Spitting In Rome’s Eye: A Reflection On How Orthodoxy’s Sinfulness Prevents Reunion

In my previous post, I mentioned some of the internal problems besetting the Orthodox Church, causing dysfunction (which I termed “implosion”).  I noted how it affects the Great Commission and how our relationship with Rome is part of that larger picture (for a unified front between these truly-mega-churches would give strength in spreading the Gospel).  I noted how Moscow currently rejects the Ecumenical Patriarch’s (legitimate) claim to primacy, in wanting to convoke a pan-Orthodox council and in engaging in serious dialogue with Rome.  It doesn’t take a very long search for someone to see that many Orthodox Christians agree with Moscow, calling Rome heretical and, furthermore, expressing not a little invective (or at least heated rhetoric) when taking that stance.

An important factor in this is that the kind of careful historical and theological analysis (not to mention humility) that occurs within official Orthodox-Catholic dialogues is not seeping into the Orthodox groundwater.  Many Orthodox prefer to dismiss Catholicism and Protestantism as two sides of the same coin, as though Orthodoxy is completely separate from them.  If it weren’t for the fact that such an attitude is based on ignorance, it would be audacious in the extreme.  Take, for example the North American Catholic-Orthodox dialogue.  They haven’t skirted the issues that need to be addressed and yet they have produced helpful starting points, free from anti-Westernism (based, ironically, on rather Western models):


Moreover, there has been a real shift in attitude in Rome.  In the early 20th c., one could still easily find anti-Orthodox attitudes and statements.  Today, however, I believe Fr. Taft expresses well the currently dominant Roman Catholic view here:

“Vatican II, with an assist from those Council Fathers with a less naïve Disney-World view of their own Church’s past, managed to put aside this historically ludicrous, self-centered, self-congratulatory perception of reality. In doing so they had a strong assist from the Council Fathers of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church whose concrete experience of the realities of the Christian East made them spokesmen and defenders of that reality.”

He made this statement in the context of the notion of “Sister Churches.”  You may find it in context here:


Granted, a few of the comments to that link were Roman Catholics upset by what he was saying, so it is not as though Catholics are blameless “on the ground,” but I suspect Orthodox are more likely to oppose such a statement.  Certainly, in today’s climate, it is difficult to find Orthodox willing to take a position similar in humility to the statement above given by Taft.  We do have scholars doing this, though, and one starting point may be the newly published Orthodox Constructions of the West.  A great example may also be found in Adam DeVille’s work on this very ecumenical dialogue:  Orthodoxy and the Roman Papacy.  Somehow, we have to get these perspectives “on the ground.”  A great step forward would be for our seminaries to start requiring these as reading materials.  Orthodox priests often (though not always) play key roles in shaping how laity read and understand Orthodox history, theology, and piety.  Humility has to start with our clergy.

Pastorally, there are good reasons for us to adopt the virtue of humility.  If ever reunion could happen, it could have practical, pastoral edification in the lives of many.  Recently, Fr. Stephen Freeman, a good (and popular) priest, commented on Catholics wanting communion at his parish, reducing their desire to a “Modern project.”  By this, he meant they wanted communion based on what they believed to be true (that in the Orthodox liturgy it is bread and wine and also body and blood).  He even emphasized the “I” when quoting them.  My point here is not to engage in culture war language nor to analyze a classical versus modern dichotomy, etc.  That would be a different series of posts.  Rather, what I would want to interject and say is that in my experience, a lot of Roman Catholics saying such things are not saying that what matters is their intellectual ability to create something in their minds.  What they are saying is that they recognize a sacramental presence in our services.  Sure, many Roman Catholics in America may have a superficial faith and just feel they can take communion anywhere, but that is not always the case and indeed, many look at Orthodoxy through thoughtful eyes and gracious hearts.  More than that, we have many “mixed marriages” and other situations where Orthodox-Catholic reunion could have a real healing and gracious effect.  In other words, as long as we don’t disregard issues of importance (which our official dialogues have not), the humility to engage Rome willingly and openly could beget some real grace “in the pews,” if you will.  At minimum, it would help us avoid reducing Roman Catholics desiring communion to some sort of modern neo-gnostic mentality.

My fellow Orthodox, let’s be honest here.  With regard to Orthodox-Catholic relations the humility struggles are primarily on our side.  They are evidenced in internet chatter, in parish dining halls, amongst our seminarians, publicly displayed in sermons by our clergy, and (indirectly, if nothing else) advertised for the world to see in official statements.  We Orthodox sure like to talk about the virtues, the Desert Fathers, etc., but when it comes to ecumenical relations, humility too often goes out the window.  I, for one, think it’s time to close that window.  The sectarian draft has a real chill to it.

98 Responses

  1. Rev Jason Charron

    Thank you so much for this reflection. I pray that our good and loving God will bless you with every grace to continue the good work you have begun. We need more Orthodox to speak up with humility and courage on the topic of re-union.

    In Christ,
    Jason, priest and sinner
    (Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church)

    1. God bless you as well, father. There are Orthodox out there who do want to engage the topic of reunion with humility (and courage, as you note) and I hope and pray we will all support one another in encouraging our fellow Orthodox brothers and sisters to do the same.

  2. Charles A. Coulombe

    MANY thanks! I have a great many Orthodox friends here in the States and in England (mostly ROCOR) – who generally are not nearly as anti-Papal as their clergy tend to be. I have made something of an amateur study of the commonalities between Orthodox and Eastern and Latin Catholics – as well as those too few periods when they have collaborated on common projects. For me the underlying tendencies of the two cultural outlooks were meant to act as correctives on each other -instead, amongst us Latins, authority has swallowed up tradition, and amongst Orthodox tradition has swallowed up authority. May the Virgin Mother of us all bring us together swiftly, and may we have the good will to act accordingly.

  3. Nathan Judah

    I don’t admire anyone who pretends that they don’t hold firmly to their most sacred beliefs. That’s not what humility is. It isn’t humility to give up what you believe is holy tradition. It’s lying. So lack of humility is not what is preventing reunion. Orthodoxy and Catholicism are different, and if Orthodoxy changed to meet Catholicism, then it would no longer exist. It’s not hard to understand why most clergy, laity, and monastics in the Orthodox church don’t want this. What humility does require, is that Orthodox Christians not pretend that they’ve never done terrible things to Catholics, or that God favors them above Catholics. So instead of trying to make the two churches artificially dissolve into each other, why not focus on jointly doing good in the world we share together? That’s something that everyone can agree to.

    1. Nathan, thank you for taking the time to read my post. You missed my point if you thought I argued we should “artificially dissolve” the two churches. You prove my point by 1) saying we should do good things jointly and 2) reacting negatively to an intra-Orthodox critique (which is sorely needed). Humility is needed on our part and to the degree that it means we ignore good work and suggestions being done on official levels and to the degree that it means emphasizing how different we Orthodox can be and to the degree it means one church (Russia) critiquing another (the Ecumenical Patriarch) for wanting to engage Rome in dialogue, more humility is needed.

      1. Nathan Judah

        I’m not against intra-Orthodox critique, but I probably did miss your point. After carefully rereading this article and reading your previous post for context, I see that I was responding more to the title of your article than to its content. Does Orthodoxy’s sinfulness (pride) prevent reunion (with Rome)? When I first read your article, I thought you were saying that the Orthodox are being prideful by not compromising on issues such as giving communion to Catholic visitors. I’m not opposed to dialogue with Rome provided that “issues of importance” as you say, are not skirted over. I do think the dialogues should focus on the cooperative mission of the churches rather than dealing with theological differences. I see those differences as preventing reunion with Rome, rather than the unwillingness of some Orthodox to engage in dialogue. Most of my Orthodox friends are concerned that this dialogue might include both churches stretching to reach theological middle ground. I myself am nervous whenever “reunion with Rome” is brought up. What would reunion mean? I suspect that some of the critics of the Ecumenical Patriarch have the same concerns. I don’t see that concern about talk of reunion as being a lack of humility. We’re all just trying to stay Orthodox.

