Sunday, March 29, 2009

On Orthodox-RC relations
  • From Fr Hunwicke. On Orthodoxy’s ‘guru status’ among Westerners who forget it’s Catholic and on byzantinisations in the Western Rite.
  • A Roman Catholic criticises Not of This World.
  • From an Orthodox priest who’s not anti-Western. This is long; to sum up, the scope of the Pope (divinely instituted office channelling the church’s infallibility believed in by both sides or man-made office for the good order of the church?) is what’s separating these Catholic churches.
    Though I certainly deplore the lack of unified rite and process for receiving other Christians into the Orthodox Catholic Church, Orthodoxy’s current diversity in this matter is more reflective, I believe, of an identical diversity within the Church of the first millennium.

    The proper way to receive schismatics and/or heretics into the Church was a matter of variation and considerable debate back in those days. What is deplorable today is that the Orthodox have not yet codified their canons.

    One suspects this persistence of this diversity among the Orthodox is to be explained by several factors, such as:

    A widespread disagreement among the Orthodox as to whether Roman Catholics are simply schismatics or heretics —

    An inability among the Anglicans (as it appears to the Orthodox) to decide whether they are Catholics or Protestants —

    Orthodoxy’s bewilderment at that incredible historical confusion (as it appears to the Orthodox) that goes by the name Protestantism —

    A longstanding isolation among the Orthodox themselves (a phenomenon unknown among Western Christians, who enjoyed the luxury of not living under Seljuk and Ottoman oppression for many centuries) —

    These facts, I believe, account for inability of the Orthodox to codify her canons, including those canons that govern the admission of non-Orthodox Christians.

    If this latter problem seems a difficult thing to grasp, consider that Roman Catholic Canon Law, which determined the proper way to receive non-Roman Catholics into the Catholic Church, was codified only about a hundred years ago, under St. Pius X.

    Until that codification there was a considerable diversity among Roman Catholics about how to receive non-Roman Catholics into the Roman Catholic Church.

    Give the Orthodox a bit more time, please, to get our canons in order. Until 20 years ago, 99% of Orthodox Christians lived under either Muslim or Communist governments. There was no possibility for us to establish international commissions of canon lawyers to work out these problems.

    Nor is it easy, even today. For example, the principal See of the Orthodox Church is still not permitted to run its own seminary.

    Suppose for a moment that Napoleon would have prevailed, and the Holy See of Rome was completely surrounded by — and at the whim and disposition of — a political power inimical to the Gospel.

    What would the Church of Rome look like today, with neither Gregorian University nor any of the score of other theological faculties in Rome?

    Well, among other things, I believe, there would have been no codification of Roman Catholic Canon Law, and the Roman practice of receiving non-Catholics would reflect the great diversity of canons on that subject accumulated over the course of many centuries.

    Roman Catholicism’s most enviable display of canonical unity today is something for which we all owe the Almighty an extra
    Te Deum from time to time. Let us remember, however, that it came at a very high price. I have always known this, but my current reading of a long biography of Pope Pius VII has refreshed my appreciation of it.

    Had they lived during the time of Pope Pius VII, I wonder if Orthodoxy’s current critics would have insulted that great churchman for not producing a unified and consistent code of canon law.

    The shocking phenomenon exhibited in the wise and holy Pope Pius VII — languishing under Napoleon’s oppression and persecution — has been repeated scores of times in the Orthodox Church.

    To describe Orthodoxy’s current canonical problems as simply an example of “proto-Protestantism” is, I believe, unjustified by either our theology or our history. That is to say, I regard the comment as unjust.

    Until very, very recently, the Orthodox Church has been obliged to neglect the upkeep of her canons. I deplore this deficiency, but it is a simple fact that the Orthodox Church has been very busy burying her martyrs.

    Believe me, I am happy to concede your criticism about Mount Athos and the inordinate sway it has in the Orthodox Church.

    The Orthodox Catholic Church makes the
    IDENTICAL claim made by the Roman Catholic Church — the claim to BE the one, true Church established by our Lord.

    Because the Roman Catholic Church makes that claim, she must perforce regard members of the Orthodox Church as either schismatics or heretics. Orthodox Christians know this, nor do we complain of it. The Roman Catholic must pursue a discipline consistent with her claims.

