THE ORTHODOX CATHOLIC FAITH

by V. Rev. Damian Krehel

 

Foreword

During my pastorate as a Russian Orthodox priest I have found many parishioners, especially our Youth, very eager to have the question of the “catholicity” of our Church clarified, and with it to prove her rightful place among Christian denominations of the world today.

This interest was prompted by the fact that in World War II Orthodox Catholic soldiers in their religious classification were determined by the U.S. Military Authorities as belonging to the Protestant groups, and also by the fact that in American jurisprudence a “catholic” means legally Roman Catholic or one who owes spiritual allegiance to the Pope. On the other hand, an Orthodox Catholic, from the Roman Catholic viewpoint, is considered someone secondary, untrue, defiant, schismatic, and as such always subject to the mercy of the Papal See to grant or to withhold from him “needed” canonical validity and jurisdiction.

Therefore, the purpose of this booklet is to re-state briefly the most controversial issues between the Orthodox Catholic and Roman Catholic Churches and to prove, on the basis of the teaching and the interpretation of the undivided Universal (Catholic) Church of Christ, that the Holy Eastern Orthodox Catholic and Apostolic Church was predestined and is the de jure successor of the original Church of Christ on earth.

Archpriest Damian Krehel
Elmira, New York

 

Orthodox Catholic Interpretation of Roman Catholic Claims of Papal Primacy and Jurisdiction

As despised Pilate was concerned and interested in the truth when he asked Jesus … “What is truth?”, [1] so every thinking Christian is rightfully entitled to know where is the TRUTH entrusted by Jesus to His Apostles. Where, in which Church on earth, is the true Apostolic teaching, Christian ethos, Sacraments, worship, redemptive Sacrifice, and organization?

In the face of persistent claims of the Roman Catholic Church that she is the only true Church on earth and her doctrine of “Exclusive Salvation,” a mere re-statement of the teachings of the Orthodox Catholic Church will not suffice to grasp the proper concept of Orthodox Catholicism. Here, specifically, the logical principle, “aut — aut, tertium non datur” [2] must be applied. There cannot be two true Churches on earth speaking authoritatively in the name of Christ, for we adhere to the Apostolic dictum, “One Lord, one faith, one Baptism.” [3] But which faith — Roman Catholic or Orthodox Catholic?

Laying aside for the moment minor doctrinal and traditional differences between the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Catholic Churches, there exists one major difference in teaching and interpretation of the structure, institution, spirit, and administration of the original Church of Christ. And Christendom is still divided thereon.

With all due respect, we cannot deny the vast humanitarian work the Roman Catholic Church carries on in the world; neither can we deny her greatness in membership, leadership, and organization in Christendom. But the foregoing do not give the Roman Catholic Church the canonical right to consider herself exclusively the Church of Christ on earth, as can be seen from the fact that a majority does not necessarily constitute or represent the Truth.

In fact, the Roman Catholic Church in dealings with “dissidents” permits — according to one’s pleasure — to omit Filioque in reading the Nicene Creed to all desiring to embrace the Roman Catholic Faith; this dogma, among others, was one of the basic causes which brought about the separation of the East and West. Yet the Roman Catholic Church will not permit such liberty in her doctrine of jurisdiction. Why? Because jurisdiction means power. And through jurisdiction Rome may claim, exercise, and usurp power over the faithful; power and prerogatives which Jesus never meant to grant to any mortal; power — which changes the real sense, intention, and the institution of the Church itself; power — which might be, and, factually, was abused even in the name of God. As a matter of fact, Papal lust for power — Orthodox Catholic Church History contends — was the real factor in creating a breach between the two Churches.

Christ taught … “I am the way, the truth and the life.” [4] So, we must go back to the Truth — to Christ, back to the sources of Catholicism, that is, trace through the Holy Scriptures, Tradition, Church History, and Ecumenical Councils; and in this manner find His intention and purpose for the Church on earth. Accordingly, we must cite controversial questions with His word, the Apostles’ words, and the original undivided Church’s interpretation of the same.

One may feel inferior psychologically in belonging to a Church that is alleged to be untrue or valid. With Roman Catholic claims of Papal “supremacy,” membership in the Orthodox Catholic Church may of itself — tend to give an Orthodox believers such a religious inferiority complex. But let us ask the Truth on the subject.

The Church — consisting of Clergy and Laity — is the exclusive institution Christ left on earth to continue His work of salvation. Its purpose is to call men out of sin and misery and to lead them to perfection and eternal happiness in God. It preaches the message of Redemption to a world lying in wickedness and evil. And to be in the Church means to be in the Kingdom of God on earth, and thus to take the first step to Heaven. Governed by the Holy Spirit, Who energizes and spiritualizes Her, the Church to the Christian believer represents the ultimate and absolute authority in religion, ethics, and worship.

The needed solidarity and brotherhood among men can be attained only through the Church, for she is the depository of supernatural Grace, without which no one can be transformed spiritually or attain salvation.