  4. What evidence is there that Rome is willing to make any substantive changes, in order to facilitate union with the Orthodox. In the past 50 years, Rome has only moved further away from Orthodoxy. If they really want unity with the Orthodox, it is no secret that they would have to ditch the filioque, and renounce papal infallibility, and the notion of universal primacy… and I don’t see that they have made any substantive moves on any of those questions. It would also be helpful if they rediscovered their own traditions, so that we had more to talk about. Prior to Vatican II, we had a lot more in common than we do do today.

    1. Fr. John, thank you for asking. I think there have been some positive things that have happened. Oh, there’s more to be done, no doubt, but I think it’s well worth the reading and research to see what has been done. Concerning the filioque, there are: the 1995 statement, the 2003 statement, the work of Ed Sciecienski, Kallistos Ware and John Zizioulos. A colleauge of mine and I hope to publish a book on the filioque dispute of the ninth century within the next year or two, so hopefully I can even add to this list but even if so, I think what already is there is important. Concerning infallibility, I admit this one may seem to be the most difficult, but I think Adam DeVille is making some creative attempts at seeing our way through this. I need to get up to speed on his argumentation, but I believe he uses Dumitru Staniloae to help argue that (understood properly) what is claimed here by Rome is no more than what Orthodox ecclesiology says of the infallibility of the Church at large. He then argues that if infallibility were understood as being the exercise of the pope in communion with the synod of all the patriarchs (thus representing the “Church at large”), and never to be used unilaterally, then it should present no issue. I believe that Pope Francis has given hints of perhaps being willing to go in this direction, though I admit we will want to see more. Concerning liturgical tradition, as long as one doesn’t mean “copying us,” then I think one can argue that Rome has been working hard in this direction. Yes, after Vatican II crazy things have happened but don’t let the crazies overshadow the work they are doing, especially lately. In the end, though, I think the most important thing for us is to be humble regardless of how the Roman Catholic Church (or any other church) is behaving. Otherwise, we act like some little child on the playground, doing some sort of “I’ll be humble after you’re humble” thing.

    2. Fr. Jim

      In the Catholic Church it is accepted that the Nicene creed as it is in Greek without the filioque is normative. It is only a liturgical usage in the Latin liturgy. In addition there is an earnest attempt to look at how papal primacy could be exercised in a way that is acceptable to the Orthodox. Much movement has been made and I hope more will be.

      1. Yes, father, there have been some strides taken and in light of those, I think the attitudes and rhetoric that one can find amongst too many of us Orthodox is simply out of place. We also tend to paint with broad brushes. I think we as clergy have important roles to play in all of this.

  5. I think you’ve misunderstood my point in the reference and link you made. I noted the poll (lamented by many Catholic authors) of 70% of American Catholics not holding to Real Presence. My anecdote of Catholic visitors in my parish was drawn from lengthier conversations. My observation was that they felt somehow qualified to receive communion because of their individual beliefs (thus the emphasis on the “I”). They are cited as examples of the rampant individualism and individualistic consciousness that infects the Church (Cathollic or Orthodox) in the modern world. Thus, even when defending a belief in the Real Presence, these visitors see it as a private matter, not as a Catholic matter. This is a problem for Catholics as well as Orthodox.
    As for your own thoughts that “a unified front between these truly-mega-churches would give strength in spreading the Gospel” I disagree. The world has seen far too many Christian “fronts.” If Catholicism cannot convince 70% of its own American people about the Real Presence, then combining its efforts with the Orthodox is not likely to have much impact either. Ecumenism is neither the problem nor the solution.
    You lament Orthodox intransigence, but, it seems to me that you fail to do justice to the true nature of the situation. There is, indeed, far more interest in relations with the Orthodox on every level of Rome. But it has a position in which full communion with the Orthodox would not alter Rome in any way, whereas Orthodoxy would become but an Eastern Rite. This marginalization of Orthodoxy, which is quite real – ask an honest Byzantine Rite Catholic, has forced many Orthodox to a defensive posture, constantly pointing towards Orthodox distinctives that seem not of the bene esse but of the esse itself. The situations are not at all equal. To ascribe lack of humility and other moral failings to the priests of your own Church seems lacking in discernment and understanding.
    But we’re used to being judged. We get it all the time.

    1. Fr. Stephen, thank you for commenting. I did acknowledge that many
      Roman Catholics might just believe in some degree of open communion and
      therefore may be individualistic beyond what Roman Catholic dogma
      allows. Since you offered anecdotes, I shared some I’ve encountered and
      then also noted the mixed marriages. I think it is important to keep
      these other perspectives in mind in these matters. I don’t see the harm
      in that at all and, in fact, think it helps avoid being too
      reductionistic with Catholics who attend our services. I hope you’re
      right that Orthodox are more interested in reunion than Rome is. It’s
      not what I’ve seen or experienced, though, which is why I wrote the post
      as I did. In fact, I see Orthodox as quite defensive, even many of us
      converts. If I may be so bold, even your appeal to past abuses of
      Eastern Catholics is consistent with this. Here, rather than accepting
      that our “intransigence” (a fair word, I agree) should be addressed, you
      defend it by pointing to the misdeeds of others. Now, I’m not saying
      you are part of this intransigence problem, but I think your own comment
      shows how difficult it can be to shake ourselves of it. We should be
      humble and willing to engage the other whenever olive branches are
      extended. I don’t take the official dialogues to be mere play. I think
      they are real olive branches and I think Benedict XVI and Pope Francis
      have been honest and forthright in wanting union without making us
      change what we’ve held dogmatically for 1000 years. How to do that can
      be tricky, quite tricky indeed, but I don’t think the gestures and the
      dialogues should be replaced by thumbing our noses. Finally, I don’t
      know what to make of your last lines. It comes across as playing the
      martyr in order to avoid engaging the argument (and possibly passive
      aggressively render judgment on me). Hopefully, that isn’t how it was
      meant but if it was, it was, and perhaps such things are a necessary
      part of any such change I am hoping for. I honestly do think we do have
      moral failings, father. I think at times I have, in my own past, been a
      little too quick to draw broad conclusions and therefore a line in the
      sand. I also know that many of us priests do preach with broad strokes
      about what’s wrong with the West. I just think it’s time we stopped
      doing that.

    2. If surveys were to be taken of the basic theological knowledge of Americans who self-identify as Eastern Orthodox, there would be plenty of 70% figures for Orthodox to be embarrassed about.

      Christian “fronts” may be an affront to Hauerwasian sensibilities, but I don’t find them necessarily as idolatrous (or as distinctively commodified) as the lust for a boutique, niche faith that celebrates its hyperparochiality and creates an almost quasi-Calvinist intuition of their being some spiritual elect who “really get it.” Indeed, this isn’t just the Orthodox posture toward non Orthodox, this is the Orthodox posture toward the not-as-Orthodox-as-I-am – and that happens across the board in Orthodoxy. It’s not just ROCOR (as vile as they can be at this game) who view much of Orthodoxy as second or third class Orthodoxy or a de facto Orthodoxy in name only – one can find liberlish New Calendar types just as militant against traditionalist streams of thought. One can find modernist leaning Greeks who are only nominally in communion with modernist leaning Slavs. Orthodox don’t really know what to do with more than one Typikon, or more than one theological methodology/orientation. Thus the competitiveness of various purity cults within Orthodoxy, both here in the States and abroad, even (though perhaps not quite as pronounced) within traditionally Orthodox countries like Russia and Greece. Of course there is the same thing within Catholicism, but without nearly the same threat and history of a breaking of communion. The “here comes everybody” ethos of Catholicism brings a host of potential problems, bad ideologies, banalities, and strife. But the “here comes a niche, boutique group of the theologically and aesthetically puritan überChristian” is not, in my mind, something that can possibly be posited as a better option.

