The Filoque: Why is it important?


Was the EO/Catholic split really about this doctirine?

I mean, why was it so important, why did they just for the interests of unity say we don’t really know, it’s vague, etc.

Why is it so important to pin every little thing down like that? Did a lot of theology which the respective Churches were built on depend on their own interpretation of the way the Holy Spirit proceeds?




I think the executive summary version would be that this was the theological excuse for a split that was mostly caused by political issues.



It was also on the authority of the POPE


It was one of the issues.

The EOs don’t like it because:
*]it was unilaterally inserted into the Creed in the Latin West over the course of the centuries
*]doing this is seen as a violation of the canon forbidding new creeds
*]- it is now mixed up with fears about the issue of Papal supremacy, which is seen as contrary to the tradition of the Church; so some of the objections are based not on the issue as such, but on things more distantly connected with the issue.
*]it is held to endanger the unity of the Divine Nature, by seeming to imply that the Holy Spirit proceeds from more than one principle
*]the West begins with the Blessed Trinity, & goes to the Unity of the Divine Nature - the Orthodox tradition proceeds from the One Nature to the Persons; so differences in theological method are also among the ingredients of the dispute[/LIST]More distantly, the split occurred because East & West drifted apart when the Roman Empire was divided. Ecclesiastical quarrels & differences in emphasis were a symptom of this. Latin ceased to be understood in the East, & Greek largely died out in the West: these fed into, & made more irritating, rivalries & frictions already existing; the political & social differences became antagonisms, and the events of the 9th & 11th centuries were one expression of this. And events external to Christianity played their part; such as the rise of Islam & the consequent loss of contact with the other three Patriarchates.

Lack of mutual charity didn’t help: the Latins were despised as Frankish barbarians, who had usurped the Empire; the Greeks were distrusted as arrogant opponents of the authority of St. Peter who were constantly falling into heresy & schism. Matters are made worse because both traditions regard dogmatic precision as extremely important - it’s easier to become a heretic in a Church of that kind, than in one that regards other things as more important. The status of the issue, as one of Trinitarian theology, aggravates the dangers in giving dogma so high a status.


The Eastern Orthodox do, indeed, have massive amounts of theology written on the procession of the Holy Spirit. Make no mistake about it: They regard Catholics as heretics and schismatics on this point (and they call it the Western Schism, not the Eastern Schism). This is a HUGELY important theological point to them.

Asking in a Catholic forum, though, is the wrong venue if you want to get a good answer. Catholics generally have no clue about Orthodox theology on the Holy Spirit (which Orthodox regard as the foundation for theosis), and Catholics have zero clue to the depth of Orthodox feelings on this subject. This is a core issue for them. Orthodox who are serious about their faith are, quite frankly, willing to die over the procession of the Holy Spirit.

The best place to ask about this subject is in an Orthodox forum. If you’ve never been in an online Orthodox forum, though, be prepared to get blasted if you identify yourself as a Catholic. Orthodox can be fierce, especially over theology.


You could ask in the Eastern Christianity section of this forum. Many knowledgeable Orthodox Christians pass time there.


The Bishop of Rome (aka, The Pope) is considered to be the successor of St Peter.

St Peter is considered to be the successor of Christ.

So, when the Pope introduced the Filioque, the Orthodox thought the Pope was self promoting himself to the level of infallibility (I guess as if to say the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Pope too).

The Orthodox don’t believe the Pope is infallible. Add to that the political differences between the east and the west at the time, and you’ve got yourself a schism.


I believe it was put into the creed to assist with the instruction and conversion of the Arians. Many had moved into Spain.


No. The Council had decreed the right way of saying what we believe and also said that there should be no change.

A pope agreed to this.

The wording is important because it discusses the relationship of the persons in the Trinity

In changing the wording the Catholic church

  1. went against what they’d previously agreed to

a) changed (in concept) the relationship of the nature of the Trinity
b) the Holy Spirit is made to be lesser than the other two persons
3) did so unilaterally - without reference to another Council


Thank you, Montalban; But you’re not answering the question in the original post. And I’m not quite sure what it is that you’re attacking in my response.

(If you think the original post is faulty, then you should attack that, and not my response.)

And what can you tell us about the relationship of the persons in the Trinity?

(Click here and here for to see what Catholic theologian, Frank Sheed, had to say in his book, Theology for beginners.)


I thought I had - the question ‘why is it importannt’ - the answer - it distorts the Trinity

I’m happy with what I wrote.

