Why I Converted from Orthodoxy

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By Gideon Lazar, The Catholic University of America (Above: Ukrainian Catholic National Shrine of the Holy Family, the church where Gideon was received)

 The day this was posted, I was received into the Catholic Church. Many of my Orthodox friends are likely shocked at my decision, so I wrote this article to explain my reasoning.

First some background on myself. I was raised in a non-religious Jewish family. I considered myself an atheist for as long as I can remember. In my Junior year of high school, I looked into the evidence for Christianity, looking to refute it. I walked away from that endeavor becoming a believer in Jesus and firmly convinced by the evidence. I began to read about the early Christians, and then look at modern denominations. I was convinced that the Orthodox Church was the true Church, and so I became a catechumen. After two years as a catechumen I was baptized into the Orthodox Church. Many of my friends are Catholic, so I went to go research Orthodox apologetics against Catholicism in an effort to prove that the Orthodox Church is the true Church. While at first it seemed obvious that the Orthodox Church was right, the more I studied, the more I realized I was missing a lot of nuance. I ultimately ended up being convinced by the evidence for the Catholic Church, and so I had no choice but to convert. So now, a little over a year after my baptism, I am being received into the Catholic Church. I ask readers to please read the entire article (I know it’s long) before rushing to judgement as I may respond to your points later in the article. If you feel as though I did not address something important, please comment below about it. Because of the length of the article, I could not put as much detail to every section as I would have liked and so I may write more on these topics in the future.

Fatima

The thing that initially triggered my move towards Catholicism is Our Lady of Fatima. One of my friends was telling me about the fruits Fatima had on her own life. She read what the Theotokos had said to the children about modesty, and it caused her to become more modest in her dress. She also told me about how her priest had visited Fatima and when he came back, he preached a fiery sermon about the reality of hell. I had been told by my fellow Orthodox Christians that Fatima was at best a hoax and at worst demonic, so I decided to investigate Fatima for myself.

The view that Fatima is simply a hoax cannot be the case. It has a miracle connected with it that was witnessed by thousands of people, many of whom were atheists who came to the event specifically to refute what the children were saying. Skeptics have argued that it was simply a mass hallucination, but Christians should be skeptical of this argument. Skeptics of the resurrection of Jesus often respond to the fact that there were 500 witnesses by pointing to Fatima. If Fatima was a mass hallucination, so could the resurrection of Jesus have been. No other mass hallucination has ever been recorded though. In reality, Fatima was actually the most seen public miracle since the time of the exodus about 3500 years ago.

The other objection to Fatima is that it is demonic. However, the vision doesn’t sound like Satan at all. Would Satan command people to pray 53 Hail Marys and 6 Our Fathers, both fully Orthodox prayers, every single day? Would Satan command people to pray that Jesus “lead all souls to heaven” 5 times every day? Would Satan remind people about the reality of hell in a time when even the Church is forgetting about it? Would Satan seal all of this through a public miracle witnessed by thousands of atheists, causing many to convert and dedicate their lives to Christ? If this is Satan’s plan, it isn’t a very good one.

I did find one way to stay Orthodox after discovering this. Fatima was true and Orthodoxy is true. After all, the message of Fatima seems entirely Orthodox. There are some major problems with this though. First, Our Lady said that “in Portugal the dogma of the faith will always be preserved.” Portugal has remained Catholic, with only a tiny Orthodox minority. If Orthodoxy is true, the dogma of the faith has not been preserved in Portugal. In addition, Our Lady requested that Russia, the largest Orthodox country, be consecrated by the Pope, the head of the Catholic Church, to the immaculate heart (a Catholic devotion rejected by many Orthodox as heretical) so that it will be converted. I reconciled this by saying that it needed to be converted from communism back to Orthodoxy. However, why would God request Catholics to do this in a very Catholic way? One Orthodox priest I read tried to fix this by saying that the “Holy Father” was actually the Patriarch of Moscow. This is already a stretch because the Patriarch is not called by this title while the Pope is. He goes even further by claiming that “the immaculate heart of Mary” is actually the true teachings of the Orthodox Church but the Theotokos needed a way to communicate this to peasant children. At this point this is such a stretch that it’s just easier to draw the obvious conclusion, if Fatima is true then Catholicism is true.

Missionary Work

The other major event that triggered my shift towards Catholicism was reading about the history of Catholic missionary work. In Orthodoxy, there are a few saints that are famous for missions: Sts. Cyril and Methodius (who were before the schism), St. Nicholas of Japan, and St. Herman of Alaska. In fact, if you discuss missionary work with anyone who is Orthodox, they will probably bring up St. Herman of Alaska. There is a reason he is brought up again, and again, and again. He is essentially the only successful Orthodox missionary since the schism. This is a bit of an exaggeration, but it’s mostly true. He converted a few hundred natives in Alaska, and that’s basically it. St. Nicholas’ mission in Japan now numbers less than 10,000 people, less than 0.01% of the population of Japan. Orthodox report large missions currently in Africa and Latin America, but the numbers are highly exaggerated and are often self-reported to be 10 or 100 times larger than what is recorded on official censuses by the government or third parties.

On the other hand, Catholics have a long and glorious history of missionary work. I used to assume this was simply because of colonial empires, but this is false. Catholic missionary work continued after the schism. Missionaries went as far as China and India before the age of sail, despite the fact that the Orthodox were closer to these lands and didn’t go. During the crusades, St. Francis of Assisi went to the Sultan himself and tried to convert him.

Then, during the age of sail Catholic missionaries went to places where there weren’t colonial interests. Catholics went to places in India where there were no Portuguese settlements. They went to Japan and continued to sneak in even after they were expelled. They went deep into forests and mountains in Latin America beyond Spanish and Portuguese settlements. Priests often stood up the colonial authorities to defend the natives, one of the main factors that eventually lead to the suppression of the Jesuits by the Pope under pressure from colonial empires. On the other hand, Orthodox missionary work before the 20th century was pretty much exclusively limited to the land of the Russian empire.

The Eastern Catholic Churches

Catholics also did missionary work for the Eastern Christians. This created the Eastern Catholics, known also as the Uniates. The first major group of these is the Maronites. Since the Maronites were under Muslim rule, they had no contact with Rome for hundreds of years. When they finally got contact during the crusades and learned of the schism, they quickly sided with Rome. The other Eastern Catholics came later. There is a myth in Orthodoxy that people only became Eastern Catholics under force by Catholic kings. This has some truth to it, but is mostly false. These groups mostly came over willingly. While some did come over by force, the Orthodox also forcibly converted large numbers of Eastern Catholics Orthodoxy. This objection by Orthodox is really just an appeal to enlightenment ideas of freedom of religion that have not been historically held by Orthodoxy or Catholicism.

It’s also notable that there are large numbers of Eastern Catholics, but very few Western Rite Orthodox. Since the schism, the West has sought unity such as at 2 Lyons and Florence. While these were mostly failures, they were rooted in a desire for unity. After the schism, there were large amounts of Jesuit missions to Eastern Europe and the Middle East. Rome also sought union with all the East. The Catholic Church has within it all 6 rites of the Church: Latin, Byzantine, East Syriac, West Syriac, Alexandrian, and Armenian. The Eastern Orthodox Church has only the Byzantine rite, while the Oriental Orthodox Church has the West Syriac, Alexandrian, and Armenian rites and the Assyrian Church of the East has the East Syriac rite. The Eastern Orthodox have done much ecumenical dialogue with the Oriental Orthodox, but right now any Oriental Orthodox priest who were to convert would have to change to the Byzantine rite. There are a small number of Latin rite Orthodox, but they have only 2 or 3 dozen parishes in the whole world and did not start until the 20th century. They are also highly Byzantinized, worse than most of the Latinization of the Eastern Catholics. The Western Rite Orthodox are also seen as not really being “truly” Orthodox by many Orthodox who know of them, and most Orthodox don’t know they exist.

There is a common accusation by Orthodox against Catholics that Eastern Catholics are treated like second class citizens. There is some truth to this. However, it is highly exaggerated. Latinization of Eastern Catholics was usually done only by local bishops and opposed by Rome. Leo XIII wrote an encyclical against the Latinization of Eastern Catholics. Latinization was also usually self-imposed in order to prove their unity to Rome and to differentiate themselves from the Orthodox.

The most famous incidents of Latinization are limited to America where local bishops treated Eastern Catholics horribly. One famous case was Fr. Alexis Toth. Toth was a Greek Catholic priest from Slovakia who came to Minneapolis to minister to Eastern Catholic immigrants. He was opposed by the local bishop, John Ireland, who refused to let him serve. Furious, Toth became Orthodox and brought with him around 10 thousand Eastern Catholics. Toth was later canonized by the Orthodox Church. Orthodox often appeal to this to prove that Rome is just power hungry. However, this is not an isolated incident for Bishop Ireland. Ireland hated immigrant communities and tried to get them to integrate with America. He caused thousands of Poles to leave the Catholic Church as well and form the Polish National Catholic Church. He was also well known as a modernist. Toth left the Church because of one bishop who was not in line with what Rome was saying. Toth is not a great saint who exposed the entire plot of the Catholic Church.

Many Orthodox also accuse Eastern Catholics of being inconsistent. After all, Eastern Catholics venerate many post-schism Orthodox saints such as Gregory Palamas and Seraphim of Sarov. These saints are venerated for their clear holiness. I had heard all the time when I was Orthodox that Eastern Catholics venerate strongly anti-Roman saints like Mark of Ephesus and Alexis Toth, but this is mostly not true I discovered. There is a movement among Eastern Catholics called the Zoghby Initiative, started by Melkite Catholic Archbishop Elias Zoghby. Zoghby wanted to reject all post-schism councils and enter into communion with the Orthodox, while at the same time remaining in communion with Rome. This is usually what Orthodox think of when they think of Eastern Catholics. The Zoghby Initiative, while popular among many Melkites and some other Byzantine Catholics, has been rejected by Rome. Eastern Catholics are still bound to all Roman dogmas but are encouraged to express these dogmas in their own theological language.

The Holiness of Western Saints

While Catholics can acknowledge the holiness of those Orthodox who did not cause the schism and were merely born into it, the Orthodox are unusually not so charitable in return. Besides a few voices, almost all Orthodox, even the more ecumenical ones, agree that Catholic saints cannot be venerated.

Some Orthodox accuse Catholics saints of prelest, spiritual delusion. One of the most commonly accused is St. Francis of Assisi. Since St. Francis wrote a new rule of life for his friars, he must have not been truly rooted with the patristic tradition and he was actually just prideful. This accusation is highly problematic. For one, St. Francis’ rule is 95% in line with tradition. He focused on fasting, prayer, and spiritual ministry. He renounced all worldly possessions; just as Orthodox monks do. Some elements of his rule were different, but many Orthodox saints such as Paisius Velichkovsky modified monastic life as well. Every incident in Francis’ life that is supposedly prelest has an equivalent moment in the life of an Orthodox saint. When I read The Life of St. Francis by St. Bonaventure, I found nothing but a very saintly man, just like all the Orthodox saints I had read about. It is also not just random people accusing St. Francis of prelest. The famous Orthodox saint Ignatius Brianchaninov, as well as the widely venerated Fr. Seraphim Rose, accuse St. Francis of preslest.

Orthodox Sacramental Theology

Some Orthodox go even further. They claim that all Catholic sacraments are invalid (they say “graceless”) and so Catholics are identical to unbaptized pagans.  They insist that any Catholic who converts must be rebaptised. Some of these people are about as anti-Catholic as some of the extremes of Protestantism. These people are also not a vocal minority. They are very loud and include among their ranks bishops and patriarchs. This view is essentially just a renewal of the heresy of Donatism.

Many Orthodox are more moderate. They insist only that Catholics be received into Orthodoxy by the sacrament of Chrismation (known in the West as Confirmation). However, this introduces far more ecclesiological problems than it solves. It confuses the nature of a sacrament itself. A sacrament leaves an indelible mark on the soul. If Catholic Confirmations are valid, then they cannot receive the sacrament again when they come into Orthodoxy.

This practice of reception by chrismation is also at clear odds with the practice of reception by baptism. In order to reconcile these differing practices, the concept of oikonomia has been applied to the reception of converts. Oikonomia is the loosening of the canons in order to meet someone where they are at in their fallen state. In the West, this is called a dispensation. The belief here is that what was lacking in the first baptism (grace) is filled in the chrismation. They had only the outward form of Baptism, not inward grace. This is problematic on a number of levels. First, it once again attacks the nature of sacraments themselves. Sacraments are by their very nature outward signs of inward grace. The grace and the form cannot be received at different times. Secondly, it isn’t oikonomia. Oikonomia is a loosening of the canons, but the canons do not proscribe that heretics who are trinitarian be rebaptized. It is actually the reception by baptism which is an abuse of the canons. Finally, it is simply a way for converts received by chrismation to still be seen as Orthodox by those who rebaptize.

For some this is not enough, however. Some Orthodox priests, such as many monks on Mt. Athos or even many priests in ROCOR, will insist that those who have been received only by chrismation must receive baptism, but not chrismation again. This just ruins sacramental theology even further. One cannot receive the sacrament of Chrismation before one has received the sacrament of Baptism. Additionally, this is essentially a denial of the theory of reception of oikonomia. If they are really denying this theory, then why are they still willing to commune people who have been received only by chrismation? They are giving communion to people who are still catechumens. Also, why do they venerate saints who were only received by chrismation, such as Elizabeth the New Martyr? If they do accept the theory, then why do they repeat baptism on an already baptized person, which according to the Fathers is to crucify Christ again.

This disagreement over the validity of heretical baptisms is not a new problem. In his book Russia and the Universal church published in 1889, Vladimir Soloviev relays this story:

William Palmer, a distinguished member of the Anglican Church and of the University of Oxford, wished to join the Orthodox Church. He went to Russia and Turkey to study the contemporary situation in the Christian East and to find out on what conditions he would be admitted to the communion of the Eastern Orthodox. At St. Petersburg and at Moscow he was told that he had only to abjure the errors of Protestantism before a priest, who would thereupon administer to him the sacrament of Holy Chrism or Confirmation. But at Constantinople he found that he must be baptized afresh. As he knew himself to be a Christian and saw no reason to suspect the validity of his baptism (which incidentally was admitted without question by the Orthodox Russian Church), he considered that a second baptism would be a sacrilege. On the other hand, he could not bring himself to accept Orthodoxy according to the local rules of the Russian Church, since he would then become Orthodox only in Russia while remaining a heathen in the eyes of the Greeks; and he had no wish to join a national Church but to join the universal Orthodox Church. No one could solve his dilemma, and so he became a Roman Catholic.

This same problem continues with clergy. Some Orthodox Churches will receive Catholic priests by a ceremony of vesting. Other Orthodox Churches will insist this priest be baptized again. While one can argue that the form of baptism was still correct while it lacked grace, the same cannot be done with ordination. If Catholic holy orders are invalid, then that means all Catholic bishops are really unbaptized pagans. Can an unbaptized pagan perform the whole ceremony of ordination, and then an Orthodox bishop steps in afterwards to fill in the grace? This is essentially a way to avoid the fact that these Orthodox sacramental rigorists would have to think that there are large numbers of lay people running around the Church thinking they are clergy. In the case of the Carpatho-Russian Archdiocese, the entire archdiocese was received into the Orthodox Church from the Catholic Church by a mere telegram. Can a telegram convey sacramental grace with the same efficacy of a bishop?

The Disunity of Orthodoxy

This lack of consistency in sacramental practice highlights a fundamental problem of Orthodoxy: it is not united. As I write this article, the largest Orthodox Church, the Russian Church, and the most powerful one, the Constantinople, are not in communion with one another. In addition, for the past five years, Antioch and Jerusalem have not been in communion. These constant schisms are usually over minor territorial disputes, but effect hundreds of millions of lay people. These schisms are also not a new thing. Back in 1996, there was a break in communion between Moscow and Constantinople over jurisdiction over Estonia. From 1872-1945, Bulgaria and Constantinople were not in communion.

To confuse things even more, in 1917, ROCOR broke away from ROCOR was in communion with Jerusalem and Serbia, but not the rest of the Orthodox Church because they had all adopted the Gregorian calendar (since a calendar made a pagan king is obviously Christian while one made by a Pope is heretical). During this period between 1917 and 2007 when they reunited with Moscow, ROCOR also entered into and broke communion with various Greek Old Calendarist groups who were not even in communion with one another. Finally, in 2007 they reunited with Moscow without actually resolving which one of them was right. To this day no one agrees whether or not they were canonical during this time. ROCOR also holds strictly that there are no sacraments outside the Church. (One priest who played a major role in my conversion to Catholicism got defrocked by ROCOR for thinking otherwise.) Are the sacraments of the Greek Old Calendarists valid since ROCOR was in communion with them? Were the sacraments of all the Orthodox Churches following the Gregorian calendar valid from 1917-2007?

