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Monday, January 23, 2012

In Defense of the Catholic Church Against the Polemics of James Likoudis

In this post I shall defend the teaching of the Eastern Catholic Church against the criticism levied by the Roman polemicist James Likoudis, a "convert" from Greek Orthodoxy.  This article was published in an arch-traditionalist journal based in St. Paul, The Wanderer, the radicalism of which I have come to dislike despite its old opposition to the Americanist heresy perpetrated by Archbishop John Ireland (who was also destroyer of the Byzantine Catholic Church in America and real founder of the Orthodox Church of America).  As usual, my comments are in blue.  The original article can be found online here:



Recently, The Wanderer carried a superb article by Frank Morriss on the "Revelation of Glorious Truth... The Church’s Teaching on the Procession of the Holy Spirit." It justified traditional Catholic teaching defending the Procession of the Holy Spirit from the Father and the Son (Filioque) as recited in the Latin text of the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed. Discussions concerning that "Glorious Truth" have resulted not only in the Catholic-Orthodox Dialogue in North America issuing a "Common Declaration" regarding the Filioque (cf. my analysis in The Wanderer 2/3/05) but in a spate of articles by both Catholic and Eastern Orthodox theologians as noted in the French ecumenical periodical Irenikon (Tome LXXVII, 2004). It is unfortunate that despite recent attempts to clarify Catholic teaching on the Procession of the Holy Spirit (including The Catechism of the Catholic Church’s teaching #245-248), doctrinal confusion continues to be evident even on the part of some Byzantine rite Catholics.  [It is the unfortunate habit of the Latins to refer to the theological patrimony of the Eastern and Oriental churches as "doctrinal confusion", when the confusion on what we teach is always on their part.] Thus, a pamphlet "The Creed and the Holy Trinity" compiled by Very Reverend Archpriest Daniel L. Gurovich (copyright 2004, with an Imprimatur of Most Reverend Stefan Soroka, Metropolitan Archbishop of Philadelphia for the Ukranians) has continued to circulate in that Archdiocese, and deserves a close examination.

In this 30 page brochure Fr. Gurovich wishes to explain the decision of the Metropolitan Archbishop of Philadephia for the Ukranians to return to the authentic liturgical tradition of the Eastern Byzantine Church by no longer reciting the Creed with the famous "Filioque" clause [and from the Son] and to "recite the Creed [with respect to the procession of the Holy Spirit] at all public divine services in its original form" — (as set forth at the Second Ecumenical Council of Constantinople – 381 A.D.: "I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Giver of life, who proceeds from the Father").

[Not everyone is having to "return" to the authentic liturgical tradition of the Eastern Byzantine Church.  The Italo-Greeks, under the direct authority of the Pope as their local primate, never added it.  It was added by the Ukrainians against the wishes of the Pope by posses of Polish troops that barged into Ukrainian Catholic churches and forced them to say the filioque at gunpoint.]

Since the 2nd Vatican Council’s encouraging the Eastern Catholic Churches in communion with Rome to return to their authentic theological, spiritual and liturgical traditions (thereby facilitating the reunion of the separated Eastern Orthodox churches with the Catholic Church), a number of Eastern Catholic prelates have acted to no longer include the "Filioque" in the public recitation or singing of the Creed at the Divine Liturgy. It is the inclusion of the "Filioque" in the Creed which has served as a "cause celebre" among the Eastern Orthodox to charge Eastern Catholics with the "Latin heresy" and to impede efforts for the Reunion of the Churches.

As the author notes, Rome has not insisted on the Ukrainians or other Eastern rite Catholics to include the Latin formulation of the "Filioque" in the Creed and the Pope himself on ecumenical occasions has "publicly recited the Creed without the ‘Filioque’."

[Not just on ecumenical occasions.  In 810 A.D. during the height of the controversy, Pope Leo III had the Constantinopolitan Creed (without the "Deum de Deo" or the "filioque") engraved in silver tablets without the filioque and hung in the old St. Peter's Basilica together with the words "I, Leo, have placed these for love and protection of the Orthodox Faith."  Cf. Vita Leonis, Liber Pontificalis (ed. Duchêne, t. II, p. 26)

The filioque is omitted - or rather, not added - by the Pope whenever Liturgy is said with a Greek deacon.  It is also not said by Roman Catholics in Greece.]

 The Catholic Church has always distinguished clearly adherence to the dogma of the eternal Procession of the Holy Spirit from the Father and (or through) the Son – which all Catholics must believe – and the question of whether the ‘Filioque’ clause (sanctioned by Pope Benedict VIII in 1014 A.D. for the Latin Liturgy) has to be included and recited in the Creed by Eastern Catholics. The Apostolic See of Peter, "Head of all the Churches of God", has made clear that as long as the Catholic dogma concerning the Eternal Procession of the Holy Spirit from the Father and (or through) the Son is firmly professed as an article of faith, Eastern rite Catholics need not (in keeping with their liturgical tradition) include the Latin formulation of the "Filioque" in the Creed. As the author rightly notes, "the inclusion or exclusion of the phrase ‘And the Son’, is no longer considered a matter of faith by most theologians today" and this return to the authentic Byzantine liturgical tradition by the Ukrainian Archeparchy of Philadelphia is "without prejudice to the Catholic faith and is appropriate to do so at this time".

[Was never a matter of faith, as Likoudis points later down.]

Unfortunately, despite his quotations from the "Catechism of the Catholic Church" (pages 25-29) which fully justify the dogma of the Eternal Procession of the Holy Spirit from the Father and the Son as expressed in the "Filioque" formulation, Fr. Gurovich betrays a measure of confusion in attempting to explain to his readers the Catholic doctrine of the processions in the Holy Trinity (i.e., that of the Son and that of the Holy Spirit). As previously remarked, it is not accurate to have implied that the verbal inclusion of the "Filioque" in the Creed by Eastern rite Catholics (or even by Eastern Orthodox returning to Catholic communion) has been a "matter of faith" insisted upon by the Apostolic See of Rome. He commits some further serious errors:

1) In speaking of "the eternal begetting (or procession) of the Word of God", Fr. Gurovich states that the Eternal Word "was born... as a truly human person". This mistaken phraseology smacks of the ancient heresy of Nestorius who held that Christ was a human person whereas the Catholic Church affirms that Christ was not a human person. The Catholic Faith holds that Christ was a Divine Person.

[No, Likoudis is committing the error here.  To deny that Christ was a human person is to deny His human nature.  "Natures" in the abstract don't exist.  Persons do.  Christ was a human person.  Christ was a divine person.  Christ was only one person.  He was not a divine person with some traits called "humanity" superadded - He was in every respect a man.]

2) He correctly notes that regardless of whether the "Filioque" is included in the Creed during the Divine Liturgy (or Mass) "both the Eastern and Western Churches believe the same thing concerning the procession of the Holy Spirit. The theology of the Trinity is one in both Churches". This is true, but it is only true of the Eastern and Western Churches making up the Catholic communion. It is not true of the separated autocephalous Eastern Orthodox Churches who have traditionally rejected as "heretical" both the doctrine represented by the "Filioque" as well as its liturgical addition to the Creed.

[We believe all that the Orthodox Church holds and teaches concerning the Trinity.  We did not change our doctrine when the West added the filioque to the Creed.  We did not change our doctrine when Humbert of the Romans excommunicated us.  We did not change our doctrine when we were admitted back into communion with Rome.  And I will argue that the Western Church did not change Her doctrine either.  With all due respect to those who seem to relish in the idea of the other lung of the Church being in heresy, the theology of the Trinity, properly understood by those educated in theology, is one throughout Christendom.]

3) It is troubling to see Fr. Gulovich justifying the "appropriateness of returning to the original form of the Creed" by recourse to erroneous Eastern Orthodox objections which, in fact, question the dogmatic truth embodied in the "Filioque" doctrine. Thus, he argues:

a) The "Filioque" was not placed in the Creed by an Ecumenical Council. Yes, but the Successor of Peter as the visible head of the Church had the supreme authority to add to the Latin text of the Creed the inclusion of a phrase which for centuries had the sanction of the Latin Fathers of the Church and many local Western Councils. Moreover, the Ecumenical Council of Florence (1439) which saw the reunion of separated Eastern Churches with Rome specifically declared: "We further define that it was for the purpose of declaring the truth and under necessity at the time that these words ‘and the Son’ [Filioque] were added to the Creed by way of explanation, both lawfully and with good reason." As to Fr. Gurovich’s assertion on page 3 that the Councils of Ephesus (431 A.D.) and Chalecedon (451 A.D.) "formally forbade any other Creeds" (an objection stressed by Eastern Orthodox theologians), this has obvious reference to any addition that would falsify a truth of faith, not one that would clarify and explain it further.

