On Returning to Catholics the Faith of Their Ancestors


A recent report by Alexander Shchipkov1 on the new encyclical of Pope Francis, Fratelli Tutti (“All Brothers”), gives an overview of this Vatican “manifesto” and draws quite unambiguous conclusions that I cannot refrain from sharing with you.

This Catholicism is no longer the Catholicism which was criticized by the Holy Fathers and apologists of the past. It is not even the Catholicism that, as Dostoevsky said, had given in to all three temptations the devil used to test the Lord in the wilderness.

As long as we were thinking that what divided us Orthodox from the Catholics were dogmas like the Filioque, Ex cathedra (papal infallibility), Primatus Papae, belief in Purgatory, and the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary, we still had some chance for successful dialogue. There were chances to prove, via diaolgue, the fallacy of their exegesis of the Holy Scriptures and their interpretations of the early Fathers. There is always hope in conversation with someone whom you are united with by a common faith in Christ.

But the Catholic teaching of “development of doctrine” deprived us once and for all of any chance we had for closer relations. While we were attempting to find the points of divergence with Catholics in history, looking back to the eleventh century and earlier, in order to eliminate the causes of the errors and divisions that had appeared, Catholicism itself was drifting ever further from its Orthodox origins.

True, this movement had begun before the formulation of “development of doctrine.” Moreover, it had begun even before the Schism of 1054. It is more likely that that significant year merely solidified and formalized what had been ripening for several centuries. But as late as the nineteenth century, there were still chances for successful dialogue. In spite of all the Catholic persecutions of Orthodoxy, all the false doctrines, the Unia and the differences in spiritual practices… Yet over the course of nine centuries, each one left fewer and fewer reasons for optimism… And the “reasons for optimism” were increasingly based not on real premises, but on Christian belief in a miracle, in the hope of the heart and our love for enemies.

Yet as we looked for ways to prove the fallacy of the Filioque, Catholicism drifted ever further from the Creed—not just in terminology, but also in substance, giving absolutely new and foreign meanings to old formulas. Our theologians, in all sorts of joint commissions with Catholics, were chasing after a train that had long ago departed… While some were chasing the train, others attempted to use this desire for dialogue as a pretext to make contacts, to pull us in and impose their agenda.

The apostle said, Know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? Whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God (Jm. 4:4). And Catholicism has for a long time longed to not only be friends with the world, but also to rule it. These days, the term used to describe this is “influence.”

And indeed we see that the papal encyclical does not offer the word any new, unfamiliar values. Neither does it stand guard over values that the world knows but rejects. It just reflects and absorbs that which the world is filled with: left-wing liberal ideology.

We won’t find this spirit of the apostolic preaching in the papal proclamations: For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness; But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God (1 Cor. 1:22-24). Today’s Catholicism wishes to look neither like a stumbling block nor like foolishness. It seeks to look relevant and popular. Actually, it was the same centuries ago. But several centuries ago, Catholicism didn’t need to dilute Christianity in the world so dramatically in order to reflect the values of the world. The world itself was more Christian at that time.

Today the time has come to reconsider our relations with Catholicism. True, there are still some positions that bring us close, but year after year there are fewer of them. Just two weeks ago, it would not have been out of place to say that our stances on family values united us. And now the Pope has eroded this thesis as well…

It is likely that the same fate awaits their attitude toward abortion, drug use and other questions to which the Orthodox and the Catholics previously had identical answers. Now we watch as we lose our unity on these issues just as we once lost our dogmatic unity.

With whom do we need to have a dialogue with if the liberal “post-Christian” wing of the Roman Catholic Church is taking the lead in it, driving and defining its teaching? Probably with those who hear the call of their Christian conscience and cannot accept the de-Christianization of Catholicism: conservative Catholics. Yesterday, we failed to convert them to Orthodoxy. But today before our very eyes the chances are growing that the Vatican will do this itself by driving them away. Because The things which are impossible with men are possible with God (Lk. 18:27).

Conservatives in the Catholic Church are still strong, but they are already much weaker than they were five or ten years ago. And the process by which they are losing their influence is escalating. When the neo-liberal ideology has completely triumphed in the Vatican, where will they seek Christ and the true Church of Christ? Only in Orthodoxy.

