the divine and indeed divinizing name of Christ.” He is present in them “not only as guarding and foreknowingly enlivening and moving natural reason and showing the transgression or the keeping of the commands and announcing things foretold about Christ, but also as creative of the adoption, which was granted according to grace through faith.” This is the threshold which the believer passes in Baptism. But, there is, furthermore, an even more particular way in which the Holy Spirit dwells in Christians who are spiritually worthy:

        “For, as generating wisdom, the Holy Spirit becomes only in those who have been cleansed in soul and body through the precise exercise of all of the commandments, speaking to them as relatives, and forming their mind according to the holy perceptions of the ineffable things, in order to divinize them.”

        All men, then, of whatever background or belief, participate in the creative, sustaining and providential energies of God, without which the world would cease to be. In this sense, and only in this sense, there is a differentiated participation for schismatics and heretics, not in the life of the Church, as Congar and his colleagues at Vatican II supposed, but in those divine energies common to all creation – the creative, sustaining, and providential energies of God. This participation, however, does not make them members of the Church, for they, not having fulfilled the necessary presuppositions for such participation, are not participating in the purifying, illuminating and deifying energies of God. This grace of the Holy Spirit is imparted only in the Body of Christ, the Church, in the “economy of grace,” in the “body” of grace. For, as Hieromonk (now retired Bishop) Athanasius Yevtich has written:

        “Grace is given by Christ, as Head and Savior of the Body of the Church, while union in one body and life ‘in Christ’ take place only ‘in the Holy Spirit.’ This is why the Apostle [Paul] says emphatically, ‘if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.’ (Rom. 8:9). How is it possible for one to have the Spirit of Christ who is not in the body of Christ, the Church, and is not a member of Christ?”

        Without these distinctions regarding the divine energies of the Holy Spirit, participation in the life of the Church in order to receive the grace that heals and saves would be pointless, for why is the Church needed if grace is identified with the general presence of the Holy Spirit in the world, of which all men partake?

        1. You do err in presenting it as an all or nothing matter: accept Florovsky and co. on the “limits” or accept that all is “outer darkness.”

          Except that I didn’t present it that way at all. It seems to me that the “all or nothing” approach is really the one being taken by those who espouse the Baptism = Church = Eucharist = Communion ecclesiology.

          In any event, nothing of what you’ve written in this comment actually addresses what is being discussed, namely, what one is to do with the fact that the Fathers accepted certain extra-canonical boundaries. Our anonymous Greek priest friend would prefer to do nothing at all with that fact, I think, and I am getting the sense that you are of the same mind.

          Let me remind you, though, that as I have said here repeatedly, I am not endorsing the words of the Ecumenical Patriarch, nor am I endorsing Rome’s ecclesiology (as I have written at length elsewhere). Nor am I presenting an ecclesiological theory of my own. I am simply critiquing the anonymous priest’s writing as being incongruent with the history of the Orthodox Church. He doesn’t account for the fact that the boundaries of communion and the boundaries of baptism are simply not identical. That’s why his ecclesiology is in error.

        2. Yet again, you speak in ignorance. Latin theology does indeed distinguish amongst various divine “operationes” (energeia), and in fact the many distinctions as regards the theology of grace (prevenient, habitual, justifying, sanctifying) has often been a point of criticism of the older scholastic theology. “For them grace within, grace without, essentially” is not at all an accurate statement of the RC theology of grace.

          1. You are correct that it cannot be generalized for all Latin theology and that I was inaccurate in that sense.

            However, allow me to be more specific: I had in mind the contemporary RC view of the Church, post Vatican II. In the Vatican II texts on the Church, there are no distinctions made between the grace of the sacraments in RCism and that among the various Protestant sects and Orthodoxy. And, in particular, I have in mind the following article, which I am sure you are familiar with: Morerod, Fr. Charles, OP (based on the theology of Cardinal Charles Journet), taken from “A Roman Catholic Point of View about the Limits of the Church,” Greek Orthodox Theological Review, Vol. 42, No 3-4, 1997. Fr. Charles Morerod succinctly explains Cardinal Journet’s views, which are said to be in harmony with the new ecclesiology:

            “Where God “touches” someone, where the Holy Spirit leads a person towards a future conversion, the Church is already present… the sacraments given outside the Roman Catholic Church…‘have a natural tendency to invest some corporeal appearances.’ This means that every action of the Spirit is part of the process of building the Body of the Church, which is thus always visible though we do not always recognize it.…[T]he frontier of the Church crosses our heart: everyone is a member of the Church in the measure that he receives divine grace.”

            According to their righteousness and participation in some sacraments, chief of which is Baptism, those who do not belong to the Roman Catholic Church still belong to the One Church in a variety of ways, according to a system of concentric circles. The concentric circles of the Church extend to every human being, even to the righteous among the unbaptized, insomuch as they receive grace which is “a beginning of the Body of Christ.” According to Fr. Morerod, for Cardinal Journet “the Body of Christ is always visible [although not always recognizable as such], and non-Catholics belong to it in various degrees.”
            We observe several sharp diversions from the patristic vision of the Church in Journet’s idea of the Church. The Body of Christ and the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church as an institution, with the Mysteries marking Her boundaries, are not identical. The Body of Christ is said to be visible but not always recognizable. Membership in the Body of Christ, “what it means to belong to the Church,” is somehow extended to those who are not yet initiated, since they are recipients of divine grace.

      2. “As for the modern voices you mention, such as the Kollyvades fathers, well, they do not represent the whole of the Church’s history and tradition. Would St. Mark of Ephesus have balked at even talking with the Pope of Rome? Surely he must have seen the Pope as some kind of Christian in order to make the journey to Florence.”

        But you cannot simply ignore the Kollyvades Fathers because you dislike their perceived rigorism. Surely this is the exact problem with the perspective you are presenting. You cannot play St. Mark in opposition to the Kollyvades Fathers. The way the Kollyvades and St. Mark relate to the papist communion are different because the historical conditions were decidedly different. In fact I think the Council of Florence is a great example of a turning point in history where the Orthodox had to definitively cut the Latins off because it precisely at this point in history that they are clearly no longer one of us. The Church’s tradition is not a dead letter where you can pick the positions you want. The Holy Spirit Himself inspired these Saints in their fight against the heresy of papism, and we cannot ignore their writings because they are perceived as extreme or they make us uncomfortable in what they demand of us.

        Of course, there were many instances of concelebration and other nonsense going on in the Greek islands in the centuries immediately following, but this is exactly why God raised up men such as St. Nikodemos the Hagiorite and St. Athanasios of Paros to fight this heresy. Reading Ware’s account of the Church following the Council of Florence (in Eustratios Argenti) only gives me hope because I know the Church has suffered under this kind of ecumenist nonsense before and she shall triumph again.

        1. But you cannot simply ignore the Kollyvades Fathers because you dislike their perceived rigorism. Surely this is the exact problem with the perspective you are presenting.

          So, I’m not exactly sure what “perspective” you think I’m presenting here. I’m critiquing the anonymous priest’s piece, because he puts forward an incorrect ecclesiology that ignores the history of the Church’s acceptance of baptisms outside its canonical boundaries.

          As I’ve said now almost ad nauseam, I am not thereby endorsing either the comments of the EP nor the ecclesiology of the RCC. Especially regarding the latter, see my relevant chapter in Orthodoxy and Heterodoxy. The Orthodox Church is uniquely the one, true Church. I haven’t changed my mind about any of that. I don’t endorse or practice concelebration with RCs, etc., don’t commune RCs, etc. I’m not going to bother repeating all that again after this, so keep that in mind if you’d like future comments published.

          One would almost imagine some of the commenters here have either never read anything any of us have ever said about these topics before or somehow believe we’ve done a sudden about-face. I definitely hope it is the former and not the latter which is true.

      3. If Christ and the Church can be found outside the canonical boundaries of the Church (an idea which originates from Vatican II, as far as I know) then what need is there for the Church?

        1. First, this post is not saying “Christ and the Church can be found outside the canonical boundaries of the Church,” but rather critiquing the idea that recognizing a baptism means recognizing the baptizer’s Eucharist, which means you have to be in communion with the baptizer.

          Second, the idea that Christ is present in some way outside the Church’s canonical boundaries or that the Church is present in some way outside its canonical boundaries did not originate with Vatican II.

          Think of what you’re saying by this. It means that neither Christ nor His Church touches you in any way until the moment you are baptized by a canonical Orthodox baptism. How, then, can anyone ever be converted? Why would you even submit to baptism?

          It also means that any time there is a break in communion, then it means that both sides are saying that the other now is utterly bereft of Christ and His Church. Do you know how often breaks in communion occur, even between canonical Orthodox churches? I’m pretty sure that, given how many breaks have occurred over the two millennia of Church history, it pretty much means there’s no Church left anywhere.

          Anyway, as we’ve said numerous times now, the canons of the Orthodox Church accept some baptisms which have occurred outside its canonical boundaries. One can pass judgment on the entire canonical tradition for doing that (and believe me that it is a persistent practice), or one can ask exactly what that might mean and how this reflects the Church’s inspiration from the Holy Spirit. Asking that question certainly does not mean that one has to give up on the idea that Orthodoxy is the one, true Church. If it does, then that means that none of the Fathers of pretty much any of the Ecumenical Councils believed it. And if they didn’t, there’s no real point in anyone else believing it, either.

          1. Second, the idea that Christ is present in some way outside the Church’s canonical boundaries or that the Church is present in some way outside its canonical boundaries did not originate with Vatican II.

            Could you point me towards the ideas’ origin then, for I first encountered it in book on Catholic history.

            Think of what you’re saying by this. It means that neither Christ nor His Church touches you in any way until the moment you are baptized by a canonical Orthodox baptism. How, then, can anyone ever be converted? Why would you even submit to baptism?

            It might mean that to you, but not to me, but I would argue that that ‘touch’ is ontoligically different or incomplete prior to baptism. How can one be converted? By free will. Why would one submit to baptism? Because truth necessitates following.

            It also means that any time there is a break in communion, then it means that both sides are saying that the other now is utterly bereft of Christ and His Church.

            Again, it might mean that to you but not to me, which is strange for I believe you are arguing against that same position…however, if one of the parties involve were to fall into heresy then yes, they would be beret of Christ and His Church. But hey, I think most of the comments here fall into the realm of theologoumenon…

            Do you know how often breaks in communion occur, even between canonical Orthodox churches?

            See, Father, every time I have had some sort of dialogue with you you resort to borderline insults like this. Of course I know. You may (or may not) know more canons and theology than me, and I truly respect your opinions and perspective (or I wouldn’t follow you here, on Facebook, AFR etc) but I don’t need to be condescended to.

          2. Could you point me towards the ideas’ origin then, for I first encountered it in book on Catholic history.

            One can see Christ in pretty constant contact and ministry to people outside the Church right in the Gospels, so that’s as good a place to point to as any.

            …however, if one of the parties involve were to fall into heresy then yes, they would be beret of Christ and His Church.

            Really? Heretics are completely without Christ and His Church? Then why are some of their baptisms accepted by the Fathers? Shouldn’t someone entirely without Christ and His Church be baptized?

            In any event, the point here isn’t only about heretics, but even about non-heretical schisms. The priest I was responding to claimed that one must be in communion with everyone whose baptism is accepted, and one must also accept their Eucharist, and must therefore also be in communion with anyone whose Eucharist is accepted. But that means that any break in communion for any reason (even non-heretical) means seeing the other as totally without Christ. That’s a rather bleak view of Church history, though. But the Church hasn’t behaved that way. Most schisms are not healed by baptizing one side en masse. Indeed, I can’t actually think of even one.

            See, Father, every time I have had some sort of dialogue with you you resort to borderline insults like this.

            I am sorry if you felt insulted, but I didn’t intend it that way. It was a rhetorical comment meant to illustrate a point. Please forgive me for inadvertently insulting you. And also please forgive me, but I am also not remembering ever having any dialogue with you before today.

          3. “But hey, I think most of the comments here fall into the realm of theologoumenon.” — Indeed, precisely. In fact I think that was one of Fr Andrew’s main points, and mine, and definitely it was Fr Florovsky’s (see especially his 1950 piece, “The Doctrine of the Church and the Ecumenical Problem,” which reiterates and elaborates further the views put forth in the 1933 “Limits of the Church”). Namely, that the “Nikodemite” theory of oikonomia and the ecclesiology that attends it is not the dogmatic teaching of the Church, but — like that of Augustine also, and Florovsky, and most of the notable Orthodox theologians of the last century (Lossky, Staniloae, Zizioulas, Sophrony, Afanasiev, Meyendorff, all of whom hold similar views), a theologoumenon. And hence, while the latter view may be criticized, those who hold it should not be anathematized as betrayers of the faith, which is what we are hearing from the anonyomous author criticized above as well as other critics of ecumenical dialogue.

            The other point, in my reading, is exactly this. There is more to Orthodox relations with the heterodox (particularly those maintaining much of the form of Orthodoxy in terms of doctrine and polity — we are not talking Mormons, Muslims, or liberal Protestants here) than just reiteration of anathemas and canons (as one might conclude from the anonymously.authored critique of the patriarch, and most of the postings here). There is a place for reasoned, well-informed, patient and carefully studied theological dialogue, conducted in an atmosphere of charity, and in fact there is a need and a demand for it when possible — and indeed there are plenty of historical exempla from the Fathers and saints of our tradition. Just think of the example of St Athanasius with the homoiousians at the council of Alexandria in 362, or that of St Basil with the homoiousians and Pneumatomachoi (indeed — his proposals seem very liberal and compromising), or St Cyril in his formula of reunion in 433). These conversations, conducted with those who held views in many ways more defective regarding core doctrines of the faith than anything taught by the Roman Catholic Church today, would have gone nowhere had they been conducted in the spirit represented by the anonymous priest whose essay is critiqued above, or by most of the posters in this discussion. Care for the truth of things, in all their precision — not just citing canons and spoof-texted anathemas drawn out of context — really is crucial, and this requires hard study of sources both ancient and new, as well as listening and conversation. And charity really is a sine qua non of knowing and bearing witness to the truth, and thus, a first principle of Christian hermeneutics in all matters, ecumenical and otherwise.

            I can’t be certain that I speak here for Fr Andrew, but it seems to me that these two points really do sum up at least the core of what we were attempting to say. Thank you.

    2. Thank you Vincentius! You have saved for us the Fr. Florovsky of the “House of the Father” from that of the unfortunate “Limits of the Church.” As these two articles clearly stand opposed on the nature of schism, what does our “expert” on Florovsky say about this? Would the true Fr. Florovsky please be chosen – depending on your presuppositions! When will our “experts” please admit that the “Limits” article and the other statements made by the venerable theologian later in life which are in accord with that article cannot be reconciled with the same theologian’s “House of the Father” article and later rejection of Rome’s new “primordial unity” paradigm? Instead, we Orthodox follow the unfortunate “theologians” of the WCC in shoving the “Limits” article in front and using it as a justification for that which is, according our own ecclesiological principles (and Fr. Florovsky’s own writings!), unjustifiable: the legitimization of schism and heresy! Kyrie Eleision!

      And, please tell us: what would Fr. Florovsky have said about the Patriarch’s “divided in time” Church? Please, drag up a quote from one of the theologian’s many articles which spoke of “divided church” theory positively!

      Here is an opportunity for the zealots of Florovsky to unite with the zealots of Popovich, Zervakos, Paisios, Hilarion Troitsky, etc. etc. etc. and REJECT the divided church ecclesiology, and yet they recoil! It is simple: choose the Florovsky of the ‘House of the Father’ and all is well. Choose the “Limits” version, and continue in pain. . .

      Forgive me. I speak ironically, obviously, but irony has its place at times, in order to spur greater zest in our dialogue…;-)

      1. The views expressed in the “Limits of the Church” article were expressed earlier in other pieces by Florovsky around the same time as “House of the Father,” in the 20’s (and later as well)– they are not unique to that article. Moreover, the “Limits of the Church” piece does not express a “divided Church” ecclesiology, and there is no contradiction to what is said elsewhere. Also, Florovsky was consistent throughout all his work, from the 20’s to the end, in recognizing RC sacraments. And in this he was simply saying what most Russian theologians said throughout the 19th century and earlier. The statements of St Philaret of Moscow make “The Limits of the Church” look arch-conservative. The views of Antony Khrapovitsky and Hilaron Troitsky were the exception in the Russian church — never the norm.

        Regardless of how his own views may have differed, presumably St Justin Popovich was aware of Florovsky’s views in this area, as he would have been of other Russian theologians as well, as yet he stated: “Fr Georges Florovsky is already a name on the deisis of Orthodox theology.”

        Elder Philotheos Zervakos was, by any account, a rigorist, in all regards — not typical of the more recent popular Greek elders. St Philaret was at the other end of the spectrum. So much for the infallible magisterium of saints and charismatic elders, who are always supposed to agree on everything and give an answer to every question — as if in an expansive version of a Protestant fundamentalist verbal dictation theory of the Bible. The fact is that the various theologians and saints whom you cite above in favor of your point (Zizioulas?!) do not all say the same thing on all these questions. That is not to say that you are mistaken in your point; it is only to say that it is truly an open question, and you should be more careful about charging those with whom you disagree with “legitimizing schism and heresy.”

        I was there in Paris for the paper of Bp Atanasie Yevtich which you quote. I respect and like Bp Atanasie very much — he is a very good theologian and a charismatic person — but frankly the paper you cite is not a reliable piece of scholarship.

        As regards “trusting Western scholarship” over “our Fathers,” this is a false opposition. There is very good evidence that St Mark of Ephesus made use of the “Western scholarship” of his time; plenty of other saints since then have too as well. Maybe you should too. There are actually some things you actually cannot learn from holy elders — and yes, there are points where Fathers have been mistaken regarding the actual views of their theological opponents (e.g. St John of Damascus on Severus of Antioch), and where we may gain some correction by modern scholarship (and by this I mean first of all — primary texts of those whose views are in question).

        The quotation you cite from Fr Alexander Schmemman is interesting. Florovsky also, in his 1950 article “The Doctrine of the Church and the Ecumenical Problem,” in which he reiterates the points of his “Limits of the Church” piece, agrees with Schmemman’s view that this question of church-limits was never strictly raised in theological light by the Greek Fathers or by the authors of the canons. But he credits Western theologians precisely for doing so. Indeed, there are actually new questions in every age for theology to address. And, as Florovsky himself stressed in the conclusion to his Ways of Russian Theology, Orthodox theology needs to give answers to “Western problems,” and for that “the old polemic theology,” such as is constantly reiterated by the anti-ecumenical zealots today, is of little use.

        1. Fr. Matthew,

          Can you provide us with an example of Florovsky “recognizing” RC sacraments? Thank you. The term “recognizing,” as you know, needs to be interpreted in context.

          Your wrote: *there is no contradiction to what is said elsewhere *

          You may be correct. For one could and should read the “Limits” article as a speculative piece essentially re-stating the arguments of Bl. Augustine. So, then, often when one is confronted with those purporting to speak on the basis of the “Limits” approach, and claiming this is “established” Orthodox thinking on the matter, it is unsubstantiated.

          So, you would agree that Fr. Florovsky holds *for himself and the Church* the views he laid out in the House of the Father article, where he clearly identifies the canonical and charismatic boundaries as converging in the Eucharistic synaxis under the Bishop. Here is just one of many such statements in the vein:

          According to the image of Christ, every bishop “is betrothed” directly to his flock, is inseverably connected with it by a charismatic bond. Only through this bond is there realized for each son of the Church his contact with the entire Church. That is why any canonical wilfulness and disobedience is so strictly and severely examined by the Church consciousness. Destroying empirical canonical ties, the Christian in this way harms his ties of grace and sacrament with the entire body of the Church, and is torn away from it. Once wilfully torn away from the concrete body, it is difficult wilfully to be grafted onto the Church “in general.” The unity of the Church, the unity of the Church hierarchy, the unity of grace, the unity of the Spirit — all these are connected inseparably from each other. *Deviation from the legal Church hierarchy is a deviation from the Holy Spirit, from Christ himself.*


          But, then, how is this view reconciled with this, from “Limits”:

          It is sufficient to state that there are occasions when, by her very actions, the Church gives one to understand that the sacraments of sectarians – and even of heretics – are valid, that the sacraments can be celebrated outside the strict canonical limits of the Church. The Church customarily receives adherents from sects – and even from heresies – not by the way of baptism, thereby obviously meaning or supposing that they have already been actually baptized in their sects and heresies. In many cases the Church receives adherents even without chrism, and sometimes also clergy in their existing orders. All the more must this be understood and explained as recognizing the validity or reality of the corresponding rites performed over them ‘outside the Church’. (http://www.wcc-coe.org/wcc/who/crete-01-e.html)

          It is unfortunate how the WCC and other ecumenists have run with these and other such comments by the venerable theologian, ignoring texts like House of the Father. On their page they write: “Fr. Georges asserts that the Church’s canonical boundaries are not contiguous with her sacramental boundaries, i.e., that sacramental grace exists beyond the canonical limits of the Orthodox Church.”

          It is ironic, for it would seem that the following words from “House of the Father” were written for the Protestants in the WCC:

          The thirst for agreement and reconciliation burns, an inclination to underestimate the discord and division has been expressed, so that by means of connivance and concession “union” will be achieved on a certain “minimum” level. Relativity is introduced into the realm of faith, and even “adogmatism.” The “creeds’ seem to have been equalized, interpreted as historically equal and even to be providentially agreed forms of the human knowledge of Divine truth. A flexible tolerance toward difference in thought is preached — in the hope that at some time in a limited synthesis there will be elicited a healthy kernal of all opinions, but the human husk will be rejected in each one.

          Behind such a representation is hidden a unique church-historic docetism, an insensitivity toward reality and the fullness of Divine revelation in the world, an insensitivity to the mystery of the Church, a misunderstanding of its profoundly natural nature. Indeed, not only mystically, but also historically, division in faith always appeared through schism and falling away, through separation from the Church. The single path of their redefinition is the path of reunification or return, and not union. One might say that the discordant “creeds” in general are not unified, for each is a self-enclosed whole. In the Church a mosaic of different parts is impossible. There stand opposite each other not “creeds” with equal rights, but the Church and the schism, united in spirit of opposition. It can be whole only through elimination, through a return to the Church. There is no and can be no “partial” Christianity — “can it be Christ was divided?”

          So, we return to the question: What would Fr. George say today about the “divided church in time” idea put forth by the Patriarch?

          1. Thank you for the first-year seminary lesson; I’ll address some of these issues later, as I need to go out right now. Briefly: “House of the Father” (Dom Otchii) was not written for the WCC, but for a Russian audience (and also published in Bulgarian); it was written in 1927 and published in 1928. It is his first strictly theological article. But actually it was based in part on an earlier piece, “Dva Zaveta,” from 1923. Which was Florovsky at his most anti-Latin. As to where he affirms the reality of Latin baptism and eucharist, there are a number of places, but most notably the 1933 Russian article on “The Problematic of Christian Reunion.” Other places too. I have to go out right now, but I will post you some relevant excerpts later.

          2. For your interest, here’s a letter by Fr Georges Florovsky to an Anglican priest and theologian involved in the Faith and Order movement, William Nicholls, on December 9, 1949. Florovsky published the letter a year later together with Nicholls’ original letter to him under the title “Intercommunion: An Inter-‘Catholic’ Discussion,” The Student World 43:2 (1950): 169-171. This was in the context of a commission studying the question of communion and inter-communion. I will get you the comments on Latin orders in a bit.