That the Holy Spirit is not caused by the Son


I don’t know what “caused” means. :blush:

In fact, to be honest, I don’t even know what “proceeds” means? :o

Getting back to the original post, I have heard that Catholics stand by the filioque to help combat against Arianism (the doctrines of Arius, denying that Jesus was God).

And I think I better let the Orthodox people explain their stance against it, so see Montalban’s posts above.


In the pieces of info that I have gleaned over the years, the issue seems to be the fact that the West did not consult with the East on the issue of changing the creed.

I seem to have found a verse in scripture that models the original statement. So, it may come across as scandalous to the EO that the West would try to ‘go one up’ on scripture.

I just ran across a one-page brochure about the O-church, in which they describe the Western church as “going beyond” the New Testament, as in the previous paragraph.

Oh, yeah, I introduced myself as a Catholic to a GO priest, and he just about melted down in front of me, at this wedding. The point is made, that they take this issue and some subsequent issues like the dogmas of Mary and the papal infallibility as invalid.

I heard Fr. Benedict Groeschel say that the ‘filioque’ was inserted to counteract Arianism, which was ‘bigger’ in the West than in the East, anyway. That’s why the West thought it was important to insert it.

In Pope Benedict’s book, Introduction to Christianity, he lays out how the creeds were baptismal statements, in the first instance. They expand on Christ’s command to baptize in the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

Do you sense that the Church is trying to downplay all this, by allowing the Apostles’ Creed to be substituted for the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed? I do. It sidesteps the whole issue.

On the other hand, yes, the original language of the Church was Greek, and there should be a lot of sensitivity for that, but I don’t think they should get overly carried away with that, like they seem to have.


There were several good threads about the subject in Eastern part of the forum already:

Pay attention to the posts of Apotheun - he’s a Byzantine Catholic and explains why filioque is a herecy very effective and with a lot of knowledge.

You also pay attention to the posts of Ghosty - he explains cAtholic position - in the first link above I had an interesting exchange with him.

Brother MOntalban already listed here much of our most important complaints against filioque.

If I’m allowed, I’d say that about everything depend on it.

There are two ongoing threads here and here where I believe we can see some consequences of it.

Filioque introduces two sources/causes/principles in the Trinity (Ghosty invested a lot of effort - see the first link above - to explain Latins actually don’t mean the Son is “the source” of Holy Spirit, but he admitts it being “the cause”).

Nicene-Constantinopolian Creed (without filioque) stands firm and clear to outrightly conclude there is only one source/cause/principle. When answering the question if God created evil, or what is the origin of evil, we, Orthodox, have no problems of explaining to a seven years old that God hasn’t created evil and that the evil does not have its origiin in God.

Latins need much more efforts to do that, and I’m not sure a seven years old can understand it.

That’s were the Westerners were puzzled and swept away.

I dare to say filioque was a succesfull paganization (in the sense of phylosphy) and judaization (in the sense of evil having its origin in God) of Christianity.

It was achieved by speculation about God, in spite we are not able to comprehend Him by our reason - we know about HIm only what’s been revealed to us.


If you translate the filioque back into Greek with the original phrase ekporeuomai you get a result that the Latin church finds unacceptable: that the Son is the source of the Spirit.


Father Hardon pointed out that the real reason the EO split was because their bishops wanted to allow divorce and remarriage and the Filoque clause was NOT the real reason.

So I looked it up, and He was right. The EO WERE ALREADY allowing divorce and remarriage and they would not correct their error. Since the Popes would not allow a change in the teaching of the Church, then the EO had to find a more plausible reason to split off, which was the Filoque clause.


That’s very kind from FAther Hardon, but we have already read the text of anathema placed by Cardinal Humbert at Hagia Sophia, so we actually don’t need Father Hardon’s re-invention of causes for separation. Cardinal Humbert already writen them down.

Besides, why are we discussing Rome’s separation from us on the thread titled The Filoque: Why is it important?


LOL. I thought I had heard everything, and then I saw the OP and found out I was wrong. Thanks for the injection of HISTORY, orthodoxlurker.

To be fair, Humbert was reinventing too. He claimed we OMITTED the filioque.


Perhaps because the filioque is the reason the Orthodox tend to use to justify their schism?

A separate thread could deal with the separation between the various Orthodox, but it wouldn’t have to do with the filioque at all, right?


Well, I hoped to inspire dcdurel to search for the text of anathema by himself, so he would be able to assert that actually the real reason behind the schism was that we wre castrating our guests and raising them not only to priesthood, but to episcopacy. :smiley:


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