So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter (2 Thess. 2:15). Guard what has been entrusted to you. Avoid the godless chatter and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge, for by professing it some have missed the mark as regards faith (1 Tim. 6:21-22).

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Ready, set,... um, hold on a minute! The almost Pan-Orthodox Council.

But, Mousie, thou art no thy lane
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best laid schemes o' mice an' men
Gang aft a-gley,
An' lea'e us nought but grief an' pain,
For promised joy.

—from To a Mouse
On Turning up in Her Nest with the Plough
by Robert Burns, November, 1785.

But little Mouse, you are not alone, In proving foresight may be vain:
The best laid schemes of mice and men Go often askew,
And leave us nothing but grief and pain, For promised joy!
The hoped-for Pan-Orthodox Council would have been the first such gathering in about 1000 years, but it has been plagued by controversy (The Sophia Globe).

Gang aft a-gley

CWN reports that
(t)he Bulgarian Orthodox Church leadership has announced that it does not intend to participate in the worldwide Orthodox Council that is scheduled to take place in Crete later this month.
The Holy Synod of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, meeting on June 1, said that the “Pan-Orthodox Council” should be postponed until “thematic and organizational changes” were made; the Synod listed several disagreements with draft documents that have been prepared for the meeting and with the proposed rules of procedure. The Bulgarian prelates said that they are “determined not to participate if they do not see progress in the resolution of their claims.”
At this late date it is highly unlikely that substantial changes will be made in the plans for the Pan-Orthodox Council. The preparatory documents, in particular, are the result of long and exacting negotiations among representatives of the world’s disparate Orthodox communities. Thus the withdrawal of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church seems inevitable: a major blow to the ambitious plan for an unprecedented meeting of all the world’s autocephalous Orthodox churches.
The rules that have been established for the Pan-Orthodox Council require unanimous agreement on any changes that are made to the working documents. By declining to participate, the Bulgarian prelates may be hoping to put pressure on other Orthodox leaders to tone down—or perhaps table—statements on controversial issues such as ecumenism.—June 01, 2016
CWN: Bulgarian Church withdraws from Pan-Orthodox Council
The com-boxes at several eastern national church sites are pretty much as rough and tumble as those at Catholic blogs which Fr. Thomas Rosica recently characterized, indiscriminately mind you, as cesspools of hatred.

At the risk of wading into a difficult situation and further inflaming certain sensitivities, perhaps it is best to simply express sympathy for our non-Catholic eastern brethren and leave it at that. However, one could be forgiven for offering a few thoughts that might help qualify some of the concerns expressed by the various eastern national churches that are having difficulties with the Pan-Orthodox Council as defined by its organizers.

But, Mousie, thou art no thy lane... .

As our eastern national church brothers are probably well aware, our experience with the Synod On The Family and the knotty parts of Amoris Laetitia—pun intended—issued in the wake of said Synod should be a cautionary tale to any orthodox group desirous of avoiding complications which might prove very difficult to purge from one's collective vocabulary once the proverbial equines have left the building.

To Catholics, the squabbling between eastern national (non-Catholic) churches may seem just that, squabbling. The conflict over which topics should be included in any official discussion is worth serious consideration, however, and should bring to mind the concerns of Catholic bishops who expressed serious concerns about the content of reports given official status at the Synod On The Family. Again, the experience of the Synod On The Family wherein some topics never should have reached the floor, but did, should prove convincing enough to warrant caution where caution serves to avoid communicating the impression that some issues or opinions are officially approved of simply because they have been tabled for discussion at an official gathering. In other words, take for example the inclusion of the topic of communion for divorced and remarried couples (DARC). That topic as framed by the Kasperites should never have been included in the Synod, a synod that purported to be focussed on the welfare and well being of the family.

