Friday, June 19, 2009

Ecumenical Councils IV

The rather long discussion prompted by the recent post on Eastern Rite Catholics and the Filioque has (predictably) turned into a vigorous debate on Rome-Orthodox ecumenical relations and/or the lack thereof. But I think a few posts by an anonymous commenter and Father J, an occasional and appreciated (if often critical) contributor to com-box discussions here, require a response.

It strikes me that they are overstating their case and ignoring some important elements. First I know of no Orthodox Christian who does not want the unity of the early Church restored. What we do not want is unity at the expense of Truth. And since our two churches have different (often dramatically so) views on dogmatic matters, that creates obstacles which they and David B. Hart (see his essay here) seem stubbornly unwilling to address.

In short Fr. J and Mr. Hart are both wearing the same set of blinders. They are long on platitudes and short on substantive recommendations. When Owen the Ochlophobist asked Fr. J to name some of the carved in stone post-schism dogmas of the Roman Church he felt are negotiable Fr. J could not come up with a single one. While the dear father’s prayers for unity are much appreciated something a bit more concrete would also be helpful.

So I will ask Owen's question again; what Roman Catholic post-schism dogmatic definitions are negotiable? If there are none then we are back to square one which has already been described.

Unity can be obtained as soon as we Orthodox become Catholics, or Rome returns to Orthodoxy.

While we have held two councils post-schism that many Orthodox (including myself) consider OEcumenical, they did not dogmatize anything that should pose a severe problem for Rome. It is Rome's last fourteen claimed OEcumenical Councils which pose the near insurmountable barrier. This is especially true of the decrees of Vatican I whose definitions, as we Orthodox have repeated ad infinitum, are flatly inconsistent with the doctrine and ecclesiology of the Orthodox Church both pre and post-schism. Further the language of the decrees on Papal Supremacy and Universal Jurisdiction is so crystal clear and unambiguous as to remove any possible wiggle room for “doctrinal development.” In summary Orthodoxy does not require of Rome any assent to doctrine which she has not already claimed to agree to, while Rome demands total acquiescence to her post 1054 doctrinal innovations.

Even so I have opined in the past that there is a path forward, if Rome is willing to take the leap. I actually addressed this in a series of posts back on November 16 (here and here) and November 19 (here) of 2007. It was part of a multi party (and multi-blog) discussion on what might lead to restoration of communion.

I will spare everyone a lengthy reposting of my original articles and summarize them.

In a nutshell I believe the only path that has a reasonable chance at reconciliation is the one I have labeled "reset." Which is to say that Rome must de-dogmatize its post 1054 doctrinal additions and come to an OEcumenical Council ready to lay it all on the table for open discussion. This does not require as a precondition that Rome must abjure the Filioque or any of its other additions. But it does require that Rome must agree that no true OEcumenical Council has been held since the seventh (the last one agreed on by both East and West). The councils held since then could be treated as local synods of the Western Church and the "dogmas" promulgated would be understood as theologumena and the strongly held opinions of the Latin Church, that could then be debated by the Church as a whole.

As others have noted, there are surely some areas where we might be able to reach agreement. Most Orthodox would have little difficulty with coming to some sort of understanding on the doctrine of the Assumption. Many other points of difference might be resolvable. And then there are others where the odds are steeper than the slopes of Mt. Everest in winter (Vatican I). But I see no hope at all if Rome's position is "come, kneel, and kiss the Pope's ring and all will be forgiven."

In other words we need to start from where the breach occurred. Even if Rome agreed to this and such a council could be convened, it might well fail. Lyons and Florence did, though in fairness neither council was an attempt at a reset. But if a council were to have a chance it would only be if it were convened as the eighth OEcumenical Council, not the twenty-second. The question before us then is the same one I asked Mike Liccione back in ’07. Is Rome prepared to take this leap?

I think the answer must be negative as Mike implied in his reply (see the post of 19 November 2007). For Rome to do so would implicitly call into question her claim to being the One True Church. Effectively this still leaves us with what Owen has repeatedly stated must be the end product of any restored communion. One or the other of our churches must cease to be.


Anonymous said...

I don't think that David Bentley Hart is a priest. All the information I've read indicate that he is a layman.

John (Ad Orientem) said...

On checking I believe you are correct. I have no idea why I thought he was ordained. Thanks for the heads up. I have fixed the text.

The Ochlophobist said...

