Thursday, October 21, 2010

Vatican II and the Orthodox Bishops

Orthodox Christians devoted to accountability are surely aware that accountability in behavior cannot be separated from accountability in understanding since practice (praxis) is necessarily connected to vision (theoreia).

This conviction inspires me, given the present state of things, to raise the following question: Is it possible that the teaching of the Second Vatican Council about the ministry of bishops in the Roman Catholic Church is now being taught and practiced in an adapted and altered form in our Orthodox churches today?

Let me explain why I raise such a question.

According to the Second Vatican Council of the Roman Catholic Church, following Vatican I and the Council of Trent, bishops are not organically connected to the specific dioceses in which they serve. They rather have their episcopal position and power by virtue of their personal sacramental consecration as bishops. They are, so to speak, considered to be bishops in their own right, and not in virtue of their ministries as heads and overseers of actually existing ecclesial communities to which they belong. As such, they can be moved about from church to church, and even function in bureaucratic positions with titles of sees that no longer exist and therefore without being the leading member of any particular church, and without having any flock at all.

In this teaching and practice, bishops are not elected by the people of their dioceses and confirmed by all the bishops of the regional church to which they belong who, as brother bishops, affirm their election by first examining their faith and behavior, and then, when all is found to be acceptable, by consecrating them through the “laying on of hands.” They are rather appointed directly by the Pope of Rome. While their validity as bishops derives from their sacramental consecration, their legitimacy as bishops derives from their communion with the Pope, and their submission to him.

Together with the Pope, and under his immediate direction, and in obedience to his unique authority considered to derive directly from God (whatever “politicking” may have produced him by vote of the qualified bishops in the college of cardinals, all Vatican-appointed men with titular pastorates of churches in the diocese of Rome), the bishops as consecrated individuals corporately form a “college” (collegium) that governs the universal catholic Church. And, as just noted, they do so by virtue of their union with the See of Rome and in submission to its bishop who is believed to be the unique “successor of Peter” and “vicar of Christ” and “supreme pontiff of the Church” who possesses direct and immediate episcopal authority and jurisdiction over every member of the universal church, including all the other bishops, and who also possesses the authority to speak infallibly on matters of faith and morals when speaking from the chair of Peter (ex cathedra Petri) not from the consensus of the Church (ex consensu ecclesiae) but rather in, by and from himself (ex sese)...

...The Orthodox Church, of course, has no infallible Pope who exercises direct and immediate episcopal jurisdiction over all the Church’s members in the world, including the other bishops. It has no bishop of any see that can speak in any way binding on all the faithful in matters of faith and morals. It has no curia. It has no magisterium. It has no college of cardinals. It has no international advisory council of bishops from around the world. It has no “ecumenical council”, or a council of any kind, that can be considered authoritative, still less infallible, before its decisions are taken and are universally accepted – or perhaps rejected — by all the churches that recognize each other as Orthodox.

According to traditional Orthodoxy, using the celebrated third century formula of St. Cyprian of Carthage in his controversy with the bishop of Rome, Christ’s Church knows no “bishop of bishops” (episcopus episcoporum). The “episcopate is one” (episcopatus unus est) and all of the Church’s bishops hold the same episcopal authority and exercise the same episcopal service “in solidarity” (in solidum) with each other. The holy hieromartyr also teaches that the bishop of every church who makes St. Peter’s confession of faith and receives the Holy Spirit with the authority of “binding and loosing”, sits on the “seat of Peter” (cathedra Petri.) And St. Cyprian also holds, as proven by his famous letter 69, that the bishop in his own church does nothing by himself, but acts in everything in harmony with the church’s “common council” to which, as a member and head of the church, he is accountable for everything he says and does.

These convictions, formulated so clearly and so well by St. Cyprian, are proclaimed and defended by all Orthodox doctrines and canons through the centuries. They are also demonstrated in Orthodox liturgy, including the rites of election and consecration of bishops. The Orthodox Church unequivocally rejects the teachings of Vatican Council I about the special position, prerogatives and powers of the Bishop of Rome. And today the Orthodox Church, it seems to me, should also reject the explanation of Vatican II about how bishops function in the Church, and how they and their churches are to relate to each other, including even to autocephalous churches and their primates.

So what might a version of the Vatican II doctrine about bishops look like in the Orthodox Church?
Read the rest here .

Original source.


Bob Glassmeyer said...

Why should Orthodox Christians care about what Vatican II says about anything?

Anonymous said...

Old habits die hard....

Han said...

I don't think that Hopko was saying that we should be guided by Vatican II. Rather, he is warning us against adopting a Vatican II type of ecclesiology, which he sees as creeping into the Church.

My read of Hopko's article is that he believes the that "collegiality" of Vatican II is a false collegiality because it still makes Catholic bishops middle managers in a Roman franchise and therefore such an ecclesiology must be rejected. Nevertheless, Hopko believes that this ecclesiology is even now being advanced by some in the Church. In particular, he sees the current state of Orthodoxy in America--different jurisdictions with bishops subject to patriarchs abroad as a form of papism, and SCOBA (or its successor) as a form of Vatican II-style non-canonical "episcopal assembly".

As a practical matter, the existence, size and power of the Roman Catholic Church are simply matters of fact. We have a long history of intercourse with the Latins, and while we may reject their heresies, we would be fools ignore what they are doing. We can either learn from them or we could remain willfully ignorant so as to better repeat their mistakes.

The young fogey said...

I suspect it's an academic trendydox (from the 'cool' Parisian version of Russian Orthodoxy that St Vlad's is a daughter house of... he's far from a liberal compared to Western churchmen - more like a 1950s high Anglican or liturgical-movement RC - but he talks the liberals' language) telling Western liberal churchmen what they want to hear, because they hate the Pope not for his relatively modest claimed powers (definer and enforcer of doctrine, and with universal jurisdiction) but because he's Catholic (he won't change the church into a mainline Protestant denomination - like an Orthodox bishop, he says he can't!). Hearing this stuff from an Eastern churchman flatters them because they think the East is more spiritual than the West, it gives them antique/academic cred and it looks ecumenical.