- From their very origins the Churches of the East have had a treasury from which the Church of the West has drawn largely for its liturgy, spiritual tradition and jurisprudence. Nor must we underestimate the fact that the basic dogmas of the Christian faith concerning the Trinity and the Word of God made flesh from the Virgin Mary were defined in Ecumenical Councils held in the East. To preserve this faith, these Churches have suffered, and still suffer much . . . (Chap. III, I, 14)
- Everyone knows with what love the Eastern Christians celebrate the sacred liturgy, especially the eucharistic mystery, source of the Church's life and pledge of future glory . . .
These Churches, although separated from us, yet possess true sacraments, above all -- by apostolic succession -- the priesthood and the Eucharist, whereby they are still joined to us in closest intimacy. Therefore some worship in common (communicatio in sacris), given suitable circumstances and approval of Church authority, is not merely possible but is encouraged.
Moreover, in the East are to be found the riches of those spiritual traditions which are given expression in monastic life especially . . . Therefore, it is earnestly recommended that Catholics avail themselves more often of the spiritual riches of the Eastern Fathers which lift up the whole man to the contemplation of divine mysteries.
Everyone should realize that it is of supreme importance to understand, venerate, preserve and foster the rich liturgical and spiritual heritage of the Eastern Churches in order to faithfully preserve the fullness of Christian tradition, and to bring about reconciliation between Eastern and Western Christians . . . (Ch. III, I, 15)
It is the Council's urgent desire that every effort should be made toward the gradual realization of this unity in the various organizations and living activities of the Church, especially by prayer and by fraternal dialogue on points of doctrine and the more pressing pastoral problems of our time . . . the Council hopes that with the removal of the wall dividing the Eastern and Western Church there may be but one dwelling, firmly established on the cornerstone, Christ Jesus, who will make both one. (Ch. III, I, 18)
- Every day in the East the sun of hope rises again the light that restores life to the human race. It is from the East, according to a lovely image, that our Saviour will come again (cf. Mt 24:27). For us, the men and women of the East are a symbol of the Lord who comes again. We cannot forget them, not only because we love them as brothers and sisters redeemed by the same Lord, but also because a holy nostalgia for the centuries lived in the full communion of faith and charity urges us and reproaches us for our sins and our mutual misunderstandings: we have deprived the world of a joint witness that could, perhaps, have avoided so many tragedies and even changed the course of history . . . The words of the West need the words of the East, so that God's word may ever more clearly reveal its unfathomable riches . . . May God shorten the time and distance. May Christ, the Orientale Lumen, soon, very soon, grant us to discover that in fact, despite so many centuries of distance, we were very close, because together, perhaps without knowing it, we were walking towards the one Lord, and thus towards one another. May the people of the third millennium be able to enjoy this discovery, finally achieved by a word that is harmonious and thus fully credible, proclaimed by brothers and sisters who love one another and thank one another for the riches which they exchange. Thus shall we offer ourselves to God with the pure hands of reconciliation, and the people of the world will have one more well-founded reason to believe and to hope.
Thankfully, the majority view among the Orthodox concerning such ecumenical considerations is similarly open, forward-looking, and charitable (especially among its clergy). For example, Bishop Kallistos (Timothy) Ware, author of The Orthodox Church (NY: Penguin Books, rev. ed., 1980), and an Orthodox ecumenist, expressed the conciliatory Orthodox viewpoint in that well-known work (pp. 315-316, 323-324):
- Over the past half century, there have been a large number of encouraging and fruitful contacts between Orthodox and other Christians. Although enormous obstacles still remain, there has also been great progress towards a reconciliation . . . while it is true to say that Orthodoxy is the Church, it is false to conclude from this that those who are not Orthodox cannot possibly belong to the Church . . . We know where the Church is but we cannot be sure where it is not; and so we must refrain from passing judgment on non-Orthodox Christians . . . There is only one Church, but there are many different ways of being related to this one Church . . . Much is also being achieved more informally through personal contacts . . . signs of a rapprochement are increasing year by year.
