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"Balamand Explained": First Betrayal, Now Deception

by Bishop Auxentios of Photiki

A VERY important document ("The Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches: Taking Steps to Overcome Division; Controversy Over the Balamand Report") was posted on the "Internet" in 1996, purporting to clarify various controversies related to the "Balamand Statement," a now infamous agreement reached between Orthodox and Roman Catholic representatives at an ecumenical gathering in Balamand, Lebanon, in 1992, declaring the Orthodox Church and the Vatican "Sister Churches" and leaving "to the mercy of God," to quote the text of the agreement itself, "whatever may have been the past": a virtual abandonment of the Orthodox Church's historical claims to ecclesiastical primacy and of past Patristic and Synodal defenses of the doctrinal purity of our Faith. No single individual is credited with authorship of this "Internet" commentary on that agreement; rather, we are told that the text was prepared by the "Orthodox members of the official North American Orthodox/Roman Catholic Consultation."

At first view, despite its brevity, the document seems candid and even thorough in its efforts to dispel the acknowledged concerns of the Faithful about the venturous accords contained in the Balamand agreement and the rather precipitous language in which they are couched. It discusses the history and purpose of the ongoing joint consultations between Orthodox and Roman Catholics, the problems presented by the Uniate Churches and their impact on the dialogue, and the "method of dialogue," that is, the functions of the various consultations and what their products—e.g., the Balamand Statement—are intended to accomplish. Against this background, the document goes on to discuss the particulars of the "Balamand Statement" itself, answering some ten questions about its meaning and consequences, and concludes with a positive appraisal: "The Balamand Document is a step in the right direction."

The Lie. But is the analysis of the Balamand controversy contained in this document—which manifestly reflects the thinking of "professionals" in Orthodox ecumenism—in reality a fair and truthful one? A careful examination of what is and what is not said in this "explanation" suggests that it is not. Aside from its poor composition and awkward language—characteristic features of the gibberish and "double-talk" that typically flow forth in ecumenical pronouncements—, the document is in fact a lie: a deceptive attempt to present the betrayal of Balamand as something which it is not.

What does the document say to convince us that the fraudulent accords settled upon at Balamand constitute a "step in the right direction"? We are told that the real advances resulting from the agreement are twofold. First, when the Balamand proposals are fully implemented, this will entail the repudiation by Rome of the Unia, long a violent source of provocation to Orthodox communities, as a vehicle for the re-unification of the two Churches. This, the authors of the document state, constitutes a reversal of Rome's traditional position regarding the Unia; so, it is presented as a victory of sorts for the Orthodox.

Second, as the Balamand delegates themselves unabashedly inform us, since Vatican II, their "thinking about the nature of the Church has changed significantly." We are boldly informed in the present document, therefore, that the dialogues have embraced more ancient, and therefore more Orthodox, formulae for dealing with the schism between Orthodoxy and Rome. Again, in the curious, questionably literate, and unquestionably bizarre "double-talk" of ecumenism, the authors of the "Internet" document contend that,

...from understanding the Church as a juridical (legal) body, the emphasis has come to [sic] understanding the Church on the basis of reality of communion. Communion is the relationship between Christ and the members of His body, the Church, and the relationship between the members of the Church, that comes from being members of the Body of Christ. In theological language this re-emphasis of the ancient Christian tradition about the nature of the Church is called 'communion ecclesiology.'

A similar instance of "renewed thinking," we learn from the "Internet" "explanation" of the Balamand agreement, is the adoption by both parties at the meeting in Lebanon, Orthodox and Roman Catholic alike, of the term "Sister Churches" in references to one another. The employment of this "venerable term," we are told, "has helped to place relations between our churches on a new footing" and has been judged appropriate—once more in the strange language of "ecumeni-talk"—because of the "shared thousand year experienced reality together." Citing the Balamand statement itself, the document asserts that Orthodox and Roman Catholics have found new respect for each church's pastoral ministries: "Bishops and priests have the duty before God to respect the authority which the Holy Spirit has given to the bishops and priests of the other church."

Now that the Orthodox Church and Rome have put behind them the inflammatory issue of Uniatism and have established one another's legitimacy and essential equality at the bargaining table, the "Internet" document concludes, they can cooperate in a "'serene atmosphere' for renewed progress in dialogue 'toward the reestablishment of full communion.'" Such are the wonderful fruits of Balamand.

Now, the Truth. When Orthodox Tradition and our jurisdiction's Greek-language periodicals first decried the Balamand agreement as a betrayal of Orthodoxy, several years ago, Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople and one of his Bishops in America, Maximos of Pittsburgh, reacted to our comments with harsh condemnations, declaring them the meanderings of fanatics and hard-headed theological cretins. Nonetheless, despite their condemnatory pronouncements and the subsequent justifications of the Balamand accords by other Orthodox ecumenists in commentaries like the "Internet" document in question, what happened in Lebanon can be called nothing but a betrayal of the Orthodox Faith. At that unfortunate meeting, no less than half a dozen Orthodox Hierarchs, who at their consecrations gave solemn oaths to uphold and defend the Orthodox Faith against every heresy and innovation, legitimated Rome and all of her errors and heretical doctrines. With a deft wave of the hand, Patristic and Synodal condemnations of Rome's heresies spanning ten centuries, not to mention the Orthodox Church's repeated rejections of the validity of her priesthood and the efficacy of her sacraments, were summarily set aside. To add insult to this injury, the same exoneration silently bestowed on Rome was extended to the Uniate Churches, the tragic bastard children born of Rome's subterfuge against the Orthodox. A sorry betrayal, indeed!

