Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Comparisons of Orthodox and Catholic Ecclesiology: Some Reasons for Why I Am a Catholic, and an Ecumenical "Proposal"



Some Orthodox Christians have proposed something like the following scenario for a healing of the breach between Orthodoxy and Catholicism:

1. Bishops ought to do nothing of consequence without the consent of the pope.

2. The pope cannot do anything of momentous significance without the consent of the consensus of the bishops and the totality of the Church.

If the pope, however, can only do what is consented to by the council or the whole body of the faithful, in all particulars, then the group truly sets the standard and that is pure conciliarism (because the pope has no more authority than the collective), which has been condemned as heresy by the Catholic Church. He would merely become one bishop among many, with little or nothing distinguishing him in authority. If there is no real distinction in power and jurisdiction (mere "primacy of honor" logically reduces to that, in my opinion), then this is Orthodoxy, and hardly a compromise "solution."

The group doing what the pope consents to sounds more "Catholic" to me, so I have little problem with #1; it is #2 that I think runs into problems. Making #1 and #2 equal in application simply reduces to conciliarism / Gallicanism, in which case our ecclesiology is hardly distinguishable from Orthodox ecclesiology (not to mention, contrary to Vatican I and II).

In practice, of course, both are usually held together, and there need not be mutual hostility or competition at all, but there is still theoretically, or dogmatically, at least, papal headship or supremacy, in which the pope can act alone. I would contend that this occurred, e.g., with Humanae Vitae in 1968 (which is an infallible document, far as I can determine), though that didn't involve a council.

Virtually all of the pope's advisers (if not all) argued against the continuing ban on contraception, but that was false to the history of Catholic teaching (reiterated in 1931), so the pope acted on his own and reinforced it. If he had to agree with that group, let alone a council, then evil may have been promulgated as good, as in Anglicanism after 1930, in virtually all other Protestant groups, and increasingly in practice (to my great distress), even in Orthodoxy.

This is one of the three main reasons I am Catholic rather than Orthodox. I wanted the morality of the Apostles and early Church, and since the Orthodox were compromising on contraception (e.g., three successive editions of Metr. Kallistos Ware's book, The Orthodox Church have increasingly weaker statements on it), I concluded that Orthodoxy was non-apostolic in that regard, and there was no question of joining them, since that issue was the first major issue in which I changed my mind.


I would say that the solution to the different conceptions of the relationship of pope and Church is for the Orthodox to grant the pope dogmatic singularity and supremacy, with the pope, for his part, making every effort to act directly in concert with councils and bishops, with the understanding that he voluntarily does so but is not duty-bound or required to do so, at least in some cases.

We know, e.g., that there were great inquiries sent out to bishops before the definitions of the Immaculate Conception and Assumption, so they were by no means isolated papal decisions.

A Catholic can never say that the pope does not have supremacy in some sense. If all he can do is agree with councils and bishops and be a mere figurehead (sort of like the Queen of England, with all the "Byzantine" pomp and circumstance), that is not Catholicism; it is Orthodoxy; in which case it is no compromise at all. I wouldn't expect ecumenical Orthodox to disregard all of our distinctives anymore than I would want to neglect their biggest concerns.

My proposal basically boils down to the day-to-day function and practice of the pope being essentially in accord with Orthodox conceptions, with the principle of the thing (supremacy, papal infallibility) being more "Catholic." If the pope has no final say in some real, concrete sense (as he did in the first millennium, in many instances), he is not a pope. 

I think my proposal for how a reunited papacy would work is quite ecumenical and respectful of Orthodox concerns (I believe it is a true compromise), and in line with what I have read from Blessed Pope John Paul II. It was just off the top of my head, too. I'm sure I could hone and refine it further upon more reflection.

I agree totally with "the law of love" in how the papacy operates and "gives orders," and I think the present Holy Father and his Blessed predecessor followed that to an extraordinary degree. I oppose all strong-arm tactics of any sort and am in favor of "subsidiarity" economically, politically, and ecclesiastically. In fact, I detest all "Church politics" so much that I have very little to do with it.

Accordingly, I was in favor of freedom of all Catholics to worship at a Tridentine Mass if they so chose, long before this was decreed by Pope Benedict XVI. I've attended a (historically German) parish that has always offered a Latin Mass: never stopped (Novus Ordo and sometimes Tridentine). We were the only cluster in the Detroit archdiocese that did so, when it was rare, and there are still very few even now, after it has been allowed. I think freedom of rite and custom is crucial to preserve, provided it is all orthodox.

Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman, effectively (dare I say devastatingly?) answered Orthodox conciliarism, I think, in a following classic statement from his Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine [see, Pope St. Leo the Great, the "Robber" Council of 449, and the Council of Chalcedon in 451].