      I know a fair number of Eastern Catholics, and regularly attend services at the best Orthodox liturgy in my state, which is at an Eastern Catholic monastery. Most of the Eastern Catholics I know express some level of antagonism towards Rome or at least many of Rome’s actions towards the Eastern Rite. Almost all of them, when looking at the ecclesial mess and the all too common wackodoxiness of Orthodoxy, however, then say “I think I’ll stick with my own mess, thank you very much.”

      1. Well said, Owen. Neither extreme option is very good and I do think Orthodoxy has a fair number who critique not just “the West” (like it’s, I don’t know, the Imperial forces of Star Wars) but also other Orthodox. In fact, I know priests, personally, who agree with what I’ve said, but who are quite hesitant to speak out too much on these things because of backlash from such folks. The Eastern Catholics do have serious problems and everyone does. Oh, good call on the 70%. I agree. I find it laughable that we somehow think we would be so pure and immune to any misunderstanding laity in own pews. I also find it wrong, though, that well too often we Orthodox like to point out what’s wrong with everyone else–happens way too often on Facebook and blogs. Some cultural critique and analysis is good and necessary but lamenting over things done in other churches can also become unhealthy.

  6. Dan


    There are three issues standing in the way of Rome returning to Orthodoxy. The first is doctrinal, which if approached with true humility cannot be compromised. Too often today what people call love or humility is really emotional humanism. I would agree that in some respects progress has been made over the past few decades and some good things came out of Vatican II.

    However, a lot of bad came out of Vatican II, and much of it stands in the way of Rome returning to Orthodoxy. The second is praxis: the current “Novus Ordo” is a complete corruption and Protestanization of the Western Liturgy. Recently I recall one Orthodox priest on an Ancient Faith Radio call in program dismiss it as just being as different “feeling” and something that we Orthodox had to get over. Unfortunately that is a grave misunderstanding. If one professes the correct doctrine on the one hand but worships in a free for all manner then it is a sickness that we Orthodox would do well to avoid. We have enough problems with bizare practices and “choose your own liturgics” types of mentalities.

    The third major obsitcal is the inherrent structure of the Roman Catholic Church. On the one hand there regular structures of bishops and diocese, which should look familiar to us (heck there are even multiple overlaping jurisdictions). On the other hand there are multiple parallel organizations which streatch across territorial boundaries of bishops and are only answerable to the Pope himself. These structures have been in place for a long time and are the fruit of the heresy Rome fell into over a thousand years ago. For Rome to return to Orthodoxy these structures will have to go because they embody the heresy of Papism and are one of the biggest obsticles to Rome rediscovering concilliarity.

    Anything less is not Unity but Union, and a false union at that. A good example are the so called “Byzantine Catholics” who are in a tough spot. They are neither fish nor foul. They serve as a warning for why a healing of the scism must entail Rome returning to Orthodoxy, and not several Orthodox Churches adopting a neo-papal attitude through the EP.

    You complain about Orthodox being intransigent and unwilling to compromise for the sake of Unity. I would argue that this Unity is nothing more than idolatry and if you detect any vitriol or ill will towards Rome, well, Rome has earned the distrust. The destruction of the Roman Empire in 1204 and subsequent robber council of Florence are shining examples. More recently you can look at the origion of the so called “Byzantine Catholics” and Uniats. Too often Rome has been a wolf in sheeps clothing. Forgetting her history is not “loving” or “humility” but stupidity.

    1. Dan, thanks for the continued engagement. I don’t think humble ecumenical dialogue means caving on one’s dogma. That’s a false dichotomy. Dogmatic definitions have changed over the centuries and creative ways of engaging others are a part of our tradition. I think we need to be careful not to be too selective in our read of history and theology such to the extent that we end up being needlessly overly sectarian. I think some good has been happening in Rome lately and we are wrong to dismiss it, which is what I’m trying to get at in this post. When it comes to Church structure, Rome is no worse than us. Honestly, look at us! We’re a mess! We can’t organize ourselves out the chapel doors. We’re in no position to refuse to engage Rome because of church organizational structure. Note, I’m not saying shouldn’t be addressed. It should be, but must be addressed at the same time we clean up our own mess. I don’t see how one can claim union between East and West is idolatry! For something to be idolatrous, it must take the place of God. Orthodox-Catholic dialogue and even union does not do that. It would not be a stand in for God. That’s a pretty extreme position to hold to. Are you sure that’s what you meant to type?

  7. Mark Roosien

    Thank you, father Oliver, for this reflection and for the previous one. Your emphasis on the Great Commission and self-critique is very much needed in Orthodoxy these days!


  8. Isa Almisry

    A few years back the Vatican abolished its title of “Patriarch of the West,” while keeping the title of “Bishop of Rome” and “Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church.”
    Listing to the radio of its local “apostolate,” the response to the criticism of the Orthodox to such an unwarranted move was “you’ll just have to get used to it and accept it.”
    If the “Great Council” gets around to meeting, one of the items on the agenda should be enthroning Met. Gennadios or Bp. Siluan as Pope of Rome.

    1. I would prefer such a council to dialogue with the bishop of Rome already there to see if reunion could be established. Sadly, I fear it won’t go either your way or mine because we’re too dysfunctional to hold such a council.

      1. Isa Almisry

        Having seen Vatican II, I should hope we could learn from the mistakes of others, Father.
        Met. Gennadios is already in Italy, and Bp. Siluan is already in Rome, but before worrying about that I’d prefer reuniting with the other Pope Theodore III in Alexandria and his brother patriarchs and catholicoi.

  9. Jeff

    I for 1 am thoroughly thankful for the honesty of self criticism in ‘orthodox constructions of the west ‘, Taft on the catholic side and his ‘wish list ‘ and all the orthodox authors , even Marcus plested in ‘ orthodox readings of Aquinas shows a real self confident orthodoxy is a blessing , a strength , not a weakness , compared to the all out global confrontation rhetoric of east vs west today …, the Fordham thinkers ( along with my fave , Zizioulas ), are great, !, hands down

    1. Greg, thank you for your questions. Who is ultimately within the Church will be up to God. After all, one can be “in” the Church but not “of” the Church. Orthodox Christians certainly understand the Orthodox Church to have full continuity with the Church established through the Apostles, but however one looks at Rome, one should admit there are sacraments that are Churchly and a shared history of one thousand years. Theologically, there is much that encourages dialogue. All that said, if even a “worst case” answer were given to your questions (Rome is outside “the Church” and therefore in peril, etc.), there would still be a point to reunion: offering them our salvific Orthodoxy. For those of us with less extreme and less sectarian views, however, there is still a point for reunion–there has been a schism, and that should be repaired.

  10. Andri

    Father, bless. I read that Adam is an Eastern Catholic (one of the comment at http://www.catholicworldreport.com/Item/2842/the_russian_orthodox_church_and_the_papacy.aspx#.Ut-CWBbEmc1). Is it true? Your article gives impression that he is Orthodox.

    And forgive me, Father, if this sounds rude or judgmental, but I am sincerely puzzled and would like to request your kind answer to enlighten me: Given your view, why are you not an Eastern Catholic (priest)?

    Thank you.

    Pray for me,

    1. Concerning Adam, it seems you are asking for religious sheep clothing (possible non-Orthodox religious affiliation) in order to cover the wolf of an ad hominem (“he’s not Orthodox”). Imagine if the fathers had done the same with, oh, say, Plato, Aristotle, or Proclus. Or Lossky with existentialism. I could go on (and here granting your claim for the sake of argument–what if you’re wrong???).

