"Today the concept of truth is viewed with suspicion, because truth is identified with violence. Over history there have, unfortunately, been episodes when people sought to defend the truth with violence. But they are two contrasting realities. Truth cannot be imposed with means other than itself! Truth can only come with its own light. Yet, we need truth. ... Without truth we are blind in the world, we have no path to follow. The great gift of Christ was that He enabled us to see the face of God".Pope Benedict xvi, February 24th, 2012

The Church is ecumenical, catholic, God-human, ageless, and it is therefore a blasphemy—an unpardonable blasphemy against Christ and against the Holy Ghost—to turn the Church into a national institution, to narrow her down to petty, transient, time-bound aspirations and ways of doing things. Her purpose is beyond nationality, ecumenical, all-embracing: to unite all men in Christ, all without exception to nation or race or social strata. - St Justin Popovitch

Wednesday, 26 August 2015


You Are Peter: 
An Orthodox Theologian’s Reflection on the Exercise of Papal Primacy 
By Olivier Clément, translated by M.S. Laird 
Forword by Avery Cardinal Dulles 
NewCityPress, 112 pp. $12.95

from 2004
by Adam De Ville
Olivier Clement

This book is a rare gem because it is one of the extraordinarily few Orthodox responses to the unprecedented invitation of Pope John Paul II, in his 1995 encyclical Ut Unum Sint , to help him reconfigure his office as bishop of Rome so that it could once again be an instrument of unity. Listen once more to his request:

 I am convinced that I have a particular responsibility . . . 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. I insistently pray the Holy Spirit to shine his light upon . . . all the Pastors and theologians of our Churches, that we may seek”together, of course”the forms in which this ministry may accomplish a service of love recognized by all concerned.

By November 2002, more than seven years after the encyclical was issued, the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity in Rome had put together a dossier of responses received to this request, noting that many Western Christians responded but that “there were no official answers from the Orthodox Churches.” While Clément makes no claim to speak on behalf of his entire Church, his book is nonetheless important and is, as Avery Cardinal Dulles says in his foreword to the English edition (the French original was published in 1997 as Rome autrement ), “almost exactly the kind of response for which Pope John Paul II was hoping.” Clément, a theologian teaching at the Institut Saint-Serge in Paris, is a convert to Orthodoxy, not from some supposedly “native” French Catholicism as some imagine, but from atheism. He therefore has much less of the baggage that converts often bring, and he is able to write in a largely irenic and fraternal manner.

The first half of You Are Peter gives a very brief historical overview of the first millennium: the treatment of Peter in the Church Fathers; the role of the bishop of Rome in the early Church; the relationship between the Roman patriarchate and the other patriarchates in the pentarchy; and the tension between the early ecumenical councils and an inchoate sense of Roman primacy. About this last, he remarks: “the true greatness of the period of the ecumenical councils is precisely that the power of decision rested with no one: neither pope, nor council, nor emperor, nor public feeling.”

In the second half of the book we move quickly from the first millennium to the First Vatican Council in the nineteenth century. Vatican I, however, had deep roots, going back as far as the Gregorian reforms of the eleventh century. From Gregory VII to Pius IX, Clément argues, “little by little . . . Roman primacy showed signs of becoming contaminated by the problem of power . . . [as] apostolic Rome appeared to have taken over from ancient imperial Rome.” This is seen most clearly in the declaration of the thirteenth-century Pope Boniface VIII: “I am pope and emperor.” Such statements could only call forth equally vigorous counter-polemics from the now-estranged Orthodox, and there is no shortage of those. Clément, for his part, issues a sober call for reform of both Roman and Orthodox ecclesiology.

He deals first with Rome, expressing the hope that “Rome, when God wills it, and by an operation of grace unique to her, will return to the authentic conception of primacy as the servant of communion, within a framework of genuine interdependence between her bishop and all other bishops.” There are signs of this return, including Pope Paul VI’s giving away his tiara and disbanding the papal court, together with his stunning gesture in 1971 of dropping to the ground and kissing the foot of Metropolitan Meliton, delegate of the Ecumenical Patriarch.