The fact remains that without the papacy (as we conceive it), the East (by Newman's reasoning) would have likely gone into complete heresy in the first Millennium. As it was, the East was rife with Monophysitism and Monothelitism (and also to a lesser extent, Nestorianism) for many centuries: infiltrating the patriarchates in alarming proportion (and we see a clear example of that in 449). I have written about this in my book on Orthodoxy [and see my paper that summarizes this argument].

Some argue that the proliferation of those heresies and also rampant iconoclasm, led directly to so many large regions falling rapidly to Islam. The road was paved with these heresies.

The East was in schism five times before 1054, as I have noted, and in all five instances (in the judgment of both sides) they were on the wrong side. Rome was right every time, with regard to these five schisms. I think that speaks volumes. Rome determines orthodoxy. History plainly reveals this.  The five schisms are:

The Arian schisms (343-98)
The controversy over St. John Chrysostom (404-415)
The Acacian schism (484-519)
Concerning Monothelitism (640-681)
Concerning Iconoclasm (726-87 and 815-43)

This adds up to 231 out of 500 years in schism: out of communion with Rome (46% of the time). Orthodox agree that all five of these schisms were in error, according to present Orthodox teaching. The Orthodox eventually rejected Arianism and Monothelitism and Iconoclasm. They think St. John Chrysostom is a good guy (Rome defended him then, just as with St. Athanasius). The Acacian schism had to do with Monophysitism.

Orthodoxy is not under the pope now. That changed in the eleventh century. The very fact that the more ecumenical Orthodox see it as preferable to somehow be back in communion with the pope, itself proves that Orthodoxy has lost a key proponent of historic Catholic Christianity. Otherwise, Orthodoxy would be complete in itself, and in need of no component from another Christian communion, as we view ourselves to be. Orthodoxy wouldn't need "our" pope; it would already have one of its own, or deny that it needs one at all (even in the lesser Orthodox sense). But that is not possible in Orthodoxy because of competing jurisdictions.

People who know much more about the situation than I do tell me there are many Eastern Catholics (as opposed to Eastern Orthodox) who are dissidents on the question of papal suprremacy, headship, and infallibility. Whether an Eastern Catholic chooses to abide by this or not is their choice. This is the problem in the Catholic Church as a whole: cafeteria, pick-and-choose Catholics. If a Catholic doesn't like some Catholic dogmas, then to be honest, he should not be a Catholic, because he or she is not in full obedience on that point. That doesn't change the fact of what we teach. They would then simply be "Catholics" who are really Orthodox at heart. What else is new? Lots of folks don't consistently follow their own ostensible affiliation.Yet the 1990 Eastern Code of Canons states:

Canon 44 - §1. The Roman Pontiff obtains full and supreme power in the Church by means of legitimate election accepted by him together with episcopal consecration; . . .

Canon 45 - §1. The Roman Pontiff, by virtue of his office (munus), not only has power over the entire Church but also possesses a primacy of ordinary power over all the eparchies and groupings of them by which the proper, ordinary and immediate power which bishops possess in the eparchy entrusted to their care is both strengthened and safeguarded.

§2. The Roman Pontiff, in fulfilling the office (munus) of the supreme pastor of the Church is always united in communion with the other bishops and with the entire Church; however, he has the right, according to the needs of the Church, to determine the manner, either personal or collegial, of exercising this function.

§3. There is neither appeal nor recourse against a sentence or decree of the Roman Pontiff.



A lot of the problems in the Catholic Church (even including very much the sex scandal) came about (I dare say) due to spineless bishops who have been lax in their duty (just as in the Arian crisis and other scandals and low points in the history of the Church). Many bishops followed the model of apostate (ot at least wimpish, ineffectual) priests that the prophets were constantly complaining about in the Old Testament. Modernism and liturgical mediocrity or corruption flourishes in many parishes because of this.

But (I would contend) papal encyclicals and acts have been the big force for a reform of both liturgy and orthodoxy. It is Rome that disciplines dissidents, and has provided strong leadership (the Catechism; many superb encyclicals). Thus, it seems to me that the "top-down" model works better for preserving orthodoxy and good morals (e.g., Humanae Vitae again).

In Orthodoxy, in large part because of no such central authority and final say, something like contraception now increasingly takes hold, even though the Orthodox traditionally opposed it as a grave sin, just as we continue to do. The difference? We had a pope who spoke out strongly on the matter in 1968, and it is infallible moral teaching that won't change.

Orthodox argue that Pope St. Leo the Great in the Council of Chalcedon in 451 did not "rule" or have the final say, but rather, that his Tome was deliberated upon and then ratified by the assembly. I heard Metr. Kallistos Ware make this argument in a lecture in Detroit.

Granting that description, this would be, in my view, an instance of the papacy being at an earlier stage of development. It was still developing at this relatively early date. Christianity had only been legal for 138 years. This accounted in large part for a slow earlier development of the papacy, as Cardinal Newman argued.

