St. Theodore the Studite

A Rejoinder to Hieromonk Patapios’ essay:
The Deficient Scholarship of Monk Basil’s Comments on the Allegedly Anti-Patristic Stand of the So-Called“Old Calendarist Zealots

An English translation of an essay by Monk Basil, of the Holy Monastery of Saint Gregory on Mount Athos, posted in June, 2007 to the Orthodox Christian Information Center Web site with introductory remarks by Patrick Barnes, has elicited a very lengthy and characteristically heavy-handed response from the Center for Traditionalist Orthodox Studies (CTOS), which is affiliated with the Greek Orthodox Old Calendar Synod in Resistance. In this rejoinder I intend to address many of the key points made by Father Patapios, the CTOS Academic Director.

It is the opinion of many Orthodox Christians that Father Basil made some compelling arguments against the logic of the Old Calendarists—at least of the more extreme ecclesiological bent— and presented a great deal of Patristic evidence to substantiate those arguments.  Of course, no matter how compelling a case may seem, we must always be careful to listen to the response of those who disagree. As it says in Proverbs, “The first one to plead his cause seems right, until his neighbor comes and examines him” (Proverbs 18:17). I trust that I have heeded this wisdom in considering Father Patapios' remarks.

I am not a patristic scholar, but I do think that educated Orthodox Christians, have the ability to evaluate the arguments and evidence presented by patristic scholars. I do not have the skills nor the resources to do independent research on the Moechian controversy, for example, but I can tell the difference between arguments that are or are not supported by reason and evidence. I hope this will be evident in what follows.
Ad Hominem Arguments Directed at Father Basil

Father Patapios begins his response by making the claim that Father Basil’s essay is lacking in any real scholarship, and that it engages in ad hominem personal attacks against the Old Calendarists.

First, let me say that I admire the intelligence and academic credentials of Father Patapios. I have read a number of his essays over the years, and have found them to be well worth the time spent. Not only would I say similar things about Archbishop Chrysostomos of Etna, I would even admit he is brilliant. Several times I have asked him questions about the Holy Fathers via e-mail. I received the most amazing replies within less than an hour—complete with extensive quotations from the Fathers which more than adequately answered my questions.

There are, however, many brilliant scholars who have not reached the same conclusions as Archbishop Chrysostomos and Father Patapios. Father Georges Florovsky is often quoted favorably in Etna publications. In fact, his name and authority are invoked in their essay. But Father Georges Florovsky remained a clergyman of the Ecumenical Patriarchate until the day he reposed. He therefore did not conclude that the need for invoking Canon 15 of the First and Second Council had arisen. Many other brilliant Orthodox Scholars could be mentioned who likewise have not felt the need to wall themselves off from the rest of the Church.And so we obviously must consider more than one’s academic credentials as we attempt to discern who is right in this discussion.

Second, the charge that Father Basil has written a "insulting” “vociferous” (p.2) “screed” (p. 15) that engages in personal attacks (p. 16), would seem rather to be a case of Freudian projection. After reading Father Patapios’ reply, I re-read Father Basil’s essay to see if I had overlooked some ad hominem to which Father Patapios was particularly sensitive. I found nothing. Father Patapios' reply, on the other hand, contained many clear examples of ad hominem. For example, we are told that Father Basil is “naïve”, “self-serving” (p. 2), “amateurish” (p. 8), that he engages in “self-justification” (p. 17), in order to “argue for compromises” due to his "ambition" (p. 3), “weakness for comfort,” and “cowardice” (p. 40). Father Patapios is unwilling to concede that Father Basil might be sincerely motivated, and that he may have actually reached his conclusions out of personal struggle with and study of these issues, and thus out of a desire to follow the path that he concluded was most God-pleasing. Our Lord commands us not to judge unrighteously—that is, what we cannot see. Because we cannot look into the souls of other men is it not best charitably to assume a certain amount of sincerity in others, barring some compelling evidence of deliberate dishonesty? Moreover, despite Father Basil’s true motivations, he has presented a reasoned case with supporting Patristic evidence. It is far more productive to focus on the issues, arguments and evidence than to question the motives of those with whom we disagree. Not only does Father Basil not question the sincerity of the Old Calendarists, he begins his essay with admiration “for their piety, their love of monasticism, and their struggling spirit.” He does not question their sincerity, but rather their arguments and conclusions.

