[PODCAST] Weighing Eastern Orthodox Objections to Catholicism – A Critique of Michael Whelton , Part 1


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Citations from St. Cyril of Alexandria, St. Gregory of Nyssa, and 6th century Greek Monks

“In an instrumental sense, Peter is ‘the rock’ or ‘rock’: grafted by the power of God onto the divine Rock, in order to become the first stone of Christ’s edifice. How did Simon (Peter) become ‘rock’? By confessing Jesus as Messiah and Son of the Living God.” (His Broken Body: Understanding and Healing the Schism between the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches, Fr. Laurent A. Cleenerwerk, page 262)

“We may conclude that the early church Fathers and Christian writers recognized Peter’s position of honor and preeminence in the New Testament period. He was the spokesman for the group of the twelve, the leader, the shepherd, and the martyr. Their interpretations of Jesus’ promise to Peter — ‘You are Peter , and on this Petra I will build My Church” — converge with those of modern exegetes: the rock is Peter. But they also interpreted the rock as Peter’s confession. The Church is built on Peter, or the Church is built upon the rock, which is Peter’s confession. We cannot find two distinct groups of exegetes, one of whom states that the ‘rock is Peter’, while the other concludes that ‘the rock is Peter’s confession’. In the writings of any given author, one can often find both interpretations simultaneously” (Primacy of Peter edited by Fr John Meyendorff, page 65)

“Not undeservedly, therefore, was he pronounced blessed by the Lord, and derived from the original Rock that solidity which belonged both to his virtue and to his name, who through revelation from the Father confessed the selfsame to be both the Son of God and the Christ” (Tome of St. Leo to Chalcedon 451)

“Therefore the Holy Church of God, the mother of your most Christian power, should be delivered and liberated with all your might (through the help of God) from the errors of such teachers, and the evangelical and apostolic uprightness of the orthodox faith, which has been established upon the firm rock of this Church of blessed Peter, the Prince of the Apostles, which by his grace and guardianship remains free from all error” (Letter of Pope St. Agatho to Constantinople 681)

“Your most sweet Holiness has spoken much in your letter to me about the chair of Saint Peter, Prince of the apostles, saying that he himself now sits on it in the persons of his successors” (St. Gregory the Great, VII – 40)

424 Moved by the grace of the Holy Spirit and drawn by the Father, we believe in Jesus and confess: ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’8 On the rock of this faith confessed by St. Peter, Christ built his Church. (Catechism of the Catholic Church )

“Therefore whoever succeeds to the chair of Peter obtains by the institution of Christ himself, the primacy of Peter over the whole Church. So what the truth has ordained stands firm, and blessed Peter perseveres in the rock-like strength he was granted, and does not abandon that guidance of the Church which he once received ” (Council of Vatican 1870)

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Repentance Will Not Save Us….


In the beginning, God had said to Adam that if he had transgressed the commandment, he would “surely die” (Gen 3). How then do we think that if we want to be saved, all we need to do is repent and reform our lives? As St. Athanasius tells us, God cannot go back on the sentence of His word, and if God were to reverse the course of death, of which He said was certain for the transgressor, He would prove to be a liar (Chapter 7, On the Incarnation)

Thus, repentance, says St. Athanasius, will not suffice to meet the requirement for man’s salvation, because the process of corruption, which was the sure penalty of death which Adam had earned by his sin, cannot be “cleaned up” by our moral reformation. He writes:

But repentance would, firstly, fail to guard the just claim of God. For He would still be none the more true, if men did not remain in the grasp of death; nor, secondly, does repentance call men back from what is their nature— it merely stays them from acts of sin. Now, if there were merely a misdemeanour in question, and not a consequent corruption, repentance were well enough.” (Chapter 7)

So you see that something more ontological is at stake here which personal moral reform does not resolve. The sentence of death is irreversible because of the unchangeableness of God. No, Repentance will not save us….

