Friday, May 17, 2013

Catholicism and Orthodoxy: relativistic crap ecumenism

From a professor nominally in the church, via Daniel Nichols:
Most Catholics probably envision future unity between the Orthodox Churches and the Catholic Church as a re-installment of one world Church organization with the pope of Rome at the top of the governing pyramid. A look at history shows that such a model never existed, so what could Orthodox-Catholic communion actually look like if it were achieved?
What it would look like is not a “reunion” with them “returning to Rome,” to which they never belonged anyway; nor us being incorporated by them.

The new Catholic “Sister Churches” ecclesiology describes not only how the Catholic Church views the Orthodox Churches. It also represents a startling revolution in how the Catholic Church views itself: we are no longer the only kid on the block, the whole Church of Christ, but one Sister Church among others. Previously, the Catholic Church saw itself as the original one and only true Church of Christ from which all other Christians had separated for one reason or another in the course of history, and Catholics held, simplistically, that the solution to divided Christendom consisted in all other Christians returning to Rome’s maternal bosom.
Oh, sh*t. Branch-theory nonsense, or why ‘ecumenist’ is a fightin’ word among convert online Orthodox. The Zoghby Initiative. ‘Orthodox in communion with Rome’, which means Greek Catholic converts who reject some defined doctrines, which makes them neither good Catholics nor good Orthodox, denying the true church. Bill Tighe puts paid to all that: while it’s true and helpful to remember that the pre-‘Reformation’ churches have lots in common, none believe the true church is juridically divided against itself. Newman explained the history: development of doctrine, which is not the same as mainliners voting to change doctrine. (The Tractarians may have feared that in 150 years, because of the papal claims, the Catholic Church would become what the Anglican Church really became. Vatican II came damn close, but because of the church’s nature, that’s impossible.)

But Fr Robert has a point:
We are all ancient apostolic “Sister Churches” with a valid episcopate and priesthood and the full panoply of sacraments needed to minister salvation to our respective faithful.
I think the change is that before, Orthodox bishops were seen as real bishops but lacking jurisdiction, because they seem outside the church, not under the Pope. (The same reason Bishop Williamson didn’t claim to be the Bishop of Winona; even in a state of emergency in the church, only the Pope can give jurisdiction; in disasters and cases of imminent death, the church supplies jurisdiction so a laicized priest can absolve, etc.) Today it’s clearer and fair that born Orthodox get the benefit of the doubt about schism, so Orthodox bishops are an estranged part of the church, having apostolic authority over their own people, other born Orthodox. (As my old buds in the Russian Catholic Church say, ‘We have bishops! They just happen not to be Catholic right now.’ There is no Russian Catholic bishop now either.) We believe the Orthodox are local churches (true defined doctrine, true bishops, true Mass); Protestants, even our high-church cousins, are not churches (‘ecclesial community’ is polite Vaticanese for ‘not a church’).

There is a hardline allowable Catholic opinion, made famous in the church years ago by Fr Leonard Feeney, that says all non-Catholics are going to hell. But I’m not saying that. That’s our equivalent to the hardline Orthodox one that says the church is a fraud.
So we just need to restore our broken communion and the rest of the problems you mention can be addressed one by one and resolved by common accord.
The only way that can happen according to Catholicism is if the Orthodox accept Catholic defined doctrine about the nature of the papacy. Not the same as ultramontanist opinion, unlike what many think. The Pope’s at the top of the chain of command but historically is laissez-faire; traditional Catholicism largely runs itself. (Vatican II was an aberration and bad mistake, of course nothing to do with doctrine.) He’s only used papal infallibility a few times the last couple of centuries to rubber-stamp what Catholics have long believed. Getting upset about the Pope is a red herring. Mostly a cover for Western liberals who really hate him for being Catholic; he can’t change the church to be what they want. (Right: they want more papal power, like what a mainline denomination claims for itself.)

The similar name to the man who should have been president in ’52 makes me wonder if it’s the same family.


  1. "So we just need to restore our broken communion and the rest of the problems you mention can be addressed one by one and resolved by common accord."

    IMHO this would take a General Council or two or three. Please add "ditch V-II" to the agenda. LOL

    Oh and for the future let's confine pastoral issues even the supremely important ones to a Synod. Leave the General Councils for the "big stuff." *more LOL*

  2. Chris Jones writes:

    What makes Taft think he can get away with such sophistry? The "sister Churches" language does not erase the crucial distinction between the local Church and the Universal Church, and in fact this distinction is essential for understanding what the Roman Catholic "sister Churches" language really means. Saying "sister Churches" does not mean that "the Catholic Church" and "the Orthodox Church" are sisters and therefore in some sense equal. It means that each Orthodox eparchy or diocese under its bishop is a "sister Church" (estranged, but still a sister nonetheless) to every Catholic eparchy or diocese. One may indeed say that the local Orthodox Churches are sister Churches to Rome, but only if by "Rome" one means "the local Church that is the diocese of Rome"; never if one means "Rome" as a synechdoche for the Universal Church.

