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a reader puzzles about our relationship with the Eastern Churches. I do what I can to help confuse him.
One of my friends belongs to the Ukrainian rite and is ecstatic about the Pope’s prolific ecumenicism directed towards the Orthodox. If you want to see some beautiful churches and vestments, look up some pictures from such a visit.
Unam Sanctum stopped being of serious concern in 1965 I thought. With the Patriarchs on board along with the Pope that we are one Church in imperfect communion, you have some holdouts like the old monks of Esphigmenou but between those two sides claiming Orthodoxy, which is Orthodox when both sides claim only one can be right and faithful? Anyway, here’s what I wrote over at the Register in comment.
If a proclaimed member of the Orthodox Church declares that he is “not confided to Peter and to his successors” then he is in fundamental disagreement with his Patriarch. I would suggest that he is not actually Orthodox at all but a form of protestant that is cut off from the apostolic succession in an unOrthodox manner.
Unam Sanctum does apply to the individual but it is wrong to call such a person Orthodox or to imply that his statements have any impact on Orthodox/Catholic relations. Beyond that, it is not the western Church’s business to discipline such a person, but rather the business of the relevant Patriarch and his fellow synod members however they are internally organized. For westerners to reach into such matters is exactly the sort of arrogant overreach that should not mark relations between west and east.
As an Orthodox layman no one ever asked me to be confided to Peter & successors, just my bishop. Then bishops relate to each other, but each is a real bishop. The role of the Bishop of Rome is so big in any talks because there are just two different sets of ideas about that. Orthodox don’t think one man can be Bishop Of Earth and claim never to have in 2000 years. What *one* Orthodox bishop did in 1965 with Pope Paul VI didn’t mean much then or since. I wish things were better than they are. I thought Pope Benedict preached beautifully on Christmas Eve. I think every time I hear him preach his sermon could be read in an Orthodox parish, he’s a gifted faithful man.
You may wish to inform yourself of the positions of your own bishop, the patriarch of your Church, as well as the synod as well as the positions of the subsequent patriarchs of Constantinople. I believe that you will find their positions enlightening. I think they will essentially translate to we are one Church, badly wounded like a family in the middle of one of those horrible family fights where everybody says regrettable things. We cannot yet be in full communion yet but we are working towards it as families are all called on by Christ to reconcile.
And if you can get a workable definition of what the Orthodox definition of “primacy of honor” actually means, I would really like to hear about it. I’ve never been able to find one that made a lick of sense as a practical matter.
Workable definition of primacy of honor! The best I’ve heard was from Met.Kallistos Ware long ago. He said that when many priests celebrate the liturgy together, one presides. Likewise with many bishops. That he said, is how the Orthodox primarily understand primacy. There was (based on Byzantine demographics that mean almost nothing now) some honorary pecking order among patriarchs that still gets written approval. Since Alexandria is essentially gone, Jerusalem never was much, Antioch very diminished, Constantinople likewise, the one that is most (not completely) free is Moscow. The east still suffers from cringing under Muslims who just want the annoying infidels gone. The language of the Bishop of Rome being a chief celebrant at a eucharist but *not* having jurisdiction over every single Christian on earth wouldn’t please Roman Catholics. Orthodox don’t look to Bartholomew as an “Orthodox Pope” despite what he may think of himself. I’d agree there’s a thousand years of common history and lots of bad reasons not to be united but there are good ones too. With the Pope being the last word on every last thing it makes him what I said earlier, Bishop of Earth. No other “bishop” need ever suit up. No need ever for a “counsel” of bishops. There’s only one vote to be cast.
Oh, I don’t think it would be a deal breaker if the Patriarchs of the east could demonstrate that they’re able to clean house without him. Infrequently though, they fail.
Ultimately, in an emergency without other solution, you need one guy to just settle matters. The early romans knew that when they instituted their two year dictatorships. In extremis the East has adopted this response to individual crises. But who do you pick? The logical choice, and it seems what’s been done in the 1st millenium is you go down the seniority list, the same seniority list that lands the bishop of Rome as the chief celebrant in a unified Church.
The sticking point that I see is that the West wants to systematize and formalize while the East wants the mechanism to remain ad hoc and not talked about much. Is that a difference worth stabbing Christ over? I think ultimately the Pope and Patriarchs will admit it is not.