13 November 2014

Metropolitan Hilarion

The 'Foreign Minister' of the Russian Patriarchate has delivered (8 November) a characteristically brilliant paper on Primacy and Synodality to the great American, Orthodox, seminary of S Vladimir.

Of course, a Catholic ecclesiologist might have, at many points, very different things to say. He might wish to suggest that too much is made in this paper of a normativeness discerned in a 'Conciliar' period supervised by the imperial power in New Rome; and too little of the function of the Petrine Primacy in the centuries before Caesaropapism was invented. Journalists might dismiss Hilarion's masterly exegesis as being merely the establishment of political 'position' as between Moskow and Constantinople. In each case, to use these judgements as an easy excuse to dismiss his detailed, lucid, and scholarly exposition would be unfortunate.

I will simply pick out two of his points which bear upon matters which are relevant to Catholic Church life at this particular moment.

(1) We sometimes read about 'intermediate primacies' and about the importance of local gatherings of bishops in particular regions. Metropolitan Hilarion makes absolutely clear that the local particular church, in communion with its bishop, is theologically fundamental; while regional primacies are merely a matter of convenience, without being rooted in an essential doctrine of the Church. "The primacy of the diocesan bishop is clearly based on fundamental theological principles, such as the one famously emphasised by S Cyprian: 'The bishop is in the church and the church is in the bishop and ... if somebody is not with the bishop, he is not in the church.' Primacy at the regional level, a matter of canonical convenience, is based on church canons ...".

Absolutely. This is why the Holy See has been concerned that Episcopal Conferences should not usurp the primacy of the Bishop in his Particular Church, either theologically or practically.

(2) Synodality implies consensus, not majority voting. Indeed, Hilarion goes further: Conciliar decisions are to be agreed "by consensus, not by vote; they will be approved by the entire assembly of bishops".

This is important; it is one reason for deploring the proceedings of the recent Roman Synod, after which paragraphs which had failed even to reach a two-thirds majority were, nevertheless, circulated with an indication of the number of votes cast for and against. In this, the Holy Father was, surely, badly advised. This action had an unfortunate appearance of the arbitrary. Catholics have always expected that Ecumenical Councils should 'morally unanimous'. It is well known that, after Vatican I, B John Henry Newman was concerned that "an aggressive insolent faction" might have "so practised on" the Fathers that "there will be the gravest reasons for determining that the Definition is not valid". If, at some future time, there were to be Synodical or Conciliar proceedings dominated by a particular will or faction determined to impose heterodoxy or heteropraxy, and if that faction secured a majority vote for their aims without securing the consensus of moral unanimity, and if they were to attempt forcefully to impose their 'majority decisions' upon the Church; such 'imposition' would be vis sine iure.

Metropolitan Hilarion was criticised by some Catholics for what he said at the Synod. I think such criticism is understandable but insensitive. Given the ecclesiastical situation in the Ukraine, where several jurisdictions are in competition for Byzantine Rite faithful and the primacy of Moskow is one of the points of fierce division, and where, moreover, there are Russian apprehensions about Western dreams of expanding Nato and the EU up to the boundaries of the Russian Federation, his words were unsurprising. Orthodox delegations have, in the past, refused to visit Rome on the Feast of Ss Peter and Paul if 'Uniate' archbishops were to be given the Pallium; and, at the Inauguration of the Pontificate of Benedict XVI, some of the Orthodox present turned their backs when the Greek Deacon sang the Gospel. Life will be simpler if we can try to understand their feelings; just as life will also be simpler if Russian Orthodox can try to understand the immense sympathy and admiration which we feel for a Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church which suffered a long living martyrdom for its Unity with the See of Peter.

It is probably with the advice of Metropolitan Hilarion that Kyril, Patriarch of Moskow and of All the Russias, intervened with the Pakistani government on behalf of Asia Bibi, a Catholic woman threatened with martyrdom. I have heard it suggested that the unwillingness of Pope Francis to do the same personally, or, indeed, to make any utterance in criticism of our current menace, militant Islam, is rather like the unwillingness of B Paul VI to say anything which might have damaged his Ostpolitik, his outreach to the then current menace of militant Marxism. I suspect that this may be completely unfair to the present pope. Perhaps behind-the-scenes diplomacy is going on which would be compromised by public rhetoric. Or perhaps Moskow is actually acting at the request of the Holy See. We don't always know everything.

