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I would tell Desertman and others that the question of primacy and conciliarity is not settled. If it were, there would be no point in Pope John Paul II asking the entire Body of Christ for assistance in discovering new ways of defining and exercising the Petrine primacy (Ut Unum Sint), nor would we still be holding meetings of the Joint International Theological Commission to address the issue.

I would tell them that the Catholic Church itself began this process, first by recognizing the Orthodox Churches as being truly and fully Churches, with all that implies; and second, by establishing the ecclesial status of the Eastern Churches already in communion with the Church of Rome. Now the Catholic Church has to deal with the logical implications of its words and deeds.

Nowhere, in any of the Eucmenical dialogues, has the issue of the immaculate conception been raised--by either side--as something to be affirmed or repudiated as a precondition of unity. There are disagreements about the authority by which it was promulgated, but it is safe to say that most Orthodox theologians don't believe doctrine to be heretical; nor do most Catholic theologians believe the Orthodox are heretical for not affirming it as dogma.

There was an entire Orientale Lumen Conference devoted to the subject of "Mary: Mother of God and of the Church", at which I believe Edward Idris Cardinal Cassidy was present. At no time did he ever express the view that belief in the immaculate conception was necessary for unity; nor did he ever question the sufficiency of the Orthodox doctrine that Mary was preserved from all sin throughout her life. In short, there was agreement on the underlying truth of doctrine, which obviated any differences regarding its expression.

Indeed, this creates something of a conundrum: dogmas are essential elements of faith that are "given", the denial of which puts one outside the Church. The Orthodox Church rejects a slew of doctrines the Latin Church declared to be dogmatic or "de fide" in the second millennium--not the least being the doctrine of the infallibility of the Pope. And yet the Catholic Church recognizes the Orthodox Churches as true Churches, in a way that the various Protestant "ecclesial communities" are not. Now, as I like to say, Church is a bi-polar condition, like pregnancy--you either are or you aren't. Rome says the Orthodox are Church. Very well. You can be Church and not accept the "dogmas" promulgated by the Latin Church in the second millennium, including the "dogma" of Papal infallibility.

One can draw only two conclusions from this observation: either these dogmas really aren't; or Rome is playing a cynical and disingenuous game with the Orthodox, and indeed, its own faithful. I know which option I prefer to believe.

And the wind seems to be blowing in my favor. One need only read the Ravenna Statement to see the manner in which primacy is being placed in the context of conciliarity, and of how the second millennium general councils of the Latin Church are being relativized, in comparison with the Great Councils of the first millennium (Pope Paul VI actually got this ball rolling back in 1974). Where the process will end is anybody's guess, but I would say the historical trend has been for the Latin Church to step back from its Tridentine exclusivity towards the more balanced and patristic approach taken in the first millennium. The Orthodox are definitely coming around to the idea of a real and universal primacy; the Catholic Church is admitting the validity of the older Tradition maintained in the Orthodox Church.

Given the current state of flux, Eastern Catholics are being given mixed messages by the Holy See, and each one of us has to decide in accordance with the dictates of conscience how one must interpret these. The decrees, encyclicals, instructions and exhortations of the Holy See have consistently told us to reclaim the fullness of our patrimony--without exceptions. At the same time, the Holy See proclaims certain doctrines that are either inconsistent with our Tradition or even antithetical to it, to be "dogmas" of the universal Church. At times like this, as Father Taft likes to say, "history liberates us" from the stale polemics of the past and allows us to recapture the Tradition of the undivided Church. The truth does set you free, and in the process, it makes you a lot of enemies on both sides of the conflict. But that is the vocation of the Eastern Catholic.

Last edited by StuartK; 01/17/12 04:26 PM.
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Originally Posted by StuartK
Decrees of the Great Councils were not "dictating" because the whole Church was either represented or assented to them--that's how they became "ecumenical".


Not true if you consider the Copts or the Nestorians to be Churches.

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Originally Posted by Otsheylnik
Originally Posted by StuartK
Decrees of the Great Councils were not "dictating" because the whole Church was either represented or assented to them--that's how they became "ecumenical".


Not true if you consider the Copts or the Nestorians to be Churches.


Which the Catholic Church certainly does.

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In both cases, the problems were more political and cultural than substantive, which is what has enabled both the Catholic and Orthodox Churches to enter into Agreed Christological Statements with the non-Chalcedonian Churches. As Kyr Elias Zoghby said, "We all believe that Jesus Christ is fully God. We all believe that Jesus Christ is fully man. And we all believe that Jesus Christ is one. Everything else is philosophy".