Catholicism is criticized and lambasted with a frequency unbefitting self-confident followers of Jesus, at times resembling the "negative campaigning" of politicians (the Catechism of the Catholic Church, on the other hand, mentions Orthodoxy only briefly - e.g., #838 - stressing commonality rather than differences).
The time has come for Catholics to respond to at least some of these severe criticisms (1 Peter 3:15), and in so doing there is always the risk of appearing "unecumenical" or uncharitable. But what follows presupposes what the Second Vatican Council and Pope John Paul II have taught, as excerpted above. Such a reply is especially necessary with regard to certain fairly indisputable historical facts which sorely need to be recounted, as a sort of "Church history refresher course."
An ecumenical Catholic (and we are all called to be that) finds it difficult to respond in the magnificent spirit of Orientale Lumen to a polemical statement such as the following , from a book by Fr. Peter E. Gillquist (former staff member of the Protestant evangelistic group Campus Crusade): Becoming Orthodox (Brentwood, TN: Wolgemuth & Hyatt, 1989, pp. 71-72):
- Rome stepped away from apostolic tradition in 1054. She left one thousand years of unity in the Church behind. No, she's not all wrong - not for a moment. But she is saddled with a papacy and a collection of dogmas that simply do not square with holy tradition. And my opinion is that she is moving further away from Orthodox Christianity, not closer . . . It's time for Rome to come back home to the unity of the Church and the faith of the Apostles and holy fathers which she once held so dear. It's time to come back to the fullness of holy tradition!
- . . . the whole Roman Church ended up dividing itself from the New Testament Church . . . the Roman Church drifted farther and farther from its historic roots. There are inevitable consequences to deviation from the Church. The breaking away of the Roman Church from the historic Church would prove no exception.
One article that sadly typifies the "anti-Catholic" material which regularly appears in this paper, was written by Fr. Alexey Young, and entitled "Florence 2000?: An Open Letter to All Roman Catholics and Orthodox on the State of Rome and Orthodoxy" (The Christian Activist, vol. 7, October 1995, pp. 16-20, 47-51). This article is itself an excerpt from Fr. Young's book The Rush to Embrace (Redding, CA: Nikodemos Orthodox Publication Society, 1995). Remarkable - almost unbelievable - assertions about the Catholic Church abound in this article, which are illustrative of the problem here addressed:
- Why is Catholicism a radically different Church than the Orthodox Church? . . . some Orthodox leaders . . . are either shockingly naive about the reality of Rome, or are hoping that no one will notice the dangerous circus to which they are trying to hitch the Orthodox Church, the very Ark of Salvation. (p. 17)
- The Latin or Western Church, known today as the Roman Catholic Church, was once part of the Universal Church. (p. 17)
Orthodox patriarchs, bishops, priests, and theologians - all you who actively pursue a policy of rapprochement with Rome: Beware. You are trying to bring the Orthodox Church into a lion's den of unbelievable malignancy. You cannot save the Catholic Church; but the Catholic Church can and will contaminate and then destroy you. (p. 47)
Like a branch that has been cut from a living tree, Rome had the outward appearance of life for many centuries after the Schism, even though lifegiving sap had really ceased to flow in her. Today, however, even the outward appearance testifies that this branch is indeed dead. (p. 48)
The Orthodox Church is the Catholic Church, in the full and true meaning of the word. She has never departed from the revealed Faith and never compromised the Truth. (p. 48)
Pope John Paul II . . . must somehow shore up his Church, his papacy. He is now turning in the direction of the east and the ancient, historic Patriarchates of Orthodoxy. He is looking for a blood transfusion for his dying Church. (p. 48)
Many have passively tolerated this dangerous and false ecumenism . . . We are . . . filled with self-infatuation and self-importance. And this has become a substitute for real spiritual life. It is precisely this - the soul-numbing and worldly subjectivity of the Roman Catholic Church - that we find so attractive, so enticing. (p. 51)
In the ecumenical Orthodox perspective, the Church of the first millennium is also regarded as one and united, but under a system of conciliarism, in which all bishops - including the pope- were ultimately equal in authority. The pope was and is granted a primacy of honor ("first among equals"), but not of universal jurisdiction, or headship. The Catholic Church is accepted as part of the universal Church today in this framework, notwithstanding (according to them) aberrations and various heretical tenets (e.g., the Filioque, which has to do with the relationship of the Holy Spirit to the Father and the Son, as expressed in the Nicene Creed).
