In a previous post, I expressed my profound sympathy with the Old Believers of the Russian Orthodox Church. It might be good for me to elaborate my thoughts on the Orthodox Church in general.
Until recently, I admired the great Orthodox Church. I have always marvelled at the inherent beauty of her Liturgy, which is the legacy of a long and pious Tradition, and which I have been privileged to experience on a few occasions. But I think that nowadays, this is the one and only thing I really admire about them. I remember at the time the Holy Father decided to drop the title ''Patriarch of the West'' talking to a Russian Orthodox man about it. I was against the decision, thinking the explanation of the emphasis on the Universal primacy of the Pope a stinking red herring, since this title encapsulates the special relationship that we, as Roman Rite Catholics, have with him and which Catholics of Eastern Christendom do not. He is not their Patriarch is he? To them, he is merely Pope. To Catholics living in the Eternal City herself, he is local Bishop, Archbishop, Metropolitan, Patriarch and Pope; in England he is simply Patriarch and Pope. Anyway, we argued over the other ''Papal titles,'' and he seemed especially indignant that the Church should decide to keep such ''arrogant'' titles as Vicar of Christ while doing away with a respectable one. He went quiet when I told him that at the time the Patriarch of Constantinople (not even an Apostolic See!) assumed the grandiloquent title ''Ecumenical Patriarch,'' (a pompous title which, in my opinion, compromises the rights and dignities of the Patriarch of Rome) the Popes of Rome adopted the title Servus Servorum Dei...
Whenever speaking to an Orthodox about ''Western'' affairs, I would adopt a somewhat apologetic persona and was almost always on the defensive. The two chief points were, need I say, the Filioque and the Papal claims, but I had to answer for other things as well, such as the Immaculate Conception, purgatorial fire, and in the case of an astute Orthodox, the present state of our Liturgy. This last point was especially painful for me, since they have had no liturgical crisis (except, arguably, the Nikon reforms - although what was this compared with what we have to put up with?), and so in the end I gave up. I stopped treating them as though they were our superiors (we are, in fact, their older brothers, not vice versa); I recognise and acknowledge the authority of the Pope, as Vicar of Christ and Universal Patriarch, they don't; I am a member of the True Church of Christ, they are unhappy schismatics, and for all their pretence of ''catholicity,'' most of their history since the Schism is riddled with petty squabbling over the rights of Constantinople, most of their hardly distinguished theologians have spent the best part of their time writing against us; but they have paid the recompense for their obstinate arrogance by being the long vassals of the Sultan; as Cardinal Humbert said, Videat Deus et iudicet.
In 1894, Pope Leo XIII sent out an Encyclical letter called Praeclara Gratulationis Publicae, generous and kindly and without any word of blame calling for the reunion of Christendom. The schismatic Orthodox bishops responded with this vituperative and poisonous encyclical letter, bringing up the old hackneyed arguments against the ''damnable heresies of Rome,'' the Filioque, Papal claims etc. Curiously, no mention is made of Azyme bread or Latin Bishops wearing rings, being clean-shaven or any other such thing (which in old times were the chief charges made against us, the Filioque being an afterthought!). It was the upstart Photius who first called the Filioque into question, and his bitterness about the Primacy of the Pope was because he couldn't stand being second after Rome. In any case, this appalling letter also mingles lies with the truth, at one point claiming that it was the ''custom'' of the holy fathers to hold Rome in the prime place simply because she was the capital of the Empire! What is this if not an anti-Evangelical and certainly Protestant heresy? In nothing is the hurt caused by the virtually blasphemous arrogance of Constantinople (now not even a shadow of what it once was) shown more clearly than in the great East-West Schism.
One thing I'd like to translate in the future is St Thomas Aquinas' Contra Errores Graecorum, but not yet. The above icon depicts ''saint'' Photius, Patriarch of Constantinople between 858-867 (although at the time of his election, he was a layman, and there are serious Canonical issues surrounding his appointment), he was deposed and excommunicated by Pope St Nicholas I, the greatest of all the Popes between Sts Gregory the Great and Gregory VII, and after the death of Ignatius in 877, was Patriarch until his death in 886. He was a great man according to his measure (an outstanding scholar, although he knew no Latin) but certainly prejudiced, and one of the many bogus saints of the Orthodox Church.