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The Road To Nicaea 2025

The Ecumenical Patriarch, the titular leader of Orthodox Christians, met recently with Pope Francis in Jerusalem, and said afterward that both agreed to meet in Nicaea (modern Iznik) in 2025 [1]. This is potentially huge news, because Nicaea was the site of the first ecumenical council. Neither man is likely to be alive in 2025, so the promise here is largely symbolic. Still, it’s a big deal for East-West relations, if not nearly a big a deal as some of us would like to think.

Before the recent meeting of Bartholomew and Francis, Prof. Adam DeVille, a Byzantine Catholic, wrote a historically rich and theologically informative piece about the theological ground that needs to be covered [2] before anything like re-establishing communion between Orthodox churches and Rome could happen. Excerpt:

It’s obvious that some Orthodox are not willing to move quickly — if at all — toward unity with Catholics, and many Orthodox would first require some reassurances, if not bold action, on several issues, beginning perhaps with the filioque, the clause in the Nicene Creed that proclaims the Holy Spirit “proceeds from the Father and the Son.” Orthodox and Catholic scholars for 20 years now have discussed this issue and agreed that it is not church-dividing, but some Orthodox still feel that the Church in the West lacked the authority to unilaterally alter a creed that was decided upon by the consensus of an ecumenical council, and that the Western Church needs to return to using the creed as it was originally written without the Latin interpolation. Thus, Christians would all together once more process our faith in “the Holy Spirit, who proceeds from the Father.”

Other areas touch on Church discipline and governance. Those teaching Catholic theology in the name of the Church would need to do so in a demonstrably faithful (“orthodox”) way. Those celebrating the Church’s liturgy would need to do so in a way that avoids much of the silliness, the slovenliness and the banality that still afflict Masses today. The Orthodox would want to know that their own system of electing and disciplining bishops would remain free of Roman curial interference. And they would want it clearly understood that their own tradition (which is also the tradition of Eastern Catholics and those Anglican and Lutheran clergy who are now Catholic priests) of ordaining married men to the priesthood would remain untouched, and nobody would be forced to adopt celibacy.

Another area, which few of us have begun seriously to grapple with, touches both doctrine and discipline: marriage. Here, if anywhere, is where ecumenism becomes real for many people living in mixed or irregular marriages.

There’s a lot more in the DeVille piece [2] that makes it must reading for anyone seeking to understand this issue. I am not hopeful that this will happen before the Parousia, but I find these basic steps encouraging.

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49 Comments To "The Road To Nicaea 2025"

#1 Comment By JohnE_o On June 2, 2014 @ 1:28 pm

Those guys don’t rush into things, do they?

#2 Comment By Manfred Arcane On June 2, 2014 @ 1:29 pm

Maybe I missed something but has the Turkish Government agreed to allow such a meeting in Iznik (Nicaea)? I find it hard to believe that this current government in Ankara, which already turned the Aya Sofia Museum in Trabzon (Trebizond) back into a mosque and is threatening to do the same in Istanbul with Aya Sofia, would countenanced such a thing.

Perhaps they can find some place nearby to hold “Nicaea II”? Maybe Thessaloniki or Nicosia or Beirut? Perhaps Venice, from whence sailed that fleet which sacked Constantinople in 1204.

But despite the difficulties, this is a good thing.

#3 Comment By Andrew On June 2, 2014 @ 1:38 pm

Rod, you seem pretty happy about the possibility of communion being reestablished between the East and West (as a Catholic convert who was almost an Orthodox convert, it’s one of my biggest hopes), how does having lost your Catholic faith affect that? Are there doctrines which you rejected on your way to Orthodoxy that you might have to re-accept, or would you hope that the talks either dismiss those doctrines or leave them as optional? Same question to any other Orthodox converts, from Catholicism or whatever else.

[NFR: So much flows from papal primacy. I can’t see how we restore unity of belief, but there might be a way to achieve this kind of diversity within a basic ecclesial unity. I don’t see how that would work, but then again, I’m not a theologian. I hope it can happen, but I don’t expect that it will. — RD]

#4 Comment By John On June 2, 2014 @ 1:53 pm

I initially thought That the 2025 date was a typo and that Rod realky meant they were meeting in 2015.

They really are taking their time. I never heard of a decision to plan for a meeting that will be held a decade layer.

Go figure.

#5 Comment By Sam On June 2, 2014 @ 2:06 pm

Any Catholic concession would provoke a schism among Traditionalists (sevacantism would be the most logical route), and any Orthodox concession would provoke a schism between those who support the EP and those who don’t. There will never be a union without creating a new schism within either of the existing ecclesiastical bodies.

#6 Comment By Sam On June 2, 2014 @ 2:07 pm

sedevacantism*

#7 Comment By qasedede On June 2, 2014 @ 2:12 pm

It’s frankly moving to see institutions set a meeting for a time when their current leaders will quite probably be dead.

In terms of reunions, I continue to be surprised and confused by the lack (or seeming lack, so far as I know) of movement for the reestablishment of communion between the Eastern Orthodox and the (“Monophysite”) Oriental Orthodox. That seems like a far easier bridge to repair than the one between Constantinople and Rome.

