Making it Up as You Go Along

After reading this, one’s head will begin to spin. It literally means nothing. It is Orwellian in every sense of the word. But that’s what we should expect from a post-Vatican I Catholic Church, the Council which gave us the doctrine of Papal Infallibility.

That’s also what we should expect from that same Church in the wake of Vatican II, when that Council decided to become less papal and more conciliar. We are talking about significant contradictions.

Unfortunately, we Orthodox can no longer rest on our laurels and say “Well, we got out problems but at least we’re not Catholic”. We used to be able to say that but thanks to the new, improved ecclesiology brought to us by Patriarch Bartholomew, we no longer have that luxury. The confused ecclesiology propounded by Pope Francis (which you will read below) are of a piece with what Patriarch Bartholomew has been preaching for several years now.

In our humble opinion, it is high time –indeed, it is past high time–for the other Orthodox Churches to step in and say “Enough!”. Whether they do it by Council or joint decree or by refusing to serve with Constantinopolitan bishops, doesn’t really matter much at this point. But they have to do something; otherwise if the Ukrainian debacle stands, then the soft schism which is aborning presently will harden. It’s not enough for us to sit back and say that it doesn’t matter because “it’ll all work out” somehow, that the Patriarchate of Constantinople is shrinking or that the Church of Greece is letting Bartholomew and his Ukrainian outfit twist in the wind.

All of this may be true but the precedent has been set. And it must be eradicated root and branch. There are real people who will suffer real consequences if they stay in a Church that goes into schism. Our bishops owe it to us –and to Christ Whom they will answer to–to resolve the problems which beset the Orthodox Church sooner, rather than later. One man should never be allowed to cause this much turmoil ever again.

And that’s why we aren’t Roman Catholic.


Pope Francis: Canon law ‘an essential dimension’ to ecumenism


VATICAN CITY — The search for Christian unity must involve all aspects of the churches’ lives, including their different church laws, Pope Francis said.

The society held its international congress in Rome Sept. 16-20. Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople opened the meeting, and Pope Francis spoke to participants Sept. 19.

The Catholic-Orthodox and Catholic-Oriental Orthodox theological dialogues, the pope said, focus in great part on ecclesiology, the theological understanding of what the church is and how its structure reflects its identity.

Pope Francis said that focus means the dialogues “have a canonical dimension, too, since ecclesiology finds expression in the institutions and the law of the churches. It is clear, therefore, that canon law is not only an aid to ecumenical dialogue, but also an essential dimension.”

The formal Catholic-Orthodox dialogue, for example, hopes to discuss ways that the bishop of Rome — that is, the pope — could exercise his primacy for the benefit of all in a reunited church. The dialogue members are laying the groundwork for those discussions by looking at what Pope Francis called “the common canonical heritage of the first millennium” when East and West were still in full communion.

While the dialogue benefits from the study of canon law, he said, canon law also can benefit from the ecumenical dialogue by seeing how other churches operate and strive to have their law reflect their Christian identity, faith, spirituality and traditions.

As an example, Pope Francis pointed to his efforts to foster a more “synodal church,” one marked by a process of listening to everyone and involving all members of the church in accordance with their specific role.

“When translated into established institutions and procedures of the church,” he said, “synodality expresses the ecumenical dimension of canon law,” because the synod structure has been part of church governance in the Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox churches for centuries.

Opening the meeting, Patriarch Bartholomew also focused on Orthodox and Eastern Catholic canon law as field of ecumenism.

While the joint search for Christian unity does not require “the mutual acceptance of the doctrinal and canonical ideas of the interlocutor,” he said, it does require meeting “in a spirit of love, mutual respect and understanding, even exploring new and sometimes unprecedented questions and concerns.”

The search for Christian unity is a search for truth, the patriarch said. But reaching that truth requires real commitment and “resistance to historic evils such as fanaticism, intolerance and fundamentalism.”

In a joint search for truth, Patriarch Bartholomew said, both sides must set aside pride and be willing to learn and to accept criticism. In the end, he said, ecumenical dialogue is destined “to reunite the common fundamental canonical principles of the Christian faith and spirituality not for its own benefit but for the world.”