This disunity is not just in communion. The Churches do not act like one Church in missionary work. In every country outside Eastern Europe and the Middle East, one will find parishes under Moscow and Constantinople. They will both claim jurisdiction over these lands. In many cases, there are also many other jurisdictions, most commonly Antioch.

One could argue that it is hypocritical to point out, as many places have overlapping Latin and Eastern Catholic bishops. This however is because these are actually different traditions. A Byzantine and a Latin live different spiritual lives. Many of these Churches are also the result of healed schisms and the old hierarchy remained. The key difference though is that there is a clear system canonically as to how this all works. In Orthodoxy, everyone is implicitly saying that everyone else’s jurisdictions are illicit by placing overlapping bishops abroad. In Catholicism, this is all worked out and is not an abuse of the canons.

This disunity of jurisdictions in Orthodoxy manifests further disunity, such as how to grant autocephaly. In an attempt to unify all Orthodox Christians in North America, the Patriarch of Moscow granted autocephaly to the Orthodox Church in America. However, basically no one recognized the OCA and overlapping parishes remain. Moscow sees the OCA as autocephalous, but everyone else sees the OCA as under Moscow. Moscow also contradicts their own claims of the OCA’s autocephaly by setting up bishops in America and by allowing ROCOR to have bishops in America. This dispute over whether it is the sole prerogative of Constantinople to give autocephaly is the cause of the current schism in Ukraine.

This disunity is also not a new problem. Vladimir Soloviev felt many of the same issues in his own day, which he voiced in his book Russia and the Universal Church. He pointed out that if Moscow and Constantinople had any real relationship with one another, there would likely very quickly be a schism. Historically, Moscow and Constantinople alomst never talked. Now that they have been talking regularly since the fall of communism in 1991, there have been two schisms and one failed pan-Orthodox synod. What Soloviev saw in his own day just took 100 years to finally bubble to the surface. This disunity is not the fruits of communism, but communism actually delayed the disunity from manifesting outwardly.

The Papacy

I eventually came to realize that this disunity has a solution. “And I say to thee: That thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”

Before considering the theological and historical issues at play in the papacy, we must first consider the practical ones. The papacy provides a very real unity to Catholicism. It is very clear who is Catholic and who is not. If you are in communion with the Pope you are Catholic, if you are not in communion with the Pope you are not. There are sometimes some gray areas, but these are much rarer. The papacy also allows the calling of councils as there is a clear status to councils. Orthodox still cannot agree if councils from all the way before the schism (such as fourth Constantinople) are ecumenical or not. The Pope as a final arbiter is necessary for the unity of the Church.

Moving onto theological objections, one of the most common Orthodox objections to the papacy is that the rock was Peter’s confession of faith, not Peter himself. Others will say that the rock is actually Christ. However, this is a false dichotomy. Christ is the rock, and Peter is also the rock through being the Vicar of Christ. If Christ is the chief cornerstone, Peter is the second stone. Christ explicitly renames Peter from Simon to Peter, and then repeats his name right next to mentioning the rock. Peter is also the rock through his profession of faith. Peter is the one who knew who Christ was, and so he is the one to guide all Christians to the identity of Christ through his authority over doctrine. You can find Fathers who say the rock was Christ, ones who say the rock was the confession of faith, and ones who say it was Peter himself. The Fathers should be read in light of one another, not as opponents. They point to one shared truth. This connection is made clear in the Odes of Matins for the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul. Peter is repeatedly called the rock, and many of these times he is called the rock of faith. His confession of faith cannot be separated from his person who is to keep the purity of the faith.

That Peter is the point of unity of the Church is clear elsewhere in Matthew 16. The only time in the entirety of the gospels when Christ says he will build the Church is when he says he will build it on Peter. This is to make it clear that the point of unity of the Church is Peter. The other key part of this passage is verse 19, where Peter receives the keys. He is the only one to explicitly receive the keys. While the other apostles do in some sense receive the keys in Matthew 18 and John 20, they possess the keys through Peter as it is Peter who receives them explicitly. This is why in Catholic theology, jurisdiction given by the Pope is necessary for the liceity of the sacraments, but not their validity the bishops receive their holy orders from the apostles, not from the Pope.

Finally, moving onto the historical objections, there are too many passages to walk through one by one. Part of the problem is that the Orthodox have no unified view of how papal authority should be exercised in the Church. Some say that the Pope is merely another bishop, others say he exercises a high authority over the West as he is the Patriarch of that Church, and others say he does in fact possess an authority over the entire Church, but it is not as strong as it came to be.

It is clear from the Fathers that the Pope does indeed have this third kind of authority. This is clear in the canons of Sardica, which allows the Pope to mediate between two bishops in the case of a dispute according to canons 3, 4, and 7. This jurisdiction extended beyond the West and allowed the Pope to have authority over the Eastern bishops as well. This made the Pope an archbishop over the entire world essentially. This is why Pope St. Leo was called the “Archbishop of all the Churches” at Chalcedon.

Some Orthodox will object though that this only proves that the Pope held an appellate jurisdiction, not the immediate ordinary jurisdiction ascribed to the Pope at Vatican I. Already though, this places them out of line with most Orthodox, especially the Russians. However, I think this is a fair objection which I myself used to use frequently. If the Pope holds the final appellate jurisdiction, then it follows logically that he holds an immediate jurisdiction as well as no one can object to the actions of the Pope.

Much more could be said on the topic of the papacy. It is a very nuanced topic which most people don’t give enough fair attention. Orthodoxy very clearly fails on every other theological ground though, so I’ll move onto these other theological problems.

Original Sin

One of the most common Orthodox arguments these days is that one of the chief heresies of Rome is original sin. Orthodox supposedly do not believe in original sin, but ancestral sin. Augustine supposedly corrupted the faith using a mistranslation of Romans 5:12.

Anyone who makes this argument however is a heretic by Orthodox standards. One of the chief heresies of Pelagius is his denial of original sin. This is why the Council of Carthage placed an anathema against anyone who denies original sin, and this canon was accepted ecumenically by the seventh ecumenical council. Canon 110 of Carthage states that,

whosoever denies that infants newly from their mother’s wombs should be baptized, or says that baptism is for remission of sins, but that they derive from Adam no original sin, which needs to be removed by the laver of regeneration, from whence the conclusion follows, that in them the form of baptism for the remission of sins, is to be understood as false and not true, let him be anathema.

Nicodemus of the Holy Mountain included this canon in the Rudder and added commentary stating that,

This view too was a product of the heretical insanity of the Pelagians: this refers to their saying that newly begotten infants are not baptized for the remission of sins, as the Orthodox Church believes and maintains, but, instead… the infants themselves have not incurred any taint from the original sin of Adam.

St. Augustine was also declared as a father of the Church at the fifth ecumenical council, while Pelagius is universally recognized as a heretic. The idea that original sin is passed down from one generation to the next is also present in St. Maximus the Confessor and in St. Gregory Palamas (as part of his defense of the immaculate conception).

The idea that St. Augustine’s doctrine of original sin is heretical is in part due to a misunderstanding of the doctrine. St. Augustine’s theology is not that infants are personally guilty of the sin of Adam, but that they receive the effects of it. Sin is not merely about guilt but is about an ontological reality like a disease. This stain of original sin prevents us from seeing God. This is why St. Gregory the Theologian says that,

those who fail to receive the gift [of baptism]…perhaps on account of infancy, or some perfectly involuntary circumstance through which they are prevented from receiving it, even if they wish…will be neither glorified nor punished by the righteous Judge, as unsealed [by baptism] and yet not wicked, but persons who have suffered rather than done wrong. For not everyone who is not bad enough to be punished is good enough to be honored; just as not everyone who is not good enough to be honored is bad enough to be punished.

This is what the West would later come to call limbo, but it is clearly here taught by one of the greatest Eastern saints. It is also taught at the Synod of Jerusalem in response to Protestant missionaries in the Ottoman Empire.

This theological heresy is quite new in Orthodoxy, having been invented by Fr. John Romanides in the 20th century. It is also considered heresy by many Orthodox Christians as well but is now accepted by most Orthodox Christians.

Two excellent treatments of this issue that go into more detail can be found here and here.

The Immaculate Conception

Another common Orthodox objection to Catholicism is the immaculate conception. This is supposedly a novel teaching invented by western medieval theologians. This could not be further from the truth. The immaculate conception is clearly taught by the Fathers of the Church, who teach that she was without sin. If she had original sin, she would not be sinless. Even after the schism, many great Orthodox theologians such as St. Gregory Palamas, Mark of Ephesus, and Dimitry of Rostov. Generally, Orthodox are forced to appeal to western scholastics to argue against the Immaculate Conception. For example, St. Thomas Aquinas rejected the Immaculate Conception. However, he instead thought that Mary had original sin for only about a second, a far cry from the view that she had original sin her whole life.

Orthodox objections to the Immaculate Conception only came about in reaction to the use of Papal infallibility to promulgate the doctrine. The most common objections are drawn from the writings of John Maximovitch. Maximovitch was clearly a holy man, but he is a heretic because of his writing on this. He clearly says that Mary actually committed sin, which is contrary to the nearly universal witness of the Fathers and the liturgical texts of the Byzantine rite.

The Filioque

The filioque is an objection that goes back to before the schism. There are really two questions bound up in the filioque. First is the liceity of its addition to the creed, and the second is that actual theological issue itself. Regarding the liceity of its issue to the creed, this is really an issue of papal authority which I already addressed. It was initially added to the creed in portions of Spain at the Third Council of Toledo, which was attended over by multiple Orthodox saints. It was done to combat Arianism. This was seen as fine in the West, because the creed was simply a profession of faith and nothing heretical had been added. However, in the Byzantine Empire, the creed was seen as a sign of imperial unity. A change in the creed was seen as treason, and so this is why the Byzantines reacted sharply against the filioque.

Onto theological issues, part of the problem is that the Orthodox once again are theologically disunited. Some say that the Spirit proceeds only temporally from the Son, while others say he proceeds energetically and eternally, but not hypostatically. The former view is easy to refute. The Fathers clearly state that the Spirit proceeds eternally from the Son. In order to distinguish the procession of the Spirit from begetting of the Son, there must be some way to distinguish procession from begetting. According to the Fathers, this is the procession of the Spirit from the Father to the Son. David Bently Hart in his article “The Myth of the Schism,” showed that the St. Gregory of Nyssa makes this exact argument. St. Gregory says,

… while confessing the immutability of the [divine] nature, we do not deny difference in regard to cause and that which is caused, by which alone we discern the difference of each Person from the other, in that we believe one to be the cause and another to be from the cause; and again we conceive of another difference within that which is from the cause: between the one who, on the one hand, comes directly from the principle and the one who, on the other, comes from the principle through the one who arises directly; thus it unquestionably remains peculiar to the Son to be the Only Begotten, while at the same time it is not to be doubted that the Spirit is of the Father, by virtue of the mediation of the Son that safeguards the Son’s character as Only Begotten, and thus the Spirit is not excluded from his natural relation to the Father (Ad Ablabium 55-56).

This passage sounds like something directly from Augustine’s De Trinitate that many Orthodox try to argue is heretical. St. John of Damascus says something similar when he says that,

Likewise we believe also in one Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of Life: Who proceeds from the Father and rests in the Son… proceeding from the Father and communicated through the Son (De Fide Orthodoxia 1.8).

This is in the context of St. John defending the ultimate monarchy of the Father. The Spirit proceeds from the Father in order to rest in the Son, so that the Son can communicate the Spirit t creation.

St. Gregory Palamas moves even closer to St. Augustine’s trinitarian theology when he says,

Since the goodness which proceeds by generation from intellectual goodness as from a source is the Word, and since no intelligent person could conceive of a word without spirit, for this reason the Word, God from God, possesses also the Holy Spirit proceeding together with him from the Father. But this is spirit not in the sense of the breath which accompanies the word passing through our lips (for this is a body and is adapted to our word through bodily organs); nor is it spirit in the sense of that which accompanies the immanent and the discursive word within us, even though it does so incorporeally, for that too entails a certain motion of the mind which involves a temporal extension in conjunction with our word and requires the same intervals and proceeds from incompletion to completion. But that Spirit of the supreme Word is like an ineffable love of the Begetter towards the ineffably begotten Word himself. The beloved Word and Son of the Father also experiences this love towards the Begetter, but he does so inasmuch as he possesses this love as proceeding from the Father together with him and as resting connaturally in him. From the Word who held concourse with us through the flesh we have learned also the name of the Spirit’s distinct mode of coming to be from the Father, and that the Spirit belongs not only to the Father but also to the Son. For he says, “The Spirit of Truth, who proceeds from the Father,” in order that we may recognize not a Word alone but also a Spirit from the Father, who is not begotten but who proceeds, but he belongs also to the Son who possesses him from the Father as Spirit of truth, wisdom and word. For truth and wisdom constitute a word appropriate to the Begetter, a Word which rejoices together with the Father who rejoices in him, according to what he said through Solomon, “I was the one [i.e., Wisdom] who rejoiced together with him.” He did not say “rejoiced” but “rejoiced together with,” for this pre-eternal joy of the Father and the Son is the Holy Spirit in that he is common to them by mutual intimacy. Therefore, he is sent to the worthy from both, but in his coming to be he belongs to the Father alone and thus he also proceeds from him alone in his manner of coming to be (150 Chapters 36).

Since St. Gregory is after the schism, he is very careful to deny the filioque here. I quoted the entire chapter, so it is clear I am not taking anything out of context. However, his logic here is the same as St. Augustine, that the Spirit is the love of the Father towards the Son. St. Gregory’s critique of the filioque here is based on a misunderstanding of the filioque, that it teaches a double procession of the Spirit. However, 2 Lyons and Florence deny this and instead teach a single procession of the Spirit from the Father through the Son.

St. Gregory Palamas’ trinitarian theology is repeated by Orthodox theologian Fr. Dimitru Staniloae in his book The Holy Trinity: In the Beginning There was Love. He shows from the Fathers that the Spirit proceeds from the Father in order to rest in the Son. This is not something that the Holy Spirit happens to do, but it is necessary to his being. This refutes any Orthodox argument that the procession of the Spirit is not hypostatic, as the hypostasis of the Son is necessary for the procession of the Spirit. Fr. Staniloae argues against the filioque in his book with the weak argument (in an otherwise excellent book) that the Son also is begotten in order that the Spirit might rest in him. While this is certainly true, the Spirit’s procession to the Son is obviously secondary to the Son’s begetting in order that he might have the Spirit rest in him.

This entire objection of the filioque originated because of Photius. St. Ignatius was deposed from being Patriarch of Constantinople for opposing Emperor Michael III’s blasphemous activities. A politician, Photius, was elected in his place. Photius was pushed through the holy orders from monk to lector to sub-deacon to deacon to priest to patriarch in the course of five days. St. Ignatius followed the canons of Sardica (cited earlier in this article) and appealed to the bishop of Rome, who at this time was Pope St. Nicholas the Great. Pope Nicholas called an ecumenical council which sided with St. Ignatius. Photius however refused to comply, causing a four year schism between Rome and Constantinople. Photius stirred up controversy by accusing the West of heresy for the filioque and claiming that this was a Frankish conspiracy (an argument still made by many Orthodox). Near his death St. Ignatius saw the problems the schism was causing and recognized Photius as the legitimate patriarch out of charity. After St. Ignatius died, Pope John VIII ended the schism by recognizing Photius under the agreement that Photius publicly admit his error and acknowledge the primacy of Rome, although Photius never did this.

Much more could be written on the filioque. However, I will end on this quote from St. Maximus the Confessor. St. Maximus was the greatest Byzantine theologian of his day, giving up his own hand and tongue for refusing to commune with heretical bishops. St. Maximus was asked by his fellow Byzantines about the fact that the West had started saying that the Spirit proceeds from both the Father and the Son. This objection was raised by heretical monothelites and is the first time anyone from the East objected to the filioque. St. Maximus responded that,

Those of the Queen of cities have attacked the synodal letter of the present very holy Pope (Martin I), not in the case of all the chapters that he has written in it, but only in the case of two of them. One relates to theology, because it says he says that ‘the Holy Spirit proceeds (ἐκπορεύεσθαι) also from the Son… 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 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 [monothelitism], they have, to date, made no self-defense, because neither have they gotten rid of the things introduced by them (Letter to Marinus).

Essence and Energies

While it has medieval roots, this issue raised to prominence in the 20th century. Many Orthodox theologians argued that Palamas’ distinction between essence and “energies” (although a better translation of ἐνεργείαι is operations so I will use that here) was incompatible with Aquinas’ understanding of divine simplicity. Many Thomists likewise argued the same. Some Orthodox theologians went so far as to say that St. Thomas’ understanding of divine simplicity is responsible for atheism.

While I don’t think that Palamas and Aquinas are saying the same thing, this question is much more nuanced than many on both sides are willing to admit. First, we need to acknowledge the proper contexts of Aquinas and Palamas.

