Church and dogma

“Every alteration in the basic creed, each subsidence in the hidden foundations of the Church, ‘which the Lord founded upon the rock of faith,’ produces sooner or later cracks of division on the ‘surface’ of the Church’s face. If dogma is falsified, whether intentionally or not, ecclesiology, both pastoral and administrative, is deformed, spiritual life is falsified an man suffers.

Ecclesiology and Christian anthropology have the same basis: Trinitarian and christological dogma. The Word is made flesh, and theology is ministered in the life of the faithful. Inspired by the Holy Spirit, the theology of the Fathers who proclaimed Christ speaks about our life, which is Christ.

The hypostatic union of the two natures in Christ makes us partakers by grace in the unapproachable life which is in the Holy Trinity. And the mode of existence of God in Trinity forms also the mysterious structure of our own being ‘in the image’. Only when we are conformed to Christ, recognising Him by partaking in His Life, do we ‘regain our proper stature,’ our natural function and our freedom, as the Church and as persons. Ecclesiology and spirituality have the same basis: dogma. The Church is Christ, His body living in history. It is summarised in each of the faithful, who is the Church in miniature. The personal consciousness of each of the faithful has an ecclesial dimension, and every problem of the Church is the problem of the personal salvation of each of the faithful.

Consequently, when the heretic lays hands on the “traditional faith” he lays hands on the life of the faithful, their raison d’&ecirctre.Heresy is at once a blasphemy towards God and a curse for man. This is the reason why the entire organism and spiritual health and sensitivity of Orthodoxy has from the beginning reacted against the destructive infection of heresies.’

Archimandrite Vasileios in Hymn of Entry pgs 20-21.


7 Responses to Church and dogma

  1. Archimandrite Vasileos’ comments fail to uphold the infallibility of the Church as traditionally held by Eastern Orthodox. Is the Church infallible as an active dogmatic teacher of truth or not? If it is, than what is the recognizable ecclesiastical organ in the Church that can teach infallibly? To diffuse, as he does, the attribute of infallible teaching among all the faithful is to displace the apostolic hierarchy in favor of an amorphous body wherein the possessor of divine authority cannot be identified amidst the inevitable conflict of opinions. This is an insuperable obstacle to any Sobornost-like ecclesiology to surmount. The Catholic concept of the Church is more logical and coherent. It acknowledges and confesses that the words of Christ to Peter resulted in the perduring existence of a visible center of unity for the apostolic hierarchy which teaches infallibly on matters of faith and morals and keeps the Church Undivided amidst all the schisms and heresies historically occurring. That visible center of unity in the Church is manifested in the Primacy of universal authority exercised by the Bishop of Rome as successor of Peter, Chief and Head of the Apostles. It seems to me that the basic hierarchical structure of the Episcopate found among the Eastern Orthodox logically demands the divine Primacy of the Pope if the Church can be said to possess an undivided oneness as a visible body or to be able to teach dogma infallibly. Orthodox speak much about an “Undivided Church” but the term has no meaning if there is not an indefectible visible center of unity.
    The millions of Catholic laity who are engaged in a plethora of evangelizing activities are hardly paralyzed by the existence of the Papacy!
    As for the Roman Primacy disrupting the Trinitarian nature of the Church, it is the contrary that is true. If, as Vatican II teaches, and Orthodox agree, “the highest exemplar and source of the mystery of the unity of the Church, is the unity, in the Trinity of Persons, of one God, the Father and the Son in the Holy Spirit”, (Decree on Ecumenism, 2), it should not be a matter for surprise that the Roman Primate of the Church as the Common Father of all the faithful reflects the earthly presence of the Father’s Monarchia in the Trinity. And it should be a matter for profound meditation that the Eternal Son of God who occupies the central and mediating position in the Trinity took care to establish His earthly Kingdom-Church on the visible Rock of Peter as its perduring visible center of unity –one always maintained in the truth by the divine assistance of the Spirit of the Father and the Son.
    To deny the infallibility of the Chief Teacher in the Church is to deny the very infallibility of a teaching Church, and worse, to render the Church an invisible entity known only to God.

  2. monkpatrick says:


    Thank you for the comment. You raise a good argument regarding the matter of the infallibility and the visible unity of the Church. However, there are some misunderstandings of Orthodox and Church doctrine within your reply, which means that the contrast between Roman Catholic teaching and Orthodox teaching is greater than it really is. Also, there are inherent problems within Roman Catholic teaching on the primacy, which makes it unacceptable to Orthodox because it would deny fundamental doctrines regarding the Church and Bishops.

