Wednesday, December 23, 2009

“Sister Churches” – Unity between Catholic and Orthodox Churches

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:

David,

"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:

Davis[sic] Waltz,

"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 (Excommunications that have been rescinded.)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,

David


9 comments:

Rhology said...

Whether this responds to Edward's statements, I won't comment on. I will remark that virtually nothing said in those last two posts of mine has even been interacted with by RC or EO commenters.

Merry Christmas!

-Rhology

David Waltz said...

Hi Rhology,

I guess it depends on how one interprets your phrase “virtually nothing said in those last two posts of mine has even been interacted with by RC or EO commenters.”

Before the dialogue with Edward started, I responded to your last thread twice, and was the first to comment your other thread. Perhaps we could pick up where you and I left off? If you are interested in doing so, I think it would be beneficial to address ONE point at a time.


Grace and peace,

David

Mike L said...

David,

The difficulty in this discussion is that there isn't a single Orthodox line about Catholic sacraments. There's a spectrum of views: on one extreme are those who hold that RC sacraments are all bogus; on the other, that they're all efficacious. One example is marriage: the Orthodox hold that the sacrament is conferred by the priest; the Catholics, by the couple. Does this mean that the Orthodox don't think Catholic marriages are sacramental? Well, some do, some don't, and many don't claim to know.

The same problem arises with Orthodox ecclesiology. Some Orthodox, like Patriarch Bartholomew and those who signed the Balamand Agreement, believe that the Pope is the legitimate bishop of Rome; some, like the Athonites, deny it. Some Orthodox say that those who refuse to become Orthodox cannot be saved; others say: "We know where the Church is, but we don't know where she isn't."

All this is why I choose my Orthodox interlocutors very carefully.

Best,
Mike

John said...

In my experience, only a few Orthodox are willing to give a free pass to Roman Catholic sacraments and orders. Most are far more circumspect, if not hostile.

e.g. here... It would not be difficult to show that the canonical tradition, when dealing with holy orders and sacraments, always stresses that they are valid because they are acts of, and within, the Church which means that it is their authenticity as acts of the Church that make them valid and not vice-versa.

....one of the main reasons why certain people in the Church today attempt to argue for the “validity” of heterodox sacraments and a whole host of related novelties.

....Orthodox Christians who affirm the invalidity of heterodox sacraments do affirm that the Spirit of God operates outside of the boundaries of the Church for the salvation of the whole world.

Rhology said...

Actually, David, the comments already here serve to prove my points valid just fine.

...there isn't a single Orthodox line about Catholic sacraments. There's a spectrum of views

...Does this mean that the Orthodox don't think Catholic marriages are sacramental? Well, some do, some don't, and many don't claim to know.

...Some Orthodox, like Patriarch Bartholomew and those who signed the Balamand Agreement, believe that the Pope is the legitimate bishop of Rome; some, like the Athonites, deny it.

...Some Orthodox say that those who refuse to become Orthodox cannot be saved; others say: "We know where the Church is, but we don't know where she isn't."

...only a few Orthodox are willing to give a free pass to Roman Catholic sacraments and orders.

etc.

Thanks to y'all three. The much-trumpeted unity is a joke no matter how many times you repeat the claim.

Peace,
Rhology

John said...

Rhology: we have unity concerning things IN the church, not concerning things OUTSIDE the church. Also, some of us drive Fords, others Chevies. The Chevvy people are a bit suspicious, but we still have unity.

Edward Reiss said...

David,

None of the documents you supplied are statements by "Orthodoxy" about the validity of RC orders. They are statements here or there about the status of RC orders which *may* be accepted by the wider church--or not. I think you are missing the _praxis_ angle--no communion means you are not in the canonical bounds of the Church, which means God *may* through grace allow some things to work in a heterodox/heretical body such as the RCC. Thus, unless communion was shared at these conclaves the documents amount to some kind words. Also, some statements are false: "The Orthodox Church, in her turn, always recognized the validity of the sacraments of the Catholic Church." "The" Orthodox church has done no such thing, and "the" Orthodox church sometimes does rebaptize RC converts. It is all based on _economea_. In fact, Florovsky et. al. are considered liberal westernizers by large swaths of EOdoxy. This does not mean you should not use his writings, just be careful using them to "prove" something about EOdoxy as they are considered parties to a dispute where the "westernizers" are seen as the innovators. For an example of the other perty please see http://www.orthodoxinfo.com/ecumenism/baptism_OT14_2_3.aspx

Again, I would not use this as proof, as my argument is based on the actual _praxis_ which shows where the real theological weight lies within EOdoxy. In a sense the only dogma is the liturgy--though that is a simplification.

If one accepts even RC baptism via _economea_ it still implicitly admits it is not a real sacrament, for which there are no "do overs" or necessity for _economea_. If they were valid _economea_ wouldn't even come up.

Matthew Bellisario said...

These Orthodox who reject the baptism of the Catholic Church would be falling into the Donatist heresy. What criterion are they going to use to determine if a baptism is valid? If one of their priests or bishops is following a heresy and baptizes someone, is it valid?

David Waltz said...

Hello Edward,

I was out of town visiting with family and friends over the extended weekend, so please excuse my somewhat tardy response; you posted:

>>None of the documents you supplied are statements by "Orthodoxy" about the validity of RC orders. They are statements here or there about the status of RC orders which *may* be accepted by the wider church--or not. I think you are missing the _praxis_ angle--no communion means you are not in the canonical bounds of the Church, which means God *may* through grace allow some things to work in a heterodox/heretical body such as the RCC.>>

Me: IMO, the statements from the ecumenical (and the scholarly essay) documents I provided are essential parallel to the teachings of VII concerning “sister” Churches. The ‘key’ for me is the issue of apostolic succession via the episcopate; the Balamand Statement affirms that the Catholic Churches have retained a valid succession of bishops.

>>Thus, unless communion was shared at these conclaves the documents amount to some kind words. Also, some statements are false: "The Orthodox Church, in her turn, always recognized the validity of the sacraments of the Catholic Church." "The" Orthodox church has done no such thing, and "the" Orthodox church sometimes does rebaptize RC converts. It is all based on _economea_. In fact, Florovsky et. al. are considered liberal westernizers by large swaths of EOdoxy. This does not mean you should not use his writings, just be careful using them to "prove" something about EOdoxy as they are considered parties to a dispute where the "westernizers" are seen as the innovators. For an example of the other perty please see http://www.orthodoxinfo.com/ecumenism/baptism_OT14_2_3.aspx>>
Me: You continue make sweeping statements concerning the beliefs of some Orthodox adherents (e.g. “large swaths of Eodoxy”), but have yet to provide any documents that bear even the slightest semblance of being ‘official’ and/or ‘authoritative’.

Personally, when I look into the beliefs of any religious sect/group/communion, I try to restrict my studies to documents produced by those who are in a position(s) of authority. For instance, when an ‘outsider’ is looking for the official teachings of the RCC, one needs to first look at the dogmatic documents concerning faith and morals which have been produced by its magisterium via an Ecumenical Council and/or Papal ex cathedra promulgation. As such, the statements from VII concerning ecumenism trumps the opinions of the Feeneyites and other anti-ecumenists (which are quite numerous). And if one is to consider what Eastern Orthodoxy teaches on the subject of ecumenism, I have asked myself if there is any source equal to (or higher) than the 14 patriarchs who signed the Balamand Statement (and related documents); to date, I have not come across any alternate source that rivals them…

Grace and peace,

David