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Switch to Forum Live View Anathema's and Vladimir Moss
4 years ago  ::  Mar 08, 2014 - 8:52PM #1
Posts: 19
The following article was not written by me. Vladimir Moss has contributed much to our knowledge and understanding of the lives of British saints, but I do not recommend his polemical writings. Dr. Moss is not a credentialed Orthodox theologian, and like so many people, probably has biases.


There is a lot that can be said about Mr. Moss’ article on the Power of the Anathema.  He does provide several very good and important quotes on the subject but the problem is mostly with his interpretation and application of these quotes.  I think it is first important to consider the overall context of the article.  The context, of course, is ROCOR’s 1983 Anathema Against Ecumenism and the implications of this anathema.  For instance, did this anathema, as many Old Calendarists claim, automatically cut off from the Church all local churches who were in any way involved with the World Council of Churches, ecumenical dialogue, etc.?  This would be a strange claim for the Old Calendarists to make because such a claim implies that these local churches were part of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church at least up until 1983.  Mr. Moss, however, was already with the Matthewites in 1978, so if the local churches represented the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, why did Mr. Moss leave the Church prior to 1983?

Now, it would be one matter if after the 1983 Anathema, the bishops of ROCOR were divided regarding how that anathema should have been interpreted and some bishops who believed that the anathema applied to all local Orthodox churches broke communion with the other bishops who disagreed with this interpretation.  This was not the case, however.  No so-called “True Orthodox” church traces its origins to any dispute regarding Ecumenism in any local Orthodox church.  The Old Calendarists were established on the “confession of faith” that adopting the New Calendar automatically cuts one off from the Church and deprives of sacramental grace all who adopt the New Calendar.  Such a “confession” is either true or false.  If it is false, as Met Chrysostom of Florina and the other bishops who initially made this declaration in 1935 came to believe, then the Old Calendarists created an unlawful schism and removed themselves both from the Church and from the grace-filled sacraments of the Church.  It is then nonsensical for a 1983 anathema from ROCOR and the concern about ecumenism to be used to persuade people to join a group that was established in 1935 for very different reasons.

Another note regarding the 1983 Anathema - it was primarily Holy Transfiguration Monastery that made an issue over this because they were the ones (I believe it was Fr. Haralambos in particular) who drafted this anathema (they actually drafted several versions but only one was accepted by ROCOR) and they were still with ROCOR at that time.  HTM did not agree with the Old Calendarist declaration that adopting the New Calendar deprived one of divine grace.  Interestingly, when HTM joined Abp. Auxentios after leaving ROCOR, they submitted their own “confession of faith” (found in the Struggle Against Ecumenism) which makes no mention of adopting the New Calendar depriving one of sacramental grace even though they knew that Abp. Auxentios’ Synod had officially affirmed the 1935 declaration stating this.  HOCNA was repeatedly asked about this subject by its clergy and faithful, and in 2003 they released a formal statement saying they “do not know” when sacramental grace is withdrawn.  When it is pointed out to them that they joined a Synod whose confession they don’t agree with, they simply say that they submitted their own confession and that Synod accepted theirs.  I find this to be exceedingly duplicitous.  When you join a church you are confessing your acceptance of that church’s faith.  To this day, HOCNA is pretty much agnostic on this subject as is HOTCA/GOC.  It is the confession of faith upon which the Old Calendarist movement began, and today’s Old Calendarist groups have formally reaffirmed the 1925 declaration, but it seems that only the Matthewites really believe it.

HTM made a big deal about the 1983 Anathema only after ROCOR began to investigating the moral accusations against Fr. Panteliemon. When the accusations came to the attention of ROCOR, HTM began scrambling to pull together “evidence of ROCOR ecumenism” and anything they could use to justify making a swift departure before Fr. Panteliemon would have to answer in a spiritual court for the claims against him.  There is some question whether the subject even would have been an issue for them if Fr. Panteliemon had not committed the sins for which he is accused and if HTM was not searching for reasons to jump ship.  So, while I can understand why HTM made an issue of this to justify their departure, it doesn’t make much sense for other Old Calendarists, like Vladimir Moss, to use the 1983 Anathema to justify their own schisms which long predated this anathema.

 Now, regarding anathemas in general and Mr. Moss’ article, the following quote from St. Nikodemos of the Holy Mountain, found in the Rudder, is very important:

    "We must know that the penalties provided by the canons, such as deposition, excommunication,
    and anathematization, are imposed in the third person according to grammatical usage, there being no imperative available. In such cases in order to express a command, the second person would be necessary. I will explain the matter better. The canons command the council of living bishops to depose the priests, or to excommunicate them, or to anathematize laymen who violate the canons. Yet, if the council does not actually effect the deposition of the priests, or the excommunication, or the anathematization of the laymen, they are neither actually deposed, nor excommunicated, nor anathematized.