    I have written more at length regarding Primacy in the Orthodox Church elsewhere on the blog, so please look there to expand on this comment.

    You are correct in saying that because the Church is one there needs to be one See that is the visible manifestation of this unity and correctly in Tradition that See is Rome. This is also accepted in Orthodox ecclesiology. The proper teaching organ of the Church is the Bishop. The Bishop of the Rome, because of its status, is a teacher par-excellence whom the whole world watches. To this degree Orthodox are in agreement with what you have said.

    Now to address the issue of is the Church an active dogmatic teacher of truth? The first answer is that the Church teaches through its members and publicly and primarily through its Bishops. However, we must take care to say that the Church teaches. Christ is the Teacher and He teaches through the Church; the Church makes visible the teaching of Christ through its members. The infallible Teacher is Christ not the Church as such which derives its infallibility by its union with Christ. The Bishops being the teaching organ also manifest an “infallibility” if they teach in Christ, or rather Christ teaches in them. The faithful are also in Christ and don’t need a teacher because Christ, in the Spirit, teaches them. Nevertheless, there is human free will, which means that all members of the Church are liable to teach their own opinions and also some people learn at different rates. So, a teaching office is needed to help remind us of and keep us in the true faith and dogma. There are graces of teaching to enable those so gifted, such as Bishops, to teach in and as Christ. The Bishop of Rome being in a sense universal has a strong gift of teaching. Nevertheless, there is no forced infallibility, human free will must be maintained and so any Bishop is potentially able to teach falsely, even Rome. This is where the Orthodox and Rome differ. The Orthodox cannot accept an infallibility of teaching from any Bishop because it would deny the Bishop is teaching in and as Christ. Christ has a free will and so must the Bishop and this means free, he can potentially teach falsely. How then is the Church infallible? The Church does not become fallible because a Bishop teaches falsely but rather only the Bishop, who no longer teaches as Christ and so is not a teacher of the Church. This means that that the responsibility for ones faith is with each believer, as Archimandrite Basil says. Would it not be better to have an infallible Bishop, who one can trust? No, because it still requires a believer to believe that the Bishop is indeed infallible. Either way one cannot escape the believer’s need to take responsibility for their own faith.

    Now, having a fallible Bishop does not mean that the structure of primacy is at stake. Heretical Bishops can come and go but a See keeps its status, even if from time to time a heretical Bishop occupies the See. God works to preserve the structure and we can witness historically a fairly stable line of Orthodox Bishops in this structure. But how did Rome fall then in Orthodox opinion? It did and it didn’t. The West never seemed to accept that the See of Rome was manifest equally in two Sees that of Old Rome and that of New Rome (Constantinople). The Apostles had two heads Peter and Paul, even though the headship is named after Peter. This is exactly the same structure as the Church before Rome separated from Her. The See of Rome as the visible manifestation of the unity of the churches and one Church has never ceased to be part of the Orthodox Church structure. Old Rome may have fallen but New Rome remains firm. The other Patriarchates are also essential in the structure and remained with New Rome not Old Rome. The Orthodox Church is not an amorphous body but it is a clear structure those reality lies in Christ, Who is forever present in the Church as Teacher, Priest and Lord.

    Finally, another issue of Roman Catholic teaching regarding the Pope is his universal and supreme authority over all the Church. It is impossible for any Bishop to have such authority in Orthodox theology. Each Bishop has such authority in his own See and no other Bishop, of any rank, can override this with denying it. The universal primacy is one of appeal, influence and a centre of united action to the world, especially mission. It’s authority is primarily in its witness as the model par-excellence of the Church that other Bishops may imitate, and that coordinates in matters that go beyond the physical boundaries of the jurisdictions of any other Bishop or group of Bishops. It is not merely one of honour but has a profound and important function without the need of supreme authority, which corrupts the theology of a Bishop. This is the testimony in the Holy Canons of the Church as set forth in the Ecumenical Councils and mostly with which the See of Rome agreed. Historically, Rome exercised this function in the West and so did Constantinople in the East.