The lasting impression, at least to the media-formed low-information (c)atholic mind, is that because said topic of Holy Communion for DARC was included for discussion in the Synod, communion would be approved for those living in adulterous situations, this despite the fact that the Church cannot alter the teaching of Jesus Christ and His Church which prohibits Holy Communion for couples living in sin. Amoris Laetitiaallegedly but with strong corroboration thought to be written by a South American priest, and its slippery footnotes included in its (not so very) fine print, have further added to the wrong impression that the Synod gave license to bishops and priests to play loosely with Magisterial teaching in order to be "pastorally sensitive". In this instant, pastoral sensitivity equates with the blessing of sin, and that we cannot do.

In light of such attempts to gerrymander synodal proceedings to serve some heretical end, it is easy to understand why some or even many within the various eastern national churches would want to suspend involvement in their council until problematic content could be amended or discarded. The fact that one or more churches is seeking amendments at such a late date is, unfortunately, a surefire way to ram a stick in the spokes of the Pan-Orthodox Council wheel.

Rearranging the deck chairs... ?
(T)he Bulgarian church objected that the proposed seating places of the primates of the Orthodox churches in the room to be used for meetings of the council “violates the principle of equality of the primates of the Autocephalous Orthodox Churches”.
It also objected to the “inappropriate location of observers and guests of the Pan-Orthodox Council (POC)”.—The Sophia Globe
The organizers of the POC should be thanked for inviting non-eastern national church observers and guests. Some historical biases, sadly, are difficult to overcome, and among the eastern national churches, not all are disposed to having some folk present at so great and holy a council. Historical grudges are still held by many easterners whose hearts are hardened by centuries of harbouring deadly grievances for which Catholics, at least, have repeatedly apologized. That said, from this Catholic's vantage point, Catholic hierarchs do have very good, authentic relationships with some prelates of the eastern national churches. The "exchange" of hierarchs between the Holy See and the Patriarchate of Constantinople, for example, on the feast days of Saint Peter and Saint Andrew respectively is a beautiful affirmation of brotherly love between separated Christians.


Dis-eased lung.

What do the Russians say?
Metropolitan Hilarion made clear that the synod is not an ecumenical council and criticized its draft documents.
“We would have liked to improve their wording,” he told a conference at St. Tikhon’s Orthodox University in Moscow on April 19. “Believe me, we have exerted a lot of efforts to make the documents better than they were, but many our amendments have not been adopted.”
Turning to synodal procedure, Metropolitan Hilarion said:
We have proposed from the very beginning of preparation to convene all bishops … However, we were told that it was impossible to bring so many bishops together and let it be the fixed number from each church … It means that certain churches will be represented by all their bishops, but our church, which has over 350 bishops, will be represented by a small quantity.—CWN April 20, 2016
Is the venerable metropolitan saying 'We're bigger than you so we should have a bigger voice', i.e., more seats at the table? If true, that seems small minded. One might be forgiven for questioning the Russians' motives for increased representation at the council. There is much to be overcome in terms of resolving suspicion, even among the national churches themselves, regarding the Russian Orthodox Church's promotion of itself as the "Third Rome" which, for Catholics at any rate, amounts to a worldly act of misappropriation of the authority properly belonging to the See established on Saints Peter and Paul. That is, the first Rome and the First See of Christendom recognized universally by all Christians up until the times that the various eastern national orthodox, non-Chalcedon and the later Protestant groups parted company with/from the Catholic Church.

If one may be so bold, a reason why the eastern national churches may have been unable to get together all nice and cozy for a thousand years or more just might be due to a loss of an effective ministry within their ranks that could effect unity in the truth. Of course, one could obviously infer from that statement the thought that the Petrine Ministry, i.e., the Office of Peter, has been missing among the national churches.

Without intending to rub salt in the wounds of the national churches, that which the See of Rome has asserted and which has been confirmed by the early orthodox Fathers might be entertained as a solution in light of recent experiences. 

Quod semper, quod ubique, quod ab omnibus.

It takes real authority given by Christ to Peter and his successors to effect unity in the truth in the Church. The witness of the 23-plus Sui Iuris (self-governing) churches of the some six liturgical rites comprising the Catholic Church is a convincing realization of Jesus having conferred His (real) authority upon Peter and his successors and a realization of Jesus' prayer for unity in the Church.

