Originally Posted By: MattMy Reply:
The Orthodox churches are self-governing. It is up to the Antiochian Orthodox Church to decide how, or whether, to apply church cannons. There is not some universal agreed upon way of applying them. Some "Super Orthodox" still follow the prohibition of praying with schismatics and heretics. Wanna know how closely that is followed by the Orthodox churches and believers? Even at St. Tikon's (the "conservative" Orthodox seminary) I believe it is usually the "spirit" of the cannon that is appealed to rather then the "letter". Moreover, it is quite possible that some Antiochians do not believe the Melkites are heretics and schismatics as you seem to suggest. If such is the case then Antiochian actions seem even more justified.
Also, if the Melkites are not Orthodox because they are not in communion with your bishop then what of the old-calendarists? Are they also out of your Orthodox circle? What about seemingly random folks like "Patriarch Photios" (aka Joseph Farrel)? Heck, some Eastern Orthodox now believe the Copts are Orthodox and you haven't been in communion with them for 1500 years. I just don't think your system works.
In any event, I hope I am not coming off to harshly.
All the best
Again I do not dispute your point that there have been instances of inter communion. The question is whether or not it is proper and correct. You correctly point out that each (canonical) Orthodox Church is self governing. And yes that means the Antiochians have very broad rights in determining whom they are in communion with. So let me ask the question. Is the Antiochian Patriarchate in communion with Rome? Have they formally repudiated the Council of Constantinople of 1484? If they have then I missed the memo.
You ask if certain groups are "Orthodox" or not. My answer in most cases is that I leave that up to God and the legitimate hierarchs of The Church to determine. The question I would ask is; are they in communion with me via my bishop? If the answer is yes then there is no problem. If the answer is no than we have a problem which may or may not (there are many reasons for not being in communion) touch on matters intrinsic to The Faith.
You say that each Orthodox Church can decide how or when to apply Church Canons. Thats a very broad statement that I am not able to fully agree with. Yes, there is such a thing as oikonomia which is far better understood and more widely practiced in Orthodoxy than in the Latin Church. But economy is not carte blanche to disregard the immemorial disciplines of The Church. If some in the Antichian Church are communing in the Melkite/Latin Church then the question which needs to be asked is; is this with the blessing of their bishop?
If the answer is yes than I am constrained to express my respectful disagreement with that policy. But beyond that it is indeed up to their Synod to determine if anything improper is going on. If they are doing so without the blessing of their bishop than it is a serious sin which by default places the offending party outside communion with his/her own bishop. While Orthodoxy is not quite as legalistic as some might think neither are we a do it yourself church either.
Finally another question looms. Even if there have been some instances of inter-communion sanctioned (or at least tolerated) by one or two bishops mostly in Lebanon, what are the broader implications? My answer is very few. Even after 1484 there were isolated cases of inter-communion between Orthodox and Latins. But they were "isolated." They were, and I would argue, are today extremely rare.
You refer to the Church Canons prohibiting praying with schismatics and heretics. And you correctly note that few outside of the Old Calendarist sects practice akria (a strict application of the letter of the law as opposed to oikonomia). But as far as I know all of the canonical Orthodox prohibit communion with non-Orthodox. That for us is the litmus test of your relationship to The Church. Are we in communion with one another? Is it possible that there have been aberrations and tolerances or abuses of this canon? It is more than possible. It is certain. But thats not to be seen as restoration of communion. If any Orthodox jurisdiction wishes to restore communion with Rome they are free to do so. But actions can have consequences.
This is where I note my objection to your assertion that each jurisdiction has absolute authority to determine if, when, or in what manner they will obey Church Canons. If a jurisdiction strays too far from what the rest of the Orthodox world is prepared to accept they may find themselves isolated to one degree or another. Orthodoxy (despite some superficial similarities in ecclesiology) is not the Anglican Communion where one jurisdiction can do whatever it wants and the rest just have to lump it. Orthodox jurisdictions have severed communion with one another for far less significant things than permitting open communion. While I will not make concrete predictions I think that any Orthodox jurisdiction that chose to restore communion with Rome before there was a consensus within The Church as a whole that the time was right, would find itself quickly isolated. That isolation would likely (IMO) also extend to communion with the other Orthodox Churches.
This brings us back to my litmus test. Is the church / parish you wish to commune in itself "in communion" with your bishop? If the answer is "no" then do not do it, unless it is your intention to sever communion with him.