Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Pope of Christian Unity: East West Dialogue

I find this rather innocuous statement the most exciting news for sometime, another of those significant rabbits of this Pontificate: "the international mixed commission for theological dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Churches", as it is called, "is continuing to discuss the role of the Pope in the first millenium and then move on to his role in the second millenium".

Discussion of the role of the Pope as Et in Unum Sint points out is crucial in the work of Christian unity, now it is being discussed.
Read Sandro Magister's analysis here.


me said...

If they say more Rosaries, they'll begin to love him. I did anyway. I think Our Lady gives us her heart's emotions, maybe the Holy family's emotions, so everyone becomes your child. There is the sword piercing her heart as well, of course.That needs to be taken into account too.

Paul, Bedfordshire said...

I think when you read the newly translated document in full, the reason for why Pope Benedict distributes communion only to those kneeling but does not order others to, only exhorts them in charity to do so by his example becomes clearer. (yes part of me thought he should just tell them to do it as he does but, it cannot be seen in isolation)

Anagnostis said...

Oh dear, Shadow - "Latinization"! You just drove them off again! :0)

Actually, plenty of Orthodox (self included)do admire and appreciate the present Pope. He can't wipe out the "second millenium" though, and that, when all's said and done, remains the point. He couldn't "repeal" Vatican One even if he wanted to, and we're never going to receive it.

Anagnostis said...

Communion simply cannot exist in the context of an "agreement to differ" over something one party regards as Dogma, Divinely revealed, and other rejects as a heretical distortion.

Fr Ray Blake said...

Moretben, As an Orthodox do you really see no room to discuss the hermeneutic of the Councils, is that beyond the Orthodox mind?

johnf said...

Sandro Magister's article

"...Rome ..occupied the first place in the taxis.."

led me to the strange mental picture of the Pope and Patriarchs queuing outside the Church at the taxi rank.

me said...

Moretben said;

"Oh dear, Shadow - "Latinization"! You just drove them off again! :0)"

I am sorry, I have no idea what 'Latinization' means. Regards my religion, I am a very poorly educated Catholic. I am just relating my experience since starting to pray the Rosary and getting close to yours and my Mother. She gives her own heart to us, but at a cost, as well as comfort, precious agony. I wouldn't want to suffer anywhere else, except close to her heart.

I have also just started to pray the Office, with no knowledge at all of what I am supposed to be doing, just a desire. I do have access to a human guide though.

Give me a month Moretben, and I shall let you know who I start to love next......maybe a famous Orthodox Saint!

Roger Buck said...

Regarding you writing, Father:

"Moretben, As an Orthodox do you really see no room to discuss the hermeneutic of the Councils, is that beyond the Orthodox mind?"

I think we must really pray that this is not beyond the Orthodox mind.

Pray hard.

And perhaps also that certain things are not unthinkable to Catholics.

The world falls into the deepest pit of a secularised materialism it has ever known.

As a Catholic philosopher I read recently said, many children today no more know what the inside of an church looks like than the inside of an abattoir.

Dechristianisation proceeds apace. In Waterstones London - reputedly the largest bookshop in Europe I found four gigantic bookshelves ... gigantic ... devoted to Christianity.

But I also found thirty *equally* gigantic shelves devoted to Mind-Body-Spirit ... New Age spirituality.

This did not even include the sections on Buddhism, Islam etc.

This is *not* a New Age bookshop. It may well mirror the mindset of Londoners/modern Europeans today: 30 New Age, Christianity 4 ...

And a materialistic world bereft of Christianity sinks into ever greater consumerism, provoking environmental ruin, global warming, inexpressible loss.

Against this massive loss we have a Providential movement between West and East towards the shattered unity.

I trust that certain leaders in both West and East can see the terrible need of our time to heal the Church and to do whatever is possible to halt this dechristianisation ...

And I thank you Father for posting us this stirring piece of hope ...

Anagnostis said...

Shadow - you could start with the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary which is a lovely, lovely thing, and quite easy to learn as it's fairly "light" on the rubrics, with few variations. I seem to remember there's a new edition available from Baronius Press.

