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All,

Attempts at improving relations between the Catholic and Orthodox Churches inevitably run into the problem that each regards itself as the unique embodiment on earth of the One Church established by Christ. To state otherwise is to introduce an ecclesiological problem of epic proportions.

Fr. Stephanos has suggested starting a new thread on this subject, and I most heartily agree.

Originally Posted by Stephanos I
I don't buy into the idea of churches.
"There is ONE Lord ONE Faith One Baptism and ONE God and Father of all." Just as there is ONE Church.
(Now I am not saying that the Orthodox are not the Church) they most certainly are a part of the one holy catholic and apostolic faith.
The others are not the Church but a departure from the Church.
Stephanos I
PS Perhaps that can be a discussion of another thread, "What actually constitutes the Church" A Discussion of Ecclesiology.

For my part, I have already endorsed the idea that by embracing ecumenism at Vatican II, the Catholic Church has provisionally set aside certain ecclesiological teachings. I say this because in the light of numerous existing doctrinal statements regarding the nature of the Church, ecumenism as it is commonly understood simply doesn't fit--it's heresy. Yet since Vatican II, all popes have endorsed ecumenism wholeheartedly.

Comments welcome! grin


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Deacon Richard

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Fr. Deacon,

I suppose it is dependent on how one defines 'ecumenism' - why don't we begin this discussion by defining ecumenism within the context of the Church, instead of 'ecumenism' as relativism in disguise?

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Originally Posted by Michael_Thoma
... why don't we begin this discussion by defining ecumenism within the context of the Church, instead of 'ecumenism' as relativism in disguise?
Brother Michael,

Excellent suggestion. Since I was speaking of ecumenism in the context of Vatican II, I had assumed it would be understood in that sense, but I can see why that would not be so clear to everyone.

Rather than quote the whole text of Unitatis Redintegratio, let me offer the following extract from section 3:
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... men who believe in Christ and have been truly baptized are in communion with the Catholic Church even though this communion is imperfect. The differences that exist in varying degrees between them and the Catholic Church--whether in doctrine and sometimes in discipline, or concerning the structure of the Church--do indeed create many obstacles, sometimes serious ones, to full ecclesiastical communion. The ecumenical movement is striving to overcome these obstacles. But even in spite of them it remains true that all who have been justified by faith in Baptism are members of Christ's body,(21) and have a right to be called Christian, and so are correctly accepted as brothers by the children of the Catholic Church.(22)

Moreover, some and even very many of the significant elements and endowments which together go to build up and give life to the Church itself, can exist outside the visible boundaries of the Catholic Church: the written word of God; the life of grace; faith, hope and charity, with the other interior gifts of the Holy Spirit, and visible elements too. All of these, which come from Christ and lead back to Christ, belong by right to the one Church of Christ.

The brethren divided from us also use many liturgical actions of the Christian religion. These most certainly can truly engender a life of grace in ways that vary according to the condition of each Church or Community. These liturgical actions must be regarded as capable of giving access to the community of salvation.

It follows that the separated Churches(23) and Communities as such, though we believe them to be deficient in some respects, have been by no means deprived of significance and importance in the mystery of salvation. For the Spirit of Christ has not refrained from using them as means of salvation which derive their efficacy from the very fullness of grace and truth entrusted to the Church.

21. Cf. CONC. FLORENTINUM, Sess. VIII (1439), Decretum Exultate Deo: Mansi 31, 1055 A.

22. Cf. S. AUGUSTINUS, In Ps. 32, Enarr. 11, 29: PL 36, 299

23. Cf. CONC. LATERANENSE IV (1215) Constitutio IV: Mansi 22, 990; CONC. LUGDUNENSE II (1274), Professio fidei Michaelis Palaeologi: Mansi 24, 71 E; CONC. FLORENTINUM, Sess. VI (1439), Definitio Laetentur caeli: Mansi 31, 1026 E.

Naturally, the EOC takes exception to the part that says, "... we believe them to be deficient in some respects," and holds that it is the RCC that is defective. I would suggest that a defect exists on both sides, insofar as each fails to embrace the other. Section 3 of Unitatis Redintegratio also states:
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[in the post-apostolic centuries] serious dissensions made their appearance and quite large communities came to be separated from full communion with the Catholic Church--for which, often enough, men of both sides were to blame.
This last quotation falls short of an admission of a defect existing on all sides, but it is significant nonetheless.