The apparent thousand year overdue gathering among the eastern national churches is proof that some imagined honorific (e.g., primus inter pares, first among equals) applied to the bishop of a major episcopal see, even if the bishop is a good and holy man, is incapable of facilitating the unity that Christ expressly desires for His Church.

In recent decades, Anglicans have also discovered how ineffective the Archbishop of Canterbury has been as an instrument of unity (and truth!) because his position is merely one of honour, an honour that is contrary to the express will of Christ for His Church. The disintegration of the Anglican Communion is one anticipated by the divergence of Christians in various lands into the various national churches which, truth be told, have not engaged in and continue to avoid substantive dialogue among themselves and with Christ's Catholic Church.
Pope Saint Leo I (The Great)
Our Lord Jesus Christ . . . has placed the principal charge on the blessed Peter, chief of all the apostles, and from him as from the head wishes his gifts to flow to all the body, so that anyone who dares to secede from Peter’s solid rock may understand that he has no part or lot in the divine mystery. He wished him who had been received into partnership in his undivided unity to be named what he himself was, when he said: ‘You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church’ [Matt. 16:18], that the building of the eternal temple might rest on Peter’s solid rock, strengthening his Church so surely that neither could human rashness assail it nor the gates of hell prevail against it" (Letters 10:1 [A.D. 445).
Our Lord Jesus Christ . . . established the worship belonging to the divine [Christian] religion. . . . But the Lord desired that the sacrament of this gift should pertain to all the apostles in such a way that it might be found principally in the most blessed Peter, the highest of all the apostles. And he wanted his gifts to flow into the entire body from Peter himself, as if from the head, in such a way that anyone who had dared to separate himself from the solidarity of Peter would realize that he was himself no longer a sharer in the divine mystery" (ibid., 10:2–3).
Although bishops have a common dignity, they are not all of the same rank. Even among the most blessed apostles, though they were alike in honor, there was a certain distinction of power. All were equal in being chosen, but it was given to one to be preeminent over the others. . . . [So today through the bishops] the care of the universal Church would converge in the one See of Peter, and nothing should ever be at odds with this head" (ibid., 14:11).
An' lea'e us nought but grief an' pain

It greatly pains Catholics, this Catholic at least, that there is disunity among Christians. In conformity with the Magisterial teaching of the Church, this Catholic firmly believes that the eastern national Churches are true churches. They possess real sacraments, necessarily including holy orders. It is a scandal that Christians are separated.
CCC 838 "The Church knows that she is joined in many ways to the baptized who are honored by the name of Christian, but do not profess the Catholic faith in its entirety or have not preserved unity or communion under the successor of Peter." Those "who believe in Christ and have been properly baptized are put in a certain, although imperfect, communion with the Catholic Church." With the Orthodox Churches, this communion is so profound "that it lacks little to attain the fullness that would permit a common celebration of the Lord's Eucharist."
With no intention of sounding triumphalistic nor naive, the eastern national churches could achieve their desired unity, and the protestant communities could attain both unity and orthodoxy, were they to embrace the witness of the Fathers of the Church and the constant witness of the Apostolic See, the See of Peter, that
the Holy See of Rome is established by Christ, founded on the real authority of Jesus Christ given to Peter and his successors, to serve Christ's one flock.
Of course, for converts to Catholicism, there is no argument needed to convince them that Jesus' will is realized in the Catholic communion of churches. As for those yet to appreciate the veracity of the Catholic witness, a witness firmly grounded in the testimony of all the orthodox Fathers of the Church common to both Catholics and the eastern national churches, this Catholic blogger says... come home! As for those willfully opposed to the Catholic witness, no argument will likely persuade.

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"A multitude of wise men is the salvation of the world(.)—Wisdom 6:24. Readers are welcome to make rational and responsible comments. Any comment that 1) offends human dignity and/or 2) which constitutes an irrational attack on the Catholic Faith will not go unchallenged. If deemed completely stupid, such a comment will most assuredly not see the light of day. Them's the rules. Don't like 'em? Move on.

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