We need to never lose sight of this text:

So, then, if anyone says that 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: let him be anathema.

- Decrees of the First Vatican Council, Session 4, Chapter 3.

No matter what BenXVI and other RCs say of the possibility of returning to a first millennium situation while at the same time no longer calling later RC doctrine heterodox, this dogmatic assertion remains.

How does it make any sense for me to be in communion with someone who holds the above? How can I consider the above a theologumenon which is within the bounds of the Church? For to hold it is to assert that any recognizable Orthodox ecclesiology is heretical. The existence of any ecclesial order outside of that which assents to the above is rendered anathema.

Of course now we are "separated brethren" of the closest sort and our sacraments deemed "valid," but at the same time what is quoted above is deemed magisterial, dogma, and irrevocable. This is why I hold that the current rhetoric coming from many given to Wotijianism is dubious. If the above is not something that may be retracted, then any "mysterious" moving of the spirit that we cannot at this time fathom is going to have to bring Orthodox to assent to universal papal jurisdiction in one way or another.

While weak men here and there may falter, there Church will survive.

But, of course, those who assert traditional Orthodox teaching on this matter are considered arrogant by those who profess assent to the above anathema. Sure, it is always the Orthodox who has the spiritual superiority complex, and not the Roman Catholic who assents to the anathematizing of any Christian who speaks even of only a mitigation of papal authority.


John (Ad Orientem) said...

I don't think anyone will ever accuse you of mincing words. But I have to say yep to everything you wrote. Vat I really is a show stopper. In the meantime as I noted in the original post, Orthodox and Catholics should work together on the things we can agree on. If Rome wants restoration of communion that ball is very firmly in her court.

Who knows? Fr. J is correct that we should not put limits on the power of God to work miracles. But neither should we shy away from the fact that it would indeed require a miracle for communion to be restored.

Not holding my breath but praying all the same...


P.S. How's the family?

William Tighe said...

Would the Orthodox, should the Orthodox, could the Orthodox "de-dogmatize" the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth and Seventh Councils for the sake of a "reset" with the Oriental Orthodox? I have read a good deal of recent OO thinking on these matters, and whatever the "professional ecumenists" may say it is very clear that they will never, ever accept the ecumenical standing of those councils, although some of them differentiate between the Fourth and Sixth Councils, which they regard as unacceptable, and the Fifth and Seventh, to which they seem to have no severe objections as regards their teaching. Read, for instance, the extensive catechetical writings of Pope Shenouda, which are admirably clear and lucid on these issues -- and also consider the statements of Ethiopian monks and monasteries over the past 30+ years, which have been truly "Athonite" in their forthright rejection of any compromise with the Diophysites.

I write this because I cannot remember how many times I have been told by more than one Antiochian Orthodox priest how much he appreciated my not presenting myself for communion at the Liturgy (a thing which I would never, ever do, out of respect for our continuing sad divisions), and yet, in subsequent conversations, being told that they are under orders to give communion "no questions asked" (save, I suppose, are you properly prepared) to any Copts, Armenians, Syriacs, Ethiopians or Malabari Orthodox who present themselves for it.

Anonymous said...

I got here from energetic procession, so I hope a guest commenter is ok.

Just a couple notes on the filioque and associated issues:
I'm not sure the Melkites would restore the filioque if Rome said so. We're pretty serious about our Orthodoxy. My parish uses Orthodox catechetics materials, and our education director herself is actually Orthodox. We are "Orthodox in communion with Rome" as my priests would tell you. Nor is this some bizarre abnormality. A recent article in Sophia magazine went into great length about our opinion on ecclesiology.

"13) In order to make reunion with Orthodoxy possible, as well as to adapt to the free and democratic conditions of the modern world, the Roman Church must return to the synodal type of Church government that even it lived under the first Christian millennium. This means national or local church government by genuine Bishops Conferences with real power, not merely consultative or advisory bodies"

I'm well aware that many people disagree with the Melkite position on things, but that is a different conversation.

On the subject of ecumenical dialogue: I am a strong supporter of it, while at the same time a skeptic of its chances at success. Orthodox should not be entirely pessimistic though. I think that if there could be a solution to the papal issue than you would be surprised at how much "give" there is in much of the rest of it. One of the Latin members of the international dialogue personally told me he didn't see much of the western developments as binding on the East. I realize that's anecdotal, but sometimes that's the way people feel most comfortable having honest conversations. I don't mean it to come across as some "inside scoop" or whatever. In short, don't write off the West as entirely inflexible.