Even Christology had much more development to go through at that time. The canon of the Bible had only been established for two generations. Mariology was still developing quite a bit, and also the doctrine of the saints. The iconoclasm issue (tying into communion of saints and the incarnation) was not resolved till several centuries after that.

So it is not unusual to hold, as I do, that the doctrine (and operation and function) of the papacy was also developing, which is why infallibility was not declared till 1870. Orthodox will rail against Vatican I but they can't deny that it was the result of a very slow development that took 18 centuries. Hence, if that developed slowly, all the more would we expect a much more primitive papacy in 451, which is very early. At that point things were relatively more "conciliarist" -- though, I suspect, not as much as what Orthodox think, judging from very strong papal statements I have read in Pope St. Leo the Great (some of which seem to go even further than Pope St. Gregory the Great 150 years later).

Now, some Orthodox I have debated will argue that it is development of doctrine that is the bugaboo and where Rome went so wrong. I think that is nonsense (sorry for my overly subtle terminology). In my book on Orthodoxy, I argued that Orthodoxy has developments, too, just as Catholicism does. Here is a portion of what I wrote:

Orthodox often seem to disparage development of doctrine, or argue that Orthodox development (insofar as it occurs at all) is essentially different from Catholic development. As an example, let us consider hesychasm. One can trace it back in kernel form to St. Gregory Nyssa, St. Basil the Great, or Origen, yet it was not fully developed until St. Gregory Palamas (1296-1359). So this seems to me to also be a "development of a category" (a type of prayer and devotion, and -- especially -- the corresponding theology), since it has to do with the nature and essence of God, and a distinction between essence and energy. As such, it is hardly distinguishable (philosophically speaking) from similar refinements of category such as the homoousios, Theotokos, transubstantiation, or procession within the Godhead.  

It was not formally adopted (relating it to the Divine Energies and Uncreated Light), until the Councils of Constantinople in 1341, 1347, and 1351, when it then became, according to the Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, "an accepted part of Orthodox tradition." I don't see how this is any different (chronologically or essentially) from, for example, Catholic developments of transubstantiation or the Immaculate Conception (both fully developed one or two hundred years before hesychasm was) [or the papacy]. Can Orthodox claim that hesychasm and related concepts existed in their developed form all the way back to the early centuries of the Church? I think not. 

Papal infallibility cannot be rolled back. It is a de fide dogma. By its very nature it is permanent. How the inherent power is exercised, however, can be discussed, and has been in high-level talks. And this is how Vatican II complemented Vatican I. Once papal infallibility was established once and for all and "out of the way," then the road was set for a fuller development of a still-supreme pope working more directly in concert with councils and bishops.

Vatican II gave the strongest statement of conciliar infallibility in the history of he Church: but it is conciliar infallibility in cooperation (always) with the pope, and with his approval, which is what sets it apart from orthodox conciliarism. That's why the papal decree came first, then more development on conciliar ecclesiology.

I believe in papal ecclesiology because I think it is also modeled in the Bible, on Petrine primacy. Peter had prerogatives that no one else had, or had only in concert: exactly as in our ecclesiology. Peter was the leader, whereas in Orthodoxy, Peter, John, James, and Paul or some such would all be leaders, with no one having final say in cases of disagreement, leading to separate jurisdictions (and sometimes, historically, heresy as a result).

The Jerusalem Council worked the same way. St. Peter's words seem to have been decisive, and he acted as Leo the Great did in 451. St. James also played a key role, being the resident bishop. It had final authority. St. Paul went around declaring its binding decrees (Acts 16:4).

We are operating the same way the early Church did: just more developed. We still have popes; we still have councils. Orthodoxy has no popes and rarely holds councils; certainly not ecumenical ones, as they were in the first millennium and after, in terms of drawing from bishops all over the world.

But there were several mostly Eastern ecumenical councils then, too, so even if some of ours in the last 1000 years were mostly Western (that would be part of the Orthodox critique), that would be no different in essence from the early mostly Eastern ones: just "balancing the score a bit." 


***

22 comments:

Dr. Adam DeVille said...

Further thoughts along these lines may be found in my recent book from UND Press: Orthodoxy and the Roman Papacy. Details here: http://www.amazon.com/Orthodoxy-Roman-Papacy-Prospects-East-West/dp/0268026076/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1321328069&sr=8-1

Dave Armstrong said...

Thanks. Best wishes for the success of your book.

Roberto Jung said...

Part 1

"Some Orthodox Christians have proposed something like the following scenario for a healing of the breach between Orthodoxy and Catholicism:

"1. Bishops ought to do nothing of consequence without the consent of the pope.

"2. The pope cannot do anything of momentous significance without the consent of the consensus of the bishops and the totality of the Church.

"If the pope, however, can only do what is consented to by the council or the whole body of the faithful, in all particulars, then the group truly sets the standard and that is pure conciliarism (because the pope has no more authority than the collective), which has been condemned as heresy by the Catholic Church. He would merely become one bishop among many, with little or nothing distinguishing him in authority. If there is no real distinction in power and jurisdiction (mere 'primacy of honor' logically reduces to that, in my opinion), then this is Orthodoxy, and hardly a compromise 'solution.'

