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Why the sacramental break between East and West?

Well-educated Catholics know a thing or two about why the Great Schism, separating the Eastern and Western branches of Christianity, occurred in the eleventh century. But most of us know just that -- only a thing or two. I'll include myself in that group: when students ask me, I say something about the filioque and papal authority.

A recent piece by historian George Demacopoulos posted on the blog of the Greek Archdiocese of North America shows the importance of contextualizing the split in the fuller contexts of canon law and the Crusades. He asks: "[H]ow exactly did it come to pass that the Orthodox Church forbid sacramental union (baptisms, marriages, the Eucharist, etc.) with Western Christians in the first place?"

A careful reading of the historical sources reveals that the canonical grounds for refusing sacraments to Western Christians are more tenuous than most recognize.  Equally problematic is the extent to which the modern reflection on these canonical and ecumenical questions has been hindered by a combination of intellectual stagnation and an ecclesiastical super-structure that, in the post-Byzantine world, has largely failed to resolve important theological questions.

Demacopoulos goes on to describe the rather sparse canonical engagement with the question of sacramental communion. And the two canonists who did engage the issue, Balsamon and Chomatenos, were "Crusade-weary" sources whose opinions were not evenly followed. Demacopoulos argues it was only during the later "Ottoman captivity of the Orthodox Church," a "period of intellectual decline," that "Balsamon’s legacy gained a disproportionate hold on subsequent canonical assumptions in Orthodox canon law."

Demacopoulos admits, of course, that major obstacles to sacramental unity remain. But it is salutary to learn the historical contextualization of the two canonists whose viewpoints still "dominate [the Orthodox] approach to Western Christianity."  In this one prominent historian's assessment, at least, they "both failed to offer precise theological or canonical arguments for their proscriptions against sacramental unity.  Instead, these interpretations emphasize political and cultural animus against the Crusaders and those Greeks who conspired with them."

 

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Perhaps ecumenical engagement would stimulate both East and West to revisit our respective positions that have resulted in sacramental division?

 

Granted the 10th century was not a good time for Christianity:  Crusades, schisms, pogroms.  The only catastrophic crises yet to come in history for the church that even come close in magnitude are the Reformation; and then in our own time, the wanton serial rape and sodomy of children by bishops and priests.

But don't yah think that after a millennium of  mutual condemnation and excommunication between Chrisitian traditions that that is just about enough?  

Don't yah think that Jesus would be totally scandalized by these divisions among his disciples?  

I can almost hear in my head how the pleading of St. Paul would sound about how we are all members of the same Body.

The Byzantine rites are every bit the equal of the Roman rite.  Perhaps now after a millennium Christianity needs a new rite which gives new expression to modern realities and culture? [Like the equality of women, a reverence and celebration of human sexuality, and a truly servant priesthood of the people.]

I enjoyed http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=swm6gu5J338 for a 6-minute history of the Church, seen from an Orthodox perspective.

A Catholic version of the same: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LBKhm7YJ5Ic

A funny Protestant version of the same: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=coOMnNPjgys

My impression is that on the Western side, Catholics would by and large be happy to be reunited with the Orthodox and would have few objections to ending the sacramental break.

 

Vatican II called the Eastern and Western Churches "sister Churches", but, like all sisters, they also seem to me to be very different even in some basic ways, ways that might make it hard for them to communicate.

 

I don't know much about Eastern theology (nor Western, as you've probably noticed:-), but on the surface It seems to me that there are a couple off big reasons why the Eastern and Western theologians might find it difficult to make progress:  lack of common vocabulary and sometimes very different methods of doing theology.  Even their grounds for doing theology differ somewhat.  In other words, their epistemologies are different.  So how can they go about establishing which of two conflicting truth claims is true?

 

Eastern theologians even define "theology" differently  -- they see it  more as spiritual intuition and religious experience than making arguments, so they do not have the strong tradition of rational argumentation that Western theology has.    Western theologians, at least since the medieval period, have been highly dependent on the use of reason and have developed a philosophical vocabulary that has proven useful to Western theologians.

 

Look at the history of the philosophers in the regions:   Eastern theology has not, produced any philosopher-theologians whose philosophy has proven of lasting and universal importance.  In Judaism, Islam and Christianity theologians were more often than not also philosophers, and those three traditions produced both theology and its "handmaident" philosophy (as Aquinas put it).  Look at Moses Maimonides, Avicenna, and Aquinas.  All great philosophers.  But I can't think of even one Eastern Orthodox philosopher-theologian of the stature of any of those three.  Are there any I've overlooked?

 

Further, If the Eastern theology is so dependent on spiritual, mystical  intuitions,  and given that the Western and Eastern spiritual/mystical intuitions are very different  in some ways, then that would seem to make it particularly difficult to discuss spiritual experience and its place in theology.

 

So I'm wondering if the contemporary Eastern and Western theologians even have enough common vocabulary and intellectual background and truth criteria to talk very profitably, at least at the beginning.

Vatican II called the Eastern and Western Churches "sister Churches", but, like all sisters, they also seem to me to be very different even in some basic ways, ways that might make it hard for them to communicate.

 

I don't know much about Eastern theology (nor Western, as you've probably noticed:-), but on the surface It seems to me that there are a couple off big reasons why the Eastern and Western theologians might find it difficult to make progress:  lack of common vocabulary and sometimes very different methods of doing theology.  Even their grounds for doing theology differ somewhat.  In other words, their epistemologies are different.  So how can they go about establishing which of two conflicting truth claims is true?

 

Eastern theologians even define "theology" differently  -- they see it  more as spiritual intuition and religious experience than making arguments, so they do not have the strong tradition of rational argumentation that Western theology has.    Western theologians, at least since the medieval period, have been highly dependent on the use of reason and have developed a philosophical vocabulary that has proven useful to Western theologians.

 

Look at the history of the philosophers in the regions:   Eastern theology has not, produced any philosopher-theologians whose philosophy has proven of lasting and universal importance.  In Judaism, Islam and Christianity theologians were more often than not also philosophers, and those three traditions produced both theology and its "handmaident" philosophy (as Aquinas put it).  Look at Moses Maimonides, Avicenna, and Aquinas.  All great philosophers.  But I can't think of even one Eastern Orthodox philosopher-theologian of the stature of any of those three.  Are there any I've overlooked?

