By Bro. Peter Dimond, O.S.B.
A commission under Benedict XVI recently put out a document with the “Orthodox.” It received many headlines in the mainstream press. The commission which published the document is entitled the Joint International Commission for the Theological Dialogue between the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church. The heretical document it produced is called The Ravenna Document. If I were to sum up the document in one sentence, it would be: A Vatican commission under Benedict XVI has approved the schismatic “Orthodox” view of the Church, the “Orthodox” view of the authority of bishops and how they work together, the “Orthodox” view of how ecumenical councils are approved, etc. I will quickly go through some of the more important points and heresies that are promoted in this document. This is a document which, it must be emphasized again, has been promulgated by a commission under Benedict XVI and has been mentioned widely in the mainstream press and in many churches of the Vatican II sect.
I will try to be as brief as possible in my commentary and quickly move through the heretical passages. The Ravenna Document is available in its complete form on the Vatican’s website: http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/pontifical_councils/chrstuni/ch_orthodox_docs/rc_pc_chrstuni_doc_20071013_documento-ravenna_en.html. I first want to draw your attention to paragraph 2. Keep in mind that what is quoted is a joint declaration by the Vatican’s authorities and the leaders of the Orthodox commission:
“2. Following the plan adopted at its first meeting in Rhodes in 1980, the Joint Commission began by addressing the mystery of ecclesial koinônia in the light of the mystery of the Holy Trinity and of the Eucharist. This enabled a deeper understanding of ecclesial communion, both at the level of the local community around its bishop, and at the level of relations between bishops and between the local Churches over which each presides in communion with the One Church of God extending across the universe (cfr. Munich Document, 1982).” (The Ravenna Document)
Notice that the document states that the dialogue between the Vatican II sect and the “Orthodox” churches has led them to a “deeper understanding” of ecclesial communion. Isn’t it interesting that Vatican I, in condemning departures from traditional Catholic dogma, condemned precisely the attempt to advance such false teachings under the specious name of a “deeper understanding”?
Pope Pius IX, First Vatican Council, Sess. 3, Chap. 2 on Revelation, 1870, ex cathedra: “Hence, also, that understanding of its sacred dogmas must be perpetually retained, which Holy Mother Church has once declared; and there must never be a recession from that meaning under the specious name of a deeper understanding.” (Denzinger 1800)
The Ravenna Document must say that its conclusion on the communion between “Catholics” and “Orthodox” is a “deeper understanding” since it flies in the face of traditional Catholic dogma and many traditional papal proclamations.
In #3 the Ravenna Document states: “Since the one and holy Church is realized both in each local Church celebrating the Eucharist and at the same time in the koinonia of all the Churches, how does the life of the Churches manifest this sacramental structure?”
Remember, the Vatican II sect and the “Orthodox” are conjointly speaking here. So, according to this document on the Vatican’s website, all the “Orthodox” churches which celebrate the Eucharist are part of the one and holy Church. That the “Orthodox” churches are part of the one Church is not even remotely under dispute in this document. However, such an idea is blatantly heretical. It rejects, among other things, the papal declarations that those who deny the faith or the Papacy are outside the Church and thus sin when they receive the Eucharist.
Pope Pius VIII, Traditi Humilitati (# 4), May 24, 1829: “Jerome used to say it this way: he who eats the Lamb outside this house will perish as did those during the flood who were not with Noah in the ark.”
Pope Gregory XVI, Commissum divinitus (# 11), May 17, 1835: “… whoever dares to depart from the unity of Peter might understand that he no longer shares in the divine mystery…‘Whoever eats the Lamb outside of this house is unholy.’”
Pope Pius IX, Amantissimus (# 3), April 8, 1862: “… whoever eats of the Lamb and is not a member of the Church, has profaned.”
#8 of The Ravenna Document speaks of the tasks and duties of bishops as “successors of the Apostles.” This includes, again, the “Orthodox” bishops. It thus teaches that “Orthodox” bishops are true successors to the apostles with authority in the Church, even though they reject the Papacy. This is a heretical understanding of apostolic succession.
