I find it difficult to not be pessimistic looking at the current state of the Church, but I am comforted in knowing that through the entirety of Church history, we have been on the precipice. The Church has suffered persecutions, apostate clerics, and even false unions, all while Christians believed they were living through the End Times. The clearest example of this is the Church union that was achieved under Byzantine Emperor Heraclius, Patriarch Sergius I of Constantinople, and Pope of Rome Honorius I. This union was achieved by having the Oriental and Nestorian patriarchs agree to a union based upon the theology of monoenergism. The Emperor is even said to have communed from the Nestorian patriarch. For this brief time, the entire Christian world was united, technically as a single Church. But monoenergism is a heresy, the Sixth Ecumenical condemned the monoenergists and the union collapsed. Of course, this union was political in nature, but most attempted unions in history have been as well. The theological concerns of the union were less that of monoenergism itself, as monoenergism was just the band-aid solution that was used to dismiss centuries of theological drift. The real theology of the union was a belief that the encroaching armies of Islam represented the forces of Antichrist, and that the final apocalypse was upon them. To hold off this end, the Emperor and his clergy made Christian unity a central policy, so that he could earn God’s favour for the upcoming apocalypse. But God did not favour this false union, and the errors of the heretics could not be mixed with the Truth of Chalcedonian Orthodoxy. Likewise, despite my fears regarding the planned council at Nicaea in 2025, I believe that God can and will use such an event for good even if it appears to be cataclysmic in the short run.
If the council planners achieve what they desire, a significant portion of the Orthodox, as well as other Apostolic communions will enter into formal union with the Roman Catholic Church. Seemingly, this will result in the death, or at least in the subordination, of Orthodox theology (theology which I maintain is of and from God) to that of Rome’s (which I maintain has become a cascade of heresies resultant from Rome severing communion with the infallible Church of Christ). Thus this union, from an Orthodox perspective, is disastrous. However, it is doubtful that every autocephalous Church will join this union, and it is likewise probable that individual bishops or even parish communities would sooner break communion with their particular Church than enter into this union. This could be the opportunity to hold a true Ecumenical Council, one which would reaffirm Orthodoxy’s condemnation of ecumenism as a heresy, and result in the re-establishment of union between the “World Orthodox” and the “True Orthodox” or Old Calendarists. Nothing would personally give me greater joy than seeing this reunion occur, as I have nothing ill to say about the Old Calendarists. Given the time in which they separated, I feel their schism is understandable, even if I am hesitant to say it was justified. If I had lived in Greece or Russia during the 1920’s or 30’s, I most likely would have joined them. However, I think that given the state of the canonical Church today and the path it seems to be going, they were premature. If remnants of World Orthodoxy and True Orthodoxy united in the face of a false Orthodox union with Rome, then such a union of Rome and Orthodoxy could not persist when faced with the Truth of an authentically Orthodox Church would embody. I can foresee the Romish union imploding as all other unions with Rome in the past have, and as a result the penitent former unionists would join and contribute to the creation of a stronger, united, and authentically Orthodox Church which would be in an ideal position to stand against the forces of modernity.
When pondering the possible union of 2025, I am reminded of Acts 2:24 which reads “Whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death: because it was not possible that he should be holden of it.” This passage is saying that although death could take Christ, it could not contain Him, and that in attempting to contain Him it was destroyed. Christ tramples down death by his own death. Rome’s attempts at union with the Orthodox Church have never really been successful. Sure, the Eastern Catholics or Uniates do represent a significant portion of the global Catholic Church, but I have come to see them as somewhat of a fifth-column for Rome. Now, I have very little positive things to say about the Uniates. I see them as weak apostate traitors who cut themselves off from salvation for largely political and economic comfort and advancement. I concur with Joshua Moon, when he states that he feels fondly for Arab Christians who maintained their Christianity in the face of Muslim persecution, whereas he detests European Bosnians who in their weakness abandoned Christianity to gain power under the Ottoman authorities durring their occupation. For me, I will say that regarding the Uniates as traitors to Orthodoxy, I concur with Codreanu’s statement regarding traitors. Yet, as detestable as the Uniates are, they still preserve a greater element of Truth than the Latin wing of the Catholic Church. This puts them at odds with their supposed coreligionists. Catholic traditionalism (which I am sympathetic to, to a degree) is almost exclusively a Latin or Western phenomenon. To me they represent the best of the Catholic tradition, and I can understand why they wish to preserve it in and against opposition to Vatican II and the changes it ushered in. Alas, the greatest proponents of Vatican II seem to be Eastern Catholics, many of whom are Catholic apologists. One such apologists has fashioned for himself a chapel with an iconostasis and he has begun to make videos with himself behind a pulpit at the front of his chapel. This same apologist has made videos where he essentially presents himself as more “Orthodox” than the Orthodox, as he tries to prove that the Filioque and the Vatican I style papacy are completely copacetic with Orthodox theology and tradition. Yet, when this apologist is not attacking Orthodoxy, he is attacking Latin Catholic traditionalists and defending Vatican II, because as an Eastern Catholic, Vatican II was to the benefit of his rite.