    So, to summarise, the need of a claimed infallible teacher or organ of the Church is irrelevant for the faith of believers; Christ is infallible and so is the Church and each believer cannot escape responsibility for what they believe to be the Church and its dogma. The Orthodox Church has and always had a visible centre of unity for the Church, which is the See of Rome (once Old and New, now only New). Christ is the infallible teacher and so are those united with Him. The Bishops are the visible teaching function of Christ, or the Church and organised in a structure to manifest their unity. Councils are the best confirmation of the truth based on the sure knowledge that such truth is not one opinion verse another but that one opinion of Christ known to all the faithful through the Spirit and passed on as Holy Tradition.

    The Roman Catholic position has problems with dealing with human free will, the equality in nature of each Bishop, the full manifestation of the whole Church in each local Church, and with the fact the Christ, Himself is actively present in the Church on earth as its Teacher manifested by the Holy Spirit in all the faithful and particularly and publicly in each Bishop.

  3. I am grateful to monk Patrick for his observations regarding “Primacy in the Orthodox Church”. May I add these quick thoughts.
    He asserts, and I find his following statements quite positive in tenor,indeed:
    “Because the Church is one, there needs to be one See that is the visible manifestion of this unity and correctly in Tradition that See is Rome”…”The See of Rome as the visible manifestation of the unity of the churches and one Church has never ceased to be part of the Orthodox Church structure”. Such sentiments are not shared by the Orthodox polemicists who denounce the Pope’s teaching office in the most unflattering and negative terms.
    Moreover, I fail to see how one can speak of a visible center for the Church’s unity that can historically fail in faith. In failing, such a center proves to be but a temporary center of unity (dependent on historical conditions for its primacy) and one that has no guarantee of a divinely assisted indefectibility that can withstand the heresies ravaging large portions of the Church. It is, moreover, to ignore the trenchant testimonies of the First Millennium Popes regarding their Petrine supremacy as one of divine institution, not the result of some ecclesiastical agreement among bishops. Constantinople, the New Rome, was “sub ject to the Apostolic See of Rome”, said St. Gregory the Great because of Christ’s granting Peter’s See a universal and supreme authority over all other Sees.
    The Bishop of Rome was soon regarded as the visible center for the Unity of the Church becausae it was his bishropic that was the visible manifestation of the Rock which Peter had become for the entire Church, and this by the will and words of Christ. Christ continues to rule His Church through His bishops, but it was the Roman bishropic who served his brethren as the Rock against which the Gates of Hell could not overcome. No other bishop or group of bishops and patriarchs could serve as the Rock against which heresies and schisms could not prevail. The successor of Peter on his throne at Rome was a “teacher par excellence” in the Church precisely because he possessed the Keys of supreme authority in the Church.
    It seems to me that it is the rejection of a supreme authority to which other bishops are subject in matters of faith and morals which defines the flawed ecclesiology of the Pan-Orthodox Churches of the Byzantine tradition. Its rejection also makes any real and effective Conciliarity or Collegiality impossible since any legitimate collective doctrinal action by the bishops of the Church needs confirmation by the Church’s supreme authority. Without the recognition by the Church’s supreme authority exercising the Petrine prerogatives and powers which are uniquely the Roman Pontiff’s, how would one ever know which bishops of the local Churches remain after their separation in the Apostolic succession. I have yet to be informed how one who is not a patristic scholar can easily know which group of bishops remain infallible in the faith when dogmatic differences cause divisions in the Episcopate. St. Cyprian indeed taught the Church is founded upon the bishops, and bishops are indeed essential to the hierarchical constitution of the Church, but where is the Church in all its integrity when bishops in sees of Apostolic origin divide on faith and morals?
    And, of course, it should be recalled that Constantinople was never an apostolic see. Why follow it as a “center of unity” when New Rome has no divine guarantee of infallibility as the Rock of the Episcopate?

  4. monkpatrick says:


