I found this article on several blogs and having searched the internet, I haven’t found much in the way of a Catholic response to what I feel is a well thought out approach to the issue of ecumenicism. I think the topic fits better with RCC and Orthodoxy then Anglicanism. Be that as it may, all of Fr. Kirbys efforts deserve a measured response, even if it’s a disjoined one by me. I didn’t feel I had a strong enough handle to address his part III section on validity of orders, perhaps some else will do so. My remarks are in red, his in black(emphasis & underlines are mine), primary resources in blue and secondary in purple. Link to his full article here.
But many would say that the most fundamental principle that each Church holds is that it and it alone is the One True Church and that those bodies outside its present communion are thus not so. Why? Because their confidence about their beliefs is founded on a confidence about who they are. And since both sides believe in the Unity and Unicity of the Church, it seems that this in combination with their self-identification as that Church leads logically to a perfectly symmetrical yet utterly irreconcilable understanding of the Church and the goal of ecumenism.
If this is true, it means that, whatever theological and doctrinal barriers are broken, the greatest hurdle that will have to be faced is answering the question “Who is coming back to whom?”In other words, who, if any body, will admit they were wrong about their basic identity and accept that for centuries they have been outside the Una Sancta, the Catholic Church? Catholic ecumenism is a question then, not just of how to forge a common future, but how to interpret a divided past.
Anglican Catholics have been somewhat distinctive in that their self-understanding has asserted their Catholicity but in a non-exclusive manner. That is, they have seen present divisions as being within the Catholic Church, such that they along with the Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Old Catholic, and perhaps even Oriental Churches are in fact all in the One Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.
I don’t know if he is supporting the Branch theory (an EOC take) or not.
This Anglican non-exclusivity has then been used against us. Our appeal to Catholic consent, it is claimed, means that we cannot differ from the exclusivist ecclesiologies common to Rome and the East without trampling the Vincentian Canon and proving our Protestantism.
I have to historically agree with him on this point soome with good intent others not.
Al Kimel, in his Pontificator’s Fourth Law states that “A church that does not understand itself as the Church, outside of which there is no salvation, is not the Church but a denomination or sect.” My past response to this on his blog, with minor modifications, follows:
This is not so much an axiomatic law as a derived one. I submit that it is based on the following argument (or something like it):
1. Any truly Catholic ecclesiology must not only teach that the church is visible and one, but that it is visibly one.
2. A Church holding a Catholic ecclesiology will obviously believe that it is Catholic.
3. Therefore, such a Church must also hold that any body outside its visible unity, that is, not part of its internal communio in sacris, is outside the unity of the Catholic Church. [1 + 2]
4. Any truly Catholic ecclesiology must also teach that outside the Church there is no salvation.
5. Any body claiming to be a church which does not hold a truly Catholic ecclesiology is a denomination or sect.
6. Therefore, a church that does not understand itself as the Church, outside of which there is no salvation, is not the Church but a denomination or sect [3 + 4 +5
The first premise identified above as underlying this Law has the following corollary for historical interpretation: Any break in communion that discontinues the visibility of unity between one Christian body and another, if the two groups were previously united within the Catholic Church, must leave one group outside the Catholic Church until that breach is visibly healed. Call this proposition 1*.
Thus, if any historical circumstances exist that have very commonly been interpreted by theologians with undisputedly Catholic ecclesiologies in ways that conflict with this corollary, then it must be accepted either that the corollary is oversimplified and requires denial or modification or it must at least be admitted that its denial does not prove a theologian is an ecclesiological heretic! Therefore, given the existence of such interpretations of Church history by substantial numbers of Catholic and Orthodox theologians in good standing, proposition 1 of 6 and the derived Fourth Law would no longer obtain in their present form. Call the existence of such interpretations contra-1*, or C-1*. Now for the evidence.
I would say that they are oversimplified. There are IMO two aspects of the papacy that theologians have just scratched the surface. The Marian and the servant of the servants of God aspect.