            My Dear Nicholls,
            Thanks for your most interesting and suggestive letter.
            Have you ever come across my article on the “The Limits of the Church” in Church Quarterly Review for 1933? I am following St. Augustine and suggest a distinction between canonical and charismatic (or mystical) borders of the Church. At that time I had to face primarily the over-rigouristic tendency in our own Church and to fight against a widely spread (especially among the Greeks) contention that all “non-Orthodox” were no Christians at all and were to be treated precisely “as heathen men.” But the truth is double-edged. “Canonical” criterium is not an ultimate criterium, and the wild field does not begin immediately across the canonical border. There is an enigmatic “intermediary state.” Yet we are not entitled to disregard this “canonical fence,” because, strictly speaking, it is much more than merely a legal and disciplinary barrier. A schism is always a failure and leads inevitably to disintegration. As everything in the Church, unity is at once both given and required, has been given and is to be achieved. Schisms are failures of men to respond to the divine call to unity. Yet the given unity never disappears. After all, we all are united in and by the redeeming love and purpose of God. And that unity we discover in spite of all our disagreements, when we dig deep enough. Antinomy is created and constituted precisely by this enigmatic “disproportion” between the Church and Christendom (the phrase is of Fr. Congar), or else between the “institutional” and “charismatic” aspects of the Church herself, or again between the “historic” and “eschatological” dimensions. There is an antinomy (and not just an un-dialectical duality) because (Church) history itself is “an inaugurated eschatology.” We must be very careful not to smooth this basic antinomy into a confusion. There is (and there should be) a tension. This is the very meaning of the “Cross of patience.” I guess we do agree at this point. My point is then this. This tension is a healthy reminder of our failure to achieve an agreement in truth. In a doctrinal controversy and confusion, all cannot be equally right. Be we are expected to find the true way. Of course, the full truth will be revealed only in another “aeon” still to come.
            Yet have we achieved already the measure of truth available or accessible within historical limits? My reply is—no. We are hopelessly behind our own measure. We have not fulfilled our task. Would it help a bit if we rush and jump impatiently into the “new aeon,” which has not yet come historically, even if it is, in a sense, “at hand” and “among us,” since the coming of the Lord and fulfillment of all prophecy? In any case, we have not fulfilled our task, although God did accomplish His purpose. Briefly speaking, I mean it would be an unhealthy and irresponsible rush, a license and a violence (both spiritual or mystical), if we forced a “common table” before we have done all we had to do and, in a sense, were up to do. For me, an open communion is unlawful and illegitimate not in a canonical sense, as a break of discipline and disregard of confusion, but primarily in a spiritual or mystical sense, since, in my opinion, it implies a sort of self-righteousness and self-satisfaction, as if we had really done everything in our power to overcome and overrule “our unhappy divisions.” We have not, I am afraid. Therefore it would be a sort of unhealthy “enthusiasm” or Schwaermerei, if we dared to join at the Altar. We must not call in “eschatology” out of season, before we “have borne the burden and heat of the day.” We must rather bless God that he has given us this foretaste of unity which we had not deserved a bit. The heavenly vision may be for us a somnolent “quietive,” while we need, on the contrary, a powerful incentive. Let us taste the sour fruit of our disloyalty up to the verge of despair and then repent.
            I had personally to face and experience this antinomy years ago, and in its uttermost sharpness. Years ago, in the Fellowship of St. Alban and St. Sergius, a proposal was made to try a sort of anticipated and partial intercommunion between the members of the brotherhood, who had already realized their utter unity and agreement in doctrine, piety, charity, etc. “The validity of Anglican orders” was taken for granted, since it has become spiritually evident. It was also suggested that some sort of a canonical authorization might have been secured on both sides and additional rite of mutual re-valorisation might have been administered. I have to confess that from the outset I was definitely against the scheme, and possibly it was my intervention that made the attempt impossible. I have to add that had Fr. Hebert with me the whole time, as well as Michael Ramsey. I had no doubts, but I had an open wound in my heart. Possibly I have suffered more than any of the schemers, who were guided rather by their glorious dreams. For years I used to attend the communion service in Anglican churches and to preach at them. Anglican forms and habits of worship were already mine own. The highest measure of Christian “fraternisation,” available and permissible in the state of division, had been already achieved. An eschatological vision was granted to me. It was really an unbearable burden and a saddening pain for me to abstain to take others away. It was a true cross, and it was given to me to glory in it. My main argument was that only a “catholic action” is permissible in the Holy Catholic Church, that nothing partial and “exceptional” can ever lead to a true integration. Or, in other words, we have to seek not the satisfaction of our dreams and hopes, as glorious and inspiring as they may be or seem to be, but solely the common revival of spiritual life in existing communities. The unity can only grow out of a “molecular action,” which is to be then integrated. An occasional inter-communion, or that by a special dispensation, will ultimately hinder the word of re-union. The immediate task is the recovery of common mind and sound theology.
            I am not writing any more this time. On the whole, I believe that our personal views are very close to each other. God bless you.
            Would you give my kindest regards to Robert Mackie and tell him that I am preparing a large article on the theology of history for The Scottish Journal of Theology.

            With hearty greetings and wishes for a Merry Christmas,
            Yours very sincerely,

            George Florovsky.

          3. Joseph, I’m having difficulty finding the Russian essay to which I refer above at the moment; I will look further tomorrow, but in the meantime, let me re-post a summary of points in answer to your question, which I wrote up in a previous discussion of this issue on this blog 2 years ago. You can find that discussion here:

            OK, here goes:

            The distinction between canonical or legal dimension of the Church and that of grace and sacraments is rooted in Florovsky’s very earliest period; it is found especially in the essay “Dva Zaveta” (“Two Covenants”, 1923; unfortunately still untranslated). There is also a 1928 review from the journal Put’ of the Bulgarian theologian Stefan Zankow’s book, Das Orthodoxe Christentum des Ostens; it is translated in the Florovsky Collected Works volume, Ecumenism I, pp. 199-201. In there it says, “The reality of baptism, performed in the name of the Holy Trinity, even if beyond the canonical boundaries of the Church, is a great and prophetic mystery. The gates of the Church are opening, and in truth are being opened by people who are foreign to her. And in the unity of baptism, in a certain respect, everyone belongs to the one body. This is difficult to translate into the language of dogmatic ideas. But this does not mean that the Church wall ‘does not rise up to the heavens.’ This means that the Spirit manifests itself according to its Will.”

            See the rest of the quote as translated in the volume I cite above. It is further evidence of the consistency of GF’s views on sacraments and schism. But it is also shows that for him the canonical difference does in a sense mark a charismatic one also, since he insists that the basic canonical structure of the Church herself is charismatic; and yet “the charismatic and the canonical do not absolutely coincide” and there is a charismatic life beyond the ordinary canonical structures. Hence, the “paradoxical” character of schism.

            In the same year, 1928, in an untranslated Russian article, “Evrasiiski sublazn” [The Eurasian Temptation], Florovsky speaks with sympathy of “the living, searching and suffering of Western people, who may be blind and even spiteful, but have nevertheless already touched the robe of Christ, and have already been anointed by His grace.”

            Also the same year (1928) he did a book review of the 19th century Roman Catholic theologian Johann Adam Moehler book on the unity of the Church. Unfortunately this review is not translated, but the same understanding is reflected here: the Roman Catholic Church has a sacramental life, and a life of Tradition, which has not been quenched entirely by the papacy of Vatican I. There is a certain antinomy between the charismatic and the canonical in the Church, and the basic reality of the Church is not the canonical, but the mysteriological, which the canonical order are supposed to reflect and support.

            Further, the same view is reflected in another article of 1933, “Problematika Christianskago Vozseoediveniya” [The problematic of Christian Reunion], Put’, no 37, Feb. Supplement, 1933, pp 1-15. This is partially translated under the title “Rome, Reformation, and Orthodoxy,” in the Florovsky Collected Works Ecumenism II, pp. 52-58. In this article he says that Rome is erroneous in certain doctrines and weak in charity (keep in mind that Jesuits at this time were quite aggressive in prosyletizing Russian emigres), but that the Holy Sacrifice is still offered in Rome, the Holy Spirit still descends above the altar, the temple is not destroyed. He says that, in contrast, the Reformation is a complete departure from historic church order, a kind of razing of the temple, a departure from priesthood and sacrament. Remarkably, he says that for Protestants to return to Rome “is not, in any case, a false path.”

            In an article of 1950, “The Doctrine of the Church and the Ecumenical Problem,” he restates his position from the 1933 “Limits of the Church” article. (Parts of this 1950 article are reprinted in chopped up form in the Florovsky Collected Works, I believe under the title « Cyprian and Augustine on Schism ».) He speaks of “many bonds still not broken, whereby the schisms are held together in a certain unity” – including “right belief, sincere devotion, the Word of God, and above all the Grace of God, ‘which ever heals the weak and supplies what is lacking.’” He praises Western theologians for raising the question of the limits of the Church in a way that Eastern theologians have not. He states that the canons of councils deal with the question in a practical manner and do not really give us a theological answer. Pastoral theology and canon law, he says, can never replace dogmatics. On the other hand, he says, this does not mean we can ignore canonical order. He goes on to discuss St Cyprian and St Augustine on this question. He states that both Cyprian and Augustine’s views are no more than « theologoumena » – doctrines set forth by single fathers. But he says Augusine’s view must be taken into account. The Cyprianic view, he says, simply dismisses the problem. He rejects again the modern explanation by « economy. » And he finally defends the Augustinian view as the most theologically reasonable one, the one that does the most justice to the complexity of the situation of Christians divided in schism. He quotes Philaret of Moscow again just as he did in the 1933 article.

            There is another essay you should look at: “O predstoyaschem sobore Rimskoi Tserkvi,” Vestnik Russkogo Studencheskogo Khristianskogo Dvizheniia [Russian Christian Student Movement Messager] 52 (I), 1959, of which a French translation exists in Vers l’unite Chretienne XII, 5, May, I think the same year; a translation exists in the Collected Works volume Ecumenism II under the title “On the upcoming council of the Roman Catholic Church” — Vatican II, that is. In that essay he states that Orthodox theology is divided and confused on the ecclesial status of the Roman Catholic Church, its sacraments etc. He questions whether John of the Cross or Francis of Assisi should really be considered “an heathen man”? He criticizes those Orthodox who reject Augustine as a Father of the Church. He says that Orthodox theology must clarify and develop further its own ecclesiology further in order to meet the present ecumenical challenge of Rome.

            OK. That’s it for tonight. As I said, I will find the full text of the Russian article for you tomorrow, as it is quite remarkable. (And, if you like, I can produce similar statements from many of the greatest respected Orthodox theologians of the last century — Lossky, Staniloae, Sophrony, and others.)

          4. One more text affirming not only the validity, but the “efficacy” of some sacraments in schism.

            “Consensus Ecclesiae (A Reply of Fr Florovsky to the Editor), Journal of the Fellowship of St Alban & St Sergius, Issue 24, June 1934, 28-30, reprinted as an addendum to Florovsky, “The Sacrament of Pentecost,” in Florovsky, Creation and Redemption (Belmont, MA: Nordland, 1976),198-200:

            “The disunity in the Christian world implies, of course, its mystical weakness, and here nothing is clear. I would only like to emphasize one point. The very fact of division in the Church is a paradox and an antinomy [this sentence is italicized]. A falling away [italics] from the Church is more comprehensible than a division in [italics] the Church, while the very efficacy of the sacraments in schism does not in itself do away with the undoubted fact that even the spirit of division is an unhealthy symptom. It is not easy to develop this point of view, for it is precisely a paradox. However, I think that the West separated itself from the East [these last three words in italics], and that the guilt of the West is greater. All the history of Roman deviations witnesses to this, and they continue to burden the Anglican Church as well. However, this brings us to a new and complicated theme, namely, that of the division of the Churches, and it will be wiser to return to it separately on another occasion.”

          5. Just to note: neither I nor Fr Andrew (nor Florovsky) said that the views put forward in the “Limits of the Church” article is “established Orthodox doctrine,” as you suggest above. If you listen to the AFR interview I did (linked above), you will notice that I made very clear there too that it is not: rather, I stated that it is a theological opinion, though one held to by a great many respected Orthodox theologians of the last century and prior, as well as a number of patriarchates. One might say the same of the Nikodemite explanation as well, except that here almost all of the Orthodox patriarchates give indications of contradicting it; practically the only autocephalous churches that seem to incline this way today are the Church of Greece and that of Jerusalem. If you really do hold the Nikodemite understanding as the dogmatic teaching of the Church,not just a respected theologoumenon, then I suppose the evidence would suggest that you would have to conclude that most of the patriarchates today are in mass apostasy — not only the EP, but also Moscow, Romania and others.

          6. OK, I found the 1933 Florovsky text on “The Problematic of Christian Reunion” I was looking for.

            Note there is a lot in here about the tragedy and devastation of the Reformation, and strong words against dogmatic minimalism and against the whole project of Unia. The whole text is relevant to this discussion, but obviously I can’t type the whole thing, so I will just offer some choice quotes regarding Roman orders, etc.

            “‘Rome’ is certainly in need of ‘reformation’ — ‘in the head and limbs.’ . . . . But the Roman temple is in no way empty or deserted. The cloud of the glory of God is still over the temple. The Spirit of God still breathes in Roman Catholicism, and not even all the unclean fumes of pernicious human passions and perversions can disturb this. The saving thread of Apostolic succession has not been broken. The sacraments are performed. The bloodless sacrifice is brought and offered. And he who would dare to have reservations and to say: but it is not accepted onto the heavenly altar, into the smell of spiritual fragrance, must think carefully. The sacred objects are still in the temple. Thus in any event the way [for Protestants to return] to Rome and through Rome is not a false way. The infirmity and falsehood of the Reformation consist of the fact that this was a human issues, only human, too human — even if it only consisted of self-abasement and self-negation. And the falsehood of Rome is also a human falsehood, for no other falsehood exists. ‘Your Truth is forever, and your Word is the truth.’ But in Rome there is also the truth of God. Rome is incorrect in faith and weak in love. But Rome is not without grace, not outside of grace. Strange as it may seem, the schism of East and West is a schism and division in faith and scarcity of love, but it is not a schism in grace and sacraments, it is not a division of the Spirit. And the Comforting Spirit (Dukh Uteshitelnyi) is one and indivisible even in schism. . . .”

            “If, for Protestantism, the way towards unification lies in attaining Priesthood and restoring the sacraments, then the schism of East and West can be solved by attaining dogmatic unity of thought and tender brotherly love. It remains for Rome and the East to unite, and indeed they must, in an act of human heroism. The reality of the division with Rome is in no way diminished by this. . . . Roman hastiness retards the reunification process most of all. For it is not unity, and not on such paths do they search in Rome and from Rome. Indeed, the basic and important falsehood of Rome concerned and concerns namely Church unity. And papal dogma is namely a false dogma of the Church. On the basis of what has been said, the first conclusion to be made concerns the urgent necessity of a dogmatic and theological ‘explanation’ with Rome. . . .”

            [Here Florovsky goes on to speak of the dangers of dogmatic minimalism, the need to come to agreement on the so-called “Palamite” doctrines, and the need for full unity in doctrine, not just isolated articles. He goes on:].

            ” … Roman or Latin Christianity is not simple at all. And it is impossible to reduce all the diversity and fullness of the mystical and theological life in Roman Christianity to one particular ‘idea.’ And in any case, Rome is not confined to papism. Nonetheless, though, it is papism which is the most distinctive trait in the Western sense of the Church, in Western churchism. On the other hand, it shows an exaggeration of the notion of hieratical charism. Here we find a kind of canonical ‘Montanism.’ In any case, the Vatican Dogma is not only a definition and a formula, but also a mystical acknowledgement and testimony. Papism is not only a canonical fact, but a mystical one as well. In this instance, canonical or historico-dogmatic refutation is not as important as the profound transformation of the very sense of the Church, the return to the fullness of the Christological vision. . . . Here is the main topic for ‘explanation’ with Rome. And for Rome, the way to reunification is the way of return — namely, of return to the sources. This should be first and foremost a transformation of dogmatic consciousness and experience. And all the ancient topics, topics of the ancient Ecumenical Councils which at one time had not been dispensed with in the West, should be newly experienced and reworked.”

            [He ends the article with a sharp critique of the falseness of Uniatism]

            So, there you have it. Also I will note that these views were never retracted: among other evidence, Florovsky refers affirmingly to this article in his letters to Elder Sophrony, circa 1959-1961. (These letters are now published in Russian).

          7. Fr. Matthew,

            In Fr. Dragas’ “Manner of Reception” paper he seems to assert that the EP Synod has accepted the “Nikodemite” view. He also seems astounded that St. Nikodemos could be reckoned as an innovator.

            “One obvious question relates to the rejection in this document of the distinction between akribeia and oikonomia as a ‘Greek innovation’ that was introduced by St. Nikodemos the Hagiorite!”

            Prof. John Erickson of St. Vladimir’s Theological Seminary, a member of the North-American Orthodox Rοman Catholic Theological Commission, has propounded this view. See his essay “Οn the Cusp of Modernity: The canonical hermeneutic of St. Nikodemos the Hagiorite (1748- 1809), St. Vladimir’s Theological Quarterly, 42: 1(1998) 45-66 which was presented to the Dialogue. Dr.Erickson finds St. Nikodemos a sort of ‘modernist innovator,’ at least as far as his edition of the Canon Law of the Orthodox Church (the Pedalion or Rudder) goes. His ‘innovation’ is the distinction between akribeia and oikonomia which, in Erickson’s view, is not warranted in the patristic tradition of Orthodoxy. Indeed for Erickson this modern and false distinction, which has been mistakenly employed by Greek canonists, is unknown to the Russians who follow the tradition of the Fathers. For us the implications of Erickson’s view are far reaching, if one considers that both St. Nikodemos and his Pedalion have been sanctioned by the Ηοly and Sacred Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. For a completely different assessment of St. Nikodemos’ legacy, especially in relation to his Pedalion, see the essay of the Greek Canonist Professor Vlassios Phidas of Athens University, “Πηδάλιον και εκκλησιαστική σννείδηση,” Ορθόδοξη Μαρτυρία, 45 (1995) 78-84.

            May I have your opinion on this?

            Also, I interpret St. Nikodemos as taking the view of St. Basil in the 1st Canonical Epistle. Archimandrite Ambrose Pogodin, who has a view very similar to yours, also interprets St. Basil in this way:

            …St. Basil advances St. Cyprian of Carthage’s point of view according to which all heretics and all schismatics must be re-baptized when coming into the Orthodox Church since the heretics and schismatics are completely lacking in Grace. As a result of all this he says, “But, as some in Asia have otherwise determined, for the edification of many, let their baptism be allowed.” (Reception of Persons into the Orthodox Church)

            Archimandrite Placide Deseille also interprets St. Basil in this way. But in the Church, there is also the other view of the “other Nikodemos”, Bp, Nikodim Milash, the great Slavic canonist. He also accepted the Augustinian view. This is what he said about Roman Catholics:

            Among present-day non-Orthodox faiths with which we have to face, the chief is Roman Catholic. No Synodal Canons having any obligatory value declared its baptisms invalid; this religion’s is acceptable according to the requirements [i.e. baptisms of Papists], so that passing from this belief and into the Orthodox Church the accepted rite used is found exactly spelled out in the Book of Needs [Trebnik], thus it recognizes their baptism, and therefore those are not baptized again. Due to exceptional conditions occurring in the relations of the Greek and Latin churches, there was issued by the Council of Constantinople in 1756 an injunction to baptize again every Roman Catholic who wants to go to the Orthodox Church. Likewise, there was published in Russia, in a Moscow Synod held in 1620, the same prescription and also due to the same conditions as in the Greek Church. But these provisions are divergences from a common centuries-old practice of the Eastern Church, and are only exceptional measure, regardless of severity, which will inevitably cause adverse circumstances in time, and do not have and cannot have a common value. (Pravila (kanones) Pravoslavne Crkve S Tumacenjima, Volume, 1, Interpretation of Apostolic Canon 46)

            But while holding this view, he also states this: Very wisely observes Archimandrite John in the interpretation of this Canon, saying that the Canons tend not only to guard against infection of the Orthodox by a heretical spirit, but also to guard them from indifference to faith and the Orthodox Church, which can easily occur when you have close communion with heretics in matters of faith. This attitude, however, is not contrary to the spirit of Christian love and tolerance that distinguishes the Orthodox Church a great deal – tolerate their erring in faith, waiting for their voluntary treatment, or even insisting on it, yet we live with them [heretics] in an external civil communication, though not engaging in random religious communication, because the latter means that we are not only trying their conversion to Orthodoxy, but may also cause ourselves to vacillate. Particular importance should be attached for clerics who are required to serve as an example to others as a shrine of Orthodox beliefs.

            Because of this, an Orthodox priest, according to the Canons should not teach the Holy Mysteries to heretics; nor even conduct a sacred service for them as long as they have not expressed a firm decision to join the Church; much less should it [the Church] tolerate heretical priest to do a service for the Orthodox.

            The great canonist holds to an Augustinian view but is certainly no false ecumenist. I think that the serious problem in perception arises when Ecumenists affirm that they believe that the heterodox have sacramental grace AND then make “imprecise” statements AND then continually take opportunities to pray with heretics and non-Christians.

            I agree with what you say about many great theologians endorsing Florovsky’s view. But is Fr. Florovsky’s view really St. Augustine’s view? St. Augustine said that those in persistent schism from the Church could have everything except salvation. They possessed sacraments unto their condemnation. Did Fr. Florovsky teach that? I think that most people (including me) are only exposed to tidbits and bad translations of Florovsky, therefore only scholars know the totality of his teachings.

            Aside from that, there are many recent Saints that don’t accept the Augustinian view and therefore, if people reject it, they shouldn’t be labeled as, or thought to be uncharitable and rigorist fundamentalists, just followers of the recent Saints. Nor is it a Russian vs. Greek issue.

            St. Ambrose of Optina: St. Ambrose of Moscow

            And how can one understand the Eucharist of this Church of Rome?

            In the Orthodox Church, it is believed that the bread and wine in the mystery of the Eucharist are transubstantiated by the invocation and descent of the Holy Spirit. But the Latins, as mentioned above, considered this invocation unnecessary and excluded it from their Liturgy. Thus, he who understands–let him understand about the Eucharist of the Latins. (A Reply to One Well-disposed Towards the Latin Church: Regarding the Unjust Glorying of the Papists in the Imaginary Dignity of Their Church)

            St. Tikhon of Moscow on the Living Church Schism (which was recognized by the EP):

            They have separated themselves from the unity of the Ecumenical Church and are deprived of God’s grace, which abides in Christ’s Church… And all the actions and sacraments performed by the bishops and priests who have fallen away from the Church are without grace; while the faithful who take part with them in prayer and sacraments not only do not receive sanctification, they are subject to condemnation for taking part in sin. (Acts of His Holiness Patriarch Tikhon and the Latest Documents about the Succession of the Highest Church Authority: 1917-1943, editor Archpriest Vladimir Vorobiov et al., compiled by M.E. Gubonin [Moscow, 1994], 291)

            St. John Maximovitch:

            Beginning from the 12th century, this idea (the Immaculate Conception) begins to spread among the clergy and flock of the Western church, which had already fallen away from the Universal Church and thereby lost the grace of the Holy Spirit. (The Orthodox Veneration of the Mother of God, Zeal not According to Knowledge)

            St. Hilarion Troitsky:

            It is no use quoting from some Russian theologian’s or hierarch’s words to the effect that the partitions separating the Christian churches do not reach the heavens: the fact of the West’s falling away from the Church in 1054 is for the Orthodox believer a present fact of religious experience… [Y]ou adduce the viewpoint of the famous Metropolitan Philaret of Moscow, Philaret, who wrote in one of his early treatises: “No church which believes Jesus to be the Christ will I dare call false.” But there are quite a few obstacles to recognizing as valid Metropolitan Philaret’s reasoning that churches can be either pure truth or of impure truth. A church of impure truth seems to me to be evidently a false one, and there cannot be a false church; such a church ceases to be a church, becoming an extra-ecclesial community. For Metropolitan Philaret did not partake of the Eucharist with the Latins; and neither do other theologians of ours, who occasionally show too much zeal in defending the unacceptable doctrine of the unity the Church, according to which the one Church may embrace local churches that have for centuries been out of communion with each other. And this looks inconsistent to me. Why then shouldn’t one celebrate the mass or partake of the eucharist with a priest of the local Roman Church?