Even today, our response to the liberalization of Catholicism should be a call to those for whom our hearts ached all these centuries, “Return to the faith of your ancestors!”

What we need today is not to pursue a Catholicism that is fleeing from Christ. What we need is that those who seek us, our Church and unchanging Christian values, be able to find us exactly where they will seek us—near our Lord and Savior.

Pavel Darovsky
Translated by Dmitry Lapa



1 A Russian political scientist and First Deputy Chairman of the Synodal Department for the Relations with Society and the Media.

J.M. Burnham1/4/2021 7:51 pm
Part 3 of 3: The Consequences of Papal Protestantism and Protestant Papalism. As was said by the late Dollinger shortly after papal infallibility was declared a dogma by the First Vatican Council, Roman Catholic apologetics will be all about papal lawyerism from now on; i.e., catholic apologetics will be forced to constantly prove how their papacy had always been supreme and infallible despite the fact that there is hardly any biblical, patristic, or conciliar evidence demonstrating that to have been normative throughout the Christian world during the first thousand years of Church History. Essentially, Rome has painted itself into a corner without realizing it, just like the Protestants did in the 16th century with their novel doctrine of Sola Scriptura. Prove the core claim of either system wrong and historically untenable, and each one implodes.
J.M. Burnham1/4/2021 7:50 pm
Part 2 of 3: How ADS affects Roman Catholicism. Absolute Divine Simplicity (ADS) is all about dialectics and dichotomy as well as subordination of the many to the monad whereas Palamism, which is nothing more than Orthodoxy's dogmatic teaching on the Energy-Essence and Person-Nature Distinctions, is about synergy and harmony as well as communion of the many with the one, instead of saying "monad" as in ADS within the Thomistic scheme and its underpinning neoplatonism. Because RC'ism presupposes dialectical tension and subordination, as in Filióque and due to its dogmatic adherence to ADS, it requires that there can only be 1 supreme and infallible [super]bishop to whom all bishops must be subordinated, and from whom the same bishops receive their episcopal authority and apostolic succession. The effect of this is that the whole episcopate, as instituted by the Holy Apostles themselves, is subsumed into the Papacy, meaning that there is only 1 Bishop of the Church, all other bishops are, in effect, vicars of this 1 Bishop. In Orthodox Ecclesiology, there is synergy and harmony among the many with the one, which bypasses any need for subordinationism or subsumption. There can be many Bishops and their one Patriarch, each one a unique successor of Saint Peter, possessing universal jurisdiction over their own appointed territory, yet operating harmoniously due to confessing the "One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism, One God and Father of us all" (see Ephesians 4:1-7). When Roman Catholics say, "I believe in one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church" (Nicene Creed), what they're really confessing is, "I believe in one, supreme, infallible, and Roman Pontiff" (First Vatican Council, Session 4). In effect, the Papacy is the Church, and the Church is the Papacy. Simply put, Roman Catholicism is simply an ecclesiological heresy. RC'ism says that the Pope is over the Church, and that he can act unilaterally without the consent of the bishops or of the Church (see canons of the First Vatican Council, Session IV, Chapter 4). This implies that the Papacy itself is something superior to the Church as the ontological Body of Christ as well as possessing a superiority to Holy Tradition itself; ergo, the Papacy is not bound by Tradition; rather, it is the Papacy that both binds and defines, along with redefining, what is, and what is not, Tradition. Therefore, in RC Ecclesiology, to appeal to Tradition as something greater than the Pope is anathema. To recap, the RC dogma of papal supremacy and infallibility, as defined by the First Vatican Council, unconsciously follows the logical outcome of ADS with its inherit inability to recognize the EE&PN Distions. There is only 1 Bishop in RC Ecclesiology: The Pope of Rome. All other bishops are fallible vicars of the Infallible Papacy. All bishops receive their episcopate and authority from the Papacy. The Papacy is superior to the Church, implying a superiority over Christ Himself since there would be no visible Church without the Papacy; hence, papal vicarism, papal-centric ecclesiology and magisterialism. RC Ecclesiology is an ecclesiology of divine absence since Christ ascended into Heaven and required a visible head on earth to take His place; ergo, Vicarius Christi.
J.M. Burnham1/4/2021 7:48 pm
1 of 3: The Quintessential Heresy of Roman Catholicism. The real issue separating Roman Catholicism from Orthodox Christianity is the Latin dogma of Absolute Divine Simplicity (ADS) and the Orthodox dogmatic teaching on the Energy-Essence and Person-Nature Distinctions. Everything else from Filioque to papal infallibility is a secondary result based on Rome's error of Absolute Divine Simplicity.
Alan Macdonald11/26/2020 9:28 pm
The Anglican Church tried to be all things to all people. Now, it is nothing to nobody. Attendance and donations have fallen off a cliff. Despite this suicidal example, the Roman Catholic Church seems to be going down this path with every announcement Pope Francis makes. It will lead to a much smaller, weaker church very soon.
Paula D11/22/2020 9:42 am
Thank you for this post. As a ex Roman Catholic, I agree with all that you say. The Church, the Pope and the Bishops are it for the power (secular or otherwise). The victims of the church are many and forgotten. There does not seem to be this type of problem with Orthodox churches.
Alexander Leitner11/21/2020 8:02 pm
The same is happening in Greece. They are leaving the ancient faith, little by little: New calendar, pews, no prostrations, women do not cover, shortening of services, etc...it is the same spirit. Bartholomew is seeing himself above the Pope. The Pope is infallible ONLY when speaking EX CATHEDRA. Not the Person of the pope is infallible, not his personal teaching...many popes have been in error. But Bartholomew thinks what he says is the absolute truth.