Only a true member of the Church can believe and penetrate the Truth inasmuch as unbelievers or heathens know or perceive only by external knowledge. In the Church man finds truth and love without end; and the source of this love is the love of our Saviour. In the Church man — crushed under the sufferings of the world — finds solace. “To the truth of the world thou are only a cipher, a dead cipher on the statistical tablet, to Christ thou are a brother, to God thou are a son, to the Holy Ghost thou are a temple, and to the Angels thou are a friend.” [5]

The Church does not take its name from any known place or locality notwithstanding its political or economic importance. Church names such as Antiochian, Constantinopolitan, Jerusalemean, Roman, Alexandrian, etc., were only local sectional Churches. They constituted only parts of the one Universal (Catholic) Church. Ascribing the title “Mother Church” to any one of these local Churches would have historical support only if such local Church were sanctified by the presence of Jesus Himself — one from which the Gospel spread to all corners of the globe. “And that repentance and remission of sins would be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.” [6] “But ye shall receive power, after the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.” [7]

If the title “Mother Church” should be granted any locality on a logical basis, such local Church should be the one which before all others shone with purity of teaching and devoutness of morality — one before which the Apostles had to give account of their apostolic work. “Then tidings of these things came into the ears of the church which was in Jerusalem: and they sent fourth Barnabas, that he should go far as Antioch.” [8] “When therefore Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and disputation with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas, and certain other of them, should go up to Jerusalem unto the Apostles and elders about this question.” [9] “And as they went through the cities, they delivered them the decrees to keep, that were ordained of the apostles and elders which were in Jerusalem.” [10]

Thus, historically and logically, the Church of Jerusalem is the Mother of all Churches — the first Church — because from it spread the preaching of the Gospel to all corners of the globe. And it was the CATHOLIC or universal Church, because from it all nations accepted faith and teaching. This is so notwithstanding the fact that emperors subsequent thereto, and not Christ or the Apostles, granted priority to Rome and Constantinople because they were seats of the empire. “Actually, the only heart of the Church on Earth, the only heart of all History, is neither Canterbury, nor Rome, nor Constantinople nor Moscow, but Jerusalem,” wrote Rev. Derwas J. Chitty, in his paper Orthodoxy and the Conversion of England. [11]

By the word Catholic (universal) derived from the Greek word “katholikos” [kata, according to, plus olos, whole] reference is made not to the size of the Church, nor the number of communicants — as membership increases or decreases according to man’s will, time, and circumstances; but reference is made to her institution by Jesus to embrace all people, wherever their abode on earth. “And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature,” [12] to “teach all nations” the salutary faith, [13] and to propagate it “unto the uttermost part of the earth.” [14] The word Catholic has been used by ecclesiastical writers since the Second Century to distinguish the Church at large from local communities or heretical sects. A notable exposition of the meaning of the term as it developed during the first three centuries was given by Cyril of Jerusalem: [15] “The Church is called Catholic on the fourfold ground of its world-wide extension, its doctrinal completeness, its adaptation to the needs of men of every kind, and its moral and spiritual perfection.”

To be the Catholic Church, it need not embrace at any one time the whole world, all people, or every living Christian; but it was her predestination to be all-inclusive, in accord with well acknowledged dictum that God and one is already a majority.

The Church was named Catholic as far back as the Apostolic period and generally referred to as Catholic during the first three centuries, although she was then small in size. When the Fathers of the Church referred to her as Catholic, they meant and pointed towards her universality. So wrote St. Ignatius: “Where Christ is, there is also the Catholic Church.” [16]

The size of the Orthodox Catholic Church generally, and in each country particularly, is not dependent on the fact of her divine institution but on the systematical propagation of faith. And in this respect we must regretfully admit that the field is large for the propagation of faith, but the laborers are few.

Perhaps, by our study and better understanding of the history of Orthodox Catholicism we will, especially in America, become more conscious of our obligation before the whole world, and we should strive to live and act accordingly.

After being commissioned to teach all nations, “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost,” [17] the Apostles were the first and the only teachers of the Word of God, the ruling authority, and the administrants of the Sacraments. With increased needs within the Church, the Apostles ordained as helpers first deacons, then priests, and then bishops, to whom they delegated part of their duties. After the Apostles died, the fullness of Church authority passed to the bishops, and the bishops — each one in his respective diocese — became the hierarchs of the Church and the successors of the apostolic work within it.

The first bishops of the Church were the disciples and companions of the Apostles. During his last stay in Rome, St. Paul ordained its first bishop Linus and his successor Anecletus. The third bishop of Rome, Clement, according to tradition, was ordained by St. Peter. “There is no doubt that Apostle Peter preached in Rome, but he was not, as some think, a bishop there.” [18]

As far back as the Apostolic era there began to arise an authority of provincial bishops who were called “metropolitans.” The 34th Apostolic canon obligates local bishops to respect and recognize metropolitans as their heads. This same rule provides that the metropolitan shall not undertake anything important without the deliberation of all bishops of his district on the subject matter in question. Therefore, metropolitans convoked councils of their bishops every year. Later — on the pattern of Roman civic schematism — church centers were established and known under the name of patriarchates. The rights and preeminences of the patriarchates were approved by the authority of the Ecumenical Councils. [19]

At the first Ecumenical Council [20] the preeminence of bishops of the three main centers of the Roman empire was approved, namely, Rome, Alexandria, and Antioch. To these honoris causa [21] was added the bishop of Jerusalem. At the second Ecumenical Council [22] such preeminence of honor was granted to the bishop of Constantinople. Another reason for granting preeminence to the foregoing cities was that the cathedrals of bishops in these cities were established by the Apostles themselves, and here — in the course of history — Christians turned for moral support, advice, and inspiration in disputes and difficulties, believing that in those centers the holy traditions were kept firm and intact. [23] Rome was looked upon as the former capital of the world, and Constantinople as the seat of the empire. The prerogatives of the aforesaid episcopal sees were ultimately defined at the Fourth Ecumenical Council [24] from which time they began to be called patriarchates. The said Fourth Ecumenical Council granted the Roman Patriarch a jurisdiction to include the following: Italy with its adjacent islands, parts of present France and Germany, Northern Africa, and the Thessalonian exarchate. The rights of all patriarchs were equal, and only in the order of enumeration was the Roman patriarch first, Constantinopolitan second, Alexandrian third, Antiochian fourth, and Jerusalemean fifth. Thus the original undivided Church of Christ consisted of the five above-mentioned patriarchates knit together by acknowledgment of a common faith, a common heritage, and an administrative democratic principle of majority rule.