[Yes, and I will defend to the death the right of the Patriarch of the West to clarify the Creed against heresies prevalent in his local Church, for the good of the Faith and clarity of doctrine.  But he is not the primate over the Eastern Churches.  Notwithstanding his "universal jurisdiction" - which Vatican I clarified does NOT impinge on the rights and duties of the Eastern Patriarchs - the Eastern Churches are sui juris and self-governing.  Nobody ever added the filioque to our Creed, setting Polish thugs with rifles aside.]

b) John 15:26 states: "The Spirit of truth proceeds from the Father." "In other words", Fr. Gurovich states, "the inspired Scriptures formulate that the Spirit proceeds from the Father AND NEVER FROM THE SON" (emphasis added). Here, he actually gives credence to the error of the 9th century patriarch of Constantinople Photius who originally taught "The Spirit proceeds from the Father alone". But John 15:26 does not teach that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father alone, any more than Romans 3:28 ("man is justified by faith") proved Luther’s claim that man is saved by "faith alone". That the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father does not exclude the participation of the Son in that procession.

[Yes, it most certainly does, if the Son is given the same role as the Father.  That's like saying that the dogma of the Trinity does not exclude there being a Quaternity of divine persons, and that my new doctrine of the Quaternity is "implied" by your orthodox doctrine of the Trinity.  Fact is, in reality the FULLNESS of God subsists the Trinity (the Trinity is not a numerical three) - and in the same way, the FULLNESS of the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father (since they are not finite supposita).  Though in reality there is no Quaternity, this doesn't exclude the fact that we as Christians participate in the divine nature through the Uncreated Energies, and in the same way the fact that the Spirit proceeds from the Father doesn't exclude the fact that He receives His divinity from the Son in an eternal manifestation, energetically.] 
Photius’ distortion of the meaning of John 15: 26 led to his denial (as well as that of the Eastern Orthodox theologians who slavishly followed him) that the Eternal Son is joined to the Father in breathing forth the Holy Spirit from all eternity. Fr. Gurovich fails to grasp that Photius (concerning whom he writes approvingly) refused to acknowledge that the Son had any part whatever in the eternal procession of the Holy Spirit.

[Yes, but Eastern dogma - in dialogue with the West - has developed since the time of St. Photios, whom one might note is called "St. Photios the Great" in Eastern CATHOLIC synodika.  I quote from the venerable Bishop Kallistos of Diokleia, The Orthodox Church, pp. 212-213:  "An eternal procession from Father and Son:  such is the western position.  An eternal procession of the Spirit from the Father alone, a temporal mission from the Son:  such was the position upheld by St. Photius against the west.  But Byzantine writers of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries - most notably Gregory of Cyprus, Patriarch of Constantinople from 1283 to 1289, and Gregory Palamas - went somewhat further than Photius, in an attempt to bridge the gulf between east and west.  They were willing to allow not only a temporal mission but an eternal manifestation of the Holy Spirit by the Son.  While Photius had spoken only of a temporal relation between Son and Spirit, they admitted an eternal relation.  Yet on the essential point the two Gregories agreed with Photius:  the Spirit is manifested by the Son, but does not proceed from the Son.  The Spirit derives His eternal being, His personal identity, not from the Son but from the Father alone.  The Father is the unique origin, source and cause of the Godhead."]

 The 9th century teaching of the Byzantine patriarch Photius represented a sharp deviation from the doctrine of both the Latin and Greek Fathers of the Church.  [The only "sharp deviation" was how much of a big deal St. Photios made over it.] Photius was indeed correct in stating that the Father in the Trinity is the supreme and ultimate source of the Holy Spirit (and this ‘monarchia' of the Father must be safeguarded) but he neglected to acknowledge the truth reaffirmed in the Catechism of the Catholic Church that "As Father of the only Son, He is, with the Son, the single principle from which the Holy Spirit proceeds" (#248), and "Since the Father has through generation given to the Only-Begotten Son everything that belongs to the Father, except being Father, the Son has also eternally from the Father, from whom He is eternally born, that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Son" (#246).  [Last I checked St. Photios was living about 1200 years before the Catechism of the Catholic Church was written - and he isn't a Latin-rite Catholic anyway, which is the theological perspective from which the entire Catechism is written and organized, and written for the audience of Latin-rite Catholics.  You can't use the CCC to argue against Byzantine Catholic doctrine - it's comparing apples and oranges, since the East and the West both express the same truths using different language, different perspectives, from a different phronema.] As St. Augustine stressed, the Holy Spirit proceeds principally from the Father as the one source in the Trinity. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church further asserts in echoing St. Augustine’s teaching, "He is not called the Spirit of the Father alone... but is the Spirit of both the Father and the Son" (CCC, #245), for Father and Son "are one" in breathing forth the Spirit from all eternity.  [This is absolutely uncontroversial from either an Eastern Catholic or an Eastern Orthodox viewpoint, except for the clarification that we do not confuse the hypostatic properties of the Father and the Son.  They do not fuse into one being in order to jointly spirate the Spirit - the Father and the Son remain distinct from each other.  Though this is a common Orthodox complaint - made by Protopresbyter John Romanides for example, and easily derived from the scholastic formulation - it is in fact a caricature of the Latin teaching.]

It may be added here, by the way, that modern exegetes confirm (contrary to Photius and Fr. Gurovich and others) that John 15:26 does not have explicit reference to the eternal procession of the Holy Spirit but rather to his temporal mission from the Father and the Son (this last a matter on which both Catholics and Orthodox remain in agreement).

It should be further noted that Photius also erred badly in interpreting the expression of the Greek Fathers that the Holy Spirit proceeded from the Father through the Son by restricting this procession merely to His temporal mission. In teaching the eternal procession of the Holy Spirit from the Father through the Son, the Greek Fathers were affirming without equivocation that the Holy Spirit received His divinity and His very existence from the Son. In the writings of the Greek Fathers the preposition "through the Son" had in view the eternal origin of the Holy Spirit as proceeding from both the Father and the Son in one eternal spiration of Love.

To state, as Fr. Gurovich does, that "The Eastern Churches express this mystery [of the Spirit’s procession] by saying that while the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father alone, He is ‘manifested’ by the Son" (page 23), is to reproduce an ambiguous formulation of the doctrine of the Spirit’s procession that has found favor with some Eastern Orthodox theologians.  [Okay, here Likoudis is giving an unacceptable and profound ignorance of Orthodoxy.  There is absolutely nothing ambiguous about this.  The energetic manifestation of the Spirit through the Son is far more precise than the Latin formulation, which does not even have vocabulary to make the essence/energies distinction.  To sum it up briefly:  Taking a definition from Christos Yannaras, Elements of Faith, "energies" are "those potentials of nature or essence to make known the hypostasis and its existence, and to make it known and participable."  Divinity is an energy of God, because through the mystery of theosis we are divinized by grace - we "partake in the divine nature" to quote the first Pope.  If it were the "essence" of God, then we would be essentially God and not God by grace, which would be pantheism.  It would eradicate our personal identity.  The Holy Spirit is not deified by grace but by nature, but He still receives His divinity in an energetic "eternal manifestation" - in other words, He receives His being and divinity from the Father through and only through the Son, and does so eternally and by nature.  But the Spirit participates in nothing from the Son that is not the Being or Ousia of the Father.  For the Greeks, within their technical vocabulary, to say that the Son is the "cause" of the Spirit or that the Spirit "proceeds" from the Son (where the Greek ekphoreausthai has a MUCH stronger meaning than the Latin "procedit" or English "proceeds", as St. Maximos the Confessor explained) would be linguistically equivalent to denying that the Father is the "fount and source of the whole Godhead", as the Council of Florence reaffirmed in following St. Maximos the Confessor.

Secondly, the "eternal manifestation" of the Spirit from the Son is NOT just something which has "found favor with some Eastern Orthodox theologians".  It is Orthodox dogma, proclaimed as such at the Council of Constantinople-Blachernae in 1351.]

The ambiguity lies in obscuring the meaning of "manifestation" for the term does not necessarily equate with an eternal procession of the Spirit from the Son and could be taken to refer to the manifestation of some "uncreated energy" distinct from the Person of the Holy Spirit (as taught by Byzantine dissidents following the novel teaching of the 14th century Archbishop of Thessalonika, Gregory Palamas).

