Thursday, January 23, 2014

Some Suggestions for the Upcoming Pan-Orthodox Council, Part 1

Word is beginning to spread that the Eastern Orthodox are going to have a worldwide, Pan-Orthodox Council in 2015. Contrary to what our detractors probably think, we at the EF have always been firm supporters of authentic ecumenical (i.e. inter-Christian) dialogue whereby, by prayer, fasting, and thoughtful theological exchange, all those who glory in the name of Christian might gradually grow together into that full, visible, and canonical unity so ardently desired for the Church by her Divine Founder, but contrary to what we could have possibly hoped for, none of us ever imagined that the Eastern Orthodox would convene such a council in our own lifetime. We thought perhaps that a single, autocephalous Orthodox jurisdiction would form in the United States, but never a world-wide pan-Orthodox council of all the Eastern Orthodox Churches.

It goes without saying that such events are very, very rare. Because the Orthodox are not agreed among themselves as to which was the last universally binding council, their theologians will either point to Nicea II (787) or Constantinople V (1351) as the last time authoritative representatives of their churches assembled to address matters of doctrine. Indeed, some might say that if there is no Roman Emperor or Czar to convene a council, it can only be pan-Orthodox, not ecumenical. 

Because no representative of either of the major Patriarchates has so far indicated what would be on the Council’s agenda, and no blogger has made any serious proposals for discussion, although we at the EF are not Eastern Orthodox, in the spirit of fraternal love and charity, we believe the following could make a serious contribution to the quest for unity between our respective Churches.

1. The question of the calendar should be permanently resolved.

2. The Council should commit its constituent Churches to pursue communion with Rome cautiously, first by affirming the following:

A) The Eastern Rites of the Catholic Church are an important historic reality that need not impede the path to unity and towards which the Eastern Orthodox Churches intend no animosity.

B) Rome is to be commended for encouraging de-Latinization among her Eastern Rites.

C) Rome is to ensure that the FIlioque not be recited in liturgical celebrations outside the Roman Rite in accordance with the sound practice of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.

3. The Pan-Orthodox Council should commit its constituent Churches:

A) To working with the papacy to re-evangelize Europe, to fight the onslaught of the totalitarian secularist state, and to defend the rights of Christians in the Muslim world;

B) Not to re-baptize, re-chrismate, or re-ordain Christians for any reason who have already received these sacraments in the Roman Catholic Church (i.e. to condemn with the Western Church the Donatist heresy);

C) To continue the work happily begun by the North American Orthodox-Catholic Theological Consultation, and to encourage it to face with courage whatever may be dividing the Churches in the theology of Augustine of Hippo or Anselm of Canterbury, and in the decrees of the First Vatican Council.

To be continued… [Edit: Part 2 can be read here.]


Dr. Adam DeVille said...

There has been a very rich and full reflection on the possible council from Antoine Arjakovsky, a Franco-Russian historian of the Orthodox tradition. I discuss his book at length here:

And I recently interviewed him here:

Isa Almisry said...

What we should do is officially put Old Rome and Italy under either Bp. Siluan of Italy in Rome or Metropolitan Gennadios of Italy in Venice.

And re-iterate Constantinople IV (879)'s verdict on both the filioque, and the Vatican's present 8th "ecumenical council."

Aged parent said...


I share your hopes. And your words were well-spoken.

If I had to offer one caution, though, I would say that your point "C", regarding the Filioque, needs careful reflection. I understand that issue and am aware of the tensions involved. And I fully understand the delicacy required to discuss these matters. But you will need, as well all need, a fuller knowledge of the historical facts involved, and we need to recognize a certain stubbornness over this issue that has been, sadly, at the root of many of the disagreements.

We must be careful about jettisoning dogma merely to reach agreements. There has to be both brutal honesty and good will on both sides before such things can be resolved.

Isa Almisry said...

The filioque wasn't recited in liturgical celebrations inside the Roman Rite within Rome until 1015-when it was inserted at the German Emperor's insistence.

Maximilian Hanlon said...

Aged Parent, I understand your concern. All I will say is that Pope Benedict (and maybe JPII, I'm not sure) made the wise decision to recite the Creed in Greek with the Patriarch of Constantinople without the addition of the Filioque. Moreover, even Pius XII agreed that the Eastern Rites could omit the Filioque in their liturgies in accordance with their respective traditions.

I am only suggesting that the EO encourage the papacy to continue these precedents.

servo said...

Sorry, you forgot to leave the snide quotation marks off the phrase ecumenical council.

Aged parent said...

Thanks, Mr Hanlon, for your kind reply. I don't think anyone in Rome is suggesting that the Orthodox give up their method of reciting the Creed, and in fact, Benedict XIV (the 14th, note) had the best solution to this wherein he said, to put it simply, no one is asking the Easterns to become Latins.

Then, of course, there are Soloviev's beautiful writings on the Schism which, sadly, many Orthodox reject out of hand.

But I am, as I said, more than with you on the need to put an end to this awful schism.

Maximilian Hanlon said...

Be sure to think about and comment on Part 2.

Isa Almisry said...

No, I remembered the factual quotation marks that the Council of Constantinople IV (879) put on the robber council in question.
That the Vatican found it convenient two centuries later to reverse itself in its Investiture Controversy didn't remove them.

servo said...

And you blow off St. Augustine (oh, I'm sorry, 'Blessed Augustine), St. Ambrose, St. Jerome, etc etc etc.

Never mind, they're just Westerners, corrupted by 'Latin Thinking.' They don't represent the full Church, which happens to end at the Greek border.

servo said...

'The filioque wasn't recited in liturgical celebrations inside the Roman Rite within Rome until 1015-when it was inserted at the German Emperor's insistence.'

