20 November 2014


I share the view that we should look at a broader background than Unitatis Redintegratio of Vatican II, considered in isolation, if we desire a Catholic and 'Traditional' account of "Ecumenism". The following roughs out some lines of thought which I have been considering, based upon evidence. (I am not really interested in opinions which are evidentially unbased.) Please regard it as inchoate; please understand that it is intended less to assert than to ask.

The Roman See has not always treated Oriental groups seeking Full Communion as if they were merely groups of individual schismatics some of whom happened to possess technically 'valid' Orders. The Oriental bishops at Florence were, surely, treated as having real status as Patriarchs and Bishops. As late as Vatican I, dissident Oriental bishops were sent invitations to the Council*. When the Melkite Patriarchate of Antioch regularised its position with Rome in the early 18th century, I know no evidence that its hierarchy was granted jurisdiction. Benedict XIV (Demandatam caelitus) assured Cyril VI and his bishops: "We have no other intention ... but that the due obedience of your people and your authority and jurisdiction over them shall be kept whole and entire ... We wish all the rights, privileges, and free jurisdiction of Your Fraternities to remain intact". Indeed, there is evidence that, in the period before the definitive restoration  of Full Communion, Jesuits working within the Patriarchate of Antioch had treated all Melkite bishops as the local Ordinaries.

Perhaps surprisingly, even the 1917 Code of Canon Law ... yes, I did say 1917 ... permitted the faithful to seek the Sacraments from an excommunicate ministers "ex qualibet iusta causa" (i.e. not necessarily even "ex gravi causa"; vide 2261 para 2). In the first part of the twentieth century, Latin theologians advanced differing interpretations of the de facto acceptance by Rome of jurisdiction (for example, to absolve) within Orthodox communities (at the end of Lumen Gentium, among the Notificationes appended by the Docrinal Commission, we find an admission that "variae exstant sententiae" among theologians "quod attinet ad potestatem quae de facto apud Orientales seiunctos exercetur".) It would be difficult to sustain a claim that, according to Catholic Tradition, ecclesiastical jurisdiction only authentically exists in full canonical unity with the See of Rome.

Perhaps the evidence is even stronger with regard to the Patriarchate of Moskow. After all, spats between Rome and Constantinople went back to the first millennium, while Rome and Moskow had always been rather more cut off from each other (did the Russian Church formally denounce the decrees of Florence in the 1480s?). The fabulously erudite Benedictine Orientalist Jean-Baptiste-Francois Pitra, Cardinal Bishop of Frascati and Archivist of the Holy Roman Church, took the view that the separation between Rome and Moskow was neither juridical nor formal; a view shared not only by the maverick Russian Orthodox lay theologian Vladimir Soloviev but also, significantly, by the great Ukrainian Greek Catholic Metropolitan Andrew Sheptytsky. Metropolitan Andrew was what the early Latin Christians called a Confessor: one who witnessed to Christ with the offer of his life but was never called to shed his blood. During the course of his heroic life, in which he saw the insides of many prisons, he was an indefatigable worker, not only for his own flock, but also for the unity of all Christians of the Byzantine Rite with the See of S Peter. He dealt with Russian Orthodox in ways that accorded ill with the views of some tidy-minded Latins. There survives a printed document copies of which he presumably handed out to Ukrainian Confessors ...

I shall deal with it, Deo volente, in a day or two's time.
*Bishop C Butler wrote "It is possible to argue, and has been argued from the Roman Catholic side, that 'schism' was never formally consummated between these two great communions".

Benedict XIV reminded us, in general terms, that we cannot definitively deny the propriety of any sacramental sharing, because the Catholic Church grants dispensations for mixed marriages ... in which, according to Western theology, the two ministers of the Sacrament belong to different communions.


Bridget said...

So amused, in the context, to see Soloviev described as maverick.

Savonarola said...

The Scriptures going back 3,000 years or so tell us that God is more concerned with what goes on at the heart of people than he is with external juridical forms. If that is what God is like, should we not be like that too? This is not to suggest that ecumenism at the institutional level does not matter, but if stays there it is likely to continue being a dead letter and even act as a means of confirming us in our contentment with being separate and superior.
'Unitatis redintegratio' itself suggests in various places that other factors are just as important, e.g. 'there can be no ecumenism worthy of the name without interior conversion' (7). Catholics who like being the one true Church to which everyone else should submit might consider their own need for interior conversion - if, that is, they are serious about the disunity of Christians. We may be satisfied with it, but it remains a scandal - not least to those who could otherwise be attracted to the Christian Gospel.

Mighty Joe Young said...


38. For it has been clearly and expressly laid down in the canons that it pertains to the one Apostolic See to judge whether a person is fit for the dignity and burden of the episcopacy,[11] and that complete freedom in the nomination of bishops is the right of the Roman Pontiff.[12] But if, as happens at times, some persons or groups are permitted to participate in the selection of an episcopal candidate, this is lawful only if the Apostolic See has allowed it in express terms and in each particular case for clearly defined persons or groups, the conditions and circumstances being very plainly determined.