 

Further, If the Eastern theology is so dependent on spiritual, mystical  intuitions,  and given that the Western and Eastern spiritual/mystical intuitions are very different  in some ways, then that would seem to make it particularly difficult to discuss spiritual experience and its place in theology.

 

So I'm wondering if the contemporary Eastern and Western theologians even have enough common vocabulary and intellectual background and truth criteria to talk very profitably, at least at the beginning.

Ann:

You are a pretty first rate philosopher but the Russians have theirs as well. Aside from the obvious names like Dostoevsky, Pushkin, and Tolstoy. I would add Berdyaev. He is among my favourite and had a big impact and wish I had known him in my undergraduate years eons ago!

I think his essay on Uniting Christians east and west summarizes and accurately characterizes the philosophical framework of each "lung":

http://www.berdyaev.com/berdiaev/berd_lib/unifying.htm

I know that the Catholic world is very rich, complex and manifold, that there are many currents in it. But it is no accident that in the Christianity of the West Aristotelianism prevails. The way of Western Christianity can be expressed in the categories of the Aristotelian philosophy, in the Aristotelian doctrine of form and matter [forma et materia], of potentiality and act [potentia et actus]. The form organizes the matter of life, the matter of the world; the world must be assigned finally to the organizing form. The ecclesiastical hierarchy which is assigned to a uniform highest center, the ecclesiastical doctrine is a forming, organizing principle, which must rule and cannot tolerate that matter which would flow chaotically or separating itself off. Potentiality is imperfect, is non-expressed being which has not yet found its expression, half not-being, -- only the act is true and full being. God is pure act [actus purus], and in Him there is no potentiality. So the Catholic Church is longing to be on earth pure act and not to tolerate the dominance of the potentiality, the not-coming to expression with all its manifold possibilites. In this regard the Christianity of the West, Catholicism, has inherited antiquity’s thinking: it is classical, it fears infinity, it sees in finiteness, in definiteness the sign of the perfectness of being. In Christianity of the East there prevails another spirit. For the East Platonism is far nearer than is Aristotelianism. Orthodoxy is more meditative and eschatological, less bellicose and actual. In the Orthodox Church one finds more the potential, the historically not yet worked out, and it does not regard this as a sign of imperfection or a half not-being. The eschatological perspective of life must maintain moreso the potential possibilities. 

Energy will not be spent on an organized act of history, the spiritual forces remain concentrated in the interior. There is a great eschatological and apocalyptical expectation, a turning to the end of the world, the Second Coming, the celestial Jerusalem, which is to come into the world. Orthodoxy is less built up than Catholicism; characteristical for it is more the insight of intelligent beings, the world of ideas, the world of wisdom, the sophiotic character of the creature. It does not conceive of life as form ruling over matter. The life in the world is not organization but rather organism, and the Church is first of all an organism, the Body of Christ. The element of organization is not so important, it is secondary. The inner unity of the Church is not to be defined by the external organization of ecclesiastical unity. Ecumenicism is not something horizontal, but rather vertical, qualitative not quantitative. An immense freedom of spirit finds definition in Orthodoxy by the fact, that Orthodoxy has not first of all the aim to be world organization, to give form to matter by force, to actualize the life of the Church. The Kingdom of Heaven comes unseen [cf Luk 17:20]. Orthodoxy is in no way aims at a victory upon the earth at all costs. This also gives freedom to it; the organized army cannot feel free in the war, on the battlefield, in the fortress; it must be strongly disciplined and assigned to a warlord. But life is not only war, and the Christian people is not only an army. This can be seen also in the Catholic Church, in which developed a more complex creative life, a richer culture than in the East. But the idea of an organized, bellicose Church still predominates. 

On the theme of unity:

 Russian religious thought, in which many a creative religious idea has arisen, remains almost unknown in the West. We ourselves are guilty in this. But it seems that we do not recognize, that the time for the Orthodoxy has come, to break out of this closed circle. Our spiritual forces are not so exhausted in too much historical activity and being organization, in the Russian people there is the great capability to give birth to a Christian renaissance, just as there is also the capacity,  to fall under the spirit of the Antichrist. But we must however overcome the historic hostility and the suspicion towards Catholicism. This hostility and this mistrust was fanned by the politics of conquest of the Catholic Church. The fundamental condition for a solidarity and a unification of Orthodox and Catholics is that the politics of conquest must be ended. The Catholics must stop seeing the Russian people as an object which must be converted to the true Faith; they should see in it a religious subject, should be attentive to the inner spiritual life of the Russian people and to the positive spiritual richnesses of Orthodoxy. The greatest hindrance on the way to spiritual community and unity between Orthodox and Catholics is the fixation on the relation to the Orthodox exclusively from the point of view of a conversion to Catholicism. The self-contentedness of the Orthodox, just as also in the Catholic world, must be gotten over. These worlds lack the whole fullness, and they need completion. One ought not strive for unification at any price nor resort to arbitrary means. Forced external unity, which does not correspond to an inner spiritual unity, is only of little worth. It requires a free and open association without any mistrust and without ulterior motives. I repeat yet again, the Holy Spirit will unify the Churches, when the hour for it has come, and which the Providence of God has determined. But Christian mankind must prepare the spiritual soil for this and create a favourable psychical atmosphere. Such a spiritual soil, such a psychical atmosphere can only be a spiritual unifying in love, mutual acquaintance, prayer for the other and a living in brotherhood in Christ. Maybe the unification of Churches and the ecumenicism of Christianity will only be visible and totally actualized when there is an end to time, when the apocalyptic epoch is come (so thinks Vladimir Soloviev in his "Narrative of the Antichrist"); but it is our duty in each moment of our life to strive innerly for it, to prepare spiritually for it. 

Perhaps the basic reason for conflict is the attempt by the Western church to "reconcile faith and reason," equating logic and dubious observation (Natural Law) with reason, but unable to reconcile real science with this medieval notion of reason (systematic and valid logic, but often dependent on faulty observation, discarded science, and mere assumptions).

