Friday, November 30, 2007

Martin Luther's Reactions at the News of the Death of Zwingli, and the Martyrdom Under Henry VIII, of St. Thomas More and St. John Fisher



The heroic, inspiring stories of St. Thomas More (1478-1535) and St. John Fisher (1469-1535; the only bishop in England who resisted Henry VIII's tyranny and butcheries) are well known, so I won't recount them here. Huldreich Zwingli (1484-1531) was Luther's fellow Protestant "reformer", who differed from him especially on the question of the nature of the Eucharist; holding to mere symbolism, whereas Luther accepted the Real (Substantial) Presence.

Protestant historian Philip Schaff has written about Luther's hostility towards Zwingli:
His disgust with the radicalism and fanaticism of Carlstadt and Münzer, his increasing bodily infirmities, and his dissatisfaction with affairs in Wittenberg (which he threatened to leave permanently in 1544), cast a cloud over his declining years. He had so strongly committed himself, and was so firm in his convictions, that he was averse to all further changes and to all compromises. He was equally hostile to the Pope, whom he hated as the very antichrist, and to Zwingli, whom he regarded as little better than an infidel.

The deepest ground of Luther's aversion to Zwingli must be sought in his mysticism and veneration for what he conceived to be the unbroken faith of the Church. He strikingly expressed this in his letter to Duke Albrecht of Prussia (which might easily be turned into a powerful argument against the Reformation itself). He went so far as to call Zwingli a non-Christian (Unchrist), and ten times worse than a papist (March, 1528, in his Great Confession on the Lords Supper). His personal interview with him at Marburg (October, 1529) produced no change, but rather intensified his dislike. He saw in the heroic death of Zwingli and the defeat of the Zurichers at Cappel (1531) a righteous judgment of God, and found fault with the victorious Papists for not exterminating his heresy (Wider etliche Rottengeister, Letter to Albrecht of Prussia, April, 1532, in De Wette's edition of L. Briefe, Vol. IV. pp. 352, 353). And even shortly before his death, unnecessarily offended by a new publication of Zwingli's works, he renewed the eucharistic controversy in his Short Confession on the Lord's Supper (1544, in Walch's edition, Vol. XX. p. 2195), in which he abused Zwingli and Oecolampadius as heretics, liars, and murderers of souls, and calls the Reformed generally 'eingeteufelte [ἐνδιαβολισθέντες], durchteufelte, überteufelte lästerliche Herzen und Lügenmäuler.' No wonder that even the gentle Melanchthon called this a 'most atrocious book,' and gave up all hope for union (letter to Bullinger, Aug. 30, 1544, in Corp. Reform. Vol. V. p. 475: 'Atrocissimum Lutheri scriptum, in quo bellum περὶ δείπνου κυριακοῦ instaurat;' comp. also his letter to Bucer, Aug. 28, 1544, in Corp. Reform. Vol. V. p. 474, both quoted also by Gieseler, Vol. IV. p. 412, note 38, and p. 434, note 37). But it should in justice be added, first, that Luther's heart was better than his temper, and, secondly, that he never said a word against Calvin; . . .

(The Creeds of Christendom, Vol. I, 1877, revised by Philip Schaff: 5th edition in 1884; this is the 6th edition from 1931; Chapter Six, section 45; p. 260 [online link] )
Likewise, John S. Oyer observes:
Luther . . . believed firmly that the judgment of God was not reserved entirely for the hereafter. Some of the devil's human agents felt the wrath and judgment of God in the form and manner of their deaths on earth. He had earlier used the death of Muntzer as a sign of God's judgment. So also was the execution of the Anabaptists and the death of Zwingli.

[footnote: Letter to Prince Albert of Prussia, 1532, WA, XXX, Part 3, 550]

(Lutheran Reformers Against Anabaptists, Paris, Arkansas: The Baptist Standard Bearer, 2001; originally published: The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1964, p. 134 [online link] )
Here are some very telling excerpts from the aforementioned letter of Luther's:
And recently God has notably punished the poor people of Switzerland, Zwingli and his followers, for they were hardened and perverted, condemned of themselves, as St. Paul says. They will all experience the same.

Although neither Munzerites nor Zwinglians will admit that they are punished by God, but give out that they are martyrs, nevertheless we, who know that they have gravely erred in the sacrament and other articles, recognize God's punishment and beware of it ourselves. Not that we rejoice in their misfortune, which is and always has been a sorrow to our hearts, but we cannot let the witness of God pass unnoticed. We hope from the bottom of our hearts that they are saved, as it is not impossible for God to convert a man in a moment at his death; but to call them martyrs implies that they died for a certain divine faith, which they did not. We do not send criminals whom we execute to hell, but we do not for that reason make martyrs of them.

. . . We must believe that this is a chastisement of God, of which they cannot boast . . .

Wherefore I warn your Grace, and beg that you will avoid such people and not suffer them in your land. . . . for if you allow any to teach against the long and unanimously held doctrine of the Church when you can prevent it, it may well be called an unbearable burden to conscience. . . . For we must not trifle with the articles of faith so long and unanimously held by Christendom . . .

(Preserved Smith, The Life and Letters of Luther, Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1911, 291-292; letter from Wittenberg, "February or beginning of March, 1532 [online link] )
Luther's general thought on the question of execution of heretics was expressed in a statement from his Home-Postils in 1533:
[T]he worldly authorities bear the sword with orders to prevent all scandal, so that it may not enter and inflict harm. But the most dangerous and horrible scandal is where false doctrine and worship penetrates . . . They (i.e., State officials) must resist it (i.e., such scandal) stoutly, and realize that nothing else will avail save their use of the sword and of the full extent of their power in order to preserve the doctrine pure and the worship clean and undefiled.

(in Erasmus and Luther: Their Attitude to Toleration, Robert H. Murray, London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 1920, p. 274; [online link] documentation of German primary sources in the footnotes; parentheses in this work)
Thus, in accordance with this mentality of secular states executing persons because of their religious beliefs (and in light of his thought about Zwinglians and God's judgment), we see his chilling reaction to the martyrdoms of St. Thomas More and St. John Fisher:
The fierceness of his zeal was blinding him increasingly. He rejoiced at the death of those rare spirits, Sir Thomas More and Bishop Fisher, in 1535. His joy arose in part from the circumstance that the latter had just been created a member of the Sacred College. "Oh, that our Right Reverend Cardinals, Popes and Roman Legates," he wrote, "had more kings of England to destroy them."

(Ibid., p. 274)
This lovely sentiment was expressed in a letter to Philip Melanchthon in the beginning of December 1535. It is reprinted in LW, Vol. 50: Letters III, 113-117 [see online link]. Luther opines (p. 115):
It is quite easy for someone who knows what kind of traitors, thiefs, robbers, and even devils the most reverend lord cardinals, popes, and their ambassadors are, to have second thoughts. I wish there would be more kings of England who would slay them.

