Thursday, September 13, 2007

I've added a few links,

one from Hieromonk Maximos called "The Anastasis Dialogue", and another called "De unione ecclesiarum", by my friend Bekkos, aka Peter Gilbert. Both are very smart people as well as deep, careful thinkers. Give them a read.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

A modest proposal to end the Great Schism

This is just a thought, and I won't be offended if you think it is stupid.

Ecumenical problems have, it seems to me, the character of problems in differential equations. One starts with constraints and boundary conditions, and must come up with a solution that violates none of them. With two Churches that claim meaningfully to be The Church, I think we have the following boundary conditions:

1. The Catholic Church is not heretical.
2. The Orthodox Church is not heretical.
3. Papal infallibility is a true doctrine (otherwise 1 is false).
4. The infallibility of the Church as a whole is a true doctrine (otherwise #2 is false).

So, here is my solution. Infallibility _must_ be understood as a characteristic of the whole Church, deriving directly from Christ's promise that the gates of hell will not prevail against the Church. In the first thousand years, this infallibility inhered in doctrinal pronouncements of the ecumenical councils--not in the canons, since one can see that later canons chance or supercede earlier canons. On this, I think we could all agree.

Now, there is a problem with conciliarism: how does one know a council is ecumenical? Various schemes or characteristics are proposed, but they all (on the Orthodox side) end up with "We don't know how we know, but _these 7_ are." One could say that they are those the Church receives, but that presupposes one knows where the True Church is; what about Chalcedon, for example? What if the non-Chalcedonians are really the Church?

From the Catholic side, one can say that ecumenical councils are those councils recognized by the pope of Rome. This is, I think, the solution to the problem. The Church teaches infallibly when the bishops and Rome speak together. But since 1054 (and really since 787) the ecumene has been wounded, so that genuine ecumenical councils have not occurred.

Does the charism of infallibility leave the Church because of the mutual estrangement of east and west? I don't think so. God's promises do not end. As a result, the East has no ecumenical councils, and the west has councils which say many true things, but which lack the presence of the other four patriarchates, and are therefore irregular.

The Church has been sundered, and that although infallibility continued to inhere in the Church, it did so in an irregular or defective fashion, devolving to an exaggerated papacy and a diminished episcopate in the West, and in the East through a theological conservatism which clung to those things decided when the Church was whole.

The decree would recognize these facts, and then would affirm papal infallibility as a gift to the whole Church, _to be exercised only with the whole Church_. Past exercises of this charism (which are, fortunately, few) would not be termed false, but irregular, as a result of the separation of the Churches. Future exercises would only come in unity with the bishops.

Well, that's it. Have at it. Don't worry about offending me--I'm not even sure I agree with me.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Praying to Allah

That's what I did for the last week. I spent a week studying theology with the Antochian Orthodox. They have a program of distance study, and I have been taking part. Last week was the residency. Since Antiochians pray in Arabic, we prayed to Allah, meaning, of course, the Holy Trinity.

The week was wonderful, challenging, tempting, frustrating, and fulfilling. I hope to have some reflections in more depth soon.