Are Protestantism and Roman Catholicism Heretical?

Webmaster's Introductory Note

The reader should be aware that my motivation for compiling these texts does not stem from a desire to "bash the heterodox" but rather to help my fellow Orthodox brothers and sisters to understand that much of the rhetoric we hear today regarding Western Christians is not faithful to Holy Tradition. It thus undermines the unity and uniqueness of the one true Church—the Orthodox Church—, which embodies the very criterion of Christianity, being the sole preserver of the unadulterated Apostolic and Holy Tradition. Take for example this statement by one of the leading ecumenical activists, the late Nicolas Zernov:

[Western Christians] present …a mystery of the divided Church which cannot be solved on precedents taken from the epoch of the Seven Ecumenical Councils. It is a new problem requiring a search for a fresh approach and confidence in the power of the Holy Spirit to guide the Church in our time as He guided her in the past.

It is necessary to state from the outset, that the attitude to the Christian West has never been discussed by any representative body of the Orthodox Church. Neither Roman Catholics nor Protestants have ever been condemned or excommunicated as such, so a common policy in regard to them has never been adopted. ("The One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church and the Anglicans," Sobornost, 6:8 (1973), 531)

The answers he provides in this misleading article are atrocious from a Traditional point of view. It is replete with statements and conclusions that flatly contradict the "Mind of the Church," as I hope you will see below.

Also, though one should not have to clarify this, in these days of "ecumeni-speak" and "political correctness" I felt it was important to say that at times it is entirely proper and necessary to call a person's beliefs "heretical." When spoken in love this constitutes an act of love. We are to hate the poison of heresy, but to love and have compassion for those infected by it. For more on this I highly recommend the essay entitled "The True Nature of Heresy" and this excerpt from a forthcoming book: The Use of the Term "Heretic." I also offer these other excerpts from related articles:

"...if our truth is an exclusive truth, it is made open... by our ability to see virtue even among those in error. This principle is reified by our constant commitment to love and hospitality. A perfect example of this was a visit made by some American Uniates to Metropolitan Cyprian several years ago. His Eminence received his guests as brothers and treated them with great affection. Yet, one evening, while offering them a beautiful dinner on the veranda of his cell, he told them: 'Love dictates that I tell you that you are heretics and must become Orthodox.' One of the clergymen, in fact, is now a Priest in the Antiochian Archdiocese. It is our openness to the virtues of those in error, our readiness to be ridiculed and embarrassed by our 'exclusivity,' and our love of the truth which ultimately make us Orthodox and open to all things, being all things to all men for the sake of their salvation." (From "The Exclusive Openness of Truth" in Orthodox Tradition, Vol. XI, No. 4 (1994), 8 [emphasis theirs])

"The time has come for all faithful Orthodox Christians to speak out and promptly put an end to this spurious form of Orthodoxy known as 'ecumenistic Orthodoxy'. It is a betrayal of the Holy Orthodox Church, a negation of its essence. It is time to take her divine dogmas 'out of the storeroom,' where [Ecumenical] Patriarch Athenagoras I relegated them [in the sixties], bring them to the open light, and proclaim them by every means, and in every land... Let us not offer to the world the pseudo-Orthodoxy of 'Orthodox ecumenism,' which puts error on the same level as truth... This offering will be an act of true Christian love, a fulfilling of Christ's commandment of loving our neighbor as we love ourselves. Christ says, 'What man is there of you whom if his son asks for bread would give him a stone?' (St. Matt. 7:9) 'Orthodox ecumenism' does precisely the latter... People today are searching for the truth that saves; yet these ecumenists have put the bread of truth in the storeroom and have been offering instead the stone of untruth, of error, and of heresy that leads to perdition. The commandment of love demands that we take the bread of the teaching of the Orthodox Church out in the open and offer it lovingly to all who hunger for the truth that frees and saves." (From a lecture by Dr. Constantine Cavarnos at the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of the Annunciation, Atlanta, GA, on March 16, 1997)

Having said all this, however, I quote from a letter of Fr. Seraphim to a Protestant inquirer:

The word "heretic" ... is indeed used too frequently nowadays. It has a definite meaning and function, to distinguish new teachings from the Orthodox teaching; but few of the non-Orthodox Christians today are consciously "heretics," and it really does no good to call them that... .A harsh, polemical attitude is called for only when the non-Orthodox are trying to take away our flocks or change our teachings. (Monk Damascene Christensen, Not of This World: The Life and Teachings of Fr. Seraphim Rose [Fr. Seraphim Rose Foundation, 1993], pp. 757-58.)

