14 October 2010

Eastern Catholics

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.


Conchúr said...

With regards to the first point - I don't know why this has been raised, Rome hasn't commented with regards to ordination of married men within the Occident for decades. It has pretty much left the Eastern Catholic Churches to their own devices in that regard. It doesn't seem to have sunk it yet though, bar in the Ukrainian Church in Canada where married men have been ordained for decades without reference to or objection from Rome. It's starting to happen more regularly in the USA too. Perhaps it is more a question of asking Rome to have a word with local Latin bishops conferences who may not have got the memo, particularly in Western/Central Europe.

The second point has always struck me as redundant. Letter of Communion are all that should be necessary.

The third point has bothered me for a long time. Patriarchs and Major Archbishops should have direct authority over ALL their flock, regardless of geographic location.

With regards to the fourth issue. Eastern patriarchs should not be voting cardinals, period. By all means if an Eastern input is desired offer a galero to Eastern bishops, with the consent of their patriarchs, but not to the patriarchs themselves for the reason that you note in your last paragraph.

Dale said...

Fr. Hunwicke stated:

"Allows ordinaries to seek dispensation for their ordinands from the rule of celibacy indefinitely"

May I add that seeking and being granted are not necessarily the same thing.

Fr John Hunwicke said...

Very true, but "may seek" implies "may very probably be granted", because there is little point in encouraging the making of requests which it is intended routinely to refuse.

Dale said...

Perhaps, but if we study the treatment of a married priesthood in the Eastern Rites, one might be tempted to question such dispensations.

According to all acts of union with Orthodox groups the existence of a married priesthood was promised in perpetuity, but this was soon abrogated in not only the west, but especially in India where celibacy is enforced.

If Rome will not abide by promises enshrined in acts of union, why should she be any different with simple requests for "dispensations"?

Jonathan said...

That's an interesting comment Dale.

Promised something in perpetuity which was then "soon abrogated".

Isn't that what those who have opted for the pastoral care of PEV's in the Church of England claim has happened to them, and about which they fulminate?

Maybe the grass isn't so much greener on the other side of the fence at all.

GOR said...

While I don’t have a dog in this fight - as they say - about married priests and Patriarchal electors in conclave, one thing which has struck me about the deliberations to date is the perception of the Eastern Catholics as being ‘second-class citizens’ in the Universal Church.

I think they have a point, and much of it has to do with ignorance – ignorance on the part of us in the Latin Rite. I would venture to say that, for many Latin Catholics, Eastern Catholic Rites equate to ‘Orthodox Churches’. We have had little exposure to the Eastern Rites and most likely think of Copts, Maronites, etc. as ‘Orthodox’ and are dismissive.

I don’t think this is intentional - but merely from lack of knowledge and experience of the Oriental Rites. When you think about it, unless you lived in a large metropolitan area, what opportunity would you have had to know anything about Oriental Rites? And this is where I think the Latin Rite and the authorities therein – from the Vatican to the local dioceses - have some work to do: by raising awareness and facilitating interaction with our Eastern brothers and sisters.

Conchúr said...

Rome did not enforce celibacy in India. That was something the Syro-Malankara and Syro-Malabar Churches decided to impose themselves and not without criticism.

Anonymous said...

I’m tired of the regurge defense of celibacy - “Oh, it’s such a gift! It’s so holy! It’s soooo sacrificial!” – Quacumque... (Whatever...) Mandatory celibacy is primarily all about money, greed and power. Celibacy does not inculcate holiness any more than does monogamous holy matrimony. It is the man's character that should be paramount.

Most of the celibates I know are fat, lazy and full of excuses; this is not so of the married men I know who tend to be truly overworked and sacrificing. I’ll admit that there are exceptional un-married/"celibate" men, but they are diamonds in a salt mine.

If the Ordinariates are not granted a permanent married priesthood then they will cease to be Anglican. Though there have been un-married Anglican priests, they have traditionally been kept in check by their married colleagues.

Dale said...

"Rome did not enforce celibacy in India. That was something the Syro-Malankara and Syro-Malabar Churches decided to impose themselves and not without criticism."

How convenient. It was Rome who enforced celibacy in North America amongst the Eastern Catholics, resulting in the defection of hundreds of parishes, and tens of thousands of laity to Orthodoxy. But I have also heard how they actually wanted celibacy themselves...same argument.

I have also heard, my whole life, about the married Ukrainian priest, who with tears in his eyes, was sorry that he did not embrace celibacy. I have not only heard this same story for almost fifty years, most recently from a Roman bishop; it is always a Ukrainian, and is always used to support celibacy, both in the Latin as well as the eastern rites.

Anonymous said...

I am presntly reading Hull's book ''The Banishd Heart: Origin of Heteropraxis in the Chruch of Rome''. His conclusion regarding the disrespectful, bigoted and uncharitable second-class treatment meeted out by the Vatican and the Latin Bishops towards Eastern Catholics in union with Rome, latinising their Liturgies, forbidding their lawful customs, laws and uses, and nullifying prior agreements, is that, those who disrespect the Rites of others, end up disrespecting their own. Hence, the Church of ROme, which , since the Council of Trent, and esp. since Vatican I, was so intent upon wrecking havock upon the venerable Rites and Customs of the Christian East (and even upon non-ROman Western Rites), eventually, after Vatican II, consigned its own venerable Roman Rite to the scrap heap, in an orgy of self-destruction - the result of centuries of disdain of others turned inwards, when there was no other Rite left to deform but their own.
As for celibacy, in this same book it is shown how several Popes, acting in accordance with the request Portuguese civil authorities and various Latin missionaries (Jesuits, Vincentians, Dominicans, etc.) forcibly latinised the Eastern Rites of India and imposed celibacy upon the Church in India and as well as upon other ''lesser'' Eastern Churches. In the USa, the bigotry and lack of charity and justice shown by the Irish American Bishops towards the Ukrainians and Ruthenians, (just one example) whom they did not really consider to be Cahtolic at all, resulted in the mass going over of these Eastern Catholics to the RUssian Orthodox CHurch i n the late 19th century. ROme did nothing to intervene on the side of the Uniates, who only wished to continue to practise their religion according to the ancient Rites and customs (including a married clergy), Rome - against all original agreements of Union, side with the IRish American Bishops against the rights of the above mentioned Eastern Catholics.