Friday, June 20, 2008

Is There a Breakthrough in Orthodox and Catholic Relations?

Is There a Breakthrough in Orthodox and Catholic Relations?
By Deacon Keith Fournier

Catholic Online Has the Patriarch of Constantinople proposed a path toward communion between Eastern Catholics and their Orthodox brethren? Could it be a breakthrough?
WASHINGTON, DC (Catholic Online) – Reports are circulating, in circles which are intensely attuned to the continued warming of relations between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches, of a statement and proposal allegedly made by Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople.

If they are confirmed, it may signal a major move toward communion between Eastern Catholics and their Orthodox Brethren.It may also open the path to dialogue on communion between the Churches even wider.

The Religious Information Service of the Ukraine, associated with the Ukranian Catholic University, was cited as one source for the articles. Another was a German Ecumenical Journal named after the great Bishops Cyril and Methodius.

Both of these sources allege that the Orthodox Patriarch made an unusual gesture toward Eastern Catholic Churches which are in union with Rome, proposing that the members of those Churches somehow "return to Orthodoxy without breaking unity with Rome".

Eastern Catholics actually believe, in some respects, that they have already done just what the Patriarch suggests. They are in full communion with Rome, and therefore with the Chair of Peter, while still remaining faithful to Orthodoxy, in their profession of faith, liturgical worship and practices.Some actually refer to themselves as "Orthodox in Union with Rome". Of course, the Orthodox have not seen it that way at all.Fortunatley, old animosity has often been replaced by a growing desire for restored communion.

Further, it is reported that the Patriarch spoke positively of a similar proposal for a form of "dual unity" made by the Head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, Archbishop Lubomyr Husar.Does that also suggest a warming in dialogue concerning concepts for a way toward communion?

These same sources indicate that the Patriarch may be proposing an approach to communion which would allow for some sort of "dual communion", the details of which are not clear. Further, that he has suggested that the discussions between the two sister Churches look to the first millennium model of the relationship between Rome and Constantinople for pursuing this model of communion.

The Servant of God John Paul II, wrote regularly of the two Churches, Orthodox and Catholic, as being the "two lungs" of Christianity which must breathe together again in the Third Millennium. He dedicated much of his Pontificate to promoting communion between them.

His successor, Pope Benedict XVI has also dedicated his Pontificate to promoting this communion between East and Western Christianity in the Third Millennium. He has made regular overtures toward the Orthodox Church which have received warm and hopeful responses.

Unless noted otherwise, everything posted here is © 2008 Gregory R Jensen.
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Toward & Away; Against & With

In my last post, I suggested that the Catholic and Orthodox traditions have there are different basic styles of relating to the world. In brief, the Catholic Church's tradition tends to be one that favors a "movement toward" the world. The tradition of the Orthodox Church, on the other hand, is one that values more a "movement away" from the world. In the West, grace perfects nature; in the East, grace is what makes possible the transcendence of nature. Obviously these are overly broad categories and just as obviously one can find easily "Eastern" tendencies in the "West" and "Western" tendencies in the "East." And counter examples exist in both traditions that make a hash of my typology. But be that as it may, the general tendencies are true enough. Though they are different ways of relating to the world, there are not necessarily opposed to each other. Indeed, they can even complement each other.

In my own view, one of the greatest values of psychoanalytic thought in general, and Horney's thought in particular, is that it embodies a certain anthropological genius. Psychoanalysis excels in helping us understand how even the noblest of human sentiments and goals can be shot through with self-deception and a desire for self-aggrandizement. For example, and we saw this in yesterday's post, the Catholic "movement toward" the world of person, events and things can easily become mere compliance even as the Orthodox tendency to "move away" can come to embody what Horney calls detachment, or (to use less theologically loaded language) indifference. At least by analogy, faith communities can be as pathologically neurotic as individuals.

That said, I think that it is a helpful way to think about East/West Christian relations. Both of these movements, "toward" the world and "away" from the world, I would suggest, can certainly be taken up for the life of the world. Just as a fundamental openness can embody my concern for the good of the world outside the Church, so to can my movement to separate myself from it also be in the service of the life of the world.

The tendency of some in both traditions to make rigid and exclusive what should be complementary, but opposite, movements of East and West I think is where much of the conflict arises when we sit down together to discuss the relationship between our respective traditions. Under the best of circumstances, but especially in the absence of any personal relationship, intimacy, and trust, such conversations are anxiety provoking. This is why, as a quick aside, we often discover that face to face conversations between Catholics and Orthodox seem to work so much better than they do on the internet. Absent a personal, human encounter characterized by mutual respect and trust, we tend to fall back on our preferred approach to the world. As the anxiety increases, we become more rigid in our approach.

So, for example, the more the Catholic partner move toward the position of his or her Orthodox counterpart, absent a warm human connection between them, the more likely it is that the Orthodox participant will withdraw evoking from the Catholic partner an even more passionate pursuit of common ground.

And things, by the way, work the other way around as well. The more the Orthodox "moves away," the more the Catholic partner is likely to "move toward" evoking an even more passionate "movement away" by the Orthodox.

If this is beginning to sound like a married couple stuck in a bad relationship, it should because it is.

Eventually the toxic mixture of anxiety and frustration leads not simply to a disagreement, but a bitter argument in which truth is often sacrificed for victory. Just as we can see the characteristically Eastern "movement away" among Western Christians, and can see the typically Western "movement toward" among Eastern Christians, so too both traditions have resources that lend themselves to a ratification of the third of Horney's coping mechanism: "movement against."

