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This approach [of the “Confession of Faith Against Ecumenism”] is at variance with the policy of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and, increasingly, the body of local Orthodox Churches which are involved in the painstaking dialogue and progress towards restoring communion between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church undertaken by the International Theological Catholic-Orthodox Dialogue, and with the active participation of the Orthodox Church in the work of the World Council of Churches and the Faith and Order Commission. For these a ‘theology of return’ has been set aside, as in Roman Catholic circles, it being recognised that visible Christian unity and re-integration is unlikely to be achieved by insisting that the various sides abandon their tradition and positions and convert to others. Instead, it is envisaged that through dialogue and friendship, no tradition should surrender its integrity but, instead, grow in theological, spiritual and pastoral awareness of the others towards finding a common mind in Christ, reflected faithfully in each Christian tradition, and towards realising greater unity and ultimately communion. Furthermore, it cannot be a threat to tradition and integrity to receive from others what accords, or comes to accord, with them through this growth.

From the blog of the Pontifical Society of St John Chrysostom (UK and Europe)

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Orrologion has posted the original text of the “Twelve Differences between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches” by Teófilo de Jesús along with excellent responses to each of the twelve points from Fr Alvin Kimel, of Pontifications* fame, who in his extended period of discernment after leaving the Episcopal Church studied the claims of both Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy in great depth.

Some excerpts:

On Primacy. Is it true that the Orthodox Church rejects totally any understanding of ecclesial headship? What about the bishop of a diocese? Does he not wield and embody a divine authority given to him by Christ Jesus? Is he not the head of his community, which precisely is the Church? And when Catholics speak of the Pope as the earthly head of the Church, are they in any way denying that Christ alone is properly head of the Church? When Catholics speak of the primacy of the Pope, are they exalting the Pope above the Episcopate, as if their power and authority derived from him? And are Orthodox theologians incapable of entertaining an authentic primacy within the episcopal college for the bishop of Rome? …

On Conciliarity. The Catholic Church understands the Church precisely as a communion of particular Churches and local dioceses; moreover, the Church as the universal Church is not to be understood as simply the sum or collection of all particular Churches: each diocese is itself a truly catholic body … Catholic ecclesiology is so much more complex and diverse than is sometimes appreciated …

On Original Sin. I’m sure there are differences between Catholic construals of anthropology and Orthodox construals of anthropology (please note the plural); but I do not believe that this is because the Catholic Church authoritatively teaches a forensic imputation of original sin and the Orthodox Church does not. Why do I say this? Because it is not at all clear to me that the Catholic Church authoritatively teaches the *forensic* imputation of Adam’s guilt to humanity. I know that some (many?) Catholic theologians have sometimes taught something like this over the centuries, but the Catholic Church has strained over recent decades to clarify the meaning of Original Sin not as the forensic transfer of Adam’s guilt but as the inheritance of the Adamic condition of real alienation from God–i.e., the absence of sanctifying grace … Important differences on the nature of original exist between St Augustine and magisterial Catholic teaching …

On Liturgical Reform. I agree here that there are important differences between Catholic and Orthodox liturgical praxis at the present time. Sadly, many sectors of the Catholic Church appear to have uncritically embraced the thesis that the Church must adapt her liturgy to the spirit of the modern age. This has been disastrous for Catholic life and spirituality. One does see signs, however, that the insanity is passing.

On Grace and Deification. While perhaps it might have been true at some point in the past that Catholic theologians tended to reduce grace to a created power, this cannot be asserted today. Catholic theologians are quite clear that everything begins with and centers around Uncreated Grace. Catholic theologians do have a problem with some of the Palamite construals of grace and the popular Orthodox rejection of any notion of created grace–they do not see how the Palamite position does not lead to the annihilation of human nature–but this does not mean that Catholic theologians and poets cannot envision an eschatological life as full and vivid as the Orthodox. Surely Dante’s Paradiso may be invoked at this point. But I do acknowledge a difference of homiletical and ascetical emphasis between Catholics and Orthodox on theosis, sanctifying suffering, and the life of the resurrection.

* I was inspired to begin blogging after reading Pontifications, though I am not nearly as erudite and well-spoken as Fr Kimel and some of his interlocutors, both Catholic and Orthodox.

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Twelve Differences

Making the rounds in the Orthodox-Catholic blogosphere: Twelve Differences between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches, by Teófilo de Jesús, a Roman Catholic, of the blog Vivificat. Please read also the ensuing combox discussion, and leave any comments there.

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On his Ancient Faith Radio podcast, Professor Peter Bouteneff of St Vladimir’s Seminary compares and contrasts the recent “Confession of Faith Against Ecumenism” emanating from one quarter of the Orthodox Church of Greece, with the address of Archbishop Anastasios of Albania’s to the assembly of the Conference of European Churches.

Take a look also at the discussion on the podcast at the AOI Observer.

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Via Fr Anthony Chadwick, I present “ΟΜΟΛΟΓΙΑ ΠΙΣΤΕΩΣ Κατά του Οικουμενισμού” (“A Confession of Faith Against Ecumenism” (original Greek text and unofficial English translation), signed by a number of metropolitans, bishops, clergy and monks of the Orthodox Church of Greece.

I tend to agree with Fr Chadwick’s commentary on the text (link, see July 18) –

I see this whole thing in simple terms. The Christian world has been torn between relevance to the world and its specific identity. Ultimately, the whole thing goes back to the Donation of Constantine and “if the salt loses its savour”.

This is a problem that is intrinsic to Christianity. If a religion is to expand and assume a missionary vision, then it must be prepared to compromise its identity and inculturate. Western Catholicism is a missionary religion and addresses itself to the world. Eastern Orthodoxy, like Judaism, is a vast “monastery” and keeps its identity by keeping the infidel out and at arm’s length. The latter vision is coherent if it considers, like Jansenism and Calvinism, that the majority of humanity is nothing more than “hell fodder”. Islam is both “missionary” and medieval hard-line, and will continue to make inroads until it falls victim of its missionary ambitions and goes – – – secular.