[Likoudis is close to committing heresy by rejecting the teaching of St. Gregory Palamas.  His doctrine - proclaimed at the afore-mentioned Council of Constantinople-Blachernae in 1351 - is dogmatic for Eastern Catholics as well as for Eastern Orthodox, and since all Catholics hold the same Faith, it is consequently dogmatic for Roman Catholics as well.  We Eastern Catholics celebrate the Feast of St. Gregory Palamas on the Second Sunday of Great Lent as the completion of the Triumph of Holy Orthodoxy, and Rome has insisted that this feast be preserved.  He is called a Pillar of the Orthodox Church, the name Eastern Catholics use to refer to our own Church.  The essence/energies distinction and the fundamental Christian teaching it was formulated to explain - theosis - is dogmatic teaching, not the opinion of some "Byzantine dissidents".  By calling us dissidents for adhering to the teaching of the Church defended by Rome, Likoudis is being misleading and dishonest about the teaching of the Church, being disobedient to the Ordinary Magisterium, and committing a sin of charity against those with whom he is putatively in communion.]


The dogmatic issue of the Procession of the Holy Spirit between Catholics and Eastern Orthodox cannot be explained away as "just a matter of linguistics" (page 25). Whatever the welcome view of some modern Eastern Orthodox theologians who urge that the "Filioque" no longer be regarded as "heretical", the fact remains that for centuries there has been an "official" rejection of the truth of Catholic teaching by Eastern Orthodox patriarchs and bishops who have deviated from the authentic Eastern tradition of the Fathers on the Procession of the Holy Spirit in order to justify their separation from the See of Peter. The major problem with Fr. Gurovich’s brochure is the confusion engendered by confounding the authentic doctrinal position of the Eastern Fathers with the misconceptions and errors of later Byzantine dissidents. It was not necessary to establish the quite legitimate case for Ukranian Catholics dropping the bracketed words of the "Filioque" as found in their liturgical books since 1692 by using the shop-worn arguments of Byzantine dissidents who have sought to discredit not only the Catholic doctrine embodied in the famous phrase "Filioque" but also its recitation in the Creed by Roman-rite Catholics.

[You cannot artificially parse the Byzantine tradition into its pre-1054 "Catholic" phase and its later "dissident" phase.  It is a seamless garment, one which we accept the fullness of.  The later natural and organic developments explain and clarify the earlier ones.  There is no rupture or disjunction in the Byzantine tradition.  Likoudis, not Fr. Gurovich, is the one confused here.  And Likoudis is to be blamed for his polemics working in opposition to Christian unity in violation of the truth.  He is disseminating error, driving a wedge of separation where none really exists, and putting himself in opposition to the Eastern Churches including those with whom he is in communion as well as those whose reconciliation the mind of the Church ardently desires.  Schism is not something that we can unilaterally blame on those who ended up in separation from Rome - schism between Churches is not a complete cutting-off from the Body of Christ as it is in St. Jerome's definition (which is rebellion against one's lawful bishop), but rather a shameful and unacceptable wound BETWEEN bishops.  As Kyr Elias Zoghby of thrice-blessed memory pointed out, "we are all schismatics" - not just the Orthodox.  We are in schism from them just as much as they are in schism from us, and woe to those who wallow self-satisfied in their pride because they ended up in communion with the Rock upon which Christ built His Church and with whom communion is necessary for salvation - you are still your brother's keeper, and you are still in schism from those cut off from that Rock, and in schism from fellow Christians to whom the duty of charity obliges communion.  A Roman Catholic can fall into danger of being is just as much guilty of schism as St. Photios or anyone else, for as St. Thomas Aquinas declares, those who relish in division and separation are just as much schismatics as those who engage in it.  On theological questions, matters of the intellect moreso than the will, let us give the benefit of the doubt, but here Likoudis is simply wrong.  And he is wrong on a matter of grave importance, concerning nothing less than the wound splitting the Heart of Christ in two.]

The above article appeared in The Wanderer, April 6, 2006.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

The Inferno of a Romanian Dante

In this post I will present an English translation of a very interesting text that comes down to us from Romania.  Entitled the "Visul Maicii Domnului", it has been translated into English under a number of various titles including "The Dream of the Mother of the Lord", "The Apocalypse of the Mother of God", and "The Visitation to the Torments by the Mother of God".  This English translation is from Serge Zenkovsky, Medieval Russia's Epics, Chronicles, and Tales, and is a repost from the blog from some new ager of some sort or another:

From a literary point of view, it is part of the apocalypse genre.  The only treatment it has received in textual criticism that I am aware of is an essay by Nicolae Roddy in the volume The Canon of the Bible and the Apocrypha in the Churches of the East, edited by Vahan Hovhanessian and recommended by the venerable subdeacon of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church, Dr. Adam DeVille (

Eventually suppressed by the Romanian Church for its apocryphal nature, the moral and theological purpose of the tale has generally been regarded as sound, though obvious an excessive literalism should as always with texts of such a nature avoided, and of course one might also be cognizant of the text's culturally conditioned anti-Semitism.  The text was noticed and mentioned by no less a writer than Fyodor Dostoyevsky.  In The Brothers Karamazov, Ivan mentions the story to his brother Alyosha, saying "there is, for instance, a poem (of course, from the Greek), "The Wanderings of Our Lady through Hell" with descriptions as bold as Dante's."

(Brothers Karamazov, trans. C. Garnett, NY, 1950, p. 293)

Here is that poem, of course from the Greek, with all the exuberance that a Romanian Dante could give it.

The Apocalypse of the Holy Mother of God Concerning the Chastisements

I. The all-holy mother of God was about to proceed to the Mount of Olives to pray; and praying to the Lord our God she said: In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit; let the archangel Gabriel descend, that he may tell me concerning the chastisements and concerning things in heaven and on the earth and under the earth. And as she said the word the archangel Michael descended with the angels of the East and the West and angels of the South and the North, and they saluted the highly favoured one and said to her: Hail, reflection of the Father, hail dwelling of the Son, hail command of the Holy Spirit, hail firmament of the seven heavens, hail firmament of the eleven strongholds, hail worship of the angels, hail loftier than the prophets unto the throne of God. And the holy mother of God said to the angel: Hail Michael, commander-in-chief, the minister of the invisible Father, hail Michael, commander-in-chief, associate of my Son, hail Michael, commander-in-chief, most dread of the six-winged, hail Michael, commander-in-chief, who rules through all things and art worthy to stand beside the throne of the Lord, hail Michael, commander-in-chief, who art about to sound the trumpet and awaken those who have been asleep for ages: hail Michael, commander-in-chief, first of all unto the throne of God.

II. And having greeted all the angels in like manner, the highly favoured one prayed the commander-in-chief regarding the chastisements, saying: Tell to me all things on the earth. And the commander-in-chief said to her: If thou askest me, highly favoured one, I will tell thee. And the highly favoured one said to him: How many are the chastisements with which the race of man is chastised? And the archangel said to her: The chastisements are innumerable. And the highly favoured one said to him: Tell me the things in heaven and on the earth.

III. Then the commander-in-chief, Michael, commanded the Western angels that revelation should be made, and Hades opened, and she saw those who were chastised in Hades: and there lay there a multitude of men and women, and there was a great lamentation. And the highly favoured one asked the commander-in-chief: Who are these and what is their sin? And the commander-in-chief said: These, all holy, are those who did not worship the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit and for this cause they are thus chastised here.

IV. And she saw in another place a great darkness: and the all holy said: What is this darkness and who are they who are being chastised? And the commander-in-chief said: Many souls are lying in this darkness. And the all holy one said: Let this darkness be taken away in order that I may see this chastisement also. And the commander-in-chief said to the highly favoured one: It is not possible, all holy, that thou shouldst see this chastisement also. And the angels guarding them answered and said: We have a command from the invisible Father that they shall not see the light till thy blessed Son shall shine forth. And plunged in grief the all holy lifted up her eyes to the angels touching the undefiled word of the Father, and said: In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit let the darkness be taken away, that I may see this chastisement also. And straightway that darkness was lifted up and covered the seven heavens: and there lay a great multitude of both men and women, and there arose a great lamentation and a great cry began. And seeing them the all holy wept and said to them: What are ye doing, wretched ones? Who are ye? And how are ye found there? and there was no voice or hearkening. And the angels guarding them said: Why do ye not speak to the highly favoured one? And those who were under chastisement said to her: O highly favoured one, from eternity we see not the light, and we are not able to keep off that up there. And splashing pitch flowed down upon them: and seeing them the all holy wept. And again those who were being chastised said to her: How dost thou ask concerning us, holy lady, Mother of God? Thy blessed Son came to The earth and did not make enquiry concerning us, neither Abraham the patriarch, nor John the Baptist, nor Moses the great prophet, nor the Apostle Paul, and unto us their light shone not: and now, all holy Mother of God, the armour of the Christians, the bringer of great comfort on account of the Christians, how dost thou ask concerning us? Then the all holy Mother of God said to Michael, the commander-in-chief: What is their sin? And Michael, the commander-in-chief, said: These are they who did not believe in the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, and did not confess thee to be the Mother of God, and that the Lord Jesus Christ was born of thee and took flesh, and for this cause they are chastised there. And again weeping, the all holy Mother of God said to them: Why did ye so greatly err, wretched ones? Did ye not hear that the whole creation names my name? And having said these words the darkness felt over them as it was from the beginning.

