THE FILIOQUE, ONCE AGAIN




Recently, The Wanderer carried a superb article by Frank Morriss on the "Revelation of Glorious Truth... The Church's Teaching on the Procession of the Holy Spirit." It justified traditional Catholic teaching defending the Procession of the Holy Spirit from the Father "and the Son" (Filioque) as recited in the Latin text of the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed. Discussions concerning that "Glorious Truth" have resulted not only in the Catholic-Orthodox Dialogue in North America issuing a "Common Declaration" regarding the "Filioque" (cf. my analysis in "The Wanderer" 2/3/05) but in a spate of articles by both Catholic and Eastern Orthodox theologians as noted in the French ecumenical periodical Irenikon (Tome LXXVII, 2004). It is unfortunate that despite recent attempts to clarify Catholic teaching on the Procession of the Holy Spirit (including The Catechism of the Catholic Church's teaching #245-248), doctrinal confusion continues to be evident even on the part of some Byzantine rite Catholics. Thus, a pamphlet "The Creed and the Holy Trinity" compiled by Very Reverend Archpriest Daniel L. Gurovich (copyright 2004, with an Imprimatur of Most Reverend Stefan Soroka, Metropolitan Archbishop of Philadelphia for the Ukranians) has continued to circulate in that Archdiocese, and deserves a close examination.

In this 30 page brochure Fr. Gurovich wishes to explain the decision of the Metropolitan Archbishop of Philadephia for the Ukranians to return to the authentic liturgical tradition of the Eastern Byzantine Church by no longer reciting the Creed with the famous "Filioque" clause [and from the Son] and to "recite the Creed [with respect to the procession of the Holy Spirit] at all public divine services in its original form" — (as set forth at the Seond Ecumenical Council of Constantinople – 381 A.D.: "I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Giver of life, who proceeds from the Father").

Since the 2nd Vatican Council's encouraging the Eastern Catholic Churches in communion with Rome to return to their authentic theological, spiritual and liturgical traditions (thereby facilitating the reunion of the separated Eastern Orthodox churches with the Catholic Church), a number of Eastern Catholic prelates have acted to no longer include the "Filioque" in the public recitation or singing of the Creed at the Divine Liturgy. It is the inclusion of the "Filioque" in the Creed which has served as a "cause celebre" among the Eastern Orthodox to charge Eastern Catholics with the "Latin heresy" and to impede efforts for the Reunion of the Churches.

As the author notes, Rome has not insisted on the Ukranians or other Eastern rite Catholics to include the Latin formlation of the "Filioque" in the Creed and the Pope himself on ecumenical occasions has "publicly recited the Creed without the 'Filioque'." The Catholic Church has always distinguished clearly adherence to the dogma of the eternal Procession of the Holy Spirit from the Father and (or through) the Son – which all Catholics must believe – and the question of whether the 'Filioque' clause (sanctioned by Pope Benedict VIII in 1014 A.D. for the Latin Liturgy) has to be included and recited in the Creed by Eastern Catholics. The Apostolic See of Peter, "Head of all the Churches of God", has made clear that as long as the Catholic dogma concerning the Eternal Procession of the Holy Spirit from the Father and (or through) the Son is firmly professed as an article of faith, Eastern rite Catholics need not (in keeping with their liturgical tradition) include the Latin formulation of the "Filioque" in the Creed. As the author rightly notes:

"the inclusion or exclusion of the phrase 'And the Son', is no longer considered a matter of faith by most theologians today" and this return to the authentic Byzantine liturgical tradition by the Ukranian Archeparchy of Philadelphia is "without prejudice to the Catholic faith and is appropriate to do so at this time".