    And what is this nonsense that reunion would not mean "returning to Rome, to which they never belonged anyway"? Reunion, if it means anything, would have to mean going from a state of not being in communion with the Church of Rome to being in communion with the Church of Rome. If that is not "returning to Rome" I do not know what is. Of course, one might equally say that Rome would be "returning to the East" since she would be moving from being out of communion with the East to being in communion with the East. But that of course would be to ignore the elephant in the room, which is that for Catholics, being in communion with the Church of Rome is, and must be, the touchstone for being in the Universal Church. But ignoring the elephant is precisely what Taft is trying to beguile us into doing.

    Taft knows all of this, of course. He's just blowing smoke to advance his personal hyper-ecumenist agenda. As a non-Catholic, I stoutly deny these Roman Catholic doctrines (but at least I know what they are). But Taft is a Catholic; what is his excuse?

    He thinks he is smarter than all of us -- smarter than the Pope, smarter than the Fathers -- and that on the basis of his smarts and his scholarly credentials he can tell us how the Church really ought to be run.


    I have no doubt that Fr Taft is much smarter than I am (although I very much doubt that he is smarter than you). What I question is the idea that his intelligence and erudition qualify him to pontificate in a manner that seems, on the face of it, to be at variance with the public confession of his own Church. For the reasons that I wrote above, I don't think his points are fairly or persuasively supported.

    1. Tridentine Anglo-Papalist turned Tridentine Catholic Fr John Hunwicke writes:

      Chris Jones admirably explains the Church's teaching on Local Churches. But I wonder if he is right in assuming that the Archimandrite knows and understands it. In my experience, an awful lot of very bright and even learned people don't.

      I think that the elucidation and clarification of this matter is one of Joseph Ratzinger's most significant magisterial achievements:
      Communionis notio (1993) para 17 (cf also Dominus Iesus). It is also the basis of Apostolos suos, defining the nature and competences of Episcopal Conferences. It is a bit of an elephant in the ecumenical room, because Easterners have a great attachment to aggregations of local churches, aka Patriarchates. This itself is, surely, just as much in need of explanation and justification as is the Western view, in which (limiting ourselves here to the Church Militant) Church means either the Universal Church or the Bishop leitourgon surrounded by his Presbyters, Deacons, and laos.

  3. Today it’s clearer and fair that born Orthodox get the benefit of the doubt about schism, so Orthodox bishops are an estranged part of the church, having apostolic authority over their own people, other born Orthodox.

    This makes zero sense. Either you believe the Pope has universal jurisdiction or you don't. And if you don't, then you're not in communion with the Pope and we can leave it at that. The idea that good little ethnics on the reservations 'get the benefit of the doubt' is polite, post-V2 rhetoric from one side. On the other side, those adorable little foreigners are moving into Roman lands, ordaining their own bishops and priests, and evangelizing like a people who believe they're the Church will do. Ironically, Rome is resorting to phyletism to try and accomodate what are otherwise clear intrusions on her jurisdiction.

    1. I hear you. Understandable reaction based on Orthodoxy's version of the true-church claim. Like when an Episcopalian means to be nice by saying he includes us 'Romans' (hail, Caesar!) as a branch of the church, not realizing the branch theory offends all the pre-'Reformation' churches. But obviously I don't agree with you. I'm happy being Catholic, with our version of the true-church claim managing to include you. Sure, it's polite, post-V2 rhetoric. Beats being rude, especially to a church that can and should reteach traditionalism to the West.

      (As I've said, when Pope Benedict repeated the Catholic true-church claim, the mainliners and secularists bitched. The Russian Orthodox respected him.)

      Also, being a tiny minority and not a rich church, and considering that many Orthodox immigrants aren't religious, in practice American Orthodox don't evangelize. That was an ex-evangelical convert fantasy, bringing in what they were trying to do as evangelicals, crossed with the polemical stuff from the old country that they looked up and adopted. Again, Owen's right. It's over.

  4. Jesuit education always leads me to question Jesuits. This is increased by a factor of ten when they wish to be called "archimandrite".

  5. Anonymous9:08 am

    "Most Catholics probably envision future unity between the Orthodox Churches and the Catholic Church as a re-installment of one world Church organization with the pope of Rome at the top of the governing pyramid. A look at history shows that such a model never existed ... " (Taft)

    There is some truth to this. Now I'm not saying that Roman primacy is negotiable, however, the Orthodox schism took place during a much more decentralized time, and they bear the stamp of this. 1,000 years ago it was hard enough for bishops and patriarchs to control their own hinterlands, much less for distant Rome to do so. There was no mass communcation. Subsidiarity was a pragmatic reality before it was an expressed philosophy.

    Most American Catholics take a maximalist view of the papacy due to certain historical circumstances of our forefathers (see Aidan Nichols, 'Rome and the Eastern Churches,' and also Charles Coulombe's 'Puritan's Empire'); or they overreact to this maximalism, as with the modernists. It makes the historical experience of the Orthodox more difficult to understand.