#8 Comment By frater On June 2, 2014 @ 2:23 pm

It would be very nice if one of the demands of the Orthodox was that we Catholics abandon much of the abuses we are now fond of that came after Vatican II. Would liberals be really for unity if it meant Tridentine Masses everywhere (in the West)?

But of course, we are forgetting one major element that was decisive in the first council of Nicaea, the Emperor Constantine the Great. Someone has to play the role of Emperor and lock the bishops until they come to some agreement.

#9 Comment By Stephen On June 2, 2014 @ 2:34 pm

The DeVille piece glosses over important theological differences that divide Catholics and Orthodox Christians. It’s hard to believe that a 1000-year schism would result in no meaningful doctrinal differences between two religious bodies.

DeVille states that the Filioque–the clause in the Latin Nicene Creed stating that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son–is not “church-dividing” in the opinion of scholars (which ones?). And, as a solution, he suggests that the Filioque be dropped from the Creed. However, this proposed solution ignores the fact that that Catholics believe, as an article of faith, that the Holy Spirit proceeds from both the Father and the Son: This teaching was defined infallibly by more than one general council of the Catholic Church. Suppressing the Filioque would downplay and perhaps even subvert this teaching–something that would be unacceptable.

Moreover, the use of an expression like “church-dividing”–a term that appears twice in the article–suggests an ecclesiology that is incongruent with Catholic doctrine. The Church is not split in two. There is a single Church, the Catholic Church, under and in communion with the bishop of Rome. Those outside of this union are outside of the Church, not separate branch of it.

The Catholic Church has clear expectations of what its members are to believe: original sin, papal infallibility, and–yes–the procession of the Holy Spirit from both the Father and the Son are essential teachings of the Catholic Church. You can’t be in union with the Church and deny these teachings, any more than you can be in union with the Church and deny the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, or life everlasting. Without unity of belief there is no unity at all–a truth that must be acknowledged before any reunion with the Orthodox Churches is attempted.

[NFR: I agree with you about unity of belief — it’s hard to see how this can be achieved, given the passage of time and changing of theological teaching. That said, I would be remiss if I didn’t say that the Orthodox believe the same thing about Catholics: that they are outside the Church, strictly speaking (though I think that many Orthodox — certainly this one — agrees with the modern Catholic view that we can know where the Church is, but we can’t know where the Church is not. Plus, I don’t think you are correct from a Catholic point of view about where the Orthodox churches stand in relation to Rome. Rome would permit me to commune at a Roman altar, though Orthodox bishops forbid it. I presume that Rome has a broader view of where the Orthodox fit into the ecclesia than the Orthodox have of Catholics. I take the broad view myself, though I may be incorrect in that. — RD]

#10 Comment By Venice On June 2, 2014 @ 2:36 pm

Sure, it’s just a hope at this point, but it is certainly what every Christian should hope for.
People usually mention the filioque as a major difference, but I think that can be resolved. I suspect there are very few people that really lose sleep at night wondering from Whom the Holy Spirit proceeds.
I’ve never thought about the issue of liturgy. I think we have a lot to learn from the Orthodox on that subject, though I like hearing instruments at Mass too. With all the liturgical variation in the Catholic Church, some thing could surely be agreed upon, even if the East just agreed to say “we think the contemporary Mass is ugly but you’re welcome to it.”
I certainly hope that the Catholic Church will adopt the more liberal Orthodox view regarding divorce and contraception. With the sexual revolution and all, a strict adherence to the ancient church teachings is likely to drive people away, and the East seems to have figured out a “middle ground” more easily than Rome. I’d be willing to bet that Pope Francis agrees and is working towards that change. In fact, now that I think of it, I wonder if that is part of his plan all along.

#11 Comment By William Dalton On June 2, 2014 @ 2:48 pm

Resolution of the Filioque controversy will require more than the concurrence of the Orthodox and Roman communions. The churches of the Protestant Reformation have uniformly adopted the Latin version of the Nicene Creed. My old theology professor, John Leith, who labored for his career over the historic creeds of the Church and in the formation of the creeds for today, proposed using the form, “the Holy Spirit, who proceeds from the Father through the Son.” Eleven years should give me enough time to drill the change into my head.

But first we better resolve whether to say “debts” or “trespasses” in the Lord’s Prayer. 😉

#12 Comment By Warren On June 2, 2014 @ 3:08 pm

@Manfred Arcane: Is there any reason at all to believe that Turkey, which seeks positive relations with the West and which has no problem allowing in Western tourists and dignitaries, has any intention of disallowing the Pope?

The world isn’t the constant ideological battleground you seem to think it is. I’m sure the pope has no intention of any symbolic act of defiance against Turkey.

#13 Comment By ratnerstar On June 2, 2014 @ 3:09 pm

Neat — but don’t wait until 2025. I actually was in Iznik just last month, and it’s a great place to visit. It’s small, relatively untouristy (for now), and has some great old ruins that date back to the Hellenistic period (although most of the remaining ones are Roman or Byzantine). You can visit the mosque that once was the Hagia Sophia church (not the Hagia Sophia of Instanbul, of course) where the 7th council was held (about iconoclasm, I think).

