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A Refutation of Arguments for Augustine’s Veneration

The following is a reply to arguments for the veneration of Augustine of Hippo, posted on an Orthodox forum. The author of those arguments made the assertion that St. Gennadios Scholarios, St. Mark of Ephesus, St. John of Shanghai, and several other Holy Fathers considered Augustine of Hippo to be a Holy Father and Saint of the Church. As evidence, he asserted that in the 34th chapter of St. Mark of Ephesus’ syllogistic replies to the Latins at Florence, he called Augustine ‘divine’, and that St. Gennadios Scholarios declared ‘if anyone says that Augustine is not saint, he is anathema,’ according to a Greek Archdiocese internet article. The author did not support the other assertions with any reference or citation, although the pro-Augustine argument is so well-known that one may easily guess on what basis he makes these claims.


I have divided my reply to your posting by subheadings.

St. Gennadios Scholarios and Bishop Augustine of Hippo

First of all, you present a quotation of St. Gennadios taken from yet another quotation made in the article on the Greek Archdiocese website[“Saint Augustine in the Greek Orthodox Tradition” by Rev. G. Papademetriou], which the author wrote explicitly to justify Augustine being included by them as a saint of the Orthodox Church; the quotation is not taken directly from Gennadios’ works. So already we cannot have full confidence that this heretic trying to justify another reputed heretic is reproducing St. Gennadios’ words accurately.

Secondly, the translation of that New Calendarist author says ‘....if anyone ...says that Augustine is NOT a saint, he is anathema’; however, the footnote which reproduces the Greek original says ‘if anyone...says Augustine IS a saint, he is anathema.’ This glaring contradiction between the purported original Greek text reproduced by the New Calendarist and his translation of it once again causes us, at the very least, to doubt whether the biased New Calendarist author has accurately reproduced the words of St. Gennadios or not.

Thirdly, his quotation appears to be drawn from the early pro-Augustine apologetical work of Fathers Herman and Seraphim Rose of Platina, “The Place of Blessed Augustine in the Orthodox Church.” The notorious Platina fathers have a proven record of inaccurately quoting texts and misrepresenting Fathers or other esteemed authors in order to prove their positions. A ready-to-hand set of examples may be found in the pamphlet of Bp. Barlaam and Archbp. Lazar Puhalo, “The Neo-Nestorianism of Fr. Seraphim Rose”, as well as a number of examples in other anti-Fr. Seraphim Rose literature published by them. We ourselves might also add some further examples not mentioned by the aforementioned “New Ostrog” Bishops taken from other issues of Platina’s “Orthodox Word” dealing with ROCOR, Ecumenism, Heresy, and the Holy Fathers. Indeed, recently even Fr. Seraphim’s ardent admirers at Etna (Cyprianite) made a partial admission of his unreliability, writing:

“We should observe in passing, incidentally, that among his collected testimonials from the Fathers to the sanctity of the Blessed Augustine in this work, Father Seraphim wrongly attributes to St. Gregory the Dialogist a reference to “Saint” Augustine in a letter which was, in fact, not written by the Saint, but addressed to him by Licinianus, the Bishop of Carthagena, in Spain. Using Russian sources for other of his references, his citations from various Greek Fathers are also, at times, not wholly faithful to the original Greek....” [see the footnote to “An Orthodox Q&A”, Orthodox Tradition, Vol. XIV, No. 4, pp. 33-35.]

In any event, given their record in other cases, there is yet again cause at least to doubt or question whether the quotation here taken by the New Calendarist from the Platinites accurately reproduces the words of St. Gennadios.

Fourthly, the Platinites (in their aforementioned “The Place...”) take this quotation from a collection of works of St. Gennadios published by a ROMAN CATHOLIC publishing organization in the 1920’s [Gennadios Scholarios, Oeuvres Completes (Paris: Maison de la Bonne Presse, 1929).]. Now, it is legitimate and logical to ask why on earth an ardently ROMAN CATHOLIC organization would wish to publish the works of St. Gennadios, since St. Gennadios later in life became the ardent opponent of ROMAN CATHOLICISM. Would zealots of Rome publish anti-Roman Catholic works? Examples are more numerous than one can count of Roman Catholic censorship and corruption of patristic texts in order to support their heresies! I do not find any Roman Catholic publishers of St. Mark of Ephesus’ works. Do you? Why would they fund their enemies’ propaganda? This should already be rousing our suspicions about how accurately they reproduce the thought of St. Gennadios.

