Most Rev. John Adel Elya, former eparch of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church of Newton, hammers false ecumenism.

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As a Melkite Greek Catholic, it’s not uncommon to witness many traits of false ecumenism within our church. You may have come across many Melkites in whom are very pro – Eastern Orthodox to the point that they begin to reject Catholic doctrine and dogma: something in which is absolutely grave matter considering that Catholics are bound to accept everything the Church teaches.

The rejection of Catholic doctrine and dogma comes from false ecumenism in order to please those outside the Church. However, the Eastern Catholic code of canon law opposes this.

“In fulfilling ecumenical work especially through open and frank dialogue and common undertaking with other Christians, due prudence has to be kept avoiding the dangers of false irenicism, indifferentism, & immoderate zeal.” (Canon 905, Eastern Catholic Canon Law.)

To put it in simple terms, this canon is opposing the idea that there must not be a ultimate goal to promote union under the umbrella of the one true Church of Christ; that being the Catholic Church. With that being said, many have unfortunately rejected this mission and have given into error by refusing to recant their errors in order to promote false unity with our schismatic brothers and sisters in the orthodox communions.

Ironically, The Most Rev. John Adel Elya, former eparch of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church of Newton, addresses a lot of claims of false ecumenism in which are commonly stated by clerics and laymen of our church. Within his Q&A sessions on the Melkite Eparchy of Newton, he addresses the following claims in which I have heard personally:

First claim: We are the Orthodox Church in communion with Rome!” 

Objection: “When the Patriarchate of Antioch was divided into two branches in 1724, one branch kept the name Orthodox and the other branch which sealed its union with the Holy See of Rome, kept the name Melkite given to it since the Sixth Century and called itself Catholic. It became known as the Melkite Greek Catholic Church. In the Middle East, although both branches claim orthodoxy as well as catholicity, however being Catholic means not Orthodox and being Orthodox means not Catholic.

To be a Catholic Christian means that one accepts the primacy of the Pope of Rome, because he is the successor of St. Peter. To be an Orthodox Christian means that one does not recognize the primacy of the Pope of Rome, but considers him as “first among equals.”

According to the Catholic teaching, Christ did not create a church with five heads of equal importance. He established One Holy Catholic and Apostolic church whose invisible head is the Lord, but whose visible head is the Pope of Rome.

The Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches states it in these terms: “The bishop of the Church of Rome, in whom resides the office (munus) given in a special way by the Lord to Peter, first of the Apostles and to be transmitted to his successors, is head of the college of bishops, the Vicar of Christ and Pastor of the entire Church on earth; therefore in virtue of his office (munus) he enjoys supreme, full, immediate and universal ordinary power in the Church which he can always freely exercise.” (Canon 43 of the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches) If an Orthodox subscribes to the Canon quoted above, he/she can be called Catholic and be considered “united to Rome” or in full communion with the Catholic Church.”

(source: https://melkite.org/eparchy/bishop-john/are-we-orthodox-united-with-rome)

 

Claim 2: The encyclicals from the Pope of Rome is not binding upon the Catholic East.

Objection: “When we declared our union with Rome – in consistency with Apostolic tradition interrupted somehow by historical circumstances – we accepted the Catholic faith in its entirety.

We do recognize the authority of the Pope of Rome, including universal jurisdiction and infallibility for whatever concerns faith and morals. It is true that the Western Theologians themselves have their own debates concerning these points; so we should not be “more papist that the Pope;”

but Catholic is Catholic and truth is truth. We cannot pose as “Orthodox united to Rome” only for what suits us. I do mean it when we pray every day, at the Divine Liturgy, for “unity of faith and the communion of the Holy Spirit.”

There is no ‘Eastern truth’ vs ‘Western truth’. Truth is one. It may be articulated according to various cultural expressions, but truth is super-cultural. Truth should not be restricted by “party line” positions. We should accept or reject ideas for their worth and not for an artificial attachment to a given “identity.” The Church teaches truth. If something is true, it would be absurd to say “Oh, we don’t believe that in the East.”

This seems to be where we get short-circuited in ecumenical “dialogue.” All too frequently, such “dialogue” seems to presuppose a relativism where you speak “your truth” and I’ll speak “my truth” and we’ll just leave it at that. A sort of ecumenical schizophrenia.

Here are two relevant canons from OUR Eastern Catholic Church Law:
c. 597 CCEO: “The Roman Pontiff, in virtue of his office (munus), possesses infallible teaching authority if, as supreme pastor and teacher of all the Christian faithful who is to confirm his fellow believers in the faith, he proclaims with a definitive act that a doctrine of faith or morals is to be held.”

c. 599: :A religious obsequium of intellect and will, even if not the assent of faith, is to be paid to the teaching of faith and morals which the Roman Pontiff or the college of bishops enunciate when they exercise the authentic magisterium even if they do not intend to proclaim with a definitive act.; therefore the Christian faithful are to take care to avoid whatever is not in harmony with that teaching.”