      As for your question to me, I do appreciate your forthrightness, but in response, I’d note two things:
      1) The same question would need to be asked of every Orthodox who has participated in official dialogues and every Orthodox who has contributed to theological writings such as those found in the posts I mentioned, etc.
      2) It is based on a faulty assumption of what “Orthodoxy” means. Orthodoxy is not coterminous with anti-Western sectarianism. If merely arguing for humility and openness goes against your current understanding of Orthodoxy, then hopefully these posts will encourage you to rethink your position.

      Given those two points, I don’t see the fruitfulness, at this time, to answer your question. Perhaps in a different context, I might have entertained such a question, but not at this time. This isn’t the thread for it.

  11. jamesthethickheaded

    Thank you for your point. I read it more limited than some. Ouspensky makes a wonderful case in the footnotes to his 2 volume set on iconography for Rome’s “waywardness” as a symptom of our own. Orthodox were blessed with a history of waywardness followed by repentance that stregthened our faith and humbled our churchmen. In this, we should have something to offer our Roman bretheren whose comparative steadfastness through much of that time left them largely without such a sordid past… until the modern era – whenever that starts. But sadly in some ways, the virtues of their history left them unprepared for the task at hand. Yet I think you are correct that they have come some ways… while we could make more, that there is more to go for both of us, and we need to admit our own error(s)… which may be no more than a paucity of all-encompassing love. So to me, your point on humility though… is precisely the key… to our salvation…. worked out together. I would work there, and follow the Holy Spirit where it leads us through the centuries… and by this I mean the witness traced by our saints – those we know and those yet to come. This is where I reach my limits… as I’m not sure they have said all that much – at least not yet. Typically we’re so focused on salvation we forget the others more than we admit… but we can’t let that be the full story. Surely it helps to examine their record closely on these sorts of things. Thank you for your bit.

  12. Mikhail

    Filioque is heresy. Opposing any theological and liturgical union with heretics has nothing to do with lack of humility. It has everything to do, though, with preserving the Faith.
    We can still cooperate with heretics in doing good worldly things, but we cannot accept heresies for the sake of that cooperation.

      1. Mikhail

        Sorry, Father, but I fail to see how an apology for a heresy which is coming from theologians and bishops still adhering to the said heresy can help in any way to re-unite the Church. I have heard Fr. Kallistos (Ware) speaking at University of San Francisco (Jesuit school) in 2002, when he summarized the conditions for any dialogue – drop the Filioque, and we can start the discussion.

        1. If I remember correctly, I believe Met. Kallistos Ware has said during a number of lectures that the filioque would be acceptable as a theologoumenon in the case of unity between the two churches.

        2. Andrew is correct that Metropolitan Kallistos Ware has not been so straightforwardly simplistic. Did you read the document Mikhail? You mistakenly attack it as being written by heretics, which made me wonder. Of course, even if it had been written by Roman Catholics only, that would not preclude it from being true. Dismissing something just because it is proposed by a Roman Catholic is precisely the kind of thing I think we Orthodox need to reconsider.

          1. Mikhail

            Andrew, I was personally present at the above mentioned lecture given by Met. Kallistos. Removal of the Filioque from the Creed was one of the conditions he outlined for a possibility of re-union. It neither precludes nor facilitates acceptance of the Filioque as a theologumenon later on.
            Fr. Herbel, I never called anyone a heretic, but merely adhering to a heresy, being well aware that this one has not being counciliarly recognized, but nevertheless considered such by several canonized Saints.
            Refusal to abandon the Filioque by Roman Church for the sake of making re-union possible, and not the steadfastness in preserving the Creed by Orthodox, is the lack of humility, contrary to your post’s point.

          2. Mikhail

            Sorry, Father, correction to one of my replies is needed.
            I should have written that I have not called the authors of the document in question heretics, not “never” and “anyone”.
            I do consider Roman Catholics heretics.

          3. Ok. I think I follow you. In other words, you would claim: 1) Roman Catholics are heretics but 2) Orthodox involved in the dialogues mentioned are not formally heretics, since they reside within the Orthodox Church, but adhere to a heresy in collaborating with that joint statement.

            Is that what you are saying?

  13. Michael Bauman

    Father Herbal, I would feel much more comfortable and therefore much better able to really hear what you are saying if virtually all of my direct and indirect experience with the RCC did not vitiate against it:

    Under Pope John Paul II there was a big push to get the faithful RC’s to importune their Orthodox friends into a, frankly, pseudo unity. I know because I was the focal point of that little movement (the point being that there really wasn’t any real difference). That friend is now Orthodox, BTW because she came to the realization that all the study she had done on Roman Catholic theology she had always interpreted it in an Orthodox manner. The Pope John Paul II initiative is also, in part, the genesis of the RCCs seeking communion in Orthodox Churches (something along the lines that the Pope says its OK and you are going against the pope if you don’t agree). That is not made up BTW, I’ve had a number of conversations along that line over the years.

    We would not have as many mixed marriages if being Orthodox were as important to our priests and our people as being Catholic is to their priests and people. In most of the ‘mixed marriages’ I have witnessed the Orthodox spouse is alone in the Divine Liturgy while his/her spouse and children are across town in the Roman Catholic Church. Occasionally they will show up. That is not very mixed.

    I would also feel more open if Pope Benedict in one of his early pronouncements after becoming Pope had not essentially said that everything would be fine between Rome and we Orthodox if we would just submit to Papal authority (we are still officially schimatics apparently).

    I would feel more open if I trusted the EP more. He seems, to me, to be following the historical pattern of prior EP’s: when weak at home because of Turkish domination they 1) try to pull rank in the Orthodox world and 2) make nice with Rome because that is where they perceive the power lies.

    The points that Fr. John Whiteford mention are the salient ones and they form the matrix of the Roman Catholic Church. The make up the theology, soteriology and the ecclesiology that separates us (each of which has profound effects on the Christology). These are not little things and they are not just ideas.

    Here is the real problem however, if Rome did acknowledge they were wrong on those points and any movement toward genuine communion based on that acknowledgement would leave a lot of folks in deep angst questioning a faith of a lifetime or even generations. Not only that, there would be a significant number of Orthodox who would not acknowledge any such unity. Schism on both sides would proliferate–not a good thing.

    A personal bias that I am working on diligently is that I have had several close friends throughout my life for whom I care deeply who were spiritually raped by the RCC (and I do not use that term lightly or for effect.) So while I am working on forgiving that as best I can, I want no part of communion with it. (I know, it is my shortcoming that such an insignificant little trifle as the spiritual pain of people I love should matter in the grand scheme of things)>

    Just don’t see the need for theological unity, I think it is a red herring. We each need to teach ourselves about the faith we hold before any real unity can even be thought of. We each need to create a thirst for the truth in our respective peoples. Then–maybe but not likely until our Lord comes again or the persecutions get so bad the we will share the martyrs crowns together.

    Finally, I have seen humility too often used as a cudgel to enforce the will of someone else. It is kinda like “When did you stop beating your wife” and it is spiritual abuse. “If you don’t go along, you are arrogant.” That was my first gut reaction to your opening ( I am relatively sure you don’t mean it that way but I don’t know for sure). Well, I am arrogant in many ways, but nothing I have seen in my life with regards to the Roman Catholic Church suggests in the slightest way any reason to want to be part of it or in communion with her. Not that we cannot learn from some of her insights and cooperate on certain ventures but everything that is good, decent and holy in the RCC is better and deeper in the Orthodox Church and “what is deep, I’ll have deeply, what is good, I’ll have well.” We need to drink more deeply and completely of the mysteries we have each been blessed to receive, that is sufficient. It is here within the embrace of the Orthodox Church that I have begun to find some healing, mercy and grace. It is a grace that I have never seen active in the RCC until quite recently with some of the interchanges I have had with some deeply faithful Catholics on Fr. Stephan Freeman’s blog. That is why your signally out of one of his post followed by a wild misinterpretation of it also raises my suspicions.

    God bless you father, I hope my suspicions are, as you say, merely the consequence of my own ignorance, arrogance and backwardness. But you say it so ‘nicely’ they must be.