Such signs have been multiplied and amplified by Pope John Paul II, especially in the years leading up to the Great Jubilee of 2000, which was replete with many gestures of repentance and reconciliation and many attempts at the healing of memories, culminating in the unprecedented Day of Pardon during Lent when the Pope asked forgiveness in the name of the Church for, inter alia, sins against Christian unity. Such gestures are what Clément calls (quoting a phrase from an 1895 encyclical of the Ecumenical Patriarch) the “tears of Peter.” Such tears”that is, signs of metanoia ”are increasingly abundant, and Clément cites such examples as the 1983 Code of Canon Law ; the 1995 apostolic letter Orientale Lumen , with its “remarkable grasp of the spiritual sensibilities of the East”; and the 1995 clarification by Rome that the much-vexed filioque is not a church-dividing issue but rather shows, in Clément’s words, that “there are two differing approaches, of which both are legitimate and neither in any way contradicts the other.”

While these “tears” have been significant, Clément suggests that there is still much work to be done. Such work, however, is not limited to the Roman Church. Clément is to be commended for his candor and sense of fair play in criticizing Orthodoxy as also being riven with numerous problems, including the continuing presence of the heresy of phyletism and incoherent practice of eucharistic ecclesiology, whose revival was much touted in the twentieth century by Nicholas Afanassieff and, recently, Metropolitan John Zizioulas.

The Russian theologian Nicholas Lossky has recently suggested that the revival of eucharistic ecclesiology has a long way to go before it overcomes the still prevalent “autocephalist ecclesiology” in which “relations among the ‘sister churches’ tend to resemble . . . the relations between sovereign states.” Orthodoxy must, as Clément puts it, “overcome its fear, mistrust, and isolation,” both internally and externally; it must grow out of what Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople has called its “anti-Catholic hysteria.” The signs of such a growth are, Clément admits, often hard to discern on the Orthodox side, but he suggests that “the healing over of wounds has begun, and no longer just in the heart; for the first time its possibility is foreseen in the very structures of the Church.”

On this matter of structural reforms in the Roman Church Clément makes several suggestions. First, he argues that “it is in no way essential . . . that the bishop of Rome should appoint the bishops of the entire world.”

Second, it is equally unnecessary that the bishop of Rome’s “administrative headquarters should be a sovereign territory . . . and in consequence maintain a diplomatic corps.” (To the assertion that this arrangement secures for the papacy a necessary independence, Clément offers the rejoinder that “none of the great popes of the first eight centuries had at their command such a state. They bore witness to the independence of the Church through martyrdom if necessary. Today everything depends on the political and ideological situation of Italy and Western Europe.”)

Third, there must be some clarification of the authority of the councils held in the West since Nicea II in 787. Later councils are plainly not “ecumenical” in the way the West continues to insist. Their decrees, therefore, carry a significantly different degree of authority and this must be clarified.

Fourth, there must be”Clément quotes John Paul himself as saying this”a papal primacy “with different gears” for different parts of the Church, so that ultimately the relationship between Catholicism and Orthodoxy is not one of jurisdiction but of the plenitude of communion as sisters. Such an approach does not mean a gutting of the papacy. “This does not mean that the pope must be merely a spokesman,” Clément says. Rather, the pope would have significant authority as one to whom a “certain right of appeal” could be had (first granted the bishop of Rome by the Council of Sardica in the mid-fourth century), together with his responsibility for the “convocation of councils,” over which he would preside and the decrees of which he would ratify.

In sum, then, Clément argues that “the one essential would be to pass from a situation where the hierarchical dovetailing of power structures has legal back-up to one where tensions are held in balance without predetermined juridical solutions.”

Such are some of the reflections of Clément in response to Pope John Paul’s request. They do not constitute a systematic program for reform or even an ordered checklist of Orthodox requirements but simply some reflections offered as part of an ongoing debate. As such, they are fair game for criticism, and Clément’s text is not without its problems, the two main problems being, first, that Clément makes several sweeping claims that go against the grain of received scholarship and therefore require evidence (which he fails to provide), and, second, that he goes off on strange tangents, of which his postscript is the most egregious example.

In the first category we have the hoary tale of what Clément calls “the annexation by Rome of vast Orthodox territories under the cover of uniatism.” This remains the most poisonous charge of Orthodoxy against Catholicism, especially in western Ukraine, and the international Orthodox-Catholic joint dialogue has nearly collapsed under the strain of it. It is disappointing to see Clément repeat it, not only because Rome has dealt with this question in the 1993 Balamand Statement of the joint dialogue, but especially because recent scholarship has demolished these charges.