You can’t see the site of the first council, which is now under Lake Iznik. However, you can stroll along the shores of the lake, have some delicious, freshly caught fish at the Camlik motel restaurant (this is where you should stay, also), and get a trippy foot “vibro massage” from an automated kiosk for .50 TL.

#14 Comment By charles cosimano On June 2, 2014 @ 3:16 pm

Well, at least they won’t have to worry about a Venetian fleet sacking Constantinople again because you can’t go back to Constantinople.

Or maybe Nicea for that matter.

#15 Comment By bones On June 2, 2014 @ 4:18 pm

The very fact that this kind of thing – even if it’s no more than a celebration – can happen seems significant. Would the Patriarchs have even considered this 150 years ago? 100? 50?

But for reunification, I think the theological differences are serious but could be addressed satisfactorily by an ecumenical council. What could be more problematic is stuff like this: [3].

#16 Comment By Darth Thulhu On June 2, 2014 @ 4:21 pm

charles cosimano wrote:

they won’t have to worry about a Venetian fleet sacking Constantinople again because you can’t go back to Constantinople

been a long time gone, Constantinople
now a Turkish delight, on a moonlit night

#17 Comment By Uncle Billy On June 2, 2014 @ 4:25 pm

Unification will be very difficult. Rome will insist that the Orthodox modify their liturgy and doctrine to reflect exactly what Rome is doing and that the Pope appoint all Orthodox Bishops. I cannot imagine The Orthodox going along with that, and I cannot imagine Rome doing anything else but demanding total capitulation and total obedience. This is their way. Perhaps Rome thinks that they can absorb the Orthodox like they have done with many Anglicans?

#18 Comment By Manfred Arcane On June 2, 2014 @ 4:38 pm

“@Manfred Arcane: Is there any reason at all to believe that Turkey, which seeks positive relations with the West and which has no problem allowing in Western tourists and dignitaries, has any intention of disallowing the Pope?

The world isn’t the constant ideological battleground you seem to think it is. I’m sure the pope has no intention of any symbolic act of defiance against Turkey.”

Warren – don’t think you know much about Turkey and its Islamist Government. I am sure that A visit by A Pope could be one thing, but allowing the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople (who is, although a Turkish citizen, subject to all sorts of pressures and petty harassments from Turkish Governments) plus the Pope to hold a highly publicized meeting in a Turkish city to commemorate a church council held 17 centuries ago overseen by a Christian Roman Emperor may be another thign altogether. Hard to see this fitting into the Islamicizing agenda of the Ak Party (who certaininly does see things as a “constant ideological battleground”).

They haven’t even allowed the re-opening of the Patriarchate’s Seminary at Halki which they closed in 1971, despite all sorts of legal rulings.

#19 Comment By Darth Thulhu On June 2, 2014 @ 4:38 pm

Reunion will, as always, be a matter of whether (and how much) the Catholic Church can get over itself in its reflexive assertions of being the “One True” church with its “One True” bishop above all bishops.

Basically, can Catholicism actually sell-to-itself the idea that these are two Church communions reuniting, with both sides needfully compromising? Or must Catholicism continue to unproductively assert that it and only it is the One True Christianity which the Orthodox can decide to rejoin whenever they want to stop being entirely in the wrong?

The latter position is the historical default, of course.

I’m not sure even Pope Francis is capable of unilaterally using the power of the Catholic Church’s current papolatry to sufficiently devolve and delegate enough authority from Rome to make this capable of happening. The moment Francis stops actively delegating, all other natural human forces begin returning power toward the center.

But if he can delegate enough authority and jettison enough papal power, perhaps Francis can get the Catholics to a point that they would be willing to jettison both Vatican Councils as part of a reunion. For all the endless bellyaching about Vatican Two: Vernacular Bugaloo, the arthritic theological innovations of Vatican One are the ones most toxic to the faith … and the ones least capable of being abandoned by the Catholics on their own.

[NFR: Well, Orthodoxy has the same one true view of itself that Catholicism has of itself. And there is no way for Rome to jettison the first and second Vatican councils without blowing up the whole thing. I wouldn’t expect the Romans to do that, any more than I would expect the Orthodox to accept the councils. — RD]

#20 Comment By Darth Thulhu On June 2, 2014 @ 5:09 pm

It would be beautiful, of course, if the two communions were able to reunite.

It would be even more beautiful if that reunion were to serve as a beacon toward taking the necessary steps for reunifying with the Armenians, the Syrians, and the Egyptians on one hand … and the Lutherans and the Anglicans on the other.

Plenty of individual communities will, of course, sub-schism further away rather than reunite in any compromise that the worldwide Christian umma could embrace … but the existence of a sea of Protestant explorers around and out of communion with an island continent of unified Apostolic (o)rthodoxy isn’t anything to regret.