[Footnote 9 mentions the editor's opinion that this statement might relate to St. John Fisher's execution; cf. similar citation in Hartmann Grisar, Martin Luther: His Life and Work, Westminster, Maryland: Newman Press, 1950, p. 415; he provides some of the original Latin from primary source Briefwechsel, Vol. X, p. 275: "Utinam haberent plures reges Angliae, qui eos occiderent"]

Philip Melanchthon in 1530 Longs For the Return of the Jurisdiction of Catholic Bishops / His Agonized Tears Over Protestant Divisions and Dissensions

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[Melanchthon's own words will be in blue throughout]

Martin Luther's successor Philip Melanchthon (1497-1560) was (contrary to widespread Protestant antipathy to hierarchical Church government) willing to revive the jurisdiction of Catholic bishops in negotiations at the Diet of Augsburg in 1530. This is documented by many historians. For example, note his letter to Cardinal Campeggio, of 4 August, 1530:
For this reason I have often shown that if a few things were kept in the background, these divisions could be healed. In my opinion it would contribute very much to the quiet of the Church and to the dignity of the Roman See, to make peace on the conditions which I have mentioned. For also our priests should in turn render obedience to the bishops. Thus the Church would unite again in one body, and the Roman See would have its own honour, so that, if anything wrong remains in the churches, it can gradually be corrected by the care of the bishops. It is also our earnest desire to be freed from these contentions, that we may give our whole attention to the diligent improvement of doctrine. And unless this be done, wise men can easily foresee what, amid so many sects, will come upon posterity. And in this matter it is easy to see how indifferent those are whom you now oppose to us. Yesterday the Confutation of our Confession was read. If it shall be published, condemning us, believe me it will not have great admiration among judicious men, and will irritate the minds of ours. Thus there is danger that by the renewal of this whole tragedy, greater commotion than ever will ensue. Hence I desire that these evils of the Church be not increased in virulence. Therefore I beg you to indicate to me in a few words, whether you have spoken with your Reverend Master about those conditions, and what hope he will hold out. If I can obtain anything favourable I will take care that the Roman See may not repent its kindness. The feelings and desires of many good men are united in this matter, who will do all they can to enlarge the authority of the bishops and to establish the peace of the Church.

(Philip Melanchthon: The Protestant Preceptor of Germany, James William Richard [Lutheran], New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1898, 213 [online link] )
Biographer Richard continues:
He is willing that the government of the Pope, and of the bishops, shall remain for the sake of unity throughout the world, provided they do not abuse their authority
by suppressing sound doctrine.

(Ibid., 221-222)
These Articles, because they were laid before the convention at Schmalkald in February, 1537, are known as the Schmalkald Articles. They are the most positive and antipapal of all the Lutheran Confessions, and are in effect a declaration of war against Rome. Melanchthon, influenced by his love of peace, and by his preference for a Church government independent of the State, subscribed with the following qualifications:
"I, Philip Melanchthon, regard the foregoing articles as right and Christian. But of the Pope I hold that if he will permit the Gospel, the government of the bishops which he now has from others, may be jure humano also conceded to him by us, for the sake of peace and the common tranquillity of those Christians who are, or may hereafter be under him."
(Ibid., 261)
Melanchthon also expressed the same thing (lest we think his "offer" was only in the context of conciliation and diplomacy) to his very close -- perhaps best -- friend, Joachim Camerarius, in a letter of August 31, 1530:
Melanchthon, on the other hand, still adhered to the position which he had occupied in the compromise discussions at Augsburg, whence, e.g., he wrote to Camerarius, August 31, 1530: "Oh, would that I could, not indeed fortify the domination, but restore the administration of the bishops. For I see what manner of church we shall have when the ecclesiastical body has been disorganized. I see that afterwards there will arise a much more intolerable tyranny [of the princes] than there ever was before." (C.R. 2, 334)

(from: Historical Introductions to the Symbolical books of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, by F. Bente, section 70 [online link]; published in: Triglot Concordia: The Symbolical Books of the Ev. Lutheran Church: St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921)
Catholic biographer of Luther, Hartmann Grisar notes the same letter:
He himself, as early as Aug. 31, 1530, had foretold, "that, later, a far more insufferable tyranny would arise than had ever before been known," viz. the tyranny due to the interference of the Princes in whose hands the power of persecution had been laid. Hence his exclamation: "If only I could revive the jurisdiction of the bishops! For I see what sort of Church we shall have if the ecclesiastical constitution is destroyed." 3 As we know, he was anxious gradually to graft the old ecclesiastical constitution on Luther's congregations.

[footnote 3: To Camerarius, "Corp. ref.," 2, p. 334]

(from: Luther, translated by E.M. Lamond, edited by Luigi Cappadelta, six volumes, London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co., 1917; Vol. VI, 270 [online link] )

["C.R." = Corpus Reformatorum, a collection of primary early Protestant sources in Latin, French, and German, edited by Karl Gottlieb Bretschneider in Halle starting in 1834]
http://www.johanneswerk.de/uploads/pics/Melanchthon_2_220.jpg

Historian Philip Schaff mentioned this belief of Melanchthon's, on p. 33 of his History of the Christian Church, Vol. VII (Chapter One; § 10):
The transfer of the episcopal and papal power to the head of the state was not contemplated by the Reformers, but was the inevitable consequence of the determined opposition of the whole Roman hierarchy to the Reformation. The many and crying abuses which followed this change in the hands of selfish and rapacious princes, were deeply deplored by Melanchthon, who would have consented to the restoration of the episcopal hierarchy on condition of the freedom of gospel preaching and gospel teaching.

. . . The controversies among the Protestants in the sixteenth century roused all the religious and political passions and cast a gloom over the bright picture of the Reformation. Melanchthon declared that with tears as abundant as the waters of the river Elbe he could not express his grief over the distractions of Christendom and the "fury of theologians."
Also, in the same volume, Chapter Five, § 76:

The Protestant sovereigns became supreme bishops in their respective dominions. They did not preach, nor administer the sacraments, but assumed the episcopal jurisdiction in the government of the Church, and exercised also the right of reforming the Church (jus reformationis) in their dominions, whereby they established a particular confession as the state religion, and excluded others, or reduced them to the condition of mere toleration. This right they claimed by virtue of a resolution of the Diet of Speier, in 1526, which was confirmed by the Peace of Augsburg, 1555, and ultimately by the Peace of Westphalia, 1648. The Reformers regarded this secular summepiscopate as a temporary arrangement which was forced upon them by the hostility of the bishops who adhered to the Pope. They justified it by the example of Josiah and other pious kings of Israel, who destroyed idolatry and restored the pure worship of Jehovah. They accepted the protection and support of the princes at the sacrifice of the freedom and independence of the church, which became an humble servant of the state. Melanchthon regretted this condition; and in view of the rapacity of the princes, and the confusion of things, he wished the old bishops back again, and was willing even to submit to the authority of a pope if the pope would allow the freedom of the gospel. In Scandinavia and England the episcopal hierarchy was retained, or a new one substituted for the old, and gave the church more power and influence in the government. [my emphases]

Again, in his Vol. VIII, Chapter 18, § 164, Schaff refers to Melanchthon's lament over divisions:
Melanchthon left this world at his own home (1560), like Calvin; his last and greatest sorrow was the dissensions in the Church for which he could shed tears as copious as the waters of the Elbe. He desired to die that he might be delivered first of all from sin, and also from "the fury of theologians."
The latter sentiment from Melanchthon appeared in a letter to Thomas Cranmer in March 1548:
[H]e wrote to Cranmer, lamenting the plight of the church, 'buffeted as she is with divisions and strife', and lamenting that she would be buffeted still further if her leaders failed to agree. These calamities, he wrote, brought such sorrow and a 'greater flood of tears than the waters of our Elbe or your Thames', all these different theories and all this wrangling, and all the while the true teaching of the ancient church is disregarded.

(Philip Melanchthon and the English Reformation, John Schofield, Ashgate Publishing, 2006, 156 [online link] )
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I had seen (an cited previously) another rendering of this same statement (or at any rate, the same essential thought) in a Catholic book:
All the waters of the Elbe would not yield me tears sufficient to weep for the miseries caused by the Reformation.

(in John L. Stoddard, Rebuilding a Lost Faith, New York: P.J. Kenedy & Sons, 1922, 88 / Epistles, Book 4, Ep. 100)
Both Melanchthon and Luther were intensely disturbed and disgusted by divisions in Protestantism (though they never seemed to concede that the Protestant -- Lutheran -- first principles of private judgment and sola Scriptura played a key role in the ensuing divisions).