The claim that Father Basil’s essay is hardly worthy of a response rings rather hollow, given that Father Patapios has written a forty-one page essay that focuses almost entirely on Patrick Barnes’ two-and-one-half page introduction—not on Father Basil's eighteen page essay. The CTOS response was rushed to press in less than two months of posting Father Basil's essay, and is now available in an illustrated, full-color monograph! It is obvious that the CTOS felt a great sense of urgency to respond. If Father Basil’s essay was as flawed as Father Patapios repeatedly asserts, it could be dismissed with little effort.

Ad Hominem Arguments Directed at Patrick Barnes

Father Patapios also repeatedly quotes from Patrick Barnes’ past writings to give the impression that he has changed his mind, thus calling into question his sincerity and honesty. Consistency in one's views is only good when such views are correct—that is, consistent with the mind of the Church. Patrick Barnes received his Licentiate in Orthodox Theological Studies from the CTOS in 1998. That some of his past views reflect those of the CTOS is not surprising. That he changed his mind on some aspects of the Old Calendarist movement only proves that he has not stopped thinking and struggling with these very important issues. The unnecessary barbs directed at Mr. Barnes that litter Father Patapios' reply not only detract from its credibility but also come across as extremely uncharitable.

Ad Hominem Arguments Directed at ROCOR

Ad hominem is also used more broadly against those of us in the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR) who have remained loyal to our Bishops, and who have welcomed the historic reconciliation that took place in 2007. We are accused of attempting to justify our “weakness in abandoning the difficulties, rigors, and divisions of the resistance…”. Those who have gone into schism with ROCOR are praised for their courage and self sacrifice, ostensibly having remained faithful to the authentic legacy of the ROCOR, which has “charted a new course” (p. 5). Parenthetically, Father Patapios' use of nautical language here is ironic, for earlier he chides Mr. Barnes for using the phrase "jump ship" when referring to those who left the ROCOR. Had we the same nitpicky attitude towards our interlocutors we might easily label as "tendentious and rather ungentlemanly" Father Patapios' metaphor, which clearly—if read in an uncharitable way—implies that the ROCOR is a separate church (dinghy?) which departed the Ark of Salvation.

First, the claim that ROCOR has "charted a new course" that is contrary to its founders and founding principles has been dealt with extensively, as you can see on the Voices of Reasons page. In brief, as the CTOS has long known and acknowledged in their publications, the ROCOR never ceased to be in communion with the Serbian Patriarchate. Thus, their claim is utterly fallacious.

It's important to remember that the ROCOR was never an Old Calendarist Synod. At one point there were four New Calendar dioceses, all before the Orthodox Church in America (OCA) had even a single New Calendar parish. Today the ROCOR is far less "ecumenically inclined" than in the past. She had observers both at the World Council of Churches (WCC) and Vatican II.

The Moscow Patriarchate clearly condemned Ecumenism and Sergianism in their 2000 Sobor. With these two obstacles removed the ROCOR prayerfully and cautiously underwent a seven year process that led to full reconciliation. The Moscow Patriarchate’s position on these issues is at least as clear as that of the Serbian Church with which we have never ceased to be in communion. How can the CTOS reasonably object to our communion with the Moscow Patriarchate and not with the Serbian Church?

As for the claim that "[t]hose who have left the ROCOR... are now threatened with suits and the loss of their properties and, in the case of clergy... their livelihoods and salaries," who exactly is he talking about?  Most ROCOR clergymen draw no salary from their church. Anyone who becomes a clergyman of the ROCOR for the money is a fool who will soon be disappointed. Again, Father Patapios is completely unwilling to concede that those in the ROCOR with whom he disagrees may be acting in complete accordance with their conscience and out of a sincere desire to please God. It is also impossible to deny that the Orthodox Church has always considered Church property to be under the authority of the Diocesan Bishop, and so if a local group decides to leave with parish property, the bishop obviously has the right to resist that.

The Moechian Controversy and Canon 15 of the First and Second Council

Despite Father Patapios' claim that their “ecclesiology of resistance” is based on the broad consensus of the Holy Fathers, their position appears to rest very heavily upon the Moechian Controversy and Canon 15 of the First-Second Council. A careful examination of these two pillars is thus critical.