Finally and MOST IMPORTANTLY, we must ask which works of St. Gennadios they draw the quotation anathematizing anti-Augustinians - those before St. Mark’s death or those afterwards. For, as any studious Orthodox person knows, St. Gennadios was one of the most ardent supporters of the Unia in all Byzantium and at the Council of Florence up to the time of St. Mark of Ephesus’ death, at which time he was finally converted to anti-Uniatism by St. Mark. Thus for the major part of his life, he wrote prolifically in favor of the Unia and indeed in favor of everything Latin, considering Augustine, other Roman Catholic authors, and especially Thomas Aquinas as the pinnacle of true theology and the Greek Fathers as far inferior to them. Indeed he claimed that, by virtue of reading Aquinas and the rest of the Latin doctors, he had become wiser than any other man in Byzantium including St. Mark himself. He was one of the chief translators of the works of Augustine, Aquinas, and other Latin doctors into Greek prior to his conversion back to Orthodoxy by St. Mark. He spoke and wrote zealously against St. Mark and anyone who questioned the Latins’ superiority at Florence and back in Byzantium until St. Mark’s death. THEREFORE, (even assuming momentarily that St. Gennadios did say that an anti-Augustinian is anathema, and not the contrary) it is absolutely necessary to inquire whether the Tome from which the quotation was taken was from one of his pro-Latin, pro-Filioque, pro-Augustinian, pro-Aquinas, pro-Latin-theology absolutely papist works, which constitute the vast majority of his works, or whether it was taken from one of his late-in-life, anti-Unia, anti-Latin-theology works, which number very few. I think if you ask yourself which group of treatises a zealously-papist publisher is likely to lavish his funds on printing, you will have no doubt, as I have no doubt, that the quotation anathematizing anti-Augustinians came from one of St. Gennadios’ numerous anti-Orthodox, Augustine-worshipping treatises from the major part of his life when he was a papist zealot and a worshipper of anything Latin and despiser of the Orthodox Faith and real Holy Fathers. As such, neither that Tome nor anything else that he wrote as a papist or pro-Latin sympathizer can have any authority whatsoever for the truly Orthodox.

Consequently, it is in order for all pro-Augustinians to stop misrepresenting St. Gennadios and besmirching his memory by associating him with the followers and venerators of Augustine of Hippo. If they cannot prove it from a treatise from his Orthodox period, then they can prove nothing.

St. Mark of Ephesus and Bishop Augustine of Hippo

As to the allegation that St. Mark of Ephesus venerated Augustine as a saint and father of the Church and called him ‘divine’ in one of his discourses at Florence, I would point out several important facts.

First, we must remember the nature and origin of the work from which this ‘divine’ quotation comes: St. Mark’s Florentine discourses were not his work but the work of a committee headed chiefly by the crypto-uniate Metropolitan, later “Cardinal”, Bessarion of Nicaea (a platonizing disciple of the Neo-Platonist, pro-Unia, crypto-pagan Gemistos Plethon, who, by the way, proposed the union of all religions ) and men sympathetic to his views. St. Mark was the only staunch Orthodox there.

Second and furthermore, the true head of the committee or at least its editor-in-chief was the pro-Union Emperor Michael Paleologos, who many times is recorded as having suppressed St. Mark’s writings and views in favor of Bessarion’s, only including St. Mark’s more numerous patristic quotations for the sake of ‘making a good show’ that the Greeks were learned and also had a legitimate tradition, and being especially adamant that nothing whatsoever would be written or said by the Orthodox that offended the Latins - thus he could neither bear St. Mark’s calling any Latin a heretic, nor could he even bear the inoffensive, but less than flattering exhortation by Bessarion: “O ye men of Latium...”, since this failed to curry their favor. St. Mark was then forced to present this ‘polite disagreement’ as the Orthodox view, and whenever he diverged too much from it he was sidelined by the Emperor and forbidden to speak, although he was the only one the Latins’ really had any interest in debating and for whom they besought the Emperor to permit to speak.