Courtesy of the fine research work of blog contributor Ben M., I now can post more extensive portions of Melanchthon's letter to Thomas Cranmer (dated "about April 1, 1548"):
[T]he letter of his son Jonas arrived, in which he relates to me a certain conversation of yours, on a Question, by no means obscure, but which has severely shaken the Churches, and will shake them still more severely, because those who bear rule do not seek for true remedies in so momentous a matter.

I do not, however, desire in this letter to do any thing more than express my grief, which is so great, that it could not be exhausted, though I were to shed a flood of tears as large as our Elbe or your Thames.

You see what a multitude of explanations have been elaborated in former times, and are elaborated at this day; because a simple and sincere [appeal to] antiquity is neglected . . .

I could have wished (as I wrote in a former letter) both with regard to this question and some other matters, that a Summary of necessary doctrine might be publicly set forth, without any private feeling; after the deliberations and decisions of pious and learned men, brought together for the discussion of those matters: so that no ambiguities should be left to posterity, as an apple of discord.

The Council of Trent makes its crafty Decrees, in order to protect its errors by ambiguous expressions. Such sophistry ought to be far away from the Church. There is not the least absurdity in true things being proposed in right words: both the goodness of the matters themselves, and their perspicuous enunciation, would invite the attention of upright minds in every part of the world.

(Gleanings of a Few Scattered Ears During the Period of the Reformation in England, George Cornelius Gorham [Anglican], London, 1857 [online link], pp. 42-44; brackets in original; my emphases)
In a second letter to Cranmer on May 1st, Melanchthon reiterates:
. . . I hope, and desire to urge, that you will put forth a true and perspicuous Confession on the whole body of doctrine, the judgments of learned men having been compared, and their names being subscribed to it; in order that an illustrious testimony of doctrine, delivered with grave authority, may be extant among all nations, and that posterity may have a rule to follow. . . .

Far better it is, in the Church, to call a spade, a spade, than to throw ambiguous expressions before posterity; as in mythology it is said that the apple of strife was thrown before the Goddesses seated at a banquet. If there had been a clear consent among our Churches in Germany, we should not have fallen into these miseries.

(Ibid., 44-46; quote from p. 45; my emphasis)
John Calvin wrote a similar letter to John Knox (dated 23 April 1561):
It grieves me exceedingly, that your noble men are torn asunder by intestine dissensions. It is not unreasonable that you should be more vexed and distressed by the internal workings of Satan, than you have hitherto been by the attacks of the French.

(Ibid., p. 418)
Protestant historian Philip Schaff, in his biographical study of Melanchthon, cites another very similar sentiment (unfortunately undocumented) -- the "as many tears as the river Elbe" motif --, from Melanchthon's "last days":
Add to these public calamities and personal attacks the growing weakness and sickness of the body, and various domestic bereavements, and we need not wonder that the last years of Melanchthon were years of grief and sorrow rather than of joy and pleasure. He experienced the full measure of that melancholy which cast its shade over the closing scenes of Luther, and many other great and good men. He often prayed to be delivered from the "fury of theologians" (rabies theoloyorum).

His personal sufferings, however, did not affect him near as much as his care for the Church. He uttered the noble sentiment: "If my eyes were a fountain of tears, as rich as the river Elbe, I could not sufficiently express my sorrow over the divisions and distractions of Christians." His heart and soul longed and prayed, in unison with the spirit of his divine Master, that all believers "may be perfected into one," even as He and the Father are one (John xvii. 23).

(Saint Augustin, Melanchthon, Neander: Three Biographies, New York: Funk & Wagnalls, 1886, 121 [online link] )
Presumably, this statement, dating from our subject's last days, must be dated around 1559-1560, which means that it is distinct from the utterance to Cranmer in 1548. This, in turn, means that it was a more or less general ongoing opinion of Melanchthon's, concerning Protestant division, as opposed to a momentary despairing.

Thus, Melanchthon, Luther, and Calvin were all quite distressed about the increasing sectarianism of their time, whereas many Protestants today think it is a big non-issue that there are many sects, as long as they agree on so-called "central doctrines." That has become a necessary development, in light of the inability of historic Protestantism to bring about doctrinal and ecclesial unity, except in cases of denominations becoming so liberal that they can unite with others similarly "heterodox" (from a denominational perspective).

See the related papers:

Philip Melanchthon's Agony Over the Sectarianism of Early Protestantism / Little-Known Derivation of the Term "Protestant"

Dialogue: John Calvin's Letter to Philip Melanchthon Concerning Protestant Divisions: Its Nature, Intent, and Larger Implications

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Marvelous DVD / Audio / Written Catholic Conversion Resources / Recent Lutheran Converts to Catholicism and Orthodoxy

[ThisIsTheFaith.jpg]


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Audio files of the EWTN series, The Journey Home, are available to listen to for free, at EWTN. Here's another page that categorizes the audio files differently.

Or you can purchase audio and video archives of the show (mixture of DVDs, CDs, and VHS).

EWTN currently offers DVDs of 119 shows of The Journey Home. Here is another purchase page that categorizes the shows by year.

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Tim Cooper of This is the Faith database (that I have advertised on this blog) has compiled (for free use) an amazing list of over 750 conversion stories: most in audio and some in written form. The really cool and unique thing about it is that it the stories are categorized by former belief.

For more resources, see my Conversion & Converts (Catholic) page.

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Lutheran scholar Carl E. Braaten has recently written about a spate of recent Catholic converts, coming out of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (my emphases added):

I am writing out of a concern I share with others about the theological state of affairs within the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. The situation might be described as one of "brain drain." Theologians who have served Lutheranism for many years in various capacities have recently left the ELCA and have entered the Roman Catholic Church or the Orthodox Church in America.

Why?

When Jaroslav Pelikan left the ELCA and became a member of the OCA, I felt it was not terribly surprising. After all, he had been reading and writing about the Fathers of Eastern Orthodoxy for so many years, he could quite naturally find himself at home in that tradition, without much explanation. A short time before that Robert Wilken, a leading patristics scholar teaching at the University of Virginia, left the ELCA to become a Roman Catholic. Then other Lutheran theological colleagues began to follow suit. Jay Rochelle, who for many years was my colleague and the chaplain at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago joined the Orthodox Church. Why? Leonard Klein, pastor of a large Lutheran parish in York, Pennsylvania, and former editor of Lutheran Forum and Forum Letter, last year left the ELCA to study for the Roman Catholic priesthood. Why? This year Bruce Marshall, who taught theology for about fifteen years at St. Olaf College and was a long-standing member of the International Lutheran-Orthodox Dialogue, has left the ELCA to enter the Roman Catholic Church. Why? David Fagerberg, formerly professor of religion at Concordia College, although coming from a strong Norwegian Lutheran family, left the ELCA for the Roman Catholic Church, and now teaches at the University of Notre Dame. Reinhard Huetter, a German Lutheran from Erlangen University, came to the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago fifteen years ago to teach theology and ethics, now teaches at Duke Divinity School, and this year became a Roman Catholic. Why? Mickey Mattox, a theologian who recently served at the Lutheran Ecumenical Institute in Strasbourg and now teaches at Marquette University, has recently begun the process of becoming a Roman Catholic.
Protestants confronted with these "defections" have to have some sort of explanation that somehow adequately explains what to them seems like a senseless move.

Think about it. If you are in a Christian denomination, and folks are leaving left and right for a Church that you think is dreadfully wrong on many issues, you have to have some sort of interpretation that explains this, besides that other Church being TRUE. Therefore, all these theories are made up: smells and bells, the security of being told your theology instead of having to think it through, being merely emotionally fed up with Protestant in-fighting and tendency to liberalism, etc.

They latch onto those, rather than directly face the truth claims of the Catholic Church. It's quite curious to observe. I see it all the time in Protestant forums (such as the ["late great"?] ReformedCatholicism blog), that almost seem literally obsessed with Catholicism, and dealing with the continuing exodus of some of their "best and brightest."

