Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Orthodox-Catholic Reunion: Some Preliminary Thoughts

This is a brief exchange from the Pontifications blog, with a person of unknown affiliation (presumably non-Catholic) and an Orthodox:

Can you envision any way that communion could be achieved between Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy that does not entail the Eastern Orthodox being in submission to Rome?

Sure: an arrangement which basically allows the Orthodox to give at least hypothetical “lip service”, so to speak, to papal primacy and supremacy and infallibility (?), while in practice it basically governs itself with little interference — much like Pope John Paul II has already proposed. It might be somewhat similar to the Queen of England, who is “sovereign” but who has little real political power.

I think the main thing in a reunion is an acknowledgement by both sides that distinctives and variations in theology and liturgy are permissible. I think there is a way that, e.g., the filioque can be harmonized with an Eastern understanding, just as several early Eastern Fathers had no trouble doing. Nor do we have to quibble about the fine points of the consecration or purgatory, etc. — i.e., on the broader ‘ecumenical” plane. We need to first acknowledge each other as more or less equal brothers in Christ. As far as I am concerned, the Catholic Church has pretty much already done that with regard to the Orthodox, without compromising its self-understanding. It is many of the Orthodox who want no part of the West, having inherited a particularly vehement anti-Western, anti-Catholic outlook. That can only be cracked by God’s grace, as it goes far beyond mere theology.

I’m sorry Dave but these montras [sic] really don’t give any explanatory role as to the separation.

They weren’t intended to. The question was specifically about the pope’s role in a reunion (”Can you envision any way that communion could be achieved between Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy that does not entail the Eastern Orthodox being in submission to Rome?”).

You just don’t understand the philosophical theology that separates the two bodies.

If I don’t, you have not demonstrated this, so yours is simply the usual unsubstantiated charge (which seems endemic on the Internet among all schools).

Until you get there, you’re never going to see the filioque as anything else than “verbal trifles.”

But of course I said no such thing. Here is what I wrote:



I think there is a way that, e.g., the filioque can be harmonized with an Eastern understanding, just as several early Eastern Fathers had no trouble doing.

When you see the Neo-Platonic grid, much like Arianism, that the filioque is built on, then just maybe you’ll understand the Orthodox objection, till that time, you’ve provided little-to-no competency in the subject to be able to make a judgement.

I stand by the above statement. If prominent Eastern Fathers agree, then I think it is possible for Orthodox today to do so, if only they are willing. “A man convinced against his will retains his original belief still.”

This anti-western and anti-catholic charge only holds in order to discredit or to stave off making an argument.

Why would anyone think any Orthodox are “anti-western”? Surely nothing in, e.g., your post, would ever give such an impression, right?

Nothing more than poor rhetoric in order to hide behind poor argumentation.

Believe what you will. I think reunion is possible; I long and hope and pray for it, and I gave my opinion as to what it might conceivably look like. But if you wish to think that Catholics are so far gone that reunion is not possible, then I think you are part of the problem, not the solution. God would not want to see His One Church divided: that much is clear. So we must work towards ending the scandalous division as much as it is possible.

. . . I see it as providential that all the theology just was done in the East, and they had the privilege of working through these issues. Where the West, in adopting Augustinianism as its model by the various Frankish theologians (and the subsequent tradition), lapsed back into the sickness of religion instead of its cure.

. . . Every major heresy hunter holds to my view and not to Rome’s: Irenaeus, Athanasius, Basil, Cyril, Maximus, John of Damascus, Photius, and Gregory Palamas. These are the men I stand with.

. . . 1) I’ve read your interactions with various Orthodox writers on your website, and they are truly, well…let’s just say you don’t have a grasp of the problem, or you have not demonstrated so yet in writing. More specifically, the grid that surrounds the Greek Triadological model and the essence/energy distinction.

That may be, but again, it has little or nothing to do with the subject at hand.

2) Christ’s Church is not divided. You cannot divide Christ’s Church no more than you can divide up Christ. As St. Augustine says in the Tractates on the Gospel of John, Christ and his Church make up one whole Christ.

I couldn't agree more.

3) None of the Eastern Fathers, except perhaps those who were still in some sense a slave to Origenism, could be profited forth as a defense of the filioque. Collapsing the Nous into the One as a first principle in order to make the Nous the cause of a divine person as a way to stave off Gothic Arianism is not the solution. It is the same presuppositions as Arianism: deity is defined as causality. The Neo-Platonic system is flexible enough to license such a move. Tweak it a little bit here or a little there and you think you’ve solved the problem, where in actuality it is only resituated.