As Patrick Barnes noted, during the Moechian Controversy St. Theodore the Studite briefly separated himself from two Patriarchs who are also Saints of the Church. Father Patapios takes exception to his argument that in reading the Lives of these Saints, no definite conclusions about the rightness or wrongness of their actions can be determined. Father Patapios writes:

"Every instance in Church history where "there were Saints on both sides of...[a] controversy" must ultimately be evaluated in accordance with the yardstick of the consensus (or consensio) Patrum. Because the Holy Spirit is made manifest through the Church, there is no event in Her history that is without import and from which "no conclusions can be drawn"" (p. 9f).

Mr. Barnes was not arguing that no conclusions could be reached about this event in Church history, but only that the Lives of these Saints do not provide us with a definitive judgment in this case. Father Patapios writes as if we do not agree that conclusions can be drawn about any controversial event in Church history. This is nonsense. The question is whether or not the conclusion is correct, i.e., one that is amply supported by relevant examples from Church history and the writings of the Holy Fathers. For example, one might reach the conclusion that because the Greek Old Calendarists lost their episcopacy in 1955, God was showing his displeasure with their stance. This would, however, be an entirely subjective conclusion, based on this fact alone. Mr. Barnes was merely pointing out that the Lives of Saints involved on both sides of this oft-cited Church controversy do not provide conclusive evidence about who was right or wrong in this instance. He is questioning the heavy reliance upon St. Theodore's example when his Life and those of other Saints involved give no evidence that the Church holds him as a model of resistance. As Father Basil argues, "Saint Theodore is a great confessor; and he is a model on account of his heroic struggles against the iconoclastic heresy. Only his short-lived schisms for the above acts of oikonomia cannot comprise a rule for the Church."

Mr. Barnes did not even mention yet another Patriarch of Constantinople during this same period, Saint Methodius the Confessor (June 14/27), whose Life casts even greater doubt upon the use of St. Theodore's actions as a model for the Church.

"In conformity with the decisions of the Synod [of 843, which confirmed the decisions of the Seventh Oecumenical Synod and instituted the Sunday of Orthodoxy], the holy Patriarch deposed the bishops and abbots who had compromised with the Iconoclasts, but he showed an indulgent attitude towards the lesser clergy, forbidding that any cleric should be submitted to corporal punishment. He had to fill the vacant sees quickly, and the ordination of some of the clerics he chose provoked opposition among the Orthodox clergy. In particular, the monks of the Stoudion rose up violently against the prelate, opposed as they were to his clement measures and also because he had not accorded them the place they reckoned was theirs by reason of their battles for the defence of Orthodoxy. In spite of the triumphal translation of the relics of Saint Theodore the Stoudite, on 26 January 844, at which the Patriarch presided, this opposition was transformed into open revolt when Methodius asked them to destroy the writings of Saint Theodore the Stoudite directed against his predecessors Tarasius and Nicephorus, so that he finally ended by declaring an anathema on all the monks of the Stoudion.

A short time later, when the Church was in the grip of this new schism, he went to see Saint Joannicius, whose approaching death had been revealed to him. This great ascetic exhorted all those who were present to peace and unity around their Patriarch and then fell asleep, saying that Methodius would join him eight months later. In fact, the holy prelate did indeed become ill with a painful dropsy. He attributed this illness to the excessive severity of his condemnation of the Stoudites and revoked his sentence, imposing penances on only the most recalcitrant among them. He then fell asleep in peace, on 14 June 847, and was buried with great honour in the Church of the Holy Apostles, in the presence of all the people. (The Synaxarion: Lives of the Saints of the Orthodox Church, Vol. V, pp. 488-489).

Curiously, it is not entirely clear that Father Patapios himself has reached a definitive conclusion about who, if anyone, acted wrongly in the Moechian controversy. He tells us that neither Saint was truly at odds with St. Theodore:

"[I]t should be borne in mind that St. Tarasios was, according to most Orthodox (and many Western) historical sources, acting under duress. His attempts to have the Emperor Constantine's adulterous marriage annulled were thwarted because the Emperor "threatened that unless he [Patriarch Tarasios] bowed to his will, he would restore the heresy of his imperial predecessors and once again destroy the precious and holy Icons"….  In short, St. Tarasios' stand with regard to the Möechian controversy does not place him in opposition to St. Theodore the Studite. Likewise, St. Nikephoros, though by no means a man "weak in character"… was also similarly forced by imperial authority to reinstate the Priest who performed the illicit nuptials. This did not set him at odds with St. Theodore, either." (p. 9).