… The Orthodox, like the Roman Catholic traditionalists (especially the sedevacantists) have come to this out of an instinct for survival. We traditional Anglicans also to an extent, because we can only survive by our difference from secular humanism. When you look at the historical pattern, we can begin to understand. All this is to say that I understand those Greeks who have had enough of relativism and liberalism. But, where is the love and charity or the will to share the Gospel with the world as Jesus asked of his Apostles?

Veritatem facientes in caritate. Not easy…. I would even say that we all seem to have got it wrong.

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While it is not a popular position for an Orthodox Christian, much less a priest, when I reflect on the history of uniatism—of those communities who left the Orthodox Church and joined themselves to Catholic Church—I am struck less by the machinations of Rome and more the failing of Orthodox Christians. Much of what we call uniatism is the fruit of our failure to be reconciled to each other, to support and encourage each other. How different would events then, and now, have unfolded if the actors had seen each other as the precious, irreplaceable gifts from God that each of us is to the other?

What concerns me as well is that even among those Orthodox Christians who left and joined themselves to Rome the same divisions still exist among Eastern Catholics. Forgive me for speaking so plainly, but I cannot help wonder at times at the tribalism that seems so deeply rooted in Eastern Christianity. Whether we are Orthodox or Catholic, we seem to prefer to be with “our people” rather than “those people.” This preference for our own comes at the expense of the Gospel and is in stark contrast to the beauty and wisdom I have found in Eastern Christianity.

The documents of the Second Vatican Council figured prominently in my own journey to the Orthodox Church. Not, as some might imagine, in a negative way, but in positive way. Reading the Council Fathers, looking at the reforms that they struggled to articulate and implement, was struck by the the prominence of the Christian East. To take but two examples, Vatican II’s emphasizes the conciliar nature of the Church on the universal level and the celebration of the Eucharist in the vernacular on the parochial level. I could add to this the renewed emphasis on the Liturgy of the Hours (or the daily cycle of services) and the universal call to holiness as the foundation of the life of the Church. Granted these elements were not always embodied with equal success, but the attempt was made and I saw in the attempt a turn to the East that lead me naturally to the Byzantine Catholic Church and ultimately to the Orthodox Church.

The Church of Rome looked to renew herself by looking East to re-appropriate for her own life the importance of the local Church. I wonder if it isn’t necessary for the Orthodox Church to look West and re-appropriate for ourselves the importance of the universal Church? Part of this process would , I think, require from us a sober reflection on the failures of uniatism not simple in the pejorative sense of the term, but also at the failure of Orthodox Christians then (and also now) to be true to our own ecclesiological vision. It is this failure I would suggest that failure that made reasonable the departure of some of us to Rome.

Let me be clear, I do not think that re-union with Rome is the answer. Yes, there must be reconciliation between the Catholic and Orthodox Churches and I hope for this in my lifetime.

But while reconciliation with the Church of Rome is essential, there is another, internal reconciliation that must happen as well. If it doesn’t then I am afraid we will see deeper divisions not only within the Church but from the Church as well. Even during the relative calm of recent years some 60% of those who join the Orthodox Church as adults leave us. Add to this the young people who leave as adults and the number of adults whose participation in the life of the Church is nominal at best, and the need for renewal and reconciliation on all levels of the Church becomes painful obvious.

Fr Gregory Jensen (Orthodox Church in America)

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I recently discovered the “Light of the East” online radio show / podcast, produced by Annunciation Byzantine Catholic Church in Homer Glen, Illinois. I highly recommend it.

In particular, I have been enjoying the four part series “Recovering a Sacramental World View” by Hieromonk Maximos of Holy Resurrection Monastery, Newberry Springs, CA (soon to be relocated to Belvidere, New Jersey):

  • Episode 200 – “Part I: Is a Sacrament a Thing or an Event?”
  • Episode 201 – “Part II: Sacrament as Prayer”
  • Episode 202 – “Part III: The Sacraments and the Holy Spirit”
  • Episode 203 – “Part IV: From a Scattering of Death to a Gathering of Life”

You’ll notice that Father Maximos does not shy away from some criticism of medieval Latin sacramental theology, from a Byzantine Christian perspective. But I am so grateful that he offers his criticism in such a gentle, irenic, constructive and – dare I say, catholic – spirit. Thank God for the Fathers of Holy Resurrection Monastery, and for their promotion of “spiritual ecumenism.”

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A little Marian levity

Yes, I’m still technically on retreat from blogging, but I just had to post a link to this post from Fr Hunwicke’s Liturgical Notes. No offence is meant to anyone, of course: just a bit of fun for today’s solemnity of the Assumption/Dormition.

Thanks to Dr Tighe for the link.

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Santa Maria Antiqua

Thanks to reader Sean for alerting us to Project Santa Maria Antiqua, concerning the study and restoration of a mid VI-century church in Rome, abandoned and sealed in the IX century, and rediscovered a millenia later. 

The mural above captures a theme dear to this blog, as it depicts Christ enthroned, flanked by Greek Saints (on his right) and Latin Saints (on his left). A nice reminder that, in the words of Metropolitan Platon of Kiev, “the walls of which divide us … do not reach up to heaven.”

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More catching up …

I was out of town again last week and came back to find an interesting combox discussion of what “modernity” is and how the Church ought to engage it. As always, the most valuable aspect of this blog is the discussion from readers, and yours truly is merely a facilitator.

I’m also catching up with some Orthodox-Catholic related posts from my RSS feed:

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