    Regarding the institution of the See of Rome as the manifestation of the unity of the Church. The See was chosen for this role by the Apostles in accordance with the will of Christ because it was the centre of the Empire. It was because of its political position that it was chosen not because it had any special religious meaning. This position belongs to Jerusalem and is why Jerusalem was honoured with the rank of Patriarch after Alexandria and Antioch. Jerusalem is the Mother Church. Rome was suited for the role of manifesting the Oneness of the Church because as the capital or centre of Empire it was able to witness to the whole world, at least symbolically because the Empire wasn’t literally the whole world. It was indeed established by Divine institution and Sts Peter and Paul ended their days in the city to confirm its place as the chief See of the Church. That is why it is called Apostolic. For the first eight Centuries, it was a divinely guarded See with a succession of Saints and the pillar of Orthodoxy, with only one or two exceptions among the Popes. Sadly, the See fell into decay in the late eighth and ninth Centuries, with a number of unholy Popes, whom were controlled by family politics. Nevertheless, it recovered somewhat for a while but the growing split in the manifestation of the Tradition of the Church between Old Rome and New Rome meant that they failed to manifest the unity of the Church and inevitably the two Sees split. Since, then the See of Old Rome continued to diverge for the Tradition of the Church as maintained in the East and witnessed in the history of the West. Nevertheless, God has preserved the See of Rome in New Rome unshaken by heresies, with the odd exception, until this day just as He had preserved the See of Old Rome for most of the first millennium. So, God has in fact preserved the visible centre of the Church as you believe that it should.

    One does not need to be a Patristic’s scholar to know which Church has remained infallible to the Tradition of the Church and the teaching of Christ. One only needs to consider the testimony of the Scriptures and see which holds true to them in Faith and practice. With the changes in the liturgy of Old Rome over the last forty years, it is clear which churches are those following the Tradition of the Apostles, that is the Orthodox Churches. Reading the Fathers and importantly reading the divine Canons makes it clear which Sees are True.

    The Canons are the commandments of God. Thus, when the Fathers made Constantinople equal with Rome because of it being New Rome, this was a divine institution. Yes, it maintained a second place relative to Rome because it was the mirror of Rome and it took its jurisdiction from Rome but this should be regarded towards the sense of the Son being second after the Father; not implying an inequality in nature. One says the Constantinople was not an Apostolic See. Putting aside that Constantinople traces its foundation to the Apostle Andrew and can claim to be an Apostolic See in this regard, we must consider the Apostle Paul. He was a Prince of the Apostles equal to Peter. Again, he is named after Peter because otherwise it would appear that he was greater than Peter and ignore the leadership given to Peter, which Paul also shared equally. Paul was however not qualified to be a disciple of Christ nor an Apostle according to the criteria in Acts. Nevertheless, Christ appointed him to this role afterwards and Paul’s disqualification did not matter. Thus also with Constantinople, the fact that it is not an Apostolic See does not matter but because it was the centre of Empire with Old Rome, it too was divinely instituted to share the place of Rome with equal privileges. This is the testimony of the Canons and of God, whose word does not fail.

    Why did God nevertheless permit Old Rome to fall? Why did he permit St Peter to fall and to deny Him? This cannot be fully answered other than by God Himself. However, one may consider a couple of likely reasons: one is of pride. Rome rather than being a manifestation of the unity of the Church and manifesting the same and one Tradition as manifested in all the churches, set herself above the other churches that they manifest her tradition as the source of Tradition; secondly, as mentioned in the previous comment, the reminder of free will, man must remain free to be united with God and this freedom means that he can fall; thirdly, the constant need of prayer for Divine assistance and the memory that it is Christ Who is the Head of the Church and the source of unity; fourthly because New Rome was established to maintain the role of manifesting the unity of the Church the fall of Old Rome wasn’t such to disrupt the Tradition of the Church but nevertheless, it was a terrible tragedy for the Western churches. Also, to note the the Rock is also referred to as the Faith of Peter, not the man himself, as witnessed by his later denial. It is continuance in the Faith and Tradition that provides the Rock, although this does not preclude other understandings of Rock but they must not exclude this understanding either.

    The Primary See does not need supreme authority to maintain its role but only to remain faithful to the Tradition of the Apostles, in this its testimony to the world is more powerful than any jurisdictional power or supremacy. It has certain privileges and powers, indeed, to enable it to function as it should but these do not require the supreme jurisdiction, power and infallibility as claimed by Rome in the period leading up to the Schism, and indeed traceable back to the earliest days in some form, and since then but refuted by the other churches during the same time. The other churches freely follow out of respect and imitation but not by force.