Divine simplicity was dogmatized in the West at Lateran IV, before St. Thomas Aquinas was even born. Aquinas starts the Summa Theologiae by discussing how we know things. He then moves on to proofs for the existence of God from natural reason. Divine simplicity follows from these proofs. While Aquinas extensively cites scripture and the Fathers in defense of his understanding of divine simplicity, for Aquinas it is a logical necessity that God is absolutely simple.

Aquinas moves from here to what we can know about God. An Orthodox reader familiar with St. Dionysius the Areopagite would recognize St. Thomas’ approach. Aquinas uses an apophatic theology in which we know about God through negation and through what He causes. This approach is very Byzantine.

Ultimately for Aquinas, the purpose of our lives is the beatific vision. We come to see the essence of God as it really is. We are divinized (what the East calls theosis) through grace which creates an effect in us.

St. Gregory Palamas is concerned with an entirely different set of issues. He got into a debate with Barlaam regarding monastic practice. He and other monks claimed to have truly seen God as he is. Barlaam objected, arguing that according to St. Dionysius, God is unknowable. St. Gregory responded by arguing that there is a distinction in the Fathers between God’s unknowable essence and his operations.

At first glance it seems like Barlaam is a Thomist and Palamas is critiquing Thomism. Thomists will argue that Palamas denied the beatific vision by saying that God’s essence is unknowable. However, it is actually Barlaam that denied the beatific vision, starting this whole controversy.

Palamas’ distinction is actually very similar to the formal distinction of another famous scholastic, Blessed John Duns Scotus. According to earlier commentators upon Aquinas, there were two types of distinctions, real and virtual. A real distinction meant that things were separable in reality, while a virtual (also called rational or nominal) distinction was distinct only in the mind. So, for example, two Lego blocks are really distinct from one another because they can be separated, while a shirt and what I am wearing are only virtually distinct because they cannot be separated except in the mind. Scotus argued that there was a third kind of distinction which was not accounted for in which there is not separability, but the distinction is in the thing itself and not merely in the mind. For example, the fact that I am the son of my father cannot be separated from the fact that I am the grandson of my grandfather, but my sonship and grandsonship are not separable.

Palamas seems to be making a formal distinction. According to Palamas, the distinction between God’s essence and operations is not merely a mental construct. However, it is through God’s operations that we come to know his essence. This is drawn from St. Maximus the Confessor and the Cappadocian Fathers. Palamas says that God’s essence is present fully in each of his operations. A good discussion on this issue to listen to is this interview with Dr. Jared Goff. This synthesis of Palamas and Scotus is also not a modern product. It was first argued for in the 15th century by Gennadius Scholarius, the first Patriarch of Constantinople under the Turks, a student of Mark of Ephesus, and the bishop who caused the union with Rome at Florence to be broken. He was also a great fan of Thomas Aquinas.

Ultimately, this issue is not dogma among Catholics so long as one affirms divine simplicity (which St. Gregory Palamas clearly does). Unfortunately, many Orthodox theologians do in fact make real distinctions in God apart from those of relation, which is heretical and contrary to Palamas himself.

Confirmation and Communion for Infants

Many Orthodox object to the Latin practice of delaying confirmation and communion for infants until the age of reason. This will be a short apologetic for the Latin practice. The Catholic Church allows the Easterners to keep their own traditions of communing infants. All Trent condemns is that this practice is necessary. Many Eastern Catholics did begin to introduce a first communion, but this has been reversed in most places since Vatican II.

The Western practice is actually a historical accident. In the early Church, only a bishop could chrismate someone and communion could not be received until after chrismation. As the Church grew, it became harder for the bishop to chrismate every newborn. The West kept the ancient practice, but this meant that chrismation was delayed. Communion was also delayed as a result. The East began allowing the priests to administer chrismation, so long as the chrism was consecrated by a bishop. This practice in the East became so regular that the East forgot their ancient practice. By the 9th century, Photius was accusing the West of having stripped the priesthood of the power to chrismate.

The Western practice got exaggerated over time and as a result, children were not being confirmed until around seven. This caused the theological development of the age of reason. Since chrismation and the eucharist were not necessary for salvation but simply provided extra graces for one to live, it is not until a child is old enough to discern between good and evil that they absolutely need to have these sacraments. Baptism has provided them enough grace for salvtion before then. This practice sadly got abused over time and children were not being confirmed until they were teenagers. Pope St. Pius X reversed this abuse, lowering first communion to the age of seven (as the Council of Trent had encouraged). Unfortunately, he did not also lower the age of confirmation, causing these graces to often still be delayed. This also changed the historical order of the sacraments. Many today recognize this is a problem which needs to be fixed.

The age of reason is not absent from Orthodox theology. Infants do not go to confession. Most children do not go to confession until around seven. It is simply the Byzantine practice to give infants extra grace from the sacraments at a younger age than Latins. Ultimately, neither of these practices are heretical, although the common abuses that are occurring in the West of delaying confirmation until 15 or 16 should stop.

The Epiclesis

It is the contention of many Orthodox theologians that the bread and wine are not consecrated at the words of institution, but at the epiclesis when the Holy Spirit is called down upon the gifts. However, this is quite problematic since the epiclesis is not present in the Latin Rite. In fact, the Orthodox force their Western Rite to add the epiclesis to the Mass, despite the fact that there is no historical evidence it was ever there. Other Orthodox theologians simply state that the time of consecration is a mystery.

The Catholic doctrine is that the words of institution alone are sufficient to consecrate the eucharist. This is the teaching of the author of the Byzantine liturgy, St. John Chrysostom, who said, “that saying, ‘This is my body’, once uttered, from that time to the present day, and even until Christ’s coming, makes the sacrifice complete at every table in the churches” (Homily on the Betrayal of Judas). St. Gregory of Nyssa said the same when he says that, “not through its being eaten does it advance to become the Body of the Word, but it is made over immediately into the Body by means of the word, just as was stated by the Word, ‘This is my body’” (The Great Catechism 37). Likewise, the West held the same understanding as is evidenced by Jerome when he speaks of, “clergy who, in succession from the Apostles, confect by their sacred word the Body of Christ” (Letter to Heliodorus). It is worth noting that most of the Fathers are ambiguous about the moment of consecration, but many are explicit that it is the words of institution. We ought to interpret the unclear passages in the Fathers in light of the clear ones.

Divorce

Many Orthodox argue that their practice of allowing divorce and remarriage up to three times is traditional. This practice is usually drawn from the canons of St. Basil. However, this is not actually accurate to what St. Basil says. Erick Ybarra has written a very good article on what St. Basil actually thought on this issue. I’m just going to copy it below (with his permission).

The sentence of the Lord that it is unlawful to withdraw from wedlock, save on account of fornicationapplies, according to the argument, to men and women alike. Custom, however, does not so obtain. Yet, in relation with women, very strict expressions are to be found; as, for instance, the words of the apostle ‘He which is joined to a harlot is one body’ and of Jeremiah, ‘If a wife become another man’s shall he return unto her again? Shall not that land be greatly polluted?’ And again, ‘He that has an adulteress is a fool and impious’. Yet custom ordains that men who commit adultery and are in fornication be retained by their wives. Consequently I do not know if the woman who lives with the man who has been dismissed can properly be called an adulteress; the charge in this case attaches to the woman who has put away her husband, and depends upon the cause for which she withdrew from wedlock. In the case of her being beaten, and refusing to submit, it would be better for her to endure than to be separated from her husband; in the case of her objecting to pecuniary loss, even here she would not have sufficient ground. If her reason is his living in fornication we do not find this in the custom of the church; but from an unbelieving husband a wife is commanded not to depart, but to remain, on account of the uncertainty of the issue. For what do you know, O wife, whether you shall save your husband? Here then the wife, if she leaves her husband and goes to another, is an adulteress. But the man who has been abandoned is pardonable, and the woman who lives with such a man is not condemned. But if the man who has deserted his wife goes to another, he is himself an adulterer because he makes her commit adultery; and the woman who lives with him is an adulteress, because she has caused another woman’s husband to come over to her.” (St. Basil the Great, Letter 188 to To Amphilochius, Canon IX )

This is an immensely dense piece of literature, and the thought is not very forthright, clear, nor satisfying. If read carefully, St. Basil seems to open up with a point which gets contradicted in the rest of his teaching. He says, on one hand, that “the sentence of the Lord” that makes it unlawful to divorce one’s spouse, except on account of fornication, applies equally to men and woman, which would seem to allow divorce in the case of fornication. But then, St. Basil seems to content to go with “custom”, which, does not fully apply this to both husbands and wives, for he eventually argues that a wife, even if victim of adultery by her husband, cannot depart from him and be with another. In fact, he appears to imply that if a wife were to leave her adulterous and fornicating husband to marry another, she would be committed the sin of adultery. How could that be if the bond was broken by her husband’s adultery in the first place? The implication would be that the bond prohibiting the victim-wife to re-marry is indissoluble even in the event of adultery. Even in the case of a husband who deserts his wife to be with be with another, this husband is committing adultery because the spouse he left is forced to “remarry”, and thus commit adultery. And the the new woman to which this husband turns to is also committing adultery because, says Basil, she causes that husband to come over to her, breaking his obligatory bond with the wife he deserted. All of this strongly implies that mere fornication does not break the marital bond. And yet, one could argue that Basil, at the same time, supports the idea of a husband, but not the wife, withdrawing from wedlock and who is permitted to continue on with another woman who is not his first wife. The condition states is that his wife deserted him. This man is to be “pardoned” and the new woman he is with is “not condemned”. If the separation of these two are not to be read into the text, it sounds like these two get the benefit of living out their new relationship in peace. And yet, even so, the wife who deserted the husband who entered into this second “marriage” is still held to the marital bond which she has with that husband, which means the marital bond is not truly and fully broken, at least for both sides. One could hardly figure how it is broken only for one side, the husband, but it seems like one could argue that St. Basil supports the idea that this victim-husband is not bound by the obligations of that continually existing bond until his first spouse dies.

Now, after reading this, can we say that St. Basil is grounds for modern Protestant or Eastern Orthodox (cf. here , here, and here) practices?  I would first say that the very opening statement of St. Basil’s canon above would preclude both practices (i.e. “unlawful to withdraw from wedlock,save on account of fornication”)Is it truly the case that either Orthodox or Protestant polities strictly forbid re-marriage unless it is a case of proven fornication/adultery? I’d welcome any reader to inform me where I have been misled, but my resources have it that this is not the case. I understand there are Protestant groups which strictly forbid re-marriage (cf. here and here) . The Russian Orthodox Church’s Department for External Church Relations, whose Chairman is Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, himself directly appointed by Patriarch Kyrill of Moscow as Vicar to the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, came out with the following statements with respect to re-marriage, and you’ll see the reference to St. Basil towards the end:

according to the canon law, after a legitimate church divorce, a second marriage is allowed to the innocent spouse. Those whose first marriage was dissolved through their own fault a second marriage is allowed only after repentance and penance imposed in accordance with the canons. According to the rules of St. Basil the Great, in exceptional cases where a third marriage is allowed, the duration of the penance shall be prolonged.” (Personal, Family, and Public Morality)

Whatever might be right about this above, it seems to clear that St. Basil is being stretched beyond his own boundaries.

Let’s continue to see what St. Basil has to say:

If a man living with a wife is not satisfied with his marriage and falls into fornication, I account him a fornicator, and prolong his period of punishment. Nevertheless, we have no canon subjecting him to the charge of adultery, if the sin be committed against an unmarried woman. For the adulteress, it is said, being polluted shall be polluted, and she shall not return to her husband: and He that keeps an adulteress is a fool and impious. He, however, who has committed fornication is not to be cut off from the society of his own wife. So the wife will receive the husband on his return from fornication, but the husband will expel the polluted woman from his house. The argument here is not easy, but the custom has so obtained.” (Letter 199, Canon XXI)

Once again, we have anything but equity being supported by St. Basil, who himself attempted to exhort otherwise (cf. Canon IX above). A husband who decides to live in fornication can demand both a new woman in fornication, and then also demand his abandoned wife to uphold her obligation to the marital bond forbidding her from being released to re-marry. And yet, the wife who commits adultery is not to be received by the husband ever again, in order to avoid the inevitable pollution of uniting with a harlot. One may ask if, in the beginning of this canon of Letter 199, St. Basil is envisioning a fornicating husband being ale to persist in his fornication, complete penance all throughout, and then be received into communion while persisting in the same indefinitely. The text doesn’t make clear, but I strongly urge one to hesitate before they take the affirmative in light of the ambiguity.

St. Basil also provides some corroboration:

The woman who unwillingly marries a man deserted at the time by his wife, and is afterwards repudiated, because of the return of the former to him, commits fornication, but involuntarily. She will, therefore, not be prohibited from marriage; but it is better if she remain as she is.” (Ibid, Canon XLVI)

And:

The woman who has been abandoned by her husband, ought, in my judgment, to remain as she is. The Lord said, ‘If any one leave his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, he causes her to commit adultery’; thus, by calling her adulteress, He excludes her from intercourse with another man. For how can the man being guilty, as having caused adultery, and the woman, go without blame, when she is called adulteress by the Lord for having intercourse with another man?” (ibid, Canon XLVIII)

St. Basil here seems to imply that if either husband or wife commit adultery or forces their spouse to commit adultery are disallowed from re-marriage. There is only one problem, however. Above St. Basil says that the man who has been deserted by his wife, if he were to go to another woman, is to be “pardoned”, but yet in this last citation, the woman deserted by her husband is not pardoned? What does St. Basil mean when he says the fornicating man is pardoned? Does he presume that such a one repents and separates? I think the ambiguity makes it difficult to say one way or the other.

Lastly, in St. Basil’s Ascetical Works, “On Morals”, there is once again a repetition that spouses may not separate (not to be identified with freedom to remarry) from each other unless the condition of adultery , but also adds that if one spouse is so much a hindrance to the worship of God, said separation may lawfully occur:

“That a husband must not separate from his wife, nor a wife from her husband unless one of them be taken in adultery or is a hindrance to the other in the devout service to God” (Rule Seventy Three).

The rest of the article where Ybarra looks at many other Fathers can be found here.

Mysticism vs Reason

Perhaps the biggest false dichotomy drawn these days between the West and the East is that the West is rational while the East is mystical. Mysticism is highly present in the West. The Carmelite tradition is especially known for its mystic saints, such as St. John of the Cross and St. Theresa of Avila. Even St. Thomas Aquinas, known for rational theology, was also a great mystic. In the East, the Church Fathers often used logic in debate. If you read St. Athanasius or the Cappadocian Fathers, you’ll see that most of their arguments against the Arians are using logic. Even Palamas extensively employed complex metaphysical arguments against the Barlaamites. In order to know God in a personal manner, we need mysticism. However, in order to prove the truth to unbelievers and to show that our Church is the true Church, we need logical arguments. God is the Logos and so he created a world that is knowable through logos, reason, as St. Maximus the Confessor taught.

Vatican II

Really the number one reason why people leave Rome for Orthodoxy is Vatican II and liturgical abuse. These other theological arguments are really just an excuse to join a communion with less liturgical abuse.

I sympathize with this a lot. Many of the liturgical changes that were implemented after Vatican II, such as communion in the hand, extraordinary eucharistic ministers, the suppression of the minor orders, female altar servers, among many other things, are unacceptable to me and, in my opinion, need to be reversed. There are many faithful voices in the Church saying just that, including many cardinals. None of these change concern dogma and are just liturgical practice, so they can still be reversed.

The actual documents of Vatican II themselves are very ambiguous. Those who condemn them as heretical often have not read them. Even the Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, a staunch traditionalist, eventually signed all the documents except for Dignitatis Humanae, which he argued was a departure from tradition because it said that we have a right to freedom of religion. Even this document I would argue though can be understood in a non-heretical manner if it is read in light of the past papal condemnation of religious liberty.

Ultimately, John XXIII was clear when he opened the council that none of the documents of Vatican II are infallible and the council was merely pastoral. Paul VI repeated this when he closed the council. A Catholic is free to agree or disagree with the council.

But rather than reject the Catholic faith, one can avoid all this by attending parishes that celebrate the Latin Mass, Eastern Rites, or traditional oriented Novus Ordo Masses.

Conclusion

Thank you to all who read the full article. Much more could be said about every one of these topics. I did try and address every theological controversy I could think of. I will likely write more on some of these topics in the future. In the meanwhile, please keep me in your prayers.

Our Lady of Fatima, pray for us!

87 comments

    • Imagine calling someone who genuinely wants to pursue truth and holiness a “LARPer mongrel”. I’m sure you totally care about his soul and not your own egotistic factionalism.