One more cynical note (and I apologize ahead of time if this is unchristian): a lot of the latins online are de-facto ultra-montanists. That is, they are against giving on the western councils because they don't believe Rome supports it. However, should Rome announce that "such and such" is negotiable they would quickly create a justification for Rome's actions as to prove her correct and accept the new decision. If you doubt this, I recommend spending some time on the Catholic Answers board ;) Once again, I apologize if that was uncharitable.

God bless everyone. It is difficult to have these types of conversations online. Hopefully, we will all drink from the same cup before we die - just don't hold your breadth ;)


Samn! said...

Prof. Tighe has a very good point, really. While I'm in agreement with everything Owen has said so far regarding the disingenuous of Catholic ecumenical rhetoric towards the Orthodox, most Orthodox are in practice equally disingenuous in their relations with the anti-Chalcedonian churches. Many, many times I've heard Orthodox talk about the problems regarding Chalcedon being resolved much in the same way as I've often heard Catholics talk about the filioque problem being resolved. It bothers me that this similarity may be due to the fact that this is how larger communions talk down to smaller ones.
Of course, there are other factors involved in Orthodox/anti-Chalcedonian relations that are absent in Catholic/Orthodox relations. The Antiochian and Syrian anti-Chalcedonian churchs' strongly ecumenist approach vis-a-vis each other is informed by a shared space, shared culture, and shared suffering. In the end, the schism with the anti-Chalcedonians should be much more painful to us Orthodox than the schism with Rome, given their preservation of basically Orthodox practice, which couldn't be said at all of Rome. (The wisdom of Pope Shenuda's statement to the effect that any church that fasts as little as Rome cannot be considered apostolic is clear.) I'm inclined to think that Orthodox shouldn't even bother to talk about healing things with Rome until we can manage to heal things with the anti-Chalcedonians. That is, to teach them in love to accept Chalcedon and Third Constantinople. I'm not holding my breath on that, of course.

William Tighe said...

"... the Roman Church must return to the synodal type of Church government that even it lived under the first Christian millennium."

Rome has never been wont to defer to the MUSTs of those who wish to force their agendas upon her, and I see no reason for nor likelihood of her doing so in this instance.

"In order to make reunion with Orthodoxy possible, as well as to adapt to the free and democratic conditions of the modern world ..."

The cloven hoof is visible in the second half of this statement, which could have been written by Hans Kung or any other freakish "Catholic theologian" stuck in the 60s, and it's sad to see that its last redoubt seems to be among the Melkites (but also cf. the new Ruthenian typicon).

William Tighe said...

I've also been musing about the matter of "de-dogmatizing" (or "re-dogmatizing" and "dogmatizing") ecumenical councils from a historical perspective. Has it ever happened? I suppose some might cite Rome's attitude towards the 879 "Eighth Ecumenical Council" as an example of "de-dogmatizing," but assuming that Rome did accept that council (which on balance seems probable, cf. Dvornik), did it accept it as "an ecumenical council" or merely accept its conclusions annulling the earlier "Eighth Ecumenical Council" of 869? And since the 879 council proclaimed no dogmas, would Rome's attitude towards it best be characterized as "de-dogmatizing" or as "de-recognizing?"

Along with that, one might characterize Rome's attitude towards the 869 "Eighth Ecumenical Council" as, I suppose, "re-dogmatizing," since it does not seem that it was securely in the list of ecumenical councils recognized by Rome until around 1600, due to the historical writings of Baronius and the dogmatic writings of Bellarmine, although Latin canonists had been making use of its canons since the last quarter of the eleventh century to combat lay-investiture and the meddling of monarchs in the selection of bishops and abbots.

And as to "dogmatizing," consider the Second Ecumenical Council of 381. When did this council, which was convoked neither as an "ecumenical" council nor even an "eastern" one, but simply as an assembly of bishops from the ambit and purlieux of Constantinople (at which the Patriarch of Alexandria turned up mid-way through to pursue his vendetta against St. Gregory of Nazianzus) become "ecumenical?" To establish the facts of the case are difficult enough; their implications are even more untidy. (It was long spurned by both Rome and Alexandria: the Copts don't seem to have accepted its ecumenical status until after the Muslim conquest, and the Orthodox Alexandrian only towards the end of the reign of Justinian, while Rome did so in 534.)

