Bro. Peter Dimond
We’ve produced videos that refute Eastern ‘Orthodoxy’ and its false doctrine known as Palamism. Palamism is the heretical idea that in God there’s a real distinction between His essence and “uncreated energies.” It comes from Gregory Palamas. Palamas is considered to be a saint in various sects of Eastern “Orthodoxy”, but he is not considered to be a saint by the true Church, the Catholic Church, as we will see. He was, sadly, a heretic.
Since some people still wrongly think that Catholicism is compatible with Palamism, and even that Catholics may venerate Gregory Palamas as a saint, I want to show that the veneration of Palamas was forbidden before Vatican II. I also want to cite various pre-Vatican II theologians who recognized and denounced Palamism, just as we do, for the heresy that it is.
Fr. Joseph Pohle, who died in 1922, was a founding faculty member of the Catholic University of America and a contributor to the Catholic Encyclopedia. He wrote many things that were published with an imprimatur before Vatican II. His manual on theology was used in many seminaries. We’re not saying that Pohle was infallible or correct on everything. He was not. But he was learned and he was absolutely correct on this issue. Here’s what he says about the Eastern ‘Orthodox’ Palamites and their doctrine. He rightly calls the Palamites heretics.
This is from his work on God’s knowability, essence and attributes, which was given an imprimatur in 1910:
Fr. Joseph Pohle, God: His Knowability, Essence, And Attributes, A Dogmatic Treatise, Imprimatur 1910: “Two centuries later there arose among the schismatic Greeks the heresy of the Palamites – so called from its author, Gregory Palamos [Palamas]. This heresy two Constantinopolitan synods (A.D. 1341 and 1347) did not blush to proclaim as a schismatic dogma. The quintessence of the Palamite error may be stated as follows: Between the essence (οὐσία) and the activity (ἐνέργειᾰ) of God there is a real distinction, inasmuch as the latter radiates from the former as something inferior, though still, in a sense, divine (Θεότης).
[According to them] God’s different attributes are merely radiations of the Divine Essence, and they solidify as it were by taking on the shape of an uncreated but visible light, which the Blessed in Heaven perceive by means of bodily vision. It is the same light that the disciples beheld on Mount Tabor. Here on earth this heavenly bliss is possible per anticipationem [through anticipation] only, as the fruit of severe mortification, in the ἡσυχία [stillness/quietness], that is, the repose of contemplative prayer.
Hence the name Hesychasts; hence also the contemptuous nickname… Umbilicans, given to these heretics by Barlaam, the learned Abbot of St. Saviour’s at Constantinople. Except between the Divine Hypostases [or Persons], no real distinction can be admitted to exist in the Godhead, because if there were in it any sort of real distinction, the Divine Essence would consist of distinct parts, which is repugnant. St. Bernard of Clairvaux justly traces this erroneous view to polytheism…”
In yet another passage Pohle refers to:
“… the heresy of the fourteenth century Palamites, who alleged that the divine attributes can be contemplated separately from the divine Substance in the form of a ‘garb of light’ enveloping the Godhead.” (Fr. Joseph Pohle, God: His Knowability, Essence, And Attributes, A Dogmatic Treatise, Imprimatur 1910)
As we can see, Pohle articulates the same position that we do: i.e. Palamism is heretical and Palamas was a heretic. Even though its adherents try to deny it, Palamism is tantamount to teaching that God is composite. That logically results in polytheism. That Palamism is tantamount to teaching that God is composite (which is heretical) is clear to anyone who is familiar with Catholic teaching on this subject, is familiar with Palamism, and is honest and faithful to the former. Anyone who tells you that Palamism is compatible with Catholicism either doesn’t know what he is talking about or he is dishonest and compromised.
Another pre-Vatican II theologian who recognized that Palamism is heresy was Fr. Martin Jugie.
Jugie was one of the most learned men of his day on matters that pertain to Eastern Orthodoxy and Palamism. He was professor of dogmatic theology at the Pontificio Instituto Orientale (the Pontifical Oriental Institute) in Rome from 1917 to 1952.
