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An unworthy Deacon, named for the brother of God: James, striving to "work out his salvation with fear and trembling" within the Tradition (paradosis) of the Eastern Orthodox Faith. It is a strange and marvelous journey, and I am accompanied by the fourfold fruit of my fecundity. My wife, the Matushka or Diaconissa Sophia, is my beloved partner in the pursuit of Theosis, and she ranks me in every way.
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Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Couple of Good Articles

Moscow and Rome to talk
I for one am glad to see this, however unlikely any ground is to be gained. I agree that Rome and us have much more in common than either of us having with secularism and Islam and other quickly growing religions. We ought to consider hinging upon them to at least build some ground to talk on. I disagree with the author that we ought to find some compromise, because the devil is in the details...but I do agree we ought to, and CAN HAVE a united voice on many matters.

This is interesting....I imagine some Catholics would find fault with it:
It may seem like a paradox, but the conservatism of Pope Benedict XVI, who succeeded the late John Paul II in 2005, makes success more likely because the more conservative the Vatican's position, the closer it matches that of the Russian
Orthodox Church.

No commentary here really...just enjoyed it. Never thought of giving our homeschool a name.

...offered by Dn. fdj, a sinner at 9:42 AM [+]


[T]he more conservative the Vatican's position, the closer it matches that of the Russian
Orthodox Church.

Hmmm. I guess I don't understand this. It seems to me that the more conservative the Vatican's position, the more it's going to reflect the 9th-century innovations of Charlesmagne and his mob of Frankish theologians, which is what pretty much guaranteed the 1054 schism in the first place. Other branches of RC conservatism lead back to the Council of Trent or a thoroughgoing Thomism. Both of these are totally incompatible with Orthodoxy.

On the other hand, if we're just talking about obvious moralisms such as "Murder is wrong; abortion is murder; therefore, abortion is wrong," or "Nations should try to settle their differences without nuking each other until they glow," or "People shouldn't be executed for dissent," then yeah, that's common ground — with all kinds of people who believe these things for all kinds of reasons. So I'm not sure what John and Benedict think they're accomplishing, nor are the Athonite monks. The Uniates think that they're "building a bridge" too, but unfortunately, they still fail to realize that the bridge leads to a place to which Orthodoxy can never go. Still, there's nothing wrong with talking, and it beats the heck out of most of the alternatives.

By Blogger Patrick, at 1:39 PM  


So Patrick, What would a bridge back for Rome look like? I've told my RC friends that it really all comes down to Papal Authority...


By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:46 PM  


Not to put too fine a point on it, but the way back to Orthodoxy for Rome is to become Orthodox. This might sound glib, and I'm pretty sure it sounds impossible, but this is what Fr. Hopko wrote about a year ago after the Pope and the Ecumenical Patriarch were both present at a Eucharist presided over by the Bartholomew. (The Pope neither concelebrated nor partook.) So you see, I'm all for relations being as fraternal as possible, but I'm all for that with my sworn enemies as well, because my Lord tells me to be so.

All this brings up stuff that's intensely interesting for me, because it requires that one spells out the exact differences between RC and Orthodoxy. They go far deeper and wider than the dogma of universal papal jurisdiction, and no one's being well served to pretend otherwise.

By Blogger Patrick, at 1:53 PM  


For once, I totally agree with Patrick, in his later statement that our differences with RCism are way broader than the usual list of papal infallibility, etc. The letter by Father Tom H was excellent.

The time is at hand when we should watch these "talks" very carefully. Having been to Russia, I can tell you that many Orthodox are fine by a reunion, because it wouldn't make much difference to them. The issues may be unbridgeable except by the most rickety of theological "bridges", except that when you live in a sea of 60 million Orthodox Christians, you don't really have to look at the "bridge." It's someone else's problem, as it were. One thing I know for certain, as the Russian Orthodox consider the Vatican's ever more generous proposals, the last thing on the Russians' list of worries is the impact of a reunion on converts in America. My o my, that would reshuffle the jurisdictional deck here.

This is similar to the way the various eastern rite churches in Lebabnon and Syria all intercommune, in various ways. Unbridgeable chasms start to look more bridgeable, when living in a world where theological concerns take a back seat to overwhelming practical and pastoral issues.

And remember, the "conservatives" in Byzantium actually favored intercommunion with Rome for tactical reasons, after Ferrara-Florence, prior to the fall of hte Empire. There is a precedent for this approach, howl though ye might. This is why the last liturgy in Hagia Sophia was a "reunion mass".

I am convinced that +Benedict and his successors are determined to bring us back into the "fold." We should all hold on, because the boat is going to start rocking pretty hard.

- Rdr Steven

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:11 PM  


And I might add that as a Presbyterian studying in Russia, the local clergy communed me, without anything more than a confession of faith, with the understanding that as a Presbyterian, there was no local place for me to "fulfill my needs." This kind of practice was common in the 1980s, maybe it's no more, but at the time, no one batted an eye over it. I was too unlettered to know any better at the time. They told me to eat no meat the night before, and I was "prepared."

- Steve

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:14 PM  


the exact differences between RC and Orthodoxy. They go far deeper and wider than the dogma of universal papal jurisdiction, and no one's being well served to pretend otherwise.

However, until the Pope returns to his historic place of being "first among equals" and the infallibility of the Pope is abandoned, there's really little point in covering the deeper differences. As I see Papal authority is the skin we MUST get through first...how can you discuss as brothers when one claims to be the authoritative and irrefutable father?

Rdr Steven...really? I mean I don't claim to know, but I've always sensed that the Moscow Hierarchy is pretty much against any notions of a reunion.

