Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Orthodox In Communion With Rome

N.B. I still have to correct this post to incorporate the excellent insights of my Byzantine friend, Joseph.

1. "Orthodox in Communion with Rome," in the sense of being a member of the "Eastern Orthodox Church" in communion with Rome, is a self-contradictory expression, notwithstanding the following statement of His Beatitude, Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarch Gregorios III Laham of Antioch:
Accept us, Holy Father, as we are: Eastern Orthodox, who want to live our full and complete Eastern Orthodox tradition in full communion with Rome. {1}

2. The problem is that if you take "tradition" as not simply liturgical tradition and the Eastern expressions of the same theological truths but distinctively Eastern Orthodox dogmatic tradition, then "full" Eastern Orthodoxy is incompatible with "full" communion with Rome. This is because Eastern Orthodoxy is actually dogmatically committed to several things that directly contradict Catholic dogma.

3. First and foremost is the Filioque doctrine; I am pressed for time so I will have to give this as the only example for now. You cannot be Eastern Orthodox and accept Filioque, and you cannot be Catholic and reject Filioque. But Eastern Orthodoxy dogmatically rejects the theological truth of Filioque, as is clear from the following:
Synod of Constantinople (1583) presided over by Patriarchs Jeremias II of Constantinople, Silvester of Alexandria, and Sophronius of Jerusalem:
Therefore, cutting off these persons as rotten members, we command:

1) That whoever does not confess with heart and mouth that he is a child of the Eastern Church baptized in Orthodox style, and that the Holy Spirit proceeds out of only the Father, essentially and hypostatically, as Christ says in the Gospel, shall be outside of our Church and shall be anathematized.
4. The Eastern Orthodox Church's dogmatic rejection of the eternal ontological procession of the Holy Spirit from the Father and the Son as heretical is also clear from the following authoritative sources and standards of Eastern Orthodox dogma:
Patriarch St. Photius I the Great of Constantinople (866): Encyclical to the Eastern Patriarchs.{2}
Eighth "Ecumenical" Council a.k.a. Constantinople IV (879-880).{3}
Patriarch Gregory II of Cyprus (1285): Exposition of the Tomus of Faith Against Beccus.{4}
Bishop Mark Eugenikos of Ephesus (1440): Encyclical.{5}
Local Council of Jerusalem (1672).
Orthodox Patriarchs of the East (1848): Reply to the Letter of Pope Pius IX of Rome.

Notes and References
{1} His Beatitude, Gregorios III Laham, Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarch of Antioch, (5/9/2008) Address to His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI, Pope of Rome @ http://www.byzcath.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=2403&Itemid=101.
{2} St. Photius the Great, however, died a holy Catholic death in communion with Rome and is quite worthy of veneration as a saint, which I prove with seven points. See (7/26/2008), "Sainthood of Photius the Great of Constantinople: Concluding Thoughts" @ http://thebananarepublican.blogspot.com/2008/07/sainthood-of-photius-great-of.html.
{3} In their 1848 Encyclical which is an apology for Eastern Orthodoxy and a rebuttal of Catholicism, the Patriarchs of Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem agree that the Photian synod of 879-880 is ecumenical and refer to it as such. However, the acceptance of the ecumenicity of the council by the Eastern Orthodox apologists such as Fr. George Dion Dragas is contingent upon the altered letters of Pope John VIII, and the smoking gun that the council was not ecumenical is the letter of Pope Stephen V to Emperor Basil I in 885-886 which says that St. Photius the Great was still trying to have the 869-870 council annulled; he would not be doing this if Pope John VIII had abrogated the 869-870 council.
{4} This is easily the most detailed Eastern Orthodox conciliar response to the Catholic definition of Filioque; it elaborates and then decisively rejects the Filioque while conceding an eternal energetic manifestation of the Holy Spirit from the Father through the Son. This is self-contradictory; see:
a. (8/5/2008), Summa Pro Filioque @ http://thebananarepublican.blogspot.com/2008/08/summa-pro-filioque.html.
b. An upcoming piece on the Essence-Energies distinction.
{5} Mark of Ephesus was an evil schismatic and heretic; there is no denying that from the Catholic point of view. He was not virtuous for e.g. "defending his faith valiantly and charitably," because he spit venom at the divine dogmas of the Catholic Church and was so intellectually dishonest as to simply fall silent and leave the discussions when the fathers of the Ecumenical Council of Ferrara-Florence proved that the ample Patristic support for Filioque was genuine rather than "corrupt and interpolated." Mark of Ephesus rejected the ancient tradition of papal primacy and the doctrine of Purgatory which had been defined by an Ecumenical Council a couple of centuries before, and he held the abominable view that suffrages profit the damned in Hell. A thousand anathemas to Mark of Ephesus, the enemy of truth and the enemy of Catholic unity! See (7/24/2008), "Mark of Ephesus" @ http://thebananarepublican.blogspot.com/2008/07/mark-of-ephesus.html.