The Roman patriarch called himself pope, derived from the Greek word pappas or the post-classical Latin papa, meaning father. In the Fourth and Fifth Centuries pope was frequently used in the West of any bishop. In the East, on the other hand, only the bishop of Alexandria used and still uses the term pope as a title; but in popular usage its greatest application has been with reference to priests. At the present day, in the Greek Church and in Russia, all the priests are called pappas, which is also translated “pope.” In the Eleventh Century Pope Gregory VII [25] restricted its use exclusively to the bishop of Rome. [26]

Only world political and historical events, and not Divine institution or Apostolic interpretation, greatly favored the rise of the Roman patriarchate over the other four remaining patriarchates, namely, events such as: (1) The end of the Western Roman Empire, [27] (2) conversion within the Roman Patriarchate of the Franks, [28] whose kings conducted wars against the “insubordinate” Arian Visigoths and Burgundians — under the pretext of zealousness for Faith — and (3) the spread of Mohammedanism [29] in territories in which the three patriarchates of Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem had to work out the vineyard of Christ.

After the emperor moved his capital to the East, [30] that is from Rome to Constantinople, the pope became the first personality in the West. Consequently and subsequent thereto, the popes on their own behalf — in the absence of the emperor — began to add to Rome a church meaning and significance inasmuch as it received its Christian enlightenment from the prime-Apostles, Saints Peter and Paul. Specifically, the popes recurred to Saint Peter, whose memory was sacred among all Christians, evolving a proposition known in Orthodox Catholic Church History as “False Isidorean Decretals,” which alleges that Jesus made Peter head over all other Apostles setting him up as a Prince of the Church; that this headship after the death of Apostle Peter passed to subsequent Roman popes; and that therefore, the pope is the head of all bishops, a Vicar of Christ on earth. And as such he is alleged to be ipso facto an autocratic monarch of the Church, the Supreme Judge, higher than the Ecumenical Councils — one from whom all bishops and clerics receive gifts of Grace, their rights and “jurisdiction.”

Adapting thus the idea of Peter’s successorship, the popes took advantage of all incidents in the life of the Church to fortify and perpetuate this claim of succession. Such occasions arose in cases where the Eastern patriarchs in their church life difficulties — in the name of brotherly communion and solidarity — appealed to the Roman popes, as brothers in Christ for advice and help since they were first in order of enumeration. These incidents the popes interpreted at later dates as communications of “subordinates” to “superiors” to prove and capitalize on their claim of “primacy.” Such incidents were numerous especially during the period and strife of Iconoclasm in the East.

The Roman Catholic Church builds its claim of papal “supremacy,” “infallibility,” and so forth, on the familiar words Jesus spoke to Peter: … “Thou are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church…” [31] But these words, according to Orthodox Catholic Church teaching were in commendation of St. Peter’s answer to Christ’s previous question: … “But whom say ye that I am?” [32] “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God,” [33] answered Peter. “And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon-Bar-jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.” [34] It was subsequent to the preceding seventeenth verse Jesus further answered by stating to Peter in verses eighteen and nineteen: “And I say also unto thee, that thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Therefore it is patent from the foregoing biblical passages that it was through faith Peter saw the true or divine nature of Christ. And this kind of firm faith constituted the rock upon which Jesus would build his revealed Church.

Moreover, the Latin biblical text used by the Roman Catholic Church “et super hanc petram aedificabo ecclesiam meam” coincides with the biblical text “upon this rock I will build my church.” To validate the Roman contention that the Church was built upon Peter the Roman biblical text would have to read “et super te, Petrum, aedificabo ecclesiam meam” which translated reads “upon thee Peter I will build my church;” factually the Roman text does not concur with the Roman Catholic proposition that Peter is the rock.

If keys — according to Roman Catholic theory — are synonymous with authority, then rock should be synonymous with constancy. However, Peter by his triple apostacy and the name Satan by which Jesus referred to him, neither symbolized nor displayed the firmness and constancy of a rock; neither could Jesus have selected Peter as one  of such firmness and constancy when he said to him: … “Get thou behind me, Satan: thou are at offense unto me…” [35]

Peter, moreover, is regarded nowhere in the Scriptures as chief of the Apostles. In his first Epistle, Chapter 5, verses one and four, he wrote: “The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ. …And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away.” The first Apostolic Council [36] was presided over not by St. Peter but by St. James. “And after they had held their peace, James answered, saying, Men and brethren, hearken unto me. … Wherefore my sentence is, that we trouble not them, which from among the Gentiles are turned to God.” [37] St. Peter was sent by the other Apostles to Samaria: “Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John.” [38] Furthermore St. Peter was rebuked by St. Paul: “But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed.” [39] Also “And when Peter was come up to Jerusalem, they that were of the circumcision contended with him, saying Thou wentest in to men uncircumsized, and didst eat with them.” [40]

Peter was not a bishop of Rome. It is written that Paul was the Apostle of Rome: … “Be of good cheer, Paul: for as thou hast testified of me in Jerusalem, so must you bear witness also at Rome.” [41] St. Irenaeus [42] says that Linus was the first bishop of Rome and Cletus the second. It is generally conceded that St. Peter was bishop of Antioch. The Seven Ecumenical Councils were held in the East, but Roman pontiffs presided over none of them.

