When Being Catholic Isn’t.

Michael Liccone has taken issue with some of my comments on an Anglican blog. He has labeled them inappropriately, “ecclesiastical heckling.” Needless to say, I disagree.

For my readers here, this is how the story goes.  Once upon a time, Fr.Kimel would email me comments made both on his blog or somewhere else by some Protestant, usually regarding Sola Scriptura, Private Judgment and such matters. Then I would go over there and produce one of my famous “long bombs” of a post and annihilate the poor soul. This worked well for lots of reasons. Pontifications for a while was a kind of meeting house. And so it served Fr. Kimel’s interests to have someone who was not Catholic like myself pick apart Protestant arguments.  It also served my own interests. Some of those were to present as best I could a coherent and well argued defense of Orthodoxy. Embedded in my critiques of Protestantism, there always has been an implied critique of Catholicism as well.  I also got the opporutnity to refine my thinking and take ideas for a test run. Eventually it was a tool to advertise this blog that Daniel and I share. Once Fr. Kimel got over his stammering from the kinds of objections I raised and found his feet firmly planted back on Roman soil and was a confirmed adherent of Rome, his blog changed its character. It ceased to take on the feel of a meeting house and became the Pope’s house. 


That is all well. I truly wish Fr. Kimel the best. As someone who left Anglicanism as well, I can at least partake of some his sufferings. Everyone has to make a choice and he made the choice he thought best and I commend him for his staunch loyalty. I’d prefer someone with theological cojones to someone who can’t melt butter in their mouth. It is also fair to say that Fr. Kimel can do what he likes with his blog. This is why it is quite fair of him to launch assaults on Orthodoxy from it. But now the story has changed. It rarely suits my interests now to post on his blog. I am not interested in being used as an apologetic tool to be trotted out to do the work that Catholics either can’t do or aren’t doing for whatever reason. (I am also not interested in repeated arguments with Protestants who refuse to read or who are obstinant.) It doesn’t suit my interests to be an Uncle Tom for Catholic Apologetics. Nor will I be used as a tool in such a way that I think that
Rome is immune from the kinds of criticisms I launch at Protestantism. Love me or leave me little lamb.  To pretend that there is some theoretically neutral ground which Orthodox and Catholic share is a throwback to the dead Anglican branch theory or some worse concoction. This doesn’t imply that there is no common ground between us, for there most certainly is. But commonality and neutrality are two different birds. As far as I am concerned, its all Orthodox ground, and Catholics are conceptual squatters with a very bad ego problem. Needless to say, people with an ego problem see things differently. 
Part of the problem is that Catholics, especially apologetically minded Catholics have a love/hate relationship with Orthodoxy. They love our icons, the fact that we haven’t managed to screw up our liturgy, have regular female servers, or lay eucharistic ministers (a contradiction in terms if ever there was one.). They love our festivals and the fact that we allow married men to be priests and other such things. But they hate the fact that we aren’t willing to admit a common legitimacy between us. Orthodoxy makes Catholics desire unity and they are surprised, no insulted, that we don’t get all ecumenical in return. That is, we refuse to conform. Tis better to die being true to one’s faith than admit heresy. Better to live under the Muslims than wear the cardinals hat. A statement that Fr.Kimel and others have continued to fail to understand and so strikes them as incomprehensible. I suspect they need to take Dostoyevsky’s Grand Inquisitor more seriously. 

So Michael Liccone is wrong that I have grown more radical. It is actually a combination of things. I have expanded my reading and experience in Orthodoxy and so I have continued to divest myself of views (practices are more difficult) that are incompatible with Orthodox teaching. God fobid that I be Orthodox eh? And, certainly my comments and critiques of Catholicism have been no worse, dismissive or heckling than the silly things I endured from him, Fr. Kimel. Robert Hart, and she who will not be named, for years. All of which to have been proven wrong one time after the other or at least dubious. And I can’t remember a time when she who will not be named was ever, one single time, censored or rebuked by them. If ever there was a theological heckler, she who will not be named is it. So please Michael, clean up your own backyard first.

But more specifically, I have just grown tired of being used. If Catholicism is correct, then Fr Kimel should be able to find some Catholic apologist to do his work for him. This is not to say that Fr. Kimel can’t do it himself. He is a most able writer, but he can’t do it all. Get Dave Armstrong, Mark Bonocore or one of the many legions of untrained pop apologists. There is certainly no shortage of them. There is also a fair amount of trained individuals, as many of the well thought out posts from Michael Liccone demonstrate. But I am just not going to play that game anymore. Pontifications has raised its colors and so the game has changed. I’d be an idiot not to recognize it. 