In the second category are Clément’s excursuses unconnected to his essay and filled with an exquisite condescension one typically associates with such as Hans Küng or the New York Times . Commenting on reforms in the Church of Rome after the Second Vatican Council, Clément retails the standard leftist line that “things became more complex with John Paul II. Whatever his original dispositions, John Paul II has been deeply marked by his collision with the Marxian influence (Marxian rather than Marxist, but he has failed to make the distinction”a measure of his lack of fully understanding it).” The book’s postscript is its most regrettable feature”a long, rambling, fevered rumination on war, evil, technological changes, the environment, and the future of Christianity”all topics that have been better addressed elsewhere.

But these flaws do not mar the originality of the main text or the importance of its contribution to that “fraternal dialogue” for which the ever-patient John Paul called in 1995. Whether Clément’s example will prod his more reticent Orthodox brethren into responding remains to be seen. Whether Rome heeds any of his suggestions also remains to be seen. But the dialogue has begun, and for it to continue there must be more interlocutors like Olivier Clément.


my source: monachos.net
Orthodoxy and the Roman Papacy: Ut Unum Sint and the Prospects of East“West Unity 
by Adam A. J. Deville 
Notre Dame, 280 pages, $38

Links: http://undpress.nd.edu/book/P01438

Among the issues that continue to divide the Catholic Church from the Orthodox Church—the two largest Christian bodies in the world, together comprising well over a billion faithful—the question of the papacy is widely acknowledged to be the most significant stumbling block to their unification. For nearly forty years, commentators, theologians, and hierarchs, from popes and patriarchs to ordinary believers of both churches, have acknowledged the problems posed by the papacy.

In Orthodoxy and the Roman Papacy: Ut Unum Sint and the Prospects of East-West Unity, Adam A. J. DeVille offers the first comprehensive examination of the papacy from an Orthodox perspective that also seeks to find a way beyond this impasse, toward full Orthodox-Catholic unity. He first surveys the major postwar Orthodox and Catholic theological perspectives on the Roman papacy and on patriarchates, enumerating Orthodox problems with the papacy and reviewing how Orthodox patriarchates function and are structured. In response to Pope John Paul II’s 1995 request for a dialogue on Christian unity, set forth in the encyclical letter Ut Unum Sint, DeVille proposes a new model for the exercise of papal primacy. DeVille suggests the establishment of a permanent ecumenical synod consisting of all the patriarchal heads of Churches under a papal presidency, and discusses how the pope qua pope would function in a reunited Church of both East and West, in full communion. His analysis, involving the most detailed plan for Orthodox-Catholic unity yet offered by an Orthodox theologian, could not be more timely. 
note: Dr Adam DeVille is not an Orthodox theologian but a Ukrainian Catholic one.

my source: First Things
In Orthodoxy and the Modern Papacy , the author, a member of the Ukrainian Catholic Church who teaches theology at the University of St. Francis in Fort Wayne, Indiana, examines John Paul II’s Ut Unum Sint , the few official Orthodox responses it evoked, and the views of Orthodox and Catholic theologians on the “renewal” of the papacy. The general drift of their arguments, which the author endorses, is to suggest that the pope’s “patriarchal” and “primatial” functions ought to be disentangled”although they disagree as to whether this would be a recovery of a distinction the Roman See maintained in the first millennium or an unprecedented “orientalization” of the papacy based on historical considerations to which the papacy was, even in the first millennium, largely indifferent. 

Deville proposes dividing the Latin (or Western) Catholic Church into six regional, roughly continental, patriarchates on the “Byzantine model,” with each possessing synods that would replace the Roman Curia and be responsible for electing bishops, regulating liturgical and sacramental practice, and canonizing saints, among other matters. The pope would remain CEO of his patriarchate, the “global spokesman” for Christianity, and the sovereign of the Vatican city-state. He considers and rejects the objections that such “reforms” would be foreign to the structure of the Latin Church, involve an excess of “democracy,” and unleash moral, doctrinal, and disciplinary chaos. 

He also proposes a “permanent ecumenical synod” to assist the pope in the exercise of his primatial responsibilities: “keeping watch” over the episcopate and the sacramental life of the Church in general; “ensuring the communion” of all the churches of which he is universal primate; “admonishing and cautioning” concerning heterodox ideas and practices; and “declar[ing] ex cathedra that a certain doctrine belongs to the deposit of faith.” It also proposes what seems to be a cumbersome process and “electoral assembly” to select the pope. 

I must confess that I do not see the necessity of such “reforms.” More fundamentally, such changes might narrow the practical width of the gap that separates the two churches, but would not reduce its doctrinal depth.

”William Tighe teaches history at Muhlenberg College. 

