On the Pan-Orthodox Council – Followup

For reasons which should be obvious to most, the “Great and Holy Council,” which is currently underway in Crete, has been on my mind quite a bit. Last Friday, over at First Things, I gave a sobering account of where matters stood on the eve of the Council without wishing to get bogged down with predictions (most of which probably wouldn’t come to pass anyway).

On Sunday, Pope Francis sent out the following tweet.

No doubt the Holy Father meant well, but Catholics should not forget the extent to which anti-Catholic animus coupled with ecclesiastical chauvinism have conspired to derail the Council. Now with word getting out that the Council is considering a draft document which would, in effect, “elevate” four Orthodox councils/synods to “ecumenical” status, a new line is being drawn in the sand between East and West — and to what end? The Orthodox world is splintering in profound ways along national and ethnic lines. Some are even predicting an eventual schism between the Ecumenical and Moscow patriarchates. How does it make sense, at this late stage in the game, to go beating the anti-Scholastic/anti-Papal war drums? Or perhaps this is a necessary growing pain which both Catholics and Orthodox must endure on the fraught path to unity. Now may be a good time to wonder if the oft-derided project of “Uniatism” isn’t the way to proceed, at least with respect to those parts of the Eastern Orthodox Church who are willing to prioritize both unity and truth without fictitiously shrinking the Body of Christ down to a ghetto.

In closing, let me call your attention to a quote by the Russian philosopher Vladimir Solovyov which Pater Edmind Waldstein recently posted up on his web-log, Sancrucensis. Maybe this says it all?

Otherwise, if apart from Peter the universal Church can expressly declare the truth, how are we to explain the remarkable silence of the Eastern episcopate (notwithstanding that they have kept the apostolic succession) since their separation from the Chair of St. Peter? Can it be merely an accident? An accident lasting for a thousand years! To those anti-Catholics who will not see that their particularism cuts them off from the life of the universal Church, we have only one suggestion to make: Let them summon, without the concurrence of the successor of St. Peter, a council which they themselves can recognize as œcumenical! Then only will there be an opportunity of discovering whether they are right.

On the Pan-Orthodox Council

For those interested, my new piece on the forthcoming “Great and Holy Council” in Crete can be read over at First Things. Here’s an excerpt.

The Eastern Orthodox Church’s “Great and Holy Council,” which is set to begin in Crete on Sunday, June 19 (Eastern Pentecost), has been touted as Orthodoxy’s first “ecumenical council” in over a millennium. The facts on the ground are less grand. Despite nearly a century of on-and-off preparation, the Council has been at risk of derailment this month, as several members of Orthodoxy’s worldwide ecclesiastical confederacy have, for varying reasons, pulled out. The most striking defector is the Russian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate), the largest Orthodox jurisdiction in the world. But the absence of other historic churches, such as those of Antioch and Bulgaria, has left many asking whether the Council should proceed.

What is all the fuss about? There are several agenda items covering intra-Orthodox ecclesiastical governance that in theory should not be terribly concerning, but that nevertheless reveal deep divisions within Orthodoxy along ethnic and national lines.


Ways Toward Renewal

Reinhard Hutter, a professor at Duke Divinity School and a leading light of “ressourcement Thomism,” penned a piece for First Things several years ago entitled “The Ruins of Disconunity.” It is an essay I have returned to many times and recommended relentlessly to anyone interested in the state of Catholic theology following the Second Vatican Council.

Lewis Ayres, a professor of historical and Catholic theology at Durham, has since penned a lengthy response to Hutter, one which was only brought to my attention today. Entitled “The Memory of Tradition: Post-Conciliar Renewal and One Recent Thomism,” Ayres calls into question some of the critical points advanced in Hutter’s essay, particularly his commitment to a “ressourcement Thomism” which is inextricably linked to the high point of the Church’s Scholastic tradition. Various duties will likely keep me from commenting on Ayres’s reply in depth for some time, but out of fairness to those interested in the direction of Catholic theology and renewal in general (whether traditional or not), I wanted to bring it to your attention.

As always, combox thoughts are most welcome.