Father Patapios also favorably cites Father John Travis’ opinion that "Unlike Theodore Studites, Nikephoros [and Tarasios, we might argue—F.P.] could not afford to act with complete disregard of these factors" (P. 9, fn 10). Can we not reasonably ask, If they could not have acted in a way other than they did, how could breaking communion with them have been justified?

Father Patapios also seems to be unclear as to whether violations of the Sacred Canons are distinct from preaching heresy. On the one hand, he distinguishes between the two:

"Since our resistance stems from a dogmatic controversy—namely, our opposition to ecumenism as "an ecclesiological heresy," as you yourself have characterized it (The Non-Orthodox,  op. cit., pp. 4-5, 121) —rather than infractions of the Canons (which motivated the Studite resistance in the case of the Möechian controversy), it is clear that, in perfect accord with Canon XV, we have wholly valid and "appropriate grounds for rupturing communion" with ecumenist Hierarchs. As you stated earlier, correctly articulating our view as resisters, "our struggle is against Ecumenism, which is an ecclesiological heresy, and thus a dogmatic issue" (p. 13).

On the other hand he suggests that this distinction is invalid:

"Having established that our resistance unquestionably involves issues of dogmatic significance, we nonetheless would not discount the canonical violations perpetrated by ecumenist Hierarchs as being valid grounds for breaking communion with them. In fact, as we will note shortly, your distinction, here, between matters doctrinal and matters canonical is, at best, tenuous and arbitrary. As I have observed, many Canons, even if they address certain administrative issues, are dogmatic rather than administrative in essence" (p. 14).

So in the case of the Moechian controversy, which is it?  Were there or were there not sufficient dogmatic grounds that justified St. Theodore breaking communion with Ss. Nikephoros and Tarasios?  If there were, is Father Patapios suggesting that Saints Nikephoros and Tarasios were preaching heresy bareheaded in the Church?  If so, why was there never a conciliar verdict rendered against them? If not, then we must conclude that the canons of the First and Second Council do forbid one from breaking communion with their bishops in instances such as the Möechian controversy.

Father Patapios argues that it is only “personal sins” rather than serious canonical violations that “the Canons of the First-Second Synod would have us turn a blind eye” to (p. 14).  However, when we actually read the canons in question, this seems a rather unlikely interpretation.  In Canon 13, find the following:

"The All-evil One having planted the seed of heretical tares in the Church of Christ, and seeing these being cut down to the roots with the sword of the Spirit, took a different course of trickery by attempting to divide the body of Christ by means of the madness of the schismatics. But, checking even this plot of his, the holy Council has decreed that henceforth if any Presbyter or Deacon, on the alleged ground that his own bishop has been condemned for certain crimes, before a conciliar or synodal hearing and investigation has been made, should dare to secede from his communion, and fail to mention his name in the sacred prayers of the liturgical services in accordance with the custom handed down in the Church, he shall be subject to prompt deposition from office and shall be stripped of every prelatic honor. For anyone who has been established in the rank of Presbyter and forestalls the Metropolitan’s judgment, and, judging matters before a trial has been held, insofar as lies in his power, condemns his own father and Bishop, he is not even worthy of the honor or name of Presbyter. Those, on the other hand, who go along with him, in case any of them should be among those in holy orders, they too shall forfeit their own rights to honor, or, in case they should be monks or laymen, let them be utterly excommunicated from the Church until such time as they spew upon and openly renounce all connection with the schismatics and decide to return to their own Bishop" (D. Cummings, trans., The Rudder of the Orthodox Catholic Church: The Compilation of the Holy Canons Saints Nicodemus and Agapius (West Brookfield, MA: The Orthodox Christian Educational Society, 1983), p. 469).

Is it likely that this canon is referring to the kind of personal sins that are typically dealt with in confession, or are we talking about serious canonical violations that could result in deposition from the ranks of the clergy?  To answer that question, one need only ask what kind of "crimes" on the part of a bishop would warrant an investigation and a conciliar verdict?  Obviously, we are talking about serious canonical violations here. And contrary to Father Patapios's suggestion that we do not take violations of the canons as "a serious matter" (p 16), we do indeed, however, this canon makes the distinction between how we should deal with bishops guilty of canonical violations prior to a conciliar verdict and how we should deal with bishops guilty of preaching heresy, bareheaded in the Church prior to a conciliar verdict -- a distinction that is likewise of the utmost seriousness, if we take these canons seriously.