"The group doing what the pope consents to sounds more 'Catholic' to me, so I have little problem with #1; it is #2 that I think runs into problems. Making #1 and #2 equal in application simply reduces to conciliarism / Gallicanism, in which case our ecclesiology is hardly distinguishable from Orthodox ecclesiology (not to mention, contrary to Vatican I and II).

"In practice, of course, both are usually held together, and there need not be mutual hostility or competition at all, but there is still theoretically, or dogmatically, at least, papal headship or supremacy, in which the pope can act alone."

I understand that you refrain from participating in message-board discussions. But I'd like to point you to a thread at the Catholic Answers Forums entitled "High Petrine view in the early Church". See posts 1-4 and 53-57 in particular; I'd quote them here but for their sheer length. The author of these posts, Marduk, is a convert from Coptic Orthodoxy to Catholicism; his approach is unlike any I've encountered in Catholic apologetics. What do you make of it?

Roberto Jung said...

Part 2

"I would contend that this occurred, e.g., with Humanae Vitae in 1968 (which is an infallible document, far as I can determine), though that didn't involve a council."

Why is there no definitive list of infallible papal statements? Such exists, after all, for the seventy-three books of the Bible and the twenty-one ecumenical councils of the church. If a skilled Catholic apologist such as yourself cannot have certainty of the ex cathedra status of any given document issued by the pope, where does that leave the average Christian observer?

"Virtually all of the pope's advisers (if not all) argued against the continuing ban on contraception, but that was false to the history of Catholic teaching (reiterated in 1931), so the pope acted on his own and reinforced it. If he had to agree with that group, let alone a council, then evil may have been promulgated as good, as in Anglicanism after 1930, in virtually all other Protestant groups, and increasingly in practice (to my great distress), even in Orthodoxy."

Huge segments of the Church fell into Arianism at one point in the fourth century, no? The Ecumenical Council of Nicea I in 325 was still able to hand down orthodox canons and thus play a part in defeating the heresy. The bishop of Rome reigning at the time wasn't forced to make an ex cathedra proclamation on the issue. Why would we fear that a hypothetical ecumenical council on contraception might ultimately have taught error, when the Holy Spirit is supposed to protect such gatherings of clergy?

"This is one of the three main reasons I am Catholic rather than Orthodox. I wanted the morality of the Apostles and early Church, and since the Orthodox were compromising on contraception (e.g., three successive editions of Metr. Kallistos Ware's book, The Orthodox Church have increasingly weaker statements on it), I concluded that Orthodoxy was non-apostolic in that regard, and there was no question of joining them, since that issue was the first major issue in which I changed my mind."

Do we have solid grounds for believing that the Early Church Fathers would have accepted Natural Family Planning as an entirely licit practice, rather than--like contraception--condemning it as playing intolerably to human sinfulness?

Roberto Jung said...

Part 3

"I would say that the solution to the different conceptions of the relationship of pope and Church is for the Orthodox to grant the pope dogmatic singularity and supremacy, with the pope, for his part, making every effort to act directly in concert with councils and bishops, with the understanding that he voluntarily does so but is not duty-bound or required to do so, at least in some cases.

"We know, e.g., that there were great inquiries sent out to bishops before the definitions of the Immaculate Conception and Assumption, so they were by no means isolated papal decisions.

"A Catholic can never say that the pope does not have supremacy in some sense. If all he can do is agree with councils and bishops and be a mere figurehead (sort of like the Queen of England, with all the 'Byzantine' pomp and circumstance), that is not Catholicism; it is Orthodoxy; in which case it is no compromise at all. I wouldn't expect ecumenical Orthodox to disregard all of our distinctives anymore than I would want to neglect their biggest concerns.

"My proposal basically boils down to the day-to-day function and practice of the pope being essentially in accord with Orthodox conceptions, with the principle of the thing (supremacy, papal infallibility) being more 'Catholic.' If the pope has no final say in some real, concrete sense (as he did in the first millennium, in many instances), he is not a pope.

"I think my proposal for how a reunited papacy would work is quite ecumenical and respectful of Orthodox concerns (I believe it is a true compromise), and in line with what I have read from Blessed Pope John Paul II. It was just off the top of my head, too. I'm sure I could hone and refine it further upon more reflection."

This might work for some Eastern Orthodox, but even to accept papal universal jurisdiction and infallibility would be an impossible pill to swallow for others. They object not just to its exercise in practice but to the notion in theory.

"I agree totally with 'the law of love' in how the papacy operates and 'gives orders,' and I think the present Holy Father and his Blessed predecessor followed that to an extraordinary degree. I oppose all strong-arm tactics of any sort and am in favor of 'subsidiarity' economically, politically, and ecclesiastically. In fact, I detest all 'Church politics' so much that I have very little to do with it.