As for my actual comments, Michael has all kinds of not nice things to strap to it. Fine. I am not nice. Kyrie elesion. The fact is that the Orthodox think that
Rome is not Catholic in the fullest sense of the word. So why is Michael bothered by it? It certainly after about a thousand years isn’t news. I wasn’t arguing that Catholics are trying to be deceptive by using the name, though plenty of Franks and of other people in history have done so.   
Admittedly my comments do amount to heckling in some ways. It is a comment box after all. I can’t give full expression to my thought. Such is the nature of the beast and Michael and Fr. Kimel have done their fair share of it.  It was also invited heckling. Michael may not be aware of this, but much of what I have written above was made clear to Fr. Kimel in private email exchanges some time ago, so he had to know sending an email off to me making me aware of the post was likely to produce the kind of response I gave. I have hardly been made a secret of my criticisms of Catholicism. Don’t invite me to critique Protestant arguments and then have a cow when I write as an Orthodox Christian. It is true that
Rome views the Orthodox as true particular churches, but it is hardly surprising or praiseworthy that she has done so. As if she is going to deny it? Oh please, go for it. If we don’t have “valid” orders, then no one does. Declaring the Sun to be the brightest object in the sky isn’t deserving of praise.  The fact that Orthodoxy doesn’t reciprocate doesn’t make us immoral, mean, or generally rude. It makes us Orthodox. (Not to say that some Orthodox can’t be so, but so what?)  Catholics are under seemingly more strain to admit Orthodoxy as a legitimate choice than the Orthodox,
Rome. As if it would be open to them to argue that the entire number of churches founded by multiple Apostles in the East bothched it, but not
Rome. Choke! So it is much easier for an Orthodox to argue, given the history of
Rome, to the contrary and so we simply aren’t in the same position. This is why we don’t speak of “branches” of Christianity as Michael speaks, because we aren’t in the same historical and conceptual position. 
Michael consequently wants to read Orthodoxy and Catholicism as two species of the same genus. He is free to do so, but this I think is misleading and not just because it is question begging. It is so because it assumes a kind of neutral ground between us which just isn’t there.  Anglicanism may be a historical creation, but only to a degree. The fact is that the English church long predated Roman control. Coptic monks in the 2nd  century returned to Egypt from
England because churches and monasteries had already been long established there.  And the licensing by the Pope for the Norman conquest was based on less than theologically justifiable principles. Granted, plenty of twigs have been grafted on to the Anglican tree, some to the point of causing it to wither and die, but to think that it was always Roman and nothing other than Roman is a rather big stretch. I believe psychologists call it denial. The history of the exchanges between Rome and England show that
Rome has a few grafted twigs acquired over time herself.  Well into the 12th century even in the West, English as well as other European peoples defied celibacy, bishops included, among other things.  The idea that the Anglicans just split with no precedent or basis other than Henry’s need for an heir coupled with his moral viciousness is the stuff of fiction.   
All I have done is employed the Catholic argument and turned it around. Anglicanism is defunct because it is the creation of men, and so too is Catholicism. It is the creation of political and philosophical need of emperors (Funny how Charlamagne’s name never comes up in discussions of Caesar-papism.) for domination, shaping both externally and internally, the papacy to suit their interests. How is that for Caesar-papism? Michael and others finally now admit what I have said for a while, and even what the dreaded Orthodox Ogre, Romanides, has claimed, that the filioque was inserted for political gain and
Rome caved to the Franks. This is certainly the reading that more recent historical accounts have supported. See Chadwick’s more recent book on the East/West divide. The history of exegesis and politics is being revised and
Rome is coming out on the short end of the stick. The fact is that the Franks for a long time tried to gain control of the western patriarchs (that’s the Pope) to use against the
Eastern Empire. They knew they were both theological and political squatters and the only way to oust the East was by concocting, editing and “developing” ideas that convicted the East of heresy. And so they did. And so Catholics are now stuck defending them because a Frank got a hold of the papacy. I never did like the French.

My reading of the Vicentian Canon is no more tendentious than Tertullian and Ireneaus’ argument that the Apostolic deposit was made in all the churches the apostles founded so that innovation can be outed by comparing what they all teach. Those sees that teach differently than the whole have strayed from the Apostles teaching.  It would be absurd to understand the “all” as each and every individual, for then it would have no force in detecting innovation. And it would have the added effect of elevating every layman to the rank of bishop. Nor was my claim that each see was preaching what was deposited in it, which is why you get fights between them. Cyril makes this quite plain in his exchanges with Nestorius for example.  So Michael misconstrues the idea.  There is a difference between a See and its occupant.  Michael also ignores in his discussion of sees failing to teach the truth around that time
Rome also failed. That is why the bishops ex communicated Vigilius. This is why bishops under his own western jurisdiction struck him name from the diptychs and excommunicated him. Besides, on Michael’s reading, we make
St. Vincent out to be an idiot for his canon has virtually no use at all. 

I simply will not grant Michael his run to a priori, apersonal and ahistorical principles to decide the issue. First because the history cuts across those principles in clear cases as in Vigilius. A council is superior to the Pope. Period. NONE of the Apostles needed the help of any other in their ministry, as an Ecumenical council and the Popes themselves have ratified. Period. I agree that there is no theory neutral way of applying the canon, but what of that? There is no theory neutral way of applying logic either. I don’t desire theoretical neutrality nor do I need it. All I need is a good internal critique.  It is odd though that the VC is ruled out on the lack of theoretical neutrality, but not somehow seeing Catholicism and Orthodoxy as of the same kind. Now how strange that theoretical neutrality should rule out just that evidence that counts against Catholicism but not Orthodoxy. As the Church Lady used to say, “How CONVENIENT.” This is special pleading. 

Moreover, I can’t think of any argument that a Catholic can give that on Michael’s reading is theory neutral. I wish he would inform all of his Catholic friends in the blogsphere to stop pelting Orthodox with spoof texts, because, after all, none of it is theory neutral. I should think he would also wish to stop giving any arguments against Orthodoxy because none of them is theory neutral.By the same token, Michael’s analysis of Orthodox and Catholicism of occupying common ground, of being the same kind, should also be ruled idle, useless and of no argumentative value.  In any case, Michael’s critique I think misses the point. Certainly the Fathers and Councils did not avail themselves of a theory of development. To appeal to development in Newman’s terms is not Catholic or at best not Patristic. How according to say Ireneaus are we to identify innovation? If one teaches something the others don’t. This was the basis of his argument, at least in part for the four gospels. Strangely it is good enough for the four gospels but not the Papacy. This was in part the basis of Cyril’s argument against Nestorious-you’re teaching against the other churches received deposit. This was why Maximus claimed he would not commune with Rome if
Rome went monothelite. They were just being…Orthodox.

42 Responses to When Being Catholic Isn’t.

  1. Jim says:

    Oh. And it just dawned on me while doing some reading on the very Jewish overtones of the Didache, that the entire section on “the two ways” is a rather blatant and very Jewish ….. DIALECTIC … 🙂

  2. Jim says:

    … and my metaphor was backward … but I think you can get my point.