Death must run its course.
But how then do we find life? Are we doomed forever?
Nothing less than death finding its full termination point by an event which makes it turn in on itself, and which totally fulfills its last act, can put it to stop. This, of course, is what occurs when the eternal Son of God, coming to share in our nature as man, takes on death upon Himself. By having our nature, he takes His position as One, like us, destined to die. Death, it might seem, would have its way with Jesus Christ.
But because He was sinless, and because He was the eternal God for whom death nor sin have any possession, death not only finds its end in His death, but since He is “eternal life itself”, He could not be held there, but broke out of the bonds of death and re-constituted human nature in the life of the resurrection. What a marvel! God dips into our own corruption via the medium of human nature, only to break it apart from the inside, so as to make human nature… united to the eternal life of God!

Only by sharing in His death and resurrection, then, can man be saved. Repentance is no match for this awe inspiring intervention of God on our behalf. Maintaining the truth of God, He also fulfills the will of God to offer redemption from the curse which man incurred through sin, out of His eternal love. This is why in Catholic theology, so much emphasis is put on the concept of “partaking of Christ” or being “conformed to Christ”. It is because our release from death can only come by linking up with Him who destroys death in Himself and re-created humanity in the perfect glory of God. Indeed, as St. Paul says, circumcision nor un-circumcision, and we can add, nor repentance or impenitence, avails anything – only a new creation. St. Paul calls it the “washing of regeneration” (Tit 3:4-7), and it is the effect of baptism.

Now , to be clear, we must repent. In fact, without repenting, we cannot enjoy the life which is supplied in Christ’s resurrection, for by returning to a sinful lifestyle, we can withdrawal ourselves from the Divine. But let us not mistake what really grounds our redemption – some thing which only God can do. The plight our race has entered “in Adam” (Rom 5:12-19) is far too deep a problem for mere moral reformation to fix. Our personal repentance, holiness, and interior purity, as beautiful and pleasing to God as it is, is still no match for what St. Ignatius said was the medicine of immortality, the Body of our Eternal Lord and Savior, crucified and alive again, and always whose eternal living is the source of our life.

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Didymus the Blind on Filioque [A.D. 313 – 398]

Didymus the Blind, being Head of the catechetical school in Alexnadria, Egypt, while under the Metropolitan St. Athanasius, had taught the eminent St. Jerome in Trinitarian theology. Though Didymus held to certain errors such as Origen’s belief in the pre-existence of souls and the eventual salvation of all (apokatastasis), his works on the Spirit were cited by St. Ambrose of Milan when he wrote his own De Spiritu Sancto. This particular work of Didymus is entitled in Latin “De Spiritu Sancto” as well. It was actually written in Greek, but translated by St. Jerome at the request of Pope St. Damasus. It is found twice in Migne – PL 23, 101-154 and PG 39, 1031-1086. The Greek text no longer exists, however, and all we have are Latin copies from St. Jerome. Scholar Henry Swete has said that there is reason to believe there have been interpolations, and that the Greek text may not be the same as the Latin copies we have. I can think of some reasons why, perhaps. He is not widely quoted in the Greek fathers who come afterward, and his former work on the Trinity only speaks of a procession from the Father. In any case, here is a portion of the Latin translation:

In this Pneumatological work of the 4th century, Didymus writes the following commentary on that part of St. John’s gospel where he records Jesus’ words: “ He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you.  All things that the Father has are Mine. Therefore I said that He will take of Mine and declare it to you” (John 16:14-15):

“Here again, to ‘take’ is to be understood, so as to be in harmony with the Divine Nature. For as the Son, when He gives, is not deprived of those things which He gives, nor, with loss to Himself, imparts to others, so also the Spirit does not receive what what He had not before. For if He receive what before He had not, when the gift is transferred to another, the Giver is emptied, ceasing to have what He gives. As then above, when disputing of incorporeal natures, we understood, so now too we must know, that the Holy Spirit receives from the Son that which had been of His own nature, and that this signifies, not a giver and a receiver, but one substance. Inasmuch as the Son is said to receive of the Father that, wherein He himself subsists. For neither is the Son ought besides what is given to Him from the Father, nor is the substance of the Holy Spirit other, besides what is given Him by the Son” (De Spiritu Sancto, n. 34 – Translated by St Jerome Opp. ii. 142. Vall. Pet. De Trin. VII. 3, 5 ; On the Filioque: In Regard to the Eastern Church, by Edward Bouverie Pusey, page 118)

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Eastern Catholics are still *Roman* Catholics, says Fr Joseph Ratzinger


This is a helpful explanation to my Eastern Catholic brothers and sisters who have often insisted that they are *not* “Roman” Catholics. Fr. Ratzinger speaks of the word “Roman” as not indicative of a ritual, but of the essential dynamic that exists in the episcopate itself, namely, where the Head is stationed in relation to all the lawfully governing Bishops of the world.

