Skip to comments.What would the Orthodox have to do to have unity? (Catholic/Orthodox unity)
Posted on 09/09/2006 3:04:19 PM PDT by Calvin Coollidge
Question: What would the Orthodox have to do to have unity
Father Thomas Hopko, a prominent Orthodox theologian, addresses a controversial topic in a visit here
EDITORS NOTE: Father Thomas Hopko is an Orthodox theologian and the dean emeritus of St. Vladimirs Orthodox Seminary in Crestwood, N.Y. He is a retired professor of dogmatic theology who lives in Ellwood City, Pa. Recently, he spoke to the St. John Chrysostom Society at a meeting held at St. John Orthodox Church in Campbell on the topic of what the Orthodox would have to do, despite our shared common heritage, before there could be unity with Catholicism. The topic seems of such importance to ecumenism that we include here, edited for length, his remarks that evening. The St. John Chrysostom Society works to foster unity and understanding between Roman Catholics and members of eastern-rite churches.
My topic is not what I as Orthodox believe would be required of Rome and the Roman Catholic Church for us to have unity, but rather what do I believe, being an Orthodox, that the Orthodox have to do? What is required of the Orthodox Church, particularly the bishops? What would they have to do in order to have the Eastern Orthodox churches and the Roman Catholic Church (Latin rite and Eastern churches) be in sacramental communion? Which would simply mean, be one church.
Because, if you re in Eucharistic communion, you are one church. Thats what makes the Church one. Its the unity in the body broken, the blood shed of Jesus before the face of God. Thats where the Church is actualized on earth in the celebration of the mysteries: baptism, chrism, Eucharist. Thats what makes us one. That is where the unity of our doctrine is shown, our unity of worship, our unity of morals, our ethics, the unity of spiritual life.
Now if a Roman Catholic were giving this talk and said, What do we require of the Orthodox? it would be a very different talk. Certainly one thing that is constantly required is that the Orthodox would recognize the bishop of Rome as the first bishop of Rome which, as I said last time [I spoke here], according to us, Peter was not. The first bishop of Rome, according to us, was Linus.
But in any case, the Roman Catholics would make different requirements; they would require certain other things from the Orthodox for there to be unity. The main thing that would be required these days, virtually the only thing would be the acceptance of what is now known as the Vatican Dogma: namely that Peter was the first bishop of Rome; the present bishop of Rome is his successor; he has special rights and privileges juridically over the Church; these include, according even to the teaching of the Second Vatican Council, that in certain conditions the bishop of Rome speaks from himself and not from the consensus of the Church, on matters of morals and doctrine, in certain cases infallibly. Everybody would have to agree to it. Also, every bishop on earth gets the legitimacy of his episcopacy in communion with the See of Rome and that the bishops of Rome appoint all the bishops on earth. Well, this would all have to be recognized by the Orthodox for there to be sacramental communion. I believe that would be the Roman Catholic position.
But our topic tonight is What would the Orthodox have to do in order to have communion [unity] with the Roman Catholic Church? What follows is my opinion:
Unity in essentials
The first theological thing, the essential thing that we would have to do, would be to insist that in essence, in what is really substantially belonging to Christianity . that we essentially held the same faith.
So the first thing theologically that the Orthodox would have to do would be to be very clear very clear about what belongs essentially in Christianity and what does not What is secondary? What could be different? What can be local or provincial or something that people like, but doesnt really affect the substantial unity of the faith and the confession of the Orthodox faith in the Catholic Church? Because in early Christian writings, the faith was always called Orthodox and the church was always called Catholic.
In the early Church, they spoke about the Catholic Church which holds the Orthodox faith, according to the Scriptures. So thats the main thing. Thats no easy thing.
But having said that, a million things come up about making that happen. I think very strongly that the first thing the Orthodox have to do especially the clergy, especially the bishops before they even get to that issue of what is essential and what is not essential the only thing that could be allowed to divide Christians is disagreement on essentials. Thats what we are all working on. What is essential? What is not essential?
The desire to be one
However, before we get to that, my opinion is that what is really required of the Orthodox most of all above everything, is a real desire for unity to want to be one, to suffer over the division, to weep over it, to carry it around like a sword in your soul that we who claim Christ and praise God in Christ (especially in this world which is getting less and less Christian as the clock ticks), that Christians would be divided A lot of Christians these days dont even claim that and are not interested in that. But the members of the St. John Chrysostom Society exist because of that. We claim to belong to the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church of Christ, the church that teaches the gospel truly, fully, that prays properly, that acts and teaches the right way to behave according to Christ, according to God Almighty, according to the Holy Scriptures, the canons, the saints, the fathers, etc.
So the most important thing of all is the desire to be one, and to prove that desire, not only by praying because we pray for unity at every single liturgy but prayer without activity, without work, is just blasphemous. To be praying all these things and not to be working, not be ready to make any possible sacrifice you could make that doesnt violate the essence of the faith. In other words, the Orthodox have to desire unity and be ready to sacrifice everything that they can without violating their convictions about the gospel in order to be one, particularly with Roman Catholics.
We have to be ready to do that. Now I have to say that in my opinion, the Orthodox are not ready to do that at all. They dont even want unity. So I am extremely pessimistic about that point. Why? Because the Orthodox leaders dont even want unity among the Orthodox, let alone with Roman Catholics or Protestants. Its obvious. The record is clear. Im not making this up. This is not my opinion. The Orthodox leadership, and most of the Orthodox people, dont want unity with others, and they are not ready to give up anything even the smallest little thing that is clearly not essential to the faith. I feel very strongly that this is true.
When people ask me, for example, why the Orthodox jurisdictions in America are not united, the answer is very clear: because our leaders dont want it. If they wanted it, we would have had it yesterday. There is nothing stopping them you may have to suffer a lot. You may have to give up some things: power, pre-eminence, prominence, property, possessions, prestige, positions, privilege and pleasure. Were not ready to give up those things because of pride, passion and prejudice. Forget it. Theres not going to be any unity. Thats what divides people generally, and it is certainly what divides churches.