So, contrary to Roman Catholic claims, as pointed out by the testimony of the Apostles, Jesus established His Church not on men, but on Himself. “For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” [43] Sometimes the Apostles and Prophets are considered the foundation of the Church and Faith: “And are built upon a foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone …” [44] but in such case they are only indirect, secondary foundations: “For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the Church: and he is the saviour of the body.” [45] “And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead: that in all things he might have the preeminence.” [46] And if the ruling bishops are sometimes called the heads of the Church, it should be understood that they are only — each in his own district — guardians of the flock of Christ, as it is said: “Take heed therefore unto yourself, and to all the flock, over which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers to feed the Church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.” [47]

According to Jesus, every Christian’s duty is to be subordinate in religious matters to the Church. “And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglects to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen and a publican.” [48] And the Church through the Ecumenical Councils has the right to interpret the Scriptures to grant jurisdiction, to judge and try patriarchs, popes, bishops and to subject them — in accordance with the canons and the circumstances of each case — to punishment and penitence. Because the Church is the pillar and foundation … “The house of God which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of truth.” [49] Because the Church, and not the pope, is infallible.

At the Vatican Council by the constitution “Pater aeternus” of the 18th of July, 1870, in the matter of the pope’s jurisdictions the following was decreed: “If any one say that the Roman Pontiff has an office merely of inspection and direction, and not the full and supreme power of jurisdiction over the whole Church, not only in matters of faith and morals, but also as regards discipline and the government of the Church scattered throughout the whole world; or that he has only the principal portion and not the plenitude of that supreme power; or that his power is not ordinary and immediate, as much over each and every church and over each and every pastor and believer; anathema sit.”

One Roman Catholic dogmatic theology text in answer to the question from what power is jurisdiction derived points out the popes receive their jurisdiction over the universal Church directly from Christ. On these bases, no Orthodox priest could validly confess his faithful, although the same priest the Roman Catholic Church acknowledges may validly administered all other Sacraments; similarly, on these bases no Orthodox adherent could be a member of the Church of Christ unless he recognized the authority [jurisdiction] of the pope.

In its essence, the teaching about “Papal Primacy” cannot be accepted as true — according to Orthodox Catholic thought — for it carries in itself a strange incompatibility and contradiction. First, it cannot be believed that the Church, which is the mystical body of Christ and which has for its head Jesus Christ Himself, needs a visible human head. “For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the Church …” [50] who will be with her … “unto the end of the world.” [51]

If Jesus Himself remains always with His Church which is sanctified and guided by the Holy Ghost, it is impossible to understand why the Church still needs a visible head in the person of a mortal man. It also cannot be conceded that the Church — which embraces not only living members but those faithful who have died, and also Saints in heaven — should have as its head a mortal and sinful man. To accept such a teaching one would have to ascribe to the pope — a living man — a divine honour, authority or deification which is of course unrealistic.

Therefore on the basis of the word of God, every Orthodox Catholic Christian who is a member of any one of the autocephalous canonical Churches, which together with the original four Patriarchates constitute the Orthodox Catholic Church, is eo ipso within the Church of Christ and within His spiritual jurisdiction — the only jurisdiction we must accept according to His will expressed in Revelation 3:20: “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.”

 

The Separation — Controversial Teachings of Filioque, Immaculate Conception, Indulgences, Infallibility and Purgatory

The separation originated from psychological, racial, and cultural differences, and was preceded by tensions due to doctrinal changes and jurisdictional incidents. But the immediate or main reason for the separation can be attributed to the introduction in the Liturgy of unleavened bread or wafers; this use of unleavened bread was contrary to teaching and usage in the original Catholic or universal Church. The foregoing and not “puerile objections,” as stated by Roman Catholic Church History, brought about the final separation between the two Churches, that is, between the East and West in 1054 A.D. Patriarch Michael Cerularius protested these innovations of the Roman Patriarchate, and at the Council of Constantinople these innovations were found and adjudicated to be erroneous. After bitter denunciation and mutual excommunications, the Western Patriarchate fell away from the Holy Eastern Orthodox Catholic and Apostolic Church — the original Church of Christ — and began its own life, deviating more and more from the purity of original Christian traditions, and introducing more and more innovations in the teaching of faith, ritual, and hierarchical structure. All these new innovations, in the course of time, were given equal eminence at the Western Councils with the original dogmas and the canons of the Universal [Orthodox Catholic] Church of Christ. Thus in the Roman Catholic Church were originated a whole new system of doctrines, and a new concept in Church structure. And the new Roman spirit for power perverted in the Roman Catholic Church the origin of spiritual life, the origin of free and brotherly love; it changed the Western Church from a spiritual Kingdom of God into a worldly kingdom, absorbing in itself the principles of governmental organization and secular governmental purposes, interests, and aspirations. [52] Although separated from the original Church of Christ, that is the Orthodox Catholic Church, the Roman Catholic Church did not stop to claim jurisdiction over the Orthodox body.

In order that the Roman Catholic Church could present itself in a magnitudinous aspect and grandeur, equal with the greatness of the Roman empire, it was necessary to centralize the strength of each member — moral and material — and embody them in one person. Quite logically therefore, there appeared the teachings of papal supremacy, infallibility, power to proclaim dogmas, and so forth. It was also necessary to clothe the pope’s hierarchy — that the pope might keep his unlimited authority — with relative power over the faithful, so that the latter, factually, in their church membership are left with three prerogatives: to pray, pay, and obey.

