A Real look at Canonicity Yesterday and Today
AUTHOR: BISHOP BRIAN KENNEDY, O.S.B.
"Canonical" is the See at Constantinople today whose Bishop must be
approved, sanctioned and titled by the Turkish Government? The present Bishop
of Constantinople sits secure only because the first choice of the Bishops was
denied the office by the State. The State "promoted and encouraged"
the election of the present Patriarch at Constantinople and the Bishops fell
into line and voted the expressed choice of the State. Is his authority from
the Holy Spirit who led the Bishops to vote for another? Or is his authority
from the State who declared his "worthiness" and
Is his power from God or from the State that has determined only a Turkish Citizen may be Patriarch and that only a man who has been "approved" by the State may serve? Is he "Canonical" because the leaders of Turkey approve him? Is the "Patriarch" of Athens any better?
Is the one sitting in the Chair of the Apostle Peter at Antioch any less political?
Is a Patriarch (a supposed spiritual father) who sits as Vice President of a Commission of the World Council of Churches a true reflection of the Spiritual heritage from the Apostles?
Is the Patriarchate at Moscow now Divinely anointed because Constantinople was forced by political realities to recognize them after denying them recognition for 145 years? When Moscow broke from Constantinople, they did so without the blessing of Constantinople and against the orders of Constantinople. Moscow was an "Independent" Jurisdiction. Moscow was said to be "Non Canonical" by all of the Ethnic, Old World Patriarchs. Having achieved a broad political base of their own and the wealth and power of this world, Moscow suddenly became "Canonical" because they were recognized by the government appointee who sits on the Throne of Constantinople.
St. Paulinus never recognized the election of St. Meletius as Patriarch of Antioch. St. Paulinus preferred to be in communion with another group in Antioch under their own Antiochian Patriarch. St. Paulinus was not in communion with St. Basil either. While St. Paulinus was in communion with St. Meletius, the rest of "Official" Orthodoxy did not recognize either St. Basil or St. Meletius.
The followers of St. John Chrysostom were labeled "Joannite" and many, including St. Epiphanius and St. Philo did not recognize the Joannite. Both were part of the One Church established by Christ upon the Apostles, but were not in communion with each other.
Every Jurisdiction is man made. Christ and the Apostles did not establish any Jurisdiction. The office of Patriarch was created not by Angels or by Divine Mandate but by men, and sanctioned, titled and empowered by the Secular State. While the Office of Patriarch has the potential for being a great witness to the Confessional Unity of the Church Catholic, those who occupy these ancients Apostolic Sees have redefined the Church in Political terms. They seek not to establish, preserve and defend the truths of Holy Orthodoxy but rather to establish, preserve and defend their political power.
Quote below from "Problems of Orthodoxy in America" Implied here is the idea that a "high ecclesiastical power" Patriarch, Synod, etc.) is in itself and by itself the source of canonicity: whatever it decides is ipso facto canonical and the criterion of canonicity. But in the genuine Orthodox tradition the ecclesiastical power is itself under the canons.
When told that all Patriarchs have agreed with the Patriarch of Constantinople that Monotheletism is an Orthodox doctrine, St. Maximus the Confessor refused to accept this argument as a decisive criterion of truth. The Church ultimately canonized St. Maximus and condemned the Patriarchs.
In the original tradition, a Bishop through his consecration by other bishops, becomes the "successor" not to his consecrators but, first of all, to the unbroken continuity of the Church. In the system of canonical subordination, however, the Bishop becomes a simple representative of a higher jurisdiction, important not in himself, not as the charismatic bearer and guardian of his Church's continuity and catholicity, but as means of this Church's subordination to a "jurisdiction." It is difficult to imagine a more serious distortion and, indeed, destruction of the Orthodox conception of continuity and apostolic succession. For the Church cannot be reduced to "jurisdiction" (End of Quote)
Both East and West are rushing to redefine and revise history in order to perpetuate their own inflated self image and exaggerated sense of self importance.