1) Marian – Cardinal Marc Ouellet-Mary’s role is deeper than that of Peter
…All the Church must therefore be willing to make an exchange of gifts that goes beyond finding political, let’s say, formulas. That is why in my thinking on the ecumenic movement I tried to develop the Marian principle.
In what sense?
OUELLET: The ecumenic orientation is too centered on the episcopacy, on relations between collegiality and papacy and not enough on the bases of the faith and hence on the role of Mary, that – and in this the Orthodox are very close to us – is deeper than the role of Peter or of the bishops. Thinking is needed on the Marian principle as the basis of the unity of the Church. This fact, according to me, has not been still sufficiently gone into in ecumenic dialogue
I agree with the Cardinal on this point.
A great link citing many references to primary sources on Mary and the Church: Figure and Model
Catechism of the Catholic Church 773. In the Church this communion of men with God, in the “love [that] never ends,” is the purpose which governs everything in her that is a sacramental means, tied to this passing world.192 “[The Church’s] structure is totally ordered to the holiness of Christ’s members. And holiness is measured according to the ‘great mystery’ in which the Bride responds with the gift of love to the gift of the Bridegroom.”193 Mary goes before us all in the holiness that is the Church’s mystery as “the bride without spot or wrinkle.”194 This is why the “Marian” dimension of the Church precedes the “Petrine.”195[ emphasis mine ]
The citation (195) refers back to PJPII MULIERIS DIGNITATEM #27
This is of fundamental importance for understanding the Church in her own essence, so as to avoid applying to the Church–even in her dimension as an “institution” made up of human beings and forming part of history–criteria of understanding and judgment which do not pertain to her nature. Although the Church possesses a “hierarchical” structure, nevertheless this structure is totally ordered to the holiness of Christ’s members. And holiness is measured according to the “great mystery” in which the Bride responds with the gift of love to the gift of the Bridegroom. She does this “in the Holy Spirit,” since “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Rom 5:5). The Second Vatican Council, confirming the teaching of the whole of tradition, recalled that in the hierarchy of holiness it is precisely the “woman,” Mary of Nazareth, who is the “figure” of the Church. She “precedes” everyone on the path to holiness; in her person “the Church has already reached that perfection whereby she exists without spot or wrinkle (cf. Eph 5:27).” In this sense, one can say that the Church is both “Marian” and “Apostolic-Petrine.”
Crisis Magazine-By David L. Schindler mentions
Recuperating a rightful understanding of Mary within the reality of the Church was crucial for John Paul II’s sense of how a one-sided notion of the Church, as a hierarchical and clerical institution (Vatican I), was to be integrated into a notion of the Church as communio, a communion of persons (Vatican II), in a way that neither weakened the importance of the Petrine institution nor reduced the “People of God” to a democratic congregation.
This perhaps may be an opening which has yet to be tapped. While there are likely obstacles as well with this route simply because of the subject of Mary as church (especially with those of the Baptist communions) but could bear fruit I think with Anglicans and especially with Orthodoxy. If we reflect on Rm 5:5 emphasis of working through the Holy Spirit; this is certainly an avenue which has been acknowledged by the Catholic church as normative in many communities. SO perhaps in this sense there is no break in communion.
2) Servant of the servants of God
In this area I think the effort will be primarily on the papacy’s effort to place emphasis on service to the people of God. One area I think would be a great project would to review historical actions taken by the papacy to see if the action is one based on Papal primacy or one of his other titles (Partiarch of the West, Primate of Italy, Archbishop/Metropolitian of Roman province, Sovereign of Vatican city state (Political). Everyone perceives the papacy simply as the role of Vat. I, but for example Pope Benedict XVI’s trip to the USA will involve different aspects/titles. If everyone were able to more clearly see how the pope’s actions relate to which title, then perhaps it would bring more clarity as to how,when and where he exercises authority.