From the paper, A Catholic-Orthodox Dialogue on Filioque, by William Klimon (hosted on my site since 1997):

[I then cited a great portion of that paper: mostly about the patristic understanding of the filioque and related matters]

Is this the sort of analysis from my website that led you to conclude: "let’s just say you don’t have a grasp of the problem," and is all this consistent with your claim: "None of the Eastern Fathers, except perhaps those who were still in some sense a slave to Origenism, could be profited forth as a defense of the filioque"? I eagerly look forward to your reply.

5) I’m sorry to see Dave that you confuse argumentation and debate with being anti-western.

Hardly. Argumentation is what it is. Anti-western bias and anti-Catholicism is what it is. It is perfectly consistent for an anti-Catholic, anti-western type to make arguments. They may be good or bad ones (usually the latter), which is a separate question, but he can make them. And he can also try to answer our arguments. Now there's the rub, and that which made me tire of trying to reason with the anti-Catholic variety of Orthodox long ago. They have always ignored truly grappling with Catholic arguments, in my experience. True dialogue cannot take place unless a person truly understands the opponents' view and attempts to seriously interact with it. It helps, of course, for there to be mutual respect. I have tremendous respect for Orthodoxy (always have), but anti-Catholic Orthodox (NOT ecumenical Orthodox) do not return such respect and good will, and so dialogue becomes impossible.

I guess we can label people what we want as long as they don’t hold to our view eh?

The point is not arbitrary labeling but descriptive, reasonable ones. There is such a thing as anti-Catholicism, and it affects how people reason (or, "reason"). You are clearly anti-western, as shown by such statements as in your reply to Diane: "Where the West, in adopting Augustinianism as its model by the various Frankish theologians (and the subsequent tradition), lapsed back into the sickness of religion instead of its cure."

Or perhaps when someone believes they have good reasons for thinking that Rome fell from the True Church they can be called anti-western too.

Indeed, because this is a ridiculous, unsustainable position, and is specifically anti-western and pro-eastern. The catholic (little c) Church is just that: neither eastern nor western, but universal. That's how it was in the first millennium.

Perry [Robinson] and I have written plenty on our blog (that is down right now) and have had very good dialogue with just about everyone that has participated there.

Great. I don't see "good dialogue" here; sorry.

So anyone is free and able to see the free interaction that is given without participants falling into sad polemic of “anti-western” or “schismatic.”

You have introduced the polemics and divisiveness. I am trying to find common ground between east and west; Orthodoxy and Catholicism. Mine is essentially a positive, ecumenical endeavor, but you are seeking to perpetuate sad, unnecessary divisions and mutual recriminations.

In fact, I don’t think those words have ever been used there. Why is that Dave?

You don't have to use the word if you have the concept. If you give me your URL, I could easily prove that. But you already have in your responses here, so it isn't necessary.

6) I believe re-union is possible too, but only when Rome is ready to let go of parts of Augustinianism that they have dogmatized [mistakenly] as part of the deposit of faith.

Good for you (first part); the second part is debatable as to whether it occurred and whether it needs to be a matter of controversy in a reunion.

Your brother in the One Church (which includes both Catholicism and Orthodoxy in some mysterious fashion),

Dave

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For a thorough examination of anti-western (not to mention schismatic) tendencies in the east and in Orthodoxy, see the series of articles by Dr. Philip Blosser:

Petrine jurisdiction exercised in the ancient Church

The Eastern Schism revisited

The Eastern Schism: a postscript

Eastern Orthodoxy's Witness to Papal Primacy: The Acacian Schism of 484-519

Papal Primacy and the Photian Schism of 879-880

Also, see my three papers:

A Response to Orthodox Critiques of Catholic Apostolicity

Dialogues on Orthodox Anti-Catholicism, Fr. Seraphim Rose, and Ecumenism

Indefectibility and the Anti-Ecumenical Orthodox Claim to Exclusive Ecclesiological Preeminence

2 comments:

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Hannah said...

Have you read these Wikipedia articles? They offer some very interesting insight into the Orthodox perspective on their differences with Roman Catholicism, particularly their view that only someone who's had mystical revelation through theoria can be considered a theologian or should even speculate about God at all, as well as why they believe that any god that can be arrived at through reason and "pagan metaphysics" can not be the true God. I have noticed some mistakes about the Catholic side of things though, such as the claim that Catholics reject free will and believe in total depravity because of the Second Council of Orange while Orthodox do not.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/East–West_Schism#Prospects_for_reconciliation

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catholic_-_Orthodox_theological_differences

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theoria