Canonicity is the challenge of a return to the fullness of faith and order in
obedience to the will of God. Canonicity requires a submission in faith
to the fullness of truth found in the message of Scripture and Sacred
Tradition. We believe the unity of the Church has never been lost because
all faithful and committed Orthodox and Catholic believers form the Body of
Christ and as such is indivisible.
It is the headship of Christ and the continuous indwelling of the Holy Spirit that guarantees the unity of the Church unto ages and ages. The sins, errors and inflated egos of papist and neo-papist churchmen cannot obliterate the unity of the Church Catholic, which Church has the divine guarantee of indefectibility, No power can defeat the divine plan of Christ who established ONE Church commissioned to bring mankind into unity with God. Oneness is an essential mark of the Church. Unity is not a promise, a potentiality or a goal to be sought.
Unity belongs to the very nature of the Church Catholic. It is not something that has been lost, rather it is an essential, intrinsic and permanent mark of the Church. Orthodoxy rest on the identity of faith, order and worship. All three aspects are assured and safeguarded by the reality of our unbroken succession of Bishops from the Apostles and our succession of Apostolic truth. This guarantees our Episcopal structure and Sacramental life.
No unity is possible where the Episcopacy and Sacraments are absent. For this reason, the horde of Protestant Sects and their continuously mutating heresies are excluded from any hope of unity. We must pray for those unscrupulous churchmen who view canonicity as a matter of law to be used to expand their power base in the name of officialdom. We pray, Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.
How does the Church participate in God’s mystery and grace? How is metousia Theou ("participation in the essence of God") achieved? How does the Church become an eikon of the Holy Trinity? The answer, in its simplest form, is contained in the phrase "in and through Christ." Christ has established the bond between the image of the Triune God, and that which is made after the image, namely, the Church, which has always been a confederation of autonomous and autocephalous jurisdictions under a local Bishop. The fullness of the Church resides within each Bishop individually and all Bishops collectively. In Christ we have both the eikon and the at ion ("that which is according to the image"). Hence, we must say that the Church is the Mystical Body of Christ and is defined by faith and praxis, not subordination to a given Bishop or Patriarch.
Ingenious was canonized by the Church not withstanding the fact he did not want
communion with the Latinizing Patriarch of Constantinople even at his funeral,
"either during (his) lifetime or after his death." St.
Gregory Palamas, also Canonized by the Church not withstanding the fact he
broke communion with the similarly Latinizing Patriarch of Constantinople,
John Calecas (1334-1347), and who, because of this, was imprisoned, insulted,
Subordination to a Bishop or Patriarch is NOT the criteria of Orthodoxy.
The Patriarchs and Bishops of the Eastern Church fell into great heresy on at least six occasions before 1054:
The Arian schisms (343-98);
The controversy over St. John Chrysostom (404-415);
The Acacian schism (484-519);
Concerning Monothelitism (640-681);
Concerning Iconoclasm (726-87 and 815-43).
This adds up to 231 out of 500 years in schism. (46% of the time) In a Council at Antioch in 341, the majority of 97 Eastern bishops subscribed to a form of semi-Arianism. The western-dominated Council of Sardica (Sofia) in 343 again upheld Athanasius' orthodoxy, whereas the eastern Council of Sirmium in 351 espoused Arianism, which in turn was rejected by the western Councils of Arles (353) and Milan (355).
