When Is A Chrismation Not A Chrismation?
A Critique of the Orthodox-Catholic "Agreed Statement" of the North American Orthodox-Catholic Theological Consultation
by Hieromonk Patapios
On June 3, 1999 (New Style), in the context of a meeting at St. Vladimir's
Orthodox Theological Seminary in Crestwood, New York, the North American Orthodox-Catholic
Theological Consultation issued an "Agreed
Statement" entitled "Baptism and 'Sacramental Economy.'"
Present at this meeting were, on the Orthodox side, Metropolitan Maximos of
Ainou (Bishop of Pittsburgh), Bishop Demetrios of Xanthou, Fathers Nicholas
Apostola, Alkiviadis Calivas, James Dutko, Alexander Golitzin, Emmanuel Gratsias,
Paul Schneirla, and Robert Stephanopoulos, Professor John Erickson, and Drs.
Robert Haddad and Lewis (Elias) Patsavos; and on the Roman Catholic side, Archbishop
Rembert Weakland of Milwaukee and Fathers Brian Daley, Peter Galadza, John Galvin,
Sidney Griffith, John Long, David Petras, and Ronald Roberson.
It is interesting to note that two of the Roman Catholic members of the Consultation,
namely Father Galadza and Father Petras, are Uniates, representing the Ukrainian and
Ruthenian rites, respectively. Given this, it was a foregone conclusion that the
Consultation would seek to re-affirm the notorious Balamand
Agreement of 1993, in which the Orthodox participants, to their great shame, accepted
not only that the Uniates "have a right to exist and to respond to the spiritual
needs of their faithful" ( 3), but also that they "should be fully
incorporated...into the dialogue of love...with all of the functional rights that accrue
thereto" ( 16 and 34). By contrast, the Third Pan-Orthodox Consultation, meeting
in Rhodes in 1963, "demanded the total removal from Orthodox countries of all the
Uniate agents and Vatican propagandists before the dialogue [with the Catholics] could
begin," ...because "Unia and dialogue are simultaneously incompatible"
(John N. Karmiris (Ed.), Ta Dogmatika kai Symbolika Mnemeia tes Orthodoxou Katholikes
Ekklesias, Vol. II [Graz, Austria: Akademische Druck u. Verlagsanstalt, 1968], pp.
1007-1008). No attempt is made, in the Agreed Statement issues by the participants in the
Consultation to explain how is it that the Uniates no longer constitute an impediment to
dialogue between Orthodox and Roman Catholics; nor are the legitimate concerns raised by
critics of the Balamand Agreement addressed anywhere in this document, despite an
intimation, in its opening section, that such would be the case.
In the first part of the Agreed Statement, the members of the Consultation delineate what
they see as the essential traits of Baptism in general. They correctly observe that
Baptism and Chrismation were understood in the early centuries to be two successive phases
of a single Mystery (or "Sacrament," the Western nomenclature that Orthodox
ecumenists insist on using). They then admit that, in the medieval West, "practice
separated this unity of action, deferring confirmation by the bishop and eucharistic
communion to a later date" ( I.B.1). It is difficult to believe that the Orthodox
participants could, with a clear conscience, have signed a statement which does not so
much as hint that this separation signifies a grave distortion of the Mystery of Baptism
and a deviation from the traditions of the undivided Christian Church.