  5. To monk Patrick:
    The idea that Rome became regarded as the Chief See of the Church because it was the “centre of the Empire” has become the mantra of modern Orthodox but such was not that of the ancient Church which despite pressures from ambitious Emperors for the Church to accomodate itself to the political division of the Empire, nevertheless struggled to counter that pretension and to maintain the apostolic principle of the Petrine origin of the major Sees with larger jurisdictions: Rome, Alexandria and Antioch. It was the Popes and the great Saints (Athanasius, Chyrsostom, Maximus the Confessor, and St. Theodore Studites who fought against the Erastian and very anti-Christian principle that was early introduced in the Church by Byzantine Emperors and sycophantic courtier-bishops. Saints fought to maintain the supemacy of the spiritual power over the temporal power seeking to control the administration of the Church of Christ- and even to the point of supporting heresies ravaging the Eastern Churches. As for the Popes, they insisted that their Primacy was one of supreme authority and based on the words of the Lord to Peter. it was not dependent on Rome’s political importance. That was why Leo the Great squashed the 28th Canon of Chalcedon by which the Emperor sought to enhance his capital Constantinople as the second see in the Church (with supremacy over Alexandria and Antioch and nullifying the first Ecumenical Council of Nicaea’s recognition of Alexandria and Antioch as the second and third sees in the Church). Leo’s action was based on conviction that his Petrine See possessed a supreme authority over all sees in the Church. The writings of Pope St. Leo insist that Rome’s Primacy was of divine institution by Christ and that he was but following in the wake of predecessors (Damasus, Boniface, Innocent, etc.) who similarly not only claimed a supreme authority in the Church but actually exercised it. Theirs was a supreme authority that had been given by Christ to Peter that had made the latter(and thereby his successors on his Chair) the visible head of the Church Militant.
    St. Paul was equal to Peter as an Apostle but was not equal to Peter who had been given a Primacy among the Twelve. Peter possessed a Primacy among the Apostles, having been uniquely granted powers and privileges not granted the other Apostles. Had not Peter alone been declared (1) the visible Rock of the Church by the Invisible Rock (Matt. 16:18) ;(2) made the Bearer of the Keys (Matt: 16:19) by the “Holy One, the True One, who has the Key of David, who opens and no one shall shut, who shuts and no one opens” (Apoc. 3:7); (3) made the Confirmer of the brethren by Him who strengthened the leader among the Apostles so that his “faith may not fail” (Luke 22: 32-33);and (4) made the Chief Pastor of the earthly Church by being charged to feed all the lambs and sheep of Christ by the divine Shepherd Himself (Jn. 21:15-17)?
    Was there not a Church in the Catholic Communion which had a promise from the Lord that its faith could not fail its sister Churches? Had not St. Cyprian early and openly declared to Pope Cornelius that certain schismatics had “dared to take ship and carrty a letter, from schismatical people who are ‘outside the temple’, to the Chair of Peter and to the principal (or chief-principalem) Church whence the unity of the bishops took its rise, and to give no thought to the fact that these are the Romans whose faith was praised by the Apostle’s proclamation [Rom.1:8], to whom false faith can have no access (ad quos perfidia habere non possit accessum).”
    It is Catholic teaching (and very traditional at that) that these prerogatives of the Roman Church witness to the establishment of a supreme authority granted Peter, the head of the Apostolic College, that would be historically transmitted to the Pontiffs of Elder Rome. It was an authority serving the visible Unity of the Church.
    In my view and that of Catholic scholarship, the tragedy of the Schism between Rome and the Byzantine Churches lay in the eclipse of that Roman Primacy in the 11th and succeeding centuries and in contradiction to the Peter-centered hierarchical constitution of the Church as acknowledged in the first Millennium.
    In Church History, neither Constantinople nor Jerusalem were ever regarded as “divinely instituted” Churches with “equal privileges” to Rome in terms of authority or geographical jurisdiction, and the Patriarch of Moscow has made very clear quite recently in the words of Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev that “According to the Orthodox Tradition communion with the patriarchate of Constantinople is not considered a prerequisite of unity”. Nor, I would add, was it ever so considered in the First Millennium, the Imperial City having succumbed to various heresies while it was the indefectible See of Rome which upheld the faith as the “Pillar of Orthodoxy.” In the ancient Church it was communion with Rome as the See of Peter, the “Head of all the Churches of God” that was the criterion for being in the Catholic communion of Churches adhering to the orthodox faith.
    Much more could be said in reference to various assertions, but I will simply conclude by noting:
    1) The Fathers of the Church and Popes to our own day often refer to the Church being built on the faith and/or confession of faith of Peter, but this not to the detriment of the person of Peter. Rather, they made clear the Church was built on the person of Peter as its Rock-foundation because of his faith (revealed to him alone by the Father)-and against whose faith the Gates of Hell cannot prevail. Over 30 Fathers and ecclesiastical writers in the first 4 centuries explicitly term Peter the Rock of the Church.
    2)It is remarked that “one does not need to be a Patristic scholar to see which [Church] has remained infallible to the Tradition of the Church and the teaching of Christ…One only needs to consider the testimony of Scripture and see which {Church] holds true to [Scripture and Tradition] in Faith and practice”. I see this as an impossible criterion to apply with certitude to determine what doctrines are orthdoox and which are not. It is identical to the Protestant principle of recourse to one’s private judgment to discover the Scriptural doctrines taught by Christ. Orthodox add the extra burden of the study of Tradition to the study of Scripture with the same result: the impossibility of the average person being able to decide amidst conflicting views what are the exact doctrines taught by Christ and which body of Christians is the true Church. How decide amidst the claims of the various Protestant, Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, or Catholic Churches since scholars of these communities claim their own doctrines supported by their understanding of Scripture and/or Tradition.
    Is there an infallible authority to determine for the average person (moreover, not a Patristic scholar) what are the doctrines given by Christ? Is it possible that Christ did establish an infallible authority as found in an infallible Church established by Christ? Catholics answer yes. Both the average man as well as the most erudite are taught with certitude the doctrines to be believed by an Infallible Church. It is not by one’s own private interpretation of Scripture or study of Fathers and Councils that can guarantee that one had discovered with certitude the exact (and mysterious) doctrines contained in Scripture and Tradition. That infallible Church is found in the singular College of bishops in the Apostolic Succession headed by the Bishop of Rome who serves as the Rock-foundation of the Church and who is graced by Christ and His Spirit of truth with infallible authority to decide questions of doctrine when bishops and patriarchs divide on dogmatic issues. Those who break full communion with the Bishop who serves as the Church’s indefectible visible center of Unity, i.e., as the visible Rock-foundation of the teaching Episcopate, necessarily find themselves separated from the visible Unity of the Church. I would further submit that the infallibility of the Church itself (a doctrinal belief which many Orthodox continue to accept despite the celebrated Kohmjakov’s rejection of the Church as “Authority”)– simply cannot be sustained without accompanying belief in the infallibility of the Chief Pastor of the Church, the Successor of Peter, through his chief rule, Christ Himself governs His Church.
    I do not wish to exhaust monk Patrick’s or other readers’ patience. I thank you for the opportunity to comment. My books go into greater depth on all the above.
    Sincerely yours, and that All May Be One” in Christ,
    James Likoudis