Jugie considered Palamas to be a heretical innovator.
Fr. Martin Jugie: “Palamas’ system is undeniably a novelty in the history of Byzantine theology.” – (quoted in Gregory Palamas and the Making of Palamism in the Modern Age by Normal Russell, Oxford Univ. Press, 2019)
Fr. Martin Jugie: Palamism “gravely adulterates the notion of God” leading to “monstrous errors”. – “Gregory Palamas”, Dictionnaire de Théologie Catholique (quoted in Modern Orthodox Theology, Paul Ladouceur, Chap. 5.)
Norman Russell, author of Gregory Palamas and The Making of Palamism in the Modern Age, called Jugie’s position on Palamas the dominant Catholic line at the time. So, the dominant Catholic position before Vatican II was that Palamism is a heretical novelty and a monstrous false doctrine.
Jugie also described the Palamites of the 14th and 15th centuries as those who “conceive of God in an anthropomorphic manner [i.e. in a manner of having human attributes], and place in him a metaphysical composition of essence and of person, of substance and of accident.” (“The Palamite Controversy”, Dictionnaire de Théologie Catholique, translated by Peter Gilbert, https://bekkos.wordpress.com/martin-jugie-the-palamite-controversy/)
Since Palamism is so clearly opposed to Christian truth about God, Jugie believed that a proper analysis of it was a powerful way of demonstrating that Eastern Orthodoxy is a false religion, and he was correct. People need to be converted to the one true of faith of Christ, the traditional Catholic faith, to be saved.
Jugie also notes that Palamism’s “origins are to be found in the false mysticism which began to seep into Byzantine monasticism roughly about the time when the Byzantine Church itself broke the last links which had connected it to the Roman Church…” (“The Palamite Controversy”, Dictionnaire de Théologie Catholique, translated by Peter Gilbert, Ibid.)
Gregory Palamas invented a false doctrine of God in an attempt to conform God to his false mysticism and pride.
There are some liberal heretics out there who claim that Palamas didn’t teach a real distinction in God between essence and energies but only Scotus’ formal distinction. That’s nonsense. Note: I’m not endorsing the formal distinction of Scotus. I’m merely stating that Palamas went way beyond Scotus’ formal distinction when articulating his novel position.
As Pohle, Jugie and others correctly recognized, Palamas taught a real distinction in God Himself between essence and energies, and that is tantamount to the heresy that God is composite (as we’ve shown in our other videos). Any honest person who reads The Triads or the 150 Chapters of Palamas and knows what a real distinction is will see that Palamas taught a real distinction in God between essence and energies.
In fact, on this point Professor Simeon Vailhé of Constantinople, in a 1909 article that was also published in the Catholic Encyclopedia, stated:
Siméon Vailhé, The Catholic Encyclopedia, “Greek Church”, 1909: Palamas “held that in God there was a real distinction between the Divine Essence and Its attributes, and he identified grace as one of the Divine propria making it something uncreated and infinite. These monstrous errors were denounced by the Calabrian Barlaam…”
The same author, in the same Catholic Encyclopedia article, goes on to say:
“The conflict began in 1338 and ended only in 1368, with the solemn canonization of Palamas [i.e. by the Eastern schismatics] and the official recognition of his heresies. He was declared the ‘holy doctor’ and ‘one of the greatest among the Fathers of the Church’, and his writings were proclaimed ‘the infallible guide of the Christian Faith.’ Thirty years of incessant controversy and discordant councils ended with a resurrection of polytheism.” (Simeon Vailhe, The Catholic Encyclopedia, “Greek Church”, 1909)
So, this 1909 Catholic Encyclopedia article correctly identifies Palamism as heresy, a monstrous false doctrine, and one that leads to polytheism. The author also notes that the false doctrines of Palamism were officially recognized by those Eastern schismatic sects. That’s another clear proof that those sects are not of the true Church.
Here’s an interesting quote from an Eastern Orthodox writer who summed up some of the pre-Vatican II opposition to Palamas.