Now let us move on to Canon 14:

"If any Bishop, on the allegation that charges of crime lie against his own Metropolitan, shall secede or apostatize from him before a conciliar or synodal verdict has been issued against him, and shall abstain from communion with him, and fail to mention his name, in accordance with consuetude, in the course of the divine mystagogy (i.e., liturgical celebration of the Eucharistic mystery), the holy Council has decreed that he shall be deposed from office, if merely by seceding from his own Metropolitan he shall create a schism. For everyone ought to know his own bounds, and neither ought a presbyter treat his own bishop scornfully or contemptuously, nor ought a bishop to treat his own Metropolitan so" (Ibid., p. 470).

Essentially, this says that what goes for Deacons and Priests, goes for a Bishop in his dealings with his Metropolitan too.

And then we have Canon 15:

"The rules laid down with reference to Presbyters and Bishops and Metropolitans are still more applicable to Patriarchs. So that in case any Presbyter or Bishop or Metropolitan dares to secede or apostatize from the communion of his own Patriarch, and fails to mention the latter’s name in accordance with custom duly fixed and ordained, in the divine Mystagogy, but, before a conciliar verdict has been pronounced and has passed judgment against him, creates a schism, the holy Council has decreed that this person shall be held an alien to every priestly function if only he be convicted of having committed this transgression of the law. Accordingly, these rules have been sealed and ordained as respecting those persons who under the pretext of charges against their own presidents stand aloof, and create a schism, and disrupt the union of the Church. But as for those persons, on the other hand, who, on account of some heresy condemned by holy Councils, or Fathers, withdrawing themselves from communion with their president, who, that is to say, is preaching the heresy publicly, and teaching it barehead in church, such persons not only are not subject to any canonical penalty on account of their having walled themselves off from any and all communion with the one called a Bishop before any conciliar or synodal verdict has been rendered, but, on the contrary, they shall be deemed worthy to enjoy the honor which befits them among Orthodox Christians. For they have defied, not Bishops, but pseudobishops and pseudo-teachers; and they have not sundered the union of the Church with any schism, but, on the contrary, have been sedulous to rescue the Church from schisms and divisions" (Ibid., p. 470f).

And what was said in the previous canons about separating from Bishops and Metropolitans is all the more applicable to one’s Patriarch. There is only one exception given here, and that is when one separates from their Bishop, Metropolitan, or Patriarch, on the basis of heresy that is publicly taught “bareheaded” in the Church.  The canon does not say it is justified merely on the grounds that a bishops holds a heretical opinion.  It also does not say it is justified because such an heretical opinion might be inferred from his actions or vaguely worded statements. It is only when it is a heresy that has been condemned by the fathers or councils, and is taught publicly, and “bareheadedly”.

Now if the response to this is that the crimes in question in these canons do not refer to violations of certain canons that have a dogmatic significance,  then one must ask a few questions: Is it being suggested here that the canons against a fourth marriage are of a dogmatic significance?  If so, do the canons against fornication not likewise have a dogmatic significance?  And if they do, which canons that address sin do not?  And again, is Father Patapios arguing that Ss. Nikephoros and Tarasios were preaching heresy, or not?

These canons, coming as they do in the wake of the Moechian controversy, were clearly designed to ensure that another such controversy would not occur. They clearly define the only basis for schism prior to a conciliar verdict, and that is the clear preaching of heresy.

What Constitutes Preaching Heresy Bareheaded in the Church?

Father Patapios cites a number of statements that he suggests are examples of preaching the heresy of Ecumenism bareheaded, and thus constitute grounds for "walling off" that find in Canon 15.  In response to these quotes, I would like cite the words of Archbishop Chrysostomos of Etna, which he wrote to me in 1995 in response to my asking the question of whether a particular ecumenical document had crossed the line so far as to warrant a final judgment condemning that jurisdiction as heretical:

"Only after they have joined with Rome or other heretics openly and officially and without equivocation--and this not according to each person's opinion--can we finally know exactly what to do.... Look, too, at the union documents of the last few decades. All of them equivocate. When they are issued, the heterodox ecumenists receive them as capitulation. When the Orthodox ecumenists, who formed these documents, are asked to address this allegation of betrayal, they tell us that the documents are simply polite words, techniques to promote dialogue, and actual victories for Orthodoxy.... But let God act in such cases. It is He alone Who knows the heart of man. Let us simply pray and exercise patience. The time will come when God will reveal to us the ultimate course that all of us must follow; and then He will give us signs to guide us, that we not fall to the sins of extremism, condemnation, and the glorification of personal opinion in the name of theology."

