Thursday, May 25, 2006

Remarks on a recent RC-Eastern Orthodox conversation online
I see that the com-box in Jeffrey Moore’s second entry in Pontifications is closed (as is the one in his first) so I’ll write here. Thanks, All Too Common, for the heads-up. And I agree that Mr Moore’s first apologia reads rather like Rod Dreher’s recent controversial religious stuff: big on emotion, weak on logic.

As readers of this blog know I’ve no animosity towards the Roman Pontiff at all and am not trying to preach Eastern Orthodoxy here but I would like to answer some of the comments.

Mr Moore writes:
My answer to your question is - because I believe the Pope is necessary. I will admit that I am not familiar with all the “earliest evidence of that deposit (which) doesn’t clearly reflect the papal claims as understood by Rome today” as Phil mentioned.
There was a kind of Roman primacy in the patristic age as a catena of quotations from the Church Fathers can show, but experts on both sides acknowledge that the papal powers as now defined were unknown circa 1000 so Roman Catholics fall back on the idea of ‘development of doctrine’ to explain them (as Newman once famously described). In short, what constitutes infallible teaching (a function of church infallibility is one way of putting it that I like) is one of these: 1) an ecumenical council — and the Pope, 2) all the world’s bishops — and the Pope or 3) just the Pope. AFAIK the early church didn’t really operate that way. The Pope didn’t summon the first councils — the Roman emperor did! (The emperor didn’t claim the charism of defining doctrine himself — he left that to the bishops.) Nor was ‘reception’ of defined doctrine by the church as easy as having the Pope sign off on it. (The early church also didn’t make excuses for contraception like many modern Orthodox do, sounding just like Protestants, but that’s another conversation.) If that were so, why have bishops at all? Communion ecclesiology makes sense.
But frankly I did not think it was necessary to know all those pro-Orthodox reasons in making my decision. One reason for this is because when I look at Orthodoxy I do not see the unity that I was looking for; instead, what I see is a group of Churches that, although they share a common faith, are nevertheless very divided into ethnic groups.
I’m sorry but that’s just silly. The point is they share a common faith — they are in communion with each other. Roman Catholicism is similarly divided, both into national parishes in the US (default-Irish and everybody else: Polish, Italian, etc.) and by rite (the Eastern Catholic churches) so Mr M’s argument could be used against Rome! Does Mr M in his newfound love for mainstream RC imagine that everybody, including Ukrainians and Arabs, should all just become default-Irish Novus Ordoites? (That’s right: ‘Dump all that artsy-fartsy foreign stuff and listen to the St Louis J-Boys like a real Cat’lic. That goes for you Anglicans too.’) That’s not the mind of the church. Never was.
But that is only a secondary reason. My primary reason is that no matter what pro-Orthodox argument may be put forward you still cannot get around the fact that Jesus said, “You are Peter, and of this Rock I will build my Church, and the powers of hell shall not prevail against it.”
True but have a look at church history for the context. Churchmen in 500 or 1500 didn’t flip on EWTN on the tele or go online to get the latest pronouncement from Rome. In mediæval Christendom the faith was organic, lived according to immemorial custom. As Mr Dreher might agree, a crunchy traditionalism! Something the Orthodox get right.

Diane Kamer writes:
“Upon this Pentarchy I will build My Church”? I think not.
More silliness. The Orthodox don’t believe that either but rather that the Pentarchy, which simply meant all the patriarchates in the then-known world (there is no magic about the number five), was an historical accident, not divinely instituted. There are more than five patriarchates today, which rather proves that point.

I’ll put it this way: to spin an old joke seriously, I like the Pope when he’s Catholic. He’s not the measure of things; the faith is. (And I think Roman Catholicism actually agrees per St Robert Bellarmine.) I disagree with many of the Orthodox that the West was graceless, without the sacraments, etc., for a millennium, and that the Western Catholic saints in that time were deluded or even demoniacs* just because the West wouldn’t submit to the Byzantine or Russian emperor, neither of whom now exists. (That’s what the schism was about at the end of the day: ‘You won’t submit to God’s vicar on earth, our emperor, so you’re out of the church!’) But apart from that I see their point ecclesiologically. (And based on what little I know, so does the reigning Pope!)

*The late Gerard Bugge described this as the ‘anti-’ spirit (the spirit of schism?) among the Orthodox that turned him off. Far from the spirit of St Seraphim of Sarov or the anonymous Pilgrim, and happily few ethnic born Orthodox obsess negatively like that. The convert wackos online vomit that filth. And Rome most emphatically does NOT say things like that about the Christian East!

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