“Let us finally turn once more to the religious-statistical formula ‘Roman Catholic’ with which we started. Basically it reflects the entire complex of problems which we have gone through in the course of these considerations. In that it says ‘Catholic’ it is distinguished from a Christianity based on Scripture alone, and instead acknowledges faith in the authority of the living word, i.e., in the office of the apostolic succession. In that it says ‘Roman’ it firmly refers this office to its centre, the office of the keys vested in the successor of St. Peter in the city consecrated by the blood of two Apostles. by uniting the two to say ‘Roman Catholic’ it expressed the pregnant dialectic between primacy and episcopate, neither of which exists without the other. A church which wished to be only ‘Catholic’, having no part with Rome, would thereby lose its Catholicity. A Church which, per impossibile, wished to be only Roman without being Catholic, would similarly deny herself and degenerate into a sect. ‘Roman’ guarantees true Catholicity; actual Catholicity attests Rome’s right.” (Fr. Joseph Ratzinger – The Episcopate and the Primacy, page 62)

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St. Bede the Venerable (A.D. 672-735) – Devotion to the Blessed Virgin, Mother of the Lord’s Body


St. Bede the Venerable

At the age of 7, a young English boy was committed to the care of a Benedictine Abbots, St. Benedict Biscop and Ceolfrid, and was both educated and raised in the Monastic life. Throughout these years of growing up, St. Bede the Venerable was entrenched in the Holy Scriptures, the chanting of English Catholicism, and observed strict Monastic discipline. He died in 735 as a saint in the Lord’s body. Below are two citations from his writings on the Blessed Virgin Mary.

“Following the example of the blessed ever-Virgin Mary, who was married and at the same time unstained, the Church conceives us as a Virgin by the working of the Holy Spirit; she gives birth to us as a Virgin without birth pangs; and as a woman married to one person but impregnated by another, throughout her individual parts that make her one and catholic, she remain visibly united to the legitimate [Roman] Pontiff set over her, but she increases in number by the invisible power of the Holy Spirit”  (In Lucam; PL 92, 330B)

“Now a most excellent and salutary custom has arisen in the holy Church: daily Mary’s hymn is sung by all, together with the psalms of evening praise, so that a renewed remembrance of the Lord’s incarnation enkindles the hearts of the faithful to feelings of devotion and a more frequent meditation on the example of the Lord’s Mother makes them strong, firmly established in the virtues” (In Visitatione B.M. – PL 94, 22A)

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The Holy Spirit’s Relation to the Father and the Son, and His Function in the Life of God – Dr. H.B. Swete


Dr. Henry Barclay Swete (1834-1917),   Regius Professor of Divinity at Cambridge


Below is an extensive citation from Dr. Swete’s book The Holy Spirit in the Ancient Church: A Study of Christian Teaching in the Age of the Fathers (Page 367-71). I thought it was an interesting summation of his own pneumatology which he had spent years on throughout the course of his life. That he is Anglican is abundantly clear, for when he comments on the dogmatic Filioque which is taught by the Latins to have lacked any ecumenical support, he is, in fact, severing the pneumatology of the Eastern and Western Fathers, which was not the wanted conclusion of either the Latins or the Greeks in the re-union Councils. This would imply his holding to the Branch theory of Church unity, where there can be a divergence in faith, and yet one undivided body of the Lord. Aside from that, his synthesis on the matter is quite interesting.

Swete writes:

” The New Testament teaches that the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of both the Father and of the Son. The ancient Church understood this to mean that He belongs essentially to both. Since the Son is of one substance with the Father, and has all things that the Father has, He has the Spirit of the Father for His own. The Spirit is the Son’s own (ίδιον) as He is the Father’s own. He is in the Son, as He is in the Father, in the way of essence and nature (ούσιωδώς, φυσικώς). He rests and abides in the Son; He is the image of the Son, as the Son is the image of the Father; He was sent by the Son from the Father, from whom He proceeds with and through the Son. In the West it was added that He proceeds also from the Son.

