Eastern Catholics

| | Comments (2)

Earlier this week, I blogged that I had never known that there were tensions between the some eastern rite Catholics and some Orthodox Christians.

Nick commented and pointed me to this interview from last year by the Reporter's John Allen with Fr. Robert Taft, a Vatican expert on the Eastern Churches. Wow. This is one ineteresting interview.

Some "highlights:"

What it is that bothers the Orthodox so much about the idea of a Ukrainian patriarchate? What bothers them is the very existence of these churches. They look upon all of these people as their property that has been won away, coaxed away, forced away from them. And they’re right. But what they don’t realize is that you just cannot collapse history the way they do. It’s like going on a visit to Greece to the beach because you want to get a suntan, and some jerk points his finger at you as if you fought in the Fourth Crusade. Most Westerners don’t even know what the hell the Fourth Crusade was, and don’t need to know. You’re dealing with people who collapse history as if it happened yesterday. Let me use my classic example of the Anglicans. Does anybody think that Henry VIII took a plebiscite to see if the Catholics in England wanted to separate from Rome? No, they got up one morning and found that they were no longer Catholics. But that’s 500 years ago. It certainly doesn’t mean that the Catholic church could enter England with an army today and force all those people back into the fold. The same thing is true in Ukraine. These people, the Greek Catholics, have been in the Catholic church since 1596, and want to remain there. The Orthodox propose, and it’s hard to even take this seriously, that Eastern Catholics should be given the “free choice” of joining the Orthodox church or joining the Latin church. That’s like telling African-Americans in Georgia that because you’re the descendants of somebody who got dragged there, you can have the “free choice” of living in Albania or Uganda. Maybe they want to stay where they were born, right in the good old USA. To call that a “free choice” is a mockery of language.

So they’re afraid of a domino effect?
To attempt to apply rational analysis to this is to fail to understand what the East is. Once you get over on this side of the Atlantic Ocean, the further you go South or East from anywhere, the worse everything gets, except the food. Logic gets worse, rationality gets worse, and everything ultimately winds up in hysteria and emotionalism. It’s futile to try and reason about this.

So the Catholic church is never going to persuade the Orthodox to accept the patriarchate?
No, and I don’t think we should even try. To hell with Moscow.

So what can Kasper hope for?
What Kasper can hope for is a renewal of the dialogue. What he needs to do is to reassure Moscow once again is that the Catholic church regards the Russian Orthodox church as a sister church, that we are there to take care of Catholics, not to fish in their pond. We’ve said this a million times. Kirill has been making some good noises lately. He’s said the dialogue has never been interrupted, which is true, and that while the official position of both churches is that we shouldn’t be fishing in one another’s waters, but there are clergy on both sides who don’t respect those norms. There are Orthodox clergy who proselytize among Catholics, we know that for a fact. The Russian Orthodox opened up a parish in Palermo! All the Russians in Palermo you could fit into a telephone booth. Who’s the priest? He’s a converted Catholic. When it was opened up, in the journal of the Moscow patriarchate, it stated quite clearly that this is a step toward recovering the Byzantine heritage of Sicily. Furthermore, there’s a Greek monastery in Calabria that’s also proselytizing among the Catholics. There are loose cannons all over the place.

There seems to be a predictable pattern of crisis/reconciliation/crisis in Catholic-Orthodox relations. Are we doomed to keep repeating this cycle?
I think so. In part, because we live in a free world and nobody really controls all of their own people. If the Neocatechumenate crowd decides to show up in some Russian city and cause trouble, who’s going to put them under control? Part of the problem is that this papacy hasn’t controlled some of these new movements. Matter of fact, it encourages them. It’s not the Jesuits who are causing trouble in Russia. It’s not the Franciscans. Part of the problem too is that the Russians are always reacting not so much to what we do, as to how their own constituency reacts to whatever we do. Basically, there are three groups in the Russian hierarchy. You’ve got a real wacko kind of right-wing fringe. These are the ones who would agree with calling Rasputin a saint and that kind of garbage. Then you’ve got people like Kirill, who are open and ecumenical and intelligent, because he’s got an education. Then you’ve got kind of a middle group that’s very conservative but not frothing at the mouth. Kirill’s group is a very small minority. The patriarch is a juggler trying to keep all these balls in the air.

Do you agree that the central problem is the papacy?
Of course. What we’ve made out of the papacy is simply ridiculous. There’s no possible justification in the New Testament or anyplace else for what we’ve made out of the papacy. That doesn’t mean that I don’t believe in a Petrine ministry. I believe that Rome has inherited that Petrine ministry. But there’s no reason on God’s earth why the pope should be appointing the bishop of Peoria. None whatsoever. So we really need a devolution, a decentralization. The Catholic church has become so big that we need some kind of a synodal structure in the West the same way you have in the East. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops ought to be a kind of synod of Catholic bishops in the United States. They ought to be able to elect the bishops. Leave Rome a veto, if you want. By the way, this would be no guarantee of better bishops. The notion that the locals will necessarily pick better people than Rome is obviously false, as anybody who knows the East understands. But at least people will see these guys as their bishops and not Rome’s. Make your own bed and sleep in it. The pope could say: ‘You don’t like the archbishop of New York? Hey, I didn’t name him.’

Given all the hassles, is there a case for simply forgetting about dialogue with the Orthodox?
The Catholic church never calls anybody else a “church” if they don’t have an episcopate. In that strict sense of the term, the Russian Orthodox is the largest church in the world after the Catholic church. To ignore them would be like the United States’ policy on China for so many years. There are a billion people over there, and the U.S. tried to pretend they don’t exist. How stupid can you be? So we’ve got to come to terms with Moscow, but they also have to come to terms with us. Like it or lump it.

So, tough love is your approach.
Absolutely. That was one of the problems of the Secretariat of Christian Unity under Willebrands. When the Orthodox would say something outrageous, they would make remonstrances privately, but never did anything appear in public. You can’t do it that way. That makes them think they’re getting away with it. It’s got to be front page, in your face. We shouldn’t have a Catholic bishop in Moscow? Well, let’s see, there’s a Russian Orthodox metropolitan in Brussels, to say nothing of Paris, of London. Up to a while ago, there were three Orthodox bishops in Oxford. All of the Orthodox in Oxford you could fit into a telephone booth. You’ve got to challenge this sort of nonsense.

Holy cow, I think this man managed to offend approximately 30% of the world in this interview.

Bookmark and Share


And he's not a great lecturer either....he was a guest lecture for two days in my Liturgy class speaking about Eastern Liturgy.

I found him pretty boring....all though, now that I think about it, I only sat in for one of the three hours :) since it was during that crazy month of April.

Supposedly, though, he really know his stuff perhaps he just has trouble expressing it :)

Boring? Robert Taft? I find that hard to believe - I've heard him speak on several occasions and he's a firecracker!


Mama-Lu's Etsy Shop

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Papa-Lu published on June 18, 2005 8:25 AM.

Great quote was the previous entry in this blog.

End of Life Conference is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.