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From the On Mystagogy of the Holy Spirit by Saint Photios: On the heresy of the Filioque ("and the Son") clause, later officially inserted into the Nicene Creed by the Latin Church

"Who of our sacred and renowned fathers had said that the Spirit proceeds from the Son? Which council, established and made eminent by ecumenical acknowledgment, has proclaimed it? Indeed, which God-called assembly of priests and high priests inspired by the All-holy Spirit has not condemned this notion even before it appeared? For they, having been initiated into the Father's Spirit according to the Master's mystagogy [i.e., St. John 15:26], proclaimed clearly and emphatically that the Spirit proceeds from the Father. And indeed, they subjected all who did not believe so to the anathema for being scorners of the Catholic and Apostolic Church; for in times past, they foresaw with prophetic eyes this newly spawned godlessness, and they condemned it in script and words and thought, along with the previous manifold apostasies. Of the Ecumenical Councils, the Second directly dogmatized that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father; the Third received this teaching in succession; the Fourth confirmed it; the Fifth was established in the same opinion; the Sixth preached the same; the Seventh sealed it splendidly with contests; in each Council is seen the open and clear proclamation of piety and of the doctrine that the Spirit proceeds from the Father, not from the Son. What godless herd taught you otherwise? Who of those who contravene the Master's ordinances has led you to fall into such lawless beliefs?"

(On the Mystagogy of the Holy Spirit by Saint Photios, Patriarch of Constantinople, trans. by Holy Transfiguration Monastery [Studion Publishers, Inc: 1983], p. 71.) It is common to find those who are under the impression that the Filioque clause is a trifling matter—a mere "word-squabble" among theologians; or that the Filioque is really not a big issue because some theologians have figured a way to keep the clause but interpret it in an "Eastern Way" that is acceptable to the Orthodox. Such a person with an honest, truth-loving soul will not be able to hold these opinions any longer when they read the Mystagogy. There is no way to get around the fact that it is a grave heresy and has always been seen as such by the Orthodox Church.

From the Synodicon of the Holy Spirit (to be read on the second day of Pentecost)

Background: This is subtitled: "A confession and proclamation of the Orthodox piety of the Christians, in which all the impieties of the heretics are overthrown and the definitions of the Catholic Church of Christ are sustained. Through which the enemies of the Holy Spirit are severed from the Church of Christ." This Synodicon (a decision, statement, or tome either originating from a synod or council or possessing conciliar authority) is attributed to Patriarch Germanos the New (1222-1240). It demonstrates how the theology of St. Photios the Great became the Church's definitive voice on the subject of the filioque. There can be no doubt that the filioque was judged to be heretical by the Orthodox Church. What follows are just a few of the anathemas from the Synodicon. (This background information, and the anathemas, are taken from On the Mystagogy of the Holy Spirit, ibid.)

"So likewise do they who despise and disdain piety receive curses; wherefore, all we in unison, since we constitute the plentitude of piety, lay upon them the curse which they have put upon themselves." [an excerpt from the Synodicon of Orthodoxy, read on the Sunday of Orthodoxy during Great Lent].' To those who do not deign to consent to the unaltered and unadulterated holy Symbol confessed by the Orthodox, that one, I mean, which was evangelically formulated by the First and Second Holy Councils and confirmed by the rest, but who rather amend it and distort it to support their own belief, thereby not only corrupting the conciliar traditions of the holy fathers and of the holy and God-instructed apostles, but also the definitions of our true God and Savior, Jesus Christ, ANATHEMA." ...

"To those who in any way undertake investigations into new doctrines concerning the divine and incomprehensible Trinity and who search out the difference between begetting and procession, and the nature of begetting and procession in God and who increase words and do not abide and persist in the definitions handed down to us by both the disciples of Christ and the divine fathers; and who thereby uselessly strive to dispute over things not delivered to us, ANATHEMA."

"To those who scorn the venerable and holy ecumenical Councils, and who despise even more their dogmatic and canonical traditions; and to those who say that all things were not perfectly defined and delivered by the councils, but that they left the greater part mysterious, unclear, and untaught, ANATHEMA."

"To those who hold in contempt the sacred and divine canons of our blessed fathers, which, by sustaining the holy Church of God and adorning the whole Christian Church, guide to divine reverence, ANATHEMA."

"To all things innovated and enacted contrary to the Church tradition, teaching, and institution of the holy and ever-memorable fathers, or to anything henceforth so enacted, ANATHEMA."