#16 speaks of authority in the Church:
“Authority in the ecclesial communion is linked to this essential structure: its exercise is regulated by the canons and statutes of the Church. Some of these regulations may be differently applied according to the needs of ecclesial communion in different times and places, provided that the essential structure of the Church is always respected.”
Authority in the Church, according to this outrageously heretical document, is regulated by the canons and statutes of “the Church”! Since both sides are speaking together, that refers to the canons and statutes recognized by both the Vatican and the “Orthodox.” The “Orthodox,” of course, hold a different view on councils and which canons are binding, among other things. Moreover, nothing here is mentioned about the authority of a pope to overturn the disciplinary laws of councils – which popes have done at times. So what is approved here is simply the “Orthodox” view of authority: a vague collection of past laws from certain councils which certain persons deem to be binding. If it sounds nebulous (e.g., which statutes and which councils regulate the Church?) that’s because it is. “Orthodoxy” is ultimately an earlier form of Protestantism, in which each person or bishop can eventually decide for himself which councils and which canons must be accepted.
#18 defines the Church in a heretical fashion. It throws the requirement to acknowledge the pope and his supreme jurisdiction out the window:
“18. The Church of God exists where there is a community gathered together in the Eucharist, presided over, directly or through his presbyters, by a bishop legitimately ordained into the apostolic succession, teaching the faith received from the Apostles, in communion with the other bishops and their Churches. The fruit of this Eucharist and this ministry is to gather into an authentic communion of faith, prayer, mission, fraternal love and mutual aid, all those who have received the Spirit of Christ in Baptism. This communion is the frame in which all ecclesial authority is exercised. Communion is the criterion for its exercise.”
This definition necessarily includes the multiplicity of “Orthodox” churches, since (once again) the “Orthodox” and the Vatican are conjointly speaking here. So as we go along here we can see why I would say that this document is simply an approval of “Orthodoxy” and its view of the Church. That’s all it is.
#22 says that each local church must be in communion with the others, if it is to manifest Catholicity. So the “Catholic” local churches must be in communion with the local churches that are “Orthodox,” if they are to be manifestly Catholic.
“22. Since the Church reveals itself to be catholic in the synaxis of the local Church, this catholicity must truly manifest itself in communion with the other Churches which confess the same apostolic faith and share the same basic ecclesial structure, beginning with those close at hand in virtue of their common responsibility for mission in that region which is theirs (cfr. Munich Document, III, 3, and Valamo Document, nn. 52 and 53). Communion among Churches is expressed in the ordination of bishops. This ordination is conferred according to canonical order by three or more bishops, or at least two (cfr. Nicaea I, Canon 4), who act in the name of the episcopal body and of the people of God, having themselves received their ministry from the Holy Spirit by the imposition of hands in the apostolic succession. When this is accomplished in conformity with the canons, communion among Churches in the true faith, sacraments and ecclesial life is ensured, as well as living communion with previous generations.”
What’s interesting is that it says that this communion can be manifested in a number of ways:
“23. Such effective communion among several local Churches, each being the Catholic Church in a particular place, has been expressed by certain practices: the participation of the bishops of neighbouring sees at the ordination of a bishop to the local Church; the invitation to a bishop from another Church to concelebrate at the synaxis of the local Church; the welcome extended to the faithful from these other Churches to partake of the eucharistic table; the exchange of letters on the occasion of an ordination; and the provision of material assistance.”
This essentially lays the groundwork for a Super-Church of “Catholic” bishops and “Orthodox” bishops, in which each bishop basically does his own thing with his own view of how things should work but maintains a working communion with the other group and its bishops. The working communion of the bishops in this Super-Church is, as we read above, manifested by some of the things described above. Notice that all of things which are underlined – which manifest this working and active communion between the two – have been done by Benedict XVI and the other Vatican II antipopes.