            No, the falling away of Rome from the Church (or of the East from Rome) is a fact on hand, which should not be hushed up and reduced to zero. (The Unity of the Church and the World Conference of Christian Communities)

            Even Fr. Florovsky found Met. Philaret’s view to be problematic.

            Philaret’s outline was clearly incomplete. He spoke of one aspect of unity only, namely of unity in doctrine. He did not say much of the Church order. And probably Vladimir Soloviev was right in his critical remarks: “The breath and conciliatory nature of this view cannot con- ceal its essential defects. The principle of unity and univer- sality in the Church only extends, it would seem, to the com- mon ground of Christian faith, namely the dogma of the Incarnation . . . The Universal Church is reduced to a logical concept. Its parts are real, but the whole is nothing but a subjective abstraction.” This is, of course, an exaggeration. The Church Universal was for Philaret not “a logical concept’ but a mystery, the Body of Christ in its historical manifestation. What is true, however, is that the “sacramental aspect” of the Church was not sufficiently emphasized; and for that reason, the relationship between the “invisible” unity of the Church and its historical state at present, “the Church in its divided and fragmentary condition,” was not clearly explained.

            …Philaret did his studying at a time when Russian theological schools were dominated by Protestant textbooks and the influence of Protestant phraseology can easily be detected in his writings. He was well read in the mystical literature of all ages and of different denominations, and was invariably impressed by “warm piety” wherever he might find it. All these influences enlarged his theological vision, and he was fully aware of the unity of Christendom, and of Christian destiny. With all this he was truly traditional, and the real masters of his thoughts were the Holy Fathers of the Church. Philaret had a strong anti-Roman bias and was an avowed enemy of scholasticism,” In later years, he had several occasions to express himself on certain particular ecumenical topics (mainly in connection with Anglican-Orthodox relations… (Nineteenth Century Ecumenism in the Russian Church)

            Yet it seems that this particularly idiosyncratic quote is definitely overused (perhaps abused?) by some Ecumenists. Another thing of note, the much despised by ecumenists term “pan-heresy”, used by St. Justin Popovich, and over-used by hyper-zealots, according to Bp. Anthanasije was coined by Ecumenical Patriarch Germanos II. He used that term and also engaged in ecumenism, so the term is not always use irresponsibly and can coincide with true ecumenism:

            …Justin designated ecumenism as pan-heresy and we remind [the reader] that the same term “pan-heresy” (Grk. panairesis) had already been used by Patriarch Germanos II of Constantinople (1222-1240 — the one who issued to Saint Sava of Serbia the Tomos of Autocephaly of the Serbian Orthodox Church) to refer to Latin delusions — heresies of his time (Letters to Cypriot Monks PG 140, 602-622). Still, one has to bear in mind that such a harsh stance of the Patriarch Germanos II had been preceded by the Fourth Crusade and occupation of the Orthodox Church in Byzantium by Latin hierarchy (except for the small Nicene Empire) as well as by holding of the papal “ruffianly” Lateran Council in 1215 (where the Latin “Patriarch of Constantinople” Thomas Morosini was elected!) And yet the Patriarch Germanos II wrote the Letter to Pope Gregory IX (1227-1241) and had dialogues with the Latins on two occasions: in Nicea and Nimfeu (1232-1234) and requested the convocation of the Joint Ecumenical Council just as it was subsequently to be requested as well by the Hesychast Fathers (Holy Patriarchs Kallistos and Philotheos; Joseph Vrienie — the disciple of Palamas and his disciple Mark of Ephesus). (Notes on Ecumenism pg. 36, Commentary on Father Justin’s Notes)

            Lastly, I think the EP’s statements can be interpreted in an acceptable way or a bad way, but I think the problem is that people no longer trust him. We’ve seen him giving Quran’s as gifts, praying with Jews and Muslims, entering synagogues, etc. A statement like that coming from a bishop that does those things is likely to interpreted in a bad way. Right or wrong, he’s lost the benefit of doubt.

    3. To the words of St Mark here, you must add his insistance that the Papalists not be rebaptized and that, should Rome change its ways, it would be restored to its rightful primacy. You are just proof-texting.

  2. The use of old quotes by the EP as the proper interpretive grid for more recent ones isn’t exactly sound. People can change their ideas, approaches, and emphases over time. And the reading is only ‘uncharitable’ if in fact the EP means something other than what he’s said; if he really meant it how he said it, then it’s not an offense of charity to take him at his word. A more appropriate interpretive matrix for understanding his words would be his recent *actions*, such as attending prayer gatherings with the heterodox and such. While remembering that the reading by the anon priest is consistent with the language of the *entire* quote, not just the theoretically ‘poorly chosen’ wording of ‘divided in time’.

    As an illustration of the point that what someone said some time ago don’t necessarily coincide with what they believe and say now, take this quote from one Fr. Andrew Stephen Damick circa 2011 (in his text ‘Orthodoxy & Heterodoxy’):

    “The category of validity allows for ecclesiastical lines to be crossed [for Rome], even if there is no communion between ecclesial bodies. It allows Rome to recognize “valid” sacraments even outside its own self-understanding of the Church (i.e., the Church is only the Roman Catholic Church): [quotes CCC] … For the Orthodox, communion and all the sacraments exist only within one ecclesiastical communion. That is, Orthodox Christians may only receive the sacraments from Orthodox clergy. Likewise, Orthodox clergy may only give the sacraments to Orthodox Christians. (In cases of emergency, non-Orthodox are welcome to convert in order to receive the sacraments.)”

    And contrast it to this quote from one Fr. Andrew Stephen Damick circa 2014:

    “The point is that there were people he was out of communion with whose baptisms he regarded as valid. Now, some might say that chrismation or profession of faith makes a baptism valid when receiving a convert, but that’s nonsensical on its face. If that previous baptism was not a baptism, then the convert has to be baptized. One does not baptize by chrismating or by hearing a renunciation of heresy. You can’t reach back in time and turn an invalid baptism valid, nor can you baptize someone by chrismating him… So what this means is that the Church in its practice has indeed recognized baptisms outside its canonical boundaries as being in some sense valid.”

    In a mere 3 years he went from (rightly) scare-quoting the notion of ‘valid’ sacraments outside a single ecclesiastical communion, to affirming it to be ‘in some sense’ true. Was he unawares 3 years ago of the fact of St. Basil’s relevant canons and the reception of converts by chrismation then? Seems unlikely. Did he see the existence of said canons as rendering the teaching of the Church that there is no baptism outside the Church as ‘nonsensical on its face’? Also seems unlikely, since he himself held this to be true.

    Well, obviously the older quote is not the appropriate context for interpreting the newer. Something has changed. And not for the better, in my estimation.

    1. I wasn’t endorsing the Roman Catholic theology of sacramental “validity” just because I used the word valid. I still reject that theology. And I will gladly use some word other than valid if that would help. But it’s a perfectly good English word to mean what I intend it to mean—that it’s clear that our Fathers accepted certain baptisms outside the Church’s canonical boundaries. That this is the case doesn’t require me to buy into RC validity theology.

      Don’t get caught up in the terms. What’s important is the meaning.

      As for the EP’s actions, well, we still don’t see him celebrating the Eucharist with Pope Francis, something the rigorists assured us was about to happen Any Time Now.

      1. Rather, terms are very important. Here is one which has tremendous meaning and for which the Holy Fathers fought not to be changed: ομοούσιος. Word matter precisely because the carry with them not only meaning but experience. That you are not using the words the Saints have used matters.

        1. What, like these?

          “For terms are not prior to essences, but essences are first, and terms second.” – St. Athanasius (C.A. II, 3)

          I didn’t say that terms are unimportant. What I said was not to get hung up on which words exactly were being used. “That you are not using the words the Saints have used matters”: How far does one carry this? This conversation is being conducted in English, which is not only largely composed of terms the Fathers never used (not being English speakers), but even of many of Latin origin!

          In any event, I said that I reject Roman Catholic theories of sacramental validity, and that should end that. It’s not as if the English word valid can only refer to those theories.

          1. But isn’t the whole point of the dispute about what we mean when we say “valid”? It seems to me that in an Orthodox context, to say “valid” can only mean “possessing the correct external performance” so that a sacrament can be accepted by economy. The Church always has the prerogative to baptize a convert.

            The real dividing line between the Augustinian view of baptism outside the Church and the Eastern-Cyprianic one is that of iteration. For Bl. Augustine, a baptism, even performed in schism and heresy, can never be repeated because it is a real baptism but it is then rendered entirely ineffective and graceless because of the sin against charity which is schism. For the Eastern-Basilian tradition (and I would argue for most of the Fathers), a baptism is in heresy is not baptism at all but rather pollution, and while the Church can use the outward form and accept it as an Orthodox baptism through reception by Chrismation, it can not be considered per se the same an Orthodox sacrament until the person converts. If the Church chooses to do so, any convert can be baptized even if their baptism would otherwise be acceptable by economy.

            “We may not receive Baptism twice or thrice; else it might be said, Though I have failed once, I shall set it right a second time: whereas if you fail once, the thing cannot be set right; for there is one Lord, and one faith, and one baptism : for only the heretics are re-baptized , because the former was no baptism.” – St. Cyril of Jerusalem (Prologue to his Catechetical Lectures)

            “There are many other heresies too, which use the words only, but not in a right sense, as I have said, nor with sound faith , and in consequence the water which they administer is unprofitable, as deficient in piety, so that he who is sprinkled by them is rather polluted by irreligion than redeemed. So Gentiles also, though the name of God is on their lips, incur the charge of Atheism , because they know not the real and very God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. So Manichees and Phrygians , and the disciples of the Samosatene, though using the Names, nevertheless are heretics, and the Arians follow in the same course, though they read the words of Scripture, and use the Names, yet they too mock those who receive the rite from them, being more irreligious than the other heresies, and advancing beyond them, and making them seem innocent by their own recklessness of speech.” St. Athanasius (Second Discourse Against the Arians)

            “Although there can be no other baptism but one, they think that they can baptize; although they forsake the fountain of life, they promise the grace of living and saving water. Men are not washed among them, but rather are made foul; nor are sins purged away, but are even accumulated. Such a nativity does not generate sons to God, but to the devil. By a falsehood they are born, and they do not receive the promises of truth. Begotten of perfidy, they lose the grace of faith. They cannot attain to the reward of peace, since they have broken the Lord’s peace with the madness of discord.” – St. Cyprian (Treatise on the Unity of the Catholic Church)

          2. The Church always has the prerogative to baptize a convert.

            But that’s not what the canons actually prescribe. Are you more Orthodox than the canons? There is no canon that says anything like “You may baptize all converts, but in some cases it might be okay to chrismate them.”

            Again, I suggest reading Florovsky’s analysis of all this in The Limits of the Church. Some here have commented that Florovsky is just wrong about all this, but they really haven’t engaged his actual arguments. Here’s one of the most salient passages:

            One may ask who gave the Church this right not merely to change, but simply to abolish the external act of baptism, performing it in such cases only mentally, by implication or by intention at the celebration of the ‘second sacrament’ (i.e. chrismation) over the unbaptized. Admittedly, in special and exceptional cases the ‘external act’, the ‘form’, may indeed be abolished; such is the martyr’s baptism in blood, or even the so-called baptisma flaminis [“baptism of flame”]. But this is admissible only in casu necessitatis [“the case of necessity”]. Moreover, there can hardly be any analogy between these cases and a systematic connivance in another’s sensitiveness and self-deception. If ‘economy’ is pastoral discretion conducive to the advantage and salvation of human souls, then in such a case one could only speak of ‘economy in reverse’. It would be a deliberate retrogression into equivocation and obscurity for the sake of purely external success, since the internal enchurchment of ‘ineophytes’ cannot take place with such concealment. It is scarcely possible to impute to the Church such a perverse and crafty intention. And in any case the practical result of this ‘economy’ must be considered utterly unexpected. For in the Church herself the conviction has arisen among the majority that sacraments are performed even among schismatics, that even in the sects there is a valid, although forbidden, hierarchy. The true intention of the Church in her acts and rules would appear to be too difficult to discern, and from this point of view as well the ‘economic’ explanation of these rules cannot be regarded as convincing.

            The ‘economic’ explanation raises even greater difficulties when we consider its general theological premises. One can scarcely ascribe to the Church the power and the right, as it were, to convert the ‘has-not-been’ into the ‘has-been’, to change the meaningless into the valid, as Professor Diovuniotis expresses it (Church Quarterly Review, No.231 [April 1931], p.97), ‘in the order of economy.’ This would give a particular sharpness to the question whether it is possible to receive schismatic clergy ‘in their existing orders.’ In the Russian Church adherents from Roman Catholicism or from the Nestorians, etc., are received into communion ‘through recantation of heresy’, that is, through the sacrament of repentance. Clergy are given absolution by a bishop and thereby, the inhibition lying on a schismatic cleric is removed. One asks whether it is conceivable that in this delivery and absolution from sin there is also accomplished silently – and even secretly – baptism, confirmation, ordination as deacon or priest, sometimes even consecration as bishop, without any ‘form’ or clear and distinctive ‘external act’ which might enable us to notice and consider precisely what sacraments are being performed.

            Here there is a double equivocation, both from the standpoint of motive and from the standpoint of the fact itself. Can one, in short, celebrate a sacrament by virtue of ‘intention’ alone and without some visible act? Of course not. Not because there belongs to the ‘form’ some self-sufficient or ‘magic’ effect, but precisely because in the celebration of a sacrament the ‘external act’ and the pouring-forth of grace are in substance indivisible and inseparable. Certainly, the Church is the ‘steward of grace’ and to her is given power to preserve and teach these gifts of grace. But the power of the Church does not extend to the very foundations of Christian existence. It is impossible to conceive that the Church might have the right, ‘in the order of economy’, to admit to the priestly function without ordination the clergy of schismatic confessions, even of those that have not preserved the ‘apostolic succession’, while remedying not only all defects but a complete lack of grace while granting power and recognition by means of an unexpressed ‘intention’.

          3. Here are some interesting quotes on the issue of heterodox sacraments for everyone to check out.

            Pope St. Leo the Great

            For they who have received baptism from heretics, not having been previously baptized, are to be confirmed by imposition of hands with only the invocation of the Holy Ghost, because they have received the bare form of baptism without the power of sanctification. And this regulation, as you know, we require to be kept in all the churches, that the font once entered may not be defiled by repetition, as the Lord says, One Lord, one faith, one baptism. And that washing may not be polluted by repetition, but, as we have said, only the sanctification of the Holy Ghost invoked, that what no one can receive from heretics may be obtained from Catholic priests. (Letter 159.8)

            of note: “received the bare form of baptism without the power of sanctification”

            St. John Moschos:

            About twenty miles from the city of Aegion in Cilicia there were two stylites located about six miles from each other. One of them was in communion with the holy catholic and apostolic church. The other, who had been the longer time on his column (which was near an estate called Cassiodora) adhered to the Severan sect. The heretical stylite disputed with the orthodox one in various ways, contriving and desiring to win over to his own sect. And having disseminated many words, he seemed to have got the better of him. The orthodox stylite, as though by divine inspiration, intimated that he would like the heretic to send him a portion of his eucharist. The heretic was delighted, thinking that he had led the other astray and he sent the required portion immediately without the slightest delay. The orthodox took the portion which was sent to him by the heretic (the sacrament of the Severan sect, that is) and cast it into a pot which he had brought to a boil before him — it was dissolved by the boiling of the pot. Then he took the holy eucharist of the orthodox church and cast it into the pot. Immediately the pot was cooled. The holy communion remained safe and undampened. He still keeps, for he showed it to us when we visited him. (The Spiritual Meadow 29)

            Saint Athanasios, the Pope of Alexandria, was once asked whether a person could be baptized whose beliefs were not in accordance with the faith and preaching of the Christians, and what would be the fate of — or, how would God receive — somebody who had been baptized under false pretenses and had simulated belief. Athanasios replied: ‘You have heard from those of old how the blessed martyr, Peter, was faced with a situation in which there was a deadly plague and many were running to be baptized for no other reason than that they feared death. A figure appeared to him which had the appearance of angel and which said to him: “How much longer are you going to send from here those purses which are duly sealed, but are altogether empty and have nothing inside them?” So far as one can tell from the saying of the angel, those who have the seal of baptism are indeed baptized since they thought they were doing a good work in receiving baptism.’ (The Spiritual Meadow, 198)

            of note: “duly sealed but altogether empty”

            St. Gregory the Dialogist:

            And indeed we have learned from the ancient institution of the Fathers that whosoever among heretics are baptized in the name of the Trinity, when they return to holy Church, may be recalled to the bosom of mother Church either by unction of chrism, or by imposition of hands, or by profession of the faith only. Hence the West reconciles Arians to the holy Catholic Church by imposition of hands, but the East by the unction of holy chrism. But Monophysites and others are received by a true confession only, because holy baptism, which they have received among heretics, then acquires in them the power of cleansing, when either the former receive the Holy Spirit by imposition of hands, or the latter are united to the bowels of the holy and universal Church by reason of their confession of the true faith. Those heretics, however, who are not baptized in the name of the Trinity, such as the Bonosiaci and the Cataphrygæ, because the former do not believe in Christ the Lord, and the latter with a perverse understanding believe a certain bad man, Montanus, to be the Holy Spirit, like whom are many others—these, when they come to holy Church, are baptized, because what they received while in their error, not being in the name of the Holy Trinity, was not baptism. Nor can this be called an iteration of baptism, which, as has been said, had not been given in the name of the Trinity. But the Nestorians, since they are baptized in the name of the Holy Trinity— though darkened by the error of their heresy in that, after the manner of Jewish unbelief, they believe not the Incarnation of the Only-begotten— when they come to the Holy Catholic Church, are to be taught, by firm holding and profession of the true faith, to believe in one and the same Son of God and man, our Lord God Jesus Christ, the same existing in Divinity before the ages, and the same made man in the end of the ages, because The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us Jn. 1:14. (Epistles, Bk. 11: Epistle 67)

            of note: “then (upon joining the Church) acquires in them the power of cleansing”

            St. Fulgentius of Ruspe:

            Anyone who receives the sacrament of baptism, whether in the Catholic Church or in a heretical or schismatic one, receives the whole sacrament; but salvation, which is the strength of the sacrament, he will not have, if he has had the sacrament outside the Catholic Church [and remains in deliberate schism]. He must therefore return to the Church, not so that he might receive again the sacrament of baptism, which no one dare repeat in any baptized person, but so that he may receive eternal life in Catholic society, for the obtaining of which no one is suited who, even with the sacrament of baptism, remains estranged from the Catholic Church. (The Rule of Faith 43)

            Bede the Venerable

            For where is a good conscience except where there is a sincere faith? For the Apostle Paul teaches that the purpose of the commandment is charity from a pure heart and a good conscience and unfeigned faith. (1 Tim. 1:5) The fact, therefore, that the water of the flood did not save thouse outside the ark but slew them without doubt prefigured every heretic who, although having the sacrament of baptism, is to be plunged into the lower world not by other waters but by those very waters by which the ark is raised up to the heavens. (Commentary on 1st Peter)

            St. Maximus the Confessor:

            They (Monothelites) have repeatedly excommunicated themselves from the Church and are completely unstable in the faith. Additionally, they have been cut off and stripped of priesthood by the local council held at Rome. What Mysteries, then, can they perform? And what spirit descends on those whom they ordain?” (St. Dimitri Rostov: Life of St. Maximus)

            Do those that accept the baptisms of the heterodox accept the views of Sts. Fulgentius and Bede? I’ve been wondering if St. Augustine’s view is more harsh than St. Cyprian’s based on the axiom: to whom much is given, much is required. Those that have sacraments unto condemnation will fare worse at the Judgment than those that never had them.

  3. One would think that if the Ecumenical Patriarch is going to make a statement as he did, in the midst of a meeting with Pope Francis in Jerusalem, with the whole world watching and with an incredible amount of pre-publicity by the Patriarch’s own website and that of the GOA, he would chose his words carefully and make known his true convictions. These were prepared remarks to my understanding. That is why when he says “divided in time” it is scandalous and, if he did not mean to say that, he should make a public statement to explain it or correct it fully because of the implications it has for the Orthodox Church. Being charitable is important, yes, but it goes both ways … correction to these remarks would be charitable to the Faithful.

    1. Elizabeth,

      Amen. Perhaps the Patriarch, since this was such a prepared event, said exactly what he meant and how he really feels. We’re the one’s left scrambling trying to Orthodoxize it. Even the videos before the event were full of ecclesiological missteps. Perhaps these people really feels as though the Orthodox and the Roman Catholic Church are one but separated jurisdictionally. If so, then what do we do?

  4. Fr. Andrew, with all due respect, your knowledge of the history of the Russian Church Abroad is a little…spotty. Some people (not saying you, I believe you wrote in good faith) like to pretend that ROCOR was out of communion with most of World Orthodoxy for several decades. The fact of the matter is, despite the fact that there was a general cooling towards the more ecumenically minded local churches (the EP being the foremost), the only ones ROCOR ever had severed relations with were the Russian Church. And that was just limited to Eucharistic reception, since there were those in the diaspora who still had dealings/were on friendly terms with those in Russia and those in North America and Europe with whom they weren’t administratively united to (e.g. Metropolia (precursor to the OCA) and the Russian Exarchate in Europe under the EP). ROCOR was always in full and unhindered communion with the Jerusalem and Serbian Patriarchates, and just because they were less so with others does not make it an uncanonical entity until its reunification with Moscow in 2007.

    Also, an uncanonical body does not produce universally recognized saints. So if we were to accept the claim that ROCOR was uncanonical, then St. John Maximovitch died in schism and should not be recognized as a saint. Obviously this is absurd–he is a great saint and intercessor.

    Even more proof: there are still 3 unglorified saints from ROCOR’s pre-reunification period–Met. Philaret of New York, Fr. Seraphim Rose, and Brother Jose Munoz-Cortez. Hopefully this will be rectified shortly as there has been a committee in place in ROCOR to gather all the needed information to officially glorify Met. Philaret and Brother Jose. Undoubtedly, in the case of Met. Philaret, his “glorification” by uncanonical groups has hampered that process. But it is known as a fact that his relics were incorrupt 13 years after his death and still are as far as is known.

    1. I wasn’t arguing in any sense against the ROCOR’s Orthodoxy or its “canonicity” (whatever that might mean). Indeed, I was actually affirming those things to make my point—being out of communion with someone doesn’t mean you don’t regard him as having true/valid/acceptable (or whatever) sacraments.

      1. I *think* it means having the properties of being canonical. Although to be quite honest I’m guessing, I’ve seen it used before but it could have many different meanings.

    2. Also, an uncanonical body does not produce universally recognized saints.

      Well, sometimes it does. St. Isaac of Syria belonged not only to an uncanonical body but to a heretical one—the Assyrian Church of the East.

      1. Fr. Andrew, one study by one bishop a sure and true fact does not make. Why are you trusting Western scholarship over and against our God-bearing Fathers? Or, perhaps you are ignorant of the fact that Elder Paisios unequivocally condemned the view you just supported. You can read about it in his life by Elder Isaac (published by St. Arsenios monastery, distributed by St. Nektarios monastery). And he did not get his information from an academic study but from the Saint himself, the writings of which he poured over day and night and the service which he had comissioned he sung in an all night vigil every year on a special day he had appointed for the saint’s feast day. . . Please do not just throw out such statements as if they have been accepted by our Church as fact or by our Saints.

        1. I’m not even sure which “view” I supposedly just supported. That St. Isaac, Bishop of Nineveh, belonged to the Church of the East, which during his whole lifetime and ever since has been out of communion with Orthodoxy, is a historical fact. I’m not turning that into some precedent-setting rule or view. I’m just saying that canonical boundaries are not an absolute rule when it comes to sanctity, even universally canonized sanctity.

          Why are you trusting Western scholarship over and against our God-bearing Fathers?

          Please, if you don’t mind, cut that silliness out. I really don’t care what you say about me, but ad hominem nonsense about how you’re on the side of the saints and your interlocutors are slaves to “Western scholarship” just makes you look bad. And also do remember that you’re our guest here. Further exercised comments along those lines won’t be published, which would be a shame, because I think you do have some valid(!) content to offer in the discussion.