That the Divine Essence in the Second and Third Persons is derived from the First Person was understood on all hands to be a doctrine necessary to the maintenance of the Monarchia. The Nicaene faith had declared the Son to be ‘God, of God, begotten of the Father, only-begotten that is, of the essence of the Father; i.e., deriving His being from the begin of the Father by unique generation. A corresponding clause in the Nicaea_iconConstantinopolitan Creed defined the derivation of the Holy Spirit in the words ‘who proceeds from the Father’. This phrase is taken from the gospel of St. John, with a significant change of preposition which makes it analogous to ‘begotten of the Father’ in the second paragraph of the Nicene form. Thus it was explicitly taught by the Church in her symbol that the source of both the Son and the Spirit is the being of the Father, and that the sole difference between the derived persons is that the Son is from the Father by generation and the Spirit by procession. It was assumed that the procession of the Spirit, like the generation of the Son, has reference to essential life and not to mission only; the mission of the Paraclete, it was seen, rested on and arose out of His eternal dependence on the essence of the Father. Other spirits are sent by God to do His pleasure, and these too are from God, but as the work of His hands; the Spirit of God alone proceeds from God in the sense of deriving His being from the being of God.

The Son and the Spirit then have this in common that both are eternally and essentially from God. Both persons have their source in the Father, who is the one Source of Godhead. Neither person is inferior or posterior to the other; as they eternally co-exist, so they simultaneously come from from God. From these premises it would seem to follow that the eternal procession of the Spirit must be, like the eternal generation of the Son, from the Father alone; and this view was strongly held by some of the Greek theologians long before the separation of East and West. But the great majority of those who dealt with the question saw that the mediating position of the Son in the order of the divine life involved his intervention in the procession of the Spirit. On this ground the divine essence is conceived as passing eternally through the second person into the John_the_Evangelist_in_Silence_by_Nectarius_Kulyuksin_1679third, so that while the second derives His being immediately from the first, the third proceeds mediately, through the second. Scriptural authority for this doctrine is found in St. John 16:14, where the Spirit is said to receive of that which is the Son’s, and the Son to have all that the Father has — words which are taken to refer not only to divine prerogatives, but to divine life itself. Greek writers of the fourth century are content to say that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and receives from the Son; others, or the same writers at other times, speak of Him as proceeding from the Father through the Son; or they use less guarded language, which seems to make the Son a secondary source of the Spirit. The Latins before Augustine generally follow the Greeks, without investigating the meaning of their formulas. Augustine, perceiving the obscurity in which the question was involved, gave it his attention for many years, and ultimately embodied his conclusions in a form of words which established itself in Western theology and even in Western translations of the Ecumenical Creed. The Father and the Son are (he taught) the common source of the Holy Spirit; He proceeds from both. But he proceeds from both as one source, and by one spiration. Procession from the Father involves procession from the Son, since the Father and the Son are one in substance; together with the eternal life of the Father’s essence, the Son receives also the power to communicate that essence to the Holy Spirit. Thus guarded, Augustine’s doctrine is not exposed to the charge of involving two ‘principles’ of divine life, a supposition which he explicitly rejects; and itNicene_latcreed does not differ seriously from the Greek theory of the transmission of the divine essence through the Son. But while it appealed to the Western mind, which regarded it as completing the doctrine of the Trinity, the East viewed it with growing mistrust, which became active hostility when it was discovered that the Filioque had been added to the Latin Creed. Thus to this day Augustine’s view rests only on Western authority, and cannot be regarded as an integral part of Catholic faith. The doctrine upon which the whole ancient Church was agreed is that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father through the Son. It is impossible not to regret that the Latin Church, if an addition to the Constantinoplitan Creed was judged to be necessary , did not add per filium rather than et filio, and make this change in concert with the Greek East….. “

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Blessed John Henry Newman For Our Time- Dispelling the Myths surrounding Papal Infallibility


St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre (1572)

What is known as St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre was undeniably one of, if not the most, violent events of 16th France. Supposedly, as a result of the treaty of Saint-Germain-en-laye, the