Consequently, it is wrong to consider the Florentine discourses as unquestionably and entirely representative of St. Mark’s views, as you are doing by building a case based on one word in them. St. Mark, as he himself said, made some compromises in those discourses under great pressure from the Emperor and committee in the course of the debates, but never compromised to the point of betraying the Orthodox Faith. We have, for instance, the case of the discourses on purgatory - St. Mark is recorded as presenting too strong and negative a rejection of purgatory whereas Bessarion’s text represented a softer view, which only rejected a purgatory of material fire, so that the composite result may not represent in all particulars the real beliefs of St. Mark. Moreover, as I said, he often diverged from the written text during the course of his delivery and debating, incurring the displeasure of the Emperor and his colleagues and being sidelined for it, so that we do not know if he ever consented to say ‘divine Augustine’ in reality. Therefore, we cannot build a case or impute a pro-Augustinian viewpoint to St. Mark only on the basis of the work you cite alone. It is unquestionably open to doubt and you cannot prove he did or believed any such thing merely with that quotation. Additional and more trustworthy evidence is required.

Thirdly, the transmission of these texts calls into question their absolute reliability. For, the unreliable, pro-Augustinians Frs. Herman and Seraphim Rose are the source of the only partial translation into English of the Florentine discourses on purgatory. The only other partial translation of the Florentine debates is found in the Jesuit Gill’s book on the Council of Florence, which has some excerpts from the debates on the Holy Spirit and the Filioque, edited in such a way as to give the careless reader the idea that Rome won the debate. None of Gill’s text of the debates have any reference to Augustine as ‘blessed’ or ‘divine’ or ‘holy’ by St. Mark. The Platinites, in turn, took the text for translation from a 20th-century edition published by the ecumenist, pro-Augustinian Fr. Ambrose Pogodin. Fr. Ambrose took the text, in turn, from an older but of uncertain origin Russian translation of the Florentine discourses. Thus, we have cause again to wonder if Fr. Ambrose or the translator of the discourses into Russian may have added ‘divine’ or ‘blessed’ to the text as he thought proper, especially given that Russia’s learned classes were under heavy pro-Augustinian Latin Papist and German Protestant influences between the late 17th and late 19th centuries through the Polish and some Russian theological academies. For instance the common theological textbook in use in Metropolitan Philaret Drozdov’s academy days in the early 19th century was written by the German Lutheran Buddaeus, and was replete with lofty, typically-western epithets for Augustine, of course.

Finally, the original source for the text of the discourses and acts of the participants in the Council of Florence is the record kept by the unreliable Papist Latins. The Orthodox kept no minutes of the Council, the only Greek accounts being a partial one by a pro-Uniate bishop and a longer one by the layman Syropoulos, a court official who reproduced almost nothing of the debates but focused on the actions carried on behind the scenes. Moreover, we are not relying on the original Latin minutes but such as are reproduced in the “Patrologia Orientalis” or similar publications collected from various earlier Roman Catholic, censored publications by the 19th century French Papist J. P. Migne. Migne’s collections P.L., P.G., and P.O. are sometimes criticized for unfounded, pro-papal additions to the Greek and Latin texts in places, which again makes room for doubt in the reliability of the text the papists transmitted.

Lastly, if perchance, Syropoulos were to refer to the ‘divine’ Augustine in his record of the Council of Florence, which is often overtly a paraphrase, summarizing whatever events or words he records (like the speeches of Pericles in Herodotus’ “Histories”), this does not mean St. Mark ever used this epiphthet. Therefore, again, you have no way of showing based on the single alleged quotation you produced that St. Mark venerated Augustine as a saint, especially after being exposed to apparently heretical quotations from the Bishop of Hippo at Florence. Yea, rather, it should be remembered in this consideration that St. Mark famously declared ‘I accept none of the Latin testimonia; I perceive that they have been corrupted’. He uttered these famous words after several times proving that the Latin texts of some Fathers’ writings had been corrupted (e.g., the case of the Latin text of St. Maximus’ letter to Marinus the Presbyter of Cyprus). Therefore, it is quite likely that St. Mark would not have believed that Augustine actually wrote the heretical things attributed to him, and, therefore, he may have regarded Augustine in a possibly inaccurate light, which then would not reflect how St. Mark would consider Augustine if he had accepted that Augustine actually wrote heretical works. But again, this is speculation because we have no actual reliable text of St. Mark reflecting his opinion of Augustine. One may not like this fact, but a fact it is none the less, and we cannot get around it. So, until they have solid proof, it is in order for pro-Augustinians to stop making unfounded allegations that St. Mark of Ephesus reckoned Augustine a saint.

