LETTER TO A PAPIST
Written by Vladimir Moss
East House, Beech Hill,
August 3/16, 2005.
St. Anthony the Roman.
Thank you for your letter and your review of my books, The Fall of Orthodox England and The Mystery of Christian Power.
You write: “Please do not take offence at anything I write any more than I would take offence at being called a ‘papist’ and my faith ‘popery’”. No, I don’t take personal offence, although as an Orthodox Christian I cannot rejoice in your attack on the Orthodox Church and defence of heresy. But I believe that you write out of ignorance, and not with malicious intent. And I actually rather like the zeal with which you write, mistaken though it certainly is. You evidently care about dogmatic questions, which is a rarity nowadays, when ecumenism has destroyed the love of truth in so many hearts. With God’s help, therefore, I think our continued dialogue may be worthwhile.
However, when I called you and your co-religionists “papists”, I was actually employing the most accurate description of your faith that I know, and was by no means intending to insult anyone (in any case, my books were written primarily for an Orthodox readership). My mother-in-law, a Russian aristocrat, was once asked by a Jesuit: “Are we not both Christians?” She replied: “No. I am a Christian. You are a papist.” This may sound harsh, but it was the truth. The Orthodox follow Christ – imperfectly, no doubt, and with many sins and lapses, but they at any rate follow no other, put no other teacher or guide in His place. The papists, on the other hand, while pretending to follow Christ, and having warm feelings for Him and His Mother, in actual fact follow the Pope. This is proved by the fact that where the teachings of Christ and the Pope diverge, - and they diverge in many places, - they follow the Pope.
You contrast my blunt approach unfavourably with the approach of Clark Carlton’s proselytizing book, The Truth: What Every Roman Catholic Should Know About the Orthodox Church. I haven’t read
In any case, since
You criticize me for relying on Peter de Rose, a liberal, as a source for my history. I think you would have a strong point if you could prove that what he writes about the history of papism is false. But you haven’t done that. And his views on abortion are strictly irrelevant to his historical writing.
You also criticize me for quoting Lives of the Pillars of Orthodoxy, since the latter is “not exactly a ‘pillar’ of historical truth”. Why not? Where has the author – who, by the way, is an Orthodox Christian with very rigorist views – gone wrong in his historical description?
“Nor do I trust any of the libels against the Catholic Church written by the English in the centuries after the Reformation”. What libels? Please be more specific.
Forgive me, but it seems to me that you would not trust any source I use, whether Catholic, Orthodox or Protestant, whether liberal or rigorist, which did not conform with your own views. Perhaps I am wrong about that. But in any case, if you dispute a source, you have to show precisely where and how he is wrong.
So I think you have “an axe to grind” no less than myself. In any case, what’s wrong with axes? I write my books in order to cut down false teachings that seek to undermine the Orthodox Faith. Would my books be any better if I set out to write them from no fixed viewpoint, with no previous knowledge or convictions? You write on the basis of a set of pre-formed convictions. So do I. I don’t criticize you for that – although I don’t agree with your convictions. So please let me keep my axe until you have truly blunted its sharpness…
You quote F.H. Dudden, to the effect that “almost all the leading principles of the later Catholicism are found, at any rate in germ, in Gregory the Great”. Why, then, do the Orthodox recognize Gregory but not Aquinas and the later papist theologians? The reason is clear: because Gregory did not teach any of the later papist heresies, not even the infallibility of the papacy, though he was a Pope. In fact, he was the fiercest opponent of the doctrine of the supremacy and infallibility of the papacy, threatening to break communion with Patriarch Eulogius of Alexandria for offering him the title “ecumenical bishop”, and specifically admitting the possibility that the bishop of
“Thus the doctrine of Gregory the Great upon the Church,” writes Abbé Guettée, a French convert from papism to Orthodoxy in the nineteenth century, “destroys, piece by piece, the whole Papal system. We defy the Romanists to find in the writings of this great Pope a single word which gives any idea of that universal monarchy whose center is in the Church of Rome, and whose sovereign is the bishop of that city. This doctrine runs utterly counter to that of St. Gregory. According to him, the unity of the Church results from the reciprocal relations of its chiefs. ‘May your piety,’ he wrote to Anastasius, Archbishop of Corinth, ‘reply to our letters in which we have notified him of our ordination, and by replying give us the pleasure of know that the Church is united.’