William Tighe said...

"... from the ambit and purlieux of Constantinople (at which the Patriarch of Alexandria turned up mid-way through to pursue his vendetta against St. Gregory of Nazianzus)"

I should have written "from the ambit and purlieux of Constantinople, together with a delegation from Antioch (at which ..." etc. The Antiochenes and the imperial authorities alike wished to resolve the long-standing schism at Antioch; Patriarch Timothy of Alexandria wished to oust Gregory of Nazianzus in favor of the "Egyptian candidate" for Constantinople, Maximus (Greg. Naz. was ousted, but Senator Nektarios replaced him), and also to push his and Rome's view of how the Antiochene schism should be resolved (in which he was rebuffed). So the Egyptians left in a huff, and both they and Rome spurned the council, although both of them rapidly accepted and adopted its "reformulation" of the Nicene Creed.

The Ochlophobist said...

I agree with what Samn! and Dr. Tighe have written.

The "miracle" of a reunion must involve one side retracting on matters that side considers to be dogmatic and irretractable.

Neither communion, in its own exegesis of its own Church history, knows itself to have retracted dogma, as Dr. Tighe well suggests. For the East, iconoclasm was anti-dogma from start to finish - the Church has always been iconophile, and so forth. Those who departed from this truth departed from the Apostolic faith.

Good points by Samn! regarding the guilt of Orthodox of this same posture towards anti-chalcedonians. I have known Orthodox priests and theologians who are feverish in their hunger for that reunion, in part because of the strength it would give us at the table when dealing with Rome. In my mind, such a spirit is a desire for power, a power which mimics the way of the world and not Christ. We must devote ourselves to truth.

In these discussions I am reminded of the deep respect I have for the faith of Dr. Tighe. I may disagree with him, but I find the manner he appropriates his Catholic faith to be utterly honorable.

Matt's Melkite faith is one I have deep sympathy for. I have defended Steven Todd Kaster for his expression of Melkite faith in these online quarters. These are men who follow their own Melkite bishops in their expression of faith. But the problem as I see it is this. It seems to me that the underlying hope of the Melkite project is that there are a number of Latin Rite Catholic hierarchs who do not hold to VatI. I am told that in private conversation a number dissent from the passage I quote above. There presence, in my opinion, however, is problematic. The same folks in the Latin Church who secretly dissent from VatI are the folks who believe that dogma itself is malleable (a position substantially beyond even the normal understanding of development of dogma in the RCC). If they were to "win" within the Roman Communion, then a union achieved with Rome would be union with a communion that believes that dogma is malleable. At that point, in a certain sense, Orthodox might as well unite with Anglicanism. For a Latin member of the international dialogue to not see much of the western developments as binding on the East begs a very important question. Does that member believe that the above quoted passage from VatI is not binding on the East? If he does not see it as binding, then he is in dissent from the dogma of his own Church. If he does see it as binding, that the other things he believes not to be binding are only non-binding in a conditional manner, because any Pope in the future has jurisdictional power and authority to change what is and what is not binding on the East at any time, as the passage from VatI makes unequivocally clear. Thus we are back to square one as it has been defined in these threads. It seems to me that ultimately the Melkite project rests upon the hopes of the victory of those in Latin quarters that are anti-dogmatic in contemporary fashion, just as the hopes of many RC ecumenists for union with Orthodoxy lie with Orthodox theologians and bishops who are wishy-washy with regard to dogma (and more).

The Ochlophobist said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
William Tighe said...

What Och. wrote: I agree without reservations.

(And I might add: Owen, I hope we are in charity with one another. I have been somewhat distressed ever since out exchange concerning the position of Dr. Kaster etc. that I had given you personal offense. Forgive me.)

William Tighe said...

"... and it's sad to see that its last redoubt seems to be among the Melkites ..."

Excessively hyperbolic even for me, alas.

The Ochlophobist said...

Dr. Tighe,

God forgives and I forgive.

Forgive me for any offense I caused. I was a bit of a baskside on that one.

John (Ad Orientem) said...

Having just had a chance to catch up on all of the comments I find very little I can disagree with. To answer the question Dr. Tighe posted in his opening salvo the short answer is "no." The first seven councils are carved in stone and nonnegotiable. I think Mike Liccione substantially made the same point during our discussion back in '07.