V. And the commander-in-chief said: Whither wouldst thou go, highly favoured one? to the West or to the South? And the highly favoured answered: Let us go to the South. And immediately there appeared the cherubim and the seraphim and four hundred angels, and led out the highly favoured one to the South, where came out the river of fire, and there there lay a multitude of men and women, some up to the girdle, others up to the neck, and others up to the crown of the head: and seeing them the all holy Mother of God cried out with a loud voice to the commander-in-chief and said: Who are these, and what is their sin who stand in the fire up to the girdle? And the commander-in-chief said: These, all holy one, are they who inherited the curse of father and mother, and for this cause they are thus chastised here as accursed.

VI. And the all holy one said: And who are these standing in the fire up to the breasts? And the commander-in-chief said: These are whosoever cast off their wives and defiled them in adultery, and for this cause they are thus chastised here.
VII. And the all holy one said to the commander-in-chief: Who are these standing up to the neck in the flame of the fire? And the commander-in-chief said: These, all holy one, are whosoever ate of the flesh of men. And the all holy one said: And how is it possible for one man to eat of the flesh of another? And the commander-in-chief said: Listen, all holy one, and I will tell thee: These are they whosoever brought down their own children out of their own wombs and cast them out as food for dogs, and whosoever gave up their brothers in the presence of kings and governors, these ate the flesh of man, and for this cause they are thus chastised.

VIII. And the all holy one said: Who are these set in the fire up to the crown? And the commander-in-chief said: These, all holy one, are whosoever lay hold of the precious cross and swear to a lie: by the power of the cross of the Lord. The angels tremble and worship with fear, and men lay hold of it and swear to a lie and do not know what they testify: and for this cause they are thus chastised here.

IX. And in another place the all holy one saw a man hung by the feet, and worms devoured him. And she asked the commander-in-chief: Who is this and what is his sin? And the commander-in-chief said: This is he who took usury for his gold, and for this cause he is thus chastised here.

X. And she saw a woman hanging by her two ears, and all the beasts came out of her mouth and gnawed her in pieces: and the highly favoured one asked the commander-in-chief: Who is she, and what is her sin? And the commander-in-chief said: She is she who turned aside into strange houses and those of her neighbours and spoke evil words to make strife, and for that cause she is thus chastised here.

XI. And seeing these things the all holy Mother of God wept and said to the commander-in-chief: It were well for man that he had not been born. And the commander-in-chief said: Verily, all holy one, thou hast not seen the great chastisements. And the all holy one said to the commander-in-chief: Come, Michael, great commander-in-chief, and lead me that I may see all the chastisements. And the commander-in-chief said: Where dost thou wish, all holy one, that we should go? And the highly favoured one answered: To the West: and straightway the cherubim appeared and led the highly favoured to the West.
XII. And she saw a cloud full of fire and in it there was a9 multitude of men and women. And the all holy one said: What was their sin? And the commander-in-chief said: These, all holy one, are they who on the morning of the Lord's day sleep like the dead, and for that reason they are thus chastised here. And the all holy one said: If anyone cannot rise, what shall he do? And the commander-in-chief said: Listen, all holy one: if anyone's house is fastened on the four (sides? ) and surrounds him and he cannot come out, he has forgiveness.

XIII. And she saw in another place burning benches of fire and on then, sat a multitude of men and women and burned on them. And the all holy one asked: Who are these and what is their sin? And the commander-in-chief said: These, all holy one, are they who do not rise up to the presbyter when they enter into the church of God, and for this cause they are thus chastised here.

XIV. And the all holy one saw in another place an iron tree and it had branches of iron, and on it there hung a multitude of men and women by their tongues. And seeing them the all holy one wept, and asked the commander-in-chief saying: Who are these and what was their sin? And the commander-in-chief said: These are perjurers, blasphemers, slanderers, whosoever divided brothers from brothers. And the all holy one said: How is it possible to divide brothers from brothers? And the commander-in-chief said: Listen, all holy one, and I will tell thee about this: When some from among the nations desired to be baptised, he would say to them one word: Thou foul-feeding, unbelieving Gentile; because he thus blasphemer, he shall receive ceaseless retribution.

XV. And in another place the all holy one saw a man hanging from his four extremities, and from his nails blood gushed vehemently, and his tongue was tied in a flame of fire, and he was unable to groan and say the Kyrie eleïson me. And when she had seen him the all holy one wept and herself said the Kyrie eleïson thrice: and after the saying of the prayer, came the angel who had authority over the scourge and loosed the man's tongue: and the all holy one asked the commander-in-chief: Who is this wretched one who has this chastisement? And the commander-in-chief said: This, all holy one, is the steward who did not the will of God, but ate the things of the church and said: "He who ministers to the altar shall be nourished from the altar": and for this cause he is thus chastised here. And the all holy one said: Let it be unto him according to his faith. And again he tied his tongue.

XVI. And Michael, the commander-in-chief said: Come hither, all holy one, and I will show unto thee where the priests are chastised. And the all holy one came out and saw presbyters hanging by their twenty nails, and fire came out of their heads. And seeing them the all holy one asked the commander-in-chief: Who are these and what is their sin? And the commander-in-chief said: These, all holy one, are they who stand beside the throne of God, and when they sang of the body of our Lord Jesus Christ, the pearls fell out, and the awful throne of heaven shook and the footstool of our Lord Jesus Christ trembled, and they did not perceive it: and for this cause they are thus chastised here.

XVII. And the all holy one saw a man and a winged beast having three heads like flames of fire: the two heads were towards his eyes and the third head towards his mouth. And seeing him the all holy one asked the commander-in-chief: Who is this, that he cannot save himself from the mouth of the dragon? And the commander-in-chief said to her: This, all holy one, is the reader who does not practise in his own habits according to what is worthy of the holy Gospel: and for this cause he is thus chastised here.

XVIII. And the commander-in-chief said: Come hither, all holy one, and I will show thee where the angelic and archangelic form is chastised. She proceeded and saw them lying in the fire and the sleepless worm gnawed them: and the all holy one said: Who are these, and what is their sin? And the commander-in-chief said: These, all holy one, are they who possessed the archangelic and apostolic form: hearken, all holy one, concerning this: on earth they were called patriarchs and bishops, and they were not worthy of their name: on earth they heard `Bless (the Lord) ye saints, 'and in heaven they were not called saints, because they did not act as bearers of the archangelic form: and for this cause they are thus chastised here.

XIX. And she saw women hanging by their nails, and a flame of fire came out of their mouth and burned them: and all the beasts coming out of the fire gnawed them to pieces, and groaning they cried out: Have pity on us, have pity, for we are chastised worse than all those who are under chastisement. And seeing them the all holy one wept, and asked the commander-in-chief, Michael: Who are these and what is their sin? And the commander-in-chief said: These are the wives of presbyters who did not honour the presbyters, but after the death of the presbyter took husbands, and for this cause they are thus chastised here.

XX. And the all holy one saw after the same manner also a deaconess hanging iron, a crag and a beast with two heads devoured her breasts. And the all holy one asked: What is her sin? And the commander-in-chief said: She, all holy one, is an archdeaconess who defiled her body in fornication, and for this cause she is thus chastised here.

XXI. And she saw other women hanging over the fire, and all the beasts devoured them. And the all holy one asked the commander-in-chief: Who are these and what is their sin? And he said: These are they who did not do the will of God, lovers of money and those who took interest on accounts, and the immodest.

XXII. And when she had heard these things the all holy one wept and said: Woe unto sinners. And the commander-in-chief said: Why dost thou lament, all holy one? Now verily thou hast not seen the great chastisements. And the highly favoured one said: Come, Michael, the great commander-in-chief of the powers above, tell me how I may see all the chastisements. And the commander-in-chief said: Where dost thou wish that we should go, all holy one? to the East or towards the left parts of Paradise? And the all holy one said: To the left parts of Paradise.