  3. Jim says:

    Sorry – I forgot to close that last ‘blockquote’

  4. Jim says:

    I’ll move these over when I get a chance.

    At this point you might as well leave it.

    I think you are equivocating on “unrevisble.” …

    I believe that you are correct and have made an accurate point here. However, I don’t understand how you’ve escaped the dilemma, for the infallibility of the church is itself a doctrine you claim to “know,” but “there is always the possibility of thinking that you know, without knowing.” In your epistemic scheme it ultimately rest on the same foundation as my understanding of theological judgments, and that, in addition to all of the other theological judgments.

    As I noted before the epistemic concerns are heuristic and simply highlight that what Protestant bodies offer are human constructs for belief out of the divine matter of revelation.

    This is half of a point. Paint a picture of the alternative please, and let’s see how well it stands the same test.

    I understand well that Protestants have altered the form and function of the Creeds. That is what is means to give new form to the church, by replacing its old one. This is why they are a new faith.

    This is quite incorrect. Even Protestants (most I know anyway) will circumscribe Christianity to the ancient creeds and NOT to their own confessions, and they’ll do both simultaneously.

    I am quite familiar with the rule of faith in the early FAthers. I have read practically all of them cover to cover. The rule of faith intrinsically connects practice and doctrine.

    And I have read them all through Tertullian plus much of the other early works (that is, what is available in English) and though the Rule is certainly, as you say, Trinitarian – it developed from (actually, it IS) the baptismal formula from the great commission – it does not “intrinsically connect[] practice and doctrine” (at least outside of baptism, being the very baptismal confession itself, as in Irenaus for example) in the earliest writings. That was clearly a later development, and like I said before, even Tertullian (as a witness), who is usually pointed to in order to try to make this point, is careful to distinguish tradition as the rule of faith from praxis. You have to keep moving down through history before your view this takes shape – that of a Holy and Mystical all encompassing Apostolic Tradition.

    As a matter of fact, a rather apt metaphor would be to say that your view of the Rule of Faith is to the first century church what the Didache is to book VII of the Apostolic Constitutions (I assume you’ve put them side by side).

    The Apostles represent God the Father, the Son represents the Bishops and the Spirit the deacons. This later shifts when the Apostles die off.

    Huh? Niether this nor a “shift”ed version is even Ignatian – who more frequently uses the analogy the Bishop God and the Presbyters/Deacons Apostles.

    the diseased barbarian ogre Jim

  5. Sophocles says:

    Dear Acolyte and Photios,

    My brothers in Christ, may I impose on you a request? I am very weak in understanding many of the issues that distinguish East from West . Would it be possible for you guys at some point to break down, to the best of your own abilities the differences, in the process tackling doctrinal matters,i.e. the fillioque in laymen’s terms(for dummies like me) it’s importance in how the understanding of God/the human person/the cosmos is altered in its allowance and what the Orthodox Catholic Faith affirms about these things and how possibly our current explanative power is perhaps hindered? because it must” pass through” a Western model to be explained to our western friends and to us. What is a human being? What is the nature of theosis, participating in the Life of the Holy Trinity through the Incarnate God-Man? Why does it all ultimately matter?
    I would greatly appreciate it, as I think many other believers would that have much less understanding as the 2 of you men do. If you may, could you tie in praxis wed to these beliefs where possible? Is monasticism a “battery source” of sorts to our Holy Church, taken “out of the world” to hold our parishes “in the world” on the path to salvation and to “insure” that the Faith is held pure to the returning of the Master?
    I hope I’m not asking too much.

    In fellowship and in Christ,


  6. acolyte says:


    I think you are equivocating on “unrevisble.” It is like saying if a thing is known, it is unrevisable since knowledge entails truth. But in the case of most, at the very least, human claims to knowledge there is always the possibility of thinking that you know, without knowing. Consequently, I am referring to the fact that Protestant theological formulae are in principle revisable. It matters not if they correct or not. Being correct doesn’t put Protestant formulae beyond revision.

    Suppose that Luther continued his goof by keeping James out of the canon. And further stipulate that James is in fact inspired. Because Luther is fallible, as is every Reformation body, then the canon can be revised in principle even if the canon that Protestant bodies have now is in fact the right one. You are supposing that revision will always map truth. I see no reason why it need to. If the Church can goof prior to the Reformation, I see no reason to think that the Reformed bodies can’t goof and for a very long time.

    Further, reference and meaning are not co-extensive. One can fail to refer and still say things quite meaningful. Ask the average person who invented the atomic bomb and they will say Albert Einstein. Wrong, it was Oppenheimer, but the sentence is quite meaingful. That fact indicates that it doesn’t matter if the referent is the proposition since Protestants can be mistaken about the referent and hence revise their adherence.

    If that is not clear, let me try it this way. Protestants have no unmediated direct guaranteed undistorting access to God’s mind. So the fact that Protestants think that such and so propositions are unrevisable is a judgment that is revisable. Theology is a human construct for Protestant theology. That is the point of exegesis. One constructs theology from the text. The question is not are propositions such as, God exists, revisable de facto. The question is, is there any formal statement revisable in terms of adherence? Make propositions as unrevisable as you like and further stipulate that Protestants properly identify them (of cours eyou’d have to narrow down which Protestant sect did this.) it will still alaways be the case that any of them is still revisable in terms of adherence.

    The Protestant faith is the raft. Any long on the raft can be changed out over time.

    I understand well that Protestants have altered the form and function of the Creeds. That is what is means to give new form to the church, by replacing its old one. This is why they are a new faith. I am quite familiar with the rule of faith in the early FAthers. I have read practically all of them cover to cover. The rule of faith intrinsically connects practice and doctrine. The rule of faith is the actual doing of apostolic practice. This is why the early liturgical practice AND polity were heavily Trinitarian. The Apostles represent God the Father, the Son represents the Bishops and the Spirit the deacons. This later shifts when the Apostles die off. Consequently a Presbyterian polity represents a deformed Triadology and hence NOT the rule of faith as the Fathers meant.