    • monkpatrick says:


      Thank you for your comments. As you are referring to your books, it seems that the debate on this blog may have reached towards the limits of what can be discussed in this forum. However, not having any books to which to refer those interested, I will continue to make a few comments here.

      Regarding the political foundation of the See of Rome. There is a distinction that needs to be made between the initial reason for the privileges, or position, of a See and its continuing position. The initial reason can be on a wide variety of grounds. For the Sees of primacy there is a clear link between the political importance of the cities of Rome, Alexandria and Antioch in Imperial terms and the ranking of the Sees in Church terms at the time the ranking was established. However, once the positions (ranks) of the Sees were established they became fixed in Church status regardless of later changes in Imperial status. Thus, it is quite consistent to say that the See of Rome was the See of Primacy because it was the capital of the Empire and that it remained so, and should do so, even after the fall of Rome as the (an) Imperial Capital. The reason for the foundation of the See of Rome as the See of Primacy on reasons of its political position does not mean political accommodation, that is it was not established as the See of primacy because the political powers of the day wanted it to be so nor later changed due to the desires of later political powers, and I am equally opposed to any such accommodation. The Church, i.e. Christ, remains in charge of the status of each church, not the political powers. The Church remains steadfast in her Tradition not being submitted to the political trends/powers of the day but as one living in the reality of political status, i.e. in new countries, such as Russia, the Church continues to organise itself on the political reality of the country at the time and then fix the status in Tradition.