The Patriarchs often fell into heresy, taught heresy and punished those who did not accept their doctrine of subordinationism. A short Litany of Patriarchal errors and heresies are as follows: ( LIST FROM INTERNET SOURCES)
Antioch, Paul of Samosata 260-269
These historical facts may be briefly summarized as follows: All three of the great Eastern sees were under the jurisdiction of heretical patriarchs simultaneously during five different periods: 357-60 (Arian), 475-77, 482-96, and 512-17 (all Monophysite), and 640-42 (Monothelite): a total of 26 years, or 9% of the time from 357 to 642. At least two out of three of the sees suffered under a heterodox "shepherd" simultaneously for 112 years, or 33% of the period from 341 to 681 (or, two-thirds heretical for one-third of the time), Thus the East, as represented by its three greatest bishops, was at least one-third heretical for nearly three-quarters of the time over a 340-year span. If we examine each city separately, we find, for example, that between 475 and 675, the patriarchs of Constantinople, Alexandria, and Antioch were outside the Catholic orthodox faith for 41%, 55%, and 58% of the time respectively.
Furthermore, these deplorable conditions often manifested themselves for long, unbroken terms: Antioch and Alexandria were Monophysite for 49 and 63 straight years (542-91 and 475-538 respectively), while Constantinople, the seat of the Byzantine Empire and the "New Rome," was embroiled in the Monothelite heresy for 54 consecutive years (610-64). There were at least (the list is not exhaustive) 41 heretical Patriarchs of these sees between 260 and 711.
Furthermore, essentially the entire Eastern Church seriously missed the mark doctrinally on at least two occasions: the "Robber Synod" at Ephesus in 449, and in the signing of the Monophysite Henoticon of the Emperor in 482. The record of heresy in the East, then, could scarcely be more sobering for those Orthodox who define the Church in terms of subordination or Communion with a Patriarch.
Eutyches [a Monophysite] was supported by the Imperial Court, and by Dioscorus the Patriarch of Alexandria . . . A general Council was summoned for the ensuing summer at Ephesus [in 449] . . . It was attended by sixty metropolitans, ten from each of the great divisions of the East; the whole number of bishops assembled amounted to one hundred and thirty-five.
The proceedings that followed were of so violent a character, that the Council has gone down in history under the name of the Latrocinium or "Gang of Robbers." Eutyches was honorably acquitted, and his doctrine received . . . which seems to have been the spontaneous act of the assembled Fathers. The proceedings ended by Dioscorus excommunicating the Pope, and the Emperor issuing an edict in approval of the decision of the Council . . . The Council seems to have been unanimous, in the restoration of Eutyches; a more complete decision can hardly be imagined. It is true the whole number of signatures now extant, one hundred and eight, may seem small out of a thousand, the number of Sees in the East; but the attendance of Councils always bore a representative character.
The whole number of East and West was about eighteen hundred, yet the second Ecumenical Council was attended by only one hundred and fifty, which is but a twelfth part of the whole number; the Third Council by about two hundred, or a ninth; the Council of Nicaea itself numbered only three hundred and eighteen Bishops.
Moreover, when we look through the names subscribed to the Synodal
decision, we find that the misbelief, or misapprehension, or weakness, to
which this great offence must be attributed, was no local phenomenon, but
the unanimous sin of Bishops in every Patriarchate and of every school of the
Three out of the four patriarchs were in favor of the heresiarch, the fourth being on his trial. Of these Domnus of Antioch and Juvenal of Jerusalem acquitted him, on the grounds of his confessing the faith of Nicaea and Ephesus . . . Dioscorus . . . was on this occasion supported by those Churches which had so nobly stood by their patriarch Athanasius in the great Arian conflict. These three Patriarchs were supported by the Exarchs of Ephesus and Caesarea in Cappadocia; and both of these as well as Domnus and Juvenal, were supported in turn by their subordinate Metropolitans. Even the Sees under the influence of Constantinople, which was the remaining sixth division of the East, took part with Eutyches . . . Such was the state of Eastern Christendom in the year 449; a heresy, appealing to the Fathers, to the Creed, and, above all, to Scripture, was by a general Council, professing to be Ecumenical, received as true in the person of its promulgator. Certainly the Monophysite heresy was presented as Apostolic truth in all its provinces from Macedonia to Egypt . . . If we seem separated from the Patriarchs it is because we did not accept the heresy of Phyletism, Jurisdictionalism and Subordinationism. If we seem to be apart, it is because we continue to define the Church in terms of faith and praxis and define Canonical as being faithful to the Canons and not to given political Patriarchate.