    Now I am of the opinion that the Orthodox should rejoin the Catholic communion yesterday. However, there is clearly something peculiar there - God must love them deeply, because even a quick look at history shows that there is no human way that most of those communities could survive 1,300 years of conquest, abuse, and in-fighting the way that they have. Of course I believe they would thrive even more if they perfected communion with us.

    "Branch-theory nonsense, or why ‘ecumenist’ is a fightin’ word among convert online Orthodox." (Author)

    'Convert On-line' Orthodox aren't co-equal with actual practicing Orthodox any more than the same for Catholics, thank heaven.

    1. Yes, there's some truth to this. The Catholic answer is it's development of doctrine. Plus, traditionalism and Catholicism generally aren't necessarily ultramontane, partly for the reasons you give. Trads aren't necessarily papal maximalists; I'm not and my old friend Jeff Culbreath said it: we're papal minimalists. The Novus Ordo neocons telling us 25-40 years ago to dump the old-fashioned stuff and get with the charismatic program were papal maximalists, defending whatever opinions Paul VI the Disaster and John Paul the Overrated had. And they were wrong.

      Joseph Ratzinger was never an ultramontanist so it's fitting he ended his reign as he did, as much as I miss him. He ended up teaching the world about the limits of the papacy.

      Well put.

    2. LOL, well, I disagree re John Paul, but I certainly agree with the substance of your comment. So many people do not realize that the ultramontanists did NOT win at Vatican I. Thank You, Holy Spirit!

      BTW, I had no idea you were Catholic now. Welcome back home!

  6. Long thread at byzcath, including writer Michael J. Miller (with whom I recently worked on a church-related publishing project) and the doyen of Orthodox in communion with Rome, Stuart Koehl. Gotta admire his tenacity; most OicwRs quickly get fed up and 'dox, because the OicwR position doesn't make sense. He's been at it for going on 20 years. The OicwR position: being a good Catholic or a good Orthodox, accepting the true-church claim (which doesn't necessarily mean being narrow or a jerk about it), is 'reflexiveley reactionary'; thinking you know better than either Catholicism or Orthodoxy is cool. Whatever, Stu. Χριστός Ανέστη.

    1. Good old Stuart! He's one of my Facebook friends. I've learned to avoid discussing religion with him. I agree with him on most other topics...just not religion.

  7. So glad I found my way back to this blog via Opus Publicum. Thanks, Gabriel Sanchez! weigh in on the ecumenism thing: I think a lot of us Catholics are wooosses. We've been so cowed by the Make-Nicey-Nice School of Ecumenism that we're afraid to say boo.

    Those who know me only online may be surprised to hear this, but I'm actually pretty wooossy in Real Life. Case in point: The other afternoon we were at our local Greek Festival (which, as always, was a total blast). Before the actual festivities (music, dancing, and reveling) began, we were browsing around in the Agora. Now, as it happens, my older son is going to Greece in a couple of weeks to study ancient Greek culture and civilization with a group from his school, the University of Alabama. (Roll Tide, BTW. Can't mention Bama without saying that. It's required. Just ask that devout Catholic, Nick Saban. But I digress.)

    Anyway, we wanted to talk to someone who had been to Greece recently about some practical stuff, like what kind of voltage converter to buy. So, we started chatting with this nice grandmotherly Greek lady -- I'm talking recent immigrant, heavy accent, etc. When she heard that John was going to Greece, she positively glowed and launched into raptures about the glories of Greece, with special reference to Greek Orthodoxy in general and Mount Athos in particular.

    Then another lady, sitting at the same table (the raffle-ticket table), chimed in about how wonderful Orthodoxy is, how rich, how fulfilling, how beautiful. Hey, this is the South. Even the Orthodox are evangelical. They just have a different way of saying, "Are you saved?" ;0

    So, anyway, I mentioned (almost apologetically, I'm afraid to say) that we are Catholic. The grandmotherly Greek lady said, "Oh ah! You were the first to break off." (She actually meant it as a compliment. Seriously.) Then she said, "We're very close." Well, the other lady would have none of that. She grimaced, as if to say, "Not that close, Yia-Yia!" At this point, I kind of backed away a bit. I didn't want to start World War III.

    After further chit-chat on neutral subjects, we moved away. As we did, I said to my husband, "Sheesh, I could have just as easily said, 'You were the first to break off from us.'" "Why didn't you?" he asked. "I was afraid to!' I said. "I didn't want to offend those two ladies."

    "That's our problem," my husband said. "I admire them. They had no compunction about offending us."

    And that's Crap Ecumenism in a nutshell. We Catholics are wooosses. LOL.


    P.S. Of course, we were guests on Greek Orthodox turf, and it's pretty rude to offend one's hosts, so maybe it wasn't so much cowardice on my part as politesse. Yeah...that's my story, and I'm sticking with it!


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