Secondly, it is obvious from the Agreed Statement issued by this Consultation that
Orthodox ecumenists no longer consider it necessary that candidates for Baptism, be they
infants or adults, be immersed three times in the Baptismal Font, contrary to the plain
meaning of the Greek verb "baptizo" in Scripture and the Patristic witness, a
word which is defined thusly by Athanasios Parios: "to submerse in water the person
being baptized" (cited by Protopresbyter George D. Metallinos in I Confess One
Baptism... [Holy Mountain: St. Paul's Monastery, 1994], p. 37, n. 27). The Catholic
practice of "baptizing" by infusion or pouring is, indeed, wholly invalid, and
it is not made one whit more valid by the fact that it is now widespread in modernist
Orthodox jurisdictions. The members of the Consultation attempt to justify this aberration
by arguing that in the early Church immersion "did not always mean total
submersion," since archologists have supposedly discovered that "many ancient
baptismal pools were far too shallow for total submersion" ( I.B.2). This
preposterous claim borders on scholarly chicanery. In the Encyclopedia of Early
Christianity, Everett Ferguson, a distinguished Protestant scholar, points out that
the earliest Baptismal Font, in the house Church at Dura-Europos in Syria, was large
enough for an immersion, and that "Dimensions and shapes of other baptismal fonts
from the fourth and following centuries vary, but most appear unnecessarily large for
anything other than a complete washing" ([New York: Garland, 1990] pp. 132-133). We
must not forget, too, that not everyone in the early Church was an adult. There were
certainly Fonts designed for the immersion of babies. Or do we Orthodox now argue that
infants were not Baptized in the early Church?
It is rather curious, in the light of their denial that immersion is requisite for a valid
Baptism, that the members of the Consultation cite several Patristic images of the
Baptismal Font, such as "the 'tomb' from which the newborn Christian arises,"
"the pool of the divine light of the Spirit", "the well-spring of
immortality," and "the bath of regeneration," and claim to affirm them (
I.B.4). What meaning can this beautiful imagery have for those who "baptize" by
pouring water on the heads of candidates? And who could, with anything but a red face for
spouting sheer poppycock, dismiss the universal practice of Baptism by full immersion in
the early Church on the basis of silly, half-baked archaeological evidence which is at
best speculative and at worst comical?
Thirdly, both the Orthodox and the Catholic members of the Consultation declare that they
recognize each other's baptism "as one and the same," a recognition which has,
as they note, "obvious ecclesiological consequences" ( I.C). More
specifically, it entails the ecumenist ecclesiology of "Sister Churches,"
according to which the differences between Orthodoxy and Papism are jurisdictional in
nature, the two "traditions" being the "two lungs" of the Body of
Christ, as Pope John Paul II and Patriarch Bartholomew have repeatedly affirmed. But if
the Orthodox and Papists have one and the same Baptism, does this not imply that we also
have one and the same Eucharist, one and the same Priesthood, and so on? Does it not
logically mean that all of the other Mysteries are one? Moreover, how can the Roman
Catholics have Baptism, unless they also have a valid Priesthood by which to administer
it? After all, while Baptism is admittedly not simply a "human work, but the rebirth
from above," as the Agreed Statement puts it ( I.A.1), it does require human beings
to perform it. From this it follows that if Catholic Baptism is the same as Orthodox
Baptism, the Latin Church must have Priests who are able to celebrate Baptism and,
presumably, the rest of the Mysteries as well. In a previous response to some similar
views expressed by the then Bishop Maximos in "The Illuminator," his diocesan
periodical, the following questions were posed: "Precisely what is it, if not a valid
Priesthood, that bestows upon [the heterodox] a valid Baptism? Or is Baptism somehow not a
Priestly rite?" ("Orthodox Tradition," Vol.
XIII, No. 1 , p. 4). While we will not address as serious the argument that,
because lay people can, in emergencies, perform Baptisms, Roman Catholic priests perform
their baptisms under this provisionsuch buffoonery should humiliate those who put it
forth, we will repeat the question which we put forth to Metropolitan Maximos.
In the second part of their Agreed Statement, fourthly, the members of the Consultation
attempt to account for what they regard as serious inconsistencies in the manner of
receiving adult converts into ecclesial communion. This part of the document presents a
new set of problems. According to their reading of Eastern Church history, St. Basil the
Great, in his famous and much abused First Canon, articulated a more "nuanced"
position than that of St. Cyprian of Carthage and St. Firmilian of Csarea concerning
Baptisms administered by heretics and schismatics, and this "nuanced" approach
became more or less the norm-with certain modifications by later Byzantine canonists-until
the late eighteenth century, when St. Nicodemos the
Hagiorite supposedly overturned the normative practice of the Church with his
innovative theory of "sacramental economy."