  1. Well said, George 
    Having been Roman Catholic before I became Orthodox I can vehemently say, it’s a huge mistake to attach ourselves to a post-Vatican II RCC. For those that aren’t aware of the Catholic world (I still keep up with it), the RCC is in doctrinal free-fall, and really has been for the last 60 years (and much longer from an Orthodox POV). The RCC is beyond repair in some places both doctrinally and liturgically. This does not even include the heinous and widespread sexually abuse cases that are STILL coming out (see Australia). 
    I agree that it is way, way beyond time that our bishops, patriarchs, etc., speak out and put an end to this NOW. We all know people in GOARCH who may be well-meaning people. These are real people and real souls who are going to be led to damnation. If our bishops don’t speak up, that is devastating because it means they truly do not care about the salvation of the souls of their flock. 
    On a side topic, I know the opinion that people on here have of the Oriental Orthodox, but, as someone who knows many OO (especially Copts, both laity and well-known hierarchs), I can vehemently say that they are much more anti-Rome than we as EO (PoC not included) are. The one exception MAY be the Armenian Church, but, other than that I would say that a RCC-OO reunion is even less likely than an EO-RCC reunion. We could also learn a thing or two from the OO on their ecclesiology, the closest thing they have to a “First Among Equals” would be the Coptic Pope. 
    In the end, something seriously needs to be done, or, yet again, a Constanipolitan Heresiarch is going to try and destroy the Church. Even though we have had many amazing saints come from that Patriarchate, my overall vote is to suppress the Patriarchate for the time-being. 

    • Alitheia1875 says

      If the Patriarch of Constantinople is a heresiarch so are all the bishops/churches that are in communion with him. Now, that’s basic Orthodox ecclesiology.

      • Tim R. Mortiss says

        How can churches be ‘heresiarchs’? They aren’t ‘archs’ in the first place.
        Are you referring to parish churches?

  2. Gail Sheppard says

    Pope Francis’ favorite expression these days is “unity with diversity”. They couldn’t resolve the primacy issue so they’re just going to plow ahead anyway. They think that one can be in communion with the other in spite of different docternal/canonical beliefs. – In other words, being Orthodox won’t mean anything. We’ll all be one big happy family.

    If the Local Churches don’t intervene they will be complicit in leading people to apostasy because they didn’t try to stop it.

  3. Michael Bauman says

    Gail, uniting without change is the whole story of every “unity” movement.  They are corporate mergers. 

    • Will Harrington says

      Michael, can you point to any mergers that actually did not involve any change?

      • Michael Bauman says

        Not the kind of change that RCC and the OC would require.  In corporate mergers the culture and policies of the dominant partner normally prevail.  In my business most such mergers turn out badly.  Maybe Pat. Batholomew thinks the RCC is a White Knight protecting him from a hostile takeover by the MP

        In any case it is a metaphor

    • Gail Sheppard says

      You’re right, Michael.

  4. You will notice that the CP once again uses terminology about resisting the evils of so-called “fanaticism, intolerance, and fundamentalism”. This is very intentional. It was put into place by the CP in an effort to demonize his detractors. It is wielded like a weapon from groups like Fordham and “celebrities” like Sr. Vassa. It is very much like the radical liberals calling everyone who disagrees with them “racists.” 

    • Gail Sheppard says

      I agree. It’s very much intentional. Traditionalists have become “fundamentalists”.

      • Monk James Silver says

        Christ is risen, truly risen!
        Jaroslav Pelikan wrote:
        ‘Tradition is the living faith of the dead, traditionalism is the dead faith of the living. And, I suppose I should add, it is traditionalism that gives tradition such a bad name.’
        The Vindication of Tradition: 1983 Jefferson Lecture in the Humanities (1984), p. 65.
        WIKI leads us to this alternate version of Professor Pelikan’s words:  Tradition is the living faith of the dead; traditionalism is the dead faith of the living. Tradition lives in conversation with the past, while remembering where we are and when we are and that it is we who have to decide. Traditionalism supposes that nothing should ever be done for the first time, so all that is needed to solve any problem is to arrive at the supposedly unanimous testimony of this homogenized tradition.’