“The Jesuit Francois Richard translated into Greek his work titled The Works Of Faith Of The Roman Church In The Heartland Of Orthodoxy, in which he accuses Palamas of heresy. He calls on Orthodox Christians to burn his [i.e. Palamas’s] Triads as well as the service to Palamas… In 1635 Denis Petau called the teachings of Palamas ridicula dogmatica (ridiculous doctrines), and among those that agreed with him were the Latin-minded and the Uniates such as John Karyophyllos, Peter Arkoudios, and Leo Allatios. Meanwhile the Greek students at the College of St. Athanasius in Rome were pushed to anathematize the anti-Latin Saints of the Orthodox Church, such as Palamas.” (Gregory Palamas in Eastern and Western Theological Thought: A Summary, by John Sanidopoulos)
Denis Petau, who called the teachings of Palamas “ridiculous doctrines”, is described the Catholic Encylopedia as one of the most distinguished theologians of the 17th century.
Pre-Vatican II theologian Fr. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange also mentioned the Palamites in his commentary on the Summa Theologiae. Lagrange explicitly stated that the Palamites “denied the possibility of the beatific vision”, and he agreed with St. Thomas that such a position is “heretical”.
Fr. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, The One God – A Commentary On The First Part Of St. Thomas’ Theological Summa, Imprimatur, 1943, p. 311: “But particularly the fourteenth century Palamites denied the possibility of the beatific vision, maintaining that the divine nature, as it is in itself, cannot be even supernaturally seen by the created intellect. Therefore the Palamites admitted that a certain uncreated light emanates from God, which can be seen by the bodily eye, such, they say, as the apostles saw on Mount Thabor, and it is this light which constitutes the enjoyment and happiness of the saints in heaven. The Greeks in four pseudo-synods accepted and confirmed this doctrine.”
Fr. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, The One God – A Commentary On The First Part Of St. Thomas’ Theological Summa, Imprimatur, 1943, p. 319: “The third part of this article [of the Summa] proves the falsity of denying the possibility of the beatific vision, both because that denial is ‘opposed to the faith’ and because it is ‘against reason.’ It is said to be ‘opposed to the faith,’ at least as an erroneous doctrine. In fact, St. Thomas says: ‘This point of view cannot be upheld, since it is heretical.’ Several definitions of the Church have made this increasingly clear, especially the definition of Benedict XII.”
Concerning the dogma of divine simplicity, pre-Vatican II theologian Cardinal Johann Baptist Franzelin stated:
Cardinal Franzelin, De Deo Uno Secundum Naturam, Thesis 27, 1870: “From the few things which we have described, it is established how certain the whole profession of Christian antiquity was that nothing should be said concerning God that could bear the suspicion of composition, and just how solemn and indispensable the holy doctors took this dogma of divine simplicity to be.”
Palamite Eastern “Orthodoxy” fails this test.
Pre-Vatican II theologian Ludwig Ott also taught that it’s heretical to maintain a real distinction between the divine essence and God’s atttributes or energies. He also stated that the Sect of the Palamites held such a heretical real distinction.
Ludwig Ott, Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, Book I, Section 3, p. 28, Imprimatur 1954: “The Divine Attributes are really identical among themselves and with the Divine Essence. (De Fide). The reason lies in the absolute simplicity of God. The acceptance of a real distinction (distinctio realis) would lead to an acceptance of a composition in God, and with that to a dissolution of the Godhead… the 14th century mystic-quietistic Sect of the Hesychasts or Palamites (so-called after the monk Gregory Palamas (1359) taught a real distinction between the Divine Essence (οὐσία) and the Divine Efficacy or the Divine attributes (ἐνέργεια). While the former was claimed to be unknowable, the latter was claimed to be vouchsafed to humanity in a condition of contemplative prayer (ἡσυχία ) through an uncreated divine light (‘Taborlight’). With this they distinguished a higher and a lower, an invisible and a visible side of the Godhead.”
Thus, Palamism is heretical according to Ott.