    1. Thank you for the feedback. You’ll notice I didn’t dismiss Fr. John Whiteford’s comment, but made one in return. I was thoughtful when I did it, though typed words alone being what they are, I suppose it is always possible you or someone else thought I was being dismissive. I assure that was not my intent. I gave a response that touched on the issues he raised. I don’t know that I can cover all your points, but here are a few: first, I acknowledge that someone can be hurt sincerely by an institution and it would seem that you are such a case. In that case, dialogue would be hard to conceive. I get that. Thank you for reminding me. Some have been very hurt by Orthodox Churches, too, though, so do keep in mind it’s not just a Roman Catholic thing. For unity to be a red herring, it would have to distracting from the issue at hand. I did not argue for humility in dialogue (which you’re calling “unity”) in order to distract from some other argument being had. I am arguing that we should be more humble, that we should start filtering down the perspectives from our joint statements, and that we should not dismiss the West with broad brush strokes (which by default ends up treating Western Christians in a reductionistic manner). This is not at all like asking you “when did you stop beating your wife.” It’s really not. Thank you for your prayers and blessings in all of this!

      1. Fr. TM (Latin rite)

        “. . . we should not dismiss the West with broad brush strokes (which by default ends up treating Western Christians in a reductionistic manner).”

        Fr. Herbel,

        This is for me the heart of your essay–and what makes the responses so disheartening. Humility and honest self-reflection are needed on both sides of this sinful schism if our Lord’s prayer “that they may be one” is to be realized. The responses to your salutary exhortation–and even your (and my) assumption that there are “Western Christians”–remind us of just how far from that reality we are. Thank you for your post. God bless.

  14. Michael Bauman

    Unity of scholars and political bishops is a distractraction that cannot help but bring some sort of reductionism to the mix that is good for none of us. To what end?

  15. Michael Bauman

    Either we are schismatics or Rome is. The fact that schism exists needs to be recognized and not evaded. To what end is all the scholarly and priestly effort to ignore that fact and try to proceed on a false egalitarian basis.

    If I am in schism I’d like to know so I can repent. I’m deeply certain I am not. That leaves the Catholics who need to repent and be reunited.

    Unless the quest is for the truth it is in vain.

    The are no non-essentials in such a quest.

    But that would leave all the scholars and acedemics with nothing to do. Shame.

    1. I see things in less stark terms and see your conclusion as a false dichotomy. For instance, I wouldn’t dichotomize between truth and reunion. They can go together quite well. I also wouldn’t dichotomize (and dismiss) academics as you do–either we get at truth and leave academics with nothing to do or we get at truth without them. I suppose being anti-academic can be a nice trope but it’s an attitude, not an informed argument. You’re a thoughtful person. I’ve seen you be such in other online threads, so I think you’ll see that such overly generalizing isn’t good. It also doesn’t make much sense when one stops to think about it because many arguments made in the history of our faith have been made in rather academic ways. We wouldn’t want to dismiss that.

      I also don’t think the schism arose the simplistic manner that seems to be suggested by your comment. I do believe Rome has begun repenting of some past deeds this century. I think we have begun through the Ecumenical Patriarchate and through our joint dialogues to do the same. We’re not blameless.

      1. Michael Bauman

        By academic I mean theology arising primarily from the rational, critical mind rather than from a living encounter with Jesus Christ.

        Certainly the Church has never rejected and has often embraced the use of human intellect, but that is not academic where ideas become ends in themselves each equally valuable.

        By critical I mean the tendency to find fault just to find fault especially with “old” ways. See Stanislavsky’s “Building a Character” for a great description.

        Mostly I simply don’t see the point in seeking reunion with Rome. Reunion quickly becomes an idol and a goal more important than union with Christ. The truth is compromised. Thus my question “To what end”

        “Seek ye first the Kingdom of heaven and all these things shall be added unto you.”

        Ignoring that command created the schism in the first place, continuing to ignore it won’t heal it. Let Catholics learn to be the best Catholics and let us learn to be Orthodox without judging our progress by one another. What is of God will endure. We won’t understand or embrace reunion until we do that. Spitting matches are the alternative. Or worse false union ala Florence.

        Also, simply because our sin helped create the conditions for schism does not mean that there is an egalitarian result. One of the two bodies is the Church, the other is not. That is the larger point of my reference to the Prodigal Son.

        1. Michael, I know you can’t hear the tone in my words, as they’re typed, and I assure you I mean no offense, but your definition of academic doesn’t apply to a single person involved in the dialogues I cited nor in the works I cited. To be blunt (and risk offense, I know), it’s a straw man, plain and simple. Same with critical.

          I do hear your concern about compromising truth. I don’t dismiss that concern, either, but I don’t see reunion as necessarily leading to that and, in fact, I think there is warrant for creatively engaging Rome in our tradition. I furthermore believe reunion properly done will not mean we Orthodox surrender our dogma. It will simply mean we find creative ways to engage Rome, such that Rome can find her place alongside us in a way she currently cannot, and vice versa. In the end, I simply find approaches like yours too black-and-white and out of touch with more creative aspect of our Church’s history and theology. Although I hope Orthodox attitudes will change, I realize it will take a long time. We may just have to agree to disagree on this one, Michael, at least for now, lest we end up in an interminable exchange.

        2. Mikhail

          Michael, I agree that there is really no benefit in re-union for us, because Orthodoxy already possess the fullness of faith. The ecumenical debate is very convoluted. Truth, however, is usually simple. We have it, and Roman Catholics can come and join at any time.

  16. Michael Bauman

    Maybe the humility you see from Catholics is the beginning of the prodigal realizing he has wasted his patrimony.

    We should welcome with open arms and no remberance of wrongs for they will be no more.

    Anything less is settling for less than the fullness and is therefore a reduction.

    To what end does that bring us? Negotiated peace always is the prelude to the next war.

    1. Thank you, Michael. I can follow these two recent comments. I wasn’t sure what you were getting at for sure before so I gave the question mark. I think you could well be right that some of the humility from Rome is real humility and a willingness to correct some wrongs. I just wonder if we Orthodox are willing to also set aside some wrongs, such as our harshness, arrogance, and judgmentalism.

      1. Michael Bauman

        Fundamentally the talk of reunion with Rome is still marred by the attitudes that helped give it birth but the crux of the matter is only one of the two bodies is the Church; the other is schismatic.

        Unless that fundamental question is faced and reunion is accomplished on that basis, the reunion will be a false pastiche unacceptable to anyone who specially God–based on such false premises as the gentleman above who posited that the Catholics emphasize authority over Tradition too much and we emphasize Tradition over authority too much. Which is just silly, indicates to me that he neither knows the problem nor respects the self-understanding of either side, partakes of the egalitarian heresy so prevalent in today’s world and thoroughly trivializes the witness of the faithful on both sides since the time of the Schism.

        I have too much respect for the claim of universal jurisdiction by the Bishop of Rome, even though I believe it dangerously wrong, to trivialize it.
        If we Orthodox strive for holiness relying on the grace of God and the Catholics work on holiness within their tradition there might be a foundation for reunion and the massive repentance and forgiveness such reunion would entail.

        Anything else that striving for holiness without reference to each other is a massive distraction that only foments the sprit of schism and triumphalism.

      2. Marcin

        Of course we should “set aside … our harshness, arrogance, and judgmentalism”, but in relations to ALL Christians, ALL non-Christians and ALL atheists. Yet it does not imply unity or approval.

        1. I agree we should do that in all cases. Note: I never said eliminating our sectarianism, with its requisite harshness, arrogance, and judgmentalism would automatically create unity. I said keeping it prevents unity. There is a difference. Removing a barrier does not in itself bring reunion between Orthodox and Catholics, but it would make such reunion plausible and something that could be achieved. It would even make it an agreed upon good (whereas right now, it is not difficult to find Orthodox who simply want an all-or-nothing approach that is neither realistic nor Christian). As for other (non-Orthodox) groups, they would require their own separate reflections. For now, I chose to deal with the obvious (and closest) choice beyond the Oriental Orthodox. I also believe a fair amount of dialogue has been done and we should take note of it.