“He defines the ‘unity of the Catholic Church’ as ‘the totality (compago) of the body of Christ (book II, epistle 47). He does not swerve from this: the individual churches are the members of the church; each church is governed by its pastors; the authority is the same, of divine right, in all the pastors of the Church…” (The Papacy, New York: Minos, 1866, p. 235).
By the way, do the Romanists (I also like Guettée’s term, and will use it from now on as an alternative to “papists”) still use St. Gregory’s Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts during Lent? We do, which witnesses to the fact that there is nothing in it contrary to Orthodox teaching.
“The developments in the Western Patriarchate has given the Catholic Church a marvelous and much needed doctrinal and organic unity; such unity is a miracle in this post-modern rebellious world.” Forgive me, but I think you must know that this is just plain false. Everybody even slightly acquainted with ecclesiastical developments knows that the
You then attack our “English Orthodox Church” as a rigorist sect. Actually, I think you are simply misinformed here. Although our parish is English in its majority, and our services are in English, we actually belong to the Greek (Old Calendar) Orthodox Church, and our bishop is the Metropolitan of Corinth.
“The rigorists decision to denounce the Orthodox Church because of Ecumenism is unwarranted and unscriptural. How else can all baptized Christians resolve their differences other than by coming together to talk doctrine.” Of course, if the World Council of Churches and other ecumenical organizations were merely talking-shops, you would be right. But they are not. They are based on doctrinal presuppositions, and come to doctrinal agreements, that have to be examined and evaluated as such. The WCC, for example, is based on the presupposition, written into its founding statutes, that all the member churches recognize each other as parts of the One Church of Christ. No Orthodox can accept that, and I think no traditional Romanist can either.
And yet the Romanists take part in inter-Christian and inter-faith Ecumenism. In fact, the last Pope was an extreme Ecumenist. At
Allow me to quote some paragraphs from another book of mine: “In 1985 the
“It would indeed, for it would involve Catholics becoming Jews, awaiting the same “Messiah” that the Jews are waiting for – that is, the Antichrist!.. Such was the depth of apostasy to which the Catholics had been led through putting into practice the Second Vatican Council’s decree, Nostra Aetate (Declaration on the Relations of the Church to Non Christian Religions, October 28, 1965): "Even though the Jewish authorities and those who followed their lead pressed for the death of Christ, neither all Jews indiscriminately at that time, nor Jews today, can be charged with the crimes committed during his passion." And yet the Jewish religion to this day justifies the killing of Christ, saying that He was a magician and His Mother a prostitute! Until this hatred of Christ is renounced and repented of, the curse that the Jews invoked upon themselves – “His Blood be upon us and upon our children” Matthew 27.25) – still lies upon them.
“But perhaps the most radical of the Pope’s initiatives was his day of prayer for peace at Assisi in 1986, when he prayed with the leaders of various faiths, including Orthodox Christians (Metropolitans Methodius of Thyateira and Philaret of Kiev), Anglicans, Hindus, Shintos, Buddhists, Sikhs, Muslims, Jews, American Indian snake-worshippers and the Dalai Lama, for “peace in our time”.“On the joint prayers in
“An Italian Catholic newspaper, Si Si No No wrote: “Never has our Lord been so outraged, never have His holy places been so profaned, His Vicar so humiliated, His people so scandalized by His own ministers, as at Assisi. The superstitions of the several false religions practised at
In view of the above (and I have not even mentioned developments in the last 20 years), I think the Orthodox Church is fully justified in calling Ecumenism “the heresy of heresies”, and anathematising it as such.
You go on: “The Orthodox Church makes no claim to INFALLIBILITY; it recognises no living teaching authority competent to decide matters of faith or morals. It has renunciated its teaching authority on any of the issues of modernity such as medical ethics. As Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew stated in TIME,
I’m really astonished by this! The false statement by the Ecumenical Patriarch (now do you see why we have no communion with him?) may have misled you for a while. But you must surely know that the Orthodox Church not only has mechanisms – Councils of Bishops – to decide matters of faith and morals, but has been using them continuously! Of course, the Pope of Rome did not take part in any of them; but so what? Even in the early Church there were many Councils that took place without the Pope or his legates, and which were nevertheless accepted by the whole Church. Some of the early Councils even condemned the Pope, such as those which condemned Pope Zosimas the Pelagian or Pope Honorius the Monothelite…
True, there have been no Ecumenical Councils since 787. But, as St. Maximus the Confessor and others pointed out, the truth and validity of a Council is not determined by its numbers, or by who convened it, but by the conformity of its decisions to the Holy Tradition of the Orthodox Church. And that can be determined only by study and consultation, not by pressing some magic infallibility button, which gives you the correct answer without even having to think about it!