Catherine de’ Medici

Catholics and Protestants had found an end to their civil war, and which put an end to the third of the French Wars of Religion. The Queen mother, Catherine de’ Medici, wanting to cement this peace, arranged her daughter to marry the Protestant Hugenot Prince Henry of Navarre in Paris on August 18th, 1572. Now, many traditional Catholic Parisians were very anti-Hugenot, and thus against the marriage, as was Pope Gregory XIII and King Philip II of Spain. Following the wedding day, on the 22nd of August, there was an assassination attempt on Admiral de Coligny, a leading Hugenot who remained in Paris to finish discussions on the peace treaty. Though he survived, this attempted assassination sparked a massacre between the Catholics versus the Protestants. Initially, measures were taken to prevent any violence, but soon enough municipal authorities had closed the city gates and armed the citizenry to prevent a Protestant uprising against Paris. Coligny was eventually killed and the tension continued to build until it was an all out massacre, with the Hugenots being the side which lost extremely high numbers. The death toll varies according to source, but altogether we can estimate around 20 to 30 thousand.


Pope Gregory XIII

Now, word of this got to Rome and apparently it was received as an act of victorious deliverance from the Hugenots. For instance, the head of Coligny was dispatched to the Pope, though it did not make it to Rome. In addition, upon the news, the Pope had the Te Deum sung as a special thanksgiving and had a metal struck with the words Ugonottorum Strages 1571, which reads Slaughter of the Hugenots and which had the image of an angel bearing the cross of Christ and a sword under which are the fallen Protestants. It was seen as an act of divine retribution since Coligny was seen as a threat to Christendom,and consequently the Pope had designated September 11th of 1572 to
be a joint commemoration of the Battle of Lepanto and the massacre of the Hugenots.

Richard Francis Littledale, an Anglo-Catholic clergyman and contemporary of Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman, was both an apologist for the Patristic heritage of the Church as well as a hard skeptic against the Papal claims. One of his letters to Newman, dated 1872, strikes real close with the questions which are posed to us today, and, I’m sure, which will continue to be posed against us. In this letter, Littledale took issue with Newman’s view of Pope Gregory XIII’s attitude toward the Massacre and went on to press the issue of Papal Infallibility. On September 15 of the same year, Newman responded by saying what we often find ourselves saying to our interlocutors:

I will but say one thing – viz that to consider Gregory’s act or acts of which you speak as


John Henry Newman in Rome 1879

a dogmatic statement on morals, such as constitute a definitive ex cathedra, appears to me one of the least logical ideas, to use your words, that ever entered into the mind of a learned and able man. It shocks my common sense – and, speaking under correction, I think it would shock the common sense of most men, certainly of Catholic theologians. Allow me to say you really have not got hold of what we mean by the Pope’s Infallibility, and what we hold by the idea, not what you hold by it, must be the starting point of any fruitful controversy”

Just two days later, in the same letter, Newman provides an apt description of the nuance which is often missed in the doctrine of Papal infallibility:

“Infallibility is not a habit in the Pope, or a state of mind – but, as the decree says, that infallibility which the Church has. The Church when in Council and proceeding by the strictest forms enunciates a definition in faith and morals, which is certainly true. The Church is infallible then, when she speaks ex cathedra — but the Bishops out of Council are fallible men. So the Pope is infallible then, when he speaks ex cathedra — but he has no habit of infallibility in his intellect, such that his acts cannot but proceed from it, must be Peter_the_apostleinfallible because he is infallible, imply, involve, an infallible judgment. He is infallible pro re nata [for a particular affair], when he speaks ex cathedra — not except at particular times and on grave occasions. Nay further than this, even on those grave questions the gift is negative. It is not that he has an inspiration of truth, but he is simply guarded from error, circumscribed by a divine superintendence from transgressing, extravagating beyond, the line of truth. And his definitions do not come of a positive divine guidance, but of human means, research, consulting theologians, etc etc. It is an ‘adsistentia’ [assistance] not an ‘inspiratio’ [inspiration] — an aid eventual, i.e. in the event, and does not act till the event, not in the process — and an adsistentia, as I have said, pro re nata. His words would be infallible one moment, not the next.” (The Letters and Diaries, 26:169-70)