For instance, the official teaching of the Vatican II sect is that “Orthodox” can receive Communion and Benedict XVI concelebrates with their leaders. He also has sent numerous letters on the occasion of an “Orthodox” bishop taking over for one who has passed away; these letters frequently encourage the new bishop in his “ministry” and speak of his “responsibilities” as “pastor in the Church.” John Paul II also provided “material assistance” by giving $100,000 to the Orthodox. So the Vatican II antipopes have frequently given the signs described above which not only acknowledge a communion between their churches and the “Orthodox,” but a working and active communion. Therefore, the point here is that one could say that the two are already working together as part of an “Orthodox” Super-Church – their consultations, joint declarations and ecumenical ventures serving as an example of two or more patriarchs cooperating to solve the “Church’s” problems.
#26 declares: “The fact remains, however, that each bishop in his pastoral care is judge, and is responsible before God for the affairs of his own diocese (cfr. St Cyprian, Ep. 55, 21); thus he is the guardian of the catholicity of his local Church, and must be always careful to promote catholic communion with other Churches.”
Remember, this includes the “Orthodox” churches and thus their bishops!
Pope Leo XIII, Satis Cognitum (#15), June 29, 1896 – Bishops Separated from Peter and his Successors Lose All Jurisdiction: “From this it must be clearly understood that Bishops are deprived of the right and power of ruling, if they deliberately secede from Peter and his successors; because, by this secession, they are separated from the foundation on which the whole edifice must rest. They are therefore outside the edifice itself; and for this very reason they are separated from the fold, whose leader is the Chief Pastor; they are exiled from that Kingdom, the keys of which were given by Christ to Peter alone… No one, therefore, unless in communion with Peter can share in his authority, since it is absurd to imagine that he who is outside can command in the Church.”
#27 declares: “It follows that a regional synod or council does not have any authority over other ecclesiastical regions. Nevertheless, the exchange of information and consultations between the representatives of several synods are a manifestation of catholicity, as well as of that fraternal mutual assistance and charity which ought to be the rule between all the local Churches, for the greater common benefit. Each bishop is responsible for the whole Church together with all his colleagues in one and the same apostolic mission.”
Think about #27 carefully. This trashes the primacy of the Church of Rome. A pope could hold a council at Rome and make its decisions binding for all. In that case the decisions of a regional council would have authority over other ecclesiastical regions, since the pope used his supreme authority to make that regional council universally binding. But such a concept is excluded by this heretical document.
In fact, decisions of the Vatican commissions (e.g. the Holy Office) could be considered decisions of local councils. If a pope approved one of those in a binding and solemn form, that would become binding on the whole Church. This indeed occurred, for example, when Pope St. Pius X solemnly approved and made binding the decree of the Holy Office, Lamentabile of July 3, 1907 (Denzinger 2001 and Denz. 2114). But, according to this heretical document which has been published by those under Benedict XVI, Pope Pius X should not and could not have so bound other churches to the decree of the Holy Office entitled Lamentabile. Furthermore, if regional councils cannot bind other churches, as this document says, then certainly a bull or encyclical emanating simply from the Church of Rome couldn’t bind all the churches. One can see that this paragraph is simply schismatic nonsense which trashes Catholic dogma on the Papacy.
#29 of The Ravenna Document actually says that the rise of schismatic “autocephalous” churches [i.e. self-headed churches with no authority (i.e. Rome) above them] are an expression of communion in the Church:
“29. In subsequent centuries, both in the East and in the West, certain new configurations of communion between local Churches have developed. New patriarchates and autocephalous Churches have been founded in the Christian East, and in the Latin Church there has recently emerged a particular pattern of grouping of bishops, the Episcopal Conferences. These are not, from an ecclesiological standpoint, merely administrative subdivisions: they express the spirit of communion in the Church, while at the same time respecting the diversity of human cultures.“
This is an endorsement of schism and a total rejection of Vatican I, of course.