All Roman Catholic dissentious teachings originated usually from personal views of authoritative persons, popes, teachers, and theologians. Gradually such teachings were admitted into practice; they acquired greater strength, became legalized, and theoretical support had to be found for them to attain the status of “dogmas.” Dogmatic truths, however, to be such generally must be accepted and acknowledged by each and every believing Christian as necessary unto salvation — truths that cannot be disputed or changed, truths revealed by Jesus to mankind, and conveyed to the faithful by His Apostles. This means truths and not views, which in the Roman Catholic Church have received the strength of law during the many centuries depending on corresponding favorable external circumstances. Dogmatic truths, such as revealed by God, have their foundation in the Holy Scriptures and Apostolic traditions. What cannot be found in the source of Divine Revelation, according to the Orthodox mind, cannot be dogma. In this light none of the Roman Catholic alleged dogmas proclaimed after separation from the Orthodox Catholic Church can be substantiated by the Holy Scriptures.

Some of the later Roman Catholic alleged dogmas, such as the Filioque, Papal Supremacy, Infallibility, and so forth, are based on rationalization, logical rules, and subsequent artificial but forceful conclusions to which some ground and connection with the Scriptures has been sought.

Aside from ritualistic, disciplinary, administrational, and doctrinal dissensions from the original undivided Church, the following purported dogmas of the Roman Catholic Church have no foundation in the Scriptures and, as such, do not have the approval of the Orthodox Catholic Church:

  1. Papal Supremacy
  2. The Filioque
  3. The Immaculate Conception of St. Mary
  4. Indulgences
  5. Papal Infallibility
  6. Purgatory

 

The Filioque

The Orthodox Catholic Church defends the universally accepted Niceno-Constantinopolitan Symobl, that is, the procession of the Holy Ghost from the Father on the basis of the Scriptures: “And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you forever.” [53] “But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me.” [54] Rule Number Seven of the Third Ecumenical Council [55] forbade under threat of anathema any subtraction or substitution to this Symbol, and all the subsequent Ecumenical Councils have left the Symbol intact.

Contrary to the definition of the first two Ecumenical Councils in Nicaea and Constantinople, the Roman Catholic Church teaches that the holy Ghost proceeds “ex Patre Filioque”, that is both from the Father and the Son. A Roman Catholic dogmatic theology text in explaining the basis for the alleged dogma of “Filioque” goes on to state that certain unidentified Nestorians for some inexplainable reason as the years went by were led to believe that the Second Ecumenical Council at Constantinople brought forth the determination that “ex Patre” is meant “ex solo Patre.” It explains that some fanatic monks publicly defended this view in Jerusalem, A.D. 808, protesting the insertion into the Nicene Creed the word “Filioque” because they alleged the Holy Ghost does not proceed from the Son. The text further blames Photius (A.D. 891) who was the Patriarch of Constantinople, and considered the most learned scholar of his age, as accusing Latins of heresy for adopting the “Filioque.” At the great Council held in Constantinople (A.D. 879) attended by 380 bishops, the Orthodox Church anathematized or excommunicated all those who would add or subtract from the Symbol of Nicaea concludes the text.

It was in Spain the above text explains where the Filioque first came into use. The synod of bishops at Seleucia solemnly professed their faith “in Spiritum vivum et sanctum, Paraclitum vivum et sanctum, qui procedit ex Patre et Filio” as early as A.D. 410.

If we were to accept Roman Catholic philosophical arguments attempting to support the Filioque doctrine, then by the words “Born of the Father,” one might also assume by like inference that the Son is born also from the Holy Ghost, since the Holy Ghost is one with the Father according to substance. This assumption, however, would of course be absurd.

That not all leaders of the Western Church were in accord with the “Filioque,” is a historical fact. Accordingly, no further commentaries on the foregoing points are needed to justify the stand of the Orthodox Catholic Church.

 

Immaculate Conception of Saint Mary

Pope Pius IX in his Bull “Ineffabilis Deus”, of December 8, 1854, declared: “We define that the doctrine which declares that the most blessed Virgin Mary, in the first instant of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege granted to her by Almighty God, through the merits of Jesus Christ, Saviour of mankind, was preserved from all stain of original sin, is a doctrine revealed by God and therefore must be held firmly and constantly by all faithful Christians.”

As against this contention, among others, the famous Latin theologian and Saint, Bernard (Claverius) wrote: “Hence, if Mary could not be sanctified before her conception, since she was not yet in existence, not in the act of conception itself, on account of the sin (concupiscence) involved therein, it follows that she was sanctified in the womb after conception, which, since she was cleansed from sin, made her nativity holy, not her conception.”

The Orthodox Catholic Church on this Roman teaching of “Immaculate Conception” states that it is in direct contradiction to the Holy Scriptures (a) with respect to the universality of original sin and its consequence in the human race; (b) with respect to the merits of Christ through which man’s salvation is made possible; and (c) with respect to the relation between Grace and man’s free will.

Jesus taught: “That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit [through Baptism] is spirit.” [56] St. Paul wrote: “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed to all men, for that all have sinned.” [57] In the above neither Jesus nor St. Paul make any exception in regard to the universality of the original sin and its consequence in all born naturally. All who are descendants of Adam in the natural course are born in sin, because they sinned yet in Adam. Jesus is the only exception who came only in the “likeness of sinful flesh,” [58] Who in contradiction to the first man, created of earth, was by nature “the Lord from heaven”, [59] Who … “came down from Heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven,” [60] Who in one word was Godman.

In Acts 4, verse 12, we read: “Neither is there salvation in any other for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.”

If we accept the Roman Catholic alleged dogma of “Immaculate Conception,” then it would mean that St. Mary had no need of Redemption of Her Son, Jesus Christ. Although the Roman Catholic Church avers that the Grace of God was given her in the name of the merits of Christ, this need in Redemption is only abstractive, based not on an actual sin and its consciousness, but only on a possible sin, consumed before its consciousness. In a word — St. Mary, as wholly pure, could not have consciousness of sin and a feeling of guilt; and, therefore, she could not have feeling and consciousness for the need and necessity of Redemption.