  17. Fr Jonathan Tobias

    Thank you for this, Father. It took not a little courage to write this, in this present wintry mix of invective (that sometimes flares up into a storm). It seems to me that more than a few identify themselves by what and who they are not. One wonders that the harshness of critique, which you delineate so well, might proceed from a lack of confidence in one’s theology, rather than from too much.

    We live in a time of intellectual laziness, where half-baked opinions are put on like hats, instead of the hard work of learning doctrine … and, more painfully, where emotions and passions are dressed up in the language of tribal historicism. In contrast, a person who prays will be theological without being merely academic (and vice versa) — and such a person will be humble enough and confident enough to acknowledge the hard fact that we depend on the Roman Catholic community as much as they do us.

    Again, Father, thank you for this essay.

  18. Andrew Jacob Cuff

    Thank you so much for this post. It does my soul much good to hear one of our clergy here in the States finally saying what needs to be said (especially the part about requiring “Orthodox Constructions of the West” for seminarians, as the seminary all too often seems to be the breeding ground of the most fanatical anti-Western sectarianism. Marcus Plested’s “Orthodox Readings of Aquinas” would be a good idea as well, for the seminarians who want to dig deeper into theology.

    A professor of mine once shared a humorous anecdote about the great irony of the anti-Western sectarianism you are talking about. He (a Catholic priest) was once teaching a classroom of Ukranian Catholic seminarians systematic theology, and wanted to use Thomas Aquinas. His Ukranian students rebelled citing hatred for the overly scholastic ways of Aquinas. So, he told them that they would switch to studying “the great Orthodox mystic Pseudo-Dionysius.” Only, instead he used Thomas Aquinas’ translation and commentary on Dionysius…and the Ukranians ate it up. They loved it!

    An analogy that I have always found helpful for describing this strange anti-Western sectarianism is the Ayatollah Khomeini of Iran, and his program of widescale rejection of Western influence. What did it lead to? Well, he failed to eliminate all Western influence in his country, and he certainly killed enough of his own people and utterly destroyed enough of his own culture on his crusade to strip the West from Iran. See, much of what Khomeini perceived as “western” really boiled down to “human”…and so the humans had to die.

    What we Orthodox will find is that when you fight hard enough to strip mine the “western influences” out of our church, when you are done with your great purge, you will find nothing left. We do need to take hold of humility and openness while there is still time. As David Bentley Hart wrote in his fantastic essay “The Myth of Schism,” “We [Catholics and Orthodox] are called to be children of light, and I do not think that we will walk very far in the light hereafter except together.”

    Thanks again, Father.

    1. Thanks for the comment, Andrew. I liked the seminary story especially–a nice chuckle. I need to read Hart’s essay, it seems. I’m curious to know what he says in there. Thank you for visiting. I hope to see you around a bit more often.

    1. There may be some of that, but I tend to think there’s more of that when it comes to the multi-jurisdictionalism amongst Orthodox in America. I don’t think it affects the Ecumenical dialogues nearly so much. Of course, trying to demonstrate it either way is tough, as we’re talking about motivations. What is clearer, I think, is that there is a sectarian anti-Westernism that can be found amongst the Orthodox.

  19. Mikhail

    Rev. Herbel on January 27, 2014 at 3:19 pm said:
    Ok. I think I follow you. In other words, you would claim: 1) Roman Catholics are heretics but 2) Orthodox involved in the dialogues mentioned are not formally heretics, since they reside within the Orthodox Church, but adhere to a heresy in collaborating with that joint statement.

    Is that what you are saying?

    – See more at: http://holyresurrection.areavoices.com/2014/01/20/spitting-in-romes-eye-a-reflection-on-how-orthodoxys-sinfulness-prevents-reunion/#comment-89435

    Father, please forgive me for having gotten into this without having an extensive theological education.
    Yes, despite the seemingly broken logic, I stop short of considering heretics the Orthodox who adhere to the Filioque for the purpose of dialogue, even though I concur with those who claim the Filioque to be a heresy.

    However, steadfastness of those Orthodox who refuse to compromise on the Filioque is not a lack of humility, contrary to the point of your original post.

    1. No need to get either defensive or snarky about education. I was just asking a clarifying question, nothing more–no snobbish jabs from my side. I appreciate your clarification. The filioque itself is a complicated issue. It can be heretical or acceptable, depending on what one means by it. Perhaps, at some point, I’ll have to expand on that in a post. Regarding my post, though, I do find a lot of Orthodox to be rather vehement in their rhetoric and triumphalistic and unduly defensive with their theology. That’s what primarily drove my post. I also find the attitude that “we don’t need to dialogue, they can just repent and join us, end of story” to be sectarian. That’s what I was getting at. It does all overlap, though, I admit. Anyhow, glad to have you here, even if we sometimes end up disagreeing.

  20. Dave

    Fr Herbel-

    Thank you for your article. As a Roman Catholic I have always respected the Orthodox Churches focusing on the many things we share in common. I like your point regarding humility which is very important for both sides when engaging in dialogue. May the Lord bless continued dialogue between our Churches.

  21. Michael Bauman

    OK, I take it all back (well, not all) but given the encounter I had with an Orthodox gentleman on another blog, it gave me more perspective on what you are saying. It is offensive, petty, and simply not Orthodox.

    Some of my comments were overboard, please forgive me. Still working through a lot of personal stuff.

    God is good.

  22. 123

    At a certain point, continued repentance and reaching out has to be taken as more than a sly change in tactics. I think Rome has in many ways been humbled and is acting accordingly. It’s understandable that many non-Catholics in weaker positions in the world might still be wary of the behemoth, but at a certain point a Christian has to accept that repentance is possible and to forgive when asked.

    That doesn’t change the root problem, which is really about how we understand authority in the Church. The filioque really comes from a difference in understanding about that difference, for instance. How does the Church come to understand what it believes and teaches and thinks, especially on topics not previously, explicitly dealt with in the Tradition, in the apostolic deposit we have received?

    Orthodox have also forgotten in practice how to deal with local traditions we are not familiar with. That’s as true within Orthodoxy as it is between Orthodoxy and Rome, the Copts, Armenians, etc. Can we trust that another local tradition is equally valid and ‘apostolic’? Can we mix and match, and how? Or, is the nature of the Church highly local, found in local traditions? Was it right that Trent did away with so much of Western local tradition in favor of a more universal consistency? Do we expect too much when we expect comprehensive, universal doctrine, practice, etc.? How inviolable and permanent are such local traditions meant to be, really?

    To begin with, though, we Orthodox do have to remind ourselves that ‘remembrance of wrongs’ is a sin, even if we are also called to be both dove and serpent. Wisdom in church politics is too often little more than ‘remembrance of wrongs’.

  23. thank you, father, for this reflection.
    Fr Thomas Hopko spoke on this, and two very important (IMHO) articles exists in several websites covering his thoughts. He spoke both from the point of view of “What do we Orthodox need to do for unity with the Catholics?,” and, from the point of view of “What would the Catholics need to do for unity with us?”:



    But key is Fr Hopko’s starting point:
    “The most important thing of all is the desire to be one… The Orthodox have to desire unity and be ready to sacrifice everything that they can without violating their convictions about the Gospel in order to be one, particularly with Roman Catholics.

    “Now I have to say that in my opinion, the Orthodox are not ready to do that at all. They don’t even want unity. So I am extremely pessimistic about that point. Why? Because the Orthodox leaders don’t even want unity among the Orthodox, let alone with Roman Catholics or Protestants. It’s obvious. The record is clear. I’m not making this up. This is not my opinion. The Orthodox leadership, and most of the Orthodox people, don’t want unity with others, and they are not ready to give up anything… even the smallest little thing that is clearly not essential to the faith. I feel very strongly that this is true.