Now here I would allow myself one little not my business remark: I have a hunch those same things are operating in the Eastern Catholic Churches, too
We will never be one unless we desire it with all our hearts, and are ready to put away everything that we can to have it . Everything that doesnt belong to the essence of the faith. Language doesnt belong to the essence of the faith. Calendars dont belong to the essence of the faith. Certain liturgical customs dont belong to the essence of the faith. Even the Byzantine Rite Liturgy for us does not belong to the essence of the faith.
Not motivated for unity
There was a whole thousand years when the Church had multiple rites of praise to God. In fact, the irony is, the time when there were the most multiple rituals for the sacraments and the services was the time there was the greatest unity in doctrine and spiritual life, evangelism, etc. In any case, the ritual is not of the essence of the faith. Language isnt, calendars are not all those things are not part of the essence of the faith. But unless we have the desire for unity, which then would lead us to feel that we have an absolute obligation from God to distinguish between what is really essential and what is not, we are never going to be united.
And here, I would say, on the planet Earth right now, I think in fact, I am sure the Orthodox churches around the world are not motivated for unity. In some of the churches, they even think that ecumenism is a heresy. In some churches, there is a feeling that what we just did upstairs pray together is not Orthodox. These Orthodox feel we should not pray together with Catholics because they are heretics. Some Orthodox believe that
So if there is a desire for unity, that will be proved not only by difficult, painful efforts to distinguish between what is essentially of the faith and what is not, but it will also require believers to do absolutely everything they can with others if only who by themselves are convinced would be contrary to the gospel if they did not in other words and this became a popular teaching of Pope John XXIII who said let us pledge to do together everything that we can, and do separately only the things that are still for us a matter of content and faith. Thats exactly what John Paul II said in [his 1995 apostolic letter] Orientale Lumen He called on Roman Catholics to affirm whatever is good, true, beautiful, holy, of God, wherever it is Its absolute obligation for an Orthodox and more than an obligation, a joy to affirm any agreement anywhere among human beings that we can claim as really true, right and of God. Now, how much more would that be the case if we were talking about the Christian Faith? The gospel? Christ? His divinity? His humanity? If we share all those things in common, then we should affirm them, and stand before the world affirming them in common.
I honestly do not believe most Orthodox leaders are even conscious of that. There is another agenda going on, an agenda that belongs to this world . That is why we Orthodox ourselves are so weak, miserable and divided, even though we claim a unity of faith (which we have) and a unity of worship (which we have), a unity in saints and tradition (which we have). But to actually do activities that would show this, witness to it, bring it to the world I dont think that is there.
There are several other things that the Orthodox would have to do. Besides desiring unity, and working really hard to say where the real disagreements are and why, and not to make issues of what are not essential that would be a huge step forward if we were mobilized and motivated to do that but there are several other things.
Be ready to forgive
Another thing that the Orthodox definitely have to do (the Catholics have to do it, too, but tonight we are talking about the Orthodox) is be totally ready to forgive everything in the past. Not to look back! Not to figure out who was wrong and who was right and who did what but to be ready to admit our own sins. We shouldnt lie. We should be ready to admit when our churches and our church leaders were wrong. I would say, if we were really Christians, that we should be ready to do that, not even saying if they do it, too!
We should say: Whatever they do is their business; were going to look at ourselves. Were going to admit our wrongs, our errors, our weaknesses, our sins. Were going to forgive the sins of the others, whether or not they even admit them. We think they did wrong; were not going to make them admit it. But were going to forgive. I believe that unless we are ready to do that, forget it. Lets have coffee right now.
We cannot be looking back. We cannot be trying to figure things out. We cannot be saying who did what to whom when. Its important to do that but we Orthodox have to admit our own sins and forgive others even when we believe they have done horrible things. Among the Orthodox, probably the most violent against union with Rome would be the Serbs, because they cannot forget the past. You say Roman Catholic among them, you might as well say devil. Unless they can get over that, and admit that they produced a few corpses too it was not just a one-way street. But even if it were, the Orthodox have to forgive. They need to ask, What can we do now? Thats just an essential Christian principle in general, not only about Church unity you know there are some people in their 80s who cant die because they havent forgiven their own parents yet for what they did to them? If Christianity is about anything, its about forgiveness. Forgiveness means acknowledging that someone did wrong to you, but deciding that you are not going to break communion over that. My own feeling it that the best way to heal memories is just not to have them. But the problem is, you cant help having them, especially if they have been pumped into you since you were born. So what do you do?
Well, the Holy Father would say, I believe, that you remember evil sins that you have committed and that others have committed against you. You remember them. But only for three reasons. One is to know how merciful God is, and that He forgives both of you. Secondly is to be motivated never to do it again. Third, because we are not to judge anybody or anything. As St. Paul says, God came to save the sinners, of whom I am the first. So we have to have that consciousness, or otherwise we are not going to get anywhere. So forgiveness is absolutely essential on the part of the Orthodox. And that even means forgiveness of Ukrainians or Russians and Carpathians or whatever. Without it, there is no unity. Forgiveness, by definition, is unity.
Another point for the Orthodox is that we not only have to desire unity, be ready to sacrifice everything essential to have it, to be able to distinguish what is essential from what is not, be able to forgive the past and admit our own sins and concentrate on ourselves, to do practical acts of charity and mercy but also never, ever to say or do anything that would offend another person unnecessarily There are so many ways we can charitably go out of our way to not hurt others our churches speak about unity, and then every day attack each other in missionary work and so on. Even among the Orthodox, one of our jurisdictions starts a mission and three days later, another jurisdiction starts another mission on the same street. Thats just offensive.
You all know the story of the Orthodox man who was shipwrecked on an island. When they came to rescue him, they found two churches there. The rescuer said, Why are there two churches here? Youre all alone. The Orthodox man said, Yeah thats the one I go to and thats the one I dont. Thats a deeply ingrained mentality among eastern Christians because of their history, their culture, their politics. But if that is not purged out somehow by the grace of God, forget about talking unity with Catholics. Orthodox need to first have unity among themselves, even culturally and nationally in regions where they live.
So Orthodox need to be ready to go the extra mile. Jesus said, If they ask for your coat, give them your shirt. If they ask you to go one mile, go two. So our attitude has to be always toward bending over backwards, so to speak, to do the thing that will build up unity rather than give offense or cause hard feelings.