The Eastern Church has avoided this mistaken reconciliation of faith and reason, and ironically is therefore in a better position to live comfortably with modern science while continuing its dedicated reflection on the life of prayer and the relationship to God of the individual, the congregational community and the church as a whole (theology), with Christ as the connection.

As the kids say, just saying.

 

George D. ==

I have already agreed that the Eastern Church has important mytical theologians, but so far as I know none of them are metaphysicians or epistemologists of great and lasting reputation,  nor  are they expert in any other area of philosophy.  Granted, Berdyaev might be of lasting importance in the philosophy of religion (did he learn a lot of philosophy from his friend Maritain?), and Dostoievsky will  surely be remembered in philosophy books but only because in The Brothers K. he presents some powerfully expresed philosophical arguments about the nature and existence of  God.  I must admit I haven't read the others (I did manage about 5 pages of War and Peace), so I can't say how their philosophical ideas will be remembered.  But i must also say that in the philosophical ommunity they aren't known as great philosophers.  And who are the morable Orthodox philosopher between 1053 and Dostoievsky?

My  point is that the Earnerners just aren't very interested in philosophy,  it hasn't been their handmaiden, and so haven't produced any philosophers of the stature of Maimoonides, Avicenna, or Aquinas or in more modern times, Leibniz.  And that probably makes it difficult for East and West to talk theology to each other.  Yes, I think that that philosophical concepts and arguments (some of them anyway) are of great usefulness in doing theology. 

Ann

Catholic theology, it seems to me, has struggled incorporating even modern philosophical ideas like even phenomenology. John Paul II was heavily influenced by it but even he had to move away from those ideas. And what is the status of Kant in Catholic circles these days?

I was taught that Gilson (who I respect) was pretty much the aribter of Catholic philosophy and he argued that there is, indeed, something that can be referred to as Catholic philosophy and Kant's approach to metaphysics was problematic for that reason.

 

PS

 

The point is that I think the problem with the idea of ecumenism is not so much canonical, doctrinal, or even ecclesial, it is that the philosophical "operating system" is so different and has developed differently. Think Mac and Windows

I hope this burst of interest serves to encourage more Catholics to read and learn about Orthodoxy and its interactions with what the Christian East has long considered - often with good cause -  its boorish Western relations. As a cradle Catholic who loves Orthodoxy, yet has met too many arrogantly triumphalist Orthodox -- usually adult converts from Western traditions who never stop thinking like Protestants (even those who were formerly Catholic) -- to swim the Bosphorus, I long for the family reunion that I know is not likely to come easilly or soon. Getting Westerners to read enough history to push past cartoonish accounts of complex processes, such as the Great Schism or the Crusades, would be a great start. Of course we should read the primary sources as well as scholarly accounts from an Eastern perspective or Eastern preference, such as Meyerdorff, Runciman, Ware, and Zizoulas, but there's more. It took me a lot of study, conversation, thought, and prayer to apprehend that the East is different and gets many things better than the West, but it is not, at its core, inherently better, or more spiritual, liturgical, or patristic. The Jesuit liturgical historian and archimandrite in the Byzantine Rite, Robert Taft, has spoken extensively on this, with no shortage of opinions. Here's a brief taste:

http://www.catholicworldreport.com/Item/2223/Building_Bridges_between_Or...

 

Bishop Sheen used to repeatedly say, the philosphers that he was, that the business of Philosphy is to make simple things complicated. There is also another saying which goes that any fool can make things complicated. It takes a genius to make things simple. 

Aren't most conflicts a matter of turf and/or control. Cfr: Marriage. The vast majority of wars are motivated by greed. That's how slaves are created.  Yet we rhapsodize over ritual and we glorify war. You can criticize anyone but soldiers (even tho they are not taken care of when the get to civilian life. 

Ego, power, greed etc. Philosophy follows that lead.

I agree that those short videos are cartoonish - what else can one do in presenting all of church history in 5 minutes - but I find it interesting what they choose to mention. In both Catholic and Protestant cartoons, after the Great Schism the Orthodox disappear from their radar. This matches the beginning of the post: "something about the filioque and papal authority".

 

Claire:  I think the videos are fine starting places, especially for anyone who recognizes the blindnesses you point out -- namely, that Orthodoxy  should somehow cease to matter after the mid-tenth century, or worse still, that Orthodoxy "split away from" Catholicism. The cartoonishness I had in mind is the subtler form that uses historical complexities like the Crusades, the Inquisition, or the Galileo affair as crude bludgeons with which to club opponents in verbal assualts that are, as the Maliozzi brothers say, "unencumbered by the thought process."  

For example, the First Crusade sack of Jerusalem and the Fourth Crusade sack of Constantinope were - no doubt about it - world class atrocities. But to extract the Crusades from the historical context of the Byzantine-Seljuk wars, rival Musim caliphates, the improving material status of the West, and the birth of European proto-nation-states, is to get matters comfortably wrong and leave it that way.

I'm not trying to be an apologist for the Crusades, which were awful, but not necessarily more so than current Western misadventures in the region. Though what little I've come to know about this history may have only rearranged my prejudices, it helps me to remember that judging across centuries is much harder than it first appears. 

I have always read/heard that *a* primary sticking point is the role of the Bishop of Rome.  The Orthodox Churches are willing to see his role as "first among equals" and the RCC simply won't go along with that.

Let me introduce the important historian of Christianity, Jarislov Pelikan. He started out as a Indiana Lutheran and converted to Orthodoxy. His extensive work, much of it dune whaile at Yale, earned him the prestitious Kluge prize early in this 21st century for his lifelong contribution to the humanities. And he is really readable.

Furthermorre, during  the early years ofWW II a number of Eastern Orthodox scholars left the East and settled in France. Their work was certainly known and respected by people like DeLubac and Congar. It was conceptually rich. That this eastern thought has not shown up in Western philosophy may well say something about the insular dominance of so much, not all, Anglo-American philosophy as well as the 20th century enschrinement of a particularly mindless marxism by Sovien rulers. 

John McG. --

 

I agree that the most intractable conflict between the Eastern and Western Churches revolves around the problems with the Christian mysteries:  they imply self-contradictions.  The disagreement between East and West  is about what to do about the contradictions.  The East says they are beyond our finite minds, so don't waste too much time trying to reconcile the contradictions.  The West says, yes, God is infinitely beyond us, but  by using reason to clarify our language and  to correct our presuppositions and other premises as best we can, we can eliminate some of the errors in our thinking and even extend our positive knowledge of our Mysterious God.