#37 contains bold heresy on the decisions of ecumenical councils and how they become binding:
“37. The ecumenicity of the decisions of a council is recognized through a process of reception of either long or short duration, according to which the people of God as a whole – by means of reflection, discernment, discussion and prayer – acknowledge in these decisions the one apostolic faith of the local Churches, which has always been the same and of which the bishops are the teachers (didaskaloi) and the guardians. This process of reception is differently interpreted in East and West according to their respective canonical traditions.”
According to this, the ecumenicity of councils is determined, not by the approval of a Roman Pontiff, but by the “people of God as a whole” – by reflection and discernment. This trashes Catholic dogma on the authority of the Roman Pontiff vis-à-vis councils.
Pope Leo XIII, Satis Cognitum (#15), June 29, 1896: “[Pope] Gelasius on the decrees of Councils says: “That which the First See has not approved of cannot stand; but what it has thought well to decree has been received by the whole Church” (Epist. xxvi., ad Episcopos Dardaniae, n. 5). It has ever been unquestionably the office of the Roman Pontiffs to ratify or to reject the decrees of Councils. Leo the great rescinded the acts of the Conciliabulum of Ephesus. Damasus rejected those of Rimini, and Hadrian I. those of Constantinople. The 28th Canon of the Council of Chalcedon, by the very fact that it lacks the assent and approval of the Apostolic See, is admitted by all to be worthless. Rightly, therefore, has Leo X. laid down in the 5th council of Lateran “that the Roman Pontiff alone, as having authority over all Councils, has full jurisdiction and power to summon, to transfer, to dissolve Councils, as is clear, not only from the testimony of Holy Writ, from the teaching of the Fathers and of the Roman Pontiffs, and from the decrees of the sacred canons, but from the teaching of the very Councils themselves.” Indeed, Holy Writ attests that the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven were given to Peter alone, and that the power of binding and loosening was granted to the Apostles and to Peter; but there is nothing to show that the Apostles received supreme power without Peter, and against Peter. Such power they certainly did not receive from Jesus Christ. Wherefore, in the decree of the Vatican Council as to the nature and authority of the primacy of the Roman Pontiff, no newly conceived opinion is set forth, but the venerable and constant belief of every age (Sess. iv., cap. 3).”
I have frequently made the point that the “Orthodox” (since they consider all bishops to have equal authority) have no consistent criteria by which they can say that some councils are ecumenical and others not. Since there were many councils which they reject and some which they consider binding (and all of them were approved by bishops), that poses a problem for them to define the specific criteria which make one council binding and another not binding. But if one were to attempt to articulate a position for the “Orthodox,” it would sound basically like what is said above: it would be a vague definition which involves the Church’s acceptance of certain councils by “reflection, discussion and prayer.” In other words, it would be ambiguous nonsense which provides no specific criteria – which leaves it up to each individual to figure it out. So, the Ravenna Document not only articulates a schismatic “Orthodox” position on how councils are determined to be ecumenical, but presents this as the position of the Church.
#39 of this heretical document lends credence to the schismatic “Orthodox” position that no ecumenical councils were truly held after the first seven:
“39. Unlike diocesan and regional synods, an Ecumenical Council is not an “institution” whose frequency can be regulated by canons; it is rather an “event”, a kairos inspired by the Holy Spirit who guides the Church so as to engender within it the institutions which it needs and which respond to its nature. This harmony between the Church and the councils is so profound that, even after the break between East and West which rendered impossible the holding of Ecumenical Councils in the strict sense of the term, both Churches continued to hold councils whenever serious crises arose. These councils gathered together the bishops of local Churches in communion with the See of Rome or, although understood in a different way, with the See of Constantinople, respectively. In the Roman Catholic Church, some of these councils held in the West were regarded as ecumenical. This situation, which obliged both sides of Christendom to convoke councils proper to each of them, favoured dissensions which contributed to mutual estrangement. The means which will allow the re-establishment of ecumenical consensus must be sought out.”