          In any event, it’s hardly a matter of “Western scholarship” to say that the anonymous priest who wrote the piece I’m responding to is espousing an ecclesiology foreign to the Fathers. The Fathers don’t teach that the Church is identical to her canonical boundaries, and they most certainly do not teach that baptism conducted outside those canonical boundaries is non-existent. If they did, they wouldn’t have a whole canonical system for accepting certain extra-canonical baptisms and rejecting others. They would just baptize everyone without any discrimination. (See? I can say all that without using valid.) 🙂

          1. You wrote: * The Fathers don’t teach that the Church is identical to her canonical boundaries, and they most certainly do not teach that baptism conducted outside those canonical boundaries is non-existent. *

            This is near the heart of the matter. What are her “canonical boundaries” but the boundaries set by the Eucharistic Synaxis? Isn’t that what St. Ignatius taught clearly and Zizioulas wrote on in his famous Ph.D. thesis (as did so many others, including Fr. John Romanides)? This is what Bp. Athanasius Yevtich wrote in the article (or said originally in the speech) on Florovsky’s Limits piece and, notably, said that St. Justin also held, namely, the canonical and charistmatic boundaries coincide in the Eucharist: “the charismatic and canonical boundaries of the Church are manifest in practice in the one Eucharist of the one true Church.” Are you saying that this is not the case, not the teaching of the Church? If participation in the Eucharist does not mark the boundary of the Church, what does?
            As for the second part of your statement, where did they ever teach (in the canons of the Ecumenical Councils or the writings of the Fathers (except for Bl. Augustine) *positively* that it was the *one* baptism of the Church (this is NOT the same as to “accept” them without baptism)? To say that they “most certainly” do not teach x, you must have some very strong comments to the contrary (i.e. clear, positive statements). Could you produce one or two for us to consider?

          2. This is near the heart of the matter. What are her “canonical boundaries” but the boundaries set by the Eucharistic Synaxis?

            I actually don’t know the answer to how to define the boundaries of the Eucharistic synaxis, but they certainly aren’t identical with canonical boundaries, else that means that a break in communion means that one or both parties no longer are Orthodox, no longer have baptism, etc. Is that really your position? Every break in communion signifies a total loss of such grace on at least one side? That’s certainly the position required by the anonymous priest’s ecclesiology.

            As for the second part of your statement, where did they ever teach (in the canons of the Ecumenical Councils or the writings of the Fathers (except for Bl. Augustine) *positively* that it was the *one* baptism of the Church (this is NOT the same as to “accept” them without baptism)? To say that they “most certainly” do not teach x, you must have some very strong comments to the contrary (i.e. clear, positive statements). Could you produce one or two for us to consider?

            Not so fast. The burden of proof here is on those who assert the positive, which is the claim that baptism does not exist outside canonical boundaries. In any event, I actually have presented plenty of evidence that the Church has practiced otherwise, namely, its whole canonical tradition in terms of accepting the baptisms of some heretics and schismatics—not by way of exception, either, but by explicit canonical prescription. That seems to be the one fact that you’re not interested in dealing with, and of course the anonymous Greek priest doesn’t address it, either. I can’t figure out why.

            The 14th c. canonist Matthew Blastares (who was hardly an “ecumenist,” being quite opposed to reconciliation with Rome) actually even goes so far as to identify heretics as “those who receive our Mystery, but who are mistaken in some things, on account of which they are at variance with the Orthodox” (Rhalles & Potles 6:173). He doesn’t just say that they have a valid but non-efficacious baptism (as per St. Augustine) but that they have the very mystery itself.

          3. Forgive me, Father, but I didn’t write my comment above about the confrontation between western scholarship and Elder Paisios’ view on St. Issac and your apparent acceptance of the former as an attack but as an observation. I am sorry you took it as an attack.

            For your convenience, I have typed out the relevant passage from the life of Elder Paisios (pages 225-227):

            One day, sitting at the bench outside of Stavronikita, the elder was visiting with pilgrims, among whom was a theologian. The theologian, repeating a popular Western error, claimed that Abba Isaac the Syrian was a Nestorian. Father Paisios tried to persuade him that Abba Isaac was not only Orthodox but also a saint, and that his Ascetical Homilies possess great grace and strength. But the elder’s words were in vain: the theologian stubbornly insisted on his views. The elder left for his hermitage, praying and so sad that he was in tears.
            When he had come to a spot on the path near a large plane tree, something happened to him. These words, “something happened,” were the only description he gave us of the incident, not wanting to reveal the exact details. According to one testimony, he saw in a vision the choir of the holy fathers passing before him, and one of them, stopping, said to him, “I am Isaac the Syrian. I am completely Orthodox. The Nestorian heresy was indeed present in my region, but I fought against it.” We are not in a position to endorse or to reject the reliability of this witness. We know for certain only that the elder experienced a supranatural occurrence that confirmed with perfect clarity the holiness and total Orthodoxy of Abba Isaac.”

            The elder had the saint’s Ascetical Homilies by his pillow, and he studied them constantly. For one six-year period, it was his only spiritual reading. He would take one line and call it to mind frequently throughout the day, studying it in a deep and practical way—“like animals chew over their food,” as he put it. As a blessing, he distributed a selection of the homilies in order to encourage their study. “Studying the Ascetical Homilies of Abba Isaac the Syrian,” he once wrote, “will help you a lot, because it helps us understand the deeper meaning of life. Whatever kind of complex a believer might have, big or small, the Homilies help him get rid of it. There are a lot of vitamins in Abba Isaac, so a little study transforms the soul.” He recommended that laymen also read the Homilies, but bit by bit, in order to digest the text.
            He would say that the Homilies were as valuable as a complete patristic library. The entire text, he thought, deserved to be underlined: in his copy, under a picture of the Saint writing with a quill pen, he wrote, “My Abba, give me your pen to underline your whole book.”

            “The elder didn’t just study Abba Isaac, he also specially honored him among the saints. At the hermitage in Panagouda, where he would later take up residence, one of the five or six icons above the small altar-table in the chapel was of Saint Isaac. Out of love and respect for him, he once gave his name to a monk taking the Great Schema. He instituted a celebration of the saint’s memory on September 28, holding an all-night vigil in common with the other fathers. One year at this vigil, the elder was seen in the light of Tabor, transformed and floating in the air.
            Previously, when he still celebrated Saint Isaac on January 28, along with Saint Ephraim the Syrian the elder added the following to the Menaion entry for this day:
            That is, “On the 28th of this month, the memory of our Holy Father Ephraim the Syrian and Isaac, the great hesychast, treated unjustly.”

          4. I did not say that St. Isaac was a Nestorian. I said he canonically belonged to the Assyrian Church of the East, which was not in communion with the Orthodox Church during his lifetime. Does anyone actually dispute that?

          5. As the quotation itself shows, the Elder reported that “something happened,” and this is asserted as the only actual explanation he gave to the author (Hieromonk Isaac of blessed memory or whoever he’s recording at that point in the biography). The story that follows about a vision of a procession of ascetic saints has no definite source and it seems suspiciously like a pious but misguided attempt to render the Elder’s revelation more definite than it actually was. It is quite possible that the Elder was actually informed by God of an idea similar to Fr Florovsky’s, of the paradox or antinomy or cross of the disunity of Christians, but could not express it or did not wish to do so.

          6. Father,

            I would suggest reading “A Brief Historical and Theological Introduction to the Church of Persia to the End of the Seventh Century,” which was offered as an epilogue in the 1st edition of “The Aesetical Homilies of St. Isaac the Syrian” translated by Holy Transfiguration Monastery. The history is a little more muddied and fluid, rather than the rigid way you say it is “historical fact.” It was quite eye opening.

            The link: http://htmp.org/Resources/Epilogue-On-Persian-Church-BW.pdf

          7. It is indeed quite interesting but not new to me (I’ve read it before), but it doesn’t touch on the substance of what I was saying, which was not that St. Isaac was Nestorian. Rather, I am saying that the church Isaac belonged to was out of canonical communion with the Orthodox Church.

            Whether the Assyrian church of his time was heretically Nestorian may potentially be debatable, though it certainly was held to be so by the Orthodox of the time.

          8. Met. Hilarion’s work in ‘The Spiritual World of St. Isaac the Syrian’ also addresses this issue, and does a good job of bringing out the fact that it isn’t as clear cut as some would suggest.

  5. Just a note on St Mark of Ephesus, who has been mentioned here several times above. Indeed, not only did Mark made the journey to Italy, but the truth is that he was far from the vitriolic anti-Latin that both Orthodox anti-ecumenists as well as older RC scholarship make him out to be. On the contrary, he was deeply knowledgable of Latin theology and admiring of the theology of John Duns Scotus. On all this, I encourage you to keep an eye out for the forthcoming remarkable scholarly work of Fr Christiaan Kappes, a Byzantinist and an expert on Mark and on the late Byzantine theology of the “Palamites” and their relations with the Latins.

    Oh, and incidentally: Latin theology has changed a bit since the 15th century, and indeed since the 19th. There were such men as those named Mersch, DeLubac, Danielou, Congar, Ratzinger, and so forth — you know, that thing called the ressourcement (from which the Orthodox also benefited). If you want to criticize RC theology today intelligently and fairly, you need to read them and engage with them, as well as the more recent exchanges. It is possible, in fact, to have a constructive exchange here, and even to influence things in a more positive direction.

    1. Fr. Matthew, could you please give us all the details of St. Mark’s stance vis-a-vis the Latins after the failed council? Please quote liberally, especially where he refuses the Latinizing Patriarch or anyone in communion with him to come to his funeral. . .

      Only quoting from and speaking of St. Mark BEFORE the council is insincere or lacking discernment. Which is more important for us today: his stance before or after?

      And which stance did St. Gregory Palamas follow in his writings? Few ever mention or perhaps know how the great hesychast characterized the Latins in his work on the Holy Spirit. Could you please quote that?

      Yes, for sure, most of the Orthodox scholars – the very, very few – who have read and written on the ecclesiology of Vatican II should be ashamed for themselves! And the rest of them, which have neglected to write any serious critique of the ecclesiology therein, should be doubly ashamed of themselves. The first group, because they have little more than hypocritical praise for it. The second group because their ignorance (or it something else) harms both the Church and those good-willed Roman Catholics who might see the light and repent and be converted and “join the portion of the saved” (as the 95th canon of Trullo puts it).

      1. I think we all know the famous quotes from St Mark about how “the Latins are heretics,” my friend. The question is what else do we know about him. St Mark was not an obscurantist zealot who condemned all ecumenical dialogue.

        Good for you that you just condemned the whole lot of Orthodox scholars.

        1. Fr. Matthew,
          My point was that you are one-sided just as you accuse the “zealouts” of being one-sided. And, that you are stressing a period and a stance which was before the period we are in now – AFTER the council. What you are doing is something like talking about and holding up for imitation St. Cyril’s position vis-a-vis Nestorius before the 3rd Ecumenical Council condemned him and his heresy, but ignoring the Church’s post-Nestorius position. It is as if you think we should just ignore all the water that has gone under the bridge post Florence (all the water which doesn’t support “ecumenical dialogue”, that is).
          Moreover, the point you are ignoring is that, in fact, St. Mark did condemn all “ecumenical dialogue” AFTER the council! He called for all the Orthodox to avoid the Latinizers. He no longer was a party to the unionists but clearly said that the Latins were cut off (presumably when they were cut off and not in his days?) because they were heretics. If we ignore the “rest of the story” POST-COUNCIL we are not presenting the whole picture – something you seem to be accusing the “zealots” of doing. . . The two extremes meet?
          And, no, I didn’t “condemn” a lot of scholars. I said they should be ashamed of themselves. There is a difference, isn’t there?

          1. So by your logic then, we ought also to have no dialogue with Orientals today, following the condemnation of Severus, Dioscoros, and the like. I’m sorry but this makes no sense. Situations change, history goes on, Latin theology and their stance towards the East have changed, and there are new possibilities to influence things positively.

            Somehow I doubt you’ve done a thorough review of Orthodox responses to Vatican II, such as would allow you justification to make such charges.

          2. I would like to comment on something from the article, which has to do with the claims of the anonymous priest and those of the author of the article. Commenting on the words of the Patriarch, Fr. Andrew wrote:

            Taken with the extreme interpretation that the anonymous priest gives it, the Patriarch’s statement is actually irreconcilable with both Orthodox and Roman Catholic ecclesiology.

            That it is irreconcilable with Orthodox ecclesiology is a point the anonymous author makes, isn’t it?

            As to Roman Catholic ecclesiology, it might not be contradictory if one is interpreting it from a strict Orthodox ecclesiology. In other words, if one rejects the claim that the Church recognizes per se the sacraments outside of Her and that such recognition implies recognition of the Church among schismatics or heretics, then the Roman Catholic recognition of baptism and even the Eucharist (among the Eastern Christians) would necessarily mean recognition of the Church there – even thought there is clearly division. Hence, a divided church.

            Does that make sense?

    2. Your blessing, Fr Matthew!

      It seems to me important to point out that the work of scholars such as Kappes – at least so far as I have seen it – do not demonstrate that figures such as St Mark and Gennadios Scholarios are unqualified admirers of Latin theology, but rather that they were particularly looking for interpreters of Aristotle who could be employed to support Orthodox ideas for apologetic purposes, particularly in confrontations with the Latin and the Muslim worlds (he argues, I believe, that Scholarios uses Scotus in one treatise because he finds there an Arisotelean-based arguments for the essence energy distinction). One cannot find in his work evidence that Scotus and Aquinas influenced their fundamental theological methodology (a point I don’t believe anyone can conscientiously assert), nor does he provide evidence in hist articles that either St Mark or Scholarios embraced Latin doctrine.

      1. Dear Fr John –
        Thank you. This is not my area of expertise, but I do know that Gennadios himself expressed a very high admiration for Aquinas indeed, saying that he would have been the glory of the land of the Greeks, if only he had not erred on the filioque and the essence-energies distiction (or rather lack thereof). On the question of method, I recommend highly the work of Marcus Plested on Orthodox Readings of Aquinas. Plested shows very convincingly that the Greek objections to Latin theology in general during this period, and Aquinas in particular, had little to nothing of any focus on the question of “method” (“scholastic” vs “hesychastic” or the like) — a big contrast with the 20th century neo-Palamite understandings of all this. More later.

    3. Thank you, Fr. Matthew, for this heads-up on the work of Fr. Kappes (whom I recently interviewed here: http://easternchristianbooks.blogspot.com/2014/05/the-immaculate-conceptions-roots-in.html), some of which is being published this month in a long essay in LOGOS: A Journal of Eastern Christian Studies. There he does indeed note deep connections between Mark Eugenicus and, inter alia, Augustine, Scotus, and Bonaventure. A foretaste of the article is here: http://easternchristianbooks.blogspot.com/2014/03/logos-journal-of-eastern-christian.html

  6. “Also, an uncanonical body does not produce universally recognized saints. So if we were to accept the claim that ROCOR was uncanonical, then St. John Maximovitch died in schism and should not be recognized as a saint. Obviously this is absurd–he is a great saint and intercessor.”

    It would be nice if things had that kind of clarity, wouldn’t it. But then there are those frustrating cases like St Isaac the Syrian, a bishop of the (“Nestorian”) Church of the East. Or St Basil of Ancyra (commemorated Jan. 1), elected bishop by a semi-Arian party and deposed by the Synod of Sardica, but a martyr on our calendar. Or St Meletius, the canonicity of whose formerly “semi-Arian” party at Antioch was rejected by both Rome and Alexandria (the two touchstones of Nicene faith at that time, according to the ruling of St Theodiosius the Great).

    Fortunately or unfortunately, the demarcation lines in Church history are not so neat.

    1. This type of problem dates back to at least St Hippolytus, so it is hardly new.

  7. Speaking of St John Maximovitch, he attended the ordination of an Anglican bishop while in Shanghai, together with his brotherhood of clergy. And had St John held the neat rigorist theory of ecclesiology of the anonymous Greek priest to whom Fr Andrew responds above, I sincerely doubt he would have had the reaction he did in the situation documented below in an anecdote written by a respected archimandrite of ROCOR:

    “In 1952, I had a parish in Bradford, England. There were many refugees in this industrial city that had their own churches: Russians, Poles, Ukrainians and others. There was a substantial community ofGalician Ukrainians here, who were Uniats. I was told that they were quite hostile towards us Russians. Once, at night, I had a call from the local hospital telling me that a woman ‘of your religion’ was near death. Taking the Holy Gifts I hurried to the hospital. The night was not only dark but a heavy fog covered everything. One had to walk from one streetlight to another. I reached the hospital and was shown the ward where the seriously ill woman was laying in an oxygen tent. Here I learned that she was not Orthodox but a Galician Uniat. Her husband was sitting next to her, crying. I told him that she was not Orthodox but belonged to the Roman Catholic faith. It was urgent that any Roman Catholic priest be called. At the same time I assured the husband that I will not allow her to die without Communion, and if the Catholic priest could not come or does not come in time, I will give her Communion myself. The Catholic priest arrived quickly. He was an Englishman and did not know Russian or Ukrainian. I offered my help. I asked the sick woman if she repents of her sins and does she want to receive Communion. She answered, ‘Yes, Father’ in her Ukrainian accent. I related her words for the priest and he gave her Communion. I was at the hospital several days later and was overjoyed to see that the sick woman was recovering quickly, and she was happy to see me. After this, I was walking on the street past a Galician club and was pleasantly surprised when all those who were outside the building doffed their hats and greeted me, a Russian priest, warmly. I told of this to our great hierarch, Archbishop John [Maksimovich] and said to him that I would have given Communion to the dying woman even though she was a Uniat. After this I was ready to accept any punishment that the Holy Orthodox Church would give me. Archbishop John’s reply was worthy of his sanctity and love towards people: ‘No punishment would have been given to you.'”

    Those who would condemn the Ecumenical Patriarch and our other hierarchs for their efforts at ecumenical outreach must be careful, lest they find themselves inadvertently condemning also saints. We need not always agree — but surely St Augustine was on to something when he underscored (in his De Doctrina Christiana) charity as truly the first principle of Christian hermeneutics.

    1. I ask for your forgiveness Fr. Andrew for my bold position, but, once again, I am quite certain that you have taken the saint’s response to the priest completely out-of-context. I dare suggest that the situations between the above story and the events in Jerusalem (and Rome) are quite different.

      And, I would personally love to have the name of the “respected archimandrite of ROCOR” so I could follow-up with him on this story.

      Curiously, what are your thoughts relative to the prayer “event” within the Vatican gardens? I

      1. I don’t doubt that the two situations are different. I only cite the anecdote a general point, since some here like to appeal to “our Saints” and elders etc, precisely in order to condemn their hierarchs on the ground of canons, relations with heterodox etc. If you want to play that game, then we will quickly find that there are very few who are “pure.”

    2. ROCOR primates Mets. Anthony and Anastassy participated in the ecumenical movement with Anglicans. I even have a picture of Met. Anthony in a procession with Anglicans. Met. Anastassy even gave a packed Anglican church a blessing and was touched when they prostrated. Met. Anastassy also quoted St. Philaret favorably about not condemning the Roman Catholic Church since no ecumenical council has condemned them:

      When Metropolitan Philaret (of Moscow) was asked about the Catholics, he said: ‘How can I judge a Church which the entire Ecumenical Council did not judge?’ What example shall we take? The President feels that it was not idly that that he asked that the First Rule of St Basil the Great be read aloud. The Holy Father says in it that one must take a broad view. He speaks about baptism very well. Ordination is less important than baptism. Metropolitan Anthony [Khrapovitsky] was guided by this rule of St Basil the Great when he said that he was prepared to accept through the third rite both Catholics and Anglicans. He was of the view that as soon as organic ties to heresy are torn and Orthodoxy is accepted, grace is received, as if an empty vessel were filled with grace. We hold to the principle that we can accept those through the third rite whose thread of succession had not been torn. Even the Armenians, who confess a definite heresy, are accepted in their existing rank. Concerning the Anglicans, the question arose because they themselves are not certain that they have succession. (Synodal Archives, Council of Bishops 1953, Protocol No 5, 3/16 October, p. 16 excerpted from Nun Vassa [Larin] The Ecclesiastical Principle of Oikonomia and the ROCOR Under Metropolitan Anastassy)

      But the big difference is that the ROCOR bishops have generally been straightforward with their confession of faith, and therefore, trusted. Additionally, Met. Anthony established an important rule.

      Fr. Florovsky: Anthony was wholeheartedly in favor of Orthodox participation in the proposed ‘Conference on Faith and Order’: “Indeed, we are not going to con-celebrate there, but shall have to search together for a true teaching on the controversial points of faith.”

      Met. Anthony was also willing to allow the Pope to be the universal Primate provided his Orthodoxy and not based on any distortions of Petrine primacy. Later, ROCOR came to believe that the ecumenical movement became a fruitless endeavor and even disastrous for the Church. One thing about St. John Maximovitch, though, he could “rigorous” when necessary. Met. Philaret of ROCOR had to remind someone of this:

      People cite Vladyka John… To that which has been said above concerning him, I will add yet the following. Two days ago I was conversing about Vladyka John with a man whom Vladyka knew while still in Yugoslavia. When war broke out in the 1940s, and then during the post-war upheavals, this man was forced, “in the struggle for existence”, to roam quite a bit about this wide world. When, after the passage of several years, he again met with Vladyka, he began to recount to him concerning his “tribulations”. In particular, he said: “For three years I had to live where there was no Orthodox church, and I went to the Copts.” “What? You went to the Copts?” inquired Vladyka John. The man, having cringed, as he himself related, at Vladyka’s severe tone, replied: “Yes, I did, but I didn’t attend their liturgies”. “But you did attend the vigils?” “I did, Vladyka.” “But did you repent of it?” “No, but then, I didn’t pray there, I was only present.” “Well, the next time you go to confession, without fail repent of the fact that you were present at the services of the heretics,” concluded Vladyka John. (Metropolitan Philaret [Voznesensky]: Two Letters to Archbishop Averky)

  8. It is indeed unfortunate that the article is written anonymously, but then, should this priest had revealed himself, he would not be enjoying the ecumenist kudos that Fr. Andrew Stephen Damick is receiving form the various pro-Patriarchate circles. On the contrary, such a priest would be guaranteed rapid and immediate persecution. Let us not forget the non-canonical removal of His Holiness Patriarch Eirineos from Jerusalem and the establishment of the puppet followers of Constantinople upon that Throne. And of course, the 2nd example is that of Archbishop Christodoulos of blessed memory. Our clergy has indeed been given some very clear examples of what will happen should they dare oppose the views of Constantinople… If they can do this to a canonically elected Patriarch and Archbishop, imagine what they can do to a priest.

    As far as the above article, I find it quite intriguing and almost entertaining to (once again) observe the selective and out-of-context counter-arguments that Fr. Andrew presents. For example, rather than responding to the division in time position, he pursues the “what about ROCOR, and what about…the Vatican II position” argument. Really Fr. Andrew?

    Bottom line: The non-democratic methods of the Patriarchate (in Bartholomew’s efforts to become the pope of the eastern church) have clearly forced any voices of dissent into (temporary) underground. Perhaps that is what gives Bartholomew the false security in expediting his union with his Latin “brother.” Indeed, all of humanity enjoys the brotherhood of creation, and the prayer for peace among His creation is the wish of us all; however, let us pray that the Patriarch awakens from his ecumenical lethargy and realizes that the Latin pope, while his brother by creation is certainty NOT his brother in Christ!

    Quite sad for all of us of Hellenic heritage that nowadays we place the hopes of our beloved Orthodoxy upon the Russian patriarchate–may Moscow NEVER join this unholy union of sorts.

    1. So when do “ecumenist kudos” (where?) translate into big money and flashy cars?

      As far as the above article, I find it quite intriguing and almost entertaining to (once again) observe the selective and out-of-context counter-arguments that Fr. Andrew presents. For example, rather than responding to the division in time position, he pursues the “what about ROCOR, and what about…the Vatican II position” argument. Really Fr. Andrew?