 

I don't agree that "the Western church"  equated logic and reason with natural science, at least not the great medieval Aristotelian Scholastics.  The latter all clearly distinguished the methods of logic, empirical observation, philosophy and theology.  The fact that subsequent philosophers have failed to read the Scholastics and interpret them otherwise is not the fault of the Scholastics.  True, the medievals weren't the greatest observers (they didn't have microscopes, for instance), and they didn't have a full systematic scientific method (that came with Francis Bacon and probability math even later).  But modern empirical science began mainly with the English Franciscans (especially Grosseteste and his pupil  Roger Bacon) who developed Aristotle's scientific method.  The history of science in the last hundred years has uncovered some very surprising facts about the sophistication of the medieval scientists and the attitude(s) of the official Church.  I say attitudes (pl.) because Rome's opinions, contrary to popular opinion, has waxed and waned about matters scientific.

George D. --

 

I agree == the post-medieval official RCC became progressively more and more closed-minded. Thank God for Vatican II -- as late as the '50s one couldn't even *read* what "the other side" had to say. 

 

Berdyaev's notion that the Eastern and Western Churches should just co-exist stems, I suspect, from the notion shared with the RCC that the Faith is mysterious, and hence it inevitably leads to contradictions.  The Eastern Church thinks that because contradictions are inevitable we shouldn't make too much of them, we should even ignore them at times, and each Church should go its own theological way. This, of course, is intolerable for the Western/Roman Church which, though it admits that contradictions will happen within our finite minds, still thinks that solid theological truth is at least partially attainable, and  truth never contradicts truth.  So to find the best understanding of the Faith the RCC thinks it is necessary to use not just intuition, but also reason as far as it will take us. It listens to the mystics, but criticizes them soundly when necessary.   We must, therefore, be critical both of our own theology and that of others.  But the East isn't very much into criticism because it doesn't care very much about self-contradictions in the first place.  Hard to find common ground, except to repeat the Creeds, and even the lead to trouble (contradictory interpretations).  

 

As i understand Gilson, he thought that there are topics of special interest to Catholic philosophers, but no Catholic philosophy as such.  In other words, there are Catholic philosophers who do philosophy and who have special philosophical interests, e.g., the existence of God, how do we know anything, what are people *for* if anything, is the cosmos designed by God, is it designed at all, what is the value of logic).  He's quite Thomistic in strongly distinguishing philosophy from theology.

 

i don't know how much Kant is still influencing the Catholic theologians.  I'd say that generally he has been on the wane even in philosophy since the emergence of pragmatism and materialist empiricism in the 19th century.

 

It seems to me that the situation in Catholic philosophy at the moment is very fluid and complex, at least in English-language philosophy.  There is a strong over-lap of interest between the Scholastics and the linguistic analysts -- both are extremely interested in logic, the philosophy of logic, the philosophy of language, epistemology and ethics, and there have been a few highly regarded 20th century Catholic  English philosophers , e.g. Anscombe, Geach and Dummett.  A few English Thomists  like Herbert McCabe, O. P. who also know the analysts, got them into Aquinas. 

 

Since Vatican II Catholic philosophers have become much more open-minded,  and in the English-speaking philosophical world they are finally engaging with the non-Catholic ones directly.  See, for instance Edward Feser's blog this very day  -- he's arguing directly with a conspicuous neo-atheist.  The debate is so heated is has a referee :-)  So I  think things are looking-up.  But I still couldn't name one giant of a Catholic philosopher since the late middle ages.

 

 

I also agree that the institutional Church didn't meet the challenge of the Enlighttenment.  It was afraid of the powerful new Enlightenment thinkers.  On the other hand, it is also true that the heirs of the Enlightenment have never understood the value of some of the ancient and medieval philosophers.  In England, the birthplace of the empiricism that has dominated 20th century anglophone philosophy, the study of philosophy began with Descartes, with a little Plato and Aristotle's ethics thrown in as a nod to the past.   So there has been mutual scorn between the Enlightened and the post-medieval,  Thomists, at least the ones called "manual Thomists".  The latter were so bad that many didn't even read the primary sources.  (Oops -- I've left out the Spanish Scholastics who did do some pioneering work after the high medievlas  in ethics-and-economics and political philosophy.)

 

Conclusion; from about the end of the 14th century to the 20th, Scholastic  philosophy hasn't been much to brag about either.   In the 20th century there have been some major Catholic philosophers on the continent (e.g. Maritain) but  who among them is likely to be remembered for even a hundred years?  No giants there either. 

 

Enough philosophy for today.

Ann O: Eastern theologians even define "theology" differently  -- they see it  more as spiritual intuition and religious experience than making arguments

That seems better than Rome's approach.

John M:

Perhaps the basic reason for conflict is the attempt by the Western church to "reconcile faith and reason," equating logic and dubious observation (Natural Law) with reason, but unable to reconcile real science with this medieval notion of reason (systematic and valid logic, ....

The Eastern Church has avoided this mistaken reconciliation of faith and reason....while continuing its dedicated reflection on the life of prayer and the relationship to God .... with Christ as the connection.

As the kids say, just saying.

Out of the mouths of babes (kids).....

Ann O:  "..... the most intractable conflict between the Eastern and Western Churches revolves around the problems with the Christian mysteries:  they imply self-contradictions.  The disagreement between East and West  is about what to do about the contradictions.  The East says they are beyond our finite minds, so don't waste too much time trying to reconcile the contradictions.

That sounds like common sense.  It seems the Orthodox are wise enough to realize that human beings cannot ever "know" God's mind "infallibly" and so stress spirituality and mystery.  That simple (but not simplistic) wisdom escapes Rome and those philosophers and theologians who attempt to know that which they cannot know..  Perhaps Rome overcomplicates things and the Orthodox understand what is important about the christian faith and what is not.

There are at least two commentators associated with Commonweal who have expertise about Orthodoxy, including Orthodox-Catholic relations, who will hopefully weigh in on the topic under discussion.