It didn't magically appear then. The formula was floating around for several hundred years before that.

Maximilian Hanlon said...

To my readers:

Please, please keep in mind that what I have proposed in these posts are Suggestions to the up-coming Council. I am not sure how Rome should respond to such demands. I do NOT think that Rome should necessarily capitulate at the drop of a hat.

The point is: To move things forward, specific demands have to be laid out on the table.

And please refrain as well from trying to discuss complicated theological matters in sound bites. Questions of the inner workings of the life of the holy and life-giving Trinity are best left to saints and scholars, and especially saintly scholars.

Isa Almisry said...

my, my. Someone has issues.
No, it goes beyond the Jireček Line. In fact, most of the full Church is outside the Greek borders. Your friend the EP forgets that. The second largest Church, the Patriarchate of Bucharest, speaks Latin and has a bishop in Rome.
Personally, I like St. Augustine. St. Jerome, that's another matter. St. Augustine had the humility to admit his fallibility (something beyond St. Jerome), and that the answers were in the "Greek books" as he put it.

Isa Almisry said...

"It didn't magically appear then. The formula was floating around for several hundred years before that."
So was Manichaeism.

Isa Almisry said...

" I am not sure how Rome should respond to such demands."
You are the one making up demands of the proposed Council, although no one of your party would be invited to it, to lay any of them on the table seating the Patriarchs, Pope, Catholicos, Archbishops and Metropolitans.

The saintly scholars SS. EP Photios the Great, Gregory Palamas and Mark of Ephesus have left us the response: the Church has spoken. The case is closed.
If the Phanar wants to say anything beyond that in answer to your demands above, it speaks for itself.

Maximilian Hanlon said...

Isa, I have deleted the comments of Westerners on this post who call you Easterners heretics. I demand that you refrain from the same sort of language. If you really believe that the West has completely fallen into heresy and/or apostasy, this blog is not for you.

Stephen said...

The venue will tell all. If its anything Geneva like, fuggedabouit. On the other hand, that place in the Catskills where the Commission got busted in the 50s? Oooooo, now that would be cool.

Gerry Davila said...

St. Maximos the Confessor defended the Filioque.

Tancred said...

Even many Orthodox fathers thought it was a negotiable issue, and people who make a lot of it are protesting too much.

Isa Almisry said...

"St. Maximos the Confessor defended the Filioque"
He said that Latins should drop it.

"Even many Orthodox fathers thought it was a negotiable issue, and people who make a lot of it are protesting too much."
Then drop it in toto, if it is such a small issue.

Tancred said...

St. Maximus on the filioque

“With regard to the first matter, they (the Romans) have produced the unanimous documentary evidence of the Latin fathers, and also of Cyril of Alexandria, from the sacred commentary he composed on the gospel of St. John. On the basis of these texts, they have shown that they have not made the Son the cause of the Spirit — they know in fact that the Father is the only cause of the Son and the Spirit, the one by begetting and the other by procession; but [they use this expression] in order to manifest the Spirit’s coming-forth (προϊέναι) through him and, in this way, to make clear the unity and identity of the essence….

“The Romans have therefore been accused of things of which it is wrong to accuse them, whereas of the things of which the Byzantines have quite rightly been accused (viz., Monothelitism), they have, to date, made no self-defense, because neither have they gotten rid of the things introduced by them.

Chris said...

#1 the removal of the filioque from the creed forevermore is the only possible way that the Orthodox Church will accept communion with Rome. Traditional Roman Catholics need to recognize this fact and imagine that as a compromise it's not really that bad, as the Rome itself did NOT use the filoque until after 1004 A.D. Most Roman Catholics do not mind dropping the filioque, and have no moral investment in it as the Orthodox do. For the Orthodox the filioque is deeply ingrained as an evil addition made intentionally out of spite toward them by prideful 10th c. frankish colonialists.

#2 - The authority of the Pope over the churches most be limited to more exceptional cases of upholding and resolving heresy that has spread within the Church. The Pope of Rome must not have it as his role to appoint every bishop and patriarch of the world to their position. The Pope must be seen as a supreme court of final appeal, not a "universal bishop" who overpowers the day to day governance of the average bishop. This does not mean that the Pope's infallibility needs to be denied or overruled, simply clarified as limited to extraordinary circumstances.

With these two matters addressed, a path toward reconciliation may be possible. Without these two matters agreed upon in an absolute manner, similar to the above descriptions, short of divine intervention, all else is hopeless. Those are my thoughts, with love !

Merry St Valentines day.

James said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
James said...

"A) To working with the papacy to re-evangelize Europe, to fight the onslaught of the totalitarian secularist state, and to defend the rights of Christians in the Muslim world;"

## A complete non-starter - for reasons that if mentioned - never mind explained - would get this post deleted (which is why I have deleted my original post). That doesn't alter facts by one iota. The Curse of V2 strikes again - theological accuracy must yield to politically-correct untruths of a lethal ecumania. God help us all !

Anonymous said...

St. Maximus made that statement centuries before the further development on theology on the procession of the Holy Spirit in the West (especially Anselm of Canterbury's De Processione Spiritu Sancti (sp?)) and the consequent dogmatic pronouncements, beginning with Lateran IV in 1215, which defined the Father and the Son as "equally" eternal sources of the Spirit. That is where the problem really lies.

Tancred said...

I think it's time to employ some of that famous eikonomia that *some* Orthodox use to justify just about everything imagineable. Most of the main stream Orthodox don't view this as a problem and didn't even during the time of Lyon.

Filioque is not a significant problem. A greater problem lies in the divisions within Orthodoxy itself.