We'll see much more of the same (mark my words) as the Catholic revival continues.

Advent Traditions: Resources




The History of the Advent Wreath (Fr. William Saunders)

True Christmas Spirit
(fantastic monograph about Advent by Rev. Edward J. Sutfin - 283K)

The Twelve Days of Christmas (Elsa Chaney)


Family Advent Customs
(Helen McLoughlin)
 

Christmas to Candlemas in a Catholic Home (Helen McLoughlin)
 

A Candle is Lighted (P. Stewart Craig) 


"Advent" (Catholic Encyclopedia)


For more Christmas materials, see Dave's Old-Fashioned Christmas Page (see how it used to look in its fuller version on my old website). It includes many original poems and extensive research on Christmas carols.

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Communitarian Aspects of the Mass

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This came about as a result of my question-answering on my new job also. A Catholic woman asked some questions and was critical of certain statements made by CHNI (probably Marcus Grodi). Here was my response. Her words will be paraphrased and in blue.

* * * * *

When I go to Mass (so I have been taught), it is just God and myself, and no one else.

Obviously, the others who are there exist, too! The Church was meant to be a community. Take, for example, the Last Supper, our model for the Holy Eucharist, and in fact, the literal beginning of that rite, which is, of course central to the Mass. It wouldn't make sense that it was only He and John present, or He and Peter, etc. No; He was there with all twelve disciples. It was a Passover meal, after all, which was certainly a communal, family event. hence, Jesus said (to all the disciples): "I have earnestly desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer" (Luke 22:15; RSV)

I'm not there to talk to other parishioners, but to God.

During the Mass, that is certainly true. But that doesn't mean it is not a community, with all doing the liturgy and offering the Sacrifice of the Mass together with the priest.

It is a vertical relationship of myself and God, as opposed to a "communal gathering." I join my prayer with that of others in those parts of the Mass where all participate, but it is essentially "He and I."

I don't understand why you draw this distinction, since you deny that it is a "communal gathering" yet you join your prayers with those of the priest and laypeople present. Isn't that a contradiction? It's not just "Jesus and Me" in the Mass: it is the communal sense of "Jesus and His Church; His Bride." It is the Church that gathers, not a collection of atomistic individuals, who happen to be there together at that particular time.

"Praying in community" is not a Catholic notion and shouldn't be forced on Catholics. We reply as a "family of God" only when we respond to the priest's prayers.

The Mass necessarily involves a collective, communitarian sense. It is indeed the entire congregation offering the Mass together. The priest presides, but he is not the only one making the offering. The Catechism of the Catholic Church makes this quite clear in many entries (my bolded emphases added):
1352 The anaphora: with the Eucharistic Prayer - the prayer of thanksgiving and consecration - we come to the heart and summit of the celebration:

In the preface, the Church gives thanks to the Father, through Christ, in the Holy Spirit, for all his works: creation, redemption, and sanctification. The whole community thus joins in the unending praise that the Church in heaven, the angels and all the saints, sing to the thrice-holy God.

1353 In the epiclesis, the Church asks the Father to send his Holy Spirit (or the power of his blessing) on the bread and wine, so that by his power they may become the body and blood of Jesus Christ and so that those who take part in the Eucharist may be one body and one spirit (some liturgical traditions put the epiclesis after the anamnesis). [first part]

1354 In the anamnesis that follows, the Church calls to mind the Passion, resurrection, and glorious return of Christ Jesus; she presents to the Father the offering of his Son which reconciles us with him.

In the intercessions, the Church indicates that the Eucharist is celebrated in communion with the whole Church in heaven and on earth, the living and the dead, and in communion with the pastors of the Church, the Pope, the diocesan bishop, his presbyterium and his deacons, and all the bishops of the whole world together with their Churches.

1357 We carry out this command of the Lord by celebrating the memorial of his sacrifice. In so doing, we offer to the Father what he has himself given us: the gifts of his creation, bread and wine which, by the power of the Holy Spirit and by the words of Christ, have become the body and blood of Christ. Christ is thus really and mysteriously made present.

1359 The Eucharist, the sacrament of our salvation accomplished by Christ on the cross, is also a sacrifice of praise in thanksgiving for the work of creation. In the Eucharistic sacrifice the whole of creation loved by God is presented to the Father through the death and the Resurrection of Christ. Through Christ the Church can offer the sacrifice of praise in thanksgiving for all that God has made good, beautiful, and just in creation and in humanity.

1360 The Eucharist is a sacrifice of thanksgiving to the Father, a blessing by which the Church expresses her gratitude to God for all his benefits, for all that he has accomplished through creation, redemption, and sanctification. Eucharist means first of all "thanksgiving."

1361 The Eucharist is also the sacrifice of praise by which the Church sings the glory of God in the name of all creation. This sacrifice of praise is possible only through Christ: he unites the faithful to his person, to his praise, and to his intercession, so that the sacrifice of praise to the Father is offered through Christ and with him, to be accepted in him.

1368 The Eucharist is also the sacrifice of the Church. The Church which is the Body of Christ participates in the offering of her Head. With him, she herself is offered whole and entire. She unites herself to his intercession with the Father for all men. In the Eucharist the sacrifice of Christ becomes also the sacrifice of the members of his Body. The lives of the faithful, their praise, sufferings, prayer, and work, are united with those of Christ and with his total offering, and so acquire a new value. Christ's sacrifice present on the altar makes it possible for all generations of Christians to be united with his offering.

In the catacombs the Church is often represented as a woman in prayer, arms outstretched in the praying position. Like Christ who stretched out his arms on the cross, through him, with him, and in him, she offers herself and intercedes for all men.

1369 The whole Church is united with the offering and intercession of Christ. . . . The community intercedes also for all ministers who, for it and with it, offer the Eucharistic sacrifice: [partial]

1370 To the offering of Christ are united not only the members still here on earth, but also those already in the glory of heaven. In communion with and commemorating the Blessed Virgin Mary and all the saints, the Church offers the Eucharistic sacrifice. In the Eucharist the Church is as it were at the foot of the cross with Mary, united with the offering and intercession of Christ.
Individual prayer, praise, and thanksgiving to God at various times in the Mass is fine, during periods of silence and meditation. Otherwise, we are urged to actively participate in the entire Mass, and not to be passive "spectators" or recipients. I'm not saying you aren't participating; you clearly are, in profound ways. I'm simply disagreeing that it is not a community offering at Mass.

Protestants gather for "community prayer" because they have only the Bible and the Holy Spirit, but not the eucharistic Jesus substantially present, as we do.

Perhaps it is largely a semantic difference. I'm not denying the personal time of communion between a Catholic and and their Lord at Mass. But I think you shouldn't deny, either, the communal aspects of the Mass. Even the Lord's Prayer is communal: it is offered in the plural:
Our Father . . . give us this day our daily bread. . . forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us . . . lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil . . .
There are plenty of singular prayers in the Psalms (many from David). But when Jesus taught us to pray, it was in this communal, group sense. I think that is highly significant.

My point is that the Mass is a communitarian effort insofar as the congregation actually participate in the offering. The CCC makes this very clear. I think we're just pointing out different aspects that complement, not contradict each other.

The CCC shows that "community" is not "non-Catholic" at all. It's not a liberal idea (though the liberals in the Church have clearly abused it, just like they do everything else), as you appeared to me to imply; it is an apostolic tradition idea and a Bible idea. That is where I saw that your analysis went too far, in my opinion. But most of what you expressed is fine. It's a "both/and" scenario, not "either/or."