Let us assume as Roman Catholic theologians aver, that St. Mary had need of Redemption and factually was redeemed even before her conception. How can we reconcile such a modus of Redemption with the free will of man? St. Paul writes in his epistle to the Philippians, Chapter 2, verse 12 and 13: “Wherefore, my beloved … work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.” In these words of the Scriptures a thought is expressed, that although our salvation is effectuated by the Grace of God, it cannot be effective without our will. Accordingly, it is necessary that we submit ourselves to the Grace of God and gradually grow in moral life. The Latin Church by her teaching of “Immaculate Conception” — efficacy of which is ascribed to the merits of Christ imputed to her before the awakening of her consciousness, even before her very being — proposes in contradiction to the Scriptures the possibility of pure external mechanical sanctification and purification of human substance.

 

Indulgences

The concept of “Indulgences” in the Roman Catholic Church is the outcome of her distinction in Christ’s teachings of the “praecepta” (commandments), and “consilia evangelica” (counsels). In the “commandments” there is shown an obligatory norm for ordinary, so to speak, morality; and under the “counsels” there is shown a higher degree of moral, but not obligatory perfection. Every one, accordingly, should keep commandments, but keeping or following the “counsels” is left to the free choice of each individual. In Matthew 19:21, it states: “Jesus said unto him, if thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven…” whence the Roman Catholics conclude that refusal [as the young man factually did] to obey the counsels will not bar salvation, but fulfillment thereof will lead towards higher perfection. Of course, this refers to all other counsels mentioned in the Bible. Accordingly, he who fulfills the evangelical counsels performs deeds which stand above the requirement of the law. In a word — he performs the “opera supererogationis” and as such attains a high degree of holiness. Such deeds for the performers themselves are not necessary, because they are above duty; but they become part of those called “thesaurus meritorum” which are superabundant merits of Christ, St. Mary, and the Saints. These superabundant merits are applied to all living members of the Church on the strength of the mystical union binding them wit the Head and other members of the victorious Church. The merits — superfluous to Christ and the Saints — may be applied to others who are subject to temporal punishment. “All faithful are mutually united between themselves and form as if a living organism, and as the living members help each other mutually, so the faithful may share between themselves good works, especially those which are for some superfluous, and to others (they) may be necessary and very helpful.” [61] The right to grant indulgences belongs to the Pope.

But the above-stated Roman Catholic theory that man can do more than he ought to is false, and cannot be confirmed by the word of God or by reason.

The law of God is the most perfect and fullest revelation of the Will of God — infinite will; therefore, its contents should also be acknowledged infinite, and in its fullness unrealizable. Jesus said: “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” [62] And, if the contents of the law of God and its requirement is infinite, then it cannot be conceded that a finite and morally corrupt man during his short-lived life could exhaust all infinite fullness of the law. On the other hand, Jesus Himself taught: … “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” [63]

The sense of these words is that man should freely and undividedly offer himself to God. But for such total offering to God and total dedication to the service of men, a total self-denial and self-restraint is necessary according to Jesus: … “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.” [64]

Therefore, he who dedicates himself to God, and turns his mind and attaches his heart to God and is conscious that between him and God there is no longer any barrier, he has not totally fulfilled the law — for that eternity is needed — but he merely places himself in readiness for total fulfillment of God’s law. But, who even from the most perfect of men can say this? St. Paul, the great Apostle, said: “Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark of the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” [65]

Orthodox Catholic thought is, then, that good deeds of man cannot be considered as his merits before God. There can neither be supererogatory deeds. Our attitude toward our Redeemer should be accompanied with our infinite debt of thankfulness for the wholly unmerited and infinite love given us by Him. With such feeling and attitude there can be no thought of earning any merits before Him. Whoever is deeply permeated with the feeling of the never-payable debt before God, he — in the commission of every deed — thinks of his debt, and not merit, and he does so in the name of his debt and not in the name of merit. Whoever governs himself in his relationship with God with filial love, whatever good he does, he does with filial love and filial duty towards Him. He is not like a hireling or servant who for each of his labors awaits a fixed pay. Therefore, regardless of the number of our good deeds, we should not consider them as merits, or more deeds than we should have done; even were we to achieve the highest degree of perfection, we should humbly heed to Christ’s advice: “So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, we are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do.” [66]

 

Infallibility

The Roman Catholic alleged dogma of Infallibility was proclaimed at the Vatican Council, June 18, 1870. It reads: “We decree that when the Roman Pontiff speaks ex cathedra, that it is to say, when, in his capacity as Pastor and Doctor of all Christians he defines, by virtue of his supreme apostolic authority, a certain doctrine concerning faith and morals to be held by the whole Church, he enjoys, the divine assistance promised to him in the Blessed Peter, that infallibility with which the divine Redeemer has thought good to endow His Church in order to define its doctrine in matters of faith and morals; consequently, these definitions of the Roman Pontiff are irreformable in themselves and not in consequence of the consent of the Church.”

