Stuart Koehl: I've noticed several times that you consider the Orthodox (not just Eastern Catholics, but those who are not in communion with Rome) to be Catholic. Is there anything that would fall into the category of Magisterial teaching that supports this? Most Latin apologists would say that if one is not in communion with the Pope, one is not Catholic. But maybe that's just an opinion that's been circulated so much it's accepted as de fide in Latin circles. Also, from your perspective, when a Latin or Eastern Catholic breaks communion with the Pope to become Eastern or Oriental Orthodox, do you believe that constitutes schism? I know that John Beeler has worded it such that "born Orthodox" are not schismatics (which I think is perfectly in line with Vatican II). What, in your opinion, constitutes the Universal Church if communion with Rome is not a requirement?
Mr. Koehl: I suggest reading Unitatis Redintegratio, the Vatican II Decree on Ecumenism, as well as Lumen Gentium, to see the full implications of the ecclesiology of communion. In essence, "the Eucharist makes the Church."Believing that some estranged groups of Christians still have bishops and the Eucharist and thus are still close to the church, closer than Protestants are, is Catholic. It's our doctrine, not that of the Orthodox. Vatican II only restated that. A reason I'm what and where I am. We include them. They don't include us. All ancient churches believe they're the true one, so of course it's not OK for Catholics to leave the church. Liking the Byzantine Rite as practiced by the Orthodox better isn't a valid reason. There is no valid reason.
As Archbishop Elias Zoghby said, "We are ALL schismatics.""We are all schismatics" means "there is no church." No church father taught that. If it's true I might as well stay home on Sunday or jump off the Ben Franklin Bridge.
Both sides have the sacraments. But only one side is the church.
"In other words, does one accrue moral guilt for leaving communion with Rome to become Orthodox (if, for example, one must renounce said communion as part of the conversion rites)?" Oh, yes.
"...or for leaving the Orthodox Churches to join the Roman communion?" Given our true-church claim, quite the opposite. We don't want to break up families, parishes, and countries; we want to bring back all of the Orthodox at the same time, and leave their rite alone. Of course we ACCEPT conversions short of that, but ideally, as the late Fr. Serge (Keleher) told me, quietly.
Breaking communion with Rome is turning a good thing, such as Byzantine Christianity, Greekness, Carpatho-Russianness, etc., into an idol. In America it's obviously a dead end. The third generation leaves when it's assimilated. (The same thing happens without the Orthodox' theological problem: it happens to Eastern-rite Catholics.)
The estranged churches of the East are true in that they have bishops, the Mass, and true defined doctrine (that is, some of our doctrine). "The Roman communion" is the church. The Orthodox make the mistake of exalting their patrimony over the church and its unity. Holding to that patrimony in the church of course isn't idolatry. That said, both the unlatinized (our original plan for Eastern Catholics) and the largely self-latinized forms of Eastern Catholicism have the right to exist in the church.
Both sides believe in the Trinity, the natures of Christ, the Mother of God, and the option of using images as the early councils taught, have bishops, and have and believe in the Mass. The Orthodox think if you are outside of their empire, kingdom, state, or tribe, outside their culture, you're outside the church even to the point of not having real baptisms.
The thing is, if you're Catholic you have to recognize the other side's sacraments. They are not required to recognize ours and in fact some, not only in good standing but revered among them, such as Mount Athos (who I think are crazy), vehemently don't. The Western Rite Orthodox experiment isn't centuries-old communities like Eastern Catholics and will always be stunted because the Orthodox obviously don't really want it.
All three large-ish American Orthodox denominations (the Greeks, the historically ex-Catholic OCA, and the Antiochians) recognize us. So does ex-Catholic ACROD. But they don't have to!
The magisterium has never told Catholics to rebaptize, reconfirm, and reordain ex-Orthodox, sacrilegious practices some Orthodox do with ex-Catholics.
I can't stop you from leaving the church but I will try without letup to talk you out of it.
Not buying "outside the tribe there is no salvation." Christians settled that in the Book of Acts.
There's a little gem hidden in the Balamand Statement: "It is in this perspective that the Catholic Churches and the Orthodox Churches recognize each other as Sister Churches, responsible together for maintaining the Church of God in fidelity to the divine purpose, most especially in what concerns unity. According to the words of Pope John Paul II, the ecumenical endeavour of the Sister Churches of East and West, grounded in dialogue and prayer, is the search for perfect and total communion which is neither absorption nor fusion but a meeting in truth and love (cf. Slavorum Apostoli, n. 27).No. Catholic apologists have gone over this as I believe Pope Benedict repeated. The Catholic Church has no sisters because there's only one true church. The Latin Church does. The Archdiocese of Philadelphia does. Some of those sisters, dioceses with real bishops and the Mass, are estranged from us. Also, considering Orthodoxy's narrower (than ours) true-church claim, I don't understand why an ex-Catholic-to-be would try to use this argument to join them. It disrespects them.
15. "*****While the inviolable freedom of persons and their obligation to follow the requirements of their conscience remain secure,****** in the search for re-establishing unity *****there is no question of conversion of people from one Church to the other in order to ensure their salvation. *****
"There is a question of achieving together the will of Christ for his own and the design of God for his Church by means of a common quest by the Churches for a full accord on the content of the faith and its implications. This effort is being carried on in the current theological dialogue. The present document is a necessary stage in this dialogue."
So yes, a Catholic can follow his conscience to switch to Orthodoxy.
Balamand isn't the doctrine of either side.
"According to the words of Pope John Paul II, the ecumenical endeavour of the Sister Churches of East and West, grounded in dialogue and prayer, is the search for perfect and total communion which is neither absorption nor fusion but a meeting in truth and love." Right; the church doesn't want to replace the Eastern rites with the Roman Rite.
"There is no question of conversion of people from one Church to the other in order to ensure their salvation." You can interpret that in a Catholic way: "Born Orthodox aren't personally guilty of schism so they get the benefit of the doubt." The Orthodox don't have to mirror that and are less likely to, given their narrower ecclesiology and sacramentology. They are allowed to believe the Catholic Church is a fraud and allowed to receive ex-Catholics by baptism. Likewise, we can't turn people away from the church, even though our aim is not to break up Orthodox communities. Both sides are very much interested in ensuring salvation, and the normal means for that is the true church. It has to be one or the other. The Orthodox agree!
I'll venture to say there's no such thing, strictly speaking, as the Orthodox Church. These are Catholic dioceses estranged from the church. They have bishops and the Mass, and all their defined doctrine, what little of it there is, is true. They're not Protestants (who are non-churches). "So, if we're really the same religion, why can't a Catholic who loves Byzantine spirituality pass into Orthodoxy without sin?" Because he'd be a schismatic. The Orthodox don't know they're in schism; a Catholic who leaves does.
P.S. Catholics don't have to believe the praxis of the Eastern Catholic churches vs. the Orthodox is perfect.