"Accordingly, I was in favor of freedom of all Catholics to worship at a Tridentine Mass if they so chose, long before this was decreed by Pope Benedict XVI. I've attended a (historically German) parish that has always offered a Latin Mass: never stopped (Novus Ordo and sometimes Tridentine). We were the only cluster in the Detroit archdiocese that did so, when it was rare, and there are still very few even now, after it has been allowed. I think freedom of rite and custom is crucial to preserve, provided it is all orthodox."

No disagreements here.

Roberto Jung said...

Part 4

"Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman, effectively (dare I say devastatingly?) answered Orthodox conciliarism, I think, in a following classic statement from his Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine [see, Pope St. Leo the Great, the 'Robber' Council of 449, and the Council of Chalcedon in 451].

"The fact remains that without the papacy (as we conceive it), the East (by Newman's reasoning) would have likely gone into complete heresy in the first Millennium. As it was, the East was rife with Monophysitism and Monothelitism (and also to a lesser extent, Nestorianism) for many centuries: infiltrating the patriarchates in alarming proportion (and we see a clear example of that in 449). I have written about this in my book on Orthodoxy [and see my paper that summarizes this argument].

"Some argue that the proliferation of those heresies and also rampant iconoclasm, led directly to so many large regions falling rapidly to Islam. The road was paved with these heresies.

"The East was in schism five times before 1054, as I have noted, and in all five instances (in the judgment of both sides) they were on the wrong side. Rome was right every time, with regard to these five schisms. I think that speaks volumes. Rome determines orthodoxy. History plainly reveals this. The five schisms are:

"The Arian schisms (343-98)
The controversy over St. John Chrysostom (404-415)
The Acacian schism (484-519)
Concerning Monothelitism (640-681)
Concerning Iconoclasm (726-87 and 815-43)

"This adds up to 231 out of 500 years in schism: out of communion with Rome (46% of the time). Orthodox agree that all five of these schisms were in error, according to present Orthodox teaching. The Orthodox eventually rejected Arianism and Monothelitism and Iconoclasm."

The arguments which you and Newman advance are intriguing. I'd like to see an Eastern Orthodox response to them.

"They think St. John Chrysostom is a good guy (Rome defended him then, just as with St. Athanasius). The Acacian schism had to do with Monophysitism."

John Chrysostom was out of communion with Rome for most of his life, yet he became a canonized Catholic saint. The Early Church did not seem to have regarded the bishop of Rome as the centre of unity.

Roberto Jung said...

Part 5

"Orthodoxy is not under the pope now. That changed in the eleventh century. The very fact that the more ecumenical Orthodox see it as preferable to somehow be back in communion with the pope, itself proves that Orthodoxy has lost a key proponent of historic Catholic Christianity. Otherwise, Orthodoxy would be complete in itself, and in need of no component from another Christian communion, as we view ourselves to be. Orthodoxy wouldn't need 'our' pope; it would already have one of its own, or deny that it needs one at all (even in the lesser Orthodox sense). But that is not possible in Orthodoxy because of competing jurisdictions."

Perhaps the Eastern Orthodox simply view Christian disunity as a serious and scandalous problem that demands their attention; the Eastern Orthodox consider their Church, after all, to constitute the credal "one, holy, catholic, and apostolic" Christian body. Internal disagreements over jurisdiction don't nullify this Eastern Orthodox claim: I believe the same problem has come up in the U.S. between bishops of the Western and Eastern rites of the Catholic Church.

They've also done a pretty good job of maintaining the faith during the past thousand years--despite Muslim and communist interference and oppression--though the widespread allowance of divorce and remarriage within Eastern Orthodox circles is very troubling.

"People who know much more about the situation than I do tell me there are many Eastern Catholics (as opposed to Eastern Orthodox) who are dissidents on the question of papal suprremacy, headship, and infallibility. Whether an Eastern Catholic chooses to abide by this or not is their choice. This is the problem in the Catholic Church as a whole: cafeteria, pick-and-choose Catholics. If a Catholic doesn't like some Catholic dogmas, then to be honest, he should not be a Catholic, because he or she is not in full obedience on that point. That doesn't change the fact of what we teach. They would then simply be 'Catholics' who are really Orthodox at heart. What else is new? Lots of folks don't consistently follow their own ostensible affiliation.Yet the 1990 Eastern Code of Canons states: [these citations are omitted for the sake of brevity]"

You have my full agreement here.

"A lot of the problems in the Catholic Church (even including very much the sex scandal) came about (I dare say) due to spineless bishops who have been lax in their duty (just as in the Arian crisis and other scandals and low points in the history of the Church). Many bishops followed the model of apostate (ot at least wimpish, ineffectual) priests that the prophets were constantly complaining about in the Old Testament. Modernism and liturgical mediocrity or corruption flourishes in many parishes because of this.