    "They are, however, liable to stand judicial trial – here, with regard to deposition, excommunication, and anathematization, but there with regard to divine vengeance. Just as when a king commands his slave to whip another who did something that offended him, if the slave in question fails to execute the king's command, he will nevertheless be liable to trial for the whipping.

    "So, those silly men make a great mistake who say that at the present time all those in holy orders who have been ordained contrary to the canons are actually deposed from office. It is an inquisitional tongue that foolishly twaddles thus without understanding that the command of the canons, without the practical activity of the second person, or, more plainly speaking, of the council, remains unexecuted, since it does not act of itself and by itself immediately and before judgment.

    "The Apostles themselves explain themselves in their c. XLVI unmistakenly, since they do not say that any bishop or presbyter who accepts a baptism performed by heretics is already and at once deposed, but rather they command that he be deposed, or, at any rate, that he stand trial, and if it be proven that he did so, then `we command that he be stripped of holy orders,' they say, `by your decision.”

As St. Nikodemos says, the words “Let him be anathema” mean “let the proper authority anathematize the guilty party”.  These words do not automatically render a person cut off from the sacramental grace of the Church.  Rather, anathemas declare that those who fall under them are liable to both being tried by the proper Church authority/authorities as well as being condemned at the Final Judgment.  If a bishop “falls under an anathema” from a past Council, the Synod to which he belongs may bring him to trial and depose him, if he is unrepentant, on the authority of that past anathema.  Now, if such a bishop does not go into schism, cutting himself off from Communion with the external body of the Church, and is not deposed by his Synod, then his sacraments will continue to have grace though he will be liable to be condemned by God at the Judgment.

Regarding this distinction between being cut off from the Church spiritually verses being cut off from the visible and canonical hierarchy of the Church, Mr. Moss provides the explanation from New Hieromartyr Mark (Novoselov), Bishop of Sergievo that there is a distinction between “the mystical organism of the Church and her visible, external organization. Until a heretic has been condemned by a canonical Council of Bishops, he remains a member of the visible, external organization of the Church even though he has been cut off from the mystical organism of the Church by Christ Himself.”

Mr. Moss goes on to say:

“In accordance with this distinction, we can say that Arius was cut off from the mystical organism of the Church by Christ immediately he began to proclaim his heresy publicly, but was cut off from the external organization of the Church, first by Local Councils of the Church of Alexandria under Saints Peter and Alexander, and then by the First Ecumenical Council in Nicaea.”

“But if heretics are already condemned immediately they proclaim heresy,” it may be objected, “why is it necessary for hierarchs to come together in Councils and anathematize them?” Because an already-condemned heretic who is not recognized as such, but is allowed to continue to proclaim his heresy to all while participating in the sacraments of the Church, will lead many others to perdition. It is therefore necessary to expel already-self-condemned heretics from the external organization of the Church, so that the right-believing Christians may not be infected with their heresy, but may turn away from them in disgust, as the Lord commanded when he said: “If he refuses to listen to the Church, let him be unto you as a heathen and a publican” (Matthew 18.17).

This is accurate.  Until a heretical bishop goes into schism or is deposed by the proper authority, he is united with the external body of the Church and serves grace-filled mysteries even though he is self-condemned.  This should be understood by anyone who knows of the Donatist heresy and the Church’s response to this heresy, that sacramental grace depends on the member of the clergy being recognized as such by the Church and is not in any way connected to the holiness or purity of the clergy.  The same is true regarding the beliefs of the clergy.  Priests and bishops may believe heresies privately while formally confessing the Orthodox faith and not expressing their heretical views.  Their private heresies make them liable to condemnation at the Judgment, but this in no way diminishes the grace-filled mysteries that they are entrusted by the Church to administer.  If we hear our bishop or priest begin teaching heresy, we are instructed by the Fathers to flee from them, but this is to protect our ears from heresy and not because their sacraments are graceless.

St. Nektarios of Aegina has a very good article entitled "Concerning the Ethical Perfection of them who Conduct the Mysteries" which is part of a larger work that is unfortunately not yet translated into English.  In this article he says,

    “The ethical perfection of the liturgizing priest and the degree of his faith do not contribute at all to the completion of the Mysteries, because even if he is lacking these, he is an instrument of the Church who acts on behalf of the Church, and it is God Who gives the grace in the interest of the Church.  If a priest is unworthy, he will give an account for his own audacity; however, the Mysteries still take place and are perfected.