Dr. Tighe and Owen are both correct in all of their points, which reinforces the profound skepticism I have always expressed and reiterated at the conclusion of this post, about the prospects for restored communion.

I must however respectfully disagree with the claims on behalf of so called "Orthodox in communion with Rome." My very real sympathy for those in that situation notwithstanding, it is not possible as I understand things for Orthodox Christians to be in sacramental communion with Rome. As I outlined in my comment over at EP, communion implies agreement on matters of doctrine. Beyond which I think Dr. Tighe pretty much covered this both here and in his comment on the earlier thread.

Which brings me to Dr. Tighe's comments vis a vis the communing of non-Chalcedonians among the Antiochians (I am reliably informed that this also occurs with Catholics in Lebanon). This touches on an uncomfortable point for me. All I can say is that I believe the Antiochians to be Orthodox in doctrine, but I have serious qualms about some of the disciplinary practices in that jurisdiction. And these concerns go well beyond communing the non-Orthodox.

I will out of charity confine myself to saying that the Ants have some issues and hopefully they will begin correcting some of their praxis and church discipline in the coming years. Met. +Philip, whose place in American Orthodox history is secure, is in advanced years and poor health. When eventually he either retires or God calls him to his reward I have some hope that there will be a revival of traditional church discipline and praxis in the Antiochian Archdiocese.

Thanking all for their comments...


Strider said...

There ought to be a rule: neither new converts to Catholicism nor new converts to Orthodoxy should be allowed to comment on ecumenical relations between the Catholic and Orthodox Churches for at least ten years. If this rule were followed, a lot of bombast, nonsense, ignorant disputation, and sinful polemic would be avoided.

It simply takes years and years of prayer and study for a new convert to take on either a Catholic or Orthodox mind and to move beyond the crap that, at least partially, contributed to his conversion in the first place.

He who has ears, let him hear.

Fr Alvin Kimel

Acolyte4236 said...

Given the fact that Dr. Tighe has been kind of enough to send me free books of high quality it is quite difficult to express my disagreement with him, but I must do as conscience dictates. With respect to the OO, all things being equal, Dr. Tighe has a point. But I do not concede that all things are equal. In the case of Rome, the precision with which Rome has defined its position, specifically after VatI has made finding a tertium quid a practical impossibility if not a logical one.

Such is not the case with the Copts. Here we have I think the opposite of terminological precision as is evidenced in the writings of Saint Cyril. Due to Apollinarian forgeries of Athanasian works and other influences there is a good amount of imprecision that motivates Coptic worries about Chalcedonian theology as neo-Nestorian. Clearing up the terminological and conceptual confusion forms a genuine basis for real hope of reunion. If this were not the case, one what basis then did Rome have for unification with those oriental peoples? Did Rome repeal those councils for those groups or did it just paper over theological differences?

As for what the Antiochians do I cannot say I approve but at the same time, I have yet to see any significant action to deny communion to professing Catholics who happen to be public officials who openly defy Catholic moral teaching either. So I am not clear how much hay anyone can make of such cases. Of course given Orthodox ecclesiology, it is much easier to chalk up such an abuse of economia to just that, abuse, but in the case of Catholicism the lack of even the smallest bit of actual discipline makes some wonder if the fish stinks from the head.

Acolyte4236 said...

Fr. Kimel,

Not to be unkind, but if we were to apply such a rule, you would be prohibited from commenting and such would be so even if we shortened it to five years. For myself I waited the better part of five years. Perhaps I should have waited longer or perhaps not. God knows.

The Ochlophobist said...

But Perry, if we pray and study seriously enough, then we will know that an organic "reunion" with Rome is possible.

If I was going to offer some unsolicited spiritual advice, it would be this. Priests, especially priests who are recent converts, should not offer unsolicited spiritual advice to folks outside of their communion. My priest knows of my engagement in these sorts of debates. My godfather, also an Orthodox priest, does as well. When they tell me to stop I will. I have seen Orthodox priests and an increasingly prominent Orthodox theologian thank Perry for the work he does on his blog. None of them are the sort that dress up as James Bond in clerical attire and post pictures of it. But oops, that’s an arrogant comment, though Richard John Neuhaus wrote comments like that in the back of First Things all the time, and then it was funny. So hard to learn the ins and outs of the neo-Cath rhetorical rules.