XXIII. And immediately when she had spoken, the cherubim and seraphim stood beside her and led the highly favoured one out to the left parts of Paradise. And behold, there was a great river, and the appearance of the river was blacker than pitch, and in it there were a multitude of men and women: it boiled like a furnace of forges, and its waves were like a wild sea over the sinners: and when the waves rose, they sank the sinners ten thousand cubits and they were unable to keep it off and say: Have mercy on us, thou just judge: for the sleepless worm devoured them, and there was no reckoning of the number of those who devoured them. And seeing the all holy Mother of God the angels who chastised them cried out with one voice: Holy is God who has compassion on account of the Mother of God: we give thee thanks, O Son of God, that from eternity we did not see the light, and to-day through the Mother of God we have seen the light: and again they shouted with one voice, saying: Hail, highly favoured Mother of God: Hail, lamp of the inaccessible light: Hail to thee also, Michael, the commander-in-chief, thou that art ambassador from the whole creation: for we, seeing the chastisement of sinners are greatly grieved. And the all holy one, when she saw the angels humbled on account of the sinners, lamented and said: Woe to sinners and their neighbours. And the all holy one said: Let us see the sinners. And the highly favoured one, coming with the archangel Michael and all the armies of the angels lifted up one voice saying: Lord have mercy. And after the making of the prayer earnestly, the wave of the river rested and the fiery waves grew calm, and the sinners appeared as a grain of mustard-seed: and seeing them the all holy one lamented and said: What is this river, and what are its waves? And the commander-in-chief said: This river is the outer fire, and those who are being tortured are the Jews who crucified our Lord Jesus Christ the Son of God, and who refused holy baptism, and those who commit fornication and sin against the sweet and passionless perfume of marriage, and he who debauches mother and daughter, and the poisoners and those who slay with the sword, and the women who strangle their offspring. And the all holy one said: According to their faith so be it unto them. And straightway the waves rose over the sinners and the darkness covered them. And the commander-in-chief said: Hearken, thou highly favoured one: if anyone shall be cast into this darkness, his remembrance shall never be in the sight of God. And the all holy Mother of God said: Woe to sinners, because the flame of the fire is everlasting.

XXIV. And the commander-in-chief said: Come hither, all holy one, and I will show unto thee the lake of fire: and see thou where the race of the Christians is chastised. And the all holy one proceeded and saw: and some she heard, but others she did not see: and she asked the commander-in-chief: Who are these, and what is their sin? And the commander-in-chief said: These, all holy one, are those who were baptised and arrayed under the oracle of Christ, but worked the works of the devil and wasted the time of their repentance: and for this cause they are thus chastised here.

XXV. And she said: I pray, one request will I make of thee, let me also be chastised with the Christians, because they are the children of my son. And the commander-in-chief said: Rest thou in Paradise, holy lady, Mother of God. And the all holy one said: I pray thee, move the fourteen firmaments and the seven heavens, and let us pray for the Christians that the Lord our God may hearken unto us and have mercy on them. And the commander-in-chief said: As the Lord God liveth, the great name, seven times a day and seven times a night, when we lead up the hymn of the Lord, we make remembrance for the sake of sinners, and the Lord accounts us as naught.

XXVI. And the all holy one said: I pray thee, commander-in-chief, command the armies of the angels and let them place me on the height of heaven and let me into the presence of the invisible Father. And immediately the commander-in-chief commanded, and the chariot of the cherubim and seraphim appeared, and they exalted the highly favoured one to the height of heaven and placed her in the presence of the invisible Father: And she stretched forth her hands to the undefiled throne of the Father and said: Have mercy, O Lord, on the Christian sinners, for I saw them being chastised and I cannot bear their complaint. Let me go forth and be chastised myself for the Christians. I do not pray, O Lord, for the unbelieving Jews, but for the Christians I entreat thy compassion. And there came a second voice from the invisible Father saying: How can I have mercy on them, when they did not have mercy on their own brothers? And the all holy one said: Lord, have mercy on the sinners: behold the chastisements, for every creature on the earth calls upon my name: and when the soul comes forth out of the body, it cries saying, "Holy Lady, Mother of God." Then the Lord said to her: Hearken, all holy Mother of God, if anyone names and calls upon thy name, I will not forsake him, either in heaven or on earth.

XXVII. And the all holy one said: Where is Moses? Where are all the prophets and fathers who never sinned? Where art thou, holy Paul of God? where is the holy Lord's Day, the boast of the Christians? where is the power of the precious and life-giving cross, which delivered Adam and Eve from the ancient curse? Then Michael and all the angels raised one voice saying: Lord, have mercy on the sinners. Then Moses also cried: Have mercy, Lord, on those to whom I gave thy law. Then John also called: Have mercy, Lord, on those to whom I gave thy Gospel. Then Paul cried: Have mercy, Lord, on those to whom I brought thy epistles in the Church. And the Lord God said: Hearken, all ye righteous: if according to the law which Moses gave, and according to the Gospel which John gave, and according to the epistles which Paul carried, they thus be judged. And they had nothing to say except, Have mercy, O just judge.

XXVIII. And the all holy Mother of God said: Have mercy, Lord, on the Christians, because they kept thy law and gave heed to thy gospel, but they were simple ones. Then the Lord said to her: Hearken, all holy one: if anyone did evil to them and they did not requite him the evil, thou sayest well that they attended to both my law and my gospel, but if he did not do them wrong and they requited him evil, how may I say that these are holy men? now they shall be rewarded according to their wrongdoing. Then all hearing the voice of the Lord had nothing to answer; and the all holy one, when she saw that the saints were at a loss, and their Lord did not hear, and his mercy was hidden from them, then the all holy one said: Where is Gabriel, who announced unto me the "Hail, thou that from eternity shalt conceive him who is without beginning like the Father," and now does not look upon sinners? Where is the great commander-in-chief? come hither, all ye saints whom God justified, and let us fall down in the presence of the invisible Father, in order that the Lord God may hear us, and have mercy on sinners. Then Michael, the commander-in-chief, and all the saints fell on their faces in the presence of the invisible Father, saying: Have mercy, Lord, on the Christian sinners.

XXIX. Then the Lord, seeing the prayer of the saints, had compassion and said: Go down, my beloved son, and because of the prayer of the saints let thy face shine on earth to sinners. Then the Lord came down from his undefiled throne: and when they saw Him, those who were under chastisement raised one voice saying: Have mercy on us, King of ages. Then the Lord of all things said: Hearken, all ye sinners and righteous men: I made paradise and made man after my image: but he transgressed, and for his own sins was delivered to death: but I did not suffer the works of my hands to be tyrannized over by the serpent: wherefore I bowed the heavens and came down and was born of Mary, the holy undefiled Mother of God, that I might set you free: I was baptised in Jordan in order that I might save the creature (nature) which had grown old under sin: I was nailed to the cross to free you from the ancient curse: I asked for water and ye gave me vinegar mingled with gall: I was laid in the grave: I trampled on the enemy: I raised up mine elect, and even thus ye would not hear me. But now, because of the prayer of my mother Mary, because she has wept much for your sake, and because of Michael my archangel, and because of the multitude of my saints, I grant you to have rest on the day of Pentecost to glorify the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.

XXX. Then all the angels and archangels, thrones, lordships, authorities, governments, powers, and the many-eyed cherubim and the six-winged seraphim and all the apostles and prophets and martyrs and all the saints raised one voice, saying: Glory to thee, O Lord: glory to thee, lover of men: glory to thee, King of ages: glory be to thy compassion: glory be to thy long suffering: glory be to thy unspeakable justice of judgment, because thou hast been long-suffering with sinners and impious men: Thine is it to pity and to save. To him be the glory and the power to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit for ever and ever. Amen.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Divorce in the Catholic Church, part II

In the last post I examined the Eastern Christian (Catholic and Orthodox) practice of granting divorces and remarriages.  Now I must demonstrate that it is compatible with Catholic teaching.  Several points are in order first.