For the unecumenical Orthodox, on the other hand, the Catholic Church ceased to be part of the universal Church after 1054, and has lost - according to the most severe faction - apostolic succession and valid sacraments, as evidenced by the above quotes.
- The Arian schisms (343-98);
The controversy over St. John Chrysostom (404-415);
The Acacian schism (484-519);
Concerning Monothelitism (640-681);
Concerning Iconoclasm (726-87 and 815-43).
Many of these venerable saints (particularly St. John Chysostom), and other Eastern saints such as (most notably) St. Ephraim, St. Maximus the Confessor, and St. Theodore of Studios, also explicitly affirmed papal supremacy. The popes functioned as the "supreme court" of the Church, and they presided over (personally or through papal legates) and ratified the Ecumenical Councils of the Church. One may argue that this was mere custom or a particularly "pragmatic," "governmental" aspect of the primacy of honor, but whatever view one takes, the historical facts of the papacy as "final court of appeal" are undeniable.
- The New Testament canon . . . is primarily traceable to the Church of Rome. It has now been proved that the whole series of New Testament books in their canonical and universally accepted versions were derived from Rome. Finally, new evidence of the greatest value indicates that from the third century the versions of the West, i.e. the Roman texts of the New Testament, entered into the texts of the Oriental biblical manuscripts. These data clearly prove that the Eastern Churches corrected their own versions by comparison with the New Testament received from Rome in those days. It was with special reference to Rome that an authentic list of Bishops extending back to the Apostles was prepared.
- (History of Dogma (1899), German ed., vol. 1, p.443, cited in Asmussen, Hans, et al, The Unfinished Reformation, tr. Robert J. Olsen, Notre Dame, IN: Fides Publishers Assoc., 1961, pp. 87-88.)
Montanism was an apocalyptic sect which denied the divinely-established nature of the Church. Montanus, who began prophesying in 172, came from central Turkey (which became the heresy's center of operations). Opposition to Montanism was spearheaded by Pope Eleutherus (175-89), and it was condemned by Pope Zephyrinus (199-217).
Docetism was the belief that Jesus Christ was not a real man, but only appeared to be so. The origins of Docetism derive from Hellenistic, Gnostic, and oriental notions that matter is essentially evil, which came out of Alexandria. Later christological heresies emanating from this school (such as Apollinarianism, Eutychianism, and Monophysitism) were influenced by Docetism.
Modalism (also known as Sabellianism) denied the full Personhood of all three Persons of the Trinity, and believed that God operated through mere "modes" or the transferral of power. Theodotus (2nd cent.) came from Byzantium to Rome, only to be excommunicated by Pope Victor (c.189-98). His disciple, also named Theodotus (early 3rd century) was condemned by Pope Zephyrinus (198-217). Artemon (3rd century) was teaching in Rome, c.235, but was excommunicated. Sabellius (fl.. 215) was excommunicated by Pope Callistus I.
Novatianism was a rigorist schism, stating that persons who fell away under persecution or who were guilty of serious sin could not be absolved. Its theology was otherwise orthodox. Novatian (d.258), a Roman presbyter, started the schism in 250. In 251 it was condemned by a Roman Synod and Pope Cornelius, and Novatian became an "antipope". His views were approved at Antioch.