      Liked by 2 people

    • I have really never met a Catholic that claims that everything is done right, including myself. Even the most devout Christians will say that not everything is right. You have just converted so you are still new to how thing really operate. I get that you are passionate but there is way more than what you have read. Those being the things that the church sweeps under the rug. The lack of questing that can be done is unbelievable. We are all just supposed to roll with what we are told and not argue. It would seem as though this was done in your case. Your phrase “it would be easier to draw conclusions” eliminates the possibilities of questions. Such a large phenomenon as Fantina NEEDS questions. It NEEDS evidence. It does not matter what a bunch of people saw. Without proof then it is just a claim, nothing more.

      We are constantly seeking the truth. It is not something that can be found through word of mouth. We must question what we know. If we settled like what you have done without asking questions then we become stagnant. We are not all knowing. We never will be all knowing. We do not have the answers. If we have the answers and stop striving to learn then we as humanity are done for. The smartest men/women are very suicidal for this reason.

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    • The Pope Francis is a polytheistic since he had pagan goddess statues in front of him at the Vatican and seemed to like it and also took part the planting of a tree in honor of a pagan goddess mother earth.

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  1. I had a handful of interactions through facebook groups with Gideon. He always struck me as a genuine, passionate kid with a real fervor for the truth, if typically slightly misinformed. It seems his poor catechism has had a pretty die consequence, as its plain throughout this article that he is very confused about some very important things. My goal here is to offer a few corrections, and hopefully Gideon will see them and be helped by them. I won’t correct every little thing, just the major errors, since – as he says – it is a long article.

    On Fatima:
    I agree that its unlikely that Fatima was a mass hallucination or other secular phenomenon, but you claim that Fatima could not be demonic – why shouldn’t it be? The saints and Fathers of the Church teach that we should be intensely skeptical of supernatural apparitions. St Paul teaches “But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to that which we preached to you, let him be accursed” (Gal 1.8), and St John likewise teaches: “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are of God”.

    This theme of testing the spirits and being very wary of being misled by demons in disguise is repeated throughout the desert fathers and the great saints of the church. One of the most prominent stories among the desert fathers is this one:

    “The devil appeared to a certain brother, transformed into an angel of light, and said to him, “I am the angel Gabriel and I am sent unto thee.” But the brother said, “Consider well if you were not in fact sent to some other: for I am not worthy that an angel should be sent to me.” And the devil was no more seen.” And so the monk was saved by his humility and refusing to engage the apparition at all. Knowing that the demons can be very subtle in their deceptions, the saints frequently teach that the safest way to deal with apparitions like this is to ignore them completely, out of humility

    Some saints, who reached great heights of spiritual maturity, do engage with apparitions, because they have learned how to test them. St Paisios famously would not let an apparition speak unless it recited the Creed first – demons were unable to recite these fearsome mysteries, while angels and saints recited the creed easily. Another saint would compel apparitions to recite “holy God, holy mighty, holy immortal, have mercy on me” – the demons, in their pride, are able to call God mighty, immortal, and holy, but they are unable to ask for his mercy.

    This is precisely the problem with the apparition at Fatima: it was not tested at all. People simply accept whatever the apparition said – no challenging it to recite the Creed, no asking it to pray for mercy – nothing. Even if the apparition did appear to the Orthodox, it would not be acceptable, because it was not tested.

    It’s easy to think along the lines of: “well, what testing does it need? The apparition encourages devotion to Our Lady, isn’t this inherently good?” But this way of thinking ignores how subtle and crafty the demons can be. There is another story (I cannot find the source of it now) that illustrates this well:

    “A monk once entered a new town, and went to the local Church to attend Liturgy. Because of his spiritual insight, he saw that the parish was not led by a man, but by a demon disguised as a priest. The demon/priest served the liturgy beautifully and he preached compellingly and spoke many edifying words. The parish was large and had many pious members. After seeing this, the monk was confused, and confronted the demon after the service, saying: “what are you doing here? Aren’t you working against your own master, serving so beautifully and preaching so compellingly?” The demon replied simply: “I suppose I do serve well, but I do it all without love. And without love, no matter how beautifully I seem to serve, I will never touch the hearts of these people, and they will never be led to repentance or any permanent spiritual growth by my services.””

    This is how subtle the demons are, and why we must be so diligent to avoid deception. Even things that seem to be fine (or even good, like the parish priest), must be handled with extreme care and scrutiny. No care was show regarding this apparition, so it must be discarded. Moreover, the apparition seems to claim for itself certain honors and glories that are due to Christ alone, which contradicts everything we know about the most holy Theotokos’ power and intercessory role – ex: “‘Jesus wishes to make use of you to have me acknowledged and loved. He wishes to establish in the world the devotion o My Immaculate Heart’ ..[Lucia Recalled,] ‘Before the palm of the right hand of Our Lady was a Heart encircled by thorns which seemed to have pierced it like nails. We understood that it was the Immaculate Heart of Mary outraged by the sins of humanity, for which there must be reparation.’”

    Eastern Catholic Churches
    You claim that the RCC has more rites than the Orthodox, and that these rites are allowed more freedom than is allowed in Orthodoxy – and you simply assert that this is a good thing, without argument. I guess it “promotes unity” or whatever. The fact is that this sort of laxness when allowing certain rites and theologies into communion only results in a false unity – what good is it to bring someone into the Church with such little vetting that there’s a real possibility of a latent disagreement being discovered and causing another schism? Even many Catholics are critical of how liberal the RCC has been recently with allowing various rites and theologies into the Church. If certain commonalities cannot be agreed upon (and those commonalities must be more extensive than “do you acknowledge the Pope as first bishop”), then there’s no real unity – that’s a group of people who have done nothing more than agree to disagree. Sure, Orthodoxy could be a bit less stringent in this regard, particularly regarding the Western rite, but you can’t pretend like the RCC is doing it exactly right.

    Holiness of Saints
    This entire section is nonsense. Of course Orthodox can acknowledge the personal holiness of certain RCC saints, and of course Roman Catholics do not allow veneration of post-schism Eastern saints – you will never see an RCC parish dedicated to St Gregory Palamas; you don’t even refer to him as a saint in your article. This is basic ecclesiology – saints of the Church must belong *to the Church*. It’s nonsense to say that we should venerate (as a deified intercessor) someone who did not have access to the primary means of deification in their lifetime, no matter how venerable their way of living was. You’re dangerously close here to those who say we should venerate Martin Luther King Jr and commemorate him as a martyr.

    More significantly, you mention that Francis of Assisi is generally criticized by the Orthodox – and this is exactly right, he’s a good early example of the problems Orthodox see in the RCC – but you don’t seem to have any idea *why* he is criticized. You talk about his Rule as if that is at all relevant – more confusingly: you mention his Rule as if its related to his prelest, which it is not. I won’t dive into the problems with Francis’ spirituality and the proof of his prelest, but you can read about it here: http://orthodoxinfo.com/praxis/francis_sarov.aspx

    Sacramental Theology
    Another section which shows you were severely uncatechized and poorly served by your priest. Absolutely no one says the Roman Catholics are spiritually equivalent to pagans – not a soul. To love Christ and try to serve him daily is a great thing, and Christ greatly desires the salvation of Roman Catholics. But we obviously do hold that the Roman Catholics believe many wrong things about Christ, and we hold that the sacraments properly belong to the Church, and so do not exist in groups that have cut themselves off from the Church. Just as a tree can no longer deliver nutrients to a branch that has been severed, so the grace of apostolic succession is no longer transmitted to those who leave the Church. Of course, grace and the Holy Spirit are active outside the Church (otherwise no one would ever convert to Orthodoxy), but they are active outside the usual channels.

    It is in the later parts of this chapter that you commit some of your most serious errors. You say: “Oikonomia is a loosening of the canons, but the canons do not proscribe that heretics who are trinitarian be rebaptized. It is actually the reception by baptism which is an abuse of the canons.” – this is completely untrue. The canons do not recognize certain baptisms as valid and others as invalid – this language is completely noncanonical – and the only early canon that makes a trinitarian formula the standard for whether a baptism is to be recognized or not is from a local early western council (Arles). The ecumenical councils say something quite different. For the sake of brevity, I will cite only Canon VII of the 2nd Ecumenical council, which reads:

    “Those who from heresy turn to orthodoxy, and to the portion of those who are being saved, we receive according to the following method and custom: Arians, and Macedonians, and Sabbatians, and Novatians, who call themselves Cathari or Aristori, and Quarto-decimans or Tetradites, and Apollinarians, we receive, upon their giving a written renunciation [of their errors] and anathematize every heresy which is not in accordance with the Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church of God. Thereupon, they are first sealed or anointed with the holy oil upon the forehead, eyes, nostrils, mouth, and ears; and when we seal them, we say, “The Seal of the gift of the Holy Ghost.” But Eunomians, who are baptized with only one immersion, and Montanists, who are here called Phrygians, and Sabellians, who teach the identity of Father and Son, and do sundry other mischievous things, and [the partisans of] all other heresies—for there are many such here, particularly among those who come from the country of the Galatians:—all these, when they desire to turn to orthodoxy, we receive as heathen. On the first day we make them Christians; on the second, catechumens; on the third, we exorcise them by breathing thrice in their face and ears; and thus we instruct them and oblige them to spend some time in the Church, and to hear the Scriptures; and then we baptize them. ”

    Note that trinitarian baptism is not the standard used by the council – Arians, who explicitly denied the trinity, were received by Chrismation alone. And its nonsense to say that reception of converts by baptism is noncanonical – the canons specifically command it! Obviously, its up for debate as to how Roman Catholics and Protestants should be received, as they did not yet exist, so the council doesn’t mention them, and the canon doesn’t really explain its reasoning as to who should be received in what way. A reasonable way of reading the canon is: since the only reason given for why the Eunomians were to be re-baptized is that they baptize with a single immersion, we can apply that same logic to Catholics and Protestants who also only use a single immersion.

    However, some people take issue with the need to be re-baptized, and so the bishop can grant them economia and permission to be received by Chrismation alone. This is not nonsense, or a disregarding of sacramental theology, as you suggest it is, it is simply a pastoral dispensation. In the rest of this section, you talk about various perceived inconsistencies in reception and whether or not those bishops who insist on baptism for all converts perceive those received by Chrismation alone as “truly Orthodox” is nonsense and your catechism should have covered this. It does not matter how you are received into the church. Once you are in the Church, you’re in it. William Palmer was a fool to think that he had to choose between joining the Russian church or the Constantinopolitan church on this basis – once you’re Orthodox, that’s it, you are in the universal Church. Local differences in how bishops do things is not inconsistency, it’s honoring the dignity of the episcopate. As an aside: you’re also confused about the nature of Chrismation, saying it should not be repeated. The canons explicitly state that an Orthodox Christian who apostasizes and repents should be received by Chrismation – even for someone baptized and Chrismated Orthodox, Chrismation can be repeated in the case of apostasy. The ecumenical councils say this, so if your theology conflicts with it, you should amend your theology.

    Disunity
    This section is mostly garbage. Yes, the Orthodox Church is organized as a collective of autocephalous churches, ranked in a hierarchy of honor but not authority (no Patriarch has direct control of a bishop outside of his territory, but the words of a high-ranking patriarch carry great respect). Naturally, this leads to some apparent inconsistency and occasional in-fighting. This is the natural course of human affairs. (For what its worth, Antioch and Jerusalem are back in communion now). Its naive and, frankly, foolish to act as though the Pope ensures any supernatural unity among Catholics. Some 80% of American Catholics don’t follow the Church’s teaching on birth control, and around a third don’t even acknowledge the real presence in the Eucharist – this is not unity. This is supreme disunity masquerading as unity. Meanwhile, although the ecclesiastical affairs of the Orthodox may seem messy to those outside it, at the end of the day, there is no disunity of belief. Every Orthodox Christian believes the same way everywhere in the world, and Orthodox countries have some of the lowest rates of abortion and lgbt propaganda anywhere.

    The Papacy
    This is honestly too big to tackle, so I’ll just recommend some books at the end. In short: no one denies that Peter was chief of the apostles and that Rome was the greatest Patriarchate, and that that role afforded it certain privileges (like the right to hear appeals, like you mention). These privileges are detailed by the canons of the ecumenical councils. What we deny is the Pope’s right to exercise privileges *not* detailed in the canons of the councils. The Pope did preside over the ecumenical councils, but he was never the sole arbiter of truth in those councils – quick example: at Nicea, the papal delegates put forward a motion from the Pope that all Christian priests should be celibate, and the Council denied the motion. If the Pope had the powers he does today, he could simply declare priestly celibacy as a requirement through his immediate and universal jurisdiction. Were the pope to return and resume his rightful place as head of the church, he would have access only to those powers which were given to him by the councils, not these nonsensical powers he has now. Here’s a good book on the topic: https://www.amazon.com/Primacy-Peter-Essays-Ecclesiology-Church/dp/0881411256

    As for the interpretation of the “You are Peter” verse, You rightly say that “You can find Fathers who say the rock was Christ, ones who say the rock was the confession of faith, and ones who say it was Peter himself.”, but you fail to mention that *no Father* before the last couple centuries understood the “rock” as referring to the person of Peter. Even post-schism western fathers like Thomas Aquinas and Bonaventure understood the rock as referring to Peter’s confession. The idea that Peter himself is the rock is an unbelievably modern innovation. This is not to take away anything from St Peter – as I said, he is the chief of the apostles – this is to put the verse back in its proper, patristic understanding, and out of Roman Catholic apologetics

    Original Sin
    The Orthodox Church simply does not teach what you say it does, you were taught wrongly.

    Filioque
    The issue here is that the 3rd ecumenical council forbid changing the creed. The precise theology is mostly irrelevant. If you think the pope is above the councils and can do whatever he likes, then you need to re-read the canons which grant and delineate his authority. Also, St Leo the Great despised the filioque and wrote much against it, is the current pope really greater than this great saint?

    Vatican II
    How, exactly, is unity promoted when people are free to agree or disagree with a council? Weren’t you just critiquing Orthodoxy earlier for being undecided on whether a given council was ecumenical or not? How much disunity and in-fighting have been caused by Vatican II – and you dare to call it “pastoral”? I thought the pope was the safeguard of unity and truth, but here it seems only disunity and confusion were caused.

    Mysticism vs Reason
    This caricature of Orthodoxy vs Catholicism isn’t seriously taught by anyone. Of course reason and logic are necessary for theology, but logic (or rather: sophistry) can be deceptive, and without divine illumination and repentance, all the logic in the world will get you nowhere

    Conclusion
    As I’ve pointed out, it seems you’re very confused not only about much of Orthodox doctrine, but also much of your new church’s doctrine as well. You talk about Roman Catholicism as though its doctrine hasn’t changed and contradicted itself with the thinnest excuse of invented papal powers, and you spout off naive apologistic lines like “the catholics are unified”. You need to do a lot more reading about both traditions before you spin off any more articles

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    • This is the only comment of substance I’ve gotten. I will respond to it in more detail later because I think you do raise a number of good points. Regarding your claim that Orthodox don’t teach certain things or that no one denies that Peter was the chief of the apostles, the thing is that a lot of Orthodox do teach these things. I can point you to Orthodox theologians who do say these things I heard many of these things myself from priests. Your opinion of what Orthodoxy is is very different from many other Orthodox Christians. This is what made it so hard to write this article. I was responding to so many different voices at once.

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    • ECF – Peter the Rock

      Tertullian

      “[T]he Lord said to Peter, ‘On this rock I will build my Church, I have given you the keys of the kingdom of heaven [and] whatever you shall have bound or loosed on earth will be bound or loosed in heaven’ [Matt. 16:18–19]. . . . Upon you, he says, I will build my Church; and I will give to you the keys, not to the Church; and whatever you shall have bound or you shall have loosed, not what they shall have bound or they shall have loosed” (Modesty 21:9–10 [A.D. 220]).

      “Was anything hidden from Peter, who was called the Rock whereon the Church was to be built; who obtained the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and the power of loosing and of binding in heaven and on earth?” (De Praescript Haeret, n.22, p. 209, in Colin Lindsay, The Evidence for the Papacy, (London: Longmans, 1870), 19, c.A.D. 200-220,)

      Cyprian of Carthage (251 A.D.)

      “The Lord says to Peter: ‘I say to you,’ He says, ‘that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell will not overcome it. And to you I will give the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatever things you bind on earth shall be bound also in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth, they shall be loosed also in heaven.’ And again He says to him after His resurrection: ‘Feed my sheep.’ On him He builds the Church, and to him He gives the command to feed the sheep; and although He assigns a like power to all the Apostles, yet He founded a single chair, and He established by His own authority a source and an intrinsic reason for that unity. Indeed, the others were that also which Peter was; but a primacy is given to Peter, whereby it is made clear that there is but one Church and one chair. So too, all are shepherds, and the flock is shown to be one, fed by all the Apostles in single-minded accord. If someone does not hold fast to this unity of Peter, can he imagine that he still holds the faith? If he desert the chair of Peter upon whom the Church was built, can he still be confident that he is in the Church?” (The Unity of the Catholic Church 4 [A.D. 251]).

