“This Man Photius”?!  A Response to Padro on the “Filioque”

Roman Catholic Apologist “Padro”, in yet another attempt on the part of RC apologists to outsmart the Ancient Faith, makes the false claim without citation that all the Western Fathers and three of the Eastern Fathers taught the Roman Catholic filioque clause.  Besides being wrong in actual fact, he neglects to mention that, historically, there were two Western teachings regarding the filioque– one Orthodox, one heretical– and that the Orthodox teaching was rejected by Rome at the false Council of Florence in 1439.

Two Teachings

The West Roman filioque was actually the teaching that the Spirit proceeded from the Father “and” the Son (and, in this sense meaning with the Son beside Him).  This teaching very carefully laid out that the Holy Spirit’s point of origin was *solely* the Father, and that in every other aspect of the Spirit’s generation, the Son is included.  (This can be summed up in St John of Damascus: “The Father alone is cause”.  It is summed up in the Council of Toledo, Spain, in 589, as such, deliniating distinct actions between how the Spirit works with Father and Son: “For He does not proceed from the Father to the Son, nor from the Son to sanctify creatures, but He is shown to have proceeded from both at once, because He is known as the love or the sanctity of both.”  The council unfortunately also decided to add the Orthodox, albeit modified, creed to the Eucharistic Liturgy. (This mistaken inclusion is another topic altogether.)

By contrast, the Franco-Latin distortion of the filioque is nothing short of modalism, or as St Photius of Constantinople referred to it, “Sabellius reborn, or some semi-Sabellian monster”.  The Orthodox teaching is that the Spirit is the third Person of the Holy Trinity, who proceeds from the Father.

St Maximus the Confessor: Defender of Roman Catholicism?

St Maximus is misquoted a great deal by Roman apologists.  One need only look at my debate with Gerald Daffer to see such a misapplication.  Another misuse is the defense by St Maximus of Pope St Martin and the Filioque. St Martin understood the Orthodox teaching on the filioque well, and when questioned by St Maximus, referred to the typical West Roman definition at the time.  St Maximus did not blindly accept what sounded like a novel doctrine but questioned it, and when satisfied of its Orthodoxy, defended it, as Padro is disingenous enough to quote in full: “On the basis of these texts, they have shown that they have not made the Son the cause (aitian) of the Spirit – they know in fact that the Father is the only cause of the Son and the Spirit, the one by begetting and the other by procession – but that they have manifested the procession through him (to dia autou proienai) and have thus shown the unity and identity of the essence… “They have therefore been accused of precisely those things which it would be wrong to accuse them, whereas the former have been accused of those things of which it has been quite correct to accuse them.”

But is this what happened at Florence?

Florence

The Pope and his followers at the Council of Florence not only did not accept St Maximus’ argument when it was presented to them (thus rejecting their own alleged predecessor in St Martin) — they rejected and anathematized anyone who did not adhere to the latter version of the filioque: that the Father and Son were “twin sources of the Spirit”: “…but because it seemed to them that the Latins assert that the holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son as from two principles and two spirations, they refrained from saying that the holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son. The Latins asserted that they say the holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son not with the intention of excluding the Father from being the source and principle of all deity, that is of the Son and of the holy Spirit, nor to imply that the Son does not receive from the Father, because the holy Spirit proceeds from the Son, nor that they posit two principles or two spirations; but they assert that there is only one principle and a single spiration of the holy Spirit, as they have asserted hitherto.” (Session 6, Definition)

In other words, there is one “shared” source– or two “half” sources, a legalistic workaround.

Padro then states that “Orthodox have to understand first the Latin Fathers’ teaching on their own terms — Something they are not often willing to do. Photius tried to understand the Filioque on his own terms, which, of course, will not work. One has to understand the other person first before one can evaluate another’s position.”

We in the Orthodox Church certainly appreciate Padro’s patience with our stupidity and lack of understanding.  However, I do not have to understand a Jehovah’s Witness on his own terms.  I do not have to understand a Methodist on his own terms.  All the Orthodox ask for is an explanation, and then we determine if this matches Patristic consensus.