People always point out that they fear greater unity because it will cause greater schisms some of our people wont go along. But we have schisms anyway. Lets have them for the right reason. Suppose we had unity and half the [Orthodox] people didnt come along. I think we should be ready to say goodbye to them if the unity is in God. We have to be people of unity, not because we will have more power in society, or be more popular, or George Bush will invite us to the White House. We have to have unity because God wants it, but it has to be unity in God, not unity in Ukrainianism or whatever If the unity is not in God, in Christ, in the Spirit, who wants it anyway?
But history shows that the people who worked for unity in the Faith were usually persecuted, while the masses just went about their business.
One last thing: I believe also that the Orthodox, if we were serious about unity, would need not only to desire it, sacrifice for it, forgive everything, admit our own sins, distinguish between what is essential and what is not, but also would have to be ready to practice economium on certain issues. This would mean, in my opinion, that we would have to be ready not just to admit that there can be different ways of singing, and different styles of liturgy, and different uses of psalms there are some issues, especially between Orthodox and Catholics, that Orthodox would have to be ready to tolerate for a while (even though they think the issues are bad) for the sake of unity.
What do I have in mind? Things like the filioque clause in the Creed [the clause in the Nicene Creed that says that the Holy Spirit proceeds, not only from the Father, but also, filioque from the Son]... If Rome would say it was not there originally, that the way it was explained was not right, we now can agree on certain aspects I think the Orthodox would have to say, OK, let them keep it rather than insist that every last church in Portugal drop the filioque before we can have unity.
In other words, the Orthodox may have to go along with something for a while, as long as its clear how we understand it.
Other things we disagree on? Unleavened bread Communion in one kind. Communion from reserved Sacrament. Celibacy of the clergy. We dont think thats a good rule I dont. I have 15 grandchildren. Baptism by pouring water we believe baptism involves immersion. Multiple Masses by the same priest. Confirmation as a separate ritual. Holy Communion for children. Issues about divorce and remarriage. There are plenty of issues that dont fall into the category of absolutely essential or absolutely non-essential.
Yes. The question is still valid. NFP is for everyone, not just catholics.
Here is another example of "consensus". What does the Church teach? Which one Patriarch has the final say?
I hope you'll pardon me if I delay any substantial reply to that ... I've made a couple of references to the Donatist heresy on this thread already ... I'm having trouble distinguishing between it and the sacramental understanding that you just posted. More later, as time permits ...
Actually Moscow specifically said that by receiving heterodox converts through a means other than baptism no inference should be made that the Russian Church accepts the presence of grace in the heterodox baptism. Both Moscow and the EP officially have a "We don't know" attitude. As for which way do they lean unofficially... I think the EP probably does lean towards accepting RC sacraments. I also think the MP leans in the other direction if only a little bit. It should be noted that in the near future the bishops of ROCOR will be sitting in the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church. They are NOT friendly to anything Roman.
On a brighter note the very fact that such an extremely bitter schism has been ended gives me hope for all kinds of miracles. :-)
Kosta, your #70 is one of the best summaries of many of the key issues that have been discussed on this thread. Perhaps this is what made it something that no-one wanted to respond to...
IMO, we say "valid", or more particularly "invalid", because "ceremony that remotely sort of resembles Baptism, is called 'baptism' by those who do it, but really isn't Baptism" is just too much of a mouthful to say on a regular basis.
Concur. The question is whether or not the individual has, in fact, been Baptised ... and what to do if due to poor recordkeeping or dubious theology there's no certainty in the case.
(NY) Here is another example of "consensus". What does the Church teach? Which one Patriarch has the final say?
You seem to be under the impression that we need to have the answer to every question at all times. We don't and your church has had long debates before on questions of discipline and dogma. On which note I should point out that the question of the manner of receiving converts from heterodox confessions is one of discipline mainly. All canonical Orthodox accept dogmatically two points...
1. There are no mysteries outside the Church.
2. Holy Chrismation is an effective means by which a sacramental ceremony that was void and empty of grace can be filled with grace and made whole provided the original form & intent was (more or less) Orthodox.
The debate is not over whether we MUST baptize all converts. It's over whether we SHOULD baptize all converts.
Both methods are accepted by all canonical Orthodox as legitimate. However reception by means other than Holy Baptism has always been seen as an act of oikonomia (economy or a dispensation). There is a complaint in some quarters (one that I think is not completely lacking in merit), that oikonomia has become normative. It is also creating a dangerous impression that some Orthodox are starting to latch onto, to the effect that we do recognize non-Orthodox sacraments as "valid."
Take your time. This is not a shallow topic. I have had to make some references as well. CC
Thank you. I am not fond of the word "valid" for the reasons you noted. But to be honest in English it probably is the closest term that fits.
That's easy: Baptize in the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost, by triple immersion. :)
The real problem is when there is a good possibility that a person would be re-baptized or "double bpatized" through negligence.
The bishop is then probably under his own obligation to investigate the parish practices and determine how it is done, and make a decision based on that.
But I am sure, the bishop will wish to remove all doubt before subjecting someone to another Baptism.
The debate is not over whether we MUST baptize all converts. It's over whether we SHOULD baptize all converts.
In both sentences the word "all" should be "most." Even the stricter jurisdictions do acknowledge that there are very good reasons for sometimes accepting converts by Holy Chrismation.
Thank you A, I apologize for some mumbo-jumbo in it (I have no clue how some of those words worked their way into my sentences...maybe I need more coffee).
Very good points. To which I would add just a couple things. Some sects baptize by immersion and use Trinitarian language but have no sacramental intent. Baptists are generally an excellent example of this. Their baptisms are void and empty (IMO). Also in Orthodoxy a priest is the normative minister of baptism. Layman can baptize (as is true in the RCC) in emergencies. But a lay baptism is almost always followed by a corrective (conditional) baptism done by a priest. Church canons do not allow anyone baptized by a layman to enter into Holy Orders. Also unlike in the RCC (which oddly accepts it) in Orthodoxy those not baptized themselves can not under any circumstances baptize anyone. To perform the Holy Mysteries one must be connected to the Mystical Body of Christ sacramentally. This raises all kinds of questions about heterodox baptisms, especially Protestants. In the modern day and age even in the so called confessional churches we don't know what they are doing anymore or what they think they are doing. Look at the Episcopalians. This is one reason why I disagree with the OCA's decision to follow the Russian custom of accepting some Protestant baptisms. I think all Protestant baptisms should be presumed void and beyond the reach of Chrismation, unless you know for certain the manner of the baptism, the intent of the one performing it, and if the baptizing person (Protestants do not have real clergy) was him/herself baptized. Given the extreme unlikelihood of satisfying these points I think its best to just baptize Protestant converts unless there is an unusual reason for an exception.