John Garvey, Commonweal columnist and Orthodox priest, has for many years produced excellent columns about Orthodox beliefs and the common ground between Orthodoxy and Catholicism. Although I haven’t read it yet, his new book – “Seeds of the Word: Orthodox Thinking on Other Religions”—looks to be as informative and catholic (small “c”) as his open-minded columns.

And if I’m not mistaken, Father Komonchak is a member of the North American Orthodox-Catholic Theological Consultation, which has issued a number of statements on knotty theological problems and common grounds between the two faiths.

http://www.scoba.us/articles/towards-a-unified-church.html

My feeling is that that the two faiths will move inexorably closer together as a result of these efforts and outside pressures, particularly the rise of secularism in the world. As the “nones” grow in polls about religion, I think many of the adherents of the different Christian faiths will come to cherish more the many common bonds they have with one another. As Catholics, we are probably most closely aligned theologically with the Orthodox and the Anglicans. In addition, outreach efforts by John Paul II, Benedict XVI, and I’m sure Francis as well, will hopefully bear fruit by increasing the awareness that what we have in common greatly outweighs our differences.  

In its latest joint statement in October 2010 titled “Steps Toward a Reunited Church: A Sketch of An Orthodox-Catholic Vision for the Future,” the North American Orthodox-Catholic Theological Consultation noted both the importance of what we share and the urgency of rapprochement:

“In light of the divine gifts that we share, then, it seems all the more urgent to us that our Churches grow closer together, in ways that the men and women of our time can see. The fact that our two Christian families have been separated in some central points of theology and Church discipline for almost a thousand years, and as a result no longer share in the sacramental communion that bound us together during the first millennium, is not only a violation of the will of God, as expressed in the prayer of Jesus at the Last Supper that his disciples ‘may be one’ (John 17.21), but is also a serious impediment to effective Christian engagement in the world, and to the effective realization of our common mission to preach the Gospel. Marriages involving members of both our traditions are increasingly common, especially in ethnically pluralistic countries, creating serious problems in Christian education and practice for the families involved. All of these factors urgently call our Churches to overcome their division. As our largely secular world reaches constantly for new technical means of communication, and for mutual understanding within all its cultural and political diversity, it is urgent that Orthodox and Catholic Christians find an effective way to realize our common tradition of faith together, and to present the world with a unified testimony to the Lordship of Jesus. To be what we are called to be, we need each other. In the words of the Second Vatican Council, ‘The divisions among Christians prevent the Church from realizing in practice the fullness of catholicity proper to her’ (Unitatis Redintegratio 4). To become what we are, effectively and permanently, we cannot stop short of re-establishing full Eucharistic communion among ourselves. Clearly, this cannot be achieved without new, better harmonized structures of leadership on both sides: new conceptions of both synodality and primacy in the universal Church, new approaches to the way primacy and authority are exercised in both our communions.”

Anne C. --

 

True, wisdom must always be based on experience and to some extent to feelings about  experience.  But experience is subjective, so we get into terrible problems of whose experiences to trust, as well as the problem of *which feelings* to trust.  Mystics aren't always admirable or wise  people.  What was it that was said about the Janssenist mystic nuns at the convent of Port-Royale --  "Pure as angels, proud as devils".  There also have been psychotics with delusions of grandeur who claim to have special wisdom, who crave disciples, and sometimes manage to find them, and it ends badly.  See Jonestown.  Sometimes it's difficult to separate the wise from the mad, and then we have to use reason.

 

I certainly grant you that reason, being a tool, can be badly misused.  But as I see it reason is our best tool to protect us against our beloved self-deception  and the self-deceptions  of others.  

  

How can we distinguish the feelings that reliably  tell us what ought to be done (or not) from the feelings which are not reliable?  As I see it, this is one of the greatest problems in all philosophy/theology/whatever.  

 

Does anyone know if the Eastern theologians get into this problem?  Do they even see it as a problem?    

 

Brian --

Thanks for the site.  Looks a bit as if the Patriarch of Moscow might view himself as a sort of counter-pope of the East.  Politics, politics, politics???  

Who in the past 50 years thinks the Byzantine Rites are inferior ro the Roman Rite? After 50 years of tinkering, vernacular, guitars and attempting to make liturgy ordinary and destroy the haven the Church used to be to the world we have succeeded in making the Roman Rite Levittown, or Norwalk, where all the homes are made of ticky-tacky and they all look just the same. Ordinary, un-otherworldly, plain, bland, with treacly songs instead of hymns, anthems and motets.

No one can thiknk the Byzantine Rites are inferior. The Roman Rite in the US is the inferior of the liturgy at Jay's Hamburger Stand. And NOW, we're adding big screen TVs so everyone can read the magnified words to songs so empty of theological import that it will drive away more and more youngsters and oldsters who managed to weather the first hurricane of iconoclasm in the 1970s and its veneration of the now-thoroughly discredited "Spirit of Vatican II".

Who in the past 50 years thinks the Byzantine Rites are inferior ro the Roman Rite? After 50 years of tinkering, vernacular, guitars and attempting to make liturgy ordinary and destroy the haven the Church used to be to the world we have succeeded in making the Roman Rite Levittown, or Norwalk, where all the homes are made of ticky-tacky and they all look just the same. Ordinary, un-otherworldly, plain, bland, with treacly songs instead of hymns, anthems and motets.

No one can thiknk the Byzantine Rites are inferior. The Roman Rite in the US is the inferior of the liturgy at Jay's Hamburger Stand. And NOW, we're adding big screen TVs so everyone can read the magnified words to songs so empty of theological import that it will drive away more and more youngsters and oldsters who managed to weather the first hurricane of iconoclasm in the 1970s and its veneration of the now-thoroughly discredited "Spirit of Vatican II".