I theological despise liberalism. I have a web page about it and a portion of one of my books. devoted to this extremely serious error. The present issue, however, is not, I think, one having to do with any liberal or dissident notions. We mustn't fall into the "guilt by association" fallacy. Maybe your parish has some goofy stuff going on, but that doesn't mean we should throw out the baby with the bath water. Can we agree that what you are stressing and what I am stressing are both true?

The Absurdity of Logically Requiring Catholics to Adopt Protestant First Principles in Order to Participate in "Constructive" Ecumenical Discussion



I've touched on this question many times before, in various papers. Recently, as part of [one of] my job[s] as staff apologist at CHNI, I was answering a question from an evangelical Protestant. I'll paraphrase or re-state his questions (in blue) and give my answers as in my return letter to him:

* * * * *

It was objected that Catholics make it "very difficult" because we so often become dogmatic and take a position of "absolute correctness" on the issues on which we differ with our non-Catholic Christian brethren.

This is the nature of Catholic theology and ecclesiology: we believe it is infallible and therefore non-negotiable. The Protestant must understand this. We can't somehow cease to be what we are just because we are talking to a Protestant. You have to accept us as we are, and we believe in the infallibility of the Church. We must, in turn, understand that you deny that. But we shouldn't stop talking just because we have honest differences. There is always more room for better understanding.

We have to stop doing this, lest any bridge-building between us be wrecked from the outset.

But this is unreasonable, because you are, in effect, saying:
x) Unless a Catholic ceases to be a Catholic (in matters of infallibility and ecclesiology), Protestants can't talk with them and no bridges can be built.
But (please follow me a bit on this) granting x, real, authentic Catholic-Protestant discussion is impossible to undertake, because Catholic y is no longer Catholic, having been forced to adopt Protestant distinctive z (no infallibility other than the Bible) in order to talk to the Protestant (therefore, in that act, he has ceased to be a consistent, orthodox Catholic).

The Catholic is forced to compromise his or her beliefs to even be allowed at the table. And this is, of course, most unfair and unjust, which in turn, defeats the good will and good faith efforts of constructive ecumenical discussion. Unless each side can accept the other as they are, why even bother? You may not like some things we believe, and vice versa, but that is a given. If we can't get over these differences on a personal level, as if those who hold them are somehow fundamentally deficient, then we cannot talk and learn from each other at all.

It's like C.S. Lewis's notion of "mere Christianity" (and I love Lewis, too: he is my favorite writer, and I have on my site perhaps the largest collection of Lewis links on the Internet). He requires both Catholics and Orthodox, in order to participate in "mere Christianity", to forsake a doctrine fundamental to both of them: their ecclesiology and belief in an infallible Church. In other words, in the very effort to unite all Christians, if two out of the three major "branches" are forced to abandon something central to their belief-system, how "ecumenical" or fair is that?

My friend Al Kresta, in a talk he gave in my own house (that I subsequently transcribed), made this point very eloquently:
Mere Christianity also undermines confidence in the local church, or (if you believe in them) the denomination, which is secondary to one's primary commitment to Christ. But this is schizophrenic. It pits the head against the body, and ultimately it betrays Jesus Who says the gates of hell would not prevail against His Church, the body. These things are connected. The head doesn't regard the body as a "necessary evil" like many evangelicals do. They think that you gotta go somewhere to get Bible teaching, so you go to church. [The Church] is secondary only in the sense that it flows from my commitment to God, and is entailed in that commitment. How ecumenical is mere Christianity, if it removes the doctrine of the Church, which is central to two of the three Christian traditions? So it really isn't very fair to Orthodoxy and Catholicism. [It amounts to saying that] God is not able to adequately reveal Himself through the things that he has made, or the people that He has called. It's a slap in the face of God.

Mere Christianity is dishonest in that it requires a soft-peddling of differences between Christians. And it belittles our brothers and sisters in the past. When we say "let's transcend and rise above all these denominational distinctives," we are actually emasculating the various Christian traditions. The very things that Wesley and Luther and Calvin found as solutions to the problems of their day, we're saying, "it's not important. Let's just get above 'em. It doesn't matter that these brothers regarded these things as central and essential to the Christian life. We're so superior to them that we can just rise above it." And I find that that's a very belittling approach to these men and women. Accept them on their own terms. Disagree with them if you have to. But don't say they're irrelevant. Within their systems, these denominational distinctives are meant to be solutions to serious problems in the Christian life, and when we don't take them on their own terms, then we're regarding these men and their traditions as pathological, petty, or unwise. I think Luther was wrong [about justification], but I can't say he's unimportant, you see. And that's what I don't like about "mere Christianity."
A truly ecumenical effort would require only aspects that all three have in common: not favoring one and being most unfair to the other two. On the other hand, note that Lewis (in fairness to his position), in the book of the same name, regards mere Christianity as the great common hall of a mansion, but he also says that each Christian can and should have their own "room" (their distinctive Christian tradition or belief-system) that they return to at night.

Protestants have their own set of dogmas, that are non-negotiable, including sola Scriptura and a certain common rigid interpretation of sola fide (the two "pillars" of the so-called "Reformation"). Calvinists are quite non-negotiable on TULIP, aren't they? Baptists won't budge on the question of adult, believer's baptism or on their insistence that there are no sacraments at all, only "ordinances", or on the fact that their baptism is symbolic only (whereas Augustine and Luther and Wesley believed it regenerates). Quakers and Mennonites won't forsake pacifism. Etc., etc., etc.

So you guys (as a generality) are not completely different from us. We simply have more non-negotiable dogmas than you do, and so you view us as "inflexible." We can't help that. It is inevitable that you will view us that way. Atheists look at all Christians as "inflexible" and prone to believing unreasonable, silly things. It's only a matter of degree.

Catholics need to move more "toward the center" so that progress can be made in important areas of disagreement (strongly implied: we hinder any "negotiations" from succeeding because we are so blasted "inflexible").

We can work together in those many areas where we agree, if only we understood each other better. Besides, who defines the "center"? And by what authority? I think we'll find that, upon examination, this "center" as you define it, will likely again presuppose Protestant distinctives and be hostile to Catholic distinctives. That's a stacked deck, and thus sabotages authentic ecumenical efforts from the outset, due to its inherent unfairness.

Catholics have to show some real "movement"; Christians have so much in common. So much more could be done by bridge-building [i.e., if Catholics weren't so stubborn, thinking they have everything right; so frustratingly "certain"!!!!] .

We can do plenty of that without being forced to compromise our Catholic beliefs, so that we are sufficiently "Protestant" to be able to talk to you at all. That is an insult to us because it doesn't accept us as we are: a legitimate brand of Christianity as we are, not as the Protestant hopes and wishes we would be, so that we could be more like them. Think about it. I've heard this many times. It's like saying to a black person: "you know, if you would just act more like a white person, then we could get along, and we wouldn't have this racial conflict." That is not the way to achieve harmonious race relations. Each side must accept the other as they are and seek to understand them on that plane, not force them to be what they are not, right out of the starting-gate of some conciliatory or bridge-building effort.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The False Doctrine of "Soul Sleep" and Prayers To, For, and From the Dead: the Biblical Evidence Confirms Catholic Belief

http://freestockphotos.com/SKY/FieryClouds4.jpg

A member on the CHNI discussion forums, Brian, asked some good, probing questions. His words will be in blue.

* * * * *

Hi Brian,

Man, you are a question machine! But that's good: inquisitive minds will find the truth if they sincerely seek it and (most importantly) are willing to submit to it when they find it.

I ran into this objection on another bulletin board:
"In Mat 27:52 it describes those who arose from their graves when Jesus rose as "those who slept". Paul uses the same description in 1 Cr 15:20. Paul in 1 Th 4 compares the living with those who were put to sleep, i.e. the dead.
This is an instance of what is called "phenomenological" language: the language of outward description or appearance rather than complete metaphysical analysis. So to us the dead appear to be asleep.