As is well known, St. Basil distinguishes between three kinds of separation from the
Church: heresy, schism, and unlawful assembly. According to St. Basil, by heresies, the
early Fathers meant those who had broken off and estranged themselves from the Faith
itself; by schisms, those who differed with each other for ecclesiastical reasons and over
questions capable of solution; and by unlawful assemblies, gatherings held by disorderly
presbyters or bishops or by uninstructed laymen. St. Basil goes on to say that a number of
the Fathers thought it best to reject the Baptism of heretics completely, but to accept
that of schismatics, on the ground that the latter were still "of the Church" (ek
As examples of heretics who ought to be Baptized, on the grounds that they had an
understanding of God that was totally alien to that of Orthodoxy, St. Basil cites the
Manichans, the Valentinians, the Marcionites, and the Montanists. However, he also
maintained, following St. Cyprian and St. Firmilian, that the Catharoi, that is, the
extreme rigorists who denied that lapsed Christians could be received back into the
Church, although schismatics rather than heretics, should also be received by Baptism. The
Catharoi who initially split away from the Church, he argues, had valid Orders, but lost
the Grace of the Holy Spirit and became mere layman, on account of the severity of their
error, with no authority to impart any of the Mysteries. Some schismatics, therefore,
according to St. Basil, like heretics, are deprived of Grace. The issue centers on subtle
matters of both dogmatic and pastoral dimensions that cannot be properly understood
without reading St. Basil's commentaries and interpretations of his own canonical
Thus, the members of the Consultation, in claiming that St. Basil believed that
schismatics still belong to the Church, have either misread this Canon or are simply
reading into it things that are not there. St. Basil does acknowledge that certain Bishops
in Asia accepted the Baptism of such schismatics, but he contends that this is solely out
of oikonomia, so as not to deter their followers from returning to the Church.
Yet, in keeping with this pastoral concern, he insists that such individuals must be
Chrismated in full view of the Faithful. In other words, the nuanced elements in St.
Basil's famous First Canon rather argue against than for the acceptance of Roman Catholic
Baptism in our days, almost a thousand years after the separation of the Papacy from the
Church by essential dogmatic errors.
The members of the Consultation inaccurately portray the Ninety-fifth Canon of the Synod
in Trullo. This Canon requires that heretics like the Arians, the Macedonians, and the
Apollinarians submit written statements of faith, anathematize their errors, and be
Chrismated; it does not say that they should be Baptized, as the Agreed Statement has it.
Moreover, although the Canon does not, so near to the time of the separation of the
Non-Chalcedonians from the Church, prescribe that Nestorians and Monophysites be
Chrismated, it certainly does not "clearly reckon" them "as still 'of the
Church'" ( II.A.2). Astonishingly enough, the members of the Consultation suggest
that Nestorians and Monophysites seem to be regarded by this Synod as unlawful assemblies,
to use St. Basil's terminology, who have "valid, if perhaps illicit" Baptisms
( II.A.2). Again, these ecumenists are either incapable of reading Greek Patristic texts
(and this is clearly not the case) or their ecumenical sensitivities have so clouded their
minds that they have lost the ability to be honest, since this Canon calls both of these
groups heretics and requires that they submit written statements of faith and anathematize
their errors, in order to be restored to Orthodoxy. We are reminded of the ecumenist
misinterpretation (deliberate misuse?) of the statement by St. John of Damascus that the
Monophysites are "in every other way Orthodox." As Protopresbyter Theodore Zisis
points out, St. John, here, "juxtaposes to the great theological error of rejecting
Chalcedon, which places the Non-Chalcedonians automatically outside the Church, the
preservation, on their part, in the life of the Church as also in the other matters of
faith, of teachings and liturgical customs and practices, with regard to which they are
Orthodox, that is to say, in agreement with the Orthodox Catholic Church" (see his
excellent article, "St. John of Damascus and the 'Orthodoxy' of the
Non-Chalcedonians" [in Greek*], "Gregorios ho Palamas," No. 744
[September-October 1992], pp. 1133-1144 [emphasis ours]).