        Considering how much I respected him and his work, I was always amazed by how closely Jaroslav Pelikan and I were in our thoughts, and how often we expressed ourselves in the very same words.  I am grateful to God that I knew this good man.
        I was present for the formal rite acknowledging his conversion to Orthodox Christianity, and  I begged him more than once to write the story of his conversion, but he demurred, and died before I could convince him to do it.  The world, especially the Orthodox  Christian part of the world, is all the poorer for that.

        May the Lord be merciful to His servant, Jaroslav.  May the Kingdom of Heaven be his, and may he be remembered forever.

        • Gail Sheppard says

          Christ is Risen! I remember reading one of his books a long time ago. I must have liked it because I remember his name! I’ll have to go to my bookcase and find it. There were two other books that inspired me around the same time when I was just coming into the Church. One was Thirsting for God in a Land of Shallow Wells by Matthew Gallatin and Sola Scriptura by Father John Whiteford. They’re friends on FaceBook now. We live in a very small world.

          • Tim R. Mortiss says

            I read, and have, “Jesus Through the Ages”, as I recall the title. He was very well known in Lutheran circles, his original setting. I know an aged Lutheran pastor (who will be 90 in a week) who reminds me, every time we get on the subject of my Orthodoxy, that Jaroslav Pelikan became Orthodox. This makes it easy for him to understand me….
            Most interesting MJS that you knew him. I for one would be most interested in further recollections you may have.

            • Monk James Silver says

              Because of his own reticence, I can’t say more.

              I will tell you, though, that one evening we ran into each other in our bathrobes, getting ready for bed as we brushed our teeth, etc., and I said ‘you MUST write about this’.

              He shook his head to say ‘no’, and that was the last time we spoke of it.

              We met each other after that in other venues, but never discussed this issue again. I regret that I didn’t urge him, since he respected my opinions about theological issues. I think — just guessing — that he felt that his writings were sufficient to explain not only his own theological positions, but to lead other people to Orthodoxy, although he didn’t quite realize what he was doing when he wrote those words.

              Perhaps the Lord was leading him, and — through him, others, too — toward The Church.

              • Tim R. Mortiss says

                And I have no doubt that his example did just that for many. In my own case, when I read of his conversion, I was years-deep in my own ‘fellow-traveling’  with Orthodoxy, and I was both not surprised, and encouraged.

      • Solitary Priest says

        If you carry that to it’s logical conclusion, then even ROCOR and the MP are tainted. Where does one draw the line? Do we say, “The Holy Spirit has left the building” as one poster did? Are the Old Calendarists right, after all? I certainly feel they are more in the church than the Papacy, but Constantinople doesn’t. This is directed to Alitheia. To Gail I answer, we already have unity in diversity. We have very different Russian, Greek, Serbian, Romanian, Albanian, etc practices, different chant, different calendar sometimes, but united in the faith. We even have a Western Rite( I’m not a huge fan, but it is what it is). We even have Old Believers reconciled with the church, but preserving their manner of serving. I hope soon that the Macedonian church be reconciled and thus add to the unity in diversity. It is not the church which needs to reinvent itself. It is we who must bring ourselves in line with the church. “Let us purify our senses, and we shall behold Christ. ..”(from the Paschal Canon).

    • These are the same words that Francis and liberal Catholics have been using for decades. I can see why we have traditionally refrained from praying with heretics, it poisons the mind with the “fruits” of the other heretical group

      • George Michalopulos says

        These are also the words that the Episcopalians, Methodists and Presbyterians started using way back in the 80s.  Back then the Trads within those faiths were inside the tent, now –not so much.

  5. Tim R. Mortiss says

    As an aside, I have taken to using the word “timeless” instead of  “traditional” when discussing my Christianity in conversation where the issue comes up.
    These days, to the average non-traditional person (and others), “traditional” calls up bearded old duffers (not unlike me), eager to turn the clock back to a best-forgotten time. Out of it, in other words.
    But “timeless”, I find, does the trick….very useful.

    • I like it Tim! I think I’ll borrow that from you.

