George Demacopoulos, a professor at Fordham University and co-director of that institution’s Orthodox Christian Studies Center, is taking aim at extremist Orthodox Christians (specifically two bishops) who are attempting to undermine the upcoming Great and Holy Council’s discussion on ecumenism. Instead of posting an excerpt, let me strongly suggest you read the piece in its entirety. As Demacopoulos makes clear, the position of the Orthodox anti-ecumenists is driven more by ideology (and perhaps nationalism) rather than fidelity to Holy Tradition, and their assertion that non-Orthodox Trinitarian baptisms are invalid has no authentic canonical support. Unfortunately, there seems to be an uptick in neo-Orthodox polemics against Catholics as of late, as evidenced in part by a recent book by one Fr. John Heers which argues that Catholic sacraments are devoid of grace and that this position — which only came in vogue during the last two centuries — is an authentic expression of tradition. For those interested, I briefly commented on Heers’s book and neo-Orthodox here.
With that out of the way, let me be clear that “ecumenism” is a slippery concept, and I certainly have no beef with any Catholic or Orthodox Christian who doesn’t wish for “ecumenism” to devolve into “I’m ok, you’re ok.” (Sadly, in the Catholic world at least, that’s exactly what has transpired over the past 50 years.) Ecumenism between Catholics and Orthodox should always have as its end goal the restoration of full ecclesiastical communion. Period. But of course Rome (first, second, or third) wasn’t built in a day and as anyone who has eyed East/West ecumenical discussions over the past couple of decades well knows, there is a lot of historical debris which needs to be cleared out of the way before the building process can truly begin. Engaging in needless name-calling and pointless polemics only adds to the clutter.