    As far as Newman, I simply drank the milk and didn’t buy the cow. I am not wedded to everything the man says. As I noted before the epistemic concerns are heuristic and simply highlight that what Protestant bodies offer are human constructs for belief out of the divine matter of revelation. If the propositional obejct of belief that is produced is fallible, then it is human, unless of course you think God can speak fallibly.

    I haven’t added but actually subtracted problems since the problem of knowing which church is correct was always there. I have simply separated thigns according to levels. On this level knowledge is sufficient, on this other level to produce such and so, it isn’t.

    I’ll move these over when I get a chance.

  7. Jim says:

    DOH! – I posted that in the wrong thread. Oh well.

  8. Jim says:

    So finally you’ve stated where you’re going with this discussion – though in a comment in another thread. Rather than move the conversation to that thread, since there is another one there already, I’ll just continue here.

    My argument against SS is essentially that what is taught by God has a specific form or set of proeprties. One of them is unrevisability. The denial of any infallible interpretation or judgment concerning Scripture is the affirmation that all formal theological judgments are revisable. Consequently, Protestants deny implicitly that what they teach is divine in origin. This is why all Protestant confessions are revisable, including the canon of Scripture and why no Protestant confession can bind the conscience the way God can, and why the Church must be purely human association.

    Your assertions are mired in the identical equivocation that’s plagued your other comments here on this post.

    .Consequently, Protestants deny implicitly that what they teach is divine in origin

    This trades on an equivocation in the phrase “what they teach.” What is the referent? It is the propositional content asserted by the formal theological statements. NOT the theological statements. Those propositions, be they assertions of accurate scriptural judgments, ARE unrevisable. They’re unrevisable even if NO ONE teaches them. They’re unrevisable even if NO ONE knows them.

    Also, Protestant creeds are not, and were never intended to be, “marks of the church” as the Nicene creed (and the Apostle’s creed in the West). That’s why they are usually called “confessions” and not “creeds.” The concept is quite different.

    The “marks of the church” is the “Rule of Faith” in the Fathers, and certainly developed from the baptismal confession of faith all based on Christ’s command to baptize “in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost.” Read through each reference to the “rule of truth/canon of truth/rule of faith” in the early Fathers. They are all structured the same way “Father/Son/Holy Ghost” and they go into more depth (though in various ways) on each. Irenaeus as much as says this when he talks about receiving the “Rule of Faith” in baptism.

    I believe you are quite incorrect when you say it’s not an issue of “knowing.” In fact, that’s exactly what it is. And you’ve only moved the problem, you haven’t resolved it. And in the process you’ve created a second. When referring to an arbitrary theological formal judgment, Newman, in link you gave, says “I say its exact idea, for a man may think he holds (for instance) the doctrine of the Atonement; but, when examined, may be convicted of having quite mistaken the meaning of the word” and for all of the ink that the church spent, having read (I’m sure) all of it, along with the Scriptures, how do YOU know you have the “exact idea?”

    Now, you’ve added the additional problem of knowing which authority you must submit to in order to obtain the appropriate formal theological judgments (that you can’t really be sure you’re interpreting correctly anyway). Which one and how do you know?

    I had more to type but my 10 year old just asked to play a game so everything else is on hold … 🙂

  9. Continuing debate with Michael L.

    Thanks Michael for your post in response to my critique. I am commenting in the interest of debate. I am new to this exchange, which you have been having with Perry for some time now, so I fear that I am going over old ground. Anyway, most issues have been trodden over for centuries without there being any major change of positions or thought from either side, although there does seem to be a growing acceptance of the Orthodox Churches by Rome. The same cannot be always said of the Orthodox Church’s attitude to Rome and within Orthodoxy there is a definite tension in what is the appropriate position to take. Obviously I am taking a rather uncompromising stance on issues but this is not because I feel any need to attack Roman Catholics as an end in itself, but because I believe that judged historically and theologically the Roman Catholic doctrines are inconsistent. This is where the debate lies in whether this belief and the reasons for it are justified. I doubt anyone will change their mind due to the debate but it may help to either cause reflection on some opinions once held to the better understanding of the justifiability of those positions.

    Anyway, in response to your comments. I agree that the Catholic Faith cannot be separated from the Catholic Church. (The Orthodox Church also know itself to be the Catholic Church.) I may have gone too far in my argument to give the impression that the Faith can be considered apart from the Church. To use St Vincent’s rule does require knowledge of those that claim to be the Catholic Church and what they teach today before one can use the rule to determine, which is the Church. Then one can compare these teachings using the rule and from this it would be possible to determine which of those claimants is indeed the Church. Even, then the fullness of the Faith can only be known in the Church in the Spirit. Nevertheless, one can be led to the notion of a Catholic Faith from the historical Fathers, then to a notion of a Catholic Church and then to what is the Catholic Church and then finally completing the knowledge of the Catholic Faith. I believe that St Vincent’s rule has no real place in Protestant thinking, which by nature rejects the notion of the Catholic Faith because neither Magisterium nor Tradition carry more than persuasive value to one’s own private judgement. Whereas both in Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism the definitive teachings of the Church are to be accepted completely with the Church. An individual must make and sustain his private judgement on what he believes, in faith, to be the Catholic Church among the claims of various bodies until the second coming because he has free-will. I think that what is wrong with private opinion is for one to pick and choose their own doctrines apart from those taught by the Church. Both in Roman Catholicism and in Orthodoxy there are still many areas of private opinion and not a totality of everything one believes is by faith as given by the Church, although one’s private opinions are required to remain consistent with the deposit of Faith. Even Protestants feel the need for a base line of belief, although they have no way of determining what this should be. I understand that the fundamentalist movement arose in an attempt to establish what is the deposit of faith that must be believed to be a Christian.