Dr. Adam A. J. DeVille is Associate Professor and Chairman of the Department of Theology-Philosophy, University of Saint Francis (Fort Wayne, IN) and author of Orthodoxy and the Roman Papacy (University of Notre Dame, 2011).


I read the last two reviews in that excellent Orthodox publication Monachos.net, and they were followed by a very interesting number of comments.  Among them, there was a Welsh American Orthodox called Owen Jones who writes:
 It is so "Western" to think that structrual reforms are a solution to the problem.  And when I say doctrinal differences, I really mean aesthetic differences.  They represent two very different ways of looking at things.  And the aesthetic is paramount.  Orthodoxy is an aesthetic, first and foremost.  In contemporary thinking, one would say, oh, there are only aesthetic differences, much as one might say, these are just semantic differences.  But aesthetics are everything. ....To put it simply, Orthodoxy is not about thinking about God.  It's about seeing God -- in the things He has made.

Father Alexander Elchaniinov, in his "Diary of a Russian Priest", wrote,
Types of Christianity:
1) intellectual-contemplative; 
2) volitional-active (Catholicism) 
3)intellectual-ethical         (Protestantism) 
4) Christianity seen as supreme Beauty (Orthodoxy)   All the powers of the faithful are given up to this vision.   All other aspects of Christianity are subordinated to this conception.

Actually, Father Elchaninov is probably right when he compares the neo-scholastic theology of his time with Orthodox thought and practice; and he doesn't write off these "inferior" forms of Christianity but says that they are subordinated to supreme Beauty in Orthodoxy.   Moreover, he sounds like Hans urs von Balthasar, Pope Benedict XVI and Father Robert Barron who put great emphasis on Beauty when they talk about Catholicism.   

He certainly doesn't say with Owen Jones, "Orthodoxy is not about thinking about God.  It's about seeing God -- in the things He has made."   Don't Orthodox people think about God?  Don't Catholics see God in created things and situations?   How does he know?  At one level, Owen Jones is talking through his hat; but, at another level, he is saying a profound truth, that Beauty, if enjoyed properly, is a doorway into eternity.

Let us have an aesthetic look at Orthodoxy and ask the question if at any level Orthodoxy fails the Beauty test and thus fails to reflect God in the things he has made.

We are attracted by the beauty of the Orthodox liturgy, by the spirituality and lives of its saints, by the depth of its theology, by the evident wisdom of its fathers in the Faith, and its monastic life.   All this is very beautiful as are icons, useful for the Christian life, and instructive to us in our search for God.

However, not everything is beautiful and helpful.   Let me quote from the first review:
The Russian theologian Nicholas Lossky has recently suggested that the revival of eucharistic ecclesiology has a long way to go before it overcomes the still prevalent “autocephalist ecclesiology” in which “relations among the ‘sister churches’ tend to resemble . . . the relations between sovereign states.”

The rivalry of Moscow and Constantinople, of Antioch and Jerusalem, and other rivalries in history, are just plain ugly.  The way that nationalism and faith has often become indistinguishable. For example, the way Serbian Orthodoxy seemed to have positively fuelled the nationalism that killed or ethnically displaced  people from other national groupings in the Yugoslav conflict was just plain ugly. (Though there are also during that war beautiful accounts of Serbian Orthodox monks shielding and helping Albanians.)  When a Russian Orthodox archimandrite friend of mine went over to Constantinople because, he told me, he never knew if the Russian bishop he met was just an ordinary bishop or if he was also a KGB agent, that was just plain ugly.   How Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev, for whom I have great respect as a theologian and who studied at Oxford and is one of my favourite authors, can give a bogus version of the conflict in the Ukraine, I do not know, and his denial of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church's right to exist is very ugly.  It seems that the Russians, like the Turks with the Armenians, are in complete denial when it comes to the Ukrainians.  Although, at ground roots level, there were many examples of Christian charity between priests and people during the time of persecution,  specially when Orthodox and Catholics lived in the same Gulag or were neighbours, there was less evidence of Christian charity among the Russian Orthodox hierarchy who seem always to take the government line, whatever the colour of the government.  There is nothing beautiful about this.

There is a little old lady in Hereford who told me how, when she was ten years old, she and her elder sister were taken by cattle truck to another part of Russia to a work camp; and she was fed one piece of bread a day.   Her only crime was that she was a Catholic in the Ukraine.   Of course, Metropolitan Hilarion may be right, and she may be lying in her teeth; but I think it highly unlikely.  Why should a pious, kind,  simple old lady lie? All very ugly.

