Ben of the Undercroft has posted an interesting essay on an often undiscussed aspect of the Rome Orthodox reunion debate. We Orthodox tend to spend a great deal of time discussing what changes the Latins will have to make for reunification to occur. But we frequently ignore the reality of the current situation in the West. And that reality is that the Roman Catholic Church has become to a certain degree dependent on a strong centralized administration for government. As I noted in a post on this subject a long time ago over in
The West largely lacks what we would call an Orthodox phronema. The Latin sensus fidei if you will has become severely eroded. The idea that
I can think of several Roman bishops and at least one cardinal here in the
I have occasionally asked Orthodoxy's critics for an explanation for its remarkable theological stability in various forums and discussions. Generally I don’t get much in the form of a response. Fr. Kimel (I am going to have get used to the new/old title) however gave a brief glimpse of his thinking on the subject in his comment on Ben’s article. He is rather dismissive of Orthodoxy’s lack of doctrinal development, attributing it to the historic conditions of the Orthodox Church under Ottoman and Communist oppression. This is in my opinion both an historically weak argument and also a double edged one that could cut the other way with equal force.
First the Orthodox world has never been completely under the heal of oppression. The (Eastern)
Depending on when you date Rome's departure an argument can be made that the Orthodox Church enjoyed at least moderate freedom for more than half of the period since the schism and in the case of Russia almost the entire post schism period less the heart of the XX century. Additionally, during this time there were some fairly long periods in certain locals where Ottoman rule was relatively tolerant of Christianity. Add to this the combination of a lack of central authority and the autonomous national churches and you have what should be a recipe for one schism after another.
And yet in the eight or so centuries since
The inverse of Fr. Kimel’s argument of course is that one could look at a great deal of the development of Latin doctrine especially in relation to the Petrine ministry and see powerful links to the historical and political circumstances then present in the West. I alluded to this in a previous discussion over at Sacramentum Vitae. Fr. Kimel also appears to date ultramontanism from the First Vatican Council. To say that Fr. Kimel’s dating shocked me would be putting it mildly. The language of the decrees of
On one point I am in strong agreement with Father Kimel. The East has suffered from its estrangement from the Christian West. This tragic truth is undeniable. But again this cuts both ways. In its isolation from her sister churches and the theological phronema of the East following the schism,
Fr. Kimel asserts that the Roman Catholic Church is more catholic as a result of its centralization. He correctly identifies the cafeteria style theology now prevalent in much of
Despite the fairly chaotic jurisdictional soup that is the Orthodox Church today we share one faith. We may occasionally throw furniture at each other when someone mentions the word “calendar” but we still recite the same creed and no one is arguing for the ordination of women. Fr Kimel also comments on the centralized powers of the papacy… “This is the great advantage in possessing a divinely instituted center of unity: it keeps, as Stanley Hauerwas likes to quip, the Irish and Italians, the Franciscans, Dominicans, and Jesuits, in one Church.” Try keeping Greeks Russians Arabs and Serbs in one church without a central authority! There is no other way to explain that beyond the working of the Holy Spirit.
 Obviously there were exceptions on the fringes of the Russian state where territory traded hands as a result of wars and other occurrences.
 “I'm know that papalist positivism--whatever the Pope speaks is God's truth--characterized post-Vatican I Catholicism for a hundred years; but this certainly is no longer the case.” Fr. Al Kimel
 It is also worth noting that the aforementioned bull was issued at a time when the Holy See was involved in a highly political and nasty feud with Philip IV of
 In fairness this was as likely a political consideration as much as anything else.