88. Among all the Churches and Ecclesial Communities, the Catholic Church is conscious that she has preserved the ministry of the Successor of the Apostle Peter, the Bishop of Rome, whom God established as her “perpetual and visible principle and foundation of unity” 146 and whom the Spirit sustains in order that he may enable all the others to share in this essential good. In the beautiful expression of Pope Saint Gregory the Great, my ministry is that of servus servorum Dei. This designation is the best possible safeguard against the risk of separating power (and in particular the primacy) from ministry. Such a separation would contradict the very meaning of power according to the Gospel: “I am among you as one who serves” (Lk 22:27), says our Lord Jesus Christ, the Head of the Church. On the other hand, as I acknowledged on the important occasion of a visit to the World Council of Churches in Geneva on 12 June 1984, the Catholic Church’s conviction that in the ministry of the Bishop of Rome she has preserved, in fidelity to the Apostolic Tradition and the faith of the Fathers, the visible sign and guarantor of unity, constitutes a difficulty for most other Christians, whose memory is marked by certain painful recollections. To the extent that we are responsible for these, I join my Predecessor Paul VI in asking forgiveness.147 [emphasis mine]
95. All this however must always be done in communion. When the Catholic Church affirms that the office of the Bishop of Rome corresponds to the will of Christ, she does not separate this office from the mission entrusted to the whole body of Bishops, who are also “vicars and ambassadors of Christ”.153 The Bishop of Rome is a member of the “College”, and the Bishops are his brothers in the ministry. Whatever relates to the unity of all Christian communities clearly forms part of the concerns of the primacy. As Bishop of Rome I am fully aware, as I have reaffirmed in the present Encyclical Letter, that Christ ardently desires the full and visible communion of all those Communities in which, by virtue of God’s faithfulness, his Spirit dwells. I am convinced that I have a particular responsibility in this regard, above all in acknowledging the ecumenical aspirations of the majority of the Christian Communities and in heeding the request made of me to find a way of exercising the primacy which, while in no way renouncing what is essential to its mission, is nonetheless open to a new situation. For a whole millennium Christians were united in “a brotherly fraternal communion of faith and sacramental life … If disagreements in belief and discipline arose among them, the Roman See acted by common consent as moderator”.154[emphasis mine] Ut unum sint
C-1* EXHIBIT A. During the Meletian Schism in the ancient Church, Meletius of Antioch and his flock were not recognised by or in communion with Rome. Most of the East did recognise him and reject his rival – even to the point where he presided for a while at the sitting of an Ecumenical Council. Eventually, not only was Meletius’ claim to be the legitimate Catholic Bishop recognised universally after his death, but he was canonised and his successors (not his rival’s) were the Patriarchs of Antioch. Thus, visible unity was broken without either side being considered by anyone in hindsight as outside the Church. However, it could be argued that visible unity was merely “somewhat obscured” since Meletius was in communion with bishops who were in communion with Rome.
Well lets speak of history then. Meletius use of the term homoousios sounds very much like Sabellianizism when he supports the creed of 325 at the council of Antioch of 363 which he presided over as Socrates Scholasticus relates in book 3,25,14 of his church history. Especially since the term homoousios, which to some seems novel and inappropriate, has been judiciously explained by the fathers to denote that the Son was begotten of the Father’s substance, and that he is like the Father as to substance.
The “east” includes Alexandria and St. Athanasius, so I don’t believe that Meletius claim to being Catholic was valid. He was not accepted by either Partiarch of Alexandria or Rome. St. Pope Damasus “Tome” has an interesting canon at the synod of Rome 382 which I believes was implied to address Meletius status –
9) Those also who have moved from churches to churches, we hold as not belonging to our communion until they return to those cities in which they were first established. But if one is ordained in the place of one who is living, while another is moving, let him who has left his own city be without the dignity of the priestly office until his successor rests in the Lord.
Translation of bishops from one diocese to another was often done to gain a larger, more affulient church and influence with the Emperor. This canon was to prevent this.