    Somehow, Father X has been misinformed about the claims of the Orthodox Catholic Church — claims which, as I said, are identical to those made by the Roman Catholic Church.

    If the Orthodox Church claims to
    BE the one, true Church established by our Lord, then she must consider that claim when she deals with Roman Catholics. She must regard Roman Catholics as either heretics or schismatics.

    I submit that this has been obvious to both Roman Catholics and Orthodox Christians for centuries.

    To take offense at this now — and to get all lathered up on the matter — is really not useful.

    In fact, the Orthodox “churches” have no memory of cutting themselves off from anything, certainly not Rome. Most Orthodox Christians simply woke up one day and found that Rome was no longer with them, and they were rather bewildered how it happened.

    As far as they can tell, the whole thing was a dreadful misunderstanding, evidently spawned by a loss of temper in high places. Indeed, it is difficult to imagine so much bad temper without the impulse of e-mail.
    Regarding harshness, it is the virtual universal uncharity of Orthodox interlocutors which has exhausted much of the positive regard toward them among many Catholics inspired by generous spirit of HH John Paul II.
    I believe it may be an exaggeration to say that this “uncharity of Orthodox interlocutors” has been “virtual universal.” I can think of dozens of pieces of evidence against this assessment. I wrote on this matter several years ago in Touchstone, after visiting the joint monastic experiment on the Caelian Hill.

    That said, I readily concede that the sins of Orthodox Christians are many, serious, and well known. And I am the worst among them.

    Now is the time for unreserved frankness.

    I doubt this, honestly.

    Indeed, it is arguable that “unreserved frankness” is exactly what prevailed in 1054.

    I proposed the following hypothesis:

    IF the Lord intends a single See in the world to sustain, counsel, and support the Angels of the churches, that See must certainly be Rome.

    Kallistos Ware and Hilarion Alfayev — two of the most influential episcopal voices in the Orthodox Church — publicly agree with me.

    I take that event as both a symptom and a sign of what our Lord may have in mind. I cannot read the future, and at my age I will not live to see it, but it seems to me that some major change may be on the horizon.

    Meanwhile, brethren,
    diligamus invicem.

    On 3/27/09 6:33 PM, X wrote:
    Actually, it is bad form for Catholics to refer to the other lung as either heretical or schismatic. It is an unnecessary insult either way. So, no, I would not ponder aloud whether the Orthodox are heretics or schismatics, because neither is a label one affixes to a brother. I do not believe you will find such language in the Vatican documents which refer to the Christian East of the past 45 years.
    Yes, frankly, this is correct, and much to be lauded.
    To return to the main point of the OP, the Orthodox churches are not simply lacking sufficient discipline, charity among themselves, or sufficient time to get their canonical house in order. They are lacking the one ministry Christ provided to his Church to keep the apostles united and reconciled to one another.
    This may be the case.

    And this is not just my opinion; it is the implied premise of the current ecumenical dialogue between Rome and the East.

    I am among those Orthodox Christians attempting to take seriously the invitation of Pope John Paul II to explore how the Bishop of Rome can more effectively serve the cause of unity among Christians.

    This is one of the many reasons why no one — I hope — will hear me speak ill of the man who serves the Sacred Mysteries over the tomb of Saint Peter.
    While you seem disposed to say some nice things about Rome, your emphasized "IF" betrays a lack of conviction behind such statements. It is not easy to know what to make of this.
    Yes. The Orthodox really have no clear conviction on this point. This is a major difference between us.

    I have remarked several times recently, in public , how differently things would have turned out if John Paul II had been Bishop of Rome in 1054 instead of Leo IX, and how differently in 1517 if Benedict XVI had been Bishop of Rome instead of Leo X.

    This conjecture suggests that the East is not the only Christian body to learn from history.

    The office of the Roman Papacy has functioned very differently over the centuries — Try to imagine, for instance, what Pope Pius IX would have said about the Lateran Treaty of 1929! — and I believe it will continue to assimilate the historical pedagogy in which it has long played such a significant role.

    From my perspective, one of the most distressing aspects of
    Mortalium Animos is the suspicion that — if several of the nouns were altered, but the predicates remained the same — that document could have been written on Mount Athos.

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