"Nitpick: I see that sort of phraseology frequently from Orthodox on this forum. If the term "valid" isn't Orthodox, what term is? Please, let's at least learn to speak each others' language, here."
Orthodox resistance to using the term "valid" is primarily based on the RC practice of declaring certain sacraments by people outside the RCC to be "valid but irregular." This is most famously true of the concept of "valid orders" of vagante bishops whose "line of succession" is outside the Church...
The story was told of an Orthodox bishop who was approached by a Episcopalian priest at an ecumenical gathering early in the 20th c. The Episcopal priest asked the Orthodox bishop if he thought his orders were "valid."
The Orthodox bishop paused and asked the priest, "does your church consider your orders to be valid?" "Why, yes," the priest replied. The bishop's answer was simple: "then why would you need to ask me whether your orders are valid -- in what other church and under what other bishop would you want to exercise your orders other than your own?"
The only place where the nature of ceremonies done outside the Orthodox Church is any of our business is when someone is converting to Orthodoxy. Any other situation would involve great presumption in declaring *one way or the other* on what happens in non-Orthodox religious ceremonies.
As Coollidge nicely summarized, with additional good input from Kolokotronis and Kosta, there is a spectrum of opinion within Orthodoxy on the issues of how someone is received into the Orthodox Church. Most of the Orthodox Church tends towards caution in the first place, and I have observed a quiet trend, even in the more flexible American jurisdictions, toward a more strict practice of reception by baptism, blessing marriages by going through the Orthodox wedding ceremony, etc...
Now you ask: "You apparently make a distinction between "a Baptism" and "a ceremony that sort of resembles a Baptism, but isn't one" ... what is the Orthodox term for the latter?"
We call the one an Orthodox baptism. We don't presume to say anything about the other one. When one is received into Orthodoxy, the point is not what the person's former church didn't give him, but on the grace that the Orthodox Mysteries *do* give him.
What is the Orthodox Church positon on IVF or the use of fetal stem cells? What about cloning?
"As for which way do they lean unofficially... I think the EP probably does lean towards accepting RC sacraments. I also think the MP leans in the other direction if only a little bit. It should be noted that in the near future the bishops of ROCOR will be sitting in the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church. They are NOT friendly to anything Roman."
Back in the late 80s or early 90s, I was approached by a Roman Catholic couple who were in the final stages of catechesis for entry into the Orthodox Church by Chrismation. They asked the priest about whether or not they would have to be "Re" married in The Church. The priest refered them to me (!) and I called the then bishop of our diocese. He told me that he thought that "the Russians don't require that" but that so far as he knew, the Archdiocesan Synod hadn't dealt with that matter. The Synod was to meet the next day and he said he's bring it up. Two days later he called to say that the Synod voted to "follow the Russian practice" and not require a re-marriage for Roman Catholics entering Orthodoxy.
AB, I really don't lose much sleep over questions like this. In English, as CC says, it may well be the word to use, but that said, read Agrarian's 115 again. I think that sums it up rather nicely.
This whole discussion, especially as it is going on between Latins and Orthodox, reminds me of some sound advice from +John of Kronstad:
"When the matter relates to God's Mysteries, do not inwardly ask: how can this be? You do not know how God created the world from nothing; you cannot and may not know here either how God mysteriously works. God's mystery must remain a mystery for you, because you are not God, and cannot know all that is known to the eternally Wise, Almighty God."
I agree, but the "intent" is there. The power to invoke sacraments is not. Who do Portestants represent? Certainly not the apostolic inheritors of the authority to loosen and bind. The death knoll of Luther's reformation was the fact that not a single bishop joined him. There is no apostolic succession and there is no real clergy, nor can there be sacrements, the way we understand them for the last 2,000 years or so. They are reduced to rituals, arrogating the authority as they arrogate the "authority" to interpret the scripture individually.
This is not an insult or attack on Protestants, nor doubt as to their their faith. But we, as Orthodox Christians, can only speak from the perspective of the One Holy Catholic and Apostlic Church.
The Church must never bend the rules for political correctness. The fact that OCA accepts some Protestant baptism (I suspect Anglican) is their economt, but then the OCA is so largely ex-Protestant one must woder if we a conflict of interest here.
That is a very, very important (and correctly stated) point, Agrarian. Thank you. Ours is not to concern ourselves with those matters that are not Orthodox. We deal with the issues of the non-Orthodox only if and when they express a desire to become Orthodox, and then only for the sake of the spiritual wellbeing of the Catechumen.
That is a correct Orthodox view. Just as we do not judge what happens to unbpatized babies. We baptize our babies because we want them to enter the Body of Chirst as early as possible and grown in His grace. Our onyl concern is for the soul of the Orthodox or those who are enetering Orthodoxy. The rest is up to God.
Well, we seem to have crossed wires on the messages. I haven't touched Baptism; I'm still on papal primacy.
NYer said: There has to be someone at the helm, someone in charge, someone who has the last say, such as the father in the family, the CEO in an organization, the captain on a ship, etc. No organization can be run on consensus.
Kolokotronis said: The Orthodox Church has been run that way for 2000 years (which is not true since there is a line of papal successors going back to St. Peter and that line predates the separation of our respective churches). However, .... I asked for the official Orthodox position on birth control and cited one bishop's position that indicates there is no one hard and fast rule.
CC said: "there is a difference of opinion within Orthodoxy" about some other topic. (which only justified my position) So I wrote.
NYer: Here is another example of "consensus". What does the Church teach? Which one Patriarch has the final say?