I obviously have no love for Rome and believe that the Latinization of the Eastern Catholic Churches was an atrocity. However, from the Latin Catholic perspective it was needful. Many of the justifications Luther had for his revolt are ameliorated by the customs and traditions of the Eastern Church. Of course this is not to say that the Reformation would not have happened if Rome was more eastern in its customs, but Luther would have been given less reason to revolt and the Reformation he would have created may not have seen the same success it had as compared to what actually happened historically. The customs, beliefs, and practices of the Eastern Churches conflict with those of Latin Rome. A particular rite cannot be separated from the theology which creates and sustains it. To one degree or another, Latin theology must come to subsume eastern theologies and customs in oriental rites or else the oriental customs of the eastern rites will result in Eastern Catholics seeking the authentic and uncompromised version of their faith, which is found in the Eastern Churches separated from Rome. One cannot venerate St. Gregory Palamas, St. Photios, and St. Mark of Ephesus sincerely if they remain a part of the communion which those Orthodox saints condemned whilst believing in the things which they had condemned. At some point, the tension between the easterness of the rite (i.e. Orthodoxy) and the desire for unity with Rome must be resolved, and this can only be achieved by either returning to Orthodoxy or through Latinization. For Catholics, the Uniates at best can be fellow Latin Catholics with an eastern veneer, or at worst subversive interlopers like St. Alexis Thoth who was an Eastern Catholic priest until his Western Irish bishop began imposing Western norms upon him and his congregation. Because of the obstinance of his bishop, St. Thoth lead a number of Eastern Catholic Churches in America to enter re-union with Orthodoxy, thus becoming one of North America’s most celebrated saints. But for Eastern Catholics, St. Alexis Thoth represents the threat which Uniates pose in potential to Catholic doctrine and practice so long as they remain in the same communion. Rome’s Synod on Synodality is also evidence of this.
There was a Greek Catholic bishop named Elias Zoghby who sought union between the Orthodox and Roman Catholics. In his book We are all Schismatics, Zoghby placed upon Rome equal blame for the Great Schism, and even in places seemed to imply that it was Rome who was ultimately responsible for the severance of communion between east and west. Zoghby proposed that for union, all the Orthodox need to declare was that they accepted the Pope of Rome as first amongst the bishops in accordance with the limits recognized by the Holy Fathers of the East during the first millennium of the Church. Of course, a confession such as this is meaningless. There are Catholic apologists who will claim that Vatican I style papal prerogatives existed during the time of the first millennium, so in theory this formula works but practically the Orthodox and Catholic understanding of the first millennium of the Church significantly differ. Zoghby also sought to have the latter Catholic ecumenical councils including Vatican I be relegated to the status of local western councils, resulting in them not being authoritative or enforceable upon the Orthodox who would enter into union with Rome. This completely undermines the last thousand years of Catholic theology and thought, and poses very difficult questions for the eastern churches which have already entered into union with Rome. However, I bring up Zoghby not to discuss his particular views on ecclesiology and theology, but rather to show how Zoghby, a bishop of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church, was either by accident or by intent undermining the very presuppositions of the Catholic Church. After Vatican II, the time of Latinization was over and the Eastern Catholics were encouraged to live and worship in accordance to their authentic Apostolic traditions. Alas in doing this, Eastern Catholics have been emboldened to espouse their distinct theology and ecclesiology at the expense of Latin segment of the Church which has been forced to modernize. An emboldened Eastern Church united to Rome has what I think in part lead to Pope Francis’ Synod on Synodality which is slated to begin in October of this year.
The Synod on Synodality has been flatly denounced by Catholic traditionalists, even by some clerics of the Catholic Church. From what I understand, what this synod essentially seeks to achieve is a return in the Catholic Church to the ecclesiology of the Early Church, which Rome has admitted to not keeping, in its documents from the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue Between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church, particularly those of Chieti and Alexandrian. Alas, even if the Synod on Synodality comes to espouse a pseudo-Orthodox ecclesiology, it will do so under the reign of a Vatican I style papacy which I cannot see the synod abolishing, even if it had the power to do so. The modernist Pope Francis is more than willing to undermine traditional (i.e. medieval) Catholicism to appeal to the Orthodox, but ultimately I believe he will retain the rights to the powers which he may publicly ignore exist. Yet, we see one particular group that celebrates the Synod on Synodality, that being the Eastern Catholics who see it as a return to that which was normative when they were members of the True Church.
I am of two minds regarding the Synod on Synodality. On one hand I see it as a positive development, representing Rome taking the first steps to accepting Orthodoxy. On the other, I, like the traditionalist Catholics, would like to see Rome return to its medieval orthodoxy, so that the best of the Catholic tradition could face off against the best of the Orthodox tradition. I do not see a strong emboldened Rome as a threat, but rather a weak modernist Rome justifies Catholics remaining Catholic as they have within their tradition and history something grander which they can strive to revive. Traditional Catholics are able to “fight from within”, and only when they have gained victory will the deficiencies of their Church become apparent to them and they will be incentivized to look outwards Orthodoxy. Decimating an enemy at their weakest point means nothing, but beating them at their best, that is what I believe Orthodoxy is capable of and is what I would like to see.
The Synod on Synodality is something which Rome evidently needs to transpire for there to be a possible reunion in 2025. Rome must first reform its ecclesiology if it is to be able to court the Orthodox in a manner which the plurality of Orthodox Christians will be able to accept. I of course will not accept a union in 2025, regardless of how many concessions Rome makes. Until Rome becomes genuinely Orthodox, I will not see them as sharing the faith which I hold. However, God can use even a false union, as God has used Eastern Catholic priests such as St. Alexis Thoth to bring His people back to Him. Rome may be able to take unto itself the Orthodox Church, but she cannot contain it, as is evident by the persistence of both Orthodox theology and ecclesiology existent within the Uniate Churches. A theology and ecclesiology which contradicts and challenges Rome’s predominant rite, and which has led to Eastern Catholics returning to Orthodoxy or subverting the norms of the Western Church. If Rome were to become united to the Orthodox Church, Roman Catholicism would be destroyed, either because such a union would force Rome to make so many concessions to the East that it would essentially become Orthodox, or because the inevitable dissolution of such a union would force the Catholic Church to face an Orthodox Church not crippled by Islamic or Bolshevik rule, but one at its best. So regardless of what happens in 2025, I look forward to seeing the results.
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