To me and I think again most (I only avoid the term "all" out of an abundance of caution) Orthodox the deal breaker is papal primacy and Vatican I. The language in the decrees of the First Vatican Council regarding the universal jurisdiction of the Pope and his infallibility are regarded as heresy by almost all Orthodox. And unfortunately the language used in those decrees is so crystal clear and unambiguous that there is not really any wiggle room for creative reinterpretation or "doctrinal development."
Wherefore we teach and declare that,And...
- by divine ordinance,
- the Roman church possesses a pre-eminence of ordinary power over every other church, and that
- this jurisdictional power of the Roman pontiff is both
- episcopal and
- Both clergy and faithful,
- of whatever rite and dignity,
- both singly and collectively,
- are bound to submit to this power by the duty of hierarchical subordination and true obedience, and this
- not only in matters concerning faith and morals,
- but also in those which regard the discipline and government of the church throughout the world.
So, then,This is just not acceptable to the Orthodox Church.
- if anyone says that
let him be anathema.
- the Roman pontiff has merely an office of supervision and guidance, and
- not the full and supreme power of jurisdiction over the whole church, and this
- not only in matters of
- faith and morals, but also in those which concern the
- discipline and government of the church dispersed throughout the whole world; or that
- he has only the principal part, but not the absolute fullness, of this supreme power; or that
- this power of his is not ordinary and immediate both over all and each of the churches and over all and each of the pastors and faithful:
In fairness we Orthodox, partly from historical circumstances, have been very clear in articulating what primacy is not, and not particularly clear about what it is. Indeed until recent times the subject has not really been much on anyone's agenda. There really was no need. However some years ago the late +John Paul Magnus of blessed memory issued a challenge to the Orthodox world to give our interpretation of the function of the Roman See. The silence was deafening. Now we are coming to the point where the silence will need to be broken. At the forthcoming session of the Catholic-Orthodox theological dialogue the topic is to be the primacy of the Bishop of Rome in the Church. I would give a lot of money that I don't have to be a fly on the wall of that meeting (with a universal translator).
As an interesting background to this, the chilly relations between Moscow and Constantinople seem to be growing cooler. Moscow has long accused the Patriarchate of New Rome of meddling in the affairs of the other churches (Russia's in particular) and of asserting a jurisdiction it does not have. Whereas +Bartholomew and the Synod of Bishops in Constantinople have been taking a more expansive view of things. Met. +John of Pergagmum, one of the foremost theologians in the Orthodox Church today, has strongly hinted at a broader interpretation of primacy than what has been normative within Orthodoxy. Of course nothing he has written even comes close to supporting the monarchical claims of the First Vatican Council. It is with this fascinating mix of church politics as a background that we see Moscow announcing that it is preparing an official position on the subject of primacy in the Church.
The Interfax News Service reports...
‘Our principal affirmation is this: primacy in the Church is necessary, also on the universal level, but on the level of the Universal Church it cannot be the primacy of jurisdiction but only the primacy of honour’, Bishop Hilarion of Vienna and Austria, Russian Church representative to European organizations, told Interfax on Monday.No real surprises there. However, one might begin to wonder just who Moscow is taking aim at when reading a little farther down we note...
‘There can be no compromises’ in this matter for the Moscow Patriarchate, he said. The aim of the theological dialogue is not to make a compromise but to identify the original understanding of the primacy of the Bishop of Rome in the early undivided Church, he noted.
‘Historically, the primacy of the Bishop of Rome in the Christian Church, from our point of view, was that of honour, not jurisdiction. That is to say, the jurisdiction of the Pope of Rome was never applied to all the Churches’, the bishop stressed.
‘We consider it (the primacy of Constantinople - IF) exclusively as primacy of honour, while the See of Constantinople itself tends occasionally to give a broad interpretation to this primacy. These are the questions I believe around which principal problems will emerge’, Bishop Hilarion said.We aint called "byzantine" for nothing.
All of the politics aside, the bottom line remains. Vatican I is the show stopper. I know of no Orthodox hierarch or credible theologian who would accept it. All of the other debates won't amount to a hill of beans because Vat. I is a nonnegotiable for the Roman Catholics and also for the Orthodox. In order to overcome it one or the other would have to cease to be what they are. And that is not gonna happen.