We can see how Littledale was led to critique Papal Infallibility when informed of the actions of Pope Gregory VIII, and similarly, we can see how present day skeptics offer objections to the same because of things being done by contemporary Popes, most chiefly our current Holy Father. For some reason, even for intellectual giants such as this Anglo-Catholic priest, events such as the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre can often mislead one to think that this poses a threat to the Papal dogmas. Newman’s first response was perfect, though it is one of the weaker responses in our arsenals. What I think was most powerful was Newman’s distinction between “eventual aid” (i.e. an aid in the event) and “aided process”. As I have argued elsewhere, the Pope might be a theological dunce, and may not even know the answer to the theological questions which are confront him. I think one of the largest disappointments I have is Pope Paul V’s decision to postpone an official declaration vindicating the Thomistic doctrine of predestination contra Luis De Molina which had met in the De Auxiliis congregation, which had ended in 1607 with the decision that all sides can promote their beliefs until the Church see fit to answer. Now, surely, the fact that this congregation was even created to examine the question would disprove the idea of a Papal automation or Papal omniscience, (i.e. those who would think that Papal Infallibility entails that the Pope knows all doctrinal truths with a wave of his hand).  Now, granted, perhaps the Pope did understand, and did not see the wisdom in doing so. No worries; there are plenty of other examples. One of the most vivid  of these is Pope Vigilius during his confronting the objections to the “Three


Pope Paul V

Chapters” by Emperor Justinian I and the Eastern Cyrillians. Clearly, Vigilius was confused for a good portion of the time. Hopefully, our critics can recognize the lack of free deliberation here, as the Imperial forces were giving almost no breathing room for a postponement of decision, after having already kidnapped him from Rome upon his refusal to sign the Imperial Edict condemning the Three Chapters. In the end, the Pope consent rightly to their condemnation (though some still debate this issue today), as did the universal Church. In any case, the “process” by which the Pope comes to the “event” wherein he is divinely and negatively protected from transgressing the line of orthodoxy is not infallible, and could be filled with all sorts of aids given to him by the Church. We often get our ears cleaned with the emphatic complaints that the Pope is said by the Vatican Council that his ex cathedra teaching is  ex sese, non autem ex consensuEcclesiae, irreformabiles esse (in itself, and not by the consent of the Church, irreformable). Sure, but this says nothing about the process. Only the event. Pope Pius IX surely had with him the conciliar process of the Vatican Council, as well as the consultation with the World Bishops on the matter of the Immaculate Conception of the Holy Virgin, did he not? Likewise, with Pope Pius XII in Munificentissimus Deus. In fact, the Vatican Council said :

For the Holy Spirit was promised to the successors of Peter not so that they might, by his revelation, make known some new doctrine, but that, by his assistance, they might religiously guard and faithfully expound the revelation or deposit of faith transmitted by the apostles. (Chapter 4, Paragraph 6)

Since the above is true, the “process” of the Pope’s research and deliberation prior to an ex cathedra teaching would surely be constrained by the consent of the Church, that is, by what has already been held by the faithful from the day that Christ and the Apostles deposited that single deposit of divine revelation. Thus, theoretically, ex cathedra teachings will merely be reflecting an old belief held by the Church, and  therefore, one which the Pope already felt himself bound in obedience.

Also, to bring this more to the current, how often is it we forget that the Papal office is a ministry given to sinners, from St. Peter onward. As from Peter himself, we can see how failure is not above the office. The person in office is susceptible to countless failures. What are the limits? Only God knows. We do know, however, that the Church’s voice is only given to us through the proper channels, and despite the fact that the minister who may be Pope at any given time is chipping away, it would seem, at the foundations, there is no protection against it from the Almighty. Newman compared Papal Infallibility to the truth spoken from the mouth of Balaam spoke with infallibility in the Book of Numbers (22-24), and that goes to show how far from proper things might get.


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St. Gregory Nazianzus (329-390) and the Development of Doctrine

Next time you run across someone who suppresses any idea of the development of doctrine, bring them to this Cappadocian Doctor of the Church and his 31st Oration.