Source: https://melkite.org/eparchy/bishop-john/how-do-the-popes-encyclicals-and-teachings-impact-on-the-melkites

 

Claim 3 : “Melkites and Eastern Catholics can participate in the services of the separated Eastern Churches

Objection: “Vatican II urged all Catholics to become more familiar with Eastern Orthodox Christians, since there is so little that separates them. The present Holy Father is most eager to work toward a reunion of the Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox. For us as Melkites, the issue is even more pressing, since we have common family roots – many of our families are inter-related, and we have so much in common.

You probably notice that the music and services are so very similar. By all means attend the Offices with the Antiochian Orthodox and pray with them, as well as inviting them to services in our Melkite churches. However, we do not have full Communion re-established with them yet.

At present, we refrain from receiving Communion in each other’s churches, … not because we are better than they, nor they better than us … we refrain as a recognition that both sides have to work harder toward reunion so that one day we may all intercommunicate and enjoy that unity that Christ God prayed for so fervently at His Last Supper with the Apostles, when He gave us the Divine Liturgy as a celebration of full communion with the Father and each other through Him in the Holy Spirit.”

Claim 4:  Eastern Catholics don’t have to accept the Council of Trent and the councils after the 7th ecumenical council.

Objection: “Although the Council of Trent was convened in order to meet the challenges of the Reformation in the west, the recapitulation of dogma concerning the sacraments that came from the Council has been an enriching source for the Churches of both east and west.

Indeed, you will note that many Eastern theologians have reacted in various ways to the decrees of the Council of Trent. As Catholics, we are bound to all of the decrees of the councils that have been promulgated by the Holy Father. In some instances, the decrees of the Council have direct application to the discipline of the west only. Usually this can be discerned either by the decree itself or by its logical application to the discipline of the west.”

https://melkite.org/eparchy/bishop-john/what-is-the-melkite-view-of-the-council-of-trent

Second Objection: Patriarch Gregory II Youssef-Sayour occupied the Melkite throne of Antioch for thirty-three years (1864-1897). At Vatican I, the Patriarch gave an impassioned plea to the assembled bishops in defense of the prerogatives of the ancient patriarchs. He said: “The Eastern Church attributes the highest and most complete power to the Pope, but in such a way that the fullness of his power is in harmony with the rights of the other Patriarchal Sees. (Mansi 52,cols. 133-137).

Patriarch Gregory finally signed the document Pastor aeternus but only after adding the phrase made famous at the earlier Council of Florence that expressed his reservations. He added: “salvis omnibus iuribus et privilegiis patriarcharum”. {saving all of the rights and privileges of the patriarchs}.

While the first seven ecumenical councils enjoy a place of prominence, especially in the East, both the Churches of the East and West have experienced local councils and synods throughout their rich histories. The early ecumenical councils met to resolve and articulate important Christological doctrines. The Melkite Church participated fully in Vatican I and Patriarch Gregory spoke clearly to his affirmation of the fullness of power enjoyed by the Petrine Office.

The Patriarch was very concerned that the exercise of papal powers be “in harmony with the rights of the other Patriarchal Sees.” The second Vatican Council is seen to have completed the unfinished business of Vatican I with its special emphasis on ecclesiology, specifically on the nature of the Church.

Recent theological speculation has developed the concept of “communion of churches” with promising results for ecumenism and rapprochement with the Orthodox. It would be a simple rekindling of the old controversy of conciliarism to suggest that some councils are less ecumenical than others.

With the promulgation of the Holy Father, the doctrinal content of the various councils is a part of the sacred magisterial teaching of the Church to which Melkites in full communion with the See of Rome give wholehearted assent.”

https://melkite.org/eparchy/bishop-john/what-is-the-melkite-view-of-the-post-schism-ecumenical-councils

Claim 5: the Melkite Church doesn’t hold that the Pope is infallible.

Objection:”In all cases, if we are Catholic, then we have to accept all Catholic dogmas.You are right to think that ” we are one of many Eastern autonomous Churches (self-governing) as the Ukrainians, the Ruthenians and other self-governing (sui juris) Eastern Catholic Churches. We hold that the Pope of Rome is infallible in important matters of faith and morality, when he speaks “ex cathedra”, in his position as the visible head of the Catholic Church.

We may interpret these dogmas in “Eastern” terms; however, we are not allowed to deny their truth without breaking the bond of unity with the Pope of Rome, the successor of St. Peter the Rock.

You are right also that we commemorate the Pope of Rome only once, namely at the end of the Anaphora. However, the exact mandated translation is “FIRST, Lord, remember His Holiness N. Pope of Rome, His Beatitude … etc.” Regardless of linguistic or historic pretexts, “Among the first” translation has been repeatedly prohibited by me, as Melkite Eparch, and by my predecessors. I consider persisting in using “among the first…” in our Melkite churches in America as an open defiance to legitimate authority.
I wish you continued success in your endeavors. May our Lord direct your thoughts and words to His pleasure in truth and love.”

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