It would, indeed, be vastly better than the present hemorrhaging archipelago of disunited apostolic churches. It would also make Protestantism significantly less fractious with the abuses and theological innovations of Rome if Rome were to willingly purge itself of a lot of them in the process of reuniting with other Apostolic Churches.

Officially downgrading the punishment of “heresy” to merely the obvious “being out of communion with the Apostolic Union of Churches” would also be a huge, huge plus. Copts and Orthodox and Lutherans and Catholics and Syrians and Anglicans who were struggling with holding belief in the creeds could be calmly told “rebelling against belief in the creeds means you can’t be in communion with our Church … there are some good local Protestant pastors I can recommend, if you want to explore that path.”

Letting masses of people easily “breathe” between communion with the united umma and exploration of Christian theologies out of that communion would be a tremendous gain for all involved. It would make Christianity as a whole far more resilient, would make the example of Christianity far more radiant, and make the treatment of individual believers far more just and merciful.

#21 Comment By Erin Manning On June 2, 2014 @ 5:09 pm

It’s easy to fall into the temptation to discuss this as a political issue and to back one’s own “side” vs. the other.

But ultimately Christian unity is a Divine matter, and it requires open hearts and willing spirits. Issues of teaching and liturgy and so on that we may be tempted to think unsolvable are not so, not if the Holy Spirit takes a hand and guides both sides to the truth.

That’s why in my daily prayer for Christian unity I simply pray for Christian unity, full stop. The Holy Spirit will be in charge of the details, as He often is.

And with the growing hostility of the secular world to any form of Christianity which rejects the reductive view of the human person as mere animated matter with no intrinsic worth, I am hopeful that the time for this action of the Holy Spirit is drawing near. But the direction He takes and the way in which He acts may surprise us. History is full of examples.

#22 Comment By Darth Thulhu On June 2, 2014 @ 5:22 pm

charles cosimano wrote:

they won’t have to worry about a Venetian fleet sacking Constantinople again because you can’t go back to Constantinople

why did Constantinople get the works? (quick shrug)
that’s nobody’s business but the Turks

(commence muezzin ululations)

Istanbul (Istanbul) Istanbul!

(more muezzin ululations)

even old New York
was once New Amsterdam
why they changed it, I can’t say
people just liked it better that way

#23 Comment By Turmarion On June 2, 2014 @ 5:43 pm

The essential reading to understand the issues surrounding East-West dialogue is Aidan Nichol’s outstanding [4]. I keep harping on it, but I can’t recommend it too highly.

qasedede, oddly enough the Oriental Orthodox (Monophysites) and the Assyrian Church of the East (Nestorians) have better relations with Rome than with the Orthodox. Both the Orientals and the Assyrians have very cordial and fruitful relationships with Rome, and both have come to statements of agreement whereby they are no longer considered heretical in their Christology. This is really the great unknown story of the last century, since this doctrinal agreement is truly an enormous step forward.

Now there has not been reunion, yet, because there are ecclesial and historical issues, as well as (possibly) some other theological areas that need to be looked at. Still, I’d bet that the chance of reunion of the Oriental Orthodox and/or the Assyrians with Rome is more likely in this century than a reunion with Constantinople, and way more likely than reunion with Moscow.

The Orientals (except for the Ethiopians) and Assyrians are all in very precarious positions (especially the Assyrians, whose patriarch has actually been in Chicago for decades after being chased out of Syria) in their native lands, and all theology aside, might see it as advantageous to ally more closely with Rome.

On the other hand, though there have been some negotiations between the Churches of the East and the Orthodox, the latter have a lot of factions who are still highly suspicious of the whole enterprise. Go figure.

#24 Comment By Darth Thulhu On June 2, 2014 @ 5:56 pm

Rod wrote:

So much flows from papal primacy. I can’t see how we restore unity of belief, but there might be a way to achieve this kind of diversity within a basic ecclesial unity

Hyper-Catholics qua Hyper-Catholics are always going to idolize and uniquely venerate the Pope. No way around that.

Such a Union is thus possible if and only if a Catholic Pope takes sufficient steps to “infallibly declare” ex cathedra that ecclesial communion with Catholicism is possible without accepting superior worldly authority of the Roman Papacy or the Catholic Curia.

The paradox would be irontight. Even Hyper-Catholics would be obligated to obey the directive, while non-Catholics wouldn’t have to acknowledge the infallibility while they embraced the spirit of communion.

The pope would become merely the head of a smaller, voluntary grouping of churches within the worldwide Apostolic Communion. Membership in the Communion wouldn’t require acknowledging his authority, but membership in a Catholic church would.

Non-Catholic Apostolic (o)rthodox would continue to not accept any of his “infallible pronouncements” … but then again he wouldn’t expect them to. They also wouldn’t accept the meddling of the Curia, nor of the pope’s own Vatican administration. Likewise, they would not accept the release of any encyclicals they didn’t agree to and cosign, nor the validity of any ecumenical councils that they were not all invited to.

I hope it can happen, but I don’t expect that it will

Eternity is a long, long time.