    As to the part of your critique, I deliberately stated at the end of the comment that I was not disallowing for some form of consistent development of doctrine, not saying whether I agree with it or not. My argument was that the Roman Catholic doctrine regarding the infallible nature of the Church’s Magisterium (assuming the Magisterium exists as such):

    In order to preserve the Church in the purity of the faith handed on by the apostles, Christ who is the Truth willed to confer on her a share in his own infallibility. By a “supernatural sense of faith” the People of God, under the guidance of the Church’s living Magisterium, “unfailingly adheres to this faith.”
    The mission of the Magisterium is linked to the definitive nature of the covenant established by God with his people in Christ. It is this Magisterium’s task to preserve God’s people from deviations and defections and to guarantee them the objective possibility of professing the true faith without error. Thus, the pastoral duty of the Magisterium is aimed at seeing to it that the People of God abides in the truth that liberates. To fulfill this service, Christ endowed the Church’s shepherds with the charism of infallibility in matters of faith and morals. The exercise of this charism takes several forms:
    “The Roman Pontiff, head of the college of bishops, enjoys this infallibility in virtue of his office, when, as supreme pastor and teacher of all the faithful – who confirms his brethren in the faith he proclaims by a definitive act a doctrine pertaining to faith or morals…. The infallibility promised to the Church is also present in the body of bishops when, together with Peter’s successor, they exercise the supreme Magisterium,” above all in an Ecumenical Council. When the Church through its supreme Magisterium proposes a doctrine “for belief as being divinely revealed,” and as the teaching of Christ, the definitions “must be adhered to with the obedience of faith.” This infallibility extends as far as the deposit of divine Revelation itself.

    has no mention in St Vincent’s Canon and it is yet so relevant to the issue at hand for St Vincent. (His mention of the authority of the Ecumenical Council is founded on its universality rather than an inherent infallibility from Christ of such a Council.) Not only does the doctrine have no mention in the sense that the doctrine was not yet explicit, although the system had already been in place nearly 400 years and had been given by Christ to the Apostles, but I can see nothing mentioned that could support a consistent development of the doctrine. I argued that it rather sets up an inconsistency with the doctrine because universality, antiquity and consensus do not correspond with the doctrine as stated. To counter this argument I would expect a consistent demonstration of how the doctrine develops from whatever starting point is desired and allows St Vincent’s Canon to be true, or to explain why St Vincent’s Canon does not represent Catholic thinking on determining heresy and how he may have been mistaken or mis-informed or perhaps there may be another approach to a similar effect.

    The Church today within which the Vincentian Canon has its full meaning is the Orthodox Church, which still appeals to the Canon as its test of heresy in the same manner as prescribed by St Vincent, adding weight to the claim of the Orthodox Church to be the Catholic Church. Can you counter this claim? If the Orthodox Church has maintained the Catholic Faith and yet disagrees with the Roman Catholic Church about this Faith then how can it be said that both Churches (terms used broadly rather than exactly) hold the One Catholic Faith unless it is proved that there is no disagreement of Faith but then does not the Catholic Church know its own Faith and know when others are in disagreement? If this cannot be then given the Orthodox Church holds the Catholic Faith how can the Roman Catholic Church hold the Catholic Faith? Please provide some answers or show that the question is misguided.

  10. acolyte says:


    My writings on Sola Scriptura are spread through the blogssphere, mostly on Kimel’s Pontifications blog. I would recommend reading Newman’s Lectures on the prophetical office of the church, http://www.newmanreader.org/works/viamedia/volume1/lecture6.html

    and Rupert Davies little but practically priceless book, The Problem of Authority in the Continental Reformers.

    My argument against SS is essentially that what is taught by God has a specific form or set of proeprties. One of them is unrevisability. The denial of any infallible interpretation or judgment concerning Scripture is the affirmation that all formal theological judgments are revisable. Consequently, Protestants deny implicitly that what they teach is divine in origin. This is why all Protestant confessions are revisable, including the canon of Scripture and why no Protestant confession can bind the conscience the way God can, and why the Church must be purely human association.

    I sweep aside issues of knowing since knowing doesn’t require infallibility. The worry about knowing is not that Protestants can’t know what Scripture means but that it shows that the teachings are not beyond possible revision and hence not divine. So even if Protestants knew what Scripture meant, at best it stil lwould not amount to divine teaching. I am obligated to believe what Moses says and not just because it is true, but ebcause Moses says “This is what God says…” I cannot be obligated to believe in the same way what some Protestant teacher says because he says “This is what I know to be true.”

  11. Michael says:

    Father Patrick Reardon:

    Touchstone magazine and Ancient Faith Radio are a wellspring for my soul. Thank you. Perhaps you don’t talk about the Divine Energies, but you certainly live them out.

  12. Michael says:

    Dearest Brother and Father Patrick,

    Your words have been wonderfully instructive to me, a true light to the soul. You may not be the Fr. Patrick in Chicago, but your gifts are no less impressive to me…England is blessed to have you. Please write more; you have a great gift and anointing.

  13. Patrick Henry Reardon says:

    I received an inquiry earlier today, whether I am the Father Patrick that writes sbout the Divine Energies. By way of response I confessd that the only eneregies I know about have to do with a pink bunny beating a drum. These other discussions are way above my pay grade.

  14. Sophocles,

    Yes, I did place a couple of comments on Cathedra Unitatis on the “Soloviev on the Papacy” posting.

  15. Sophocles says:

    My dearest brother Father Patrick,

    Sorry for confusing you with THAT Father Patrick. So, are you the same Father Patrick that has also spoken on CathedraUnatitis, responding to Mike L.? Nonetheless, thank you for your wonderful insight.