39. Granted this exception, it follows that bishops who have been neither named nor confirmed by the Apostolic See, but who, on the contrary, have been elected and consecrated in defiance of its express orders, enjoy no powers of teaching or of jurisdiction since jurisdiction passes to bishops only through the Roman Pontiff as We admonished in the Encyclical Letter Mystici Corporis in the following words: ". . . As far as his own diocese is concerned each (bishop) feeds the flock entrusted to him as a true shepherd and rules it in the name of Christ. Yet in exercising this office they are not altogether independent but are subordinate to the lawful authority of the Roman Pontiff, although enjoying ordinary power of jurisdiction which they receive directly from the same Supreme Pontiff."[13]

40. And when We later addressed to you the letter Ad Sinarum gentem, We again referred to this teaching in these words: "The power of jurisdiction which is conferred directly by divine right on the Supreme Pontiff comes to bishops by that same right, but only through the successor of Peter, to whom not only the faithful but also all bishops are bound to be constantly subject and to adhere both by the reverence of obedience and by the bond of unity."[14]

41. Acts requiring the power of Holy Orders which are performed by ecclesiastics of this kind, though they are valid as long as the consecration conferred on them was valid, are yet gravely illicit, that is, criminal and sacrilegious.

O, and as an aside, you are an absolute blast to read, Father

William Tighe said...

"(did the Russian Church formally denounce the decrees of Florence in the 1480s?)"

Actually, the Russian Church repudiated the union decrees of the Council of Florence in 1441. When Metropolitan Isidore of Kiev (the Kievan metropolitans had resided in Moscow since ca. 1325) returned to Moscow and proclaimed the Union, he was arrested, imprisoned and deposed by a council of Russian bishops, who went on to denounce the "false union." Moscow elected its own anti-unionist metropolitan in 1448, who took the title of "Metropolitan of Moscow;" when Isidore, by then a Cardinal, became (titular) Patriarch of C'ple in 1458, he was succeeded as "unionist" Metropolitan of Kiev (whose actual seat was Vilnius) by Gregory the Bulgarian. Gregory (d. 1473) and his successor Mikhail (d. 1480) seem to have been in communion with both Rome and C'ple, but by 1500 they were no longer regarded by Rome as in communion with the Holy See. C'ple recognized the newly-created autocephalous Metropolitanate of Moscow in 1464.

William Tighe said...

How is Pope Pius XII's "Apostolorum Principis" of 1958, which deals with the situation of the Latin Catholic bishops in Communist China, relevant to the question of the jurisdictional status of bishops centuries earlier in what might be loosely characterized as a state of alienation, or perhaps "quasi-schism," from Rome?

Martin said...

Within the Orthodox Church there seems to be more than one view current on the status of Catholic sacraments (and perhaps other acts,of which the minority view is less positive than the majority view - a lack of a unified position on the Orthodox side might constitute a practical obstacle to rapprochement.

Mighty Joe Young said...

Dr. Tighe. Your professional reputation is as well deserved as it is well known whereas M.J is aught but an amateur autodidact.

The Church of Christ, an apologetic and dogmatic treatise E. Sylvester Berry, STD treats of Apostolic Succession and he makes a distinction between legitimate (formal) and illegitimate (material) succession and so because Apostolic Succession comprises a twofold function - Orders and Jurisdiction - in which Orders is purely spiritual but Jurisdiction is authority to govern , it must needs be that, given the nature of the Church, Jurisdiction must be approved/regulated by the Church.

So, it seems to this amateur that those in the East whom we are discussing have Orders absent Jurisdiction approved by the Church( Pope) and that the encyclical cited is just a restatement of that which has been believed pre-dating the schism.

Of course, we amateurs are anxious to arrive at right conclusions and so that is one reason we take Father Hunwicke and Drs like you seriously.

O, and don't concern yourself with feelings; M.J. specializes in errors and so corrections have thickened his skin.

Mighty Joe Young said...

Dear Father. One last submission from this amateur and the he will fall silent and try to learn

There does seem to be a clear recognition that there was a disunion (schism) and an existing wall of separation twixt the Catholic Church and those in the east and that awl had to be torn down and union reestablished


the Session 6 - 6 July 1439

[Definition of the holy ecumenical synod of Florence]

Eugenius, bishop, servant of the servants of God, for an everlasting record. With the agreement of our most dear son John Palaeologus, illustrious emperor of the Romans, of the deputies of our venerable brothers the patriarchs and of other representatives of the eastern church, to the following.

Let the heavens be glad and let the earth rejoice. For, the wall that divided the western and the eastern church has been removed, peace and harmony have returned, since the corner-stone, Christ, who made both one, has joined both sides with a very strong bond of love and peace, uniting and holding them together in a covenant of everlasting unity. After a long haze of grief and a dark and unlovely gloom of long-enduring strife, the radiance of hoped-for union has illuminated all.

Let mother church also rejoice. For she now beholds her sons hitherto in disagreement returned to unity and peace, and she who hitherto wept at their separation now gives thanks to God with inexpressible joy at their truly marvellous harmony. Let all the faithful throughout the world, and those who go by the name of Christian, be glad with mother catholic church. For behold, western and eastern fathers after a very long period of disagreement and discord, submitting themselves to the perils of sea and land and having endured labours of all kinds, came together in this holy ecumenical council, joyful and eager in their desire for this most holy union and to restore intact the ancient love. In no way have they been frustrated in their intent. After a long and very toilsome investigation, at last by the clemency of the holy Spirit they have achieved this greatly desired and most holy union. Who, then, can adequately thank God for his gracious gifts?' Who would not stand amazed at the riches of such great divine mercy? Would not even an iron breast be softened by this immensity of heavenly condescension?

Fr John Hunwicke said...

BUT!!! this supports my point that the eastern Patriarchs were seen as having true jurisdiction! They are not referred to as so-called or soi-disant Patriarchs, but as ... PATRIARCHS!