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Archive for the ‘Ecclesiology’ Category

Here’s a report in rather confusing English from Interfax: “Bishop Hilarion requests the Theologian Commission to examine the ambiguous document adopted at the Orthodox-Catholic conference in Ravenna.”

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The Ravenna Document is stimulating great and profound thoughts in the Orthodox-Catholic blogosphere.

First, from an Orthodox perspective, John at Ad Orientem has two posts on Ecumenical Councils (post I and post II). I’m encouraged to see this sort of constructive, rather than nitpicky and dismissive, response from a fellow Orthodox.

Since Orthodoxy for whatever reasons (I would opine there are many) has not held an oecumenical council since 880 AD, and therefore has not formally condemned the Latin innovations, they could be treated as theologumen. Granted, I think there is far greater unanimity among the Orthodox hierarchs and the lay faithful that many Western doctrines are heretical, than there is support for some of them among the Roman Catholic faithful. But it still boils down to theologumen on our side. But if you remove Rome’s carved in stone claim that those doctrines are infallible truths binding on all of the faithful, then we may move back to square one.

This would not of course end the schism or restore communion. But it would have the effect of saying both sides have strongly held contrary OPINIONS of great import that need to be resolved. On that basis it might be possible to convene a Great Council of The Church to begin the process of sorting things out and resolving them one at time …

Partly in response to John’s posts, Dr. Mike Liccione (Sacramentum Vitae) has some excellent reflections from a Roman Catholic perspective. This point in particular is of great interest to me:

As evinced by Vatican II’s Lumen Gentium and Unitatis Redintegratio, as well as other pertinent documents since that council closed, the Catholic Church has undergone and fostered the development of ecclesiological doctrine in such a way as to give an account of how the EOs and OOs relate to “the Church,” which is said to “subsist” in the Roman communion as a perduring whole. As a matter of fact, John’s challenge to us Catholics makes use of that development. But something analogous does not seem to have occurred in Orthodoxy. We have Zizoulas’ eucharistic ecclesiology, which dovetails somewhat with Ratzinger’s theology of communio and has clearly influenced the Ravenna proceedings. But further progress in Orthodox ecclesiology is necessary if the process embodied by Ravenna is to continue. What direction could and should such progress take? That’s the question that Orthodox like John need to consider.

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RAVENNA, Italy, NOV. 15, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is the final document of the plenary assembly of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue Between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church, held Oct. 8-14 in Ravenna. The statement, which was released today, is titled “Ecclesiological and Canonical Consequences of the Sacramental Nature of the Church: Ecclesial Communion, Conciliarity and Authority.”

Introduction

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.

(more…)

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Rome, Nov. 15, 2007 (CWNews.com) – The final document produced by a joint Catholic-Orthodox theological commission is a “modest first step,” Cardinal Walter Kasper told reporters. The 46-paragraph statement approved by the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue at an October meeting in Ravenna, Italy, was released in Rome on November 15. While saying that the document shows progress in relations with the Eastern churches, Cardinal Kasper — the president of the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity, and the head of the Vatican delegation to the Ravenna conference — cautioned that “we must not exaggerate its importance.”

The Ravenna meeting concentrated on the nature of authority within the Church. The final statement explored the relationships between individual bishops, synods, and patriarchs. In that context, the final document acknowledges that the Bishop of Rome enjoys primacy as the first among patriarchs.

However, the joint theological commission did not explore the nature of the authority that the Pope derives from that primacy. Cardinal Kasper explained that the Ravenna meeting “did not talk of the privileges of the Bishop of Rome; we merely indicated the praxis for future debate.”

The next meeting of the Catholic-Orthodox commission will explore the question of papal authority, concentrating on the ways in which that authority was exercised during the first millennium of Christian history, before the schism that separated the Orthodox from Rome. Beyond that discussion, Cardinal Kasper noted, lie questions about the centuries since that schism, and the teachings of Vatican I and Vatican II regarding authority in the Church. “The road is very long and difficult,” the German cardinal said.

Neverthless, the Ravenna document is an important one, Cardinal Kasper said, because “for the first time the Orthodox churches have said: Yes, this universal level of the Church exists.” He continued: “This means that there is also a primate; according to the practice of the ancient Church, the first bishop is the Bishop of Rome.”

In discussing the work of the Ravenna meeting, Cardinal Kasper observed with regret that the Russian Orthodox Church had not been involved in the deliberations. Delegates from the Moscow patriarchate walked out of the October meeting in a dispute about the inclusion of representatives from the Estonian Orthodox Church, which Moscow has refused to recognize.

Cardinal Kasper noted that the dispute over the Estonian delegation– which was supported by the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople– is an “inter-Orthodox question,” in which the Vatican will not interfere. However, he said, the Holy See is anxious to see the problem resolved.

The Russian Orthodox Church is by far the largest of the Eastern churches, and Vatican officials see the relationship with Moscow as a key to future ecumenical advances. As Cardinal Kasper put it, “we do not want to dialogue without the Russians.”

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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

Introduction

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.

(more…)

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