      Yes, really, because all that is germane to the erroneous ecclesiology which the anonymous Greek priest puts forward. I’m not endorsing Vatican II — just saying that he gets it wrong. I’m also not endorsing the comments of the EP — just saying that he gets the criticism wrong.

      As for placing all your hopes on the Russians, if you would remain “pure” you should avoid them, too. They visit non-Orthodox services and deign to talk with Roman Catholics, too.

  9. Friend, we know who the anonymous priest-author is, and I guarantee you he is generally not so quiet in speaking out against the patriarch and other hierarchs in his own name. He is a priest of the Church of Greece, and so not vulnerable to penalty. Why not contribute something valuable to the conversation instead, speaking to the real issues — instead of this persecution complex and this mythology of supposed Constantinopolitan papalism?

  10. Re: ROCOR and “canonicity”: To the extent that we have overlapping jurisdictions based on ethnicity and mother church, all of us in the so-called ecclesiastical “diaspora” are, to varying degrees, “uncanonical.” And a synod with apparently *no* geographical bounds whatsoever is *certainly* “uncanonical” in some sense.

    And now some in ROCOR would *still* like us to believe that such a situation, with overlapping dioceses and the like, is “canonical” (see here: https://orthodoxyandheterodoxy.org/2014/01/24/rocor-says-overlapping-dioceses-are-canonical-an-ecclesiological-analysis/). I guess anti-ecumenism and the spirit of correctness somehow justifies resistance to the efforts of the EP and other patriarchates in rectifying this situation? Also, if I’m not mistaken, ROCOR had, at least at one time, parishes in Russia — on the canonical territory of the Moscow Patriarchate. So perhaps it’s time to stop kidding ourselves about this “canonicity” stuff.

    1. Eh, its interesting to note, that EP, has overlaping eparchies in US. So before criticizing, ROCOR, which is trying to defend irregularity, they need to clean their own mess. Also what about EP parishes in Estonia? Wasnt that overlaping? Anyway, this is no way to defend His all-Hollines, by slandering his critizers on other issues. I find argumentation of this priest wrong. But talk about irregularites in ROCOR statements is wrong way to defend his behaviour.

      1. The point is not to defend anyone’s overlapping territories but rather to reply to another comment in which this question of “canonicity” is asserted especially on the part of the ROCOR, and to point out somewhat the irony that it’s the EP who’s leading the charge in trying to overcome that particular mess.

        I think perhaps the statement attributed to Schmemann is best in this regard: “We are all uncanonical.” (I don’t know whether he actually said that, but of course he famously wrote on this problem.)

        1. Fr. Andrew, I fully agree with your stance. I was arguing that pointing finger at ROCOR’s, lets say controversial statement, is not way to defend His Allhollines’ from critique in letter in priest from original post. 🙂

          1. Then sorry for misundetstanding. This article allready reached 100 comments, and seems I somehow lost track in ocean of statements. My sincere apologies.

  11. Question:

    1. Could you name one canon of the Church which refers to schismatic or heretical baptism as “valid”?

    A matter of discernment:

    2. Discernment is necessary but apparently lacking here, for when a schism (not a heresy) of a few months or a few years is compared to a schism which is also a heresy (Papal Protestantism) of 1000+/- years, or at least 800 years, or at least 500+ years, then we are lacking either in sincerity or discernment.

    3. For someone to speak mainly or exclusively of the relations or conditions or responses of the Orthodox to the heresy of the Latins as they were issued during the 12th or 13th centuries, and to neglect the stance of the Church in Her saints from the 15th century onward, but also her conciliar decrees of 1484, 1848 and 1895, which clearly refer to the Latins as heretics, this is also either insincere or lacking discernment.

    So, as the author was clearly referring to a heresy which has long ago solidified and multiplied more heresy and delusion and been alienated from the Church, it follows that a response to the article should address THIS heresy and not schisms or parasynagogues.

    For your consideration:

    (1) “It is clear that in the practice of receiving schismatics and heretics into the Church that which was basic and fundamental was uniting them to the unity and communion of the Church and not the recognition of any “objective” mysteries among the heretics. Thus it is apparent that St. Cyprian’s principle that the charismatic and canonical boundaries of the Church coincide continues to be in effect. Indeed, the charismatic and canonical boundaries of the Church are manifest in practice in the one Eucharist of the one true Church, into which those returning now commune and in this way belong to the Church. For, outside of the Eucharist, outside of the Liturgical communion, there is no Church. This is the content and meaning of the entire canonical tradition of the Church.”
    — Yevtich, Athanasius, Fr. George Florovsky on the boundaries of the Church (Θεολογία, Vol. 81, Issue 4, Oct. – Dec. 2010), pp. 137-158 (151).


    It is necessary to address a misinterpretation of St. Basil’s First Canon, which one sees is very widespread among contemporary Orthodox. St. Basil does divide all apostates into three classes or categories in relation *to the means of their reception* into the Church: heresy, schism, unlawful assembly (parasynagogue).

    As St. Hilarion the new Martyr writes: “The words of St. Basil must absolutely not be understood as though only heretics in the strict sense do not belong to the Church, while others still remain in the Church. The baptism of schismatics, “ως έτι εκ της εκκλησίας όντων, should be *received* (παραδέξασθαι),” writes St. Basil. The Greek words quoted here are often translated in the following manner: “as still not alien to the Church”…”as still belonging to the Church”…But these are not translations, but interpretations which must be recognized as in accurate. It should be translated literally: “as recently being from the Church.” There is no thought here that schismatics presumably still belong to the Church, but the thought that they have recently gone out from the Church. In any case, belonging to the Church can hardly be expressed by the preposition εκ. It is difficult to conceive of belonging to the Church in the form of successive stages: the Church, unlawful assembly, schism. If the words of St. Basil ετι εκ της εκκλησίας όντων designated some sort of membership of schismatics in the Church, then an unlawful assembly must, in his opinion, belong still more to the Church. Adherents of an unlawful assembly are received only through repentance. But what does St. Basil say about them: “If someone has been barred from divine services because he has been found guilty of sin and has not submitted to the canons, but has arrogated for himself the right of presidency and the priestly functions, and others, abandoning the Catholic Church (καταλιπόντες την καθολικήν εκκλησίαν), have gone along with him…” How can one be in the Church, having left the Oecumenical Church? This would be come sort of incomprehensible self-contradiction to say that schismatics are still in the Church, and to affirm that unlawful assemblies have departed from the Church, that they have left her.”

    (3) On “validity”:

    Bl. Augustine was the first to develop the idea of what constitutes the “valid” administration and the proper minister of Baptism. Namely, any Baptism which includes the proper element (water) and proper words (invocation of the Holy Trinity) is “valid.” The effect of the sacraments was later said to come by the very fact of being administered (ex opere operato). Since it is Christ who operates through them, their effectiveness does not depend on the worthiness of the minister. However, a sacrament may be “valid” without necessarily being efficacious for the recipient due to the obstacle of sin which has been erected. Therefore, for those outside of the unity of the Church, “valid” Baptism does exist but, on account of the sin of schism or heresy, there is no presence of the fruit of Baptism. Contemporary Catholicism teaches that “valid baptism is administered (in principle by anyone) by pouring (or sprinkling, or immersion) in natural water, at the same time designating the act of baptism (“N., I baptize thee…”) and invoking the Blessed Trinity (“in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”) with the intention of doing what the Church does when she baptizes” (Rahner and Vorgrimler, Concise Theological Dictionary (Burns and Oats: London, 1965), p. 47).

    When used within the Orthodox context, validity denotes a very different concept from how it is used by Roman Catholics and Protestants. The corresponding Greek word used by the Orthodox today in this context, κύρος (force or authority), could be better translated as authenticity (not validity). The basic Orthodox distinction is not between validity and efficacy but between authenticatable potential (or “validity” kat’ oikonomian) and authenticity (“validity” kat’ akriveian), without, however, the former being recognized as already genuine. The main difference lie in that authenticity cannot be acknowledged apart from unity. An authentic mystery takes place within the bounds of the One Church with full, not partial, fidelity to the faith and practice of the Church. The Orthodox resist the compartmentalization and fragmentation that requires only the intention of carrying out a particular sacrament, apart from the intention to maintain the entirety of the Church’s faith and practice. (See: Bailey, Charles-James N., “Validity and Authenticity: The Difference Between Western and Orthodox Views on Orders,” St. Vladimir’s Seminary Quarterly, 8 (1964), p. 86-92). Note that neither εγκυρότητα (validity) nor κύρος (force) are terms found in patristic texts with reference to the legitimacy of heretical baptism, which only goes to underscore the uniqueness of Bl. Augustine’s views on the subject and the very different context in which the discussion is carried out today. Likewise, “the scholastic distinction between ex opera operato and ex opera operantis is alien to Greek canon law, which instead presumes ex opera communionis. It is through the communion of the church that baptism receives the grace of the Holy Spirit” (Heith-Stade, David, “Receiving the Non-Orthodox: A Historical Study of Greek Orthodox Canon Law,” Studia canonica 44 | 2010, pp. 399-426 (p. 425)).

    (4) Finally, Fr. Alexander Schmemann’s astute observations from 12 years before Vatican II are quite illuminating on the question at hand:

    “The attitude of the majority of contemporary theologians to the fact of division is very different from the attitude of the Eastern Church at the time of the Ecumenical Councils and in Byzantium. It may be said that contemporary theologians seek above all to discover the meaning of division and wish paradoxically to determine what might be called the theological status of division. How is division possible, what happens to the Sacraments in a Church or a community separated from what is supposed to be the true Church, what is the validity of their orders — these are the questions raised today. It seems to me that all these questions, which ‘a theology of schism’ attempts to answer, are fundamentally connected with the Roman conception of the Church as one universal organism and can arise only out of Roman presuppositions. A theology of schism is a product of the desire of theologians to find a place for the Church where, according to their own presuppositions, there should be no place for her. But the whole trouble is that, from the Orthodox point of view, these questions are unanswerable, because the whole problem is falsely posited, and formulated in the wrong terms. This may best be proved by the fact that neither the early Church nor the Church of the period of the Ecumenical Councils ever raised these questions, and in contemporary Orthodox theology they are a product of Roman and, generally, Western influence.” (Schmemann, Fr. Alexander, “Unity, Division, Reunion in the Light of Orthodox Ecclesiology,” Address given at the Annual Conference of the Fellowship of St. Alban and St Sergius at Abingdon, England in August 1950 (Θεολογία, KB) pp. 243-254).

    Adding all of this together – Yevtich’s comments, the term validity, St. Basil’s true meaning, and the question of division acc. to Fr. Alexander Schmemann – it seems to me that the discussion here is being carried out within a context and through a lens which is not the reality of the Holy Fathers and the Orthodox Church, but distorted by Western interpretations and context.

    1. So, as the author was clearly referring to a heresy which has long ago solidified and multiplied more heresy and delusion and been alienated from the Church, it follows that a response to the article should address THIS heresy and not schisms or parasynagogues.

      The problem is that the author was not only addressing such heresy but that he put forth a faulty ecclesiology in order to critique the statement of the EP, and he also wrongly identified what he thought the EP was saying with the statements of Vatican II. It’s that faulty ecclesiology that is being addressed here. Since his ecclesiology makes the canonical boundaries of the Church equal to everything pertaining to the Church, it follows that addressing schisms that do not involve heresy is entirely applicable. And he also gets Vatican II wrong. (Not that I am saying it is right.)

      In any event, one doesn’t have to dwell only on non-heretical schisms to show this ecclesiology false. As has been mentioned here repeatedly, the Holy Fathers throughout history accept many baptisms—even from heretics far further away from Orthodoxy than Rome—that are outside the Church’s canonical boundaries. And this is not the opinion of just a few but the universal ruling of the Ecumenical Councils themselves in all the relevant canons on this matter. You do not chrismate a convert who has not been baptized. He is either baptized or not. Chrismation doesn’t baptize him. Therefore, if you are chrismating him or receiving him by profession of faith, he is considered to have been actually baptized and not as one of “the heathen” who require baptism.

      It’s actually kind of interesting that you reference the Heith-Stade paper. I was just reading it, and it pretty much shows exactly what I’m talking about here. The portion you quote, however, doesn’t stop there. Heith-Stade continues and basically describes exactly what I have been describing:

      A distinction between validity and efficacy was introduced by the canons of the ecumenical councils: only the communion of the church could make a baptism efficacious (i.e. fill it with grace). However, baptisms which were formally valid (i.e. administered with the trinitarian baptismal formula and, according to the opinion of some, with three immersions) did not need to be repeated, but could be filled with grace when the baptized person was received into the communion of the church (ordinarily by chrismation with myron).

      Now, whether a baptism is efficacious or not is a different issue from what my post is about. The point is that the Church has regarded certain kinds of heretics and schismatics as actually having been baptized. I actually disagree with Heith-Stade’s conclusion here on making a definite remark about whether the ECs actually make a statement about baptismal efficacy. They don’t actually put forward such theories. They usually just give lists of whom to receive in what ways, sometimes with a comment about following established custom. And those established customs aren’t consistent. They definitely do not establish that baptism is completely absent outside of the Church’s canonical boundaries, else the prescription would always be to baptize everyone no matter what.

      You seem, however, to be putting forward the position of St. Nicodemus the Hagiorite, who is actually something of an innovator in this regard. On p. 424 Heith-Stade calls that theory “a form of rigorist antiquarianism.” He says:

      St. Nikodemos’ theory is a form of rigorist antiquarianism, since he argues that the most ancient norms should be followed whenever politically possible and, furthermore, presumes that the most strict or rigorous norm is the most ancient. Despite the fact that St. Nikodemos was an anti-Latin controversialist, his concept of oikoinomia is strongly influenced by the institution of dispensatio in Latin canon law. St. Nikodemos was familiar with Latin canon law and even refers to Gratian in the introduction to the Pedalion.

      Nicodemus no doubt wanted to tidy up all these canons he was reading (“Western scholarship,” anyone?), and it may be legitimate to follow him in this regard. But we should not pretend that his is the only possible approach, since the Church as yet has not canonized any particular theory as to why some extra-canonical baptisms are regarded as acceptable while some are not.

      1. St Nikodemos was from Naxos, which was Italian-occupied and had a significant Jesuit presence. He made use of their sources, as he did also of the work of Venetian priest Lorenzo Scupoli in his Unseen Warfare. Also we know that Nikodemos defended the practice of indulgences, and even procured a proof of indulgence (psychocartia) for a friend.

        1. I’m aware of St. Nikodemos’ Latin sources for some of his writings. Regardless of his use of some Latin works as the basis for his other works, he still regarded Latin baptism as insufficient and recommended all converts from the Latin church be baptized upon entrance in the Orthodox Church as everyone well knows from Fr. George Metallinos’ almost infamous study. The indulgences of St. Nikodemos’ day were certificates of absolution and had little do with the complex expiationist theology of Rome. Thankfully, it was as if the full concept never really got translated. Honestly, I’m not sure exactly what your intention in bringing all of this up was unless it was to attack the ethos of a great saint of the Church in order to undermine his authority. Pretty soon you will be bringing up the false claim that St. Nikodemos used Ignatius of Loyola for his Pnevmatika Gymnasia when it was in fact a thirty page booklet by a different Latin author which St. Nikodemos would turn into a 600 page work.

          1. Yes, I think it’s evident that we are all aware of all that about Nikodemus, Metallinos’ book, etc. Thanks. I had no intention of attacking a great saint of the Church. My point was rather to put a question mark to some of the problematic hermeneutic at work in many of the posts in this conversation, with its running assumptions that (1) the opinions of individual Fathers are infallible (? maybe); (2) there is an opposition between “trusting our Saints” and using “Western scholarship”; and (3) that everything that comes from Latin sources is a priori poisoned and accursed. Whereas we know that (1) St Nicodemus was capable of making some errors in individual judgment, as were other Fathers; (2) he made use of Western scholarship of his time; and (3) he engaged positively — not just negatively — with Latin sources. Sorry to rain on your parade.

        2. Fr. Matthew,

          I read (I believe in the intro to St. Nikodemos’ “Christian Morality” published by the Institute of Byzantine Studies) that the indulgences thing is a slander against him by those that despised Kollyvades. I also read that all the Eastern Patriarchs sanctioned indulgences!


    2. Re: St Basil’s phrase ἔτι ἐκ τῆς ἐκκλησίας ὄντων — ἔτι cannot not mean “recently,” it means “yet” or “still.” The preposition ἐκ is tricky, but my provisional translation would be “as still originating from the Church.” I need to revisit the whole Epistle at some point, but when I last read it, it seemed to me that St Basil was suggesting some kind of lingering validity in the sacraments of schismatics because they still bore the marks of originating in the Church. What he meant exactly by this is unclear. Perhaps he was referring only to first-generation schismatics who had been canonically initiated in the sacraments? More likely, in my opinion, he meant approximately what Frs Andrew and Matthew have been arguing here, that the tradition of the Church taken as a whole discerns some kind of validity in the sacraments of certain communities outside its canonical boundaries.

  12. I really don’t want to get into ecclesiological politics, but since this is the theme of the article, in resonse to Kostas Moschonistiosis, I feel compelled to say, with greatest sorrow, that I fear the Moscow Patriarchate is just as bad as Constantinople; whereas the latter seeks to elevate himself to the status of an Eastern Pope, even subordinating himself to the Roman Pontiff if it furthers the cause, the latter is a former KGB man, who has turned the Church of Russia into a propaganda tool for an expansionist military regime. I fear that that portion of ROCOR that broke communion with the Old Calendarists to rejoin the MP has quite a bit of egg on its face, and perhaps in the years to come an exodus to ROCA might well occur.

    For my part, I am Antiochian, because I like the evangelism, the wholesome piety and the missionary attitude of the Patriarchate. Our liturgics are not quite what they should be, alas, but I take some comfort from standing with my persecuted brethren in the East. I revered the late Metropolitan Philip Saliba, and I feel Patriarch John is a man of deep personal holiness. I also have a great love for the Church of Georgia, which took the bold move of leaving the World Council of Churches, which seems to have utterly failed in its mission and is now just a conduit for modernization (I believe, for example, the WCC sabotaged the reunion of the Eastern Orthodox with our Oriental Orthodox brothers in order to try to convince the Eastern Orthodox of the need for dogmatic compromise). I think the smaller Orthodox churches, such as Antioch, Georgia, Bulgaria, et cetera, and additionally the Old Calendarists and the autonomous Old Believer churches, will, though not all in communion with each other, preserve the essentials of the Orthodox faith. I pray that they will distance themselves from the EP and MP, and move to focus on evangelism, church planting, and charitable enterprises,such as hospitals.

    I have a great admiration for the harmony that presently exists in the Oriental Orthodox communion. Yes, in the past there have been problems; there still is a problem involving government interference in Eritrea, but on the whole, its amazing to attend the periodic pan-OO services that occur in the US, and see this tremendously racially and liturgically diverse church worship together, in love and harmony. I am Eastern Orthodox because I believe our theology is more accurate and sophisticated, and we have somewhat better liturgics, but in terms of the sense of brotherly love and egalitarianism that exists, a part of me wants to say that the Oriental Orthodox are the actual One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, and we ourselves might be the lost sheep needing to return home. I am convinced that, missionary, evangelical, and charitable activity aside, the primary ecumenical work of the Eastern Orthodox should be working on explaining the theology of the Seven Ecumenical Councils to the Oriental Orthodox, so as to convince them of our Orthodoxy, that we truly did preserve the faith of Cyril, and thus reunite with them on that basis. One advantage of that would be that the Coptic Pope is a formidable figure in his own right, as are the Armenian Catholicoi; I feel their presence among the Patriarchs would be profoundly stabilizing, allowing us to move away from the present MP/EP and nationalist/modernist clash that is so poisonous to the Church.

  13. If we recognize their baptism as the one baptism, it is inconsistent not to recognize the Eucharistic Synaxis in which their baptism is performed. And if we recognize their Eucharist as the One Body, it is both hypocritical and sinful not to establish Eucharistic communion with them immediately.

    Wow, this is really something. But, they are forgeting that Second Ecumenical Council recognised Baptism of groups like Arians and Sabatians. Did it imply we ought to have/or that Council accepted their Communion? We ought to be fair, Roman Catholics are far far far, more Orthodox than these two.

    then we should also turn that same interpretive method to the Ecumenical Patriarchate in its tomos granting autocephaly to the Russian church in 1663:

    Eh? Russian Church was not granted Autocpehaly 1663, but 1589, or alternatively 1448. I think you are refering to exchange of letters between Patriarch Nicon and Ecumenical Patriarch.

    Anyway, I think this should be seen in light of recent statements of Patriarch Bartholomew, about Ukraine, whcih show him either ignorant, or tendentious and biased. I had in mind this statement: http://www.johnsanidopoulos.com/2014/05/ecumenical-patriarch-bartholomew-on.html#more
    He seems to be unaware, that there was no Ukraine, nor Ukrainians in X century, nor Russians for that matter. Novgorod-Kievan Rus is mother country of both peoples. Its not something you are expecting to hear from man hoding PhD. Also, he conviniently forgot to mention Russians are equally children of Church of Constantinople, In fact in XIII century, Metropolis of Kiev was transfered to Mosocw, current Metropolis of Kiev splitt off due political pressure. Also, talking about bishops being sent from Constantinople untill 300 years ago is materialy wrong. Last Metropolitan of Kiev (with seat in Moscow) sent from Constantinople is unfortunate Cardinal Isydor. So after this, I am regretily saying, unwise staement, they brushed him off.
    Its sad to see this war of stamements. But in long term nothing will came from it. EP could go and recieve splinter Groups in former soviet Union, but it will never be supported by any other Church in getting jurisdiction there. And, to be painfully honest, Ecumenical Patriarchate have majority of Orthodox in America, briliant theologians, tradition history, Mother Church of our Rite, but goals they are putting before themselves, recignition of actual primacy, claim to Diaspora etc, are without any real chance to success. And they cant afford Schism with Moscow.

    1. Eh? Russian Church was not granted Autocpehaly 1663, but 1589, or alternatively 1448. I think you are refering to exchange of letters between Patriarch Nicon and Ecumenical Patriarch.

      Thanks for the correction. I’ve made that adjustment.

  14. Forgive me for my general ignorance on this topic. However, I feel the canons of St. Basil are not being fully unpacked. While he does show differences in status of various heterodox groups, he says this:

    “The Cathari (meaning the Novatianists) are schismatics; but it seemed good to the ancient authorities, I mean Cyprian and our own Firmilianus, to reject all these, Cathari, Encratites, and Hydroparastatae, by one common condemnation, because the origin of separation arose through schism, and those who had apostatized from the Church had no longer on them the grace of the Holy Spirit, for it ceased to be imparted when the continuity was broken. The first separatists had received their ordination from the Fathers, and possessed the spiritual gift by the laying on of their hands. But they who were broken off had become laymen, and, because they are no longer able to confer on others that grace of the Holy Spirit from which they themselves are fallen away, they had no authority either to baptize or to ordain. And therefore those who were from time to time baptized by them, were ordered, as though baptized by laymen, to come to the church to be purified by the Church’s true baptism.”

    I am not sure how to get around this issue with this quote in mind. Whether the idea of reception by economia makes sense or not, it seems to be the plainest meaning of St. Basil. Fr Andrew or others, do you know how else to explain this?

    1. There’s no consistent system in Basil’s comments on this issue—why, for instance, does he only chrismate Arians, who reject both the Trinity and the deity of Christ?

      That said, this particular quote from Basil has to be read correctly. He is not here actually describing his own views, but rather the views of those he mentions, i.e., “Cyprian and our own Firmilianus.”