This means that the councils of Florence, Trent, Vatican I, etc. were not ecumenical in the “strict sense of the term.” Notice how this contradicts the explicit teaching of Vatican I:
Pope Pius IX, Vatican Council I, Sess. 4, Chap. 3 on the primacy of the Roman Pontiff: “…we promulgate anew the definition of the ecumenical council of Florence, which must be believed by all the faithful of Christ, namely, that the apostolic see and the Roman Pontiff hold primacy over the whole world…” (Denz. 1826)
#41 articulates the position on the primacy of the Bishop of Rome which is held by many “Orthodox.” Many “Orthodox” hold that the Bishop of Rome has a primacy of honor among bishops, but not of jurisdiction. They admit that the Bishop of Rome has a primacy of honor because St. Ignatius of Antioch (who lived in the apostolic era) said that the Church of Rome “presides in love.” But they deny what Christ conferred upon St. Peter and his successors: the power to govern all the sheep of His Church (John 21:15-17) by a true primacy of jurisdiction (as taught by Vatican I and the fathers of the Church). Such a primacy necessarily involves infallibility. So the “Orthodox” understanding of St. Ignatius’s statement is heretical. The true understanding of it is that a primacy of honor necessarily denotes a true primacy with true authority behind it – not some kind of fictitious “primacy of honor” with nothing behind it which would be of practical consequence. So in #41, a primacy of honor is denoted for the Bishop of Rome but nothing more – and that’s no problem for the “Orthodox” because of the way they understand it.
“41. Both sides agree that this canonical taxis was recognised by all in the era of the undivided Church. Further, they agree that Rome, as the Church that “presides in love” according to the phrase of St Ignatius of Antioch (To the Romans, Prologue), occupied the first place in the taxis, and that the bishop of Rome was therefore the protos among the patriarchs. They disagree, however, on the interpretation of the historical evidence from this era regarding the prerogatives of the bishop of Rome as protos, a matter that was already understood in different ways in the first millennium.”
In the last sentence we see that the rejection of the Bishop of Rome’s primacy of jurisdiction by the “Orthodox” is presented as acceptable. It’s doesn’t matter to the “Catholic” authors of this document that this issue concerns a defined Catholic dogma which binds all Christians under pain of anathema:
Pope Pius IX, Vatican Council I, Sess. 4, Chap. 3, Canon, ex cathedra: “If anyone thus speaks, that the Roman Pontiff has only the office of inspection or direction, but not the full and supreme power of jurisdiction over the universal Church, not only in things which pertain to faith and morals, but also in those which pertain to the discipline and government of the Church spread over the whole world; or, that he possesses only the more important parts, but not the whole plenitude of this supreme power… let him be anathema.” (Denz. 1831)
In #45 we see the same heresy (which denies the Papacy) repeated. Before I quote it, keep in mind that heresy is a denial or doubt of a divinely revealed truth. Thus, one doesn’t have to say “Vatican I is false” to reject the teaching of Vatican I. One can simply say or indicate that Vatican I might be false or might not be binding. That’s exactly what is indicated in #45:
“45. It remains for the question of the role of the bishop of Rome in the communion of all the Churches to be studied in greater depth. What is the specific function of the bishop of the “first see” in an ecclesiology of koinonia and in view of what we have said on conciliarity and authority in the present text? How should the teaching of the first and second Vatican councils on the universal primacy be understood and lived in the light of the ecclesial practice of the first millennium? These are crucial questions for our dialogue and for our hopes of restoring full communion between us.”
This clearly calls into question whether Vatican I is true and binding. All of this shows that the latest ecumenical outrage is quite a combination of heresy, schism and endorsement of the most obvious heresies of the schismatic “Orthodox” sect. It’s a statement which reflects schismatic “Orthodox” views on the Church, bishops, councils, etc. All of these clear Papacy-rejecting heresies have been promoted by Benedict XVI’s commission.