Unfortunately, despite his quotations from the "Catechism of the Catholic Church" (pages 25-29) which fully justify the dogma of the Eternal Procession of the Holy Spirit from the Father and the Son as expressed in the "Filioque" formulation, Fr. Gurovich betrays a measure of confusion in attempting to explain to his readers the Catholic doctrine of the processions in the Holy Trinity (i.e., that of the Son and that of the Holy Spirit). As previously remarked, it is not accurate to have implied that the verbal inclusion of the "Filioque" in the Creed by Eastern rite Catholics (or even by Eastern Orthodox returning to Catholic communion) has ben a "matter of faith" insisted upon by the Apostolic See of Rome. He commits some further serious errors:

  1. In speaking of "the eternal begetting (or procession) of the Word of God", Fr. Gurovich states that the Eternal Word "was born... as a truly human person". This mistaken phraseology smacks of the ancient heresy of Nestorius who held that Christ was a human person whereas the Catholic Church affirms that Christ was not a human person. The Catholic Faith holds that Christ was a Divine Person.
  2. He correctly notes that regardless of whether the "Filioque" is included in the Creed during the Divine Liturgy (or Mass) "both the Eastern and Western Churches believe the same thing concerning the procession of the Holy Spirit. The theology of the Trinity is one in both Churches". This is true, but it is only true of the Eastern and Western Churches making up the Catholic communion. It is not true of the separated autocephalous Eastern Orthodox Churches who have traditionally rejected as "heretical" both the doctrine represented by the "Filioque" as well as its liturgical addition to the Creed.
  3. It is troubling to see Fr. Gurovich justifying the "appropriateness of returning to the original form of the Creed" by recourse to erroneous Eastern Orthodox objections which, in fact, question the dogmatic truth embodied in the "Filioque" doctrine. Thus, he argues:
    1. The "Filioque" was not placed in the Creed by an Ecumenical Council.
      Yes, but the Successor of Peter as the visible head of the Church had the supreme authority to add to the Latin text of the Creed the inclusion of a phrase which for centuries had the sanction of the Latin Fathers of the Church and many local Western Councils. Moreover, the Ecumenical Council of Florence (1439) which saw the reunion of separated Eastern Churches with Rome specifically declared: "We further define that it was for the purpose of declaring the truth and under necessity at the time that these words 'and the Son' [Filioque] were added to the Creed by way of explanation, both lawfully and with good reason." As to Fr. Gurovich's assertion on page 3 that the Councils of Ephesus (431 A.D.) and Chalecedon (451 A.D.) "formally forbade any other Creeds" (an objection stressed by Eastern Orthodox theologians), this has obvious reference to any addition that would falsify a truth of faith, not one that would clarify and explain it further.
    2. John 15:26 states: "The Spirit of truth proceeds from the Father."
      "In other words", Fr. Gurovich states, "the inspired Scriptures formulate that the Spirit proceeds from the Father AND NEVER FROM THE SON" (emphasis added). Here, he actually gives credence to the error of the 9th century patriarch of Constantinople Photius who originally taught "The Spirit proceeds from the Father alone". But John 15:26 does not teach that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father alone, any more than Romans 3:28 ("man is justified by faith") proved Luther's claim that man is saved by "faith alone". That the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father does not exclude the participation of the Son in that procession. Photius' distortion of the meaning of John 15: 26 led to his denial (as well as that of the Eastern Orthodox theologians who slavishly followed him) that the Eternal Son is joined to the Father in breathing forth the Holy Spirit from all eternity.

Fr. Gurovich fails to grasp that Photius (concerning whom he writes approvingly) refused to acknowledge that the Son had any part whatever in the eternal procession of the Holy Spirit. The 9th century teaching of the Byzantine patriarch Photius represented a sharp deviation from the doctrine of both the Latin and Greek Fathers of the Church. Photius was indeed correct in stating that the Father in the Trinity is the supreme and ultimate source of the Holy Spirit (and this 'monarchia' of the Father must be safeguarded) but he neglected to acknowledge the truth reaffirmed in the Catechism of the Catholic Church that "As Father of the only Son, He is, with the Son, the single principle from which the Holy Spirit proceeds" (#248), and "Since the Father has through generation given to the Only-Begotten Son everything that belongs to the Father, except being Father, the Son has also eternally from the Father, from whom He is eternally born, that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Son" (#246). As St. Augustine stressed, the Holy Spirit proceeds principally from the Father as the one source in the Trinity. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church further asserts in echoing St. Augustine's teaching, "He is not called the Spirit of the Father alone... but is the Spirit of both the Father and the Son" [CCC, #245], for Father and Son "are one" in breathing forth the Spirit from all eternity.