  16. Michael And Sophocles,

    I am another Fr Patrick without any wonderful preaching etc. Just a wayward monk living in England. Please forgive me for any confusion. I hope that Sophocles or the other Fr Patrick don’t mind my answering questions that he is really much better suited to do. I am glad that those high praises weren’t for me. I may need to change my blog name to avoid confusion maybe to Monk Patrick.

  17. Michael says:

    Then again, you may wish to remain anonymous.

  18. Michael says:

    Father Patrick,

    Are you Father Patrick Reardon or another Father Patrick? Sophocles seems to assume you are the one in Chicago, though nothing I’ve noticed in your posts leads me to know that.

  19. Sophocles says:

    oops, incomplete thought above when explaining that my passions flare up: I LOVE polemical debates!!!! It becomes “them” and “us” and not a person in need like me of our Father’s mercy and love(after all, one CAN be wrong and still need that from me), even….She That Will not be Named.

  20. Sophocles says:

    Thank you very much Father Patrick; your pastoral direction is well noted. I have some further things to ask you, if you don’t mind after Pascha( I have to stop checking out these sites personally for Lent as in my own case, my passions flare up and burn). By the way, thank you for your part in Ancient Faith Radio as well as your wonderful preaching. I recently read Christ in His Saints and thoroughly enjoyed it. Have you ever heard of Dr. D. James Kennedy? You guys sort of sound alike and enunciate speech alike. Our gracious Lord bless you, Father Patrick, on your Lenten journey.
    Photios and Perry, I look forward to returning here after Pascha as well. Blessings to you fellas. I have some thoughts regarding sharing our Faith with those outside the Church, based on my own experience.

  21. I think someone else requested this above, but I would love to read your arguments regarding Sola Scriptura. More weapons in the arsenal is always a good thing.

  22. Fr Patrick says:


    Yes I think it is accurate to say “that Church is Orthodox which keeps the Orthodox Faith”, although I add in Faith and deed to exclude those self-styled groups that teach the Orthodox Faith but lack Apostolic succession. From St John Chrysostom, the rock on which the Church is built is the faith of Peter’s confession, that is the Church is built on Faith. This is in keeping with the above.

    I do not know the answer to your historical question, hopefully others will know. I tend to give the benefit of the doubt to the lest negative understanding being that it is the Church centred and in constant communion with the See of Rome but that it only my guess. I jsut found an article from a Catholic website that states the term Roman Catholic was not used until after the Reformation and was coined by Protestants. I would have to look at Orthodox literature to find what term was used in the East after the Schism before the reformation. Perhaps those with a better knowledge of history may be able to help.

    Your next questions are matters that I have not reflected on deeply myself, so I am wary of suggesting any answer at present. I cannot recall too much from the Fathers directly on the matter either. However, I would reinforce that we love all people equally and remember even outside the Church they are still the image of God and should be treated with respect as such. Some pious monks bow down in a sense to everyone regardless of their faith because of this. In Church Tradition there are some rules that limit the types of relationship to be had with those outside the Church. This is in recognition that they are not in the Church and separate from Christ. The rules are especially for keeping those outside the Church distant from the Mysteries, apart from of course, when they are ready to accept the Orthodox Faith, Baptism, and from common prayer. These rules are in some ways to protect the faithful but more often to protect the unbelievers from judgement when inappropriately associating with holy things.

    I believe each soul has a desire for God and only when we know Him in our hearts can we find true peace, joy, and the rest of the fruits of the Spirit. Wise monks have learnt this and there can be no greater joy than communion with the living God. This transcends all earthly joys and relationships, not rejecting them as bad but to move from limited relationships and joys to infinite relationships and joys. In God, we then learn to love all people equally with the love of God. Not an abstract love of mankind but a genuine love of each person as themselves, as God loves all without favouritism. Those outside the Church, without the Spirit of Life, try to fill their desire for the infinite life with earthly pleasures and so bring their mind down to the limited life of earth. They reject God and so reject the true and infinite Life of God for what is not truly life but death because it is apart from God, the source and sustainer of life.

    Perhaps in not answering your question I may have answered it. Overall, I believe we love all people as created in the image of God and it is the responsibility of the Bishops to ensure the Mysteries are protected, although we can help them in a quiet, private manner, in love, to ensure that we do not set up situations where non-Orthodox family or friends expect to able to access the Mysteries of the Church, until they are Orthodox in Faith.

    Well, this is my lowly opinion on the matter. I don’t really have any scholarship in the matter and I can but refer one to the Fathers for true opinions and guidance. The Ecumenical teachers, St John Chrysostom, St Basil the Great, and St Gregory the Theologian are by far the best guides after the all esteemed Apostles. Modern Fathers, especially the Saintly monks of Mt Athos provide great witnesses to how to live the Truth in the context of our world today. Please read their lives and teaching and prefer them to anything that I may say.

  23. Rusty says:

    I don’t believe I’ve read a more (or longer) self-important piece. Geesh.

  24. Death Bredon says:


    A certain group of excellent writers, who often get many lines of text in popular traditional, ecumenical, catholic Christian magazines seem to stumbled onto a variation of Palmer’s branch theory — that is they believe that the differences between true Romanism, Anglicanism, and Orthodoxy are quite small, if there are really any at all. Any one who disagress with this view in public by citing FACTS to the contrary are likely to get savaged in cyberspace.

    Each of the aforementioned jurisdictions has always had popular figures that leaned toward the other two. Anglicanism has had innumerable Romanist, and even a few extreme Phil-Orthodox. Orthodoxy has always had its occasional Latinophrone; and Rome visa versa. Hence, cherry pickers have plenty of ammunition to obscure and obfuscate the differences between the perennial and central traditions of each communion.