Paul tells the Thessalonians that when the Lord descends from heaven, those sleeping (believers) will arise and along with the living (believers) shall meet the Lord in the air (between heaven and earth). The believers who were dead were clearly not in heaven or hell or all of 1 Th 4: 13-18 makes no sense whatsoever."

Of course, the question arises: where does this person think they were? Catholics have no problem interpreting this. There is, as David mentioned, the Limbo of the Fathers (or Hebrew: Sheol / Greek: Hades) or purgatory. These can all be amply defended from Holy Scripture.

The question I have is how does this resolve with for instance the ideas in revelation of the saints and martyrs praying, or of Jesus seeing Moses and Elijah on Mt. Tabor. Or the passage that says to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord?

Consciousness after death is clearly taught in Scripture. For example: the soul is described as a separate entity from the body:
MATTHEW 10:28 And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.

REVELATION 6:9-10 And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held: And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?

1 KINGS 17:21-22 Then he stretched himself upon the child three times, and cried to the Lord, "O Lord my God, let this child's soul come into him again." And the Lord hearkened to the voice of Elijah; and the soul of the child came into him again, and he revived. (cf. Lk 8:53-55)

* * * * *

JOHN 11:26 And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?
Jesus clearly sets forth the notion that the faithful Christian will always have conscious, unending existence with God. He cannot possibly be referring to physical death, since all men die in that sense.
PSALM 116:15 Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints.
The consciousness of the dead is assumed or else the verse becomes ludicrous.

1 SAMUEL 28:11-16 tells us that Samuel returns from the dead and pronounces Saul's death sentence.

Jehovah's Witnesses, Seventh-Day Adventists and other sects and cults that teach what is known as annihilationism or soul-sleep (no consciousness after death and no hell, with the sinner being annihilated out of existence altogether) typically rely on the distortion of a few passages in order to "prove" their error:
Ecclesiastes 9:5: . . . the dead know not any thing, neither have they any more a reward . . .
If the first clause is understood in an absolute sense, then so must the second clause be interpreted. Thus, the dead would have no "reward" as well as no consciousness. This would deny the resurrection and the rewarding of the righteous (see Rev 20:11-13, 21:6-7, 22:12,14). Obviously, then, a qualification of some sort has to be placed on Ecc 9:5. In the very next verse, we learn that:
. . . neither have they any more a portion for ever in any thing that is done under the sun.
In other words, in relation to this world, the dead know nothing, but they are in a different realm, where they do know something. As further examples of this limited sense of "not knowing anything" in Scripture, see 1 Sam 20:39 and 2 Sam 15:11, where an interpretation of unconsciousness would be ridiculous.
Ezekiel 18:4 (also 18:20): . . . the soul that sinneth, it shall die.
Here, the spiritual use of "death" in the Bible is overlooked. For instance, 1 Timothy 5:6 reads:
But she that liveth in pleasure is dead while she liveth. (cf. Eph 2:1 and Lk 15:24)
That Ezekiel 18:4,20 refers to spiritual death (i.e., separation from God, not annihilation) is obvious from context, since 18:21 declares:
But if the wicked will turn from all his sins that he hath committed, and keep all my statutes, and do that which is lawful and right, he shall surely live, he shall not die.
Since all men die physically, this must be talking about the spiritual, or "second" death. So much for this "proof" . . .
Psalm 146:4: His breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; in that very day his thoughts perish.
This verse's meaning is similar to that of Ecclesiastes 9:5. Here, "thoughts" refer to "unaccomplished purposes" of a person on earth. Death puts an end to those purposes, as anyone would agree. In this sense, one's thoughts "perish" at death. Another similar use occurs at Isaiah 55:7:
Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteousness man his thoughts . . .
This doesn't mean that unrighteous men must cease all thinking and become unconscious and nonexistent. Nor does Ps 146:4. Much of this sort of inadequate and erroneous exegesis results from a profound lack of understanding of the many literary forms and devices used in Scripture, as seen in these three examples. Much of the OT is poetry of one sort or another. One cannot interpret poetry in a wooden, literal way.

And of course the crucial question is, what does the Bible mean to say or not regarding our state after earth? How can we ask saints to pray for us if according to the Thessalonians passage they are actually asleep?

Even Martin Luther and John Calvin admitted that the saints may be praying for us in heaven:
Although angels in heaven pray for us . . . saints on earth, and perhaps also in heaven, do likewise, . . .

(Smalcald Articles, 1537, Part II, Article II in Theodore G. Tappert, translator, The Book of Concord, St. Louis: Concordia Pub. House, 1959, 297)

I grant they pray for us in this way.

(Institutes of the Christian Religion, III, 20, 24)
Luther and his successor as head of Lutheranism, Philip Melanchthon, also accepted the validity of prayers for the dead:
As for the dead, since Scripture gives us no information on the subject, I regard it as no sin to pray with free devotion in this or some similar fashion: "Dear God, if this soul is in a condition accessible to mercy, be thou gracious to it."

(Confession Concerning Christ's Supper, 1528, in Luther's Works, edited by Jaroslav Pelikan, vol. 37, 369)

[W]e know that the ancients speak of prayer for the dead, which we do not prohibit . . .

(Apology to the Augsburg Confession: Article XXIV, 94)
The Apostle Paul prayed for the dead:
2 Timothy 1:16-18 May the Lord grant mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, for he often refreshed me; he was not ashamed of my chains, but when he arrived in Rome he searched for me eagerly and found me - may the Lord grant him to find mercy from the Lord on that Day - and you well know all the service he rendered at Ephesus.
This passage gives Protestants fits. Protestants can't accept the practice of praying for the dead because of their theology; therefore, they must explain this away somehow. What they do is either deny that Onesiphorus is dead, or that Paul is praying. Most of the nine Protestant commentaries I consulted for this passage admit that he was praying, but deny that the person was dead. Some try to say that Paul was merely "wishing", but I don't see any difference between that and a prayer: it looks like a word game to avoid the implications. The same commentaries said he was possibly dead (two), take no position (two), think he was "probably not" dead (one), or deny it (three). A.T. Robertson, the great Baptist Greek scholar, felt that he was "apparently" dead and that Paul was "wishing" rather than praying. I think it's much more plausible to simply take the Catholic position: the man died and Paul was praying for him.

As for saints praying for us: if these saints are alive, aware of earthly events, and pray for us (because they possess love and concern), then it is not wrong to ask them to pray for us. How do we know they are aware? Because of Hebrews 12:1: ". . . we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses . . ."

Word Studies in the New Testament
(Marvin R. Vincent, Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1980; originally 1887; Vol. 4, p. 536), a famous, standard Protestant reference work, comments on this verse as follows:
'Witnesses' does not mean spectators [Greek martus, from which is derived martyr], but those who have borne witness to the truth, as those enumerated in chapter 11. Yet the idea of spectators is implied, and is really the principal idea. The writer's picture is that of an arena in which the Christians whom he addresses are contending in a race, while the vast host of the heroes of faith who, after having borne witness to the truth, have entered into their heavenly rest, watches the contest from the encircling tiers of the arena, compassing and overhanging it like a cloud, filled with lively interest and sympathy, and lending heavenly aid.
Saints in heaven are therefore aware of, and observe events on earth, "with lively interest," as Vincent puts it. Also:
Revelation 6:9-10 . . . I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne; they cried out with a loud voice, "O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before thou wilt judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell upon the earth?"
Here the martyrs in heaven are saying what are known as "imprecatory prayers": pleas for God to rescue and vindicate the righteous. Examples can be found particularly in the Psalms (Psalms 35,59,69,79,109,139) and in Jeremiah (11:18 ff., 15:15 ff., 18:19 ff., 20:11 ff.). An angel offers up a very similar prayer in Zechariah 1:12. Jesus mentions a type of this prayer in Matthew 26:53, in which He stated that He could "pray" to the Father and receive legions of angels to prevent His arrest had it been the Father's will.

