The Tragedy of Our Uniate Brothers

by Hieromonk [now Bishop] Auxentios

Since the time of the Protestant Reformation, there has been a painful separation of Orthodox brothers to parallel the separation introduced into Western Christianity by this great religious upheaval. This separation among Orthodox came about through the so-called Unia, in which Eastern Orthodox Christians were joined with Rome, a good deal of the time—in fact, more times than we wish to admit, in this ecumenically blinded and historically uncareful age—by force and political compromise, not by "treaty" and with free will. These poor brothers find themselves today neither wholly Orthodox nor fully Roman, having no real recognition by the Orthodox and being separated from Rome by their Liturgical customs, which, to varying degrees, despite the erosion of such under the effects of Latinization (and in some practices, these poor people have succumbed to total abandonment of Orthodox customs), they preserve from their Orthodox past. These Uniates are organized under various exarchates (as they would be properly termed in Orthodoxy), with their surviving Byzantine organizational structures variously tolerated according to the whim of their largely Latin Bishops. Some of these Uniates have been nothing short of "Jesuitical" betrayers of the East, deceptively taking simple Orthodox Faithful away from their past. But great numbers of them are suffering, sincere people who are the victims of a terrible history and who would wish to find some place in which their hearts and consciences might be restored. To this number of the Uniates (or Greek [Byzantine] Catholics, as they sometimes call themselves), something must be said about the effects of the contemporary irresponsibility among Orthodox Prelates who are playing with souls by embracing un-Orthodox standards.

Stones instead of bread. In the pages of this journal we have many times chided those Orthodox who embrace modernism, who foolishly exercise "economy" in such a way as to compromise the meaning of the word, and who embrace the non-Orthodox in deceptive and foolish ecumenism—the falsity of which is well-known to us. We have also constantly warned that the overall effect of such things is to harm the souls of the Faithful, since the canons, true Orthodox standards, and Orthodox sobriety are established by the Fathers for the purpose, not of making us rigid and conservative, but of controlling our behaviors in a way that preserves the salvific force of the Faith. Recently, in the visit of several very fine and sincere Uniates to our monastery, I saw these points vividly brought home.

In the first place, in speaking with these people, I saw how clearly we Orthodox must avoid the exercise of "economy" in a foolish way in days when this sound Orthodox principle is used to serve ecumenical purposes. They were clearly confused as to the proper reception of Uniates. Uniates are sometimes "re"-Baptized, sometimes Chrismated, and, in the case of priests, received in various ways. In effect, for the sake of bringing back separated Orthodox to the fold, especially in Russia, extreme economy was often used: accepting Priests by vesting, bringing in the Faithful by simple confession or by Chrismation, and even accepting the Faithful and the clergy by Chrismation. One cannot deny this. And one cannot deny the wisdom of doing this in the past, at a time when many Uniates were so close to the Orthodox Faith. Economy was appropriate because it fit the situation. But always it was understood that the Church was filling an empty vessel, in extreme cases even bestowing the Priesthood and all aspects of Grace by Chrismation or vesting. When, in modern times, Orthodox are embarrassed, because of prevailing ecumenical ideas, to admit that Rome and the Uniates do not have Orthodox Mysteries, then they are offering stones, not bread.

These poor Uniate brothers who visited us are literally confused by Orthodox practices. As they told us, we would be shocked at the instances in which they participate in Orthodox services, even to the point, we are sorry to say, of inter-communion and concelebration! They are even convinced that we Old Calendarists and traditionalists, who are the majority of Orthodox outside America, hold a minority view. Of course, they do not understand the inner world of the Orthodox, since they are outside of it, but the actual fact is that these things do not surprise us. After all, this is why we have walled ourselves off from the irresponsibility of ecumenism and from Bishops in the Orthodox Church who, we are fully aware, preach that Orthodox recognize Grace in the Mysteries (Sacraments) of non-Orthodox to the non-Orthodox and ecumenists. The sad thing is that they do not say this to us, as all Orthodox know. They would be, and perhaps are self-deposed by such a denial of the primacy of Orthodoxy. As they embrace Uniates with false love and wine and dine them, if not concelebrate with them, they tell us, the traditionalists whom they so fear, that they even despise the Uniates. And here is the real problem. We do not hate these brothers, who live in tragedy, but love them. It is for this reason precisely that we refuse to present them an Orthodoxy which is false. And it is for this reason that we hasten to explain to them what the genuine Orthodox position is with regard to their orders and Mysteries.