"But (I would contend) papal encyclicals and acts have been the big force for a reform of both liturgy and orthodoxy. It is Rome that disciplines dissidents, and has provided strong leadership (the Catechism; many superb encyclicals). Thus, it seems to me that the 'top-down' model works better for preserving orthodoxy and good morals (e.g., Humanae Vitae again)."

I've seen the Eastern Orthodox praised for holding firm against modernism and liturgical abuse on the parish level. I wonder why this hasn't happened in the Catholic context?

"In Orthodoxy, in large part because of no such central authority and final say, something like contraception now increasingly takes hold, even though the Orthodox traditionally opposed it as a grave sin, just as we continue to do. The difference? We had a pope who spoke out strongly on the matter in 1968, and it is infallible moral teaching that won't change."

You may be right about this.

Roberto Jung said...

Part 6

"Orthodox argue that Pope St. Leo the Great in the Council of Chalcedon in 451 did not 'rule' or have the final say, but rather, that his Tome was deliberated upon and then ratified by the assembly. I heard Metr. Kallistos Ware make this argument in a lecture in Detroit.

"Granting that description, this would be, in my view, an instance of the papacy being at an earlier stage of development. It was still developing at this relatively early date. Christianity had only been legal for 138 years. This accounted in large part for a slow earlier development of the papacy, as Cardinal Newman argued.

"Even Christology had much more development to go through at that time. The canon of the Bible had only been established for two generations. Mariology was still developing quite a bit, and also the doctrine of the saints. The iconoclasm issue (tying into communion of saints and the incarnation) was not resolved till several centuries after that.

"So it is not unusual to hold, as I do, that the doctrine (and operation and function) of the papacy was also developing, which is why infallibility was not declared till 1870. Orthodox will rail against Vatican I but they can't deny that it was the result of a very slow development that took 18 centuries. Hence, if that developed slowly, all the more would we expect a much more primitive papacy in 451, which is very early. At that point things were relatively more 'conciliarist' -- though, I suspect, not as much as what Orthodox think, judging from very strong papal statements I have read in Pope St. Leo the Great (some of which seem to go even further than Pope St. Gregory the Great 150 years later)."

I do see a parallel with the development of doctrines in the Early Church which both Catholics and Eastern Orthodox accept. But can you demonstrate that the ideas expressed in these papal statements were held in common with the other bishops in particular, the rest of the clergy in general, and the laity as a whole?

"Now, some Orthodox I have debated will argue that it is development of doctrine that is the bugaboo and where Rome went so wrong. I think that is nonsense (sorry for my overly subtle terminology). In my book on Orthodoxy, I argued that Orthodoxy has developments, too, just as Catholicism does. Here is a portion of what I wrote:

"Orthodox often seem to disparage development of doctrine, or argue that Orthodox development (insofar as it occurs at all) is essentially different from Catholic development. As an example, let us consider hesychasm. One can trace it back in kernel form to St. Gregory Nyssa, St. Basil the Great, or Origen, yet it was not fully developed until St. Gregory Palamas (1296-1359). So this seems to me to also be a 'development of a category' (a type of prayer and devotion, and -- especially -- the corresponding theology), since it has to do with the nature and essence of God, and a distinction between essence and energy. As such, it is hardly distinguishable (philosophically speaking) from similar refinements of category such as the homoousios, Theotokos, transubstantiation, or procession within the Godhead.

"It was not formally adopted (relating it to the Divine Energies and Uncreated Light), until the Councils of Constantinople in 1341, 1347, and 1351, when it then became, according to the Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, 'an accepted part of Orthodox tradition.' I don't see how this is any different (chronologically or essentially) from, for example, Catholic developments of transubstantiation or the Immaculate Conception (both fully developed one or two hundred years before hesychasm was) [or the papacy]. Can Orthodox claim that hesychasm and related concepts existed in their developed form all the way back to the early centuries of the Church? I think not."

This seems like a strong argument. But since I'm not familiar with this matter, I will have to defer to those Eastern Orthodox knowledgeable enough to comment.

Roberto Jung said...

Part 7

"Papal infallibility cannot be rolled back. It is a de fide dogma. By its very nature it is permanent. How the inherent power is exercised, however, can be discussed, and has been in high-level talks. And this is how Vatican II complemented Vatican I. Once papal infallibility was established once and for all and 'out of the way,' then the road was set for a fuller development of a still-supreme pope working more directly in concert with councils and bishops.

"Vatican II gave the strongest statement of conciliar infallibility in the history of he Church: but it is conciliar infallibility in cooperation (always) with the pope, and with his approval, which is what sets it apart from orthodox conciliarism. That's why the papal decree came first, then more development on conciliar ecclesiology."

But this is why the 1870 definition of papal infallibility was so tragically inopportune. For no good reason, Vatican I added one more item to the list of issues separating East from West.

