An explanation has been given of the law by which the authority of Christ is transmitted in the Church through the bishops, and of how this authority is inalienable but relative. It remains to define the principle by which the authority of Christ is transmitted and passed on, in a more restricted and specific sense, to each individual priest and bishop in the Church.
The principle by which Christ’s authority passes to the body of the bishops and is exercised through the ecumenical councils and local synods, is very different from that which deals with the same authority which passes from Christ to each individual priest and bishop who acts in the name of Christ, the chief and absolute ruler of the Church. We must recall the distinction between the absolute highpriesthood and the absolute high priest, Christ, and the relative priesthood and the many priests who are subordinate to Christ’s high priesthood, and who possess an obligation to think and to act, to judge and to make decisions in obedience to the law of Christ, who in the Church is absolute lawgiver, judge, and executor of the laws of God the Father.
Just as the right to enact laws and to make decisions and to carry out or to adjust what has been ordained by law is handed on from Christ, the high priest in the Church, similarly, to each priest and bishop is given a portion of the right to make laws, give judgments, and apply the established law. The Church exercises the first right through the ecumenical councils, while she exercises the second right through the order of bishops. Moreover, the decisions of the ecumenical councils are compared with the injunctions of Christ, the absolute lawgiver for the Church; if they agree with Him, they are true, but if they contradict Him, they are false and are discounted as untrue.
Similarly, the decisions of each bishop are judged and compared with laws which have been recognized and accepted by the Church through universal consent; if they agree with them, they are true and are recognized as laws by the Church. If they disagree, they are false and are repudiated. When bishops or councils formulate laws which are at variance with those established by Christ, they are revealed as false bishops and false councils, and are cut off from the body of the Church. The laws which they themselves create, impair and abrogate the absolute and universal law in the Church, and usurp the rights of the absolute lawgiver – a privilege possessed by Christ alone.
Within the Church there exists only one absolute lawgiver, for two absolutes cannot co-exist. Christ is the absolute lawgiver and His will is the supreme law. The ecumenical council is a legislative authority, but it is not absolute; it must promulgate injunctions parallel with the absolute legislation of Christ. If it produces laws which are in disagreement, it thereby usurps the absolute right of Christ to make laws, and sets itself above Christ.
The robber council of Ephesus is an example, and several other false councils have been convened over the centuries. There is not one of these whose decrees have had authority in the Church, because they were opposed to the teaching of the absolute lawgiver, Christ. But the decrees of the seven holy ecumenical councils have authority in the Church because they are in harmony and consistent with the teaching of Christ, and therefore have been pronounced in the Holy Spirit.
Each bishop within his diocese makes pronouncements, gives judgment, and executes it. Every decision constitutes a law and by each decision a law also is made. The decisions of the ecumenical councils rank as law in the Church because they are in agreement with the fundamental law of the Church, which Christ set forth. Every decision that agrees with the law of Christ is a decision made in the Holy Spirit. The false decisions do not constitute law, because they contradict the teaching of Christ and were pronounced in an unclean spirit.
The bishop must express his opinion, give his decision, and render judgment in a way which is in harmony with the will and the law of Christ, and of the Church which he serves. For if he does not do this, he forfeits the position and the authority of a bishop, and becomes a renegade and completely estranged. When in their pronouncements, judgments, and decisions, the bishops maintain the law of Christ and His will as revealed in the Church, as the standard of their judgments and decisions, their decisions are law and have authority in the Church, and every member of the Church must respect them.
Lack of respect for the reasonable decision of the bishop is lack of respect for the revealed will of Christ. The Lord said, ”He that heareth you heareth me; and he that despiseth you despiseth me; and he that despiseth me despiseth him that sent me” (Luke 10:16). This is the sense in which we understand the authority of the bishops to make laws and put them into effect, to administer the law against heretics, and to make trial of and pass judgment upon the conduct of the remainder.
In the pronouncements he makes, the bishop is not a maker of laws, but is their administrator, and a judge giving his decision in accordance with the established law. He possesses an authority which is subordinate, far inferior to the authority of the ecumenical councils. He must exercise this right within the limits prescribed for him, and must keep the will of God revealed in the Church through Christ, the apostles, and the ecumenical councils, as the standard of judgment upon his authority.
When a pronouncement is made and it is contrary to the revealed will of God, it usurps the right of Christ and of the councils, makes itself altogether a superior lawgiver, and places itself in the highest position of authority. The pope has done this, and has usurped the authority of the ecumenical councils and the absolute right of legislation which Christ alone possesses in the Church. This also explains how the pope has set himself above the ecumenical councils and taken to himself the absolute authority of Christ, falsely declaring himself head of the Church.
The Church, through the holy apostles in council, and then through the holy ecumenical councils, has formulated laws which remove from the priesthood those who have been ordained for money, or even with the support of secular rulers. Every clergyman who is found guilty of having been ordained for money, should be removed from the priesthood.
Therefore, according to the established law of the Church, those priests and bishops who are convicted of simony should be removed from their office. This is what the holy synod of the Church of Greece should have done, had it had any regard for the holy laws and canons of the Church, any self respect, or any reverence for the Church whose laws it was appointed to guard, interpret, and apply faithfully.*
But the holy synod did not act in this manner, for in fact it was not holy, but scandalously wicked, running after forbidden lovers and committing adultery with them. What wrong did the synod commit? It usurped the divine decisions of the councils, apostles, and ecumenical councils which enacted laws depriving men who commit simony of the priesthood, and in an immoral manner it reversed the rightful laws which others proclaimed in canonical fashion.
Consequently, is not a decision which annuls the laws promulgated by the apostles and ecumenical councils, and reverses decisions made in the Holy Spirit, a satanic decision made in an unclean spirit? Are not those who pronounce such a judgment, themselves advocates of the offence, guilty of simony, wicked, and scornful of the divine and patristic institutions and laws of the holy Orthodox Church? Should they not be cast away from the sacred ark of the Church and condemned to everlasting fire?
All we who without the slightest justification are idling in sinful sleep, must realize that only the application of the divine laws and bidding will save our nation and people from the evils which encircle them, and eventually will exalt them. But we speak to genuine Christians and to reasonable men.
He who has ears, let him hear!
* Three contemporary bishops were convicted of simony, but were fined, rather than deposed from office as the holy canons prescribe.