[NFR: I’m not quite sure why you derisively call them “Hyper-Catholics.” They seem to me like simply Catholics. True, there are some people who are Catholic and obnoxiously militant about it (as we certainly have among the Orthodox), but papal primacy is one defining aspect of Latin Christianity, and I don’t think it’s right to consider embracing it to be as sign of Catholic extremism. — RD]

#25 Comment By SusanMcN On June 2, 2014 @ 6:00 pm

With God, all things are possible. This Catholic would love to see a meaningful unification–I pray for it often.

#26 Comment By j. r. mc..Faul On June 2, 2014 @ 6:29 pm

Ut Unum Sint rasied some very tantalizing possibilities regarding papal primacy and the role of the pope that may be acceptable to both Eastern and Western.

#27 Comment By Christopher Larsen On June 2, 2014 @ 7:01 pm

There is a lot more than papal infallibility and the creed at stake here. Will the Roman Catholic Church be in full communion with a church (Orthodoxy) that permits divorce, denies the reality of purgatory, the validity of indulgences, the validity of the treasury of “merit,” has a different sacramental theology, no formal ban on birth control, and a married priesthood?? Will the Roman Church accept full communion with a church (Orthodoxy) in which Augustinian theology is utterly absent?? Our soteriology is different. We Orthodox don’t believe in Original Sin and we don’t believe in substitutionary atonement either. Huge theological differences exist and none of them will be resolved easily.

#28 Comment By Bernie On June 2, 2014 @ 7:46 pm

I agree with Rod’s assessment of this matter. As close as the two ancient churches may be on most matters, I cannot envision their reunion. I hope that the fraternal bond in Christ is deepened; it already is a unique one among Christian churches.

#29 Comment By Agnikan On June 2, 2014 @ 8:49 pm

The Catechism of the Catholic Church (#246) quotes from the Council of Florence of 1438: “The Holy Spirit is eternally from Father and Son; He has his nature and subsistence at once (simul) from the Father and the Son. He proceeds eternally from both as from one principle and through one spiration….” [Italics added.]

The only way the Filioque would be acceptable to the Orthodox would be if the Roman Catholic Church were to correct its doctrine and state that the Holy Spirit proceeds (1) not “eternally”, but “at a certain moment in time” (2) from the Father “through” the Son, not from the Father and Son “as from one principle”.

#30 Comment By Roland de Chanson On June 2, 2014 @ 9:13 pm

I think Adam DeVille is correct that the filioque is not “church-dividing”. It was after all resolved at Ferrara Florence. But the Romans could concede to recite the Creed without the Filioque when praying with the Orthodox; in fact, JP2, B16 and F have all done precisely that. For their part, the Orthodox could concede to do as the Romans do when in Rome.

Besides the ecclesiological differences, there is the matter of the Immaculate Conception, a dogma defined after Ferrara Florence, a dogma at which even Aquinas balked. I don’t think the ramifications of this dogma have been fully worked out at all, though Timothy Ware did not seem to consider it a show-stopper in his The Orthodox Way.

And will the Orthodox be ready to accept the ludicrous novus ordo liturgy of the West? More to the point, will they approve as the primus inter pares a bishop who wears a yarmulke rather than his zucchetto and conceals his pectoral cross in his cummerbund when kibitzing with Jews? Paul was flogged out of the synagoges; V2 popes sit and listen like children to the Talmudists.

So, let the Greeks fear the Latins even when they bear gifts.

Yet let us not forget that the Barque of Peter, encrusted though it be with some loathsome barnacles, is still moored at Rome, the city of the martyrs Peter and Paul, which ruled the world and then the Church when Byzantium was a humble fishing village and Moscow a wretched forest hamlet. Stat Crux dum volvitur orbis; ut Roma cadit sic totus orbis. Unde Christo e Romano.

#31 Comment By Coldstream On June 2, 2014 @ 9:51 pm

They really are taking their time. I never heard of a decision to plan for a meeting that will be held a decade layer.

That’s the thing with millenia-old institututions: they rarely work on the modern timeframes that we expect or demand, which can be frustrating.

Though sometimes, that’s probably a good thing, keeping us from too many knee-jerk responses to the zeitgeist and remembering that the church is more than just us at this very moment, but past and future generations as well.

#32 Comment By Coldstream On June 2, 2014 @ 9:55 pm

Question I forgot to ask: How do Eastern Catholic Churches handle the Creed and the Filioque? Is it included? Omitted?

Any Eastern Catholics here that can shed light on it?

#33 Comment By Glaivester On June 2, 2014 @ 10:38 pm

My old theology professor, John Leith, who labored for his career over the historic creeds of the Church and in the formation of the creeds for today, proposed using the form, “the Holy Spirit, who proceeds from the Father through the Son.” Eleven years should give me enough time to drill the change into my head.

I would like to know what others think of this idea. Would the Orthodox accept per filium in the Creed? Would Catholics? This seems to me to be the most theologically sound formulation, as it neither suggests the Father and Son acting separately (as the filioque may be seen to do) nor that the Son is less than fully involved in the acts of the Godhead (as the Orthodox version may be seen to do).

(As an aside, I tend to think of things that the Godhead does as being from the Father, through the Son, by the power of the Holy Spirit).

