A gentleman named Edward Reiss has been making some bold assertions concerning the unity (or lack thereof) that exists between the Catholic Church and a number of the Eastern Orthodox Churches in the comment box of a recent Beggars All thread.
Edward posted the following:
"You must also be aware of the RCC and EO teaching that Prots lack certain sacramental benefits to found only among those who have valid “orders”; so, I would say that obstacles do exist, but that they are not insurmountable obstacles."
To be fair, the Orthodox do not think you guys have valid orders, either. I don't want to go over this again, but your statement here seems to imply unity between the EOs and RCs which does not actually exist. (4:35 PM, DECEMBER 18, 2009.)
I took issue with his charge that “the Orthodox do not think you guys have valid orders”, providing commentary and links that questioned his position (feel free to read through the comments in the thread linked to above for full context). After 4 days of back and forth dialogue, Edward is still clinging on to his original charge as evidenced by his following comments posted yesterday afternoon:
"Once again, EO bishops are not in communion with the Bishop of Rome, yet this very fact does not preclude those bishops from having valid succession, ordination, and sacraments."
It does by EO lights, if not by RC lights.
"Do you think that all the valid ordinations of those bishops in communion with the Bishop of Rome became invalid with the excommunication of three papal legates in 1054? (Excommunications that have been rescinded.) "
They became invalid when, by EO lights, the Patriarch of Rome left the One True Church to follow his private interpretation of the Tradition. The idea that there is a valid succession not in fellowship woith the One True Church is simply not EO ecclesiology. But again, let us take this discussion out of the theoretical:Where do a simple majority of Patriarchs and/or bishops say RC orders are valid? (3:59PM, DECEMBER 22, 2009.)
Given the length of my following response to Edward, I felt it best to post it here at Articuli Fidei:
From the Vatican II document, Orientalium Ecclesiarum we read:
25. If any separated Eastern Christian should, under the guidance of the grace of the Holy Spirit, join himself to the unity of Catholics, no more should be required of him than what a bare profession of the Catholic faith demands. Eastern clerics, seeing that a valid priesthood is preserved among them, are permitted to exercise the Orders they possess on joining the unity of the Catholic Church, in accordance with the regulations established by the competent authority. (Online access HERE - bold emphasis mine.)
From the “Balamand Statement” we read:
12) Because of the way in which Catholics and Orthodox once again consider each other in relationship to the mystery of the Church and discover each other once again as Sister Churches, this form of "missionary apostolate" described above, and which has been called "uniatism", can no longer be accepted either as a method to be followed nor as a model of the unity our Churches are seeking.
13) In fact, especially since the Pan-Orthodox Conferences and the Second Vatican Council, the rediscovery and the giving again of proper value to the Church as communion, both on the part of Orthodox and of Catholics, has radically altered perspectives and thus attitudes. On each side it is recognized that what Christ has entrusted to His Church—profession of apostolic faith, participation in the same sacraments, above all the one priesthood celebrating the one sacrifice of Christ, the apostolic succession of bishops—cannot be considered the exclusive property of one of our Churches. In this context it is clear that rebaptism must be avoided.
14) It is in this perspective that the Catholic Churches and the Orthodox Churches recognize each other as Sister Churches, responsible together for maintaining the Church of God in fidelity to the divine purpose, most especially in what concerns unity. According to the words of Pope John Paul II, the ecumenical endeavor of the Sister Churches of East and West, grounded in dialogue and prayer, is the search for perfect and total communion which is neither absorption nor fusion but a meeting in truth and love (cf. Slavorum Apostoli, n. 27). [The Full Text of the Balamand Statement HERE - bold emphasis mine.]
And Vlaimir Kharlamov in his important essay, “Vatican II and the Eastern Orthodox Church” (Journal of Ecumenical Studies, 38:2-3, Spring/Summer 2001, p. 186 – online version HERE) provides the following quote from the EO Synodal Theological Commission:
Vatican II called the Orthodox Church a Sister Church, thus recognizing the blessed nature of the Orthodox Church and the salvifíc nature of her sacraments. The Orthodox Church, in her turn, always recognized the validity of the sacraments of the Catholic Church. The evidence to that is the fact that the Catholic Christians are accepted into the Orthodox Church by the so-called Third Order for joining the Orthodox membership—not through Baptism, as non-Christians or sectarians, nor through Chrismation, like the Protestants, but through repentance, like schismatics. Roman Catholic clergymen are accepted in their existing orders to which they had been ordained by the Roman Catholic Church.
It is no coincidence that Old Believers, who are also in schism from the Orthodox Church are accepted back in the same manner as the Roman Catholic Christians.
This fact shows that despite serious fundamental differences on a number of doctrinal and spiritual issues between the two Churches, Roman Catholicism in the Orthodox mind and Tradition is viewed as a Christian community in schism with the Orthodox Church which nevertheless has preserved apostolic succession.
…The Balamand Document adds nothing fundamentally new, but follows in the manner of the traditional Orthodox attitude to Catholicism. At the same time, the Synodal Theological Commission of the Russian Orthodox Church finds it important to clarify a number of the Document's affirmations, including the use of the term 'sister Churches' in the text, which was motivated by emotions rather than by dogmatic considerations. (Bold emphasis mine.)
I sincerely hope (and believe) that I have put to rest Edward's bold assertions.
“He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.” (Matt. 11:15)
Grace and peace,