Friday, May 30, 2008

More on Metropolitan Nicolae

Icon of the PentecostImage via Wikipedia

Thank you everyone for your comments both those on the site here and emailed to me privately regarding Metropolitan Nicolae's reception of Holy Communion at a Romanian Catholic celebration of the Divine Liturgy.

First off, let me please remind everyone whether they post comments or not, while it is one thing to disagree, even strongly, with Metropolitan Nicolae's actions, his status as an Orthodox bishop, much less the state of his soul, is NOT for me to judge. Again, I would not have done what he did—and I think Chrys has given a rather elegant and charitable explanation as to why Metropolitan Nicolae's actions are not acceptable. But until the Holy Synod tells us otherwise, Metropolitan Nicolae is an Orthodox bishop in good standing.

That said, whatever might have been His Eminence's intent or however we might characterize his actions, one thing that has come out of this is a conversation about the relationship between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches. What I find distressing, however, is that the conversation (1) seems largely limited to Catholic blogs and (2) is rancorous to say the least. Mind you, the rancor is not between Catholics and Orthodox as much as it is among Catholics. Be that as it may, however, accept for this blog I have come across no conversation about what Fr Paul (the online pseudonym of a Catholic priest serving in Greece) over at the blog De unione ecclesiarum calls the "Timisoara incident."

The central point he makes is this (my emphasis in bold):

It is not my place to say whether it was in the event helpful to the cause of ecumenism for the Metropolitan to choose this course of action. It is even less my place to say whether it was right from an Orthodox point of view to infringe the discipline of his Church in view of what, as I said at the beginning, we must presume he believed to be a greater good. I have said why, as a Catholic, I believe that it was right for his request to receive communion from a Catholic altar to be granted. Some will see his gesture as a prophetical sign destined one day to bear fruit by the very reason of its provocative nature. Others will say it is well-intentioned but in reality premature and counter-productive. Others still will think it scandalous and sacrilegious. It is not given to me to know which judgement is correct. Only let those who cry "scandal" remember that scandal in its theological meaning is not, as in common parlance, the shock which an action causes to our sensibilities and our comfortable presuppositions, but that which causes us to sin. And let them ask themselves whether complacency in the face of a divided Christendom is not a sin, however much it hides behind rhetoric about not sacrificing truth to gain unity. In the end, truth and unity are the same thing; sin against unity damages our ability to see the fullness of truth.

I cannot help wondering if in fact we—Orthodox and Catholic Christians—really wish to be reconciled to one another. And given that the rancor I've seen on at least one popular Catholic blog regarding Metropolitan Nicolae's reception of Holy Communion is every bit a foul and bitter as what I hear when we as Orthodox Christians rip into each other, I can't help wonder if we even want to be reconciled with those in our tradition much less with those with whom we disagree.

Could it be we are estranged from each other because we are estranged among ourselves? And if we are estranged from those with whom we share Eucharist, how can we ever hope to reconcile the wound inflicted on us all by the Great Schism?

And since the it's come up--isn't my estrangement from my neighbor simply the symptom of my own sinfulness and my heart being divided against itself? Where does the line of schism run accept through the human heart?

Again I disagree with Metropolitan Nicolae's actions. At the same time I hope and pray that whatever else might happen as a result it encourages the faithful in both the Catholic and Orthodox Churches not only to desire the reconciliation of the two Churches, but for us to actively seek and prepare for reconciliation. You see that's really what strikes me most about the "Timisoara incident." Even granted the inappropriate nature of His Eminence's actions, the character of the responses suggest to me that most of us—Catholic and Orthodox—are at best indifferent, and even actively hostile, to the reconciliation his actions imply.

Well, there you go.

In Christ,

+Fr Gregory

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