St. Mark of Ephesus, one of the three "pillars" of Orthodoxy

"We have cut the Latins off from us for no other reason than that they are not only schismatics, but heretics. For this reason it is wholly improper to unite with them.... The Latins are not only schismatics but heretics as well. However, the Church was silent on this because their race is large and more powerful than ours... and we wished not to fall into triumphalism over the Latins as heretics but to be accepting of their return and to cultivate brotherliness." (1439)

SIGILLION of the Patriarchal formulation of an encyclical to Orthodox Christians throughout the world not to accept the modernistic Paschalion, or calendar of the innovated Menologion, but to keep what was once for all and well-formulated by the three hundred and eighteen Holy God-bearing Fathers of the First Ecumenical Council, under penalty of penance and anathema.

Background: In 1583, the Pope of Rome, Gregory XIII, who changed the Julian calendar, repeatedly pressured the Patriarch of Constantinople, Jeremias, who was called Illustrious, to follow him in the calendar innovation. The Patriarch repeatedly refused with letters, and finally in the same year, 1583, he convened a council in Constantinople...

"To all the genuine Christian children of the Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church of Christ of the East residing in Trigovysti and throughout the world, be grace and peace and mercy from God Almighty.

"No small turbulence overtook that ancient Ark, when, violently beset by billows, it floated upon the surface of the waters, and had not the Lord God remembered Noah and seen fit to still the water, there would have been no hope for it at all. Thus also in regard to the New Ark of our Church, against which misbelievers have launched an implacable war upon us, by means of these presents we have decided to leave a note that you may have in what is herein written the means of upholding and defending your Orthodoxy against such enemies more safely and surely.

But, lest the composition as a whole be weary to the simpler folks, we have decided to embody the matter in common langauge, wording it as follows: "In Common Language "From old Rome have come certain persons who learned there to wear Latin habits. The worst of it is how, from being Romans of Rumelia bred and born, they not only have changed their faith, but they even wage war upon the Orthodox dogmas and truths of the Eastern Church which have been delivered to us by Christ and the divine Apostles and the Holy Councils of the Holy Fathers.

Therefore, cutting off these persons as rotten members, we command:

1) That whoever does not confess with heart and mouth that he is a child of the Eastern Church baptized in Orthodox style, and that the Holy Spirit proceeds out of only the Father, essentially and hypostatically, as Christ says in the Gospel, shall be outside of our Church and shall be anathematized.

2) That whoever does not confess that at the Mystery of the Holy Communion the laity must also partake of both kinds, of the Precious Body and Blood, but instead says that he will partake only of the body, and that that is sufficient because therein is both flesh and blood, when as a matter of fact Christ died and administered each seperately, and they who fail to keep such customs, let all such persons be anathematized.

3) That whoever says that our Lord Jesus Christ at the Mystic Supper had unleavened bread (made without yeast), like that of the Jews, and not leavened bread, that is to say, bread raised with yeast, let him depart far away from us and let him be anathema as one having Jewish views and those of Apollinarios and bringing dogmas of the Armenians into the Church, on which account let him be doubly anathema.

4) Whoever says that our Christ and God, when he comes to judge us, does not come to judge souls together with bodies, or embodied souls, but instead comes to sentance only bodies, let him be anathema.

5) Whoever says that the souls of Christians who repented while in the world but failed to perform their penance go to a purgatory of fire when they die, where there is flame and punishment, and are purified, which is simply an ancient Greek myth, and those who, like Origen, think that hell is not everlasting, and thereby afford or offer the liberty or incentive to sin, let him and all such persons be anathema.

6) That whoever says that the Pope is the head of the Church, and not Christ, and that he has authority to admit persons to Paradise with his letters of indulgence or other passports, and can fogive sins as many as a person may commit if such person pay money to receive from him indulgences, i.e. licences to sin, let every such person be anathema.

7) That whoever does not follow the customs of the Church as the Seven Holy Ecumenical Councils decreed, and Holy Pascha, and the Menologion with which they did well in making it a law that we should follow it, and wishes to follow the newly-invented Paschalion and the New Menologion of the atheist astronomers of the Pope, and opposes all those things and wishes to overthrow and destroy the dogmas and customs of the Church which have been handed down by our fathers, let him suffer anathema and be put out of the Church of Christ and out of the Congregation of the Faithful.

