Ecumenism Examined: A Concise Analytical Discussion of the Contemporary Ecumenical Movement, by Constantine Cavarnos
In this book Cavarnos examines ecumenism from a more moderate traditionalist stance: ie. he is against ecumenism, but does not go as far as many traditionalists. The basis of the book was a lecture that he gave in 1996. He starts out the book by giving a history of his writing on ecumenism, and how his opinions had been received (pp. vii-viii, 11-24).
Chapter 1 is titled “Towards a Definition of Ecumenism”. Despite the name, he doesn‘t define ecumenism. What he does do is blame the ecumenists for his inability to define it: “It is a phenomenon, or rather group of phenomena, whose ultimate aim or goal the Ecumenists have not endeavored to explain in clear, unambiguous terms.” (p. 27) He also mentions an outline of various forms of ecumenism given by Fr. Georges Floors (pp. 26-27).
In Chapter 2 Cavarnos decries the calendar change, saying that this demonstrates that “we have a clear instance of Orthodox Ecumenism as a divisive movement among the Orthodox.” (p. 33) He mentions ecumenists praying with others (p. 34) and says that canons are being “disregarded” (p. 34) and argues that “When we pray together with others, it is essentially presupposed that the others with whom we pray have precisely the same Faith that we have…” (p. 35)
Cavarnos says that “the Holy Canons are the laws of the Church, and as such must be respected and obeyed,” (p. 35) though he makes no attempt to deal with the idea that it is the bishops who make decisions about applying the canons. He then goes on to tell us of some historical ecumenical happenings, and to list those Orthodox who are “Anti-ecumenists,” such as St. Justin Popovich. (pp. 36-43)
In Chapter 3 Cavarnos explains why he is so opposed to ecumenism: “participation involved repeated ‘dialogues’ with the heterodox, especially with Roman Catholic prelates; and history has taught the Orthodox, especially the Greeks, that such dialogues end for the Orthodox disastrously… when the Church of Rome engages in dialogues with the representatives of the Orthodox Church, the aim of the Roman Church is the subjugation of the Orthodox Church to the Pope… so far as dialogue with various Protestant denominations are concerned, history teaches us that they are destined to failure…” (pp. 44-46)
Cavarnos also criticizes “doctrinal minimalism,” which he says “consists in proposing that controversial points--that is, differences in doctrine--be considered ‘non-essential’ and therefore things not to be discussed in Ecumenical dialogues.” (p. 47) And he argues that “exposure again and again through dialogues to this minimalist, relativistic mentality has a blunting effect on the Orthodox phronema or mindset…” (p. 47)
Cavarnos then goes on to quote saints about how we should avoid heretics (pp. 48-50), saying that heresy is “a virus, a poison that leads to spiritual infection and results in spiritual death.” (p. 52) In this chapter Cavarnos also makes the argument that ecumenists teach the branch theory (p. 56).
All of this is not to say that Cavarnos thinks that we should cease communication totally; rather, he says that we should limit “Ecumenical dialogues” to no more than one or two (p. 48), following the advice of St. Paul: “A man that is a heretic after the first and second admonition abandon” (Tit. 3:10).
Cavarnos finished the book by saying that ecumenists haven’t defined the term “union of the Churches,” (p. 59) and then says that ecumenists are secretly plotting a “false union” with Rome, even though they “do not dare at present to say this openly.” (p. 60) The ecumenists are waiting for the minds of the Orthodox faithful to be “sufficiently blunted,” so that they will “accept such a diabolic betrayal of the Faith.” (p. 60)