THE RUSSIAN ORTHODOX PATRIARCHATE
IN REVIEW - QUOTE FROM INTERNET SOURCES
Clergymen who leave their "canonical" jurisdiction for reasons of conscience resulting from their jurisdiction's unrepentant violation of Holy Tradition, or because of heretical views held, and publicly espoused, by their hierarchs "have abandoned their bishop in rebellion and disobedience." The response of these conscientious clergymen—men who often pay a very high price for their move—is entirely justifiable from Holy Tradition (See, for example, some Canons Related to Ecumenism)
The use of the term "canonical" to describe various Orthodox jurisdictions.
Archbishop Chrysostomos has noted:
"There is no such thing, of course, as a 'canonical' Orthodox
jurisdiction, despite the fact that this kind of terminology has crept into our
ecclesiological vocabulary from the West.
Nor are there 'official' Orthodox Churches, a category produced by the contemporary ecumenical movement. Were this so, and were such terms amenable to the nuanced ecclesiological notions of the Greek Fathers, we would have to concede that the Cappadocian Fathers, the Studite monks, and the Palamite Hesychasts were, in some way, 'quasi-canonical' and 'unofficial' This, if nothing else, warns us against apologetic presentations which unwisely pass over the intricacies of Church history." (Archbishop Chrysostomos, in a review of Fr. Alexander Webster's "The Price of Prophecy" (Orthodox Tradition, Vol. XIV, No. 2&3, p. 71.
That "canonicity" is defined as
"being in communion with the Ecumenical Patriarch, or other
Patriarchates." As Father Alexander Schmemann once wrote in an excellent
article on this subject: (ii) False ideas of Canonicity: We must begin
with a clarification of the seemingly simple notion of canonicity. I say
'seemingly simple' because it is indeed simple enough to give a formal
definition: 'canonical is that which complies with the canons of the
Church.' There are those, for example, who solve the complex and tragical
canonical problem of Orthodoxy in America by one simple rule, which to
them seems a self-evident one: to be 'canonical' one has to be under some
Patriarch, or, in general, under some established autocephalous church in
the old world. Canonicity is thus reduced to subordination which is declared to
constitute the fundamental principle of church organization. Implied here is
the idea that a 'high ecclesiastical power' (Patriarch, Synod, etc.) is in
itself and by itself the source of canonicity: whatever it decides is ipso
facto canonical and the criterion of canonicity. And just as no power, no
authority can transform heresy into orthodoxy and to make white what is black,
no power can make canonical a situation which is not canonical. When told
that all Patriarchs have agreed with the Patriarch of Constantinople that
Monotheletism is an Orthodox doctrine, St. Maximus the Confessor refused to
accept this argument as a decisive criterion of truth. The Church ultimately
canonized St. Maximus and condemned the Patriarchs."
(The Problems of Orthodoxy in America, The Canonical Problem) The issue of canonicity, is essentially a Latin idea imported into Orthodoxy and incompatible with its ecclesiological principles, We read more lies, and un-Orthodox concepts (e.g., full communion with the SCOBA jurisdictions implies "canonicity").
Simply repeating a lie is a common tactic of the OCA and the others over the past few decades: repeat a lie often enough and eventually the ignorant masses will believe it, is their hope and motto.