      St Leo’s protests regarding Canon 28, which was really an elaboration of Canon 3 of the Second Ecumenical Council, went unheeded in the East, which continually accepted Canon 28 as the testimony of God, not the personal whim of the Emperor of the time, even St Leo did not think it was the Emperor’s idea but that of the Archbishop of Constantinople. The historical position of Constantinople, New Rome, in the Church is clear from the evidence and recognised by later councils and Canons. Rome was thereafter known as Old Rome, as can be testified by the Acts of the Fifth and Sixth Ecumenical Councils, which also confirm that the Pope on his own could not dictate the Faith to the Church but only with the approval of a Council. If the Pope had supreme authority then the Eastern churches did show any respect of it because they completely ignored St Leo’s protests. St Leo was correct in defending the principle that the order of churches could not be changed; it wasn’t. Constantinople was to be considered equal with Old Rome and shared the same position with her but appropriately counted second after her in terms of ranking for seating, listing Sees etc. Not because they were not equal but because it was impossible to write them in the same place and clearly Rome being the elder See should be named first. Constantinople did not replace Rome but shared the Primacy with her because Constantinople was Rome also. St Leo and Western polemists have continually appeared to miss this point and consider that Constantinople was placed as the second See because of her political position thus usurping the place of Alexandria; which was St Leo’s contention and reason to reject the rule of Canon 28. St Leo was here defending the unchanging nature of the Holy Canons and the sacred and unchanging nature of the Council of Nicea and this has nothing to do with whether he had supreme authority as the See of Rome.

      Your dismissal of St Paul as not being equal to St Peter in terms of Primacy fails to account for the historical testimony, including in Rome, of the two both being called the Princes of the Apostles and shown in icons either embracing side by side or both holding a model church in the centre of the icon surrounded by the other Apostles. Biblical testimony for St Peter cannot be read as excluding St Paul because St Paul was not there to make the comparison at the time. The fact the he is called the Apostles to the Gentles and St Peter the Apostles to the Jews, proves their equality as the leaders of the other Apostles, who were also Apostles to the Gentiles and to the Jews. Also, all those things said to St Peter were also said to the other Apostles, such as loosing sins and being Pastors as also to all Bishops. St Peter is singled out initially to show the singleness of the ministry. There is one episcopal ministry and this was reflected by manifesting it alone in St Peter initially and then given to the other Apostles, who each shared in the same ministry. This fits with the model of primacy that I mentioned earlier and that of St Cyprian of Carthage, who explicitly criticises Pope Stephen for claiming supreme authority, while nevertheless acknowledging the primacy of the See of Rome. Pope St Agatho also mentions the distinction between the See and those Bishops of the See. He also makes it clear that the Rock is the faithful maintenance of the Holy Tradition not the authority of the Pope himself to expound Truth.

      Historically, the teaching that the Primacy of Rome is supreme in nature, as distinct from being the First and Apostolic See, was first clearly manifest in the 11th Century with Popes such as Gregory VII and it was certainly not in eclipse because it was clearly an issue in the disputes between the Sees of Old and New Rome. I have written a highly-graded Master’s level paper on the Papacy and know no evidence to support your view. Also, one must consider varying levels of jurisdiction and authority such as that of the diocese itself, that of the Metropolis, that of a Patriarchate and finally that of universal nature. Each of these levels has various powers and limits due to the function of that level, i.e. the Pope had authority to call a Western Council of his Patriarchate but he did not have the authority to call an Ecumenical Council, only the Emperor had this authority. This is clear from the historical evidence, if one examines the documents of the Ecumenical Councils. Also, the understanding of the jurisdiction and powers of the first See seemed to change in the 11th Century from the early self-understanding of the Popes, which had recognised the importance of Councils in declaring the Faith of the Church and that this was not the sole prerogative of one See even Rome. This is evident from the Papal letters to the Ecumenical councils.

      Regarding Church History and the divinely instituted status, or lack of, of Constantinople and Jerusalem and the equal privileges of New Rome with Old Rome, the historical evidence, at least, of the Holy Canons, is clear on the equal privileges of New Rome, ie Canon 28, and this is also witnessed in Justinian’s laws. There are historical traditions that Christ established St James as the first Bishop of Jerusalem. How could a See not be more divinely instituted? Even if St Leo rejected Canon 28l it is still part of Church History and clearly states that New Rome shall have equal privileges with Old Rome. Archbishop Hilarion’s comments are irrelevant to this matter and only go to show the different understanding of primacy between East and West, not the equality of the two Romes. The evidence regarding being in communion as the criteria for being in the Catholic communion of churches is not helpful. It is a ecclesiastical truth that one must be in communion with any Orthodox See and while Rome remained Orthodox in Faith of course it was a sound test and proper test of being in Catholic communion to be in communion with the primary See of Rome but this does not prove the point that Rome could not fall, that Rome had supreme jurisdiction nor that being in communion with Rome was a sufficient guarantee of being in the Catholic Church regardless of other factors.