In any case, if the action of the Moskow Patriarchate is an expression of the historic Russian sense that they are protectors of the ancient Christian communities of the Middle East, I, for one, applaud it.


Fr PJM said...

In the hierarchy of truths, Vatican I's Pastor aeternus is of far, far less weight and importance than it's Dei Filius.
Did you know that Dei filius was passed with absolute unanimity?

Fr Ray Blake said...

O duobus pulmonibus!

Jonathan said...

"if somebody is not with the bishop, he is not in the church"

Please help me understand this. What does it mean to be with your bishop?

I had always, incorrectly, assumed that I am in the Church because I believe the articles in the Creed, believe in Jesus and what the catechism teaches, receive the sacraments.

The synod showed that many bishops do not hold the Catholic belief about divorce and remarriage. Several 'women priests' claim to have been clandestinely 'ordained' by genuine Catholic bishops. In these, or similar, cases it does not seem desirable to be 'with' such bishops.

Robert Manner said...

To your Post Scriptum (1), Father H., the question is whether Metropolitan Hilarion, in addressing the Synod about the UGCC, has gone beyond advocacy for his church’s position, and entered into untruths (yes, lies) about the situation in the Ukraine. Why must understandable concerns lead to calumny against another part of the Body of Christ?


B flat said...

Dear Father, Your post is most valuable, as usual.
To Robert Manner I would say that the link you gave was to a report of Metropolitan Hilarion's speech at the Synod. As the press was not present in the Synod hall, I suppose we have to follow written reports, but it is a serious thing to accuse a bishop, successor of the Apostles, to be lying. It is certainly done by George Weigel in his report for which you give a link, and I was sorry to see it.
Looking up the record of the speech itself on the Department of External Affairs website
I see a mention of the Greek Catholic Church, but nothing that could be justly called objectively untrue, or even obviously misleading. He actually addresses his remark to the Greek Catholics in the Synod.
It is right to deplore calumny; better still, to not be caught up in it oneself through uncritical reading of journalists' reports.
I apologise to everyone for prolonging the digression, but believe that a man's good faith should not be undermined lightly, especially if his life is dedicated to proclaiming the Truth of Christ. Remember how Bl. John Henry was prostrated by this charge, as he recounts in the beginning of his Apologia pro Vita sua. Bl John Henry called it "poisoning the wells" if I remember correctly. A desperate act in time of open war, but in conditions of brotherly relations, said about honoured guests?

Ordo Antiquus said...

"Why must understandable concerns lead to calumny against another part of the Body of Christ?"


Conveniently for the Ukrainian Greek Catholics, much of their rhetoric against the Russian Orthodox Church is not translated into English and so appears as nonexistent to English-speakers. Anglophones tend to to think if something is not in English then it does not exist.

But the rhetoric does exist. Try looking for the Ukrainian page of the "Religious Information Service of Ukraine" that is run from the Ukrainian Catholic University in Lviv. Try reading it at least through Google Translate. That news service is relentlessly anti-Russian Orthodox and openly supports the "Kyivan Patriarchate" that no canonical Orthodox Patriarchate recognizes.

Most Western news sources also fail to mention that the Ukrainian Orthodox Church - Moscow Patriarchate has been consistently supportive of Ukrainian independence and national identity and has supported the Ukrainian government, and this has not at all resulted in any schism with Moscow.

justin mcdonnell said...

What outrageous reportage. Hillarion has consistently acted in a belligerent and unbecoming way towards our Church and has not missed a single opportunity to attack us. When we are attacked it is only just that we have the right to at least respond with the truth! As usual the dreadful Uniates are the problem! And you lot call yourselves Catholic? Thanks for the support.

William Tighe said...

Perhaps of interest:


justin mcdonnell said...

Yes the same goes for you if you don't mind. You probably don't read Russian and would not be aware that the Muscovite masses thrive on tales of the evil Uniates, in league with the Masons and Fascists subversively plotting the destruction of "Holy Russia". Hillarion is acting to please these mad folk, the conservative rump of the Moscow Patriarchate. What you find on Kyiv Post and RSIU is very very mild in comparison. Get your facts straight before you put forth such offensive and mendacious commentary sir. Shame!

