Archive for October, 2007

Professor Eamon Duffy, the Catholic historian who many know as the author of the brilliant study The Stripping of the Altars, is doing a series of talks for BBC Radio 4 called “Ten Popes Who Shook the World”.  He will be looking at Peter the Apostle, Leo the Great, Gregory the Great, Gregory VII, Innocent III, Paul III, Pius IX, Pius XII, John XXIII and John Paul II. You can listen here.


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Technical question

Help! It seems that evil robots have taken over the archive to the old Pontifications blog. Does anyone know any way around this, or an alternative place where the old Pontifications may be archived? Thanks!

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From an interesting post by Hieromonk Maximos over at the Anastasis Dialogue:

Why do some ultra-traditionalist Orthodox re-baptize Catholic converts to Orthodoxy? Because, in the name of Holy Tradition, they are heirs to the innovative notions of St. Nicodemos of the Holy Mountain in the 18th century … In trying to synthesize this exclusivist ecclesiology with the notion of “oikonomia” a la St. Basil, and which had guided Orthodox praxis for centuries, St. Nicodemus had to invent a whole new way of understanding that notion as it applied to the sacraments. In effect, he invested Orthodox bishops with the power to determine by an exercise of sheer authority whether a sacrament was valid or not. Thus the practice before 1755 of admitting Catholics to Orthodoxy without baptism could be explained as an “economic” exercise of episcopal authority, rather than (as it had been for centuries) as flowing from the actual validity of the Catholic baptism.

And from one of the post’s comments:

If it is true, as some Orthodox believe, that Catholic baptisms are invalid, then nothing should be able to change that except a valid baptism — not even the application of episcopal “oikonomia”, lest we say that a bishop can by his decree actually make a person that which he/she is not, i.e. a Christian baptized into the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. On the other hand, if Catholic baptisms are valid, then the Orthodox must no longer regard Western Christians as “other”, but as co-heirs to the life in Christ–brothers and sisters from they must not suffer themselves to be alienated. What then?

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Two from Mike

Dr. Liccione has posted two interesting articles recently:

Infallibility: An Infinite Regress?

Just as one cannot be maintain the virtue of humility by reflecting on one’s humility, so one cannot maintain the virtue of faith by reflecting on the degree of certainty one’s faith enjoys. For the Catholic it suffices, and ought to suffice, simply to trust that the Church is preserved by God from error about the deposit of faith when she teaches thereon with her full authority. One doesn’t have to know, in each and every instance, when the Church has done that; all that’s needed is to know that there have been clear instances when, according to universally acknowledged criteria, she has done so.

Mary and EENS

As some of my regular readers know, I use the acronym ‘EENS’ for the Catholic Church’s dogma Extra ecclesiam nulla salus, which is usually translated “Outside the Church there is no salvation.” As all Catholics ought to know, one of the titles that the Catholic Church has bestowed on Mary, the Mother of God, is “Mother of the Church” (see Lumen Gentium, Chapter VIII). Now in my experience, it is the ecclesiological and Mariological doctrines of the Church that cause the most protest among Protestants. After decades of meditation and debate, I have concluded that the two areas of doctrine are even more closely connected to each other than most Catholics realize, centering on the two particular points I’ve just described. Here I propose to sketch what I believe the connection to be. The matter would be of interest not only to some Catholics but also to some earnest, prospective would-be Catholics.

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Ecclesiological and Canonical Consequences of the Sacramental Nature of the Church

Ecclesial Communion, Conciliarity and Authority

Ravenna, 13 October 2007


1. “That they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be one in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me” (Jn 17, 21). We give thanks to the triune God who has gathered us – members of the Joint International Commission for the Theological Dialogue between the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church – so that we might respond together in obedience to this prayer of Jesus. We are conscious that our dialogue is restarting in a world that has changed profoundly in recent times. The processes of secularization and globalization, and the challenge posed by new encounters between Christians and believers of other religions, require that the disciples of Christ give witness to their faith, love and hope with a new urgency. May the Spirit of the risen Lord empower our hearts and minds to bear the fruits of unity in the relationship between our Churches, so that together we may serve the unity and peace of! the whole human family. May the same Spirit lead us to the full expression of the mystery of ecclesial communion, that we gratefully acknowledge as a wonderful gift of God to the world, a mystery whose beauty radiates especially in the holiness of the saints, to which all are called.

2. Following the plan adopted at its first meeting in Rhodes in 1980, the Joint Commission began by addressing the mystery of ecclesial koinônia in the light of the mystery of the Holy Trinity and of the Eucharist. This enabled a deeper understanding of ecclesial communion, both at the level of the local community around its bishop, and at the level of relations between bishops and between the local Churches over which each presides in communion with the One Church of God extending across the universe (Munich Document, 1982). In order to clarify the nature of communion, the Joint Commission underlined the relationship which exists between faith, the sacraments – especially the three sacraments of Christian initiation – and the unity of the Church (BariDocument, 1987). Then by studying the sacrament of Order in the sacramental structure of the Church, the Commissionindicated clearly the role of apostolic succession as the guarantee of the koinônia of the whole Church and of its continuity with the Apostles in every time and place (Valamo Document, 1988). From 1990 until 2000, the main subject discussed by the Commission was that of “uniatism” (Balamand Document, 1993; Baltimore, 2000), a subject to which we shall give further consideration in the near future. Now we take up the theme raised at the end of the Valamo Document, and reflect upon ecclesial communion, conciliarity and authority.

3. On the basis of these common affirmations of our faith, we must now draw the ecclesiological and canonical consequences which flow from the sacramental nature of the Church. Since the Eucharist, in the light of the Trinitarian mystery, constitutes the criterion of ecclesial life as a whole, how do institutional structures visibly reflect the mystery of this koinônia? Since the one and holy Church is realised both in each local Church celebrating the Eucharist and at the same time in the koinônia of all the Churches, how does the life of the Churches manifest this sacramental structure?

