Monday, November 11, 2013

A Note On Eastern Orthodoxy

I wanted to offer this bit from First Things in response to frequent questions we get about Catholic unity, schism, etc. I'll just reproduce the first couple of paragraphs to get you started:

October was not a month of especial cooperation in the global Eastern Orthodox communion. Protesting the appointment in March of an archbishop for Qatar by the Church of Jerusalem, the Church of Antioch withdrew its participation from “all the Assemblies of Canonical Orthodox Bishops abroad.” The Antiochian Patriarchate claims sole authority over the small Gulf state though at present it has no parishes of its own there. The assemblies affected by this decision include the canonical episcopal council in North America, which counts several Antiochian bishops among its officers.

Meanwhile, following a visit to Indonesia by Serbia’s Patriarch Irinej, the Greek Orthodox Metropolitanate of Singapore expressed dismay that “the Church of Serbia never informed the local canonical Orthodox Metropolitan.” This comes after a series of incidents over the summer in which its sister see in Hong Kong unilaterally excommunicated clergy of another legitimate Orthodox jurisdiction serving in the Philippines.

There are other instances mentioned in the article. Ah, if only there was some way, some other party, who had the jurisdiction to sort through all of these canonical and ecclesiological messes. Sure, we Catholics have our number of dissenters and crypto/open schismatics, but at least we have a proof for discerning who they are. When you've only got point of reference (the papacy), things get a lot easier. Oddly enough, I have met Orthodox folk who would agree to the Pope having such authority, though they disagree that his jurisdiction is immediate in all cases.

Still in all, it gives a good picture of why Orthodox claims are untenable. The Church has four marks. Promoting an ecclesiology that destroys the mark of unity can't be done. And so we are where we are. I close with a snippet from the Formula of St. Hormisdas, the adoption of which ended the Acacian Schism back in the early 6th century.

The first condition of salvation is to keep the norm of the true faith and in no way to deviate from the established doctrine of the Fathers. For it is impossible that the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, who said, "Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church," [Matthew 16:18], should not be verified. And their truth has been proved by the course of history, for in the Apostolic See the Catholic religion has always been kept unsullied...

Following, as we have said before, the Apostolic See in all things and proclaiming all its decisions, we endorse and approve all the letters which Pope St Leo wrote concerning the Christian religion. And so I hope I may deserve to be associated with you in the one communion which the Apostolic See proclaims, in which the whole, true, and perfect security of the Christian religion resides. I promise that from now on those who are separated from the communion of the Catholic Church, that is, who are not in agreement with the Apostolic See, will not have their names read during the sacred mysteries. But if I attempt even the least deviation from my profession, I admit that, according to my own declaration, I am an accomplice to those whom I have condemned. I have signed this, my profession, with my own hand, and I have directed it to you, Hormisdas, the holy and venerable pope of Rome.

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