Therefore dead saints are praying for Christians on earth. If they can intercede for us, then why shouldn't we ask for their prayers? Clearly, they're aware of what is happening on earth. They are more alive, unfathomably more righteous, and obviously closer to God than we are. Omniscience isn't required for them to hear our prayers, as is often charged. Rather, we have reason to believe that they are out of time, by God's power, because to be in eternity is to be outside of the realm of time. That allows them to answer many requests for prayer because they have an infinite amount of "time" to do it.

How can they also be in heaven and hearing us?

Because God gives them that power, and because heaven is another dimension. The saints are out of time with God, and thus have all the "time" they need to listen to our petitions.

Do we argue that perhaps their bodies lie asleep as they await resurrection while their soul or spirit is in heaven and doing God's will?

Yes. Their bodies await resurrection.

I think we believe that only a few people who were assumed into heaven may have their resurrection bodies. But the passage in Thessalonians does not seem to distinguish between their body or soul being asleep.

This is simply phenomenological language, explained above. Jesus even seems to play around a little with this sort of language, when He described the daughter of Jairus, who had died: "Do not weep, for she is not dead, but sleeping" (Lk 8:52). Jesus then "prayed" both to the dead (by addressing a dead person) and for the dead (by commanding a dead person to return to earthly life), because He was talking to a dead child, and saying, "Child arise" (Lk 8:54). The next verse states "and her spirit returned," thus proving that it was separate from her body.

So what can I make of all this if anything? How do we answer someone who thinks that all the dead are still awaiting resurrection and to go to heaven therefore we can not pray to them?

I think I have shown various strong biblical arguments along those lines.

It seems they have at least a few Bible passages that seem to point to the idea that the dead are not in heaven but merely waiting in some other state.

Luke 16 about Lazarus and the rich man clearly teaches a third state.

I of course, accept whatever the church teaches, but I am curious how to best understand these passages.

I hope this has been helpful to you. For much more, see my web page:

Saints, Purgatory, & Penance

Overview of Theological and Ecclesiological Catholic-Orthodox Disagreements / The Unique Case of the Oriental Orthodox


A question was asked about Orthodoxy on the CHNI forum, as to how the Catholic Church views Eastern Orthodoxy and also the many "Oriental Orthodox" communions that broke from Rome after the Council of Chalcedon in 451.

From The Code of Canon Law, Book IV:
Can. 844 §1 Catholic ministers may lawfully administer the sacraments only to catholic members of Christ's faithful, who equally may lawfully receive them only from catholic ministers, except as provided in §2, 3 and 4 of this canon and in can. 861 §2.

§2 Whenever necessity requires or a genuine spiritual advantage commends it, and provided the danger of error or indifferentism is avoided, Christ's faithful for whom it is physically or morally impossible to approach a catholic minister, may lawfully receive the sacraments of penance, the Eucharist and anointing of the sick from non-Catholic ministers in whose Churches these sacraments are valid.

§3 Catholic ministers may lawfully administer the sacraments of penance, the Eucharist and anointing of the sick to members of the eastern Churches not in full communion with the catholic Church, if they spontaneously ask for them and are properly disposed. The same applies to members of other Churches which the Apostolic See judges to be in the same position as the aforesaid eastern Churches so far as the sacraments are concerned.

§4 If there is a danger of death or if, in the judgment of the diocesan Bishop or of the Episcopal Conference, there is some other grave and pressing need, catholic ministers may lawfully administer these same sacraments to other Christians not in full communion with the catholic Church, who cannot approach a minister of their own community and who spontaneously ask for them, provided that they demonstrate the catholic faith in respect of these sacraments and are properly disposed.

[Dave: Canon 861 §2 states that in emergency situations, anyone who has the right intention, can baptize]
The Catholic Church has great respect for Orthodoxy and we long for the day when the schism can be mended. There are significant current attempts to bring that about. Pope John Paul II wrote an excellent Apostolic Letter in 1995 entitled Orientale Lumen ("The Light of the East").
He states:
The Christian tradition of the East implies a way of accepting, understanding and living faith in the Lord Jesus. In this sense it is extremely close to the Christian tradition of the West, which is born of and nourished by the same faith. Yet it is legitimately and admirably distinguished from the latter, since Eastern Christians have their own way of perceiving and understanding, and thus an original way of living their relationship with the Saviour. . . .

17. Thirty years have passed since the Bishops of the Catholic Church, meeting in Council in the presence of many brothers from other Churches and Ecclesial Communities, listened to the voice of the Spirit as he shed light on deep truths about the nature of the Church, showing that all believers in Christ were far closer than they could imagine, all journeying towards the one Lord, all sustained and supported by his grace. An ever more pressing invitation to unity emerged at that point.
Since then, much ground has been covered in reciprocal knowledge. This has increased our respect and has frequently enabled us to pray to the one Lord together and to pray for one another, on a path of love that is already a pilgrimage of unity.

After the important steps taken by Pope Paul VI, I have wished the path of mutual knowledge in charity to be continued. I can testify to the deep joy that the fraternal meeting with so many heads and representatives of Churches and Ecclesial Communities has given me in recent years. . . .

24. I believe that one important way to grow in mutual understanding and unity consists precisely in improving our knowledge of one another. The children of the Catholic Church already know the ways indicated by the Holy See for achieving this: to know the liturgy of the Eastern Churches; [62] to deepen their knowledge of the spiritual traditions of the Fathers and doctors of the Christian East, [63] to follow the example of the Eastern Churches for the inculturation of the Gospel message; to combat tensions between Latins and Orientals and to encourage dialogue between Catholics and the Orthodox; to train in specialized institutions theologians, liturgists, historians and canonists for the Christian East who in turn can spread knowledge of the Eastern; Churches; to offer appropriate teaching on these subjects in seminaries and theological faculties, especially to future priests. [64] These remain very sound recommendations on which I intend to insist with particular force.

25. In addition to knowledge, I feel that meeting one another regularly is very important. In this regard, I hope that monasteries will make a particular effort, precisely because of the unique role played by monastic life within the Churches and because of the many unifying aspects of the monastic experience, and therefore of spiritual awareness, in the East and in the West. Another form of meeting consists in welcoming Orthodox professors and students to the Pontifical Universities and other Catholic academic institutions. We will continue to do all we can to extend this welcome on a wider scale. May God also bless the founding and development of places designed precisely to offer hospitality to our brothers of the East, including such places in this city of Rome where the living, shared memory of the leaders of the Apostles and of so many martyrs is preserved. . . .

28. . . . [end section]

We are painfully aware that we cannot yet share in the same Eucharist. Now that the millennium is drawing to a close and our gaze turns to the rising Sun, with gratitude we find these men and women before our eyes and in our heart.

The echo of the Gospel--the words that do not disappoint--continues to resound with force, weakened only by our separation: Christ cries out, but man finds it hard to hear his voice, because we fail to speak with one accord. We listen together to the cry of those who want to hear God's entire Word. The words of the West need the words of the East, so that God's word may ever more clearly reveal its unfathomable riches. Our words will meet for ever in the heavenly Jerusalem, but we ask and wish that this meeting be anticipated in the holy Church which is still on her way towards the fullness of the Kingdom.

May God shorten the time and distance. may Christ, the Orientale Lumen, soon, very soon, grant us to discover that in fact, despite so many centuries of distance, we were very close, because together, perhaps without knowing it, we were walking towards the one Lord, and thus towards one another.