"I believe in papal ecclesiology because I think it is also modeled in the Bible, on Petrine primacy. Peter had prerogatives that no one else had, or had only in concert: exactly as in our ecclesiology. Peter was the leader, whereas in Orthodoxy, Peter, John, James, and Paul or some such would all be leaders, with no one having final say in cases of disagreement, leading to separate jurisdictions (and sometimes, historically, heresy as a result).

"The Jerusalem Council worked the same way. St. Peter's words seem to have been decisive, and he acted as Leo the Great did in 451. St. James also played a key role, being the resident bishop. It had final authority. St. Paul went around declaring its binding decrees (Acts 16:4)."

I tentatively lean toward this view as well.

Roberto Jung said...

Part 8

"We are operating the same way the early Church did: just more developed."

A few interesting quotations for your consideration are given below (italics added). They come from the "Roman Catholic Scholars" section of the Eastern Orthodox opening statement in a debate on the papacy.

"'The East never accepted the regular jurisdiction of Rome, nor did it submit to the judgment of Western bishops. Its appeals to Rome for help were not connected with a recognition of the principle of Roman jurisdiction but were based on the view that Rome had the same truth, the same good. The East jealously protected its autonomous way of life. Rome intervened to safeguard the observation of legal rules, to maintain the orthodoxy of faith and to ensure communion between the two parts of the church, the Roman see representing and personifying the West...In according Rome a 'primacy of honour', the East avoided basing this primacy on the succession and the still living presence of the apostle Peter. A modus vivendi was achieved which lasted, albeit with crises, down to the middle of the eleventh century.'

"Cardinal Yves Congar, 'Diversity and Communion' Mystic: Twenty-Third, 1982, pp. 26-27.

"'Many of the Eastern Fathers who are rightly acknowledged to be the greatest and most representative and are, moreover, so considered by the universal Church, do not offer us any more evidence of the primacy. Their writings show that they recognized the primacy of the Apostle Peter, that they regarded the See of Rome as the prima sedes playing a major part in the Catholic communion. We are recalling, for example, the writings of St. John Chrysostom and of St. Basil who addressed himself to Rome in the midst of the difficulties of the schism of Antioch but they provide us with no theological statement on the universal primacy of Rome by divine right. The same can be said of St. Gregory Nazianzen, St. Gregory of Nyssa, St. Basil, St. John Chrysostom, St. John Damascene.'

"Cardinal Yves Congar, 'After Nine Hundred Years' New York: Fordham University, 1959, pp. 61-62.

"'It does sometimes happen that some Fathers understood a passage in a way which does not agree with later Church teaching. One example: the interpretation of Peter's confession in Matthew 16:16-19. Except at Rome, this passage was not applied by the Fathers to the papal primacy; they worked out an exegesis at the level of their own ecclesiological thought, more anthropological and spiritual than juridical.'

"Cardinal Yves Congar, 'Tradition and Traditions' New York: Macmillan, 1966, p. 398."


This Catholic theologian, who you've cited in the past, can't simply be brushed aside as some wayward liberal heretic.

"We still have popes; we still have councils. Orthodoxy has no popes and rarely holds councils; certainly not ecumenical ones, as they were in the first millennium and after, in terms of drawing from bishops all over the world.

"But there were several mostly Eastern ecumenical councils then, too, so even if some of ours in the last 1000 years were mostly Western (that would be part of the Orthodox critique), that would be no different in essence from the early mostly Eastern ones: just 'balancing the score a bit.'"

How does the orthodoxy of Eastern Orthodox (no pun intended) ecclesiology depend on whether or not they have held any ecumenical councils since the Great Schism? Such gatherings took place only seven or eight times in the first millennium, after all--when a crisis arose. And the participants in the Catholic-Eastern Orthodox dialogues will have to work out whether their churches' councils in the second millennium can be accepted as ecumenical by all parties concerned.

Roberto Jung said...

PS: For full disclosure, I'm considering both Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy as my spiritual home, so I'm looking at the best arguments the two sides can bring to the table. May we pray for their swift reunion so the question of discerning between these churches will become a moot point!

Dave Armstrong said...

I don't have time to get into all of the huge questions brought up in this combox; sorry. Perhaps someone else would like to take a crack at some of them.

Roberto Jung said...

This is definitely unfortunate. Almost none of the major Catholic apologists have dealt with Eastern Orthodoxy other than in a superficial way, and yet that's the only other viable option out there (if you exclude non-Chalcedonian Orthodoxy) besides Catholicism. As they focus on the superficially plausible--though ultimately deeply flawed--Protestantism, Protestants and Catholics alike will have no choice but to convert to Eastern Orthodoxy in part because they haven't heard Catholic responses (depending on how strong they are) to Eastern Orthodox claims.

Dave Armstrong said...