The Ten Commandments are not the ten recommendations. The Catholic Church has teachings that are to be followed. These are not subject to 'consensus' of local bishops or priests. For example, the official teaching of the Catholic Church is NO to artificial birth control. There are no extenuating situations. Catholics are to practice NFP.
What is the official teaching of the Orthodox Church? Where is it written? Who in the Orthodox Church has the final word? Is it one particular Patriarch? Is it several Patriarchs together?
What is the official teaching of the Orthodox Church on stem cell research? Who represents the Orthodox Church when it comes to official teachings?
Are you implying that Orthodox do not respect the Ten Commandments If so you better be ready to back that up.
These are not subject to 'consensus' of local bishops or priests
Actually for a long time that's exactly how your church operated. The papal monarchy was not firmly established until the 1870's.
For example, the official teaching of the Catholic Church is NO to artificial birth control. There are no extenuating situations. Catholics are to practice NFP.
What is the official teaching of the Orthodox Church? Where is it written? Who in the Orthodox Church has the final word? Is it one particular Patriarch? Is it several Patriarchs together?
What is the official teaching of the Orthodox Church on stem cell research? Who represents the Orthodox Church when it comes to official teachings?
I am starting to think you have an authority complex. The Orthodox Church's final authority is its sensus fidei which has done a far better job of maintaining and guarding the faith of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church than the Patriarch of Rome. The last word is through solemn decrees of the Great Councils of the Church when received by the Church. However in the vast majority of cases the last word is your bishop or maybe the Holy Synod. We have no need for a theological monarch.
As I noted in a previous post you seem to be under the impression that every question of faith must have an immediate and clearly defined answer. But your own church took centuries to resolve some questions of dogma. The decrees on the infallibility of the Pope were not promulgated until 1871. Prior to that time they were hotly contested. Thomas Aquinas wrote against the immaculate conception of the Virgin Mary roughly 600 years before it was proclaimed a dogma of your church. We in the East sometimes think we need a stop watch to keep up with the changes in church discipline in the West. Our fasting rules have not changed significantly from the same ones you followed in the 5th century. Your rather insistent question betrays the legalism that has become so dominant in your church.
Our final authority is an Ecumenical Council. On issues not yet resolved by Church councils we tend to look to tradition and the fathers for guidance. But we prefer to approach the law in the spirit. Your declaration on birth control reminds me of the pharisaical legalism that Jesus so sharply condemned. You would have been one of those saying that it was against the mosaic law (which it was) to rescue an animal fallen into a pit on the Sabbath No exceptions were to be found anywhere in the law. We look at the law less rigidly and ask what is the spirit?
Of course as is the case with the Roman Church on matters not yet resolved formally a certain amount of divergent opinion is tolerated. The attitude towards BC varies somewhat between jurisdictions. But generally speaking Orthodoxy opposes it when it is used to avoid the responsibilities of a family. In cases where health is an issue or there is doubt about the ability to support children your church seems to say that the married couple must refrain from intimate relations. Most Orthodox see that as a pharisaical application of the letter of the law while doing violence to its spirit. Also Orthodoxy does not accept the Latin teaching that the sole function of marriage is to produce babies. In Roman theology it seems there is no spirit of the law. Only the letter.
I think you will find official statements on the specific issues you have raised on the web site of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese and also that of the Orthodox Church in America. There may be very slight differences but substantively they are the same. The Orthodox equivalent to the Roman Magesterium is the decree of the Holy Synod. Those decrees are not suggestions (unless specifically declared to be nonbinding). The faithful who ignore them are generally considered to be in serious sin and may not commune the Holy Mysteries. In some cases more serious sanctions are applied (i.e. joining the Masons is punishable by excommunication).
Nyer, CC has said almost exactly what I would have said in my response to your comments. As I said before, your insistence on a rules, rules, rules promulgated by an infallible pope represents almost exactly my understanding of the Roman Catholic mindset. It also is at odds with the mindset I see in my "cradle" Maronite friends and is near 180 degrees off that of the Melkites whose assent to the decrees of Vatican I were withheld for sometime and even when given were given with the reservation that the perogatives of the Patriarchs were preserved.
I suggest that few true Orthodox persons could accept living in the Roman Church and if your mindset represents, as I think it does, the popular Latin mindset, I know such people would never be happy as Orthodox Christians.
That is the western phronema or mindset. Looking at the spirit of the law (asking yourself "where is love) is much more important than the letter of the law. It transcends into our attittude towards sin which the Orthodox experience as ingratitude as opposed to breaking the speed limit. :)
I always say the infants are the only humans free from all prejudices: they know only two things eiter something feels good or it feels bad. Being Orthodox is like being an infant either there is love or there is no love. In either case it "feels good or feels bad." :)
We don't need NFP...we have the pill, condoms, etc. :)
"...then the OCA is so largely ex-Protestant one must woder if we a conflict of interest here."
Actually, it is Protestant converts who have the least beef about being baptized into Orthodoxy. There is more resistance amongst cradle Orthodox in the OCA to the practice, even though it doesn't affect them.
The root of this bias in the OCA is not the presence of Protestant converts, but is far more likely to be the heavily *Uniate* background of the OCA, with its attendant Catholic theological and ecclesiological baggage. Part of this is manifested by holding to certain Catholic theological/ecclesiological thought-forms, such as the idea of "valid" Baptisms outside the Church (Catholicism accepts *all* Protestant Trinitarian baptisms, and would consider baptizing any such person to be a sin).
Part of it is manifested by a reaction *against* other things "Western" that are simply Christian, but not expressed in Eastern form. Much of this stems from the fact that writers like Schmemann used the distinctiveness of Orthodoxy to gain academic recognition on the American scene.
Don't ask me to explain how each is arrived at...
I agree with most what your wrote. My parish priest is an ex Prot and he has been quite vocal in saying that his former co-religionists need to baptized when they convert.
1. That the bishop of Rome held a unique Petrine office in addition to being a bishop;
2. That this office was instituted by our Lord Himself and given to Peter alone among the Apostles;
3. That the bishops of Rome were the successors to this office;
4. That this office pertained to the universal Church and not just to the church of Rome.
Again, for the moment I do not want to address whether this opinion was valid, nor what the further attributes of this office are, only that this was the belief of the Western church.
