The Anathema Debate
- Dear Athanasios,
I hesitate to step into this discussion.
However, there are certain aspects of your presentation on how
anathemas work that I'm not sure I agree with -- specifically, the
notion that a living synod of bishops merely "confirms" an
individual's previous anathematization, as opposed to the synod
actually *executing* or carrying out the anathematization itself
(i.e., the position of Father John).
To begin with, however, let me quote from St. Nicodemus of the Holy
Mountain's teaching on how anathemas work.
"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
Thus, according to St. Nicodemus, when an ecumenical synod
promulgates a canon using the third person imperative "if a man
believe such-and-such, let him be anathema," the synod (or the
canon) is neither carrying out an anathematization nor delivering a
sentence. The canon is, rather, merely *instructing* or *commanding*
any and all future living synods to anathematize an individual in
their day and under their care who, in their judgment, has fallen
into grave and incorrigible error.
According to this understanding -- and this is the really important
point I wanted to bring out here -- the future living synod is not
merely "confirming" an anathematization that has already taken place
(somewhere, somehow). The synod is *doing* the actual
anathematizing, following the third-person command of the canon
("let him be anathema," not "confirm that he already is anathema").
Likewise, if a living synod does not, for whatever reason, execute
or carry out the command of the canon to anathematize -- then no
anathematization takes place, as St. Nicodemus writes.
However, the person is still *liable* to a potential
anathematization, and this is what St. Theophan was talking about, I
believe, when he mentioned somebody already "falling under" an
Indeed, when St. Theophan's words are read in the light of St.
Nicodemus' exposition, the notion of already "falling under" an
anathema simply means "being liable to" anathematization by one's
own living hierarchical synod -- an anathematization that the synod
may choose, for whatever reason, not to effectuate.
I hope this "widens the picture" somewhat. Of course, if I have
misunderstood or misrepresented anything, I welcome correction by
any of the clergy on the list.
- --- In email@example.com, "aprmih" <aprmih@y...> wrote:
> I respectfully submit to any clergyman on this list (and no,readers
> don't count) that if you support Athanasios' views, please post aDear Alex,
> message expressing this. Otherwise, Athanasios, admit you're wrong
> and end this pointless thread already!
The teaching I expressed is not, per se, "mine." If you
actually read my post, you would see that I provided
*extensive* quotes which demonstrate that it is, in fact,
the clear and unambiguous teaching of the Hieromartyr
St. Cyprian of Carthage, St. Theodore the Studite, and
Archimandrite Dr. Justin Popovich of Blessed Memory
(who says it is the teaching of the *Orthodox Church*).
Doubtless, many other sources could readily be provided which
say the same, since it is nothing less than Orthodox
ecclesiology as regards the sacraments of heretics and
schismatics. If anyone wishes to disagree, his disagreement
is *not* with me, but rather with the renowned Orthodox
luminaries I have cited, who possess great theological
credence and authority. And if they are right, then those
who disagree, disagree not with them, but with the Church.
And those who disagree with the Church, disagree with God.
I would like to see someone actually *engage* the sources
I have provided, rather than simply pass over them in
deafening silence, or attempt to dismiss their clear
testimony through ad hominem attacks directed against
myself (which is all that has happened so far). I stand with
St. Cyprian, St. Theodore, and Fr. Justin. If they were wrong,
then I am wrong. But so far, no one has dared to say they were
wrong, nor has anyone given any Patristic evidence to the
contrary. We must not trust our unsupported opinions or our
emotions, which can deceive us. We must submit our our
judgment to that of the Church, which is true and sure,
and which can be found in the writings of the divine
Scriptures, the Saints, and Holy Fathers--like the stars
of heaven which guide those on earth.