As with the other two movements, the movement against can, and often is, a healthy coping mechanism. There are times when we need to try and understand the one with whom we are in conflict (movement toward). At other times, the best response to conflict is to not let it bother us, to ignore it if you will (movement away). But just as clearly, there are times when must we risk a confrontation with the one with whom we are in conflict.

And, just like the other two styles, a movement against can become neurotic. For Horney a neurosis is a compulsion, what St Maximos would call a "passion." Neurosis carries me away robbing me of my freedom to respond.

We would also do well to remember that these three styles of coping are not absolute. They are dynamics and are present in different measure, at different times, in the heart of each and every person. Though a particular faith tradition might "fit" with my own style of coping, and regardless of what I tell myself to the contrary, this fit is never absolute. I suspect that so often the bitter conflicts that ignite between Catholic and Orthodox Christians reflect (as I have said before) our own passions. But now we are in a position to understand that we often seek out for ourselves the "blessing" of our respective tradition for those passions.

To the degree that I confused my faith tradition with my own preferred style of coping, to that degree I will find intolerable even theologically insignificant divergence from the tradition to which I am neurotically attached. And again as Horney reminds us, my neurosis is ultimately ground in my own self-image. This being so any divergence from my tradition is likely to be taken up by me as a personal attach—and as such evoke from me an aggressive response.

Add to this what I see as the official and explicit sanction of my tradition for my preferred coping mechanism, and an otherwise healthy person is likely to lose all sense of balance and perspective.

What we need, then, might be a new method of engaging the often conflicted world of persons, events and things that constitute our lives?

While the movements toward, against and away are valuable they are insufficient. What might be a fourth, more spiritually and theologically sound means of coping?

What is needed is that we learn not simply to move toward, away and against, but also move with each other. It is this, I would suggest, that is really the goal of any ecumenical dialog. Ironically, it is the "movement with," the movement of reconciliation and communion, that is the one that is most often neglected.

To be continued…

In Christ,

+Fr Gregory

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Orthodox leader suggests "dual unity" for Eastern Catholics

The Church and the Ukrainian BlizzardImage by Stuck in Customs via FlickrConstantinople, Jun. 19, 2008 ( - The Orthodox Patriarch of Constantinople has responded favorably to a suggestion by the head of the Ukrainian Catholic Church for a system of "dual unity" in which Byzantine Catholic churches would be in full communion with both Constantinople and Rome.

Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople welcomed the proposal in an interview with the magazine Cyril and Methodius, the RISU news service reports. The acknowledged leader of the Orthodox world suggested that the "dual unity" approach would produce something akin to the situation of the Christian world in the 1st millennium, before the split between Rome and Constantinople.

Cardinal Lubomyr Husar of Kiev, the Major Archbishop of the Ukrainian Catholic Church-- the largest of the Eastern Catholic churches-- had offered the possibility that Byzantine Catholics might seek communion with the Ecumenical Patriarchate, without giving up their communion with the Holy See. Patriarch Bartholomew expressed distinct interest in the idea, saying that "the mother Church in Constantinople holds the doors open for the return of all her former sons and daughters."

Patriarch Bartholomew acknowledged that a restoration of unity would require study, and important differences would have to be overcome. However, he observed that major steps have already been taken to resolve disagreements-- most importantly the revocation of the mutual decrees of excommunication issued by Rome and Constantinople against each other in 1054.

While Catholic and Orthodox theologians continue their efforts to reach agreement on doctrinal questions, Patriarch Bartholomew said, "the people at the grass roots have to come together again." He pointed to the "dual unity" idea as a possible step toward practical unity.

Cardinal Husar, the Ukrainian Catholic leader, has suggested in the past that the Orthodox and Byzantine Catholics of Ukraine should unite under the leadership of a single patriarch. That provocative suggestion is particularly interesting for two reasons.

First, Byzantine Catholics in Ukraine argued for years-- particularly since emerging vigorously from the shadow of Communist repression-- that the Ukrainian Catholic Church should be accorded the status of a patriarchate. Both the late Pope John Paul II (bio - news) and Pope Benedict XVI (bio - news) have expressed some sympathy for that suggestion. The Byzantine-rite Ukrainian Catholic Church is substantially larger than other Catholic churches that are recognized as patriarchates, including the Maronite, Melkite, Chaldean, Syrian, Armenian and Coptic Catholic churches. However, Kiev is not a historical patriarchal see like Antioch or Alexandria. And the recognition of a Ukrainian Catholic patriarchate would be sure to provoke outrage from the Russian Orthodox Church, which has complained frequently and bitterly about the activities of Byzantine Catholics in Ukraine.

Second, the Orthodox Church in Ukraine is badly split, with three different groups competing for recognition as leaders of the Byzantine faithful. The Ukrainian Orthodox Church- Kiev Patriarchate is led by Patriarch Filaret, who was once acknowledged by Moscow but broke with the Russian Orthodox Church after Ukraine gained political independence. The Ukrainian Orthodox Church- Moscow Patriarchate retains ties to Russian Orthodoxy. The Autocephalous Orthodox Church of Ukraine, smaller than the other two, has frequently sided with the Kiev patriarchate in efforts to form a single, unified Orthodox Church in Ukraine, independent from Moscow.

Unless noted otherwise, everything posted here is © 2008 Gregory R Jensen.
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