I would like to address the question of the Orthodox view of the validity of Catholic sacraments. The Orthodox hold that the Catholic Church is not validly a part of the Church of Christ and thus (for many Orthodox) is lacking in God' grace. But by what authority can the Orthodox make such a claim. One, if not the chief, charges made by the Orthodox against the Roman church is the rejection of universal jurisdiction by the Roman Pontiff. Within Orthodox ecclessialogy each bishop's jurisdiction, including that of Rome, is limited to his own diocese. By this reasoning, by what authority does the Patriarch of Constantinople, or any of the bishops in the East, have to judge the Bishop of Rome and the Western church? While they may break communion between local churches, how can they issue a judgment of heresy and declare excommunicate from the universal church those who are not under their jurisdiction?
Based on the Councils, there was no mention of any of that. Whether the Church in the West believed all that is unknown to me. But I am pretty sure the rest of the Church did not, individual Fathers notwithstanding.
I think it is incorrectly stated, although it may come down to that by default. Since we do not teach one and the same theology, we cannot be in communion until we establish that, although apparently different, our theology is in fact one and the same.
If we are not in the same theological fold, the nature of Catholic sacraments is unknown to the Orthodox Church, but they may very well be exactly what ours are, yet we have no way of knowing that.
So, it is not a judgment, but a silence that becomes relevant only when a non-Orthodox believer expresses a wish to be received into Orthodoxy.
We would be equally uncertain if we were to say the Cathklic sacraments are the same as ours, as we would be in saying with certainty that they are not. If in doubt, leave it out! Second-guessing is not an option.
Now, if you consider that a Roman Catholic priest who returns to Orthodoxy (from our perspective) is merely vested and not re-ordained, makes it perfectly clear that his ordination (a holy sacrament) in the Catholic Church was "valid." What was needed was the confession of the Orthodox Faith.
It's probably best if we don't go around making blanket statements about each other's teachings. It's rather easy to misrepresent and misunderstand each other, and that deepens the division instead of healing it.
For example, it is not the teaching of the Catholic church that the "sole function" of marriage is to produce babies. That would be rather silly on its face, since Scripture seems to think there's more to it than that.
"I would like to address the question of the Orthodox view of the validity of Catholic sacraments. The Orthodox hold that the Catholic Church is not validly a part of the Church of Christ and thus (for many Orthodox) is lacking in God' grace."
That, frankly, is news to me. It seems highly unlikely that the EP would address and speak about the Pope as "The Elder Brother at Rome" and "My Brother at Rome" and call the Roman Church the "Elder Church" or "sister church" if this were true.
"While they may break communion between local churches, how can they issue a judgment of heresy and declare excommunicate from the universal church those who are not under their jurisdiction?"
I suppose any bishop can declare something heresy. The rub comes in getting other bishops to accept that, or alternatively, avoid schism while saying such a thing. As for excommunication, well I doubt that the term is really useful in a discussion of the Church at Rome and Orthodoxy. Anathemas certainly have the effect of excommunication, and schismatics "self excommunicate", but again, in our discussion thiese are matters among hierarchs rather than the usual hierarch "excommunicating" a cleric or lay person.
Of course not. Perhaps it was a poor example of the need for 'authority', rules for living, etc.
The last word is through solemn decrees of the Great Councils of the Church when received by the Church. However in the vast majority of cases the last word is your bishop or maybe the Holy Synod.
This is still perplexing.
TexConfederate1861, in response to the question of birth control, responded:
We don't need NFP...we have the pill, condoms, etc. :)
How can a bishop who has entrusted his life in the service of God, authorize, much less condone this?
Much to the chagrin of those who wish to practice artificial birth control, the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church has placed their spiritual and mortal welfare first. In his encyclical Humanae Vitae, pope Paul VI clearly lays out the argument against artificial birth control, as follows.
Consequences of Artificial Methods
17. Responsible men can become more deeply convinced of the truth of the doctrine laid down by the Church on this issue if they reflect on the consequences of methods and plans for artificial birth control. Let them first consider how easily this course of action could open wide the way for marital infidelity and a general lowering of moral standards. Not much experience is needed to be fully aware of human weakness and to understand that human beingsand especially the young, who are so exposed to temptationneed incentives to keep the moral law, and it is an evil thing to make it easy for them to break that law. Another effect that gives cause for alarm is that a man who grows accustomed to the use of contraceptive methods may forget the reverence due to a woman, and, disregarding her physical and emotional equilibrium, reduce her to being a mere instrument for the satisfaction of his own desires, no longer considering her as his partner whom he should surround with care and affection.
Finally, careful consideration should be given to the danger of this power passing into the hands of those public authorities who care little for the precepts of the moral law. Who will blame a government which in its attempt to resolve the problems affecting an entire country resorts to the same measures as are regarded as lawful by married people in the solution of a particular family difficulty? Who will prevent public authorities from favoring those contraceptive methods which they consider more effective? Should they regard this as necessary, they may even impose their use on everyone. It could well happen, therefore, that when people, either individually or in family or social life, experience the inherent difficulties of the divine law and are determined to avoid them, they may give into the hands of public authorities the power to intervene in the most personal and intimate responsibility of husband and wife.
Do you honestly believe that if Christ were here today, He would give a nod to artificial birth control?
As I noted in a previous post you seem to be under the impression that every question of faith must have an immediate and clearly defined answer.
We live in society that condones the murder of the unborn, disabled and aged. Science has taken bold steps towards cloning animals, with the intent of cloning humans to supply body parts. In today's society, the words of Pope Paul VI, written in 1968, are prophetic ......
It could well happen, therefore, that when people, either individually or in family or social life, experience the inherent difficulties of the divine law and are determined to avoid them, they may give into the hands of public authorities the power to intervene in the most personal and intimate responsibility of husband and wife.
Fertilized human eggs, the result of scientific advances in reproductive 'therapy', have resulted in thousands of pre-born humans. Catholics view them as human life; Scientists do not and wish to use them for experimentation. Is that part of God's design? Thank God we have a voice that can speak with authority in such matters.
"Of course not. Perhaps it was a poor example of the need for 'authority', rules for living, etc."