I would also like to point out that the foregoing, while clearly consistent with previous doctrinal statements (as noted), does seem to go against the affirmations of Popes Pius XI and Pius XII (as well as others), which stated in effect that 'there is no such thing as schism within the Church, only schism from the Church.' (Then again, didn't Pope Benedict recently indicate that he regarded the term "schism" to be too strong to describe properly the division that exists between the EOC and RCC?)


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Deacon Richard

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Good points, but men on both sides making mistakes does not constitute 'defect' on either side's part.

Not trying to be contentious, just clarifying.

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Perhaps I should have expressed this more clearly.

What I said was, "I would suggest that a defect exists on both sides, insofar as each fails to embrace the other."

(Note that I use the term "suggest" here, since I can't pretend to speak for either side with any authority. wink )


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Deacon Richard

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Originally Posted by Epiphanius
Perhaps I should have expressed this more clearly.

What I said was, "I would suggest that a defect exists on both sides, insofar as each fails to embrace the other."


Peace,
Deacon Richard
This I can completely agree with my dear brother in Christ.

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It is one thing to embrace the Ecumenical Movement, I have most certainly done that. (Although I have to some degree abandoned any dialogue with Protestantism since I believe we are too fundamentally different to ever reach an agreement) I would support rather an evangelism of non Catholics to convert them to the Faith.
Orthodox and the Oriental Churches are a different situation since they are true churches and posses valid sacraments and are directly a means of grace to people within these Churches.

However to say that we ar not to dive into the major questions of truth versus error because we have to be "polite" and "politically correct" so as to not give offense, I would never endorse such a movement.
That being said I do believe in respecting individuals even if I do not agree with them.

The Church by her very nature is One. Let's use this as the starting point!
I would say the next question is,1. What does this oneness entail? 2. Where can this Church be found? 3. Is it possible that both the Orthodox and Catholic Church subsist in the One True Church.
Stephanos I
Deacon Richard, the Church cannot be defective. It is idefectible. People with the Church can be defected.

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Fr. Dcn.,

When have any post-conciliar Popes endorsed ecumenism to the point of denying that the Catholic Church is Christ's Church? On the contrary, we know that the the True Church subsistit in the Catholic Church. This has been clarified numeorous times as to what it means, most recently under Pope Benedict.

Here is part of the entry in Wikipedia on the phrase "subsistit in":
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According to some, to say the Church of Christ "subsists in" the Catholic Church introduces a distinction between the Church of Christ and the Catholic Church. Catholic teaching had traditionally, until then, stated unequivocally that "the Mystical Body of Christ and the Roman Catholic Church are one and the same thing", as Pope Pius XII expressed it in his 1950 encyclical Humani generis, 27). The phrase "subsists in" of Vatican II does not undermine the preceding manner of expressing the identity of the "Church of Christ" and the "Catholic Church", since, as John XXIII said when he opened Vatican II, "The Council � wishes to transmit Catholic doctrine, whole and entire, without alteration or deviation" (speech of 11 October 1962).

This idea posits a change in the Catholic Church's doctrine that contradicts the declaration of Pope Paul VI when promulgating the Constitution.[1] The Council teaches that Christ "established ... here on earth" a single Church "as an entity with visible delineation ... constituted and organized in the world as a society", a Church that has "a social structure" that "serves the spirit of Christ" in a way somewhat similar to how "the assumed nature, inseparably united to him, serves the divine Word as a living organ of salvation". It is this concrete visible organized Church, endowed with a social structure, that the Council says "subsists in the Catholic Church, which is governed by the successor of Peter and by the Bishops in communion with him."[2]

In another document promulgated on the same day (21 November 1964) as Lumen gentium, the Council did in fact refer to "the Holy Catholic Church, which is the Mystical Body of Christ" (Decree Orientalium ecclesiarum, 2). Here the traditional conventional expression "is" is used, whose clarity can be used to interpret the potential ambiguity of the other phrase.

It is also to the Catholic Church, not to some supposed distinct "Church of Christ", that has been entrusted "the fullness of grace and of truth" that gives value to the other Churches and communities that the Holy Spirit uses as instruments of salvation,[3] though the Church of Christ is not said to subsist in any of them.