I think that the issue of universal papal jurisdiction is a useful topic of discussion in Orthodox quarters for these reasons:

1. More than any other issue regarding what separates the RCC and EOC, this issue is the one in which not only all Orthodox virtually agree, but the focus of the agreement is tight. While some such as Clement might allow for a reduced papal office in some hypothetical future Church, and some on Athos believe that the Papal office is forever antichrist, all seem to adamantly agree that universal papal jurisdiction is completely foreign to the understanding the Orthodox Church has of herself, and they seem to agree for very similar reasons.

2. Unlike some areas in which we Catholics and Orthodox disagree, such as praxis, and the filioque, and ADS, and so forth, this issue is, well, much more approachable. A reasonably educated adult can read the essential primary and secondary sources on both sides of the issue in a relatively short period of time (even a very casual reader could do so in a year or two), but beyond that with this issue the essential points are easy to discuss and to categorize. One does not need to be an expert in philosophy or in history to come to grasp with what is at hand here. Read the anathemas of Session 4 of VatI. The text is clear, if you do not fully assent, you are anathema. The Orthodox Church will never assent. This ain't rocket science.

Of course, it might help to remind readers that both Kimel and Liccione don’t really believe that the Orthodox Church is a Church, and therefore it has no, shall we say, ontological capacity to positively affirm a real ecclesiology outside of the Roman Church, but do we really want to go down that road again? That is the dark side (and more honest side) of a certain strand of polemical Roman rhetoric that does not get shown in the initial warm fuzzy-speak. It doesn’t get mentioned on the front end because it undercuts that rhetorical tone which suggests that the Roman Church wants an organic reunion of the two Churches that is more or less egalitarian. Phooey. I would respect Roman Catholic ecumenical rhetoric if they simply stated from the front end that any reunion will require assent to the dogma of VatI. At that point, I could disagree, but still respect.

3. This issue trumps all the others. If the thesis that Dr. Tighe and I seem to agree on is correct, regarding the irrevocable dogmatic division between the Churches on this issue, then why should the average layman worry much about the filioque and ADS and problems of praxis and all that jazz?

4. Orthodox faithful may wish to know why it is they don’t take communion in Catholic churches. And persons interested in the differences between Orthodoxy and Catholicism certainly have a right to be a fly on the wall as Orthodox discuss these things.

I agree with John, let's move on to those things we can do together.

John (Ad Orientem) said...

A gentle reminder to all... please debate vigorously but not personally.

Fr. Kimel,
It's good to here from you. I pray that you and yours are well.

Under the mercy,

John (Ad Orientem) said...

I concur that there is far more room for hope in terms of restoring communion with the OO than with the RCC. But do you feel that communion should be permitted even as an act of economy while they still reject at least three OEcumenical Councils? That's not intended as a rhetorical question.

I am uncomfortable in the extreme with it. And as I noted earlier the Patriarch of Antioch is known to tolerate inter-communion with Catholics especially of the Maronite Rite, something that I am also profoundly uncomfortable with. But whatever they have added at least the Romans don't deny defined dogmas (as far as I am aware).

Anonymous said...

Heres Very Rev. John H Erickson on the situation, (I find his discussion quite enlightening).

Acolyte4236 said...


While I agree with much of what you write, I do disagree at one point. In so far as a historical question in many respects the papacy is much more approachable. But conceptually I don’t think it is any easier than any of the other issues. In fact, I don’t think one can get the concept of VatI without the Filioque and vice versa. The two conceptually hang together. If the Son sends the hypostasis of the Spirit, then it follows that a vicar of Christ sends the Spirit into the Church and is the principle of unity. And you can’t get the Filioque without ADS. Only if the economia and theologia are ontologically identical can you license the move from the former to the latter in terms of hypostatic causation. I prefer to cut to the chase.

Anonymous said...

First, thanks to everyone who has contributed to this discussion. I wish I had more time to type. It's a shame we can't go to a local pub to talk about these things.

I have a very concrete question surrounding universal jurisdiction. Is there any way to limit it to a universal court of appeals? As many of you all probably already know, the Melkites specifically added to to decree on universal jurisdiction "saving all of the rights and privileges of the patriarchs" before accepting. This seems like a very large loophole to drive a robust Orthodox ecclesiology through, while still preserving a meaningful role for the Bishop of Rome.


Acolyte4236 said...


