Viewing the Lines Accurately

Isidore_of_Kiev

In my earlier post, “Weekly Reading,” I made mention of Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev’s (Russian Orthodox Church (ROC)) recent comments to the ongoing to the Catholic Church’s “Extraordinary Synod on the Family.” Instead of staying on point concerning the need for Catholics and Orthodox to hold a common front against modern secular culture, the good bishop of Russia used his address to attack the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church (UGCC) — a common theme for Russian prelates these days (see, e.g., here and here). An Orthodox friend of mine humorously likened Hilarion’s words to “a drunken best man saying something wildly inappropriate during the toast.” The Catholic web-log The Rad Trad posted a facetious agreement with Hilarion’s call to abolish “Uniatism.”

Regrettably, however, there still exists an unfortunate number of traditional Catholics (and some neo-Catholics) who have no compunction about fawning over the ROC and “Neo-Holy Russia.” Granted, there are some wonderful things about the ROC, particularly its liturgical patrimony and iconographic tradition. I have known — and still know — a good number of fine folks who belong to either the ROC or one of its “relative churches.” They may not see eye-to-eye with me on ecclesiastical and theological matters, but they are far from being promoters of xenophobia and bigotry. That’s true of many Orthodox Christians I know. As such, I want to make clear that when I write of the missteps, nay, idiocy of the ROC, I do not intend it as a swipe against faithful Orthodox believers. At the same time, however, it is necessary to make clear that the ROC is not a friend of the Catholic Church and will not be a friend of the Catholic Church until such time as it ceases its mad assault against our brethren in Ukraine. While we should hope and pray for the day when East and West, including the separated Oriental churches, are one, that is not a license for false romanticism. The ROC has drawn its line in the sand. Catholics now know where it stands without question. Are we sure we know where we stand?

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  1. StephenUSA
    October 23, 2014

    Gabriel, would very much appreciate knowing your thoughts on this, or is it a non-starter from a Catholic POV?
    http://holyresurrection.areavoices.com/files/2014/10/adultery-and-the-synod-on-the-family.pdf

    Reply
    1. modestinus
      October 23, 2014

      I believe it is ultimately a non-starer, though I am sympathetic to the author’s claim that the current Catholic process of annulments is both untenable and harmful. I find it ironic — though I say this not to be polemical or mean-spirited — that an Orthodox writer who comes from a tradition which does treat, at least in practice, certain sacraments as “dissolvable” (e.g., Holy Orders) is on the front lines pointing out that we are harming the proper understanding of a sacrament with a paint-by-numbers approach to marriage annulments. To be honest, I hadn’t thought of the issue in those terms before, but I think he is spot on.

      To me, the way forward is clear: The Church must speak unequivocally once again about the indissolubility of marriage and not capitulate, even in the face of authentically difficult pastoral problems. That may sound cold, but the Church has no right and no mandate to simply manufacture an “out” which Christ Himself did not provide. If one believes the Church can do such a thing, then one believes in something other than the Church — and that’s “fine” in the sense that one is certainly psychologically free to believe whatever they want, but that doesn’t mean such a belief ought to or even can affect what the Church does. It is for this very reason that I believe the Church’s resources do need to be poured into assisting those who have been abandoned by their spouses and giving counsel and support to those who, despite illicitly contracting a second, civil, marriage want to return to a state of Grace and receive the Eucharist.

      If the highest law of the Church is the salvation of souls, then the Church should be embarked upon that, not trying to find wiggle room on the margins to allow people who have mortal sin on their souls a plausible, but ultimately false, way around it. Perhaps such persons, if honestly misled, do not incur any guilt for following the Church, but surely God will hold those responsible who have misled them. That, to me, is frightening, which is also why I don’t understand how or why so many in positions of leadership are being so callous about this stuff. Have they forgotten hell? It seems like most people have.

      Reply
  2. Stephen
    October 23, 2014

    So you truly believe the Orthodox approach to be both deficient from a salvific POV and outside any historical trajectory of the Church?

    Reply
    1. modestinus
      October 23, 2014

      I think the Orthodox approach is deficient, though I am not going to go so far as to say that those within her borders who do contract second and third “penitential marriages” are damned to hell. Such persons are simply following what Orthodoxy teaches them; I am not going to judge their consciences.

      Reply
      1. StephenUSA
        October 23, 2014

        Ok, trying to understand all this. So, from a Catholic POV, the annulment process effectively negates the marriage, so that if the person gets married in the Church, it’s not even considered to be for a second time – do I have that right? It will always be the first and only time?

        Reply
        1. modestinus
          October 23, 2014

          Yes. It’s a finding that there was no valid marriage to begin with. Of course people can have multiple valid marriages in instances where their previous spouse(s) have died.

          Reply

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