Let us, at this point, note that both of the Canons in question were formulated at a time
when Christendom had not been fragmented into a multitude of warring denominations and
sects. All of the heretics in question originally belonged to the One, Holy, Catholic, and
Apostolic Church, from which they were assuredly not separated by centuries, as we have
noted that the Papists are, and as are the Protestants also. Concerning the Roman
Catholics, St. Nicodemos the Hagiorite comments that "if these schismatics [the
Catharoi] have been judged by this great Father, Basil, to merit Baptism because they
distorted the custom with regard to Baptism, how much more should the Latins, who have
distorted, or rather, completely corrupted tradition with regard to Baptism, be Baptized,
since they are not only schismatics, but open heretics" (Pedalion
[Thessaloniki: B. Regopoulos, 1982], p. 589, n. 2).
In the next section of the Statement, fifth, the members of the Consultation, for obvious
reasons, accord "primary importance" to the Synod of Constantinople in 1484 and
the Synod of Moscow in 1667, which both ruled that Roman Catholics should be received by
Chrismation. Curiously enough, however, they understand this Chrismation to be
"penitential" in character, rather than "a reiteration of post-baptismal
chrismation" ( II.A.3). In support of this bizarre interpretation, they refer to a
service for the reception of Catholic converts put forth by the Synod of 1484, which
apparently lacks any of the usual prayers that pertain to "the rite of
initiation" (a designation for Baptism that is fashionable in Latin theological
circles). The ecumenists are playing with words, here, in distinguishing between
Chrismation, as such, and "penitential" Chrismation. It is quite clear from the
Canons of this Synod that the Latins were classed as heretics, since they, like the Arians
and Macedonians mentioned in the Ninety-fifth Canon of the Synod in Trullo, are required
to renounce their errors and be Chrismated (G. Rallis and M. Potlis [eds.], Syntagma
ton Theion kai Hieron Kanonon, Vol. V [Athens: G. Chartophylax, 1852-1859], pp.
143-147). Moreover, St. Mark of Ephesus, on whose anti-Latin writings the Synod of 1484
relied, cited the Seventh Canon of the Second cumenical Synod, with which the
Ninety-fifth is virtually identical, as proof that the Latins were heretics (Archbishop
Hilarion [Troitsky], The Unity of the Church and the World Conference of Christian
Communities [Montreal: Monastery Press, 1975], p. 55).
The Moscow Synod of 1667, in fact, reversed what had become the normative practice of the
Russian Church, that is, that Latins should be received by Baptism. This point is
conveniently ignored in the Agreed Statement. So is the atmosphere in the Russian Church
which created this deviation from a stricter policya deviation not based on
theological criteria, but on political factors. Archbishop Hilarion ascribes this change
of policy to the leading part played at the Synod by Greeks "often of dubious
worth," such as the suspended Bishop Paisios (Ligarides), who systematically
condemned every aspect of Russian usage, even if it happened to be correct, as in the case
of Baptizing Latins. We can add that this Synod, like that that held in Constantinople in
1484, addressed a Roman Catholic Church which has not succumbed to the dogma of Papal
Infallibility, the Marian hyperbole of the Immaculate Conception, let alone Clown Masses,
joint Papal prayer with snake charmers and witch doctors, or Coca Cola and doughnut
"liturgies." If one could even grant that Roman Catholics were somehow accepted
by a "penitential rite" of Chrismation four or five centuries ago (and we accept
no such thing), it would take a leap equal to a jump from Mars to the moon to apply such a
thing to modern times.