      Ambrose

      “[Christ] made answer: ‘You are Peter, and upon this rock will I build my Church . . .’ Could he not, then, strengthen the faith of the man to whom, acting on his own authority, he gave the kingdom, whom he called the rock, thereby declaring him to be the foundation of the Church [Matt. 16:18]?” (The Faith 4:5 [A.D. 379]).

      “…Christ ‘bestow[ed] the favor of this title upon His disciple, so that HE TOO might be Peter [rock]” (that is, the Rock of the Church in a vicarious sense).

      “Peter is called the Rock because, like an immovable rock, he sustains and joins the mass of the entire Christian edifice.” (Ambrose, Sermon 4).

      “It is to Peter that he says: ‘You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church’ [Matt. 16:18]. Where Peter is, there is the Church. And where the Church, no death is there, but life eternal” (Commentary on Twelve Psalms of David 40:30 [A.D. 389]).

      Augustine

      “Let us not listen to those who deny that the Church of God is able to forgive all sins. They are wretched indeed, because they do not recognize in Peter the rock and they refuse to believe that the keys of heaven, lost from their own hands, have been given to the Church” (Christian Combat, 31:33(A.D. 397), in JUR,3:51).

      “When, therefore, He had said to His disciples, ‘Will ye also go away?” Peter, that Rock, answered with the voice of all, “Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life’ “ (Homilies on John, Tract 11:5(A.D. 417), in NPNF1,VII:76).

      “And the Lord, to him to whom a little before He had said, ‘Blessed thou art, and upon this Rock I will build my Church,’ saith, ‘Go back behind, Satan, an offence thou art to Me.’ Why therefore ‘Satan’ is he, that a little before was ‘blessed,’ and a ‘Rock’ ?” (In Psalms, 56[55]:14[PL 36, 656] (A.D. 418),in NPNF1,VIII:223).

      “Peter, who had confessed Him as the Son of God, and in that confession had been called the rock upon which the Church should be built.” (In Psalms, 69:4[PL 36, 869] (A.D. 418), in Butler, 251).

      “And if a Jew asks us why we do that, we sound from the rock, we say, This Peter did, this Paul did: from the midst of the rocks we give our voice. But that rock, Peter himself, that great mountain, when he prayed and saw that vision, was watered from above” In Psalms, 104[103]:16(A.D. 418),in NPNF1,VIII:513).

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    • You wrote:

      “…you fail to mention that *no Father* before the last couple centuries understood the “rock” as referring to the person of Peter. Even post-schism western fathers like Thomas Aquinas and Bonaventure understood the rock as referring to Peter’s confession. The idea that Peter himself is the rock is an unbelievably modern innovation.”

      This is incorrect, as you will now see.

      Tertullian

      “[T]he Lord said to Peter, ‘On this rock I will build my Church, I have given you the keys of the kingdom of heaven [and] whatever you shall have bound or loosed on earth will be bound or loosed in heaven’ [Matt. 16:18–19]. . . . Upon you, he says, I will build my Church; and I will give to you the keys, not to the Church; and whatever you shall have bound or you shall have loosed, not what they shall have bound or they shall have loosed” (Modesty 21:9–10 [A.D. 220]).

      “Was anything hidden from Peter, who was called the Rock whereon the Church was to be built; who obtained the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and the power of loosing and of binding in heaven and on earth?” (De Praescript Haeret, n.22, p. 209, in Colin Lindsay, The Evidence for the Papacy, (London: Longmans, 1870), 19, c.A.D. 200-220,)

      Cyprian of Carthage (251 A.D.)

      “The Lord says to Peter: ‘I say to you,’ He says, ‘that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell will not overcome it. And to you I will give the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatever things you bind on earth shall be bound also in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth, they shall be loosed also in heaven.’ And again He says to him after His resurrection: ‘Feed my sheep.’ On him He builds the Church, and to him He gives the command to feed the sheep; and although He assigns a like power to all the Apostles, yet He founded a single chair, and He established by His own authority a source and an intrinsic reason for that unity. Indeed, the others were that also which Peter was; but a primacy is given to Peter, whereby it is made clear that there is but one Church and one chair. So too, all are shepherds, and the flock is shown to be one, fed by all the Apostles in single-minded accord. If someone does not hold fast to this unity of Peter, can he imagine that he still holds the faith? If he desert the chair of Peter upon whom the Church was built, can he still be confident that he is in the Church?” (The Unity of the Catholic Church 4 [A.D. 251]).

      Ambrose

      “[Christ] made answer: ‘You are Peter, and upon this rock will I build my Church . . .’ Could he not, then, strengthen the faith of the man to whom, acting on his own authority, he gave the kingdom, whom he called the rock, thereby declaring him to be the foundation of the Church [Matt. 16:18]?” (The Faith 4:5 [A.D. 379]).

      “…Christ ‘bestow[ed] the favor of this title upon His disciple, so that HE TOO might be Peter [rock]” (that is, the Rock of the Church in a vicarious sense).

      “Peter is called the Rock because, like an immovable rock, he sustains and joins the mass of the entire Christian edifice.” (Ambrose, Sermon 4).

      “It is to Peter that he says: ‘You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church’ [Matt. 16:18]. Where Peter is, there is the Church. And where the Church, no death is there, but life eternal” (Commentary on Twelve Psalms of David 40:30 [A.D. 389]).

      Augustine

      “Let us not listen to those who deny that the Church of God is able to forgive all sins. They are wretched indeed, because they do not recognize in Peter the rock and they refuse to believe that the keys of heaven, lost from their own hands, have been given to the Church” (Christian Combat, 31:33(A.D. 397), in JUR,3:51).

      “When, therefore, He had said to His disciples, ‘Will ye also go away?” Peter, that Rock, answered with the voice of all, “Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life’ “ (Homilies on John, Tract 11:5(A.D. 417), in NPNF1,VII:76).

      “And the Lord, to him to whom a little before He had said, ‘Blessed thou art, and upon this Rock I will build my Church,’ saith, ‘Go back behind, Satan, an offence thou art to Me.’ Why therefore ‘Satan’ is he, that a little before was ‘blessed,’ and a ‘Rock’ ?” (In Psalms, 56[55]:14[PL 36, 656] (A.D. 418),in NPNF1,VIII:223).

      “Peter, who had confessed Him as the Son of God, and in that confession had been called the rock upon which the Church should be built.” (In Psalms, 69:4[PL 36, 869] (A.D. 418), in Butler, 251).

      “And if a Jew asks us why we do that, we sound from the rock, we say, This Peter did, this Paul did: from the midst of the rocks we give our voice. But that rock, Peter himself, that great mountain, when he prayed and saw that vision, was watered from above” In Psalms, 104[103]:16(A.D. 418),in NPNF1,VIII:513).

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      • Tertullian is not a Church Father, and may have been a Montanist. The rest of the quotes I concede, I honestly wasn’t aware that the notion of the person of Peter as the rock on which the church was built was taught by the Fathers, but it clearly is, as you’ve demonstrated. Thank you for deepening my understanding of this verse.

        Nevertheless, all of these references make far more sense within an Orthodox understanding of the papacy than the Roman Catholic one – especially the quote by St Cyprian, which explains the concept in some detail and explains the proper relation between the primacy given to Peter and the relative authority given to the other apostles.

        The Fathers of the Church do not contradict one another – they all beheld the same uncreated light and testify truthfully concerning it within their specific historical contexts. We must understand these quotes which praise the Roman See quite highly with those conciliar declarations which explicitly limit the authority of Rome, and with those Fathers who present a less lofty view of the See. All the Fathers must be understood as complementing one another – we cannot simply cherrypick the Fathers’ most aggrandized statements on Rome (given in a particular context, for a particular reason) and absolutize them. This is how all heresy begins – by taking a kernal of truth, ignoring those elements of the tradition contrary to it, and making it the only truth. We must read Sts Ambrose, Cyprian, and Augustine alongside – not over or against – the councils and the other fathers.

        In the words of Pope St Gregory the Great: “I say it without the least hesitation, whoever calls himself the universal bishop, or desires this title, is, by his pride, the precursor of Antichrist, because he thus attempts to raise himself above the others. The error into which he falls springs from pride equal to that of Antichrist; for as that Wicked One wished to be regarded as exalted above other men, like a god, so likewise whoever would be called sole bishop exalteth himself above others….You know it, my brother; hath not the venerable Council of Chalcedon conferred the honorary title of ‘universal’ upon the bishops of this Apostolic See [Rome], whereof I am, by God’s will, the servant? And yet none of us hath permitted this title to be given to him; none hath assumed this bold title, lest by assuming a special distinction in the dignity of the episcopate, we should seem to refuse it to all the brethren.”

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      • Hi Randy! LionHeart777 here…haven’t been on the Catholic Answers forums in a long time (I couldn’t get used to the new format.) Hope this finds you well. Peace! –Nick

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    • A most interesting commentary of rather considerable length. I will defer on its theology as my competence in that area is limited to 12 years of Catholic school exposure. It should be noted that one area not discussed at length in the article or comments is the increasing politicization of national Orthodox churches during the past couple of centuries. They have become far to close to civil authority and this has hampered their ability to speak freely on moral issues of consequence. Although there are a number of examples, the situations in Russia and Serbia are most glaring. It might be useful for the Orthodox churches to examine their approaches in this area before getting more exercised about what some of them feel is excessive authoritarianism from Rome.

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    • I have seen this article passed around on the web as if it was a great refutation of Eastern Orthodoxy but really it is just bad (no offense). Deacon Joseph (https://letusattendapologetics.wordpress.com/2019/09/01/a-post-for-the-recently-departed-from-orthodoxy-to-papism/) did a good response but I would like to add my thoughts to some of these questions.
      
      First off with the whole Fatima mess, you said the first thing that started your conversion to Roman Catholicism was “Our Lady of Fatima” and how this supposed appearance of the Virgin inspired one of his friends to dress more modestly. So basically his argument is “how could something demonic inspire good?” Well first off the point he makes is absolutely terrible. A Muslim woman could be inspired to dress more modestly after hearing of the word of the “Prophet” in the Quran or a Rabbi could oppose homosexuality based off Judaism’s opposition to such a act. Does this mean that those two religions are true? No of course not.
      Also I don’t doubt something actually happened at Fatima but that it was demonic in nature. The devil mixes truths with lies. Fatima has gotten so many Catholics obsessed with private revelations, basically putting it on the level of scripture. Of course us Orthodox have examples of the Theotokos appearing to Saints like Sergius of Radonezh and Seraphim of Sarov but compare the simple visitations of Our Lady of the pre-schism Church/the Post Schism Orthodox Church with the later Latin apparitions like Fatima and Medjugorje and you will see the difference. No “secrets”or any such nonsense. I honestly like how you said “if Fatima is true then Catholicism is true.” because Fatima is false so…
      Read these articles if anyone wants a Orthodox view on Roman Catholic Marian apparitions, http://orthodoxinfo.com/inquirers/marian_apparitions.aspx, http://www.orthodox.org/Fatima.pdf
      
      Deacon Joseph did a pretty good refutation of the section called “missionary work” but I would like to add two things. How could you forget some of our major missionaries like St. Innocent of Alaska, St. Cosmas of Aetolia, and St. John Maximovitch among many others? Also about your diss towards St. Nicholas of Japan’s missionary work not having a lasting impact well what big event happened not long after the death of St. Nicholas that impacted the nation of Japan majorly? Also all the great missionaries of the first thousand years weren’t papists but Orthodox…
      
      About “Saint” Francis’s prelest well Fr. Seraphim Rose’s writing on this topic still stands https://youtu.be/ra17xm0yn3E
      
      This section you wrote on Original Sin isn’t needed to be honest. Original Sin is fully Orthodox and is affirmed by many of our Saints such as St. Nicodemus of the Holy Mountain and St. Ignatius Brianchaninov. St. Augustine is also a Saint of the Church and his position as one is only disrupted by modernist heretics. Fr. Seraphim Rose actually wrote a whole book defending St. Augustine called “The Place of Blessed Augustine in the Orthodox Church”. Plus Sts. Mark of Ephesus and Photios the Great affirm his Sainthood and well as Patriarch Gennadius Scholarius who said this “If anyone does not believe and call Augustine saint and blessed, he is anathema.” Augustine is a Orthodox Saint and anyone who denies him as such is a heretic, so thank you for pointing this out but it does not refute Orthodoxy in any way.
      
      About the Immaculate Conception, our Saints such as St. Gregory Palamas do not affirm this doctrine. A lot of these lies come from Lev Gillet who was quit dishonest in his quote mining.. Remember what St. Ambrose said “Of all those born of women, there is not a single one who is perfectly holy, apart from the Lord Jesus Christ, Who in a special new way of immaculate birth-giving, did not experience earthly taint”(St. Ambrose, Commentary on Luke, ch. 2). “God alone is without sin. All born in the usual manner of woman and man, that is, of fleshly union, become guilty of sin. Consequently, He Who does not have sin was not conceived in this manner” (St. Ambrose, Ap. Aug. “Concerning Marriage and Conception”). just read this by St. John Maximovitch (who’s not a heretic by the way) https://churchmotherofgod.org/articleschurch/about-saints-and-icons/1093-orthodox-veneration-of-the-mother-of-god.html?showall=&start=5
      
      Admittedly I am not very familiar with the whole Filioque debate but I will say this, the Latins interpolated the Filioque into many Orthodox writings that should tell you something. https://t.co/OkS6TgPlIS?amp=1, https://t.co/TbE2reJtvT?amp=1, https://t.co/UGPq8uVOIO?amp=1, https://t.co/XK1DWZ1xLj?amp=1, https://t.co/zOP5C6ryUL?amp=1

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    • In reply to Jonathan York, Part 2 of 2:

      On the papacy: You give the example of the legates wishing to impose celibacy on all priests. First, what is the source for that? I only find the following (from an Orthordox source):
      At Nicea a proposed law was to forbid all bishops, priests and deacons, who were married at the time of their ordination, to continue to live with their wives. After Paphnutius, bishop of a city of the Upper Thebais in Egypt, had spoken to defend the validity of their marriages, concluding “It would therefore be sufficient, according to the ancient tradition of the Church, if those who had taken holy orders without being married were prohibited from marrying afterwards; but those clergymen who had been married only once as laymen, were not to be separated from their wives”, the Council took the words of the Egyptian bishop into consideration, stopped all discussion upon the law, and left to each cleric the responsibility of deciding the point as he would.
      (Hist. Councils, Vol. I., pp. 435 et seqq.)

      You also mention “these nonsensical powers he (the pope) has now.” Which powers, and why nonsensical?

      And “If the Pope had the powers he does today, he could simply declare priestly celibacy as a requirement through his immediate and universal jurisdiction.” Even today, the pope cannot do that: celibacy is a matter of discipline, not of doctrine, and thus the pope only has authority to impose that on the Latin Church: the other Churches in union with Rome can decide their own discipline on that regard. You seem to be chasing a straw man here.

      Next, you claim that “The idea that Peter himself is the rock is an unbelievably modern innovation.”
      First, you make unfounded claims as to at least St. Thomas (I could not find anything on St. Bonaventure on this topic, do you have a reference?): he wrote in his commentary on Mat 16:18 “For instance, this passage may be expounded such that the words this rock signify Christ; […] There is another exposition”. I pick this, as it shows the way the Church Fathers work: there are often different ways to explain a passage, not in contradiction to each other, but to complement. St. Thomas wrote: “But what is this? Are both Christ and Peter the foundation? It must be answered that Christ, in and of Himself, is the foundation, but Peter is the foundation insofar as he confesses Christ, and insofar as he is His vicar.”

      (Look at the Eucharist, for example: you will find Church Fathers who have a mystical view, a symbolic view, an allegorical or spiritual view, or a literalistic view on the Eucharist, as for example the Protestant scholar Schaff notes. But each and every of the Church Fathers Schaff presents for each of those 4 views, have also written about the Eucharist as a true presence of body and blood. Yes, they also wrote about it in mystical and symbolical and allegorical and spiritual terms. Because to them, it was not either/or, but both/and! The primary meaning was literal, and on top of that all the other views could be derived as surplus, as deeper meaning.

      Same with the rock: in a literal sense, it is Peter (the Greek structure and grammar have only 1 way to explain that), but then there are other ways to interpret this passage, which are not contradictory, but complementary. Yes, Christ is the Rock, yes, the confession is the Rock, and yes, Peter is the Rock.

      As you admitted after the post by Randy Carson, you ‘were not aware’ of all those ECF that DID link Peter to the rock. But this realisation does not make you re-examine your claims, but you go full steam ahead and quote Pope Leo out of context.