May the people of the third millennium be able to enjoy this discovery, finally achieved by a word that is harmonious and thus fully credible, proclaimed by brothers and sisters who love one another and thank one another for the riches which they exchange. Thus shall we offer ourselves to God with the pure hands of reconciliation, and the people of the world will have one more well-founded reason to believe and to hope.
That is the ecumenical and diplomatic approach. Of course, I myself, being an apologist, have written some material explaining where Catholics and Orthodox have honest differences, and why I am a Catholic and not an Orthodox. See my introductory paper on that topic.

Sometimes, I have been confronted with the sub-group of anti-Catholic Orthodox on the Internet and felt compelled to explain why I thought it was impossible to take a position that Orthodoxy was apostolic while Catholicism supposedly was not (an extreme opinion in these ranks would even hold that Catholicism lacks both sacraments and grace, as well as apostolicity). See my two papers on that (one / two). For more of my papers regarding Orthodoxy, see my Orthodoxy Topical Index page.

As I understand it, the biggest issue at the time of the schism in 1054 was the question of the filioque clause in the western version of the Nicene Creed. I believe the mutual excommunications have been dropped, and with increasing discussion, it can be seen, I believe, that there is far more agreement on this issue than was formerly assumed. A lot of the disagreement had to do with different approaches of eastern and western Christianity, and there were some purely linguistic misunderstandings, too. See the paper from William Klimon on filioque.

As to the Oriental Orthodox, here is what the article in Wikipedia states:

The schism between Oriental Orthodoxy and what would become the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches occurred in the 5th century. The separation resulted in part from the refusal of Pope Dioscorus, the patriarch of Alexandria, to accept the Christological dogmas promulgated by the Council of Chalcedon, which held that Jesus has two natures — one divine and one human. This was not because the council stated that Christ has two natures, but because the council's presiders refused to confess (more than wordly) that the two natures are inseparable and united. Pope Dioscorus would accept only "of or from two natures" but not "in two natures."

To the hierarchs who would lead the Oriental Orthodox, this was tantamount to accepting Nestorian-flavored terminology, according their definition of Christology, which was founded in the Alexandrine School of Theology that advocated a formula that stressed unity of the Incarnation over all other considerations.

The Oriental Orthodox churches were therefore often called Monophysite churches, although they reject this label, which is associated with Eutychian Monophysitism, preferring the term "non-Chalcedonian" or "Miaphysite" churches. Oriental Orthodox Churches reject the heretical Monophysite teachings of Eutyches, the heretical teachings of Nestorius and the Dyophysite definition of the Council of Chalcedon.

Christology, although important, was not the only reason for the refusal of the Council of Chalcedon - political, ecclesiastical and imperial issues were hotly debated.

In the years following Chalcedon, the patriarchs of Constantinople remained in communion with the non-Chalcedonian patriarchs of Alexandria, Antioch, Jerusalem, while Rome remained out of communion with Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem, and in unstable communion with Constantinople. It was not until 518 AD that the Byzantine Emperor, Justin I, on the ultimatum of the Roman patriarch, demanded that the Church of the Roman Empire be Chalcedonian once and for all. Justin ordered the deposition and replacement of all anti-Chalcedonian bishops, including the patriarchs of Antioch and Alexandria. By 525 AD, anti-Chalcedonian Christians found themselves being persecuted by the Roman Empire; this would not end until the rise of Islam.

In the 20th century, the Chalcedonian schism was not seen with the same relevance any more, and from several meetings between the Roman Catholic Pope and Patriarchs of the Oriental Orthodoxy, reconciling declarations emerged.

The confusions and schisms that occurred between their Churches in the later centuries, they realize today, in no way affect or touch the substance of their faith, since these arose only because of differences in terminology and culture and in the various formulae adopted by different theological schools to express the same matter. Accordingly, we find today no real basis for the sad divisions and schisms that subsequently arose between us concerning the doctrine of Incarnation. In words and life we confess the true doctrine concerning Christ our Lord, notwithstanding the differences in interpretation of such a doctrine which arose at the time of the Council of Chalcedon.

From the common declaration of Pope John Paul II and HH Mar Ignatius Zakka I Iwas, June 23, 1984

According to the canons of the Oriental Orthodox Churches, the four Archbishops of Rome, Alexandria, Ephesus (later transferred to Constantinople) and Antioch were all given status as Patriarchs, or in other words, the Ancient Apostolic Centers of Christianity by the First Council of Nicea (predating the schism) — each of the four being responsible for those bishops and churches under his jurisdiction within his own quarter of Christendom, being the Metropolitan Archbishop of the Province, (with the exception of the Archbishop or Patriarch of Jerusalem, who was to be independent of all of these.) Thus, the Archbishop of Rome (ie, the Pope of the Catholic Church) has always been held by the others to be in Communion, and fully sovereign within his own quadrant.

The technical reason for the schism was that the Bishop of Rome excommunicated the non-Chalcedonian bishops in 451 AD for refusing to accept the "in two natures" teaching, thus declaring them to be out of communion with him, although they have continued to recognize him as an equal.

(Wikipedia, "Oriental Orthodoxy")
Many Eastern Orthodox will freely admit the primacy of Peter himself and even the primacy of the Apostolic Roman See in the early Church. I have a book in my library by prominent Orthodox author John Meyendorff, entitled The Primacy of Peter.

The problem comes with the interpretation of that. Orthodox (and many Anglicans) hold that the primacy was more along the lines of "foremost of equals" (like a prime minister in a parliamentary system of government). catholic dogma teaches that the pope has headship or supremacy, and universal jurisdiction.

We contend that the Orthodox broke from us because (we would argue) we continued the unbroken tradition of what came before (including the papacy). I've maintained, among other things, that we still have ecumenical councils (and at the Councils of Florence [15th c.] and Lyons [1274], we even invited the Orthodox and almost achieved a reunion). In two papers on this question (one / two), I showed how, e.g., the east had split off from the west on five different occasions; sometimes for several dozen years. In all five cases, the west was correct and orthodox, from both eastern and western perspectives today.

So, then, I contended that 1054 was simply yet another instance of this schismatic tendency of the east, where they were wrong once again. Once I had an Orthodox priest give a guest talk in a discussion group at my home and when I asked him about this very thing, he (literally) just shrugged his shoulders and couldn't respond to it. No one has, since I've made this argument.

Of course (as we would expect) the Orthodox think we departed from them, and that they maintained the mainstream apostolic tradition. They argue that papal power had become too great and that the filioque clause was a corruption and illegitimate addition to the Nicene Creed, whereas we say it was a consistent development of trinitarian theology, rightly understood.

Mere politics and cultural differences are always factors in these things, as well as the differences in language. The east was subject to the strong tendency of caesaropapism (making the emperor in effect or in actuality the head of the Church, with the state being over the Church): precisely the error that the papacy allows the Church to largely avoid.

As for the question of apostolic succession; in the case of Orthodoxy, we acknowledge their possession of the succession, because they had validly ordained bishops from the previous age when east and west were united. They continued that, so that all their ordinations are valid and apostolic, as we recognize. As for Anglicans, they claim the same thing on the same basis, but we argue that they changed the ordination rites in the 16th century, thus bringing about an invalid ordination, and hence, loss of apostolicity. There can be some exceptions in some cases . . .

Various issues contributed to the schism. I've outlined them in my introductory paper. Orthodox tend to see the west as over-rational and insufficiently mystical. I say this is a caricature, but it is true that we place relatively more emphasis on reason than they do. We think our view and approach to the faith is balanced and multi-faceted, but they think it is too far in one direction. They also think we are overly-dogmatic, and should not have defined many things that we did (such as transubstantiation); that we require things that should be left to individual opinion.

As for inter-communion: many Orthodox jurisdictions are more opposed to us than we are to them. If they had been more open to the ecumenical process, the reunion would already have been accomplished by now (or in the 15th or 13th centuries). There has generally been a great "anti-Latin" animus, that goes back to the Crusades and the sacking of Constantinople in 1204, etc. (that was not approved by the pope at all).