That those who enter into resistance, eucharistically "walling themselves off," are schismatics. In fact, it is clear from Holy Tradition that quite the opposite is true. Those who introduce innovations and heresy into the Church are the true schismatics. They are the ones who cause the division, not the faithful who oppose their innovations. St. Theodore of Studios writes: "We are not schismatics from the Church of God; God forbid that we should ever come to that! But although our sins are many, nevertheless we are of one body with the Church; we are its children and the children of its divine dogmas; and we strive to keep its canons and constitutions...This is not a schism of the Church. It is defense of the truth, and vindication of the sacred laws (kai ton theon nomon echorechesin" (PG 997CD, 1001D; cited in Theodore of Studios: Byzantine Churchman, by Patrick Henry III [unpublished doctoral dissertation, Yale, 1968], pp. 123, 109)
Many go so far as to say that the faithful Orthodox Christians in traditionalist churches not in communion with the "official SCOBA jurisdictions" are "outside the Orthodox Church". One clergyman remarked, "There are arrogant converts who have stolen their Christianity from people who gave their blood for their faith, and now have the gall to dismiss them as 'uncanonical.' These people are outside the realm of Christian and basic human decency. They should hang their heads in absolute shame." END OF QUOTE
skeleton of the body of the Church is the episcopacy and the mutual
accountability of all Orthodox Bishops to apostolic faith and order. The sinew
which unites the body in an identifiable organism is the relationship of each
bishop with his priests, his deacons and the faithful. In his letter to the Trallians, St. Ignatius of Antioch writes, "And do ye also reverence your bishop as Christ Himself, according as the blessed apostles have enjoined you ... For
what is the bishop but one who beyond all others possesses all power and authority, so far as it is possible for a man to possess it, who according to his ability has been made an imitator of the Christ of God?"
careful reading of the writings of St. Ignatius will show that the episcopacy
(properly understood and when it functions correctly) is charismatic, not
political; that the fullness of the Church is found locally amidst an Orthodox
(in the full sense of that term—including what is called
"Orthopraxis") Hierarch and his worshipping and struggling Orthodox
flock; and that efforts to consolidate ecclesiastical authority by the
subjugation of lesser dioceses to greater ones was a violation of the apostolic
and patristic mentality, and that these violations were never so aberrant in
the East as in the West.
It is contrary to Orthodox truth to affirm a general mentality of "officialdom" and "neo-papal Patriarchalism" that has infected the Orthodox Church in this century. (See "The Ecclesiology of St. Ignatius of Antioch," by Fr. John Romanides, "Orthodox Ecclesiology," by Dr. Alexander Kalomiros).
The "obedience mantra" begins. One who has a proper understanding of Orthodox ecclesiology would say as follows: "The greatest contribution which all orders of the clergy can make toward the gradual erosion of Holy Tradition and the loss of anything authentically Orthodox in this land, is to be obedient and loyal to those in Episcopal authority who are compromising the Faith, introducing and supporting heretical innovations, modernizing the Church, etc."
Fr. Alexander Schmemann, in his 1964 article, had the following words to say: "For the purpose and function of the Hierarchy is precisely to keep pure and undistorted the Tradition in its fullness, and if and when it sanctions or even tolerates anything contrary to the truth of the church, it puts itself under the condemnation of canons." In a footnote to this excerpt, he quotes Fr. George Florovksy: "The duty of obedience ceases when the Bishop deviates from the catholic norm, and the people have the right to accuse and even depose him." (From "Sobornost—The Catholicity of the Church" in The Church of God, London, 1934, pg. 72).
view, that of the True-Orthodox or Catacomb Church or Resistance Church,
sees the first responsibility of the Orthodox Church to be faithfulness to
Christ and to the true Spirit of Orthodoxy, at whatever external cost.
This mentality does not at all disdain external forms; we know that the Catacomb Church has preserved the Divine services and the church hierarchy down to our own day.
The external cost of the Catacomb Church's faithfulness to true Orthodoxy has been the loss of immediate influence over the people, many of whom do not even know of its existence and the majority of whom would not know where or how to enter into contact with its members.
In the Life of Our Holy Father St. Maximus the Confessor ([Boston: Holy Transfiguration, 1982], p. 62) we read that the Saint is quoted as saying, "Even if the whole universe holds communion with the Patriarch, I will not communicate with him. For I know from the writings of the holy Apostle Paul: the Holy Spirit declares that even the angels would be anathema if they should begin to preach another Gospel, introducing some new teaching." [cf. LXIII, col. 231 [Homilies on the Epistle to the Hebrews XXXIV, § 1]).