Ann:  Moscow, or at least the Moscow Patriarchy, has long considered itself the Third Rome, and with the 15th century fall of Constantinople to the Ottoman Turks, has understood Russia as the Empire's legitimate successor. With the accession of Kiril I as Patriarch, the language of symphonia - the harmonious coperation of church and Imperial state - has assumed renewed prominence. (The more triumphalist Orthodox I've engaged with argue that Kiril, and not Bartholomew, is the real pastor of Orthodoxy, using language that really does begin to sound like a Moscow counter-papacy, though they would vehemently deny that.) If the Orthodox have done a far better job of keeping factions worshipping together than the West ( after all, ortho-doxa means, as the late Aidan Kavanagh liked to point out, right worship or right praise and NOT right belief or right teaching) the relationship between Orthodox churches and national governments has been endlessly complex and fractious, with the subsequent political maneuverings often appropriately called Byzantine. Stanley Harakas is, I'm told, a good Orthodox source for understanding various Orthodox theories of social ethics, and some writers, such as Aristotle Papanikilaou , have tried to articulate an Orthodox theology of democracy. 

Ann O, I hesitate to continue, because I do not have the background in philosophy or theology to take on this subject at the level you and others do. I have no idea who most of the people are that are mentioned by name, with the exceptions of those like Aquinas, so I don't know what "thinking" any of these philosophers represent.  But, I will blunder on - an average Catholic, more concerned with the little problems of everyday life than with theorizing as to why or why not the Orthodox and Catholics continue to shut one another out as far as communion goes a millenium after it happened.  Since I am among those who believe in open communion for all christians, I disagree with both churches! 

But experience is subjective, so we get into terrible problems of whose experiences to trust, as well as the problem of *which feelings* to trust.  Mystics aren't always admirable or wise  people.

Yes of course experience is subjective.  When the east talks of mystery, and experience, are they narrowing this to the experience of mystics only? Or do they include the feelings and experiences of ordinary people (no visions or levitations or whatever) -  life experiences rather than mystical experiences.  Is acknowledging the existence of mystery limited to mystics?

When discussing "which feelings" to trust, how does anyone know this?  I have read a tiny bit about Ignatian discernment and acting on feelings of desolation and consolation. It seems to be entirely subjective - what “consoles” and what doesn't. Perhaps Crystal could comment on this.

One of the most important everyday decisions for married Catholics is to decide how best to support their marriages, and thus their families, in the choice of birth control.  It's a practical matter and the bishops in the US and some others around the world are again doing the best they can to force acceptance of the church’s official teaching even though it has not been received by the "faithful" - not received because it contradicts the subjective experience of most couples in the context of their own marriage.   I am going to focus on this as a current example of "subjective experience" v. "logic and reasoning".  I don't know that mystical experience has much to do with it.

The academic theologians/philosophers in the church who define the church's official teachings of the magisterium are 100% male celibates. They have no lived (no subjective) experience of marital sexuality, of marriage in the larger sense – the wholistic sense - or of real family life as experienced by the partners in a marriage.  They offer to families an idealized vision of family symbolized by The Holy Family - a mother who is perpetually virgin (we could pull that off if everyone used IVF I guess, but it's forbidden), a marriage that is celibate (and why is that held up as an ideal by the churchmen?), and an only child who is sinless. How we parents would wish to be able to have children who never sin - raising one sinless child would be a piece of cake compared to real families of imperfect parents raising imperfect kids!  Not real life. With Humanae Vitae they have constructed a teaching  based on what they perceive to be logic and reason – and on how they think God thinks. They try to know the mind of God and then try to insist that their detached academic reasoning is somehow more “truth-full” than the subjective lived experience of billions of married people.

Perhaps the Orthodox understand better that they don't know and cannot know what God thinks – that there are realities - mystery, experience, contradictions - that preclude this. That is real life. It has been demonstrated for decades that most Catholics who have experience of marriage reject the "logical" and "reasoned" teaching on birth control defined by Rome, based on Rome's understanding of "natural law".  Humanae Vitae is rejected by majorities (often very large) of Catholics all over the world, even in Africa and the Philippines, where most Catholics are much more conservative and traditional on sexual and gender issues than western Catholics. So what should "count" here -  "reason" and "logic" as perceived by male celibates (mostly of European background) or the collective subjective experience of married couples in the global church?  Is it not possible that self-deception also exists among those who believe that their own thinking is not influenced by subjective experience but is only based exclusively on "reason" and "logic" and guided literally by the Holy Spirit?  Does the Holy Spirit not ever speak through the 1.1 billion Catholics who don't wear Roman collars through their subjective experience and feelings? Was Augustine's belief that all marital sex is essentially lustful and so is permitted only for procreation really based on reason and logic or was it based on subjective guilt and self-disgust for his earlier behavior in life, behavior that was dominated by lust?  Did he transfer his personal feelings of guilt to ALL married couples?  How much of Aquinas' belief that women are failed-to-properly-develop males good only for providing wombs for the mini-males developing in their wombs and for raising the children influenced his understanding of "natural law" and church teaching all the way to the 21st century?  Is it really possible that "reason" and "logic" are never influenced by subjective experience – and by scientific knowledge (or lack of knowledge) and that both are influenced by one’s time and place and culture in history?

Academics can have great fun together reasoning through many moral questions.  But their reasoning and logic may not be of any use to the ordinary folk who don't live their lives in theoretical ivory towers. Their subjective experiences may lead them in a different direction than that the theoreticians believe is dictated by reason and logic. But the subjective experiences may at times represent truth while "logic" and "reason" distort it. It is also quite possible to argue against HV with logic and reason in philosophical and theological constructs and many have done so, but the men in Rome silence those who make the case against HV. Is silencing discussion truly a way to find Truth (with a capital T)? Whose reason and logic is "right"?  My "best" friend is a devout  Greek Orthodox, and we have discussed differences between Orthdoxy and Roman Catholicism for 35 years now. On this particular issue, the Orthodox leave the decision of birth control up to the couple even though they join Rome in teaching that marriage must be "open" to children. The couple decide how many, and how best to manage their fertility throughout the decades of their marriages.  Rome might do well to adopt a bit more of the approach of the Orthodox instead of believing that their human minds can solve every question through "logic" and "reason" and perhaps leave a few things to subjective experience.  (I know – sheer heresy)

To quote John McG  on another comment thread - just saying...