8) That ye pious and Orthodox Christians remain faithful in what ye have been taught and have been born and brought up in, and when the time calls for it and there be need, that your very blood be shed in order to safeguard the Faith handed down by our Fathers and your confession: and that ye beware of such persons as have been described or referred to in the foregoing paragraphs, in order that our Lord Jesus Christ may help you and at the same time may the prayer of our mediocrity be with all of you: amen.

Done in the year of the God-man 1583 (MDLXXXIII), year of indiction 12, November 20 [O.S.]

Jeremiah of Constantinople
Silvester of Alexandria
Sophronius of Jerusalem

In the presence of the rest of the prelates at the Council."

This is found in pages 13-15 of the Rudder, which goes on to add that at another Pan-Orthodox synod in 1593, the 8th canon, which was headed "For exclusion of the New Calendar decrees that "all those who dare to disturb the rules of the Great and Holy Ecumenical Council of Nicaea, as held in the presence of the pious and most God-beloved King Constantine in regard to the holy feast of man-saving Pascha, be excommunicated and excluded from the Church..."

From The Acts and Decrees of the Synod of Jerusalem, subtitled "Against the Calvinists, Held in the Year 1672 Under Dositheus, Patriarch of Jerusalem" (London: Thomas Baker, 1899), translated and with notes by J.N.W.B Robertson

[Note: keep in mind that the decrees in this Synod are pastoral and protective in nature. They arose out of the need for the Church to address the so-called "Confession of Cyril Lucar". This confession, which espoused many teachings of the Protestant reformer John Calvin, was reportedly written by Cyril Lucar, a former Patriarch of Constantinople. The strong words are directed chiefly against those who are in full awareness of their error and are teaching contrary to the Orthodox Faith, leading "even the elect" astray. Finally, you must also know that my primary motive for compiling a document of texts like this is to combat the teaching of some Orthodox hierarchs and theologians who are compromised by the heresy of ecumenism. They say that the Orthodox Church has "never officially declared Roman Catholics or Protestants to be heretics." In saying this, they hope to further their ecumenical agenda of a false union with Western heterodoxy. Thus, these excerpts are more for the Orthodox than for Protestants who may stumble across my site.]

It is to be noted, therefore, that the leaders of these heretics, well knowing the doctrine of the Eastern Church, declare that she maintains the same as they themselves do in what concerns God and divine things; but of set purpose do they malign us, chiefly to deceive the more simple. For being severed, or rather rent away from the Westerns, and consequently being absolutely rejected by the whole Catholic [Orthodox] Church, and convicted, they are manifestly heretics, and the chiefest of heretics. For not only have they become, from motives of self-love, propounders of new and silly dogmas (if it is allowable to call what are really only fables dogmas); but are entirely external to the Church, as having no kind of communion whatever with the Catholic [Orthodox] Church, as hath been said... . But, as it is impossible in this matter for light and darkness, or Christ and Belial, to be together, so it is impossible for our adversaries, so long as they follow Calvin the heresiarch, as a leader, to be at one with the Eastern Church in what concerneth faith.

From the Encyclical of the Eastern Patriarchs, 1848

4. Of these heresies diffused, with what sufferings the LORD hath known, over a great part of the world, was formerly Arianism, and at present is the Papacy. This, too, as the former has become extinct, although now flourishing, shall not endure, but pass away and be cast down, and a great voice from heaven shall cry: It is cast down (Rev. xii. 10).

5, xv. All erroneous doctrine touching the Catholic truth of the Blessed Trinity, and the origin of the divine Persons, and the subsistence of the Holy Ghost, is and is called heresy, and they who so hold are deemed heretics, according to the sentence of St. Damasus, Pope of Rome, who says: "If any one rightly holds concerning the Father and the Son, yet holds not rightly of the Holy Ghost, he is an heretic" (Cath. Conf. of Faith which Pope Damasus sent to Paulinus, Bishop of Thessalonica). Wherefore the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, following in the steps of the holy Fathers, both Eastern and Western, proclaimed of old to our progenitors and again teaches today synodically, that the said novel doctrine of the Holy Ghost proceeding from the Father and the Son is essentially heresy, and its maintainers, whoever they be, are heretics, according to the sentence of Pope St. Damasus, and that the congregations of such are also heretical, and that all spiritual communion in worship of the orthodox sons of the Catholic Church with such is unlawful. Such is the force of the seventh Canon of the third Ecumenical Council.