#34 Comment By Chris Atwood On June 2, 2014 @ 10:57 pm

About Iznik/Nicaea and the Turkish government, I remember reading somewhere in a recent comment on a post (Tmatt at Get Religion? Not sure) saying that the Turkish government may allow the Halki Orthodox seminary to reopen as a quid pro quo for the Hagia Sofia being turned (part time at least) back into a mosque.

Don’t know if this is anything more than a rumor, but perhaps allowing some kind of Christian council in Iznik could again be a quid pro quo for turning Hagia Sofia (or some other museumizfied former church mosque) back into a mosque.

#35 Comment By Chris 1 On June 3, 2014 @ 12:25 am

The differences that became divisions within Christianity played out over many multiple generations…culminating in the events and dates that we remember: Chalcedon, or 1054.

It is quite American to think that we can warm the hearts of entire populations in less time than it took to chill them, or that we can put aside generations of culture in less time than it took to develop those cultures.

#36 Comment By Darth Thulhu On June 3, 2014 @ 3:31 am

Rod wrote:

I’m not quite sure why you derisively call them “Hyper-Catholics.”

Because I need a term to precisely do the same work that anti-theist does in relation to “meh” atheist, or that “inerrantist fundamentalist” does in relation to evangelical Protestant. I am open to other terms, but there really is a thing that “Hyper-Catholic” labels that is quite distinct from and far more extreme than most Catholics.

Specifically, whatever term is chosen needs to clearly distinguish the fraction of “more Catholic than the Pope”, there-is-no-route-to-God-except-through-Rome, Second Commandment violating Papacy-worshippers from the vast mass of Catholics. Most Catholics leave it at “well, yeah, he’s bishop of Rome and head of the Catholic Church” … Hyper-Catholics start waaaaaaaaaay beyond that, and often make such the first thing out of their mouths.

They seem to me like simply Catholics. True, there are some people who are Catholic and obnoxiously militant about it … but papal primacy is one defining aspect of Latin Christianity, and I don’t think it’s right to consider embracing it to be as sign of Catholic extremism

To be clear, “the pope is primate of Catholicism” isn’t under contention. That’s just obvious circular logic of the definitions made for pope, primate, and Catholicism. Of course all Catholics support that.

The difference (and the extremism) is to go beyond that and assert/assume that the pope must be primate of all “real” Churches in communion with correct liturgy.

It’s the difference of imagining that “the Christian Church” in the creed that is holy, catholic, and apostolic can only and must only specifically be the Roman Catholic Church, flawlessly ruled by the super-bishop personally and eternally installed by Jesus Himself.

These people exist. They are quite happy to make sweeping arguments about who is “really” saved, who is “really” Christian, who is “really” Catholic, and who is “really” in communion … and happy to conflate all four of those things into one single, hyper-narrow definition that consigns the vast majority of humanity to hellfire.

Those people are the ones who are going to shriek like rabid baboons at the idea of Orthodox Churches being compromised with as equals, or being allowed to be in communion with Catholic churches without themselves becoming Catholic churches.

Nothing short of an ex cathedra proclamation that significantly disempowers the worldly might of the Vatican would ever make those people go along. Nothing else can be the sword of Alexander needed to hack through the Gordian Knot of arcane rulings and bureaucratic bondage that the Catholics have created for themselves, and that Hyper-Catholics assert all “real” apostolic Christians need to bind themselves to.

#37 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On June 3, 2014 @ 7:28 am

Any Catholic concession would provoke a schism among Traditionalists (sevacantism would be the most logical route), and any Orthodox concession would provoke a schism between those who support the EP and those who don’t. There will never be a union without creating a new schism within either of the existing ecclesiastical bodies.

This is why any talk of “unity” based on complete agreement as to every jot and tittle of doctrine is ludicrous. Concessions made in one direction will provoke schism in the other. Its as mundane as when several Protestant churches in Canada tried to unite into a single church, and of course a fraction of the Presbyterians (and I presume of the others) stayed out of the union to remain whatever they were.

The RC church is defined by the primacy of Rome, that’s why its called ROMAN Catholic. Plenty of Protestants still use small-c catholic in their recitation of the Apostles Creed. And while what combination of persons the Holy Spirit proceeds from is of no concern to me (being lower case unitarian), its of great importance to the Orthodox.

Organizational unity requires considerable internal diversity, and doctrinal purity requires a good deal of exclusionism. There is no way around that.

Christian unity requires a relaxed approach to doctrine. I can spend a good deal of time in doctrinaire churches because doctrine doesn’t mean anything to me. It doesn’t even repel me, and I see no need to debate over it. But those who see it as important, and who disagree with each other, will never find organizational unity in one church.

#38 Comment By diogenes On June 3, 2014 @ 7:44 am

Manana, manana, porque manana!

#39 Comment By David J. White On June 3, 2014 @ 8:25 am

Question I forgot to ask: How do Eastern Catholic Churches handle the Creed and the Filioque? Is it included? Omitted?

Any Eastern Catholics here that can shed light on it?