Living by the exception. It is primarily in America where these distortions of Orthodox teaching are offered to our Uniate brothers, but many of the Patriarchates are not innocent of this, too. In a Latinized theological atmosphere (in which Orthodox teaching is even purposely distorted), these poor Uniates, thinking that the Patriarchs are "Popes" of the East, rather than simple Bishops with honor among their equals, are led to believe that the vast majority of world Orthodoxy is represented by the little handful of Orthodox in America or by the small communities around the Patriarchates. This is further complicated by the irresponsible action of the communist-dominated Patriarchate of Russia, which often gives Roman Catholics Communion (though the guidelines for this, which we have read, are not what the Latins pretend them to be). The rest of the Orthodox world has condemned this—in fact even by official pronouncement from the Ecumenical Patriarch—, but Orthodox are, again, afraid to admit this. Thus, we let the Uniates fancy themselves truly Orthodox, living by the uncanonical and theologically illiterate exception put forth to them by some Orthodox, who violate Christ's injunction to care for our little brothers.

The psychology of the Uniates is such that they truly wish to think that their Mysteries and Priesthood are Orthodox. And this is something which should endear them to us! It shows that deep in their souls they hunger for Orthodoxy. It is a yearning, at times, that must mystically bring them to the very door of Orthodoxy. But it is we who must show them how to open that door, not to leave them on the porch, telling them that they are already inside Orthodoxy!

Of course, there are cases of misrepresentation and deception by some Uniates. All guilt involves two parties, in such matters, and we must fairly say that some, though not all, Uniates have not been truthful. There are instances in which Uniates represent themselves as Orthodox and commune and concelebrate. There are also various rumors spread around to support the idea that the most conservative Orthodox accept Uniates and non-Orthodox. I was recently told, much to my shock, that my own mentor, who led me to Orthodoxy (the late Father Georges Florovsky), had communed Anglicans! This is simply nonsense, since Father George's advice to me in preparation for Priesthood was that, while I must do all possible to expand the perimeters of Orthodoxy (true ecumenism), I must do so within the honest boundaries of the Church, certainly never extending the Eucharist, which represents the fullness (pleroma) of unity in the Faith, to non-Orthodox. He has, of course, said the same in print. Self-serving notions and rumors to the side, his position, while non-Orthodox may not agree with it, is one which I have always followed obediently and as an expression of true ecumenism and love for my non-Orthodox brothers. Furthermore, as many of our readers know, since the accusation appeared in print, our monastery was once accused of communing Uniate clergy, who wished to legitimize their position by claiming that the moderate Old Calendarists (the Old Calendarist "scholars" as we were flatteringly called) avoid extremism and accept Uniates. Not only do we not allow such (nor do we, indeed, commune Uniate lay people), but we actually had never, until we read of this and received a letter from the accusing modernist Hierarch (a Hierarch who, ironically enough, would have told these Uniates that they were "Orthodox," but who condemned us as violators of Holy Canons!), heard of these Uniates. They have never actually met us, and we do not know them.

History, too, is often misused by Uniates in such a way as to feature the exception. Exceptional communities, like the tiny Church of Finland (which uncanonically and in violation of the First Œcumenical Synod uses the Western formula for Pascha) and, as we have mentioned, the communist-dominated, suffering Church of Russia, are cited as the norm in establishing that Orthodox do, indeed, accept Uniate practices and invite Greek Catholics to full participation in the fullness of the Faith. Also, the understandable instances, well into the fifteenth century, of inter-communion in Southern Italy and the Byzantine West, after the Great Schism, are cited as though the Great Schism did not, indeed, separate Latins from the Orthodox and remove those with Rome from the Orthodox Church and Apostolic Succession as we preserve it. The fact that every conservative and respected theologian in our Church flatly rejected Athenagoras' pronouncements, in the 1960s, with regard to the mutual excommunications (a strange thing, since Uniates, of all people, should know that an Orthodox Bishop cannot act unilaterally—after all that is why we reject Papism!), seems to escape those who wish to live by the un-Orthodox exception. As for Uniates in Russia and Eastern Europe, many pastoral uses of economy mark the Slavic Churches well into the last century. One can support these exceptions; however, Uniates cannot live by them. The Church extends herself where she wishes and when she wishes. As we pointed out in the last issue of Orthodox Tradition, these exercises of economy, with regard to the burial of non-Orthodox, were very carefully defined by the Church in the nineteenth century and in the early years of this century, so as to insure that misunderstanding of this economy did not mislead Uniates. An Orthodox Christian must always show economy in order to feed the hungry man. He must never use economy as daily food—but only in need. If ecumenism has so blinded many Orthodox Bishops of a modernist bent, and if they forget this point, the Uniates, if they are of a serious bent, must not forget this.