Byzantine said...

Please note that the synod of Constantinople makes no pretensions at being an Ecumenical Council. It is contrary to Orthodox Faith to state that there any infallible dogmatic declaration of truth declared outside of an Ecumenical Council.

Therefore, while it is true that the Orthodox are fundamentally committed to the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed as received from these Ecumenical Councils, it is incorrect to state that the Synod of Constantinople is of the same authority as an Ecumenical Council, and therefore, cannot bindingly dictate its statement as dogmatic.

The Catholic Church, for its part, has made room for those who do not declare the Filioque in the creed. The Filioque is not binding upon Eastern Catholics in any stretch of the imagination. It is only binding upon the Latins, and even the Latins are not required to profess it in the Creed. In fact, some discussion continues in the Latin Church as to whether to continue using the Filioque at all.

Many Orthodox and Catholics are no longer regarding this as the most important of issues. Some still are. I would state for myself that the Filioque is not included in the Sacred Scriptures, but is not repugnant to them depending on how one interprets it, and that prior to the schism, many of the Orthodox Patriarchs, including the Patriarch of Constantinople, sent letters of communion, as was the practice of the time, stating in their profession of faith that they believed in the Holy Spirit, who proceeds from the Father through the Son. Said statement may seem very different, but the Pope of Rome as well as Latin Theologians have more or less consistently interpreted this as being the intended meaning of the Filioque.

The Filioque itself was viewed as a way to combat the Arian heresy in Spain at the time it began to be used, in 589 at the third local council of Toledo.

One last note about the term Orthodox in Communion with Rome: We who are serious about that term are also very very serious about the Orthodox part. We have been so commissioned by Pope John Paul II, who told us to be Orthodox in faith and Catholic in Charity.

When asked if I believed there might be something superior to Catholic Charity, I had to answer no. However, I do believe that the Catholic Church does have something which recommends itself over the present practice of the Orthodox Churches. Catholics are not as quick to go into schism with those with whom they may simply have a misunderstanding, and not a genuine doctrinal dispute.

I mean no offense, but I believe that there is less a genuine doctrinal issue and more of a political misunderstanding between Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholics. We ought to really be more willing to plumb the depths of both faiths to compare them to see exactly where there are legitimate disagreements. For my own part, I'm not through plumbing. Thanks for hearing my thoughts.

Byzantine said...

I can't resist responding to this post! Eastern Orthodoxy is very clear in that the only dogmatic statements which are accepted as dogmatic are those which are issued in an Ecumenical Council. The Synod of Constantinople in 1583makes no pretensions to be an Ecumenical Council. As such, its statement cannot be infallibly dogmatic.

That is not to say, however, that the Eastern Orthodox Churches are not fundamentally committed to the Niceno-constantinopolitan creed as received from those councils, without the Filioque. They are, however, these are Ecumenical Councils. It is, therefore, not accurate to say that there is a dogmatic opposition in Orthodoxy to the Filioque formulation.

Take note that prior to the schism, the Orthodox Patriarchs, including the Patriarch of Constantinople all sent their letters of Communion to the Pope in Rome, and many, if not all, included in them their profession of faith including that they believed that the "Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father through the Son." When Charlemagne protested this, and called these patriarchs heretics, the Pope determinedly supported the Orthodoxy of this particular statement. Latin Theologians themselves, among them Thomas Aquinas, although after the fact, considered this to be the intended meaning of the Latin word Filioque.