      Yes, he wrote that quote, but what is it about? John the Faster, the bishop of Constantinople, had claimed the title of ‘Universal Bishop’ for himself, which caused Pope (!!) Leo the great to respond strongly, condemning him. You missed, in your own quote, the following part: “You know it, my brother; hath not the venerable Council of Chalcedon conferred the honorary title of ‘universal’ upon the bishops of this Apostolic See [Rome], whereof I am, by God’s will, the servant?” Instead of rebuking the bishop of Constantinople for using a title what would be wrong for everyone, he rebukes him for claiming a title that was reserved for the bishops of Rome, i.e. Pope Leo himself.

      To understand the sense in which Pope Gregory condemned the expression “universal Bishop,” you must understand the sense in which John the Faster intended it. It has always been Catholic teaching that the bishops are not mere agents of the Pope, but true successors of the Apostles. The supreme authority of Peter is perpetuated in the Popes; but the power and authority of the other Apostles is perpetuated in the other bishops in the true sense of the word.

      The Pope is not the “only” Bishop; and, although his power is supreme, his is not the “only” power. But John the Faster, Patriarch of Constantinople, wanted to be bishop even of the dioceses of subordinate bishops, reducing them to mere agents, and making himself the universal or only real bishop. Pope Gregory condemned this intention, and wrote to John the Faster telling him that he had no right to claim to be universal bishop or “sole” bishop in his Patriarchate.

      So what did you mean to express by using that quote?

      Last, on the filioque:
      You summarize: “The issue here is that the 3rd ecumenical council forbid changing the creed.”
      No, it did not. Canon 7 reads:

      “When these things had been read, the holy Synod decreed that it is unlawful for any man to bring forward, or to write, or to compose a different (ἑτέραν) Faith as a rival to that established by the holy Fathers assembled with the Holy Ghost in Nicæa.”

      It talks about the ‘faith’ of Nicea, not the literal verbal form of the Creed! And this is proven by the fact that the First Council of Constantinople already amended the Creed, and this change in wording was NOT condemned by the Council of Ephesus. The insertion of the filioque did NOT change the faith, as Gideon pointed out by the words of other saints and theologians, both from East and West, so this insertion to combat heresy follows the second Eucumenical Council which in 381 added to the original 325 a.D. creed in order to combat heresy, and does not violate canon 7 of the third. So again, instead of proving how uncatechized and confused Gideon is, you show your own lack of insight.

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  2. Dear Gideon, I hope you leave your heart open to the Orthodox faith, and more importantly, the possibility that you can be wrong. There are a number of things wrong with this essay, but I am not here to argue (I can always write a response) but to remind you that sometimes it seems like the logical solution is the right one. I’m just here to tell you that some of the “bugs” of Orthodoxy are features; don’t blind yourself to that possibility. Hoping for your return to Orthodoxy. May God grant.

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  3. There is indeed disunity within the Orthodox Church, and the fact we are so disunited, yet we still exist, proves that the gates of hell haven’t prevailed over us despite the countless attempts of the devil to destroy us. Think of it this way: wouldn’t the devil try to disband the correct Church more than the other groups he already controls? Why would he “waste time” with his accolytes? It is the Orthodox Church that he should attack if he wants success, because that one is the True Church!
    And also, you wondered why the devil would advise the people to pray and do good stuff. You said something along the lines of “but the devil won’t do that, he’d defeat his purpose”. Well, you are living proof that yes, the devil advertises doing good and he indeed has a purpose. His purpose is to masquerade as an angel of light as we are warned in the New Testament, and appear unto poorly catechised people as if he were doing good, thus fooling people he us the good one, he is sent by God, he is not the devil.
    The demon of Fatima has achieved this with you. How could the Mother of God promote a false faith? How could a Marian apparition attract Orthodox faithful to the Catholic faith?
    That was the very purpose of the Fatima aparition! Not to strengthen the Catholic faithful into their belief system, but to sway poorly catechised Orthodox! You fell for a classic demonic trick, deception, masquerade as the “good guy”.
    May the Lord have mercy on your soul, and may the Mother of God, whom you unknowingly blaspheme by accusing her of your apostasy pray for your forgiveness.

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    • In the final verses of Matthew, Jesus issues the “Great Commission”:

      “And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age.” (Mt. 28:18-20)

      There are, for our purposes, two groups that argue to be recognized as the “true” Church.

      In light of the command to “make disciples of all nations”, I would like to ask this question: which of these two groups, the Orthodox Church(es) and the Catholic Church, has actually fulfilled the mandate to go into all the world, making disciples?

      On the one hand, there is the Catholic Church with its earthly, visible head, the Pope, based in Rome and more than a 1.2 billion members in every corner of the globe. On the other, there are the Orthodox Church(es) with four different patriarchs whose adherents are largely identified along ethnic or nationalist lines (ie, Greek Orthodox, Russian Orthodox, etc.) and 200 million members?

      (Yes, I am aware of the various rites within Catholicism, but all of them are in union with the Pope. Second, I am also aware of the ad populum fallacy – and I don’t think it is relevant here.)

      IOW, if Orthodoxy has FAILED (and this is not really debatable) to make disciples of all nations (being largely confined to the boundaries of a few countries such as those named above), then doesn’t this suggest that Orthodoxy is disqualified as the one true Church because it has NOT done what Jesus commanded the Church to do?

      And remember, Jesus promised that HE would build the Church (upon Peter) in Mt 16, so if Orthodoxy were to be the true Church, then its failure to evangelize on a global scale would be a failure of Jesus Himself.

      No, my brothers, Jesus has not left us orphans, and He has never abandoned Peter nor Peter’s successors, the popes of the Catholic Church. He has remained with us and will do so until the end of the age.

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    • Actually the disunity in the Orthodox Church proves that the world of Orthodoxy is fractured, splintered and not united and is really not one church but a loose association of ancient geographically based headquarters.

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  4. Congratulations, Gideon! Notice how none of the disparaging comments truly attempt to address your arguments and/or rational– whether out of a respectable humility or a foul spirit of spite. I’m sure I would be upset too if I had just found out that I had lost such a bright mind and devout soul to a different church. Either way, this article has demonstrated much and will surely provide much edification for those currently inside as well as those presently outside the One, True, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. Sancte Ioannes Baptista, ora pro nobis!!!

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  5. You left out one important reason: pedophile priests and their possible patron saint who covered them up during his papacy. Must be a real good reason to become a roman catholic.

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  6. Thank you for a thorough and awesome explanation of Catholic vs. orthodox theology on many points, and proving why the Catholic Church is indeed the true Church.

    As a Catholic myself, I was considering the Orthodox Church for a while – my soul was in great pain over the modernism and liturgical abuse that has been rife since Vatican II, as well as the pedophilia scandals. But I quickly realized two things: first of all I discovered all these theological errors in the Orthodox Church, which you point out, and secondly, I realized that this crisis has been prophesied, and it has also been prophesied that it will come to an end. And third: all these miracles. The Catholic Church is full of them, and I’ve experienced a few myself, including a Eucharistic miracle. You can’t just ignore stuff like that.

    As for the modernist – liturgical abuse – sexual abuse scandals, we are already seeing these dreadful tides turning. Young people are flocking to traditional parishes, and traditional seminaries and religious orders are flourishing, where good priests and religious are being formed. Latin mass is being celebrated in more and more dioceses, new exclusively TLM parishes are opening all over the western world, and traditional priests from the SSPX and the FSSP are picking up the missionary work in Africa and among amerindians which was left behind at Vatican II. I realized that the Church will resurge from the ashes and enter a new glorious era. She might have to burn all the way down to the ground before we’re fully there, but she is already being slowly rebuilt before the fire is put out.

    So, what did I end up with? I remained in the one true Church, waiting for God to restore everything. I attend a wonderful Latin Mass parish which offers daily mass, weekly Mary help of Christians blessing, all sacraments in the traditional order and both first Friday and first Saturday masses; all of this in a Catholic minority country!

    Because I realized that although that beautiful old mansion has been replaced by a concrete building, it’s still the place where God dwells – and he will reclaim his property and restore it. I hope we both will live to see that day.

    Welcome home brother!

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    • That’s just not true, though. It’s a pastoral council, and many oppose the changes made there, including high ranking prelates.

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      • They are in mortal sin; according to your system. Your position on Vatican II is absurd. Paul VI and John XXIII sometimes say that Vatican II was “pastoral” in nature (elsewhere they’re clear that it’s binding, and the Holy Ghost is entrusted to every doctument); thus it can be full of error that contradicts Roman dogmas. That’s absurd according to your system. There is no reason for a Catholic to not submit to even Ordinary Magisterium; you are implying that one is free not to submit to an Ecumenical Council… even if it was not an “Extraordinary” act of the Magisterium (Ex Cathedra), it’s UOM–UNIVERSAL episcopal consensus IN UNION WITH THE POPE taught to the UNIVERSAL CHURCH which is supposed to be INFALLIBLE. Who are you to dissent from it?

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      • See, that’s where you’re wrong. It was stated twice, in March and November respectively, in 1964, that “In view of conciliar practice and the pastoral purpose of the present Council, this sacred Synod defines matters of faith or morals as binding on the Church only when the Synod itself openly declares so.” Guess what? The synod never declared anything as binding.

        In other words, Vatican II is not binding – its reforms can, and will, be reversed. We’ve been through worse storms before, such as when the faithful Catholics became a minority among the Arians in the early church, and St Athanasius gave us these consoling words which apply even today during the current heretical crisis:

        “May God console you! …What saddens you …is the fact that others have occupied the churches by violence, while during this time you are on the outside. It is a fact that they have the premises─but you have the apostolic Faith.
        (…)
        No one, ever, will prevail against your faith, beloved brothers. And we believe that God will give us our churches back some day.“

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    • Unfortunately, you have that wrong…the 14 Councils held in the West are not “Ecumenical” since the whole “ecumene” was not present. The Eastern Orthodox Churches with the exception of the mainly forced “reunion Councils” of Lyon and Florence and did not include the Orthodox Churches. Both of these Councils involved intimidation by Rome of the Orthodox delegations as well as manipulation, therefore were not “free” Councils.

      As Card. Ratzinger said the Councils after the separation are “General Councils of the West” and must not be forced on the Orthodox Churches. In sum, he proposed that the Catholic Church must not require any more of an adherence to the Roman Primacy from the Orthodox Churches than had existed in the first millennium.

      The last 14 Councils with the exception of Lyon and Florence and did not include issues pertaining to the Orthodox Churches. Both Lyon and Florence sought to subjugate the Orthodox Churches and impose Latinisms on this ancient and also Apostolic Churches. When the bishops returned from these Councils they found that the faithful reject the articles of “union”.
      While you may disagree both history and reality proves otherwise.

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      • no, that is not what Cardinal Ratzinger says, He said that in the case of a reunion we should not impose liturgical changes on the East, but the East should accept our dogma as valid and true.

        Ratzinger, when he became Pope, rejected the title of Patriarch of the West, because he was not a compromising pope.

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  7. ”Many of my Orthodox friends are likely shocked at my decision, so I wrote this article to explain my reasoning.”
    Is there a reasoning besides madness, blindness and vainglore to forsake the Way, the Truth and the Life?

    ” While at first it seemed obvious that the Orthodox Church was right, the more I studied, the more I realized I was missing a lot of nuance. I ultimately ended up being convinced by the evidence for the Catholic Church, and so I had no choice but to convert.
    Obviously, you did not study hard enough, nor did you adjoin experience to study.

    ”The view that Fatima is simply a hoax cannot be the case.”
    We see you dogmatizing and justifying your own prelest.

    ”If Fatima was a mass hallucination, so could the resurrection of Jesus have been. No other mass hallucination has ever been recorded though. In reality, Fatima was actually the most seen public miracle since the time of the exodus about 3500 years ago.”
    Fatima and the resurrection are indeed both preternatural events, but while Fatima is the work of the unholy one, the resurrection is not. Being preternatural does not mean necessarily of divine origin, as Satan himself dresses as an angel of light. What about the Holy Fire, which is older than Fatima? Are we to attribute this to mass hallucination too?

    ”However, the vision doesn’t sound like Satan at all. Would Satan command people to pray 53 Hail Marys and 6 Our Fathers, both fully Orthodox prayers, every single day? Would Satan command people to pray that Jesus “lead all souls to heaven” 5 times every day?”
    If need be, as evidenced through history, Satan will commend and applaud all kind of asceticism and prayers, if their goal is severance from God and the motivations of those who pray are not actual repentance. The only thing the devil cannot imitate is humility, and such attitude does not have any.

    ”Fatima was true and Orthodoxy is true.”
    This kind of correlation cannot coexist. Who does not gather with me, scatters, and likewise, heretics do not gather with Him, so all their miracles are performed by the Devil (since we know that there is NO GRACE outside the Church – and heretics are not part of it).

    ” Our Lady said . . .”
    It is dangerous to assume that the Theotokos would say things contrary to the Holy Spirit, namely that heresy is the preservation of true doctrine. This in itself is a ground to doubt this apparition as divine. Consecrating a bastion of Orthodoxy to a heretical worship makes it clear that this spirit is devilish.

    ”He is essentially the only successful Orthodox missionary since the schism.”
    What about st Gabriel of Georgia, st Nicholas of Japan, st Stephen of Perm and many others? Since when numbers have any correlation with Truth?

    ”Catholics have a long and glorious history of missionary work”
    Based on blood, violence, larceny and other ungodly deeds, not to mention heretical doctrines such as the one that the Theotokos is co-Redeemer (brought forth under pagan influence and due to severance from grace). So, whatever they have achieved is not the spread of Apostolic faith (since latins forsook it) but their heresy, which is pleasing to the Devil.

    ”the Uniates . . .”
    are cases of hypocrisy of the worst kind. The latin heresy and papocaesarism has been condemned long before any Unia, so accepting such doctrines is then heretical.

    ”The Holiness of Western Saints”
    they have absolutely none. Prelest is indeed their obvious state, but if we are to judge by outward factors, such as he does, then we would conclude the same, but knowing that there is no sanctity without theosis, then we cannot acknowledge their sanctity, moreover, the goal of their prayers, their repentance etc are directly opposed and contradictory to salvation.

    ”Orthodox Sacramental Theology”
    There is no grace outside of the Church. Point. Ende. El akher. Laymen cannot administer mysteries.

    ”This lack of consistency in sacramental practice highlights a fundamental problem of Orthodoxy: it is not united.”
    Confusing orthodoxy with various heretical and schismatic groups shows his total ignorance of what orthodoxy is.

    ”Original Sin”
    the latin view of sin stems from Anselm of Canterbury and Aquinas, not blessed Augustine. This kind of legalistic and automatic view of salvation is unacceptable to orthodoxy. From this stems also the Immaculate Conception. Once sin is not understood as an offence and giving reparation, but a hereditary corruption of our nature, these cacodoxies are ground to dust.

    ”The Filioque”
    This cacodoxy stems from the inability to distinguish between essence and energy, and contrary to what you say, the Church was always united in denouncing it as heretical, as evidenced by the 8th Council. Toledo never proclaimed this cacodoxy. Your whole reasoning is erroneous, as you as latins do not distinguish between essence and energy (and thus equal eternal generation with divine oikonomia. Divine simplicity (as per Aquinas) is another consequence of equating essence and energy, so this answers the next paragraph too.

    Regarding epiclesis and divorce, these issues are already well-known and under anathema, so no need to dwell on them.

    Regarding mysticism and reason, we can agree, with one tidbit: the Holy Spirit does not dwell outside the Church, thus the ”god” of heretics is not the same God that saints have knowledge of.

    In conclusion, you never came to actually know and live orthodoxy, which is very sad. And being orthodox cannot be severed from living in an orthodox way, confessing and believing the same faith believed ”everywhere, always and by all” with one mouth together with the Apostles and the saints. May God have mercy upon your soul and mercy upon us that we never leave the Ark of salvation for the wisdom of men, which is foolishness. Heresy and apostasy have been manifest so that our steadfastness is challenged and confirmed. May God illumine you that you see the depths of error in which you now dwell and return to the Ark of salvation in repentance you have in your blindness and ignorance forsaken. You have been deceived by a demon posing as the most holy Theotokos, as he has used your zeal to lead you away from the Truth. Pray to the Theotokos that She opens your eyes to the Truth.

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    • “In conclusion, you never came to actually know and live orthodoxy, which is very sad.”

      That is *exactly* what Calvinists say when someone leaves Calvinism.

      In both cases, it’s an essentially gnostic response: “You just couldn’t / didn’t grasp the secret gnosis — oops, I mean the phronema….” This is circular, self-serving reasoning.

      Jesus said, “You must become as little children.” He never said you could know and grasp the Truth *only* if you painstakingly master some elaborate, esoteric System of Spiritually Superior Spiritual Spirituality. ;)

      It’s the Gospel. It isn’t Zen.

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    • 1. Is there a reasoning besides madness, blindness and vainglore to forsake the Way, the Truth and the Life?