7. These illustrious men proved indeed on this point the truth of the words of our holy father Basil the sublime, when he said, from experience, concerning the Bishops of the West, and particularly of the Pope: "They neither know the truth nor endure to learn it, striving against those who tell them the truth, and strengthening themselves in their heresy" (to Eusebius of Samosata). Thus, after a first and second brotherly admonition, knowing their impenitence, shaking them off and avoiding them, they gave them over to their reprobate mind. "War is better than peace, apart from God," as said our holy father Gregory, concerning the Arians. From that time there has been no spiritual communion between us and them; for they have with their own hands dug deep the chasm between themselves and Orthodoxy.

16. From these things we estimate into what an unspeakable labyrinth of wrong and incorrigible sin of revolution the papacy has thrown even the wiser and more godly Bishops of the Roman Church, so that, in order to preserve the innocent, and therefore valued vicarial dignity, as well as the despotic primacy and the things depending upon it, they know no other means shall to insult the most divine and sacred things, daring everything for that one end. Clothing themselves, in words, with pious reverence for "the most venerable antiquity" (p. xi. 1.16), in reality there remains, within, the innovating temper; and yet his Holiness really hears hard upon himself when he says that we "must cast from us everything that has crept in among us since the Separation," (!) while he and his have spread the poison of their innovation even into the Supper of our LORD.

From the Patriarchal Encyclical of 1895

XXI. Such are, briefly, the serious and arbitrary innovations concerning the faith and the administrative constitution of the Church, which the Papal Church has introduced and which, it is evident, the Papal Encyclical purposely passes over in silence. These innovations, which have reference to essential points of the faith and of the administrative system of the Church, and which are manifestly opposed to the ecclesiastical condition of the first nine centuries, make the longed-for union of the Churches impossible: and every pious and orthodox heart is filled with inexpressible sorrow on seeing the Papal Church disdainfully persisting in them, and not in the least contributing to the sacred purpose of union by rejecting those heretical innovations and coming back to the ancient condition of the one holy, catholic and apostolic Church of Christ, of which she also at that time formed a part.

XXIV... . But, as has been said before, the Western Church, from the tenth century downwards, has privily brought into herself through the papacy various and strange and heretical doctrines and innovations, and so she has been torn away and removed far from the true and orthodox Church of Christ. How necessary, then, it is for you to come back and return to the ancient and unadulterated doctrines of the Church in order to attain the salvation in Christ after which you press, you can easily understand if you intelligently consider the command of the heaven-ascended Apostle Paul to the Thessalonians, saying: 'Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle' ...

Metropolitan PHILARET of blessed memory, former First Hierarch of the Russian Orthdox Church Abroad, from his First Sorrowful Epistle

Perhaps somebody will say that times have changed, and heresies now are not so malicious and destructive as in the days of the Ecumenical Councils. But are those Protestants who renounce the veneration of the Theotokos and the Saints, who do not recognize the grace of the hierarchy,—or the Roman Catholics, who have invented new errors,—are they nearer to the Orthodox Church than the Arians or Semi-Arians?

Let us grant that modern preachers of heresy are not so belligerent towards the Orthodox Church as the ancient ones were. However, that is not because their doctrines are nearer to Orthodox teaching, but because Protestantism and Ecumenism have built up in them the conviction that there is no One and True Church on earth, but only communities of men who are in varying degrees of error. Such a doctrine kills any zeal in professing what they take to be the truth, and therefore modern heretics appear to be less obdurate than the ancient ones. But such indifference to truth is in many respects worse than the capacity to be zealous in defense of an error mistaken for truth. Pilate, who said "What is truth?" could not be converted; but Saul, the persecutor of Christianity, became the Apostle Paul. That is why we read in the Book of Revelation the menacing words to the Angel of the Church of Laodicea: "I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew thee out of my mouth" (iii. 15-16).

Metropolitan PHILARET, from his Second Sorrowful Epistle

The Roman Catholic Church with which Patriarch Athenagoras would establish liturgical communion, and with which, through the actions of Metropolitan Nikodim of Leningrad and others, the Moscow Patriarchate has already entered into communion, is not even that same church with which the Orthodox Church led by St. Mark of Ephesus refused to enter into a union. That church is even further away from Orthodoxy now, having introduced even more new doctrines and having accepted more and more the principles of reformation, ecumenism and modernism.