Padro then claims: “The Greek Fathers’ start with the individual Divine Person as an absolute; the Unity of the Persons as One God then becomes the issue which they solve by reference to an Absolute Origin (the First Person). From that point of view (borrowed from Origen) there is no need to consider the differentiation of the Spirit from the Son in order to understand the Spirit as “individualized” right away; and when pressed to do so they come up with the formula “through the Son” which is not exactly the same notion as the Westerners, though it is equivalent.”

Padro’s modernistic claim that the “Greek Fathers” borrowed the idea of One God as an absolute from Origen is bizzare, nor does it clearly state why there is no need to consider differentiation of the Spirit from the Son.  If this is true, then there should be a number of claims in the “Greek Fathers” which are unclear as to whether the Son or the Spirit are performing an action.

But then our Padro goes a little too far.

With a ridiculous looking attack on St Photius of Constantinople, *recognized as a Saint in every single Eastern Catholic Calendar*, he dismisses the Mystagogy of the Holy Spirit, one of the classics of Eastern Christian writing (though, to be fair to Padro, he doesn’t sound like he’s read it.  It does now exist in English!) and refers to the Holy Father as “this man Photius”.

Completely ignorant of St Photius’ tolerance of azymes and other liturgical differences with the Romans, Padro stupidly claims that this was the saint’s superior sense of “Byzantine intellectualism” carried over from his life as a layman.  Apparently the Pope who followed Nicholas I, Pope Leo VIII, must have been so impressed by this Byzantine intellectualism that he placed the unaltered creed in St Peter’s square.

Apparently the reunion council of 879 which anathematized and reversed the decisions of the council ten years before, which condemned St Photius, and justified the actions of the Saint, is lost on Padro.  It seems that no one at the time of St Photius (including St Photius) knew what St Photius was talking about!

Amazing.

…And the Attack of the Rambles

Suddenly, out of nowhere, Padro returns to the discussion of Florence in what appears to be some “sour grapes” rambling.  One senses a “Yeah, so what, he’s a saint, big deal” attitude.  But, most amazing is Padro’s claim that Photius “becomes a saint” by the time he dies in exile (as opposed to many Catholic apologists ten years ago, who claimed that he died outside the Church; Scott Butler made this claim until yours truly corrected him.)  Our Padro neglects the simple facts of history:  Rome rejected Pope Nicholas I and defended St Photius.

He then misquotes Florence, referring to one of the acta of Florence (there are actually four different sets) and refers to Gill’s work on the subject.  For what it’s worth to the reader, the best work in my opinion on the matter is “The History of the Council of Florence” by Oustromoff, which is also available in English.

What happened at Florence?  St Mark of Ephesus was reduced to silence by none other than the Emperor himself (something later admitted by all) and St Mark refused to sign the reunion documents on the basis of the muddling of prepositions and misrepresentation of facts to speed a false union.  When Pope Eugene IV asked if the “Ephesian” had signed and was informed he had not, the Pope said “then we have accomplished nothing”, a statement which would have made no sense if St Mark’s opinion was so uninformed.

The Claim of Unity of Two Teachings

Padro claims that “when the Orthodox take the time to listen to the Western understanding, they usually see that it is valid, though it is not their preference.”  He then claims we have two ways of thought when in reality he makes two different and non-contradictory statements.

Certainly his demonstration of the reactions of St Photius and St Mark of Ephesus (if we include St Gregory Palamas we can round out the Pillars of Orthodoxy) don’t show Orthodox accepting “Western validity”, which is likely why he attacks them.  Of course, in the current Ecumenical fiesta about us, there are certainly a number of ridiculous “agreed statements”, mostly coming out of North America.  But is that an accurate representation of how the Orthodox react to the Roman teaching?

Padro’s last defense is that “an appreciation of the Western Fathers destroys another mistaken generalization of the Orthodox antagonists to Rome: the conclusion that the Filioque teaching results in a downplaying of the Holy Spirit in Catholic life. If that were the case, then, during the patristic period one should have seen this.”  The fact that Rome labels a Patristic period is itself the proof; for the Orthodox, the age of the Fathers continues to this day.  The fact that Roman deviation from Orthodox doctrine begins with the great schism and solidifies with the Reformation, only to be jellified again after Vatican II, is sufficient proof of a lack of a “Unity of Faith in the Holy Spirit”, something one cannot have if one no longer believes correctly in Him.

Joe Suaiden

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