In fact, all linking faith too closely with nationalism is ugly.  It is the ambition of all dictators to control the Church.  This was one of the reasons why Rome persecuted the early Christians.  The Nazis wanted to form a national Catholic Church, one that would support National Sociolist values.  The Chinese have the same desire.

In contrast is the beautiful  description of Christians in the Letter to Diognetus, which was certainly not written by a Russian Orthodox hierarch:

For the Christians are distinguished from other men neither by country, nor language, nor the customs which they observe. For they neither inhabit cities of their own, nor employ a peculiar form of speech, nor lead a life which is marked out by any singularity. The course of conduct which they follow has not been devised by any speculation or deliberation of inquisitive men; nor do they, like some, proclaim themselves the advocates of any merely human doctrines. But, inhabiting Greek as well as barbarian cities, according as the lot of each of them has determined, and following the customs of the natives in respect to clothing, food, and the rest of their ordinary conduct, they display to us their wonderful and confessedly striking method of life. They dwell in their own countries, but simply as sojourners. As citizens, they share in all things with others, and yet endure all things as if foreigners. Every foreign land is to them as their native country, and every land of their birth as a land of strangers.

Olivier Clement says of Rome
“little by little . . . Roman primacy showed signs of becoming contaminated by the problem of power . . . [as] apostolic Rome appeared to have taken over from ancient imperial Rome.” This is seen most clearly in the declaration of the thirteenth-century Pope Boniface VIII: “I am pope and emperor.” Such statements could only call forth equally vigorous counter-polemics from the now-estranged Orthodox.

This is sadly true.  We are in no position to show off our superiority: we too have been contaminated by the "world"during the course of history, and the secularising of Christian authority. Vatican II has been interpreted as the council that throws off the bad effects - there were good ones too - of the too close relationship between civil and church authority that began when Constantine became a Christian. 

  Nevertheless, it is necessary to point out that the too close relation between church and state, so characteristic of certain Orthodox churches, most importantly the Russian Orthodox Church that is trying to restore its ancient glories, is the same kind of thing.  They do not realise how distorting it is, and how ugly it is for anyone who does not share the same patriotism.

Again, all this accent on canonical Orthodoxy as the basic reality of Christ's Church, even, with some theologians making the validity of sacraments depend on their canonical status, is the Orthodox version of a tendency in our church. It takes another form in the Catholic Church. The Church is a perfect society held together by jurisdiction, with the Pope as the supreme unifying factor.   Neither version is out-and-out wrong - canon law is essential in churches as big as ours, and the Catholic version was canonised by Vatican I.  However, both versions put law before sacrament when deciding what constitutes the Church 

This tendency gives us a truth but it is not profound enough; and this has been shown up by eucharistic ecclesiology.   The Eucharist is the basic constitution of the Church because it is by the Eucharist that the Church is body of Christ.  I have spelt out the implications of this elsewhere.   It means that our wars against each other contradict what we celebrate each time we participate in the identical Eucharist. 

It puts ecumenism right at the centre of our concerns.  We are caught between the devil and the deep blue sea.  The Eucharist demands that we be in communion with one another, but all kinds of factors keep us apart, and we cannot obey.   The unnatural situation has been like this for getting on a thousand years, and the wounds will take time to heal, and we need time to understand.   However, the Holy Spirit is already on the move and knows what he is doing.

Deville proposes dividing the Latin (or Western) Catholic Church into six regional, roughly continental, patriarchates on the “Byzantine model,” 

If Pope Francis still proposes to bring about the changes he spoke and wrote about when he began his Petrine ministry, then some of DeVille's suggestions are probably going to happen anyway.   However, the Pope seems intent that any change must make pastoral sense.  Thus, he sees the bishops as representing diversity in the Church and believes that progress comes out of the tension between unity (represented by the pope) and the bishops.  He had no wish that the Church should start by examining its own navel; so he didn't start with a synod on synods (in abstract, as it were): he had a synod on the family, with a fuller synod this  year on the same subject.   My guess is that there will be agreement on the general doctrine as traditionally taught, but disgreement on what is to be done about it.   Then, I suggest, it will be thrashed out and decisions made at a local or regional level.  Thus, the process of decentralisation will have begun, with diversity of pastoral strategy and unity of doctrine.

   Continental synods already exist with, perhaps, the most developed one in South America. As Archbishop he played a leading role in CELAM and described the documents it produced as products of the South American bishops' "magisterium", a word usually used to speak of the universal Church rather than the church of a region. May they gradually gain more and more authority; but this will happen only to the extent that it serves a pastoral need.

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