Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Questions Regarding East West Reunification

Earlier this year "David" wrote (and I somehow missed his comment) the following, so I am reposting his comment and responding in this new blog article:
The objections you raise are common ones I've heard Roman Catholics raise to Orthodoxy (in fact, I raised a few of them myself as I left the Roman Catholic Church to become Orthodox). However, none of them really stick in the end; they all fall short. Here's why:

1. Saying that the Orthodox Churches are "divided" is a false dilemma, as it vastly exaggerates the differences and disagreements between the Orthodox Churches. It also vastly understates the differences and disagreements between those in communion with the Pope -- Maronites, for instance, almost to a man reject papal infallibility.
Papal infallibility is a scriptural truth!  St. Peter, alone, was given, in primacy, the authority to bind or loose "whatsover" he chooses on Earth, and "whatsoever" he so binds on Earth is also bound in Heaven!  That is infallibility - AND - is given to St. Peter ALONE in Matthew 16:18-19.
2. Attempting to indict the Orthodox Church because of disagreements between some Patriarchs and jurisdictions is essentially an indictment of the early Church -- see, for instance, the factioning of the Roman Church even into rival Papacies in the 3rd century (the respective Popes of each faction, by the way, are considered saints by the Roman Catholic Church to this day).
Well the tu quoque argument isn't really a valid one to make.   The fact of the matter is Rome and Constantinople split from each other in 1054ad.  It is THAT faction we need to be focused upon, and not earlier factions which have since been dealt with and/or healed.
3. I'm not sure who told you that the Orthodox are lax in teaching faith and morals or that our Bishops don't guide their flocks, but neither is true.
This response was actually directed toward another comment left by someone else in the original combox.  I do not support this line of argument and stand by David's position here.
3a. As a former Roman Catholic, now Orthodox, I can tell you from firsthand experience that the education of the laity in the Roman Catholic Church is much more lacking than in the Orthodox Church. That said, both Churches (as well as pretty much all other Christian groups) tend to have an uneducated laity -- I don't think that's traceable to the Church itself, but to unwillingness of laypeople to be more educated.
Again, a tu quoque argument is not valid.  Whereas I support David's position that the Orthodox are NOT lax in teaching on matters of faith and morals, trying to draw us into a discussion about Catholic teachers does not answer the charge "Steve and Carrie" posted.  
3b. As a Roman Catholic, I saw my Bishop all of once in the four years I can say I was a faithful laymember of my parish, and never actually talked to him. I can't even remember his name right now. In fact, I can't even remember the name of my parish priest -- and I'm certain he never knew my name. I don't say this was a shortcoming on his part or on the part of the Roman Catholic Church -- it's simply a symptom of the current priest shortage. As an Orthodox Christian, in the only two years I've been Orthodox I've seen my Bishop over a dozen times and talked to him personally on several occasions. I know my parish priest very well and he knows my name as well as the names of my children. In fact, I have his cell phone number programmed into my phone.
Anecdotal evidence of a singular experience does not make a valid argument either.  I had several discussions with my previous bishop, but I cannot recall any direct dialogs with my current bishop (though I have spoke to the chancellor's office).  One thing to consider is that the Eastern "flock" is proportionally a LOT smaller than virtually ANY Western "flock" in Western lands - thus the fact a member of Eastern Orthodoxy, or even Eastern Catholicism, might have a better opportunity to have a more personal relationship with an Eastern bishop is not surprising - but also should not be expected.  Our direct relationship is through one of his representatives, one of the priests under his auspices.  In many respects the priest is a direct outreach of the apostolic office of the bishop (e.g. for Confession, it is the bishop who has jurisdiction over this Sacrament in his diocese and can withhold or grant faculties to whom he pleases).
3c. According to a recent survey, 78% of American Roman Catholic women use birth control -- interpret that how you will.
I interpret that as yet another tu quoque argument and invalid.  According to that survey I'd say 22% of American Roman Catholic women are faithful to the Catholic teaching on this matter.  78% of them would be WRONG.
4. The Orthodox do have a central figure who unites them -- the same central figure which the early Christians had -- the local Bishop. St. Ignatius of Antioch, writing in AD 107, said "where the Bishop is, there is the Catholic Church" -- not "where the Pope is..."
The reference you refer to is in St. Ignatius' Letter to the Smyrnaeans paragraph 8 and is speaking directly to the authority of the bishop over his diocese.  Nothing, regarding the Church, is to be done without the bishop.  That's NOT the same as a "central figure" which unites all jurisdictions under the corypheaus of the bishops, and I do not use that term lightly.  A similar quote, but more appropriate to a "central figure" comes from St. Ambrose' Commentary on Twelve of David's Psalms: (40.3)
"It is to Peter himself that He says, 'You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My Church [Mt 16: 18]." Where Peter is, there is the Church. And where the Church, no death is there, but life eternal."