The West, for its part at first only saw the Filioque as a tool to fight the Arian heresy in Spain, as was the case when it first was promulgated at the 3rd local council of Toledo.

Furthermore, the West has made room for those who do not believe in the Filioque in its relations with the Eastern Catholic Churches. It is not required of them as belief or in usage, though there had been initial insistence upon at least the acceptance of it by Eastern Christians coming into union from the West's perspective.

These days, many Orthodox and Catholics consider the Filioque to not really have been so important as to divide the Church. Both are trying genuinely to really understand it, its meaning, and its original purpose.

For my part, I recognize that the Filioque is not scriptural, but neither is it in true opposition to Scripture. Depending on how one interprets it, it may have validity, though the East would consider that only as referring to the Holy Spirit's mission into the world.

I don't wish to be offensive here, but I think it's a fascinating problem that human beings would fight over something that is part of God's own inner life, and can only be known inasmuch as He Himself has revealed it.

As to those of us who are serious about the title "Eastern Orthodox in Communion with Rome," we are also incredibly serious about the "Orthodox" part. We strive to teach Orthodox doctrine and spirituality. We strive to have truly Orthodox worship. This is because we accept the challenge of Pope John Paul II to be "Orthodox in Faith, and Catholic in Charity."

Someone asked me once if I believed that the Catholic Church is somehow superior in Charity, and I had to honestly answer no after thinking about it. I do, however, believe that there is something in Catholic Charity that recommends itself, since Catholics are far less apt to go into schism with someone with whom they may only have a misunderstanding, rather than a genuine doctrinal dispute. The Catholic establishment is also far less apt to excommunicate someone without first giving them a chance to speak in their defense.

Again, not wanting to be offensive, I believe that the schism between Orthodox and Catholics has a great deal more to do with political misunderstanding than with genuine difference in faith.

I'd like, at this point, to mention Purgatory. The term Purgatory means cleansing. It is spoken of in Catholic Folklore as a place of punishment by fire. People often speak of it in terms of a place where one is punished for a specific amount of time given the results (Temporal Punishment due to sin) of the sins they've committed. No where in Catholic doctrine, however, is one required to believe that purgatory is anything other than posthumous cleansing of oneself from the temporal results of having committed sin. Catholics call that "temporal punishment due to sin." That is considered to be what remains of fullness of charity that one must enter into after they die. By way of attempting to grapple with this mystery, it is often spoken of in legal terms, but that's not what is at the heart of the doctrine. What is primarily at the heart of the doctrine is that we need to pray for those who have died. The Orthodox Churches agree that we must pray for those who have died. The Orthodox have described it in numerous other ways as well. One example of this is the bizarre notion of toll houses where demons attack the soul after death and demand explanation/satisfaction for sins committed during life. Another such notion is that put forward by Elder Joseph the Hesychast, who said that our prayers can take souls out of Hell. Whatever one chooses to call it, the upshot of both of these is that one needs to pray for the souls of those who have departed this life, as an exercise of Christian Charity. There is no direct contradiction here. Yet Catholics and Orthodox go back and forth on whether or not there is a Purgatory.

Incidentally, when I first heard the actual Orthodox position of why we should pray for the dead, I was already a Roman Catholic Theologian, and I said to myself, that's Purgatory he's talking about. When I talked to him (a Russian Orthodox priest) about it, he was very dismissive about what I had said, but I consider that I was in an excellent place to know purgatory when I heard it.

That's liable to spark some discussion, I know, but that is what I am interested in seeing. I'd like to see where it leads, so I hope the Banana Republican will agree to this comment.


Will Huysman said...

Dear Joseph,
Thanks for the comments and corrections, which are not offensive at all! I will respond in detail as soon as possible but this might take a while since the next couple of weeks at college will be pretty busy, what with final exams and everything. In the meantime, God bless you and yours!

Love & prayers,
Will R. Huysman
The Banana Republican

Byzantine said...

Thank you so much, and may exams go well for you, and God's blessings be upon you this advent season, in preparation for a blessed Christmas!