 

"( after all, ortho-doxa means, as the late Aidan Kavanagh liked to point out, right worship or right praise and NOT right belief or right teaching" 

Brian -

Oh, Lordy.  This is an entirely new idea for me.  "Doxa" means worship?  If this is central to the Orthodox Churches' beliefs about  what they think is most important, then it seems to me that the Orthodox meaning and the Catholic meaning sort of reflect what I was talking about above -- that the Orthodox special interest in the experiential/subjective/affective contrasts with the Catholic special interest in the objective/the cognitive/truth.  You might say that their objects of greatest interest are goodness/beauty on the part of the Orthodox as contrasted with the Roman greatest interest in truth, though in reality those can't be separated.

If that's true, then it would seem to me that the greatest problem to re-unification -- from the point of view of the Orthodox -- might be the old, unchanging Greek liturgy v. the new Roman liturgy(ies), while the greatest obstacle from the Roman point of view would be our theological differences.  And I don't see any common method for resovling the differences.  Sigh.  How could the Orthodox possibly show that their liturgy is superior without appealing to reasons?  Or would they simply say, "Come *experience* how our liturgy is superior to yours"??  In other words, talking with the Orthodo isn't going to take us very far towards re-union.

You might even say that the difference between the Roman and the Orthodox is the difference between saying and showing.  Hmmm.

Or what? 

Anne C. --

 

I know some philosophy, but very little theology.  But that's never stopped me from giving my theological opinion :-)  That's one of the things things I like about dotCMWL -- we're all free to say what we think. I do believe that we pew sitters sometimes have something worth saying. Even the official Church recognizes that at times.  So let's hear it from the pews, I say. 

 

I read some of Lossky's  "The Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church" but didn't nearly finish it.  It isn't argumentative, just highly descriptive of their beliefs.  Some of it is too weird for me, as well as being inconsistent at times.  For instance, I find their teaching about "uncreated "energies" to be inconsistent, and their teaching about saints being present in icons is just too close to magic for me.  I gather that for them religious experience is a matter of degrees of fulfillment with the greatest degreein this world being some mystical experiences.  The fulfillment involves a process they call "theosis" or "divination".  So for them religious experience is not limited to just the mystical heights.

 

"Theosis" is my main problem -- it seems to come perilously close to identifying the mystic with God. I once got into a discussion with an Orthodox Catholic about one of their greatest mystics, St. Symeon the New Theologian.  At one point St. Symeon says "I am God" and "if that's heresy, so be it", or words to that effect.  (Unfortunately, I've lost that reference.)  I say it's heresy, and blasphemous if he meant it literally.  (Yeah, I really have problems with their teachings as i understand them.)

 

I don't know that the Orthodox talk about "religious feelings".  There might be a semantic problem there -- in the West we often identify "intuition" and "feeling" thus relegating intuition to the affective realm, but I'm not sure that we're justified in doing that.  There might be religious intuitions which are not a matter of affectivity but are sheer cognitions. (I sometimes wonder if that's the typical sort of intuition the Buddha had, but that's waaaaaay off the subject.)

 

I guess my message is that the interior life is far moor complex than we were taught in our high school religion classes, and that's something that the younger generation seems to know.  i say good for them.  The Church needs to look around at the religious experiences in other traditions as the young ones do, and the Church nees to make its own contemplative tradition much better known.  And I don't mean just teaching us a little Ignatius.

 

About the "subjective" experience of married people.  I agree with you say about it.   The word "subjective" doesn't imply that the experience isn't real or not valuable, and it doesn't even imply that it is *only* affective (a matter of feeling).  Feelings can be real and valuable.  They have their own ontological status. You marrieds know whereof you speak, and *all* the CDF knows about marriage is what *you* tell *them* about it!  (And the same goes for knowing what women's experiences as such are!!!  We're the experts about that.)  Sorry about the rant. 

 

About knowing what God thinks, that's another gigantic problem, though I'm not at all skeptical about knowing at least *something* of what He is and what He thinks.  Christ did give us something to work with, and I think philosophy can also contribute.  I mean, if we know nothing of God then why do we bother to have these discussions?  That's like the mystics who typically say that what they know can't be communicated, and then they write books about it!   Why do we say we believe in Him at all if we know nothing about Him?  However, I think we do need what I call a theological epistemology -- a theory of what we can know of God and His relationship to man and *how* we come to know Him and His will for us.  It would help us, no doubt, in taking with the Orthodox.  And as critical as I am about some of their teachings, from what little I know I think they also probably have a great deal to teach us about contemplative prayer and how it too reveals God.

 

As to "logic and reason", that would have to be part of theological epistemology too.  

 

There's enough for 30 threads :-)

Ann:

 

If I get the history right, doxa, which had the primary meaning of “belief” or “opinion” was used by the translators of the Septuagint for the Hebrew kavod (“glory”) and thereafter in the NT and patristic writings for “glory” or “worship.” See Aidan Kavanagh’s On Liturgical Theology in which he distinguishes right worship (orthodoxa) from right belief (orthopistis) and right teaching (orthodidascalia). In fact, you might read On Liturgical Theology simply because it’s brilliant, and follow it with an equally brilliant Orthodox take, Alexander Schmemann’s For the Life of the World.

There’s a similar Eastern connotation given the word nous, usually translated from the Greek as “mind” but used by the Orthodox -- particularly the hesychasts -- for what Kallisos Ware calls “the intellective aptitude of the heart.” See Scott Cairns’ lovely poem on that subject.

So there’s definitely a language issue at work here –words being used in different ways – that a little assistance from the latter Wittgenstein might help bridge.   

Ann:

Agree on the tendency towards superstition and magic BUT

A couple of points on theosis or divinization, there is strong scriptural support for it. in 2 Peter 1:4, we read:

His divine power has bestowed on us everything that makes for life and devotion, through the knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and power. Through these, he has bestowed on us the precious and very great promises, so that through them you may come to share in the divine nature, after escaping from the corruption that is in the world because of evil desire.

In the resurrection story from John 20, we read

And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.  If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”

Forgiveness of sins belongs to God alone, and breathing on someone, denotes creation. In Genesis, man is created when God breathed into his nostrils the breath of life. That breath is what made man in the image of God, unlike the rest of creation. Christ's breath is a further new creation but more intimate still.

St. Athanius famously wrote that God became man so that God might become man.

Meister Eckhart ran afoul of Church teaching when he identified the ground of the soul as being identical to the ground of God.