The idea, sixth, that St. Nicodemos devised a novel theory of "sacramental
economy," to which we made brief reference above, is so laughable that we will not
even bother to refute it. The Orthodox members of the Consultation should simply hang
their heads in shame at such pitiable toadyism before their Latin counterparts. There is
absolutely no conflict between the rigorism of St. Cyprian and the more
"economic" approach recommended by St. Basil, who, as we have already seen,
cited St. Cyprian in support of the policy of receiving some schismatics by Baptism. There
was, therefore, nothing for St. Nicodemos to reconcile. Equally absurd is the charge that,
according to St. Nicodemos' "theory," heterodox baptisms are somehow made
retroactively valid by the application of oikonomia. When a Roman Catholic is
Chrismated, the seal of the Holy Spirit endows the empty form of Latin "Baptism"
with sanctifying Grace. There is nothing retroactive in this. The Church acts in real
time, not in the ecumenical moment; nor, indeed, is the Church ashamed to proclaim that it
effects Grace where it was not. This is the very mission of the Church, though our
ecumenical friends may find this Orthodox idea offensive or crude.
It is important to note, next, that the decision of the cumenical
Patriarchate in 1755, under the staunchly traditionalist Patriarch Cyril V, was
co-signed by the Patriarchs of Alexandria and Jerusalem, and would have been signed by the
Patriarch of Antioch, who happened to be in Russia at the time on a fund-raising trip.
This decision, therefore, was Pan-Orthodox in nature, and not just a local initiative.
Finally, in the third and concluding section of their Agreed Statement, the members of the
Consultation recommend that the decree of 1755 be formally withdrawn by the Patriarchate
of Constantinople. In view of what we have said in the foregoing paragraph, such a
withdrawal would require the consent of the Patriarchs of Alexandria and Jerusalem. They
also recommend that the Orthodox make it clear that when Catholics are Chrismated, their
Latin "Chrismation" is not being repeated. Of course it is not, if precisely
because they were never Chrismated in the first place. Hence, the title of our rejoinder.
Just what do the ecumenists suppose is going on when a former Papist is anointed with Holy
Chrism? Is this a "sacramental" form of musical chairs, in which one simply
moves from one anointing to another? How absurd ecumenism really is. How can one expect
from such nonsense an honest and much-desired attempt to re-establish the unity of all
Christians by a return to the precepts of the Undivided Churchthe Church which
Orthodoxy alone has preserved and which she must preserve as a treasure for all who seek
One of the Orthodox members of the Consultation once received some Roman Catholics into
the Orthodox Church by Chrismation. In order to allay their anxieties, he explained to
them that they had not really been Chrismated, but simply anointed, rather in the way that
a Church is anointed at its Consecration, and that they had transferred to another
jurisdiction, not a different Church. Never mind the fact that the Consecration of a
Church is described in our liturgical texts as the Church's "Baptism"! Such are
the corrosive effects of ecumenism on the ecclesiological consciences of those who
undertake "dialogues of love" with the heterodox. Where is there love in
chicanery? Where is the ecumenism of a few individuals who are willing to misrepresent
their Faith, for the sake of union with the heterodox, as they revile their traditionalist
brothers and exclude them from any form of dialogue? And where is shared truth when it is
jointly defiled by those who have neither a common Baptism, a common confession, or a
* The article by Protopresbyter Theodore Zisis is available in English on the Monophysites page.
** For more information on this topic see the many articles and book
recommendations on the Baptism and Reception of Converts
This is a fairly rough draft of the final articles that eventually appeared in Orthodox Tradition, Vol. XVI, No. 4 & 5.
