Some interesting 'demands' have emerged from Eastern Catholic bishops at the Middle Eastern Synod. Two of them I find unexceptionable.
The first is that Rome should stop discouraging the ordination of married Orientals to the presbyterate. The current position is that married presbyterates should only exist in the original geographical homelands of Eastern Catholic Churches. I can understand why Latin ecclesiastics fear the undermining of the Western discipline of clerical celibacy; and I have some sympathy with them. But they ought to be cautious in their assertions. For example, a few months ago an English RC bishop publicly claimed that the provision for the admission of married men to the presbyterates of Ordinariates applied only to the 'first wave' of those signing up. He clearly had not read the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum coetibus, which allows ordinaries to seek dispensation for their ordinands from the rule of celibacy indefinitely: and does not restrict this to those who had been in the ministry of the Anglican Church. Ah ... and by the way ... symmetry would require that if Orientals within what used to be the Western Patriarchate have to obey the Western discipline concerning clerical marriage, then Occidentals within the territories of Eastern Churches should be subject to the Eastern discipline about clerical marriage.
Secondly, I sympathise with the call for greater speed in the granting of Roman consent to Eastern episcopal elections. Frankly, I cannot see why Roman consent should be necessary anyway. Its requirement is a fairly recent innovation in Oriental Canon Law.
The third request is rather interesting. I think I agree with it, on the grounds that jurisdiction should follow personalist and cultural norms rather than crudely geographical ones, but ... well, there is a But. I refer to the request that Eastern Churches should have jurisdiction, not only within their historical geographical boundaries, but - in this age of great migrations - over their communities anywhere in the world. Good idea. But ... In view of the fact that the patriarchates of the Pentarchy, sanctioned by the earliest Ecumenical Councils, are locked into the major geographical and political divisions of the late Roman Empire, should it not be the Orthodox position that such a radical change, from geographical jurisdictions to cultural ones, required the consent of an Ecumenical Council? Orthodox - and Eastern Catholics - are surely rather hoist here by their own petard, whatever a petard is. And, while we are in this area, it has to be said that, theologically and canonically, there is something distinctly iffy about the cheerful abandon with which Orthodox Churches set up hierarchies throughout the West.
The fourth suggestion is, in my view, flawed to the point of being ridiculous. It is that Eastern Patriarchs should ex officio take part in papal elections. Now; I have no complaint about individual Oriental patriarchs being made cardinals and thus papal electors. But the Pope is, essentially, simply the bishop of Rome. Because the Roman Church, where Peter's voice still authentically and infallibly speaks, is the norm of orthodoxy and the God-given centre of ecclesial communion and unity, the bishop of this see has a unique and most important position in the ecclesia catholica. But, when all is said and done, he is Bishop of Rome, and should be elected by the clergy of that city: which is what the cardinal bishops, presbyters and deacons essentially are.
And, curiously, this Eastern request has implications which should be resisted and which Easterners, of all people, should not be promoting. It implies that the Pope is a sort of superprelate, something raised far on high above all other bishops, patriarchs, and Churches. Only if he were such an almighty person could it be appropriate for him to be elected by the representatives of all the Churches of East and West. And if he were such a hyperepiskopos, paradoxically, the theological rationale of his position would give him an autocratic authority over the Church Universal even beyond the most extravagant dreams of the ultramontanes of Vatican I.