This doctrine is a key doctrine it seems to me and should be understood rightly of course meaning become "sons in the Son". But there is no question that are status as creatures of God has become something different through incorporation into Christ through baptism.

I also am not a fan of intuition. I think what we call intuition is actually a close inductive reading and is a cognitive process. Granted it is a quick cognitive process but it is a cognition for sure. Women, for example, are said to have a "woman's intuition" but that is, I think, a higher attenuation on relationships. I think that it has something to do with the basic Freudian notion of the development of sexes with boys carving their identification through differentiation and separation with the mother figure (and hence external world), whereas girls are seen and experience themselves as continuous to their mothers identity so there is a fusion with the external world. This has been born out in studies. Elementary children have been given tests where they are asked to identify who is friends with who in a classroom. Girls have been shown to be something like 90% accurate whereas boys are around 60% accurate. Girls, through development, make connections better than boys. But this is due (arguably), in part, to socialzation.

Finally, Berdyaev has an ineresting article on fanaticism and according to the translator:

Russian useage has two different words both which translate as “orthodoxy”. The word “ortodoksiya”, which we render throughout in uncapitalised form as “orthodox”, bears a generic and pejorative sense of a narrow-minded adherence to a “right-belief” of whatever the teaching, be it an orthodox Marxism or an orthodox atheism even. In contrast, the Russian word “pravoslavniya” (“right-glory” or “right-doxology”) refers to Orthodox Christianity, and is capitalised throughout as “Orthodoxy”, which as Berdyaev observes, properly precludes fanaticism

Berdyaev maintains that the opposite of fanaticism is orthodoxy which includes holding two contraries in one's mind. It is an interesting post and touches obliquely on the theme of self deception.

http://www.berdyaev.com/berdiaev/berd_lib/1937_430.html

A man, permitting himself to come into the grip of fanaticism, never presupposes such possible about himself. He, certainly, is prepared to acknowledge himself a sinner, but can never acknowledge himself as having fallen into error, into self-deception, into self-smugness. Which is why he considers it possible, amidst his own sinfulness, to torment and pursue others. The fanatic is conscious of himself as a believer. But perhaps, his faith may actually possess no sort of relationship to truth. Truth is first of all an egress from oneself, but the fanatic is unable to go out from himself. He goes out from himself only in malice against others, but this is not an egress to others nor to an other.

        The fanatic -- is an egocentric. The faith of the fanatic, his unrestrained and unselfish devotion to an idea helps him not in the least to overcome the egocentrism. The asceticism of the fanatic (and fanatics often are ascetics) does not at all conquer the absorption with himself, nor at all does it turn him to the realities. The fanatic of whatever the orthodoxy identifies his idea, identifies its truth with himself. And he is this idea, this truth. Orthodoxy -- this he is. And ultimately this is always rendered the sole criterion of orthodoxy.

Brian --

Thanks for the book recommendations.  I've ordered the Kavanagh -- it looks like it gets to some very, very basic issues.  Yes, Wittgenstein is highly relevant again.

It has always puzzled me why many more Catholic theologians haven't taken advantage of the great contemporary developments in language theory, considering that Christ identifies Himself as "the Word".  Surely understanding the old theological terms better would be a benefit. Might the word "orthoodoxy", for instance, be a family resemblance term?  I'll read Kavanagh with that question in mind.  And what about the word "sacrament"?  Not to mention the work especially of Austin.

George D. --

I'd like to see a scholarly consideration of those particular texts.  The Peter 2, for instance, in Latin talks about sharing God's "nature". But thet Greek word is, if I'm not mistaken, "phuseos".  What did that mean to the writer of Peter 2?  "Phusis" in ancient Greek meant just "stuff".  And is the writer a Platonist talking about "sharing" part of His being?  (Like I constanly say, Plato ultimately identifies the Good with the lesser ggods, including man.)

Yes, Eckhardt definitely seems to be saying that the very depths of his soul is identical with God, yet his sermons that I've read give not inication that he was saying anything so outlandish.  It's also true that some other great Christian mystics talk like that some times, Teresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross.  But their other works don't indicate that they meant to be taken literally -- for them God is also radically Other.   At least that my reading of them, bu, again, t I'm no expert. 

I think we'd need several threads to get well  into the meanings of "intuition".  Highly ambiguous word. 

Maybe the Church needs a theologial hermeneutic as much as a theological epstemology.

Yes, Berdyaev is interesting on self-deception.  But is he deceiving himself about his own wisdom?  I think that when Jesus says, "Judge not" He means not only that we shouldn't judge other people's failures, we also shouldn't  judge our own competence:-)

 

 

 

 

 

Ann O,

Just an FYI, in re Orthodoxy and philosophy:

There was a rise in interest in philosophy in Russia during the Sliver Age. Semyon Frank, for example, wrote about metaphysics. He was a convert to Orthodoxy and is classed among Russian religious philosophers, but his work is more influenced by Neo-Kantianism than by Orthodox theology. Some of his books have been translated into English, such as Man's Soul, The Spiritual Foundations of Society, and The Light Shineth in Darkness. 

I believe you are right to say that in general philosophy, as we understand it in the West, has played a very small role in the Christian East. 

Rita --

Thanks for the information about Frank.  Good to know that the Orthodox faith is at least tolerant of those with metaphysical and logical leanings even if such philosophers aren't encouraged.  I, of course, find it sad that the Greek Orthodox at least don't avail themselves very much of their ancient philosophical heritage except, apparently, for some neo-Platonism.  I wonder if there were elements in early Christian theology which positively precluded their appreciation of the ancient pagans.  

St. Paul, of course, wasn't kind to to the philosophers, but I wonder if his attitude explains the early Greek fathters' disinterest entirely. He, in fact, often presents arguments in favor of his beliefs, not to mention the fact that Peter's second letter advises Christians explicitly to give reasons for their beliefs!  I don't remember Jesus saying anything about logic and philosophy one way or the other.  

Complexity, complexity.

Hey, I just found this in Acts 17:

"2 As was his custom, Paul went into the synagogue, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, 3 explaining and proving that the Messiah had to suffer and rise from the dead. “This Jesus I am proclaiming to you is the Messiah,” he said."

 

In other words, Paul both proclaimed and reasoned.