Appendix: Oros of the Holy Great Church of Christ on the Baptism of Converts from the West (1755/56)
Many are the means by which we attain our salvation. And these, so to speak, in
a ladderlike fashion are interlinked and interconnected, all aiming at one and the same
end. First of all, then, is the baptism, which God delivered to the sacred Apostles, such
being the case that without it the rest are ineffectual. For it says: "Unless one is
born of water and spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of heaven." (John 3:5) The
first manner of generation brought man into this mortal existence. It was therefore
imperative, and necessarily so, that another, more mystical manner of generation be found,
neither beginning in corruption nor terminating therein, whereby it would be possible for
us to imitate the author of our salvation, Jesus Christ. For the baptismal water in the
font takes the place of a womb, and there is birth for him who is born, as Chrysostom
says; while the Spirit which descends on the water has the place of God who fashions the
embryo. And just as He was placed in the tomb and on the third day returned to life, so
likewise they who believe, going under the water instead of under the earth, in three
immersions depict in themselves the three-day grace of the Resurrection, the water being
sanctified by the descent of the All-holy Spirit, so that the body might be illumined by
the water which is visible, and the soul might receive sanctification by the Spirit which
is invisible. For just as water in a cauldron partakes of the heat of the fire, so the
water in the font is likewise transmuted, by the action of the Spirit, into divine power.
It cleanses those who are thus baptized and makes them worthy of adoption as sons. Not so,
however, with those who are initiated in a different manner. Instead of cleansing and
adoption, it renders them impure and sons of darkness.
Just three years ago, the question arose: When heretics come over to us, are their baptisms acceptable, given that these are
administered contrary to the tradition of the holy Apostles and divine Fathers, and
contrary to the custom and ordinance of the catholic and Apostolic Church? We, who by
divine mercy were raised in the Orthodox Church, and who adhere to the canons of the
sacred Apostles and divine Fathers, recognize only one Church, our holy, catholic, and
Apostolic Church. It is her Mysteries [i.e. sacraments], and consequently her baptism,
that we accept. On the other hand, we abhor; by common resolve, all rites not administered
as the Holy Spirit commanded the sacred Apostles, and as the Church of Christ performs to
this day. For they are the inventions of depraved men, and we regard them as strange and
foreign to the whole Apostolic tradition. Therefore, we receive those who come over to us
from them as unholy and unbaptized. In this we follow our Lord Jesus Christ who commanded
His disciples to baptize "in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy
Spirit"; we follow the sacred and divine Apostles who order us to baptize aspirants
with three immersions and emersions, and in each immersion to say one name of the Holy
Trinity; we follow the sacred Dionysios, peer of the Apostles, who tells us "to dip
the aspirant, stripped of every garment, three times in a font containing sanctified water
and oil, having loudly proclaimed the threefold hypostasis of the divine
Blessedness, and straightway to seal the newly baptized with the most divinely potent
myron [i.e. chrism], and thereafter to make him a participant in the supersacramental
Eucharist"; and we follow the Second and Penthekte holy Ecumenical Councils, which
order us to receive as unbaptized those aspirants to Orthodoxy who were not baptized with
three immersions and emersions, and in each immersion did not loudly invoke one of the
divine hypostases, but were baptized in some other fashion.
We too, therefore, adhere to these divine and sacred decrees, and we reject and
abhor baptisms belonging to heretics. For they disagree with and are alien to the divine
Apostolic dictate. They are useless waters, as Sts. Ambrose and Athanasios the Great said.
They give no sanctification to such as receive them, nor avail at all to the washing away
of sins. We receive those who come over to the Orthodox faith, who were baptized without
being baptized, as being unbaptized, and without danger we baptize them in accordance with
the Apostolic and synodal Canons, upon which Christ's holy and Apostolic and catholic
Church, the common Mother of us all, firmly relies.
Together with this joint resolve and declaration of ours, we seal this our Oros,
being as it is in agreement with the Apostolic and synodal dictates, and we certify it by
In the year of salvation 1755,
+ Cyril, by God's mercy Archbishop of Constantinople New Rome, and Ecumenical
+ Matthew, by God's mercy Pope and Patriarch of the great city of Alexandria,
and Judge of the Ecumene
+ Parthenios, by God's mercy Patriarch of the holy city of Jerusalem and all
A response to the "Agreed Statement" by one
"I found the paper done by Your Eminence and Fr Patapios excellent.