St. John of Shanghai and Bishop Augustine of Hippo

As to St. John of Shanghai allegedly revering Augustine as a Saint, we have the official list published in Platina’s “Orthodox Word” back in the 1960’s of all the western saints which St. John as bishop of Western Europe proposed to the ROCOR synod for recognition and inclusion in the Orthodox calendar up to that time, and although 20 names or more appear there, including obscure African and Gallic saints, AUGUSTINE IS NOT ON THE LIST. His mother, St. Monica, is there, but NOT AUGUSTINE. How likely is it that St. John would have unintentionally omitted Augustine’s name when he did not overlook even Augustine’s mother? Moreover, the allegation that St. John revered Augustine and wrote the only ‘Orthodox’ service written to him rests solely on the bare, undocumented, and unsupported statement by those unreliable pro-Augustinian Platinite fathers in an issue of the “Orthodox Word” long after St. John’s departure from this world, which again leaves its factuality open to doubt. Finally, there is also the testimony of others that the service to Augustine now used among the ‘Orthodox’, the first to be written for ‘Orthodox’, was written by a member of the Greek Archdiocese in the 1980’s, nearly 20 years after St. John’s repose. So, here again you have no way of proving that St. John revered Augustine as a saint. Therefore, it behooves all pro-Augustinians to stop making use of St. John’s name as a supporter of Augustine, until unlikely as it is, it may be proven to be a fact.

Nicodemos the Hagiorite and Bishop Augustine of Hippo

As to Nicodemos the Hagiorite, let us recall that he, on the basis of flattering testimony given to Augustine by some Uniates, allegedly included Augustine in his edition of the Synaxaristes, where AUGUSTINE HAD NOT BEEN INCLUDED UP TO THAT TIME (Augustine is not commemorated in the 16th-century Metropolitan Macarius of Moscow’s menaia either). Also it is recorded that Nicodemos’ works suffered from a significant amount of interpolation in the printing center of Venice by Uniates and their Papist censor, corrupting his works to such an extent that Nicodemos wept and wished to withdraw them from circulation when he finally saw the printed edition.

[NOTE: I find that some persons speak of the Venetians tampering with the Rudder before it was printed, and others speak only of interpolations being added to it in Leipzig in 1800; I do not know yet if the Venetian tampering is a separate, earlier incident, or if it is the same incident as the Leipzig one and one is being confused with the other. In any event, it means the text is not pure and it is not certain to be Nicodemos’, whether it was corrupted by Venetians, Germans, or some other heterodox.]

You will notice that in the beginning of any copy of Nicodemos and Agapios’ edition of the Rudder/Pedalion there is a letter from the 19th century Patriarch of Constantinople informing you that Nicodemos’ canonical commentaries had been very heavily corrupted by unorthodox parties and that it was only after purging it and correcting it as best they could that the Patriarchate assented to publish the Rudder text.

To give you an example of Westernizer/Latinizer interpolations that the Patriarchate apparently missed or forgot to correct, it says in one or two of the lengthy footnotes, in a condensed paraphrase, that ‘originally the universal custom of the Church was to shave the hair of the clergy and monastics’ scalp in tonsuring them and that they kept their hair short, but in the time of Patriarch Michael Celurarios of Constantinople (the Patriarch who anathematized Pope Leo X’s legates and their abettors, creating the Great Schism, c. 1054 A.D.) the ‘unorthodox’ practice of clergy and monastics wearing long hair was introduced contrary to the Apostolic Tradition. All those who let their hair grow long (like Orthodox clergy and monks) are liable to excommunication.’ This is clearly pro-Latin propaganda, yet it is in Nicodemos’ Rudder of all places! Such interfering and Latinizing corruptions of Orthodox texts were common in the times before Orthodox had ready access to Orthodox printing presses. The Ottomans suppressed Orthodox presses within the Empire and the only Orthodox press feasibly accessible to Greeks, until the Turks’ expulsion from Greece, was at Jassy in Roumania outside Ottoman territory. Even that press was sporadic in its existence and eventually failed, meaning that most Greek Orthodox texts had to be published through heterodox presses with the attendant restrictions placed on them by heterodox censors. It is also possible (I only say ‘possible’) that Augustine’s inclusion in his Synaxaristes was also the result of the Papist censor’s interference. Also, remember that Nicodemos himself borrowed from Latin works, such as, for instance, his famous edition of “Unseen Warfare” which is his partial revision of an earlier Italian Jesuit spirituality textbook, but apparently he still retained sufficient western influence in it for Bishop Theophan the Recluse to feel the need to correct and revise it significantly more before issuing a Russian translation.