Disregarding, for the sake of the brevity of this work, many humiliating tirades against the alleged dogma of “Infallibility,” the Orthodox Catholic Church cannot accept this concept, because the Roman Catholic Church transfers the essence of the infallibility of the Church in all its entirety to the person of the pope. Such teaching introduces many contradictions. According to the Roman Catholic Church, the pope as Supreme Pastor when he speaks “ex cathedra” is infallible. But according to Roman teaching, the pope personally, as man, and as a scholar, is fallible, and he may even err in questions of faith and morality; he even may be an unbeliever, a materialist, etc. Consequently, the pope’s infallibility is tied not with his personality but with his office. The pope is infallible when he speaks ex cathedra, but there is no sign or standard whereby the infallible decrees may be discerned, and where to draw a line to separate the personal opinions of the pope from those ex cathedra, whilst the necessity of drawing such a line becomes quite apparent in view of the many and contradictory decrees. For instance, Pope Leo III in spite of Charles the Great’s demands did not agreed to add to the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed the new teaching “Filioque” and ordered the above Creed to be engraved on two silver plates in St. Peter’s Basilica to deter posterity from making any changes therein. [67] On the other hand, Pope Benedict (A.D. 1014) ordered that “Filioque” be added to the Creed. As a result which of the popes acted “infallibly” cannot be readily ascertained.

The “infallible” teachings of the popes have been also denounced by history. There have been popes who even in their “ex cathedra” pronouncements have erred; for instance Pope Clement was accused and denounced for “Gnosticism,” and Pope Honorius was anathematized or excommunicated for Monotheletic heresy.

Pope Gregory VII (Hildebrant) compared the authority of popes to the light of the sun, and the authority of kings and emperors to the light of the moon. As the moon takes light from the sun, he stated, so the authority of the kings and emperors is taken from the authority of the popes. If the kings are disobedient to the popes they should be replaced by those obedient. As a means to enforce their authority over the “disobedient,” the popes proclaimed “interdicts” against whole territories of such “disobedient” kings. By that censure, the people under interdict were deprived of all church services, that is, of all religious consolation and Sacraments; and, greatly pressed by spiritual hunger, they began to revolt against the kings, and the kings, “volens-nolens,” that is, willingly or unwillingly, began to humble themselves before the popes. Thus the popes claimed and enforced “jurisdiction” over the souls of men.

The Orthodox Catholic Church, being faithful to Her Founder, Jesus Christ, will steadfastly defend the teaching that only the CHURCH is infallible, and the writings about alleged papal “infallibility” will only strengthen Her belief and zeal for Orthodoxy.

 

Purgatory

The Roman Catholic Church teaches that not all persons who depart this life are fit to enter immediately into the Kingdom of God. Many persons are burdened with what are known as venial transgressions. Many others have not up to the time of their expiration fully expiated the temporal punishments due for their sins. As a matter of divine justice the Roman Catholic theologians aver to admit such souls into Heaven would be repugnant to divine justice; moreover, such admittance of morally unclean persons into Heaven would violate the Holy Writ which teaches that nothing defiled shall enter Heaven. Furthermore, it is contended that God in his justice could not consign these souls to Hell. Therefore there must be a middle state or purgatorium wherein the above souls could be cleansed of their venial sins, or if said souls have not fully paid the temporal punishments due for their forgiven sins, they must expiate the remainder of them. It can therefore be stated and defined the purgatory is a state of temporary punishment for those persons who have departed this life not in the full grace of God, or a state of temporary punishment for those persons who are not entirely free from venial sins or who have not yet fully paid the satisfaction due for their transgressions.

The Orthodox Catholic Church teaches that there is no such state as “purgatory” in which souls must pass through fiery torments in order to prepare them for blessedness, for there is no need of any other purification except that established through Jesus. The blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth us from all sins. The Saints of the Church ascend into Heaven: … “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them.” [68] And the sinners, who have not on earth taken advantage of the means offered them for salvation through the Church descend to Hell. “And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried; and in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.” [69] “And Jesus said unto him, verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise.” [70] The sinners who repent before death, but have had no time to bring forth fruits of penance, also those who die suddenly and have no time to cleanse themselves of their venial sins can be delivered form the torments of Hell — from the day of Particular Judgement to the day of General Judgement — by the prayers of the Church through alms given for their benefit, and specifically by the offering of a Liturgical Sacrifice on their behalf. Many passages from the Old and New Testament confirm the necessity of prayers for the dead. It is holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead, that they may be released from their sins. All sins, except the sin against the Holy Ghost, are forgiven. “And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: But whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come.” [71] Only God can deliver the souls of the dead form the torments of Hell, and He only knows who shall be so delivered. Even the most righteous men of the Old Testament descended into Hell and were freed therefrom only after the Resurrection of Jesus, that is, through His merits on the cross.

It would be well to add, that eternal blessedness, which should be the climactic aspiration of every Christian, is not a kind of premium for the earthly life of man. It is not a reward, not compensation for a virtuous life, but a state which is a natural consequence and the result of man’s own spiritual transformation. If man believed and worked for the Kingdom of God here on earth, if the Kingdom of God was within him [72] then, upon death, he passes into the same but perfect and eternal Kingdom. Because, according to St. John Kassian, “Where there is the Kingdom of God, there is, without doubt, life eternal. But where is the kingdom of the devil here, there will be death and Hell.” [73]

 

The Mission of the Orthodox Catholic Church

Although both East and West are God’s territories, the East — as the rising of the sun — symbolizes the true light. Light illumines the world of dust, dirt, and other evils unknown in the darkness. So Christianity, receiving its beginnings in Bethlehem and Jerusalem, like its Master — not in domination but humility and sacrifice — should serve mankind, to “minister rather than be ministered unto,” [74] and thus continue the cause of Christ in bringing all nations to a closer understanding, friendship, peace, and brotherhood.

The EAST is also the land of first man, Adam — the land of sin. It should therefore become the land of salvation. The birth of Jesus in the East should symbolize the rising of the new Sun, eternal and immaterial, whose light should illumine with its rays the whole world, and convince the world of its sinful ways. Here, in the East, at the Apostolic Council (A.D. 51), in the spirit of Christian charity, was established a modus operandi or perfect order for settling the important problems in the Church and for establishing communication between the individual churches. Here Faith, traditions, worship, rituals, and all interior and exterior orders received their origin and approval. In this light the East should be the center of Christian consciousness, for only by knowing the truth about the origin of the Church of Christ can we have understanding towards existing Christian denominations, and thus aim at unity through mutual respect, equality, and brotherhood, in the spirit of democracy as it existed at the First Christian Council on earth.