    • Monk James Silver says

      ‘Timeless’ is an attribute best left to describe the eternity of God, Who alone is beyond time, which is only one of His creations.
      In literature and all human discourse, we often use words which have other meanings which are very different in theology, and this is on of them.
      We can describe our twenty centuries of Christian practice in many ways, but we can never say that what we do is ‘timeless’,  bound by the limits of time as we are.
      We could better say that what we do is attested from the first,  in conformity to the practice of the protochristians, original, apostolic, etc. 

      • Christ is the Head of His Church. And He is timeless. The traditions of our holy fathers are of Christ. Therefore, I would have no problems with referring to those traditions as timeless.

      • Tim R. Mortiss says

        I find the term very useful in discussions, and I never say that what we do is timeless. I say that our Faith is.
        At that point, we’re talking polemics, not theology.
        When pressed further, I see the value of using the expressions in your last paragraph.

  6. 179 bishops of Greece have something to say about the problems of the church regarding Constinople.

  7. Rhonda Dodson says

    I cringe every time when either Rome or Constantinople start talking about canon law. History has shown that both consider & use canon law another tool to manipulate & coerce those that would serve as a corrective, i.e. those that disagree with them. The reality is that if both Rome & Constantinople had truly followed the canons–the actual-historical-intent of the canons, we would not be in this mess we are today.
    It is very understandable Constantinople’s purview of the canons today that promotes the ideology that the canons are, even must be, subject to reinterpretation & revision. After all Bartholomew’s graduate, post-graduate & doctoral education was at institutions of higher learning under Rome. His doctoral these was based upon the promotion of this idea of canonical reinterpretation & revision, so much so that now, he even has gone on record to state that canons apply to those under him & not to himself because he is “first without equal”. It is going to be interesting to see how his “first without equal” primacy is going to square with Francis’ “first without equal” primacy.

    • Antiochene Son says

      It is going to be interesting to see how his “first without equal” primacy is going to square with Francis’ “first without equal” primacy.
      Most likely the CP would become Rome’s chief lackey. Rome would put all of the Eastern Churches under the CP, and the CP would take orders from Rome on matters that affected “both lungs.” Otherwise the CP would have wide latitude to practice his papal pretensions on matters particular to the East, while offering the pinch of incense to the Pope.

      It would be the restoration of the East/West Roman duality, except with patriarchs instead of emperors, and with Rome dominant instead of Constantinople.
      Bartholomew would have essentially all the power he ever dreamed of, and would only be answerable to the Pope, who would probably maintain the hands-off attitude towards their Eastern Churches.
      It would be a win-win for both. At least in terms of worldly power.

      A pledge to let the Orthodox Churches maintain their peculiar practices and theology (with no such pledge on Rome’s part) would be used to try to sell it. If they maintained current liturgical practice, you would never even hear the Pope commemorated unless it was a patriarchal liturgy. Who knows, they might even hold a third Vatican Council to express that very idea.

      They will do anything to get us back, except change themselves. Which is the only thing that we want. The administrative stuff be damned; If Rome would just repent and return to the the Orthodox Faith, we would trip over ourselves to figure out the rest.

  8. Peter A. Papoutsis says

    Archbishop Elpidophoros’ Keynote speech at the first ever Monastic Assembly:

    And here it is! How the Archbishop is putting Father Ephraim in his place:

     “As I mentioned earlier, your principal support to pilgrims should be contemplation and compassion. If, however, you are asked to provide a word of direction or guidance, then your advice should always be a source of encouragement and inspiration. At no point should we ever block the light of Christ; instead, we should always remember that Christ is the one who illumines and forgives. Just like those who approach us with obedience and humility, we too are to demonstrate obedience and humility. In the church, obedience is a circle where each one of us is called to obey our elders: laity to clergy, clergy to bishops, and bishops to their elders.”
    The gauntlet has been thrown down. Let’s see what Father Ephraim does?
    The hits keep on coming!
    Peter A. Papoutsis

    • George Michalopulos says

      Peter, I see where this is going…

      • Can you please expand on this? Where do you think this is going? 

        • George Michalopulos says

          Menas, the words are said rightly but there’s a subtext that I can’t quite place my finger on. Perhaps others can. As for myself, I’d like to think about it a little more before I speculate further.