      Here’s the fuller quote (from Letter 188, to Amphilochius), which shows that Basil is actually giving something of a history of these matters, along with his own opinions, which includes that he himself doesn’t see any system here (which I’ve highlighted below):

      The Cathari are schismatics; but it seemed good to the ancient authorities, I mean Cyprian and our own Firmilianus, to reject all these, Cathari, Encratites, and Hydroparastatæ;, by one common condemnation, because the origin of separation arose through schism, and those who had apostatized from the Church had no longer on them the grace of the Holy Spirit, for it ceased to be imparted when the continuity was broken. The first separatists had received their ordination from the Fathers, and possessed the spiritual gift by the laying on of their hands. But they who were broken off had become laymen, and, because they are no longer able to confer on others that grace of the Holy Spirit from which they themselves are fallen away, they had no authority either to baptize or to ordain. And therefore those who were from time to time baptized by them, were ordered, as though baptized by laymen, to come to the church to be purified by the Church’s true baptism. Nevertheless, since it has seemed to some of those of Asia that, for the sake of management of the majority, their baptism should be accepted, let it be accepted. We must, however, perceive the iniquitous action of the Encratites; who, in order to shut themselves out from being received back by the Church have endeavoured for the future to anticipate readmission by a peculiar baptism of their own, violating, in this manner even their own special practice. My opinion, therefore, is that nothing being distinctly laid down concerning them, it is our duty to reject their baptism, and that in the case of any one who has received baptism from them, we should, on his coming to the church, baptize him. If, however, there is any likelihood of this being detrimental to general discipline, we must fall back upon custom, and follow the fathers who have ordered what course we are to pursue. For I am under some apprehension lest, in our wish to discourage them from baptizing, we may, through the severity of our decision, be a hindrance to those who are being saved. If they accept our baptism, do not allow this to distress us. We are by no means bound to return them the same favour, but only strictly to obey canons. On every ground let it be enjoined that those who come to us from their baptism be anointed in the presence of the faithful, and only on these terms approach the mysteries. I am aware that I have received into episcopal rank Izois and Saturninus from the Encratite following. I am precluded therefore from separating from the Church those who have been united to their company, inasmuch as, through my acceptance of the bishops, I have promulgated a kind of canon of communion with them.

      It’s interesting that in the highlighted portion Basil actually seems to be generally okay with going one way or the other on this particular matter. And he even accepts some Encratite bishops as bishops! And this is even while he prefers not to accept their baptisms. So Basil himself doesn’t give us a codified rule to follow here.

      1. I disagree that there is no system in St Basil. I think his system is precisely that of extra-ecclesiastical baptismal validity. I agree, however, that in quoting Ss Cyprian and Firmilianus he is not agreeing with their opinion. The difficult wording of the canon emerges because he is running through the canonical precedent in a sort of “stream of conciousness” fashion.

        1. BTW, the “system” in St Basil is that the baptisms are valid so long as they do not depart from the rite motivated by Trinitarian heresies. The council of Arles (Latin!) goes even further: baptisms are invalid if Trinitarian heresy exists even if no defect in the rite exists. For St Basil, Mormon baptisms appear to be valid. But for Rome, they are not!

          1. I would humbly suggest that we cannot generalize Basil’s approach to such a degree; the Mormon heresy is not precisely like any heresy extant in Basil’s time, and it is quite possible he would insist upon re-baptism given the entirety of the cases. To me, the whole point of Basil’s approach seems to be responding to the specifics of the situation at hand, in order to save the greatest number of souls from the clutches of heresy; given that, it would necessarily entail a bespoke solution for each specific heretic. Getting this tricky question right requires in each case weighing the challenging aspects of baptism, which can in some cases discourage conversion, against the dangers of administering the sacraments to someone who is not a member of the Church; it ultimately comes down to “How can I convert the most heretics, with the least risk to their souls?” Basil and the other great hierarchs of his age, such as Athanasius, strike me as being ecclesiastical engineers (by extension, St. Anthony and Paul the Hermit were like astronauts, St. Gregory of Nazianzus, a scientist, and St. Epiphanius of Salamis, a forensic investigator).

          2. If Basil were an outlier in this regard, then I think you would have a point. But his canons were actually given ecumenical standing by the Council in Trullo. And of course various other canons of the Ecumenical Councils all take this same approach—they accept the baptisms of some people baptized outside the canonical bounds of Orthodoxy, indicating that those converts must be received either by chrismation or profession of faith only. So the Church has indeed generalized Basil’s approach.

            You are right about the aim of Basil’s approach, of course, and it is the approach that is canonized by the Ecumenical Councils.

      2. Dear Father,

        I disagree. It seems to me St. Basil is not arguing against St. Cyprian’s view, but is mentioning it as true in addition to the common custom of “those in Asia.” It would not really make sense to quote St. Cyprian without contradicting him if he was indeed disagreeing with him. St. Basil seems to be bringing the views together and not rejecting either, which is indeed the view of St. Nikodemos regarding economia. That would indeed make sense of why St. Basil at once rejects the baptism of the Encratites while at the same time allowing for their baptism to be accepted if it removes an impediment from them joining the Church. I feel where you are not able to see a system in St. Basil, St. Nikodemos reveals that system.

  15. How about we stop throwing around phrases such “anti-ecumenist rigorists”….it’s really not helping the situation very much.

    Why don’t we begin with the term, “divided in time.”

    At the very least, this term has caused some confusion/scandal amongst Orthodox Christians. Perhaps we could get a clarification from the EP?

  16. Our Brotherhood feels responsible (and quite grateful) for creating this badly needed discussion through our publication and posting of the “Anonymous Greek Orthodox priest’s” article:


    We are equally grateful than so many others have selected to include it within their websites, as a response to the on-going ecumenical events. Concurrently, we are astounded and alarmed by the misuse of quotes and positions of our Holy Fathers in the repeated attempts by the ecumenists to justify the treacherous behaviors of some of our Church’s hierarchs.

    This is neither the place nor the proper forum for a theological discussion or a full analysis on the pan-heresy of ecumenism. We appreciate the passion exemplified by both Fr. Andrew as well as laymen such as Mr. Hostetler and his well-articulated arguments. We are concerned, however, that the continuous posting of this or that position may only serve to reinforce the ego’s of the authors and continue to confuse His flock at large. Those who oppose the Vatican/Constantinople initiated events will continue to see them for what they are and the “other” side will increase their selective, improper use of our saints to justify Bartholomew’s actions, and of course always in the spirit of brotherly love. As Fr. Athanasios Mitilinaios of blessed memory often said, that misuse of brotherly love is a heresy of sorts by itself, the heresy of “agapismos,” as I believe he called it.

    We wish to touch upon one issue, that being of the recognition of St. John Maximovitch as (indeed) one of Orthodoxy’s greatest jewels and his concurrent use by Fr. Andrew in justifying the acceptance of the Latin-following Uniats. We are convinced that Fr. Andrew has gone well beyond the scope of any statement that the holy Vladika might have made in the matter.

    If we accept a saint as an authority on a matter, then we ought to be equally accepting of related positions for which he (St. John) has published specific articles. Thus, when Fr. Andrew directly implies paranoia by the opponents of the ecumenists in his statement of “… this persecution complex and this mythology of supposed Constantinopolitan papalism,” he ought to inquire why St. John published an article on “The Decline of the Patriarchate of Constantinople.” Please refer to:


    We dare suggest that this article (written in the early 1960s) is rather prophetic and that the statement made by Mr. Moschonisiotis on Bartholomew’s desire to establish himself as the “eastern pope” is quite true.

    In our concluding thoughts, we remain steadfast in our strong belief that we are becoming daily reminded of our Lord’s admonition to watch out for wolves in sheep’s clothing, whose intent is rather obvious through the fruit of their actions (cf. Mt 7:15). Equally direct are the words of St. Kosmas Aitolos in warning the Orthodox to “condemn the position of the Pope since he will be the root of many ecclesiastical catastrophes:”


    He that hath ears to hear, let him hear. (Mt 11:15)

    George Karras
    Editor, “Orthodox Heritage”
    Greek Orthodox Brotherhood of St. Poimen

    1. I think you may be confusing me with Fr. Matthew. We’re not the same person. Please read more carefully.

      In any event, neither of us has suggested “justifying the acceptance of the Latin-following Uniats.” Who wrote that? The point Fr. Matthew made in mentioning that incident is not to “justify” anything but rather to indicate what St. John’s actual pastoral approach to such things was. It is not the rigorist sectarianism that he has been invoked to support.

      As for the rest of your comments, there’s no need to go on about warning against theological compromise, because no one here is actually advocating that. Criticizing the erroneous ecclesiology which you published does not equal throwing in one’s lot with Roman Catholics and pseudo-Orthodox compromisers and theological revisionists.

  17. Another AFR broadcaster, Fr. Peter Alban Heers has written and compiled a handful of texts on these very topics being discussed. One in particular is “The Mystery of Baptism and the Unity of the Church”.
    link: http://orthodoxinfo.com/ecumenism/Heers-CritiqueofBaptismalUnity.pdf

    I also recommend “I Confess One Baptism” by Fr. George D. Metallinos.

    Works by Fr. George Dion Dragas, who has worked directly with some of the previous RC/Orthodox Dialogues.
    link: http://orthodoxinfo.com/ecumenism/The-Manner-of-Reception-of-Roman-Catholic-Converts-into-the-Orthodox-Church-Fr-George-Dragas.pdf

    Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos has also commentated Fr. George’s Dragas’s dealings.
    link: http://www.holycrossyakima.org/orthodoxPdfs/BAPTISMAL%20THEOLOGY%20by%20Metropolitan%20Hierotheos%20(Vlachos)%20of%20Navpaktos.pdf

    1. Fr George Dragas is a close friend, and was my advisor for my Master’s thesis. I assure you he is not against ecumenical dialogues — he is a committed life-long ecumenist, of a very sober, traditional kind. He speaks every year at the Coptic clergy conference in LA, and I have never heard him criticize the patriarch or anyone else for engaging in common prayer.

      1. Also, I would add, Fr Dragas has expressed himself very differently at various times concerning the question of the limits of the Church, oikonomia, etc.

  18. Father Andrew,

    Thank you for your good reminder to always interpret, whenever possible, another’s words, especially fellow-Orthodox, charitably.

    A few questions for you, as I don’t see these as having been dealt with so far:

    1. Validity – you have, in your essay, and in your subsequent comments, asserted a “validity” of sacraments outside the canonical boundaries of the Orthodox Church. And yet, I can’t seem to find just exactly what you mean by the term “valid”. When many of us hear the term “valid” as applied to non-Orthodox sacraments, we hear “true” or “real”. Do you mean this? Or do you mean something else by that term? How do you differentiate “validity” from true, real, or efficacious sacraments? Do you mean that “validity” of non-Orthodox sacrament refers to the form or the rite of those sacraments?

    2. How do you, as you assert, differentiate your view of sacramental validity from the Roman Catholic / ecumenist view?

    3. Validity *per se* of non-Orthodox sacraments – Father, you write in more than one place of the validity of sacraments outside of the Orthodox Church.

    You begin: “To go a little deeper here, we should examine (though just briefly) the question of what the recognition of baptism by the Church really means. One example should suffice. In the time of St. Basil the Great, he wrote canons stipulating how various heretics and schismatics were to be received into communion in the Church. He explicitly stipulated that some were to be baptized, some to be chrismated, and some to be received by profession of faith. It doesn’t matter which were which for our purposes here. The point is that there were people he was out of communion with whose baptisms he regarded as valid.”

    Could you describe where in St Basil’s Letter 188 that he mentions validity? Rather, he talks of *acceptance* or *rejection* of the non-Orthodox baptisms *in the context of their reception into the Church*. He is not speaking, nor, to my knowledge, does any Father speak, of the validity *per se* – or outside and apart from – the Catholic Church.

    And further:
    “So what this means is that the Church in its practice has indeed recognized baptisms outside its canonical boundaries as being in some sense valid. Whether they fully join one to the Church, whether they are efficacious for salvation, etc., is another whole discussion. But the fact remains that not just Basil but the Church throughout its history has in its strictest applications of the canons regarded some heterodox baptisms as in some sense valid.”

    Again, can you tell me where in St Basil’s Letter 188 does he “recognize” the non-Orthodox baptisms? I’ve read and re-read the letter and cannot find such “recognition”.

    So, now as well, are we to believe that we can actually discuss “whether they fully join one to the Church [or] whether they are efficacious for salvation”? Where in the canonical tradition or in any of the Holy Fathers do they discuss this? Is this an open question to you?

    4. Other sources: The valid/invalid distinction was, as far as I’m aware, first proposed by St Augustine in his work “On Baptism”. This distinction, along with that of efficacious/non-efficacious as well as ex opere operato, was created by him to help understand the baptismal policy of the Catholic Church. Do you know of any other Holy Father that promoted this view? Did Balsamon, the universally recognized canonist who wrote of heretical orders that if any heretical priest or deacon is baptized (or anointed with chrism), his former priesthood is to be regarded as a depravity and never existed as unreal. But if thereafter he be found worthy, he may become both a priest and a prelate. Hence it follows as a matter of logical inference that since, according to the present Apostolical Canon, heretics have no holy orders, whatever ministrations they may perform are banalities and devoid of grace and sanctity?

    5. Re: Fr Matthew’s comment on St Mark’s “Latin-mindedness”: You stated: “the truth is that he was far from the vitriolic anti-Latin that both Orthodox anti-ecumenists as well as older RC scholarship make him out to be.”

    Does this – from his Encyclical – show him to be pro-Latin, he who forbade the Latin-minded Orthodox of his day from even attending his funeral?

    “The pious canons speak thus: “He is a heretic and subject to the canons against heretics who even slightly departs from the Orthodox Faith.” If, then, the Latins do not at all depart from the correct Faith, we have evidently cut them off unjustly. But if they have thoroughly departed [from the Faith]—and that in connection with the theology of the Holy Spirit, blasphemy against Whom is the greatest of all perils—then it is clear that they are heretics, and we have cut them off as heretics.

    “Why do we anoint with chrism those of them who come to us? Is it not clear that it is because they are heretics? For the seventh canon of the Second Ecumenical Council states:

    “As for those heretics who betake themselves to Orthodoxy, and to the lot of those being saved, we accept them in accordance with the subjoined sequence and custom: Arians, and Macedonians, and Sabbatians, and Novatians, those calling themselves Cathari (“Puritans”) and Aristeri (“Best”), and the Quartodecimans, otherwise known as Tetradites, and Apollinarians we accept when they offer libelli (recantations in writing), and anathematize every heresy that does not hold the same beliefs as the Catholic and Apostolic Church of God, and are sealed first with holy chrism on their forehead and their eyes, and nose, and mouth, and ears, and in sealing them we say: ‘The seal of the gift of the Holy Spirit.’”

    “Do you see with whom we number those who come from the Latins? If all those are heretics, then it is clear that these are the same.”
    [Source: https://blogs.ancientfaith.com/onbehalfofall/the-encyclical-letter-of-mark-of-ephesus/%5D

    I am weary of so-called “Orthodox” scholarship finding yet another reason why the Holy Fathers of old were wrong on some point or another, or that we now understand things better. I just didn’t think I’d find this attitude here.

    6. It was rather disappointing to see this offered as a theological justification:

    “Interestingly, the canonist Archimandrite Daniel Griffith argued in an unpublished document Fr. Matthew mentioned to me, basing himself on a close study of canons, that in fact whenever the canons accept baptisms, they also accept the priestly orders of those bodies as well. Fr. Matthew hadn’t heard this argued by anyone else, but Fr. Daniel apparently made a compelling case.”

    So-and-so mentioned to me? So-and-so apparently made a compelling case? And that for an idea that so-and-so “hadn’t heard argued by anyone else”? Doesn’t this fact of innovation argue against its credibility?

    1. Validity – you have, in your essay, and in your subsequent comments, asserted a “validity” of sacraments outside the canonical boundaries of the Orthodox Church. And yet, I can’t seem to find just exactly what you mean by the term “valid”.

      Well, that’s just the problem, isn’t it? Because I haven’t actually asserted anything about this. I’ve simply observed that the Church in its canons accepts some baptisms and not others, and the ones it accepts are not all within the canonical boundaries of communion. Remember that the point of this post is to critique the piece I was responding to, not put forward some definition or system of sacramental validity.

      How do you, as you assert, differentiate your view of sacramental validity from the Roman Catholic / ecumenist view?

      I actually don’t have a view, and I don’t think that Orthodoxy requires a worked-out view on this. I’m also not sure what “the… ecumenist view” is supposed to be. The RC view is pretty straightforward and based on scholastic definitions, which I don’t buy into.

      Could you describe where in St Basil’s Letter 188 that he mentions validity? Rather, he talks of *acceptance* or *rejection* of the non-Orthodox baptisms *in the context of their reception into the Church*. He is not speaking, nor, to my knowledge, does any Father speak, of the validity *per se* – or outside and apart from – the Catholic Church.

      You’re right: He doesn’t use the term validity. But that was never my point here. Rather, I was referring exactly to what you point out — acceptance of some baptisms and not others.

      So, now as well, are we to believe that we can actually discuss “whether they fully join one to the Church [or] whether they are efficacious for salvation”? Where in the canonical tradition or in any of the Holy Fathers do they discuss this? Is this an open question to you?

      In some ways, it is. There is no dogmatic statement from the Church on this. That said, it wasn’t the point of this post. Everything doesn’t have to be about everything! 🙂

      The valid/invalid distinction was, as far as I’m aware, first proposed by St Augustine in his work “On Baptism”. This distinction, along with that of efficacious/non-efficacious as well as ex opere operato, was created by him to help understand the baptismal policy of the Catholic Church. Do you know of any other Holy Father that promoted this view?

      This isn’t my area of expertise, but to my knowledge, most of the Fathers don’t really take up the question at all. What Florovsky argues in The Limits of the Church is that Orthodoxy has, in its practice of receiving converts, essentially adopted Augustine’s views on this without actually making explicit his theology. It’s a little frustrating, I suppose, that the canons that give all these prescriptions don’t usually mention why one ought to do it this way or that. Augustine tries to make some sense of this, and GVF basically says that his approach is largely what our practice reflects. (Of course, Ausgustine says that extra-canonical sacraments are real but damn you. Our practice doesn’t say that.) I tend to agree with GVF, but it’s not a hill I think is worth dying on. GVF is just making an observation, though, and not putting forward a theory of validity.

      I am weary of so-called “Orthodox” scholarship finding yet another reason why the Holy Fathers of old were wrong on some point or another, or that we now understand things better. I just didn’t think I’d find this attitude here.

      You didn’t. One could say the same thing about those who would turn people like Basil into ecumenists because they would chrismate Arians. Or maybe we could decide beforehand that our interlocutors are trying to be faithful to the tradition, too, and not indulge in this kind of ad hominem nonsense?

      I agree with St. Mark of Ephesus. What makes you think I or anyone else here doesn’t? I have written many times in many places that I believe that Rome is in heresy. I have chrismated former Roman Catholics into Orthodoxy. Is that not exactly in accord with what you quote here from Mark? Would you mind letting me in on whatever insinuated view or practice I am supposed to have adopted that is against St. Mark of Ephesus? Because I must admit that it escapes me.

      As for the bit from Fr. Daniel Griffith, it wasn’t offered up as a “justification,” but rather as one small illustration of how messy this whole business really is. And just because someone makes a new argument regarding an analysis of the canons doesn’t mean it’s an “innovation” in the sense of being incredible. Surely you don’t think that any time someone says something new he is to be disbelieved? Is Orthodoxy really reducible to repeating formulas?

    2. Excuse me, I never called St Mark of Ephesus “Latin-minded” (latinophron). I said there is good evidence to show that he was engaged with, and knowledgable of, Latin theology. Which is a big difference from the the anonymous author of the piece criticizing the patriarch and the dialogue, whose essay shows he lacks a basic understanding of the ecclesiology of Vatican II. And this unfortunately is characteristic of many today who criticize the dialogues, and indulge in polemics against the Latins and dialogue with them. I never said not to be critical of the dialogues or RC theology; rather, I am saying, if you are going to be critical, at least inform yourself about what RC theology today actually is saying, and what is being said in the dialogue commission. Big difference.

      For a contemporary Orthodox monastic voice who is trustworthy and reliable and extremely well-informed in his assessment of RC theology, see the work of Archimandrite Placide Deseille. Elder Vasileios of Iveron would be another sound voice (having studied patristics in Lyons under De Lubac before his monastic tonsure).

      1. Archimandrite Placide:

        The monks of Mount Athos are often criticized for their opposition to ecumenism, and are quite happily accused of sacrificing love for truth. We readily saw, from the time of our first visit when we were still Roman Catholics with no thought whatever of becoming Orthodox, how well the monks knew how to combine a gracious and attentive love towards other people, whatever their religious convictions and allegiance, with doctrinal intransigence. As they see it, moreover, total respect for the truth is one of the first duties that love for the other requires of them.

        They have no particular doctrinal position. They simply profess the faith of the Orthodox Church: “The Church is one. And this one and true Church, which safeguards the continuity of ecclesial life, that is, the unity of the Tradition, is Orthodoxy. To allow that this one and true Church, in its pure form, is not be found on earth, but that it is partially contained in different ‘branches’ would be… to have no faith in the Church and in her Head.”

        Quite simply, the Athonites want this conviction to be in keeping with their deeds. They cannot approve of words or behavior that would seem to imply a de facto recognition of the “branch theory.” Christian unity, which is as dear to their hearts as anyone’s, can only be brought to pass by the agreement of the non-Orthodox to the integrity and fullness of the Apostolic Faith. It could never be the fruit of compromise or of the efforts born of a natural and human aspiration for unity among men. This would be to cheapen the deposit of faith entrusted to the Church. In ecumenism, as in the spiritual life, the Athonite position is one of sobriety and discernment. If one wants to please God and enter into His Kingdom, one must know how to assess the movements of one’s feelings as well as the rationalizings of one’s mind. Above all, one must give up being “pleasing to men”.

        …During our first conversations with Father Aemilianos, the abbot of Simonos Petras, about our entry into Orthodoxy, he had not concealed from us that, in his eyes, the customary and most appropriate form of entry into the Orthodox Church was through baptism. I had never thought about this aspect of Orthodox ecclesiology and, at the time, was quite surprised by it. I made a careful study of the problem beginning with the canonical and patristic sources. I also found several articles, written by Catholic and Orthodox theologians and canonists, to be quite helpful.

        After a thorough examination of the question, and with the full agreement of our new abbot, it was decided that, when the time came, we would be received into the Orthodox Church by baptism. This later aroused surprise and sometimes indignation in those Catholic or Orthodox circles that were little acquainted with the theological and canonical tradition of the Greek Church. Since a large amount of inaccurate information has been circulated on this subject, I think it right here to give some historical and doctrinal details that will serve for a better understanding of the facts.

        Since the third century two customs have co-existed in the Church for the reception of heterodox Christians: reception by the imposition of hands (or, by chrismation), and repetition of the baptismal rite already received in heterodoxy. Rome accepted only the laying on of hands and strongly condemned the repetition of baptism of heretics. The Churches of Africa and Asia, on the other hand, held on to the second practice, the most ardent defenders of which were Saints Cyprian of Carthage and Firmilian of Caesarea. The latter two insisted on the bond that exists between the sacraments and the Church. For them, a minister who had separated himself from the Church’s profession of faith had separated himself at the same time from Church herself, and so could no longer administer her sacraments.

        From the fourth century, the Roman doctrine on the validity of heterodox sacraments, upheld by the exceptional authority of Saint Augustine in the West, was imposed on the whole Latin Church, at least in matters of baptism. The question of the validity of the heterodox ordination of priests was not generally accepted in the West until the thirteenth century.

        In the East, however, thanks especially to the influence of Saint Basil, the ecclesiology and sacramental theology of Saint Cyprian never ceased to be considered as more in conformity with the tradition and spirit of the Church than the doctrine of Saint Augustine [who, in any case, was largely unknown in the Greek-speaking Church – ED.]. Baptism remained the absolute norm, akribeia [lit. exactness]; although, taking into account the practice of those local churches which recognized the baptism of heretics who did not deny the very fundamentals of the faith (the doctrine of the Trinity), it was accepted that when reasons of “economy” demanded it (that is, out of condescension for human weakness) they could be received by the laying on of hands, or Chrismation.