Of course, Archbishop Chrysostomos was not suggesting in his response that "walling off" was not called for here, but he does argue that something less than bareheaded proclaimation of heresy is involved here... because whatever "preaching heresy publicly... bareheaded in the Church" might imply, it is not the kind of equivocation that Archbishop Chrysostomos describes here.

Is there a precedent for setting up parallel jurisdictions prior to a conciliar verdict?

In response to this question, Father Patapios first attempts to argue, that the fact that Metropolitan Cyprianios does not claim the title "Archbishop of Athens" somehow proves that the existence of his "Synod in Resistance" does not constitute a parallel jurisdiction in Greece. Granted, the fact that other Old Calendarists do claim this title shows that they have a different ecclesiology, but all of them are obviously parallel jurisdictions that operate on the territory of the Church of Greece, and yet do not answer to the Church of Greece headed by Archbishop Christodoulos of Athens, which is recognized by the rest of the autocephalous and autonomous Churches of the Orthodox Christian World.

Father Patapios then attempts to provide proof from Church history that the fathers have acted in a similar manner.  He favorably quotes the following:

"St. Theodore is very clear and instructive in this matter: ‘In times of heresy, owing to pressing needs, things do not always proceed flawlessly, in accordance with what has been prescribed in times of peace; this seems to have been the case with the most blessed Athanasios [of Alexandria] and the most holy Eusebios [of Samosata], who both performed Ordinations outside their respective dioceses;  and now, the same thing is evidently being done while the present heresy persists’" (p. 33f).

Of course, Ss. Athanasius and Eusebius acted in this way in response to the Arian heresy -- not prior to a conciliar verdict, but after a conciliar verdict by an Ecumenical Council.  It is not clear from this quote which heresy St. Theodore is referring to in his own times, but if he is here referring to the Moechian controversy his words are still a bit unclear because he says it is "evidently being done", but not that he was himself directly connected or supportive of those who were doing it.

Father Patapios then goes on to cite more such examples, such as St. Gregory Nazianzus who was operating independently of Arians long after they had been condemned by the First Ecumenical Council (p. 34).

He cites the example of St. Maximus refusing to commune with the Ecumenical Patriarch, but this is a non-sequitur, since he did not establish a parallel jurisdiction. Furthermore, as Father Basil pointed out: "...Monotheletism was first preached in 615, [however] its main opponents, Saints Sophronios and Maximos, do not seem to have interrupted communion with the heretics before the Synods of the West (640-649), which anathematized them" (Anti-Patristic: The Stance of the Zealot Old Calendarists, August 15, 2013 ).

The example of St. Mark of Ephesus is cited, though St. Mark not only did not oppose talking to Rome about Union, but did so himself. He only separated from those who had actually joined themselves to a heretical group "openly and officially and without equivocation" as Archbishop Chrysostomos put it, with the Papists who had been condemned previously by several conciliar verdicts.

So in short, none of these examples establish that it is legitimate to separate from one's lawful ecclesiastical authority and establish a parallel jurisdiction prior to a conciliar verdict.

We are told early on that the "ecclesiology of resistance" is firmly based upon "the consensus of the Fathers" of the Church (p. 4), but in reality it is based upon a thin slice of the Fathers -- and even at that,  upon closer examination, even the scant evidence that is cited fails to support the edifice that "the Synod of Resistance" has built upon it.  Father Patapios makes the assertion that the burden of proof is on those who disagree with their ecclesiology:

"In the end, the onus probandi lies with those who choose the path of compromise, not with those who now must traverse the hard and narrow path of resistance and confession" (p. 5).

But the problem with this assertion is that it is an assertion for which Father Patapios offers absolutely no substantiation.  The Tradition of the Church and the Canons make it very clear that separating from one's bishop is a deadly serious matter.  Schism is in fact such a terrible sin that St. John Chrysotom tells us it is worse than heresy (11th Homily on Ephesians). St. Ignatius of Antioch tells us that "no one who follows another into a schism will inherit the Kingdom of God" (Philadelphians 5:3). Canon 15 of the First and Second Council tells us that the only lawful grounds for separating from one's rightful bishop is when such a bishop preaches heresy publicly, bareheaded in the Church. The burden of proof is clearly on those who wish to justify separating themselves from their lawful ecclesiastical authorities that they have a legitimate basis for doing so. When such people furthermore presume to establish parallel jurisdictions and set up rival altars prior to a conciliar verdict, the burden is on them to show where their actions are justified by the Canons and Fathers of the Church.