In any event, we must also bear in mind that, in Nicodemos’ day, it was widely-believed among the educated that Augustine’s works had been Orthodox, but had all been corrupted later by heretics. This was the opinion put forward by Patriarch Dositheos of Jerusalem in the 17th century in his polemic against the Augustine-touting Calvinist heretics, and as Nicodemos frequently cites Dositheos’ Dodecabiblion throughout the Pedalion/Rudder, we may suspect that Nicodemos was not unaware of Dositheos’ theory about Augustine and may have been influenced by it. If this were so, then Nicodemos’ acceptance of Augustine as a saint could not be deemed the final and absolute opinion of Nicodemos on Augustine, but only an opinion that was conditional upon the assumption being valid that Augustine did not write the heretical things attributed to him. If Nicodemos were met with proof that Augustine was a heretic, he may not have the same opinion as he did when he thought Augustine had been Orthodox in his doctrine. We must take that into account, as the Church has ever done in the past with holy Fathers who similarly mistakenly assumed this or that heretic was Orthodox and a saint, supposing his writings to have been corrupted by heretics. We will speak more about such cases in the next section on St. Photios and Augustine.

St. Photios the Great and Bishop Augustine of Hippo

As to St. Photios the Great’s positive references to Augustine in his Mystagogy, any serious reading of his work shows that he said this conditionally upon the assumption that either (a) Augustine did not write these heretical things and they were interpolated by heretics, or (b) Augustine did not mean to express the heretical teaching, but, out of human weakness or difficult polemical conditions, he chose poor or vague words to express the Orthodox teaching, ultimately failing in his choice of words, but he only outwardly and superficially appeared to teach the Filioque, and never actually believed it, or lastly, (c) he did teach it in ignorance, but that he repented of this error before his death, and thus died Orthodox. St. Photios never delivered an unequivocal statement like ‘It matters not that Augustine believed this heresy and died in it; he is still a saint’, but, on the contrary, he frequently refers to the fact that Augustine would be condemned along with the Franks if he had fatally persisted in this heresy.

Therefore, it is worthless for Augustinians to present St. Photios as a definite supporter of Augustine-veneration. He delivers the Orthodox and reasonable opinion that Augustine is a Father if he was not a heretic or if he had repented of his heresy, or else, if he was an unrepentant heretic, then he is not a Father and is condemned along with all the other Spirit-fighting heretics. The fact that he preferred to believe the best about Augustine means nothing to the final determination about the Bishop of Hippo - most of the Church Fathers held a high, benevolent view of Origen’s sanctity until his condemnation by the 5th Ecumenical Council, and by the way, that Council, in spite of the veneration in which a number of Fathers had held Origen (who did this because they thought heretics had corrupted his otherwise Orthodox writings), anathematized all who do not anathematize Origen and all his heresies.