    “When people ask me, for example, why the Orthodox jurisdictions in America are not united, the answer is very clear: because our leaders don’t want it. If they wanted it, we would have had it yesterday. There is nothing stopping them… you may have to suffer a lot. You may have to give up some things: power, pre-eminence, prominence, property, possessions, prestige, positions, privilege and pleasure. We’re not ready to give up those things because of pride, passion and prejudice… That’s what divides people generally, and it is certainly what divides churches.

    “We will never be one unless we desire it with all our hearts, and are ready to put away everything that we can to have it…. Everything that doesn’t belong to the essence of the faith. Language doesn’t belong to the essence of the faith. Calendars don’t belong to the essence of the faith. Certain liturgical customs don’t belong to the essence of the faith. Even the Byzantine Rite Liturgy for us does not belong to the essence of the faith.”

    1. Marcin

      I and many others do not want unity outside of Orthodox Faith. So we get accused of “pride, passion and prejudice”.

      1. Oh, Marcin, don’t be so melodramatic. Like I said, you’re working with a false dichotomy. “Orthodox Faith” does not equal “no union.” Just as “union” does not equal “false compromise.” I suspect many are just being too defensive, perhaps not aware of ways in which we can be creative and flexible.

        1. Marcin

          I would rather “be not aware of ways in which we can be creative and flexible”, and keep all seven Ecumenical Councils obligatory (even if our Monophysite or Miaphysite friends accept only some of them) and reject Vatican I, II etc …

          Most of my friends are Catholics and some are Armenian. We go along VERY well without trying to merge our religions.

    2. Mikhail

      However, the Creed does belong right there, with the essentials of Orthodox Faith. That’s why the Filioque is a huge obstacle.

      1. Mikhail

        If unity/Orthodoxy dichotomy is false, it follows that unity equals Orthodoxy. Which is why many Orthodox say to Roman Catholics – leave your heresies, and we can again be One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.

        1. Mikhail, I think you need to slow down. Noting that claiming that one must choose only option A or option B does not mean “it follows that A equals B.” A false dichotomy is one that fails to account for other options.

          1. Marcin

            Well, if unity and Orthodoxy are not a dichotomy it means that in such case you will have both ie that those who are united are Orthodox. If A and B then B.

            Or if it is not the case (either not A or not B) then you need to chose A or B.

          2. Perhaps we’re speaking past each other a bit but if so, all the more reason to try to clarify. All I said was that it is a false dichotomy to oppose unity and Orthodoxy. They are not mutually exclusive. There are more options. I believe it is possible to retain one’s Orthodoxy while uniting but this does not mean that the “unity” and “Orthodoxy” that were being opposed are somehow “equal” or “equivalent,” as Mikhail seemed to suggest. When people claim they do not want unity because they are Orthodox, they are claiming that Orthodoxy and unity are mutually exclusive. That makes a false dichotomy. Orthodoxy and unity are not mutually exclusive. I think there are ways that Orthodoxy can be informed, creative, and engaging. Consider this option C.

  24. Marcin

    This option C (using fuzzy logic approach) would be a situation when two (or more) sides are united in some aspects, but separate in others (in being Orthodox in this case).

    What aspects of unity do you envision? Common defense and promotion of some generic Christian values (defined by the common denominator, narrower as more denominations are included), or submitting to the common authority again limited to the extent that united jurisdiction preserve autonomy in matters of faith/dogma and practice?

    Three difficulties arise:

    One is that such structure might evolve into stronger side dominating the others (human nature being imperfect and powerful interests being at play).

    Second what exactly would be gained by such union, that could not be gained by the mere friendly relations between separate bodies?

    Third, there would be unavoidable scandals, confusion, schisms and suffering like it took place after unions of Florence and Brest.

    1. Actually, it’s not fuzzy logic at all! To the contrary, a false dilemma is a logical fallacy. I think your other points are worth considering, though, and could be used to try to bolster a case arguing that it is not a false dilemma (for not all choices necessarily are). The unity/Orthodoxy dilemma does strike me as a false dilemma, though, as it overlooks alternatives (which is what a false dilemma does). So, the logical error is actually held when someone upholds a false dilemma.

      Again, I like that you raised some subsequent points and I think future posts should be geared to helping to show how “Orthodoxy or unity” is a false dilemma. So, stick around, and hopefully I and/or others will touch on the issues you’ve raised (amongst others).

        1. Ok. Thank you for the clarification. I was just noting that Orthodoxy or unity is a false dilemma and that false dilemmas overlook alternatives. That’s the only point I was making and is one that is consistent with classical logic (fuzzy logic being coined quite late). The point holds whether one needs option C or a whole spectrum, as fuzzy logic would indicate.

  25. P. McCoy

    How can anyone talk of unity with Catholics and Eastern Catholics are not Orthodox when they are trying to overthrow the Orthodox oriented culture in the Ukraine as we speak. They have always been a divisive element in the heart of Orthodoxy, teaching lies that include that the Equal to the Apostles. Sts. Olga and Vladimir chose. Latin Christianity thus legitimizing Eastern Catholicism which was and is a COMPLETE untruth. One cannot unite with those who have used deceit – did not EVE
    One cannot unite with those who would DESTRO

    One cannot unite with those who would destroyed Orthodoxy and replace it with Catholicism as is going on in the Ukraine right now.

    1. There are certainly sins on both sides and yes, places where the tensions are high, but Ukraine is not simply divided as Catholic versus Orthodox right now. Even if you were correct about Ukraine, however, I would recommend not demonizing the whole (all of Roman Catholicism) for excesses and abuses that are more localized. I say this knowing full well that the hurt and wounds you note cannot be summarily dismissed but must be acknowledged, just as we, too, must acknowledge the hurt and abuse that has happened from our side. Don’t fret the type-os. I’m glad to have you here.

    2. Marcin

      “One cannot unite with those who would destroyed Orthodoxy and replace it with Catholicism as is going on in the Ukraine right now.”

      The greatest danger now is that if the nationalists from Western Ukraine get to power they will use Estonian scenario. It will be a disaster on the scale of Brest Unia. Millions of the Orthodox will be persecuted as Russian stooges in the name of progress, peace and unity.


  26. P. McCoy

    Did you know that the head of the Ukraine Catholics calls himself a patriarch. Those people want to replace Orthodoxy with the Catholic Church. They put the bones of a murderer Josephat, in their Kiev church, in the heart where St. Vladimir chose. Greek Orthodox Christianity. They might as well have put the bones of Hitler or a Ustasha inside that church. Does that sound like brokering peace and faith in good will to you. If it was up to me, I would ban the Ukrainian Greek Catholic as well as Latin Catholics in the Ukraine as instigator bent on overthrowing the government.

    1. If you’re referring to Joasoaph Kuntsevych here, he is in Rome. A friend of mine saw his tomb a year or so ago.

      The tensions over there go both ways. It is a mess and I do realize that greatly complicates things. That said, there have been good examples in some villages and such in Ukraine, too. For instance, both Catholics and Orthodox clergy leading prayers at graduations, etc. There is hope, though the current situation does make things much more complicated, I realize.

  27. I think Western Catholic doctrinal innovations, especially those that occurred after the Gregorian reform of the papacy in the 11th century, have more to do with the separation of East and West than the supposed sins (or intransigence) of the Orthodox.

  28. A reversal of the Schism isn’t going to happen soon, probably not in the next 1,000 years. But an increased level of contact is a good start. They grew apart due to lack of contact, and there is still not much of that happening. So just try to do well with the little things you can do now and start laying the groundwork for what it would look like for more contact that happens in a positive way. I think this basically does that, and I approve. But for all intents and purposes, reunion is not realistic at this time. When I say that, what I really mean is that the range of things that can be done in order to help it be more realistic is not even close to being sufficient. So my one critique is that maybe we should work on moving the goalposts a bit and focus on some other goals, more attainable ones. Not that you aren’t already doing this, of course, but this is my input.