In fact, the Council combined the two terms "Church of Christ" and "Catholic Church" into a single term, "Christ's Catholic Church" in its Decree on Ecumenism, promulgated at the same time as its Constitution on the Church.[4]
[edit]


On top of that crystal clear picture, here is a further clarification by the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith which was published in the summer of 2007.
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On June 29 2007 the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, under the presidency of William Cardinal Levada signed an official document called "Responses to Some Questions Regarding Certain Aspects of the Doctrine on the Church". It was published July 10 2007.[10]
Benedict XVI, at an audience granted to the Cardinal Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, ratified and confirmed these responses, adopted in the Plenary Session of the Congregation, and ordered their publication.
This document closes the argument about the heterodoxical interpretations of subsistit in by making an authoritative a definite interpretation of the phrase. Five questions were posed and answered on the subject:

Firstly-
Question: Did the Second Vatican Council change the Catholic doctrine on the Church?
Response: The Second Vatican Council neither changed nor intended to change this doctrine, rather it developed, deepened and more fully explained it. This was exactly what John XXIII said at the beginning of the Council. Paul VI affirmed it and commented in the act of promulgating the Constitution Lumen gentium: "There is no better comment to make than to say that this promulgation really changes nothing of the traditional doctrine. What Christ willed, we also will. What was, still is. What the Church has taught down through the centuries, we also teach. In simple terms that which was assumed, is now explicit; that which was uncertain, is now clarified; that which was meditated upon, discussed and sometimes argued over, is now put together in one clear formulation". The Bishops repeatedly expressed and fulfilled this intention.

Secondly-
Question: What is the meaning of the affirmation that the Church of Christ subsists in the Catholic Church?
Response: Christ "established here on earth" only one Church and instituted it as a "visible and spiritual community", that from its beginning and throughout the centuries has always existed and will always exist, and in which alone are found all the elements that Christ himself instituted. "This one Church of Christ, which we confess in the Creed as one, holy, catholic and apostolic [�]. This Church, constituted and organised in this world as a society, subsists in the Catholic Church, governed by the successor of Peter and the Bishops in communion with him". In number 8 of the Constitution Lumen gentium "subsistence" means this perduring, historical continuity and the permanence of all the elements instituted by Christ in the Catholic Church, in which the Church of Christ is concretely found on this earth. It is possible, according to Catholic doctrine, to affirm correctly that the Church of Christ is present and operative in the churches and ecclesial communities not yet fully in communion with the Catholic Church, on account of the elements of sanctification and truth that are present in them. Nevertheless, the word "subsists" can only be attributed to the Catholic Church alone precisely because it refers to the mark of unity that we profess in the symbols of the faith (I believe... in the "one" Church); and this "one" Church subsists in the Catholic Church.

Thirdly-
Question: Why was the expression "subsists in" adopted instead of the simple word "is"?
Response: The use of this expression, which indicates the full identity of the Church of Christ with the Catholic Church, does not change the doctrine on the Church. Rather, it comes from and brings out more clearly the fact that there are "numerous elements of sanctification and of truth" which are found outside her structure, but which "as gifts properly belonging to the Church of Christ, impel towards Catholic Unity". "It follows that these separated churches and Communities, though we believe they suffer from defects, are deprived neither of significance nor importance in the mystery of salvation. In fact the Spirit of Christ has not refrained from using them as instruments of salvation, whose value derives from that fullness of grace and of truth which has been entrusted to the Catholic Church".

Fourthly-
Question: Why does the Second Vatican Council use the term "Church" in reference to the oriental Churches separated from full communion with the Catholic Church?
Response: The Council wanted to adopt the traditional use of the term. "Because these Churches, although separated, have true sacraments and above all � because of the apostolic succession � the priesthood and the Eucharist, by means of which they remain linked to us by very close bonds", they merit the title of "particular or local Churches", and are called sister Churches of the particular Catholic Churches. "It is through the celebration of the Eucharist of the Lord in each of these Churches that the Church of God is built up and grows in stature". However, since communion with the Catholic Church, the visible head of which is the Bishop of Rome and the Successor of Peter, is not some external complement to a particular Church but rather one of its internal constitutive principles, these venerable Christian communities lack something in their condition as particular churches. On the other hand, because of the division between Christians, the fullness of universality, which is proper to the Church governed by the Successor of Peter and the Bishops in communion with him, is not fully realised in history.