Standard compilations of Roman Catholic teaching - the Catechism of the Council of Trent, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and Ecumenical Councils since 1054 - are only reflective of and binding on the Latin Church.  The Eastern Church in communion with Rome does not reject the content of what the Latin Church teaches, but we do have our own traditions of phrasing dogmas.  The statement quoted by Protopresbyter Eyman in my last blog post is indicative of this divergence.  The duty of the Orthodox theologian living in the West and in communion with Rome is to demonstrate the harmony and mutual complementarity of these two modes of expression.  But anything said in the East is only binding within an Eastern context and an Eastern phronema, and likewise anything said in the West is only binding within a Western context and a Western phronema.  So theological expressions in the CCC for example may carry with them unspoken assumptions that color the applicability of the phrasing - for example, they may assume that the marriage is performed with the married couple themselves as the ministers rather than the priest.  The CCC expresses Roman Catholic doctrine; while it does cite the Greek Fathers who left a common inheritance to both East and West, and while the section on prayer was in fact written by a Melkite priest of French extraction (Pere Jean Corbon - see, ultimately the Catechism is compilation of the Latin expression of the Faith, which should not be in contradiction to but need not be organized the same way as or phrased with the same metaphors as a Byzantine expression of the Faith.  Eastern Catechisms have been written before - though the East has more typically had a natural aversion to systematization and the catechism format - with a delightful example being Nikolaous Boulgaris' "Divine and Holy Catechism", organized along the lines of the Divine Liturgy.  The new Catechism to be published by the Ukrainian hierarchs is forthcoming, and we await the English translation with great anticipation.  Nonetheless, it remains that the standard of Eastern Catholic teaching is not any Catechism but the service-books and the Philokalia.  I was once told by an ultra-vostochnik iconographer who had spent time by turns in the Ruthenian Catholic, Russian Orthodox, and Romanian Catholic Churches to even throw away my volumes of St. Gregory Palamas; all the theology I need is in the horologion.  A less exhaustive but more comprehensive study (if that makes any sense!) of Eastern Catholic teaching would be a book like Archbishop Joseph Raya's The Face of God, or other classic texts like Vladimir Lossky's Mystical Theology of the Orthodox Church and imitations like Fr. George Maloney's Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh, though when we start mentioning Lossky and Maloney we are getting into private theologians with no claim to be the voice of the Church, however influential.

That all being said, nothing that I have said is contrary to the actual words of the Catechism, which calls divorce a sin but not a metaphysical impossibility.  I cite the Catechism of the Catholic Church, linking to the Vatican website, with comment.

1614 In his preaching Jesus unequivocally taught the original meaning of the union of man and woman as the Creator willed it from the beginning permission given by Moses to divorce one's wife was a concession to the hardness of hearts.106 The matrimonial union of man and woman is indissoluble: God himself has determined it "what therefore God has joined together, let no man put asunder."107   [Indissolubility is the "original meaning" placed by the Creator; it is a command given by God, not a "magical adherence.]
1615 This unequivocal insistence on the indissolubility of the marriage bond may have left some perplexed and could seem to be a demand impossible to realize. However, Jesus has not placed on spouses a burden impossible to bear, or too heavy - heavier than the Law of Moses.108 By coming to restore the original order of creation disturbed by sin, he himself gives the strength and grace to live marriage in the new dimension of the Reign of God. It is by following Christ, renouncing themselves, and taking up their crosses that spouses will be able to "receive" the original meaning of marriage and live it with the help of Christ.109 This grace of Christian marriage is a fruit of Christ's cross, the source of all Christian life.
1623 According to Latin tradition, the spouses as ministers of Christ's grace mutually confer upon each other the sacrament of Matrimony by expressing their consent before the Church. In the tradition of the Eastern Churches, the priests (bishops or presbyters) are witnesses to the mutual consent given by the spouses,124 but for the validity of the sacrament their blessing is also necessary.125 [This is a somewhat ambiguous statement that might appear to leave open the question as to whom the minister of the Sacrament was.  We are quite insistent that it is the priest, however.  The priests are indeed witnesses to the mutual consent given by the spouses, but they are not witnesses to the marriage; rather they confer it, and as such are necessary for the validity of the Sacrament.]
1640 Thus the marriage bond has been established by God himself in such a way that a marriage concluded and consummated between baptized persons can never be dissolved. This bond, which results from the free human act of the spouses and their consummation of the marriage, is a reality, henceforth irrevocable, and gives rise to a covenant guaranteed by God's fidelity. The Church does not have the power to contravene this disposition of divine wisdom.146 [This is the most difficult paragraph to reconcile with my thesis.  But recall what I said about hidden assumptions.  This is a Latin Catechism and unless specified otherwise they are talking about a Latin marriage.  In the East, the marraige bond does not result from the free human act of the spouses and their consummation of the marriage; it results from the conferring of the marriage by the priest.  So while the Church quite definitely does not have the power to dissolve a marriage performed in the Latin Rite, it does not necessarily follow that the same holds true in the East where She confers the marriage.  And the indissolubility of marriage is still the disposition of Divine wisdom, even if a divorce is granted by economia.  Also remember, even a Catechism is not infallible, as we found to our chagrin when "YouCat" came out condoning contraception.]
1644 The love of the spouses requires, of its very nature, the unity and indissolubility of the spouses' community of persons, which embraces their entire life: "so they are no longer two, but one flesh."153 They "are called to grow continually in their communion through day-to-day fidelity to their marriage promise of total mutual self-giving."154 This human communion is confirmed, purified, and completed by communion in Jesus Christ, given through the sacrament of Matrimony. It is deepened by lives of the common faith and by the Eucharist received together. [This is uncontroversial.]
1650 Today there are numerous Catholics in many countries who have recourse to civil divorce and contract new civil unions. In fidelity to the words of Jesus Christ - "Whoever divorces his wife and marries another, commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery"160 the Church maintains that a new union cannot be recognized as valid, if the first marriage was. If the divorced are remarried civilly, they find themselves in a situation that objectively contravenes God's law. Consequently, they cannot receive Eucharistic communion as long as this situation persists. For the same reason, they cannot exercise certain ecclesial responsibilities. Reconciliation through the sacrament of Penance can be granted only to those who have repented for having violated the sign of the covenant and of fidelity to Christ, and who are committed to living in complete continence. [Civil divorce in the Latin Rite is not a question here, but rather canonical divorce in the Byzantine Rite.]
2382 The Lord Jesus insisted on the original intention of the Creator who willed that marriage be indissoluble.174 He abrogates the accommodations that had slipped into the old Law.175
Between the baptized, "a ratified and consummated marriage cannot be dissolved by any human power or for any reason other than death."176 [But even what He abrogates, the Church can for good reason dispense from.  He commanded fasting, but dispensations from fasting are granted all the time.  The Church, we must recall, is not "any human power" but the Body of Christ.]
2383 The separation of spouses while maintaining the marriage bond can be legitimate in certain cases provided for by canon law.177 [Economia]
If civil divorce remains the only possible way of ensuring certain legal rights, the care of the children, or the protection of inheritance, it can be tolerated and does not constitute a moral offense.   [Economia]
2384 Divorce is a grave offense against the natural law.  [Yet it was permitted by Moses, by God.] It claims to break the contract, to which the spouses freely consented, to live with each other till death. Divorce does injury to the covenant of salvation, of which sacramental marriage is the sign. Contracting a new union, even if it is recognized by civil law, adds to the gravity of the rupture: the remarried spouse is then in a situation of public and permanent adultery:  [No mention is made of its recognition canonically; clearly we are dealing only with a Western context and civil remarriage, which is adultery anywhere if one has not been released from one's marriage by the Church.] 

If a husband, separated from his wife, approaches another woman, he is an adulterer because he makes that woman commit adultery, and the woman who lives with him is an adulteress, because she has drawn another's husband to herself.178

2385 Divorce is immoral also because it introduces disorder into the family and into society. This disorder brings grave harm to the deserted spouse, to children traumatized by the separation of their parents and often torn between them, and because of its contagious effect which makes it truly a plague on society.
2386 It can happen that one of the spouses is the innocent victim of a divorce decreed by civil law; this spouse therefore has not contravened the moral law. There is a considerable difference between a spouse who has sincerely tried to be faithful to the sacrament of marriage and is unjustly abandoned, and one who through his own grave fault destroys a canonically valid marriage.179  [Economia]

Finally, the compatibility of the Orthodox practice and treatment of marriage was defended by Cardinal Ratzinger on historical and patristic grounds in a 1972 article which, due to its length, I shall only link to rather than copy:

Divorce in the Catholic Church, part I

In the last post, I brought up a theological problem that presents itself to us unsolved - namely, that it seems to be common knowledge that the Catholic Church forbids divorce, and yet as a matter of fact real actual divorces and ecclesiastical marriages were granted by the Catholic Church and permitted by canon law until the canons were collected, recompilated, and edited again in 1917.  By the "Catholic Church", I am of course referring to those Eastern Churches in union with Rome who brought the practice of divorce with them from Orthodoxy.  Yet Rome acknowledges us to be just as Catholic as the Pope; when one says "the Catholic Church", he could be equally referring to either the Latin Church sui juris or any of the Eastern Churches sui juris.

Yes, divorces were granted by the Catholic Church - albeit never in the Roman Rite - until the 20th century. The practice of the Catholic Church must be valid, and it is the duty of the theologian to defend and explain the teachings of the Church - taking the deposit of Faith as a datum that must be explained and never departed from.