Donatism held that sacraments administered by unworthy priests were invalid, and practiced re-baptism. The sect flourished in Africa, around Carthage. It began in 311 and was condemned by Pope Miltiades (311-14), who also came from Africa, in 313.
Arianism held that Jesus was created by the Father. In trinitarian Christianity, Christ and the Holy Spirit are both equal to, uncreated, and co-eternal with God the Father. Arius (c.256-336), the heresiarch, was based in Alexandria and died in Constantinople. In a Council at Antioch in 341, the majority of 97 Eastern bishops subscribed to a form of semi-Arianism, whereas in a Council at Rome in the same year, under Pope Julius I, the trinitarian St. Athanasius was vindicated by over 50 Italian bishops. The western-dominated Council of Sardica (Sofia) in 343 again upheld Athanasius' orthodoxy, whereas the eastern Council of Sirmium in 351 espoused Arianism, which in turn was rejected by the western Councils of Arles (353) and Milan (355).
Pelagianism is the heretical doctrine that man can make steps toward salvation by his own efforts, without Divine Grace. Pelagius cleared himself at a Synod at Jerusalem around 416, but was condemned at Carthage and Milevis in 416 and excommunicated by Pope Innocent I in the same year. Pope Zosimus reaffirmed this judgment in 418, as did the ecumenical Council at Ephesus in 431.
Nestorianism contends that there are two persons in Christ (Divine and human) and denies that Mary is the Mother of God incarnate. Orthodox, Catholic Christianity holds to one Divine Person - a God-man. Nestorius ( d.c.451) studied at a monastery at Antioch and became Patriarch of Constantinople from 428 to 431, having been condemned by Pope Celestine I in the Council at Rome in 430 (after both sides of the controversy appealed to Rome). The ecumenical Council at Ephesus in 431 repeated the Roman condemnation, after which Eastern bishops predominantly from Syria, Persia and Assyria withdrew from the Catholic Church.
Monophysitism was a heresy which held that Christ had one Divine Nature, as opposed to the orthodox and Catholic belief in two Natures (Divine and human). The Henoticon, a semi-Monophysite document was widely acknowledged in the East, but never at Rome. The co-writers of the Henoticon are thought to be Acacius, Patriarch of Constantinople (471-89), and Peter Mongo, Patriarch of Alexandria (477-90). Both were Monophysites who rejected the Council of Chalcedon. Monophysitism was an advanced type of Alexandrian theology. Pope Leo the Great dominated the Ecumenical Council of Chalcedon in 451, which repudiated Monophysitism.
Monothelitism is the heretical belief that Christ had one will (Divine), whereas in orthodox, Catholic Christian dogma, Christ has both Divine and human wills. Sergius (d.638), Patriarch of Constantinople from 610 to 638, was the most influential exponent of Monotheletism. The Ecthesis, a Monothelite statement issued by Emperor Heraclius, was accepted by Councils at Constantinople in 638 and 639, but was finally rejected at the Ecumenical Council of Constantinople in 680, which confirmed the decisions of Pope Agatho and the Synod at Rome in 679.
The Iconoclastic Controversy, a great upheaval of the 8th and 9th centuries, was spurred on notably by Monophysitism and influenced by Islam. This heresy held that images in worship were idolatrous and evil. It was initiated by Eastern Emperors Leo II (717-41), who deposed Germanus (c.634-c.733), Patriarch of Constantinople (715-30) - who appealed to Pope Gregory III. Gregory held two Synods at Rome condemning Leo's supporters in 731. In 784 Tarasius, Patriarch of Constantinople, initiated negotiations with Pope Hadrian I. The Ecumenical Council at Nicaea in 787 condemned the Iconoclasts. The Iconoclast Controversy was a major contributor towards the enduring schism between East and West.