Pre-Vatican II theologian Fr. Joseph M. Dalmau, writing with an imprimatur in 1955, also listed the Palamites as “adversaries” of the dogma of the Beatific Vision. That of course makes them heretics according to Catholic teaching.
“They [the Palamites] taught that the saints in heaven don’t see the divine substance, but only a certain splendor, indeed uncreated, but distinct from God Himself and similar to the light that surrounded Christ the Lord in the Transfiguration.” (Fr. Joseph M. Dalmau, Sacrae Theologiae Summa IIA, On The One And Triune God, 1955, p. 42.)
These condemnations of Palamism by theologians before Vatican II shouldn’t be surprising when you consider that Palamas, among his other ridiculous doctrines, taught that there are some energies that have a beginning yet are still uncreated. That is blatantly heretical; for every Christian must believe and profess that whatever begins to exist is created and that God immutable. If God begins to have new uncreated energies, then He is not absolutely immutable in His divinity. But the councils teach that God is immutable in His divinity. Read the Council of Nicea or Ephesus or Chalcedon or Athanasius and you will discover that anything that changes is created, contrary to the heretical assertion of Palamas. If you defend Palamas’ blatantly heretical teaching that some energies have a beginning yet are still uncreated, which is set forth more than once in the Triads, then you are simply a fool and a heretic.
Palamas also taught the ‘uncreated energies’ are exceeded, surpassed and transcended infinitely by the divine essence. Obviously, therefore, they cannot be the same God.
These quotes should suffice to show that people before Vatican II who were familiar with these matters and faithful to Catholic teaching at least on the doctrine of God rightly recognized that Palamism is heresy. But what about the fact that in the post-Vatican II period Palamas is venerated as a saint by certain people who claim to be Uniates (i.e. certain Eastern Rite churches that profess union with Rome). That’s a practice of the Vatican II Sect, which is not the Catholic Church, as our material covers. People need to know that Palamas was venerated by certain Eastern schismatics shortly after his death. When some of those Eastern schismatic groups converted to Catholicism, they unfortunately did not remove the veneration of the heretic Palamas from their calendars.
However, in 1720 an important provincial synod of the Uniate Church was held called the Synod of Zamość or Zamostia.
The decrees of this 1720 council of Zamość were confirmed by Pope Benedict XIII in an apostolic consititution, as Pope Pius XII points out in his 1945 encyclical on the Ruthenians.
Pope Pius XII, Orientales Omnes Ecclesias (#18), on the Reunion of the Ruthenians with the Catholic Church, Dec. 23, 1945: “All prospered more from day to day, to the great gain of Christianity, and so in 1720 the metropolitan and the rest of the bishops of the Ruthenian Church met in council at Zamosc to provide to the best of their ability by common counsel for the growing needs of the faithful; from the decrees of this council – confirmed by our predecessor Benedict XIII in the Apostolic Constitution Apostolatus officium of 19th July 1724 – no small benefit resulted to the Ruthenian community.”
Well, this 1720 Uniate synod of Zamość suppressed the veneration and even the mention of the name of Gregory Palamas. As an Eastern ‘Orthodox’ author, writing on the subject of the Ruthenian Eastern Rite in the 16th and 18th centuries, noted:
“The Council of Zamość (1720) decreed that the veneration and even mention of the name of… Gregory [Palamas] be prohibited in the Uniate Church.” (Maria Takala-Roszczenko, The ‘Latin’ within the ‘Greek’: The Feast of the Holy Eucharist in the Context of Ruthenian Eastern Rite Liturgical Evolution in the 16th-18th Centuries, p. 92.)
That’s what the true Catholic Church thought of Palamas: he is a heretic, not a saint. It was only in the 1970s, after Vatican II and under Antipope Paul VI, that the veneration of Gregory Palamas, which was rightly condemned by Catholics before Vatican II, was reinstated for some who use Eastern Rite liturgical books. Since the Vatican II Sect is not the Catholic Church and Paul VI was a manifestly heretical antipope, as our material proves, the reinstatement of the veneration of Palamas after Vatican II of course has no validity for true Catholics. Palamas was a heretic, as we’ve shown.