The Orthodox Church does believe in her infallibility, but not in the sense that there is some place or person which, if consulted, will automatically and in all circumstances, give the correct answer. She believes in her infallibility in the sense that, in accordance with the Saviour’s promise that the gates of hell will not prevail against the Church, at all times, and even at the end of the world, there will be people confessing the true faith of the One, Holy, Catholic and
“If Orthodoxy were united with the West then her bishops would once more participate and colloborate in the formation of living doctrine.” Living doctrine is true doctrine. Since the West, since its separation from Orthodoxy, has invented a whole series of false new doctrines, union with her would be her death-knell.
“Instead today’s Orthodoxy looks nostalgically to the past; its theologians are neo-patristic romantics; in many ways Orthodoxy itself is a sepulchre.”
“Neo-patristic romantics”! How can you be at the same time patristic and a romantic?! We read the Fathers – and you, too, claim to read them – for no other reason than they proclaim the truth, a truth that is no less relevant to our times than it was in the past. This is not romanticism: it is spiritual realism.
As for Orthodoxy being a sepulchre, it is a sepulchre of martyrs and great ascetics and wonderworkers. The
“Neither is the Orthodox Church CATHOLIC, it is not racially or numerically so. It is restricted to mainly the Greek and Slavic peoples.” Come to our parish and you will see what Catholicity in the sense of Universality means! We have a Greek bishop, a Singaporean-Chinese priest, a Russian subdeacon, three English readers, and parishioners from
However, from a theological point of view, Catholicity is much more than universality or diversity. It is the quality of being “kath’ olon”, “according to the whole”, in all its parts. That is, in every diocese of the Orthodox you will find the fullness of the Church, all her holiness and apostolicity. The Romanists, on the other hand, have lost Catholicity precisely because they are tied to one place –
“The Orthodox Church obviously claims to be APOSTOLIC but it has left the Barque of Peter; it was to Peter the head of the college of apostles to whom the Lord promised his Church would be indefectible.” He said those words to all the Apostles; and He promised that the Church would be indefectible only if it adhered to the faith which Peter had just professed. I am glad that you do not say that Peter is the rock on which the Church is built – that hoary old chestnut of the Romanists which so clearly contradicts the consensus of the Fathers. The rock (
“I will make no judgement on whether the Orthodox are HOLY; God judges us in this respect.” But if we are outside the Church, as you claim, how can we be holy? Pope Boniface VIII proclaimed “infallibly” that there is no salvation for anyone who is not in communion with the Pope of Rome. So there is no salvation for us, and therefore no holiness, according to your “infallible” judge.
“Because Orthodoxy is stagnant it has clearly not developed any new or beautiful devotions or religious orders since the Great Schism.” Why should we develop new religious orders if our existing one fulfils all the spiritual needs of our monastics? What virtue is there in a multiplicity of orders? As for “beautiful devotions”, you are obviously unacquainted with the liturgical treasures of the Orthodox Church. We are constantly developing new services for newly appeared saints. The last century, with its multitude of new martyrs and confessors, has been particularly fertile. I myself wrote a service to the Saints of the
And yet all that is irrelevant to holiness, which is an inner quality manifested in gifts of the Holy Spirit – gifts by which Orthodox Christians have no ceased to glorify God through the ages – and not least in the ages since the Western Schism.
“Orthodoxy has missed out terribly, and yet Moss slanders St. Francis of
You end: “Mankind’s unity was shattered by Adam at the Fall; only the true Church of Christ is able to pick up the broken splinters and join us all back together in the second Adam: Christ the Perfect Man.” A good ending, and one with which I completely agree. And I invite you to visit a small cell of this true
Bishop Gregory (Grabbe), “Partnership – the Pope and an Atheist”, Orthodox Life, vol. 42, № 3, May-June, 1992, p. 16.
 Obnovlentsy i Moskovskaia Patriarkhia: preemstvo ili evoliutsia?, op. cit., p. 15 ®.
See also Leslie Childe in The Daily Telegraph,