I don’t believe the example obtains.
C-1* EXHIBIT B. A large number of Orthodox theologians and hierarchs contend that the difference between themselves and the Monophysites has been, for many centuries at least, based on logomachies. As a consequence they also hold that the two Churches already hold to the same Faith and possess the same Sacraments, and are thus already one in the most important sense, such that restored intercommunion is justified. These theologians appear not to contend that such a restoration would be a return of a schismatic body to the Catholic Church but that it would be the resolution of unfortunate, long-standing misunderstandings between sister Churches. Thus, it is effectively recognised that true ecclesial unity can co-exist with lack of visible unity for considerable periods.
IMO the only question is did they support/sign the Henticon?
C-1* EXHIBIT C. During the Great Western-Papal Schisms, when there were multiple claimants to the papacy, each with considerable followings at times, visible unity of the Western Church was broken. However, the RCC has canonised as Saints people on opposing sides of these schisms. Also, the fact that it was difficult to tell with certainty which was the true Pope, such that even till today no official and binding decision has been made by the Vatican as to who were the true Popes, has led to RC historians and theologians not portraying any of the various flocks as outside the true Church.
This is a period of 40 years total. I would ask what Saints didn’t accept Pope Martin after that period? The question is as far as I can tell one of obedience not of heresy. IF members of the SSPX accept Pope Benedict XVI, but had rejected Pope Paul VI and Pope John Paul II are they still outside the church?
C-1* EXHIBIT D. It is now common in ecumenical (revisionist?) history to claim that the EOC and RCC did not really completely break communion or finalise the schism till many centuries after previously posited dates. It appears to be a permissible and common opinion among orthodox RCs and the EO to say that sacramental communion was not properly or completely absent till the 18th Century. However, the very fact that the schism had been dated by most people as being from much earlier shows that whatever unity there was, was noteasily visible. And this includes to the people contemporary with the disputed period, since in Anglican-Roman debates of the 17th Century it was commonly contended by Roman interlocutors that the EOC was in schism and heresy.
This is strickly my opinion in reading church history and I have to say that the break was gradual but from a much earlier period. Historians have traditionally pointed to 1054, but with all humility in my lack of formal training in this field over and against those who are grossly overeducated compaired to myself I have to say that the latest date of a formal visable schism was the Council in Trullo. Those canons not already approved prior to it in the west were anti-latin. The process of latin only and greek only liturgies was well on the way. The reference to the 5th ecumenical council (which you mentioned late in this piece) was rejected by much of the western church for several centuries. It’s acceptance as an ecumenical council IMO is exclusively be based on papal primacy. Otherwise those western churches who rejected this council are vaild and place this council as only a regional eastern synod non-binding on the universal church.
C-1* EXHIBIT E. It has never been contended by any canonist or theologian, as far as I know, that any excommunications, even at the Papal or Conciliar level, are infallible. Though the theological reasoning behind them can be, the necessarily accompanying examination of particular evidence regarding a person or group is corrigible. Thus it is implicitly accepted that people, including bishops, can be visibly excluded from the Church unjustly and thus not truly be outside the Church. This is yet another case when the visibility of unity is imperfect, and admission of such imperfection is permissible.
So, how should we explain the significance of present divisions? In what ways has unity been preserved? Can the history of the “schisms”, especially at the apparent breaking points, be understood in a way that acquits both sides in each case of formal schism or heresy? Is there a way the elephant in the room can be dealt with rather than ignored, without anyone having to repent of their self-understanding? I believe there are satisfactory answers to all these questions – yes to the last two! — that will allow Catholic ecumenism to succeed.
No I don’t think so, but that’s because I perceive your position as strickly jurisdictional, which if one only looked at Vat. I could get that impression. IF we keep the dialog only on this level I very much doubt we’ll get anywhere.