- Patriarchal / See / Patriarch / Years / Heresy
- Antioch Paul of Samosata 260-269 Modalist
Antioch Eulalius c.322 Arian
Antioch Euphronius c.327-c.329 Arian
Constantinople Eusebius c.341-42 Arian
Constantinople Macedonius c.342-60 Semi-Arian
Antioch Leontius 344-58 Arian
Alexandria George 357-61 Arian
Antioch Eudoxius 358-60 Arian
Constantinople Eudoxius 360 Arian
Antioch Euzoius 361-78 Arian
Constantinople Nestorius 428-31 Nestorian!
Alexandria Dioscorus 448-51 Monophysite
Alexandria Timothy Aelurus 457-60, 475-77 Monophysite
Antioch Peter the Fuller 470,475-7, 482-88 Monophysite
Constantinople Acacius 471-89 Monophysite
Antioch John Codonatus 477,488 Monophysite
Alexandria Peter Mongo 477-90 Monophysite
Antioch Palladius 488-98 Monophysite
Constantinople Phravitas 489-90 Monophysite
Constantinople Euphemius 490-96 Monophysite
Alexandria Athanasius II 490-96 Monophysite
Alexandria John II 496-505 Monophysite
Alexandria John III 505-518 Monophysite
Constantinople Timothy I 511-17 Monophysite
Antioch Severus 512-18 Monophysite
Alexandria Timothy III 518-35 Monophysite
Constantinople Anthimus 535-36 Monophysite
Alexandria Theodosius 535-38 Monophysite
Antioch Sergius c.542-c.557 Monophysite
Antioch Paul "the Black" c.557-578 Monophysite
Alexandria Damianus 570-c.605 Monophysite
Antioch Peter Callinicum 578-91 Monophysite
Constantinople Sergius 610-38 Monothelite
Antioch Anthanasius c.621-629 Monothelite
Alexandria Cyrus c.630-642 Monothelite
Constantinople Pyrrhus 638-41 Monothelite
Antioch Macedonius 640-c.655 Monothelite
Constantinople Paul II 641-52 Monothelite
Constantinople Peter 652-64 Monothelite
Antioch Macarius c.655-681 Monothelite
Constantinople John VI 711-15 Monothelite
At least two out of three of the sees suffered under the yoke of a heterodox "shepherd" simultaneously for 112 years, or 33% of the period from 341 to 681 (or, two-thirds heretical for one-third of the time), and at least 248 of these same years saw one or more of the sees burdened with sub-orthodox ecclesiastical leaders: an astonishing 73% rate.
Thus the East, as represented by its three greatest bishops, was at least one-third heretical for nearly three-quarters of the time over a 340-year span. If we examine each city separately, we find, for example, that between 475 and 675, the patriarchs of Constantinople, Alexandria, and Antioch were outside the Catholic orthodox faith for 41%, 55%, and 58% of the time respectively.
Furthermore, these deplorable conditions often manifested themselves for long, unbroken terms: Antioch and Alexandria were Monophysite for 49 and 63 straight years (542-91 and 475-538 respectively), while Constantinople, the seat of the Byzantine Empire and the "New Rome," was embroiled in the Monothelite heresy for 54 consecutive years (610-64). There were at least (the list is not exhaustive) 41 heretical Patriarchs of these sees between 260 and 711.
- Eutyches [a Monophysite] was supported by the Imperial Court, and by Dioscorus the Patriarch of Alexandria . . . A general Council was summoned for the ensuing summer at Ephesus [in 449] . . . It was attended by sixty metropolitans, ten from each of the great divisions of the East; the whole number of bishops assembled amounted to one hundred and thirty-five . . . St. Leo [the Great, Pope], dissatisfied with the measure altogether, nevertheless sent his legates, but with the object . . . of "condemning the heresy, and reinstating Eutyches if he retracted" . . .
- The proceedings which followed were of so violent a character, that the Council has gone down to posterity under the name of the Latrocinium or "Gang of Robbers." Eutyches was honourably acquitted, and his doctrine received . . . which seems to have been the spontaneous act of the assembled Fathers. The proceedings ended by Dioscorus excommunicating the Pope, and the Emperor issuing an edict in approval of the decision of the Council . . .