I am certainly in sympathy with you on the point of communing with the Copts. In my own parish, we have a significant Eritrean population. To my knowledge, many of them were received, but if all of them who commune have I know not. That said, most did because the Eritreans due to a civil war aren’t too keen on going to the local Copt or Ethiopian church. The Copts aided the Ethiopians and the Eritreans broke away from Ethiopia. In any case, I do not ask.

That said, as a formal matter I do not think there should be permission given except perhaps in certain circumstances. A good number of these people do not attend Coptic parishes in the first place and have no clue whatsoever of the issues that divide the bodies. They aren’t maintaining any theologically distinctives opposed to the church’s teaching. In Muslim dominated lands, I can only imagine the practical impediments for Christians so I suppose some discretion is permitted that just wouldn’t fly here in the states.

That said, Anglicans never to my knowledge formally received the Seventh Council and yet Chalcedonian Orthodox were directed to Anglican churches for marriages and such, though minus participation in the eucharist, over Roman churches for some time.

As far as Franks not denying any defined dogmas, that depends. Do you accept the council of Blachernae? If so, then Rome rejects the energetic but non-hypostatic procession of the Spirit through the Son.

With the Copts in contradistinction to Rome, if one reads Severus of Antioch, Dioscorus or other “Monophysites” I think it is clear that underlying their worry is motivated by a failure, ironically like the Nestorians to adequately distinguish between person and nature. This is what motivated imperial monothelitism as a policy to reconcile the monophysites since the latter took the will to be hypostatic and consequently monothelitism gained wide acceptance even so far as Aremenia and quite a good long while into the reception of the latter into the Roman fold.

The Ochlophobist said...


It depends on what you mean by limit.

If this universal court of appeals is a form of self-limitation in the function of the papacy, in which VatI remains affirmed as dogma but universal papal jurisdiction is not functionally practiced aside from such a court, then there is no formal rejection of the dogma. The problem with this, from an Orthodox point of view, is that members of the Catholic Church are required to assent to Catholic dogma. Thus, in such a vehicle of reunion, Orthodox would have to assent to the Pope's authority to exert full jurisdictional authority over the entire Church at any point, even if he has agreed not to. VatI gives the Pope unlimited jurisdictional authority. To assent to VatI is to assent to the Pope has the authority to break any prior agreement he would see fit.

Recent Catholic language suggests that we would only have to assent to what Orthodox assented to prior to the schism, but this begs the questions I mention in the other thread. What does it mean for Orthodox to accept as acceptable theologumenon the doctrine (and stated dogma of Rome) that those who posit even a mitigation of universal papal jurisdiction are anathema? That is absurd. In this scenario, Orthodox are required to cease calling Roman Catholics who believe in VatI heretics or heterodox, but Roman Catholics are allowed to (as theologumenon, from the point of view of Orthodox) hold to a dogmatic assertion in which Orthodox who refuse to assent to VatI’s definition of universal papal jurisdiction are anathematized. Please.

On the other hand, if by limit you mean that Rome formally states that reunion might occur with the Pope as head of a universal ecclesial court of appeals with limited and clearly defined powers, and that the Pope's full and comprehensive jurisdiction does not apply to the Eastern Churches, then this would be a retraction of VatI. Thus, the Roman Church would no longer be the Church she now claims to be.

Look, I highly sympathize with the Melkite project, because, well, y’all sure talk and act like Orthodox in so many respects, and I would love to see Rome accept an Orthodox ecclesiology. But for reasons states in the other thread, if this comes through the victory in Rome of folks who believe that dogma is malleable, and a reunification occurs in the spirit of such a belief, then I do not see how the Orthodox Church could enter such a "reunion" for it would not be a real union but rather a sort of non-dogmatic or quasi-dogmatic composite, in which there is not a real shared faith, as persons with a malleable view of dogma are at odds with an Orthodox understanding of dogma. I can think of a union the Melkites could enter that might be pretty agreeable.

John (Ad Orientem) said...

I meant to post this yesterday and got sidetracked. Thanks for the reply. I think we are on the same page.


Anonymous said...


Sorry for the delay.

"On the other hand, if by limit you mean that Rome formally states that reunion might occur with the Pope as head of a universal ecclesial court of appeals with limited and clearly defined powers, and that the Pope's full and comprehensive jurisdiction does not apply to the Eastern Churches, then this would be a retraction of VatI. Thus, the Roman Church would no longer be the Church she now claims to be."

