Sunday, January 19, 2014

The Chair of Unity Octave, the Orthodox, and the ecumenical winter

A uniquely Anglo-Papalist devotion (Anglicans who weren't just high churchmen, but serious would-be Catholics) that some converts brought with them into the church in 1909, which became somewhat popular after Vatican II, and was renamed, when ecumenism was fashionable. Now we're in what Fr. Hunwicke and others call an ecumenical winter.

(Those few came into the church after the Episcopalians voted the year before to allow other Protestant ministers to preach in their churches. So they were the opposite of modern ecumenists; they wanted to bring people into the church.)

The octave started yesterday with what in the Roman Rite before '62 was the feast of the Chair of St. Peter in Rome. The point: papal authority is about the office, not the man holding it. His job ex cathedra, from the chair, is to defend the faith. He can't change it. He's only the Pope.

Today is dedicated to bringing the Orthodox and I guess the Lesser Eastern churches back into communion. Possible in a way not so with Protestants because sacramentally we're still the same church — bishops, Mass.

Catholicism and Orthodoxy are on parallel tracks. By that I don't mean two one true churches — there is only one of course — but the two, nearly the same church, an inch apart but that divide is infinitely deep. The difference is the scope of the Pope (the Chair of Unity): part of church infallibility or just another patriarch? I don't see the Orthodox coming under Rome but it doesn't hurt to pray for union.

Ecumenism is played out. All the sides know what the others teach and aren't trying to kill each other now. The fashionable ecumenism 40-50 years ago was indifferentism, an effect of Vatican II, when the liberal Protestants thought the church was joining them. (Liberal Catholics thought they were becoming Anglican, Anglo-Catholics thought they were becoming Catholic through the old dream of corporate union, then the Anglicans ordained women and it became clear again that none of that was going to happen.) Today, since the West isn't churchy anymore, nobody cares.

The best we can hope for from the Orthodox is practical culture-wars cooperation (anti-abortion) in Eastern Europe, and, on our side, the next Pope Benedict alluding to the intact Eastern rites in order to undo what the council did to the Roman Rite. (Something substantial, not the condescension about the pretty Eastern liturgies we've been hearing from churchmen for 50 years.) By the way, I have no problem with the church as a loose communion of ethnic and national churches very little to do with each other, the Orthodox way. In practice the Western Church operated that way for centuries, until the modern age. (As Arturo Vasquez alluded to when when he used to write about Mexican folk Catholicism.)

From Fr. H:
Ecumenism is in practice often more to do with changing the body one currently belongs to than (to dust down some of the old cliches) about Learning from Others, Sharing our Respective Insights.
In other words it's the liberals wanting to change the church, to become Protestant really.

The situation with the SSPX is church discipline, not ecumenism. Not and never was a separate church. Fellay for cardinal, Lefebvre for saint.

In other news, I understand the Ukrainian government is threatening the Ukrainian Catholic Church over supporting anti-government protesters. Understandably the UGCC is anti-Russian, given the decades of Soviet persecution, but as a Facebook commenter noted, supporting the EU instead is wrong. That and most of the Ukraine historically is an integral part of Russia.

By the way, wishing Putin's Russia and the Ukraine a happy Theophany. (The UGCC in its homeland is on the Julian calendar too.)

  • The rumors of a new Oxford Movement are greatly exaggerated. From what I can tell from working with millennials, they don't long for liturgy or any religion. The American Northeast is turning into Europe that way. My semi-trad parish has 30-year-olds with their kids, but that just says the Catholic Church will hang on in America. It won't be big again like in the '50s. Liberal high church thinks it's up and coming but it's not (the mainstream's outgrown it) - just a older niche; high church among evangelicals will be a fad like converting to Orthodoxy used to be. Orthodoxy will remain a small ethnic club in America.
  • American Orthodoxy. Apparently ROCOR said nyet to juridical union.


  1. "Most of Ukraine historically is an integral part of Russia." Rather: Kievan Rus' was an empire in Eastern Europe in the days when present-day Moscow was "a howling wilderness". Geographical misfortune made the territories of present-day Ukraine bear the brunt of invasions from the East, clearing the way for Muscovite ambitions.

  2. "...the next Pope Benedict alluding to the intact Eastern rites in order to undo what the council did to the Roman Rite."

    You think you'll ever have another European pope?

    Christendom of the future seems to be shaping into a syncretic, Global South phenomenon. And the Protestant/Evangelical tide just keeps on rising. I really don't see educated Anglo's and Europeans with their Latin and Scholastics having much influence.

    This is why I wonder if ROCOR is actually the more far-sighted of us: hunker down in the ghetto for the next few generations and see what's salvageable after the American wreck.

  3. I would second what you said about the millennials and religion. Most of the kids I taught during my five years as a Catholic religion teacher weren't drawn to any type of religion, high, low, or in between. I can count on one hand the number of kids who genuinely cared about being involved in religious activities or even saw value in it.


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