NYer, Orthodoxy has preserved the "rules for living" of the ancient Church, many of which rules which the Latin Church has made at best optional. One of the most obvious examples is our fasting rule, another is the practice of seeking forgiveness from those we have offended before going to communion, but there is a whole litany of "rules" which govern our day to day lives and actually make us look at life differently from those who do not have an Orthodox phronema. And we do these things because we want to do them, not because we are ordered to do them. We live our lives according to the ancient teachings of The Church as best we can because we want to become "like God", not because we are afraid God will send us to hell.
"Thank God we have a voice that can speak with authority in such matters."
So do we. They are called spiritual fathers.
You are certainly entitled to your opinion, as is the Roman Catholic Church.
However, I see no problem with a viable form of birth control that doesn't destroy a life. (Condoms, Birth Control Pills, EXCLUDING the infamous "Morning After")
If it PREVENTS fertilization, there is no destroying of a human life. Which in your opinion is the greatest sin? preventing conception, or poor couples having too many children, which they can't feed or support, etc?
Take a look at these good "RC" Third-World Countries, and their population of dying, disease-ridden little ones, and tell me which is the greater evil!
Dear friend, you skim, skip and avoid all of the direct points I make and revert to spirituality. How can spirituality be lived out in a world intent on destroying it! I have the utmost regard for my Orthodox brothers and sisters but I fail to comprehend how you can assuage your consciences by avering that "the bishop said it was okay to practice artificial birth control", when, in your hearts, you know it is not. Taking hormonal pills that interfere with the woman's natural cycle, works against the Divine plan. It is far more convenient than NFP but totally against the laws of nature. And, who set those laws in motion?
48 years ago, Pope Paul VI "got it right" and some catholics left the church, because its policy on birth control, "wasn't convenient". Those hormonal treatments have lasting effects; you and I both know it. Yet, today, medical science stands by its commitment to provide women with a dangerous cocktail of artificial hormones in order that she and her partner ( I have now dropped the word husband since, as Pope Paul VI pointed out, "a man who grows accustomed to the use of contraceptive methods may forget the reverence due to a woman". )
One of the most obvious examples is our fasting rule,
The Catholic Church has addressed the "rules of fasting" from the perspective of non enforcement. Abiding by such 'rules' must come from the heart, or they are meaningless.
another is the practice of seeking forgiveness from those we have offended before going to communion,
K, you are not up on catholic liturgy. The Sign of Peace which we celebrate before communion, is our mutual affirmation of forgiveness to each other for errors and sins. It is a treasure we celebrate each and every week at Mass.
but there is a whole litany of "rules" which govern our day to day lives and actually make us look at life differently from those who do not have an Orthodox phronema.
What are your rules on IVF and stem cell research using pre-borm human embryos? And who established these rules? Are these consistent throughout Orthodoxy, and valid for ALL bishops in ALL branches of Orthodoxy?
I have posed this question several times and not one of the Orthodox members of this forum has give me a direct response.
Where are the Patriarchs on Islam? Today, Pope Benedict delivered a scathing address to the Muslims. In November, he will risk his life to enter Turkey, a hotbed of Islamic fundamentalism, and where the topic of the #1 selling book is the assassination of the pope. He goes there at the invitation of the Turkish president and to honor those catholics whose lives have been sacrificed by radical Muslims.
We live our lives according to the ancient teachings of The Church
So do we but, guided by the successor of St. Peter. We continue to evolve in our response to modern society, addressing scientific advances that challenge the "ancient teachings".
As I understand it, K, pope Benedict XVI and the Patriarchs of the Orthodox Churches, are working together to "join their voices" and speak out against abortion, euthanasia and the rapid decline of western society. When we speak together, our voices are louder and carry greater weight.
I intentionally included you on the above post that cites Pope Paul VI's Encyclical Humanae Vitae. Judging from your response, I can only conclude that you did not take the time to read it through, or you would not have given this response.
People who reject the Churchs teaching on contraception, by and large, do so not because they understand and disagree with it, but largely because their commitment to a certain life-style prevents them from giving the Church a fair hearing. Nonetheless, they do offer reasons for dismissing Church teaching. They often accuse the Church of being excessively idealistic, or simply unrealistic, or out of step with the modern world, or lacking compassion for the economic and psychological hardships couples must undergo in having and raising children.
The Church teaching concerning contraception is not primarily negative, but based on a most positive understanding of marriage, sexuality, and God. Marriage, in the truest sense, is not an arbitrary arrangement, but an institution established by Christ (Mt. 19: 3 ff.; Mk. 10: 2 ff.) Marriage, therefore, is divinely instituted. This lofty, exalted understanding of marriage is nowhere better realized than in sexual union where the human act of husband and wife comes into intimate relationship with the creative act of God. Sexual union between husband and wife take place on holy ground, as it were, since it is the place where Gods creation and the married couples procreation of new life intersect.
It is most fitting, when in the presence of God, or in a holy place, to show appropriate signs of reverence. Just as God asked Moses to remove his shoes when he was standing in the Divine presence, and just as people kneel when they come into Church, it is also appropriate for married couples not to defile the holy ground which is their sexual union and intimacy with God , with the employment of contraceptive devices.
The essential purpose of contraception is to prevent the initiation of new life. The use of contraception, therefore, represents a choice that is essentially contralife. Moreover, since God is the Creator of new life, contraception is not only contralife but contra-God-the-creator.
"How can spirituality be lived out in a world intent on destroying it!"
Orthodoxy has been doing that, with a hiatus at the peak of the Empire, since its founding on Pentecost, NYer. Roman Catholics, except maybe the Irish, have absolutely no historical memory of living under the heel of Islamic/pagan tyrants as Orthodoxy now has in most of its traditional regions for most of its existence. And we have preserved The Faith inviolate!
"I have the utmost regard for my Orthodox brothers and sisters but I fail to comprehend how you can assuage your consciences by avering that "the bishop said it was okay to practice artificial birth control", when, in your hearts, you know it is not."
My heart knows no such thing...nor do the hearts of a majority of Roman Catholics, apparently, who use birth control at a slightly higher level than people of other churches or ecclesial assemblies. I have on occassion remarked that in Orthodoxy, no dogma of any kind is true dogma until it is accepted and lived out by the People of God. It is clear that +Paul VI's Humanae Vitae has been rejected by the People of God since they do not live it out.