The fact that the Vatican II Sect honors the heretic Palamas and Antipope John Paul II went out of his way to praise him as a saint is just another example of why it’s not the true Catholic Church but the prophesied end-times Counter Church, the Whore of Babylon.
What is happening in Rome now is in fulfillment of end times prophecies about the Beast and the Whore of Babylon.
We have other videos on this topic which fully refute Palamism. One of the things that we showed in a previous video is that the letters of Pope St. Agatho, which were accepted by the Third Council of Constantinople, crush Palamism. In Agatho’s letter to the emperor he teaches that whatever is stated essentially of the Trinity, such as will, operation/energy, power, glory, etc. refers to the one divine nature.
Pope St. Agatho, Letter To The Emperor, III Council of Constantinople: “… we confess the holy and inseparable Trinity, that is, the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost, to be of one deity, of one nature and substance or essence, so we profess it also to be of one natural will, strength, operation, domination, majesty, power, and glory. And whatever is stated essentially about the same Holy Trinity, let us understand this in singular number, as referring to the one nature of three consubstantial persons, having been taught in this by regular reason.”
Latin: “… confitentes sanctam et inseparabilem Trinitatem, id est, Patrem et Filium et sanctum Spiritum, unius esse deitatis, unius naturae et substantiae sive essentiae, unius eam praedicemus, et naturalis voluntatis, virtutis, operationis, dominationis, majestatis, potestatis et gloriae. Et quidquid de eadem Sancta Trinitate essentialiter dicitur, singulari numero, tanquam de una natura trium consubstantialium personarum, comprehendamus regulari ratione hoc instituti.”
That contradicts Palamism, which asserts that the divine attributes, the uncreated energy, glory, etc., are not the divine nature.
Likewise, in the Letter of Agatho and the Roman Synod of 125 Bishops, which was also accepted by Constantinople III, it is explicitly taught that the one divine essence or nature is the divine glory, the essential will, the essential operation/energy, etc.
Pope St. Agatho, Letter of Agatho and the Roman Synod of 125 Bishops: “… we confess God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit, not three gods but one God… one substance of three subsistences, of whom there is one essence or substance or nature, that is, one deity, one eternity, one power, one rule, one glory, one adoration, one essential will and operation of the same holy and inseparable Trinity, which created, dispenses, and holds all things together.”
Latin: “… Deum Patrem confitentes, Deum Filium, Deum Spiritum Sanctum; non tres Deos, sed unum Deum… trium subsistentiarum unam substantiam; quorum una essentia sive substantia vel natura, id est, una deitas, una aeternitas, una potestas, unum imperium, una gloria, una adoratio, una essentialis ejusdem sanctae et inseparabilis Trinitatis voluntas et operatio, quae omnia condidit dispensat et continet.”
That totally refutes Palamism, which teaches, among other things, that the divine attributes, the uncreated glory, and the uncreated operation/energy are not the divine essence or nature.
Gregory Palamas, The Triads: “… the other is contemplation, not of the divine nature… but of the glory of His nature… Thus to our human nature He has given the glory of the Godhead, but not the divine nature; for the nature of God is one thing, His glory another… even though this glory is different from the divine nature, it cannot be classified amongst the things subject to time…”
Gregory Palamas, The Triads: “You might as well claim that God is a creature, as declare that His essential energies are created! For no intelligent man would say that the essential goodness and life are the superessential essence of God. The essential characteristic is not the essence which possesses the essential characteristics…. These, then, are the essential powers; as to the Superessential… that is the Reality which possesses these powers and gathers them into unity in itself. Similarly, the deifying light is also essential, but is not itself the essence of God.”
Gregory Palamas, The One Hundred And Fifty Chapters:
“… none of the attributes of God is equated with the essence.” – Chap. 118
“… the divine energy is distinct from the divine essence for the energy effects something else, not identical with the operator.” – Chap. 142
“… the energy is in many ways distinct from the divine essence.” – Chap. 143