The Roman Catholic Church has made it abundantly clear over and over again that holy matrimony is indissoluble.  "What God has joined together, let no man rend asunder."  As the Catechism of the Catholic Church states (CCC 2382), "Between the baptized, "a ratified and consummated marriage cannot be dissolved by any human power or for any reason other than death." (Codix Iuris Canonicis, 141)."  The remarriage of divorced couples is usually blessed by the annulment process, finding grounds (often quite tortured grounds) for declaring the marriage to have been null from the beginning.  Within the Orthodox Church, however, one or even two divorces and ecclesiastical remarriages are granted, with no pretense of the marriages having been null from the beginning, and this practice was brought with the Eastern Catholics through the various Unias.

How are we to explain this?  First, let us document the fact that this happened.  Donald Attwater has been quoted as mention that the Bulgarians preserved canonical divorces after Unia.  Following Attwater, Churches of the Christian East, the following document from the EWTN resource library records the Melkites as having canonical divorces:

The Ruthenian or Carpatho-Rusyn practice of divorce was stated by Protopresbyter Bryan Eyman, of the Eparchy of Parma, OH, on December 31, 2011, in the course of explaning our status as Byzantine Orthodox (not Roman Catholic) Christians in communion with Rome :

We do not believe in the Filioque [we properly proclaim the Nicene Creed as written without addition.] We use Leaven Bread for the Eucharist. Since we do NOT have a traditional teaching of inherited guilt [St. Augustine et. al.] we do not need an
Immaculate Conception." We believe in the distinction between the knowledge of the Divine Essence and the Divine Energies, since St. Gregory Palamas is a saint on our calendar, and considored a Father in our Church. Like the Apostolic Church we celebrate the Mysteries of Initiation [Baptism, Chrismation, and Eucharist] in unity at any age. And the normal Minister of this Mystery is the Presbyter [Priest]. For centuries after the various Church Unions the Byzantine Catholic Churches continued the practice of permitting remarriage after the granting of an ecclesiastical divorce. [with appropriate penance etc.] And although it is not the present practice in the CCEO, because we believe the minister of marriage is the priest or bishop, to grant a decree of nullity logically would call into question the minister rather than the receivers of the Mystery. [But that is a very complicated issue, beyond the scope of this writing.] we do not, as Byzantine Catholics, have a division between the Holy Mysteries and the various objects used in the Holy Mysteries, or thos objects used in both public and private piety.

I shall now attempt to scratch the surface of that very complicated issue.
First of all, we should recognize that such a decree is not an annullment.  It is a divorce, the ending of a marriage that was once perfectly valid.  So there was nothing deficient in the minister who performed the wedding - a valid marriage, but humans wrecked it by sin.
Indeed, it seems that the minister of the Sacrament is key to explaining why divorce should be permitted by the Catholic Church in the Eastern Rite but not in the West.  In the West, the priest is only a witness to the Sacrament.  The minister of the sacrament is the married couple themselves, and through their ministry, they are joined inseparably by God.
In the East, the Church confers marriage rather than just witnessing it.  The priest, acting in the person of the Church, is the minister of the Mystery, not the married couple.  (Cf. Paul Evdokimov, The Sacrament of Love)  And the Church has something which the married couple does not - the power of binding and loosing.  "What you bind on earth is bound in Heaven, and what you loose on Earth is loosed in Heaven".  If the Church confers a marriage in Christ's name, then they can dissolve it by the authority of the keys.  On the other hand, if the Church only witnesses a marriage, then it does not come from them.  The Church sanctified it, but it was not Hers to give - and therefore not Hers to break.  Divorce in the Western Rite is therefore invalid.
This by no means confers any superiority to the East because we are ontologically capable of divorcing and remarrying.  We also have an abhorrence to legalism; we ask not what is permissible but rather what is holy.  Divorce is a sin.  I quote extensively from the Orthodox Archbishop Athenagoras of Sinope, who argues that divorce is a violation of Christ's command that marriage be indissoluble, and therefore a sin, but not an ontological impossibility, and therefore something which is permitted out of economia, the Church's compassion for humanity in its weakness.  My comments shall be in blue (I would do red, but Fr. Zuhlsdorf got to that first!):


Doctrine regarding the indissolubility of marriage is based on its holiness. The holiness and indissolubility of marriage exalt monogamy. References are often made to the Old Testament in this regard (Mal. 2, 14).

But as mystery or sacrament the Christian marriage is undoubtedly confronted with the “fallen” state of mankind. It is presented as the unachievable ideal. But there is a distinct difference between a “sacrament” and an “ideal”, for the first is “an experience involving not only man, but one in which he acts in communion with God”, in this he becomes a partner of the Holy Spirit while remaining human with his weaknesses and faults.[16]
The theory of the indissolubility of marriage has a strong pedagogical significance. The motivation Christ gives is a command. Those who commit themselves to the covenant of marriage should do all they can not to separate, as they have God to thank for their oneness. But the additional motivation: “Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.” (Mark 10, 9; Math. 19, 6) does not signify a magical adherence [bold mine]. In every mystery or sacrament, excluding baptism, the exertion of man’s free will is required. The “not separate” is a divine request, as is “do not kill”. But man is free and can dissolve his marriage and kill his fellow man. In both cases he commits grievous sin.
[In other words, when Christ declared marriage indissoluble, He was commanding us not to dissolve it - He was not declaring it a metaphysical impossibility.  Indeed, this is actually good exegesis.  Moses permitted divorce out of the hardness of our hearts.  But Christ gives us a new command - calls us up to a higher standard.  He also gives us the graces to live up to that standard, which is why matrimony is a holy Mystery or Sacrament.  But the fact that it is a Sacrament does not in and of itself make it indissoluble - its indissolubility come from the fact that man and wife become one flesh.  Man and wife became one flesh under natural marriage, recognized by the Church as true marriages, and yet divorces were permitted here.]


The problem of divorce is a very delicate question as it often touches on a painful human reality.

We may recall here the analogy that Paul makes between the unity of Christ and his Church and that of the bride and bridegroom. This analogy that is as it were at the root of the mystery assumes the real and continuing unity of the married couple, which therefore totally excludes a simultaneous polygamy and views one single marriage as the ideal.  [The Eastern Church, Catholic or Orthodox, assigns canonical penances for all second marriages, whether the first one ended in divorce or widowhood.  Marriage really is or should be for all eternity.  How could one give one's entire self as a "life's companion" in the perfect unity of one flesh to multiple women?  How could one love multiple wives fully?]
Divorce does not heal the diseased marriage but kills it. It is not a positive action or intervention. It is about dissolving the “mini-Church” that has been formed through the marriage relationship.  The Holy Scripture attributes divorce to the callousness of man.  This is seen as a fall and sin. And yet the Orthodox Church can however permit divorce and remarriage on the grounds of interpretation of what the Lord says in Matt. 19, 9: “I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery.”  [This is a weak argument - porneia, translated here as "marital unfaithfulness", is probably better taken as "fornication", or a union with a "wife" who was not really a wife, much like the Samaritan woman at the well who had five husbands who were not her husbands.] According to Bishop Kallistos Ware divorce is an action of “economia” and “expression of compassion” of the Church toward sinful man. “Since Christ, according to the Matthaean account, allowed an exception to His general ruling about the indissolubility of marriage, the Orthodox Church also is willing to allow an exception”.  [It does not seem that Christ was not explicitly allowing an exception to His general ruling on the indissolubility of marriage - even within Orthodoxy divorces and annulments must be granted by the Church - but the Church is the Body of Christ and speaks with His authority, and if She is willing to allow an exception, then it is Christ speaking through Her.]
 A question we can ask ourselves is whether Christ considered marriage as being indissoluble? We need to be very clear in this as when Christ teaches that marriage may not be dissolved that does not mean that He is stating that it cannot occur. The completeness of the marriage relationship can be tainted by erroneous behaviour. In other words, it is the offence that breaks the bond. The divorce is ultimately a result of this break. This is also the teaching of the Eastern Church fathers. A quotation from the testimony of Cyril of Alexandria will be sufficient to make our point here: “It is not the letters of divorce that dissolve the marriage in relation God but the errant behaviour”.
According to the spirit of Orthodoxy the unity of the married couple cannot be maintained through the virtue of juridical obligation alone; the formal unity must be consistent with an internal symphony.  [This is important.  The East permits divorces because of its abhorrence of legalism and hypocrisy.  And I respect this much more than the Latin practice of abusing the annullment system - 80% of annulments where one spouses wants the other back and appeals to the Vatican are overturned, and God knows how many phony annulments are granted that are not appealed - because it at least is honest and genuine, and calls sin what it is.] The problem arises when it is no longer possible to salvage anything of this symphony, for “then the bond that was originally considered indissoluble is already dissolved and the law can offer nothing to replace grace and can neither heal nor resurrect, nor say: ‘Stand up and go’”.

