ON THE VATICAN DECLARATION "DOMINUS IESUS"

by Metropolitan Maximos of Ainou / Bishop of Pittsburgh

18 September 2000

The following is yet another example of the entrenched ecumenism, born from a lack of understanding of ecclesiology, and an "inferiority complex" which many hierarchs in the Greek Archdiocese are following. Let the reader beware - the words are polite and sanguine, but intermixed with some truth are terrible dogmatic falsehoods.

I was away when the Vatican document Declaration "Dominus Iesus" (from now on Declaration) appeared in the news; thus, I was not able to react to its content. By now, I have thoroughly reviewed the Declaration, and I am ready for a brief comment on it.

Before I comment on the text, let me express my appreciation to both of my fellow Pittsburgh Christian Leaders Fellowship members, Bishop Donald Wuerl and Bishop Donald McCoid for their comments to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Their comments bring things into today's perspective, instead of reverting to pre-Vatican II times, as the Declaration seems to do. You cannot go back in terms of calling the other Christian Churches "sister churches," and you cannot go back in terms of recognizing one another's baptism and the subsequent membership in the one church of Christ, as much and as far there is only One Baptism, if it is celebrated according to the faith in the Holy Trinity and the age-old practice of the church with triple immersion and emersion, or its equivalent.

Bishop Wuerl is correct with regard to the treatment of the Orthodox Churches by the Declaration; hopefully, the former "Holy Office" has forgotten its way of treating the Orthodox as "wounded brothers," and, hopefully, their "promotion" to "deficient" brothers by the Declaration will be of a contingent nature. Thank you, brother Bishop Wuerl, for your fairness regarding the Orthodox Churches.

Bishop McCoid voices his concern that the Declaration "pours cold water" on the progress in Roman Catholic-Lutheran relationships, especially after the apparent success of their Common Declaration on Justification. One cannot turn the clock back. It is so painstaking to achieve some progress in "ecumenical" relations, that it is very sad when people go backwards.

Now, let me speak on the text of the Declaration. No one hates "relativism" more that the Orthodox. With the Declaration, we share the concern regarding this relativism, especially with regard to world religions. We, too, "firmly believe" in the uniqueness and exclusiveness of salvation in Christ through the One Church of Christ. Without passing judgment on others, the Orthodox Church sees itself in that light from the beginning of its existence into all eternity. As there is no salvation without the only Savior, Jesus the Lord, there is no salvation without the involvement of Christ's Body and Bride, the Church of Christ. We Orthodox cannot be otherwise than in full agreement with the statements of the Declaration regarding this Christian truth, in full agreement with the Gospel of salvation and the teaching of the Church Fathers.

However, we cannot appreciate what in my estimation is a triple reductionism in the Declaration, which makes the faith of the Declaration defective in three ways: the reduction of the faith of Christ to the faith of the church; the reduction of the faith of the church to the faith of the Apostle Peter; and the reduction of the faith of Peter to only one of his successors, the Pope of Rome.

1) The Faith of Christ, is the faith of a divine person, the Word-of-God-Who-Became-Flesh. This is the reason we are saved by the faith, not of a human, but of a divine person, Christ: "you are justified by the faith of Christ" (ek pisteos Hristou), Saint Paul says (Galatians 2:16). We are not justified/saved by anyone else's faith, either our personal, or any other human person's faith, including that of the Holy Apostles, or even the personal faith of the Mother of God. The text of the Declaration fails to indicate this. The faith of the Church cannot replace the faith of Christ; and the faith of Christ cannot be reduced to the faith of the Church.

2) The Faith of the Church, which leads us to Christ, is, certainly, very important. This faith of the church cannot be reduced to the faith of one person in the church, even if that person is foundational to the church. In other words, the faith of the church cannot be reduced to the faith of the Apostle Peter, which is the tendency of the Roman understanding.

3) Finally, the Faith of the Apostle Peter cannot be reduced to the faith of one of his many successors, that is, the Pope of Rome. Every Apostle, and every faithful is Peter, as much and as far as they profess the faith of Peter, that is, that "Christ is the Son of the living God" (Matthew 16:16). Every Christian, from the very beginnings of the church and until the consummation of the present age, is that "Peter" who professes Christ to be the Son of the living God, not just the Pope of Rome.

On the basis of these remarks, one can see how the Orthodox feel with regard to this triple reduction of the Vatican regarding the saving faith of Christ, reduced to the faith of the church, and this last one further reduced to the faith of Peter. This is a serious defect, which the Christian East has always avoided. After this explanation of the position of the Christian East regarding the saving faith of Christ--the only faith which saves--the question is: whose faith is the "defective" faith? Let the reader draw his or her own conclusion.





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