The ecumenists spray their torrent of poisonous words and distortions into the air, hoping
to blind and confuse. I think what irritates me most is that men like Schneirla,
Erickson, Golitzin, et. al, are saying that all of the Holy Fathers of past ages
were mistaken, were bigoted, were so ignorant that they lacked a clear understanding of
their own words, were indecisive, and were incapable of distinguishing the difference
between Orthodoxy and heresy, and that their (the ecumenists') understanding of
the Orthodox Church is superior to that of men like Sts. Basil the Great, Gregory Palamas,
Mark of Ephesus, Photios, etc., etc., etc. They regard themselves as more
intelligent, better informed, better theologians, and better Church Fathers than these
great and holy men. And since true theologizing springs, in Orthodoxy, from
holiness, they regard themselves as superior in that regard to the Fathers. The
magnitude of such hubris simply staggers the imagination. It leaves one
Further Remarks by Hieromonk Patapios
Concerning various comments made by an Orthodox Priest who had read his response. The anonymous Priest is involved
in ecumenical dialogue but is not sympathetic to John Erickson's views or the
May the Lord bless you.
Last evening, Bishop Auxentios shared with me the rather curious comments which you sent to him anonymously regarding my comments on
the equally bizarre document issued by the Orthodox-Catholic Consultation held this past June at SVS in New York.
This morning before Liturgy, I have been reviewing this individual's comments, as well as the "Agreed Statement" (indeed, the very title
of the document issued, a title of questionable literacy, constitutes a commentary on such trendy meetings). I have a few reactions, in
consequence of this morning's reading, that I would ask you to relay to this individual. I offer these not in a spirit of contentiousness
but simply in the interest of clarifying my position.
First, neither I nor anyone else whose criticism of the "AS" from
the SVS meeting has, to the best of my knowledge, ever suggested that this document was issued by SVS itself. In
fact, my commentary very clearly points out the provenance of the piece. The observations of
your correspondent in this regard, then, are of no significance.
Second, I rather doubt that so-called "Romophilia" is something "Greek," and especially since your source opines that non-Greeks
played a significant role in the articulation of this document, which features some saliently inarticulate propositions. (It is advisable,
as an aside, to avoid the cute coining of epithets without careful attention to classical allusion. Your correspondent wanted to say, I
am sure, "Romanophilia" and NOT "Romophilia." As a classicist, I also
find the term "Greek," as one often sees it employed in the little spats between Orthodox jurisdictions in this country, inaccurate and
imprecise. Ethnicity is not a determinant of, and certainly does not adequately describe, cognitive styles or modes of thought, and
especially in attempts to arrive at consensual theological statements. This kind of assumption can easily court racism, and we
must thus avoid it.)
Third, John Erickson's scholarship on the reception of converts into Orthodoxy, as Father George Metallinos, Archimandrite Cyprian, and I
have argued in a number of critiques of his work, is not at all solid. Like much of the scholarship from SVS, it lacks a broad
Patristic and canonical basis. Moreover, in general his scholarship shows a superficiality with regard to very complex matters. His
historiographical perspective, moreover, is distinctly un-Orthodox. His grasp of the archaeological evidence in this instance is
embarrassingly naive. And Finally, as I have pointed out in critical comments on his writings in other areas, his language skills (in
classical languages, that is, as evidenced by his poor translations) are at times wanting.
Like your correspondent, whose views have apparently been formed by this same limitation, Erickson wholly misunderstands the notion of
oikonomia and rather curiously argues, again in the spirit of your correspondent, the issue of reception in this context in a backwards
way. Like the reception of converts, oeconomy is not something which can be summed up in a journal article, making false distinctions
between two contrived trends of thought about the subject, as though the Patristic witness and the historical record would not demand at
least a book-length discussion of the development of the theory of oeconomy, its complex role in and application to theological
thinking, and its very complicated interaction with historical trends in the theological witness of the Church (and especially in the
Byzantine period). As usual, posturing and preposterous concretes are presented in this area
of delicate and elusive concepts.