Little Black Sambo said...

The Muscovites are the worst caesaropapists of the lot. And Hilarion himself threw his weight about remarkably in this country when he was reclaiming the Russian parishes for Holy Russia.

Ordo Antiquus said...

This past week the government of Ukraine's Rivne Oblast (province) hosted a meeting where a memorandum was signed calling for the creation of an Autocephelous Orthodox Church in Ukraine. It was signed by the bishops in Rivne of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church - Moscow Patriarchate (UOC-MP), the sole Orthodox Church in Ukraine recognized by the canonical Orthodox Churches, as well as of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church - "Kyivan Patriarchate". Reports mention that the two UOC-MP bishops who signed the agreeement were nervous and admitted that they had not consulted with either Patriarch Kirill of Moscow or Metropolitan Onufry, head of the UOC-MP. The memorandum was immediately condemned by both the UOC-MP spokesman Bishop Clement of Irpen and by the Moscow Patriarchate.

Most astonishing however was the participation of a bishop of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church in the memorandum. What was he doing there openly interfering in the life of the Orthodox Church??? Either he was meddling in what is really an Orthodox affair, or he was signaling that a part of the UGCC itself is contemplating possible schism from Rome once there is a "unified Orthodox Church" in Ukraine.

Ordo Antiquus said...

This will be my last comment here.

Here is something that the Ukrainian Catholics conveniently never mention: the fact that the Ukrainian army has devastated 50 churches belonging to the Moscow Patriarchate.


Charnetsky said...

In Christian charity, in brotherly concern, in imitation of the saints, we must speak truthfully, never imputing wrong to anyone. Please, do not impute cooperation with evil on the part of the Ukrainian Catholics (UGCC) when the Ukrainian army (which is not representative of the UGCC) retaliates against Russian military locations (yes, that means some Russian Orthodox parishes in Eastern Ukraine have been doubling as Russian military centers. Case in point, the village Horlivka). Further, be judicious when reading reports/claims from Russian controlled state agents (Patriarch Kiril, whose codename was Drozdov) who make unsubstantiated claims. Remember, we are Christians and must be at pains to foster unity in the faith, not quick to foment division.

As a non-Ukrainian who lived in Ukraine for three years, I am now a Ukrainian Catholic priest. During my time I have learned that the hierarchy of the Russian Orthodox Church serves in tandem with the interests of the Russian state. This includes documented incidences of lying about the status of the Ukrainian Catholics and documented occasions of their persecution of the Ukrainian Catholics (Synod of 1946). Metropolitan Hilarion's commments at the synod were gratuitous and sadly form part of that recent tradition of mendacity on the part of the Russian Hierarchs to collaborate with State interests. For more on this please listen to this interview with Patriarch Sviatoslav of the Ukrainian Catholic Church: http://cardinaldolan.org/index.php/a-conversation-with-his-beatitude-sviatoslav-shevchuk/ In closing, it is important to not that we Ukrainian Catholics stand for our brothers in Russia, the holy and brave citizens who strive to live in their Orthodox spiritual tradition. My concerns are in regard to the duplicity of their hierarchs.

Fr John Hunwicke said...

I see that on another blog this piece has been resolutely attacked as being an attack on the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church. The writer apparently did not notice that I wrote about that Church having "suffered a long living martyrdom for its Unity with the See of Peter". He also accuses me of not condemning the practice of some Orthodox at Pope Benedict's Inauguration, of turning away when the Greek Deacon sang the Gospel. I strongly disapproved of that ... and of Orthodox refusing to come to Rome for Petertide if Oriental metropolitans were to receive the pallium. I disapprove because I believe that Ecumenism should not start by very rudely attacking other Christian bodies for believing what they do believe. I mentioned those items in my post simply to remind readers of the background, which is that many Orthodox ... and certainly not only Russians ... are paranoid about "uniates". If anybody is to blame for what Hilarion said at the Synod, it is those who, in the present febrile situation, invited him to address a gathering including Ukrainian hierarchs.