In a number of decisions of the Orthodox Church the Roman Catholics were regarded as heretics. Though from time to time they were accepted into the Church in a manner such as that applied to Arians, it is to be noted that for many centuries and even in our time the Greek Churches accepted them by Baptism. If after the centuries following 1054 the Latins were accepted into the Greek and Russian Churches by two rites, that of Baptism or of Chrismation, it was because although everyone recognized them to be heretics, a general rule for the entire Church was not yet established in regard to the means of their acceptance. For instance, when in the beginning of the XII century the Serbian Prince and father of Stephan Nemania was forced into having his son baptized by the Latins upon his subsequent return later to Rasa he baptized him in the Orthodox Church (Short Outline of the Orthodox Churches, Bulgarian, Serbian and Rumanian, E. E. Golubinsky, Moscow, 1871, p. 551). In another monumental work, The History of the Russian Church (Vols. I/II, Moscow, 1904, pp. 806-807), Professor Golubinsky, in describing the stand taken by the Russian Church in regard to the Latins, advances many facts indicating that in applying various ways in receiving the Latins into the fold of the Orthodox Church, at some times baptizing them and at others chrismating them, both the Greeks and Russian Churches assumed that they were heretics.

From "An Open Letter to the Orthodox Hierarchy", by Fr. Michael Azkoul

"... If any have doubts that Papists and Protestants are heretics, let him have recourse to history, to the reputable and sagacious opinions and statements of councils, encyclicals and theologians. From the time of blessed Saint Photius, when Papism was coming into being, the Church of God has defined Her attitude towards this ecclesiological heresy even as She had towards the triadological and christological heresies of ancient times. The Council of Constantinople (879-880) under Photius declared the various innovations of the West to be heretical (J.D. Mansi, Sacro. Council. nova et amplis. collect. Venice, 1759, XVI, 174C, 405C); and the Council of the same imperial city (1009) confirmed the decisions of Photius against the Papists (Mansi, XXXL, 799f). Theophylact of Ochrida condemned the Papal errors (PG 126 224) as did Nicephorus Blemnydes, Patriarch of Constantinople (PG 142 533-564).

"His successor, Michael Anchialus stated' "Let the Saracen be my lord in outward things, and let not the Italian run with me in the things of the soul, for I do not become of one mind with the first; if I do not obey him, but if I accept harmony in faith with the second, I shall have deserted my God, whom He, in embracing me, will drive away" (in J. Giesler, Comp. Eccl.. Hist. Edinburg, 1953, p. 490). Again, George of Cyprus (PG 142 1233-1245), Germanus II, Patriarch of Constantinople (PG 140 621-757), Saint Marcus Eugenicos (PG 140 1071-1100) and Patriarch of Constantinople, Gennadius (PG 160 320-373) all condemn the Papist heresies as does Saint Simeon of Thessalonica (Dial. Christ. Contra Omn. Haer, PG 155 105-108), the illustrious successor to the most blessed, St. Gregory Palamas, God-mantled enemy of Latin Scholasticism.

"In the l6th Century, despite the Turkish yoke, Patriarch Jeremiah II of Constantinople rejected the Lutheran overtures in his Three Answers on the ground of heresy while the Council of Constantinople (1638) repudiated the Calvinist heresies; the Council of Jassy (1642) with Peter Moghila denounced "all Western innovations" and the Council of Jerusalem (1672) under the famous Patriarch Dositheus published its 18 decrees together with the pronouncements of the Patriarch, Confessio Dosithei, forming thereby the shield of truth" which opposed "the spirit of the ancient Church" to "the heresies of both the Latins and the Protestants" (See I Mesolora, Symbol of the Eastern Orthodox Church (vol. IV), Athens, 1904). Of course, the heresy of the Papists and Protestants is a clear affirmation of the Orthodox Church as the "One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church" as declared the Council of Constantinople (1672), the Encyclical of the Eastern Patriarchs (1848), the Council of Constantinople (1872), the Patriarchal Encyclical of 1895, the Holy Russian Synod of 1904, and the memorable words of [the] Patriarch of Constantinople, Joachim II, "Our desire is that all heretics shall come to the bosom of the Orthodox Church of Christ which alone is able to give them salvation ..." (in Chrestos Androutsos, The Basis for Union ... Constantinople, 1905, p. 36)."

