Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Catholic ecumenism and the elephant in the room
By Fr Matthew Kirby
Catholic ecumenism is a question then, not just of how to forge a common future, but how to interpret a divided past.

A large number of Orthodox theologians and hierarchs contend that the difference between themselves and the Monophysites has been, for many centuries at least, based on logomachies. As a consequence they also hold that the two Churches already hold to the same Faith and possess the same Sacraments, and are thus already one in the most important sense, such that restored intercommunion is justified. These theologians appear not to contend that such a restoration would be a return of a schismatic body to the Catholic Church but that it would be the resolution of unfortunate, long-standing misunderstandings between sister Churches. Thus, it is effectively recognised that true ecclesial unity can co-exist with lack of visible unity for considerable periods.
IOW the Oriental Orthodox weren’t really Monophysites after all and the schism, like the one between East and West, was fuelled by imperial politics (the Orientals hated the Greeks) and linguistic differences.
It is now common in ecumenical (revisionist?) history to claim that the EOC and RCC did not really completely break communion or finalise the schism till many centuries after previously posited dates. It appears to be a permissible and common opinion among orthodox RCs and the EO to say that sacramental communion was not properly or completely absent till the 18th Century. However, the very fact that the schism had been dated by most people as being from much earlier shows that whatever unity there was, was not easily visible. And this includes to the people contemporary with the disputed period, since in Anglican-Roman debates of the 17th Century it was commonly contended by Roman interlocutors that the EOC was in schism and heresy.
In blog member Samer al-Batal’s native Syria, and I believe in his current home in the Lebanon as well, communicatio in sacris is standard between the two groups of Arab Christians (his Melkite Church and their Greek Orthodox opposite number); the only division is that the clergy don’t concelebrate.

Fr Kirby also notes that during the late mediæval Great Schism in the West with rival Popes there were saints on both sides (Joan of Arc supported the wrong Pope, somebody later determined not to have been the Pope).

And Huw Raphael notes:
Jan. 28 is also the Feast of St Isaac the Syrian. Many people don't like to talk about it, but he was a member of - and a supporter of - a heresy: the Nestorians. Oddly enough this fact tends to be ignored on most Orthodox sites, but a Google makes it clear.
Or put another way he was in the Assyrian Church, outside the Roman/Byzantine Empire and thus accused of being Nestorian.

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