This is more along the lines of what I was thinking, though I don't think a lot of the "professional ecumenists" or whatever would agree with your last line above. They seem to think it's possible to get there from here. Maybe they're just crazy, but the ones I've met have all been smarter than me about Roman doctrine so what do i know?

As to your last paragraph, I guess I'm a little more open to "wriggle room". If the Romans want to believe in a "treasury of merits" then I guess I don't have a problem with that, so long as they don't view it as dogma binding on all Christians. Obviously, there is limits to this though.

Anonymous said...

While I agree with much of what you write, I do disagree at one point. In so far as a historical question in many respects the papacy is much more approachable. But conceptually I don’t think it is any easier than any of the other issues. In fact, I don’t think one can get the concept of VatI without the Filioque and vice versa. The two conceptually hang together. If the Son sends the hypostasis of the Spirit, then it follows that a vicar of Christ sends the Spirit into the Church and is the principle of unity. And you can’t get the Filioque without ADS. Only if the economia and theologia are ontologically identical can you license the move from the former to the latter in terms of hypostatic causation. I prefer to cut to the chase.

6/20/2009 8:56 PM

I love it. The grand "unified field theory" of theology.
Everything fits perfectly in it, has its place, etc;etc;

Acolyte4236 said...


Your comment would be relevant to the conversation if you pointed out something that was actually wrong with the argument I made, unless of course you think being logically consistent is wrong. I merely followed the logic given by Popes and Catholic theologians in the past, but perhaps you think I shouldn't have done so.

In the the future, please give an argument, rather than a veild insult.

Anonymous said...

I didn't know that Roman Catholic theology was so internally consistent. I've never received such an impression when reading Roman Catholic theologians or Popes.

Perhaps the discussion would be more fruitful after I read;

Anonymous said...

As a simple Roman Catholic layman, with no real in depth understanding of Orthodox Ecclesiology, I don't know how Vatican I can't be accepted in light of the quotes on this page:

Certainly at least infallibility was implicit in the writings of some of the early Eastern Church fathers? Were they simply wrong, or am I misunderstanding them?

Love your blog by the way.


Acolyte4236 said...


Quotes like these deployed in that manner aren’t helpful for a host of reasons. First, key terms need an analysis. Primacy, first, chief, prince, head, etc. can have a variety of usages and did in Roman culture and change across time. This is well documented in the professional literature. Second, some citations are the result of directly or indirectly known forgeries. Third, upon analysis the citations either don’t tell the whole story or they are insufficient to prove the papal model or theory. Let’s take the citations from Maximus as an example.

When it became clear to Maximus that Rome fell to Monothelitism in Honorius, he stated that he would only commune with Rome if it confessed the right faith. So those citations don’t tell the whole story. Second, upon examination, Maximus thinks that the perogatives mentioned are such as decreed by the councils, but which councils decreed the contents of say Satis Cognitum or Pastor Aeternus? Further the papal model is not in line with what Maximus says, namely that the perogatives of Rome are such as decreed by councils, rather than by divine right in the person of the pope himself. Third, Maximus includes Paul in the basis for the primacy which is not only the most ancient tradition grounding the primacy but is not papal model. Fourth, Maximus includes the clergy in general and not the pope in particular. And fifth he fixes its perogatives on its profession, not on an appeal to a preceding petrine chrism as say outlined in Pastor Aeternus.

Citations like these, put forward as you have done are persuasive to people who have either not done their homework and read both sides. It is not uncommon for would be apologists to read works by say Luke Rivington, which looks quite persuasive unless of course you balance it out with works like Edward Denny’s Papalism. People who have read both sides and the better literature to boot aren’t as easily persuaded. Citations like these deployed in this manner are the equivalent of lists composed by atheists of supposed bible contradictions, and they usually produce the same type of psychological dispositions-smugness, superiority, and self righteousness.

I not affirming or arguing that Rome can’t make a good case for its claims. Rather what I am suggesting is a more intellectually honest way to making such a case. Otherwise, if the case were as airtight and simple as the citations suppose, the Orthodox then aren’t deserving of argument, but scorn and perhaps best, pity since they are being deliberately schismatic. It just isn’t that simple. So I’d suggest in the most friendly way I can to broade your perspective by reading both sides.

Anonymous said...

Alexander, just read the Petrine Ministry Orthodox and Catholics in Dialogue.

It's the must current treatment of the whole topic.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the responses!