Since the schism was grown into in such a gradual, haphazard and (in the end) unreflective or non-binding manner, it seems permissible to view it as never definitive. In that case, there is no need for either side to exclude the other from its identification of the One Church. Instead, they should start from the premise that they at least might never have been truly or fully divided, and approach doctrinal dialogue from that hopeful perspective. (Let’s not forget that both East and West have basically disowned the mutual excommunications of 1054, so one must assume they accept that, whatever happened afterwards, the state of schism existing at that time did not really mean one side or the other was outside the Church.)
Well since 500 A.D. the only recognized method was via the Formula of Hormisdas. I don’t see a way around that one.
An objection to this reasoning from the RC side might consist of a simple quotation of the recent Papal Encyclical, DOMINUS IESUS:
“Therefore, there exists a single Church of Christ, which subsists in the Catholic Church, governed by the Successor of Peter and by the Bishops in communion with him. The Churches which, while not existing in perfect communion with the Catholic Church, remain united to her by means of the closest bonds, that is, by apostolic succession and a valid Eucharist, are true particular Churches. Therefore, the Church of Christ is present and operative also in these Churches, even though they lack full communion with the Catholic Church, since they do not accept the Catholic doctrine of the Primacy, which, according to the will of God, the Bishop of Rome objectively has and exercises over the entire Church.” [Emphasis added.]
But, even if this were an infallible doctrinal pronouncement, its statements of historical fact rather than principle would be corrigible (and fallible). What if the RCC and EOC can come to an agreement on Roman Primacy (which neither EO nor Anglican Catholics have ever simply denied, all believing themselves to hold to the Catholic teaching in this matter) without repudiating their respective authoritative Traditions, but instead synthesising them? Then the above statement would be seen to be based on sound theology and reasoning but a historically conditioned misapprehension of the relationship between the other particular Churches’ teaching and the dogma of the RCC. Thus the statement could be “moved beyond” with relative ease and no loss of face or authority.
If the Catholic position towards the Anglican communion with respect to apostolic succession and valid Eucharist were determined as jurisdictional rulings not theological one then I’d say yes. However, I think without further research they were theologically based. But I’m clearly out of my depth here which is why I didn’t address your part III at all.
Also, the Fathers of the 5th Ecumenical Council struck Pope Vigilius off the diptychs and refused him communion till he would do what they (and the whole Catholic Church, eventually) considered the right thing about the Three Chapters: i.e., condemn them and the doctrines contained therein. To say that an Ecumenical Council did its job successfully but, by the way, was composed pretty much entirely of formal schismatics (and heretics for denying in practice the absolute necessity of being in communion with and complete subjection to Rome?) is a bit too ridiculous for words. Therefore, broken communion with Rome, even when it is broken deliberately from the non-Roman side, is not and never has been sufficient proof of schism.
Actually if one looks at this complex council Emperor Justinian wanted Pope Vigilius excommunicated, but communion with the see of Rome to remain in tack.
Later the council states
We therefore anathematize the Three Chapters before-mentioned, that is, the impious Theodore of Mopsuestia, with his execrable writings, and those things which Theodoret impiously wrote, and the impious letter which is said to be of Ibas, and their defenders, and those who have written or do write in defence of them, or who dare to say that they are correct, and who have defended or attempt to defend their impiety with the names of the holy Fathers, or of the holy Council of Chalcedon. Session VIII
Was Pope Vigilius a defender of the Three Chapters or a defender of Chalcedon? Africa and much of Gaul and northern Italy rejected this council for hundreds of years. The question could just as easily be, what constituted an Ecumenical council?
First appeared as a three-part series at The Continuum, where Fr Matthew Kirby writes and co-hosts. Fr. Kirby is a prolific blogger, and a serious thinker and apologist for Continuing Anglicanism. He is also a priest in the Diocese of Australia in the Anglican Catholic Church. He is also a Franciscan Tertiary, as well as a physics/maths/religious studies teacher in a local Roman Catholic Senior High School, St Mary’s Campus of All Saint’s College, Maitland.
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