“If the ethical perfection and faith of a priest were completely necessary in order for the Mysteries to be performed, then it would be uncertain as to whether or not salvation existed within the Church, and whether or not She is the one Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, the spotless bride of Christ which received the order to conduct the Mysteries He entrusted to Her in order to eternally perpetuate the redeeming work of the Savior.  Because who, from them who deem necessary the ethical and religious qualifications of priests in order for the mysteries to be performed, would be convinced that the Church preserved the priesthood and the grace to perform the mysteries within Herself for twenty centuries since the establishment of the Church?  Who would be able to guarantee that all the ordinations of the priests and archpriests that have been conducted through the centuries were actually performed by ethical and faithful archpriests?  Certainly no one.

“If the Mysteries remained incomplete and imperfect due to the absence of a priest's or archpriest's ethical and religious qualifications, and if grace did not descend during baptism and ordination, then they who have been baptized would still remain unbaptized, while the priests and archpriests would also be non-clerics.  And then the Church would remain deprived of sacred persons and of all the grace given to Her by the Apostles.  But things are not so.  The ethical and religious quality of the priests in no way contributes to the completion of the mystries; everything depends on the Church, because only She received the grace of redemption and sanctification, and only She conducts the mysteries through her sacred instruments.

Elsewhere in the same article, St. Nektarios quotes St. Gregory Nazianzos, saying:

    The divine Gregory Nazianzos says in his discourse on baptism: "All are trustworthy for your purification, as long as he is among them who have received the authority to forgive sins, and as long as he has not been openly condemned.  You who seek healing, do not judge your judges; do not examine the value of them who purify you, and do not make distinctions regarding them who give you birth... the grace of baptism is one."

As St. Nektarios elaborates, a priest serves grace-filled mysteries so long as he has authority to do so from the Church and has not been condemned/deposed by the Church, despite his moral failings or wrong faith.  This understanding of the relationship between grace and heresy is what the Church has believed from the beginning and continually upheld, as can be seen from the arising of every heresy from Arius on.  As a heresy develops and catches on, there is always a period of time before the heretic's official condemnation where communion exists between the Orthodox Church and heretics.  During this time, the heretic still serves true mysteries while they still have the authority from the Church to do so, while after their formal condemnation or schism they become deprived of this sacramental grace.

Mr. Moss says, “Thirdly, it is asserted that anathemas only fall on those heretics who were contemporaries of the hierarchs who anathematized them: for later generations of heretics, the anathemas have to be re-applied by “living synods of bishops”. Taken to its logical and absurd conclusion, this argument implies that every new Pope of Rome has to be anathematized personally immediately he occupies his see, otherwise he reverts to Orthodoxy, and that if the 1983 anathema against ecumenism had not been repeated by the ROCOR Synod in 1998, it would already have lost its power, like food that has passed its sell-by date! But away with such sophistry! “

This is one among many instances where Mr. Moss misrepresents a point in order to refute it, basically creating a straw man argument.  As St. Nikodemos & St. Nektarios stated above, a hierarch or priest of the Church remain so until they are openly condemned, or until they depart into schism of their own accord.  The Orthodox Church does not need to repeat condemnations against every heresy every year in order to “keep the past anathemas fresh” or something.  If heretics are already broken off from the visible body of the Church, why would the Orthodox Church need to keep issuing new anathemas against them?  Rather, what St. Nikodemos is saying is that when a bishop or priest is accused of falling under a past anathema, a synod must call that bishop or priest to trial to determine whether the accusation is true and to give the bishop or priest a chance to repent if the accusations are found to be true.  Again, while clergy may be cut off from the mystical body of the Church by “falling under an anathema”, only a council of bishops has the authority to review the matter and choose to cut off from the external and visible body of the Church a member of the clergy based on the facts of the case.

Now, regarding the meaning and implications of the 1983 Anathema, we can easily examine the text itself to see to whom it applied:

    "Those who attack the Church of Christ by teaching that Christ's Church is divided into so-called 'branches' which differ in doctrine and way of life, or that the Church does not exist visibly, but will be formed in the future when all 'branches' or sects or denominations and even religions will be united into one body; who do not distinguish the priesthood and mysteries of the Church from those of the heretics, but say that the baptism and eucharist of the heretics is effectual for salvation; therefore, to those who knowingly have communion with these aforementioned heretics or who advocate, disseminate, or defend their new heresy of Ecumenism under the pretext of brotherly love or the supposed unification of separated Christians, Anathema!"