        The principal canonical basis for the non-recognition of heterodox sacraments is the 46th Apostolic Canon which declares: “We ordain that a bishop, priest, or deacon who has admitted the baptism or sacrifice of heretics be deposed.” These Apostolic Canons, confirmed by the VIth Ecumenical Council (in Trullo) in 692, comprise the foundation of Orthodox canon law. The practice of economy in certain cases is authorized by Canon I of Saint Basil the Great.
        At a later time, in the seventeenth century, the Russian Orthodox Church came under a very strong Latin influence, and was partially won over to the position of Saint Augustine. She then decided to receive Catholics into Orthodoxy by confession and a profession of faith alone. From the perspective of traditional Orthodox theology, this could only be accepted as a very generous instance of recourse to the principal economy.

        This explains the apparent contradictions found in the canonical texts of the Councils and the Fathers, as well as in the practice of the Orthodox Church down the centuries. So far as present practice is concerned, the reception of Catholics by baptism is very clearly prescribed in the Pedalion, an official compendium of canon law for the Churches of the Greek language, in which the text of the canons is accompanied by commentaries by Saint Nicodemus of the Holy Mountain, a very great authority. For the territories under the jurisdiction of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, the decree prescribing the baptism of Catholics has never been abolished. As for the Church of Greece: “Those who wish to embrace Orthodoxy must be invited to rebaptism, and only in those cases where this is not possible should they be received by anointing with Holy Chrism.”

        Some people have written that by “imposing” a new baptism on us, the monks of Athos forced us to repudiate and mock the whole of our past as Catholic monks. Others have also written that, to the contrary, it was we who asked for baptism, contrary to the wishes of our abbot, in order to satisfy the most rigorous minority of Athonite monks.

        These assertions have nothing to do with reality. The monks of Athos in fact imposed nothing on us. They did not oblige us to become Athonite monks, and they left us perfectly free to be received into Orthodoxy by different means elsewhere. Nor were we looking into please anyone at all. But since we had chosen, as we said above, to become monks of Mount Athos, we could only be received in the way accepted by men whom we held to be our fathers and brothers, and whose way of thinking we knew perfectly well. We asked freely to be received by baptism, in complete agreement with our abbot, because this procedure seemed to us both right and necessary for Athos, both theologically sound and canonically correct. This was not “deny” our Catholic baptism received in the name of the Trinity, but to confess that everything it signified was fulfilled by our entry into the Orthodox Church. It was not to deny the real communion that exists between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches in much of their doctrine and sacramental practice, but it was to recognize that this communion in the faith is not perfect, and that, consequently, according to the most exact form of Orthodox theology, Catholic sacraments cannot be purely and simply recognized by the Orthodox Church.

        I have been asked for my retrospective opinion on the sacraments that we had ourselves administered while still priests of the Roman Church. I would simply reply that the Orthodox Church speaks more willingly about the “authenticity” and “legitimacy” of sacraments than about their “validity”. Only sacraments administered and received in the Orthodox Church are “authentic” and “legitimate” and, according to the usual order of things, the validity, or effective communications of grace, depends on this legitimacy. But the Holy Spirit is free with His gifts, and He can distribute them without going through the usual channels of salvation wherever He finds hearts that are well-disposed. Saint Gregory the Theologian said once: “Just as many of our own people are not really with us, because their lives separate them from the common body, so on the other hand many belong to us who outwardly are not ours, those whose conduct is in advance of their faith, who lack only the name, although they possess the reality itself” (PG 35, 992). He goes on to cite the case of his own father who before his conversion was “a foreign bough, if you wish, but by his way of life, a part of us.” We can therefore only leave this matter, with complete confidence, to the mercy of God. (“Stages of a Pilgrimage”. The Living Witness of the Holy Mountain: Contemporary Voices from Mount Athos trans. By Hieromonk A. Golitzin, pp. 86-90)

        Not all rigorism is uncharitable, not all ecumenism is heretical and wrong. We need the Theanthropic God-man ecumenism with a straight-forward confession espoused by St. Justin Popovich and not the humanistic kind that utilizes double-talk and photo-ops to scandalize the faithful.

        1. I’m familiar with the essay of Placide, which is a masterpiece and probably the best and most well-informed thing written by any convert to Orthodox regarding Rome.

          Agreed about rigorism and ecumenism. Agreed about the need for “theanthropic ecumenism,” too, though I would suggest that St Justin is not a very good source or model as regards interpreting the teaching and actions of Rome today. I happen to agree with his assessment of Pius IX, but to equate the papacy today or historically with Napolean and Nietzche as he does is a mistake. The screed-like material he wrote on this topic must be read in context, namely the proselytizing policy of Vatican Ostpolitik in Balkans during WWII. Things have changed considerably, and we should acknowledge that.

          1. Fr. Matthew,

            I have to ask, which contemporary canonized Saints do you agree with on the issue of Rome? I also agree that a better relationship should be established in these times going forward. I really don’t trust them as much as you do though. Just my opinion.

          2. I have to be honest and say that I know of no contemporary canonized saints who were particularly knowledgeable of Roman Catholic theology as it exists today. Probably all of them would say that Rome is in schism and that certain Roman beliefs are heretical, and with that I agree. But that does not get us too far. The issues are quite complex, and I do not think quoting recent elders on these matters is of much value at all, apart maybe from a general admonition to remain faithful to Orthodoxy as the Una Sancta and the faith of the Fathers, and to approach others with charity. I suspect you and I are working with a different hermeneutic here. I do not follow Fr Romanides’ belief in a magisterial elite of charismatic elders (not saying you do, but I hear a lot of that here). I would agree with Florovsky, Zizioulas, Staniloae and others who seek an “ecumenism in time” and conversation grounded in a common return to common sources as the basis for dealings. If I were Patriarch Bartholomew, I would go out of my way to find the best educated and well-informed Athonite — say someone like Pere Placide — and put him on the international dialogue commission; it is important that the Athonite contingent be represented in this. But on the whole, writings of holy elders do not contribute much when it comes to sorting out matters which require in-depth knowledge of the theology and history of both sides. I know that will sound scandalous to some here, but there it is.

          3. On the issue of recent saints as a source for ecumenical confrontation, again let me say I think what is at stake here is our basic understanding of what theology is, particularly theology in the sense needed for such confrontations and responses with schisms etc. Popularly, we hear a lot of “theologian is a man who prays well” (Evagrius — kind of an ironic source here, given his association with a condemned Origenism!). I also sense here some who seem to think theology, at least of the sort that concerns us here in the response to Rome, consists in largely in iteration of propositions, anathemas etc. As for the first view, there’s no doubt that that is theology in the strictest sense, and everyone involved in theological reflection and discussion must have that as a disposition and take that as a norm, as you suggest. However, our Tradition also knows of theology in a broader sense, as a rational enterprise, which requires knowledge of languages, texts, the views of others, and reflection on all this; and this also is necessary, particularly in responding to heresy and schism. As for propositions, anathemas, etc, these also have a very important place; however, when we look at the example of the Fathers who made the greatest contributions to the expression of our theology, and when we look at examples of cases where schisms were overcome by such Fathers, we do see more at work than just iteration of earlier propositions and anathemas.

            Let me give an example. Fr Andrew mentioned St Athanasius. The Cappadocian Fathers, particularly St Gregory the Theologian and St Basil, celebrated Athanasius as the very seal of Orthodoxy. They sought to defend the faith of Athanasius. However when we look at the Cappadocians’ actual work, and their response to the heresies and schisms of their day, we do not find just a literal iteration of Athanasius’ terms, or even his particular theology in all its details. In fact that was what the Old Nicenes of Alexandria and Rome and the party of Paulinus of Antioch were doing. But Basil support St Meletius of Antioch, Paulinus’ opponent. The Alexandrians treated hypostasis and ousia as equivalent; they were satisfied with the formula of “three prosopa, one ousia.” Basil was not. But had Basil and Gregory Nazianzen not departed from some of the older language and conceptuality of the Old Nicenes, we would not have gained such clarity of Trinitarian terminology as we did, and certain of the Easterners who were concerned to resist the possibility of a modalist reading of Nicaea (eg as in Marcellus of Ancyra) would not have been reconciled.

            That’s a rough analogy, and there is no one-to-one correspondence. But to apply here, I would say, yes, I agree with and follow St Justin Popovich in his rejection of Vatican I as a travesty of faith and of orthodoxy; I would agree with and follow countless other saints of recent centuries in their resistance to Uniatism; and I would follow them in their condemnation of the illegitimate interpolation of the Creed. But the reality is that Rome now is indeed saying very different things re: the filioque, and uniatism as a method of union, and ecclesiology, and they are struggling now to find a noble way out of the kind of ecclesiology that led to Vatican I. And the atmosphere of condemnation and proselytism has receded. Our most recent saints, so far as I can see, did not deal with these transformations, or else they were unaware of them. So again, while I would seek to defend the faith of those saints, I would not necessarily cling to their particular formulae, and I would not look to them for answers to every complex question of say, relating Augustinian to Cappadocian triadology in an acceptable way, or how to assess the more recent attempts of Roman theology to find an acceptable agreement with us on the question of papal primacy. For this, we need to cast our net more broadly, and consider the whole historical scope of the tradition. And we may also need, like the Cappadocians, to be creative in our formulations — all the while having in view “the faith once delivered to the saints.”

            This has been an interesting conversation, and I pray that something I’ve said here has been useful. Unfortunately, though, I can’t really keep this up. So I’m going to have to bow out here. God bless you.

          4. What do you think of the fact that Fr. Placide and his brotherhood were all baptized by Elder Amilianos at Simonopetra? What does this mean for the theory being pushed here that the Church has “nearly universally accepted RC baptisms over the past millennium” as a witness to the “per se” recognition of baptism outside the Church? So, the man who wrote “the most well-informed” text on Rome by a convert accepted to be baptized, thus going against, in practice, the “obvious” ecclesiology your persenting? Why did Elder Amilianos do that? Any ideas? Is he, too, in the realm and spirit of the anyonymous author who, in the words of Fr. Andrew, issued the “usual angry rant of this kind of rhetoric, not only short on accuracy but long on a spirit of anything but charity…It’s roughly the equivalent of a lot of the Islamist blargle that comes out of the parallel movements among Muslims – lots of condemnation, but very little that which evinces that spirit of the saints.”
            For that matter, Elders Paisios, Ephraim of Katounakia, George of Grigoriou (may his memory be eternal!), Fr. Athanasius Mytilianaios and many other contemporary holy men of our Church, when they presented the ecclesiology of the Patriarchate of Constantinople (of a previous time) and St. Nikodemos and the Kollyvades and said Roman Catholics should be baptized, what was their problem? Obviously, it was because they hadn’t read enough Western texts, the Limits of the Church article, and contemporary Patriarchal encyclicals? They didn’t get the “memo” from Rome and from Holy Cross or St. Sergius or St. Vladimirs about all the positive changes? Changes, mind you, which have translated into ZERO dogmatic changes in practice. Indeed, one major change is that now the “Orthodox” are contradicting St. Gregory Palamas directly and accepting the Filioque as a theologoumenon. This is the same Saint that is revered for his heavenly hesychastic theology, right? Why isn’t there the same respect for his anti-Latin work? We pick and choose what we follow in our Saints?
            Things have changed, indeed, Fr. Matthew, but not as you suggest.

          5. Whatever happened to “This is my final comment”?

            Anyway, your comment here is really kind of dishonest in several ways. For one thing, Fr. Matthew did not mention Fr. Placide as an expert on the reception of converts but rather as an example of an Orthodox person who understands Rome. And the comment I made which you quoted (which was deleted, BTW) was not characterizing Fr. Placide’s writing or experiences but was in response to another comment (now deleted) which gushed at how inspiring and repentance-engendering was the rant by the anonymous priest.

            As for the Filioque being accepted as a theologoumenon, I seem to have missed that declaration by pretty much any Orthodox synod or by anyone on this site. Particularly in bringing this up, you seem to regard any kind of even slightly charitable posture toward Rome as necessarily subsuming pretty much anything you don’t like that any Orthodox person has ever said or done toward Rome. For example, you write “Why isn’t there the same respect for [St. Gregory Palamas’s] anti-Latin work?” What I’m wondering is exactly who anywhere on this site has ever disrespected it in any way. Your insinuation, of course, is that we have. But we haven’t.

            You seem to think that because we’ve criticized those who criticize the EP, that means we are Uniates.

            In any event, you’ve been warned about this tone before, but you chose to use it again, even submitting two more comments with it (which we’ve chosen to publish, because there are some useful things mixed in with the equivocation) after you said you were done. I’m not really sure why you chose not to play nice, but it was your choice.

          6. “I have to be honest and say that I know of no contemporary canonized saints who were particularly knowledgeable of Roman Catholic theology as it exists today.”

            Yes, Fr., this is where I completely and fundamentally disagree with the ecumenists. I don’t know of any infallible Magesterium of saints either but surely as Orthodox we’ve been taught to emulate those that the Church canonizes. Surely, the simple and pious people of the Church should be able to bring the opinions of our beloved contemporary Saints together into our own “neo-Patristic synthesis” without being derided for being ignorant or fundamentalist by the scholars. The Lord occasionly sends the Church prophets and I believe the contemporary Saints and Holy Elders to be such prophets and I trust that saintly synaxis. I’d just rather trust them than the alternative: scholarly thinktanks often educated in heterodox institutions and likely even more comfortable in such environments. Forgive me if this sounds insulting because it’s not meant to be so. I do agree with “ecumenism in time” and things do change (especially RCC theology!); we should always be open to dialogue without compromise. I also agree that traditionalists should use more nuance and more informed about Church history, things aren’t always so neat and simple.

          7. The problem here is mostly one of time. While Athanasius was alive, who were the canonized saints that knew all the details of Arianism? The usual delay between death and canonization nearly guarantees that our contemporary theological issues are unlikely to have been treated in full by anyone who has been canonized. That means that the work has to be done by those still in this life. The saints haven’t left us with answers for every single question. If that were really a general rule, then no one beyond the Apostles would have ever bothered with theology at all.

          8. Fr. Andrew,

            A saint doesn’t need to know “all the details” about something before they warn off the faithful. Times are a changin’ but I just don’t think that a Saint that reposed 30-40 years ago has no contextual bearing on our present situation. If that’s the case, we could never, or at least rarely, say anything “according to the Holy Fathers” because the ever-shifting flux of time. You’re right, the Saints haven’t left us with every answer but they have left us with quite a few on this present subject. St. Athanasius’ accusation against the Arians was that they were not following the Fathers that preceded them. He also had that naive and fundamentalist idea that the Fathers could actually be interpreted in a harmony:

            For, what our Fathers have delivered, this is truly doctrine; and this is truly the token of doctors, to confess the same thing with each other, and to vary neither from themselves nor from their fathers; whereas they who have not this character are to be called not true doctors but evil. Thus the Greeks, as not witnessing to the same doctrines, but quarrelling one with another, have no truth of teaching; but the holy and veritable heralds of the truth agree together, and do not differ. For though they lived in different times, yet they one and all tend the same way, being prophets of the one God, and preaching the same Word harmoniously. (De Decretis 2.4)

            Such are the machinations of these men against the truth: but their designs are manifest to all the world, though they attempt in ten thousand ways, like eels, to elude the grasp, and to escape detection as enemies of Christ. Wherefore I beseech you, let no one among you be deceived, no one seduced by them; rather, considering that a sort of judaical impiety is invading the Christian faith, be ye all zealous for the Lord; hold fast, every one, the faith we have received from the Fathers, which they who assembled at Nicæa recorded in writing, and endure not those who endeavour to innovate thereon. And however they may write phrases out of the Scripture, endure not their writings; however they may speak the language of the Orthodox, yet attend not to what they say; for they speak not with an upright mind, but putting on such language like sheeps’ clothing, in their hearts they think with Arius, after the manner of the devil, who is the author of all heresies. For he too made use of the words of Scripture, but was put to silence by our Saviour. (Ad Episcopus Aegypti et Libyae 8)

            God gives Saints in every generation so that the living are left with a contemporary model; we don’t have start at square one.

          9. Yes, but “warn off the faithful” of… what, exactly? That RCs are forever the enemy and their theology shouldn’t be read and they shouldn’t be talked to?

            Being a saint doesn’t make one omniscient, and that we have saints doesn’t absolve us of the responsibility of engaging ourselves, especially with people and subjects they haven’t engaged themselves.

            The saints themselves “followed the Holy Fathers,” and their witness of how to do this is with engagement by extending the witness of the Fathers to answer the challenges of their own times.

          10. Just to note, Maximus, I don’t think our disagreement is all that great at all. I think it’s a hair’s breadth difference of emphasis. I agree with what you write above. With the positive faith of these men, and probably even with their admonitions, I agree and I revere them. But I would see them primarily as teachers of prayer and virtue, not great sources of dogmatic-historical insight. I’m sorry but I just don’t see much in recent popular elders evincing an understanding of the complex history of Latin theology, or adequately addressing the questions at stake now in the dialogue regarding ecclesiology. There is simply no one among recently canonized saints on the level of a Gregory of Nyssa, or Maximus the Confessor, or Florovsky or Staniloae, in terms of value to dogmatics. . . I include St Justin here even, who was an educated man and whom I respect. I would include St Nikolai Velimorovich too, who differed from Justin, and actually wrote many ambiguous things in his earlier period which sound a lot like the above controversial statement of Patr. Bartholomew — not only regarding the heterodox, but even non-Christian religions — which I find equally inadequate as the more conservative statements of Justin. Not everything in our tradition, obviously, is of equal value for theology. Elder Sophrony, who was an intellectual and Paris-trained (steeped in Bulgakov and in Lossky), did a great service in interpreting the witness of St Silouan for dogmatic theology; however, I don’t see anything equivalent in the other figures mentioned in this discussion.

            Again, I would suggest the issues here really come down finally to hermeneutical questions regarding the nature of tradition, interpretation, what theology is, the role of reason, historical consciousness and research in interpreting dogmas and canons, etc. Big questions, which need more adequate addressing, but these are topics for another conversation, which I can’t address here.

            I’m sorry, I would like to continue this conversation further, but I really can’t. Thanks for all your thoughts.

          11. Fr Andrew’s mention of Athanasius and recent saints of his time is apropos in more than one way. Because in fact had Athanasius followed the Christological language of more recent Eastern saints to the letter — not only St Dionysius of Alexandria, but also earlier figures like Justin Martyr, both of whom used semi-Arian-sounding language — he would have probably sided with the Arians. St Dionysios of Alexandria himself, before Athanasius was born, wrote a letter to counter the Sabellians in which he stated that the Son was “made.” This led Athanasius later to have to give an interpretation to Dionysios’ statement, in his work De sententia Dionysii. Not to take account of these not atypical examples from the tradition is to work with a naive and romanticized hermeneutic of history. See this bit below from the Catholic Encyclopedia:

            A controversy arose in the latter years of Dionysius of which the half-Arian Eusebius has been careful to make no mention. All we know is from St. Athanasius. Some bishops of the Pentapolis of Upper Libya fell into Sabellianism and denied the distinctness of the Three Persons of the Blessed Trinity. Dionysius wrote some four letters to condemn their error, and sent copies to Pope Sixtus II (257-8). But he himself fell, so far as words go, into the opposite error, for he said the Son is a poíema (something made) and distinct in substance, xénos kat’ oùsian, from the Father, even as is the husbandman from the vine, or a shipbuilder from a ship. These words were seized upon by the Arians of the fourth century as plain Arianism. But Athanasius defended Dionysius by telling the sequel of the history. Certain brethren of Alexandria, being offended at the words of their bishop, betook themselves to Rome to Pope St. Dionysius (259- 268), who wrote a letter, in which he declared that to teach that the Son was made or was a creature was an impiety equal, though contrary, to that of Sabellius. He also wrote to his namesake of Alexandria informing him of the accusation brought against him. The latter immediately composed books entitled “Refutation” and “Apology”; in these he explicitly declared that there never was a time when God was not Father, that Christ always was, being Word and Wisdom and Power, and coeternal, even as brightness is not posterior to the light from which it proceeds. He teaches the “Trinity in Unity and the Unity in Trinity”; he clearly implies the equality and eternal procession of the Holy Ghost. In these last points he is more explicit than St. Athanasius himself is elsewhere, while in the use of the word consubstantial, ‘omooúsios, he anticipates Nicæa, for he bitterly complains of the calumny that he had rejected the expression. But however he himself and his advocate Athanasius may attempt to explain away his earlier expressions, it is clear that he had been incorrect in thought as well as in words, and that he did not at first grasp the true doctrine with the necessary distinctness. The letter of the pope was evidently explicit and must have been the cause of the Alexandrian’s clearer vision. The pope, as Athanasius points out, gave a formal condemnation of Arianism long before that heresy emerged.

    3. “I am weary of so-called “Orthodox” scholarship finding yet another reason why the Holy Fathers of old were wrong on some point or another, or that we now understand things better.”

      First off, it is simply a fact that there are cases where certain Fathers have misattributed certain views to their theological opponents. Sorry but that is the reality. St John of Damascus charges Severus of Antioch for holding to the Christology of “mixture” (mixis, krasis) — terminology which Severus condemned (simply following Cyril here — although such language was used very frequently earlier on by St Gregory of Nyssa). St John also attributed the Apthartodocetist views of Julian of Halicarnassus to Severus, where in fact Severus wrote several treatises against Julian for these views (these treatises were published in the 1920s by a French scholar, Rene Draguet). Or to take a different case: St Theophilus of Alexandria condemned Chrysostom, if not for being an Origenist, then at least for being soft on Origenism; and this condemnation was upheld by his nephew, St Cyril. I’m sorry, but it’s a fact: saints and Fathers do at times err in assessing the views of their theological opponents. Not suggesting at all this was the case with St Mark and the Latins, but it’s an important hermeneutic point: (as Florovsky put it) the opinions of individual Fathers are not infallible dicatus papae, and the Tradition of the Church is strong enough to withstand such minor problems, contradictions and individual errors.

      Second, to say that we ought to engage in theological dialogue now, over 5 centuries after St Mark and Florence, is not at all to reject the witness of St Mark or to suggest that he was wrong in his assessment. It is, however, to suggest that perhaps the conditions were not the best then for progress in theological agreement, and that conditions do change. Again, not saying that one must agree with this assessment, but again there is an important point of hermeneutics here. The Church does live in history, and the witness of the canons alone testify to the fact that the Church responds differently in different times and places to particular schisms and heresies. If there is a possibility now of bearing witness to Orthodoxy in an atmosphere of charity and honest in-depth conversation with separated Christians, and perhaps the opportunity to influence the developments in their own separated body in the direction of Orthodoxy, then this is not a bad thing, not by any necessity a betrayal or a compromise. Relations with Oriental anti-Chalcedonianism did not end at Chalcedon, as the later history shows; similarly, relations with Latins did not end at Florence, nor can they be frozen in the 15th c — to the contrary, there have been many ups and downs and many new developments, some bad, but some of positive promise.

  19. This is my final comment. Thank you for the opportunity to share and exchange with you on this, Frs. Andrew and Matthew. I pray that God enlighten us all as to the truth of the matter.

    It seems to me that this discussion got off track and that we neglected to address important passages of the text. Here are a few which I believe warrant more discussion and consideration:

    In all of the promotional material and patriarchal addresses, Catholicism—which synods of the Church and saints have for centuries now considered to be a heretical parasynagogue—is considered to be a Local Church, the Church in Rome. Likewise, the current Pope is considered to be a “contemporary successor of the early apostle [Peter] and current leader of the ancient church [of Rome].” The Patriarch has also referred to the current Pope as his brother bishop, co-responsible for the good governing of the One Church. He considers the sacraments performed by the Pope and his clerics as the self-same mysteries of the One Church. . .

    Hence, the ecclesiology expressed in word and deed by the Patriarch of Constantinople and the ecclesiology of Vatican II converge in the acceptance of a divided Church, or a Church rent asunder by the heavy hand of history. It might be characterized as ecclesiological Nestorianism, in which the Church is divided into two separate beings: on the one hand the Church in heaven, outside of time, alone true and whole; on the other, the Church, or rather “churches,” on earth, in time, deficient and relative, lost in history’s shadows, seeking to draw near to one another and to that transcendent perfection, as much as is possible in “the weakness of the impermanent human will.”