He is more an infallible Pope than the Popes of old Rome.
Alexander Leitner11/21/2020 7:55 pm
Orthodox often do not really understand the difference between Orthodoxy and Catholicism. The difference is not about 5 latin dogmas. (they could be interpreted according to Orthodoxy). The dogma of the immaculate conception is not the problem, I would say not even purgatory, not even the Pope. It is Holy Tradition! Everything changed: how to pray, how to prostrate, how to fast, Divine Liturgy, Iconography, Holy Chant, fasting..there is nothing left. It is not about the filioque anymore
ICXC NIKA11/20/2020 3:48 am
Excellent video to watch on related topic... An Orthodox Perspective on Roman Catholicism by Father Josiah Trenham and Patristic Nectar Films https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=y6zXs_cUSjQ
nun Cornelia11/18/2020 10:55 pm
Dear Lamprotes, yes, agreed. Those who receive people into the Orthodox Church will have to answer for their preparation or lack thereof. I myself am a convert, and I'll admit that a lot of work had to be done, and is still needed!
lamprotes11/18/2020 4:56 pm
Dear nun Cornelia, I think we don't understand each other. Let me explain: my speech does not invite Western populations to remain Catholic but to take seriously into consideration that culture, like the air they breathe (and which is also invading the Orthodox populations) will have to make them work hard to enter in the mentality of the Orthodox tradition. And if the people who enter Orthodoxy do not have the disposition to learn and already want to teach, here is the disaster and the priests who have allowed it will be responsible of it!
nun Cornelia11/18/2020 4:12 pm
Lamprotes: I appreciated your comment, until the last two sentences. This is something I have curiously encountered with other Greek Orthodox, as well as some older Russians It sounds as though they are turning people away from converting to Orthodoxy because their Western mentality is something just too hard to change, and for people already in the Orthodox Church, new converts are hard to deal with. Of course it's hard--but didn't the apostles have trouble with the pagan Greeks in changing their mentality? Even St. John Chrysostom, as you can tell from many of his sermons, worked very hard on transforming peoples' not-yet-Orthodox mentality and norms. Since we know that salvation is only in the Orthodox Church, why should we discourage people and tell them what they already have is best for them, as if it were a matter of choosing the right automobile?
lamprotes11/18/2020 12:06 pm
People who come from Catholicism and enter in Orthodoxy all have, some more, some less, the cultural pattern of the Western world where the important is the intellect, not the heart. Every approach that they make, in fact, has a tendency to have a intellectual approach and they have the risk of seeing the so-called "spirituality" as something that is not decisive and it's of little importance. These people do not understand that, according to the Orthodox tradition, the mind is nothing more than a "starter" of the heart and that, ultimately, the Orthodox faith is a thing of the heart, not of the mind! In fact, I was struck by Nicolò Ghigi's note that the Western liturgy must be reshaped on the basis of ancient liturgical sources and the Orthodox faith (conceived in an intellectual way, obviously!). If I have understood correctly, here we forget that only those who are "in the Spirit" can pray and formulate prayers in the Spirit (obviously not in the Protestant charismatic sense, which is only psychological). And to be like this the important thing is humility: to bring the mind into the heart, otherwise grace does not descend and there is a very strong risk of spiritual deception! It is only in the grace of God that one understands from experience what it means to "pray in the Spirit", that is, to be in the authentic foundations of the Orthodox liturgical tradition! A practically only mental approach, in the end, differs neither from the mentality of Cramner nor from that of Luther and, even less, from those of the liturgical reformers of Vatican II !! So: Why does one have to become Orthodox, if in the end, he has not understood orthodox spiritually? He would have no more coherence if he remained Catholic, despite understanding the flaws of his Church?