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Originally Posted by StuartK
In both cases, the problems were more political and cultural than substantive, which is what has enabled both the Catholic and Orthodox Churches to enter into Agreed Christological Statements with the non-Chalcedonian Churches. As Kyr Elias Zoghby said, "We all believe that Jesus Christ is fully God. We all believe that Jesus Christ is fully man. And we all believe that Jesus Christ is one. Everything else is philosophy".


hence the relevance of the example, I think the Immaculate Conception is more a cultural and political block to eastern Catholics and Orthodox than a substantive one.

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That won't do Stuart. It's beside the point. The point was, these groups never agreed to Chalcedon, yet it's still ecumenical and dogmatic, and the Coptic and Assyrian are still true Churches. Chalcedon was no more received by the entire Church than the Immaculate Conception was. The difference is one of numbers, not of type. And you go on to say well, that's different since we pretty much agree anyway and that example was political and cultural when we have already heard that the Immaculate Conception isn't (from the Orthodox position) heretical and when obviously everything in Eastern Christianity is political and cultural.

If you're disputing the point, you should show how the examples are dissimilar, not how they're the same.

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when obviously everything in Eastern Christianity is political and cultural.


I don't think this is a fair or accurate statement. Eastern Christianity is just as universal as Western Christianity.

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Originally Posted by Nelson Chase
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when obviously everything in Eastern Christianity is political and cultural.


I don't think this is a fair or accurate statement. Eastern Christianity is just as universal as Western Christianity.


I don't think JDC was implying that the statement doesn't apply equally to the west.

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Thank you, StuartK for taking the time for that post, and I do agree that there seem to be many mixed signals. Maybe the best any Eastern Catholic can do in the current confusion is to follow the direction and example of the Eastern Catholic bishops, priests, and monks and how they live their faith in relation to Rome.

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Actually, Nelson, everything in Western Christianity is also political and cultural. How could it not be? Man is a political being whose relationship to other human beings is shaped by a set of behaviors and practices we call culture. The only way for Christianity, of whatever type, to cease being both political and cultural, is for man to cease being man--or to become the New Man who will only come into being with the Parousia.

It's a very 20th century American mindset to believe that politics, culture and religion can all be kept separate from each other, in nice, neat boxes.

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I don't disagree Stuart.

Last edited by Nelson Chase; 01/18/12 04:24 AM.
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Geez. I'd thought the matter to be self evident, but I'd hate to see this conversation get side-tracked by an idle statement. Let me retract my remark and say that no offence was intended and that I regret and apologize for any I have given.

At any rate, the discussion will stay far more interesting if we can return to the issue of the example given by Otsheylnik which Stuart dismisses on startlingly flimsy grounds (for Stuart). If the example is not applicable, I would very much like to know how not. Again I say, If Stuart disputes the point, he should show how the examples are dissimilar, not how they're the same.

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Originally Posted by JDC
That won't do Stuart. It's beside the point. The point was, these groups never agreed to Chalcedon, yet it's still ecumenical and dogmatic, and the Coptic and Assyrian are still true Churches. Chalcedon was no more received by the entire Church than the Immaculate Conception was. The difference is one of numbers, not of type. And you go on to say well, that's different since we pretty much agree anyway and that example was political and cultural when we have already heard that the Immaculate Conception isn't (from the Orthodox position) heretical and when obviously everything in Eastern Christianity is political and cultural.

If you're disputing the point, you should show how the examples are dissimilar, not how they're the same.


If it needs to be more blindingly obvious what I am arguing, it's that an origin within one sui juris church is in itself not a reason that the Eastern Catholics couldn't accept the Immaculate Conception as traditional, ecumenical and dogmatic.

Likewise, if (as you claim) the idea of the Immaculate Conception can only first be found in the writings of medieval Latin theologians, this is also not a reason why it couldn't be later accepted as ecumenical, traditional and dogmatic. Chalcedonian Orthodoxy can't be found exactly in first, second or third century writings.

In view of examples such as this, I would also suggest that were reunion to take place, the objections raised in this thread do not in my view provide sufficient reasons why the Orthodox Churches could not also recognise the Dogma as traditional and ecumenical.

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Originally Posted by JDC
That won't do Stuart. It's beside the point. The point was, these groups never agreed to Chalcedon, yet it's still ecumenical and dogmatic, and the Coptic and Assyrian are still true Churches. Chalcedon was no more received by the entire Church than the Immaculate Conception was. The difference is one of numbers, not of type. And you go on to say well, that's different since we pretty much agree anyway and that example was political and cultural when we have already heard that the Immaculate Conception isn't (from the Orthodox position) heretical and when obviously everything in Eastern Christianity is political and cultural.

If you're disputing the point, you should show how the examples are dissimilar, not how they're the same.


I wholly agree and brought this point up about a month or so ago on another thread. It is a logical contradiction which one simply can't reconcile.

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Thank you Nelson, I was actually put off by the prior statement of JDC as it reflects the type of Latin-Rite cultural imperialism and superiority that so offended my grandparents and which is supposed to be out of fashion following Vatican 2.

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