Father, I don't think it's a question of it being beyond the Orthodox mind, so much as the extent to which these texts (we're not talking Vatican II!) are susceptible of a "hermeneutic". Of course I know that within Roman Catholicism interpretation has varied from "Spirit of Vatican One" ultramontane maximalism to a much more cautious approach that seeks, or appears to seek, to play down the range and application of what is being claimed. However when a text speaks very forcefully and unambiguously of the Pope exercising a Petrine charism of infallibility in some personal, exclusive and ontological sense non ex consensu ecclesiae (and also of his "full and immediate jurisdiction" over all the Churches), we have to say that was is being asserted is something quite different in kind from the particular ministry exercised by the Roman Church in the early centuries - something utterly foregn to the tradition we have received from the Councils and the Holy Fathers, and manifestly productive of very bad fruits. But it is, apparently, "irreformable" on the Roman side, so what are we to do?

JARay said...

I take it that Moretben is referring to that part of Vatican I which declares:-
"So we teach and declare that according to the testimonies of the gospel, the primacy of jurisdiction over the entire Church of God was promised and was conferred immediately and directly upon the blessed Apostle Peter by Christ the Lord..."
"If anyone says that the Apostle Peter was not established by the Lord Christ as the chief of all Apostles...let him be anathema."
There's more but the general theme is that the Pope is the successor of Peter and nobody else comes near. The Pope is not primus inter pares but primus super omnes. Although he is servus servorum Dei he is the ONE with the powers conferred upon Peter. Even the East recognised this at first but then political power came upon the scene and Constantinople thought that with the secular power shift from Rome to Constantinople, then the religious centre should shift there as well.
Hence Orthodoxy!
What a religious foundation!

Simon Platt said...

Quite so, Roger.

Waterstone's in Preston is the same. On a smaller scale but on the same proportions. All kinds of occult nonsense, almost nothing about Christianity. I suppose it reflects society, but I also suspect that Waterstone's are more comfortable with the occult than the Faith.

Paul, Bedfordshire. said...

From memory, I think the document states is that what they are planning next is thorough research and discussion of the second millenium.

My reading of it is that there is a fear of Papal authority being used in an arbitary way that disregards tradition and the councils (and the political power of the pope in most of the second millenium - now renounced - was a particular problem)

I got the impression they would be argue that the documents of any council could not be read in isolation, but only in conjunction with those of previous councils. Similarly the Pope could not issue a bull that disregarded these, and that dogmas such as papal infallability must be viewed in the light of tradition and scripture and the duty of the Bishop of Rome, like any other bishop or patriarch, to uphold it.

One might call it a hermeneuetic of continuity.....

Fr Ray Blake said...

I think that I would share your opinion. I think the weakness of the Orthodox position is its failure to study objectively the Bishop of Rome's role in the first millenium.

Anagnostis said...


You're talking nonsense, as usual.

Anagnostis said...


Respectfully, I contend that the real lack of objectivity is entirely on the Roman side, accustomed as you are to reading subsequent "developments" back into the record of the early centuries. I note from the latest Rorate post that there is no question now of the Roman side failing to concede that "developments" in the conception of Roman primacy did indeed occur; and that in the second millenium these have indeed carried the conception far beyond anything generally accepted or articulated in the early centuries. So the task now appears to be to convince the Orthodox that this undiscovered Everest in the Tradition is somehow a legitimate "dogmatic development" rather than an heretical mutation. It cannot be news to you that the Orthodox simply do not recognise the idea of "dogmatic development" as commonly circuated in the West and popularised by Newman.

Anagnostis said...


Please don't turn this serious discussion into another puerile, partisan slanging match. You're old enough to know better by now.

Fr Ray Blake said...

I wouldn't be that arrogant, I would hope this dialogue is actually that; a dialogue of scholars, who are willing to be objective and stand aside from the historical achrymony.
I think most Catholic scholars would accept that a political as well as a theological rationale pushed the development of both sides in the second millenium.

May question is: can Orthodoxy seperate politics from theology? At the momernt I suspect not - unfortunately.

Basil said...


Well said Sir!

What amuses me is that if Benedict XVI, and it is indeed a very big 'if', did agree to what we might call a 'first millenium model of the papacy' then all the traditionalist would howl in horror and declare the See of Peter vacant!

Anagnostis said...

I think I know you far too well by now ever to accuse or suspect you of "arrogance". What I mean is this: that there is an unconcious, instinctive habit of anachronism in the way Catholics thinks about the modern Papacy. I know, because I used to be steeped in it myself. Everything is read "under the dome", as it were, of baroque St Peter's, crowned by that enormous text, TU ES PETRUS ET SUPER HANC PETRAM - so that the text itself and whatever particular mention of the Roman Church appears in the record of the early centuries is retrospectively appropriated, however tenuously, in the context of much later developments.