      How is this an argument, dear **russian name I cannot pronounce?**

      (vainglory, not vainglore, dear Russian)

      2. Once sin is not understood as an offence and giving reparation, but a hereditary corruption of our nature, these cacodoxies are ground to dust.

      That is not the catholic view of sin and of orininal sin. Sin is indeed an offense (not offence, my dear Russian) against the Creator.

      I could go on, but before saying calumnies against catholicism, shouldn’t you actually study what it says?

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    • The miracles of Fatima and the Holy Fire of Jerusalem are both authentic. As for the rest of this inaccurate and judgmental rubbish, it hardly merits a response.

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    • You are obviously ignorant of the authentic teaching…there is a division of Persons in the Godhead, differentiated in the Persons of the Holy Trinity, but still one true God.

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  8. I am Catholic, and welcome you, while reminding you that the Church is in difficult times and you will suffer here as well.

    I think Catholicism and Orthodoxy are meant to be One Church, and that our separation of a thousand years is still temporary. May we be reunited as God wills it.

    I think the writer has studies and followed his conscience and it is wrong to excoriate him for it. I oppose it when fellow Catholics reject Rod Dreher for becoming Orthodox. I don’t think wise and holy people blame others for obeying their consciences. If you think someone is wrong, even culpably wrong, it is your duty to pray for him.

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  9. Best wishes! I think I may remember you from a Protestant/Orthodox/Catholic group on Facebook. I see you are interested in Medieval studies from your profile. I am currently working on my Master’s in History, trying to find a thesis topic still from Castile 1250-1500. I started a blog on History and Religion some time back but don’t have a lot of time to post (nicholasgulda.com). I will subscribe to this blog so I can be updated of responses/ elaborations as you say.

    –Nick

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  10. There are several weak points in regards to Catholic-Orthodox missionary journeys.

    As an example, you state, “Catholics went to places in India where there were no Portuguese settlements.” Have you not heard of Goa, in India? Please research.

    I imagine this was a conversion driven by emotionalism rather than cool theological reasoning. Was the author unsettled by the ecclesiastical/jurisdictional crisis in Orthodoxy in recent years?

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    • Of course he has heard of Goa. He didn’t say Catholic missionaries went *only* to non-colonial areas. He can answer for himself, but it seemed clear to me that he meant that they *also* went to areas that had not been colonized by Catholic countries.

      Ever hear of Jamphedpur? It is mostly wilderness and almost entirely Hindu.

      And I know a Jesuit missionary who has spent years laboring there, bringing the Gospel to the people. On bicycle! Dodging the occasional elephant stampede. In constant danger from Hindu militants.

      So yeah…that. ;)

      As for your supposition that this young man’s conversion was more emotional than rational, how could you possibly know something like that?

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    • I read that as meaning places in India were there were not already Portuguese settlements (such as Goa.) If memory serves, the Portuguese more or less closed themselves off in fortalezas on the coast.

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    • There was actually missionary work long before the Portugese got to India. Dominicans went there hundreds of hears prior. I explicitly said “before the age of sail.” Everyone has been misreading what I wrote there, but I thought I was clear. I’m aware of the mission in Goa that the Portugese started.

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  11. Gideon’s essay is well written. Most of the people attacking it attempt to negate without actually engaging the arguments. For instance, there are Orthodox theologians who correctly say that Ancestral Sin and Original Sin are the same. Gideon is correct that Romanudes is largely responsible for this misunderstanding. There is indeed much misunderstanding between East and West. This essay in certain ways points out that the two Churches are not inevitably divided theologically on many issues, although there has been that appearance. There are real differences. However, there are inconsistencies. For instance Metropolitan Kallistos Ware points out that the ROC and ROCOR hold to different practices regarding the reception of Catholics, baptism versus chrismation. In the past the Russian practice at certain points in history was to not require that either sacrament be repeated. There is much more nuance in the reality of history than many contemporary commentators would admit. For instance, centuries and centuries after the Great Schism, there were Orthodox clergy who as allowed their faithful to go to confession to Catholic Jesuits priests. For much of post – schism history Orthodox Churches did not deny the validity/ efficacy of Catholic sacraments even while acknowledging the two Churches were not in communion. Also people who hurl invective and accuse others of prelest and use as proof the existence of prelest in other places, with other people in the past , do not in reality prove that Gideon or anyone alive today suffers from this. Prelest may exist certainly but without knowing someone and absent actual examination of their case by a qualified priest/bishop/theologian, it is presumptuous and tendentious to make this accusation. One can disagree with charity and based on reason. Name calling is not going to convince or convert anyone.

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  12. We are all just supposed to roll with what we are told and not argue.

    Seriously? Have you ever encountered this thing called the “internet”? It exists for the sole purpose of arguing, and Catholics seem to use it quite extensively.

    Your phrase “it would be easier to draw conclusions” eliminates the possibilities of questions. Such a large phenomenon as Fantina (sic) NEEDS questions. It NEEDS evidence. It does not matter what a bunch of people saw.

    So what a “bunch of people saw” is not evidence? A bunch of people seeing hurricane Dorian is not evidence hurricane Dorian happened?

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  13. I congratulate you on your research and then sticking your neck out. Of course, the fact that you were not born in an Orthodox family makes it easier to study the matter without being influenced by ethnic pride and loyalty, which can be a huge obstacle in this matter. I remember a Jewish convert saying that friends can overlook it if you become an atheist, but not if you become a Christian.

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    • Not sure I can do that without deleting the whole comment altogether. Could you repost it without stating your e-mail or use a fake e-mail address? It only asks for one to avoid spam. Thanks!

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  14. I congratulate you on your research and then sticking your neck out. Of course, the fact that you were not born in an Orthodox family makes it easier to study the matter without being influenced by ethnic pride and loyalty, which can be a huge obstacle in this matter. I remember a Jewish convert saying that friends can overlook it if you become an atheist, but not if you become a Christian.

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    • That’s very true about the Jewish community. You can even be a Jewish Buddhist and no one will care. It’s just Christianity and Islam that you can’t convert to.

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  15. There are many errors in this article, but one of the most egregious is the slander against St. John Maximovitch, and what I can only say amounts to a lie that this God fearing Saint “clearly” claimed that the Theotokos committed sin. You must source this outrageous claim. It is one thing to apostatize, another to drag the Saints through the mud with impious falsehoods.

    It is shocking you say this, because it appears you are at least familiar on a superficial level with St. John’s work on the Orthodox veneration of Mary, because you reference his criticism of the Roman Catholic doctrine of the Immaculate Conception. St. John, clearly as you say, says this:

    “The Virgin Mary, having given herself entirely up to God, even though she repulsed from herself every impulse to sin, still felt the weakness of human nature more powerfully than others and ardently desired the coming of the Saviour.”

    One more time Saint John, but louder:

    “SHE REPULSED FROM HERSELF EVERY IMPULSE TO SIN”

    St. John Maximovitch, whose prayers are powerful, makes clear that the Theotokos never committed any personal sin. Please cite where, especially in his work “The Orthodox Veneration of the Mother of God”, or some other source where St. John says that the Virgin Mary committed any sin either in knowledge or in ignorance.

    To give you the benefit of the doubt, and to keep hope that you weren’t just bashing a Saint and were intentionally lying on him, I am going to assume you quickly skimmed the section on the Immaculate Conception, and say St. John’s objection to the RC dogma that God preserved and kept the Virgin Mary from committing personal sin, and in your hasty rush to bash Orthodoxy interpreted that to mean that St. John was saying that the Virgin committed sins. What St. John says instead is that it is by the Virgin’s virtue, piety, and synergy with God that “she repulsed from herself every impulse to sin.”

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  16. Thank you for your article and welcome to the fullness of Orthodoxy. You didn’t leave the Orthodox churches, but simply completed your journey.

    Sadly, I am stunned at how poorly the Orthodox view Catholicism but Catholics see Orthodox brethren in a much more charitable light, separated by very few (albeit important) differences.

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  17. God bless you, brother.
    In regards to divorce being allowable in the case of “fornication,” what do you think of translating Christ’s words as “unlawful intercourse,” i.e. those already married, blood relatives, those falsely married?
    In other words, ‘divorce’ is only allowed when no true marriage took place?…not when adultery has been committed. When one accepts the adultery position, one is force into the odd position of nullifying a sacrament on the basis of sin.

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  18. Orthodox Scholars Agree: Peter is the Rock

    Veselin Kesich

    “It has long been noticed that Mt 16:17-19 has a Palestinian, Aramaic background. The form of Jesus’ reply to Peter’s confession appears Hebraistic. There are parallels to the Matthean text in the Qumran literature. The use of semitisms such as ‘gates of Hades,’ ‘flesh and blood,’ ‘bind and loose,’ and semitic parallelism again indicates an Aramaic environment….[Jesus] conferred upon Simon Bar-Jonah the title Peter, and promised that he would build his church upon him. ‘You are Peter (Petros), and on this rock (petra) I will build my church (ecclesia).’ These words are spoken in Aramaic, in which Cephas stands both for petros and petra….The confession of Peter, therefore, cannot be separated from Peter himself. Petra or rock does not simply refer to Peter’s faith but also to Peter personally. There is a formal and real identity between Petros and petra. Jesus will build the church upon Cephas.” (Veselin Kesich, “Peter’s Primacy in the New Testament and the Early Tradition” in The Primacy of Peter edited by John Meyendorff [St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1992], page 47,48)

    “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 ‘Petros’, and on this petra I will build My Church’ – converge with those of modern exegetes: Peter is the Rock.” (ibid. p. 65)

    Fr. John Meyendorff

    “for the Patriarch Photius, as for the later Byzantine theologians, the polemical argument artificially opposing Peter to his confession did not exist. By confessing his faith in the divinity of the Savior, Peter became the Rock of the Church. The Council of 879-80, which followed the reconciliation between Photius and John VIII, went even so far as to proclaim: “The Lord placed him at the head of all the Churches, saying ‘Feed My sheep.’” (ibid. p. 72)

    “’the coryphaeus’ of the apostolic choir; he is the first disciple of Christ and speaks always on behalf of all. It is true that other apostles, John, James, and Paul, are also called ‘coryphaei’ and ‘primates’, but Peter alone is the ‘Rock’ of the Church. His primacy has, therefore, not only a personal character, but bears an ecclesiological significance…The Byzantine authors consider that the words of Christ to Pter (Mt. 16:18) possess a final and eternal significance. Peter is a mortal man, but the Church ‘against which the gates of hell cannot prevail’, remains eternally founded upon Peter.” (ibid. p. 74)

    Theodore Stylianopoulos

    “That Orthodox scholars have gradually moved in the direction of affirming the personal application of Matt 16:17-19 to the Apostle Peter must be applauded. From the standpoint of critical scholarship it can no longer be disputed that Jesus’ words to Peter as reported in Matt 16:17-19 confer a special distinction on Peter as “rock” — the foundation on which Christ promised to build his Church. … These points are now conceded by conservative Protestant scholars as well.” (Kasper, 48-49)

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  19. Without getting deep into theological weeds, it is apparent that whatever legitimate reasons the East had to be in conflict with the Western Church a millennium ago, the perceived remedy of separation was and is unacceptable and those responsible have been held to account in a higher forum. However, for the separation to remain today is clearly a scandal to those currently in authority who continue it. Sincere overtures have been made by parties of both Latin and Orthodox Christianity to resolve the issues that divide but there are those who oppose even dialog and by their actions strive to maintain the separation. They also will have to answer for their actions. A period of sincere and prayerful reflection might serve them well.

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  20. Many of the people commenting here are not remembering that this young man has only recently discovered Christianity. His historical research and soul-searching, which has taken him from unbelief to baptism and from one church to another in only a few years, is hardly the fruit of advanced study and sustained reflection. This doesn’t invalidate his arguments, of course, but it should give us all a bit of perspective.

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  21. What an excellent article by a true pilgrim led by the Holy Spirit to discover and embrace the full truth of Catholic Christian Orthodoxy. I affirm that Gideon has found his true spiritual home in an Eastern Catholic Church rather than the watered-down, abbreviated, and liturgically compromised expressions frequently found in Latin-rite churches today. On the other hand, he makes a strong, well-researched case for the defects of schismatic Oriental and Eastern Orthodoxy, which ironically have compromised the ancient Catholic and Orthodox Faith in ways similar to Protestantism.

    One point Gideon does not mention in this article is the sticky issue of artificial contraception. At the Lambeth Conference in 1930 the Anglican communion became the first Christian ecclesial community to depart from the consistent teaching and tradition of the ancient Church. Since then nearly all Protestant communities have fallen like dominoes and in practice a large percentage of Roman Catholics violate their Church’s doctrine on the issue. But Pope Paul VI’s Humana Vitae nevertheless upholds the authentic tradition, and regardless of numerous attempts by opponents to diverge from this teaching under the current papacy, the magisterium of the Roman Church remains consistent.

    Since 1937 the Greek Orthodox Church remained faithful until recently. Like the Protestants they have now departed from the ancient teaching and practice. The following statement is published on the website of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America (https://www.goarch.org/-/the-stand-of-the-orthodox-church-on-controversial-issues):

    “The possible exception to the above affirmation of continuity of teaching is the view of the Orthodox Church on the issue of contraception. Because of the lack of a full understanding of the implications of the biology of reproduction, earlier writers tended to identify abortion with contraception. However, of late a new view has taken hold among Orthodox writers and thinkers on this topic, which permits the use of certain contraceptive practices within marriage for the purpose of spacing children, enhancing the expression of marital love, and protecting health.”

    This is unfortunately the sad state of affairs: any Church or ecclesial communion that persists in separation from the Church of Rome eventually compromises the true apostolic Faith on one or more teachings/practices. So in spite of the hideous manipulation and abuses of many Roman clergy down through the ages (that make Jacob and Rachel’s stunt to secure the birthright seem like innocent child’s play), the official teaching of the Catholic Churches- Roman and Eastern- remains consistently faithful to that of Christ and His Apostles.

    So welcome home, Gideon. The pillar of Faith and Church of the Living God is definitely unkempt, cluttered and downright filthy in some quarters. But the Bride is still beautiful in spite of all her blemishes and a truth-seeking soul like you can evidently never be satisfied with a substitute. While the demon seeks to divide and conquer, ever since Gethsemane Christ and the Theotokos have been interceding for the unity of the one true Church. Your discovery and decision to become an Orthodox Catholic are a further fulfillment of His high priestly prayer.

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  22. Although I do not actively try to convert anyone, I will answer questions where I can, primarily from a viewpoint of history as that is my interest by education and avocation. My late wife was Baptist and my present wife is Buddhist but in neither instance was it difficult to discuss religion except when history is injected into the conversation. I have found both in my marriage and in speaking with non-Catholic friends, that their view of historical events, even when accurate, forms their thinking on the aspects of their religious belief. Those who are Orthodox, especially view historical authenticity as determinate of present status of Church relations, never mind the theology which is presumed appropriate. Even the obvious factual statement that Christ founded one Church, not several hundred, is no guarantee of a serious consideration that the Almighty did not plan for nor accepts the present situation of a multiplicity of expressions of the one truth.

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    • Question what was incorrect on what I said. Did Pope Francis take part in pagan worship in the videos that i saw on YouTube ” yes or no “? Did he plant a tree in honor of a goddess mother earth? Did not Vatican press office confirm that the idol’s to be of Pachamama goddess? If yes doesn’t that confirm one religious beliefs.

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  23. Wow, where even to begin.

    You pontificate (pun intended) against Gideon as if you argue from fact, calling him poorly catechized and very confused. In that, I believe you overstepped, and I will show you why:

    I will tackle your 3 main errors, the ones you thought most important judging by the length you spent on each: Fatima, the sacramental theology and the papacy (with a bonus on the Filioque).

    First, Fatima.
    You spent a lot of time stating that Fatima was not tested, and claim, apparently, that the only way to test the apparition is to question the apparition with a task impossible to perform for demons. But that was unnecessary: in Fatima, Mary taught the children this prayer: ” O my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of hell, lead all souls to Heaven, especially those most in need of Thy mercy. Amen.”
    You tell me, how a spirit, unless coming from God, would teach people to ask for forgiveness of sins, the one thing in our lives that gives demons a foothold and alienates us from God? That recognizes Jesus as SAVIOR, and source of grace, salvation, forgiveness and mercy? No demon would ever bring humans to Christ! EVER! In this prayer, the main element is precisely to ask for mercy!

    You mischaracterize this apparition and the focus of it with your summary: “It’s easy to think along the lines of: “well, what testing does it need? The apparition encourages devotion to Our Lady, isn’t this inherently good?” But that is absolutely a mischaracterization: the main focus is on Christ, in Fatima! It fosters a greater zeal for Christ, in his Eucharist, and a focus of love for God, as is shown in those other two prayers Our Lady taught the children: “My God, I believe, I adore, I hope and I love Thee! I beg pardon for those who do not believe, do not adore, do not hope and do not love Thee. Amen.” And the following prayer: “O Most Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, I adore Thee profoundly. I offer Thee the most precious Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ, present in all the tabernacles of the world, in reparation for the outrages, sacrileges and indifference by which He is offended. By the infinite merits of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I beg the conversion of poor sinners.”