    In this ecclesiology, the tumultuous and injurious divisions of human history have overcome the Church “in time.” The human nature of the Church, being divided and rent asunder, has been separated from the Theanthropic Head. This is a Church on earth deprived of its ontological nature and not “one and holy,” no longer possessing all the truth through its hypostatic union with the divine nature of the Logos.

    This ecclesiology is, without doubt, at total odds with the belief and confession of the Orthodox in One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. The Church of Christ, as the Apostle Paul supremely defined it, is His body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all (τὸ σῶμα Αὐτοῦ, τὸ πλήρωμα τοῦ τὰ πάντα ἐν πᾶσι πληρουμένου). The fullness of Christ is identified with the Body of Christ which is, like Christ when He walked on earth in time, as Theanthropos, visible and indivisible, being marked by divine-human characteristics. As Vladimir Lossky has written, all that can be asserted or denied about Christ can equally well be applied to the Church, inasmuch as it is a theandric organism. It follows, then, that just as we could never assert that Christ is divided, neither could we countenance the Church ever being divided. (cf. 1 Cor 1:13).

    The Church, it goes without saying, was founded, established, spread, and exists to this day in time (and will exist until the Second Coming, and beyond). This is so because the Church is the Theanthropic Body of the Christ, who entered into time, walked, died, rose, ascended and is to return again in time. The Church is the continuation of the Incarnation in time. And just as our Lord was seen and touched and venerated in the flesh, in time, so too does His Body, the Church, continue—united and holy—in time. If we were to accept the division of the Church, we would be accepting the nullification of the Incarnation and the salvation of the world. As this new ecclesiology of a “divided church” ultimately annuls man’s salvation, it could be rightly considered as heresy.

    1. It should be axiomatic that not everything has to be about everything. In this case, this post was not about analyzing and critiquing or defending the ecclesiology of the Ecumenical Patriarch or every statement or action of his which might have a bearing on it.

      That said, of course I do not agree that the Church is divided, that the Pope is truly the EP’s “brother bishop,” etc. But I also do not believe that the EP means those things in the way they’re being taken here. If he did, I have little doubt that he would be standing at the altar and communing with the Pope at this very moment. That he’s not, and that he’s not even done so much as concelebrate one of the Hours with him, is an indication to me that he doesn’t mean these things in the way that his critics say he must. He’s certainly come out and said things that pretty clearly indicate he doesn’t mean things in that way. He has a way of making statements at these kinds of events which are not very theologically precise, which I think is rather unfortunate.

      That said, I do not like much of his language in this regard, and I think much of it is easily susceptible to interpreting in bad ways. At the same time, I don’t think he’s giving away the farm, either.

      If you want to know more of my views regarding the RCC, I still stand by everything I wrote in the relevant chapter in Orthodoxy and Heterodoxy, though I have learned more about the RCC’s own internal theological developments in the time since I wrote it. I tried to stick with official doctrine when I wrote it, though, and that hasn’t changed. But perhaps it may well do so, given certain theological currents within the RCC that are favorable to Orthodoxy. (For instance, that the last three popes are interested in exploring their primacy in ways that aren’t about absolute monarchy is really pretty astounding.) I certainly hope so.

      It should also be noted that the Orthodox Church has never made any definitive dogmatic statement about whether Rome is definitely outside of the Church in every possible sense (and certainly, the nearly universal acceptance of its baptisms over the past millennium is testament to the idea that it’s not). That means there is room here for disagreement without regarding those with whom one disagrees as unfaithful.

      What I do think is quite wrong is the novel ecclesiology being put forward by the priest I was responding to. It is not an acceptable theological opinion, since it goes against the decrees of the Ecumenical Councils and puts many saints outside of the Church. I’ve explored all that in the post and in various comments here.

      1. Fr. Andrew,

        Just because the EP doesn’t liturgize with the Pope doesn’t mean he doesn’t mean those words. It could just be a matter of practicality and wisdom. A waiting until the right time. I’m not saying that he means those words, God knows, but he could mean and just not carry them out to their logical end.

        1. He could, but then one must also conclude that all of the Orthodox churches of the world, for having not broken communion with him on account of heresy, are either ignorant or heretics themselves. That, I suppose, is the position of the “true Orthodox.”

          1. No not at all. Pat. Bartholomew’s views on things seem to waffle quite a bit. Rome and other Western churches ventured off a long time before we cut ties. Patience must be exercised before cutting ties, it’s always worked that way.

          2. Fr. Andrew,

            Here’s an example of what I mean.

            Hieromonk Seraphim Rose: What should be our response to this worldly ecumenical movement? Fortunately, our bishops of the Russian Church Outside of Russia have given us a sound policy to follow: we do not participate in the Ecumenical Movement, and our Metropolitan [Philaret] has warned other Orthodox Christians of the disastrous results of their ecumenical course if they continue; but at the same time our bishops have refused to cut off all contact and communion with Orthodox Churches involved in the Ecumenical Movement, recognizing that it is still a tendency that has not yet come to its conclusion (the Unia with Rome)… But because of this policy, our Church suffers attacks both from the left side (from ecumenists who accuse us of being uncharitable, behind the times, and the like) and from the right side (by groups in Greece that demand that we break communion with all Orthodox Churches and declare them to be without grace). (Orthodoxy Facing the 80s)

    2. Again, Joseph, you missed a basic point of Fr Andrew’s original post. Whatever there is to be said about the Patriarch’s words, it is simply not the case that Vatican II teaches “an ecclesiology of ‘divided church’,” as you wrongly suggest here. If we are going to criticize, then let’s first get our facts straight. Rome has a cadre of trained scholars in theology, patristics, canon law and church history who run rings around most of our own who speak to these matters, and even as they err, these days at least, they do generally try to be fair and accurate in representing and interpreting what we hold. Let’s at least try to do the same. Respect for truth as well as charity demand it, and failure to do so makes our own look like a ill-informed obscurantists.

      1. Vatican II most certain DOES teach a divided Church theory. You have not read matters in context and in their entirety. And I understand why, because the texts themselves (L.G. and U.R.) allow for both a strict, exclusivist interpretation and a liberal, inclusive interpretation (and hence the reason why you have both Ratzinger and Sullivan quoting from the same text and getting two different meanings (ex. what “subsistit in” means).

        While LG established new criteria for participation in the Church, even a new view of the Church itself, it did not discard the traditional view of the unity of the Church either; it simply no longer applies it to non-Roman Catholics. In LG, the two views follow one after another. Full participation in the unity of the Church, for Roman Catholics, is described in article 14 of LG. Unity in Christ and the Holy Spirit, and the mysteries of the Church – the “multiple internal links” which establish the separated brethren in an incomplete communion – are described in article 15. While LG does not explicitly say that they are members of the Church, UR states plainly that they are incorporated into Christ (Christo incorporantur). The unity of the Church for non-Roman Catholics – participation-membership not based on a common faith and episcopacy, but only on a common Baptism and other “elements” – is not the unity of the Roman Catholic Church. Or, rather, more accurately, it exists for *that portion of the Church of Christ* which isn’t the Roman Catholic Church.
        In accord with this twofold unity, Rome continues to view itself as the only “concrete manifestation” of the Church – the Church willed by Christ – while non-Roman Catholic churches are churches only in a diminished way. However, strangely, no matter how “weakened” or “wounded” they are supposed to be, these churches are said to have fully legitimate mysteries. Fully united with Christ, their unity with and in the Church is, nonetheless, imperfect. Such a state, hitherto unheard of, is stated but left unexplained. Whatever may be lacking, they are a part of the Church. Schismatics and heretics can be united to Christ and become members of the Body of Christ without, however, being a member of the Roman Catholic Church. Roman Catholics, Protestants and Orthodox are all a part of the One Church, even if at varying degrees of fullness.
        As Fr. Francis Sullivan writes, summing up the image of the universal Church of Christ created by the new ecclesiology:

        “one can think of the universal Church as a communion, at various levels of fullness, of bodies that are more or less fully churches…. it is a real communion, realized at various degrees of density or fullness, of bodies, all of which, though some more fully than others, have a truly ecclesial character.” — Francis A. Sullivan, S.J., “The Significance of the Vatican II Declaration that the Church of Christ ‘Subsists in’ the Roman Catholic Church,” p. 283.

        Here are **just a few examples** of the predominant interpretation of the conciliar texts which essentially present a “divided church” ecclesiology:

        Because no one can be Christ’s without belonging to the Church, the limits of the Church coincide with the circumscription of all those belonging to Christ, that is, all the baptized. — This is how Cardinal Willebrands expressed his understanding of the dogmatic meaning behind the transition from est to subsistit in. See: Johannes Cardinal Willebrands, “Vatican II’s ecclesiology of communion,” Origins 17 (1987), p. 28. (Cardinal Willedbrands, one-time prefect of the Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity, the theologian Edward Schillebeeckx, and Francis Sullivan S.J., among others, all contend that the term subsistit in does not imply exclusivity.)

        — Feiner, Johannes, “Commentary on the Decree” in Commentary on the Documents of Vatican II, Volume II. Burns and Oats Limited, London, 1968 (p. 68).

        Feiner’s interpretation is consistent with the official explanation, or Relatio, which refers to the “ecclesial communities” in the West thus: “[they] are not merely a sum or collection of individual Christians, but they are constituted by social ecclesiastical elements…which confer on them a truly ecclesial character. In these communities the one sole Church of Christ is present, albeit imperfectly….” — Acta Synodalia, III/2, 335

        As Douglas M. Koskela notes in his study Ecclesiality and Ecumenism: Yves Congar and the Road to Unity, one of the most striking changes to take place with Vatican II is that, prior to the Council, more progressive Roman Catholic theologians were only willing “to speak in terms of non-Catholic individual Christians being imperfect members in the church of Christ.” After Vatican II, theologians began to speak “in terms of the imperfect presence of the church of Christ in non-Catholic communities.” (Koskela, Douglas M., Ecclesiality and Ecumenism: Yves Congar and the Road to Unity (Milwaukee: Marquette University Press, 2008), p. 59).

        Gregory Baum, concurs with Feiner. He states that the Roman Catholic Church is the institutionally perfect realization of the Church of Christ, while other churches, not in communion with Rome, are institutionally imperfect realizations of the same Church. This means that there is the ability to say that “concretely and actually the Church of Christ may be realized less, equally, or even more in a Church separated from Rome than in a Church in communion with Rome….[because] seen from the viewpoint of God’s merciful and sovereign action, which uses institutional elements but is never dependent on or limited by them, a Christian community is more truly Church when it is more transformed into the People of God, into his family, into a spiritual brotherhood of faith and charity.” — Baum, Gregory, O.S.A, “The Ecclesial Reality of the Other Churches,” στο The Church and Ecumenism (New York: Paulist Press, 1965), p 82.

        Bishop Christopher Butler: “The decree [on Ecumenism] forces us to acknowledge, outside the visible unity of the Catholic Church, not only ‘vestiges’ of the Church, not only individuals who, especially if they are baptized, have some communion with the Church and, if incorporated in Christ, are in some degree incorporated in his mystical body which is the Church, but Christian communions of an ecclesial character which, at least if they have ‘the genuine and complete substance of the eucharistic mystery’ (De Ecumenismo, n. 22) (which is the food of the mystical body, and of which the unity of the mystical body is, says St Thomas, the res) can truly be called ‘Churches’.” — Butler, Christopher, The Theology of Vatican II (London: Darton, Longman & Todd, 1967, revised ed. 1981), p. 119.

        One could go on, but I think this is enough in this context. So, do you still think that I don’t “have my facts straight”? I suppose you’ll tell me that the “official position” is one of exclusivity? That is, perhaps, how Ratzinger and co. want to present it now, in a revision of things. It matter not to us, as Orthodox, for we are not interpreting their ecclesiology on their terms, but on ours. From the Orthodox standpoint, then, which centers upon the Eucharist, have they not accepted that the Church includes non-Roman Catholic “Churches”? Are not these “Churches” divided from Rome? They certainly do not share the Eucharist, indeed, some of them – the Protestant ones – don’t even have a “Eucharist” according to Rome, and yet “the sole Church of Christ is present” (from the Acts of the Council) in them.

        Do you still think that this is not a “divided Church” ecclesiology?

        1. Sorry, Joseph, but you are just plain wrong. Vatican II does not teach that the one Church of Christ is divided, nor does the RCC teach that, and none of the quotations you give (virtually all from the liberal/progressivist reading of the council, BTW) prove your point. But I’m done with answering you.

  20. Dear Maximus,

    Thank you for your moderate and well-considered thoughts. Apart from the bit from St Ambrose of Optina regarding the epiclesis, which is an unfortunate misunderstanding and a non-issue (cf. St Nicholas Cabasilas — and, from a different angle, the other Ambrose [of Milan] on this), I agree with your main argument. About the views of Nikodemus, Dragas and Erickson, I won’t attempt to comment further here; but as to your question concerning whether Florovsky’s view is really that of Augustine’s, strictly speaking, the answer is no it is not. The same would be said for the views of Met Sergius Stragordsky, Vladimir Lossky, Elder Sophrony, Dumitru Staniloae, and Met Zizioulas John, all of whom express similar views to Florovsky on this question. Augustine clearly thought that baptism in schism effectively damned its recipients, and only became saving upon union with the Church. Florovsky and a host of other Orthodox theologians of recent times do not teach that, but in fact hold that sacraments beyond canonical boundaries may in fact be efficacious unto salvation for their recipients. The RCC today holds a very similar view.

    One way of posing the problem might be this. It seems to me that even those who would reject the view of Florovsky and co. on this question still do not deny that it is possible for schismatics and heterodox to be saved. And, we would have to insist, if they are indeed eventually saved, they are saved by the one Christ, and indeed in some sense by the one Church. Khomiakov speaks of invisible bonds which bind schismatics to the one Church. This is the one visible Church that such invisible bonds bind them to — no other. Now, granted that all this is speculative theologoumena, we have to ask, if those separated from the perfect communion of the Orthodox Church — the Una Sancta — are indeed saved, is their salvation not only in spite of their schism and in spite of their erroneous teachings, but also in spite of those elements of the form of the Church which have been retained in their schisms? Are they saved *in spite* of their schismatic baptism and sacraments, or somehow through them — or both? Somehow I think that these elements could not be a matter of indifference. But again this is a speculative matter.

    One work that is valuable to consider, which I have heard no one make mention of: the anonymous treatise De Rebaptismo, which was evidently composed by someone from the party of St Stephen of Rome in the dispute with St Cyprian. It is a rich and theologically suggestive text, which goes some way towards addressing some of the speculative questions here. It deserves more attention.

    Just a note about the statements from St Philaret of Moscow: as I said in my interview, I am not comfortable with them, and I do not regard them as theologically adequate. I only cited them to show that we have saints expressing views that indeed differ from the line expressed by those presently criticizing the EP and the current ecumenical dialogue. And this is important, as these critics — particularly the anonymous priest but also others writing here — clearly rely on the theology of Romanides in affirming a kind of infallible magisterium of charismatic saints. But, as I have said, the individual opinions of saints on these matters are not infallible, and in fact one can derive different and conflicting views from the saints and Fathers on this and matters relating to it.

    1. Fr. Matthew,


      Thank you for your time!!

      Would you say that Fr. Florovsky’s view is innovative then? If it’s not Cyprianic or Augustinian, what is it? Also, it seems as though you teach that anyone that disagrees with this view is uncharitable. I believe as St. Justin that there are no Mysteries outside the Mystery of the Church. Is that rigorist or uncharitable? Or even unscholarly?

      I think true ecumenism is a MUST, but I just don’t like where its taken us thus far. I think false ecumenism is truly a pan-heresy.

      1. I do not think Florovsky’s view is a innovation; rather, I think it is a development of the Augustinian view (and he regards Augustine as developing Cyprian, rather than just contradicting him), and that he was giving more precise (but also speculative) expression to views widely held in the Russian church for a very long time, and also with some hints of precedent in the Byzantine church. One does not get the sense from St Nicholas Cabasilas, for instance, that he thinks Latin sacraments are utterly null and void of grace and saving efficacy. But again, as I said in my interview, we cannot identify this with the dogmatic teaching of the Church. I was clear on that, and did not mislead regarding this matter as some of our ecumenical representatives appear to do at times.

        No, I do not believe that anyone who disagrees with Florovsky’s view is uncharitable. There are many saints who hold a different view. I do however think that most of those one hears today loudly expressing the contrary view do indeed lack nuance and awareness of the complexity in the history of these matters within our tradition; generally they are not especially well-informed re: Latin theology either. But that is not the same as saying that it is uncharitable or intellectually indefensible to hold such a view.

        I agree true ecumenism is a must, and false ecumenism — in the sense of doctrinal indifferentism and ecclesiological relativism — is a “pan-heresy”, insofar as disregard for truth is worse than every particular heresy. About where ecumenism has “taken us so far,” however, I think it is not simple. It is hard to imagine most of the great works of Orthodox theology of the last century being produced without the ecumenical context that occasioned most of them; without dialogue with “the West,” Florovsky, Lossky, Staniloae, Zizioulas would not have made the great contributions that they did. As Florovsky said, “the inveterate
        illusion of self-sufficiency must be broken down,” and as he commented in one of his late interviews, ecumenical encounter actually compelled the Orthodox to be more serious about theology, insofar as it forced us to article and develop more clearly our own theological teaching. This is a good thing, and I see it continuing to happen in the international dialogue with regard to the topic of primacy and conciliarity — a topic which has never been considered *in theological terms* with any thoroughness and on which, whatever we happen to believe is the true understanding, the state of Orthodox theology today and for a long time prior (there is no doubt about this) is confused, unclear and divided about. In this sense, I believe the ecumenical exchange is a very good thing and necessary for us– not to mention the real influence which Orthodox theology has had and continues to have on the continuing rethinking of ecclesiology among Roman theologians, from the mid-century ressourcement to the present.

        1. Fr. Matthew,

          I should have said that I don’t like where false ecumenism has taken us thus far. I don’t agree with the entirety of “Limits” but I venerate Fr. Florovsky in my personal piety and I believe that there is some room for latitude and that everyone that disagrees with my view is not a heretic. True ecumenism is an Orthodox duty and he is the patron of true Orthodox ecumenism in our times. I just don’t like, better yet, I despise the double-talking, canon-despising, adogmatic kind of ecumenism. I must also admit that it puzzles me that you and Fr. Andrew (I respect both of you btw) seem to object to the anonymous Greek priest’s ecclesiology and not the blurred ecclesiological statements coming out of Pat. Bartholomew and the Constantinopolitan Synod in general. Let me offer an example of what I speak of:

          Fr. G. Westhaver (Anglican) – Bishop Kallistos, may I ask you how you understand the role of the ecumenical observers here at the [Lambeth] Conference?

          Met. Kallistos Ware- Well, most obviously it signifies that we are conscious that we are all members of one Body in Christ. There are visible divisions separating Christians, but we know that on a deeper lever we do share, in a real sense, membership in one Body. Its expression is incomplete, imperfect, but it is nonetheless a genuine reality.


          These sorts of statements can be multiplied. Fr. Matthew, do you think this is an acceptable statement to make? Did Fr. Florovsky speak this way? I honestly believe that following false ecumenism to it’s logical conclusion actually leads to a loss of authentic missionary zeal that is the basis of true ecumenism.

          In light of Met. Kallistos’ statement, there is another anecdote by Archimandrite Ambrose about St. John Maximovitch that I would like to offer to this discussion:

          Vladyka John had the habit of visiting heterodox churches where some grace of Orthodoxy might still be present, namely in the form of holy relics of saints that were glorified before the division of the Churches. Vlayka John expressed the wish to visit Westminster Abbey. Westminster Abbey may once have been a very holy place. It was miraculously saved as a parish church from the general destruction under Henry VIII, and now those sacred objects that one might have expected in an ancient church are no longer there. We went simply to have a look at it as one of the tourist attractions of London. Vladyka went with us. After a certain time, the shortest possible, he left. “Here,” he said, “there is no grace.” Indeed, there are found the relics of many great persons of England, the great political builders of the country, writers, scholars, but no saints.


          1. I must also admit that it puzzles me that you and Fr. Andrew (I respect both of you btw) seem to object to the anonymous Greek priest’s ecclesiology and not the blurred ecclesiological statements coming out of Pat. Bartholomew and the Constantinopolitan Synod in general.

            I’ve said several times that it’s not how I would express myself, and that I think it’s misleading. However, I also think that these statements have to be taken as part of a whole, which doesn’t just include offhand remarks like you quote from +Kallistos, but the far more precise work being done, for instance, by the theological commissions. I don’t like those statements, but I’m also not convinced that the speakers intend to give away the farm, either. That doesn’t mean I agree with them, however.

            To be honest, I feel a little like that fellow from “Zoolander” who thought he was taking “crazy pills,” because it seems no matter how many times in this thread I’ve said that I don’t endorse this kind of ecclesiological language, I get accused of endorsing it.

            The anonymous priest put his stake in the sand and drew his line, and it’s pretty clear what he meant and how he was wrong. It’s a bit frustrating that the speeches by the EP and others along these lines are not also as clear, but that means that, if we can’t treat them as clearly right, we can’t treat them as clearly wrong. “I think you’re hinting at heresy” isn’t really a very good place to begin a dogmatic prosecution.

          2. Fr. Andrew,

            I’ve never accused you for my part. I just find it strange that you took the time and effort to really let the anonymous Greek priest have it and yet there has never been a critique of the numerous false ecumenical statements coming out of all these high-end talks on Orthodoxy and Heterodoxy. Perhaps the ecumenists, which have been making these loosey-goosey statements for years on end, despite being highly educated, have drawn their line in the sand as well. Yet they seem to always be given a pass. How can we trust these theological commissions when the men involved are repeatedly making huge missteps on basic issues? As I expressed earlier, many of the ecumenists have lost our trust. Every time that one of these ambivalent statements, which I personally believe to be deliberate, is expressed, a part of the farm is sold. Words have consequences.

          3. Oh, and it’s too bad that St. John didn’t go more deeply into Westminster Abbey, because St. Edward the Confessor is quite prominently buried there. I’m kind of surprised he didn’t know that, since he had a great veneration for Western saints. I venerated Edward’s ancient shrine there myself in 2001.

          4. Just to note – and this has got to be my last contribution here, unfortunately — in answer to your question: no, I don’t think the statement by Met Kallistos is an acceptable one, and even such a statement MIGHT be bent to be taken in a sense that would be somehow acceptable, which as it is is very doubtful, when placed in its original context of what was being discussed there at Lambeth, it is really quite scandalous. The whole interview is terribly misleading.

  21. Just as a general comment for explicit clarity: I’ve never said that the acceptance of baptisms performed outside the Church’s canonical boundaries constitutes a recognition per se of those baptisms. I’ve simply said what is observable from the Church’s history and tradition, namely, that the Church in its canons insists that certain (though not all) people baptized outside the communion of the Church ought not to be baptized when entering into that communion, and that this is not an exception to a rule but is in fact the rule. Insisting that every convert be baptized upon reception is the exception, because it’s not what the canons actually say.

  22. Fr. Andrew, I appreciate your comment.. It seems the reality of what is happening in Orthodox parishes across the United States is baptism is the exception, and economia is the rule.

    Baptism is set aside for ONLY those who have never been baptized at all. Laity are witnessing catechumens being Chrismated who come from a certain tradition in which the baptism is considered SYMBOLIC only, water is not blessed, exorcisms are not carried out. This is causing confusion among the Faithful and at times scandal in the parish.

    1. I think you may have misunderstood my comment. The point is that the baptisms you describe as being scandalous in being accepted are actually being accepted according to canonical norms. I’m not sure why following the canons should be scandalous.

  23. Well, this post has now received well over 100 comments, and given that I think most of the relevant issues have been hashed out (although one can always say more), and also given that Fr. Matthew and I each have other responsibilities that need our attention, I’m closing down further comments for this post.

    Thanks for your contributions, everyone! Stay faithful!

Comments are closed.