Finally, in speaking with certain Greek Catholics, I heard the strange accusation that Orthodox (even first "Old Calendarists") are so beset by immorality that Greek Catholics do not know what to do. I am a convert to Orthodoxy. I converted and became an Old Calendarist after much study, having left the sciences at Princeton to study religion. I studied every religion that I could. At Father Florovsky's advice, after studying Orthodoxy by travelling to Mt. Athos and seeing the healthiest examples of Orthodoxy there (something Uniates seldom do with an open mind, if at all), I became Orthodox in the Old Calendar Greek Church. I did not do this lightly. One of the most impressive things about Orthodoxy to me to this day is that it is open, honest, and fully able to admit the errors of the humans within it. Despite this, I could count on one hand the actual instances of immorality that I have known of in Orthodoxy among traditionalists (and since converting, I have traveled through much of the Orthodox world, including places in Eastern Europe that most people have never seen). They are among the most moral people I have ever met. Out of propriety I will not mention what I saw in other, non-Orthodox communities, including monastic settings. (I think that modern American television has said whatever need be said about non-Orthodox monasticism in this country!) And I will be obvious about my objectivity in saying that, in my near decision to be a Buddhist monastic, I also saw the strictest morality among these people. In the end, too, these kinds of accusations are shadows that cloud the truth and which, once more, try to establish a rule by the exception. Such thinking never truly compromises the Orthodox witness. More importantly, though, it never really serves our Uniate brothers in their quest for Orthodoxy—something to which we should be honestly calling them by a clear distinction between that which is the exception and that which is the norm. This is particularly true at a time when the Orthodox Church is being tried by modernism and is being prepared, many Fathers say, for the advent of the remnant Church.

The exception on a larger scale. One must also note that Uniates in the United States (and they are now largely a church in diaspora) live with a view of Orthodoxy which separates them from the truly mainstream spiritual and theological life of Orthodoxy. There is not a great deal to be said here about the poverty of Orthodox theological studies in the United States. It has all been adequately said before. Because of this poor theological atmosphere, the core of practical theology, ecclesiology, has been largely ignored. Uniates, therefore, have little exposure to what is the burning issue in the Orthodox world today theologically: ecclesiology. While one jurisdiction in this country has rightly condemned the branch theory of the Church as heretical and wholly incompatible with Orthodox ecclesiological dogma, the majority of Orthodox clergymen in the U.S. hardly even understand this point. When they interact with Uniates, who bring to their dialogues with Orthodoxy a wholly Latin view of the Orthodox Church, the Orthodox themselves are influenced by these views. One rather poorly schooled modernist Prelate in the U.S. was actually shocked to read the introduction to one of Archimandrite Chrysostomos' books recently, commenting that he had really never before understood the Orthodox notion of Grace and the consequent dogmatic formulation that non-Orthodox (including Uniates) do not have Grace as the Orthodox Church understands it. One wonders what kind of dialogue he must have carried on with his Uniate friends in the past!

Another consequence of the theological atmosphere among modernist Orthodox in America is that Uniates do not come to an Orthodox understanding of the Church. This is essential. If they understood traditional Orthodox ecclesiology, Uniates would not be Uniates. They are Uniates because if there is any place in which they are wholly outside an Orthodox mentality, it is in the area of ecclesiology. In fact, they rage and scream when we bring up the Donation of Constantine, Papism, and Apostolic Succession from an Orthodox perspective. In the first place, Latins came from the bosom of the Orthodox Church. They are, from our understanding, primarily errant in their ecclesiology, having separated themselves from an Orthodox understanding of the Church by opting for a worldly notion of the Church. They understand the Church in terms of numbers, influence, and worldly power—things which the Apostolic Church knew not at all and which the remnant Church will also not know. Papism began in the Gospel as a temptation put before Christ by the Evil One himself: the lure of worldly power. Roman Catholicism is Orthodoxy which has succumbed to such temptation. This is the real Orthodox view. And today there are many Orthodox, mostly in America where wealth and power are available, but also in the historical Patriarchates, for whom recognition (even by Rome!) seems to be a road to the re-establishment of ecclesiastical power. Latinism has beset them. Papism is in its incipient stages. And just as the East separated itself from the life of the West before an actual schism (which came in 1054), so many of us Orthodox have separated ourselves from the disastrous trends in modernist Orthodoxy (a symptom of which is the Calendar innovation). This the Uniates do not understand, because they do not understand the Orthodox Church and have few traditional Orthodox to teach them.

Modernist Orthodox are not alone at fault in this process. Some modernists sincerely believe that their compromises will help Orthodoxy. This, too, the Uniates do not know: that, behind closed doors, our modernist brothers tell us Old Calendarists that they are compromising for the sake of the Faith. Uniates who are attracted to such elements should think long and hard about just what they are being offered. On the other hand, it is a social psychological law that one tends to affiliate, in ambiguous situations, with others who are like himself, both in an attempt to acquire a clearer view and in an attempt to reduce psychological tension in the presence of "like others." The Uniates, therefore, have a reason to court modernist Orthodox, to concelebrate with them (and by Orthodox Canons thus automatically depose the Orthodox clergy with whom they concelebrate—a sad but poignant point against ecumenism), and to encourage them in their Latin views of ecclesiological "officialdom," actually reinforcing their non-Orthodox views of the Church in the atmosphere of ecclesiological confusion in which Orthodox now live. This is done among the Uniates at times for "Jesuitical" reasons. Let us not be misled. At other times, however, it is done simply because Uniates do not dare venture beyond the sure ecclesiological ground which the Latins have set up for them, despite their feelings of being neither Latin nor Orthodox and despite their ambiguous feelings toward that circumstance. In the former case, Papism will win over many Orthodox, which is an old goal that we know too well (one of the unfortunate goals of those who are dishonest ecumenists—and they must be separated from the deluded but sincere ecumenists). In the latter case, the poor Uniates, if they ever find truly common grounds with the modernist Orthodox, will ultimately find themselves Uniates again. After all, this is what we traditionalists have been predicting for years. And our predictions are coming true.

One of the most unfortunate consequences of this ecclesiological confusion among Orthodox in America (who are divided into uncountable jurisdictions) is that, rather than find profoundly spiritual bases for ecclesiological definitions, they are finding simplistic solutions to their dilemmas (influenced, as we have said, by the Latins). Thus we see a group of Bishops setting themselves up as the only canonical Bishops*. The fact that many Bishops, who are canonical by the very definitions of the group in question, will not join them compromises the whole thing from the beginning. Then some sincere but rather plodding theological observers come along with the neo-Papist idea that everyone must be in communion with a Patriarch to be canonically Orthodox.** This fails, since history belies this and since all Bishops, as our own Synods have averred, are equal. Finally, everyone settles on Apostolic Succession as a criterion for canonicity.

This last criterion is interesting, if simply because it finally favors traditional Orthodoxy. In the Orthodox Church, Apostolic Succession is not merely historical. It is not enough for Bishops to show that they go back to the Apostles. (After all, Rome certainly can claim this, and yet all of the Orthodox Synods since the Great Schism have flatly condemned Rome as heretical, schismatic, and devoid of Apostolic Succession.) In fact, Apostolic Succession is meaningful only when spiritual succession, as Father Florovsky terms it, is also present. There must be an adherence to Holy Tradition, the Church as it has developed historically under the guidance of the Holy Spirit (since it has blossomed and matured, such that so-called "primitive" Christianity is not authentic for us today), and the Canons of the Orthodox Church (which depose a clergyman for even praying with those who violate this definition of Orthodoxy).

It became abundantly clear to me recently, in speaking with a Uniate clergyman, that Apostolic Succession, while it could lead to a healthy criterion for establishing Orthodox "legitimacy" (if such a vulgar term should be used), is not well enough understood today for this to be the case. This clergyman related to me various rumors that he had heard about the Old Calendarists, most notably that Akakios, the Greek Bishop Consecrated by two Bishops of the Russian Synod Abroad, was, indeed, Consecrated by a single Bishop and the Old Calendarists therefore did not have Apostolic Succession. I was rather astounded that this clergyman, an articulate and educated man, would make such a statement. But then I realized that he truly did not know the Orthodox Church's teaching on Apostolic Succession. (I should note here that he also chided Father Chrysostomos for not mentioning the name of this second Bishop in his recent book on the Old Calendarists. The Romanian Bishop Theophilus, then under the Russian Synod Abroad, is well known for his activities and there are no aware Orthodox who fail to know his role in the Consecration of the Old Calendar Bishops, along with Archbishop Seraphim of Chicago and Archbishop Leonty of Chile. As a matter of fact, except in a footnote, Father Chrysostomos named neither Bishop. It would be unnecessary among Orthodox.)

As we know from the life of St. Amphilochios, who was Consecrated to the Episcopacy by "men in white robes" with "faces shining like the sun," and as we have pointed out above, Apostolic Succession is not merely historical. It has a spiritual side. Moreover, it is conveyed by a Bishop. So Latin have the Uniates become in their view of the Church through the prism of the Papacy, that every Church rule is colored and distorted. The Consecration of a Bishop by a single Bishop conveys Apostolic Succession, but is uncanonical. The lack of canonicity is corrected, not by re-Consecration (which is a blasphemy), but by "cheirothesia." The Consecration is "corrected." A basic course in ecclesiastical history, with reference to the returns of heretics in the early Church, would clear up this confusion. As for the Old Calendarists, they were not Consecrated by a single Bishop. The irregularity of the Consecrations, which were undertaken without the consent of the entire Russian Synod, was automatically corrected by the declaration of the Greek Traditionalist Church and the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad as Sister Churches in 1969. (This declaration, incidentally, has never been rescinded, despite the distance that exists between the two Churches.)

All of this is not, of course, a matter for the Uniates. Nor is it something that they can understand as long as they are under the sway of Latin theology or so bent on courting modernist Orthodox, who are equally ignorant of their own traditions, thus failing to tell the Uniates what they should hear: namely, that they do not have Apostolic Succession according to the Orthodox formulation. If they do not accept that, then they are rightly where they should be—in the Unia. If they can accept it, then they must heed what we traditionalist Orthodox (and we are found not only among Old Calendarists, but in all jurisdictions) have to say.

A true witness to Uniates. If we can understand why the Uniates seek out modernist Orthodox in their quest for self-definition, we must reach out—we traditionalists—to help them. They are, indeed, isolated from Orthodox tradition. The truncated services, shaved faces, Papist thinking, wealthy Churches, and lax spirituality of modernists are alluring. These things are as familiar to them as they are foreign to true Orthodoxy. It would be so easy for the Uniates to join with the modernist Orthodox, since these modernists are on the same path toward Unia which put the Uniates where they are today. How comfortable the Uniates must feel with these people. But we must warn them. Again, we cannot give them a stone instead of bread. There are too many of them who will, when the truth is clearly put forth, wish to return to the Orthodox Church.

As we reach out to these Uniates, we must be absolutely honest, since they have been lured by those who are not open with them. We must also, in this honesty, teach them of the majority of the Orthodox world: those poor, disenfranchised, captive masses that Christ entrusted with His Holy Church. Only then will they leave the glitter of a fleeting Orthodoxy in America, which sparkles with the same worldly glitter that they have known in Rome. They know nothing of the true New Calendar Shepherds, such as Metropolitan Augustinos of Florina. They attend banquets for Prelates in America, while, on his recent name-day, Metropolitan Augustinos is greeted in the proper spiritual way by 20,000 pilgrims from all over Greece. They rush to Patriarchates which must compromise themselves and play politics to survive (often because Rome itself threatens them), while they fail to visit a village where Orthodoxy is lived. They go to places where Orthodoxy is being decimated by missions (some from their own Church), while avoiding the vast amount of the Orthodox world, where the Faith is staunch! They think of Florence, not remembering that the real Orthodox world dismantled that political sham within a week of the return of their Bishops. They know a few popular Orthodox theologians of Greek Catholic background and bent, hardly even having touched a page of Archimandrite Philotheos Zervakos' works or the works of the great Archimandrite Justin of Serbia. But they are not alone in this. Their modernist Orthodox friends are equally ignorant—though sometimes because they choose to be. We must change this.