It may be added here, by the way, that modern exegetes confirm (contrary to Photius and Fr. Gurovich and others) that John 15:26 does not have explicit reference to the eternal procession of the Holy Spirit but rather to his temporal mission from the Father and the Son (this last a matter on which both Catholics and Orthodox remain in agreement).

It should be further noted that Photius also erred badly in interpreting the expression of the Greek Fathers that the Holy Spirit proceeded from the Father through the Son by restricting this procession merely to His temporal mission. In teaching the eternal procession of the Holy Spirit from the Father through the Son, the Greek Fathers were affirming without equivocation that the Holy Spirit received His divinity and His very existence from the Son. In the writings of the Greek Fathers the preposition "through the Son" had in view the eternal origin of the Holy Spirit as proceeding from both the Father and the Son in one eternal spiration of Love.

To state, as Fr. Gurovich does, that "The Eastern Churches express this mystery [of the Spirit's procession] by saying that while the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father alone, He is 'manifested' by the Son" (page 23), is to reproduce an ambiguous formulation of the doctrine of the Spirit's procession that has found favor with some Eastern Orthodox theologians. The ambiguity lies in obscuring the meaning of "manifestation" for the term does not necessarily equate with an eternal procession of the Spirit from the Son and could be taken to refer to the manifestation of some "uncreated energy" distinct from the Person of the Holy Spirit (as taught by Byzantine dissidents following the novel teaching of the 14th century Archbishop of Thessalonika, Gregory Palamas).

CONCLUSION

The dogmatic issue of the Procession of the Holy Spirit between Catholics and Eastern Orthodox cannot be explained away as "just a matter of linguistics" (page 25). Whatever the welcome view of some modern Eastern Orthodox theologians who urge that the "Filioque" no longer be regarded as "heretical", the fact remains that for centuries there has been an "official" rejection of the truth of Catholic teaching by Eastern Orthodox patriarchs and bishops who have deviated from the authentic Eastern tradition of the Fathers on the Procession of the Holy Spirit in order to justify their separation from the See of Peter. The major problem with Fr. Gurovich's brochure is the confusion engendered by confounding the authentic doctrinal position of the Eastern Fathers with the misconceptions and errors of later Byzantine dissidents. It was not necessary to establish the quite legitimate case for Ukranian Catholics dropping the bracketed words of the "Filioque" as found in their liturgical books since 1692 by using the shop-worn arguments of Byzantine dissidents who have sought to discredit not only the Catholic doctrine embodied in the famous phrase "Filioque" but also its recitation in the Creed by Roman-rite Catholics.



About James Likoudis
James Likoudis is an expert in Catholic apologetics. He is the author of several books dealing with Catholic-Eastern Orthodox relations, including his most recent "The Divine Primacy of the Bishop of Rome and Modern Eastern Orthodoxy: Letters to a Greek Orthodox on the Unity of the Church." He has written many articles published by various religious papers and magazines.
He can be reached at:  jlikoudis@cuf.org, or visit  Mr. James Likoudis' Homepage



James Likoudis is president emeritus of the international lay association Catholics United for the Faith (CUF) headquartered in Steubenville, Ohio. He is the author of three comprehensive works dealing with Eastern Orthodoxy's objections to the Catholic Church:

"The Divine Primacy of the Bishop of Rome and Modern Eastern Orthodoxy: Letters to a Greek Orthodox on the Unity of the Church"   available directly from the author: P.O.Box 852, Montour Falls, NY 14865 (USA) ($27.95 - includes mailing).

"Ending the Byzantine Greek Schism: the 14th c. Apologia of Demetrios Kydones for Union with Rome"   ( Few copies still available )

"Eastern Orthodoxy and the See of Peter" ($24.95) recounts not only his personal conversion to the Catholic Church but contains important chapters on the Marks of the Church, Original Sin, Humanae Vitae as Touchstone of the True Church, and Mary as Mediatrix in the Byzantine tradition.
( this volume is out of print )