Fifthly-
Question: Why do the texts of the Council and those of the Magisterium since the Council not use the title of "Church" with regard to those Christian Communities born out of the Reformation of the sixteenth century?
Response: According to Catholic doctrine, these Communities do not enjoy apostolic succession in the sacrament of Orders, and are, therefore, deprived of a constitutive element of the Church. These ecclesial Communities which, specifically because of the absence of the sacramental priesthood, have not preserved the genuine and integral substance of the Eucharistic Mystery cannot, according to Catholic doctrine, be called "Churches" in the proper sense.


Alexis


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It's the Eucharist is it not?

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AMM:

You're right on the money. One of the earliest definitions of what the Church is says that the Church is "the People of God gathered around their bishop and celebrating the Eucharist." Again the Fathers say "where the bishop is, there is the Catholic Church." And again, "let no one undertake to do anything in the Church without the bishop('s permission)." My insertion last in parentheses.

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Originally Posted by AMM
It's the Eucharist is it not?

It is.

Quote
The Church is not simply an institution. She is a �mode of existence,� a way of being. The mystery of the Church, even in its institutional dimension, is deeply bound to the being of man, to the being of the world and to the very being of God. In virtue of this bond, so characteristic of patristic thought, ecclesiology assumes a marked importance, not only for all aspects of theology, but also for the existential needs of man in every age.


Thus, the Church is personal, the Church "bound to the being of man" is a manifestation of the theology of the person. The epiphany of the Church is the gathering of those persons, those who have "put on Christ" -- those christs with Christ -- as one body:

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The celebration of the eucharist by the primitive Church was, above all, the gathering of the people of God epi to auto that is, both the manifestation and the realization of the Church. Its celebration on Sunday�the day of the eschata � as well as all its liturgical content testified that during the eucharist, the Church did not live only by the memory of a historical fact�the Last Supper and the earthly life of Christ, including the cross and the resurrection�but it accomplished an eschatological act. It was in the eucharist that the Church would contemplate her eschatological nature, would taste the very life of the Holy Trinity; in other words she would realize man's true being as image of God̓s own being. All the fundamental elements which constituted her historical existence and structure had, by necessity, to pass through the eucharistic community to be �sure� (according to Ignatius of Antioch) or �valid� and �canonical� (according to the terminology of contemporary canon law), that is, to be ecclesiologically true. No ordination to fundamental and structural ministries of the Church took place outside the eucharistic community. It was there, in the presence of all the people of God and of all the orders, in an event of free communion, that the Holy Spirit distributed gifts "by constituting the whole structure of the Church." Thus the eucharist was not the act of a pre-existing Church; it was an event constitutive of the being of the Church, enabling the Church to be. The eucharist constituted the Church's being.

Quotes: John D. Zizioulas, Being as Communion (Crestwood: St.Vladimir�s Seminary Press, 1993), 1, 20-21.


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This idea that the Eucharist is what brings about unity and communion of the faithful brings about some interesting things to consider. Since the Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, CoE Churches all have a valid Eucharist (from a Catholic perspective) what does that mean about unity? There is only one Body of Christ and we all partake of it in Holy Communion. Now I am not a branch theorist at all, but what does this mean? What conclusions are we to draw?

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East and West,

Well since none of the abovementioned Churches profess to be One Church together, but rather all profess to be the One Church themselves, are we to assume they are all wrong (Catholic, EO, OO, Assyrian)?

And only the Catholic Church views the Eucharist as definitely valid in EO and OO Churches. It seems the EOs (and I have no idea about the OOs) don't know whether our Eucharist is actually Our Lord or not. So from their POV, it's a matter of debate, or rather a moot point perhaps, whether or not we have the Eucharist.

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But what does it mean from our (the Catholic) point of view?

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Originally Posted by East and West
This idea that the Eucharist is what brings about unity and communion of the faithful brings about some interesting things to consider. Since the Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, CoE Churches all have a valid Eucharist (from a Catholic perspective) what does that mean about unity? There is only one Body of Christ and we all partake of it in Holy Communion. Now I am not a branch theorist at all, but what does this mean? What conclusions are we to draw?


I agree, but I have a question. What is wrong with the branch theory? It certainly seems accurate. After all, didn't Jesus Himself say that "I am the vine and you are the branches"? Yes, there is only one Church --which is Christ's mystical body. But there certainly seem to be several branches of it: Non-Chalcedonian Orthodox, Chalcedonian Orthodox, Eastern Catholics, Roman Catholics, Protestants, and so on.

-- John

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