          One thing I can say for sure regarding the new Archbishop (but not necessarily in this context) is that he was brought in to consolidate the EP’s grip on North America.

          • I will take the liberty of reading between the lines. He is saying to the monasteries that they better stay loyal to the CP Bartholomew. He is saying that they are being watched…and any missteps will be documented. He is very smart…and he’s going to proceed incrementally. Having said that, I believe that Panaghia won’t let him pull any shenanigans.

            • George Michalopulos says

              Mikhail, yeah, I agree. My take on Elder Ephraim and his monastics is that –like Athos–they will provide the bulwark when Elpi decides to follow Bartholomew into schism.

              • Peter A. Papoutsis says

                Those monasteries are the ONLY lifeline for the GOAA faithful like me and my family to survive the soon to come schism. Do not count the Greeks out because there are many more faithful like myself who will not go under Rome and have never approved of the normalization of the Ukrainian schismatics and the invading of another’s church’s canonical territory. Don’t lump us all together with the modernists/ecumenists. 

                Peter A.  Papoutsis 

                • George Michalopulos says

                  That’s just it Peter. There are many in the GOA and I imagine in the Church of Greece who are not at all happy with the way things are going. If anything, the St Nicholas Shrine is emblematic of the collapse of the Greco-triumphalism spewed by the Phanar/Archon/L100 axis.

                • There’s no doubt about that, Peter. Those monasteries are shining jewels in North America. May God bestow on them the grace to protect the phronema of the holy Orthodox faith!

        • Peter A. Papoutsis says

          That the official Archdiocese and the local parishes are the authority not you monastics. Your opinions mean nothing, just pray and leave the leading to us Bishops. Thank you and good night.

          Peter A. Papoutsis 

        • My two cents as an outside observer who’s no longer affiliated with the GOA, though I used to be (still in recovery!):
          There are an ever-dwindling number of faithful comprising the GOA. Yes, there may be more or as many Greek-Americans as there were 40 years ago, but the percentage who have anything to do with the Church has crashed. Latest data that I saw put it at less than 5% of all Greek Americans as having anything to do with the church nowadays. Gone are the days when virtually all Greek-Americans would go to church at least once a year for Πάσχα or for τα Χριστούγεννα.  Not now.
          Thus, there’s not many people to try to squeeze for funds for the monstrosity megalomaniacal shrine in Manhattan, or for funds to pay to the Turks, or for funds for cuff links, or for funds for what-have-you. Monies that faithful give to the monasteries in America are funds that E. 79th St. could otherwise have had to waste on their favorite boondoggle of the week. 
          The more authentic and Christ-centered the Greek-American faithful find the monasteries, the more they will tithe to them as opposed to E. 79th St. or to corrupt dioceses that smuggle cuff links overseas to Istanbul (GOA Metropolis of Chicago, anyone?).  Many of the monasteries’ faithful are indeed Greek-Americans who are searching for a deeper connection with Christ, as the liturgical language of the American monasteries remains (for some strange reason, which doesn’t really work in America) Greek.  
          This is a fight for the money of the dwindling number of Greek-Americans who still have anything to do with the church. Remember that the GOA isn’t interested in and doesn’t view its mission as spreading the Gospel to America. It views America as a land to use, to suck money out of, to send elsewhere – as long as it’s for the glory of the “Queen of cities,” then anything is permitted. 
          A utilitarian “ends justifies the means” approach is never the Christian approach to anything, unless you’re the GOA/C’ple, when anything that serves to exalt C’ple is viewed as A-OK.

          • Peter A. Papoutsis says

            I agree with alot of what you say, but disagree with some like the Greek in the Monasteries. The language issue never has been an issue and for tbose seeking Christ it never has been. Use English to spread the Gospel and evangelize, but once inside God’s house feast on his word that is in Greek. Use good and proper English but only to help you understand the biblical and liturgical language of God.
            Peter A. Papoutsis 

          • Greeks chose to live near Catholics. Pope Benedict now says abuse is a result of the 1960s and if they return to Latin Tridentine Mass, everything will be copesetic. This is making a lot of Greeks call for having everything in Koine, no English or even Slavonic. Now, US English is a call of the rural right, and there are almost no greeks in the rural right. So you are entirely barking up the wrong tree. Peter should recall Sarah Palin said Jesus spoke King James Elizabethan English.