    And, debating these cherry-picking, one-churcher’s (not that that is a bad ASPIRATION) will get you nowhere. Their minds are too small for any additional facts that might dislodge a part of their religious, field theory. If you do engage them, expect to be treated roughly and to be slandered far and wide. (I have heard you’re name slandered by an certain Anglican priest, who was astonished when I knew how you were and I defended you cyberspace writings as substantively correct.)

  25. Sophocles says:

    Dear Acolyte and Photios,

    If you are able to help me make sense of these matters, please post. Others as well.

  26. Sophocles says:

    Dear Father Patrick,

    Thank you for your previous post. It got me thinking. Is it accurate to state: “That Church is Orthodox which keeps the Orthodox Faith?”
    “Orthodox” loses its noun status and assumes its adjectival sense as it originally meant to denote a state of existence rather an alternative name to “Roman Catholic”. Often it seems we lose sight of why the Church is named Orthodox in the first place.
    Also, a historical question. When Rome took on the name “Roman” Catholic, did she or did she not do so to usurp the Eastern Romans of their rightful name and if so is this not a huge fraud?
    Also, Father Patrick, by accepting the filioque, was that substance of what love is not broken? “Perfect love casteth out fear.”
    Also, in my understanding, a demon is the more hideous because it was created to be in the presence of God but now is absent from that Presence, which Light filled them and is now absent. Where Love and Light(are the two synonymous?) were meant to dwell there is now the great, gnawing absence which turns the demons ever more inwards, never to be satisfied . Now, is Rome, absent of the Holy, healing and only satisfying , Orthodox Faith, not subject to this very thing? Is she a monstrosity, intent on swallowing up with a ravishing hunger all around her because she cannot find peace within her?
    I ask these questions because I am often confused about the nature of people that do not hold the original Orthodox Catholic Faith and what my stance towards them should be. Not as to loving them because we’re all really in the same boat as sinners in need of the healing of our broken humanness, but as to what do I, an Orthodox Christian, knowing deep down in my soul who we are both spiritually, ontologically, and historically and when one calls themself “Christian” are we the same substance?
    I ask therse questions because I have a high respect for your scholarship in all things Church, Her shaping in Eternity, Her new status once the God-Man appeared, Her march in history and Her temptations to not hold the Orthodox Faith.
    I hope I made some sense.

  27. Don Bradley says:

    The second part of St. Vincent’s dictum was destroyed by an Augustinian, and St. Vincent didn’t have the energy to rewrite it.

  28. Does everyone remember or know what the context of the Vincentian Canon is? It is a call for the west to evaluate “Augustinism” under the faith of the consensus patrum. St. Vincent, like St. John Cassian, saw this new teaching as an innovation and not taught by the church present or past. This is an ironic point in and of itself.


  29. Fr Patrick says:

    Another critique of Michael Liccione’s, and Fr WB’s, critiques and their supporting comments to show support for St Vincent’s rule.

    St Vincent states: “I have often then inquired earnestly and attentively of very many men eminent for sanctity and learning, how and by what sure and so to speak universal rule I may be able to distinguish the truth of Catholic faith from the falsehood of heretical pravity;” then he proceeds with his rule. So, the rule is to determine what is heresy and what is not, so it still applicable today. It presupposes the Catholic Church but it doesn’t require one to know which body that is at the present time as long as some such body can be identified in the past and possibly exists in the present. The point of the Canon is to determine which group is teaching the Catholic Faith. (As a Protestant I used the rule intuitively to find the tradition of Scriptural understanding and then found the Catholic (Orthodox) Church with it. I also rejected both Protestantism and Roman Catholicism by it as not continuing in the Catholic Faith and Tradition as shown by the historical evidence just as the rule intended. I did effectively ascertain what is the Catholic Church by applying the rule logically independent of my then ecclesiological commitments.)

    The rule doesn’t require any See or group of Sees to remain consistently “orthodox” for its validity. (Note: the Apostolic succession is not passed on intra-See but inter-Sees.) It requires a church today that teaches and practices consistently with consensus of extant historical Christian documents, including Fathers and Councils. Even if some of these documents are heretical, there is enough weight of consensus that the heretical documents stand out as inconsistent with the others and usually the writers of these documents have been labelled as heretics. The rule is used to determine which is the Catholic Church by that one which teaches and practices the Catholic Faith. This is the criterion of catholicity and it is neutral of ecclesiologies because it is the Faith that determines the ecclesiology. (Again, it was the consistency of evidence throughout history that led me to believe there was a Catholic Faith and from hence I was taught of the Catholic(Orthodox) Church.)

    Finally, St Vincent’s rule in its very existence and form disproves Roman Catholic doctrine by its very absence of mentioning Rome as an authority and test for Catholicity. If among all those, that he talked with to ascertain the rule, the rule, as always mentioned, did not mention the place of Rome, in Magisterium, as now taught in Rome, which is: “In order to preserve the Church in the purity of the faith handed on by the apostles, Christ who is the Truth willed to confer on her a share in his own infallibility. By a ‘supernatural sense of faith’ the People of God, under the guidance of the Church’s living Magisterium, ‘unfailingly adheres to this faith.'”, then I conclude that such a doctrine did not then exist. The present doctrine is inconsistent with the rule because instead of universality, antiquity and consent one only needs to look at Rome as it is now. So Rome has introduced something new and different, hence it fails the test of catholicity. Its doctrine was not taught in, or consistently with, antiquity and hence Rome does not teach the Catholic Faith without addition or subtraction, so it cannot be the Catholic Church.