Finally, St. Photios’ “Myriobiblion” or his list and summary of all the books he had read up to the time of his elevation to the Patriarchate, at which point the Filioque controversy almost immediately erupted and he wrote the Mystagogy, he does not list any theological work of Augustine’s among his reading up to that time. Out of all the hundreds of books listed by him in the Myriobiblion, St. Photios mentions only a translation of a western history of the Council of Carthage and the Pelagian Controversy in connection with Augustine, in which book Augustine receives honorable mention among those who fought that heresy and was a “father” or clerical participant of the canonical Council of Carthage (419 A.D.) [see Canon II of the 6th Ecumenical Council which lists this council’s canons among those with ecumenical authority]. It seems to be from this record of Augustine as a “holy father” of that famous council that St. Photios got the idea that Augustine was a saint and Father of the Church (and consequently could not have been a heretic). In fact, in the context of councils endorsed by the Church, it is routine to speak of “the fathers” or “the holy fathers assembled at (city name)”, even though some of the participants may have been of questionable orthodoxy. On account of the holy work accomplished by the council, they are often referred to as “the holy fathers of (council name)” in reference to the council, although many of them may not have been glorified saints. We have a prime example of this in the case of the canonical Council of Antioch [cf. Canon II of the 6th E.C.], over which Eusebius of Caesarea presided. Even though he was accused of being a crypto-Arian by St. Athanasius the Great and some other Holy Fathers, in spite of this, the Council is ecumenically valid and the decisions of its members are referred the canons of “the fathers” or “holy fathers of the Council of Antioch”. Their work there was holy and so were they in doing it, but that does not mean that the rest of their lives were holy and orthodox or that they became recognized saints of the Church. This ambiguous usage could be wrongly used to promote Bishop Eusebius of Caesara, who was not a saint, as a “Holy Father of the Church”, even as a similar equivocal usage may have mislead St. Photios.

Individual Evaluations of Bishop Augustine of Hippo Do Not Figure in Ultimate Determination of Sainthood

Ultimately, however, the Church requires for evidence of sainthood, not simply that a man was called a saint by another definitely holy man (like St. Photios), but that the man’s sanctity be manifested by more independent and objective proofs - verifiably orthodox doctrine, incorrupt relics, verified miracles, etc., which taken together are evident proof from God that he is a saint. The infallible, deliberate determination of the Universal Church is also proof in itself. Individuals, even saints, although they themselves finished their course in right faith and piety, can, nevertheless, make well-meaning mistakes in judging other individuals, who may in fact be heretics; only the Body of Christ as a whole, the Church Universal, is incapable of mistakes. To support what I have just said, I want to give you a partial list of such mistakes on the part of individual saints in evaluating others:

St. Athanasius the Great believed Origen (condemned for heresy at the 5th E.C.) to have been Orthodox and a saint, and that the passages in his works in which Origen entertained heretical ideas, were not his final opinion, but steps in reasoning toward the final and true opinion of Origen which was Orthodox.

St. Maximus the Confessor defended the deceased Pope Honorius I (condemned for heresy at the 6th E.C.) and sought to explain the letter in which Honorius taught one will in Christ as meaning that Christ did not have the war of the flesh against the spirit like other men, but that Honorius had been overstressed and had been careless in phrasing it, instead of intending to teach that Christ had only one natural will.

The entire Syriac-speaking Church thought that Diodore of Tarsus (condemned for heresy at the 5th E.C.) was an Orthodox authority because the translator of Diodore’s works from Greek into Syriac had modified Diodore’s words, giving them an Orthodox meaning that they did not have in the original Greek. The Syriac-speaking churches that were Orthodox, despite this, did not at first accept Diodore’s condemnation by the Ecumenical Council, but only later did some accept it. Thus St. Isaac the Syrian still used the epithet given Diodore by the earlier Syrians “the blessed Interpreter” when he referred to him in his Ascetical Homilies.

St. Gregory the Theologian believed Maximus the Cynic to be Orthodox and his true friend, until at last, Maximus (condemned at the 2nd Ecumenical Council) succeeded in usurping St. Gregory’s diocese.

St. Basil the Great believed Bishop Marcellus of Ancyra to be Orthodox despite the opinion of many that he was a heretic, and he defended Marcellus (condemned at the 2nd Ecumenical Council) for many years before finally realizing that he was a heretic and condemning him.

St. Palladius and many of the Desert Fathers and other saints believed Evagrius of Pontus to be a saint (who was nonetheless condemned as a heretic by the 5th Ecumenical Council). St. Palladius also speaks of the “blessed Origen” (condemned at the 5th E.C.).

Nearly the entire Western Church in the time of Pope Vigilius considered Theodore of Mopsuestia and the so-called Letter of Ibas to Maris the Persian to be Orthodox, which nonetheless were condemned for Nestorian heresy at the 5th Ecumenical Council. The Pope afterward was obligated to make repentance and retraction to the Council in order not to be deposed and anathematized for this defense. Indeed the whole controversy that rose up between the Western Church and the 5th Ecumenical Council was over whether one could condemn those who had died ostensibly in the Church without being condemned as heretics by a contemporary council. The 5th E.C. decided they could be if they were shown to be heretics.