I’m not Eastern Catholic, and I, too would be interested to hear someone comment on this. But when I lived in Philadelphia I sometimes went to liturgy at the Ukrainian Catholic cathedral. I noticed in the service book in the pew (in Ukrainian and English) that “and from the son” in the Creed was bracketed, at least in the English version. (I don’t read Ukrainian.)

Will the Roman Catholic Church be in full communion with a church (Orthodoxy) that permits divorce, denies the reality of purgatory, the validity of indulgences, the validity of the treasury of “merit,” has a different sacramental theology, no formal ban on birth control, and a married priesthood??

You were going along fine in enumerating doctrinal difficulties, and then, at the very end, you dropped the ball. The “married priesthood” is hardly a stumbling block, since it is a matter of discipline, not doctrine. Besides, the Catholic Church already has married priests: those of the Eastern-rite Churches which follow the older tradition observed by the Orthodox in permitting the ordination of married men (though not permitting priests to marry, a distinction that many people seem resolutely determined to ignore), as well as married clergy from the Anglican/Episcopalian and other churches who become Catholic and then receive a dispensation to be ordained as Catholic priests even though they are married. Fr. Dwight Longenecker, who blogs on the Patheos Catholic channel, is in that position and occasionally comments on what life is like as a married, Latin-rite Catholic priest.

The pope would become merely the head of a smaller, voluntary grouping of churches within the worldwide Apostolic Communion. Membership in the Communion wouldn’t require acknowledging his authority, but membership in a Catholic church would.[…]

Non-Catholic Apostolic (o)rthodox would continue to not accept any of his “infallible pronouncements” … but then again he wouldn’t expect them to.

In other words, as one Orthodox blogger (I forget who) whom I was reading some time ago remarked, formal unity would require either the Catholic Church or the Orthodox Church to cease being what it is: either the Catholic Church declares that you can be in communion with the Catholic church without acknowledging real papal primacy, in which case the Catholic Church become essentially another autocephalous Church within the Orthodox communion; or the Orthodox Church acknowledges that the pope has a real primacy that is more than merely formal or ceremonial, in which case the Orthodox Churches would become essentially additional uniate rite within the Catholic communion.

#40 Comment By Darth Thulhu On June 3, 2014 @ 11:02 am

Glaivester wrote:

I would like to know what others think of this idea. Would the Orthodox accept per filium in the Creed? Would Catholics?

Eternity is a long, long time.

This seems to me to be the most theologically sound formulation, as it neither suggests the Father and Son acting separately (as the filioque may be seen to do) nor that the Son is less than fully involved in the acts of the Godhead

Agreed.

(As an aside, I tend to think of things that the Godhead does as being from the Father, through the Son, by the power of the Holy Spirit)

Inserting any major Manifestation of God one cares to name for “Son”, using “reflected through”, and any intangible metaphor for “Holy Spirit” … and that is a common Bahá’í formulation.

Examples:

The Revelation at Sinai was from YHVH, reflected through Moses, by the power of the Holy Ghost.

The Dispensations of the Recitations were from Allah, reflected through Muhammad, by the radiance shone of Gabriel.

The wisdom given unto the magi was from Ahura Mazda, reflected by Zoroaster, by the grace of the unseen light.

#41 Comment By Agathonika On June 3, 2014 @ 2:56 pm

Ruthenian rite Byzantine Catholic, here: we do not say the Filioque (though it appears in brackets in the liturgy).

#42 Comment By Mholm On June 3, 2014 @ 10:32 pm

Fwiw, at least according to [5], a male age 77 (Francis) can expect to live on average 9.7 more years, and a male age 74 (Bartholomew) 11.5 more, so it’s hardly unlikely one or both will still be alive in 2025.

#43 Comment By Turmarion On June 3, 2014 @ 10:35 pm

Coldstream and David White, the Eastern Catholic Churches are allowed to use the older form of the Creed (without the filioque) as long as they don’t deny the validity of the filioque). Since the form of the Creed that does not contain the filioque is older and was used for centuries in the East and the West, it’s not heretical to use it, as long as one doesn’t deny the co-origination of the Spirit from the Son.

It’s like the Apostle’s Creed–it lacks the additional material in the Nicene Creed (“God from God, Light from Light, True God from True God” and so on) that was added to exclude an Arian interpretation; but the Apostle’s Creed is certainly orthodox, and it is even an option for use in Mass under some conditions.

#44 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On June 3, 2014 @ 11:09 pm

formal unity would require either the Catholic Church or the Orthodox Church to cease being what it is

Precisely what I thought, althought I’m intrigued by the notion of the Roman, Orthodox, Baptist, Presbyterian, Methodist, and a basket of other denominations all becoming “essentially another autocephalous Church” within the Christian communion. Oh, I guess we could all make room for the Anglicans and Episcopalians as well. Can gays marry in such a church? It depends on which autocephalous division you ask to be married in.

#45 Comment By dominic1955 On June 4, 2014 @ 2:15 am

“Christian unity requires a relaxed approach to doctrine. I can spend a good deal of time in doctrinaire churches because doctrine doesn’t mean anything to me. It doesn’t even repel me, and I see no need to debate over it. But those who see it as important, and who disagree with each other, will never find organizational unity in one church.”