The Church recognizes that there are cases in which marriage life has no content or may even lead to loss of the soul. The Holy John Chrysostom says in this regard that: “better to break the covenant than to lose one’s soul”.  Nevertheless, the Orthodox Church sees divorce as a tragedy due to human weakness and sin.


Despite the fact that the Church condemns sin, she also desires to be an aid to those who suffer and for whom she may allow a second marriage. This is certainly the case when the marriage has ceased to be a reality. A possible second marriage is therefore only permitted because of “human weakness”. As the apostle Paul says concerning the unmarried and widows: “If they can not control themselves, they should marry” (1 Cor. 7, 9). It is permitted as a pastoral concession in the context of “economia,” to the human weakness and the corrupt world in which we live.

There is in other words a close relationship in every dimension between divorce and the possibility of remarriage. It is important here to explain a fundamental element of the Orthodox Church’s doctrine, namely that the dissolving of a marriage relationship does not ipso facto grant the right to enter into another marriage[Emphasis mine.] As we look back to the time of the primitive Church, the Church of the first centuries, then we will have to agree that the Church did not have any juridical authority with regard to marriage, and did not therefore, make any statement concerning their validity. The Holy Basil the Great, for example, referred not to a rule but to usage, as far as this problem was concerned. Speaking concerning the man who had been cheated by his wife, he declares that the man is “pardonable” (to be excused) should he remarry. It is good to remember that the Orthodox Church has in general always had a sense of reluctance regarding second marriages. It would subsequently be completely wrong to assert that Orthodox Christians may marry two or three times!

Orthodox canon law can permit a second and even a third marriage “in economia”, but strictly forbids a fourth. In theory divorce is only recognized in the case of adultery, but in practise is also recognised in light of other reasons. There is a list of causes of divorce acceptable to the Orthodox Church. In practise the bishops sometimes apply “economia” in a liberal way. By the way, divorce and remarriage are only permitted in the context of “economia”, that is, out of pastoral care, out of understanding for weakness. A second or third marriage will always be a deviation from the “ideal and unique marriage”, but often a fresh opportunity to correct a mistake”.

I will examine what Rome has officially said about divorce in a third post.  Is this view of divorce compatible with Catholic teaching?

Messy theological situations

The duty of theology is not to make up new teachings, nor to make new discoveries (unless an ever-deepening awareness of what we already knew - doctrinal development - is called a "new discovery"), but rather to defend, explain, understand, and demonstrate the consistency of the teaching and practice of our Holy Church.  Yet explaining the practice and teaching of the Church can be awkward at times.  The Church's theology is not simple and clean, especially when we look at multiple Rites.  And her history has been very, very messy.  And many Catholics do not know their faith well enough to know the messy parts of theology.  Let me begin by summarizing some messy parts of theology, in order to desensitize my reader to a quite controversial argument I am giong to make in the next post, explaining an uncomfortable and quite messy historical fact.

(1)  Transubstantiation does not necessarily occur in the Words of Institution.  In most of the non-Roman rites, including the Maronite and the Byzantine, the epiklesis occurs AFTER the Words of Institution - it is only afterward that the priest prays "make this bread the precious Body of Your Christ... and that which is in this chalice, the precious Blood of Your Christ... changing them by Your Holy Spirit, Amen, Amen, Amen."  Byzantine theology (pace St. Nicolas Cabasilas, who placed the moment of transubstantiation quite firmly at the epiklesis) has tended to say that the whole anaphora, rather than one point during it, turns the prosphora into the Eucharist.  Even the prosphora before consecration is regarded as so holy that during the Great Entrance when they are carried up to the altar before the anaphora, Archbishop Joseph Raya (the Melkite Catholic prelate in Galilee) would prostrate himself and have the gifts carried over his prostrate body, and when the antidoron (unconsecrated particles cut from the same loaf as the prosphora) is distributed after Divine Liturgy, the faithful are always careful to avoid spilling crumbs on the floor.  Furthermore, the Anaphora of Mari and Addai does not even have the Words of Institution, yet it was declared by Pope Benedict XVI (then Cardinal Ratzinger, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith) to confect a valid Eucharist.

(2)  The Sacrament of Holy Orders is not limited to men - only the degrees of the presbyterate and episcopacy are.  The Eastern Church used to ordain deaconesses.  I will not quibble with the Latins over whether that is a "Sacrament" or "Sacramental".  Grace is given, and no special powers are given to deacons anyway.

(3)  The bishop is only the ordinary minister of the Sacrament of Holy Orders.  Ordinations, even ordinations to the priesthood, can be performed validly by a simple priest.  I quote Ludwig Ott, Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, p. 459: 

In regard to the sacramental Order grades of diaconate and presbyterate, most theologians, with St. Thomas, hold the opinion that a simple pries cannot validly administer these, even with plenary power from the Pope. But there are grave historical difficulties with regard to this opinion: Pope Boniface IX, in agreement with the teachings of numerous medieval canonists (for example, Huguccio + 1210), by the Bull "Sacrae religionis" of the 1st February, 1400, conferred on the Abbot of the Augustine Monastery of St. Osytha at Essex (Diocese of Lincoln) and his successors, the privilege of administering to those subject to them both the Minor Orders and those of the subdiaconate, diaconate, and priesthood. The privilege was withdrawn on 6th February, 1403, on the insistence of the Bishop of Lincoln. But the Orders conferred on the ground of the privilege were not declared invalid. Pope Martin V, by the Bull "Gerentes ad vos" of 16th November, 1427, conferred the privilege on the Abbot of the Cistercian Monastery of Altzelle (Diocese of Meissen) of promoting all his monks and others subject to him for the term of five years, to the higher Orders also (Sub-diaconate, Diaconate, and Presbyterate). Pope Innocent VIII, by the Bull "Exposcit tuae devotionis" of 9th April, 1489, conferred on the four Proto-Abbots of the Cistercian Order and their successors the privilege of ordaining their subordinates to the Sub-diaconate and the Diaconate. The Cistercian Abbots were still using this privilege in the 17th century without hindrance."
 4)  The Catholic Church has saints on her calendar who were not only not Catholic but virulently anti-Catholic, who deliberately refused to embrace communion with Rome, and who even spent their life preaching against Union.  St. Alexis Toth, who led 200,000 Rusyn Greek Catholics in the United States into Orthodoxy leading to the creation of the Orthodox Church of America and the American Carpatho-Rusyn Orthodox Diocese, is on the calendar of the Russian Catholic Church under the jurisdiction of the Roman Catholic bishops in California.  The Russian Catholics simply use the OCA calendar.  St. Gregory Palamas, who engaged in no few polemics himself against Rome, is celebrated on the Second Sunday of Great Lent as the theologian whose work completes the Triumph of Holy Orthodoxy.  St. Photios the Great of the "Photian Schism" of 869 is on the Rusyn or Ruthenian Catholic calendar.  All of the Orthodox saints are in principle on our calendar, though we do not have time to sing troparia to all of them, and you will find Ukrainian Catholics with strong devotions to St. Alexis Toth, St. Photios the Great, St. Cyril Loukaris (the "Calvinist Patriarch" who prevented the Union of Brest from being fully implemented), and even the "monophysite" Pope St. Dioscorus, despite the latter's mistreatment of St. Flavian at the latrocinium ("Robber's Council") of Ephesus.  Eastern Catholics are quite liberal with our saints; we were first and foremost Orthodox before we returned to communion with Rome, and now that we are willing to venerate Roman Catholic saints, we'll venerate just about anybody.  With Rome's blessing, too.

6)  Purgatory is not a dogma of the Faith - only a statement of the Latin expression of it.  Article V of the Union of Brest states, "We shall not debate about purgatory, but entrust ourselves to the teaching of the Holy Church."  The Ukrainians did not want to define and give a term to something which we have always treated as a mystery, and which carries with it a lot of medieval baggage about a spatial place where physical combustion goes on (whereas in reality there are no bodies there to make it a place and no oxygen to permit combustion) - and Rome has not insisted that we do so.

7)  The Catholic Church permits divorce and remarriage.  In fact, it was canonically permitted - without pretense of declaring the marriage null from the beginning - right up until 1917.  It was only permitted within the Byzantine rite, which brought the practice with them from Orthodoxy.  This seems to be problematic.  We have always been taught that the Catholic Church regards marriage as indissoluble.  How are we to resolve this?  This shall be the topic of my next post.  The purpose of this post was to desensitize my reader to what I am going to say in the next one.