I could go on with many more examples, of which these are perhaps 20%; however, I do not require it for proof, as what is above is more than sufficient. I can produce the actual texts if you like. As you can clearly see, even though a large part of the Church or a good number of Holy Fathers esteemed a man as a saint, this is not an infallible guarantee that he is one. Only the infallible voice of the Church expressed in unison or definite signs from God such as incorruption and miracles conjoined with a pure Orthodox confession can verify for us that a man is a saint.

The 5th Ecumenical Council and Bishop Augustine of Hippo

Lastly, I want to also address the alleged inclusion of Augustine among the “Holy Fathers” ‘whose doctrines of theology we must follow in all things’, a statement allegedly found in the text of the 5th Ecumenical Council (a letter received by that Council from St. Justinian, to be more precise), as if therefore, the Ecumenical Council had vouched for Augustine’s sainthood and approved his theology.

It is a well-known fact that the Greek minutes of this Council have not survived. Indeed, when St. Mark of Ephesus was met with Latin arguments based on a text of the 5th Ecumenical Council, he asked if the Latins possessed copies of the original Greek of the minutes that he might read it, since as was known, the original Greek text had been lost to the Byzantines. Copies of the minutes as they were taken down originally in Greek did not survive uncorrupted down to the time of the 6th Ecumenical Council. Instead, when the Imperial librarian brought forth the preserved copies, the 6th E.C. discovered that soon after the 5th E.C., and after the time of Patriarch Menas of Constantinople, heretics had severely corrupted the texts of the minutes of the 5th. Therefore, the 6th Ecumenical Council ordered that the Greek text be made to conform to the Latin text presented to that Council by the legates of Pope Agatho. Thus, in correcting the text according to the Latin’s manuscripts they may have inadvertently introduced Augustine’s name where it was not originally in the minutes.

This does not seem unlikely. For, we know that the inconstant Pope Vigilius often attempted to use Augustine’s authority and example in Africa against those African schismatics who refused to assent to the anathematizing of dead heretics by the 5th Council. We also know that Vigilius wrote that he was following Augustine’s example of self-correction in correcting his own mistake in opposing the 5th Ecumenical Council. (Augustine wrote a work called Retractions, which is Latin for “Re-treatments” of former subjects, in which he altered certain earlier statements of his, but did not retract anything with regard to the writings where heretical statements now appear.) Finally we know that Pope Vigilius deliberately altered the first Latin version of the 5th E.C. acts published in the West in order to soften the Council’s harsh censure of himself, lest his authority in the West be further diminished by this censure becoming known there. Thus, he deliberately shortened and altered the first edition of the conciliar minutes that he published in the West. So there is plenty of evidence that Vigilius had the habit of quoting and venerating Augustine, that he had a habit of corrupting the Council’s texts according as it suited his own purposes in his fight with the African schism, and that he had a strong motive to add Augustine’s name to the text. The African Schism had broken away in protest of the 5th E.C. council anathematizing persons who had died ostensibly in the Church without being condemned. Bishop Augustine of Hippo was known in the West to have anathematized dead heretics who had died ostensibly in the Church. Vigilius may have felt that he could quell the schism by interpolating Augustine’s name into the list of Church Fathers thus strengthening his case that it was Church tradition to anathematize even dead heretics. Perhaps Vigilius included Augustine’s name there in a Latin version of the minutes and it was by this means that it entered the present text. Again, remember that he certainly had no scruples about altering the text to serve his cause.