The issue is not about whether or not Peter exercised a leadership role among the Apostles. No-one doubts or has ever doubted that. It's not about whether or not a ministry of presidency among the Churches was exercised by the Roman Church in the early centuries; no-one doubts or denies that either. It's about how one gets from there to the Bishop of Rome claiming to exercise an exclusive, unchallengeable, ontologically distinctive charism of personal infallibility in Peter's name, together with monarchical rights of jurisdiction over every Christian soul.

It’s not about "politics", it’s not about pride and it’s not about arrogance. It’s about whether or not this is TRUE, as the “pristine witness” of the Orthodox to the faith and practice of the early centuries purports to deny, or as the Western conception of “dogmatic development” would claim to determine.

It is a question that has vexed Christians of good will for upwards of 1200 years, and will continue to do so into the foreseeable future, in my opinion. Glib, partisan sloganeering and facile proof-texting will not resolve it, any more than earnest scholarly disputation. It will remain to challenge and disturb consciences until the God of History carries one party or the other, like Peter, to “where he would not go”.

Anagnostis said...


It's my settled conviction that Catholic "Traditionalism" (in which I languished for most of my adult life)is an elaborate strategy for refusing to come to the proper conclusions about absolutely everything! ;0)

JARay said...

Would you be Basil Loftus by any chance? Ex St. Bede's Bradford? Ex English College Rome?
Moretben, I love it when you get angry but you KNOW I'm right.

Independent said...

I wonder if before 1870 there would have been such difficulty in reconciling Catholic and Orthodox if the present Pope had been in charge. As it is Vatican I can be and has been by some catholic scholars interpreted in a distinctly mimimalist sense in contradistinction to the "Spirit of Vatican I" which animated Cardinal Manning and Pope Pius IX himself and was dominant until the 1960's. Perhaps the hard scholarship of the present Pope may find a way to heal the great schism. Pope Benedict by fostering friendly, prayerful and scholarly relations is certainly attacking the problem in a way which compels admiration.Many of my old friends are Catholic priests, some are Orthodox, I would love to join them all.

Basil said...


Sorry to disappoint you, I am not the esteemed Mgr. Lofthouse.


Adulio said...

It's my settled conviction that Catholic "Traditionalism" (in which I languished for most of my adult life)is an elaborate strategy for refusing to come to the proper conclusions about absolutely everything! ;0)

Surely the same could be said for those who skedaddle off to Orthodoxy from Roman Catholicism (for all its current problems and weaknesses).

Anagnostis said...

Hestor - that, naturally, would be the Traditionalist perspective ;o)

"Skedaddling" is never a good idea, and anyone attempting it would rapidly come unstuck, I fear. We should not "move easily": stability, as all of the Fathers attest, is essential. I compared it to a long and horrible sea voyage, during which you watch all of your luggage being swept overboard amidst seasickness so ghastly you wish you were dead; "dying", in fact, is precisely what's involved.

From the tranquil vantage point of one's destination, though, the perspective is enlarged and clarified; it becomes inescapably obvious that "current problems and weaknesses" are in fact perennially re-current, over many hundreds of years; equally, that all that luggage you once thought so precious and essential was merely ballast, or portentous apparatus required to lend stability to an intrinsically unstable and deeply compromised hull (I work in marine safety - can you tell?).

There has been a very telling series of exchanges on this topic on one of the flagship Trad blogs (telling, not least in respect of comments the blogger has refused to publish), where the Trads are stridently insisting that the Orthodox must be compelled to accept Roman Catholicism at its "maximum development"; this, from people who imagine that the Tradition finds its fullest expression in 19th century neo-Scholasticism and reactionary ideology. You couldn't make it up. There is something in the strident bitterness and contempt directed at the Orthodox from “Traditionalist” circles in particular that, to me at least, speaks unmistakeably of deep insecurity.

Returning to Sandro Magister's article referenced by Father in the original post, I'm struck right away by the following sentence: ”The dialogue remained frozen until, in 2005, the German Joseph Ratzinger ascended to the throne of Peter, a pope highly appreciated in the East for the same reason he prompts criticisms in the West: for his attachment to the great Tradition.”

That your communion is one in which the most senior hierarch's “attachment to the great Tradition” is something controversial, something that “prompts criticisms”, says it all. It’s no longer the “big ticket” theological questions that loom insuperably as obstacles to Communion – it’s that fact that we’ve become in every way utterly strange to one another.

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