      There is a distinction between each person making their own decision about whether a church has the true Faith and is true Church, from which one submits to the authority and tradition of that Church, and the Protestant private judgement which denies any authority or tradition to which one must submit. An Orthodox believer has the same certitude of the dogma to be followed as a Roman Catholic believer. This dogma is well established and recorded in both cases. Protestants would happily admit that no Protestant denomination has the fullness of Truth, yet the Roman Catholics, Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox do claim such for their respective churches; they could not claim otherwise without denying Christ. My personal experience, of one who was not a Patristic scholar, was that I was not happy with the consistency of Roman Catholic teaching with the Scripture, nor of any Protestant group, which, as I said, is commonly admitted to be the case, but I could not fault Orthodox teaching, so I converted, with certainty, to accept this Tradition as my own and from then on judged matters of faith according to the Tradition. My personal case proves that criteria that I mentioned is not impossible to meet. This does not mean that I can discover with certitude any particular doctrine of the Church from Scripture without recourse to the Fathers but that I could test the consistency of the doctrines expressed by the Church, or other groups, with the Scripture and test for consistency. These are quite different tasks. Also, one must draw a distinction between someone seeking from outside the Church to one in obedience inside the Church.

      The last point that is made regarding needing an infallible Chief Pastor with an infallible Church needs much further explanation. Does this mean that the Chief Pastor cannot be a heretic? Or only that if he teaches in particular manner is he infallible. Does it mean that one can always know exactly who the Chief Pastor is such as when there are two claimants both ordained to the throne? How does one test this, especially those who are not Papal scholars?

      I would say, again, that the infallibility of the Church rests solely on Christ’s infallibility; it does not require anything else to be infallible. What other than God can be necessary? The issue is how this infallibility is manifest on earth. Through only one Bishop, any or all Bishops, any or all the faithful, in revealed Scripture alone?

      Finally, I repeat my concerns regarding free will and further the real meaning of the human spirituality of the Chief Pastor and the faithful for infallibility to be possible. This is the heart of Archimandrite Basil’s position that is that it is impossible to have a human being, excepting Christ, as an infallible teacher who is always guaranteed to speak the Truth. This would be to deny him genuine free will and to be human; he would be an automaton. It is possible for Grace filled human beings who have subjected their wills entirely to God, to speak forth accurately the word of God free of error, such as the Apostles and the Evangelists and many Saints and Fathers but their free will remains and they could possibly teach of their own opinion and falsely, although in many of these Saints this was extremely unlikely. The possibility of error must always exist and so one must always test what is said to ensure it is of the Truth. One must not forget that each believer has the Holy Spirit and he understands the Truth intuitively, if he does not deliberately wish to hold to his own opinion regardless. Thus, all faithful are “equipped” to test the Truth. Overall, we can put must trust in the Grace of God to lead us into all Truth without the need of a visible guaranteed infallible leader, who cannot exist as such anyway; it is not possible for God to have a human as such without denying him to be human and thus denying him salvation.

      Note: my comment regarding the decay of the See of Rome should read late ninth and tenth Centuries.

  6. Charlie Buxton says:

    People usually give themselves away unintentionally. From the About page of the Sacred Traditions website is this first line:

    “Refelections on Apostolic Tradition by a wayward monk”

    The definition of ‘wayward’ from the Merriam-Webster online dictionary is:

    “Main Entry: wayward
    Function: adjective
    Etymology: Middle English, short for awayward, turned away; from away, adverb + -ward
    Date: 14th century

    1: following one’s own capricious, wanton or deprived inclinations: UNGOVERNABLE:
    2: following no clear principle or law: UNPREDICTABLE
    3: opposite to what is desired or expected: UNTOWARD: ”

    Perhaps Monkpatrick would like to describe his religious vocation with a different adjective so as to leave those visiting his website with a different first impression.

    The following is Father Baker’s Prayer as published by Our Lady of Victory Homes of Charity, Lackawanna, NY 14218:

    “O Victorious Lady, Thou who has ever such powerful influence with Thy Divine Son, in conquering the hardest of hearts, intercede for those for whom we pray, that their hearts being softened by the rays of Divine Grace, they may return to the unity of the true Faith, through Christ, our Lord. Amen.

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