Actually the reunion service at Hagia Sophia is completely kosher to me. They were having reunion masses all the time, but as Runciman describes it, what made THIS service so special was that the non-reunion hardcore Orthodox joined the service as the Muslim Turks were making their way through the gates...which sort of punches a bit of a hole in the "better the turban than the mitre" mindset.

By the way, the Byzantine nobleman who is attributed as having said this famous line ended up being beheaded because he refused to allow his SON to join the sultan's harem. All credit to St. mark of Ephesus, the REALLY sad part about the Florence reunion is that the Pope and the West really had nothing militarily to offer Constantinople anyway...obviously.

Not sure if this is pertinent to the conversation...but it might also shed light on the free exchange of communion between Latin and Greek in some places under the Muslim yoke (of course all the while they publicly deny the existence of a Muslim yoke).

Could what you experienced in Russia, Steve, also be a product of the Communist yoke? It'd be interesting to see if lack of religious freedom whether governmentally or socially imposed plays a role in the sudden "need for reunion" at some level.

I suspect it does.

By Blogger fdj, at 7:38 AM  


We should remember what papal infallibility is and is not. It is not a personal attribute that is perpetually in effect whenever the Pope opens his mouth. It is in effect only when the Pope speaks ex cathedra, "from the throne," when in the exercise of his office as pastor and teacher of all Christians he defines, by virtue of his supreme Apostolic authority, a doctrine of faith or morals to be held by the whole Church. It does not apply to every doctrinal act of the Pope.

Many popes (including, I think, this one) readily agree to the ancient primus inter pares designation. The problem is that in practice, formal RC dogma puts nearly all emphasisis on primus, while of course everyone else who cares about the issue at all emphasizes inter pares. The other difference is that Rome interprets primacy as implying supreme and universal authority over the entire episcopate, which is seen as a hierarchical pyramid. Orthodox and others insist that it is a primacy of honor (mostly for historical reasons and in recognition of faithfulness in the face of heresies that arose in the Western Empire) that does not include any more authority than any other archdiocesan bishop.

Another aspect of all this is whether ex cathedra papal infallibility derives from the Church's infallibility or vice versa. And all these points continue to be debated within the Magisterium itself.

While I agree that the papal infallibility dogma might offer a good initial talking point, I still wonder if it is the best place to start. Also, even if this particular dogma was dropped (highly unlikely), how would this affect the dogmas that are its direct results? Would they just automatically drop the Filioque, hold Dormition instead of Assumption, reject the notions of grace as created energy, of inherited guilt, of hellfire as a physical fire, universal clerical celibacy, and so on? I have no idea; I'm just wondering.

So a lot of Russians are impressed by +Benedict's overtures? I don't think that even a large number of Orthodox adopting intercommunion with Rome would impact other Orthodox that much. Orthodoxy let the most long-lived empire in history fall rather than "drinking the Kool-Aid." If millions of "Orthodox" unite with Rome, I'm not saying that would be meaningless, but the Church would go on, as it will to the end of the world and beyond. So a bunch of people basically become Uniates, thus removing themselves from canonical Orthodoxy. Sad, but you know, if they can do that, they weren't really of us in the first place. It's not going to rock my boat, except by temporarily making it lighter.

By Blogger Patrick, at 12:31 PM  


Would they just automatically drop the Filioque, hold Dormition instead of Assumption, reject the notions of grace as created energy, of inherited guilt, of hellfire as a physical fire...

No, but at least one of the pillar upholding these dogmas would be gone. In other words all of these beliefs became dogma because one of the Popes ultimately "spoke from the throne."

I agree it is all very unlikely.

Orthodoxy let the most long-lived empire in history fall rather than "drinking the Kool-Aid."

Well, we've all heard this, but I am not sure how universal it was. In other words we've heard that the laity and St. Mark rejected it and indeed it didn't exactly fly...but ALOT of Latins fought side by side with the Greeks in 1453 and indeed the Hagia Sophia had been serving a Uniate litrugy that "hardcore" Orthodox folk had refused to attend. It'd be interesting to know about the dynamics in Constantinople at that time - I suppose I ought to reread Runciman.

Once the city fell, it was easy (for most - see the example of Loukas Notaras here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Loukas_Notaras) and logical (Turks were rougher on Latins - few if any survived the occupation) to reject the papal mitre and embrace the turban.

By Blogger fdj, at 3:08 PM  


Well, realistically speaking, if Russia were to do this thing, there would be no more "canonical" orthodox homelands left, except perhaps Romania, Bulgaria, who would in all likelihood follow.

I don't know how possible it is. I rather fear it's more a matter of time. To say that it wouldn't impact us profoundly is ridiculous, though.

Another point that seems disturbing to me is that the very pattern of infallibility that we observe in the Roman world is utterly commonplace in the Orthodox world. To say that the EP or the MP has no more authority than a simple diocesan bishop is grotesquely preposterous. The idea of a lowly bishop countering the MP, well, it just isn't done.

What wigs out the Russian hierarchy is RC *intrusions* into their flock. If by recognizing Rome as something "semi-canonical", they could put a stop to this, they'd probably do it. Granted, there are conservative and liberal strains over there on this question. The problem is that secularism is a more hideous assault on everything the Orthodox have known than the later years of Brezhnev communism. The emptiness of late soviet life made church life attractive for a lot of people. Things have changed, and the inherent moral conservatism of the Russian hierarchy may be in a mood to join forces with Rome in a defense of moral values.

Finally, as a historical footnote, the current Russian situation can be placed in long continuum of church/roman/political trends, evident since early times. By the late 1800s, the Tsar was desperately countering Roman intrusions into the ORthodox flock, and frankly losing those battles. The problem, then as now, is that the Roman hierarchy has way more moral authority and standing than Orthodox bishops, who readily do what they're told by the political forces. We've observed that in the Arab, Greek and Russian churches.

- Steve

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:33 PM  


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