That sort of unity is completely bankrupt to Catholics and Eastern Orthodox, as in, if that is “unity” (falsely so called) we want no part of it!

Pope Benedict XVI led the way for recent years in what unity can/should look like-the Anglican Ordinariates. Keeping customs and practices is fine, even recognizing that valid and legitimate practices developed during your time away from Rome. However, when you swim the Tiber back to the Mother Church, you accept every jot and tittle she formally teaches.

Same with the Eastern Orthodox that come over and I would assume vice versa.

Besides, the Catholic Church already considers (true) Christian Unity to exist within her so, contra certain “ecumenists” who like to entertain and say silly things, the existence of non-Catholic Churches or “ecclesial communities” does not signal a lack of unity. That unity is present in the Church. However, we want everyone to be part of that unity-for their sake first and then ours. The Church does not lack unity because not everyone is Catholic but she gains when they come into Her Unity.

#46 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On June 5, 2014 @ 8:56 am

Besides, the Catholic Church already considers (true) Christian Unity to exist within her…

Yeah, yeah, dominic, and you are free to go on believing that, but nobody else in the world is paying attention. You can make a case so factually and intellectually compelling that the scales fall from our eyes, or you can amass an army to compel obedience a la Boniface VIII, or you can reconcile yourself to the fact that the only ones who believe that are the ones who believe that. Or, you can find a way to render your dogma and doctrine as esthetically inspiring as the Chartres Cathedral… but I’m not holding my breath.

if that is “unity” (falsely so called) we want no part of it!

Precisely my point! That is why you HAVE nothing that remotely resembles Unity!

REAL unity requires encompassing a diversity you want no part of. So, you are able to maintain your doctrinal purity by eschewing any real unity at all.

In practice, what I suggested is in fact what we live in the USA, and its one facet of our life I would not surrender, no matter how HeartRight polemicizes against our western decadence. We have autocephalous church communities that pragmatically recognize each other as vaguely Christian, even the Mormons, have learned to accept some affinity for Jews, and don’t feel terribly threatened by the presence of Hindis, Buddhists and Muslims.

WELS Lutherans may still have on the books that Rome is the Whore of Babylon, but they are actually pleased to highlight praise for their schools from a Roman Catholic member of the school accreditation committee, who is pleased to recognize the strong role of faith in those schools. (I’ve seen that with my own eyes in a monthly video update they show in their churches).

#47 Comment By Ace On June 5, 2014 @ 1:37 pm

Everyone, even non-Catholics, know who the Pope is. But quick, can you name the Patriarch of Moscow? I had no idea who Bartholomew was until I read this article. That is a feature, not a bug.

The Catholic Church, by rallying around a Pope and his city-state in Rome, has allowed itself to be notoriously involved in — and compromised by — power politics.

Christianity is a complicated religion. The Trinity is a most difficult concept to get one’s head around. The Orthodox believe that each Person of the Trinity must have all Attributes in common, or possess a unique attribute. The Son is Begotten of the Father. The Holy Spirit Proceeds from the Father. The Filioque gives power to the Father and the Son, and denies it to the Holy Spirit, creating an imbalance, which also de-emphasizes the Father. How does this manifest spiritually and theologically? The Catholic Charismatic Renewal and its lust for Spirit through heresy in practice if not theology, and the Messianic Cults of Personality that surround many Protestant ministers, are just two examples.

#48 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On June 10, 2014 @ 11:32 am

The Son is Begotten of the Father. The Holy Spirit Proceeds from the Father. The Filioque gives power to the Father and the Son, and denies it to the Holy Spirit, creating an imbalance, which also de-emphasizes the Father. How does this manifest spiritually and theologically?

Its nonsense. God may in Truth be a Trinity, or may not, I tend toward lower-case unitarianism, but trying to sort out all these fine points makes even less sense than seriously examining how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. God is what God is and God will do what God will do, and none of this abstruse intellectual speculation makes the slightest difference ot our salvation, or how we are to live our life on earth.

What does that make Jesus? The found and finisher of our faith. He said “I and the Father are one.” What EXACTLY does that make his relationship to the Father? What difference does it make?

“He has shown you oh man, what is good, and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God?” (That last one is hard — perhaps impossible — and quite enough to worry about for one lifetime). Oh, and if you’re a Marcionite, “All of the law and the prophets” hangs on two commandments.

#49 Comment By ab On June 24, 2014 @ 12:02 am

rod, do listen this!

if u don’t have the time to listen to both parts, listen to part 2, as part 1 is, for the most part, a preamble.

As promised in his last episode, Fr. Thomas share with us the paper he wrote in 2005 outlining what the Roman Catholic Church would need to do to unite with the Orthodox. He broke it up into two parts.

What Does Rome Need To Do? – Part 2

June 20, 2014 Length: 35:05 minutes

This is part 2 of Fr. Tom’s paper on what Orthodoxy would expect from Rome before communion would be restored.

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