Author Topic: Was St. Gregory Palamas, according to Roman Catholicism, a heretic?  (Read 324 times)

Offline TheReturnofLive

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Just as a way to show that I have returned for now, I'll start this thread.

Here's a question: What is your opinion on the theology of St. Gregory Palamas?

Many Roman Catholics have advocated - like John Paul II - a look from the "Light of the East," and many traditionally minded Roman Catholics believe that a lot of wisdom regarding liturgy and artwork can be obtained from the Eastern Rite Catholic Churches.

However, there appears to be a massive chasm between what the Eastern Catholic Churches and the severely more traditional Roman Catholics teach about Palamas.

I would say the vast majority of Eastern Catholics today completely believe that his works and Spirituality are reconcilable with Traditional Roman Catholic Thomistic theology; you can find various lectures from Byzantine Catholics about his works (not in criticism, but encouraging it as Truth) on YouTube, and he is even commemorated on the Melkite Calendar as a Saint of the Church. John Paul II believed that his works are theologically wise to study, and some Catholic apologists will even try to use his writings to advance forth Roman Catholic doctrines (St. Gregory Palamas wrote so highly about the Theotokos, that some people I know will argue that his writings can be interpreted in such a way to support the Immaculate Conception...someone on this forum that I know whom I've had debates with....).

On the other hand, many people believe that there is a massive difference between St. Gregory Palamas's Spirituality as well as his understanding of God; mainly, that the Grace of God, the experience of Heaven, etc., is Uncreated, and that God's True Essence is completely unknowable, while Thomas Aquinas argued a specific version of Divine Simplicity, and that things like the Grace of God, Heaven, etc., are all created realities, and (in  Roman Catholic theology), God's Essence can be experienced via the Beatific Vision.

This conflict was demonstrated during various disputes in the Constantinople Church, where a student of St. Thomas Aquinas - Barlaam - locked horns with St. Gregory Palamas, claiming that the idea of Uncreated Grace and the Essence - Energies distinction was nonsense in comparison to Thomistic theology. The Constantinople Church eventually condemned Barlaam for heresy, and he eventually moved to Italy where he joined the Roman Catholic Church, where he became a bishop.

So, who is right? Was there really just a massive misunderstanding and both Thomist Theology and Palamist Theology are really reconcilable with each other, insofar as what has been dogmatically defined by Rome (Has Rome even dogmatically defined in absolute Divine Simplicity, Created Grace, Created Heaven and Hell, condemned the Energies / Essence distinction, etc?)? Or was Barlaam a hero for Rome, and St. Gregory Palamas a heretic who waged war against the Roman Catholic Church?

And whatever conclusion is true, what does this say in regards to Ecumenical Relations with the Eastern Orthodox Church - to which many Catholics "urgently desire Holy Unia with," or the status of the Eastern Rite Churches which teach his theology from the Pulpit and commemorate him as a Saint?
« Last Edit: November 26, 2018, 11:57:41 PM by TheReturnofLive »
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Offline Quaremerepulisti

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Re: Was St. Gregory Palamas, according to Roman Catholicism, a heretic?
« Reply #1 on: November 30, 2018, 01:08:52 PM »
I'm not an expert on Palamism, but I don't think Thomism and Palamism are reconciliable.  I'd take the Western Church's modern position as a tacit admission that the Thomism it crammed down everyone's throats a century earlier is fundamentally defective.

Although that doesn't mean all differences and difficulties are at an end and East-West reunion may occur tomorrow.  Divine simplicity has been dogmatically defined AFAIK and grace as not identical with God.  So it doesn't seem positing a real essence/energies distinction is compatible with this, since then God would be composite (a mixture of essence and energies).  Perhaps some kind of different distinction though, like the persons of the Trinity?


Offline Jacob

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Offline Kreuzritter

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Re: Was St. Gregory Palamas, according to Roman Catholicism, a heretic?
« Reply #3 on: December 02, 2018, 10:32:06 AM »
According to the religion of Thomism, yes.

and that God's True Essence is completely unknowable, while Thomas Aquinas argued ... God's Essence can be experienced via the Beatific Vision.

I can guarantee you Palamas didn't use the word essence.

The notion of someone who is not God knowing God's ousia is absurd; it doesn't even make sense. Unless you can exprience being God, you can't experience his ousia. Given that the Orthodox teach theosis, not henosis, Palamas's position makes sense - as does Aquinas's, but they are simply not speaking the same language.

But St. Thomas Aquinas was not a Thomist.
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Offline Xavier

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Re: Was St. Gregory Palamas, according to Roman Catholicism, a heretic?
« Reply #4 on: December 06, 2018, 01:53:07 AM »
Interesting question, Live. We were discussing something similar in the Divine Simplicity Thread in the Sacred Sciences subforum recently.

My answer is the Latin Tradition or Thomism and the Greek Catholic Tradition can indeed be reconciled and (though this will be hotly controversial to some, my view is) in fact seem even complementary to each other when some distinctions are made.

Greeks and Latins speaking past each other comes in part because the Greek word transliterated energeia is traditionally rendered operations in the West. So we see linguistic differences contribute to the misunderstanding.

It's well known, and appears in Thomistic Theology and in Catholic Councils, that the divine operations are said to be ad extra and how God relates to His Creatures (this distinction also appears in the writings of Catholic mystics like Ven. Mary of Jesus of Agreda); meanwhile, the divine attributes ad intra are the divine Essence itself, which is why it is said Christ is the Wisdom of God in Scripture (meaning He is God in Essence, because the Wisdom of God is God), and again, that God is Love, by St. John the Apostle. God is Love in very nature, to us, means His attribute of Love is His very nature.

So, in brief, the question is: whether

(i) the divine attributes are the divine essence ad intra
(ii) the divine attributes differ in their manifeststion ad extra

Are contradicatory to or complementary with each other.

To illustrate with some things said by the Lord Jesus Himself in the Divine Mercy devotion: Jesus said, He is Mercy and Love itself. This is His Being and pertains to the interior life of the Blessed Trinity as would exist even without creation. He also said, when it comes to manifestation of His Mercy toward His creatures, His power is manifested more in His Mercy than in any other attribute. So the divine attributes that are identical in their source differ in their manifestation. Somewhat like how white light from the sun is dispersed into the seven colours of the VIBGYOR spectrum in its manifestation in a rainbow. Abp. Palamas uses the sun and its light analogy, St. Thomas and the Catechism of Trent uses fire and its heat as an analogy in explaining theosis and divinization. I don't see the two as absolutely contrary, but I could be mistaken. There's also a passage in Trent where the Council distinguishes between the substantial Holiness by which the Holy Ghost is Holy and the accidental holiness by which He makes us holy.

My view is if Filioque, Immaculate Conception and Purgatory are jointly defined, this won't be an issue. St. Thomas doesn't mention it in his works devoted to Holy Unia, and the Council of Florence also seems to have passed over the subject in treating other matters. And also, St. Thomas was held in high esteem and his works used in seminaries for quite a while in the medieval Greek Church. My view is the future expected Catholic-Orthodox re-union Council will pass final judgment on these issues. May God grant that that happy day comes soon!
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Offline Claves Regni

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Re: Was St. Gregory Palamas, according to Roman Catholicism, a heretic?
« Reply #5 on: December 12, 2018, 09:47:35 AM »
I attended a Byzantine Rite church in Indianapolis and the priest there said they don't attempt to reconcile Thomism with St. Gregory Palamas, they simply just view it as a mystery with two different perspectives and modes of explanation.
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