Is the New Calendar a  Heresy

Another problem that the Old Calendarists have to address is the question of whether their grounds for their initial schism were justifiable based on the canons.  We would readily agree that the way the New Calendar was introduced was wrong, and as a result, caused an unnecessary controversy which resulted in a serious schism.  It is also true, however, that the way the "New Rite" was introduced into the Russian Church was wrong, and likewise caused a serious and unnecessary schism. But in both cases, the question is were those who separated from the rest of their local Church justified in doing so -- and the answer is "no," in both instances.

The New Calendar is not a heresy. There is nothing inherently heretical about reforming the calendar in such a way as to make the Spring Equinox actually fall on the date that the Council of Nicea said it did.  Of course, astronomical accuracy is not nearly as important as the unity of the Church, and so any such corrections of the Church calendar should have been done cautiously, and only with the consent of the whole Church.  But again, saying it was not done correctly is not the same as saying that it is heretical to have done it at all.

The Russian Orthodox Church Oustide of Russia did not accept the calendar reform as binding, by any stretch. But it also did not consider it to be grounds for breaking communion with those who did embrace it. And again, the fact that ROCOR had four dioceses that used the New Calendar -- some of which were ruled by no less than St. John of Shanghai himself -- proves this point.

It is certainly true that ROCOR became deeply involved in the Old Calendarist movement -- initially through the unilateral actions of two of her bishops, which resulted in their censure by the Synod of Bishops, and later through a number of on and off attempts to forge an alliance with them. This is a topic for a much larger tome, but suffice it to say that dispite Father Patapios' claim ROCOR  has taken a new course, historically speaking, the "new course" of ROCOR was it's getting involved so deeply with the various Old Calendarists groups in the first place, while the course it is on now is much more consistent with the course it was on in the days of Metropolitan Anthony, Metropolitan Anastassy, and St. John of Shanghai.

I do not argue that the New Calendar is not a sufficient basis for breaking communion because I am trying to justify "a priori assumptions" on this issue. I take this position after having previously taken the opposing position, feeling the weakness of the arguments for it, and then having been convinced by better ones which opposed it.

How Serious a Problem is Ecumenism?

Father Patapios jumped on a phrase used by Patrick Barnes in which he spoke of "the admittedly serious problem of Ecumenism in the Church today."  In response we are given a serious of statements which describe the nature of the heresy of Ecumenism, which concludes with the retort: "Your cavalier attitude towards heresy is not supported by the ethos of the Church" (p. 28). First, it should be obvious that there is a difference between speaking of how big a problem something actually is in a given context, and speaking of how bad a problem something is in and of itself. Arianism is a blasphemous heresy. It was a huge problem the Church faced for several centuries. It is not a "serious problem... in the Church today." Ecumenism is undoubtedly the horrible, heretical, sinful, syncretistic betrayal that Father Patapios describes it as. But the disagreement here is how big of a problem this horrible, heretical, sinful, syncretistic betrayal is in the Orthodox Church today?

The fact is that to show evidence of Ecumenism in the Church, Father Patapios has to go back more than 30 years to Archbishop Athenagoras of Thyateira to find a clear example of an affirmation of the branch theory. He has to go back 20 years to find a quote from Patriarch Ignatius IV of Antioch, that is not entirely clear given the fact the context of the statement is not obvious. And he has to go back almost 10 years to find a quote that uses the "two lungs" terminology, but which is vaguely worded enough to be capable of various interpretations.

It should be pointed out however, that -- as was the case with what we saw in the Ecumenism videos that were distributed by the Synod of Metropolitan Cyprianos -- the offenders are not equally distributed throughout the Orthodox Church.  They have tended to be in the Ecumenical Patriarchate, and to a lesser extent in the Alexandrian and Antiochian Patriarchates.  If the Greek Old Calendarists had been under the Ecumenical Patriarchate, and had walled themselves off from their bishops, I think they would have had a much stronger case to make to justify their actions.

It should also be pointed out that kinds of abuses that were more common 30 years ago, 20 years ago, or even 10 years ago, are much less common now.  The light has been shined on these abuses in the past 20 years, and this has had a noticable effect.