4. Unity and multiplicity, the relationship between the one Church and the many local Churches, that constitutive relationship of the Church, also poses the question of the relationship between the authority inherent in every ecclesial institution and the conciliarity which flows from the mystery of the Church as communion. As the terms “authority” and “conciliarity” cover a very wide area, we shall begin by defining the way we understand them1.

1Orthodox participants felt it important to emphasize that the use of the terms “the Church”, “the universal Church”, “the indivisible Church” and “the Body of Christ” in this document and in similar documents produced by the Joint Commission in no way undermines the self-understanding of the Orthodox Church as the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church, of which the Nicene Creed speaks. From the Catholic point of view, the same self-awareness applies: the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church ‘subsists in the Catholic Church’ (Lumen Gentium, 8); this does not exclude acknowledgement that elements of the true Church are present outside the Catholic communion.


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Vienna, Oct. 18, 2007 (CWNews.com) – A Russian Orthodox bishop said that talks between Catholic and Orthodox theologians cannot be productive if the Moscow patriarchate is not involved.

Bishop Hilarion of Vienna told the NG-Religii newspaper that the meeting of Catholic and Orthodox theologians in Ravenna, Italy last week could be regarded as a step forward in ecumenical affairs, since the Russian Orthodox delegation walked out of the meeting to protest the inclusion of representatives from the Estonian Orthodox Church. (The Moscow patriarchate refuses to recognize the Estonian Church, putting the Russian Orthodox Church at odds with the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople on that question.)

Because the Russian Orthodox Church is by far the largest of the world’s Orthodox groups, the absence of the Moscow patriarchate from the talks in Ravenna “casts doubt over the legitimacy of the Catholic-Orthodox dialogue,” Bishop Hilarion said.

Here’s one Roman Catholic blogger’s perspective on this puzzling statement from Bishop Hilarion.

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Ecumenism: Alive and Well

Dr. Liccione has some interesting thoughts on Roman ecumenism with the Traditional Anglican Communion on one hand, and the Orthodox Churches on the other.

My optimism about the Orthodox stems from the fact that they have held no council, of a kind even they would consider ecumenical, committing Orthodoxy dogmatically to rejecting the Roman communion as one of true, particular churches. There seem to be many Orthodox who take the view that “we know where the Church is, but we don’t know where she isn’t.” Not all Orthodox take the view of the Athonites that popery is a diabolical scourge of Christendom and that Rome doesn’t even have a canonical bishop. That actually allows many Orthodox to consider the Latin Church a church with true sacraments, even if she’s gone off the rails somewhat about doctrine. Imagine that. But what, realistically, could talks on primacy yield?

Taking their cue from the generation-old Ratzinger proposal made in his book Principles of Catholic Theology, some Eastern Catholics seem to take the view that Vatican I’s decrees about papal authority would hold only in the West, not in the East, within a reunited Church. That’s a non-starter. If the pope is what Vatican I says he is, then he is that in the East as well as the West. The Orthodox should not expect Rome to retract anything she considers dogma any more than Rome should, or does, expect the Orthodox to retract anything they consider dogma. The real room for compromise is on the level of the exercise of jurisdiction. And that’s where theology can help.

The compromise might look like this: to end the schism, the Orthodox patriarchs would defer to Rome on matters not resolved otherwise, and Rome would confine her interventions in those patriarchates to matters not resolved otherwise. The theoretical basis for such an arrangement exists in nuce in the work of Ratzinger on communio and of Zizioulas on eucharistic ecclesiology. I for one believe this is how one aspect of the Ratzinger proposal can be worked out: the one where he says that Rome can require no more of the East than was “held in common during the first millennium.” To be sure, views about what was thus held in common diverge, and often diverge sharply. Getting agreement on the point will require consensus about what general form the development of doctrine may take. I think that’s where the hard work remains to be done. But it’s far from hopeless. I’ve encountered a good number of Orthodox authors who, while averse to the phrase “development of doctrine” as smacking of addition to the faith-once-delivered, admit what amounts to development in a sense not irreconcilably different from what Newman and Vatican II meant.

(Please leave your comments at Sacramentum Vitae.)

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Part I | Part II | Part III

Canon XXXIV of the Holy Apostles prescribes that the primate shall not “do anything without the advice and consent and approval of all.” But in the “Code of Canons” which John Paul II promulgated in 1990, we find the amazing claim that “Romanus Pontifex a nemine iudicatur” – the Roman Pontiff is judged by no one. This is not merely an historical inaccuracy. The Sixth Ecumenical Council, as is well known, considered itself competent to judge and anathematize Honorius of Rome, and no Pope since has ever dared attempt to overturn that decision.

The same “Code of Canons” also announces that “contra sententiam vel decretum Romani Pontificis non datur appellatio neque recursus” – there is neither appeal nor recourse against a sentence or decree of the Roman Pontiff. What should we Orthodox think about these very strong statements?


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Part I | Part II

A perfect harmony between primacy and conciliarity may be an ideal that is unattainable in this world. But it remains true that each of these true attributes is essential for the Church. Even in our present condition, we must continue to strive to keep both of these attributes, primacy and conciliarity in balance. The schism between East and West allows us to see clearly – perhaps too clearly – what can happen when either of these attributes goes to extremes at the expense of the other.


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“They Commend Dialogue to the Prayers of the Faithful”

VATICAN CITY, OCT 15, 2007 (ZENIT.org).- Here is the text of a statement from the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between Catholics and Orthodox, released by the Vatican press office after the 10th plenary assembly meeting of the panel ended on Sunday. The meeting was held Oct. 8-14 in Ravenna, Italy.


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