Significantly, in keeping with the fraud that it obviously perpetrates, in the "Internet" "explanation" of the Balamand agreement, the victory of the Uniate Churches in exacting what is actually recognition from the Orthodox ecumenists is presented as a "victory" for Orthodoxy itself. The supposed limitation on the future function of the Unia is in reality nothing more than a bone thrown out to the "East." Apparently offered by the Balamand consultants to satisfy some assumed hunger, among the Orthodox, for revenge against the Uniate menace (with its history of violence against both the consciences and the very persons of our Faithful), this bone is meant to divert the watchful gaze of the Faithful away from continued developments on the ecumenical scene and from the danger that they pose for True Orthodox Christians. The authors of the "explanation" are not, to be sure, ignorant of the threat posed to them by the legitimate "watchdog role" of the Faithful, and, indeed, of proper Orthodox polity. Thus, they acknowledge the fact that ecumenical agreements cannot be unilaterally ratified by "professional" ecumenists, but must have the seal of approval of the whole Church. In theory, then, they operate on a very sound "method of dialogue." To quote the "Internet" document:

...Statements like the Balamand Statement are understood to be reports on how members of the dialogue or Consultation are developing their understanding of the problems they are addressing. Their reports are referred to the heads of their Churches and to the clergy and people for their consideration and reflection. It is expected that there will be thoughtful reflection, response, and examination before any official decisions can be or should be made [emphasis mine].

The Uniate ruse, which renders, by way of an overt fabrication, the Balamand betrayal a "victory" for Orthodox, may have succeeded in deflecting the attention of some Faithful away from the dark underbelly of political ecumenism. But nothing can hide the fact that the very "method of dialogue" theoretically put forth by the Orthodox ecumenists is in fact a lie. Not only do the accords decided upon at Balamand, by taking as an operating principle the "ecclesial reality" of an institution (Roman Catholicism) separated from the Church of Christ, ignore the legacy of the Orthodox Patristic and Conciliar witness regarding Roman Catholicism, but they do so without the approval of the Orthodox people. When were the Faithful informed of the new understanding agreed upon at Balamand? Where is the thoughtful reflection of the People of God? Those few of us who have, indeed, spoken out against the Balamand betrayal have been dismissed as virtual morons and branded as schismatics. In practice, then, professional Orthodox ecumenists and the higher Church administrations that they serve have discounted the "thoughtful reflection" of the Faithful about Balamand, have no interest in their "response," and decry any attempts by the People of God to "examine" matters "before any official decisions" are made. Our ecumenical "professionals" make their decisions, pronounce them to the Faithful, and then disregard and revile those who oppose such decisions. These delegates have proved themselves untrustworthy and deceptive in their failure to report truthfully to the people whom they serve—albeit in a self-appointed capacity—and whom they are bound by Holy Tradition to consult and to hear.

The Sorry Truth about Ecumenism. The real issues that should be set forth by Orthodox delegates at consultations with Roman Catholics are the dogmatic aberrations that have removed Papism from any organic communion with the Apostolic Church of Christ. But in keeping with the protocols of ecumenical dialogue, such an approach is taboo. These issues, then, were never raised at Balamand; nor have they been raised in this follow-up document. The few Orthodox ecumenists zealous to offer, not a stone, but bread to the unfortunate heterodox—the late Protopresbyter Georges Florovsky was such an ecumenist—long ago discovered the belligerence and obstinacy of the heterodox delegates to ecumenical gatherings and disavowed ecumenism as a path to Christian unity. But the emasculated Orthodox representatives who remain in the ecumenical movement have, since then, compromised on point after point of the Faith and have even, on occasion, openly repudiated the traditional teachings and practices of the Church. Now they are babbling about "communion theology" and "sister Churches," ideas which apply solely to Churches united in the same Faith and by a common mysteriological life: that is, to the local Orthodox Churches and their mutual relations. Heterodox groups have no place in these formulae. The "Internet" document which we have considered is a sad and flagrant continuation of the cowardly deception that professional Orthodox ecumenists—minority that they are—have undertaken to perpetuate in the name of the pleroma of the Church. The authors of this document, representing as they do the "official" Orthodoxy of worldly, neo-papal "Patriarchalism" (another innovation meant to replace the criterion of "right belief" with the prerogatives of administrative and political power), if they truly believe what they write, should have the integrity to admit that their defense of Balamand embodies a conscious rejection of the Orthodox Patristic consensus. Moreover, if they truly care for their charges, they must clearly explain why they have chosen not to follow the Church Fathers on these issues. It would behoove them, too, to explain to the Orthodox people their new "method of theology," telling us how they gained these insights and wherein we might gain them, too. But accountability and openness do not seem to be the operative principles here. God alone knows what reasoning has brought the Orthodox ecumenists to where they are. But we True Orthodox certainly know where such reasoning has and will lead them. The truth seems to be that, despite their crafty skills in "ecumeni-talk," our "professional" Orthodox ecumenists have not thought things through. Though they brazenly and confidently disregard the Fathers and Saints of the Church—whose witness, to their own peril, they have chosen to set aside—, one suspects that they are not so sure about how to handle their contemporaries, the loyal Faithful, who, by God-given right, oppose the audacity of ecumenism. Let us pray, then, that God will enlighten any well-intentioned people naively caught up in the glamor of the ecumenical movement and return them to their senses: for the Orthodox, that they might beware the lie being fed them; and for the heterodox, that God might inspire in them a spirit of humility and repentance, the only sure vein to the bosom of the Church.

From Orthodox Tradition, Vol. XIV (1997), Nos. 2 & 3, pp. 39-42