From Orthodox Tradition, Vol. XIII, No. 1, 41ff

"... As for those who, in defending the stand taken by Bishop Maximos and other ecumenists of like mind, claim that the Roman Catholic Church and its teachings have never been condemned by the Orthodox Church, let us cite the following statement from the Greek periodical Hagios Kyprianos, a sober and erudite periodical which has, for a number of years, published significant assessments of the ecumenical movement from a traditional Orthodox point of view: "...Two Ecumenical Synods (the eighth / 879-880, concerning St. Photios the Great, and the ninth / 14th century, concerning St. Gregory Palamas) and at least fourteen (14) other anti-papist Orthodox Synods have condemned Papsim and its numberless errors in belief, while more than two hundred (200) Holy Fathers and ecclesiastical writers have written against the Latins and have overturned those dogmas which they hold in opposition to the Gospels." [Editorial note.—We should point out that many Orthodox scholars consider the Synods held in Constantinople in 879-880, under Emperor Basil I, and in 1341, under Emperor Andronicos III, to have an ecumenical character. In 1351, another Synod, held at the Blacharnai Palace under Emperor John VI Cantacouzenos, fully upheld the decisions of the Synod of 1341, further supporting its ecumenical character.]"

From Orthodox Tradition, Vol. XIV, No. 2&3, 26

[In response to a question from a student at St. Vladimir's Seminary ...] Second, let us see what a "contemporary" Father of the Church—one who was awarded an honorary doctorate by your seminary, incidentally—has to say, in keeping with the true consensus of our Orthodox Patristic tradition, about the heterodox. In his essay, "Attributes of the Church" (Orthodox Life, Vol. XXXI, No. 1 [Jan.-Feb. 1981], p. 29), the Blessed Archimandrite Justin (Popovich) writes:

From time to time, heretics and schismatics have cut themselves off and have fallen away from the One and indivisible Church of Christ, whereby they ceased to be members of the Church and parts of Her Theanthropic Body. The first to fall away thus were the Gnostics, then the Arians, then the Macedonians, then the Monophysites, then the Iconoclasts, then the Roman Catholics, then the Protestants, then the Uniates, and so on—all the members of the legion of heretics and schismatics.

From The Creeds of Christendom, ed. by Philip Schaff (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1990 [1931]). For those not familiar with this book, it is a classic and scholarly Protestant reference text. See also Augsburg and Constantinople, by Fr. George Mastrantonis (Brookline: Holy Cross Press, 1982).

After considerable delay, Jeremiah II, [Patriarch of Constantinople] replied to the Lutheran divines at length, in 1576, and subjected the Augsburg Confession to an unfavorable criticism, rejecting nearly all its distinctive doctrines, and commending only its indorsement [sic] of the early ecumenical Synods and its view on the marriage of priests. The Tübingen professors sent him an elaborate defense (1577), with other documents, but Jeremiah, two years afterwards, only reaffirmed his former position, and when the Lutherans troubled him with new letters, apologetic and polemic, he declined all further correspondence, and ceased to answer... .

The Answers of Jeremiah received the approval of the Synod of Jerusalem in 1672, and may be regarded, therefore, as truly expressing the spirit of the Eastern Communion towards Protestantism. It is evident from the transactions of the Synod of Jerusalem that the Greek Church rejects Lutheranism and Calvinism alike as dangerous heresies. (51-52)

Calvinism and Cyril Lucar's Confession

The Confession of Cyril Lucar was never adopted by any branch or party of the Eastern Church, and even repeatedly condemned as heretical; but as it gave rise to the later authentic definitions of the "Orthodox Faith," in opposition to the distinctive doctrines of Romanism and Protestantism, it must be noticed here...

Cyril left no followers able or willing to carry on his work, but the agitation he had produced continued for several years and called forth defensive measures. His doctrines were anathematized by Patriarch Cyril of Berea and a Synod of Constantinople (Sept., 1638), then again by the Synods of Jassy, in Moldavia, 1643, and of Jerusalem, 1672; (54, 55)

The Synod convened at Jerusalem in March, 1672, by Patriarch Dositheus, for the consecration of the restored Church of the Holy Nativity in Bethlehem, issued a new Defense or Apology of Greek Orthodoxy. It is directed against Calvinism, which was still professed or secretly held by many admirers of Cyril Lucar. It is dated Jerusalem, March 16, 1672, and signed by Dositheus, Patriarch of Jerusalem and Palestine (otherwise little known), and by sixty-eight Eastern bishops and ecclesiastics, including some from Russia.

This Synod is the most important in the modern history of the Eastern Church, and may be compared to the Council of Trent. Both fixed the doctrinal status of the Churches they represent, and both condemned the evangelical doctrines of Protestantism... .But although the Synod was chiefly aimed against Protestantism, and has no direct polemical reference to the Latin Church, it did not give up any of the distinctive Greek doctrines, or make any concessions to the claims of the Papacy.