He was canonized in spite of his failure to accept communion with the Patriarch. The Neo-Papist groups today believe the various Patriarchs are the sole depository of Divine grace and the sole conduit of Sacramental grace, which elevates the Patriarch to the position of God. Any who accept this have made an Anti Christ out of the Bishop.
Another lie used to strengthen their unholy cause in North America is to term the Church in America as the Diaspora. The Church in North America is NOT the Diaspora. Orthodox in the Americas do not attribute religious significance to the land of their forefathers and have no intention of returning to these ancestral homes.
The principle held to within Orthodoxy is found in Canon 6 of the Council of Nicaea. Canon 6 is extremely important because it goes to certify that there exists in the organization of the Church a sort of hierarchy of unity of Churches which find themselves gathered together.
With Canon 6 of Nicaea there is a beginning of the notion of Patriarchate. The first three Patriarchate appear: Rome, Alexandria, and Antioch which have been the three great ones from the start. Only at the time of the 2nd Ecumenical Council, which took place in 381 at Constantinople, did Constantinople as the new capital of the empire become recognized as having rights second only to Rome. Rome remains the first Church through precedence of Faith. In the early years, Rome was far more faithful to Orthodoxy than the East. The Patriarchates, beginning at the Council of Nicaea, were definitively formulated at the Council of Chalcedon: the Patriarchate of Rome, the Patriarchate of Alexandria, the Patriarchate of Antioch, and that of Jerusalem. With the council of 381, came the Patriarchate of Constantinople.
Celebrated Orthodox canonists of the 12th century such as Balsamon and Zinaras, in studying the canons, deduced from them that Rome was the Patriarchate of all the provinces of the West (Occident) in the empire. It is this that is precisely demonstrated in Canon 6 of the Council of Nicaea.
Vladimir Lossky in 1937 wrote to the members of the Commission for Occidental (Western) Orthodox Affairs: "The ecclesiastical territory of the Occident (West), as such, belongs to the Patriarchate of Rome. Therefore none of the local Churches of the Orient (East), or Constantinople, or Russia can appropriate for itself this territory by establishing there new dioceses (for example, a diocese in the United States, Canada etc.) Only a local Western Church can be born from the same Western soil, as the result of a mission of a restored Occidental (Western) Orthodoxy with it's traditions, its rite, its spirituality, the cult of its local saints.
Once again this formula is found in a line of thinking of Metropolitan Sergius of Moscow who, in completely refuting the pretensions of Metropolitan Evlogios, based it on the same principle: the impossibility for a local Church of the East to found a normal diocese on the ancient territory of the Patriarchate of Rome" (Presence Orthodoxe 1995, n° 1, p. 10).
The opinion of Vladimir Lossky in considering that the provinces of the West are dependent on the Patriarchate of Rome is not his personal judgment. It is also that of the great Greek canonists Balsamon and Zinaras, who have interpreted the 6th Canon of Nicaea in this sense. Canonically, according to Canon 6 of Nicaea the native Church in the West cannot be a diocese of an Eastern Church, all the more so since Orthodoxy is not limited to only the territories of Eastern Europe.
Monseigneur John of Saint Denis said in Présence Orthodoxe de 1983 n° 3, p. 18 : "It is necessary to be careful not to identify the Orthodox Church, the Mother-Church, with the Eastern Churches. The one is universal, the others are limited geographically, culturally, ritually: they are local". And Monseigneur John adds: The West must never forget to discern within the Orthodox Church that which is universal from that which is local. If one desires that ones joining be organic, stripped of that which is exotic and artificial, it is necessary that one ‘make oneself Orthodox' and not to the point of ‘making oneself Eastern'".
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