    • Joseph Lipper says

      Elder Ephraim always stresses obedience as being the main virtue of monastics, and this is also what Elder Sophrony taught at his monastery in Essex.  So, Archbishop Elpidophoros is really just giving support to what is already taught by the Elder. 

      • Peter A. Papoutsis says

        No he is not. Sorry but you are off base on this.
        Peter A. Papoutsis 

      • Gail Sheppard says

        Elpi only supports obedience when it is to Bartholomew.

      • Michael Bauman says

        Joseph, obedience is the cardinal virtue of monastics. That is why they have a history of standing up to bishops when they are wrong.  Obedience is not following orders. 

        • Joseph Lipper says

          Michael, that’s why Archbishop Elpidophoros said, “obedience can never be blind or directed toward a human being, but always transparent to God’s love and aimed at the disciple’s freedom.”


          • Well then
            Joseph ,

            Bartholomew and
            Elpidophoros say there must be obedience, how do you understand this, TO WHOM must one bishop be obedient, e.g.
            -to Bartholomew
            -to the Synod,
            -to Christ

            How do you prove that?

            • Joseph Lipper says

              Archbishop Elpidophoros is saying that obedience should be “always transparent to God’s love and aimed at the disciples freedom.” This is the example of Christ, who came not demanding service, but rather as a servant to serve many, to free us from the bondage of sin.

              Likewise, we all have an obedience to each other. A father or mother has an obedience to their family. A bishop, or monastery superior, has this obedience to their charge. We all have an obedience to our superiors.

              So when a father or mother, or bishop, asks for obedience from those they are responsible for, it should be obeyed in a spirit of obedience to God and according to the obedience we have to each other. We are all called to be as servants freeing each other from the bondage of sin.

              • Gail Sheppard says

                Bartholomew has no right to ask anything of us as our Father, our Mother, or as our bishop as he is none of these things.

        • Estonian Slovak says

          Well, we must distinguish between obedience and blind papal obedience, which is what the EP seems to demand.
               Many years ago, ROCOR took in some refugees from the Greek Archdiocese. Their leader, the now deceased Monk Panteleimon(Metropolos) railed against the EP for demanding such obedience. Yet sadly enough, he demanded exactly such blind obedience from his own monks. He was using “holy obedience” to obtain sexual gratification from his monks and novices. Furthermore, he lied about it when ROCOR began to investigate the charges. Some years after he went into schism, his own bishops deposed him. May God have mercy on his soul, for he caused damage to many people. That is why I will never follow any living man without question.

    • The keynote speech doesn’t seem to be there anymore.  ???

  9. Archbishop Elpidophoros reigned in the Fr. Ephraim monasteries in his meeting at St. Nektarios this past weekend. But, I would remind all that the GOA has deep, serious problems. In my opinion, the monasteries are the most spiritually alive part of the GOA. The people that go there are seeking authentic Orthodox spirituality and they generously support the monasteries . They don’t like strange doctrines like the branch doctrine, or the two lungs nonsense, or concelebrations with non-Orthodox.The Archbishop indicated that some of the confessional practices need to be corrected. I would say that the real problem with confession in the GOA is that is not widely practiced. Indeed,it is almost  non-existent. I would venture a guess that the vast majority of the faithful who do go to confession, do so at the monasteries. I pray that the Archbishop recognize that the monasteries could play a big role in bringing about a needed spiritual revival in the archdiocese. Synergy is what is needed not reigning in.

    • Michael Bauman says

      Peter that is assuming that AB Elpidophoros is interested in spiritual revival. “Orthodox Unity” is what he wants. “Orthodox Unity” entails doing what he wants done because he is not just a man, but a divine representative of the CP who is the only head the Orthodox Church requires.

      That is what I see. If I am right, it will not fly. It may enlarge the number of Byzantine Catholics in the US but Rome does not care about them anyway.

      He may be the divinely inspired leader and prophet he thinks he is, but I doubt it.

  10. More about the ‘Monastic Assembly’ can be found here: