Was Fr. John Romanides an Ecumenist? Yes!

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Was Fr. John Romanides an Ecumenist? Yes!

Fr. John Romanides

August 14, 2014

Perhaps one of the most controversial professors of theology in the last 50 years has been the New Calendarist Greek priest, Fr. John Romanides. A sampling of Fr. John Romanides’ works can be found here at the Romanity.org website. For a True Orthodox author who takes many of Fr. John Romanides’ teachings to task, I suggest Rdr. Vladimir Moss’ “Against Romanides” (which is, so far, the closest very short overview of his works).  However, here, I do not propose to address the Atonement, Original Sin, and various historical issues that Romanides talks about in relation  to the Western Schism from Orthodoxy (although these are all very important).  What I do propose to examine is the question, “Was Fr. John Romanides an Ecumenist?”

Certainly no one can claim that Fr. John Romanides was in any way sympathetic to Papism. Nor, for that matter to Protestantism (though there is an exception to this).  However, despite what seemed like pointed objections he delivered at two ecumenical meetings he was at in 1971, we are still confronted with what seems like his ‘last word’ on the subject.  In , 1994, Fr. John Romanides’wrote  “Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox Consultation: Leo of Rome’s Support of Theodoret, Disocorus of Alexandria’s Support of Eutyches, and the the Lifting of the Anathemas” (printed in Theologia, Athens, 1994, vol. LXV, issue 3, pp. 479-493.). In it we find a number of amazing statements.

First, we have the obvious point of Romanides referring to the Monophysite Anti-Chalcedonian churches as “Oriental Orthodox”.  This seems to be too much of a concession; granting their Orthodoxy, and historically, the Church and its teachers have never granted this. Yet, it is possible this is done in the sense that today we often say, “Roman Catholic”, which is technically incorrect, since the Papists are not part of the Catholic Church.  In official Church Encyclicals, such as the 1848 Encyclical of the Eastern Patriarchs, the Papists are called “Papists”. However, it seems somewhat reasonable to allow Romanides some leniency on  the term “Oriental Orthodox” as merely a moniker of another party; but, as we shall see, Romanides’ theology betrays more to this then merely an agreed upon name for a debating partner.

Secondly,  Romanides point blank states that St. Leo the Great of Rome (whom he calls “Leo” while he calls St. Cyril of Alexandria “Saint”, and thus a clear slight on one of the great Holy Fathers in deference to Monophysite ecumenical feelings [or perhaps he betrays something of his own though!]) and Dioscorus of Alexandria as both Orthodox! In fact, Romanides states that he has been saying this since 1959-1960. He says:

“What we are here concerned with is the evidence already presented by this writer as far back as 1959-60 and especially 1964 that both Leo and Dioscoros are Orthodox because they agree with St. Cyril Of Alexandria, especially with his Twelve Chapters, even though both had been considered heretical by the other side here represented.”

An amazing statement.  Dioscoros, the great saint of the Monophysite Church, the enemy of the Holy and Great Ecumenical Council of Chalcedon, was, in fact, Orthodox and the Church never knew it all along, until Romanides came to reveal this!  But, Fr. Romanides does not stop there:

“But we intend to present the issues at stake in such a way as to throw light on the problem before us with the expectation that specialists in cannon law may find the way to lift anathemas pronounced by Ecumenical or/and local Councils without provoking a controversy.”

So, we are getting something else. Romanides intends to present the issue in such a way that ‘specialists in canon law’ can find a way to “lift the anathemas” without controversy!  I suppose the Holy Fathers who were inspired by the Holy Ghost to write Canon 95 of Trullo were not as enlightened as the moderns such as Romanides when they said:

“As for Manicheans, and Valentinians, and Marcionists, and those from similar heresies, they have to give us certificates [called libelli] and anathematize their heresy, the Nestorians, and Nestorius, and Eutyches and Dioscorus, and Severus, and the other exarchs of such heresies, and those who entertain their beliefs, and all the aforementioned heresies, and thus they are allowed to partake of Holy Communion.”

But, perhaps we are reading too much into this. Perhaps this is some major misapprehension on our part. After all, Romanides doesn’t really believe the Monophysites (i.e., Anti-Chalcedonians) are really Orthodox, does he? Well, it seems he does. He continues:

“It would also seem that agreement that both Leo and Dioscoros were doctrinally Orthodox would then put the problem of their restoration on a non-Christological doctrinal plane, but on a canonical plane. In such a case the reversal of condemnations by Ecumenical and local Councils can be dealt with as canonical, rather than doctrinal problems.”

Thus, since Romanides believes both sides are Orthodox (even though Chalcedon and the whole Orthodox Church have have historically said the Monophysite churches are NOT Orthodox), the issue is only one to be dealt with by “specialists of canon law” as he says.  Indeed, while Dioscoros gets off scot-free for just making a ‘mistake’ in supporting Eutyches, St. Leo gets the full on disrespect throughout Romanides’ paper. As noted, he get’s called “Leo” (or maybe “Pope Leo”), but, never is given his proper appellation of “saint” (a common theme in many modernists; they apply “saint” to those they agree with, and withhold it to those Fathers they don’t).  Romanides says:

“Here we are faced with a Pope Leo who knowingly or willfully or unknowingly supported a heretical and yet unrepentant Theodoret of Cyrus.”

Apparently, St. Leo just didn’t care about the Truth if he could do such a thing! In fact, St. Leo was so bad that we find it revealed to us by Fr. Romanides that he was more concerned about his own power than doctrine! Romanides says:

“Failing to distinguish between the two Orthodox bishops and the Nestorian Theodoret Leo seems to have used the occasion to assert the authority of his see. But by doing this he reduced doctrine to a lesser level than the papal authority of Rome. Dioscoros in like manner also asserted the papal authority of Alexandria.”

Well, at least Diocoros the Anathematized gets something said against him by Romanides. No wonder Romanides consistently refuses to call St. Leo by his proper appellation; he didn’t care about doctrine as much as the non-existent Papism Romanides accuses him of.  In fact, Romanides believes that the condemned heretic Dioscoros had perfectly legitimate grounds for excommunicating the hero of Chalcedon, St. Leo. Romanides says:

“The question is now raised whether there were substantial grounds for Dioscoros’ excommunication of Leo of Rome. It would further seem possible to argue that this excommunication was somewhat like that of Cyril’s excommunication of Nestorius when the latter refused to subscribe to the Twelve Chapters. Cyril did this with the full support of the Pope Celestine of Rome. But in the case before us in 451 we have Pope Leo of Rome himself who is being excommunicated by Pope Dioscoros of Alexandria. The reason behind this is the simple fact that Pope Leo was in reality repudiating His predecessor’s support of Cyril’s Twelve Chapters by supporting a fanatic enemy of Cyril and his Twelve Chapters.”

So, Dioscoros was justified in his excommunication of St. Leo in the same sense that St. Cyril was in his excommunication of Nestorius, according to Romanides. In fact, much of Romanides’ paper basically attacks St. Leo in the harshest terms and exonerates the heretic Dioscoros completely.  And while it is absolutely true that the 5th Ecumenical Council condemned certain writings of the Blessed Theodoret, they never condemned his person; unlike Origen, who was not only controversial in his lifetime, but, was condemned finally and fully in both his writings and his person at the aforesaid Council. Blessed Theodoret, on the other hand, continued to maintain union with the Church and did repent at Chalcedon and repudiate Nestorious (though Romanides chalks this all up to ‘politics’ and the undoubtedly wicked St. Leo’s coniving).

Finally, at the end of the article, we are treated to the final section entitled “Today’s descendants of the Fathers”.  Here we learn that the Ecumenical Councils are not really what’s important; that the Monophysites really do accept the Councils (while Romanides attacks the Russian Orthodox; everyone’s favorite whipping boy since Florovsky). In fact, the Monophysites, we are told, are really Orthodox and accept the Seven Councils (while the Russians since Peter the Great are really heretics). And, of course, it wouldn’t be a Romanides Renovationist Revival without him bringing in St. Augustine to kick around and accuse of every evil under the sun (while exonerating heretics condemned for 1500 years).

But, it gets better!  We are told that Luther, who said that all the works of piety of the holy Fathers were not worth one dirty diaper, was really right to reject “Franco-Latin monasticism” (never mind that Luther hated St. Jerome’s monasticism and other authentic Orthodox works).   In fact, Romanides connects his exoneration of the “Oriental Orthodox”, his defense of Dioscorus, his attacks on St. Leo, and his swipes at Russian Orthodoxy, and ties it all together with St. Augustine and how Luther was actually right!

And, of course, at the end, we have Romanides plead that if John 17, that much abused passage by ecumenists, is to be realized, then we have to lift the anathemas; after all, then we can be one, he says and it will “have some meaning.”

So, was Fr. John Romanides an ecumenist? Certainly; as long as it was with people that were sufficiently “Eastern” and they were simply antagonistic to the Papist heresy (thus, his affinity for Luther).  Why True Orthodox should look to him as a standard bearer, when he couldn’t even uphold the anathemas and decisions of the Councils and refrain from attacks on the Holy Fathers, is to be found in a deep spiritual problem that besets modern man. It is the idea that we know so much better than the ancients; while we may know more about physics and biology, our understanding of the spiritual life is not superior to that of the long line of Saints extending from antiquity to  today.

 

  • Herman

    I don’t understand, there are True Orthodox people that read this guy’s stuff? Why must this even be an issue? This guy is not a real priest or theologian. Who cares what he wrote, don’t read it. Stick to the Saints, Fathers, and Scriptures. Then, you will be safe.

    • HmkEnoch

      EXACTLY, Herman! Exactly!

      • Marlon Scott

        St. Leo and his Tome was accepted wholeheartedly by the Holy Fathers of Eastern Church. His Tome was even called a “pillar of Orthodoxy”!

        St. Sophronius of Jerusalem

        Together with those sacred writings of the all-wise Cyril, I likewise accept as being sacred and of equal honor, and the mother of the same orthodoxy, also the God-given and divinely inspired letter of the great and illustrious Leo of godly mind, of the most holy church of the Romans, or rather the luminary of all under the sun, which he wrote, clearly moved by the divine Spirit, to Flavian, the famous leader of the queen of cities, against the perverse Eutyches and Nestorius, hateful to God and deranged. Indeed I call and define this [letter] as ‘the pillar of orthodoxy’, following those holy Fathers who well defined it this way, as thoroughly teaching us every right belief, while destroying every heretical wrong belief, and driving it out of the halls of holy catholic church, guarded by God. With this divinely conceived epistle, and writing I also attach myself to all his letters and teachings as if they issued from the mouth of the chief Peter, and I kiss and cleave to them and embrace them with all my soul.

        As I have said previously, I accept these five sacred and divine councils of the blessed Fathers and all the writings of the all-wise Cyril, and especially those composed against the madness of Nestorius, and the epistle of the eastern leaders which was written to the most godly Cyril himself and which he attested as orthodox. And [I accept] what Leo, the most holy shepherd of the most holy church of the Romans, wrote, and especially what he composed against the abomination of Eutyches and Nestorius. I recognize the latter as the definitions of Peter, the former those of Mark. (Synodical Letter 2.5.5, Sophronius of Jerusalem and Seventh-Century Heresy pp. 131-135)

        There is even a tradition that the Chief Apostle proof-read it himself!

        St. John Moschos

        Abba Menas, ruler of the same community also told us that he had heard this from the same Abba Eulogios, Pope of Alexandria: When I went to Constantinople, [I was a guest in the house of] master Gregory the archdeacon of Rome, a man of distinguished virtue. He told me of a written tradition preserved in the Roman church concerning the most blessed Leo, Pope of Rome. It tells how, when he had written to Flavian, the saintly Patriarch of Constantinople, condemning those impious men, Eutyches and Nestorius, he laid the letter on the tomb of Peter, the Prince of the Apostles. He gave himself to prayer and fasting, lying on the ground invoking the chief of the disciples in these words: ‘If I, a mere man, have done anything amiss, do you, to whom the church and the throne are entrusted by our Lord God and Saviour Jesus Christ, set it to rights’. Forty days later, the Apostle appeared to him as he was praying and said: ‘I have read it and I have corrected it’. The pope took the letter from Saint Peter’s tomb, unrolled it and found it corrected in the Apostle’s hand. (The Spiritual Meadow, 147.)

        • Marlon Scott

          Additionally, St. Sophronius’ Synodical Letter was fully endorsed by the Sixth Ecumenical Council: “We have also examined the synodal letter of Sophronius of holy memory, some time Patriarch of the Holy City of Christ our God, Jerusalem, and have found it in accordance with the true faith and with the Apostolic teachings, and with those of the holy approved Fathers. Therefore we have received it as orthodox and as salutary to the holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, and have decreed that it is right that his name be inserted in the diptychs of the Holy Churches.” (Session XIII: Sentence Against the Monothelites)

          • HmkEnoch

            All true, Maximus! But, Fr. John Romanides and many who think like him on this subject saw these as apparently ‘non-dogmatic’ problems! Here the Orthodox were for ages thinking they were of the utmost Dogmatic importance, only to be told by the Professor of Brookline, Thessalonikia, and Balamand that this is not the case!

          • Marlon Scott
          • HmkEnoch

            Part of the problem, as exemplified in the case of Fr. John Romanides, is that, he fundamentally thinks this are no real substantive issues of Faith between Orthodoxy and the Anti-Chalcedonians. He made what appeared to be good statements in 1971, but, these seem to be interpreted in the light of his 1994 article which, as he says, culminated work he had done since 1959-1960. How one can say, “Life the anathemas of Chalcedon” and attack the Tome of St. Leo, while exonerating Dioscorus as Orthodox seems to be beyond many of us in fully comprehending!

          • Marlon Scott

            Fr. Enoch,

            I’ve been researching some more into Fr. Romanides view of this issue. The super-ecumenical paper that you referenced was his view in 1964. This is his view in 1971:

            Our discussions have now reached the point where the Chalcedonian Orthodox are clearly being told that the Non-Chalcedonians should not be expected to accept Chalcedon as a condition of union. This now seems to be put to us as a condition for continuing our unofficial dialogue. Such a condition is unacceptable and for us can only mean the end of dialogue. We strongly sense that either:
            (1) there has taken place a radical change since (the discussions at) Aarhus [1964] and Bristol [1967], or
            (2) we have all along been the objects of an ecumenical technique which aims at the accomplishment of inter-communion or communion, or union without agreement on Chalcedon and the Fifth, Sixth, and Seventh Ecumenical Councils.
            The Non-Chalcedonians should very clearly realize that from our side the faith professed cannot be separated from the people who profess. The faith confessed by the Fathers of Chalcedon is the true faith. If we accept that faith we must accept also the Fathers who profess this true faith. Otherwise, the communion of saints confessing this faith is not accepted as a reality. In this connection, I would stress that we are not going to be maneuvered into positions predetermined for us by ecumenical technicians and strategists. (Greek Orthodox Theological Review Spring-Fall 1971)

          • HmkEnoch

            Maximus,

            The paper I deal with was published in 1994.

            http://www.romanity.org/htm/ro4enfm.htm

            printed in Theologia, Athens, 1994, vol. LXV, issue 3, pp.
            479-493.

            I note he made some points in 1971 (it’s in the article above). But, Fr. John Romanides’ last printed word on the subject is found in the 1994 ‘super ecumenica’ paper. Again, the one linked in the comment here, which is the one I quote from is IN 1994!. Indeed, in the 1994 paper (which what I wrote the NFTU article based on), he references his 1964 works; however, he still promotes the abolition of the necessity of accepting the later Council, Chalcedon +; in this sense, here view is little different than Fr. Peter Farrington (the Coptic Monophysite priest) who references him.

            In Christ,

            Fr. Enoch

          • HmkEnoch

            Again, Maximus, the post on Classical Christianity:

            http://classicalchristianity.com/2014/10/12/on-orthodoxnon-chalcedonian-ecumenical-discussions/

            IS from 1971. The article I critiqued is not from 1964, but from 1994. It is designated as being from Vol. LXV, issue 3, pp. 479-493 of the Greek journal, “Theologia”. In the article, which I link to in the post below in in the article above, Fr. Romanides goes through some of the discussions he had with the Anti-Chalcedonians in the 60s and 70s, and conludes, at that point, in the 1990s, that that is no ‘barrier’ to union with them, since, in his words, they share the ‘same Orthodox Faith’ all these years. People are always quick to point out the statements he made in this earlier period, as if they are definitive, such as in the reference Orthodox Christian Info Center article I link too; however, they ignore the vast majority of Fr. Romanides’ work, and especially his later work.

            Indeed, in the 1994 article, he states his views in these earlier periods led him to the ecumenist conclusions that the ecumenical councils don’t really matter for the union with the Monophysites; and that the union is only to be seen as being fully prevented from a matter of ‘canon law’ and can be easily solved without the Monophysites having to accept the Ecumenical Councils. On the other hand, again, Fr. Romanides has nothing but the worst and harshest criticism for St. Leo of Rome, accusing him of heresy, schism, papism, and other matters which do not befit any man who dare calls himself an Orthodox Christian.

            Fr. Romanides’ interprets himself in this later 1990s article, and he puts his previous ecumenical work with the Monophysites in full light with it.

            In Christ,

            Fr. Enoch

    • Cyprian Crawford

      About 9 years ago, the HOCNA priest Fr. Neketas Palassis told me the Boston monastery of Fr. Panteleimon thinks “very highly” of Romanides. Bp. Christodoulos and other Kallinikites seem to be enamored with Romanides and his ideas as well. That is why it was not surprising to see many in HOCNA come over to the Kallinikites–unfortunately they seem to be of one mind. And now they have all joined forces with other heretics, the Harry Potter synod, a.k.a. the Synod in Resistance.

      • Daniel Smith

        Here is the point:

        I don’t like Romanides theology. Neo Patristic synthesis is just as much an academic creation as hyper-scholasticism. BUT to explain the faith through this lens because you think he has some good points doesn’t affect the faith. St Gennadius the Scholastic was impressed with Aquinas and future generations of Orthodox theologians explained theology from Thomist perspective. They did not lose their faith. So if some bishops prefer the Neo-Patristic approach, I can argue it is a mistake in that it is a rupture from what our fathers learned before us, but certainly if Aquinas couldn’t bring down Orthodoxy, Romanidedefinitely will not

        • HmkEnoch

          I think that both had a wrongness to them; however, there was still a greater respect for a continuous tradition, even if there was the adoption of scholastic terms, etc, under the period prior to the ‘Neo-Patristic’ approach. OF course, there are a variety of people in this ‘approach’. Certainly, Met. Anthony (Khrapovitsky) is sometime included, but, he certainly would not have done what Fr. Romanides did and try to overhaul things to the extent he did; even Fr. Michael Azkoul who denies St. Augustine’s place as a Saint, would never defend attacks upon St. Leo the Great or Chalcedon. There is, however, something in this ‘Neo-Patristic’ approach that is not quite patristic; but, it has become more crazed and pronounced in persons like Fr. Romanides, or even in his living acolyte Met. Hierothos of Nafpaktos who basically teaches Name-Worship now.

  • Cyprian Crawford

    I commend the efforts of Vladimir Moss and Hieromonk Enoch to expose the heresies and danger contained within the writings of John Romanides. I have been too lazy or preoccupied with other matters to do it myself. Bravo!