Friday, July 15, 2005

From Verbum ipsum
That they may all be one
Frederica Mathewes-Greene on what she perceives as an RC/Eastern Orthodox difference:
From a Roman Catholic perspective, unity is created by the institution of the church. Within that unity there can be diversity; not everyone agrees with official teaching, some very loudly. What holds things together is membership. This kind of unity makes immediate sense to Americans: Whatever their disagreements, everyone salutes the flag, and all Catholics salute, if not technically obey, Rome's magisterium.
Of course mere membership on paper in an institution regardless of belief isn’t the authentic Catholic position East or West. Such is the Anglican Communion at its worst where you have about four churchmanships under one big man-made unwieldy tent: Anglo-Catholic (an endangered species), Broad/Liberal (the clerical trade union running things today in the First World churches — Unitarians in vestments), Low/Evangelical (Presbyterians and even Baptists with Prayer Books, sort of, a type far commoner in England than in the States thanks to Establishment) and caught in the middle like a child in a nasty divorce, the Central Churchmen, thoroughly Christian but on the Protestant side of issues like transubstantiation and the all-male apostolic ministry.

In practice the Roman Catholic Church is just as fragmented (and on the ground level where most of us are, in many places it’s damn near impossible to be Catholic there!*) but historically (what I call ‘the historic Catholic mainstream’ and what the late Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre called ‘eternal Rome’) it’s not so, and there’s that m-word which I’ll get back to in a sec. (It counts for something that there’s an official teaching at all.)
But from an Orthodox perspective, unity is created by believing the same things...
That, in theory, is exactly what the magisterium is.
So we've got two different definitions of "unity." Is "unity" membership in a common institution or a bond of shared belief?
To a Catholic of any rite (including yours, Mrs M-G, which frankly beats modern RC praxis hands down**), ‘belonging to an institution’ and ‘fervently sharing the same beliefs’ (thanks to the Holy Ghost) aren’t mutually exclusive; they’re ‘both/and’.

And as I wrote to this fellow:
‘Which bishop are you under?’ is pretty basic ecclesiology — after all in Eastern Orthodoxy, for example, a priest functionally isn’t a priest (unlike in Western Catholicism he can’t even validly liturgise) without an antimins signed by his bishop on the holy table. He is a priest only in as much as he represents his bishop.
That sounds pretty institutional to me.
Thus the Orthodox hesitate at a phrase like the pope's "multiform fullness."
I can understand why — it has a relativistic Griswoldian ring to it (‘pluriform truths’) — but of course it has a legitimate meaning (one substance in different forms including adiaphora like rite) which is probably what he meant.

To answer her somewhat romanticised statement here’s something I wrote, a challenge that started a firestorm in reaction that ended up shutting down a message board:
Eastern Orthodoxy has held up remarkably well confronting modernity — this is abundantly obvious liturgically, including among the ‘mainstream’ Orthodox churches. [And it describes the sensus fidelium beautifully, as Mrs M-G is trying to do.]

[But] what about the sell-out on contraception, obviously imitating mainline Protestantism, among many/most modern Orthodox? This seems a case where the sensus broke down in keeping the faith and morals unaltered.

Or the internal schisms: the East’s homegrown sincere
vagantes like the Old Calendarist sects (as fissiparous if not more so than the Continuing Anglicans) or nationalism-based ones like in Macedonia or what Michael Denisenko — doing business as Patriarch Filaret — is trying to do in the Ukraine?

In both admirable/understandable (certainly when the USSR was around) and problematic (in ecclesiastical polity) ways, the Russian Church Abroad
[for example] could be seen as Orthodoxy’s Society of St Pius X (recognising the official church and somewhat recognised by it but ‘walled off’ from it for several [understandable and even justifiable] reasons).

The uncanonical Old Calendarists are like the sedevacantists and also retrace the historical path
[mistakes] of the Old Believers.

There are plenty of faults and guilt to go round. (Even a sinless church is made up of sinful people.)
The board shut down a while later. Despite all the shouting back, nobody could actually answer these points.

I’ve met Mrs M-G and her husband, Fr Gregory, heroically trying to stop abortion through walking in the yearly March for Life in Washington, DC. They come from a low-Central/charismatic background in the Episcopal Church and it is said that she doesn’t know much about the Roman communion, either historically or in practice today.

*You’re not going to find the happy horseshit of the Novus Ordo neocons endorsed in this blog. As our mission statement says, ‘not a diocesan or denominational house-organ’.

**And in full unlatinised form (as it should be, which the Popes in theory agree with) has a mystical kick to it that’s unique. As good as the Roman Mass but with a feeling all its own.

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