Separation from St. Peter is separation from the Church.  That separation needs to be healed.


  1. Thank you for your reply!

    My responses to your statements here, quoting relevant portions of your words:

    Papal infallibility is a scriptural truth!

    That is, of course, the very subject which needs to be discussed here. Your mere assertion of it, no matter how emphatic, is no evidence in support of it.

    If we turn to the Fathers, here's what we find:

    "A much quoted survey compiled by Roman Catholic Scholar Jean de Launoy finds that 17 Fathers thought of the rock as Peter, 44 thought it referred to Peter's confession, 16 thought Christ was the rock and 8 thought the rock was all the apostles. i.e. 80% of te Fathers did not recognize Peter as the rock! Even the Council of Trent refers to Mt 16 referring to the faith that Peter expressed!" (Michael Welton, Two Paths, p. 27)

    In addition, a reference to any special prominence of St. Peter by the Fathers does not imply any special place, position, or power for the Bishop of Rome. There is absolutely zero indication amongst any of the early Fathers that they regarded the Bishop of Rome as the sole heir of Peter. Rather, it seems (as in St. Irenaeus) that they considered the Roman Church (though not, apparently, its Bishop) to derive its prominent position from its foundation by both Saints Peter and Paul; and it is also clear that more Bishops than only that of Rome were considered successors of Peter. The sees of Antioch and Alexandria were also regarded as Petrine sees and indeed every Bishop of the Church was seen as sharing in Peter's ministry.

    In fact, some of the Fathers also contradict your claim that Peter alone was given the prerogative of binding and loosing, as they claim that all of the Apostles were given this ability. For instance, St. John Chrysostom: ""For the Son of thunder, the beloved of Christ, the pillar of the Churches throughout the world, who holds the keys of heaven." (First Homily on the Gospel of St. John)

    St. Hilary of Poitiers in fact claims that it is the Faith itself which has the power of binding and loosing: ""This faith is that which is the foundation of the church; through this faith the gates of hell cannot prevail against her. This is the faith which has the keys of the kingdom of heaven. Whatsoever this faith shall have loosed or bound on earth shall be loosed or bound in heaven." (On the Trinity, 6)

  2. Well the tu quoque argument isn't really a valid one to make.

    Very true, though my point stands. To say that the Orthodox Church's claims are made invalid by the presence of schisms from the Orthodox Church, such as the Old Calendarists, (as the claim was) is an absurd claim. The same is true of the argument I made, to which you make a similar response, concerning the supposed problems of education amongst the laity; this is simply not a valid argument.

    "It is to Peter himself that He says, 'You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My Church [Mt 16: 18]." Where Peter is, there is the Church. And where the Church, no death is there, but life eternal."

    And does St. Ambrose then go on to connect Peter specifically to the Bishop of Rome to the exclusion of all other Bishops? If not, this quote is of no value to the current discussion.

    (I apologize if you receive these multiple times; the Blogger comment function was malfunctioning)


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