Tuesday, February 07, 2017

Apostolical succession, East and West


I like the Eastern Orthodox approach. If a bishop lays hands on a woman (to ordain her), she receives nothing and he is no longer a bishop. The East believes that the bishop has excommunicated himself in doing a deed contrary to God's will.

That's a distinct difference between the Eastern and Western approaches to ordination. In the West we tend to think of Holy Orders as adhering to the man ordained, who then, even if excommunicated, is a valid priest or bishop and whose acts, though perhaps illicit, are "valid." The East, on the other hand, tends to see ordination as belonging to the church and as valid only in the context of full communion with the Church. Thus the bishop ordaining a woman would, in the West, still be a valid bishop, while the one doing so in the East, by incurring excommunication, renders his ordination ineffective or void, and ceases to be a bishop. There are gradations and variations in these approaches but this is, in outline, the direction each takes.

I have always felt that the western understanding is mechanical, and it seems to assume that the Holy Spirit is compelled to act regardless of the orthodoxy (or even membership in the Church) of the priest. If an apostate or heretical priest, even one excommunicated by the Church, can consecrate the Eucharist, ordain, or absolve sin, then he is, in effect, able to make the Holy Spirit do his will. I do understand the historical reasons Augustine came up with this understanding, but I think he was mistaken and that Cyprian was correct on the matter. I think Lombard takes the same line as you when it comes to the Eucharist. He often seems more in accord with the Eastern Fathers than do most western writers.
"Grunt. East good. West bad. Make me feel better about not being Catholic."

I like the emphasis on the church first; it cuts out the byproduct of our Western Catholic sacramentology, the many independent bishops (vagantes). Rightly understood of course it's Catholic, as you can say about the Christian East generally. The problems here are you can fall for the heresy of thinking the validity of the sacraments depends on the worthiness of the minister, and the Orthodox are so narrow they don't really think we're even baptized, let alone ordained. With them, divorce and remarriage and now contraception are okay but we're not baptized. Go figure. To me they sound like they're idolizing their own tribe. No, thanks. So I'm glad the Catholic Church errs on the side of mercy, even if it means annoying vagantes junking up the Internet. What's really funny, given the real Orthodox' narrow sacramentology depending on being in the church, is when vagantes, who think "Orthodox" just means "high church without the Pope," claim they're Orthodox.

Those who have apostolic succession, such as Catholics and Orthodox, tend not to pull out charts to prove their "lines" of it.

I like our quasi-branch theory, not a divided church but that our criteria for valid orders, orthodoxy so basic the Nestorians pass, unbroken line of succession, and unbroken true teaching about the Eucharist (sacrifice made present and complete change of the elements, so the Anglicans are out), both take into account that every ancient church including ours claims it is the only true one yet the others are still part of the great Catholic family. Related: the first seven councils (Orthodox defined doctrine) and the Vincentian canon more or less give you Catholicism. Uncanny.

Good old Augustinian, Western Catholic sacramentology is why the Patriarch of Moscow is Msgr. Kirill to us (a bishop but without jurisdiction), not Mr. Gundyayev (not a bishop).
It is nonsense to say the Protestants although holding many heresies do not have the Holy Spirit and valid baptism. The Holy Spirit seems a lot less worried about heresy than we are!
Sounds Pope Francissy of me but I agree.

8 comments:

  1. Of course you're baptized and your priests are priests; it's just that you belong to a church with severe shortcomings, including an unacceptable ecclesiology. In your comments about the Orthodox, you might consider not defining all of us by the wacky extremes you might find, just as I don't consider all RCs as offensively papist as you. Peace, my brother.

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    1. I know of nice Orthodox who mirror our view of them, as you, a wayward Catholic, have here. The nicest bishop I've met was one of theirs, the late Msgr. Vsevolod of the Ukrainians in Chicago, foreign-born with seemingly nothing to prove. He sounded like that. But here's the thing: we are required to believe that about them. They are not required to believe that about us. They reserve the right to rebaptize, for example.

      "Offensively papist." I'm going to steal that.

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  2. I'm pretty sure the Anglo-Catholic group Forward in Faith take the position that the orders of a bishop who ordains women are invalid.

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    1. I hope not, and I can't imagine people with theological training saying that. The only way you could make that true is if you argue that the bishop by so doing no longer intends to do what the church does. Then again there are Episcopal women priests who believe what I do about the sacraments; it's just that their ecclesiology is still Protestant but they probably don't realize it. Otherwise they'd stop what they're doing and come into the church. Presumably the bishops who ordained them meant to do what the church does. Of course we know that women can't receive holy orders; for example the Pope has more or less said it's impossible.

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  3. Hello John. While some Orthodox (think Mt. Athos for instance) would argue that baptisms outside the Orthodox Church are invalid, the majority do not. Most Orthodox Churches accept Catholic baptism (some even accept Protestant). I was a member of the Serbian Church at one time and, coming from a Protestant background the priest did rebaptize me. However, a RC joined the parish and he was not rebaptized, only chrismated. On the question of orders, some Orthodox would reordain a Catholic priest who converts, but the Church of Moscow since the 16th century would accept his ordination as valid if he converted.

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    1. See my answer to Deacon Nicholas above. You are who you are in communion with. A OCA priest once told me that his denomination, the Greeks, and the Antiochians have agreed not to receive Christian converts by baptism, but I say that's policy, not doctrine. If the Protestants baptized you with water in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, and you had proof of baptism, then what the Serbian priest did was sacrilegious. Some Orthodox rebaptize and reordain; some don't. Because none see our sacraments as sacraments per se; they're either void or simply empty, waiting for the Orthodox to fill them with grace. As General McAuliffe said, "Nuts!" If St. Teresa of Avila, for example, was only doubtfully baptized, I'll go be a Buddhist. The schismatics can keep their precious phronema.

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    2. Only my opinion: Mount Athos is insane.

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  4. Msgr. Kirill and his kind have the same "jurisdiction" a defrocked Catholic priest has in an emergency.

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