    It is easy to accuse Gideon of being poorly catechized, but if you then start off with such uninformed argument, you undercut your own credibility. A little humility would be in order.

    Next, on Sacramental theology.
    You wrote “Absolutely no one says the Roman Catholics are spiritually equivalent to pagans – not a soul.” This is a mischaracterization of Gideon’s article. What did he say? “Some Orthodox go even further. They claim that all Catholic sacraments are invalid (they say “graceless”) and so Catholics are identical to unbaptized pagans.”
    1) He did not say that some orthodox say that “Roman Catholics are spiritually equivalent to pagans”.
    2) He did say, however, that there are some orthodox (including bishops and patriarchs) who say that ALL Catholic sacraments, including baptism, are invalid. As such, as a consequence of being without any valid sacrament, we Catholics are indeed seen as equal to the pagans: fully devoid of all sacramental graces that only the Church can bring.

    So you either misunderstand what he wrote, or you misrepresent it. Either way, a little more humility would serve well before presuming to correct him.

    But your errors in this topic don’t stop on that level. Your understanding of the canons is incorrect: they absolutely do hinge the acceptance of baptism on the nature of the formula used for it.

    From the Catholic Encyclopedia:

    “The mind of the Church as to the necessity of observing the trinitarian formula in this sacrament has been clearly shown by her treatment of baptism conferred by heretics. Any ceremony that did not observe this form has been declared invalid. The Montanists baptized in the name of the Father and the Son and Montanus and Priscilla (St. Basil, Ep. i, Ad Amphil.). As a consequence, the Council of Laodicea ordered their rebaptism. The Arians at the time of the Council of Nicaea do not seem to have tampered with the baptismal formula, for that Council does not order their rebaptism. When, then, St. Athanasius (Or. ii, Contr. Ar.) and St. Jerome (Contra Lucif.) declare the Arians to have baptized in the name of the Creator and creatures, they must either refer to their doctrine or to a later changing of the sacramental form. It is well known that the latter was the case with the Spanish Arians and that consequently converts from the sect were rebaptized. The Anomaeans, a branch of the Arians, baptized with the formula: “In the name of the uncreated God and in the name of the created Son, and in the name of the Sanctifying Spirit, procreated by the created Son” (Epiplianius, Ha>r., Ixxvii). Other Arian sects, such as the Eunomians and Aetians, baptized “in the death of Christ”.

    the Bishop of the Church of Alexandria, St. Dionysios (248-264), wrote :

    ““Inasmuch as you have written thus, setting forth the pious legislation, which we continually read and now have in remembrance—namely that it shall suffice only to lay hands on those who shall have made profession in baptism, whether in pretense or in truth, of God Almighty and of Christ and of the Holy Spirit; but those over whom there has not been invoked the name either of Father or of Son or of the Holy Spirit, these we must baptize, but not rebaptism. This is the sure and immovable teaching and tradition, begun by our Lord after his resurrection from the dead, when he gave his apostles the command: Go ye, make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. This then was preserved and fulfilled by his successors, the blessed apostles, and by all the bishops prior to ourselves who have died in the holy church and shared in its life; and it has lasted down to us, because it is firmer than the whole world. For, he said, heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.” (translation in the English Historical Review, Volume XXV, 1910, p. 112)

    Eusebius, about a century later, makes reference to St. Dionysius’ position on baptism:

    ““Dionysius wrote to him the first of his letters on baptism, as no small controversy had arisen as to whether those who had turned from any heresy should be purified by baptism. For the ancient custom prevailed in regard to such, that they should receive only the laying on of hands with prayers. First of all, Cyprian, pastor of the parish of Carthage, maintained that they should not be received except they had been purified from their error by baptism. But Stephen considering it unnecessary to add any innovation contrary to the tradition which had been held from the beginning, was very indignant at this. ” (Ecclesiastical History, Book 7, Ch. 2).

    So here it is, loud and clear: already in the third century, we have the testimony of both the patriarch of Alexandria and of Rome, that rebaptism is NOT ordered, unless their first baptism as deficient or lacking (i.e.: not Trinitarian). That was condemned as an innovation contrary to the tradition handed down from Christ himself then, and it still is a condemnable innovation today.

    And they are not alone… The “The Treatise on Rebaptism”, which is dated to 250-257 a.D., testifies to the same. And the Council of Arles, in canon 8, is very clear as well:

    ““Concerning the Africans, because they follow their own peculiar law and rebaptize: It is determined that if someone come to the Church from heresy, let them ask him his Creed; and if they see that he has been baptized in the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, only is the hand to be imposed upon him, so that he may receive the Holy Spirit. But if, upon being interrogated, he does not respond with this Trinity, he is to be baptized”.

    Nicaea I has handed us canon 19:

    “Concerning the Paulianists who have flown for refuge to the Catholic Church, it has been decreed that they must by all means be rebaptized”

    Why would they have this particular heretical sect included for rebaptism? First, it follows reason that this means that Nicaea I did NOT hold that rebaptism of all baptisms by heretics was the norm, on the contrary: the norm was NOT to rebaptize, which necessitated to clarify that this particular sect did not follow the norm. Pope St. Innocent I in the early 5th-century explained how this canon was read and understood in more detail to a certain Rufus and other Bishops of Macedonia, again, fully in line with the above:
    “Indeed, from the canon of Nicaea, Paulianists coming to the Church are to be baptized, but not the Novatianists…Clear reason declares what is distinct in the two heresies themselves; for the Paulianists never baptize in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and the Novatianists do baptize in those same tremendous and venerable names; neither among the Novatianists has any question ever been raised about the unity of the divine power that belongs to Father, Son, and Holy Spirit” (Patrologia 20, 532)

    And you mentioned Pope Leo the Great elsewhere in your post, but on this topic he does not side with you:

    “We know indeed that an unpardonable offense is committed, whenever in accordance with the institutions of heretics which the holy Fathers have condemned, any one is forced twice to enter the font, which is but once available for those who are to be reborn, in opposition to the Apostle’s teaching , which speaks to us of One Godhead in Trinity, one confession in Faith, one sacrament in Baptism. But in this nothing similar is to be apprehended, since, what is not known to have been done at all, cannot come under the charge of repetition….But if it is established that a man has been baptized by heretics, on him the mystery of regeneration must in no way be repeated, but only that conferred which was wanting before, so that he may obtain the power of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of the Bishop’s hands. This decision, beloved brother, we wish to be brought to the knowledge of you all generally, to the end that God’s mercy may not be refused to those who desire to be saved through undue timidity”. (Letter 166)

    A literal mention on the Arians shows why the Canons did accept their conversion without rebaptism, this time from Pope Saint Innocent I (+417 a.D.):

    “As for the Arians and other similar plagues, the fact that we adopt their lay people, when they turn to the Lord, under the symbol of penitence and sanctification of the Holy Ghost, through the imposition of the hand does not indicate that their clergy ought to be adopted with the dignity of the priesthood or of any ministerial rank. We only allow their Baptism to be valid, on the ground of its being performed in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, …”

    And so on.

    So yes, the Trinitarian baptism is the main standard.

    You also wrote: “And its nonsense to say that reception of converts by baptism is noncanonical – the canons specifically command it!”
    Again, Gideon did not claim that the general reception of converts by baptism is non-canonical, but that the reception of already correctly baptized people by baptism is noncanonical! Again, you misunderstand/misrepresent his position. And note, by the way, that the council is specific: “all these, when they desire to turn to orthodoxy, we receive as heathen.” So yes, those whose sacraments are deemed invalid, are considered to be heathens, pagans! Which means the Council contradicts your first claim on this topic, as well.

    “We can apply that same logic to Catholics and Protestants who also only use a single immersion.”

    You dare accuse Gideon of being poorly catechized and confused, when you spout of such things as the above claim? Catholics (I leave out protestants, they are too diverse a group when it comes to baptism) do use a threefold immersion, or a threefold pouring, which is seen as equivalent (See among others, the Didache: “And concerning baptism, baptize this way: Having first said all these things, baptize into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, in living water. But if you have not living water, baptize into other water; and if you can not in cold, in warm. But if you have not either, pour out water thrice upon the head into the name of Father and Son and Holy Spirit.” I could give a whole treatise on this topic, but that would lead to far.)

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    • In reply to Jonathan York, Part 2 of 2:

      On the papacy: You give the example of the legates wishing to impose celibacy on all priests. First, what is the source for that? I only find the following (from an Orthordox source):
      At Nicea a proposed law was to forbid all bishops, priests and deacons, who were married at the time of their ordination, to continue to live with their wives. After Paphnutius, bishop of a city of the Upper Thebais in Egypt, had spoken to defend the validity of their marriages, concluding “It would therefore be sufficient, according to the ancient tradition of the Church, if those who had taken holy orders without being married were prohibited from marrying afterwards; but those clergymen who had been married only once as laymen, were not to be separated from their wives”, the Council took the words of the Egyptian bishop into consideration, stopped all discussion upon the law, and left to each cleric the responsibility of deciding the point as he would.
      (Hist. Councils, Vol. I., pp. 435 et seqq.)

      You also mention “these nonsensical powers he (the pope) has now.” Which powers, and why nonsensical?

      And “If the Pope had the powers he does today, he could simply declare priestly celibacy as a requirement through his immediate and universal jurisdiction.” Even today, the pope cannot do that: celibacy is a matter of discipline, not of doctrine, and thus the pope only has authority to impose that on the Latin Church: the other Churches in union with Rome can decide their own discipline on that regard. You seem to be chasing a straw man here.

      Next, you claim that “The idea that Peter himself is the rock is an unbelievably modern innovation.”
      First, you make unfounded claims as to at least St. Thomas (I could not find anything on St. Bonaventure on this topic, do you have a reference?): he wrote in his commentary on Mat 16:18 “For instance, this passage may be expounded such that the words this rock signify Christ; […] There is another exposition”. I pick this, as it shows the way the Church Fathers work: there are often different ways to explain a passage, not in contradiction to each other, but to complement. St. Thomas wrote: “But what is this? Are both Christ and Peter the foundation? It must be answered that Christ, in and of Himself, is the foundation, but Peter is the foundation insofar as he confesses Christ, and insofar as he is His vicar.”

      (Look at the Eucharist, for example: you will find Church Fathers who have a mystical view, a symbolic view, an allegorical or spiritual view, or a literalistic view on the Eucharist, as for example the Protestant scholar Schaff notes. But each and every of the Church Fathers Schaff presents for each of those 4 views, have also written about the Eucharist as a true presence of body and blood. Yes, they also wrote about it in mystical and symbolical and allegorical and spiritual terms. Because to them, it was not either/or, but both/and! The primary meaning was literal, and on top of that all the other views could be derived as surplus, as deeper meaning.

      Same with the rock: in a literal sense, it is Peter (the Greek structure and grammar have only 1 way to explain that), but then there are other ways to interpret this passage, which are not contradictory, but complementary. Yes, Christ is the Rock, yes, the confession is the Rock, and yes, Peter is the Rock.

      As you admitted after the post by Randy Carson, you ‘were not aware’ of all those ECF that DID link Peter to the rock. But this realisation does not make you re-examine your claims, but you go full steam ahead and quote Pope Leo out of context.

      Yes, he wrote that quote, but what is it about? John the Faster, the bishop of Constantinople, had claimed the title of ‘Universal Bishop’ for himself, which caused Pope (!!) Leo the great to respond strongly, condemning him. You missed, in your own quote, the following part: “You know it, my brother; hath not the venerable Council of Chalcedon conferred the honorary title of ‘universal’ upon the bishops of this Apostolic See [Rome], whereof I am, by God’s will, the servant?” Instead of rebuking the bishop of Constantinople for using a title what would be wrong for everyone, he rebukes him for claiming a title that was reserved for the bishops of Rome, i.e. Pope Leo himself.

      To understand the sense in which Pope Gregory condemned the expression “universal Bishop,” you must understand the sense in which John the Faster intended it. It has always been Catholic teaching that the bishops are not mere agents of the Pope, but true successors of the Apostles. The supreme authority of Peter is perpetuated in the Popes; but the power and authority of the other Apostles is perpetuated in the other bishops in the true sense of the word.

      The Pope is not the “only” Bishop; and, although his power is supreme, his is not the “only” power. But John the Faster, Patriarch of Constantinople, wanted to be bishop even of the dioceses of subordinate bishops, reducing them to mere agents, and making himself the universal or only real bishop. Pope Gregory condemned this intention, and wrote to John the Faster telling him that he had no right to claim to be universal bishop or “sole” bishop in his Patriarchate.

      So what did you mean to express by using that quote?

      Last, on the filioque:
      You summarize: “The issue here is that the 3rd ecumenical council forbid changing the creed.”
      No, it did not. Canon 7 reads:

      “When these things had been read, the holy Synod decreed that it is unlawful for any man to bring forward, or to write, or to compose a different (ἑτέραν) Faith as a rival to that established by the holy Fathers assembled with the Holy Ghost in Nicæa.”

      It talks about the ‘faith’ of Nicea, not the literal verbal form of the Creed! And this is proven by the fact that the First Council of Constantinople already amended the Creed, and this change in wording was NOT condemned by the Council of Ephesus. The insertion of the filioque did NOT change the faith, as Gideon pointed out by the words of other saints and theologians, both from East and West, so this insertion to combat heresy follows the second Eucumenical Council which in 381 added to the original 325 a.D. creed in order to combat heresy, and does not violate canon 7 of the third. So again, instead of proving how uncatechized and confused Gideon is, you show your own lack of insight.

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  24. Undeniably believe that which you said. Your favorite reason seemed to be on the web the easiest thing to be aware of. I say to you, I certainly get annoyed while people consider worries that they plainly do not know about. You managed to hit the nail upon the top and defined out the whole thing without having side effect , people can take a signal. Will likely be back to get more. Thanks

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  25. May I just say what a relief to discover an individual who really knows what they are talking about on the web. You actually realize how to bring an issue to light and make it important. More people need to check this out and understand this side of your story. I can’t believe you are not more popular since you surely have the gift.

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  26. […] “First some background on myself. I was raised in a non-religious Jewish family. I considered myself an atheist for as long as I can remember. In my Junior year of high school, I looked into the evidence for Christianity, looking to refute it. I walked away from that endeavor becoming a believer in Jesus and firmly convinced by the evidence. I began to read about the early Christians, and then look at modern denominations. I was convinced that the Orthodox Church was the true Church, and so I became a catechumen. After two years as a catechumen I was baptized into the Orthodox Church. Many of my friends are Catholic, so I went to go research Orthodox apologetics against Catholicism in an effort to prove that the Orthodox Church is the true Church. While at first it seemed obvious that the Orthodox Church was right, the more I studied, the more I realized I was missing a lot of nuance. I ultimately ended up being convinced by the evidence for the Catholic Church, and so I had no choice but to convert. So now, a little over a year after my baptism, I am being received into the Catholic Church.” Continue Reading […]

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  27. Есть ли у вашего веб-сайта контактная
    информация? У меня есть трудности и я бы хотел отправить вам
    email. У меня есть некоторые рекомендации для вашего сайта, которые вам может быть интересно услышать.
    Все равно, хороший вебсайт, и я очень жду, когда сайт будет расширяться.

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  28. You made a mistake. You never understood or became Orthodox in ‘phronema.’ I only wanted to comment on one point. Only one faith has the truth. It’s either the Eastern orthodox or the Roman Catholicism. I believe wholeheartedly that the truth only lies in orthodoxy. If you believed the truth to be In the orthodox church only, then you would understand that the Vision of Fatima was heretical because it reinforced Catholic doctrines. We do not do hail Mary in the orthodox church and or devotions. So to any orthodox this was a Satanic delusion. The point that someone changed their life is moot. Many people become better just from hearing the gospel but at the end of the day, if the person did not end up in following Christ in truth, then the goal of the devil was accomplished. If you believed orthodoxy is the truth, then the devil accomplished his goal by leading people into heretical Catholic dogmas. The Orthodox stance on dreams and visions is and always has been, that they are demonic. Case in point, go on youtube, and you can look up hundreds of thousands of people who believe God is talking to them. The saints of our church, many of them who devoteded their entire lives were never so brash. If they did see a vision, they would do their cross and the Vision would dissappear most of the time. Anyways, my commentary could go on and on but this was the point I wanted to make. I think you made a rash choice and I hope you return to the true church.

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    • Congratulations on converting to modernist Catholicism. Enjoy your Pachamana paganism.

      I agree with this statement and I should know because I uses to be Roman Catholic but not anymore I converted to Russian Orthodox Christian and I am much better now than I use to be…

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