  In the case of many heresies in the past, for instance the Monothelite heresy that St. Maximos faced in his time, anathemas were issued in response to heretical confessions of faith that were causing serious trouble in the Church.  Regarding the 1983 Anathema, what local Orthodox Church has issued a confession of faith affirming the branch theory, the acceptance of non-Orthodox sacraments as grace-filled and salvific, or the belief that the Church will only be formed in the future when all “branches” are united?  What can you show me to prove that any local Orthodox Church actually believes and teaches these things?

In 2000, the Moscow Patriarchate issued a document entitled: Basic Principles of Attitude to the Non-Orthodox wherein they firmly confessed the Orthodox Church to be the true Church and rejected the “branch theory”:

    2.3. Nevertheless, while recognizing the need to restore our broken Christian unity, the Orthodox Church asserts that genuine unity is possible only in the bosom of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. All other “models” of unity seem to us to be unacceptable.

    2.4. The Orthodox Church cannot accept the assumption that despite the historical divisions, the fundamental and profound unity of Christians has not been broken and that the Church should be understood as coextensive with the entire “Christian world”, that Christian unity exists across denominational barriers and that the disunity of the churches belongs exclusively to the imperfect level of human relations. According to this conception, the Church remains one, but this oneness is not, as it were, sufficiently manifest in visible form. In this model of unity, the task of Christians is understood not as the restoration of a lost unity but as the manifestation of an existing unity. This model repeats the teaching on “the invisible Church” which appeared during the Reformation.

    2.5. The so-called “branch theory”, which is connected with the conception referred to above and asserts the normal and even providential nature of Christianity existing in the form of particular “branches”, is also totally unacceptable.

The entire work by the Moscow Patriarchate is worth reading.  Then, you have the comments from Patriarch Bartholomew on Ecumenism that in no way “fall under the 1983 anathema”:

    "With this tactic (the dialogue) we are not betraying Orthodoxy, as we have been accused, nor do we support ecumenist perceptions; rather, we preach to the heterodox and to everyone the Orthodox truth", he stated characteristically.
    "They (the dialogues) do not aspire - as was written in both Bulgaria and elsewhere - to the creation of one, mutually accepted 'aggregate' of beliefs.  That is, there is no attempt through this so-called ecumenical movement to attain the acceptance of one 'Christian syncretistic confession'; only a deeper penetration into the Christian Orthodox faith and the communal collaboration of all those who invoke the name of Christ", stressed  Patriarch Bartholomew.
    "We Orthodox, who possess the fullness of the Truth, are not afraid - as it is thought - that we shall be influenced by the views of our heterodox brethren on dogmatic issues."

Now, some Old Calendarists will point to statements made by the WCC, yet the WCC is not the Orthodox Church and its documents have no authority in the Orthodox Church.  There have been Orthodox participants in the WCC, but since the 1960s they have not been allowed to produce separate statements but are rather pulled into a consensus process.  In this setting, Orthodox positions are drowned out by the Protestant majority.  I think Orthodox participation in the WCC has been very unfortunate overall, and many clergy and bishops agree.  However, faulty joint statements from the WCC are not sufficient to claim that entire local Orthodox churches now proclaim heresy.  Also, while there may have been a lot of interest in the WCC and ecumenical dialogue in past decades, this is not the case today.  Participation in the WCC and other ecumenical activities has become increasingly unpopular in the Orthodox Church.  Today, we hardly hear anything about the WCC or any kind of problematic Orthodox participation in the ecumenical movement.  It seems that most Orthodox involvement in the ecumenical movement has come nearly to a halt in our times, perhaps primarily due to the Moscow Patriarchates’ growing influence which has helped to check the role of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.  The Church of Greece has likewise been protesting the ecumenical actions of Patriarch Bartholomew, and it was from there that the “Confession of Faith Against Ecumenism” developed more recently:

Regarding the part of the 1983 Anathema that refers to accepting non-Orthodox sacraments as salvific, it should be noted that the Orthodox use of the term “valid” does not mean “salvific”.  Met Anthony (Khrapovitsky) wrote an excellent article on the use of economia in the reception of the heterodox, wherein he explains that when the non-Orthodox are received by chrismation without baptism, this is a recognition that the heterodox have already received a true “form” of baptism.  Yet, Met Anthony carefully explains that such a convert only had an “empty form” of the sacrament that needs to be “filled” with grace through reception into the Church by chrismation.  Such a heterodox can be said to have a “valid form” of baptism but this “valid form” is empty of divine grace.  While economia is terribly abused today, and while I believe that all converts should be received by baptism, it should be noted that non-Orthodox with a Trinitarian baptism have been received into Orthodoxy by chrismation in the Russian Orthodox Church for many centuries.  If those who receive non-Orthodox without baptism today are “anathema”, then the Russian Orthodox Church has been anathema for centuries.