As for us Old Calendarists and other traditionalists, we must make it clear to the Uniates that we are opposing exactly what it is that took them from their past: the Unia. Though the Unia comes today not in swords and treaties, it comes in the form of irresponsible ecumenism. Our own Orthodox, in dialogues with Latins, are betraying the very things that we Orthodox believe. We must not let the Uniates succumb to this. The Latins would wish our witness ended. Thus the Vatican had the incredible gall—this Church which claims that it does not interfere in the Orthodox world—to warn the State Church of Greece that it must disavow the Old Calendarists, since their traditional witness and theology are the chief impediments to union! This incident had quite an effect in Greece, where the Uniates have established a front. Need one wonder whether these directives have been given to other Orthodox Churches? Indeed not.

In our witness, we must also be both gentle and wise. I have seen our own Abbot, who is very conservative in his Orthodoxy, agonize over the delusion of Uniates whom he knows and considers spiritual brothers. He sees them poisoned by non-Orthodox ideas and sees their course: union with Orthodox who are preparing for the Unia themselves. How can one not weep for these people? And while we must counsel them to be slow and cautious in their moves, we see that, as the remnant Church approaches, there is less and less chance that these people will awaken. On the other hand, Uniates, too, have their betrayers. Many of them wish to appear Orthodox and to entrap our Faithful, trying with every effort to obfuscate the serious divisions between Orthodox and Latins. This is unfair and dangerous. They court the modernist Orthodox, taking advantage of their ignorance and thus paving the way for their entry into the Unia. For them, it is essential that all traditionalist Orthodox Christians be disavowed. And they do their task with great care, often being more vulgar than any deluded Orthodox.

We must defeat the deceivers on all sides, if we are to help our Uniate brothers. In doing this, we should speak out in the way that our own Bishop, Metropolitan Cyprian, has spoken out. He left the State Church and placed his monastery, as a dependency, under the Holy Mountain. He has not once equivocated in speaking about the betrayal of Orthodoxy in modern times by those who are becoming Uniates through ecumenism. And he has always given a helping hand to those who wish to return to the fullness of the Orthodox witness, never showing hate for hate, animosity in the face of deception. But he is not the only example. If the Uniate deceivers and their blinded modernist Orthodox friends think that they can, by deception and slander, remove the Old Calendarist witness, there are also State Church Bishops in Greece who condemn the uncanonical moves of such as the Œcumenical Patriarch with regard to Latins. As we have said, Metropolitan Augustinos of Florina is perhaps one of the most courageous of these Bishops, flatly having condemned the Œcumenical Patriarch for "Liturgical interaction with heretical Latins," citing numerous instances of inter-Faith prayer by the Patriarchate and its representatives in absolute violation of the Canons of the Church. There are, too, other Bishops of the Church who speak out, followed by the vast majority of sober monastics on the Holy Mountain.

We must bring to the attention of honest Uniates the Old Calendar witness and the witness of great Church champions like Metropolitan Augustinos (whose recent "Open Letter" points out that Orthodox are forbidden even to join in common prayer with Latins). In this way, one can see how far astray the modernist Orthodox have gone and honest Uniates, seeking union with Orthodox, can turn to more mature guides. They must turn from the captive Church of Russia, which, as we noted above, has uncanonically and unilaterally decided to give Holy Communion to Roman Catholics under some extraordinary circumstances. We must enlighten our Uniate brothers that there is nothing edifying when a KGB agent passing as an Orthodox Bishop (Nikodim of Leningrad) dies before a Roman Pontiff after orchestrating a denial of the Faith which he supposedly represented, all in an effort to court influence in the Western Church for his Kremlin cronies. Are not even the Jesuits ashamed of this?

