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Thursday, 31 October 2013

The Catholic Voyager: Could this lead to Orthodox-Catholic unity on the papacy and beyond?

Sam Entile writes an interesting essay on developing the exercise of the Papal teaching office, including the its infallibility, in a way that is in accord with Orthodox views of primacy, the role of the bishop who is "protos", and the effective accord among bishops across time and geography determined by the protos when declaring teaching authoritatively - particularly when that protos is the Bishop of Rome and declaring a settled teaching that affects and expresses the faith of the Church as a whole.

Read the essay here:
The Catholic Voyager: Could this lead to Orthodox-Catholic unity on the papacy and beyond?

The causes celebres are Marian doctrines, and possibly the declaration that the sacrament of priestly order cannot be conferred on women; but Entile also identifies moral teaching, such as the declaration on the grave moral disorder of abortion, which is the papal putting together and extrapolation of pre-existing teaching but the papal summing up of express, consistent and universal teaching of the bishops and the belief of the faithful. Entile says that this is not the pope acting on his personal initiative or an independent prerogative, but fulfilling a moral obligation as protos to consult his fellow bishops and declare their common teaching. While the pope is not legally obliged to consult, such that his office is not subject to constraint from the authority of councils or other forces, including those external to the Church - and there is ancient witness to the role of the Bishop of Rome vis-à-vis the other churches as faithful custodian of the faith of the apostles and thus the authoritative witness that can be called upon to keep the Church to the truth of Christ - respecting the moral obligation to consult and declare the faith with the other bishops is important to the Orthodox, who see it as integral to their understanding of the nature and purpose of the Church and its hierarchy. This is not simply because it is "their" tradition, as distinct from "ours", but because it a providential given in the life of the Church from the days of apostles onwards, rooted in their life together with Christ as his disciples, and firmly established in the ecumenical councils and a large body of canons that belong in common with the Roman West. In a unified Church, they want to the pope not only to consult the other bishops, specifically the Eastern patriarchs and primates, but to be seen to consult, and thus to act accordingly as protos, not as an independent power.

In fact, the moral obligation to consult on the two Marian dogmatic definitions amply fulfil the moral obligation. Pius IX widely consulted the Catholic episcopate about establishing the widespread belief of Catholics in the Immaculate Conception of the Mother of God through formal definition as Catholic faith. Likewise, Pius XII consulted the episcopate before declaring the defined Catholic teaching on the Virgin Mary's Assumption. Starting out from different theological standpoints, these teachings are shared with the Orthodox Church, although the definitions that she is immaculate through her Son or exalted in heaven with her Son are liturgical, not hierarchical. As they are in the worship of the Church and thus taught already, why define them doctrinally? Similarly, at Vatican II an attempt to secure a definition of the Mother of God as Co-Redemptrix, not encouraged by the Popes in any case, failed to attract the support of all the bishops. And although there was to be a separate teaching document on Mary as "type" of the Church, which would have explored her place in the scheme of salvation, including her role in the mediation and redemption worked by her Son, strenuous representation from the Orthodox (consulted for instance by the monks of Chevetogne) and the Eastern Catholics, particularly the Melkites expressing their own faith as well as that of the Orthodox in the patriarchate of Antioch, a presentation of Mary as Mother of the Church which might imply that she was above the Church rather than belonging to it as the community of the redeemed was avoided as a risk to intensifying the schism, and thus the Marian teaching was placed within the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium, and there was no doctrinal definition of the Divine Motherhood.

Where Entile slightly misses the point in his essay is that in praising the Ravenna Statement (on the papal primacy in the first millennium, as an established first step on piece together East-West communion again, coming from the Joint International Theological Commission of the Catholic and Orthodox Churches) as a template for reconstructing unity on a shared basis in theology, history. tradition and ecclesiology, he has not weighed that it is not an agreed statement of the Churches, but of the participants present. It has been repudiated by the Moscow Patriarchate, which was not party to the talks for other reasons, owing to precise problems it has with the philosophical reasoning of first principles for communion argued in the expression of the Commission's Orthodox chairman -Metropolitan John (Zizioulas) of Pergamom. Indeed the Russian Orthodox Church has gone to the lengths of writing its own statement on papal primacy in the first millennium, although without its own dialogue with Catholic interlocutors. This Statement has apparently been agreed but not issued by the protos - Patriarch Kirill of Moscow. It is understood to be a position paper, based on historical Church experience as well as theology. As the Russian Church has no direct experience or corporate memory of the first millennium, it nonetheless identifies with the historical Byzantine and other Slavic churches that did. Some leading non-Russian, Orthodox figures believe that the Ravenna Statement -which in any case came to light as a leak before it was settled and this leakage added to the Russian sense that they were not physically or theologically part of what had been discussed - emphasised principle and theory and that there is now a need to look at historical reality and how that is remembered. In other words, the next stage in the Orthodox-Catholic dialogue is in fact an Orthodox-Orthodox dialogue to establish the shared view in which all are confident, taking into account both Ravenna and Moscow's forthcoming document, prior to a renewed Orthodox-Catholic encounter at the world level. In other words, valuable work as Ravenna was, it is not acceptable to all Orthodox, and the discussion has moved on from seeing the Statement as an authoritative Agreed Statement of the Joint Commission.

So, in answer to Entile's question, Ravenna, and its interpretation by Metropolitan Kallisos (Ware) indeed could lead to Orthodox-Catholic unity, and Entile's discussion of how the existing Catholic system, modified and developed at Vatican II could be modified and developed further in ways that would be true to the Catholic teaching on the office of the pope, but also to Orthodox tradition and ecclesiology. But it will lead to it by revealing that, in fact, steps will need to be retraced as the Orthodox Church as a whole comes to a common view that will enable a dialogue with the Catholic Church to be on clearer respective lines and thus fruitful.

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