“You see lights breaking upon us, gradually; and the order of Theology, which it is better for us to keep, neither proclaiming things too suddenly, nor yet keeping them hidden to the end. For the former course would be unscientific, the latter atheistical; and the former would be calculated to startle outsiders, the latter to alienate our own people. I will add another point to what I have said; one which may readily have come into the mind of some others, but which I think a fruit of my own thought. Our Saviour had some things which, He said, Выбраныя_Святыя_Васіль_Вялікі,_Рыгор_Багаслоў,_Ян_Златавустcould not be borne at that time by His disciples (though they were filled with many teachings), perhaps for the reasons I have mentioned; and therefore they were hidden. And again He said that all things should be taught us by the Spirit when He should come to dwell amongst us. Of these things one, I take it, was the Deity of the Spirit Himself, made clear later on when such knowledge should be seasonable and capable of being received after our Saviour’s restoration, when it would no longer be received with incredulity because of its marvellous character. For what greater thing than this did either He promise, or the Spirit teach. If indeed anything is to be considered great and worthy of the Majesty of God, which was either promised or taught.” (Paragraph XXVII)

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Protected: Roots of Papacy- The Patristic Logic

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Some Eastern Orthodox Voices on Contraception


Fr. Stanley Harakas, a priest of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, once Professor of Orthodox theology and ethics from 1966 to 1995 at the Holy Cross Greek School of Theology, as well as being Visiting professor at St Vladimir’s Theological Seminary and Lecturer at the University of Thessalonica in Greece, writes as follows:

“As we have indicated, there is evidence in the history of the church to provide for both approaches. That is why there is still discussion and controversy. Even our archdiocese has responded differently at different times. In older issues of the Archdiocese ‘yearbook’ a strong negative attitude was expressed. In more recent issues, a position was taken indicating that this was a private matter, involving the couple alone, which was to be discussed with the Father Confessor. 

“The real issue is which of the two views best represents the fullness of the Orthodox Christian faith. The first, negative response, draws primarily on the exclusively biological, physical, and legalistic perspective. The second, affirmative response, emphasizes the close relationship and most importantly, takes a sacramental approach. To state the differences of emphasis is to respond to the question ‘Which is more correct?’. The second fits a well-rounded Orthodox Christian view of the truth. 

“It should be clearly stated that for the Church, sexual relations outside of marriage are sinful and the use of contraceptives, merely compounds the impropriety of that kind of behavior. Nor should anything said above imply that there is an obligation on the part of couples to use contraceptives if they do not wish to. What we are saying is that if a married couple has children, or is spacing the birth of their children, and wishes to continue sexual relations in the subsequent years as an expression of their continuing love for each other, and for the deepening of their personal and marital unity, the Orthodoxy of contraception is affirmed” ( Orthodox Church: 455 Questions and Answers, page 47)

 Kallistos Ware + , titular Metropolitan Bishop of the Diocese of Diokleia, widely influential in Orthodox-Catholic relations, and a man of Oxford training and intellectual acumen, writes:

“Concerning contraceptives and other forms of birth control, differing opinions exist within the Orthodox Church. In the past birth control was in general strongly condemned, but today a less strict view is coming to prevail, not only in the West but in traditional Orthodox countries. Many Orthodox theologians and spiritual fathers consider that the responsible use of contraception within marriage is not itself sinful. In their view, the question of how many children a couple should have, and at what intervals, is best described by the partners themselves, according to the guidance of their own consciences”. (The Orthodox Church, page 296)

Fr John Meyendorff, was prominent Theologian Church Historian whose lectureship was widely disseminated, and was also former Dean of St. Vladimir’s Seminary. He writes concerning contraception:

Recent Roman Catholic teaching also recommends periodic continence, but forbids the “artificial” means, such as the “pill.” But is there a real difference between the means called “artificial” and those considered “natural”? Is continence really “natural”? Is not any medical control of human functions “artificial”? Should it therefore be condemned as sinful? And finally, a serious theological question: is anything “natural” necessarily “good”? For even St. Paul saw that continence can lead to “burning.” Is not science able to render childbirth more humane, by controlling it, just as it controls food, habitat and health?

Straight condemnation of birth-control fails to give satisfactory answers to all these questions. It has never been endorsed by the Orthodox Church as a whole, even if, at times, local Church authorities may have issued statements on the matter identical to that of the Pope. In any case, it has never been the Church’s practice to give moral guidance by issuing standard formulas claiming universal validity on questions which actually require a personal act of conscience. There are forms of birth control which will be acceptable, and even unavoidable, for certain couples, while others will prefer avoiding them. This is particularly true of the “pill.” (Marriage: An Orthodox Perspective)

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