The Council seems to have been unanimous, with the exception of the Pope's legates, in the restoration of Eutyches; a more complete decision can hardly be imagined. It is true the whole number of signatures now extant, one hundred and eight, may seem small out of a thousand, the number of Sees in the East; but the attendance of Councils always bore a representative character. The whole number of East and West was about eighteen hundred, yet the second Ecumenical Council was attended by only one hundred and fifty, which is but a twelfth part of the whole number; the Third Council by about two hundred, or a ninth; the Council of Nicaea itself numbered only three hundred and eighteen Bishops.
Moreover, when we look through the names subscribed to the Synodal decision, we find that the misbelief, or misapprehension, or weakness, to which this great offence must be attributed, was no local phenomenon, but the unanimous sin of Bishops in every patriarchate and of every school of the East. Three out of the four patriarchs were in favour of the heresiarch, the fourth being on his trial. Of these Domnus of Antioch and Juvenal of Jerusalem acquitted him, on the ground of his confessing the faith of Nicaea and Ephesus . . . Dioscorus . . . was on this occasion supported by those Churches which had so nobly stood by their patriarch Athanasius in the great Arian conflict. These three Patriarchs were supported by the Exarchs of Ephesus and Caesarea in Cappadocia; and both of these as well as Domnus and Juvenal, were supported in turn by their subordinate Metropolitans. Even the Sees under the influence of Constantinople, which was the remaining sixth division of the East, took part with Eutyches . . .
Such was the state of Eastern Christendom in the year 449; a heresy, appealing to the Fathers, to the Creed, and, above all, to Scripture, was by a general Council, professing to be Ecumenical, received as true in the person of its promulgator. If the East could determine a matter of faith independently of the West, certainly the Monophysite heresy was established as Apostolic truth in all its provinces from Macedonia to Egypt . . .
At length the Imperial Government, . . . came to the conclusion that the only way of restoring peace to the Church was to abandon the Council of Chalcedon. In the year 482 was published the famous Henoticon or Pacification of Zeno, in which the Emperor took upon himself to determine a matter of faith. The Henoticon declared that no symbol of faith but that of the Nicene Creed, commonly so called, should be received in the Churches; it anathematized the opposite heresies of Nestorius and Eutyches, and it was silent on the question of the "One" or "Two Natures" after the Incarnation . . . All the Eastern Bishops signed this Imperial formulary. But this unanimity of the East was purchased by a breach with the West; for the Popes cut off the communication between Greeks and Latins for thirty-five years . . .
Dreary and waste was the condition of the Church, and forlorn her prospects, at the period which we have been reviewing . . . There was but one spot in the whole of Christendom, one voice in the whole Episcopate, to which the faithful turned in hope in that miserable day. In the year 493, in the Pontificate of Gelasius, the whole of the East was in the hands of traitors to Chalcedon, and the whole of the West under the tyranny of the open enemies of Nicaea . . .
A formula which the Creed did not contain [Leo's Tome at the Council of Chalcedon in 451], which the Fathers did not unanimously witness, and which some eminent Saints had almost in set terms opposed, which the whole East refused as a symbol, not once, but twice, patriarch by patriarch, metropolitan by metropolitan, first by the mouth of above a hundred, then by the mouth of above six hundred of its Bishops, and refused upon the grounds of its being an addition to the Creed, was forced upon the Council . . . by the resolution of the Pope of the day, acting through his Legates and supported by the civil power.
- The Orthodox Church alone has been completely faithful to Christ and the Apostolic Church. (Young, ibid., p. 16)
- The method to be followed towards full communion is the dialogue of truth, fostered and sustained by the dialogue of love. . . the Catholic Church desires nothing less than full communion between East and West.(Ut Unum Sint - That They May Be One; [60-61], May 25, 1995)
Uploaded in 1997 by Dave Armstrong.