Unfortunately, many Old Calendarists overlook the text of the 1983 Anathema and claim that all Orthodox who participate in ecumenical activities are teaching the “heresy of Ecumenism”.  Fr. Seraphim (Rose) had some excellent words on this subject:

    This brings us to a fundamental question of definition: what is
    ecumenism? Some would-be zealots of Orthodoxy use the term in entirely
    too imprecise a fashion, as though the very use of the term or contact
    with an "ecumenical" organization is in itself a "heresy." Such views
    are clearly exaggerations.  "Ecumenism" is a heresy only if it
    actually involves the denial that Orthodoxy is the true Church of
    Christ. A few of the Orthodox leaders of the ecumenical movement have
    gone this far; but most Orthodox participants in the ecumenical
    movement have not said this much; and a few (such as the late Fr.
    Georges Florovsky) have only irritated the Protestants in the
    ecumenical movement by frequently stating at ecumenical gatherings
    that Orthodoxy is the Church of Christ. One must certainly criticize
    the participation of even these latter persons in the ecumenical
    movement, which at its best is misleading and vague about the nature
    of Christ's Church; but one cannot call such people "heretics," nor
    can one affirm that any but a few Orthodox representatives have
    actually taught ecumenism as a heresy. The battle for true Orthodoxy
    in our times is not aided by such exaggerations.

I do not know of any hierarch who “falls under” the 1983 Anathema or the “heresy of Ecumenism” according to the definition of Fr. Seraphim (Rose).  If someone were to make an accusation that a certain bishop is guilty of believing in the branch theory, then these accusations should be considered by a council of bishops to determine if the accusations are true.  Mr. Moss is not a council of bishops and does not have the authority to both accuse hierarchs of heresy and cast them out from the visible body of the Church.  Furthermore, since he has removed himself from the Church he does not have the authority to even be an accuser against any of our hierarchs.  All of the Old Calendarists, by removing themselves from communion with the Church, are unable to play any positive role in encouraging our clergy and laity to remain faithful to patristic Orthodoxy.

For more on the 1983 Anathema, I would be interested to know any objections you might have to the following information on the subject:

Among other things, it says:

An excellent analysis of why this is so was written by John Hudanish, starosta of Our Lady of Kursk Chapel in Woodburn, Oregon…. After restating the text of the 1983 Anathema, John Hudanish writes:
    "This is an eloquent condemnation of ecumenism and a clear statement of our Synod s rejection of it. What s not so clear, however, is the fact that this anathema is legislative in nature, rather than judicial, i.e., it is a codification of a theological principle into law, but not averdict—much less a sentence. In other words, it identifies a specific phenomenon (ecumenism) as a heresy, and prescribes the penalty (Anathema!) for those who embrace and defend it, or "knowingly have communion" with those who do*, but it excommunicates no one! It is legislation. It is not judgment. And this is borne out by Metropolitan Vitaly in an article he wrote for "Orthodox Life" (No. 4, 1984, p. 32) while he was still Archbishop of Montreal and Canada.”

Mr. Moss overlooks the difference between legislative and judicial anathemas, a distinction made above in the quote by St. Nikodemos.  Whereas the 1983 Anathema was legislative, the anathema against the Monothelite heresy at the local Council of Rome was judicial in nature.  This council in Rome of over 100 bishops made a specific declaration regarding a heresy that was officially being promulgated and adopted in the Church at that time, whereas the 1983 Anathema was more of a “warning” or an attempt to prevent the adoption and spread of the “Branch Theory” teaching within the Orthodox Church.  With the passage of time, with the fall of Communism, and the increasingly authoritative voice of  Moscow Patriarchate, the local Orthodox churches appear much less likely to adopt the Branch Theory than may have been the case in 1983.  For this reason, this anathema has been given less and less attention over the years as something almost unnecessary.

The last article linked above interestingly mentions that the three-fingered sign of the cross was anathematized by the 1552 Council of the One Hundred Chapters in Moscow.  If we apply Mr. Moss’ reasoning to the 1552 Council, then all Orthodox Christians are under anathema and deprived of sacramental grace.  Then there would be no hope for any of us.
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4 years ago  ::  Mar 08, 2014 - 8:56PM #2
Posts: 19

Vladimir Moss has also asserted that the bones of the athonite Elder Paisios are black. He said that his spiitual father from Mount Athos told him this.  I wonder how Vladimir Moss' spiritual father supposedly learned that Elder Paisios' bones are black. Are there photos, direct testimonies, etc. somewhere?  I haven't seen or heard anything other than the bare assertion.

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