"The Catholic Church has addressed the "rules of fasting" from the perspective of non enforcement. Abiding by such 'rules' must come from the heart, or they are meaningless."
To what level does the Latin Church teach the virtues of fasting, not just on Fridays, but Wednesdays, during Great Lent and all the other lents of the Liturgical year? You know the answer, at virtually no level. Of course fasting must come from the heart! Why don't Latins have "the heart" for it? Your Eastern Rite people do!
"The Sign of Peace which we celebrate before communion, is our mutual affirmation of forgiveness to each other for errors and sins. It is a treasure we celebrate each and every week at Mass."
Yeah, right! I've seen those performances! I mean actually going to your spouse, your children, your co-workers, your neighbors and with bowed head ask them to forgive you. There is nothing stylized or "affirming" or "celebratory" about it. The Eastern Rites do it. Orthodoxy does it. It is the ancient practice of The Church. Why don't Latins do it?
" What are your rules on IVF and stem cell research using pre-borm human embryos? And who established these rules? Are these consistent throughout Orthodoxy, and valid for ALL bishops in ALL branches of Orthodoxy?
I have posed this question several times and not one of the Orthodox members of this forum has give me a direct response."
I believe you have already been given links to the positions of the OCA and the GOA which fully answer your questions. That said, why would any Christian need an ecclesiastical dictator to tell him or her that, for example, stem cell research on embryos is wrong?
"Where are the Patriarchs on Islam? Today, Pope Benedict delivered a scathing address to the Muslims."
Well good for the Pope. Its easy for him sitting in Rome to say such things.
"In November, he will risk his life to enter Turkey, a hotbed of Islamic fundamentalism, and where the topic of the #1 selling book is the assassination of the pope. He goes there at the invitation of the Turkish president and to honor those catholics whose lives have been sacrificed by radical Muslims."
He may well be risking his life. The EP, the Patriarch of Antioch, the Patriarch of Alexandria, the Patriarch or Jerusalem, the Melkite Patriarch and the Maronite Patriarch do that 24/7. I can't speak to the Melkite and Maronite Patriarchs through history, but the Turks slaughtered a number of the Orthodox Patriarchs through the centuries. You expect any of us Orthodox to be impressed? He is going to be with the EP on the patronal feast of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, to which he was invited last year. The Turks forbade his visit because he hadn't gotten his invitation from the Turk regime, rather it came from his brother, the EP.
"We continue to evolve in our response to modern society, addressing scientific advances that challenge the "ancient teachings"."
You mean like the Episcopalians with their "The Holy Spirit is doing a new thing" to justify the ordaining of a non celibate sodomite to the Episcopacy? That's what you get from "evolving" theology. Better to simply teach your people the ancient Faith, conduct your liturgies in accordance with the ancient forms because lex orandi, lex credendi, and trust that the people, because they will live their faith, will want to become like God and change their lives, than threaten them with hell if they break the rules.
"As I understand it, K, pope Benedict XVI and the Patriarchs of the Orthodox Churches, are working together to "join their voices" and speak out against abortion, euthanasia and the rapid decline of western society."
Well of course they are! Would you expect otherwise with this pope?
I must respectfully, disagree with that belief.
I believe marriage is sacred, but wouldn't call it defiling to use one's reproductive capabilities responsibly.
To finish reading later.
I tried to seperate the various elements of the Petrine doctrine. At least part of it was indeed mentioned at Ephesus:
No one doubts, but rather it has been known to all generations, that the holy and most blessed Peter, chief and head of the Apostles, the pillar of the faith, the foundation stone of the Catholic church, received the keys of the kingdom from our Lord Jesus Christ the Savior and Redeemer of the human race, and that the power of binding and loosing sins was given to him, who up to this moment and always lives in his successors, and judges.I am not implying that the fullness of the Petrine doctrine is included here, but it does include:
1. Peter was chief and head of the Apostles;
2. received a unique office through the granting of the keys;
3. this Petrine office continues in his successors.
Whether the Church in the West believed all that is unknown to me.
Do I have to list all the quotes that demonstrate this? We have covered this ground before. Again, I am not here saying that the entire Church accepted this, but is was generally accepted in the West.
But I am pretty sure the rest of the Church did not, individual Fathers notwithstanding.
I am not here claiming that it did; only that it was generally held in the West. But my point is that as a corollary: it may have been rejected by the Greeks, but it was not rejected by the whole Church. Given this, we could not properly say that there was a Church consensus either way.
But I think you have it backwards. I will appeal to Kolokotronis and invoke the concept the presumption of innocence. Before the schism Latins and Greeks were in one church, recognizing each other's bishops. With the schism the Greeks declared that the Latins were heretical and no longer of the one Church. But by the very canons that the Orthodox invoke denying that the pope has any jurisdiction over the eastern bishops, the bishops in the East have no jurisdiction over those of the West. If then any of the bishops in the East suspected a bishop in the West of heresy, the proper recourse (according to Orthodox ecclesialogy) would be to accuse him before his own synod. If they suspected that the entire synod was heretical then they should have taken the charge before a synod of the entire Church, an ecumenical council. Failing that, the Greeks must admit that the Latin bishops are the true and proper bishops over the Western church. As such, they, and they alone, have the jurisdiction and right to pass judgment on the orthodoxy of their teaching and the validity of their sacraments.
I will also point out that there is a difference between mere error and heresy. Heresy is the obstinate denial of some truth of the faith. If error alone were to exclude one from the Church, I doubt that any of us could claim membership. Since (from an Orthodox point of view) the entire Church has not ruled on the disputes between the Latins and the Greeks, Catholics cannot be charged with heresy; at best only with error. Thus, again from an Orthodox point of view, this cannot be characterized as a dispute between Catholics and the one Church but as one between brother bishops within the one Church.
Very nicely reasoned.
Some jurisdictions have adopted a very narrow interpretation of the rule that the Mysteries do not exist outside the Church and firmly reject any grace in Roman Catholic and all other heterodox sacraments.It is also what I perceive from some Orthodox that post on here.