    Now, am I sloganising? The reason for rejecting the use of the Vincentian Canon does not apply to the above argument. It is criticised on one aspect without dealing with its every test. Even the criticism given was inadequate on the aspect. In the present circumstances, its test of antiquity is to be used first not its test of “everywhere”. Everywhere must be used in the historical time when innovations first become apparent. Groups excluded from the Church previously in history are not longer to be included in the test later used in determining everywhere. So, everywhere needs to be considered historically as well as geographically. For example, taking a time slice of around 1200AD, one can see that the various distinctly Protestant teachings either did not exist or were only found in groups that were earlier recognised as heretics. So, Protestantism, by the Vincentian Canon, is an innovation and so is not the Catholic Faith. Hence, it is heretical and not the Church. The fact that they thrive today and claim to be Christian is beside the point. The size of the Roman Catholic Church is also beside the point because the test for the filioque doctrine was made in the 9th Century; it was then proclaimed as an inconsistent heresy and seen as an innovation, which from a 400AD or 500AD time-slice, when it was taught by a handful at best, is correct. The fact that the Roman Church failed to repent from adding the teaching to its deposit of faith means it no longer taught the Catholic Faith and today it has no place in use of the Vincentian Canon. (Note: the test doesn’t exclude doctrines consistent with Catholic Faith but not evidenced until later. The problem is with inconsistent innovations, new and different teaching.)

  30. James the Thickheaded says:


    Thanks for your overly generous post. Yet there will come a time or place when RC apologetics are better versed. For the most part, my reading has been that the folks cited seem to resort all too frequently to circular reasoning and ad hominem. And this in the name of the purported mission of evangelism? Hello. Well, it made my journey to Orthodoxy clearly the alternative for both logical consistency, currency in organizational theory (how’s that for a comeback?) and heart.

    That said, there are things for which I am grateful to Al Kimmel for having brought to my attention through his site, yet in the end, I accepted the solution of leaving TEC without the salve of RC. The unfortunate tendency to WWF-style of “arguments” posed there do not IMHO present RC’s best face nor do their faith justice…but rather a face those who care not to join in railing at the “other” will cause them to flee elsewhere. Somehow, relishing one’s pride, pugnacity and proclamation rather than repenting of it seems a tad inconsistent with the fullness of the calling.

  31. Reader Patrick (Brian) says:

    Dear Mr. Robinson,

    I appreciate your post very much.

    My personal view is that our RC friends almost have an obsession (for lack of a better term) to get us Orthodox to “reciprocate.” By this I mean they ask a simple question: “Since we RC allow the Orthodox to commune at Mass why don’t they allow us to commune at DL?” They recognize us as a “church” with “valid” sacraments and apostolic succession whereas our view of them is much different. They think that these gestures should require a similar response from us.

    I have no problem with an RC saying that his/her church is the true church and we Orthodox are not, but it should not bother them if we say the opposite. After all, we are just stating our positions.

    I think that what really bothers them is that their critique of protestantism which is so deadly and accurate relies on Tradition and Church history. But it becomes problematic to them when the protestant responds: “What about the Orthodox?”

    The central issue is that there is such a difference between us that it cannot be bridged unless one party changes its position, something that just will not occur.

    That is why I have always said that the best thing that both of our churches can do is co-operate on those issues where we have common interests, like fighting abortion and the culture of death.

    If we concentrate on these then our relations will improve. I fear that these “commissions” that meet to try to “iron out” our differences will only end up in frustration and hurt feelings as happened at Emmitsburg. Its better for both parties to admit our differences, co-operate where we can, and pray for each other.

    May God richly bless you.

  32. Perry Robinson says:

    Lee Faber,

    At the very least I put my finger on the key issues, almost none of which they thought were so. Of course, I think I got the better part of the argument on ADS and they think they did. In any case, Carson’s comments about my education is irrelevant.

  33. Lee Faber says:

    The fact that as a grad student I came out of nowhere and bested just about everyone on Kimel’s blog, and bested people who were supposedly well informed I think says it all.

    if you say so. not everyone remembers it happening that way. ADS or develop. of doct. for instance.

  34. Michael says:

    Steven Todd,

    You are one of the most thoughtful bloggers/commenters I have come across, and I always enjoy your words on this and other sites. May Christ our God heal you swiftly, and holy angels minister life to you night and day.

  35. jwp3d,

    Your prayers are greatly appreciated.



  36. “I can take a hit. If that is the best that Carson can do. I have nothing to worry about.”

    You’re right. Johnny Carson did better job slamming people on the Tonight Show.

    God bless,

  37. Perry Robinson says:


    PErhaps he’s right. Perhaps not. But my inadequacies don’t touch any argument i put forward. The fact that others like John Jones out of Marquette thinks otherwise remove the “he’s a grad student” line from the picture. What will be the line when I finish? What will be the line when I publish?

    The fact that as a grad student I came out of nowhere and bested just about everyone on Kimel’s blog, and bested people who were supposedly well informed I think says it all. And the fact that Dr. Carson hasn’t even grasped the most rundimentary elements of Orthodox thought says even more.

    I can take a hit. If that is the best that Carson can do, I have nothing to worry about.

  38. jwp3d says:

    I too was bothered by the cheapshot that Carson took at you.

    I will pray for you tonight.

  39. Perry,

    I could not stop coughing (I have a very bad case of the flu, which has turned into bronchitis) after reading the phrase “she who must not be named.”

    Also I just read a comment on ML’s blog by Dr. Carson, and here is what he said:

    “Perry Robinson is a graduate student. Having been a graduate student in philosophy myself once, I’m familiar with the attitude that one has all the arguments necessary to refute centuries of reflection and dialectic. It goes away after a while, or at least it did in my case. Well, mostly, anyway.”

    Now, having read Carson’s blog before, I can say that his use of the term “mostly” is an exaggeration.

    God bless,

    P.S. – I must admit that I found the condescending tone of Carson’s post, whether intended as such or not, rather irritating.

    P.P.S – I ask for prayers, that my breathing improve, because otherwise my doctor has said that I will have to be hospitalized.

  40. David Richards says:

    Perry, could you link me to the combox on that Anglican blog either here or in an e-mail? I am interested in reading what you originally wrote. Thanks.

  41. Sophocles says:


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