We agree that Ecumenism is a heresy. We agree that statements such as  the ones cited by Father Patapios are in error, and at the very least they only serve to confuse the faithful and the heterodox. In some cases they may well be examples of careless and ill-considered attempts at being diplomatic with the heterodox.  In other cases they probably do reflect Ecumenistic convictions.  However, in most cases, as Archbishop Chrysostomos himself has stated, even the worst of these statements equivocate. They are capable of heretical interpretations, but when called on it, those who have made them deny these implications were intended. These are examples of speaking with forked tongue, and being two-faced, rather than preaching heresy bareheaded in the Church. I would agree that these bishops should be criticized,  they should be asked to clarify what they really mean and what they really believe, they should be corrected, and they should be canonically punished if they persist. However, I am not convinced that I should have wall myself off from Metropolitan Laurus, because he entered into communion with The Russian Church, and the Russian Church is in communion with the Ecumenical Patriarchate, and the Ecumenical Patriarchate has bishops who have made such statements.

There is indeed a serious problem that still remains to be dealt with in the Church, but Father Patapios, like most Old Calendarists, chooses to focus only on the abuses that reinforce his view that the whole Church is teetering on the brink of apostasy, and to ignore any positive evidence to the contrary. In the case of the Russian Church, they refuse to recognize any positive trends in the Russian Church since the 1920's. But is it not laudable and noteworthy that, for example, the Russian Church 
held a Council in 2000, and "openly and officially and without equivocation" condemned the branch theory of Ecumenism?

“…The so-called "branch theory", which is connected with the conception referred to above and asserts the normal and even providential nature of Christianity existing in the form of particular "branches", is also totally unacceptable. Orthodoxy cannot accept that Christian divisions are caused by the inevitable imperfections of Christian history and that they exist only on the historical surface and can be healed or overcome by compromises between denominations. The Orthodox Church cannot recognize "the equality of the denominations". Those who have fallen away from the Church cannot re-unite with her in their present state. The existing dogmatic differences should be overcome, not simply bypassed, and this means that the way to unity lies through repentance, conversion and renewal. Also unacceptable is the idea that all the divisions are essentially tragic misunderstandings, that disagreements seem irreconcilable only because of a lack of mutual love and a reluctance to realize that, in spite of all the differences and dissimilarities, there is sufficient unity and harmony in "what is most important". Our divisions cannot be reduced to human passions, to egoism, much less to cultural, social and political circumstances which are secondary from the Church's point of view. Also unacceptable is the argument that the Orthodox Church differs from other Christian communities with which she does not have communion only in secondary matters. The divisions and differences cannot all be reduced to various non-theological factors…. It is inadmissible to introduce relativism into the realm of faith, to limit unity in faith to a narrow set of necessary truths so that beyond them "Freedom in what is doubtful" may be allowed.”  - "Basic Principles of the Attitude of the Russian Orthodox Church Toward the Other Christian Confessions" adopted by the Jubilee Bishops' Council of the Russian Orthodox Church - August 14, 2000


Fr. Patapios may not agree that reconciling with the Moscow Patriarchate was the right decision, but it is disingenuous to suggest that those who disagree with his position simply got tired of fighting the good fight, and raised the white flag of surrender. However, the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad was never an Old Calendarist group, and always saw its autonomy as temporary. We based our separation from the Moscow Patriarchate on Ukaz 362 of St. Tikhon, not on claims of heresy or Canon 15 of the First and Second Council. Our Statutes stated our position clearly:

“The Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia is an indissoluble part of the Russian Orthodox Church, and for the time until the extermination in Russia of the atheist government, is self-governing on conciliar principles in accordance with the resolution of the Patriarch, the Most Holy Synod, and the Highest Church Council [Sobor] of the Russian Church dated 7/20 November, 1920, No. 362.”

The status quo for ROCOR was simply not tenable after the collapse of the Soviet Union, and our bishops made the right decision. After more than six years since we reconciled with the Moscow Patriarchate, I have never had cause to regret it.

The status quo for Old Calendarists is also untenable. There was never a canonical basis for going into schism over the calendar change, as much as we would agree that it was badly done. And unless they are prepared to say that the rest of the Orthodox Church has embraced heresy, there is no basis for schism today either. We do have problems within the Church, as we have always had, but it is time for them to reconcile with the rest of the Church, and help us confront those problems, rather than simply throwing stones from the outside. As members of one of many rival Greek Old Calendar synods, the legitimate criticisms made by people like Fr. Patapios can too easily be ignored or dismissed by those who most need to hear them.