It is sad that Erickson and others who argue his point about the reception of converts have, to touch on another area of weakness,
failed to read the canonical witness in an expansive way. They essentially offer prattle about St. Basil's First Canon, which they
and others abuse and distort with an ease that would set on edge any classical scholar looking at non-theological materials. Indeed, they
do not even bother to see what St. Basil himself writes about the resolution of certain issues that these would-be scholars take to be
ambiguous in this canon, if simply because their reading is too limited. It is also sad that these would-be scholars sweep aside the
proper historical perspective that Metallinos established in his "'I Confess one
Baptism'...," with which they take conceptual umbrage, on account of their jurisdictional policies, without a careful
analysis of the collateral supporting material offered by Father George, which is in fact very compelling.
Such things as I have described in the writings of Erickson are not the signs of good scholarship. Not at all. As for "solid"
scholarship, those teaching in Orthodox seminaries today are, for the most part, outside the mainstream of good scholarship, just as the
Orthodox world of "rule by opinion" has become a place where ecclesiastical politics (jurisdictionalism) impedes the peer review
and intellectual exchange that mark good scholarship. As one my Cambridge mentors once said (and not without prejudice, I admit),
almost anyone can claim to be an Orthodox scholar in Great Britain. Review is simply non-existent or unheeded. I believe that the same
thing applies to Orthodoxy in this country.
More to the point, whether your correspondent finds my comments helpful or not, they appeal to mature judgment drawn from a thorough
and careful study of the Patristic and canonical witness and from an attempt to reflect the pertinent historiographical and logical
dimensions of a very complex problem which should not be dealt with in sweeping generalizations fitted to a specific agenda by
individuals who have simply not sufficiently studied the area of their interest with critical care. Nor, indeed, can one take
seriously the accusation that comments from the Patristic and canonical witness as
I have used it are of no value. This reveals not only a lack of objectivity, but that same jurisdictional nonsense
that leads to unilateral statements offered by self-selected representatives of Orthodoxy who are very much untested in the arena
of free exchange and the more comprehensive academic and scholarly world that lies beyond Orthodox seminary "training" in this
I felt compelled to make these general remarks, not because I believe that your correspondent will heed them, but because I believe that a
little frank talk in the arrogant world of Orthodox "experts" is
not an entirely wasted thing. As time passes and Orthodox "scholars"
are forced to face the standards of intelligent dialogue that lie beyond the pitiful circles of the ecumenical movement and beyond the
anti-intellectual aspects of Orthodox jurisdictionalism, what I have noted will become increasingly obvious. And once the sting of candor
has passed away, the need for good scholarship and firm thinking will become obvious. Arrogance will also yield, at such a time, to
humility, which is a good thing for religion and scholarship.
For the SVS group and those who adhere to their views, I have no
personal animosity. I would just say, both to the professors an students, "Take another ten
years to read the Fathers. Do not discuss any subject without an examination of every view. Set aside the
superficies of ecumenism and consult us traditionalists with charity and objectivity. Submit your views to our equal review. Allow us to
exchange views freely in your journals. In this way, you will be doing real scholarship." It well may be that everyone will emerge
from this process with the same views that they hold now. But at least those views will be founded on firmer scholarship and not
simply blanket attributions of the qualities of scholarship to prattle which is much less. As a result,
Orthodox contributions to events like the recent Orthodox-Catholic consultation will be
something more than silly compromise and something less than embarrassing.
I do not offer these words, incidentally, in the spirit of provoking an argument or with the desire for further exchange, but simply as a
statement to your contact, who can accept or dismiss them as he wishes.
+ Father Patapios