The acts of the Synod of Jerusalem consists of six chapters, and a confession of Dositheus in eighteen decrees. Both are preceded by a pastoral letter giving an account of the occasion of this public confession in opposition to Calvinism and Lutheranism, which are condemned alike as being essentially the same heresy, notwithstanding some apparant differences. The Answers of Patriarch Jeremiah given to Martin Crusius, Professor in Tübingen, and other Lutherans, in 1572, are approved by the Synod of Jerusalem, as they were by the Synod of Jassy, and thus clothed with a semi-symbolical authority. The Orthodox Confession of Peter Moghila is likewise sanctioned again, but the Confession of Cyril Lucar is disowned as a forgery.

The Six Chapters are very prolix, and altogether polemical against the Confession which was circulated under the name of Cyril Lucar, and give large extracts from his homilies preached before the clergy and people of Constantinople to prove his orthodoxy. One anathema is not considered sufficient, and a threefold anathema is hurled against the heretical doctrines.

The Confessio Dosithei presents, in eighteen decrees or articles, a positive statement of the orthodox faith. It follows the order of Cyril's Confession, which it is intended to refute. It is the most authoritative and complete doctrinal deliverance of the modern Greek Church on the contoverted articles. It was formally transmitted by the Eastern Patriarchs to the Russian Church in 1721, and through it to certain Bishops of the Church of England, as an ultimatum to be received without further question or conference by all who would be in communion with the Orthodox Church. (61-62)

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Love for Heretics

There is no doubt at all that the standard of love put forth by the Holy Fathers with regard to hereticsa standard inherited from the Apostles, reflects wholly the characteristics of the GodMan. This is expressed in the following inspired words of Saint Maximos the Confessor:

"I write these things not wishing to cause distress to the heretics or to rejoice in their illtreatment—God forbid; but, rather, rejoicing and being gladdened at their return. For what is more pleasing to the Faithful than to see the scattered children of God gathered again as one? Neither do I exhort you to place harshness above the love of men. May I not be so mad! I beseech you to do and to carry out good to all men with care and assiduity, becoming all things to all men, as the need of each is shown to you; I want and pray you to be wholly harsh and implacable with the heretics only in regard to cooperating with them or in any way whatever supporting their deranged belief. For I reckon it misanthropy and a departure from Divine love to lend support to error, that those previously seized by it might be even more greatly corrupted" (Patrologia Graeca, Vol. 91 col. 465c).

From The Panheresy of Ecumenism, by Metropolitan Cyprian of Oropos and Fili (Etna, CA: The Center for Traditionalist Orthodox Studies, 1995), 32.

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For Further Reading
  • St. Photios, On the Mystagogy of the Holy Spirit (Studion Publishers, Inc., 1983). Aside from a superb English translation of St. Photios' Mystagogy, this important book also includes the Synodicon on the Holy Spirit, "St. Photios and the Filioque" by Michael Azkoul, and "The Life of St. Photios" by St. Justin Popovich.

  • The Lives of the Pillars of Orthodoxy (Buena Vista, CO: Holy Apostles Convent and the Dormition Skete, 1990). Contains the lives of St. Photios, St. Mark of Ephesus, and St. Gregory Palamas. Over 600 pages.

  • Ostroumoff, Ivan, The History of the Council of Florence (Boston, MA: Holy Transfiguration Monastery, 1971).

  • The Papacy: Its Historic Origin and Primitive Relations with the Eastern Church, by Abbe Guettee. Out of print but still available. Read this excerpt on the False Decretals of Isidore.

  • Christianity or the Papacy? An Appeal to Roman Catholics, by Fr. Alexey Young (St. John of Kronstadt Press). A concise explanation of the differences between Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism. 31pp.

  • The Roman West and the Byzantine East, by Bishop [now Archbishop] Chrysostomos of Oreoi [now of Etna] and Hieromonk [now Bishop] Auxentios (Etna, CA: The Center for Traditionalist Orthodox Studies, 1988). A superb, short treatment of general differences between East and West.

  • Kalomiros, Alexander, Against False Union (Seattle, WA: St. Nectarios Press, 1982). He is the author of the famous essay "The River of Fire".

  • Welton, Michael, Two Paths: Papal MonarchCollegial Tradition (Salisbury, MA: Regina Orthodox Press, 1998). From their website: "[C]ompassionately, simply, and factually explains the historic, theological, and liturgical differences between the Orthodox and Roman Catholic traditions."