On the other hand, we also have the possibility we are dealing with a Frankish forgery. For, we are told, modern editions of the text are all based upon a single manuscript of the 5th E.C. minutes taken from an old Parisian library and this manuscript has a significantly different text than the old copy held at Rome and significantly longer, having much that is not in the Roman manuscript. This Parisian text purports to date from the Augustine-venerating Frankish Empire, whose scribes, let us not forget, were known for corrupting texts as well. Let us recall that the Franks did not shirk at altering even the Creed itself to support their Filioque error, and certainly would have no scruples about corrupting less important texts. Let us remember that Augustine was the chief or rather sole ‘Patristic’ authority for the Filioque error. Bring to mind also the fact that these same scribes corrupted the later editions of St. Gennadius of Marseilles’ On Illustrious Men in favor of Augustine and his theology, and that, while the most ancient copies have the quote, “Augustine composed a very great number of theological works, and thus it came true, as says the author of Proverbs, that in a multitude of words there does not lack sin”, the later copies drop this passage imputing sin to Augustine’s theological works and alter it to one of unqualified praise. Finally, we may remind ourselves that the Carolignian Frankish Empire from which this pro-Augustine version of the minutes comes was almost from its inception embroiled in a bitter battle with St. Photios and several Popes (Pope Leo III and Pope John VII) who were condemning them for the Filioque addition. In such circumstances, it seems highly likely that the Franks would leap at adding Augustine to a list of those whose theology one must accept authorized by no less than an Ecumenical Council of the highest authority, and they certainly had no scruples at corrupting such texts, the adding of the Filioque to the Creed being the most famous example of this habit. So they had the strongest possible motive to add in Augustine’s name among the Holy Fathers unconditionally endorsed by the 5th Ecumenical Council.

But returning to the text itself for a moment, let us consider what this would mean if his name were authentically part of that list along with St. Gregory Theologos, St. John Chrysostom, St. Ambrose, etc. It would mean that we must follow all those passages where Augustine seems to teach the dual causation of the Spirit, predestination to damnation, the validity of heretical baptism, etc., and yet we would also have to follow all those passages in the Fathers mentioned which deny a dual causation to the Holy Spirit and the rest of Augustinianism. Thus, we would have to both affirm and deny the one and the same set of doctrines!

Therefore, based on this contradiction, already we have cause to doubt that Augustine’s name was part of the original Letter. But, in addition to this, in the near-contemporary Byzantine citations or quotations of that passage of the Letter, before the 6th Ecumenical Council’s acceptance of the Latin version - viz. by Evagrios Scholasticos (6th century A.D.) in his “Ecclesiastical History” and by St. Maximos the Confessor (7th century A.D.) in the “Disputation with Pyrrhus” -, the names of Augustine and St. Leo the Great are not present there, as they are in the modern Latin text of the Council, although St. Ambrose’s name is present in their quotations. Therefore, we have cause to wonder if the Latins have not added the names of those (St. Leo and Augustine) who at a later date they declared two of their four great ancient western “doctors” or “teachers of the Church”, whose writings commanded unquestioned assent in the West. The other two western “doctors” are St. Ambrose, whose name was already present in the original letter, and St. Gregory the Great, who had not yet even become a bishop at the time of the 5th Ecumenical Council and therefore would not be included by the Latin interpolator. In any case, we have significant evidence of forgery and numerous likely scenarios for the interpolation of Augustine into the list of Holy Fathers listed by the 5th Ecumenical Council; consequently, no pro-Augustinian can use the 5th Ecumenical Council’s text in attempting to prove that the Church ever endorsed Augustine as a Holy Father or saint.

So in conclusion, although there are a number of authoritative Orthodox figures who are routinely cited as ‘pro-Augustine’ in common discourse, in reality there is little or no basis in demonstrable fact or evidence for asserting this. Thus, you ought not to make use of their names as if they gave you any evidence to support Augustine-veneration.

******[NOTE: The jurisdictions that agree in venerating Augustine as a saint are: the Ecumenists (who favor him because they find him teaching that baptism can exist and be performed outside the Church, even by an unbaptized Jew, so long as the intention of the one being baptized is to unite himself to the Church), the Old-Calendar Greek Ecumenists of Cyprian of Fili’s Synod of Resistors (who favor him generally because Augustine’s alleged sainthood despite his being a heretic and his aforementioned teaching on baptism give them support for their own heresy that heretics have grace and salvific mysteries), and finally, the Matthewite schismatics (all branches) who blindly and fanatically hold to any human tradition in the church, which was held by their “infallible founder” Bishop Matthew, except of course, for the tradition of obeying canons, which they have abandoned.]

Archbishop Gregory
Dormition Skete
P.O. Box 3177
Buena Vista, CO 81211-3177
Contact: Archbishop Gregory
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