Alexi11/18/2020 2:51 am
I am a former Catholic. My family came mostly from Eastern Poland. I was previously Catholic. I have found Orthodoxy and have been a faithful Orthodox Christian for 4 years now and I am home. I have led 3 of my Children back home as well! Some ancient relatives were Orthodox and I know I have found my way back to the true Church.
Nicolò Ghigi11/17/2020 2:50 pm
@Nikolai I know it very well, since I stueied for years the history of the latin rite. I think that the actual so-called western rite is a mix up of different thing, often even invented. A serious western rite should be restored on the two solid rocks of the historical texts and of the orthodox faith. Despite of "western" and "eastern", it is not possible to think that a western country which would return to orthodox assumes in toto the customs of another local church, or - as it is now being the orthodox churches mostly for immigrants - that different "foreigner" local customs cohabit.
Nikolai11/17/2020 10:59 am
@ Nicolò Ghigi As another former Latin myself I have to speak of the dangers of the western rite. It is not an Orthodox take on the traditional Latin mass/spirituality but is instead the spirituality of the Episcopalian book of common prayer with elements of Orthodoxy draped around it seemingly at random. While its members and priests are mostly well meaning we cannot let ourselves be taken in by the simple slogans of "it's the Orthodoxy of the west" when it has not proven to be stable let alone a valid expression of Orthodoxy. It has its uses as a means by which priests and parishes can come to accept Orthodoxy and become more used to eastern spirituality before becoming eastern rite (much like my own ROCOR parish did) in sprite as well as confession, but the western rite cannot be an end in its self. Because at the minute the spirituality of the western rite is very strange and is yet to prove without a doubt that it is in fact Orthodox through and through and not a holding pattern for disaffected Anglicans/Episcopalians.
Basil Hill-Zeck11/17/2020 4:43 am
Ever since Vatican II & the promulgation of Nostra Aetate & subsequent statements, the Papacy has placed itself outside of the Christian Religion by preaching salvation without Jesus. For example, “there can be only one path to salvation… it does not in any way follow that the Jews are excluded from God’s salvation because they do not believe in Jesus Christ as the Messiah of Israel and the Son of God.” From "The Gifts and the Calling of God are Irrevocable": https://www.archsa.org/blog/vatican-takes-on-tense-question-of-salvation-for-the-jewish-people But our Lord Jesus Christ says, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No man cometh to the Father, but by me." (John 14:6)
Henry Law11/17/2020 1:39 am
In my experience, it is the most firm traditional Catholics who are most critical of Pope Francis yet most insistent on the wrongness of Orthodoxy and the need to be in union with Peter, based on the Roman interpretation of Matthew 16:18. There seems to be a blind spot. I suppose we can only pray about it.
lamprotes11/16/2020 6:09 pm
The article is very interesting. However, it must always be pointed out that Orthodoxy is not a Tridentine Catholicism without a pope. Orthodoxy represents a very different approach to faith from Catholicism, even from the "Tridentine" type. It is a spiritual approach where what is important is the heart, not the brain, where what is fundamental is the struggle aided by grace, not a magical conception where everything seems to come for free, ex opere operato!
Nicolò Ghigi11/16/2020 3:33 pm
As an ex-Catholic converted to Orthodoxy, I absolutely agree. However, we should think more on Western Rite: it would be an error and a fail to pretend to impose the byzantine usage to the whole world.
PD11/16/2020 2:19 pm
Excellent article!!! Speaking as a convert to Orthodoxy from Catholicism, this is exactly what needs to happen.
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