Orthodox Catholics should be very proud of their heritage, and not only pray “Thy kingdom come” … but work in coordination that the light of Orthodox Catholicism may shine brighter in this land of freedom, and in the world generally.

With charity to all and with tolerance to those who disagree with us let us learn, and always defend the truth entrusted to our Fathers, for only knowledge of truth shall make us and the world truly free.

NOTES

[1] Cf. John 18:38.

[2] Either/or — there is no third premise or possibility.

[3] Eph. 4:5.

[4] John 14:6.

[5] Life Within the Church. [From a collection of sermons of the Moscow Theological Academy; no date or author ascertainable.]

[6] Luke 24:47.

[7] Acts 1:8.

[8] Acts 11:22.

[9] Acts 15:2.

[10] Acts 16:4.

[11] London: Curtis and Beamish, Ltd. [A paper read at the Conference of the Fellowship of St. Alban and St. Sergius, on 31st July, 1947, and subsequently revised, by the Rev. Derwas J. Chitty.]

[12] Mark 16:15.

[13] Cf. Matth. 28:19.

[14] Cf. Acts 1:8.

[15] [348 A.D.] Cf. Encyclopaedia Britannica, Vol. 5, p. 41.

[16] [Saint Ignatius (107 A.D.) was a Bishop of Antioch; he was an outstanding theologian and martyr.] Cf. Porkovsky, S. Course of Practical Guide for Priests. St. Petersburg: Tuzoff Publishing Company, 1898, p. 253.

[17] Matth. 28:19.

[18] Cf. Smirnoff, Peter. History of The Christian Orthodox Church. St. Petersburg: Florova Press, 1912, pp. 37-39.

[19] The Ecumenical Councils constituted the highest authority in the Church to which all patriarchs of the early centuries were subject. They were the extraordinary gatherings of all representatives of Church of Christ from all parts of the world. The right to vote at the Councils belonged only to Bishops as hierarchs of their representative patriarchates or dioceses; but the bishops could be represented by priests and even deacons of their choice. After the establishment of the patriarchates, it was a necessary condition of the Ecumenical Councils that every patriarch select his own representatives with credentials and projects which were submitted to the Council’s agenda. The decrees of the Ecumenical Councils which were expressions of the beliefs of the entire Church — enlivened by the Holy Ghost — had universal obligation not only for contemporaries but for all time. The Ecumenical Councils being convoked by emperors who often presided over them, thus constituted the highest legal Councils of the Christian Church.

[20] This First Ecumenical Council was held at Nicaea (A.D. 325) with 318 bishops present.

[21] As a mark of honor.

[22] This Second Ecumenical Council was held in Constantinople (A.D. 381) with 150 bishops present. At this Council the second part of the symbol of Faith or Credo was defined and accepted.

[23] Corinthian Christians turned to Clement (A.D. 90) who was Bishop of Rome.

[24] This Fourth Ecumenical Council was held at Chalcedon (A.D. 451). It condemned the heresy of Eutyches; likewise 30 rules or canons were composed, and this Council finally designated and approved the jurisdiction of the five patriarchates.

[25] Died A.D. 1085.

[26] Cf. Smirnoff, Peter. History of the Christian Orthodox Church. St. Petersburg: Florova Press, 1912, p. 132.

[27] A.D. 476.

[28] A.D. 504.

[29] A.D. 632-732.

[30] A.D. 330.

[31] Cf. Matth. 16:18, 19.

[32] Matth. 16:15.

[33] Matth. 16:16.

[34] Matth. 16:17.

[35] Matth. 16:23.

[36] This first Apostolic Council took place in A.D. 51.

[37] Acts 15:13, 19.

[38] Acts 8:14.

[39] Galatians 2:11.

[40] Acts 11:2, 3.

[41] Acts 23:11.

[42] A.D. 202.

[43] I Corinthians 3:11.

[44] Eph. 2:20.

[45] Eph. 5:23.

[46] Collosians 1:18.

[47] Acts 20:28.

[48] Matth. 18: 17.

[49] 1 Timothy 3:15.

[50] Eph. 5:23.

[51] Cf. Matth. 28:20.

[52] Cf. Peroff, Ivan. Critical Theology. Tula [Russia]: Konyshev Press, 1905, pp. 13, 14.

[53] John 14:16.

[54] John 15:26.

[55] A.D. 431.

[56] John 3:6.

[57] Romans 5:12.

[58] Cf. Romans 8:3.

[59] Cf. 1 Corinthians 15:47.

[60] Cf. John 3:13.

[61] Cf. Peroff, Ivan. Critical Theology. Tula [Russia]: Konyshev Press, 1905, p. 56.

[62] Matth. 5:48.

[63] Matth. 22:37, 39.

[64] Matth. 16:24.

[65] Philippians 3:13, 14.

[66] Luke 17:10.

[67] “Haec Leo posui amore et cautela orthodoxe religionis.” [I, Leo, placed these from love and zeal for the ORTHODOX religion.]

[68] Apoc. 14:13.

[69] Luke 16:22, 23.

[70] Luke 23:43.

[71] Matth. 12:32.

[72] Cf. Luke 17:21.

[73] Schavelsky, H.I. The Orthodox Priesthood. Sofia [Bulgaria]: Union Press, 1930, p. 28.

[74] Mark 10:45.

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