  29. Jay B. Ham

    Having abandoned Roman Catholicism for Orthodoxy, I think that trying to “reconcile” with Roman Catholicism would be the MOST dangerous thing that Orthodoxy (as a whole) could do at this point in time. Sure, the last popes since Pope Paul VI have been “nice,” and have even gone so far as to “apologize” for Rome’s past sins committed against the Orthodox in general. Even the current Pope, Francis I, seems like a nice guy who’s humble, smiling at everyone, saying nice and pious things, and even kissing and blessing babies – much a do like any politician of goodwill. Lest we forget, Rome is far too gone, in terms of orthodoxy (right belief) and orthopraxis (right living), to wholesomely, truly, and substantially reconcile with the Orthodox. It is one of my life-long and best heartfelt wishes that Rome, especially the Pope, return to Orthodoxy as this once most Orthodox of Apostolic Sees was the prime example of what it meant to be Orthodox to the other Pentarchies of Holy Mother Church. But let’s be realistic: It ain’t gonna happen anytime soon; moreover, the patriarchal signatures attached to an agreement made between Rome (which is really not Rome, but the Vatican) and the other Patriarchates will NOT make things okay. If the Orthodox go along with the Pope of Rome, they will eventually sell themselves of their birthright and become second class citizens. The Vatican-run Church of Rome fell for the World, the Flesh, and the Devil, and in the worst way possible. I may sound like a raging convert, but having come from traditionalist Roman Catholicism to Orthodoxy has given me an insight into what today’s Rome is really all about. The Second Vatican Council is just as bad as the First – it’s just going from one extreme to another. And yes, Protestantism is the flipside extreme of Roman Catholicism. One side claims that only one among all Christians is fallible, while the other side claims the everyone is not only infallible, but is their own pope, magisterium, and church. In simplest terms, the Pope is the Church, and the Church is the Pope. As far as Roman Catholic dogmatics go, one cannot separate the “papism” (if you will), from the spirit and heart of Latin Catholicism. Roman Catholicism, at least as far as right belief and right practice are concerned, is too far gone to be reconciled with Orthodoxy. Do not be so naive to think that the Pope will give up his claims to universal jurisdiction, supreme headship of the Church, as well as his officiating infallibility. If you sincerely believe this, then I have a bridge in Brooklyn I’d like to sell you…tax free, of course. God bless all of you who read this post. May God, in His rich mercy and love for mankind, grant our holy Patriarchs, Hierarchs, Bishops, clergy, and especially to all the Orthodox Faithful the gift of enlightenment and discernment, which can only be perceived by those who will not be ashamed “…to contend earnestly for the Faith once delivered to the Saints” (Jude 1:3).

      1. Jay B. Ham

        With God all things are possible. I do agree with you, dear Father Oliver, that repentance must be met in an equal portion from both sides seeking reconciliation. It’s clear that Rome needs to abandon its beliefs regarding the Pope’s claims to universal jurisdiction, absolute (visible) headship of the Church, and infallibility. It is worth mentioning that there is also a whole slew of other doctrinal/liturgical innovations and heterodox practices that Rome clearly needs to abandon before any reconciliation with Orthodoxy is even possible. In retrospect though I was wondering: What do the Orthodox need to change in order to equally seek reconciliation with Rome? As much as it is clear concerning what Rome must abandon, the one thing that Orthodoxy (as a whole) cannot compromise on is the Apostolic Faith. Here’s an interesting video (see below) I found on YouTube that, I sincerely believe, explains what both Rome and the East must do to reconcile. Thank you for your response, and any insight or afterthoughts about the video is welcomed. God bless!

        Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r_Y-e3RyF9s

        1. Thank you. I appreciate the link to Fr. Thomas. I had him in class and my wife worked with him in administration. I respect him deeply. At times, we disagree, but be assured I’ll listen to this podcast with listening ears. In the meantime, I would simply say that in his recent writing on this reunion topic, Dr. Adam DeVille has correctly noted that Orthodox need to quit lying about whether Rome would have a primacy within a reunited Church. She would. Yet, it’s all too common to hear Orthodox speak otherwise to reduce it to an unauthoritative “honor.” That’s something we need to change. We need to return to our actual ecclesiology consistently.

          1. Jay B. Ham

            I agree, Father. It is clear from the Seven Ecumenical Councils of Holy Mother Church that Rome is meant to have the primacy among the patriarchates. I am lead to believe though that (mis)implementing this doctrine into reality is where Rome slowly began to substitute its rightful primacy with supremacy. It must be made abundantly clear in unambiguous terms that only Our Lord God and Saviour Jesus Christ (blessed is He forever) is the Supreme Head and Shepherd of His Church, not any one Patriarch or Bishop, per se. Also, it must be made clear that Christ has no “vicar” on earth, except the Church (as a whole) which alone can fully represent the mystical incarnation of Christ on earth and for the sake of the world’s salvation. Having said that, the Bishop of Rome is clearly the Protos (Primus Inter Pares – First Among Equals), but to interpret primacy as having authority over the WHOLE Church was the fissure that grew into the chasm of papal claims for universal jurisdiction, supreme headship of the Church, and then eventually culminating into infallibility. This can NEVER, under any circumstances, be acceptable to the catholicity of Holy Orthodoxy. As you may have already noted, Rome unfortunately did away with the Pope’s title of “Primus Inter Pares,” which was officially anathematized by the First Vatican Council (circa 1870). Today’s Rome no longer adheres to the belief of primacy as we Orthodox have maintained the proper meaning thereof. In reality, Rome actually interprets the meaning of the word “primacy” as supremacy. If memory serves me rightly, it may be referred to as the “Petrine Primacy.” Even Pope Benedict XVI made this clear enough to understand for the Orthodox as to what “theological realities” they must submit if they wish to have full “communion” with Rome. This is where dialogue with the Vatican authorities will get sticky. I’m pretty sure, as far as things stand at the present moment, that the Pope will be extremely reluctant to re-interpret or even give up the Roman Catholic dogmatic formulations concerning the papacy. To do so may be looked upon by traditionalist Roman Catholics (as I used to be one) as apostasy and making false concessions to the Orthodox for the sake of some kind of false union. As a final thought, my conversion to Orthodoxy was due to Rome’s behaviors exhibited towards those who uphold its pre-Vatican 2 liturgical practices and theology; in other words, Rome is well-known for having very little regard for those who don’t blindly go along with its liturgical reforms and papally approved innovations wrought about in the name of the Second Vatican Council. To me, the traditionalist Roman Catholic outcry that “Rome has abandoned the Faith!” ran parallel to the centuries-past outcry from the Orthodox World when the Pope of Rome began to replace primacy with claims of universal jurisdiction and absolute supremacy. As the Greeks used to say, “O Rome, why hast thou changed?” Another eye-opening realization that really opened my mind to begin contemplating Orthodoxy was how Tradition (in practical reality), per se, really has no authority over the pope; rather, what determines the authenticity of the Apostolic Tradition was whether or not the Pope had declared that it was authentic, heretical, or to be simply done away with either by a papal encyclical or one of his infallible defining statements. Basically, I am a recovering Roman Catholic, and Orthodoxy has been God’s saving grace for me. If Orthodoxy accepts the Vatican-run Church of Rome as well as its infallible man-God monarch as it is today, Orthodoxy will lose everything, and the Pope will gain nothing. We definitely need to fast and pray that God the Holy Spirit is leading the way to reunion for both Rome and the Orthodox because if we do it using our own wisdom and rationalizations, we may be end being likened unto Esau who sold his birthright for a bowl of porridge (see Genesis 25:26-34).

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