I've been dealing with their claims for over 20 years. My book is available for anyone interested, and I have a web page, too:

http://socrates58.blogspot.com/2006/07/books-by-dave-armstrong-orthodoxy-and.html

Roberto Jung said...

I've already read probably all of your blog posts and book chapters on Eastern Orthodoxy and the papacy. None of the material earlier in the thread from my end is addressed elsewhere in your apologetics work. If I am mistaken, I ask your pardon and, if possible, where to go from here. Even other blogs or books that may not have come to my attention, if you wish to recommend such.

Dave Armstrong said...

Okay; here are some replies (while not having time to delve into all that you being up):

Why is there no definitive list of infallible papal statements?

This may be of some use:

Where Can One Find a List of Infallible Catholic Doctrines?

http://socrates58.blogspot.com/2005/11/where-can-one-find-list-of-infallible.html

Dave Armstrong said...

Why would we fear that a hypothetical ecumenical council on contraception might ultimately have taught error, when the Holy Spirit is supposed to protect such gatherings of clergy?

I don't fear that. The illustration I was making was an instance of a pope alone upholding orthodoxy. I was opposing the notion of his having to agree with the council: thus making the council higher than he is (conciliarism).

But Vatican II didn't change the teaching. That was right in the 60s, after the Pill. The Holy Spirit protected it fro that serious error.

But in Orthodoxy we don't see the maintenance of traditional Catholic and Orthodox (and Protestant) prohibition of contraception. And I argue that a big reason is no central authority.

A true ecumenical council is protected by the Holy Spirit. But a false council (like the robber Council of 449) is not.

Dave Armstrong said...

Do we have solid grounds for believing that the Early Church Fathers would have accepted Natural Family Planning as an entirely licit practice, rather than--like contraception--condemning it as playing intolerably to human sinfulness?

I think so, though there has been much development, and they didn't have the knowledge of biology to fully understand the basis of NFP. But we know they opposed contraception: deliberate frustration of the natural course of the sexual act. See:

The Fathers on Contraception and Sterilization

http://www.catholic.com/tracts/contraception-and-sterilization

Contraception: Early Church Teaching (William Klimon)

http://socrates58.blogspot.com/2007/03/contraception-early-church-teaching.html

Dave Armstrong said...

I've seen the Eastern Orthodox praised for holding firm against modernism and liturgical abuse on the parish level. I wonder why this hasn't happened in the Catholic context?

Because they are (rightly or wrongly) much more dogmatic about the liturgy and its unchanging character, whereas we allow diversity of rite, and with that comes the danger of corruption.

Dave Armstrong said...

. . . can you demonstrate that the ideas expressed in these papal statements were held in common with the other bishops in particular, the rest of the clergy in general, and the laity as a whole?

No, but it's not required, by the nature of development, as I argued in this portion. If something is at an early stage of development, one will be able to find many who disagree.

As a thing develops further, certain folks will dissent and split. Thus we have the various Christological heretics, who left after increasing definitions: Monophysites after Chalcedon, etc.

The Orthodox left because of the filioque and other issues. But that issue had to do with the development of trinitarianism.

Likewise, the Old Catholics rejected papal infallibility and split after 1870. But none of that proves that there is not a correct orthodox doctrine.

Dave Armstrong said...

But this is why the 1870 definition of papal infallibility was so tragically inopportune. For no good reason, Vatican I added one more item to the list of issues separating East from West.

I dealt with the question of timing and circumstances in these papers:

Historical Background and Immediate Impetus For the Dogmatic Proclamation of Papal Infallibility at Vatican I in 1870

http://socrates58.blogspot.com/2008/10/historical-background-and-immediate.html

Why the Immaculate Conception, Papal Infallibility, and Assumption Dogmas Were Defined in the 19th and 20th Centuries

http://socrates58.blogspot.com/2009/02/why-immaculate-conception-papal.html

Dave Armstrong said...

How does the orthodoxy of Eastern Orthodox (no pun intended) ecclesiology depend on whether or not they have held any ecumenical councils since the Great Schism? Such gatherings took place only seven or eight times in the first millennium, after all--when a crisis arose.

It doesn't, technically. This is an argument about the nature of the Church. Certain premises are in play. The Orthodox seem to think that all we need is seven councils, and that is that.

I think that is simplistic. If doctrine developed in the first thousand years, it stands to reason that it still does. Even Orthodoxy developed various ideas after 1054, such as my example of hesychasm.

It is implausible to think that the Church was a certain way in the first millennium and then it changed: from pope to no pope; from ecumenical councils to none. That isn't plausible.

The east was simply mistaken about the nature of the papacy. Some of it was typical provincial politics and caesaropapism, with which the east has always been plagued.

They were on the wrong side of five schisms, as I have demonstrated. So we see that they were wrong again when they departed in 1054. They were simply continuing their same schismatic and provincial tendency.

I develop the argument further in this paper:

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

http://socrates58.blogspot.com/2004/07/my-latest-book-orthodoxy-and.html