Honest Uniates also must cease waning here and there to find unhealthy Orthodox with whom to concelebrate. Since this is forbidden by our Church Canons, the Priest who does so, as we have said, is automatically deposed. Does a brother do such a thing for his brother, simply to try to reduce some ambiguity in himself about a situation which he does not like? Hardly. And with what have such Uniates joined? Deposed clergy and those going headlong into the Unia themselves. A good Orthodox Christian is distinguished these days as much by those with whom he does NOT commune, as those with whom he maintains communion. In this Uniates must put aside their personal feelings. Holy Communion is the ultimate expression of unity within Orthodoxy, as is common prayer. We do not separate ourselves from others in this out of hate, but to preserve our very identity. If ecumenists should mature and accept this, how much more should Uniates appreciate this, especially when what they seek in mistakenly communing with Orthodox is the very unity of Orthodox Faith which such actions compromise? This is illogical. (As for Uniates who represent themselves as Orthodox or claim that bastions of conservative Orthodoxy like the Holy Mountain receive them for Communion, their dishonesty puts them outside the realm of true religion. There are, indeed, these instances to counterbalance the blame on the Orthodox side.)

In dialogues with Uniates who wish truly to find their place (they feel at times that they are neither Orthodox nor Latin), we must avoid the hatred that accompanies so much religious dialogue—covered up at times by politeness and diplomatic words, but present to a spiritually sensitive person. We have spoken with Uniates and have heard them contradict themselves, change their statements, equivocate, and, as the expression goes, "beat around the bush" on issues, only because many of their comments were initially hostile, nasty, and vindictive. Despite themselves, they do not always wish to hear the truth. They have heard the soothing lies of the modernists so long, that the truth from traditional Orthodox burns them. This must end. They must be mature and accept that, from an Orthodox position, they are outside the Orthodox Church, just as we Orthodox were much more comfortable when we were considered outside the Latin Church. More honest dialogue, without compromising the Faith of the Orthodox or Latins, took place before modern ecumenism than takes place now. And if there was hostility before, it was open. It could be dealt with and removed. Today it cannot. And in the end, the Uniates lose once more. This must not occur. It must stop. They must admit which Orthodox are true: to be sure, the ones who do not look like them, worship like them, or think like them. If they want to be called to something, then they should heed another's voice, not their own. Their Liturgies, their spiritual life, their monasticism, and their theological thought are distorted, tainted, and compromised in the same way that anything which, in a set of X and Y, is neither X nor Y. Let us be blunt about this.

As for those Orthodox, however, who spread hatred for Latins or Uniates: Beware. This is not the way of the Church. It is wrong. We must not cry that Uniates have no Priesthood, no Grace, no Church (or Latins for that matter). They do not have these things as Orthodox receive them, indeed. About this we should be frank. But their belief in Christ, their closeness to us, their love for many Orthodox things—these cannot count for nothing. We should fear for our own salvation, we who think that we have preserved the Church of Christ, and yet abuse it and misrepresent it. As for others, we should call them to that of which we fall short. No spiritual man sees things in any other way. The problem with the Uniates is one between brothers who are seeking their Mother. We have known our Mother; they have not. They have been raised by a step-mother. Let us then show them compassion and love. If I am wrong, then why has the Church, respecting the beautiful vessel which many Uniates have preserved, filled this empty vessel by the most extraordinary acts of economy, even extending the Priesthood by vesting and Chrismation? Why, if I am not right? I am right, as we all know, and the Church has done this out of the economy of a mother! Let us act with the charity of brothers. And let us reprove in our families those modernist Orthodox who give hard stones to our brothers, rather than good spiritual food, and let us censure those Uniates who deceptively hope to be what they are not by associating with those who are ceasing to be what they should be and becoming, rather, what the Uniates wish not to be!

From Orthodox Tradition, Vol. III, No. 1, pp. 35-47.

Webmaster Notes

* E.g., the so-called SCOBA: Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in America.

** This wholly un-Orthodox idea was criticized by Fr. Alexander Schmemann in his insightful article, "Problems of Orthodoxy in America: The Canonical Problem" (St. Vladimir’s Seminary Quarterly, vol. 8, no. 2, 1964):

... 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". It is much more difficult, however, to understand what this "compliance" is and how to achieve it. And nothing illustrates better this difficulty than certain assumptions on which the whole canonical controversy in America seems to be grounded and which are in fact a very serious distortion of the Orthodox canonical tradition.

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. But in the genuine Orthodox tradition the ecclesiastical power is itself under the canons and its decisions are valid and compulsory only inasmuch as they comply with the canons. In other terms, it is not the decision of a Patriarch or His Synod that creates and guarantees "canonicity", but, on the contrary, it is the canonicity of the decision that gives it its true authority and power. Truth, and not power, is the criterion, and the canons, not different in this from the dogmas, express the truth of the Church. 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.